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"The Secret War" - chapter 9

Monday March 4, 1996

One week, no word.

The days were busy. I was running the bar. Coordinating the Seacouver-area Watchers. Tracking the actions of each of my anti-Hunter cells. Checking in with Eugenia daily, to see if her researchers had uncovered anything more about Dark Quickenings.

My nights were tougher. It'd been a toss-up between the guitar and the bottle; so far, the guitar was winning. I played way into the wee hours last night. You can sink a lot into the blues and it just makes you sound better on stage.

When I lurched into the office this morning, I found a fax sitting in my machine. In precise hand-written letters, it read:

Mr. Dawson –

I recently obtained some information that may be of great interest to you. I thought we might meet to discuss it. I will be in the Airport Lounge of Seacouver International today, from 1 to 2 pm. There is no need to RSVP.

- Narath Ung

I arrived at the Airport Lounge just before 1 o’clock. Ung was waiting at the entrance, in a conservative charcoal gray suit, wielding a metallic briefcase. He was smaller than I remembered, 5’3, with short dark hair, mirror-dark eyes, and a smooth, courteous smile. He ushered me up a short flight of stairs to a private little mezzanine table. It was a convenient spot, if you had two working legs. At least no one could get within eavesdropping range without us seeing them.

He asked if I cared to order anything. I might sit down to talk with the enemy, but I wasn't breaking bread with him. Ung had a cup of black coffee and packet of M&Ms in front of his seat. The M&Ms were emptied out on the table and sorted into piles by color. The empty packet was folded into a neat square. That’s pretty compulsive. I wondered if he had to eat them in some special order.

“I’m glad you were able to join me on such short notice, Mr. Dawson. It’s been, what, 8 months since I debriefed you after the Kalas incident?”

“About that, yeah.”

“And how are Lynn and Catherine these days?”

Was asking after my sister and niece meant to be small talk, or a subtle threat? Whatever. This guy was a professional at screwing with people’s heads. But with Mac lost, I had to see if he knew something. “You said you had some information for me. Do you?”

“Yes, I certainly do. I understand that your subject, Duncan MacLeod, has been behaving atypically recently?”

“If that’s what you want to call a Dark Quickening, yeah.”

“A Dark Quickening. Yes. Of course, even without such an … extraordinary event, it has been a difficult few years for him.” Ung scooped up the pile of red M&Ms from the table. He idly inspected them, and then began dropping them from a height of a few inches. Each one made a quiet plink as it hit the table. “The danger,” plink “the pain,” plink “the betrayals,” plink “the fighting,” plink “the grief, and” plink “the killings.” Ung carefully moved the red candies back into a single pile, remarking, “I’ve known strong men to shatter under those stresses.”

He looked back at me. “But, you know all of this. Have you received Louis Petiton’s report yet?”

“I don’t know any Louis Petiton.”

“Well, these things can take time, traveling through official channels. Louis is stationed in Le Havre, France. He observed MacLeod disembarking from a ship in the port there approximately six hours ago.”

My heart skipped a beat. Was Mac all right? Could I believe a word that came out of Ung's mouth? “Did Petiton say anything about how he looked or acted?”

“Yes, his report is quite detailed.” He lifted the briefcase up onto the table and opened it, lifting out a manila file folder. He left it on the table in easy reach, and then pulled out some reading glasses. He placed them on the bridge of his nose with some ceremony. I resisted the urge to grab the file. Ung closed the briefcase and slid it back under the table. He peered over the glasses and offered me a reassuring smile before opening the folder. Can't believe I bought that act when Ung interviewed me last year.

“Apparently MacLeod spotted Louis, and cornered him in a phone booth. He then stole Louis’s wallet, found the pictures of his family, and threatened to find and torture Louis’s wife and child unless he were told the whereabouts of a certain Immortal … Ah, yes, Sean Burns.”

I could barely hear him over the thunder of my own heart. Not true, not true, God don’t let Mac have done those things. Ung paused, looking up at me. “Some water, Mr. Dawson? You don’t look well.”

I shook my head no.

“There is no need to be alarmed. Louis escaped the encounter physically unharmed. He does sound rather traumatized, though. Apparently MacLeod concluded the interview by saying that he was able to spot Watchers, and would kill any that he saw from now on.”

I croaked, “You’re lying.”

“Now, Mr. Dawson, this report will arrive in your hands within a few days. I merely came into possession of the information more quickly. Why would I lie?”

“Maybe because you want MacLeod dead?”

A faint look of surprise crossed Ung’s face. “By no means. That was your brother’s campaign. A brilliant man, and excellent leader, but he did tend to work from the heart rather than the head when making such decisions. No, it’s always been my policy to leave headhunters in the Game as long as possible.”

“Mac is no headhunter!”

“No? You know better than anyone how many heads he has taken in the past two and a half years. Still, let’s not quibble over terms. Regardless of his motives, in purely quantitative terms, he is effectively moving my program forward.”

“This would be the program where every Immortal ends up dead, right?”

He nodded calmly and sipped his coffee. “Yes, that is correct. But I have no interest in seeing MacLeod dead at this time. I have no personal interest in him at all. Unlike you.”

Suddenly I had Ung’s full attention. He watched me with the complete focus of a new lover, an obsessive fan, or a very good therapist. I couldn’t think. “What the hell are you playing at, Ung?”

“I would have no difficulty with Watching Duncan MacLeod become a monster. But I thought that you might.”

“He’s probably just going to see Sean Burns to get help!”

“That is possible, yes. But if not … Mr. Dawson, you are a man of strong convictions and great loyalty. You are one of very few Watchers with the courage to act on your beliefs. Your brother James admired these qualities in you, as do I. That is why I would like to offer my assistance.” First Methos, then Annie, and now Ung. Pretty compliments camouflaging the pungi sticks underneath.

“Assistance with what?”

“If you should decide to take action, to prevent Duncan MacLeod from harming any further innocent Mortals and Immortals; my people will be at your disposal.”

Duncan MacLeod, threatening a man's wife and children. I didn't want to believe it, but I did. Flashes of Mac knocking me down, stalking Richie like a great cat, holding the blade to my throat. Christ.

Ung was Watching me from across the table. My heart was pounding again. I had to pull my shit together. I closed my eyes for a moment and played the opening bars of "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay" in my head. The rhythm of the song settled into my blood, slowed my pulse and breathing. I opened my eyes to see Ung leaning across the table towards me, close enough that I could feel his breath on my face. And that, that was very creepy.

I cleared my throat. "You mind?" Ung pulled back out of my space like he'd been burned. He stared at me, forehead creased. That ice-cold crazy fuck actually expected me to put out a hit on Mac.

"Thanks, but no thanks, Ung."

He covered up pretty quick, handed me a business card. "In case you should change your mind, Mr. Dawson. Now if you will excuse me, I have a plane to catch." And he high-tailed it outta there.

I called Methos from a pay phone on my way out of the terminal. I let him know that Mac had arrived in LeHavre six hours ago. I told him Mac had threatened a Watcher and was looking for Sean Burns, but left out the part about Ung. He didn't need to be worrying about that, not now. Methos told me he could handle MacLeod like this, but he needed everyone else to keep their distance. Especially me and Connor MacLeod. "One crazy Highlander at a time is plenty," he said.

So next I called up Connor MacLeod, and lied like a rug. Heavy seas reported in the Pacific. Nothing dangerous, but the shipping lines were all behind schedule. Mac's ship should dock within 48 hours. I'd call once I heard anything more. Connor's response was dry. "Next time you feel the need to report that you don't know anything, Dawson, check the time difference." Hopefully Mac would be able to talk Connor out of putting me at the business end of a katana when he found out he'd been played.

I dropped into the seat of my car with a sigh and pulled out Ung's business card. No name, no words, just an international phone number. I pushed the lighter in and waited for it to pop. Methos was on Mac's trail. Everything would be fine. The lighter popped out with a click. I pulled it out and held the corner of Ung's card to the ring. 'Don’t limit your options yet,' Methos's voice whispered in my head. I blew the flame out just as the card started to smolder.

I wouldn't need it. Definitely not. If it came down to a choice between Ung's rifle and axe, or Jean-Pierre's magic and prayer...

I pulled myself straight behind the wheel and bowed my head. A boyhood of my grandmother's novenas made the choice clear.

“Most holy apostle, St. Jude Thaddeus, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the name of the traitor has caused you to be forgotten by many. But the Church honors and invokes you universally as the patron of hopeless cases, of things almost despaired of. I pray for Duncan MacLeod, helpless and alone. Make use, I implore you, of that particular privilege given to you, to bring visible and speedy help where help is almost despaired of. Come to his assistance in this great need that he may receive the consolation and help of heaven in all his necessities, tribulations, and sufferings. I promise, O blessed St. Jude, to be ever mindful of this great favor, to always honor you as my special and powerful patron, and to gratefully encourage devotion to you."

"He's a good man. Don't let Mac do anything he couldn't forgive himself for. Help Methos bring him back to us. Amen.”

I took out my handkerchief, blew my nose, stuck it back in my pocket along with Ung's card, and started the long drive back to the bar.

Read chapter 10.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
holde_maid
Jan. 16th, 2007 09:53 pm (UTC)
"Next time you feel the need to report that you don't know anything, Dawson, check the time difference."

*dies*
keerawa
Jan. 16th, 2007 10:20 pm (UTC)
Ah, holde_maide found my one line of Connor dialogue.

*grins*
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )