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"The Secret War" - chapter 2

Wednesday October 18, 1995

I drove around town at lunchtime, looking for a tail. I didn’t see one, so I pulled over at a gas station and got a phone card out of my wallet. I dialed Adam Pierson’s home number from memory. With the time difference, he should be there, unless he was pulling one of his marathon late night work sessions. The phone picked up on the 3rd ring.

“Adam? It’s Joe Dawson.”

“Joe. Are you back in Paris?” He sounded subdued. “Fatima’s memorial is coming up on Saturday.” I’m glad I’m on the wrong continent to attend. It’d be hard to look Marco in the eye without letting him know that his wife was murdered.

“No. No, I’m still in Seacouver. Look, Adam … I think we have a problem.” I told Methos about Fatima looking into the situation at the Academy for me.

“And you decided I should be next on the list? How thoughtful. I’m hanging up now,” he hissed at me.

“Wait!” I wasn’t sure if he’d hung up, but I didn’t hear a dial tone, so I kept talking. “I don’t know what happened. They might have my phone tapped. Fatima might have slipped up on her end. Hell, it might just be a coincidence.”

Finally, I got a response. “Do you really believe that, Joe?”

“No. That’s why I’m calling from a pay phone across town.”

A pause.

“Tell me everything,” Methos ordered.

So I did. I started with the inconsistencies I’d found while working through my memories of James and the Hunters. James Horton's release back into the field after the Kurgan, Wilmington’s Amusement Park Massacre, and even after trying to kill MacLeod. James’s mysterious ability to “steal” money out of Watcher funds as needed, even after he was kicked out of the organization. Ian Bancroft being removed from his post as Coordinator for Western Europe for “instability” after Darius was killed. It smelled like some kind of internal coup, and the shooters being recruited at the Academy were just icing on the cake.

“I think we need to leave the Academy alone, for now.” I told him. “But I’d like you to look into the Department of Psychology and Counseling. See if you can dig up any connections with James Horton over there. ‘Cause either they’re a bunch of fuck-ups, or they’re doing it on purpose.”

I heard an amused snort from Methos. “It might very well be incompetence, but I’ll see what I can find. I’ll get back to you in a few days.” He hung up. This was the second protégé of Don’s that I’d sent into danger. But Adam Pierson just happened to be Methos the 5,000 year-old Immortal, and sneaky as hell. He’d be fine.


Friday October 20, 1995

Methos showed up in Seacouver today. Katie was working behind the bar. She told me ‘some Adam guy’ was looking for me. By the time I got to my office, Methos was sitting in the swivel chair by my laptop.

“Adam” I asked, “What …” The son of a bitch was going through my files, sure as shooting.

“Joe,” he interrupted. “This bar is great, I’m so glad the big guys OK’d you buying it!” He put a finger to his lips and glanced around the room meaningfully, chattering on in pure Adam Pierson style. Was my office bugged?

“I found that one of the journals had been improperly transcribed. Some people just have no idea how to phonetically transcribe other languages, it’s criminal. Anyway, there is a reference to an Immortal that we thought was called ‘Merhu’, but actually may have been ‘Methos’. He may have been here in the Pacific Northwest as recently as the mid 19th century. Isn’t that incredible!” Adam beamed at me.

I blinked a few times. “Really?” I ventured.

“Well, I’ll have to check some local sources to be sure, but it’s certainly a possibility,” Adam assured me, with a little gleam in his eye. I’m glad he gets such a kick out of pretending to try and find himself.

“And Seacouver’s so nice and warm this time of year, Paris is just freezing. You must have some very nice parks and such. I’d love to get out and see some of the sights while we’re here.” I managed to translate that to a request to get outdoors where it’d be harder for anyone to listen in.

“Umm … there’s a park near here with some Magnolia trees that you might like. We can check it out on the way to lunch.”

“Sounds good, Joe, lead the way.”

In the car Methos jabbered on about his latest research and the gossip going around at Headquarters. Funny thing was, I didn’t mind. Adam Pierson was brilliant, gawky, and sarcastic, bashful with girls, enthusiastic about the weirdest things, and fun at parties. He was a fan of all kinds of music, including the blues. We’d always gotten on great, since Don first introduced us. As much as I enjoyed getting to know Methos the Immortal, I’d kind of missed my little drinking buddy, Adam.

He kept turning sideways in his seat, talking straight at me, and probably using his peripheral vision to check if we were being followed. Very smooth.

As we got out of the car at the park, Methos said, “So, Kristin Gilles is in town.”

“Yeah, she’s opening a new branch of her modeling business here. I’m hoping she and MacLeod don’t run into each other.”

“The odds of them meeting have gone up, now that she has young Richie in her bed.”

“What?” Aww, hell, that was the last thing Mac needed right now. “Since when?”

Methos shrugged. “Just last night.”

“You did hack into my account on the computer, I knew it!”

“Joe,” Methos said, with his best ‘innocent Adam’ look, “would I do that?” I didn’t buy that look even when I thought he was 24 years old, I sure ain’t gonna start now.

We walked through the park in silence as I wondered if I should tell Mac, warn Richie, or actually keep my mouth shut for a change.

I glanced over at the man walking beside me. Struck by the unimposing picture Methos made, I deliberately set myself to Watch him. Methos could be hiding a sword under that long coat, but he didn’t look Immortal. It took me a few seconds to figure out why. Methos ambled along, hands stuck deep in his pockets, shoulders slightly hunched, looking like the kid who gets picked last for kickball. There was no hint of the balanced grace I associated with Immortals who lived and died by the sword. Quite the act. Funny thing was, his buzz would give him away to Immortals in a split-second, and most Mortals wouldn’t care how he moved. So the whole thing was just for the benefit of us Watchers.

Don Salzer showed me a note from Adam Pierson’s permanent Watcher file once. It was written by his Surveillance instructor at the Academy. The guy had written that he was willing to pass Adam, but only if he received a written guarantee that Adam would never be placed in the field. Called Adam an “unacceptable risk to himself and those around him.” I wondered what a 5,000-year-old Immortal with a twisty sense of humor had done to secure himself a place in Research.

Eventually Methos gestured to a park bench next to the path in a grassy field, and we sat down.

He took a deep breath, all business. “You were right, Joe. We do have a problem.”

“Yeah?” I felt the weight settle in on me. “All right then. What did you find?”

Methos pulled one knee up on the bench and then spoke quickly. “Both James Horton’s release and the report on Ian Bancroft were signed by the same man. Dr. Narath Ung. You know him?”

“I remember Ung. He interviewed me after the thing with Kalas." Christ, I hate those psych interviews. "Little Asian guy; real intense. What did you think of him?”

Methos pursed his lips. “I thought he was unnervingly good at his job.”

Unnervingly? “How’s that?”

“I was debriefed by him right after I sent Kalas to prison. Don had been a mentor to me, and a good friend, Joe. He’d just been murdered.” Just like Fatima. Methos swallowed and looked down for a moment.

When he looked back up, Methos’s face was perfectly composed. “Adam wanted to take a leave of absence, to grieve. But I really couldn’t afford it at that time. I needed to stay where I was to keep an eye on things. So I was … unsettled. Being interviewed about it by a skilled observer was risky.”

Most people start talking about themselves in the third person; it’s a bad sign. I guess that’s just normal for Methos.

“I assume you’ve got more on Ung than the fact his name was on the files.”

“I do,” he agreed. “I checked out his computer system. Dr. Ung has almost all of his files protected with a strong encryption algorithm …”

I interrupted, trying to leapfrog the technical details. “What did you find when you broke the code?” Methos leaned back on the bench and sighed. “What?”

He raised an eyebrow. “Joe, I don’t know whether to be irritated or flattered. Do you just assume that I am an expert at all human endeavors?”

“Well … 5000 years. Yeah, pretty much.”

Adam opened his mouth on a thought, and then snapped it shut. “I am an expert on many things. I can, for example, brew no less than 17 palatable alcoholic beverages from common foodstuffs. Modern cryptography, however, is not one of my specialties.”

I took a breath to respond, but he was off again. “The institution where I most recently studied number theory considered zero a foreign heresy.” Probably a lie, but I made a mental note, just in case.

“What’s more, and this is key, if I had happened to become a master cryptographer in my travels, do you think I might, just might, have used a bit of that expertise to secure the Immortal database CD that got us in some trouble with Kalas less than a year ago?” His voice was getting high-pitched. When he gets like this, you can’t react much. It just encourages him.

“Hmm. Couldn’t break the code, then?”

“No. I could not. Break. The bloody code.” Methos threw himself back into a sprawl. That had to hurt, on a park bench. Somehow the whole scene rang false. And that worried me. The rant could be for fun, the sprawl is a great way of looking non-threatening. But one right after the other made for a very unconvincing performance.

Normally, even Methos’s blatant lies are almost believable. He takes pride in it. How else could an ancient Immortal masquerade as a twenty-something grad student in the middle of a group of trained, paranoid Watchers for a full decade, without aging a day, and not get caught. The fact that he was getting sloppy, even around me, suggested that there was something wrong. I figured there’d be no harm in checking.

“So, what did you find that’s got your panties in a twist?” I asked him.

Methos gave me a neutral look. “What makes you say that?”

“Lucky guess.” He squinted, assessing me. Maybe I’ll stop checking, if me being able to tell he’s stressed makes him even more stressed.

After a few seconds Methos broke eye contact, shoulders twitching in a tiny shrug. “There was a single file on Ung’s computer that wasn’t encrypted. Anyone on the Watcher network can access it.” He pulled a few sheets of paper out of the pocket of his trench coat and handed them to me, before dropping his head back to watch the cloudscape.

Read the file.

Comments

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
ithildyn
Jan. 14th, 2007 12:33 am (UTC)
That was excellent!! [runs off to read the next bit]
ithildyn
Jan. 14th, 2007 12:36 am (UTC)
LOL, okay, I realize I got myself all twisted backwards the way the parts listed on my F'list [g] So i'll go read the first part now!
keerawa
Jan. 14th, 2007 12:58 am (UTC)
Eek, and I tried so hard to make that NOT happen. I THINK I've fixed it now.
ithildyn
Jan. 14th, 2007 01:42 am (UTC)
I'm sure it was more my naturally confused state than anything you did :)
ithildyn
Jan. 14th, 2007 12:41 am (UTC)
Even better when you read the parts in the correct oder [g]

This is a great story, and I look forward to reading more. I love the way you write Adam/Methos. Very cool.
keerawa
Jan. 14th, 2007 01:01 am (UTC)
Thank you, Ith!

When I wrote the original "Price of Interference", the mere thought of writing Methos scared me so much that I moved this whole bit into the sequel. And here we are, over a year later...

He really is tricky, and I'm delighted to hear that his interactions with Joe rang true to you.
ithildyn
Jan. 14th, 2007 01:45 am (UTC)
Since my last comment, I realized there were many more parts (I'm klewless today!) and just as I started reading, Nin finally woke up, and I was bumped from the computer. Now, I've sent her off to get groceries, so I'm going to get some more reading in!

IMHO, you write one of the best Methoses [g] I've read in quite a long while. Especially the way you write both 'Adam' and 'Methos' so distinctly. One of my favourite aspects of the character.

Enough commenting... back to reading!
elistaire
Jan. 14th, 2007 01:13 am (UTC)
Adam Pierson was brilliant, gawky, and sarcastic, bashful with girls, enthusiastic about the weirdest things, and fun at parties. He was a fan of all kinds of music, including the blues. We’d always gotten on great, since Don first introduced us. As much as I enjoyed getting to know Methos the Immortal, I’d kind of missed my little drinking buddy, Adam.

I love your Adam Pierson. And fascinating beginning to the story.

And I liked that Methos isn't able to break the code.
keerawa
Jan. 14th, 2007 03:48 am (UTC)
In one of the episode commentaries, Jim Byrnes talks about what a shock it was for Joe, finding out that his "little drinking buddy" was Methos. It's stuck in my mind every since.
keerawa
Jan. 14th, 2007 04:28 am (UTC)
*grins* Joe really assumed he would be able to break that code.
holde_maid
Jan. 14th, 2007 10:57 am (UTC)
Tantalizing. :-)

And very much in character.
keerawa
Jan. 14th, 2007 11:48 pm (UTC)
Danka!
amonitrate
Jan. 14th, 2007 10:44 pm (UTC)
oh, lovely joe/methos interaction. And I don't know why you were worried, your methos/adam manages to be spot on and a fresh take all at once. I'm really enjoying this.

Also, you're fulfilling my lifelong goal to read a Joe/Methos/Hunters story, so yay!
keerawa
Jan. 14th, 2007 11:50 pm (UTC)
Thank you, amonitrate! Glad to hear it's hitting the spot.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )