Actions

Work Header

Transferences

Work Text:

TRANSFERENCES

It took Amy Thomas two days to find out the real name of the model Walker had
murdered. It was probably as futile a gesture as anything she had done during
the last week, when she had managed to make a complete mess out of her life, but
she wanted to talk to the girl's family. Otherwise, they would perhaps not know
for years what happened to her, or if they did, if the police bothered to
identify the body, they would be told it was probably a drug-related killing
which she had brought on herself. In any case, Amy couldn't forget the dead face
that had stared up at her, nor the sickening mixture of fear, horror and the
instinct for self-preservation which had prevented her from doing anything while
another woman, younger than she was, had been killed right in front of her.
Walker's agency had listed the girl as Monique du Chevalier, but of course the
name was as real as the age she had given. In the end, she turned out to be
Marie-Louise Dupont, from Poitiers, age seventeen, which was an additional shock
since she had looked at least 21, if not older.

"Well," the clerk who told Amy added with a shrug, "they tend to age pretty
fast, with that lifestyle."

Her parents had not heard from her for over two years, so they accepted Amy's
story about being an acquaintance, a fashion journalist. There were no friends
of Marie-Louise's at the burial to contradict her; the bewildered, shocked
couple and Amy were the only attendants while a priest, who didn't know more
about the girl than the fact of her death, read the necessary sermons. Looking
at the coffin, Amy still couldn't decide whether it was guilt or anger that tore
at her.

"There was nothing you could have done," Joe had told her. Thinking of this, she
was still furious, and not just because of her hopelessly muddled feelings about
him. Quoting non-interference to her, when he had practically invented the
breaking of that principle, seemed to her the epitome of hypocrisy. *Everyone*
at the academy knew about Joe Dawson and his friendship with his immortal,
Duncan MacLeod. The students discussed it in the ethics classes the Watchers put
them through, and they discussed it in their spare time. Excerpts from the
protocol of the tribunal Jack Shapiro had instigated were given as challenges,
and so she knew very well what Joe had said then. *He* wouldn't have just stood
by and watched Walker kill that girl. He probably would have either tried to
save her himself, or called MacLeod to do it, or at least to prevent Walker from
committing further crimes afterwards. To tell her she had done what was expected
from her as a Watcher was a weak attempt at consolation at best, and patronising
to boot, and only fueled her resentment.

Yet she had been so glad to see him, Amy thought, looking at the dead girl's
parents who clutched at each other for support. And not just because she feared
for her own life; during the whole time with Walker she had been afraid Joe
would be killed by Walker's henchmen, dead and gone because of her, because she
had been stupid enough to get caught. *A sloppy Watcher is a dead Watcher.* The
old maxim from the Academy had never sounded so scathingly ironical to her. Joe
hadn't been careless; she had, and when she saw him standing there in the dark,
the revolver in his hand, she had felt nothing but overwhelming relief that he
was still alive. In fact, it had taken her a while to regain a modicum of self-
possession, to wonder just who this immortal Joe had brought with him, the one
Walker had been so obsessed with, was, and to realise being rescued didn't solve
anything. It proved Joe felt guilty about her, but she didn't want him to feel
guilty; she wanted him to explain to her why they were in that situation in the
first place.

The cold of the Paris winter made her shiver. The last burial Amy had witnessed
had been Frank Thomas's, the man she had always thought of as her father. This
was what upset her most. She had loved Frank and still missed him fiercely. Her
parents' marriage had always seemed to be a good one: stable, secure, loving.
And then, the accidental discovery Amy made after Frank's death turned
everything upside down. She had thought of herself as a sophisticated child of
the nineties, not easily shocked, and certainly not by something so ordinary as
adultery. Just not in connection with her parents. When she had found out, she
started wondering whether she was the result of a one-night-stand or a long-term
affair, and both possibilities hurt. Perhaps if it had been a stranger, someone
completely unknown to her, she could have coped better by deciding that Frank
*was* her father in every way that counted, and whoever had done the biological
thing didn't matter. But it had turned out to be Joe, and that hurt the most.
Not just because he had been a friend to her parents, albeit a distant one, who
turned up for a visit every two years or so. Amy had always been fond of him,
thought of him as a favourite uncle, and only after she found out about him and
her mother she realised she had even idolised him.

Her mother was a Watcher, too, but in research; a doctor, who devoted herself to
solving the mysteries of the immortal physique. It was fascinating for her, but
hours spent in pathology, dissecting headless corpses, or staring into
microscope lenses, did not seem particularly glamorous to Amy as a teenager.

Frank Thomas was connected to the Watchers as well, though not as a direct
member: he was a lawyer who specialised in handling the finances of the
organisation. "Even secret organisations," he had once said, with a twinkle in
his eyes, "have to declare their income, nowadays." Which was true, but that,
too, was hardly inspiring. Joe, on the other hand, seemed to get all the
excitement - watching duels, recording conversations between people who had
lived for centuries, learning about history first hand. Moreover, he was nothing
short of the ideal man - strong and courageous without being macho or posturing,
with a sense of humour and sensitivity which spoke through his music. Of course
she had wanted to be like him.

*Why the hell do you think I became a Watcher, Joe?* Now, with her mother
having died in a plane crash two years ago, which didn't even leave a body to
bury, he was all she had left, but she couldn't even speak to him without
feeling hopelessly torn. Continued fondness for Joe would be a betrayal of sorts
to Frank, wouldn't it? *Wouldn't it?* She still didn't know whether it had been
an affair or not; her mother had been so devastated by Frank's death that Amy
had not felt capable of bringing the subject up, even though a part of her,

upset and furious and ever-growing, kept wondering about the sincerity of her
mother's grief. Now her mother was dead, Frank was dead, and she had managed to
completely bungle her first assignment which she wouldn't have gotten if not for
being her superior's illegitimate daughter, so she had to wonder whether she was
qualified to be a Watcher at all. Whether they would ever give her another
assignment.

*And what if they do, and it is another creep like Walker? What will you do the
next time? Go to another burial to soothe your conscience?*

Well, at least there was something more she could do in the present situation.
The brief ceremony drew to a close, and Amy turned to the Duponts.

"I realise this won't help you to cope with your loss," she said, "but the man
who killed Marie-Louise is dead as well. Walker was an incredibly rich man. You
could sue the agency, and get at least some financial compensation."

She wasn't sure they were able to understand her, but she gave them the address
of one of her father's - Frank's - collegues who specialised in such suits.
Then, she returned to her flat, where she found what she had been expecting
before long - a summons to Headquarters. No mention of Joe, which was a relief.

She had tried her best to keep him as much out of her final report on Walker as
she could. It had been difficult in parts, but she had found a way to do so
without lying; she simply made no mention of the whole blackmail attempt on
Walker's part, and wrote accurately, if incompletely, that she had regained her
freedom when Walker had fought a duel with an old enemy named Benjamin Adams and
lost.

The woman Amy was told to report to turned out to be a short, fiftyish lady with
an aura of quiet authority about her. "Mireille Lejeune," she said, rising
behind her desk to introduce herself, "and I'm pleased to meet you, Miss
Thomas."

Amy murmured something appropriate and was told to sit down.

"In case you are wondering," Madame Lejeune said, after she had offered Amy some
coffee, "this isn't an administrative inquiry. I'm from psychology. Also known
as the cleaning-up-messes-department," she ended with an ironical smile; this
was indeed the nickname the students used at the academy, but Amy hadn't known
the superiors were aware of it. If she hadn't been so tense, she would have felt
amused. As it was, she had a sudden stab of fear that her report had been found
unsatisfactory; they had discovered the reason why Walker hadn't simply killed
her once he had discovered her, and she would be forced to explain to this woman
just why Walker had been able to blackmail Joe. To tell a stranger about her
family was an unbearable prospect.

"After everything the organisation went through in the last years," Madame
Lejeune continued, "it was decided this department needs more attention. A
throrough reform, as a matter of fact. The whole Horton affair wouldn't have
been possible if we had done our job better. You know about James Horton,
naturally."

Amy nodded and recited what she had learned at the academy, where the late James
Horton was, by now, something of a bogeyman, the prime example of everything
gone wrong in a Watcher. A madman who hunted and killed immortals. Of course,
she had never met the man. He had been Joe's brother-in-law, but by the time he
had been found out as a Hunter, she had learned about Joe and her mother and had
no longer felt at ease to ask Joe personal questions, let alone questions about
James Horton.

Madame Lejeune sighed after Amy had finished. "Ah yes, that sounds like the
summary for students. Nice and simple. The truth rarely is, of course."

Now Amy was genuinely intrigued, and since it seemed she wasn't about to be
grilled regarding Joe, she relaxed a bit, leaned forward, and asked: "And what
is the truth, in your opinion?"

