Duncan MacLeod of clan MacLeod was walking along Paris's streets without any particular purpose. He just tried to enjoy the walk, the City and the weather and not to think about… about anything. Damn, he was sure he did the right thing when he challenged Byron, so why to brood now?
Suddenly, he found himself near Darius church – it often happened nowadays, when he allowed his feet to choose his way by themselves. He considered if he should come in and say "hello" to Father Beaufort, when the unmistakable sensation of Immortal presence froze him where he stood. He nearly saw the priest's ghost in front of the doors, when they opened and a tall, young-looking brunette appeared on the porch.
France, Darius church, several years after the first meeting between Darius and MacLeod.
"Am I here at a bad time?" Duncan sensed two Immortals in the church.
"No, not at all." Darius invited him inside, and Mac saw a woman in black clothes; she was definitely in mourning.
"Jessica is an old friend of mine, she came from Britain recently. She buried her mortal husband there."
"Darius, maybe I should…"
"Duncan, she really needs a new acquaintances here, it will do her good. Come, I'll introduce you."
"Duncan MacLeod of clan MacLeod," said the brunette, extending her hand.
"Jessica Stark," she expected shaking instead of kissing, and he did so. " Nice to see you again."
"Well, here again there is a place of meetings… Even when… " her voice quavered, and something like tears could be seen in her eyes, when she glanced back to the church.
"You didn't know?" he asked softly.
"No, I knew… Just hard to believe in it, you know… It's my first time in Paris since I heard, so I just came to say farewell…"
"I'm sorry, I disturbed you…"
"No, never mind. And I'm happy to see you here," she smiled. " Were you heading somewhere?"
"Oh, would you do me a favor and play a tourist-guide for me? It's been a long time since I was here, and it really would be nice to talk."
" With a great pleasure, my lady," he answered, offering his hand to Jessica.
Three hours later they were sitting in a street cafe, enjoying new sorts of ice-cream.
"So, Jessica, what are you doing in Paris now? Business trip or vacation?"
"Both, I suppose. I decided to unite vacation with some kind of a personal business."
MacLeod didn't like how she pronounced that "business".
"Immortal business? " he asked grimly.
"You could say so," she smiled.
"Do you need any help?" he asked, glancing to the coat, hanging on a chair.
Her smile became broader.
"Chivalrous as always…"
France, Darius church, several weeks after the first Flash Back.
"Well," Darius said to Jess, laying down the letter Duncan had just handed him. "Sister Anne writes, that they will welcome you any time you like. If it's really what you need."
"Yes, Darius, it's exactly what I need – a quiet life in a quiet place, teaching village girls and dealing with my memories. I'm fed up with society. And thank you very much, I really appreciate it."
" That's what friends are for. When do you plan to go?"
"Day after tomorrow, I suppose."
"But you can't go alone," MacLeod interjected."Roads are very unsafe nowadays."
She grinned. "I can't recall any long period of time when roads of France were safe, Duncan. And I can defend myself."
"I'm sure you can, Jess, but why invite trouble when you can successfully avoid it?"
"Lady Jessica, it will be a great honor for me to accompany you to Bluas."
She looked upon Darius, then upon the Highlander…
"Well, I'd be grateful."
"Thank you very much, Duncan, but I'm neither hunting nor running, at least for now. But… If you've lived here for some time, maybe you can help me with some information."
"I'd love to."
She reached for her handbag, extracted small press-cutting and unfolded it on the table. Duncan's heart skipped a beat – the article in press-cutting was devoted to "mysterious disappearing of famous rock-star", and it was Byron who stared at the Highlander from the photograph.
"You knew Byron?" he breathed.
"Oh, I wouldn't say so. I met him back in London in the beginning of his life, Immortal life, I mean. It was very briefly."
" But Benjamin, his teacher, was – is, I hope, – a very good friend of mine. And… I owe him."
"So you want to avenge Byron?"
