He really hated waking up covered in blood. And beer.
The evening had started out so well, too. He could pinpoint the exact moment it had all started to go downhill.
It was when Rebecca’s eyes had slid sideways, narrowing, and her beautiful features had hardened. A moment later, Methos’ head had filled with the approaching announcement of another Immortal and he’d turned to look where she was looking.
A young man in a dark grey wool suit with glittering gold and diamond cufflinks had entered the restaurant.
“Rebecca?” John had asked, clearly sensing the change in the atmosphere. “Adam?” He had paused in mid-bite over a forkful of succulent roast duck.
“It’s him,” Rebecca had whispered, even as she locked eyes across the room. “Aostos D’mier. He killed Harriet.”
“Harriet,” Methos echoed, and the image of a lovely girl in a white frock and dark stockings swam up through his memory. Her hair had been almost the same shade of red as Rebecca’s, but well curlier, and she’d laughed so very easily. He distantly remembered an afternoon spent eating sweet apples by a duck pond, getting a terrible burn on his shoulders from the hot sun, and then he, Rebecca, and Harriet had romped through the cool pond water, frightening every duck in the place. They’d floated face up among the water lilies, and told shameless secrets and tall tales, and gone home to drink strong coffee and wrap up in wool blankets to ward off the evening chill. He’d spend nearly an entire summer with Rebecca and Harriet, and every day had held that same sort of mischief and plain grandeur.
“Wooed her, and took her head,” Rebecca said, scattering his good memories all to pieces, as she rose to her feet. She was wearing pale pink silk, a sheath dress with hardly a spare place to hide a sword, but Methos knew she had one on her somewhere. She glanced at her husband and gave him a nod.
“Come home safe,” he said.
Then Rebecca moved through the restaurant toward the door where D’mier had turned right around on the spot and gone back out the front door, like a rabbit scampering away.
Methos sighed and pushed away his own plate of aromatic saffron risotto, a dish he’d been waiting a long time to try, and hurried after. He wasn’t in the habit of letting his friends get mired in challenges while he enjoyed the port and cheese, but he had considered it for just a moment. Knowing that he was going to be in town just for the weekend, he’d made reservations months ago, and then called Rebecca and her husband to see if they were available.
He followed Rebecca outside. The street was dark, though busy with people bustling by. It was a well lighted shopping and dining district.
“There, that way,” Rebecca said. He did so admire her tracking ability.
He followed her around the corner into the alley, just in time to see their quarry look panicked at the very end, and then turn the corner and keep going.
“He won’t get away,” Rebecca said, and started to run down the alley, moving very fast in her matching pale pink high heeled shoes. They snap-clipped as she ran, and Methos was hard pressed to keep up. They took the corner at a full run, and didn’t slow down.
D’mier was ahead of them, difficult to see in the dim light and his dark clothing, but his cufflinks would catch the light every so often and give him away.
“He’s headed for the docks,” Methos called out, calculating their location against the street maps in his head.
“No, he’s headed for the industrial district,” Rebecca corrected. Her hair had come down out of the formal style she’d pinned it up into for the evening, and was now loose around her shoulders, making her look even more like an avenging angel than ever before.
Indeed, the next dark street way didn’t hold any sign of D’mier at all, and Methos followed Rebecca around a corner, running parallel down a street they thought D’mier hadn’t taken. When they burst through the intersection, Methos caught that tell-tale glint of cufflink. “There,” he said, and he and Rebecca sprinted after.
D’mier vanished down a side-street that dead-ended. “He must have gone in somewhere,” Methos said and began pulling at the doors set into the walls.
“Here,” called Rebecca as a door swung open and she ducked inside.
Methos ran after her, the darkness swallowing him, and his eyes taking a moment to adjust. In the moment between outside dimness and interior blackness, something hit him on the head with a clang to his skull that rattled his brain. He went down in a red haze of pain and sudden nausea. He put his hand to his head instantly, where the pain was, and it was warm and wet. Curling up into a fetal position perhaps wasn’t the best form of defense, so he managed to push himself up to one knee. His sight was impaired by his bleeding, and he blinked furiously.
He felt the movement of another strike, the air whistling, and he bent to roll out of the way, thinking he wasn’t fast enough, and that something was going to hurt in a moment.
A sharp clang rang out as sword met metal pipe. Rebecca had turned around and drawn her sword.
“Aostos,” she said. “I knew I’d run into you one day.”
