Silent Night – Maybe Not
By Genevieve Fowler
Posted By: Genevieve Fowler <email@example.com>
Date: Monday, 9 December 2002, at 10:11 p.m.
Seacouver--not so shabby in winter. The inlet, to my surprise, sometimes freezes. It's picturesque. Youngsters skate back and forth over the smooth, frozen, not-entirely clear water--think about it it--it's cold out here, people. For salty water to freeze--you betta you tuckus it's cold out here. I sat in my frigid little car, waiting fo the last of the kids to give up the ice. Four-thirty, in the watercolor painting of dusk, I thought I caught a break. A Ford Explorer showed up and something like eight of them piled in, leaving only the ragtail adolescents--jeez! Where's parents anymore? You think they'd be done by like, eight or nine, right? Nine-thirty. I froze my poor Immortal hide out here for seven hours. And then there was nothing but me--the ice--my crowbar--and, I hoped, Methos.
Methos had disappeared two days ago--not like we usually do. His apartment still had his gear, the help was still picking up at his "little" place in England, and MacLeod didn't hear anything about him planning to leave town. Being me, that sounded like a reason to check the usual places ("Joe...what does this *oath* thing have to do with meeeeeeeeeeee?") like the Zone, the docks...and here. And being what I am, I picked up on a certain something under the ice that sure felt like another Immortal.
What are the odds, really, that it's someone else?
There I am, picking the ice apart. Chink--plink, shapink! Crunch!!!! Those kids should be thankful the whole sheet didn't give under them--just two, three inches of crust held them up in places, and below, murky, wet, sinking ickiness that at best would have soaked their clothes. Okay--at worst would have soaked their clothes. Maybe cause chill-blains. Awful stuff. Just not very deep. So I quickly found an arm. I saw the pale, gray-beige of a London Fog trench coat, and yanked, recognizing this particular piece of outerwear. The body was wrapped with pitiful light-weight aluminum-clad 1" chain--the stuff your aunt used to keep people from carrying off her lawn furniture. Not what you use to sink a body. Once I pulled his head above the water (he's only like a buck eighty, even soaking wet with a chain on him) and gave a rough squeeze to his solar plexus--
*Unintelligible, possibly original indo-European Ur sprach...you know, the stuff he spoke back in the day, fairly obviously cursing at me language*
I looked solemnly down at his chains.
"Jacob Marley, I presume," I deadpanned, hoping to wake him properly to his reality (Immortal, living la vida loca, enjoying company of other annoying longlived critters.)
"You're a ghost of Christmas past?" he asked.
"I'm a Christmas present for the right nice little boy," I said breathily, holding out a bottle of Jim Beam (alcohol being a fairly decent antifreeze for us folks who don't fear cirrhosis.) But before I could be a proper little St. Bernard, he passed out. Hell, a couple days buried under four inches (okay, feet) of ice and other assorted schmutz would've put me out, too. Maybe.
I got him back to my place and warmed him up to semi-lucid with espresso and a ceramic heater. He looked appropriately woebegone for having me worried sick for a day and a half and then bored silly for another half a day.
"I'd rather go back to my flat."
"You were frozen dead solid."
"Well," he wiggled his fingers.
"You were put under by a mortal." Went without saying, him being alive and all. "What's the deal? Made a long bet on the Bears and couldn't pay off?" I conceived a worse possibility. "Realized Feeley's only a third stringer and went against the Eagles...how could you?"
He looked indignant. He maintains he doesn't really *get* the American football, but I can't buy that. Noenetheless, I realized that if he ever was making book, he'd go to me before some jerk on the street. After all, I'm nearly family.
"I was...getting someone a present," he eventually allowed.
He isn't getting me Jack. Johnnie Walker Blue Label, maybe...but not Jack. (He's getting a first edition Sumerian *bar tab*--clay on clay--which reminds me of him too terribly--and yes--my present *is* more expensive--and mentions an "En Seker from the land of Dilmun, also called Meti". And I have a notion who that is.) "Who, exactly? MacLeod's easy--get him an anullment from that skinny broad with the whack fashion sense. Orange? EEeessshhh." I shuddered.
"Leave MacLeod's ex alone."
"Who? Joe....what about the Bo Diddley signature guitar and the other thing..."
"It was for Cassandra."
I paused. Both of them have been around longer than Christmas, and their beef has been in the freezer since before baby Jesus had myrrh in his diaper pail. And then I realized it was really pretty funny.
"You know--you wanted to get her a present, you could just wrap a red ribbon around your neck and give her your sword so's she could unwrap it."
He turned a nice shade of pink,and I got an update on my favorite enchantress. As usual, she's in a little hot water.
Also as usual, it took a while to catch me up to speed.
"Who the hell is Kantos?'"
"He was one of us. And she taught him how to...use the voice."
"The hypnotic suggestion thing. And I take it he eventually went sour?"
"Tried to kill her several times over eight hundred years or so---and then MacLeod..."
"Did the hero thing." Whacked him, in other words.
"But he had a student recently--before he died. A mortal. A gifted mortal...who was also like himself a foundling with a bitter grudge. Just as Roland became slowly more evil--his student became a small time criminal--he started by torching the orphanage where he was raised. He moved on to bigger things once he had the talent."
"Son of a gun. And why is he after Cassie?"
"He thinks Cassie...Cass *sahn*dra...put a hit on Kantos."
"So it's revenge?"
Methos sighed. "It always is."
"And why are you getting involved." I wasn't asking a question.
Same woebegone, I was frozen under four feet of ice and schmutz and don't know what to say look.
Hell. He wants to be MacLeod when he grows up after five thousand years. And he really thinks a Christmas miracle will happen, and he can play Santa Claus.
Eh. Maybe I'll help. Better a hit (depending on your neighborhood, as much as twenty g's per) than the Calphalon cauldron and genuine signed Necronomicon (no, don't ask where and from who--but yes, to the degree I know about such things--not the scifi fellers' little fake).
"I dig. But you're going about this all wrong..." I began.
In for a penny...you know?
Sometimes, I get this face from my elders, as if I've just stepped on a few toes. Methos' face makes like those toes had corns.
"Still chilly?" I shrugged when he didn't answer. "Since when does a...two-bit hood...small time criminal...mortal with a grudge type..."
"He caught me off-guard," Methos equivocated.
"Used the Voice on you?"
He rolled his eyes. "At my age it's difficult for anyone to use something like that on me...I'm practically immune. I don't think Cassandra could..." His voice trailed off.
I looked at him quizzically. "So?"
He looked at me, wryly. "Bullets have a fairly negative effect."
"So he was just...doing away with your body," I mused. "He didn't know what you were, did he?"
"Why should he?"
There's a thing I'm still getting used to--we don't advertise. But another thing occurred to me.
"Did he know Kantos...did he seem to know Cassandra was...you know?"
Methos looked at the ceiling thoughtfully. "It did make the conversation a little more difficult. That and the bullets."
I got out my trusty thought-ordering device--I started counting on my fingers.
"He's a sociopath. He's not a very good sociopath."
"You'd have floated to the top if you were really dead...that chain was weak." Another finger. "He doesn't know what we are. Doesn't this put him in the 'annoying nuisance' category? I mean, you were really just going to turn him around...not...I don't know...take him out?"
He acted insulted. "What do you take me for?"
I shrugged. "Taking" Methos for anything seemed like a hideous mistake. "How did you find out about this character, anyway?" I smiled, having half-an-answer. Same way I find out things, I figured: pump MacLeod, pump Joe, stalk people if necessary?
"I found out from Cassandra," he stated, simply.
He does things like that to a person on purpose. Turns out she left a message for MacLeod which Methos ...ahem...*inadvertantly* intercepted. And he took matter from there. This knowledge prevented my poor little brain from having to grasp a situation in which both of them were in the same room and an informative conversation took place. Most conversations involve a) stony silence, b) agitated strained voices, or c) yelling. They remind me of my parents, a little. Except my parents, as far as I know, are still married. The upshot was, one exploding passenger seat, a close call with a drive-by, and other assorted two-bit hood variety nonsense. If anyone deserved a whacking...but that wasn't the important thing.
The important question loomed. "How do you suppose Cassandra wants this handled?"
His mouth distinctly opened. This was the last thing it did distinctly.
I continued. "Maybe she wants to whack him herself. I know I would."
He stared. "She might be a little more..." He hesitated.
"Tall?" I replied, joking.
"Oh...you mean principled."
"Very good. More principled than you are."
I blinked. I've never understood what principle had to do with anything. Can't you just whack people "on principle?"
"So we're supposed to just make him go away but stay alive and leave Cassandra alone which you don't think he's going to do--the guy with the bullets?"
It took a second for Methos to absorb what I was saying.
"That's the general idea."
I smiled, finally having an idea that might work.
That was how we arrived at the notion of killing Cassandra.
"You're recommending that I...play DEAD?"
The "DEAD" part was actually just like that...all caps. Somehow, she distrusted the idea. I attempted to put her mind at ease, and felt lucky that Methos did not decide to join me on this "explaining" mission.
"The beauty of it is, you wouldn't be playing. You'd be dead."
She wasn't seeing the beauty of it. I amended.
"A little bit dead. He won't know the difference. He sees you not breathing, looking very dead...he goes his merry way. He doesn't know any better or he'd have tried taking your head by now."
She looked suspiciously at me. "How did you find out about this?"
"Sure. Immortal grapevine..."
"Capricorn on the cusp of Sagittarius...could have sworn he'd be able to keep a secret," she muttered.
"I intended to take care of this myself," she said, with an air of finality.
I nodded. I tried to envision what she intended on doing to take care of it. "So you know where this cretin is bunking down?"
She looked at me, quizzically.
"He's a stranger in town," I began. "And he's just following your trail. So he's in a motel somewhere. He's not like us, he needs a little more sleep to get by. So if you're taking care of it, you want to know where he is when he's vulnerable. You don't wait for him." I put out my arm, trying to paint the picture for her. "So you have him...when you figure out where he is. You don't need a sword to do it, obviously. You can take him down with a pistol. I recommend a .22 or a 9 millimeter for a close range job. Headshots are bloody, but really, the better way to go. You get in...put the barrel to the base of his neck...ever fire a pistol?"
"I have," she said, but her voice was strained.
She's got more centuries than I've got years. I don't think she's ever just taken someone out in the way I'm describing--her face told me as much. It isn't a bad thing--I never killed a mortal, myself. Never had to. But I'll tell you the odd thing--doing it by sword, where it could go either way--seems fair and sensible compared to calmly, coldly, doing the deed. I know the situation I'd need to be in. Cassandra's capacity for grief--her threshold for giving back--it's a little higher. She'd take an axe to Methos--but she thought over that scenario for *years*. She would need something else to shoot the stuffings out of our little clueless friend.
"I can handle it," she said.
"I can help you track down where he's at. It's not too difficult. If you need a gun...I have one. Since he's after you--you might get lucky."
It's a bluff--very old little psych-out.
"With your method...he simply goes away?"
"You trust me, right?"
Her eyes don't trust anyone without top-level clearance. She just about clears me. I hate to think it's because I'm an Aries and necessarily have a very firm loyalty to my friends. I'd like to think it's because she knows I respect who she is--one of my very few female role models in this rotten life.
You know, car bombs and the other stuff this guy pulled...I don't want her head blown off.
"But how are we staging my...death?"
Come on...really...we've all been stabbed from time to time, right? Hell, at least once a year, somebody's shafting me. Maybe that's not a nice way to put it...but there you go.
"I'll be gentle. I'll use Novocaine." I smiled and tried to be positive. "We'll just stage a little...scuffle."
"A scuffle where you stab me...and that's believable?"
"Watch Jerry Springer, ever?"
She was dubious. The idea of a screaming catfight in the hotel parking garage involving hair pulling and the like might be all very well for myself...she couldn't do it. What was her motivation?
"Hoodlum-boy will stop trying to blow you up and shoot at you."
"I mean...we should be fighting about...something."
She looked so serious.
"A man. Uh...I think you've been fooling with my boyfriend...so I want to mess you up. And you...uh...you have nothing to do with him...you're like...so over him. He never treated you right, anyway. It's method acting, you'll pick it up."
We headed towards the parking lot, and I worked on the "scuffle scenario."
She turned, quickly. "There's a back-up plan, isn't there?"
"Sure...always. We're in a public place--sort of kind of. Same rules as the duel to the death thing...you know, that we do anyway. So no cops...but if what's his name..."
"Poor guy. No wonder he went wrong..." I shook it off. "If Garth interferes...he's going to do one of those flashy, gun-involving or possibly explosive-involving things. And that would attract security. He gets nailed...we get showers and go back to our regular lives."
She nodded. That wasn't *really* the back-up plan. It was the best I could do. I didn't think she wanted the back-up plan to be Methos.
"You come back to town...and the next thing I know...he's concerning himself with you and your problems."
"I don't want anything to do with him--you're crazy!"
"He drops everything if he thinks you're in trouble--again."
"He can't mind his own business--that isn't my fault!"
"Oh yeah--well, here you are!"
She pushed me--not bad method-acting. "I can go where I please."
"Yeah--where he is! You aren't his girl anymore..."
"Yeah...well I'm..." I grabbed her hair as she closed in..." A woman...so you just be his....unhhh....girl!"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"You're younger--and you're stupid! You don't know what he's about! I know--and maybe he is still stuck on me..."
She pushed me down--she's damn strong, willowy or not!
"But you can't change the past...can you?"
"That's it.." I sputtered. We couldn't keep that up for too, too long. I reached for my 6" Bowie, fulling intending to gently shove it between her ribs--but the rat-a-tat of a semi-auto kind of stopped me. Stopped Cassandra, too. She turned, copper hair flying, towards the echoing sound...and then her eyes caught the shadowy figure with the gun. She fell, and I was slipping out of it, too.
And then Santa Claus took our attacker out.
Not bad for a Christmas Eve work-out. Of course, you know as well as I do who Santa Claus was--definitely not St. Nick--no saint at all for that matter. I knew well and good who was under the hat and beard--but Cassandra never did.
Maybe Methos might've wanted a Christmas gift of sorts--in that she knew he was looking out for her interest--but I figured she would probably rather let that gift be from Santa--if you know what I mean.
Holidays are hard enough without that kind of pressure, anyway.
Anyhow--We both woke up in Cassandra's hotel suite, dazed and bloody, but A-ok. And she looked at me quizzically with those bright green headlights--but I wasn't telling her anything. Far as she knew--I didn't know what happened--and the Voice wasn't geting it out of me.
"Happy Yule, anyway, Cassie."
"Buon' Natale, Genevieve."
Makes you almost warm inside, huh?