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"I'm Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod," Mac said softly, answering
the man's challenge. "And you'll have to wait until my guests
Crandall tilted his head with a nod of acknowledgment as he spoke,
"Of course, MacLeod. I will return another time." Then he turned on
his heel and left the dojo.
'Joe's' was busy. MacLeod sat at the end of the bar sipping on the
coffee in front of him. Joe Dawson leaned on the bar from the other
side. "John Crandall," Joe said as he shook his head. "He's like an
old west gunslinger, Mac. He hears about someone with a reputation
for winning and he 'rides into town'. Last I heard he was in
MacLeod finished his coffee and stood. "Well, now he's here for me."
Joe cleared Mac's cup as he replied. "I'd say he's looking for more
trouble than he can handle." Joe smiled, then turned serious. "Take
MacLeod nodded at his friend and answered, "I always do," with a
ghost of a smile on his lips. Then he turned and left the bar.
MacLeod opened the lift gate and walked into his loft apartment.
Richie sat on the couch working on his laptop. "Hey Mac," he greeted
MacLeod took off his coat and hung it on a peg in the hallway. "Hey
Richie. What's up? Where's Scott and Melody?"
"Altea's out of town so I thought I'd hang here. Mel and Scott left
with a friend of yours," Richie explained, still typing.
"A friend of mine?" MacLeod tensed, dreading what Richie would say
"Yeah." Richie put the computer on the coffee table and picked up a
business card. "I found this card on the door -- John Crandall."
MacLeod put his coat back on. "Where did they go?"
"Says they'll wait for you at the park," Richie answered, reading
from the back of the card. Then standing up and walking towards his
friend, he asked, "What's wrong, Mac?"
"He's no friend of mine, Richie. He came here to challenge me,"
Mac's temper darkened as he quickly explained what he suspected.
Crandall did not invite the couple for a stroll in the park. "I hope
I'm not too late."
"Oh, man." Richie also sounded worried. "I'll come with you."
MacLeod had reached the front door and he called back to Richie.
"No, stay here in case they come back. If they do, keep them here."
"It doesn't sound like you expect them back," Richie commented.
"No. I don't." MacLeod's voice was grim. "Call Joe, will you? Let
him know what happened. Tell him I'm going to look for them."
MacLeod closed the door behind him.
"Good luck Mac," Richie said softly under his breath.
Crandall, Scott and Melody were walking slowly along the park
sidewalk in the semi- darkness. Some light came from a few distant
"Why does MacLeod want us to meet him here?" Melody asked.
Crandall shrugged. "Have you known the Highlander long?"
Scott seemed wary of the stranger. "You mean Mac?"
"Yes, of course. Mac," Crandall replied, a disconcerting smile
playing on his lips.
Scott stopped. "You don't know him at all, do you? You aren't really
a friend of MacLeod's, are you?" Becoming aware of a different reason
for being there, Scott moved to put himself between Melody and
"No. Not really," Crandall admitted. "We met this afternoon."
Hearing Crandall's confession gave Scott all the reason he needed to
react. He pulled Melody behind him as he reached for his sword and
Crandall found his own.
"Go, Mel. Find MacLeod," Scott commanded her, pushing her toward the
Scott and Crandall crossed swords as Melody stumbled into the
darkness. The clash of steel continued as she fell over a bush that
the blackness had hidden from her. Melody was still on her knees as
she heard -- nothing. Then she saw the lightning arcs of a
Quickening. "Scott?" she whispered softly. She started to whimper
from shock and panic. Then hearing footsteps on the path behind her,
she called out tentatively, "Scott?"
MacLeod pulled into the parking lot in his T-Bird. Turning off the
engine, he grabbed his katana and bolted out of the car. In the
distance he could see the evidence of a Quickening in the night sky.
He walked quickly toward the light show. Almost immediately MacLeod
found Scott's body. He looked up ahead at the still moving lights as
he softly spoke Melody's name, knowing without a doubt that he was
too late. He continued down the path until he came to a clearing. A
nearby street light gave enough illumination for him to see Crandall
standing there, fully recovered from his recent Quickenings.
"Ah, MacLeod," Crandall greeted him. "I seem to have run into a
couple of your students."
"Why Crandall? Tell me why," demanded MacLeod, his voice rough with
the fury he barely held in check.
"It helps when your opponent is thinking of other things when you
meet," he said. "Don't you agree, MacLeod? It keeps them off center,
easier to distract. Like you are now."
MacLeod was quiet for a few seconds. Then with icy calm, he replied,
MacLeod attacked Crandall. He was brutal, quick and thorough. He
gave no respite, as Crandall had given none to the young lovers.
