The Holyground Highlander Forum Midweek Challenge
Archivist’s Note: The stories and vignettes offered here from various Holyground Forumlanders have not been edited or changed other than having a spell-check performed and being reformatted for this website.
The Challenge by Leah CWPack
Driven to Distraction by Storie
Dinner at Maxim’s by Wain
The Road Not Taken by sirenadabat
The Tortoise and the Hares by Daire
Road Rage: Horseman Style by Annie CWPack
Parking Lot Limbo by Ghost Cat
MID-WEEK CHALLENGE: DRIVEN, INSANE
Your challenge, should you choose to participate, was contributed by Annie CWPack this week:
1) Write a short story about one or more of the Highlander Immortals (good, evil or otherwise) in a very difficult attempt to find an empty parking space.
2) Write a short story that takes place in the HL universe, involving road rage.
The setting and circumstances can be anything else you choose.
DISCLAIMER: If you do not put "MWC" in the subject line of your entry, it will be assumed that you don't wish to have it archived.
MWC: Driven to Distraction
It wasn't a horse, he sighed, but in recent years had proven the closest replication one could get to the genuine article. Easy to buy, sell or trade in the countries he had frequented of late, without the emotional attachments one could so easily form with another living creature. It was murder, he smirked at his own irony, to part with a good horse. An extraordinary horse was a rare find, and of all he had possessed over the course of several thousand years, those he would classify as exceptional were indeed a lonely few. You could give a horse a name, communicate with it, train it, enjoy its personality and its company. It was one of his most sincere regrets that evolving societies had found these inimitable animals too slow and inconvenient and had replaced them with machines like this one…
"Harley," he grunted, accelerating hard in personal admonition of fond reminisces that served no purpose beyond pointless - and possibly, dangerous - distraction. A burst of speed carried him around a curve and into the back of a convertible just completing the turn off a dirt lane. The girl in the passenger seat screamed as he bumped the car and the male driver yelled something unintelligible as they sped away, leaving him to fight the suddenly renegade motorcycle and to curse its cold indifference even as it launched him into the ditch.
He remounted with a grimace. The bike was fine if one discounted the cosmetic infractions, and his own wounds were briskly knitting together after the manner of all his kind. Were he not on a manhunt of utmost importance, it might be fun to run the couple down and make the driver eat whatever words he had hurled across the back of that car. Distractions, he reminded himself. The results of countless e-mails, Internet searches, and a few sporadic breaks into the Watcher's own database - he grinned smugly - all pointed in the direction he now followed to the destination and the goal, both one and the same. Exhilarating, this plan. Achievable - if it were true. If this Methos was indeed the brother of his heart from days gone by, whose history predated even his own, and if this Methos was still alive and still living where all the research suggested. It was almost too much to hope for…almost.
Several hundred miles separated him from certainty. He could have flown, but loathed the confinement and the helplessness of being harnessed inside an airplane. Besides, he needed time to think, to mentally revisit every detail, scrutinize every step yet to be taken, ensure there were no weak spots, no exceptions or doubts or complications that might interfere with his intentions. "Unforeseen" was not a word he acknowledged. Every aspect, to the last breath, must fall into place. There was no room in his schedule for surprises.
Technology had its merits, undeniably, and he had made endless use of them all. He had shipped his laboratory and equipment - and the results achieved with both - ahead and called to confirm their arrival. There would be time to locate appropriate lab and living space while he searched for the individual who would complete his plans for the future. He trembled with eagerness to share his ambitions with someone who would understand, who would join him in bringing them all to fruition. It would be like old times.
There they were, just ahead. The convertible with out-of-state plates, a man and a woman yelling at each other; that is, she was yelling and he was hitting, flailing at her with a fist and, from the looks of things, hard enough to do some damage if he were to make contact. He grabbed a handful of hair and yanked her head back as the motorcycle eased alongside.
Young, the driver, and younger still, the girl, her face red with anger, eyes bright with fear as tears streamed down her face.
"Help me, please, he's hurting me!" she screamed to the stranger.
The young man shared a limited vocabulary of assorted expletives as he wrenched the steering wheel of the car to broadside the motorcycle. He shouted with laughter as the rider again fought for control, this time with success.
They were traveling a rural route dotted with small houses and barns every few miles. The biker roared after the car, trying to pass, dodging the driver's attempts to swerve into him and knock him off the road yet again. After several attempts at passing on the left, he drew alongside the girl in the passenger seat, who screamed for help again as the driver sideswiped him and pushed him off the road and into the side of a decrepit shed.
The biker had reached the extent of his limited tolerance. He backed the motorcycle away from the shed and paused to glance over all the tools rusting on pegs in the rafters. A slow smile spread across his face as he eased forward, took hold of his selection, and balanced it across his lap. He pulled out onto the highway in the wake of the convertible, this time in earnest pursuit.