She nearly laughed. "Duncan, you are old enough to know that revenge is one of the most useless things in the world. And Ben would hardly thank me for that. I just want to know, if Byron really is dead, and the reason why. If there was anything besides "there can be only one", of course. And… since all the European newspapers were writing about that, I thought that I could run into Ben somewhere here. He will need answers… and some kind of friendly support. It always hard to lose your students…"
"So, do you know anything about it?" she pointed at the article.
MacLeod sighed. Jessica was his friend; more important, she used to be Darius's friend. She was a good person, never (as far he knew) liked violence, but always cared about mortals. She should understand. And besides, as the last few months had convinced him one more time, truth always becomes known. And better to say it directly.
"Yes, Jessica, I know. It was me who killed Byron."
Her eyes became very earnest, she studied his face for several minutes, then said: "So there was a reason. Could you tell me about it?"
"Yes, of course."
He told her the entire story – in brief, without mentioning Methos or Joe. She kept silence, then sighed.
"I was afraid it would end this way. Byron was a genius, and a genius is a dangerous thing when you are Immortal… It was rather obvious even then, back in London, but… You did what you had to do, and I'm sure Ben will understand. He just deserves to know… Well, I was very lucky, when I met you, Duncan. Now I can focus on finding Ben… Although I'm afraid a chance meeting is the best I can hope for."
"Maybe I can help you, if you don't mind. What's his full name?"
"Benjamin Adams. Doctor Benjamin Adams, actually."
Doctor Adams? Byron called Methos "Doc", and an "Adams" fits… Was it possible that it was Methos Jessica was speaking about? And if it was, then Byron was not just an acquaintance or even a friend, he was his student… Mac suddenly remembered about Richie and Alec Hill. His student… But, nevertheless, what did that change? And he still wasn't sure, maybe it was merely a coincidence.
"Never heard the name, I'm afraid."
She shrugged. "Most likely he changed it. Not all of us are capable of going under the same one through centuries, like you."
"Could you tell me about him?"
She shrugged again.
"Why not? It's not a secret and it was a good piece of my life… Just shortly before you and I met for the first time. …We came across each other in New Orleans somewhere in the beginning of 19th century, I believe. Layonel, my husband, was officer in city's garrison and Ben was a local doctor. He was… kind of a family friend, I should say, although relations between him and Layonel always were a little bit complicated."
"He was jealous?"
"No, that wasn't the case. Their disagreements were rather of political type. Well, Layonel was an officer from an aristocratic family, and Ben was a doctor. One of a few ones, who were more interested in people than in their money or status. And he was the only one who did care about the slaves. Of course they had plenty things to argue about."
Just a coincidence. Mac really couldn't imagine Methos as a person who would care about and protect the slaves. Methos the abolitionist? It didn't make any sense at all. Meanwhile, Jessica continued:
"But they became friends eventually. After Lay's retirement we moved to England, and Ben suddenly decided to join us… I supposed, he was avoiding some challenge in New Orleans, but I'm not sure."
"He avoided challenges? " at least that fit.
"Well, he used to say that he really preferred his Hippocratic Oath to that bloody Game. And I believe he meant it. In England we lived in different places and saw each other quite rarely, that's why I got only a glimpse of Byron those days… And I left after Lay died. So, do you know anyone fitting the description?"
"I'm not sure… But I'll do some checking."
They talked a little more, then agreed that Duncan would meet Jessica the next day at an exhibition in Louvre ("I'm a tourist, after all.") and Jessica left for an appointment, leaving Duncan in deep thought about what he should do. Well, he could go to Joe, tell him the story and ask him to check on Ben Adams. But it wouldn't be very… polite, would it? MacLeod sighed. He knew very well what he should do, if he wanted to help Jessica – he should call Methos and ask him directly about Adams and Jessica Stark. But… But he didn't know just how to begin such conversation. Especially, when he hasn't actually began any conversation with Old Man since… Never mind. Finally, MacLeod decided to invite Jess in Les Blues Bar after exhibition and to rely on chance.