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Part 3

Scene 7

Richie returned to Joe's soon after his discussion with MacLeod. Michael was still snoring away in the back room, so Richie crashed on the couch in Joe's office. He got up early the next morning, broke out some of the leftover Chinese food, and set up his laptop in a back booth.

"No, that doesn't sound right," Richie grumbled as he typed. "What the hell was I thinking when I wrote that anyway? Maybe if I tried it this way."

"Oh God, somebody shoot me." Michael stumbled into the bar, looking like death warmed over. He barely managed to make it over to Richie's table before he collapsed on the bench. "I'm beginning to remember why I don't drink."

"Trust me, you'll live," Richie laughed.

Michael shot him a dirty look. "Not funny, wise ass," he said. Then he spotted Richie's laptop. "What'cha writing?"

Richie fought a losing battle to keep from blushing. "Oh, nothing," he answered. He quickly closed the laptop before Michael got a glimpse of the screen. "Nothing you'd be interested in anyway."

Michael grinned. "Hey that's cool, I understand," he said. "I'm pretty embarrassed about some of the crap I turned out when I first started writing lyrics. Some of those suckers were so sappy, you could have twisted the paper and gotten enough stuff to make maple syrup out of."

Richie laughed. "That's pretty bad all right." He picked up a carton and offered it to Michael. "Sweet and sour pork?"

Michael pushed Richie's hand away as he turned green. "You're just determined to make me miserable, aren't you?"

"Yup," Richie answered.

Michael sighed. "I really am sorry about last night," he said. "Normally I don't drink at all, just a couple of beers here and there. But I was just so pissed off at MacLeod and I couldn't pour it into my music like I normally do, so I hit the bar. My shrink says I've got a lot of anger issues."

Richie glanced at his watch. "Well, with any luck, I might be able to take care of some of that."

Michael raised an eyebrow. "What are you. . .? Oh no, not again," he moaned. He dropped his head between his knees, fighting back a wave of nausea. "How do you people handle this?!"

"You get used to it after awhile," Duncan answered as he came in.

Michael snorted. "Easy for you to say," he said. "And you might as well give it up, MacLeod, because you're not changing my mind."

"True," Richie replied, "but I'm hoping you'll change his."

Duncan grabbed a chair and brought it over to their booth. "Richie told me about what you said last night."

Michael sighed as he raised his head. "I can't give up my music," he said. "And I hate putting my parents through this. If there was some way I could change my identity but still play and let Mom and Dad know what's going on, I would have agreed by now. I've got no problems with being a studio musician or playing in a joint like this, but it just won't work."

"He's right, Mac," Richie agreed. "I don't have much of an ear for that sort of thing, but I've never heard anyone like Michael. Even if he gave up singing, someone would still recognize his guitar technique or his piano style."

"Who would have thought that the unique style that made me famous would end up ruining my life?" Michael asked, despondent. "If I'd known this was going to happen, I wouldn't have devoted so much of my life to perfecting it."

Duncan leaned back in his chair. "All right, let's say that you do manage to pull this off. That no one catches you fighting another immortal and you manage to keep your head. How long do you think you can go before someone notices you don't age?"

"You're kidding, right?" Michael asked. "Have you ever seen Steven Tyler? The guy hasn't aged in years! Hey, he's not. . .?"

Richie shook his head. "No, he's not," he answered. "I saw them in concert once and managed to get close enough to the stage to be able to tell."

Michael ran a hand through his hair. "Look, I'm not stupid. I know what a miracle it was that I made it this far," he said. "Way I figure it, if I am extremely lucky, I can get twenty, maybe thirty years out of my career, tops. By then, I'll be able to afford a nice little island out in the middle of the South Pacific or a chalet in the Alps where nobody's ever heard of me and I can hole up for a couple of centuries and play my little heart out until it's safe to come back and start over as someone else. Right now I can't even go to a third world country and hide out without someone recognizing my voice."

Richie laughed. "Sounds like he's got a plan to me, Mac."

Duncan was beginning to feel ganged up on. "I won't put up with any garbage from you," he said. "I say when the lessons start and finish and you work your schedule around mine, not the other way around. You're gonna need a lot of discipline if you're going to survive ."

"Discipline is my middle name," Michael replied. "I've devoted six hours a day, every day to practicing my music since I was eight. That leaves about fourteen hours for you to whip my butt into shape."

"That's only twenty hours, what happened to the other four?" Richie asked.

Michael shrugged. "Hey, a guy's gotta sleep sometime."