The driver was too busy abusing his passenger to check his rearview mirror. He turned just as the biker, even with the front of the car, raised the sickle high in the air and brought it down through the hood. The girl cried out, fear ousted the bully in the young man's eyes, and the car choked to a stop off the shoulder of the road.
The biker, however, was not finished. He sped forward, slid the bike in an about-face, and came at them again. Unified now, the couple clambered out of the car and raced toward the woods. The biker paused by the car long enough to retrieve the sickle, then continued after his quarry. He rode beside the young man, lashed out with a well-aimed kick, and stepped off the bike as the young man pitched forward into the grass.
The girl reached the woods, only to shriek in agony at a metallic click as a trap bit into her ankle and brought her down. The survival instinct permeated her hysterics and she scratched up small stones and hurled them at her attacker. The biker reached her in a few strides, knocked the rocks from her hand, and stepped back to look her over.
Her scream emerged as a whimper. She was, as he had originally thought, very young - certainly not of legal age. Her face was a mosaic of bruises, both old and new, that took on a chameleon effect, emerging and fading as her face reddened and paled before his assessment. Too young and too used for any thoughts that might have crossed his mind. And too noisy; he didn't mind his women screaming, but preferred the protest of a more mature voice. She gasped as he knelt down and wrenched apart the jaws of the trap, freeing her foot.
"Go," he said, and she did, hobbling as fast as she was able, glancing back at the enigma with the jet-black hair and the odd scar that divided the right side of his face above and below the narrow brown eye…
He marched back to the blithering young man, who had collected himself enough to produce an automatic pistol sans clip, attempting to fire the impotent weapon and crying out when the desired response was not forthcoming. The biker ripped the gun from his hands and tossed it out of reach.
Then he hefted the sickle overhead and finished the job in one swift stroke.
He fastidiously wiped the blade clean against the grass and propped his weapon against a tree; remounted his motorcycle and eased back onto the road to continue his trip and his musings about the future; chuckled to himself as he picked up speed:
"I do love the old ways best."
MWC: Dinner at Maxims
Posted By: Wain (thanking Daire for the birthday idea; I couldn't
have started without it!) <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Friday, 27 April 2001, at 4:26 p.m.
The house with the red flowers in twin hanging baskets, the house with the black shutters, the house with the empty window boxes, the house with the leaded glass window over the front door, the house with the cat in the window. A left turn and a swing by the park. Another left turn. More brick houses. Another left turn. More brick houses. A fourth left turn. The house with the red flowers in twin hanging baskets, the house with the black shutters, the house with the leaded glass window over the front door, the house with the empty window boxes, the house with the cat in the window . . .
Richie took a deep breath in through his nose and let it out through his mouth slowly. Perspiration beaded his upper lip; he was by turns hot and cold. Another left turn. His stomach lurched. He rolled down the Thunderbird’s window and gulped in cool evening air. He looked at the green grass of the park sloping up toward the trees and tried not to think about . . . another left turn.
"Amanda, when you said we were going for a ride, I didn’t exactly have this in mind," he groaned, trying to make his voice stronger than he felt. "We’ve been driving around this block for fifteen minutes. What gives? And how did you manage to talk Mac into letting you have the car anyway?"
"In answer to your first grumpy question, we’re driving around until I find the right place to put this car," Amanda said, tapping her fingernails along the steering wheel. "And Mac doesn’t exactly know about the car."
"Amanda, he’s going to kill you when he finds out," Richie warned. "And me, too."
Amanda sighed lightly and pointed her finger at Richie. "Maxim Number Four: It’s easier to get forgiveness than permission. You know, if I had wanted an old stick in the mud, I would have brought MacLeod."
Richie tried to focus on the horizon. This time around, there were blazing pink and orange streaks in the sky behind the trees in the park.
"Amanda, what’s so interesting about this block anyway? You told Mac that we had to run an errand. All we’re running is out of gas," Richie scolded. The house with the red flowers and the house with the black shutters swooped past his line of vision.
A beige Volvo pulled out in front of them. "Right there, Amanda," Richie yelled. "There’s a space."
"It’s not good enough," Amanda flicked on the turn signal with a sweeping gesture that was nearly as wide as her left turn past the park. "It has to be the first or last space on the block or the space right in front of or behind the fire hydrant."
Richie moaned. "Why?" he croaked and rested his head on the dashboard. That was worse on his stomach; he looked out the window again. The first evening star began to twinkle in the deepening sky.
"Maxim Number Three: Never settle for anything less than the best," Amanda informed him.
Richie jerked his attention away from the sky and toward Amanda. "What?" he asked incredulously.
