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"The Secret War" - chapter 11

Friday April 5, 1996

There was a message blinking on my machine. When I hit the play button I heard "Joe? Joe are you there? Joe, pick up!" The voice was familiar. I couldn't put a name to it, but it had the raw, near-hysterical sound of a recruit after his first firefight. "Joe, Aaron's been... He's … Call me at the emergency number." As the message ended I recognized who was speaking. It was Missael, a member of the New York cell. He was a happy daredevil of a soccer player from Columbia. 'Course, he always insisted on calling it "football". Aaron was an Israeli vet. The two of them had been joined at the hip since they met at the Academy 5 years ago. Rumor had it they were more than friends, but I'd never figured it was any of my business to ask. Either way, this was gonna be bad.

I called the emergency number from a public phone cross-town. Missael picked up on the first ring.

"Joe?" His voice had the dull, ground-down rasp of a man who's spent all his tears.

"I'm here, Missael." Not there, where I might have done some good, but here, in a cozy little phone booth on the other side of the country.

"They killed Aaron, Joe. They shot him."

Missael wouldn't be able to take sympathy right now. "Report!" I snapped.

"Yes sir. We had tracked the Immortal Cristophe to the Bentley Hotel. We believed that he was the imminent target of a Hunter hit team. I pulled the fire alarm. Aaron was supposed to meet me in Cristophe's room, but he wasn't there. I left a threatening note for Cristophe, to make him head into deeper cover where he would be safe. Aaron still hadn't arrived, so I took the stairs down to the parking garage. I heard shots." Missael's voice choked off into silence.

"How many shots?" I pushed him.

"Three, possibly four. There was an echo in the stairwell, so I couldn't be sure. When I reached our car, Aaron was lying on the ground next to it. He had taken a large-caliber round to the chest and was not breathing. There was a lot of blood." Poor kid must have been frantic.

"Did he have his gun out?" No answer. "Missael, did he get any shots off?"

"Yes. Yes, he did. Aaron's gun had been fired, and there was a blood trail nearby. I … I wasn't able to gather any more information before the police arrived."

"Were you spotted at the scene?" That could be a disaster.

"No, sir. I got away clean."

I thought it through. There was no way of knowing who fired the first shot, and it didn't really matter. Blood had been spilled. Our little Cold War had just gone hot.

"Missael, you're going to need to keep your head down for a few days. Dig in at the New York HQ. Don't go anywhere alone. In fact, why don't you bunk with Ellen until I give the all-clear?" Ellen was the other member of their cell.

"Ellen's out of town on assignment, Joe." Shit. He shouldn't be alone right now. Who else did I know in New York? Maybe Connor's Watcher? First I had to get him somewhere safe, and then I could worry about his state of mind.

"We're pretty sure the hit teams are travelers, but there is probably a local Hunter cell. Have you spotted any possible members?"

"I have a few ideas," he claimed darkly. Shit.

"Missael, no. You cannot go after them." No response. "Aaron would not want you to do this!"

Missael's response was eerily calm. "Yes, he would."

"Missael!" The hum of a disconnected line was all that remained.

It's not like this was a surprise. Methos and I had figured it was bound to happen, sooner or later. And I had recruited Missael and Aaron knowing it might well get them killed. I'd warned them it could be dangerous. They just didn't believe anything bad could happen to them. Just like a gung-ho kid who signed up for the Marines back in '67.

A half-hour later I had placed classified ads in 6 major newspapers around the world. The pre-arranged code would let all of my people know that we had a shooting war on our hands. Even if I had wanted to pull out, it was too late now.


Tuesday April 9, 1996

We Ring the Bell …

For Missael Rojas, John Fitzsimmons, Ray Petrochev, and Aaron Eskenazi of the New York office. The four men were killed by an Immortal during routine surveillance duties.

Yeah, sure they were. Who the hell is gonna buy that? You don't put four agents on "routine surveillance" of a single Immortal. It's fear mongering, pure and simple.

Looks like Missael took down two of them. I'd rather he was alive, safe. But part of me is proud of him. Least we're not the only ones counting the cost today.

Wish I could write to their families, but I can't even do that. It's their New York supervisor's job. Officially, I had no connection to Aaron and Missael at all. I'm just the one that put them in harm's way.


Saturday April 13, 1996

Adam called to let me know that Alexa passed on in her sleep this morning in a Geneva hospital. He was with her at the end. I could hear the mourning in his voice.

Adam invited me to Alexa's funeral on the 15th. He's having her interred in Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris. Not that she had any family to care, but I wonder why he chose Paris? Maybe she and Tessa can keep each other company.

I told Adam it was too risky for me to come, and he accepted it without any fuss. I decided to close the bar Monday and throw a wake for Alexa. Lotta folks round here loved her.


Tuesday April 16, 1996

We Ring the Bell …

Two of mine dead and one of Ung's, in an ambush that the cops and the Watchers are calling a "gang turf war" in the Chicago projects. We got Tanisha to a hospital out in the suburbs, so I don't think the cops have connected her with the shootings.

Katie has been nagging at me for drinking too much at the wake yesterday. It's my hangover, and I earned it. I got more'n one ghost to drink to.


Tuesday April 23, 1996

We Ring the Bell …

Sydney was a fucking bloodbath. Four of my people and six of Ung's. I got no idea what happened, because nobody made it out alive. The Bell didn't even bother to give a reason. Just a list of names.


Tuesday April 30, 1996

We Ring the Bell …

Skirmishes this week in Jerusalem and Gdansk. We lost three, and Ung lost seven. Preemptive action is the key. Got to spot Ung's men and take them out before they see us coming.

Wednesday May 1, 1996

My office phone rang. The number on the caller ID looked familiar, but I couldn't place it. Based on the county code, it could be an emergency call from one of Maria's cell.

"Dawson," I said as I picked up.

"Joe? Hello!" It was Jean-Pierre. Great.

"I haven't gotten a letter in a few weeks, so I thought I'd call. Is that alright?" He sounded unsure, like I might tell him to fuck off. And it was tempting, but he'd come through for me during the Dark Quickening, so I made an effort.

"Sure, Jean-Pierre, what's up?"

"A phone call is much better than a letter for this, Joe, because you can actually hear it! One of the men who live by the river agreed to teach me to play the harmonica. Or mouth harp, I like that name even better. Here, listen."

He started with a train sound and then swung into the first verse of "When the Levee Breaks." I was a little distracted, but it sounded okay.

"What do you think, Joe?" He was a little breathless.

"Sounds good, Jean-Pierre. Keep practicing; you'll be playing like Peg Leg Sam in no time."

"Thank you." A moment's quiet, then he started up again. "So, how is Katie?"

"Good. She's setting up this morning, so you can talk to her when we're done."

"I'd like that. And Alexa?"

Crap. I hadn't written to Jean-Pierre since before her funeral. In fact, don't think I'd even mentioned she was sick. "Jean-Pierre, she died a few weeks ago." A quiet gasp. "She had cancer, knew it was coming for a long time."

Jean-Pierre's voice was soft with grief. "I'm so sorry, Joe. I only knew Alexa for a short time, but she had a bright spirit. Was there a funeral?"

"Yeah. The, uh, friend she was traveling with had her buried in Paris, so we threw a wake for her here at the bar."

"How was it?"

"Bout what you'd expect." I'd been drunk and maudlin, second-guessing myself over what I could have done differently for Alexa, Fatima, Aaron and Missael. Good thing I got that out of my system before the real butcher's bill came due.

"And Duncan? How is he?"

"He's still in Paris."

Jean-Pierre sounded confused. "Duncan and Alexa were…"

Oh. It did kinda sound that way. "No, a mutual friend was traveling with Alexa. But I hear MacLeod was at her funeral. He's been in Paris since March."

Both of us were silent.

Jean-Pierre asked hesitantly, "They've … left you all alone?"

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. I've put as much distance between me and everyone else as I can, to keep them safe. But that bill keeps running higher and higher. Jean-Pierre said something.

"What?"

"I asked when you would be following Duncan to Paris. That is your duty, isn't it, Joe, as his Watcher?"

"I've got things to take care of here in Seacouver." I couldn't keep the cold edge out of my voice.

I heard Jean-Pierre move on the other end of the line. "What's happened?" he asked.

"Nothing."

Urgently. "What's wrong with you?"

"I'm fine, Jean-Pierre."

Frantic now. "Joe, talk to me! What's wrong? What has happened to you?" His emotions beat at me like the wings of a panicked bird.

I put the phone on hold and sat for a moment in my nice, quiet office. If I hung up, he'd just keep calling, and I needed this line free for emergencies. Well. We'd already agreed he'd talk to Katie. She could talk him down.

I hauled myself out of the chair and threw open the office door. "Katie!" I bellowed.

Katie stood up down at the end of the bar, wiping her hands on a bar towel. "What's up, Joe?"

"Jean-Pierre is on the phone. I'm gonna transfer him out here. Pick up when it rings?"

A smile broke over her face. "Jean-Pierre called? You bet!"

I went into the office and stabbed the buttons needed to transfer the call. Then I walked back to close my door. Katie threw me a startled glance and then turned away, body curving protectively around the phone as she spoke quietly to Jean-Pierre. Great. Now he was gonna get her going.

Whatever. I had too much on my plate to be dealing with high-strung Immortals. I slammed the door and went back to work.