"That he was a human being. Making him into a bogeyman just ensures there will
be others who go the same way, because everyone thinks it couldn't possibly
happen to them, sane rational beings that they are. Now, I'm not reducing
personal responsibility for one's crimes, mind you. But James Horton was
assigned to two immortal psychopaths in a row, and that shouldn't have happened.
He should have been investigated thoroughly after the Kage assignment. We could
have helped him then, if he had been given the chance to voice what was going
through his mind. Instead, he was given the Kurgan, and by the time that was
finished, he was set on course. To see an immortal kill and torture mortals
callously is bound to affect anyone who isn't insane."

She stopped, and watched Amy. "Don't you agree?"

It started to become clear what this was all about, and it wasn't James Horton.

"I had to go to the funeral," Amy said slowly. "And yes, of course I feel
affected. But I'm not about to turn into a immortal-hunting lunatic."

"Admirably put. So how do you feel about Morgan Walker?"

"I'm glad he's dead. But this has nothing to do with his immortality. He was a
loathsome human being. There are enough mortals around just like him."

"No doubt. But they didn't kidnap and humiliate you, did they? And if he hadn't
been immortal, you would never have met Walker. You wouldn't have been in that
dangerous situation."

The woman was good at her job, no doubt about it. Because of Joe and the guilt
she felt about the girl, Amy hadn't had time to sort out her feelings about her
first immortal. She felt reasonably sure that she hadn't transferred her
loathing for Morgan Walker the individual to all immortals in general. But there
was an element of disappointment she had not been conscious of before. In spite
of being confronted with other examples in the academy, she had done what most
of the young Watchers did, romantized the immortals. Instead of heroic,
mysterious or tragic, Morgan Walker had turned out to be ruthless, petty and not
even that intelligent. Yes, there was something in her that had wondered: So
THIS is an immortal?

Amy looked up and met Mireille Lejeune's gaze squarely.

"No, I wouldn't have. But someone else would."

"Yes. But would another Watcher had been caught?"

*A sloppy Watcher is a dead Watcher.*

"So you won't give me any more assignments," Amy said tonelessly. "I can
understand that. Yes, I bungled it."

"So you did. It doesn't mean you will do so next time; we learn from our
mistakes. However, we should be given the time to do so. Tell me, Amy, if you
had another assignment tomorrow, and you'd watch him or her kill a mortal, what
would you do? Observe and record? Or interfere?"

Amy was quiet. This was the question that had haunted her through the whole
week. Of course, they were asked the same thing at the academy, but theoretical
debates simply weren't comparable with being close enough to a murdered fellow
human being to touch her.

"I know," Madame Lejeune said, "non-interference is thought to be an obsolete
rule by many young Watchers. Repellent, even. Something that should be
abolished. But why do you think it was established in the first place? Not out
of callousnesss, I assure you. Not because it is easier to stand aside."

"Why then?" Amy burst out suddenly, with all the anger she had surpressed
before. "It looks that way to me!"

Madame Lejeune didn't answer immediately. Instead, after regarding Amy in
silence for what seemed a long time, but was actually less than a minute, she
scribbled down something on a piece of paper. Then, she smiled; again, it was
with a touch of self-mocking irony, but her voice stayed calm and even, as it
had been through the whole conversation.

"You've been reassigned to me," she said. "A temporary assignment, but right now
I'm in need of an assistant. As I have mentioned before, thanks to the disasters
of the last years, we are short of qualified personnel. And I think this
arrangement will suit us both, since you are also in need of something. I always
considered answers regarding the non-interference rule best to be given through
example and practice, not through lecturing. Today, we'll see you settled in
with the file work, but tomorrow I'll expect you to meet me at this address."
She pushed the paper to Amy, who took it, still unsure what to make of this
whole situation.

"Cheer up, Miss Thomas," Madame Lejeune said. "This is where I live. We'll have
to make a short journey tomorrow, and since my car is in the garage, I'm afraid
we'll have to take yours. You do own one, don't you?"

"Of course. It's standard equipment," Amy said, before realising this sounded
touchy as well as impatient and probably was not the way to address one's new
superior. Snapping at Joe was one thing, but this was a completely different
situation. However, Madame Lejeune didn't seem to notice, or to mind.

"Very well. Now, since your generation is expected to be familiar with all this
computer business, I trust you'll have no difficulties transferring the
following data..."

By the end of the day, Amy was tired, still unsettled, but also fascinated. As
desk jobs went, this one could have been worse. She *was* familiar with
computers, worked swiftly and could use the additional time to take a look at
what she was sorting out. Not reports on immortals, but biographical data of
other Watchers. Nothing highly confidential so far, which was understandable,
considering her beginner's status, but nevertheless, the material, which ranged
from letters complaining about the difficulties of evading the local police
after a beheading to slightly panicked demands for a new flat since the immortal
in question had abruptly left town afforded glimpses into the day-to-day life of
her chosen profession. Besides, there was the voyeuristic aspect as well; she
was aware of that dimension. Other people's lives captivated her, and right now,
they provided a occupation she could better handle than thinking about her own
life.

She made her long-postponed visit to Joe, to tell him about her transfer.
Undoubtedly, he would have been notified by Headquarters, but she felt she owed
him a personal goodbye, and besides, after their quarrel and the over-emotional
way she had behaved after he and his immortal friend had rescued her, she wanted
to have a quiet, sensible, adult conversation with him. Of course, her good
intentions fell flat the minute she saw him. Well, at least she managed not to
snap, but she couldn't help asking why he never told her, realised she sounded
like a five-year-old, and, embarrassed and torn as ever, left as quickly as she
could. When he said he "wanted to give this father-thing a shot," one part of
her wanted to hug him, especially since he looked so sad, but another part still
felt like a traitor to Frank, who had been her father and shouldn't be betrayed
by his daughter as well as his wife, and yet another wanted to reply cynically:
"A little late, aren't we?"

So she mumbled something about "maybe" and fled, cheeks burning. Out of the
corners of her eyes, she noticed someone vaguely familiar, but only later
realised that Walker's enemy, the mysterious Benjamin Adams, had been there as
well to watch her making a fool of herself. Not that he hadn't seen it before.
This new assignment looked better and better to her. Working for a stranger who
would judge her on her own merits, meeting no-one *but* strangers, and even the
department was right. She definitely was a mess which needed to be cleaned up.

The place Madame Lejeune directed her to turned out to be a sanatorium for the
criminally insane, about 60 kilometres from Paris. On the way, Amy had the
chance to practice her French as Madame switched from the immaculate English she
had spoken in previously to her own language in order to brief Amy on quite a
number of things, though not, intriguingly, on the person they were going to
see. Only when they were no more than ten minutes away from their destination,
she said: "When you write your report about this visit, which I will be very
interested to read, by the way, you will call the woman we are about to see
'Susan'. Her real name is Rita, which I'm telling you only because I will
address her in this way."

Amy nodded, but her whole face was an open question.

Madame Lejeune's voice dropped, and suddenly, all the easy friendliness was gone
from her manner, as she added: "Her fate was decided by the tribunal, but there
are people in the organisation who would kill her if they knew she was still
alive."

So they were about to see a former Watcher, which had been what Amy had guessed
from the the hints during their conversation the previous day. Probably a
surviving member of Horton's group. She couldn't help wondering whether Joe had
known this person, too, and mentally chided herself; didn't she intend to use
this job in order to stop thinking about him?

The sanatorium was a deceptively friendly-looking place, full of bright colours.
Still, there was was the smell, the unmistakable sterile hospital smell which
reminded her painfully of Frank dying, and she clenched her teeth. When Madame
Lejeune presented her credentials and asked to see "Susan Elias," they didn't
have to wait long. Obviously Susan, or Rita, wasn't considered to be extremely
dangerous, for she was brought to the visitor's room, with just one attendant to
keep an eye on her. She turned out to be a pretty woman, of an unguessable age
between forty and fifty, with coppery long hair and delicate features, but the
slow way she moved and the dull expression in her eyes proved she must have been
tranquilized.

"Hello, Rita," Madame Lejeune said, speaking English again, after the guard had
withdrawn a bit.

The other woman raised her head, and a spark of life animated her eyes.

"Mireille?" she returned with unmistakable hostility, and an American accent,
which ended Amy's speculation about her being English or Spanish.

"Why are you here? Gloating again?"

"I never came to gloat," Madame Lejeune replied, without rancour, but without
any warmth as well.

"Why then? Why come at all? And who is this? Another of your lackeys?"

Before the other woman could reply, the animation left Rita again. She dropped
her head and stared at the clean, white table behind which she was sitting. Her
right hand started to rub her left wrist, but it was an automatic motion, as
slow as her walk had been. Unconsciously following the movement, Amy noticed the
scar on the wrist and, with a chill, realised the reason for it. They must have
either operated or burned the tattoo away before bringing the woman here.