D’mier swung his pipe and again Rebecca blocked it, guiding it to the side where it wouldn’t damage her or her blade. “It was a long time ago,” he said, his voice spiked with adrenaline and a tinge of fear.
“Not to me,” Rebecca said, advancing on him. “And not for Harriet. She should have had those years!”
D’mier swung the pipe again, and Rebecca dodged it. Frustrated, he chucked it at her, and Methos couldn’t quite roll out of the way as it thunked against his knee. The pain blossomed bright and sharp. D’mier took off running again, with Rebecca in pursuit. Methos decided to stay right where he was for the moment, and let his knee and head heal. His head was throbbing like a funk bass-line, and for whatever reason, his head wound wasn’t healing very quickly. He was still bleeding all over himself. Also, he had double vision, and wasn’t exactly sure where he would swing his sword at even if he could have. There had been two D’miers and two Rebeccas that had run off.
He could hear the distant clashing of swords, each strike ringing out like a bell.
He pushed himself backwards, trying to figure out how he was going to stand and realized he was leaning against a giant tank of some sort. His eyes had adjusted to the darkness, and finally things seemed to blur together into a single unit, but there wasn’t really that much light. He pulled out a pack of matches from his pocket and lit one. Shiny steel reflected in the light. He wondered what might be in the giant vat.
Behind him came the decisive sound of a head falling, and then the intense silence that preceded a Quickening. Then, of course, everything started to explode.
The lights overhead went first, lightning arcing down to the metal vats. Methos could hear the screams as she absorbed the energy, and he knew it was Rebecca who had triumphed. He was glad D’mier had met a bad end—the murderer had killed a very sweet girl, who might have grown into her Immortality if given a few more years. With Rebecca as teacher, there was no doubt that she would have been well educated in the arts of defense and attack.
The vat behind him took a strong hit and the metal groaned and sizzled, electricity licking up the sides. A second, stronger hit, took it straight on and its seams started leaking. A familiar smell told Methos what was in the vats. “What a waste,” he muttered as the vat finally gave way to the pressure and liquid began pouring out, soaking Methos through to the skin. He could hear more vats giving way, and the slosh of liquid as it spilled out onto the floor, rushing down inadequate grates. He pushed himself to his feet as he heard even more liquid coming his way, and an errant lightning strike hit the vat behind him just as he did—the shock of the strike knocked him over, and he hit his head on something hard and unforgiving.
His eyesight burst into stars and then all went dark.
“Methos?” Rebecca asked. She was hovering over him, her silk dress ruined, and he stared at her for a long moment while everything settled into place and he remembered what had happened.
He sat up and looked around. “D’mier?”
“Already taken care of,” she said, with a flash of a sadly triumphant smile. It was good that D’mier was dead, but she’d obviously rather still have Harriet’s company in her life. “No one will find his body.” She pushed a hank of her hair back, looking like a bedraggled street urchin, between the spattering of blood across her face and the awful yellow-staining on her pale pink dress. She sighed at Methos. “And you’re covered in blood.”
“Scalp wound,” he said. “Those bleed like crazy. He caught me one in the head with the pipe.” He wrinkled his nose. “And both of us smell like a brewery.”
“And my dress is ruined,” Rebecca added, the mirth in her eyes growing.
“It’s the middle of the night.”
“I broke a heel on my shoe,” Rebecca added, lifting the offending shoe-clad foot.
“We’re miles from home, with no way to get back.”
Rebecca held out a hand to him and he grabbed it. She helped to pull him to his feet, and gave him a one-armed hug. “This sounds like one of our usual adventures,” she said, laughing. “Remember that time in Argentina?”
“How could I forget?” Methos laughed. “I stunk of woodsmoke and char for a week!”
Rebecca clutched her wet hair with her hands. “It took me two years for my hair to grow out again,” she said.
“And what lovely hair it is,” Methos said. He leaned in and kissed her on the cheek. “Shall we start hiking? John will be worried sick about you.”
Rebecca twirled in an artful pirouette. “If it weren’t for John,” she said, a twinkle in her eye, “I’d take you dancing. I believe we would be the toast of the town.”
Methos held out a hand. “If it weren’t for John, I’d take you dancing,” he said, his heart rate jumping up a notch. Ah, Quickenings, he thought. Fear of dying, and then excruciatingly live-wire addiction to living. It was such a trouble to be a better man now than he ever used to be. He held out his arm, in the older style, and she took it. Then, they limped home, one heel up, one heel down.