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The Nutcracker

Part 2

Scene 5


A short walk through a glass passageway brought them from the theater to one of Paris' most exclusive hotels. Its grand ballroom had been transformed into a glittering collage of scenes from the Nutcracker. An eighteen foot Christmas tree stood in one corner, surrounded by beautifully wrapped packages and adorned with real candles. The table which displayed items for the fund-raising auction was skirted with an unlikely but effective combination of Arabian scarves and oversized Chinese fans. A balalaika ensemble dressed in traditional Russian garb played in one corner. Throughout the room costumed dancers from the production mingled with champagne-sipping patrons. Even the waiters were dressed as toy soldiers and mice.

Duncan accepted two glasses of champagne from a passing toy soldier and presented one to Anne. He was about to raise his glass for a toast when a Parisian matron dressed to the nines bustled up and took his arm.

"Oh, Monsieur MacLeod, we are sooo glad you were able to come. . ." she began. Duncan smiled tolerantly and shot an apologetic look at Anne. He wondered offhandedly if this woman could possibly be related to Maurice; her timing certainly suggested it!

"I am so sorry, but might I drag you away for just one tiny moment? The chairman of the gala would like to thank you in person for your generous contribution of Ms. Noel's work. . . Oh but how rude I am! I'm taking you away from this lovely lady. . ."

Introductions were made. Then, with another apologetic look, Duncan allowed himself to be towed away by the matron, and Anne was left alone. She moved slowly toward the silent auction table, wondering as she walked why the mention of Tessa's name had set off such a torrent of old emotions within her. Duncan had made no secret of his past happiness with Tessa; indeed, it had not really been an issue when they were a couple. Besides, she and Duncan had decided on the friendship route. She wasn't thinking about re-opening the relationship, was she?

She interrupted her self-analysis to gaze at a sparkling crystal bowl on the auction table. It was an exquisite piece of work, with images of ballerinas etched delicately into its sides. Impulsively she set down her champagne glass and bent to pick up a pen to sign the bid sheet for the item, knowing even as she did that her attraction to the piece was out-of-character, and that the delicate bowl would hardly fit in with the hand-thrown pottery and abstract carvings which ornamented her home in Seacouver. As she straightened she became aware of a presence at her side and turned, expecting to see Duncan. Instead she found herself looking into a pair of ice-blue eyes set in an impossibly handsome yet delicate face. The perfect lips were moving. . .

". . . quite alright, Mademoiselle?"

Anne snapped back to reality and realized with deep embarrassment that she had been staring.

"Oh yes, I'm sorry. . ." she began. "I was just . . " The godlike creature smiled, and she looked quickly down at the crystal bowl. He followed her gaze, then bent to read her name from the bid list.

"Dr. Anne . . . Lindsey, is it? I'm Nikolai Kijinsky. Would you care for some champagne?" He flashed that impossibly perfect smile and Anne felt a sudden wave of wild amusement. This was just like a page out of the sort of silly romance novel she would never be caught dead reading. Yet, for all his looks the man failed to project . . . something, which she'd usually associate with a classic come-on. Besides, she already had a date for the evening, and for that matter she was holding a glass of champagne! Wait. She wasn't. She'd set it down. Anne turned to retrieve her glass but found it missing-- the waitstaff here was nothing if not efficient!

"You know, I had a glass right there. . ." Her voice trailed off, and Kijinsky chuckled and signalled to a passing mouse. He handed Anne a new glass. She thanked him and took the obligatory sip, then smiled and opened her mouth to speak but found that her tongue suddenly felt like lead and her mouth wouldn't respond. Kijinsky's handsome features swam before her and his voice came as from a great distance.

"Are you feeling alright, Dr. Lindsey? You don't look so well. Here, let me help you." Then the darkness engulfed her as she thought frantically, "I've been drugged!"

Scene 6


Duncan MacLeod glanced at his watch as he rode the elevator alone back to the ballroom level of the hotel. The "one tiny moment" with the gala director had stretched into fifteen minutes, and then he'd been called to the parking garage concerning a problem with what turned out to be someone else's car. He felt like a heel leaving Anne stranded for so long, and was planning the wording of his apology when the elevator suddenly stopped and the lights went out. A moment later the doors opened onto a service floor of the hotel, and Duncan felt the unmistakable presence of another immortal.

Drawing his sword, he stepped cautiously from the elevator into a dimly lit corridor. Circling, he moved slowly toward an open doorway, from which light poured. In the doorway he froze as he identified the source of the buzz, who sat comfortably in an armchair in an otherwise empty storeroom.

"Kijinsky. . ." he breathed.

Scene 7


Duncan MacLeod was on his feet, along with the rest of the audience, giving a standing ovation to the performers of the ballet "Swan Lake." The crowd was electrified by the performance, and by the presence in the theater that night of the famous Russian composer Peter Illyich Tchaikovsky. MacLeod shared the audience's exaltation over the show, but he had found it "electrifying" in an added sense. Someone on stage was emitting that special buzz which signalled immortality. Vainly he strove to determine the source, but no particular individual seemed to be scanning the crowd in a special way. In fact, all the performers graciously looked in all directions as they acknowledged their applause.

At last the curtain dropped for the final time and the audience began to clear the theater. MacLeod made his way towards the entrance to the stage area. He had no desire to initiate a challenge but felt it imprudent to be near another immortal without at least knowing who it was. At the stage door an usher stopped him with a cool "May I help you, sir?"

"Oh, I just wanted to congratulate one of the performers," MacLeod replied.

"How nice," said the usher. "And to whom may I deliver your message?" MacLeod had feared this question but before he could respond his senses were filled with the presence of another of his kind, as the male lead dancer appeared behind the usher.

"Thank you, Howard," the performer addressed the usher, "I believe this gentleman is looking for me." He turned to MacLeod and gave him a dangerous, glittering smile. "I've been waiting for you. Please come with me!" Howard gave MacLeod an odd look which somehow combined distaste and sympathy, then turned to a patron approaching the stage door.

The Scottish immortal shrugged inwardly, then turned to follow the dancer, assessing the man as he walked. The performer had the lean but powerful body of a man who leapt fifteen feet across stage for a living and routinely hoisted one hundred twenty pound ballerinas with graceful ease. If his skill with a sword matched his physique this man would be a formidable opponent. He was also startlingly handsome, and there was something vaguely unnerving about the way he looked MacLeod up and down as they walked. MacLeod hoped they could keep their interaction brief and peaceful.

Such was not to be the case. The dancer led him through a door which opened onto an abandoned alleyway behind the theater. He drew his sword as the door swung shut behind MacLeod.

"Nikolai Kijinsky," he said, sketching a graceful bow. "There can be only one."

"I am Duncan MacLeod of the clan MacLeod, and I have no quarrel with you," replied the Scottish immortal from behind his katana. "We don't have to do this. . ." Kijinsky's response was a quick and forceful thrust which MacLeod had to jump to parry. The dancer spun gracefully out of reach.

"I feel 'on' after tonight's performance, and there's nothing that tops a standing ovation. Except a good quickening, that is!" With this he darted forward, leaping easily over MacLeod's swing and delivering a nasty cut to his opponent's right hip. MacLeod grunted in surprise and pain, and backed up a few paces. His adversary was clearly a master swordsman and had the jump on him--literally--in terms of agility. MacLeod realized that his best hope was to move the fight to a more confined space where he might turn his own height and strength to his advantage. He advanced aggressively, swinging rapidly and forcing Kijinsky back toward a dead-end passage between two buildings. Kijinsky's handsome face showed concern for the first time as he found himself about to be forced into the narrow passage. Panicking, he attempted to leap past MacLeod, but there was insufficient room to get a running start, and his leap fell short. The katana buried itself deep in Kijinsky's abdomen and he fell to his knees in agony. MacLeod raised his sword for the final blow but froze as he heard a horrified voice cry "No!"

MacLeod turned to look in the direction of the voice, then did a double take as he recognized the white-haired bearded witness--it was none other than the great composer Peter IIlyich Tchaikovsky, himself! MacLeod stared at the man, but Tchaikovsky's attention was riveted upon the fallen Kijinsky. The composer gave a strangled cry and ran to the dancer, cradling his head in his arms and crying in Russian, "My love!". Kijinsky, dying, could only look into the composer's eyes as he faded toward oblivion. Then, in a final effort, he turned his head toward MacLeod and gasped, "You shall pay!"

Scene 8


Kijinsky did not draw his sword; in fact he remained relaxed in his armchair as he addressed Duncan MacLeod.

"You took away all that I had that night, Duncan MacLeod. My love, my career. It's been almost a century and I have only just begun to be able dance again without fear of recognition. And poor Peter was never the same. You know, I risked visiting him a few months later. I was ready to explain who and what I was, and to hell with the consequences. But he took me for a demon and ordered me away. The depression started soon after that--I think there was a touch of madness as well--and he never really recovered. " Kijinsky leaned forward in his chair and Duncan's grip tightened on his katana. "It was all your fault, MacLeod, your fault. And now you shall pay. Not only shall you die, but you shall do so in front of your love, so that you may know in your last seconds of life that she will be condemned to the same grief suffered by my beloved Peter!"

Two dancers stepped silently from behind the door and MacLeod never saw the lead pipe which struck him on the back of the head. He fell like a stone.

Scene 9


Confusion, darkness and pain. Anne Lindsey attempted to raise her hand to her throbbing head but found she could not. She tried to remember what had happened--had she been in an accident?--but focus eluded her as she hovered near the edge of consciousness. A moment later she slipped back into the well of darkness.

It was "The Doctor" portion of Anne which recovered first and commenced a self-diagnosis. She had a pounding headache and couldn't see, nor could she remember how she'd come to be in this situation. Let's see, could she have suffered some sort of epileptic episode, or perhaps a minor stroke? That would explain the sense of paralysis in her limbs, but not the blindness. . . wait. There was a simpler explanation for that. Her eyes were shut! Her eyelids seemed to weigh ten pounds each, but with great effort she forced them open. . .

And found herself staring into the face of a giant bear! She tried to scream but nothing came out, and in the next instant she realized that it was nothing more than a giant stuffed toy. Behind it were gaily wrapped packages under a huge Christmas tree. Something about this scene seemed terribly familiar. Her eyes came to rest on a large toy soldier with powerful jaws--the Nutcracker!

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