With a quick slice through Crandall's Achilles, MacLeod had him on
his knees awaiting the last cut of the katana. MacLeod didn't make
him wait but a few seconds before he drew the honed blade through the
neck of the villain. Too late. He was too late.
After the Quickening, MacLeod allowed himself the luxury of thinking
of the young Immortals he had sentenced to death by allowing them to
be near him when this evil menace had happened by. The loss of the
young couple devastated him.
MacLeod found Melody's body. Taking off his coat, he wrapped her
tenderly and carried her body back toward the parking lot. Joe and
Richie arrived in Joe's car just as MacLeod got there.
"Mac?" Joe asked fearfully. Knowingly.
"He got them both before I got here, Joe," MacLeod told his friend.
Joe swallowed hard, fighting back the tears. "You couldn't know,
Richie leaned against the car, head back, his face toward the sky,
"We'll bury them on the island," MacLeod told the other two.
It was late and the three friends were on the porch of MacLeod's
secluded cabin. The glow from the fireplace reached them through the
windows, the only light except for the distant stars. Richie was at
the bottom of the steps leaning against the banister, Joe stood on
the porch above, and MacLeod sat on the stairs between them.
Mac was emotionally distraught. "They would've been safer away from
me. Crandall would not have gotten to them."
"No, Mac," Joe disagreed. "They needed a teacher. You're the best."
Joe was still trying to persuade MacLeod to see the other side of the
story, but it didn't seem to be working.
"Mac?" Richie said, "You know, I've been meaning to say something to
you for a long time. But I've never found the right time or place
Richie swung around and put a hand on each side of the stairs,
actually looking into MacLeod's eyes, almost nose to nose. He
continued, "Thanks, Mac. Thanks for everything." Richie paused as he
searched for just the right words.
"Richie, you ...don't..." MacLeod tried to quiet his friend and
Richie took a step back and laughed. "Remember? The Knights of the
Round Table?" Richie made a "Z" motion with his hand through the
air, making a swishing sound as he did it. Then he hooked his thumbs
into the pockets of his jeans and continued, "The luckiest day of my
life was the day I picked your shop to break into. I woulda never
made it on my own." Richie looked up at the bright stars in the
moonless night sky. Then turning serious, he looked over at MacLeod.
"I know we've had some rough times. My fault, your fault, others
interfering, but... you've done everything in your power, gone above
and beyond the call of anybody's meaning of the word 'duty', to teach
me the 'Game' and how to survive in it. You made the right decision
when you decided to teach me, Mac. I wouldn't have made it this far
Again, MacLeod started to protest. "Rich."
But Richie continued, "No, Mac. Let me finish. You made the right
decision when you decided to help Melody and Scott too. They'd have
told you the same thing if they'd had the time. Like I said, I've
been lucky. But they weren't so lucky. They weren't given that
time. And that part wasn't up to you MacLeod, somebody else took
that away from them. Crandall."
MacLeod sat quietly for a few moments, listening to the night sounds
of the forest around them. Letting Richie's words soothe him. Then
he wiped his tear stained face with the heels of his hands and spoke
softly. "Richie? Are you finished?"
"Yeah, I'm finished." Richie replied, leaning back against the
banister, a smug smile on his face.
"How did you get to be so smart?" MacLeod asked.
Richie looked MacLeod in the eyes again as he replied with a big
grin, "From you, Mac. Everything from you."
MacLeod gave Richie his hand and Richie pulled him to his feet. Mac
put his arm around the younger Immortal's shoulders and they climbed
the stairs together. Pausing at the top of the stairs, MacLeod
reached over to touch Joe's arm, trying to comfort his mortal friend
as Richie had comforted him. He squeezed Joe's shoulder. "Come on,
Joe, I'll make you some coffee."
Joe nodded, then watched as the two Immortals went inside the cabin.
Joe didn't blame MacLeod, how could he? MacLeod had done what he
could. It was the 'Game'. All Immortals were in it -- whether they
wanted to play or not. Was it good against evil? Or just man against
man? He remembered when Richie had told him that "it would be okay,
she's an Immortal". But Joe had known then. Joe had been a Watcher
for a long time and he knew the odds. He had tried to help stack
those odds in Melody's favor by including MacLeod. He had tried.
MacLeod had tried. They had lost.
No, he didn't blame Melody's death on MacLeod. Joe blamed it on the
'Game'. But the 'Game' was what Immortals were all about. The
hunters and the hunted. Wasn't it?
Joe closed his eyes, thinking of Mel's smiling face. "We tried Mel,"
he whispered into the night. Then he followed the two Immortals into
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