Duncan sighed as he realized he had no choice but to admit defeat. "All right, go get your stuff while Richie and I try to figure out how to sneak you into the dojo," he said. "If you're going to survive as a rock star, you're going to need to get really good really fast."

Michael grinned. "You won't regret this, Mac, I promise."

"I hope you're right, Michael," Duncan said.

Scene 8

"Where is it?!" Angel screamed as he tore through the newspaper. It had been two days since he had killed Michael Anders, but it wasn't even being mentioned. Something that big should have been all over the news, but he couldn't find it.

He had newspapers spread all over his dingy motel room and the TV was going nonstop. But all they said was Michael was missing. He just couldn't figure it out. He had even called those stupid cops and told them where to find the body, but still nothing! Unless. . .

"No," Angel breathed. "He couldn't have survived. I, I was careful. I know I killed him, I know I did!" He opened the drawer in the bedside table and pulled out a gun. "Maybe I'd better make sure."

Scene 9

The sword fighting lesson had been interesting. Michael had never even held a sword before, so he had no idea what he was doing. He had ended up down on his knees, disarmed, with Duncan's katana at his neck so many times that he lost count after awhile. It wasn't until Richie had suggested putting the moves to a musical beat that he finally got the hang of it. He still couldn't defeat the Highlander, but at least he was lasting longer.

They finally called it quits because Duncan had a dinner business meeting. Richie and Michael hit the showers and then prepared to leave.

"Do we really have to go back to Joe's?" Michael asked as they headed out.

"Michael, you've got a psychotic killer out looking for you who's already killed you once," Richie said. "If he does it in public, you really have to quit being Michael Anders."

"But I'm bored," Michael complained.

Richie rolled his eyes. "You're also supposed to be in hiding."

"Richie, I'm not talking about doing a strip tease in the middle of downtown," Michael replied. "I just wanna go to the movies or something."

Richie thought about it. "Well, maybe a movie wouldn't be too bad," he said. "I guess you could hide out pretty well in a dark theater."

Michael grinned. "That's the spirit!" he laughed. "C'mon, there's this new Uma Thurman flick I'm dying to see."

Richie shrugged. "Well, if Mac's gonna kill me, at least it'll be for a worthy cause," he said.

"I knew there was a reason I liked you," Michael replied.

They were so engrossed in their conversation that they didn't notice Angel watching them from across the street.

Scene 1 0

After the movie, the two young immortals got something to eat. They sat in a booth in Richie's favorite diner, goofing around and checking out the women. Afterwards, they finally headed back to Joe's.

"Did you see the red-head in the plastic mini?" Michael asked as they entered the bar.

"Did I?" Richie replied. "Man, I thought I was gonna explode when she bent down to pick up that napkin."

"You should have seen her friend," Michael said with a wink.

"The blonde with the incredible. . .," Richie held his hands out in front of his chest, "assets?"

Michael nodded. "That's the one," he answered. "Too bad I couldn't use my real name. Who needs a pick up line when you're famous?"

"I've gotta admit, you've got a great eye for talent," Richie said. "Like that babe on your CD cover. Oh man, the things I could do to her!"

Michael smacked him on the arm. "Watch it, pal. That's my little sister you're talking about."

"But you're the one who put her in a leather thong and torn fishnets," Richie pointed out.

"Actually, that was her idea. I wanted to go with the Catholic school girl look with the three inch spiked heels and the cat-o'- nine-tails," Michael replied. "But you should have seen the look on Mom's face when she saw that shot. I thought her head was gonna explode."

Suddenly, a voice cut through the empty bar. "Always nice to see a happy, loving family. Too bad I'm going to have to destroy it."

Michael's face went pale as Angel walked out on the stage. "You!"

Angel's smile sent chills through the other men. "I don't know how you survived, but I'm going to fix that." Then he raised his gun and fired.

Richie reacted purely on instinct, forgetting for the moment that both he and Michael were immortal. He shoved the musician out of the way and ended up taking the bullet straight in the heart. He hit the floor with a thud, dead.

Michael scrambled to get behind the bar as Angel fired again. "Look, Angel, or whatever the hell your name is, I, uh, I appreciate your interest in my career, but isn't this a little extreme?" he asked nervously.

Angel fired again and shattered a bottle on one of the shelves. "This is the only way to make sure they never forget you!"

Michael crawled further down the length of the bar. "Couldn't you at least wait until I've released a few more albums?" he asked.

Angel fired again, hitting the top of the bar.

"Guess not," Michael replied. {Pull yourself together, Anders. You're immortal now he can't hurt you. But if you don't stop him, he may end up hurting someone you care about. Somebody who won't be getting up again like Richie will.}

Angel fired a series of shots at the bar.

