The Ural Mountains. 1953.
It wasn't the first time someone had tried to assassinate Duncan McLeod–hell, it wasn't even the fiftieth time–but he had to say that the bullet right between the shoulder blades followed by a tumble down a three-hundred-foot gully into an icy stream verged on the most annoying time.
By the time he had come back to himself, healed enough to climb out, and then did climb out, there was no sign of the sniper. Sighing, Duncan started into a quick jog back to the camp, glad that he'd double wrapped the rolls of film so that they wouldn't get wet.
Laos-Cambodia Border. 1970.
The next time he caught a flash of metal on the gun barrel–and something behind it? A metallic sleeve?–and threw himself to the ground, but not fast enough. The bullet still caught him in the chest, and he felt himself bleed out in seconds, then death, and pain, and the world back again.
That didn't last. Duncan was contemplating the dirt in front of his nose when footsteps padded up to him, and he heard the crack of a pistol, then his face slammed into the ground,, then death again.
It took him longer to wake up that time, and when he did, he found he'd been stripped to the skin and all his clothes shredded apart at the seams. His papers were gone, and so were the blanks he'd been carrying.
Sighing, Duncan climbed to his feet and wrapped the largest surviving sections of trousers around the places he wanted least to get sunburned.
As soon as this was over, he decided as he trudged toward the nearest town, he was moving somewhere cooler.
It hadn't been a sleeve. The man had a metal arm.
Duncan saw that quite clearly as he tumbled backward into the car. Then he was too busy dying, and the car was too busy sailing into the Sound.
County Antrim. 1991.
He got the drop on the man the next time, recoovering quickly and coming up behind him as he was going into Heather's room. The kick to the back of the neck only dropped the assassin to one knee, but the noise woke Gail.
The young woman was out the window like a flash, and then Duncan only had to slow the man down until he heard the car engine gun in the driveway.
He got a broken neck for his trouble, but it was worth it.
Poison had previously been one of Duncan's least favourite ways to die, especially a convulsive like strychnine, but he revised that to strychnine, followed by a bullet to the heart, followed by being dumped in the Seine.
He woke up enough in the middle of that to see the metal arm again, and something of the man himself. Eyes above the mask looked far too young to be a man he'd first encountered fifty years ago, at least, but that wasn't right, was it? He didn't feel anything from the man, and there was something wrong with the eyes. Then the shock of drowning in dirty, freezing water distracted him.
As soon as he hauled himself out of the river, he ran flat out to the meeting place, but it was too late.
Ali hadn't hung himself, Duncan would try to tell everyone later, but they wouldn't believe him.
Duncan would know those eyes anywhere, and they hadn't aged a day. He moved almost entirely on instinct, one hand shoving the assassin against the wall by the front of his jacket, the other coming up to close around his throat.
"Who the hell are you?" he demanded, not caring that they were catching too much attention–or some attention, not many stopped to look, especially given the time of night and the part of town. "Why can't I feel you?"
The man seemed less scared than bewildered, but his hand–his metal hand–came up seemingly automatically, breaking Duncan's grip and shoving him away.
"I don't know," he said, and meant it.
Duncan caught his sleeve. Something in the man's face tugged at him, never mind his history, and he found himself saying, "Are you in trouble? Do you need help?"
But the man was already pulling away, turning to run back down towards the docks, and holding out his hands to ward Duncan off. "Don't follow me," he said. "I'm dangerous."
He lost Duncan somewhere around Wharf Street, moving faster than seemed reasonable, and neither Duncan's contacts nor Joe's picked him up again.
They did, however, see him in the news, but that was after the world had gone to hell, and Duncan had other problems.