Joe was busy cleaning and polishing his place to perfection. He always wanted everything to have the unique Joe's touch. He stopped briefly with his arms crossed over his chest, observing the results of his work.

He smiled to himself.

{ Who am I going to fool? } he thought, while checking how the tables and seats were placed all around the small music stage. {This place would go on beautifully without me. You are aging, old man, face it!}

He sighed ironically to himself, then limped slowly behind the bar, leaning heavily on his cane.

The glasses were shiny, the drinks were cold and inviting, and he was eager to meet his usual customers and to enjoy the evening. The warm, glimmering lights gave the bar an intimate and relaxing atmosphere. Joe started humming softly, using the extra time to take a quick look through the books under the counter.

With a sudden loud thud the massive door was slammed open. The echo died with no further sounds. Everything stood still, the silence weighing heavily. Annoyed, Joe acknowledged the presence of someone waiting on the threshold. He looked up from his papers and focused on a dark silhouette standing against the bright light of the sun outside. He didn't remember unlocking the door...

"Sorry, we're not open yet. Just a few minutes. Would you mind waiting outside?" Joe's warm tenor voice trailed off. The silence grew thicker, almost palpable. The figure closed the door slowly then turned towards him and stepped away from the light..

"Joe Dawson?" The voice was inquisitive, at the same time soft and almost gentle, but infinitely cold.

Joe's eyes fell involuntary to the stranger's side, attracted by a repetitive movement...an object was being twirled over and over with ease by a slender wrist and hand.

He couldn't quite guess what it was about, but his experience and long service as a Watcher had all his senses on alert. Joe could recognize danger when he saw it.

He casually put both hands under the bar, thinking fast for a way out of this, searching for a means to buy some precious time.

{Where's my gun?}

"You want money? You're the first customer, I'm afraid. " His tone was openly sarcastic. "You won't find much." He waited for an answer, or for someone to enter and break the suspense.

"I ask you again. You Joe Dawson?" The stranger took another step forward, into the circles of light over the bar.

Joe almost relaxed, but then the mysterious object twirled in the stranger's left hand again caught his attention. He felt the blood drain from his face, a heavy coldness floating in his stomach. The Watcher stared at the heavy labrys, the doubled- headed axe glinting in the half light of the bar. Turning and turning and turning in the young woman's small hand.

Joe fixed his eyes on her cold and unyielding dark ones.

"Who wants to know?" he dared her.

She grinned, licking her teeth, silent fury plain in the whiteness of her face. Joe couldn't help notice her reddish, dark-blond long hair, the worn-out faded jeans, her black sweater a couple of sizes larger than needed, the anonymous and voluminous inexpensive coat. And the dangerous-looking axe.

{She must be an Immortal.} This thought forced its way through all the others that were storming in Joe's mind, searching for the information that could save him.

Suddenly, the girl moved closer to the bar and grasped Joe's wrist, forcing him to turn it painfully to reveal his Watcher tattoo. She was so close to him that, despite his surprise and dismay, he could smell her rose scent, see the scars of deep weariness in her soul showing through her grimace.

"I'm Dawson." He said, trying to sound stern, pretending a calmness he hoped was there.

"Right. I knew." She answered slowly with a slight amusement in her voice, still holding his wrist. She was surprisingly strong.

Joe smiled again to himself, because, even now, with incredible detachment he was making mental notes to refer to later, data to store away.

The silence in the bar was complete. The two faced each other, surrounded by the soft darkness.

"And you are...?" The Watcher's words hung in the air.

The young woman let him go. She raised her labrys -- a worn, long- used one -- made to perfectly fit her hand. Time stopped.

"I am going to kill you, Watcher." She spit the last word as pure venom on her red lips. "Horton - kind of brother, for you -- assassinated Darius. You didn't stop him. Now you die."

Her voice was still soft and gentle. Still so cold and quiet. She prepared to hit him and everything seemed to slow down preternaturally for Joe Dawson.

Then something happened: all at once she felt an incoming presence. Another of her kind! Near. Too near. The dizziness in her head was strong. The door opened again, and a tall, dark- haired man with broad shoulders and a very determined expression confronted her. He was coming in cautiously, but as soon as he faced the stranger, he immediately drew his katana.

He didn't have the time to address her, because the woman turned back to Joe, throwing her weapon to kill. The Watcher moved to avoid it, but not quickly enough. His right shoulder exploded in a harsh, unbelievable pain and he felt the world fading from him. The mortal fell to the ground. She jumped over the bar; the other Immortal grabbed her by her coat, trying to divert her attention from his wounded friend. The stranger shrugged herself free by tearing the coat, took her axe, and started to fight back.

Right away, she showed herself to be a good fighter, obviously well trained, her confidence evident. The other Immortal's technique equalled hers. His anger and worry for his friend, maybe bleeding to death, moved his sword in swift, precise thrusts and ripostes. He managed to parry an almost-deadly swing of the axe then, with a rapid turn, put his blade right to her neck, only to find it blocked by the labrys. Their gazes locked, but she knew he was stronger than she, and made a retreat, leaving her right side open in so doing. The Highlander's katana found its way deeply into her body, drawing first blood.

The duel paused briefly, the two Immortals confronting each other. Joe groaned from where he lay, just as a small group of thirsty customers entered the still-open door of the bar. This was the diversion the female Immortal was waiting for. Bleeding profusely from the deadly wound, she plunged into the astonished and confused knot of customers and escaped.

Duncan had no doubt of what had to be done. He calmly shooed the people away, claiming a small inconvenience made it necessary to close the bar for the evening. His clenched jaw seemed to obtain more results than his words. Then he ran to Joe, and pulled down the phone from the wall to call 9-1-1.

There were questions to be answered.


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