"Will you knock that off?!" Michael snapped as he stood up. "It's bad enough you killed my friend there, but do you have to wreck Joe's bar too? If you're gonna kill me, at least have the decency to do it outside. There's a nice little alley a couple of blocks away that would be perfect."

This turn of events confused Angel. "You want me to kill you?"

Michael nodded. "Hey, when you're right, you're right," he answered. "All the greats died before their time - Elvis, Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrisson, John Lennon. And if I want to be in their league, I gotta bite the bullet and make the sacrifice, so to speak. But Joe's a good friend of my family and I really don't want his bar to be associated with my tragic and untimely death."

Angel came down from the stage and walked closer as he thought. The whole thing sounded like a trap, but Michael did seem sincere. Michael would never lie to him, Michael was too good for that. That's why he had to die. "I guess that would be okay," he said finally. "After all, the location really isn't that important. It's the death that matters."

"Great, I knew you'd see it my way," Michael replied. "But, uh, you might want to turn around first."

"Why?" Angel asked, confused, as he turned around.

"Hi there." Richie pulled back his fist and cracked Angel square in the jaw.

Angel dropped his gun in surprise, but he recovered enough to quickly attack Richie.

Michael jumped over the bar as they fought. "Forgive me, Joe," he muttered. Then he grabbed a chair and slammed it into Angel's back. The chair shattered, but an unconscious Angel finally dropped to the floor.

Richie licked away blood from his split lip. "Nice shot," he said. "We make a pretty good team."

Michael grinned. "Yeah, we do."

"Why don't you call the cops while I go change my shirt?" Richie suggested.

"Good idea," Michael answered. "But after that, I think I'm gonna pass out."

Scene 1 1

When Richie walked into Joe's two nights later, the place was packed. Michael's concert had let out about an hour ago and now everyone who was anyone in the city was at Joe's for the major party afterwards.

Richie spotted Joe and Duncan and headed over to their table. "You guys missed one hell of a show," he said as he sat down. "Michael was incredible."

"Glad to see immortality hasn't affected his playing any," Joe laughed.

"If anything, it's made him better," Richie replied. "It was like now that he doesn't have to worry about getting hurt or wrecking his voice, he's turned everything up a notch. He's amazing." He wriggled out of his leather jacket and hung it over the back of his chair.

"Nice jacket," Duncan said.

"You like it?" Richie asked. "I bought it this morning. It was kind of expensive, but I figured what the hell. Immortal or not, you only live once, right?"

"Well, it's very nice, Richie," Duncan answered. He and Joe exchanged a wary glance as the younger immortal scanned the crowd. Richie had been buying a lot of expensive things lately, but no one knew where he was getting the money from.

They felt Michael's approach and then spotted his dark head coming towards them a few seconds later. "Hey, if it isn't my favorite knight in leather armor," he teased as he sat down next to Richie.

"Killer show tonight, my friend," Richie said.

"Thank you, thank you," Michael replied. "It was so good to be back on stage, playing my music. Forget the millions of CD's, the awards, the money. There is nothing like the rush you get from walking on to a stage and making an arena of twenty thousand people jump to their feet and sing along to something you wrote. And I owe it all to you guys. I never would have been able to get back to my music if you hadn't helped me out."

"You keep bringin' in crowds like this and we'll call it even," Joe laughed.

"It's a deal, Joe," Michael replied, smiling. "So, Coach, when do we start my next lesson?"

Duncan took a sip of his drink. "Actually, I want to talk to you about that," he answered. "I can't go on tour with you and something tells me you wouldn't be thrilled with canceling the rest of your dates to stay here. So I've got another idea." He handed Michael a piece of paper.

Michael glanced at the paper. "What's this?"

"That is the name and number of a friend of mine who has agreed to take my place as your teacher," Duncan answered. "He runs a personal security company in Hollywood, so you can hire him as your bodyguard to explain his presence. Just call him when you get to LA and he'll set it all up."

Michael tucked the paper into his pocket. "Of course, I don't really need a bodyguard now that Angel's behind bars," he replied. "But when it comes to swordplay, I need all the help I can get. I wonder if there's some way I could work all of this into my act."

Duncan shot him a dirty look. "Don't even think about it."

"Why not?" Michael asked. "It's my life and don't they always say you should write what you know?"

"Do it and I'll take your head myself," Duncan answered.

"Ooh, like I'm really scared," Michael shot back.

Richie sighed. This was going to be a long night.

The End

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