The big meeting – Oliver Forbes announcement of his find – broke up and Duncan watched people streaming out into the sunlight. In some ways he regretted giving up smoking as this would have been the perfect time to be seen lounging against the wall with a cigarette in hand. Without the aid of a cigarette he had to try to look relaxed and deflect various people’s gazes as they wondered why he was outside. The flow of people reduced quickly to a trickle and he felt the recently unearthed artifacts taken away. He turned and stepped inside hoping that Judd hadnt left. He was in luck, the balding scientist was talking to Forbes at the far end of the room.
“Ahh, Duncan, just the man. How convenient that we have a security specialist here to look into the first real breach in security. I trust the intruder is nothing to do with you?” Forbes asked.
Duncan really didnt like the tone, “Do I need to point out that an entire team vanished – one lost his head and the others spirited themsevles away – before I arrived?”
“Gentlemen, please. We just need to get to the bottom of this.” Judd injected.
“Where are you holding the intruder?” Duncan asked.
“The UN have him. They are waiting for you, assuming you wanted to talk to him before they ship him out.” Judd said.
“And while you’re there, throw the book at him!” Forbes said, pushing past Duncan to stalk off out to rejoin his team.
“Excitable fellow, isnt he?” Duncan said to Judd with a grin, doing his best to diffuse some of the lingering atmosphere in the room.
“Not normally, no. Something about the latest find has rattled him. We dont know what is in the jar – it was sealed airtight – we’re taking extreme care in opening it later today. The sword seems ordinary enough for a late bronze age model. I think he’s pinned his hopes on there being something other than three thousand year old mayonaise in that jar and doesnt want anyone to spoil what might be make-or-break for his career. Now, if you dont mind, I have some things I have to attend to.”
Judd left Duncan alone with his thoughts.
Nigel was using his off-duty moments to get a picture of the rest of the UN team working security for the dig. He’d taken various clandestine measurements with the tracking device and the only feature of interest was an occasional yellow trace of a pre-immortal, and Conwel now walking around announcing him immortal presence to all-and-sundry. The strange little man that they’d captured trying to steal artifacts was reading clearly in the blue still, Nigel made a mental note to talk to him about that.
There was an urgent bleep from Nigel’s belt. He glanced down to see orange lights turning to green as an encrypted link was established.
“Yes?” he said. “OK, where? OK, I got it. Tonight.” He clicked the device off and turned for his tent.
Joe prompted Methos, “So … you said you planned to get close to the Assyrian ruler? Did it work?”
Methos looked up from his empty glass. “Oh, yes. Judah had made a deal with the Assyrians, denounced by Isaiah, to preserve their nation when the evil empire swept down and took out the northern kingdom of Israel. Judah paid dearly, of course, so tribute caravans travelled north on a regular bases. I rode along in the role of armed escort – I think it’s the nose – somehow I passed for a Hebrew soldier.”
“We travelled deep into enemy country and I was edgy the whole time. Did I mention that the damned sword was a brooding presence that spoke to me when I touched it? It was eager to be on with its work. It whispered of blood and death, slicing, cutting and glorious quickennings. Between the sword and the imminent death we faced taking riches through enemy territory I was pretty self absorbed. Yes, I felt the touch of other immortals as we neared the main camp, but I was fixated on my quest. I therefore didnt notice when they came for me – when the quest found me. One night a bag was pulled over my head and I was taken. Yes I struggled, who wouldnt, but the bag was fastened securely around my neck with an iron collar. I heard laughter and was told not to fight or the enchantment in the collar would take my head before its time.”
“I was dumped in a cave, there was water running on my left and quiet moans to my right. The bag was removed but not the collar. I found myself in the company of three sorry individuals, two of them were pre-immortals waiting their new birth, the other a proud but broken individual that it turned out had been captured down in Egypt. We all wore the collars. I was confused – the Egyptian and I both had our weapons – did they believe so strongly in their magic that we couldnt harm them? We spoke in hushed tones of escape. The guards changed shift every four hours and there was only two on duty – one in the cave with us and another at the mouth.”
“It was the Egyptian who pointed out the best time to go. One particular guard had obviously suffered a broken leg in a previous campaign that hadnt been set very well. He was good for guard duty by moved slowly dragging his left leg as he walked. I was to take him and the Egyptian would rush the guard at the mouth of the cave. Well, it worked, both went down and we were free. I’ll never forget it Joe – the Egyptian ran out into sunlight and it was like a burst of fire erupted from his neck. His head fell but what was worse the fire continued to burn leaving the iron collar laying in a pile of ash. That knocked the wind right out of me. We cowered back into the cave and waited until they were ready for us.”
Joe nodded, “I bet!”
Methos smiled, “and speaking of wind … that vindaloo seems to have landed. Sorry.”
Joe grimaced and pulled his chair back a few feet. 5000 years old and ever the schoolboy taking pleasure in such things Methos merely sat and wore a smug grin.
Duncan was in a surly mood by the time he got in to talk to the intruder. There was a building tension in his neck and shoulders that sent small sparks along the nerves of his back. He blamed the changing weather and lingering effects of the attack on the path. By the tim he was in the room with the strange little man there was and ache riding his shoulders and living at the base of his spine.
The man was watching the door-flap of the tent intently as Duncan walked in. He seemed to have been counting – anticipating Duncan’s arrival? He stood up and offered a handhake oblivious to the fact that his hands were locked into metal handcuffs. He glanced down.
“Oh, dont worry about these. Pleased to make your aquaintance … “
Duncan completed his sentence, “Duncan MacLeod, of the clan MacLeod.” he didnt shake the man’s hand, opting instead for slowly pacing around him.
“Well Duncan MacLeod of the clan MacLeod, what are you doing here?”
Duncan’s temper flared at the inference, at the way the little man with the piercing blue eyes was turning the tables on him, “Look, mister …”
“Doctor” the man corrected
“Whatever. Im here to ask the questions and you’ll answer them, got that?”
There was a commotion outside the tent and Mary Culver burst inside.
“There you are!” she turned from the handcuffed man to Duncan, “Duncan, release this man at once! This is Doctor John Smith – independent scientific consultant for the UN – a dose of stomach flu kept him from being on the flight over with us. They called him in to bridge some of the great divide between the groups here.”
Mary shouldered Duncan out of the way and uncuffed the scientist. He wore a frown – the look of a man wondering if he’s about to go from frying pan to fire. Duncan watched as the wheels seemed to turn in his head and he not only came up to speed on the ever canging situation but spun ahead several steps. Part of a plan or not, he seemed to roll with circumstances.
“Indeed, the gulf. Yes.” he made a show of rubbing his wrists then slipped an arm around Mary’s shoulder guiding her out of the tent, “Now if you would kindly bring me up to speed on recent developments I’ll get to work then. Out of interest, how many laws have been broken so far?”
Duncan remained in the tent fuming not sure who to be annoyed at, Mary or the dark haired little doctor.