Thursday May 2, 1996

Eugenia Mohrmann, Annie's contact at HQ, sent word today that she's been sent on a mandatory two week paid vacation. Ung must have spotted her as one of my sources. I'm surprised he didn't just shoot her.

I sent Annie a message, warning her to bunker up. Ung might have found a connection between her and Eugenia.


Friday May 3, 1996

Part of me didn’t want to write about today. But this journal’s about telling the whole truth, for once in my life. And what happened today is part of it.

Someone knocked on my office door. I checked the clock, and wondered blearily for a moment if it was 3am or 3pm. I hadn't heard any loud music out in the bar for a long time, so it was probably afternoon. Was someone on the staff trying to talk to me again? They should know better by now.

“I’m busy!” I yelled. There was a quiet scratching at the lock. I pulled out my Beretta and thumbed off the safety. If it was a Hunter breaking in, he’d get a bellyful of lead. Methos breezed in and closed the door behind him, completely ignoring the gun pointed at him.

“Adam? What the hell are you doing here?” I safetied the Beretta and holstered it.

“Well, you weren’t answering your phone, so I tried the bar. Katie was concerned. She told me you’ve been locked in here for almost 3 days.” Methos’s nose wrinkled delicately. “Smells like she wasn’t joking.” Mugs half-full of coffee were scattered across my desktop. Balled up papers and the remnants of sandwiches over-flowed from the trashcan onto the floor. I might be getting a little ripe myself, actually. I’d had more important things to worry about.

“Yeah, well, I saw it was you on the caller ID. Look, the room’s clean of bugs, I swept it, but you shouldn’t be seen talking to me right now, Adam, it’s too dangerous.”

“I wouldn’t have to drop by if you picked up the phone,” he replied airily. “How are things going?” He acted like we had all the time in the world.

“Adam, thanks for stopping by, but I really am busy. We’ve got a Hunter group isolated in Boston and we need to move on them before they can slip away. But this book code is slow, and I have to concentrate on it. I don’t have time for a visit right now, OK?”

“Of course, Joe. Don’t mind me. I’ll just have a quick tidy up while I’m here.” That was a first, but I was too distracted to argue. I needed a “t" to finish off "airport”, and I was on the 22rd letter of this page in the book…

Methos moved around my office moving the trash into piles, inspecting my books, touching everything. He paused in a corner. “Joe, did you know your guitar has dust on it?”

“Busy, Methos, remember?” The letter in the book was "e", needed to add 15 to that, so I wrote "o" on the page. Now, "s" for “sniper”…

The rustling noises from Methos stopped again. When I glanced up at him, he was reading my bulletin board. There were two pieces of paper. Fatima, Aaron, and Missael headed the list on the left, and were followed by ten other names. The list of names on the right side was a little longer.

“Joe,” he asked mildly, “Are you keeping score?”

“Yeah. And we’re winning. Just wait ‘til we take out this Boston Hunter cell,” I told him, with some satisfaction. He showed me a neutral face, like it wasn’t good news. I felt a spike of anger. “What, you want to add Alexa’s name up there?” I offered him a Sharpie from my desk.

Hazel eyes blazed at me from a suddenly lined face. “She was never a part of this,” Methos whispered.

I was getting sick of him. “Just get the fuck out of here so I can finish coding this message!”

I turned my back, dismissing him. A stiletto bit into the desk next to my hand. I gasped and spun the chair around to look at Methos. “For the Blood Oath,” he offered flatly.

“Blood Oath?” That sounded almost … right.

“Yes. ‘I will not rest until I taste my enemy’s heart’ is a classic, but I’m sure you can come up with something traditional yet heart-felt.” Methos’s face and body language were blank, wiped clean of all meaning. I was reminded of still, crocodile-infested waters.

My eyes were drawn to the stiletto. It had a 6-inch long triangular blade, each face hollowed in a graceful curve down to the deadly point. A vague memory from my Academy arms identification class said the styling was Venetian. My fingers reached out on their own to touch the rough leather wrapped around the grip in an ancient pattern. How would it feel, to pull that weapon out of the wood and …

No. That was a stupid idea. If I cut my right hand I wouldn't be able to write. My left hand and I wouldn't be able to use my cane properly. Either one would screw up my playing. I pulled my hand back and looked up to find Methos motionless, watching me.

“How the fuck did you get that through Customs?” I asked, trying to divert him. Methos didn’t even acknowledge the bait. “Look, it’s nice that you’re worried about me, but seriously...”

“Worried?” He cut me off, moving one step closer. “Do I look like an over-grown Boy Scout? MacLeod, he would be worried. Alexa would be worried sick about you right now. But I just see it as an interesting test of my understanding of the human psyche.”

Methos stretched to his full height, filling the tiny office with his presence. “You see, I’ve been down that road you’re on, all the way to its bloody end. And I’m betting you won’t like where it takes you.”

I caught a glimpse of someone else in his eyes. It wasn’t the Adam Pierson I knew, or any version of Methos I’d seen before. It was someone who lived immersed in blood and vengeance like a deep cold ocean beyond the reach of the sun. I didn’t move a muscle. Methos stared down at me with a vicious twist to his lips.

“Of course, I could be wrong. You might enjoy it. That’s what makes the game such fun.” In an evil purr he added, “Maybe there’s more of your brother James in you than any of us guessed.”

Weakly, in my head, I thought, ‘You son of a bitch’. But I didn’t say anything. There was nothing to say. 'Cause, in a way, I had been enjoying it. I'd wanted those Hunters dead with a pure, burning focus like nothing I'd felt in my life. And that scary guy in Methos's eyes? He looked just a little familiar.

Methos took a final step closer, leaning over me, casting a shadow like a hawk diving for its prey. He took a ragged, gasping breath. Then he tugged his stiletto out of the desktop, tucked it in his cuff, and walked out the door.

I sat trembling at my desk. So that’s what 5,000 year-old wisdom looks like. Imagine fucking up so spectacularly that for the rest of your Immortal life, all you have to do is let folks see a glimpse of it to scare them straight. Damn.

This was supposed to be about saving people from the Hunters, not killing them. I looked at the half-encoded message on my desk, ordering the death of seven men and women. Christ. I ripped up the message. Next I quickly coded a stand-down message, sent it out to all my teams. This had to stop.

Then I stood up. It’s wasn’t easy – I’d been sitting at that desk for over 9 hours. But I stood up, walked over to the bulletin board, and tore down the list of Hunter dead. I reached for the list of my own people, hesitated. Finally I folded it with respect, like a flag at a vet’s funeral, and tucked it in my shirt pocket.

What next? Nothing. I checked my watch. It was Friday afternoon. I decided to head upstairs for a shower and a nap. Maybe tonight I would get to Church. Light some candles. And thank God for Methos.

Read chapter 12.

Comments

( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
amonitrate
Jan. 16th, 2007 01:50 am (UTC)
nice. love Methos scaring the crap out of Joe. And Joe doesn't even know the half of it yet...
keerawa
Jan. 16th, 2007 02:37 am (UTC)
You know, I wrote this, and I still find myself wondering what exactly was going through Methos's head here.

Methos comparing Joe to his brother takes on a certain extra zing, knowing what we do about his past.
amonitrate
Jan. 16th, 2007 02:43 am (UTC)
Well, it's not totally out of the question for Joe. He can be as ruthlessly pragmatic as Methos, when it comes down to it. Like with the guy he shot in "Endgame."
keerawa
Jan. 16th, 2007 10:02 pm (UTC)
Very true. Painfully true. Can you say "Galati"?
amonitrate
Jan. 17th, 2007 01:16 am (UTC)
I think this is why the Joe/Methos combo really intrigues me (not as a pairing, but as a plot) - because they really are very alike; both of them different from MacLeod in some of the same ways. If that makes sense.
holde_maid
Jan. 17th, 2007 04:45 pm (UTC)
Beautiful and extremely sound writing.
keerawa
Jan. 18th, 2007 02:07 am (UTC)
Thank you, Holde Maide.
holde_maid
Jan. 18th, 2007 09:50 am (UTC)
A compliment well deserved, is all. :-)
You're welcome.
holde_maid
Jan. 18th, 2007 09:52 am (UTC)
oh, and, no offence intended or taken or anything, but it's Holde Maid, no e at the end. It's German, though I liked the double entendre. ;-)
keerawa
Jan. 18th, 2007 02:42 pm (UTC)
Oops, sorry!

No double-entendre intended! In fact ... I can't even think what it would be. I am being unintiontionally foolish in German?
holde_maid
Jan. 18th, 2007 05:05 pm (UTC)
LOL, my fault. I didn't put that very understandably.

The double entendre would be the German and, as an added layer, the English interpretations of the words. *g* The "Maide" wouldn't have that, as only "Maid" exists in both languages, so far as I know. ;-)

In German the nickname already has two meanings - being "hold" can be an active thing, like being nice to someone or liking them, or it can be passive, in which case it would mean something like pretty or some such. That's why I usually translate as "charming maiden", as that holds much of that duality.

Umm, sorry, I'm babbling. *sheepish grin*
auberus
Feb. 8th, 2007 03:55 am (UTC)
This is really, really good. That line about 'fucking up so spectacularly that for the rest of your Immortal life' was incredibly insightful and kicked ass besides.
keerawa
Feb. 8th, 2007 04:11 am (UTC)
Thank you auberus!

Joe has been trying to understand Methos all along, and that's one piece of the puzzle.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )