The Howl Nine Yards
The Holy Ground Highlander Forum Midweek Challenge
Archivist’s Note: The stories and vignettes offered here from various 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
The Littlest Boyscout by Ghost Cat
MID-WEEK CHALLENGE: THE HOWL NINE YARDS
Your challenge, should you decide to participate:
Write a short story or scene involving one or more HIGHLANDER characters (immortal or otherwise) and a highly unruly child in a public place.
Remember to put "MWC" in the subject line of your posting if you wish to have your entry archived.
MWC (finally): "The Littlest Boyscout"
The first rule that every Watcher learns is not to be noticed. But the keenest eyes of all are the ones that are most often overlooked. And once you attract the attention of the curious, it is hard to turn that attention elsewhere.
Paris seemed dark and dreary as Joe Dawson made his first preliminary notes on a very difficult report. He walked the quays of the Seine, contemplating a woman’s death… and a man’s rebirth. Of all the trials that his subject had been through, this had to be the worst; no wonder MacLeod had retreated to familiar ground. Suddenly, the Watcher’s brooding thoughts were interrupted by a small voice, high-pitched but very clear, “Mama, that man is talking to himself.”
Dawson turned toward the sound, and caught the gaze of a stubbornly curious little boy. He held his ground determinedly as his overworked mother tried to pull him away. “Joseph, don’t be rude. That man is talking into a machine. He’s probably a very important American, and doesn’t need to be bothered by foolish French boys.” She gave the old man a helpless shrug and a harried look of apology before continuing on her way. In the distance, Dawson heard a groan that transcended all cultural barriers, “Ah, Ma!”
Dawson had almost forgotten about the whole thing until he heard that same voice again: “Are you a spy?” The Watcher looked down into a pair of pale-green, too curious eyes. “Won’t your mother be looking for you?”
The boy was not discouraged. “My mother is shopping; running very boring errands. Very often I go on my own. “ There was a look in the small boy’s eyes; a hopeful, half despairing quest for excitement. “Anton, who watches all the American films, likes to talk about spies.” He frowned, his expression serious and appraising. “You do not look like a spy. You look like someone’s grandfather.”
Dawson smiled at the boy, despite an inward sigh. He had forgotten how perceptive young minds could be, or how insatiably curious. “What’s your name?” He had heard the mother use it before, but he wanted to turn the boy’s thoughts elsewhere. The boy drew back a bit, wary as only a street urchin could be; deciding an old man with a cane could not be dangerous, he stood his ground. “Joseph,” he said solemnly.
The Watcher broke into a smile that seemed quite grandfatherly. He shifted his weight carefully to offer a hand. “A very good name indeed. I should know, it’s my name too. Most people call me Joe.”
Young Joseph grew suddenly suspicious, ignoring the proffered hand. “You know,” he began thoughtfully, “a very clever spy, one who did not want to reveal his true name, could easily claim to have the name of the one who asked.” Another shrewd, measuring gaze; “Perhaps Anton is wrong. Perhaps all the best spies look like grandfathers.”
This was turning out almost as bad as when MacLeod himself had caught him. Dawson didn’t remember kids being this smart in his day. He countered the accusation with calm logic. “Ah, but you didn’t ask me my name, did you? I volunteered the information. A spy wouldn’t do that, now, would he?” The only answer was a pout and a very adult sounding harumph before the youngster disappeared. A quick glance revealed him still nearby, chasing gulls on the piers.
The Watcher’s respite didn’t last long; the boy quickly grew bored teasing the birds and returned to his previous entertainment. “You’re watching la Nobile, aren’t you?” Dawson merely shrugged; “Maybe.”
The boy suddenly looked very concerned indeed, glancing warily toward the black barge at its dock. “You should be careful. Mr. Nobile always knows when he is being watched. Sometimes he laughs and chases you away.” (There was no doubt in Dawson’s mind that the “you” was in fact “me.”) “But sometimes he gets very angry.” Little Joseph sighed deeply. “I wish the artist lady were here. Mr. Nobile is always in a better mood when she is around.”
Training told him to deny any knowledge of his subject, but the old Watcher was starting to feel a kinship with this little man. The words came out in a rush; “She won’t be coming back.” To his surprise, the boy looked up hopefully at this. “He took her to America, didn’t he? Mr. Nobile discovered her, and took her to America, and she became famous, and that’s why she isn’t coming back.” Joe’s hand clenched around the smooth wood of his cane; oh, to be that young and optimistic again! “Yeah, kid. Something like that.”
The two stood together in companionable silence; but even this shared moment couldn’t completely dispel the young boy’s suspicions. “You aren’t with the gendarmes, are you? Mr. Nobile does not like them. The inspectors come and bother him a lot; asking him questions. But he is very good at answering questions without really saying anything. That’s what my uncle says anyway.”
The old man chuckled softly at the boy’s persistence, deciding it deserved a small reward at last. "No, I’m not a police inspector, and I’m not a spy. I’m… a writer. Of sorts.” Green eyes gleamed; “Une Journaliste?” Here at last was some excitement; though privately he would not give up his suspicions that the old man was a spy. “If you want to know about Mr. Nobile, you should talk to my uncle; they are good friends. He knows that Mr. Nobile’s real name is MacLeod, and that he travels a lot. He could tell you stories about the strange visitors that sometimes come to la Nobile. Some of them are very nasty and dangerous men.”
Dawson shook his head, trying to hide a smile. “What’s your uncle’s name?” As if he didn’t already suspect. There was no hesitation or guile in the boy’s response; “Maurice, of course. If you don’t want to talk to him, though, I could help you. Mama says I notice things, and I’m very good at remembering.”
This time the Watcher couldn’t stop himself from laughing; the littlest boyscout, courteous, helpful and true. He tossed the boy a handful of sous; “You want to help? Go get me a cup of coffee; I’m freezing out here.”