Wandering the streets of his
home city was something that now made Richie feel the difference
in himself. This place almost felt alien to him. Everywhere else
he could ignore the sensitivity of his hearing to the traffic,
and the fact that he noticed everybody and everything just in
case the information could be useful in the near future. Yet here
he remembered how it had been. This was the neighbourhood of his
youth; the other side of a divide that he could never re-cross.
It was an innocence lost forever, and the one place on earth where
he could never belong again because it held too many memories.
It wasn't that he could ever
really see himself wanting to come back to a place that had only
ever meant trouble. It was just that it underlined how much he
had changed, and sometimes that bothered him. This part of the
city brought back memories of a time when life had been about
just moving from one day to the next. There had been no big picture
and no pressure to remember that there was always the possibility
that someone would be waiting round the next corner, wanting his
head. Usually he let these cares fall to the back of his mind,
but here they floated to the surface unbidden everytime he noticed
something new. Something that once upon a time would never have
impinged upon his consciousness. No matter how many times he tried
to tell himself that he was better off now than he had ever been,
or that by now he should be used to his Immortality, the old haunts
brought it all back. It made him wonder if the Highlands of Scotland
did the same to MacLeod or whether, with time, Immortals forgot
what it was like to have been prey to natures little pit falls.
He usually made it a rule to stay away from where he may meet
someone from his past. That way he could continue his new life
without the hang ups of his old one, but today he had decided
that he honestly wanted to look up an old friend.
He had stayed away from these
particular roads and alleys before and the old place had changed
a little. Some shops had moved owners and others actually looked
better than he remembered them, but mostly it was the same. He
had already checked on the person he wanted to see and he knew
that she still worked in the homeless shelter just down the street.
That she was running it now, rather than acting as a help, did
not come as much of a surprise. If there was one thing that Angie
was not, it was a follower. She was one woman who was born to
lead, and given a few years it wouldn't be a homeless shelter
she had under her control. Not of course that Richie would ever
tell his old friend any of this. Angie always did much better
without anyone pointing out just what potential they saw in her.
Richie wanted to catch up on old times, and that would hopefully
be the topic of conversation.
The building had a fresh coat
of paint, so fresh in fact that Richie could still smell the fumes
in the air even though it appeared totally dry. He stood there
a while with his hands pushed deep into the pockets of his brown
leather jacket, just looking. It wasn't just his physical vulnerability
which had altered over time it was his outward appearance as well,
he was most definitely not the scruffy street punk he had been.
Richie Ryan was not a picture of opulence either, but his shirt
was pressed, his boots were clean and there were no holes in his
black jeans: quite a difference from how he had been most of the
time he had been here.
Finally, with a deep breath he
reached out and took the handle of the blue door opening it to
reveal the sound of people talking. The light was dimmer inside
filtering in through the two remaining windows which were not
boarded up, and the place smelled equally of cooking food and
disinfectant. A few of the residents looked up as Richie walked
towards the counter but otherwise he was ignored, a common reaction
in this part of the world. It was not good to notice things that
weren't your business when seeing something could land you in
"You from the Welfare people
or something?" the burley man behind the serving counter
asked in a somewhat hostile manner.
"Actually I came to see
Angie," the young Immortal replied with a smile of peaceful
truce, the closest that anyone came to friendship in this neighbourhood
until they knew your family history for three generations.
The worker eyed him suspiciously
for a few seconds more, the pen with which he had been writing
wavering in the air. Then shrugged noncommittally, "She's
outback," he said, "wait here and I'll go get her."
"Thank you," was the
The individual disappeared with
only one glance over his shoulder, but it was obvious that he
was in no hurry, so Richie took the time to survey the shelter.
This place was no simple soup kitchen, it was more of a halfway
house, and most of those sitting around in the almost descent
chairs were young people with the look of loss in their eyes.
Most of them appeared to have been there a while and it conjured
a picture of Ange with all the lost souls of the world around
her. It made the young Immortal smile.
"You wanted to see me,"
a voice said from behind him, just after he heard the door open.
The tone was nearly as suspicious as that of the one it replaced.
Richie turned slowly, a broad
smile on his face and took in the view of his old friend. He was
not the only one to have changed, and Angie looked for all the
world like a real business woman with her own premises. Gone was
the leather jacket and the henna died hair, and in their place
were a trouser suit and a neatly trimmed bob.
"Hi, Ange," he greeted
cheerfully, "how's life?"
It took a moment for the young
woman to realise who she was seeing, and then her face broke into
a huge grin. Recognition had taken some time, but the two had
seen a lot of life together, and even though it had been a long
time, Richard Ryan was unmistakable.
"Richie," she said
jovially, "you grew up."
The young Immortal looked down
at himself quizzically, her comment made him glad that even if
he was ageless, he wasn't going to look eighteen all his life.
"I suppose I did,"
he replied with an enigmatic smile. "You turned out quite
That brought a laugh from the
ex-biker groupie, and before she replied, much to the surprise
of those in the room, she threw her arms around the man who to
everybody else was a complete stranger. Angie wasn't known for
her tactile exhibits of emotion, well not at work anyway, and
the fact that she enfolded in an embrace someone nobody had laid
eyes on before, brought a few looks.
"It's good to see you,"
she said sincerely totally unaware of the interest she was gaining,
"it's been too long."
