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"The Secret War" - chapter 6

Friday November 24, 1995

Sorting through the day's mail at the bar, I found a postcard. The front had a picture of an anatomically correct donkey piñata. Or maybe the piñata-maker was optimistic – I haven't seen enough donkeys to be sure. I wave to Mike behind the bar and head into my office, closing the door behind me.

In the two months since Jean-Pierre walked south out of Seacouver, he's sent six postcards and four letters. The postcards are cheery little updates on where he's been and what he's doing. The letters are different; anguished late-night confessions from a man afraid to go back to sleep. So I was glad that it was just a postcard this time. I settled down into my chair, resting my cane against the desk.

I flipped the postcard over. It was postmarked 3 days ago in Tijuana, Mexico. Jean-Pierre's graceful handwriting sprawled across the card, growing smaller near the bottom as he fit in a last few words.

Tijuana makes me laugh. Americans cross the border to indulge their appetites as if a line on a map makes it all not count. It's a relief to spend time among people sane enough to take a siesta in the midday heat.

I sang 70's rock & roll covers with a mariachi band today. You would have loved it. The rhythms were first lazy, then frantic in their hands.

This Sunday I plan to attend Mass at San Eugenio de Mazenod. I hear they are too poor to afford pews, but have a choir to touch the heart of God.

Say hello to Duncan, Grace, Katie, Alexa, and anyone else who wants to know!

As always, the postcard was unsigned. I would let Mac know, and ask him to pass on Jean-Pierre's greeting to Grace Chandel when he next called her. I'd show Katie the postcard when she works her shift tomorrow morning. Alexa is off on her world tour with Methos. I could leave a message with his service; tell her Jean-Pierre was thinking of her. She'd appreciate that, especially if she wasn't feeling too hot. Between Jean-Pierre's postcards and the ones Methos had sent, I could start an "Immortals Round the World" bulletin board.

The last phrase of the postcard caught my eye. Anyone else who wants to know? Know what? Then it hit me. There was one person in the world whose job it is to know all about Jean-Pierre. His Watcher, young Theresa Mendoza. Jean-Pierre spotted her the first day she started tailing him.

I'd had some concerns about Mendoza's assignment to Jean-Pierre. Sure, she was a native Spanish-speaker, and fit enough to keep up with Jean-Pierre on the road. But Castilian Spanish is nothing like what they speak in Central America, and she was a new agent fresh out of an internship Watching Octavio Consone. Not the best prep in the world for somebody like Jean-Pierre. From her file, she didn't seem like the kind of woman used to sleeping under bridges.

On the positive side, she'd been recruited after she saw her stepfather lose a Challenge. According to her file, they'd had a solid relationship. That pretty much meant the Hunters wouldn't try recruiting her. She might not have been the best choice, but at least I didn't have to worry about her offing Jean-Pierre in his sleep.

I pulled my laptop towards me and logged onto the Watcher network. No new alerts, and Mendoza hadn't sent up any red flags. Until Jean-Pierre settled down in a different region, he is a part of the Pacific Northwest's caseload. I still have access. Working through a layer of additional security, I pulled up his file. According to the file, Jean-Pierre is in San Diego. And the latest entry is 5 days old.

With modern technology and communications, field agents are expected to file reports every other day. So something's wrong.

Used to be that losing your Immortal was embarrassing, but no big deal. They usually turned up within a couple of days. If not, the Watcher Network would pick them up within a few months at a travel hub, or when they accessed their accounts. Only a handful would disappear long-term. That's how it used to be.

Nowadays, things are different. Since I realized that the Hunters had become active again, I've been doing some digging. In the past 4 months, of the Immortals that have been reported MIA, only 12% have resurfaced. Seems the "Lost Immortal" flag on a file is attracting Ung and his Hunters like a blood trail.

That's the kind of thing the Tribunal is supposed to deal with, but Methos found evidence that the Hunter influence in the organization goes all the way to the top. Blabbing what I knew could get me dead. So I just rode my agents to keep close tabs on their Immortals and sent Amanda a warning that it might be unhealthy to slip her leash right now.

Jean-Pierre might have a hit squad after him. Hell, the postcard's 3 days old. He could be dead already. Fuck!

I stopped myself from picking up the phone. There was a good chance the damn thing's bugged. No need to go off half-cocked, Joseph. Get all the facts, and then you do what you can do.

Jean-Pierre should be safe, as long as Mendoza doesn't flag him as MIA.

I opened the last entry. It was a long one, cross-referenced to another Immortal's file, David Murphy. That usually means a Challenge. I pulled up his photo. Murphy's a 90 year-old bruiser with a bad-broke nose from his pre-Immortal days. I read Mendoza's report, skimming through until I got to the good part.