"I was told you tried to convince the director of your sanity again, Rita,"
Madame Lejeune remarked, as if talking about a shopping trip. "You should
realise the futility of such endeavours by now. Talking about secret
organisations and immortals just convinces everyone here you're hopelessly
deluded, and it convinces us you can never be allowed to regain your freedom.
Actually, it's even worse than that. The clemency you were granted can be
revoked, you know."

That brought the woman out of her stupor again. "Clemency?" she replied harshly.
"You call this clemency? You just didn't have the guts to kill me, not after
letting Dawson get away with exactly the same thing."

It took all of Amy's self-discipline not to look startled. But then, the hours
with Walker alternating between taunting her and rambling on about what he
planned to do to Adams, and then to Joe and her, had been a very good exercise.
At least in front of strangers. So her guess about this woman being a part of
the Horton group seemed to be wrong, but she did know Joe. The spite with which
she had pronounced his name had sounded personal.

Unruffled, Madame Lejeune said: "Hardly the same thing."

"Oh, but it was. I helped my immortal. He helped his. He still does, for all I
know. Tells him where to find his enemies, just as I have done. Only you didn't
put *him* here, did you?"

"You didn't just tell your immortal where to find his enemies. You told him
where to find them weaponless, and when others tried to stop you, you killed
them. Killed your own people, and after all these years, I've still to hear a
single word of regret from you."

"The only thing I regret," Rita said, glaring at her, "is that I didn't kill
Dawson before it was too late. Marc would be alive then."

Once again, there was that eerie shift of emotions; from one moment to the next,
Rita lost her anger. She slumped down again, and, as if unaware of her visitors,
started to cry. "Marc," she murmured. "Theo... Marc..."

Hugging herself, she began to hum, a lullaby which Amy recognised; her mother
had sung it to her. Staring at the woman, she could not have said whether she
felt appalled or whether she pitied her. The one emotion she *could* identify
was horror.

"Goodbye, Susan," Madame Lejeune said quietly, her voice raised enough for the
warden to hear her. Rita was led out of the visitor's room, while Madame Lejeune
touched Amy's shoulder and whispered: "Let's go."

Amy didn't speak until they were once more outside of the building, breathing
fresh, unfiltered air. Then, she murmured, trying to make sense of it all:

"Was she in love with her immortal?"

"No, not in the way you mean it. It was a bit more complicated. She's another
example of this department not working as well as it should have. She lost her
own son - Theo - and then was assigned to an immortal who looked roughly the
same age. A child which cannot die - it's the greatest gift for a bereft parent
anyone could imagine."

"So she wanted to make sure he really never would die," Amy concluded, "by
giving him the advantage in any duel. And eliminating any threat to him, mortal
or immortal." The cold winter air made Madame Lejeune's breath immediately
visible when the older woman sighed.

"Yes."

"Has she really lost her mind?"

"No, not in the clinical sense. What you saw was the result of the
psychopharmaka they sedate her with. It was this or a death sentence." Thinking
of Jack Shapiro, who had put Joe to trial for indirectly causing the death of
Watchers through his association with MacLeod, Amy thought this unfair and said
so before she could stop herself. After all, this woman had apparently actually
killed some fellow Watchers. Madame Lejeune regarded her with a raised eyebrow.

"So you think we should have killed her?"

"No - but why the double standards?"

"To be frank, at the time I was in favour of a death sentence myself. One of the
Watchers she killed was a good friend of mine. But he was an even better friend
to Joseph Dawson. His mentor, as a matter of fact, the man who recruited him
into the Watchers. And Dawson pleaded for clemency. To this day, I haven't made
up my mind whether he was being merciful or vengeful, for to be imprisoned into
a madhouse for the rest of your life is hardly an enviable fate. In any case,
with him arguing for her life, I didn't feel I had the right to push for a death
sentence, and neither did the other jurors. Later, at his own trial, it was hard
not to think back to Rita and to conclude he had been acting from a sense of
fellow feeling. And fellow guilt."

"But it wasn't the same thing!" Amy protested.

"Wasn't it?"

"You said so yourself!"

"To Rita, because you can't afford to be subtle if you want to get a point
across. And yes, I agree there are differences. However, I can see the parallels
as well. Both became involved with their immortal up to a point where they
concluded they had to interfere, that the survival of their immortal was more
important than their Watcher oath. Now, before you burst into indignation", she
went on, when Amy opened her mouth to interrupt, "I don't mean to imply Joseph
Dawson has killed for his immortal, or that he would do so if his immortal
asked. Having read MacLeod's chronicles, I can't imagine he would ask, anyway.
But that's a unique constellation. Imagine MacLeod less honourably, or Dawson
with a little less strength of character: then you have Rita and Marc Christian.
He already warns him or tells him where to find his enemies, she was right about
that. For most people, it's not that difficult to take the final step, as Rita
did, if they have become already that much involved."

By now, it was obvious what she was getting at. "Thus the rule of non-
interference," Amy said tersely. "I can see what you mean. But I disagree about
the killing. Some might. Most wouldn't. I," she finished stubbornly, "would
never kill other people just because an immortal asked me to, no matter what he
or she means to me. Nor would most of the Watchers I know. And..."

Amy fell silent. She wouldn't claim not being able to kill as a rule; that would
have been untrue. As self-defense, or to protect someone's life, probably yes;
not as an attack. However, the cold voice of logic inside her head reminded her
that self-defense was a very elastic principle; it could be extended to
"preventive measures." Take an immortal you feel protective for, someone who is
not such a good fighter as the famous MacLeod, one of the best guesses for the
winner of the

Game. Take another immortal, a callous bastard like Morgan Walker. The
temptation to help your immortal by hindering or killing people like Walker
would be... immense.

"Rules of an organisation," Madame Lejeune said, watching Amy in that intense
way of hers, "aren't made for the strongest members. They are made to help the
weakest. And killing isn't the only issue. If we were all permitted to befriend
our immortals, we couldn't survive as an organisation. We would split up into
factions. How could we ever trust one another, if every Watcher would have to
suspect every other Watcher of gathering information for his or her immortal? So
we keep away from the immortals. We observe. We record. But we never interfere."

Having seen and heard Rita alternating between hate and complete withdrawal, it
made more sense than in all the debates during her Academy years, and it kept
Amy silent and thinking during their way back to Paris. But it hadn't escaped
her notice that there was a side to non-interference Madame Lejeune had not
mentioned, the side which had nothing to do with the eternal war between
immortals and the danger of the Watchers becoming drawn into this war. Non-
interference also meant keeping silent and passive while an immortal harmed
other mortals, as Amy had done when the hapless Marie-Louise was killed. Or did
it? Did it? There might be more than one lesson intended. Perhaps this was not
only meant to show her what non-interference was about, but also what it was not
about.

When Amy had worked under Mireille Lejeune's supervision for about four months,
she was entrusted with an assignment on her own.

"I want you to go and see Andrew Lanart," Madame Lejeune said on a sunny morning
in spring, adding with a smile: "It will give you an opportunity to visit home.
'Oh to be in England, now that April's there'," she quoted.

"And whoever wakes in England should be aware that it will probably rain," Amy
returned with a grimace; by now, she was comfortable enough with Madame Lejeune
to trade quips as well as Browning quotes. As a matter of fact, she was grateful
for the opportunity, and Madame knew it. Her gratitude grew when she sat down to
study Lanart's file, since it was really an intriguing case, and something of a
mystery to boot.

Less than a year ago, Andrew Lanart, a Watcher in his fifties with a previously
unblemished record, had suddenly snapped and killed an immortal child. It could
even have been a mortal child; the circumstances were confusing, to say the
least. The child in question, a girl, had lived with Lanart's assignment,
Cassandra, who was one of the rare documented cases of immortals with paranormal
gifts beyond the ones common to all immortals. The girl was, according to both
Lanart and police reports, a foundling, which was one of the reasons why the
Organisation suspected her of having been an immortal. It seemed Cassandra had
adopted her or accepted her as a pupil. The other, more conclusive reason for
assuming the child's immortality was the way in which Lanart had killed her; he
had beheaded her. Of course, it was entirely possible that the girl had been
mortal, that Lanart had simply assumed she was immortal as well, and had killed
her based on that assumption. In any case, it had led to his expulsion from the
Watchers, as soon as the law had done with him. Not that the trial had taken
long; Lanart had pleaded guilty, had admitted that he killed the girl from the
beginning, which, paradoxically, was the reason why there remained a bit of
doubt for Madame Lejeune and the other heads of departments who had to decide
what to do about Lanart from the Watcher's side. Lanart's vehement insistence
that he had killed the girl looked almost like hypnosis, and his immortal,
Cassandra, did have the ability to influence minds. Besides, Cassandra had
vanished shortly after the girl's death, and so far, had not been tracked down
by anyone. If Cassandra had killed the girl for whatever reasons, and used her
gifts to make Lanart take the blame, then the Watchers owed him solidarity and
protection. It was, for a time, a favoured theory; after all, Cassandra was one
of the ancients, a millennia-old-woman from a time where people had still made
human sacrifices, and much more likely to kill a child, immortal or not, than
Andrew Lanart, historian, Watcher, and, judging from his records, slightly
pedantic, but by no means murderously inclined.

