There was something special about
the island. Richie had never been able to put his finger on exactly
what it was, but it filled him with a sense of peace as he stepped
onto it's shores. It wasn't just that it was holy ground, the
young Immortal had been in plenty of churches that didn't feel
like this. There was something else, the same air about it as
Darius' church when the old man had resided there. It couldn't
just be described as a presence, more of a shutting out of evil.
The church in Paris had lost that feeling when it's nave was desecrated
and it's holy man killed, the island still retained it. It filled
Richie with such warmth that he didn't even mind the sound of
an outboard motor cutting off in the distance as his shadow prepared
to alight on the other side of the piece of land.
"There ain't gonna be a
lot to see, kimosabe," the young man mumbled to himself and
pulled his pack out of the canoe.
He'd decided to do the last bit
of the trip the hard way, and he felt exhilarated, even though
he was a little tired from the exertion. The cabin sat up the
bank like a friendly giant welcoming him home and he set off towards
the door at a trot.
Well, Greg didn't know a lot
about running a dojo, but then when Richie had started, he hadn't
either and most of the time it wasn't particularly complex. The
membership had been growing quite nicely ever since the plumbing
was sorted out, and Duncan had invested in a new flashy sign and
a very small advertising campaign. Having new people turning up
did, however, have one drawback: sometimes they didn't get on
with the regulars. The temporary manager cum keeper of the peace
heard the argument start as he sat playing a computer game whilst
pretending to work. He hit the pause button and wandered out of
Philip was a young actor of about
twenty, whose mainstay of work was the young athletic hero type,
in local productions. He had been coming to the dojo for a couple
of months and he and Richie had become friends. The young Immortal
had been tutoring the other man in basic fighting techniques for
an upcoming role, but since he was away he'd taken to beating
the hell out of a punch bag.
The big problem who had just
walked out of the changing room was a large, jock of a man who's
name Greg couldn't recall. He'd been working out in the dojo for
just under a week, and it was obvious that he fancied himself
as something of a fighter. The black haired Immortal had been
warned to look out for him, since he'd tried to take on several
of the regulars, each time stopped by Richie. Since the boss was
away he was trying again and this time his victim was Phil.
"Come on, kid," the
Neanderthal was saying as Greg approached, "think you can
"Please leave me alone,"
the younger returned as politely as possible, for the second time,
"I'm not interested."
"You afraid?" it wasn't
exactly the most sophisticated line of attack, and even though
Phil really wanted to smack this guy in the mouth he was sticking
to the house rules about brawling.
Sparing was perfectly all right,
but this oaf was not interested in a mutual test of skill, he
just wanted to pulverise somebody. Some of the others had been
ready to break up anything that started, but as they saw Greg
approaching they went back to what they had been doing.
"Is there a problem here,
gentlemen?" the Immortal asked loudly and Phil looked relieved.
Now the regulars had seen Greg
before, he and Richie had done a little sparing the previous day,
but the big guy hadn't been in then. For all he knew, this guy
was just sitting in for the what he considered to be `the regular
kid', and quite frankly, this morning, the Immortal didn't exactly
look the part of a warrior. Compared to most of the rest of the
people in the dojo he was short, and he was dressed in jeans and
T-shirt rather than anything practical for fighting. His appearance
caused the large man to make a critical error in judgement, and
he chose to push the matter.
"We were just gonna do a
little sparing," he said with a misplaced look of superiority
on his face.
It was an unspoken challenge
and the others began to take surreptitious interest, this could
be interesting. Now nobody went up against Richie, he'd been known
to kick butt on several occasions, and he didn't pull any punches
if someone pissed him off. What the interloper did not know was
that the man he was trying to stare down had knocked Richie on
his arse several times yesterday, as well as giving his own rear
end a work out on the mat.
"I don't think Phil's particularly
interested in sparing with you at the moment," Greg said
reasonably, although he was pretty sure it wouldn't do much good.
"Why don't you go and do something else for now."
He was giving the guy a very
large way out, if only he was bright enough to take it. From the
look in his eyes, that wasn't going to happen this century.
"I don't want to do anything
else," were the next words out of the Neanderthal's mouth,
"I want to spar. Maybe you'd like to take his place?"
"Well I'm not exactly dressed
for the part am I," Greg gave the man one more chance.
When the oaf's hand reached out
and actually pushed him on the shoulder, he stepped back and took
a deep breath. This was not the way he'd wanted to start his stint
as temporary warden of the mad house.
"You afraid too?" the
taunt was meant to get under his skin, all it did was make him
"I believe the rules were
explained to you when you joined, sir," the Immortal shot
back with calm efficiency. "If you're going to be like this
I'm going to have to ask you to leave. You may return if and when
you decide to change your attitude."
Now the other guy laughed.
"You gonna make me?"
he enquired with little imagination.
"If that's what it takes,
sir, yes I will enforce the rules," the steel in Greg's eyes
should have been a warning that he was not a soft target.
The swing came almost immediately,
this was one testosterone trip the guy would regret. It was almost
too easy for the Immortal as his left hand came up to block the
blow and his right shot out and connected with the other's jaw.
Greg knew how to hit, and he knew how to hit hard: his opponent
flew through the air. The intellectually challenged individual
landed next to a pair of feet, and found himself being scrutinised
by a very familiar face.
"Not too bright, that,"
Chris said calmly, in a perfect imitation of his brother.
It was difficult enough to tell
the twins apart when they were being themselves, but when one
wanted someone to believe they were the other, no-one had a hope.
"You really should reconsider
your attitude," he continued evenly and stepped over the
prone form. "Come back when you have and your membership
can be reconsidered."
Now the regulars had been told
that Richie would be away for a few days, but even they were a
little confused by the goings on. Chris could do such a perfect
version of his brother that several people doubted what they knew.
It was only after the trouble maker had grabbed his bag and scurried
out that anyone actually said anything.
"That was fun," Chris
commented with a chuckle, peculiar cross accent back in place,
"I can see why Rich likes this job."
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief,
they weren't going crazy, Greg just grinned. He of course had
the major advantage that he had an alternative way of telling
the two apart.
"That's eerie, man,"
Phil commented as the twin walked past him and the two smiled
at each other.
"And so enjoyable,"
the young man returned.
"For god sakes, don't encourage
him," Greg said lightly and headed back for the office.
The twin followed him as everything
returned to normal in the gym.
"So anything I can do for
you?" the older Immortal enquired as he sat back down.
"Well since I don't have
any clients to see this morning," Chris returned easily,
"I have been sent on an errand by my brother's beautiful
wife-to-be. She wants me to talk to you about photographs."
Greg had this feeling that he'd
just been tied down.
Finding the correct frame of
mind for what he was gong to do was taking longer than Richie
had expected. He stood outside the cabin, breathing deeply and
just surveying the beautiful view. It was as he watched a pair
of loons paddling along together that the smell of a campfire
reached his nose. He had to smile, the smoke wreaked of damp twigs
and firelighters, his watcher must not have been much of an outdoor
person. He didn't know who it was at the moment. For a while it
had been David, but Joe had felt it prudent to reassign him and
place a young, unknown individual on Richie's tail. An idea occurred
to the Immortal as he pictured the unfortunate man, and he set
off across the island with a smile on his face.
The fire was pitiful and on the
verge of going out, as Richie watched the clueless man try and
cook something on it. He was no more than about twenty five, and
about the only thing he'd managed correctly was his clothes for
this camping trip. His garb was just right for the current weather,
but his tent was badly put up, his campsite was in completely
the wrong place, and no way would his provisions last him three
days. It was quite a turn about having an Immortal watching the
man who was supposed to be following him, and Richie sat at the
top of the slope on his haunches, enjoying the feeling for a while.
He remembered all too well when he hadn't had a clue about the
outdoors, and he felt sympathy for the man. Finally he could take
the horrific attempts at cooking no-longer, and stood up stepping
out of his hiding place.
"You look miserable,"
he said loudly and the Watcher almost dumped his lunch on the
He had to laugh at the look of
complete horror that crossed the young man's face, even as he
tried to cover his angst. It was possible to actually see the
cogs of his mind working as he tried to come up with a reason
for his presence. He was new to the operative world and he didn't
know a bust when he saw one.
"God, you scared me,"
he said, recomposing himself nicely, "I didn't know anyone
else was on this island. I'm not trespassing or anything am I?"
"Nice try," Richie
shot back cheerfully, "but I know why you're here. Now we
can play hide and seek all week if you like, but quite frankly
you're just going to be cold, hungry and unhappy by tomorrow morning."
The young man's face hardened
as he thought he was going to be told he may as well abandon his
assignment. He knew these few days could be important, and he
was damned if he was going to miss them.
"Don't look so worried,"
the Immortal told him much to his surprise, "I'm not going
to dump you in your boat and send you packing. I am aware of how
persistent your kind can be, you'd just come back when my back
was turned. The cabin is dry, it's warm and Duncan keeps it well
stocked with food. There's a spare bed you're quite welcome to
use, and I won't tell if you won't."
A stunned, confused expression
replaced the annoyance. The Watcher just didn't seem to know what
"Look," Richie said
with a grin, "I'm here to find out exactly who was part of
that Quickening. I was going to make a list myself and give it
to Joe, but you may as well do it yourself."
The man was still motionless.
"Well I'm going back to
the cabin," the Immortal concluded cheerfully, "if you
feel like a nice hot meal and cup of coffee, I'll expect you when
you've taken down that disaster of a tent."
He turned and vacated the area
at an easy trot. A very perturbed Watcher was left to decide if
he was going to except his Immortal's hospitality.
About half an hour later there
was a tentative knock on the cabin door, and Richie grinned as
he turned down the gas stove.
"Come in," he called
lightly, "feel free to dump your stuff in the corner."
A good meal and several steaming
mugs of coffee later, Richie still didn't know the young man's
name, but he was at least not looking at the door every few seconds.
"You don't have to look
so nervous," the Immortal said lightly, "I don't bite."
"No but you do have a mean
sword arm," the Watcher sat back and managed a smile.
He was obviously very unsure
about his current course of action, and he was uncomfortable.
He was straight out of whatever passed for training for his organisation,
and actually talking to an Immortal was a very big break in etiquette.
"Would it make it any easier
if I told you there hasn't been a Watcher on my tail that I haven't
spotted since the Dividing happened?" Richie enquired in
an attempt to ease the brown haired man's angst.
This individual showed all the
aspects of the perfect Watcher. He was a handsome man, but he
was classically good looking, you could find a million of him
in every American city. He had glasses clamped to the end of his
nose and there was an air about him that spoke of someone who
could be happy with his face in a book, or running around in the
real world. The look in his eyes said that breaking the rules
like this came right up there with murder, but he had no other
course of action. Richie's disclosure did at least make him sit
a little easier.
He seemed a little in awe of
the Immortal this close, and he wasn't particularly vocal.
"Under all the hype I'm
just a regular guy," the blond man tried hopefully.
That worked, the Watcher laughed
at the suggestion.
"Yeah, sure," he said
forgetting for a moment that he was supposed to be reticent, "you
just happen to be telepathic and heal in seconds."
"Well, putting it like that,"
the Immortal admitted lightly. "But if you stop looking at
me like I'm going to grow another head any second, we'll get on
His companion looked apologetic,
but he couldn't seem to settle.
"Me being here is enough
to get my butt cooked before I've been at this more than a few
months," he said eventually. "If they find out I've
come within ten feet of you I'll be for the high jump."
"Then we'll just have to
make sure they don't hear anything, won't we," Richie
returned very practically. "I don't admit to understanding
why you guys do what you do, but I've gotten used to the idea.
Most of the time I ignore you, but I just couldn't leave you out
there. You're not cut out for this camping thing."
On that point they had to agree,
there was no doubt that the Watcher was not an outdoor person.
"You're supposed to be a
city guy," the bespectacled individual said, losing just
a trace of his anxiety. "Give me a street and traffic, lots
of people, I can cope, put me in a wood and I sort of loose all
sense of direction."
That drew a hearty chuckle from
the Immortal, not so long ago, he would have said the same about
"Well in a couple of days
we'll be back in the pollution," he commented amiably, "and
we can go back to the comfortable, remote relationship that was
going so well. For now, what do I call you? Watcher doesn't sound
"Adrian," the other
replied after a few moments thought.
He was rewarded by a big smile
from his companion. At last, Richie thought he was getting somewhere:
the tension was ebbing away.
of Part 9