Zechariah Judd met the helicopter as it landed. He was nothing like Duncan expected him to be. When Methos had said he was a madman chaing legends across the globe Duncan’s mind had leapt to imaged of Indiana Jones. The reality was somewhat different: Judd was nondescript, nothing like Harrison Ford what so ever. The hat he wore lacked style though Duncan suspected that if he asked the man wouldnt be able to tell him what style was in the first place. Either that or he’d get a lecture on first century BC Phoenician art and fashion. Floppy grey hats aside, Judd was a slim, intense looking man. The downdraft from the helicopter relieved him of the hat and Duncan smiled at the sizable bald patch in his generally brown hair.
As they landed Judd helped them out of the body of the helicopter offering a handshake. He visibly balked as Gabe hopped down a footstep ahead of Mary. He regained his composure and shook her hand keeping a watchful eye on the dog. The two UN soldiers were ushered over to a sandy Hummer and whisked off in a spray of gravel leaving Duncan and Mary alone with the archaeologist.
“Welcome to Iraq. Is this your first time here?” he asked politely as he made to take Mary’s bag. She looked put out and swiped it out from his grasp.
“I can get that, thank you very much. Oh, and no, Ive been here before.”
Judd turned to Duncan raising a single eyebrow. Duncan grinned, “You should see how she was at 30,000 feet. Dont take it personally.”
Judd showed them to a rusty landrover that looked to have travelled the length and breadth of the Middle East. The centre of the passenger door sported a bullet hole.
“We had a spot of bother with locals in Lebanon.” Judd said, noticing Duncan’s gaze, “The drive to our camp should take about an hour. We’re not that far away but the mountain roads can be a little tricky.”
Mary opted for the back of the vehicle with Gabe and spent the entire time chatting to the dog. Duncan shook his head – it was as though there was a conversation going on with hi monly hearing one side of it – like the time he’d tuned his radio into the police frequency and heard half of a police car chase nearby.
They eventually arrived at the archaeological dig, little more than a few tents in a wide sandy valley with occasional lights on poles and a big generator humming in the background. People bustled around one particular tent and Duncan made a mental note to see if that was where food was to be found. The ride through the mountains had rattled every bone in his body. When he got out of the car he was surprised to find his legs still rumbling from the ride.
It didnt take long to get the feel of the camp. There was a distinct split between military and civilian with field researchers vanishing in small groups to work on various projects for hours on end. The military spent time at the camp mainly patrolling and keeping their noses out of the academic stuff. Duncan was treated well by both groups but found himself an outsider, civilian contractor to the military types and security advisor to the researchers. What was worse, within a day of arriving in the camp, Mary had vanished and no-one seemed concerned at her absence.
Joe clomped along the corridor following Methos. He had meant to catch up to him but that plan had failed as the tall immortal had sped up to just a little faster than Joe’s prosthetic legs could handle. He settled for a well timed, “Hey. Dont walk out on me like that.”
Methos whirled, “Look Joe, Im not going to tell you. I wouldnt tell Duncan while we were recovering and Im not planning on telling you. Case closed. Now, leave me alone, I have a curry and bottle of whiskey with my name on.”
Joe persisted, “Curry? I know a restaurant that maked a Vindaloo that you’ll be feeling for the next 2 days…”
It appeared to be working. The older man was softening so Joe pressed in further, “And nothing slays a Vindaloo …”
“… like English lager. Yes. You mean you know somewhere in Geneva that serves English beer and good curry? You’ve been holding out on me Joe.”
They both laughed and headed out. The curry was, indeed, hot enough that Methos was sweating profusely by the time they finished. The beer selection wasnt quite what it had been cracked up to be, but it was English nonetheless. Joe didnt press the questions, he merely let the beers keep flowing. He chose to let the evening run along friendly lines without friction lubricated by a little alcohol. As the meal and beer were winding down he dropped a bombshell on Methos, “Hey, look, I picked up a great bottle of brandy for the bar. You think a glass would round the meal off?”
Back in the hotel room he pulled out the brandy and poured a generous glass for Methos and handed it over with the flourish of a practiced bartender. The immortal swirled it around in the glass letting it warm slightly. He dipped his large nose close to the vapours and inhaled slowly, “A fine vintage.”
Joe reached into the silverware drawer and pulled out a small dictaphone. He carefully pressed the ‘record’ button when Methos wasnt looking and dropped it into his pocket. He knew by practice that this particular model was sensitive enough to pick up the conversation and he hoped that the relaxed immortal would offer him some clues to why he had been hedging over the issue of Iraq.
“So, refill?” He asked, waving the brandy bottle at Methos.
“Oh, I couldnt. Yes I could. Fill ‘er up!”
Joe laughed and poured.