"A maxim. You know, Richie. A precept or a guiding rule," she said with a little sideways tilt to her head. "I really need to talk to MacLeod. He’s been neglecting your education. You need your horizons broadened, Richie. Everyone needs a few rules to live by." There was a light on in the house with the leaded glass window. The next house’s cat sat in its familiar place and watched the black T-bird cruise by yet again.
The young Immortal took his eyes off a row of parked cars long enough to level an incredulous look at Amanda. "So enlighten me," he challenged. "What’s Maxim Number One?"
Amanda sat up a little straighter behind the car wheel and intoned, "Maxim Number One: Never pass up the opportunity to use the ladies’ room."
Richie’s eyebrows knit in disbelief. "I don’t think that’s going to help me much."
Amanda rolled her eyes and turned left again. "Modify it, Richie. Just say, ‘men’s room’, and never pass up the opportunity to use one because you never know when you’ll get your next chance. Maxim Number Two: When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping."
Richie shoved his hand through his hair, sending the curls askew, as he asked impatiently, "Amanda, what are you talking about and what are we doing going around this block?"
Amanda sniffed and replied, "Maxim Number Fourteen: Patience is a virtue for everyone except for me."
Richie shook his head in a mixture of admiration and exasperation. "You really are a princess, aren’t you?"
Amanda rewarded him with a dazzling smile and said, "As for what we’re doing here, I’m here to exchange the birthday present MacLeod bought for me. You know, that black dress with the . . . " she took both hands off the wheel for a moment and described little swirls in the air over her collarbones. Hands back on the wheel, she turned left again. "He bought me a size six. I wear an eight, but he doesn’t need to know that. A bit of advice, Richie, in the form of Maxim Number Twenty, corollary for men: Never, ever buy clothes for a woman. Jewelry, yes; perfume, maybe; chocolates, always; clothes, never."
The cat was no longer on its perch in the window. Amanda turned left. A car turned left behind them. The orange and pink streaks of the sunset had faded to deep gray and violet.
"There aren’t any stores on this block, Amanda dear," Richie informed her testily. "And you said I could drive. When do I get to drive?" Richie wondered what Mac would do if the car were returned with an empty tank plus a burned-out bulb for the left turn signal.
Amanda tossed her hair and answered in a tumble of words as Richie’s eyes grew wider and wider, "He bought it downtown but when I went to return it this afternoon, the very last size eight had been sold to a woman who lives . . . " she pointed out the house with empty window boxes, "there. They won’t have another dress in for weeks at the boutique, so I’ll just sneak into her house and switch the dresses. You get to drive when I’m finished my . . . transaction."
Richie’s mouth dropped open. "You want me to drive the getaway car? You’re nuts, Amanda. Breaking and entering for a dress?"
Amanda pulled sharply left on the steering wheel. "I need that dress for my perfect birthday evening. It’s all planned. After you and I are finished here, I change, then it’s dinner at Lumière at eight. Later on, it’s champagne and chocolates, a nice warm bubble bath and . . . " the tip of her tongue rested momentarily on her upper lip; she looked like a cat with a dish of cream, " . . . you can guess the rest."
The glare of headlights reflecting in the rear-view mirror made Richie close his eyes. The house with the red flowers, the house with the black shutters, and the house with the cat had their lights on. The target of Amanda’s shopping incursion did not. Richie loosened his seatbelt where it pressed on his queasy stomach and tried very hard not to think about food.
"Can’t you just change your plans and wear something else?" he asked her.
Amanda pursed her lips and gave a little tsk-tsk sound. "Maxim Number Twelve: Never waver in your goals. Keep your eyes on the prize."
Richie swiveled his head carefully and looked behind them. "Amanda," he said in a relieved voice, "pull over. There’s a cop car behind us."
Amanda muttered an oath as she smoothly double-parked the Thunderbird in front of the house with the empty window boxes. A uniformed officer stepped out of his police cruiser and approached Amanda. She rolled down her window and brought out her sweetest smile.
"Ma’am," the officer began, "driver’s license, please. You’ve been circling this block for quite some time now."
Amanda gave a little sheepish shrug. "Officer, I left the house so quickly that I forgot my purse. I’m so sorry."
The officer bent down a bit to look at Richie, who opened his mouth and shut it again. "What are you doing here, ma’am?" he asked.
"I was looking for deer," Amanda said.
Richie stared open mouthed. The officer’s eyebrows knit as he asked, "Deer?"
Amanda blinked innocently. "Yes, you see, this is my cousin, and he’s not from here, and they don’t have deer where they come from, and I thought that I might see some if I drove past the park a few times." Richie could hear her voice sweeten. "Do you know where I can find some deer, officer?"
The policeman indicated Richie, "Where is he from?"