However, when the Organisation arranged for a psychiatrist of their own to check
on Lanart, he reported the man obviously felt tremendous guilt, and refused to
be hypnotised in order to investigate his memories of the day the girl was
killed. The mere suggestion had resulted in nothing but near hysteria and the
insistence that he *had* killed the child, wanted only to be left alone and
would accept any punishment both the court and the Organisation would decide
upon. With Lanart's bloody fingerprints everywhere in Cassandra's cottage and
the townfolks' testimony that he had seemed to be hostile towards the girl,
whereas Cassandra was described as a dedicated mother, there wasn't much more
the Watchers could do other than to accept his confession and conviction to a
life sentence, minimum 25 years, by the criminal court.

Still, Madame Lejeune wasn't content. "Call it a hunch," she had noted in her
small, precise handwriting, "but there is something deeply wrong about this, and
not just that Andrew Lanart, the proverbial stiff professor, should suddenly
become a killer. Perhaps now that he's settled in his new surroundings, he's
calm enough for a new investigator to get better results. If it was a hypnotic
suggestion, it should be breakable by now. If he did kill the girl, I want to
know why. He didn't give anyone, neither the police nor us, a motive, and to us
at least he owes an explanation."

While studying Lanart's record, Amy noticed some odd things. Some of his
reports, starting with November 1997, were classified, beyond her level of
clearance. So were his last e-mails. She asked Madame Lejeune about this and was
told Lanart had made a discovery which necessitated discretion.

"I thought we were supposed to trust one another," Amy said a bit sarcastically,
"in order to survive as an organisation."

"And I will trust you with this discovery, when I think it is necessary. But at
the moment, it doesn't look like it has anything to do with the girl's death. If
you can prove to me otherwise, I'll give you clearance for the rest of the
files, but not before."

It irked her. Fleetingly she considered pinching Joe's codes, for she knew he
had the necessary level of clearance, and she could get access to his computer,
if she wanted to. Immediately she felt ashamed. The issue of exploitation and
betrayal aside, Amy wanted to prove herself as a Watcher without any further
help or rescuing from Joe. Her job was investigating Lanart, and if the issue of
his discovery came up, then so be it, but mainly she had to find out what
exactly had happened to him.

Andrew Lanart was stocky, balding, and, if not for his prison uniform, would
have looked completely unremarkable; the ideal type for a Watcher. The only
thing about him which didn't seem out of place in this environment were his pale
grey eyes, which were haunted and looked right above Amy's head when she sat
down in front of the glass separating them. Still, he must have noticed her
tattoo, for he immediately said:

"Why can't you leave me alone? I've told you I did it. If the tribunal needs
something else to make up its mind to kill me, I'll even threaten to expose the
organisation. Which I haven't done so far. Isn't that a joke? I can kill a
child, but at least I'm not an oath-breaker."

"Do you want to die?" Amy asked, keeping her voice carefully neutral.

"There's no need," Lanart replied bitterly. "I'm dying in any case. Leukamia.
They'll find out soon and transfer me to a hospital. Then you'll get your
chance. Believe me, I'll be grateful. Ever seen someone dying from cancer?"

Something in Amy snapped. "Yes. My father. It was horrible. But he didn't pity
himself, and he didn't ask us to do it for him."

Seeing Lanart flinch, she was horrified. Her reaction had been petty,
unprofessional and callous to boot. "I'm sorry," she said hurriedly. "I'm sorry,
Mr. Lanart, that was completely uncalled for. It's just that - I hate speaking
about cancer, and I miss him," she finished, irritated that she had just told
this to a complete stranger but feeling the need to apologise.

Lanart had stopped staring at something beyond her; instead, he looked at her,
frowning but with genuine interest.

"Was he," he began slowly, then hesitated and shook his head.

"You can ask. I brought up the subject, after all."

In truth, the idea of discussing her father - either of her fathers - or dying
of cancer hurt her, but those months working for Mireille Lejeune had not been
in vain. If she levelled with him on a painful personal subject, he could be
brought to do the same with her. She had also read the reports on him by both
police and psychiatrists. If he shielded himself against questioning, he might
not do so against narrating. Give and take was an old principle. Only she had
never assumed she could be manipulative enough to practice it. But she had
bungled her first solo assignment - Morgan Walker - and was desperately
determined not to bungle this one.

"Was he conscious till the last?"

Amy closed her eyes and forced herself not to think of Frank in the hospital,
but Frank as he had been during her childhood, when all was right with the
world. It didn't work.

"For the most part, yes. Sometimes his medication was too strong; we couldn't
get through to him anymore, but he still..."

She fell silent. To mention that even medication had not stopped the pain would
be cruel, given what Lanart had just told her. With all that time in jail, he
must have already spent an eternity dwelling on the various stages of his
illness. Since he mentioned that "they would find out soon enough," which meant
he didn't learn of his illness through the routine prison check, said illness
must have been known to him before he ever went to jail, so he probably had
pondered on it for even longer. Belatedly, something she remembered from Madame
Lejeune's files kicked in. Madame Lejeune always saw to it that Watchers who
reported a terminal illness were transferred from active field duty, since, as
one of her annotations put it, "knowing you will die soon and painfully while
watching someone who is immune to any kind of illness is a stress not many can
bear." But Andrew Lanart, obviously had not mentioned any illness in his
reports... This could it be it, Amy thought excitedly. The motive. She nearly
missed Lanart's whispered remark.

"I don't know what I would prefer. Being conscious or unconscious. But for your
father, I should think it was best to have been conscious, to know you were
there with him." After a pause, he added: "I was always afraid of dying alone."

She realised he was actually trying to comfort her and felt guilty, because she
thought of him mostly as a challenge, as a field object more than a fellow human
being. Then, a cool voice inside her head reminded her the man had repeatedly
admitted to killing a child, and even if he had snapped under the burden of his
illness, this was no excuse for murder. Besides, she mustn't ignore the fact he
was an experienced Watcher. He had probably forgotten more about psychology then
she had ever read and could be trying to manipulate her just as much as she was
trying to get her answers from him. On the other hand, she didn't quite see to
what end he could be trying to do this. So far, he had not made any attempt to
convince anyone of his innocence in order to get out of prison, except if he had
known his insistence on his guilt would cause doubt; yet this would have been an
incredibly convoluted and dangerous way to achieve such an aim.

Strangely enough, such speculations didn't stop his words having an effect on
her. Because, Amy thought, he was right. Frank had been comforted by his
family's presence, and while it had torn her apart to see him suffer and see her
mother go to pieces, she would have never forgiven herself if she hadn't been
there for both of them. As it turned out, Frank's last days had also been the
last days when she had been sure about her parents and their relationship. The
last time they had been a family, without any doubts. And even with the
hindsight of her new knowledge, she knew as well this had been real, and been
true, and helped a good man whom she had loved to die.

It would be best to steer this conversation to another subject, but before she
did that, she wanted to show him she appreciated the attempt to comfort, no
matter what reason had motivated it. From his files, she knew his wife was dead,
but he had an estranged sister who lived in Australia and might not even know of
his conviction. However, he flatly refused Amy's offer to contact her and for a
moment, she thought she had lost whatever fragile connection they had reached.

Then, Lanart said:

"We haven't spoken in a decade. Oh, she'd speak to me now, no doubt: everyone
does when they know someone's dying. But it wouldn't be real, if you know what I
mean. It would serve no purpose except soothing her conscience. It's strange:
the older you get the more you realise that your real family are the friends
life gives you, not your blood relations. Of course, sometimes you are lucky and
some are both. But not in my case." He chuckled, mirthlessly, a hollow sound.
"Of course, in my case, there aren't any more unrelated friends left, either.
All dead by now. Strange, but the only person I knew intimately who is still
alive is an immortal who'll be glad when I'm dead. I really think I know
Cassandra better than my own sister. At least, I spent much more time studying
her chronicles, following her around and taping her conversations than I ever
spent listening to Meg and her incessant chatter."

It was an obvious opening, and he must have been aware of that when he said it.
The pale grey eyes regarded her resignedly. For one reason or the other, it
seemed he had decided he would talk, really talk to her. She was determined not
to ruin this by being too hasty, so she said with a curiosity that was real, for
she did wonder about this point:

"But do you like Cassandra? I was assigned to an immortal only for a short time,
but even before I - found out some things about him, I didn't feel much sympathy
for him. Of course, at the academy, we are taught neutral objectivity is the
ideal attitude, but to chronicle someone's life for *years* must be almost like
a marriage. Liking would help, I imagine."

In another situation, she would have found the sudden shift in Lanart's attitude
funny, for he straightened and became the lecturing professor he had been when
not doing his chronicles.

"You don't *like* an immortal. That would imply a normality neither they nor we
possess. Well, maybe the very young ones, the ones not much older than they look
like - but once they've passed their first century, they grow too alien to be
liked. I agree that neutrality is a theoretical, not a practical ideal, but
*liking* doesn't come into it. One either admires or despises them, as you will
find out, should you go into the field again."

She could have resented the condescending tone, but for one thing, what he said
genuinely intrigued her, and for another, she had to decide whether to go to the
heart of the matter now or wait a little bit longer. If he had been simply
another Watcher she had met through accident, she would have liked to continue
this discussion on general lines. She could not help but think of Joe again, who
certainly admired his immortal, Macleod, but gave every sign of liking him as
well. Then, there was this other immortal he was friends with, Benjamin Adams.
After taking Walker's head, Adams had caught up with them, and Amy had watched
him trade quips with Joe, in a way envying the easy familiarity between them,
which was a marked contrast to the guilt-ridden awkwardness that had settled
down on her and Joe again once the relief of finding each other alive had faded
a bit. Admiration or loathing? Neither, Amy decided; "liking" was probably the
best word. Joe had been alternatingly irritated and affectionate, almost...
almost as with a son, now she thought about it. But this avenue of thoughts
prompted all kinds of unwanted feelings in her, so she quickly left it. Besides,
she wasn't here to indulge herself; she was here to investigate Andrew Lanart.

"So," she returned, taking the plunge, "which was it for you? Did you admire or
despise her?"

Lanart tensed, and looked hostile again. For a moment, she was afraid he would
shut her out again, that she had taken a fatal misstep. But when he started to
speak, she realised that the hostility wasn't directed against her.

"In the beginning," Lanart replied, "I admired her. Before I came to understand
the truth, not just about Cassandra, about all the immortals who survive. And
once that understanding is there - what else can one do but despise them?"

"Which truth?"

"Don't look at me like that. I'm not about to spout some fanatic drivel or
exhort you to go and continue the work of the late James Horton, killing every
immortal in sight. Though I can, in a way, understand why he did it. How long
were you assigned to your immortal?"

"Only three months."

"And yet you found out things about him which made you despise him in the end."

"*Him*, yes. Not every immortal."

"You are so young," Lanart said. "Youth always is the personification of self-
rightousness. Well, Miss Thomas, I'll tell you what you want to know. Next time
you are exposed to an immortal for an extended period, you'll notice a common
trait. Oh, he or she might be the epitome of virtue compared with your last one.
Still, they all have one thing in common, besides their immortality, and it is
most marked in those who have survived the longest. In those who are children of
the millennia, like Cassandra or... some others I have come to know, it is
downright chilling once you have opened your eyes to see it. They have ceased to
care."

"To care about whom?"

"About us. About mortals. One could even say, about human beings, they are that
alien. They have made themselves that way. And I'm not just talking about those
killing psychopaths like the Kurgan. The way they enjoy their murders is merely
an extreme symptom of the same malaise. You see, Cassandra, for example, doesn't
go on a regular killing spree, or torture people for a hobby. Sometimes she even
participates in things like those civil rights demonstrations they had in the
late sixties, in the U.S. I was young then. I admired her then. When she took up
a new name, a new existence, I expected her to go on in that way, but no,
instead she indulged in some years of pure hedonism. Then, just as abruptly, she
turned into a scholar in the proverbial ivory tower, before switching to the
proverbial social worker again. If you read her chronicles, and not just hers,
those of any child of the millennia, you might notice this is a common pattern.
When they turn humanitarian, they don't do it because they want to help us. They
do it because they are bored, pure and simple. Cassandra has amazing powers,
and, rare as it is, she isn't the only one. There was Coltec, for example. Now
can you tell me why the Cassandras or the Coltecs do not use their powers to
stop wars? I've seen what she can do with her Voice. Imagine if she went - oh,
say, to Bosnia - and ordered the leaders there to stop their wars and genocides.
They would do it. But you know what she did instead in the last years? Worked as
an editor for some publishers. Oh, yes, she did stop some killers. Other
immortals who had harmed *her*. You see my point? They care only about each
other. Love each other, hate each other, in the end kill each other in that
barbaric ritual they call the Game. But we are no more to them than short-lived
insects are to us. Sometimes they brush us aside, sometimes they kill us,
sometimes they even make pets out of us. But it all amounts to a monumental
indifference towards what is simply another species."

He had become more and more animated while talking, his bitterness turning into
a passionate despair which, for a while, rendered her speechless. She could not
help but recall the way Walker had treated his models, had talked about them,
and it matched Lanart's description perfectly. But while she refused to believe
this true for all the immortals, she restrained from saying so. Among other
things, it would be arrogant, for what did she really know about immortals?
Theories, from the academy, tales from other Watchers, Morgan Walker and his
chronicle, and a few sentences from the man who beheaded him. Hardly anything
that qualified her to compete with a decade-long field assignment on one of the
ancients.

When she said nothing, Lanart continued, no longer looking at Amy but instead at
his own hands: "So, after a time, you wonder. If this is what they do with their
immortality, with the wisdom of the ages, why is it wasted on them? You think
you would be different. Wouldn't waste eternal health and youth on killing your
own for some mystical prize, oh no. Even if you didn't have additional gifts,
what the average immortal has is so much... But you'll never, ever have it. With
each breath you take, you are dying, and then you learn you're rotting even
quicker than you thought you would."

"I see," Amy said softly, inadequately, but she truly did. She could see how the
resentment had grown into the despair that needed to lash out. She would have
liked to think it was something completely alien to her, a train of thought she
would never have followed, but terrible as it was, something in her had
responded to his words. Still, there was one thing she did not understand.

"Why the child, then?" she asked, leaning forward until she almost touched the
glass in order to force him to look at her again. "Why not Cassandra?"

Lanart, still refusing to meet her eyes, shook his head. "I can't tell you," he
answered, sounding resigned again. "You wouldn't believe me, anyway. Nor would
anyone else in the Watchers, so it would be no use for your report."

Finally, he looked up. "I'll give you something to write down so the
organisation can close its files on me, a believable and adequate motive.
Cassandra loved that child. One of her own species, you see. So I killed the
girl in order to be finally able to hurt her."

"I can write that," Amy said, more disturbed now than she had ever been since
this whole affair began. "But it wouldn't be the truth."

"Wouldn't it?"

It was, indeed, satisfying enough for Mireille Lejeune. But it did not satisfy
Amy. There were still some pieces of the puzzle missing, though why she was so
certain about that she could not have said. She told her superior she needed
some more days to finalize her report and to visit some friends. Then she went,
for the first time, to the place where the unravelling of Andrew Lanart and the
murder of a child had taken place: Glenfinnan.

After the police had released it, Cassandra's cottage had been sold and was now
completely renovated and owned by a rich couple from London, so it would be
fruitless to go there. According to Lanart's files, the person in Glenfinnan
Cassandra had been most in contact with during the last months before her
adopted daughter had died, the one who had given the most damming testimony
about Lanart which, incidently, had also cleared "Cathy Lester," as Cassandra
had called herself, from any suspicion as far as the police was concerned, was
an innkeeper named Rachel MacLeod. Since MacLeod, as well as Campbell or
MacGreggor was one of the most popular traditional Scottish names, Amy had no
reason to postulate a connection to Joe's immortal, even though he had come from
the same area - four centuries ago. In any case, they couldn't be related, for
immortals were sterile and couldn't have children. So it came as something of a
shock when Rachel MacLeod took one look at her, narrowed her eyes as if she
recognised something and declared, bristling with hostility:

"Not another one!"

Amy's brows shot up before she could help herself.

"Look," Rachel continued, hands on hips and eyes flashing fiercely, "I don't
know what kind of cult you people are in, but if I never see another one of you
again, it'll be too soon, and you can tell Adam that includes him! Leaving the
way he did, without any explanation or any attempt to help Cathy after that
dammed collegue of his had murdered Becky was absolutely unforgivable."

Amy went cold. It was clear that Rachel had identified her as a member of the
same organisation as Lanart and, obviously, another person. But the Watcher who
had interviewed Rachel MacLeod, not that he had gotten much out of her, about
Lanart had been called Ian Dempsey, not "Adam". And Lanart's own reports about
Cassandra had not mentioned another Watcher called Adam in Glenfinnan, either.
Except if he had done so in the parts relating to the classified discovery
Madame Lejeune had not wanted to tell her about. That discovery aside, if there
had been another Watcher in Glenfinnan at the time of the murder it was
absolutely unbelievable he wouldn't have had to testify to the organisation,
hadn't been questioned in excruciating detail about Lanart. And why should a
Watcher be in a position to "help" Cassandra, to have this expected of him?
Lanart, before his breakdown, had both according to his file and her own
impression been a believer in non-interference. *One does not like an immortal.*
If another Watcher had befriended an immortal within his authority, and *his*
immortal to boot, he would have reported him at once. Something was very, very
wrong here.

Now, however, was not the time to think this through. She would have to play
this by ear. If she asked something stupid like "Who is Adam?" Rachel would not
tell her anything, but handled correctly, the furious innkeeper might provide
just the clues she needed.

"Adam had to vanish," she said slowly. "The police would have questioned him,
and he couldn't be sure about Andrew Lanart's guilt."

Rachel snorted. "Of course he could. I was sure as soon as I heard of it. It all
fit together, and we should have seen it earlier. Lanart was the only other
person in the forest where Cathy and Adam found Becky. He had brought her there
and beaten her up so badly that she nearly died, and forgot everything, even her
name, poor lass, and when she finally remembered he needed to shut her up
forever, so he killed her."

 

The young woman who confronted Andrew Lanart for the second time was markedly
different from the eager, cool professional or the compassionate listener she
had been on her first visit. She was seething with barely controlled anger.

"Alright," she said, as soon as the guard had withdrawn, "let's talk about the
child again, the girl you killed. Becky. You never used her name when talking
about her, but I guess that is common in child abusers. They prefer to think of
their victims as anonymous objects."

Her outright attack cut through Lanart's walls of desperation and resignation as
nothing previously had done. He stared at her, horrified, as if she had stabbed
him with a knife. This time, Amy refused to pity him.

"I never," he stammered, swallowed and started again: "I killed her, but I did
not... you can read the autopsy reports. There were no beatings before her
death."

"Well, if she had been immortal, there wouldn't have been marks in any case,
would there?" Amy replied cuttingly. "But she wasn't. No, you didn't beat her
before her death. You did it a year previously, and then Cassandra found a half-
dead amnesiac child in the forest. According to Rachel MacLeod, it took that
girl a very long time to heal, and she kept scars all over her body. How could
that be, if she was one of Cassandra's 'species', as you put it?"

"A foundling," Lanart answered, in a deadly monotone. "We keep our eyes on
mysterious foundlings. This one, it said. This one is a pre-immortal. Put her in
the forest where they'll find her, in a condition which forces them to take care
of her. Do what I say and her immortality will be yours in the end."

He was babbling, clearly. Amy couldn't decide whether he was faking or not, but
what he said didn't make sense any longer. Still, she pushed on. She could not
afford to give him the chance to withdraw again.

"It?" she said scornfully. "What do you mean by 'it'? Cassandra? Another
immortal with hypnotic powers? Don't tell me some mysterious voice from outer
space ordered you to beat up a child. You did that, Lanart. And then, when Becky
started remembering, you went into a panic and killed her. I guess we can only
be grateful that you had enough of a conscience left to confess afterwards, or
did Cassandra order you to do that?"

He slumped into his chair. "Yes," he said, in the same monotone voice. "Yes, she
did. I don't know whether I would have confessed otherwise. But she didn't even
give me the chance of that much redemption." Once more, he laughed his
mirthless, bitter laughter. "But I should have known there wouldn't be. Once you
sign a pact with the devil, redemption isn't possible anymore."

"You can start redeeming yourself," Amy said through clenched teeth, clinging to
her refusal to be drawn into pitying him once again, "by telling me the truth."

"But I did. I told you. And you don't believe me, as I knew you wouldn't. Why
did you come back if you already had made up your mind about what I did? Write
your report, and leave me alone."

He had a point there. Why did she bother? The girl was dead, nothing could bring
her back, and Mireille Lejeune would be satisfied with Rachel's explanation as
well, though she would dislike it since it painted Lanart in a worse light than
his own, first explanation which made him look somewhat tragic. As for that
other mystery, clearly some top-level people in the Organisation were taking
charge of it. Why bother? And yet, and yet... she looked at the wreck in front
of her. Taking nothing for granted anymore, she had tracked down the Edinburgh
hospital where his cancer was diagnosed, so he had not lied about that. He *was*
dying. If she went now and left him, that would be that. Perhaps dying alone,
burdened with never-acknowledged guilt, was exactly what a man who beat and
killed a child deserved, but she could not help thinking of Frank's painful
death, and Lanart trying to comfort her, a complete stranger. Nobody deserved
this. Amy took a deep breath.

"Very well. Let's try this another way. I want to talk with you about Adam
Pierson."

He glanced at her disbelievingly. "You can't have that clearance level, or have
they decided to lower it since I left?"

"I don't believe this. Lanart, do you realise you switch between broken man and
lecturing old, experienced Watcher each time we meet?"

"Well, if they have decided to tell everyone in the organisation, then so be it.
Of course it will leak out to the next head-hunting immortal who captures and
tortures a rookie Watcher, and after trying to find him for centuries, one would
think... But I don't care anymore. In a way, he deserves it. Such a
disappointment. My discovery of the ages, and it turns out to be the most
callous of them all."

By now, she had the puzzle almost together. There weren't many things he could
have discovered that would have warranted that level of classification anyway.
In the academy, every student had, at one time or the other, wondered whether he
or she would be the one to find the answer to the big mysteries: The origin of
the immortals, the exact nature of the prize, the origin of the Watchers... and
the elusive eldest immortal.

"So, through watching Cassandra, you found Methos," Amy said, "and he
disappointed you just as much as she did."

"More. I told you, she at least is no mass murderer masquerading as an annoying
grad student. And as one of us, let's not forget that. Oh, we knew there was
something fishy about Pierson when he left so abruptly after Dawson's trial and
hung out with MacLeod so much, but I never expected this. After watching
Cassandra for so long, I thought I wasn't shocked easily, but when she
encountered him in MacLeod's dojo and told the Scot about him..."

The grad student and Watcher part confirmed what she had suspected after the
clues Madame Lejeune, Rachel and Lanart himself had inadvertently given her, but
"mass murderer" was new and shocked her as well. The casual mention of Joe's
trial and MacLeod opened another avenue of suspicion. No, Amy told herself, that
would be too much of a coincidence.

"She let him live, though," Lanart murmured. "Never understood that, not after
what she said he had done to her and her people. Never understood why he didn't
kill *her*, either. During that whole dammed year I expected one of them to do
it, but they didn't."

"She let *you* live, too. So did he. Rachel MacLeod said they loved that little
girl. Why did they let you live?"

"Because," Lanart replied, and the self-loathing he felt was never more obvious,
"I was unworthy of killing. I told you. Monumental indifference. I would have
preferred it if they had hated me, punished me for what I did, which they would
have done if I had been one of *them*, but as it was, they simply didn't care
enough, one way or the other. If a snake bit your child and it died, would you
kill the snake?"

He turned away, and somehow, she knew that was the end of it, that she wouldn't
get any more answers from him. So Andrew Lanart, fiftyish Watcher with a
diagnosed terminal illness, had somehow thought that beating and finally killing
a pre-immortal child (the most uncertain aspect of the whole thing, for there
was only Lanart's word that the child had been pre-immortal, and how could he
have known?) would somehow gain him the immortality he both craved and despised.
Mess cleaned up, file shut. There was really not much more to say, and staying
would only prolong a conversation painful to both of them. After a moment, she
rose. When Lanart heard her chair move, and her heels clicking on the floor, his
shoulders began to shake, and Amy, who had turned around on an impulse she
couldn't explain to look at him once more, realised he had started to cry. Amy's
resolve not to feel pity again broke irretrievably down. She still hated what he
had done. But she could not watch a fellow human being in this state and turn
away. That would be true callousness. Non-interference in the worst sense. She
returned to her chair.

After regarding him silently for a time, she said, softly: "What you really want
is for them to forgive you, isn't it?"

He shook his head. Struggling to regain his voice, he finally replied: "No. It's
true what you said - nobody ordered me to beat the girl, or to kill her. I had a
choice. I made my choice. I am responsible. How can anyone possibly forgive
that? What I would like" - he swallowed - "what I wish I could do is... I can't
forget how they looked at her, after I did it. I never saw Cassandra so
shattered, not even when she met him and that murdering friend of his. And he -
I never thought he was able to care so much. I think I wanted to believe they
were the supreme examples of immortal callousness, the two of them, but I
couldn't, not then, though I tried, then and afterwards. I just wish she had not
made me confess. If I had done it on my own, it would have meant something. I
wish... I wish could tell them. That I know what I did, and that I'm sorry." He
sighed. "Though I already know the answer. You know, what she told him once: 'It
is easy to be sorry afterwards.' She was right, of course."

