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Returning the Star

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Duncan and Tony in a park

 

Tony closed his front door, dropped new mail on the small pile already gathered, and shrugged off his jacket. He put away his shoulder rig and gun. It had been a long series of days. Gibbs had been winged and was due to start rehab from his surgery the following week. Ziva and Tim were a little more cooperative than they had been when he was in charge before, but Tony was getting annoyed with the small slides he could see in their behavior. He wasn't going to let it go as far as he did during Gibbs' summer siesta, but he didn't want to be a jackass about it either.

Tony sighed. He seriously wanted his bed, but he hadn't eaten anything since breakfast, and it was nearing breakfast time again. The team had the rest of the morning off and paperwork to file this afternoon and then were off rotation this weekend. Tony completed his paperwork, but he still needed to sign off on the team's paperwork before he could actually relax.
He wandered into his kitchen and opened the freezer. He should have leftovers from the pan of lasagna he made the last time he ended up with a few days of downtime. Ah, there it is. He grabbed the top container from the stack. Pulling out the bagged salad, he checked the expiration date and dropped it on the counter. The rest of his preparation took minutes. He glanced over his mail and paused at the cream-colored envelope without any return address or postmark. The handwriting was familiar, so he knew it wasn't poisoned, but just the brief thought of the plague made him shudder.

He began reading—


Anthony, mio figlio, I hope this letter finds you well. My accommodations are the same as always, and the family misses you. Juliana sends her love. To come to the point, we think the FBI will be approaching you soon about a new associate of mine that was recently found without his head. I assure you, we did not encourage or facilitate this action and will have no involvement in the ensuing investigation. In fact, Alicia was very fond of the young man. He had spent much of his youth in Europe, and she was interested in his tales. He was legitimately delivering a package from BWI to Seacouver, Washington, when his death was reported to us. I hope they do approach you, and you agree, as Alicia is heartbroken over the loss of her young man.

It wasn't signed, but it didn't need to be. Tony didn't think he should be involved in the case, but he had loved baby Alicia dearly. She was adorable as a child, and he'd allowed her to crawl all over him during family gatherings. Christ, she must be at least 20 now. He pulled his phone from his pocket and tapped it on his palm in thought. Making a decision, he hit the contact.

"Hey, could you stop by for dinner? It's reheated lasagna, but—"

"Yeah, sure, DiNozzo. I'm on my way home, and the kid's at her grandma's anyway. Give me fifteen."

True to his word, Tobias Fornell knocked on Tony's door just as he was dishing up their plates.

"Hey, Toby, thanks for coming by." Tony clapped a hand on his shoulder. "We're in the kitchen. You know where everything is."

"Food's a good incentive," Fornell hung up his coat, "but I was meaning to call you this week anyway."

"Yeah, let's eat first." Tony turned towards the kitchen. "Beer or wine?"

"Beer me. Save the wine for someone special."

Tony rolled his eyes. "So now's not the time to declare my undying love."

"Hell no." Fornell pulled a file from his coat and dropped it onto the coffee table next to Tony's open laptop, and headed towards the bathroom to wash up. "You're too pretty, and the potential shit I'd get from Gibbs. No, no thanks."

Dinner went smoothly. They mostly talked of inconsequentials and the latest scores with a few updates on people they both knew. Slacks, Tony was happy to note, was shipped over to White Collar.

Once they'd cleaned the kitchen, Tony picked up his envelope and nodded towards the coffee table.

"So, before you go into that, you should know I got a letter this afternoon."

"From?" Fornell sprawled on one end of the sofa.

Tony dropped onto the other end and tossed over the envelope.

"Fancy." Fornell opened it, sat up, and swore. "Seriously?"

"We do keep in touch occasionally." Tony ran a hand through his hair. "Normally, they're postmarked, and no one breaks into my apartment to leave them though."

"Well, that makes things easier. More awkward, but easier." Fornell dropped the letter next to the file. "Obviously, you're still the best source of inside info on the Macalusos."

"Best? I doubt that. We don't discuss business at all."

"Reliable, then." Fornell pointed to the letter, "you might not know their business, but we know any info we get from you doesn't have four separate agendas and three different backers."

Tony raised an eyebrow, "We? You got a mouse in your pocket, Toby?"

Fornell picked up the file and tossed it to Tony, "Okay, yeah. Look. You remember a few years back? That weird murder we had at Madison Square Garden?"

"Oh man, the headless guy?" Tony scrunched up his face. "Yeah. I was a kid, but I remember it." And Tony did remember it. His father dragged him on Civil War reenactments, and he'd panicked every time they pulled out a replica saber. It had made his father call him poo-boy, and since he was scared shitless, he should carry all their buckets. Tony grimaced and pushed those memories away.

"So, yeah. A recent employee of the Macalusos was found without a head in Seacouver. Macaluso didn't lie about that. Peter Grant was employed by Miranda M Imports and was in town to specifically bring a gem called the Amaranthine Star to an auction at the Seacouver Convention Center."

The gem's name struck a vague memory with Tony, but he couldn't quite place it. He left it in the back of his mind to percolate while he flipped over the pages of data and photos in the file.

The name on the file was Peter Grant, known aliases Peter Gaunt, Piotr Grankin, and Pierre Grangier. He was killed coming from the auction house. Wait. "Was anything stolen from the upcoming auction?"

"No, the auction house was still setting up. They'd already brought in several items. The gem was the last to arrive." Fornell paused, rubbing his forehead. "We'd like to send you in as a buyer. I spoke with Vance on the way over."

Tony gave him an incredulous look.

"Okay, fine, I had someone up the chain in White Collar manipulate Vance into offering you and McGee to us while Gibbs is doing rehab. Vance thinks McGee will have it solved in a day or two."

"Of course he does." Tony rolled his eyes. "He does know we're not in a tv show, right?"

"Your mouth to God's ears." Fornell leaned back into the sofa. "It's still your choice though. Are you in?"

"I did a little digging after I read the letter." Tony waved to his laptop. "Macaluso hired Peter Grant last year. He worked with Alicia directly as a courier. He helped with the physical placement of the items for sale in their storefront and their online presence as well. He's on the site as working in Acquisitions."

"Think he's a fence?"

"No, he's a legit broker and supplier. He's worked on dives in the Caribbean, along the coast of Northern Africa, and the Mediterranean. I didn't know he was headless though. Was there any connection to Nash and that Madison Square Garden mess?"

"Only that they both deal with really old sharp objects."

Tony snorted. "Just from a glance, it doesn't look like a robbery gone bad, so maybe another acquisition specialist? Someone he cut out for the gem? What do we know about it?"

"The Amaranthine Star was mined out of Sri Lanka sometime in the 1700s." Tobias pulled out his notes, flipping to the right page, he read out, "It was a gift from a minor British nobleman to his fiancé. Something about eternal love, immortal love, something. It was a reddish-purple cabochon-cut star ruby."

"Why does that sound familiar?"

"Probably because it was one of the unlisted gems from that 1964 heist at the AMNH in New York."

"Oh," Tony snapped his fingers. "Murph the Surf, 1975, Robert Conrad and Don Stroud, directed by Marvin Chomsky--"

"Tony," Fornell interrupted before Tony could say more, "look. We made sure all the stones weren't listed so we could track them when they changed hands."

"Romancing the Stone instead of Fast and the Furious?" Tony offered.

"Shut up, that wasn't even ours." Fornell griped. "But yeah, something like that. The Amaranthine Star was returned anonymously and sold to a collector named George Petrov in the early seventies."

Tony tossed the folder back onto the table. "Okay, I'm in."

They used the flight the following morning to hash out more details. McGee would be in the security booth, and Tony would be on the floor. Fornell and the rest of his team would be mixed in with the auction house and convention center's security.

Tony reviewed the list of items from Miranda M Imports. Most of them came from a downed merchant ship off the coast of Virginia. Tony would be bidding on a couple of paintings as part of his cover with a small maritime museum near the Yard in D.C. Outside of his cover, Tony thought the compass pendant created for a man's watch chain was more interesting. Tony was pretty sure the practical pendant was a gift from a lover, but no information or providence was listed.

Tony kept moving casually around the room. Seacouver was a little further north than D.C., but it was a beautiful day outside. He almost wished he didn't need to be stuck indoors. After the compass, there were a few odds and ends, a vintage brass nautical telescope, an old revolver, two cutlasses, two necklaces, four rings, and a photo of the Amaranthine Star. Tony paused at the easel holding the picture. It was a gorgeous piece. He could absolutely see any woman, and not a few men, being enthralled by it.

