Chapter 6

Methos woke up with light streaming into his room. His first thought was that someone had bungled a beheading in the night and left him for dead, but no, the pain he felt was more likely a massive hangover. Last night? He closed his eyes and tossed vague thoughts around trying to make sense of them and arrange in some kind of coherent order. Mary and a bloody huge dog. Something caused a shudder to pass through him as the dog came into focus. Something about the dog but what was it? The more he thought about it the more creeped out he felt so he opened his eyes and felt hot lancing pain down his optic nerves again.

He pulled the covers over his head and caught sight of his underwear. When did he buy “Garfield” boxer shorts? What kind of a night was it?

With a groan he rolled out of bed and onto a heap of old clothing waiting to be washed. He rummaged. The first pair of socks looked OK but after a cautious sniff were thrown back – too ripe – the second pair were better. The shirt on top of the pile didnt appear to have any stains and handnt been too badly creased so he pulled that on and looked around for a pair of trousers. No dice. He gave up as his bladder begain to protest how full it was and how much it would like him to deal with the issue. He looked under the bed for trousers while carrying on a conversation with his bladder, placating it, only to have it stridently reply that he should deal with the issue NOW, or Garfield would suffer.

“Oh alright,” he said, giving up the search for trousers, “you win.”

Once in the bathroom he spotted his trousers in front of the toilet. They looked like an invisible man was wearing them and sitting to do his business. Or perhaps he had sat and done his business and simply left them there? He couldnt remember and by now his bladder was vying with his brain for control of the whole body.

Kicking the pants out of the way he stood there to pee. “Well, come on…” he said, looking down. Nothing. He’d been holding it and fighting not to go, now when he finally decided to he couldnt. Today was just going to be “one of those days” he thought with a sigh.

—-

Joe, Mary and Alasdair his assistant were already in the conference room when Methos arrived. Joe coughed and tapped his watch. Methos blushed and mumbled something about morning traffic and sat down. Alasdair took the opportunity to score some points and distributed a stapled document to each of them.

“I grabbed some information off the Internet last night, forgive the typos. Joe mentioned that the Chinaman went to ground when the Chinese invaded Tibet: I used that as a starting point looking for ways that He might have gotten out of the country. Oh, and I came across a some great Asian por…”

Joe cut in, “Thank you. Now, does anyone have any ideas on how he would have left the country?”

Methos literally jumped backward out of his seat, knocking the chair over in the process, when Gabe barked from below the table.

“Who let that … thing … in here?” he demanded.

Mary raised a hand, smiling sweetly.

“Keep a muzzle…” He started but was cut off by a menacing growl that rumbled out from under the table.

Methos picked the chair up and sat back down.

Joe scanned the room giving Methos and Mary a sharp look. She shrugged maintaining the innocent air. “So, ideas on how he got out from under the eye of an invading army?”

The group brainstormed for a while with ideas transcribed onto post-it notes and stuck on the wall. After a while the flow of consciousness slowed down and in silence they began moving the post-its around into what seemed like good groupings. At the end of the exercise there were three groupings. The group began talking about each in turn: that the Chinaman was still in Tibet, arguably the most expensive and time consuming to investigate. The second idea was that he used an aikido move against the invading army and used their momentum against them by following supply lines back into China. The last grouping was decided to be the easiest to investigate: the Chinaman had escaped Tibet with the aid of a foreign power or subversive Chinese group.

With limited resources they decided to prioritize the search – outside Tibet, China and finally internal to the country. There were only so many places an immortal could go and for want of a better idea they decided to see if any of the Watchers had reported a lead. The rest of the day was spent poring over searches in the Watcher archives. Sometime after midnight they cleared coffee mugs, discarded food and pulled stacks of paper together and rubbed tired eyes heading for respective places of residence.

Methos was aware of a presence following him on his way to his car. Neck hairs were prickling yet each time he turned around there was no-one there. He rubbed tension out of his neck and walked on. There was a tension at the base of his skull, a grinding, buzzing sensation that rattled the bones of his skull and neck. He shook his head as it intensified. A migraine? It felt like the bastard child of a migraine headache and … he shook his head again to clear it … illegitimate offspring of a migraine and the buzz of an immortal. Something prompted him to turn and draw his concealed knife. A dark shape passed through the space he had just occupied and felt the sting of his blade along its flank. It circled back growling menacingly, that damned dog of Mary’s! Methos circled slowly, wary. Gabe came in for the attack again this time and Methos delivered a pair of knife blows that laid it out with a whimper. Without thinking he followed up with a deathblow to the heart.

Satisfied that the animal was dead he hurried to his car and drove home to find a stiff drink and microwave some left-over food from the fridge.

The next morning he arrived early with a large black coffee in hand. Joe was the only one already there. Thankfully his young assistant hadnt prepared anything or deigned to turn up. He was just sipping the foamy head of his mocha when Mary arrived with Gabe in tow.

“Oh for the love of God … it cant be!” he shot, spilling coffee.

“What?”

“Your bloody dog – he’s immortal. Keep the mutt away from me or he loses his freaking head!”

—-

Nigel arrived in his morning briefing acceptably early and took a seat in the back of the room with his back to the wall and a good view of the rest of the people as they trickled in. At 0800, precisely, an officer walked in and stepped up to the podium at the front. He opened a file and glanced at the dozen sets of eyes watching him.

“Good morning. Today we commence a new phase of project Nosophoros. Would the civilian contractors please stand?”

Nigel and five others stood – three men and two women – each looking a little embarrassed to be called out.

“Thank you. Today we’ll commence our cross-agency cooperation with the CIA. While they hold no military rank you will treat them with respect. If they say ‘jump’ they will tell you how high, dont question it, just do what they say. Learn from them and you will gain the necessary skills to survive. You may be seated.”

Nigel and the others sat down obediently. The officer went on to detail pairings, calling each pair to the podium and handing them a sealed envelope of orders from a small stack in front of him. Second from last Nigel was called out to pair with a ‘Shannon Conwel’. He smiled hoping that Shannon was the cute blond that he’d seen earlier. Instead it turned out that Shannon was a sandy haired man with a thick Missouri accent and crisp military manner. Oh well.

They reached the podium a the same time and the officer nodded slowly, “Says here that you have neglected your physical Mr Lancaster. You two may be seated. Feel free to make use of the facilities Conwell, your partner isnt leaving the base for another 24 hours. Dismissed.” Shannon shot Nigel a look. So much for respect!

The young female soldier that Nigel was hoping to be paired with turned out to be called Michelle, her CIA partner a mid-forties guy with a slight limp by the name of Art. They approached the podium and Nigel watched as the briefing officer pulled the next sealed order envelope off the stack and handed it to Art, Nigel’s mission. The assembled pairs were dismissed and he watched and waited for the room to clear.

Finally the officer looked up, “Lancaster, report to the infirmery on barracks level, one of the doctors will see to you.”

—-

Rumours in the Watcher’s ranks had been circulating of a “hot spot” near to London’s Leicester square. Watchers kept bumping into each other as their respective immortals attended premiers, ate ice cream from the Haagen daz store or visited one of the nearby Chinatown restaurants. Joe was the one who pointed it out, as they searched for hints of the presence of the Chinaman in expat communities in large urban centres. The logic, suggested by Methos, was that he would want to avoid confrontation if possible, and if spotted would want to remain in company where-ever possible. Joe merely suggested that to hide his buzz he might want to be near a hotbed of immortal activity. An argument developed but was quickly resolved: who would fly to London to check the lead?

Joe contended that he was the only successful field agent quickly countered by the ever tactless Mary, pointing to his legs and raising an eyebrow. Methos resolved the argument by offering mainly because it would put several hundred miles between him and the ever-present Gabe. He was thankful that the dog hadnt attempted to attack him since the incident in the parking lot but the thought of getting away appealed greatly.

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