1:25 pm JP arrives at the La Jolla Farmer's Market.
1:47 pm JP comforts a crying child by juggling produce from a nearby stall. Demonstration draws a crowd and the girl's mother arrives to reclaim child.
2:05 pm JP exhibits signs of "the Buzz". Turns around and hurries past me, heading for an exit.
2:07 pm David Murphy (Immortal, see cross-referenced file) appears out of the crowd, pushing JP into the opening between two stalls. JP recovers quickly from the surprise and smiles.

JP – "Slow down, big guy, that's no way to introduce yourself to strangers! I'm Eduardo Moreno. Let's head down the street to the Elephant Bar, I'll buy you a beer."

Murphy – "I'm David Murphy. And you'll give me more than a beer."

Murphy shoves JP further into the gap, muttering something too low to hear. Murphy's larger frame blocks what happened next, but from his reaction I would assume that JP hit him in a private area. Murphy recoils and falls down onto the ground.

JP stands over him, reaching into his jacket. There was a snarl on his face, and for a moment I thought that he would pull his sword right there, in the middle of the market. Then he looks around at the crowd, eyes focusing on me. JP pauses, takes a deep breath, and spits on the ground by Murphy's head.

JP – "Not in this lifetime, pajero. Mt. Soledad Cross, at dawn."

Wish I'd been there to see it for myself. I can't tell from Mendoza's description how much of that was for real, and how much was pure theatre on Jean-Pierre's part. If it was real, he's closer to the edge than I thought.

JP waits for a groaned confirmation from Murphy and then moves at a near-run to the nearest alley. He threads through the maze of back streets away from the market.

2:50 pm JP arrives at tent city. At this point I returned to my hotel to get some sleep, so that I would be ready to Watch the Challenge at dawn.

Rookie mistake. Sure, it wouldn't be easy for Mendoza to blend in a tent-city, but that's the damn job. You find your guy, stick by him, and Watch him. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to know you can't do that from a comfy bed across town. Watching an Immortal prepare for a Challenge is one of the best ways of getting to know them. Short of sitting down and talking to them, that is. And knowing Jean-Pierre the way I do, I bet I know what happened the next morning.

I moused down through Mendoza's description of her predawn set-up in the Mt. Soledad Park, designed to capture detailed intel on the Challenge. Murphy and his Watcher showed up 20 minutes before dawn. They waited. And waited. Then they waited a bit more. An hour after dawn, Murphy took off, smashing the windshield of a car on his way out of the park. Mendoza waited another hour, and then returned to the tent-city to reacquire Jean-Pierre. He, of course, was long gone.

The last few lines of the entry were in Spanish. I don't speak or read it, but it shares a lot of root words with French, and I've picked up cuss words in a dozen languages. Using that kind of language in an official field report ain't gonna reflect well on Mendoza, not at all. But I gotta give her points for style.

What's more, Mendoza hasn't reported Jean-Pierre missing yet. According to Procedure, she should have thrown up a red flag within 24 hours of losing him. Mendoza must have bet she could pick him up again quick, and no one the wiser. But she lost the bet, and she must be frantic by now.

Mendoza's dug herself into one hell of a deep hole. Bless her conniving little heart. If she'd followed protocol, Jean-Pierre'd be a dead man. I just need to get her back on his trail, fast. There's not even a moral dilemma here, since Jean-Pierre pretty much asked me to pass his location onto her.

No use calling Mendoza on her cell phone. Those are for emergencies, and I do not want to attract the wrong kind of attention to her. I opened up my mail program, and worded the email carefully; there's no telling who might read it.

To: tmendoza@watcher.net
From: jdawson@watcher.net
Subject: New info on JP

Ms. Mendoza –

JP sent a postcard to a local recipient. It indicated that he plans to attend Mass this Sunday at San Eugenio de Mazenod in Tijuana. I hope this advance notice assists you in making plans for adequate surveillance.

I'll be in touch.

Joe Dawson
Local Area Supervisor
Pacific Northwest Division

You owe me one, Mendoza. And with this Hunter situation heating up, I might need to call in that marker someday soon. I hit Send, and breathed a sigh of relief. Jean-Pierre was safe.

For now.

I can't let this go. Not any more. Methos and I made plans for setting up a Watcher group to counter the Hunters. But when he took off with Alexa I put everything on hold. It just can't wait any longer. The next Immortal target might be in Mexico or Maui, Tennessee or Timbuktu. The Hunters are organized and they're acting all over the globe. If I do nothing, those deaths will be on my head.

It's time to get off my ass and start recruiting. The Hunters are in for a nasty surprise.

Read chapter 7.