"France," Amanda informed him, "and they don’t have any deer in France anymore." She turned to Richie, eyes pleading, "Dis quelque chose en français, Richard." She let the sounds of the letter r roll around pleasingly at the back of her throat.
Richie complied, "Quelque chose en français."
Amanda’s eyes widened dangerously.
Richie added, "Passez-moi le buerre, Monsieur le policier."
The officer looked at Amanda. "Ma’am, I’ll have to ask you for your registration."
Amanda looked over the officer’s shoulder and saw a man and a woman enter the house with the empty window boxes. Her eyes narrowed momentarily, then she gave the officer a lovely smile and a little wrinkle of her nose and pushed Richie’s knees aside. The Immortal woman began scrabbling through the glove compartment. She hissed lightly through her teeth and whispered another oath, this time in French. She looked up at the officer and raised her eyebrows helplessly.
"May I please borrow your flashlight, officer?" she asked in a little-girl voice that Richie had never heard before.
Richie closed his eyes and shook his head as the police officer handed over his flashlight. After another minute of digging through the glove compartment, he interrupted her, "Ma’am, it’s all right. I won’t give you a citation this time, but you must move along."
"But what about the deer? Do you know where we can find some?" she asked. Richie stifled a choking sound at the back of his throat.
Richie began breathing again some moments later when the police cruiser led the Thunderbird into the park and up to the line of trees. The officer flashed his lights and pairs of green-gold orbs marked where a family of deer stood poised in the dark. Amanda thrust her arm out of the window and waved wildly.
"Say ‘merci’, Richie!" she cried merrily.
Richie sighed. "Let’s go home, Amanda. We can’t go back. Those people are home now, and the cop is probably going to go back to his rounds once your magic spell has broken."
Amanda gritted her teeth. "I want that dress, Richie."
Richie put on his own most charming and convincing smile. "Look, why don’t you just reverse the order of your perfect birthday evening? Forget about the dress and start off in the warm bubble bath with iced champagne and chocolate. If you get hungry later, you can always order in. Please, Amanda? I’ll call Lumière for you and cancel your reservation."
Amanda’s head bobbed gently from side to side as she considered. Conceding, she turned the car toward Gastown and MacLeod’s loft. As they neared the loft, Richie said smugly, "You know, Amanda, you’re not a very good example of Maxim Number Whatever: Never waver in your goals."
Amanda parked the Thunderbird and reached out to give Richie a pinch on the cheek. "No, darling, you’ve just encountered Maxim Number Thirty."
"Which is?" Richie asked.
"If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to be a horrible warning
MWC: The Road Not Taken
Posted By: sirenadabat <email@example.com>
Date: Thursday, 26 April 2001, at 8:52 p.m.
Jennifer She took the alternate route, instead of the highway reasoning it would be less crowded, thus making her less nervous.
She absolutely hated driving at night.
Tonight it was a necessity. Her brown eyes focused on the road ahead of her and she prayed she would arrive safely.
It wasn't that she was an inexperienced driver, but her vision at night wasn't what it should be. She pushed the sliding glasses back up her nose. Her doctor had prescribed them just for this purpose and although she was grateful, it would have been a good excuse not to be put on the night shift.
Ever since she'd started working at the Midnight Star, she had dreaded the time when she would be asked to change schedules. But this was part of her assignment. Unfortunately, the time had come yesterday, when Maria had asked her...begged her to change for one night.
So here she was on her way to work to the most popular hangouts for the thirty-something crowd. 'At least tipping is better on this shift,' she thought. She glanced at the clock and saw she was right on schedule.
Duncan MacLeod humored Methos by agreeing to go to the Midnight Star. He heard of the place from Joe, who seemed to think it was his competition.
He agreed to accompany Methos to check it out. They drove off the exit and turned right onto the nearly deserted road that would lead them to the club. 'A short cut,' the old guy had said.
"Be careful up there MacLeod," Methos said. "Seems there's a drunk driver up there."
The car was a few yards ahead of them, swerving left and right between the two lanes. As he drove closer, he realized the car wasn't intentionally serving. Another car, an SUV with its lights off, was bumping into the first car, trying to drive it off the road.
"Just keep going MacLeod," Methos said. "Doesn't concern us."
"The hell it does," he replied. He drove faster to get closer to
the vehicles when he saw the SUV slam into the small car causing it to flip
Jennifer hadn't seen the car coming onto the highway. She'd unintentionally cut him off and all of a sudden the guy was on her tail. First, he bumped her from behind, then had cut her off. Quickly memorizing his plate, she rattled it off over and over.
When she had refused to look at him, he had turned off his headlights and driven beside her, trying to get her off the road.
Fear coursed through her. She knew she shouldn't stop. The maniac could have a gun or a knife. It had been an accident. She hadn't seen him getting on the highway.