 

When she entered Les Blues Bar, a part of Amy was still convinced this was the
worst idea of her entire life. She had spent a solid week doging Rachel
MacLeod's every step till she had cajoled the woman to give her what she wanted,
simply to get rid of her - a photo from a Christmas party which had confirmed
what Amy had started to suspect when Lanart had mentioned Joe's trial and
MacLeod in connection with Adam Pierson, a.k.a. Methos. Now she was prepared to
face Joe again in order to find one of the most dangerous immortals around in
order to convince said immortal of something he most certainly had no intention
of doing, and all of this for the sake of a self-confessed child murderer.

"Amy!"

The unguarded delight in Joe's voice and the way he hastily grabbed his cane to
come to her once he had spotted her standing hesitatingly in front of the door
made her almost cry, to her horror. Suddenly, it all seemed so trivial and
silly. She still didn't understand what had happened between him and her mother,
but she was glad he was there, alive, someone who cared for her and someone she
could care for. Life was so incredibly short, which was one of the reasons why
she had decided to help Andrew Lanart. Joe, who would never do what Lanart had
done, could be dead tomorrow as well, and then she would hate herself for
wasting so much time evading him.

Joe fuzzed about her, made her sit down and served her coffee just the way she
liked it, without milk but with two pieces of sugar. He was still a bit uneasy
with her, as was she with him, albeit for other reasons. But finding a way to
talk normally to each other was as important as the Lanart business, and on the
way here she had racked her head for the right question. Finally, she believed
she had found it.

"Joe," she said, when he paused between telling her about the journey through
France he planned to make and she had gathered enough courage to ask, "I
wondered... do I have any siblings?"

The familiar frizzled face suddenly looked very serious, and she noticed how all
his hair was silver now, with no more dark streaks in between.

"No," he replied sadly.

"I would have liked to," she confessed, forcing herself not to look away even
though she was embarrassed by this. "Mum couldn't get any more children, you
know, but it would have been nice to have a sister. Or a brother."

"Well," Joe began carefully, hopefully interpreting her overture as the
acceptance of a new relationship that it was, "you do have a cousin, in
America."

That was right - his sister and Horton had a daughter as well. Just my luck, Amy
thought, to stumble over another topic he certainly doesn't want to discuss.
Still, she didn't want to ruin everything by withdrawing now.

"I would like to meet her one day," she replied, and then had an inspiration.

"You know, Joe," she continued, "I've never been to the U.S. Do you think you
could - well, show me around when you've finished travelling in France?"

He beamed at her, and was so enthusiastic about the whole idea Amy felt low as a
snake for having another purpose in coming here. She postponed and postponed it,
but when more and more people began popping into the bar for the evening, she
knew she couldn't avoid it any longer.

"By the way," she remarked as casually as possible, "is that friend of yours
still around? I never thanked him properly for rescuing me."

"Oh, he'll probably be in for the evening. Wants his beer for free, you see. But
Amy - are you sure? You don't have to, you know, he understands you were
grateful, and he doesn't like to be thanked anyway. Besides, his ego is big
enough, believe me." He twinkled at her. "Consorting with immortals is bad for
one's career. Trust me, I know."

"One conversation won't ruin mine. Or are you ashamed of one of us? Of me, or of
him?"

She said it in a teasing tone, but knew it was a low blow. Still, it was
necessary, and it worked. Thirty minutes later she had an audience with Benjamin
Adams, a.k.a. Adam Pierson, a.k.a. Methos. Now that she knew who he was, and had
been filled in on some unpleasant details of his past for good measure, she
should have felt either awe or repugnance, but strangely enough, what she felt
was irritation more than anything else. For one thing, the eldest living
immortal was simply not supposed to be like this; for another, she resented the
way he treated the barstool, the bar, and by extension Joe as his personal
property, and for a third, the knowing smirk with which he greeted her was
incredibly patronising.

"So," he said, once Joe was out of earshot, being engaged in conversation with
some other customers, "you finally got over your sulk?"

This was unbelievable. And she couldn't even turn away, for she needed him.

Fortunately, she had some surprises in store.

"I had to," she replied sweetly. "Joe can't present me to Dschingis Khan or
Attila the Hun, but from what I've heard you surpassed them all, and who can
resist meeting someone like that?"

She had been exposed to persons with mood switches quite regularly in the recent
past, but they had nothing on Methos. Gone was the casual, relaxed air and the
adolescent humour. The gaze with which he regarded her was very cold, and if she
had found him less than impressive before, she was chilled now when he spoke
again. His voice had dropped almost an octave.

"Joe didn't tell you," he said. "So who did?"

"Andrew Lanart."

"I take it this means they haven't executed him. Tribunals these days aren't
what they used to be. A pity."

Amy was stunned by the casual brutality of the words, and could not help
remembering what Lanart had said about immortals and callousness. Still, she
refused to be put off.

"He's terminally ill and in prison."

"Good."

He would never listen to her. What an iceblock. But on the other hand, he had
cared enough about Joe to fight with Walker. So she tried again, this time from
another angle.

"Where's Cassandra?"

"What makes you think I know? Didn't Lanart mention we aren't exactly friends?"

"That is why I think you know. She is one of the few immortals who know about
you. You would keep an eye on her. The Watchers lost her, but I need to speak
with her."

"Not a chance. Even if I knew where she is, which I don't, I wouldn't tell you.
Mention Lanart to Cassandra and she'll eat you for breakfast, little girl. I
can't do that to Joe."

Amy glanced over her shoulder and made sure Joe was still busy talking with what
looked like old poker buddies.

"Then you'll just have to protect me, won't you," she said icily while keeping a
smile on her face in case Joe looked her way. "Because if you don't tell me
where I can find Cassandra, I'll simply go looking for her in my clumsy, sloppy
rookie Watcher way, mentioning her name to as many people as I can till she
hears about it and is furious enough to find *me*. Of course this might get me
killed, in which case Joe will get a letter I've already written and deposed,
telling him how his friend whose secret he protected for so long refused to help
his daughter and instead send her to her lonely death."

Infuriatingly, this caused another mood swing, this time to the bright side. He
gave her another look, then burst out laughing.

"You know," he gasped after he had calmed down while Amy seethed, "you are much
more entertaining than I thought. If I had known you were capable of blackmail I
might have gone after Walker sooner. Such potential has to be fostered."

"Are you quite through?"

"Quite. You still haven't told me what you want Cassandra for."

"To visit Lanart. He... he needs to tell her how much he regrets what he did. It
might help her as well."

Methos grew very still. He stared at her, and even the visual inspection by
Madame Lejeune had not been so intense or hard to bear. Suddenly, she became
conscious, truly conscious of his age, and how childlike she must appear to him.
She noticed other things to, like the fact that the too angular face and the
long nose somehow, strangely, made for an attractive whole, and that he must
have an excellent body balance in order to be able to sprawl on a bar stool,
but told herself this was totally irrelevant to the present situation.

"No deal," he finally said.

"But..."

"Sorry, kid, but you're in over your head. What Cassandra doesn't need is
another person to tell her she's supposed to forgive someone. She's had quite
enough of that during the last two years, believe me."

"She is only supposed to forgive you, I take it?" Amy said challengingly.

"You don't know what you're talking about. Actually, no, she isn't. But I happen
to know how she feels about Lanart, and if I, of all people, ask her to see him
again in order to soothe his conscience and give him a better death, it just
might destroy the status quo we've reached, and to reach that was difficult
enough. Since I share her feelings about Lanart, I'm not exactly motivated to do
that."

He was calling her bluff, of course. So she had no choice. "Have it your way",
she said tonelessly. "And please don't go to my burial, I can't stand false
mourners."

She slid down from her own barstool and walked over to Joe in order to say
goodbye.

"Did...err... Benjamin behave himself?"

"Oh yes."

Somehow, his expression said he doubted it. He looked over to Methos, who was
still watching her. When she had reached the door, she felt a hand on her
shoulder and turned around.

"Okay," said Joe's friend. "I'll offer you a compromise. No Cassandra, but I'll
come with you to see Lanart."

Amy was too relieved to hide it. She had to embrace somebody, so she ran back to
Joe and did just that, which left him glad and even more concerned.

Travelling with the world's eldest immortal had its dangers. For one thing, he
wanted to try out the new tunnel between Dover and Calais and thus insisted on
going by car. For another, he was a bad driver, so Amy used the first halt at a
petrol station to switch places and refused to leave the driver's seat for the
rest of the trip. But that meant he didn't have to concentrate and had time to
fiddle with the radio, listen to the awful tapes he had brought with him and
could, every now and then, make his annoying remarks. Of course, he chose the
time they were in the tunnel - which meant her car was standing on the
incredible fast train that
transferred vehicles from one end of the channel to the other, something she had
never
experienced as a driver and so was a bit
nervous about - to become serious and speak of the object of their quest.

"Just out of curiosity - why the concern for Andrew Lanart? As killers go, I
wouldn't have thought he was your type."

"Because he just killed one child?" she fired back, hoping he didn't notice how
she clang to her wheel. "As opposed to killing them by the dozens."

"I won't ask you whether that means I'm your type. But seriously, how on earth
did Lanart manage to turn you into his advocate? I don't believe prison could
have changed him so much, and I'm not speaking about his claims of remorse. When
I knew him, he was unbelievable stuffy."

After a pause, Amy said, slowly: "I refuse to believe someone Joe cares about
could be so despicable, so would you please drop the act?"

"You make all too many assumptions," Methos replied, but he was silent for a
while. Then, he said:

"Alright, let me try again. Why do you do this for Lanart?"

Amy bit her lower lip. "Because I'm sorry for him. The man is dying inside as
well as outside. I think - I think everyone should have at least the chance
to... well, to repent. Perhaps this sounds ridiculous to you, but that is the
reason."

His reply was so soft she almost didn't hear it.

"No, it's not ridiculous at all. But I'm afraid I can't give you what you really
want."

"What do you mean?"

"I think you know. You want me to tell Lanart I forgive him for Becky. I
probably should, but I can't."

"Why not?" she asked, not pushing but genuinely trying to understand.

"Because he didn't kill her. Not permanently. I did."

Horrified, she looked at him, but could not recognise any emotion in the
flashing
lights of the tunnel.

"She was pre-immortal, didn't he tell you that? And probably younger than eight
years. After he shot her, she would have stayed that way for the rest of her
existence, which could have been anything between a year and a millennium. Look
up the chronicles of child immortals, Amy. It's not pleasant reading. I should
have known better, but I let myself love Becky, and that meant I couldn't permit
that to happen to her. So I killed her."

She stared ahead, where the light of the other end of the tunnel was just
beginning to show.

"So you see," Methos said quietly, "why I cannot forgive him."

The next hours were spent in silence.

Before reaching the prison, they stopped once more for petrol, and then, Amy had
made up her mind.

"You can lie to him."

The vulnerability he had shown in the tunnel was gone, and the mask was firmly
in place.

"Why should I?"

"Because," she said, "you have a debt to pay." Seeing his eyes narrow, she
added: "To the Watchers."

Incredibly, he was once more amused.

"I *beg* your pardon?"

Where had he picked up that posh accent? No one outside of Britain could
possibly understand what a put-down that could be to someone whose father had
been lower middle-class and conscious of it.

"Yes. To us. You used us for cover, didn't you? For a decade at least, if not
longer. To protect yourself, to keep an eye on your enemies. Maybe even to hunt.
And now you're still doing it, through Joe. Well, forgive me for my presumption,
but I happen to think it's payback time. Time for Watcher Adam Pierson to do
something for a member of the community. It's just one lie more for you, but it
could mean everything for Andrew Lanart."

"You are pushing your luck, Amy."

"Probably."

He fell silent again. She refused to interpret this as either acceptance or
refusal. She didn't want to interpret anything anymore; she just wanted to get
this over with. He had been right in the bar - she was in over her head. It had
been a crazy idea anyway - to bring one killer to comfort another, with the
added incentive of mutual dislike. But there was no way to stop now, and she was
determined not to leave Lanart facing his death alone *and* without the chance
of penitence.

Somewhere in the back of her mind, she finally realised that all these actions
were, among other things, interfering. So be it.

The people in the prison administration knew her by now and so were not
surprised to see her. They accepted the presence of "her husband" for this
visit without protestations, and Methos didn't react to the designation, either,
not even with a smirk. He looked totally withdrawn, immobile, like those Roman
busts she had seen in museums. She didn't know whether he had even heard
anything she said.

When the guard led Lanart into the small room where prisoners received their
visitors, she noticed he had lost some weight. Could that happen so fast? It had
only been fourteen days since she saw him last. Lanart opened his mouth to greet
her, than he registered the man beside her and froze.

"If it isn't my old buddy Andrew," Methos said coldly, and Amy's heart sank.
Lanart stared at him with the rapt attention a rabbit would be paying to a boa
constrictor.

"I... I never thought..."

"To see me again, I'm sure. Though I understand at one point you wanted to do my
chronicles as well, in addition to Cassandra's. Be glad you didn't get the
chance. It's a tiresome task. I should know."

Amy couldn't decide whether the sarcasm was meant to hurt or to draw Lanart out
of his shock. Either way, it worked. He took a deep breath.

"If I could bring her back, I would. You have to believe me."

"Oh, I believe you. You wouldn't be in prison if she were still alive."

"Adam," Amy said sharply. He didn't give her as much as a glance, but continued:

"You have quite a defender there, Lanart. If I didn't know better I would
suspect your friend Ahriman was still around and influencing her."

"Who the hell is Ahriman?" Amy asked, stunned that there was yet another
immortal involved.

"Nobody you'd ever want to meet, but Andrew here knows him quite well."

"Yes," Lanart said bitterly. "Yes, I do. But she'd never believe me. You
wouldn't believe it either if you hadn't experienced it."

"There is something I wanted to ask you," Methos said abruptly. "Whose idea were
the beatings? Yours or his? I understand why you placed Becky in the forest for
Cassandra and me to find, and I understand why you shot her, but the beatings -
that wasn't necessary. We would have taken care of her in any case. So who added
that?"

Lanart's hands grasped the table in front of him, and his knuckles turned white
with the effort.

"My idea," he whispered. "My fault. I wanted to make absolutely sure. You - you
could have turned away from a healthy child. I read what exists of your
chronicles, and I heard what she said about you to MacLeod. And her - she could
have turned away from an healthy child as well. At least, could have left it to
the authorities."

"Her!" Methos hissed, hatred now quite open. "Not it. Her. Becky."

"Her. Yes. So I beat her. And you know what, I hated you, both of you, because
you made it necessary, and I hated her for doing it to her, for showing me what
I was capable of. I see that now. I didn't then."

He fell silent. Amy, who had still been standing, abruptly sat down.

"I understand," Methos said unexpectedly. Lanart looked at him, and his
expression was strangely hopeful.

"You do?"

"Oh yes. I thought you heard her. Cassandra, not Becky."

"Is she still alive?"

"As far as I know."

"If you see her again, could you tell her - no. No, of course not. It is just
that - I wish I had never done that to you. To both of you. And to the child.
Becky. And to Becky."

"So you do know," Methos said intently, "what happened after you left? I wasn't
sure. She could have made you believe you did that as well."

"No, she didn't, but of course I know. That is why - I'm sorry. I know it's not
enough, I know you don't believe me, but I'm sorry."

"I believe you," Methos said again, this time without the cutting sarcasm he had
used previously. Lanart's face changed; hope and gratitude struggled with
disbelief and doubt. Methos leaned a bit closer to the parting glass.

"Go die in peace, if you can, Lanart. Sometimes I wonder whether I ever

will, but not because of anything you did. For what it's worth, I forgive you."

Amy let out a breath she hadn't noticed she held. Methos turned to her.

"Coming?"

She nodded and rose.

"Miss Thomas", Lanart called. She looked at him; he cried again, but without
the hopeless, desolate air she had always associated with him.

"I - you - thank you," he finished helplessly. She didn't quite know how to
reply. So she settled for a neutral "goodbye". Methos had already left, and she
didn't catch up with him until they were outside.

Feeling that it was now her turn, she said: "Thank you," but was unable to
resist adding the question which burned in her: "Did you mean it or did you
lie?"

"Why do you want to know?" he asked back, expressionless.

She shrugged, affecting the same casualness. "I'm a Watcher. It's a professional
illness, trying to figure out immortals. So - did you mean it?"

"Well now," he answered, deftly outmaneuvering her by getting behind the wheel
and into the driver's seat first, "that is for me to know and for you to find
out."

"Of course," Mireille Lejeune said, after having read Amy's final report, "you
do realise what you did?"

"I interfered."

"Quite so. I take it you've answered for yourself the questions you had when I
made you my assistant?"

Indeed she had. She also understood why neither Joe nor Madame Lejeune had
simply told her there were times when one had to interfere. This was something
every Watcher had to find out for herself, or himself. Had to settle with his or
her own conscience, not take it on someone else's word and conscience. So Amy
nodded.

"Good," Madame Lejeune said, closing her laptop with a decisive snap. "For you
have brought a field assignment on yourself I, for one, wouldn't wish on my
worst enemy. Of course you won't be the only one. You are still very young, and
we can't risk him giving us the slip again. You'll work in tandem with three
others. But the reports and assessments, I'm afraid, will be your
responsibility."

Understanding began to dawn.

"Oh no," said Amy desperately.

"Oh yes. It's your own fault."

"But he's so..."

"Exactly. And according to this," she tapped with one fingernail on the disk
containing the complete report, with addenda, "you can handle him.
Congratulations, Amy. You've just volunteered to be the first active Methos
field Watcher in two millennia."

 

The End