"That's what I thought,"
he replied as the two broke apart and just looked each other up
and down for a moment. "You're looking ravishingly businesslike
Angie smiled at the compliment
and put her head on one side to read the embossing on the button
of his jacket cuff.
"A labelled brand no less,"
she observed in reply, "have we gone into bank robbery now?"
"No," he responded
quickly with laughter in his voice, "but when one has lived
in Paris one must maintain a certain standard."
For that she hit him, now that
was a reaction the residents were used to and most lost interest.
He looked at her with mock shock on his face, and then his expression
broke into a broad grin.
"Maybe you haven't changed
that much after all," he said buoyantly as the suspicious
man returned to his position behind the counter.
Angie turned to the burly individual
and patted him on the arm.
"Steve, this is Richie Ryan,"
she introduced warmly, "a friend from the bad old days when
I used to work in the kitchen. Richie this is Steve, the strong
arm of this operation."
"Nice to meet you,"
the young Immortal said genuinely, and at last the suspicion was
gone from the other's eyes.
"Any friend of Ange,"
Steve returned calmly and the two men shook hands in a respectful,
if not chummy way.
Even if Angie didn't see it,
the older man recognised an individual who could handle himself.
It was one of the reasons he had suspected trouble in the first
place, but now he was happy to leave this situation in his boss'
"Let's go to my office,"
the young woman said brightly, "and then we can catch up
over a cup of something."
"You have an office? "
Richie returned cheerfully, and as she tucked her hand round his
arm he noticed the sapphire ring on her fourth finger.
He found to his great relief
that the conclusion he drew from this was not even remotely tinged
with jealousy, as it could have been at one time. Instead, the
new information filled him with ecstatic happiness for his old
friend. He kept his silence until the door closed, and then he
expressed his reaction.
he said brightly and took an offered seat, "who's the lucky
That brought a slight look of
surprise to his friend's face, she hadn't expected him to notice.
As she glanced at the ring there was no hiding the look of deep
love in her eyes.
"Well I was thinking of
living my life as a nun after you upped and left," she said
sarcastically and walked over to where the beverages waited on
a stand, "but then I changed my mind and threw myself at
this rich doctor type."
Richie laughed, Angie wasn't
the sort to throw herself at anyone.
"More like you threw him
at your feet," he shot back light-heartedly, "you forget,
Ange, I've known you a long time."
She passed him a mug of steaming
liquid, and then drew her chair out from behind the desk and sat
"Well maybe a bit of both,"
she agreed contentedly and took a sip of her drink.
"Go on then," was the
continuation from her friend, he had never been the patient type,
"give the details."
A bright smile lit up her face
at his insistence and she paused, making him wait that little
"Okay," she said finally,
"his name's John, and at the moment he's only a poor resident,
but soon he's going to be a rich neuro-surgeon, which means I
will be able to buy a car that does not have 70,00 miles on the
Richie winced at the reference,
Ange obviously had a long memory and was never going to let him
forget his short stint as a used car salesman.
"We've been engaged for
two months and the wedding's set for June," she continued
cheerfully, "and if you stick around that long I'll add you
to the guest list. We met when I broke my finger lifting some
boxes out back and had to go to the hospital. You could say it
was love at first sight. We went on a few dates and then he invited
me home to meet his parents. You should see where they live, you
could build a multi-storey in their garden. Well much to my surprise
I hit it off with his mother straight away. I must admit I'd been
expecting the third degree for me, a lowly street brat, having
had the cheek to waylay the son of such a wealthy family, but
nothing of the kind. Jennifer is a lovely woman who, believe it
or not, had a passion for motorbikes when she was a girl. "
She grinned at him broadly.
"My life has fallen into
place," she confirmed happily. "But how about you, my
old friend, how is life with you? I can see that you have no problem
on the money front, but what have you been up to since we last
"You wouldn't believe half
of it," he told her jovially, "and the rest is not particularly
interesting. I'm still hanging out with MacLeod some of the time,
and I've been moving around. Paris is nice, Mac has a dojo which
is nice too. I took up racing for a while, now, who knows."
After taking a sip of her drink
and looking Richie up and down once more, Angie decided it was
worth pushing him. In the past no one ever squeezed out of this
young man any more than he wanted to give, but she was pretty
sure that this time he wanted to talk.
"So how is MacLeod these
days," she asked lightly, "and for that matter how's
A pang of grief hit Richie at
that question, something he hadn't expected, and he hid it by
taking a long swig of the drink in his hand. The heated liquid
burned, but not as much as being reminded of a lost friend. Tessa
had died quite some time ago, and there had been the incident
with Lisa since, but the direct question from someone who didn't
know still cut deeply.
"Mac's fine," he responded
eventually, having fought down the emotion, "the antiques
business is flourishing and life's going great. Tessa isn't with
us anymore, she was killed by a mugger, Duncan's over it now."
"Oh god, Richie, I'm sorry,"
Ange said almost instantly, "I really blundered in there."
A half sad smile played across
the young Immortal's lips, but it was gone in an instant.
"Forget it," he responded
quickly, "it's long past. Tessa's gone and not even Mac can
bring her back, the topic was bound to come up sometime. Let's
concentrate on the living shall we."
He raised his mug in informal
salute to the past and the future and that closed the topic of
of Part 1