Tears started to roll down her face. "This isn't happening!" With each bump she felt her car giving out on her. It was twelve years old, a clunker, but it got her from point A to point B. Now, she had wished she had a new one...a big, tractor trailer, so she could kick the SUV's butt.
She looked in her rearview mirror and saw another car approaching and prayed it was an unmarked police car come to her rescue.
Glancing at the driver, she saw him give her the finger before he slammed her car with such force that it caused it to rollover. The shock to her body was intense as she felt herself pulled against the seatbelt. The pain was unbearable. She knew she was going to die and all because of someone's lack of control on the road.
Closing her eyes, she felt the pull of death and embraced it.
--------------------------------------------------"Damn it!" MacLeod cried. "Did you get that license number?"
"Sorry," Methos shrugged.
"Help me get the driver out," Duncan said, running to the overturned car.
"Wait," Methos said.
Duncan paused and swore under his breath.
"Hey, at least she's not dead."
"Not anymore." He approached the and saw her in the car. Her dark auburn hair matted with blood. Whimpers reached his ears and he went into action. Reaching inside the broken window he pulled her out until she was on the ground, her head resting on his lap.
"You won't need 911," Methos said.
"Pl..pl..please..I don't want to die," she begged. Funny, the pain seems to be going away.'
"Shh, it's all right," MacLeod said. He could all ready see the cuts on her face healing.
"Please," she whimpered.
"You'll live. Come on. I'll tell you all about your new life," he said, helping her up.
With every step, Jennifer felt stronger. The only thing that really bothered her was her head. An incessant buzzing sound seemed to be whirling around in it.
"We'll take care of it later. We need to talk about a few things."
"I don't understand," she said, looking into eyes as dark as her own. "I should be dead. I did die. I'm sure of it."
"You died and came back," said Methos. "You're Immortal..."
She cast her eyes downward.
"Adam.." Duncan said. He hated Methos' nonchalance attitude toward new Immortals.
"All right, all right. Drop me off at the club and you can take care of this."
"Fine." MacLeod helped Jennifer into the car. "Don't worry, you'll understand once I explain. Trust me."
"I do," she said.
As they drove in silence, Jennifer understood what had occurred. She'd go through the faked emotions of letting him explain. But she already knew. She eased the bloodied sleeve over her wrist, so they wouldn't see the tattoo. In her mind she was already planning her revenge on the road rage maniac. It would be easy to find him. All she had to do was use the Watcher database and punch in his license plate.
He would know soon enough about road rage.
MWC: The Tortoise and The Hares
Posted By: Daire
Date: Thursday, 26 April 2001, at 2:49 p.m.
It was madness. Sheer madness. What had he been thinking to get involved? But, oh, MacLeod had near blackmailed him into submission.
And now he was on an impossible mission of finding Amanda a birthday present. Methos would have taken the first flight out of Seacouver and dropped her a card. Instead, MacLeod had him by the neck, not letting him squirm away. Something about having Amanda surrounded by friends after what had happened with that Nick Wolfe person. Methos wasn’t one to get all warm and fuzzy, and didn’t want to start now. Only Alexa had had that privilege in recent years.
Besides, what does a person get a 1,200-year-old Immortal who either has what she wants, or will steal what she doesn’t already have? MacLeod had hinted towards diamonds and jewels, but Methos thought that was too personal a gift to come from him. Therefore, he had no clue what to get the minx.
Not that it looked like he would get anywhere near the mall without driving back to his apartment and walking back. He’d been trolling the parking lot for at least forty-five minutes just looking for a free space. Or, at least, someone walking towards their car getting ready to leave. Which wasn’t going to happen if everyone kept heading towards the mall.
Methos liked the times when people rode horses and there were no large lots for parking. You tied up your horse or wagon and could walk around town because it was never more than a few “blocks”, unless you were in a larger city or town.
These days, one thing you needed was on one side of town, another in the opposite direction. Where was the convenience in that? At least cars were faster than horses.
He was about to give up when he saw someone’s reverse lights come on. They were two rows over and the closest cars were himself and the one coming towards him.
Methos started speeding up seconds before the other driver saw the departing car. The other car sped up as well. The race was on, and Methos was in the lead.
He wished his car were high enough that he could go over the sections of grass and shrubs like in the SUV commercial. Then he’d be waiting for that spot in no time.
Survival instincts kicked in. It was park or roam. And he wanted to park, get his shopping done, and get the bloody hell out of there. Absently, he wondered why the mall was so crowded in the middle of the day during the week.
Methos neared the end of the aisle and slowed enough that he wouldn’t go skidding sideways as he turned. Looking both ways, there was – miraculously – no one coming and he turned into the next row. In his rear view mirror, his opponent had still yet to reach the end, but didn’t have far to go either.