An elegant young woman was stopped in the doorway with one hand while her bodyguard swept the room with his eyes. She wore a simple pair of slacks and a dark green silk blouse, but she was absolute grace and poise. Her eyes widened when she saw Tony. He turned away from the camera and winked at her when the bodyguard was glancing back through the doorway. She gave a barely perceptible nod and circulated the room until they met by apparent chance.

"I'm Alicia Macaluso, of Miranda M Imports." She didn't hold out her hand, but Tony didn't take offense. "I don't think I've seen you at one of our auctions before, Mister—" She trailed off leadingly.

"Anthony DiLorenzo." He gave a small bow. "I work for the American Revolution Maritime Museum near DC. I'm looking to pick up a few items to round out our Long Island Sound Privateer collection."

"Well, Mr. DiLorenzo." She took Tony's arm gently, much to her bodyguard's consternation, and led him back to the compass. "You must see these two pieces. We don't have the historical providence, of course, but the compass was gifted to a young ship's doctor out of Europe by his second in command upon the completion of their first trip across the Atlantic."

"That's an expensive gift," Tony remarked.

"Most of the officers at that time were the second sons of wealthy noblemen or merchants." She smiled. "They joined the officers' ranks to make their fathers proud." She pinched his arm lightly. "Or to find adventure."

Tony laughed. "I'm afraid I'm not much for adventure, but this compass is really something."

"It really is." Her phone beeped. "Oh, it's time. It was nice to meet you, Mr. DiLorenzo. I hope you get a chance to see the rest of the compass. It has even more intricate markings on the back."

"Please, call me Anthony." He squeezed her hand gently.

"I'm Alicia then." She bit her lip. "Could we have coffee after the auction? I'd like to hear more about your exhibit. We have a few other pieces that weren't ready for this auction that might interest you."

"I'd love to." Tony smiled genuinely. He wished they could talk, but between her bodyguard, McGee, Fornell, and his team, there wasn't much for it.
Her phone beeped again. This time her bodyguard pressed his earpiece, speaking into his wrist, before gently steering to the side of the room. It wasn't subtle at all, but Tony supposed she didn't really need subtle. She was in charge of these pieces until the money transfers went through. The bodyguard seated her at a table with a discreet exit door directly behind her. Tony hoped she had more guards beyond the door.

"Fornell?" As quietly as he could into the mike, Tony said, "You got anyone outside that door?"

"Two guys. It leads directly to a hallway to the private garage."

Tony didn't get a chance to answer because the auction started. Most of the pieces he wasn't interested in at all. He did a cursory amount of bidding on the paintings and the compass. Tony could have bid higher, his trust would certainly cover it, but he wasn't even sure what he would do with the compass besides look at it. His comfort of choice was a good movie, his piano, or a good book, not a random piece of history that wasn't useful. He sighed and let it go. The ruby was about to be brought out.

The photo and description of it did not do it justice. It was an amazing piece.

The entire room focused on the Amaranthine Star. The auctioneer opened the case and placed the jewel on a cloth in front of Alicia. She nodded at the auctioneer, and the bidding opened with fifty thousand dollars. After a few moments, it came to a bidding war between two of the guests: a beautiful dark-haired woman and a blonde man with icy eyes. Tony'd seen snakes with warmer dispositions.

Tony went with his gut. "What have we got on the man?"

"Armand Thorne. He's a serious collector. He never sells a piece once he's bought it, but he does regularly donate to the church and community here in the area."

"And the woman?" Tony could hear Fornell shuffling paper.

"Amanda Darieux. She claims to descend from the original owner of the gem."

"The British guy or—"

"The fiancé." Fornell interrupted.

A pop sounded, and the lights went out. Tony heard the chair scraping across the floor and hoped Alicia's bodyguard was pulling her to safety. He pulled out the flashlight on his keyring and lit the table area. The gem was gone, and so was Alicia. He moved towards the exit and burst through the doors. Tony could hear Fornell shouting orders and moving into the room. Alicia was pulling away from the bodyguard. There were three guys down outside the door, and Alicia was struggling. That guy's coat wasn't moving right. Was he carrying a pipe or something? Something was hinky. Fuck, he had a gun.

"Drop."

Alicia immediately dropped just as they'd practiced all those years ago, and Tony took the shot.

"DiNozzo?!" Fornell called. "You alright?"

"Yeah." He kicked the gun away and secured the guy with a zip-tie. Tony pulled Alicia to her feet and nudged her away from the guy. Tony turned back to the auction room and pushed Alicia gently towards the door. After she went through, he continued, "I need medics and backup out here though. I've got four down, including the guy I just shot."

"Right. Two of those guys are mine. Three minutes."

Tony blinked. Did the perp move? He slid on some gloves and nudged the guy over onto his hands. He must have hit his head on the way down because he was still bleeding sluggishly but out cold. He finished disarming the guy, fished a clear, plastic jewel case out of his pocket, and pushed all his weapons further away. Tony was in the middle of doing a basic first aid check when the guy woke up with a gasp. Tony's eyes were dazzled with what looked like lightning coming out of his chest. Yeah, no, he wasn't dealing with a lightning storm in, well, not-space.

"No Romulans here, dammit," Tony grunted, dropping him and jumping backward, but the guy was fast and gut-punched Tony into the wall with his shoulder. Tony yanked the perp's head towards his knee, but the guy swept him and kicked him a few times before running off.

"Ow." Tony leaned against the wall.

"What was that?"

"Ow. Send more medics. The perp rabbited. And maybe BOLO a gunshot wound that should be center mass but has to be in the shoulder instead. Has to be."

"You're not making any sense, Tony." He could hear Fornell in that weird, doubled way as Fornell came through the door. He pulled out his earpiece at Fornell's hiss. "Holy shit."

"Yeah," Tony said. "I'm fine. Gimme a minute."

"No. Stay right there until the medics get here." Fornell nodded at the other three. "They still alive?"

"Not sure. Got Alicia away from Nero, and he jumped me."

Fornell checked the guys. "All out cold."

Tony blew out a breath. At least they weren't dead. Tony did not envy the bodyguard or the lightning guy when Mikey caught up to them. Wait. Lightning. Tony looked around the hallway. Yeah, there. A couple of bulbs burned out.

"Hey, Fornell?"

"Yeah?"

Tony pulled out the small clear case, studied both sides of the objects for a moment, and tossed it over. "Maybe let's not tell anyone that we found these just yet?"

"Holy shit." He repeated.

"Do we have a list of everyone who bid on those two? Or maybe the previous owner wants them back?"

"I've got McGee and Foster running financials. The previous owner left them to Miranda Macaluso in the mid-seventies. She had them in a display case in her office. It's only recently that Peter convinced them to sell the items."

"The design on the back of that compass looks like something my uncle used to have. I'm going to call him after dinner."

"Any lead is a good lead. I don't care where it comes from."

Hours upon hours later, Tony took off his tie, shoving it into a pocket and unbuttoning his shirt's top few buttons. He sat down gingerly on the park bench. It'd been a long night, a long few days really, and finishing the paperwork on this case was going to be a nightmare. They had the probable murder weapon, an Iberian Falcata found with the body, and they had all of the goods. They just didn't have a perp. Or a lead. His Uncle Clive hadn't gotten back to him yet, but that wasn't out of the ordinary. Sometimes it took a day or so. He wasn't sure precisely what Clive Paddington did, but as a child, Tony thought he was a mixture of James Bond and Indiana Jones. If this case had anything to do with those journals, Tony thought. Tony rubbed his face tiredly. He dropped his hand and leaned further back.

McGee was still back at the hotel, trying to chase down financials for the two people in the bidding war. So far, they were the only people interested in the stone and the compass. There had to be more to it. His bruises had bruises, and he hadn't even seen his hotel room since they checked in. Being dropped by a cyclist in the park was never high on Tony's list of fun things to do either, so he pulled his feet further under the bench.

The morning sun wasn't enough to cut through the pre-dawn chill, but at least it was going to be a gorgeous day once the clouds burned off. Tony was surprised the park wasn't more crowded—wait, was that a sword? What is it with swords in this town?

"Hey, King Arthur, you got a permit for that?" Tony watched him move closer. The dark coat he wore didn't hamper his movement; he was used to carrying a sword, unlike their perp. And he had a balanced, precise gait—definitely some kind of martial artist.

"Seriously?" The man raised an eyebrow.

"Zorro?" Tony tried.

The tall drink of water stopped in front of him and gave him an amused smile. "Does it look like I'm carrying a rapier?"

"How about Errol Flynn?" The man gave him a blank look. "Basil Rathbone?"

The man dropped his hands to his hips in exaggerated outrage. "I know you did not just call me English." He still looked amused.

That was absolutely Scottish.

"William Wallace?" Tony tried.

"A bit before my time." He chuckled. "If you want cinema swordsmen, try Kurosawa."

"Ah, Yojimbo and Sanjuro. Classics." Tony held out a hand. "Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo, on loan to the Seacouver FBI office. So, permit?"

"Or maybe the Seven Samurai. Of course." He felt around his pockets. "Duncan MacLeod," he said, pulling out his business card and permit, handing both to the agent. "I'm an antique dealer. My shop is two blocks that way." He pointed away from Tony's hotel.

Tony read over the cream-colored card and the permit. "Ah, Mr. MacLeod. Sorry, old habits die hard."

"It's Duncan."

Tony handed the permit back but kept the card. "Mind if I keep this?"

"No, it's fine." Duncan refolded his permit, replaced it in his jacket pocket, and held out a hand.

Tony took it, noting the firm handshake and interesting calluses.

"It's nice to meet you, Duncan. Call me Tony." He leaned back against the bench and smiled up at Duncan. "So, Scottish?"

"I'm bloody well not English." Duncan's quick smile dazzled. "But yes, I was born near Glenfinnan, Scotland. And you, old habits? You come across many swordsmen out of the FBI office?"

"Something like that." Tony flipped the card in hand absently. Not their perp, he wasn't blond and 6'3, but maybe he could help with the sword angle. His jacket started ringing, but he sent his phone to voicemail without looking away from Duncan. "I work for NCIS, but it's not far off." He said without heat, frowning when his phone chirped with several texts.

"Sounds like you should probably get that." Duncan gave a slight bow. "It was a pleasure to meet you, Tony. I have to be going." He paused, looked towards his shop, and turned back. "We don't have much in the way of memorabilia for many modern movies, but we might have a few items from the early 1900s if you want to stop by sometime."

Tony grinned. "I just might do that."

It was the highlight of Tony's day. Hell, it was the highlight of his week so far. That man was delicious. He'd pocketed the card and picked up his phone. McGee was blowing it up because the forensics had come back. The Falcata was definitely not the murder weapon. Tony sighed.

At least he'd wrangled a short vacation after this case. He didn't have to be back in D.C. until a week after the paperwork was filed. If they could ever find the perp. He was surprised that as tight as

Macaluso made the security to keep Alicia safe, they didn't have more. Tony paused. To keep Alicia safe. Some of the security features were only on when she was in the room. Tony had a hunch.

Fornell was going to owe him two bottles of Macallan 25 at this rate. Maybe he could convince him to leave Tony in Seacouver and take the others with him. Or better yet, drop him in L.A. He could hit a few studios and head over to Forest Lawn Memorial Park. His letter to that hack critic was a bust, he'd never get to have it out over Benji or Full Metal Jacket, but maybe he could find a theater showing all-day Hitchcock movies.

Tony pulled out his phone. Uncle Clive had forwarded him a few scanned pages of a journal and told him to contact someone named Joe Dawson after two pm. He rubbed his eyes. He was going to rest them for an hour at the very least, and then he would tackle the god-awful handwriting his uncle had sent.

Tony walked into the conference room they were using for the case.

"McGeek, I need you to run back the thermal imaging onscreen during the blackout."

"Tony. What good is that going to do?"

"Just do it."

They could see the third person choke out the two local FBI agents and then Alicia's bodyguard before Tony burst through the door a few seconds later. When Tony had helped Alicia back to the auction room, the perp tossed something up into a rafter.

"How much you wanna bet that's the actual murder weapon."

The photos of the two bidders were taped on the wall with the Falcata to the side. Tony tilted his head. "That's not the guy who was bidding on the gem or compass. That's our perp."

"The guy who kicked your ass while zip-tied was Armand Thorne?"

Tony rolled his eyes. "Yes, McProbie, he got the drop on me while I was making sure Alicia was okay."

"Hot damn, DiNozzo." Fornell grinned. "Let's go pick him up."

"I need to make a call first. Give me ten."

"You get three."

"Meet you in interrogation then."

"Sure, sure. C'mon, Mcgee. Let's go wrap this."

Tony pulled out his phone and read over the pages again. He wondered if Duncan had known Piotr Grankin or not. He called Joe Dawson, and wasn't that call enlightening? Tony ran a hand through his hair. He hated these kinds of decisions. He believed in the justice system, but if the DA didn't think there was enough evidence to take it to trial. He really hated this.

"Duncan, would it be possible to grab a meeting with you later?" Tony tapped his finger on the sword. "Something has come up that I think you could help with."

"Of course, do I need to come to the FBI office or—"

"I'll meet you in the lobby and walk you up." Tony spent a few minutes staring blankly through the doors before he blinked hard and held onto his dignity with his fingertips. He was never more tempted to act like a child in his life. That was a sweet ride.

"Was that a 1964 Aston-Martin DB5 I saw out there?" Tony smiled hugely. "Seriously, you have a Bond car?"

"I am a collector and dealer of rare antiquities." Duncan's smile was smug. "We could take a ride later?"

"Can I drive it? Please? At least once?"

Duncan laughed. "We'll see. Now, what do you have for me?"

Tony sobered. "The man killed was named Piotr Grankin. I'd like you to look at the sword and identify it if you can."

They walked up to the conference room where Tony had left the sword in an evidence bag. He nodded to the agent stationed sentry in front of the door.

He pulled out two sets of gloves but didn't open the evidence bag just yet.

"It's a Frankish broadsword." Duncan tilted it to focus on the hilt, then the blade. "Probably from the 8th century."

"Would it be something that Piotr Grankin would have carried?" Tony sat in a chair and motioned for Duncan to sit as well.

Duncan looked at him sharply. "No, he preferred an Iberian Falcata to spar."

"So you did know him." Tony nodded at the confirmation of his theory.

"We did business occasionally." Duncan agreed, sitting amiably. "And he liked to spar when he was in town. There's a dojo not too far from my shop."

"So," he pressed a button on a small handheld device before drawling, "immortal?"

"What makes you say that?"

"Your name is Duncan MacLeod, you're from Glenfinnan, and you carry a Katana," he said.

"There are a lot of MacLeods in Glenfinnan."

Tony smiled sheepishly, "And my Uncle Clive scanned me a few pages from a Watcher's journal after we met this morning and told me to call a man named Joe Dawson after two pm today."

"Ah."

"Honestly, I'd read them when I was younger but thought it was nonsense until," he waved in Duncan's direction, "you know, the light show."

Duncan looked puzzled. "A light show? Here? Now?"

"No, earlier today," Tony looked at his watch and amended, "well, earlier yesterday." He tapped his finger to his lips a few times. "We have Armand Thorne," Tony pointed to the picture on the wall, "in interrogation right now. Would it be fair to say that he carries an eighth-century Frankish broadsword?"

Duncan's eyes filled with rage before he tamped it down. "That's not. Thorne is an alias. He probably has a dozen more. His name is John Durgan. He's a greedy son of a bitch. And I'm not surprised he killed Piotr. He killed two priests in 1817 for the Cross of St Antoine. What did he want this time?"

"The Amaranthine Star and a naval compass for a watch chain."

Duncan groaned. "The Amaranthine Star. No wonder Amanda is in town."

"So, it really is hers."

Duncan smiled. "She was in love with a young British Naval doctor in the late 1700s. His father was a wealthy merchant and sent him to the Americas by way of Sri Lanka to make his mark. In the meantime, he'd actually lost the gem to the Duke of Wellington. Amanda's been trying to get the gem back since then. I guess Piotr found the gem but not Amanda. He was a good man."

Tony tried to wrap his head around actual immortality, but it just did not compute. "I don't think we'll have enough evidence to hold him. Joe said they'd send a team but had to wait until he was released and far enough from the building not to arouse suspicion."

"He's going to want this." Duncan picked up the sword.

"He can't have it. He'll have to use something else if he wants a blade." At Duncan's look, Tony continued, "I'll make sure it's under lock and key. It won't exactly be a fair fight, but—"

"He doesn't actually fight fair." Duncan cut him off. "The last time we fought, he shot me first and then tried to kill me."

"Pragmatic," Tony said. "Dick move, but pragmatic."

"Speaking of pragmatic," Duncan smiled brightly, "would you like to have a drink with me at Joe's tonight? His first set is at nine-thirty, his second is at eleven. In between, he leaves the stage open."

"Good beer?" Tony asked.

"The best in Seacouver." Duncan nodded to Amanda's picture. "You can meet Amanda properly, maybe a couple of other friends too if they stop by."

"Can't wait."