Coming out of the turn, he sped up again. The vacating car passed him, but gave it no notice.
Another car had entered the race, though moving more like the tortoise than the hares.
To top it off, the tortoise already had their turn signal on for the empty space. Methos couldn’t believe it. The other driver had to have come out of thin air.
He slowed and stopped, allowing the car to pull into the space. As it did, he got a look at the driver – a little old grey-haired woman.
His mouth dropped open. “Of all the bloody....”
When his opponent reached the scene, his mouth dropped as well and looked at Methos, who shrugged, still in disbelief.
Pulling his cell phone out, Methos punched in a number, and when he got his agent he told her, “Book me on the next flight to China.”
Amanda would just have to do with a card. It was the thought that counted anyway.
MWC: Road Rage: Horseman Style
This is a bit of a "cheat," since what follows is actually an extract from one of the Highlander novels that Leah and I wrote ("The Lightning's Hand"). Leah asked me to post it, though, because it certainly is a moment of "road rage." ;-)
To set the scene somewhat: a valuable ancient sword has been stolen while on its way to a museum. There are many suspects, but inevitably, Methos suspects Cassandra, Cassandra suspects Methos, and so on. Duncan, Methos, Cassandra, Gwydion (an old friend of Cassandra's), Nicholas (Duncan's student) and, of course, some Watchers, have ended up in Scotland, where there are trying to find the thief and the sword. Cassandra and Methos are on a car trip to meet with someone who has claimed to have knowledge of the sword's whereabouts...
“Fine. Send me the bill,” Methos said sarcastically. He lapsed into silence. Presently, he started to whistle a tune as the wooded scenery rushed past.
“Stop that.” Cassandra frowned.
“Now what? I can’t even whistle?”
“It’s a tune by The Rascals. Coming from you, that’s an abomination.”
“Oh yes, I heard about your little activities in Haight-Ashbury. Spent a little time as a flower child, did you? Wear love beads and flash passersby the peace symbol? Smoke a little hemp?”
“You find that appalling, don’t you?” Cassandra purred. “I’m not sorry for anything that came out of it. For the first time in centuries, love and peace were fashionable.”
“Oh, I didn’t mind all that much. All that free love—”
Cassandra squeezed her eyes shut, obviously fighting the urge to lose her temper. “You do this to me because you’re bored, don’t you?”
“No, I think I do it because it’s fun.”
“So you still believe it’s amusing to embarrass and torment people.”
“Well, some people,” Methos admitted. “At least I’m not using sharp objects anymore.” He glanced in the rearview mirror. “Here’s a fool in a hurry.”
A black car had appeared behind them, traveling at a treacherous speed, given the terrain. It was now signaling to pass. Methos waved him around with one hand. The vehicle sped up and pulled alongside. When a moment or two went by with the two cars in this position, Methos frowned and turned his head to see what was going on.
There were four very large men in the vehicle racing along beside them. One was driving. Two were holding machetes and staring directly at the occupants of the Volvo with deadpan expressions. The fourth was aiming an automatic machine gun directly at Methos.
“BLOODY HELL!!!” Methos ducked, simultaneously reaching over to yank Cassandra downward by her long hair.
The driver’s side window blew out in an explosion of bullets, the hot metal passing mere inches over their heads. Methos felt shards of glass hit his scalp, gouging him with stinging cuts.
“What is it?! What—?” Cassandra yelled over the sound of screeching tires and loud gunshots. A violent impact jolted them seconds later.
Methos raised his head just in time to see the black car swerve again; it rammed hard against the side of the Volvo. “Someone’s trying to kill us!”
“What? I didn’t feel anyone—” She started to sit up to see for herself.
“They aren’t Immortals!” The strange car collided with the Volvo again in a loud screech of rubber and metal. Methos wrestled with the steering wheel, his eyes wide and mouth agape.
Cassandra squinted at the occupants of the other car. “They’ve got blades! They mean to kill us and take our heads off!”
“Thanks for the cheerleading,” Methos snapped, swerving the Volvo to avoid yet another impact. A spray of bullets whistled through the air, narrowly missing them and punching several holes in the body of the car. Methos stomped on the gas pedal, sending the Volvo hurtling ahead at top speed.
“You’ll get us both killed before they get the chance!” Cassandra howled as they took the next curve barely clinging to the side of the steep roadside.
Methos ignored her, his hands white-knuckled on the steering wheel as he fought to keep the vehicle from fishtailing. The other car had sped up and was giving chase only a few yards behind. They roared along at a terrifying pace, knocking over warning posts as they swung wide on the mountainous turns. Methos felt a cold sweat break out on his forehead. If they encountered another car coming in the opposite direction at their current pace, they were finished. Something wet was trickling down the side of his face and his back and reached with one hand to investigate. It came back covered in blood. The flying glass had left deep cuts on his exposed neck and head.
A violent jolt threw Methos forward into the steering wheel as they were rammed from behind by their pursuers. A sharp pain stabbed through his chest and he wondered briefly if he’d bruised or cracked a rib. There was scant time to think about the transitory pain. A broken rib wouldn’t be fatal; removal of his head with a machete would be.
The dark car managed to speed up and pull alongside again and another round of gunfire broke out, shattering the rear window of the Volvo. The Immortals ducked down again.
“Force him off the road!” Cassandra shouted.
“Who do you think I am, James Bloody Bond?!” Methos hollered back.
“Hardly! Bond wants to save the world, not his own sorry ass!”
“Now that’s becoming talk from a lady,” Methos shot back, hunching over the wheel and maneuvering desperately to stay on the road. “I don’t suppose you’ll complain if I save your sorry ass along with my own!”
The two vehicles skidded around another curve and were rapidly approaching a roadside pull-off. The black car’s occupants apparently saw this. With a loud crash of metal, they slammed their front bumper into the back of the Volvo one more time, forcing it towards the gravel strip. As they drew close, Cassandra and Methos realized in horror that they were being shoved towards what appeared to be a very steep cliff on the edge of a scenic overlook. With a violent curse, Methos mashed down on the brake, throwing the Volvo to a sudden stop in a shower of gravel and dust.
The black car kept going, then turned and executed a sharp turn that aimed it right for the side of the battered Volvo.
“He’s going to ram us!” Methos gasped. “Hang on!”
The black car impacted hard, shoving the Volvo several feet towards the edge of the cliff. Methos and Cassandra were tossed inside like pennies in a can. When the car couldn’t push them any further, it roared into reverse and backed up all the way to the road, still pointed directly at them. Methos grabbed frantically at the steering wheel, realizing they were going to be rammed again—and again—until they went over the side of that cliff. They would survive the fall, but they would find themselves helpless at the bottom, sitting ducks for the men with the automatic weapons…and the blades.
He hit the gas again, but the Volvo’s tires had apparently stuck in the gravel and spun uselessly, squealing their protest. Terror seized Methos as he watched the black car roar toward them again.
“Jump out! Get out of the car!” he ordered.
“Don’t be ridiculous! They’ll shoot us down like dogs!” Cassandra shouted back.
Cursing, Methos grabbed at his own door handle, only to discover that the repeated impacts with the black car had rendered it impossible to open. A moment later, the black car slammed into them, pushing them inexorably further towards the edge of the cliff. The Volvo stuck in the dirt again, and the black car backed up to get a running start for one last shove.
The world suddenly turned white in Methos’ vision and he went berserk.
With a savage snarl, he floored the gas pedal one more time and this time the wheels of the Volvo caught. The battered vehicle suddenly roared forward and missed being rammed again by the barest of margins. It skidded back to the road, but Methos did not seek escape. He was far, far beyond that. Wrenching the wheel and sending the Volvo into a screeching one hundred and eighty degree spin, he pointed the car right back at their tormentors, who had stopped just short of the cliff edge, barely saving themselves from going over the precipice.
Methos floored the gas pedal again and let loose with a bloodcurdling Bronze Age war cry, drowning out Cassandra’s scream of terror. The Volvo lunged forward and charged straight at their attackers. There was one momentary glimpse of astonished faces in the window of the black car before the collision. The impact sent the black car skidding the last few feet over the side of the cliff. It vanished as Methos hit the brakes.
There was a long, long moment before the awful sound of a prolonged crash echoed up from below, followed by the sound of bending metal and snapping trees. Then came silence.
Methos sat, steering wheel still clutched in his hands as the fury drained away and he fought to regain his breath through clenched teeth. The two Immortals stared out over the trees at the pretty scenic overlook for another moment. Birds began to chirp all around them, their song punctuated by pinging sounds as parts of the black car and loosened debris occasionally fell even further down the side of the mountain.
Presently, Cassandra cleared her throat and quietly asked, “Feel better now?”
Methos shook his head, light-lipped.
Without a word, he shifted into reverse and pulled away from the cliff, returning to the road.
Still stunned, Cassandra brushed broken glass off of her clothing and hair as they proceeded down the route as if nothing had happened.
“Did they shoot you?” she finally asked.
“What, the blood? No. Glass cuts. Already healed,” Methos wiped some of the gore from his hand on his coat, grimacing in distaste. Nothing bled like a head wound. They lapsed back into silence.
(You can read a little bit of what happens next at the link below!)
MWC: "Parking Lot Limbo"
For a man born among the unspoiled hills and cliffs of the Highlands, there was nothing as ugly, as unnatural, as flat out wrong as a parking lot. On his third circuit of the sterile field, MacLeod thought to himself that he had never had this much trouble finding a place to tie up a horse. A car suddenly appeared in front of him; tires screeched as he swerved to avoid a collision. That was another thing he hated about parking lots, no one bothered to follow even the most basic rules of the road.
As if answering his own thoughts, a much younger voice grumbled a complaint from the back seat. "Who's idea was this anyway? No one in their right mind goes to a Grand Opening; especially not for one of these Big Box stores."
"It could be worse; at least it's not a mall."
Amanda, perched in the passenger seat, whirled around, unable to decide which of the men to glare at first. "And what exactly is so terrible about a mall?"
"Nothing, dear." The response was automatic, a self-defense reflex. Unfortunately, it wasn't always successful.
"Don't you dear me; it's condescending. Besides, I can tell when you don't mean it." During this minor confrontation, a little foreign car zipped into a space Mac had been aiming toward. Amanda shrugged apologetically, looking about as sincere as he had sounded moments before. Richie couldn't keep himself from giggling, earning himself a double glare.
In one of her lightning quick mood swings, Amanda smiled, answering the original question; "This is Deb's first book-signing; I just thought we should be supportive." Even as she spoke the words, she remembered her earliest years, when it had taken all of Rebecca's persuasive skills to convince her that books were of any use whatsoever.
Duncan's frustration level was rising rapidly; "We can chat when we finally get out of this Limbo; until then, keep your eyes open for empty spots." Both passengers obediently began scanning the aisles. Time became fluid; an eternity seemed to pass before Richie gave a triumphant whoop, pointing into the distance. The excitement quickly crashed as they approached their mythical goal: "That's a Handicapped Spot!"
Richie gave a boneless shrug that was the specialty of young men; "We all have valid Death Certificates, how much more handicapped can you get?" He cringed under the weight of his mentor's dark gaze. "Kidding, Mac; I'm kidding. What happened to your sense of humor?" Amanda's muttered "You wouldn't believe it" was too low to be heard. Unfortunately, Duncan had lost some of his playfulness when Fitzcairn had jumped ship.
They were starting to get desperate. Eventually, they were forced into the oft-maligned procedure known as "Vulturing": circling an area waiting for a vehicle's brake lights to come on; or worse, actually following shoppers from the building all the way to their cars. Even those tactics were iffy at best, as they competed with much more experienced vultures. Twice they narrowly avoided collision when two cars raced for the prize of a mere few feet of open space. The Gathering seemed like child's play compared to this.
Through it all, Amanda maintained a serene, ladylike composure; either she was supremely confident that they would find the coveted piece of asphalt, or she simply found it beneath her dignity to worry about such things. Pulling down the visor mirror, she paused to check her makeup, perfect as always. She slipped on a pair of designer sunglasses, though the sun was not particularly bright. This was becoming quite boring; something needed to be done. As the classic car approached the bookstore entrance once again, a perfectly manicured finger thrust out; "There, that one. Turn now!"
Duncan turned quickly, catching sight of an open spot that seemed to be waiting just for them. "How did you do that?" Amanda's slim shoulders lifted in a move too graceful to be called a shrug; "Woman's Intuition." Mac muttered a comment about thieves having sharp eyes, swinging the classic car into place, an eternal limbo of fruitless circling finally coming to an end. As the wheels rolled to gentle stop, the lovely lady pulled a scarf from her purse, artfully wrapping the silk around her distinctive dark hair, although the day was not overly breezy. She waited patiently for one of the boys to open her door; after all, one needed to maintain appearances.
As the trio walked the last few feet to the entrance of the newly minted Chapters, Richie spoke up one more time. "So, anybody know what kind of book she's promoting?" Duncan frowned for an instant, but he hadn't even bothered to ask. Amanda turned to favor the boy with one of her liquid smiles, not even missing a step, "Oh, the usual." MacLeod pondered the full implication of that casual phrase as he opened the door. He saw the massive crowd; an instant later, he noticed the banner over the small table--Welcome to Chapters: featuring Debra Campbell, author of Journeys from the Highlands.
Time, which had stretched out to infinity out on the lot, seemed to hold its breath. One woman turned around by chance, saw the new arrivals. A soft gasp sighed from barely parted lips; the sound spread like a wave as all eyes focused upon them. "Run!" Duncan cried, pushing a surprised Richie aside as he retreated the way he came. Fans swarmed forward, shocked into a stampede by the unexpected sight of not one, but two Series stars. Meanwhile, unnoticed in her simple but elegant disguise, Amanda forged ahead against the current. Picking up a copy of the aforementioned book, the Lady Rogue found herself first in line at the author's table. "Silly boys, they should have known better!"