I do not own Highlander and the Characters of the Show. Panzer/Dawis and Rhysher Entertainment probably do not wish to own this story, either. Written for the RB challenge at the Cabbages & Kings forum and dedicated to the person who invented the Rat Button Bot.
Beta: Randy. Thank you! All still remaining errors are my own.
Rated M for adult concepts, innuendo and violence. Warnings for innuendo, violence and implied slash.
The Red Bottom Case
Duncan awoke to a pussy on his face. He shoved at her, trying to push her away, but without success. She persisted and proceeded to lick him, turning a deaf ear to his protests.
"Amanda! Stop it!" he groaned and finally managed to peel her off his chest. Growling, he sat up and set the Black Asian on the ground. She just purred and went on to stroke around his feet, bumping her head against his ankles.
He sighed and stood. Walking over to the kitchen part of the loft, he found the can opener and a can and filled her bowl. Setting the food onto the ground and watching her devour it, he shook his head. He had no idea why Methos had insisted to take in a stray, nor why his lover then decided to leave the newly acquired pet with him when he had to leave town for that latest study tour. He had to admit, though, that the name the old man had chosen for their new house-mate was fitting. She could be as insisting, curious and playful as her Immortal counterpart – and she had as much talent to get into places she was not supposed to get in, or to find trouble...
She looked like a pure-breed Bombay too, Methos has said. Except she wore no chip and no sign of a former human owner. For now, she had made Duncan's home her own and showed no intention to leave again. Again, just like her Immortal counterpart...
Duncan caught himself musing about his longtime friend and former on-time-off-time lover. How long had it been since Amanda's latest visit? She had seemed happy with her new student and lover; and for the first time, she had seemed ready to settle down. He wondered if she and Nick would be happy together.
The phone rang. Amanda-the-pet ducked herself and fled under a chair. Duncan sighed and walked over to the couch. It was six a.m. Methos would not call that early, even with the time difference. Who -
"Duncan, are you there? I need your help!"
Duncan looked at the phone with irritation. The bartender at the other end seemed very upset and pretty worn down, too. "What is it, Joe?" He swallowed, suddenly feeling a chill run down his spine. "Is Adam...?"
"Adam? No, nothing wrong with him at all. Amy did not tell me of any troubles," Joe said, distracted. "No, this is about one of our local Watchers here. Giselle. She is new on the job, fresh from the Watcher academy. Duncan, I need your help. She... vanished."
Duncan drew his brows together. "Joe..." He leaned himself against the kitchen counter. "I'm sorry you have lost one of your Watchers. But you know how I feel about getting entangled in Watcher business..."
Joe sounded desperate. "Yeah, yeah. I know the rules. But this is different. Duncan, Giselle is new in the field. She is completely green. First I was going to set her on you, but she insisted. She wanted a chance to prove herself, a chance to be useful. She made a fuss. And so I finally gave in and set her on Jack Midget. You know that he has recently moved to town?"
Duncan felt his eyes widen. "Midget? But Joe, that man is a killer and a fiend! How could you assign her to that..."
Joe Dawson's voice sounded tired and full of regret. "Yea, yea, tell me about it. We do not know hiom as a killer, though. He surely is a nasty bastard, but his records say that he is not a headhunter and not particularly dangerous to mortals. But now, Giselle is missing, and she has not called me back for over twenty-four hours. And I cannot reach her."
Duncan sighed. "Not dangerous to mortals? What about the girls who disappeared around him in the sixties? What about the murder cases linked to him? How could you assign a woman to that thug?"
"His involvement in those cases was never proven, MacLeod," Joe protested. But Duncan shook his head.
A crying girl; Jack Midget's nasty voice. The dirty backyard of a storage building. A body. And a challenge that was never met...
"He did it, Joe. I was there," he insisted. "Where did you say he stayed?"
Joe sighed. "He has opened a toy shop out in the suburbs. For adults. The Red Bottom Shop, it's called. I can give you directions. But the last time I have heard from Giselle, she had tracked him to another part of town – The Literacy Enhancement School in Union Street. I'd suggest you start out there."
Duncan found a pen and scribbled the address down. "What is Midget doing in a school?" he asked.
"I don't know. It seems he wanted to meet somebody there. Giselle said she was going to follow him. And now, she disappeared," Joe said. "The school is closed down at the moment – some kind of pest infestation, I think it was. It's bound to open in three weeks again, after pest control has done their job."
Duncan nodded. "Thank you, Joe. I will look into it."
Joe hesitated. "Duncan... be careful, will you? I don't want to have to tell the Old Man when he returns that you have lost your head."
Duncan sighed. "Always, Joe!" he promised and hung up.
He got ready and was out in record time. Time for some head hunting!
Duncan entered the school through the gymn. The back door gave way under his subtle pressure, and he got in without damaging the lock. He had thought briefly about simply trying the front entrance, but the big sign there warning off people that the school was closed and not to be entered due to safety issues – keep away children and pets! – had changed his mind. Besides, if he wanted to commit breaking-and-entering, however noble the cause, he'd better not attempt to do it in plain sight.
Apparently, the school had been abandoned in a hurry. Ropes, racks, horses, bucks, mats and other gymnastic equipment stood around as if it had been left right in the middle of an exercise. A cupboard had emptied its balls all over the floor. Yet the school seemed bereft of life. The halls felt empty; Duncan felt no immortal presence at the edge of his senses, and he could not make out any human, either.
Shaking his head he moved on, through the small corridor at the end of the gymn into the main building. It was a flat, long, one-story house. The sun was up and the air was hot and stale in the long floor; somewhere, he could hear the hum of flies. A sweet, faint smell of something rotting emanated from somewhere, yet he could not at once point out the source. Most of the class rooms and the storage rooms were closed. One door, though, in the middle of the floor, stood open.
Duncan entered the room with a sense of dread. He could see nothing wrong, though – the tables of the pupils were empty, although some of the chairs had toppled, and others stood in disarray. On the floor lay a few sheets of paper, heavily adorned with red marks. Duncan could not help himself; he picked one of the sheets up and skimmed it. It seemed to be a kind of essay.
He read a kind of dialog, something he could hardly decipher. At first, it seemed to be written in a kind of code:
"Pete: How r u?
Ted: gr8, uok?
Pete: r u comming 2 the FB game?
Ted: dk, when?
Ted: 4 real?
Ted: gr8, will be there. Slfn.
Pete: L8r! Ihlcus!"
The whole sheet had been crossed out with a red pen by a heavy hand and annotated with a big, glaring F and the remark: "No chat speech!"
Sporting a mild headache, Duncan placed the sheet back on the ground and moved on. There was an adjoining door at the back of the room, and from that direction he could hear the humming of more flies. Also, the smell got more intense, there. With a sense of dread, he entered the other room.
It was a storage room with shelves full of education materials. One one of the shelves he could see a carefully formed model of a male torso, complete with reproduction organs, one half left open to show how the organs inside the body were working. Penis and testicles were carefully formed and explained, as was the liver and the intestines. The female torso, complete with a cross-section of the vagina, the uterus and ovaries as well as one of the breasts, stood right beside it. The shelf held a few other models, of an eye, the inner workings of the ear and models of a hand and of some of the muscles, too.
Duncan swallowed. There were some things about the inner workings of the body you did not want to know in too much detail, even when you had some four hundred years under your belt. Yet this was not what caused the hard ball of ice that he felt forming in his stomach.
A few steps ahead, half hidden behind a table, he could see a human foot in a woman's sandal lying on the floor. And this foot was not a plastic model, and it seemed still attached to the body it belonged to. He had found Giselle, and it was evident why she had never called back after her last call to Joe that she was entering the school. She had never made it out of the building.
He took the two steps around the table to confirm it. The woman was dead. Somebody had killed her; Duncan could see the dried blood around her throat. The blue V of the Watcher tattoo at her wrist confirmed her identity to him.
Grimly, Duncan took out his cell phone and called Joe. He swore to himself that Midget would pay for this.
Duncan handed Joe a drink. "It wasn't your fault!"
Joe just stared into the golden liquid of the single malt. "Yes, it was. I am the one who assigned her to that thug, remember?" His face crumpled. "Should have known better. Should've said No. But nooo..."
"You did not know what Midget was capable of," Duncan tried. "You told me..."
Joe killed the whiskey in one gulp and handed the glass back for a refill. He made a face and showed off his wrist. "See that tattoo? Watcher, remember? I should have checked his chronicles more thoroughly. Thought since his involvement with any killings wasn't proven, he was a nasty thug, but harmless, otherwise. Thought if he had been guilty of the murder back then his watcher would have noticed."
He cursed. "Turns out his watcher back then had been Luc Goddard, who had been later fired for drinking on the job. A few years later, he died of liver failure, hooked on the bottle to the end. Chances are when Midget killed that girl back in the sixties, Goddard just slept his booze off."
Duncan shook his head. "Mary. That was her name. She came to me in tears, told me Midget had raped her, but he denied it. Told me she had invited him herself. I challenged him, but we were interrupted. He said he'd meet me at that storage building, but he wasn't there. Just the body of the girl."
He took a sip of his own drink. "I chased him through two States, Joe, but I could not find him. I finally gave up..."
Joe nodded. "Your chronicle just said he did not meet the challenge. Midget never got connected to the murder of that girl, nor to the cases of the other girls who went missing at the time. So, I thought..." He trailed off. "That damned bastard!" He killed the second shot.
Duncan drained his own glass. "Joe? What happens with Giselle's body? I did not call the police, because if I go after Midget..."
Joe set his glass aside. "Don't worry. I have arranged for someone go and find her. There will not be any connection to you," he said. "Duncan? Take that asshole's head for me, okay?"
Duncan nodded. "I will, Joe. Jack Midget will not kill another girl, ever again. I shall make sure of that."
When Duncan came back to the Dojo, he felt the warning tingle of Immortal presence. The door was open, although he had made sure to close it off. He entered carefully, sword drawn. The door to the stairway to the loft was open, too. But he did not focus on that, yet; what caught his attention was the man rifling through his papers in his office at the backside of the gymn. It was not Methos – the signature was strange, and Duncan had learned to recognize the presence of his lover anywhere.
The man in the office rose and stepped through the open glass doors. Duncan cursed. "Midget? What are you doing here?"
The other immortal did not even draw his sword. "Stay outta ma business, MacLeod!"
Duncan came carefully closer, shooting a glance through the glass windows at his toppled desktop behind the door. The office was a mess. "Seems as if you did a bad job at staying out of mine. What do you want, Midget?"
"Friend called me, told me ya're snoopin after me," Midget growled. "Have never done nuthin to deserve that. Don't need ya snoopin."
Duncan sized the other man up and tried to gauge his chances. Midget was tall and slim, but seemed not very trained. He seemed unkempt and dirty, just as he had been back in the sixties when Duncan had met him first. His language had not improved, either. Duncan could see no weapon on him, but that did not mean there was none.
He raised his sword. "Too late, Midget. You killed that girl. The woman at the school, remember? You killed her, and you killed Mary, and you will pay for both of them now with your head!"
Midget seemed genuinely puzzled. "What girl? I dunna know of any girl, MacLeod! I dunna do business with girls, anymore – that's syndicated business. I just sell pics and toys. Is this a challenge?"
Duncan dismissed his denial in an instant. "You bet," he said, stepping closer and falling into battle stance. He did not really care for fighting a challenge in his own loft, but then Midget had broken in. He could claim self-defense...
The other Immortal still did not produce a sword, but reached into his pocket. A gun! Duncan cursed and prepared to close in before Midget had time to draw, when he heard the door of the Dojo opening behind him,m and a shriek. "Oh, my God..."
Midget froze. So did Duncan. He took a step back so he could look at the door.
A number of girls in training outfits stood there and stared at them. Duncan cursed. Damn! The afternoon training session. He had completely forgotten...
"Uh, shall we call the police, Mr. MacLeod?" the oldest girl asked, picking out her cell phone.
Duncan gritted his teeth. He was all too aware of Midget's hand still residing in his coat pocket. If he decided to shoot...
"No, there is no need. Just a misunderstanding. My... guest just wanted to go," he said.
Midget bared his teeth. "Clever of ya," he growled under his breath, "woulda be a pity if sumthin happened to the little missies, wouldn't it?"
He grabbed the bag behind him off the floor and walked out. The girls in the door gave him a wide berth. When Midget was nearly out, Duncan started – had he heard a noise coming from the bag? But the doors clapped shut behind the other Immortal, and he wasn't sure. Moments later, he heard a car drive off and the intense feeling of Immortal presence vanished from his mind. Midget was gone.
Duncan set his sword away. The girls stared at him, perplexed. He gave them a forced smile. "I am sorry, Miss, but the training session of today is cancelled," he said. "Something came up. I call you to tell you when the lesson will be rescheduled."
It took him the rest of the afternoon to clean out his office and check the loft for any stolen items. There seemed to be nothing missing, with one exception.
When he got up the stairs into the loft, there was no black ball of fur weaving around his legs and bumping her head against his calves. Amanda was gone.
Without her, the loft already felt decidedly empty.
It was Dusk already when Duncan set out to confront Midget. The part of town where Midget's shop resided seemed silent and deserted at this hour. There were some early bats out on the hunt between the storage buildings at the side of the lane, but otherwise, Duncan could hardly spy a sign of life.
He stopped at a wide, deserted place in front of a big shopping mall, only a block away from his destination. Usually, this was a thriving place, with shops offering clothes, groceries and sport articles; in front of the mall was a little entertainment show for kids and families with animated figures of fairy tales and glass boxes with glittering balls and other trinkets. Duncan had seen boxes like that before - the kids could grapple for toys with a metal arm after inserting a coin, usually without much success. Today, however, the mall was closed and the entertainment show stood closed and silent. Bereft of kids, it emanated a forlorn atmosphere.
Duncan stopped a moment in front of the figures of one of the Fairy tales - the Town Musicians of Bremen, if he recalled correctly. The cock on top and the ass at the bottom of the figure were especially well formed, and a little box at the side offered to have the figures move and scream if one inserted a coin. Duncan admired the finely crafted shapes, then he shrugged and glanced at the flyer Joe had given him. This was an add for another kind of toys. A fat line of XXX, together with glaring letters advertising magazines, x-rated pictures and movies, and "Evrything ya need fer yer games" and shots of women posing to show off their legs let little doubt of the content, even though they did not speak much for Midget's grasp of the English language.
But the address was clearly spelled and gave him directions. Duncan looked around, got his bearings and made his way to meet Midget.
The shop seemed deserted, just like the whole street seemed bereft of human life. He could not see anybody around, but he clearly felt the ring of an immortal presence. Carefully, Katana drawn and ready, Duncan entered the shop.
He heard the click of the gun just in time to dive behind a corner into a side room. The bullets hit over his head. "That is against the rules!" he called out.
"Fuck the rules!" Midget answered with another salve. Duncan rolled and changed his position, crashing into one of the shelves that gave way under the assault. Several of the items it had held rained down on him, including interestingly formed staffs, tubes and packets. Another salve, and he groaned when one of the bullets hit his shoulder. He hissed. Immortal healing already at work, he grit his teeth and crouched, carefully looking around. He saw some beaver magazines, a poster with a quite explicit picture, a narrow corridor between two shelves, and the edge of the counter where the bullets had come from. Even as he watched, Midget rose up behind it and fired another salve at him.
Duncan pressed himself against the wall and groped around for something to throw. His groping hand encountered a hard, metallic ball. He did not wish to guess what this was supposed to be used for. But at the moment...
He lifted the ball from the ground and gave another of the items that lay splattered around him a gentle push.
Sure enough, another rain of bullets answered him. Midget rose behind his protective counter just enough, and Duncan threw the ball with verve at him. The ball hit Midget in the head, and Duncan heard a curse, but Midget did not lose his weapon. Instead, Duncan had to dive back when even more bullets shredded the shelves around him – followed by a click and a curse.
This was all the cue Duncan needed. Jumping up and crossing the few steps to the counter in a heartbeat, his sword hit Midget at the arm and the gun sailed away into the back of the shop. Midget cursed and drew his sword. He managed to avoid Duncan's stroke aiming at his neck and deflected the next stroke rather awkwardly, sweeping more items from the shelves behind him. But it was clear he was no great swordsman. Duncan's next stroke found and opening and hit his side, and he screamed.
Duncan poised himself with raised Katana to end it. But when he took a step back to get more room to strike, one of the objects swept of the shelves gave way under his shoe. He fell backward, barely blocking Midget's stab at his chest. There was not enough room for him to roll. His opponent grinned and jumped over the counter. Helplessly, Duncan watched him raise his sword for the final blow.
Then, suddenly, a black furry object landed in Midget's face with an enraged hiss, and he screamed. The man yowled and tore at the animal in his face, but he was not successful. Finally, he had managed to peel her off – and stared astonished at the two feet of cold steel impaling him.
Duncan drew back his sword and raised it high. "There can be only One!" were the last words Midget heard before the Katana deprived him of his head.
Duncan had no time to look for Amanda before the Quickening hit him. The energy storm was like a screaming orgasm in his head, setting his nerves on fire, filling his veins, making his nerves explode. Around him, the glass of the shelves shattered, followed by the big shop window at the front. He screamed as feathers, staffs and other paraphernalia rained down from the shelves around him and caught fire. The magazines and movie discs started to burn, and within minutes, the whole shop was filed by smoke. With his last strength, Duncan dived to the door and made it out of the inferno. He heard a mewing noise and bent down to retrieve the limping cat that had just saved his life. Quickly, he run away just to stop startled at a loud noise coming from the plaza in front of the mall. Reaching the place, he found that some tendrils of the Quickening apparently had managed to set the figurines off, and the cock and ass were screaming their approval into the night together with their comrades. One of the glass boxes had been shattered and emptied its balls on the plaza floor. Shaking his head, Duncan cradled Amanda to his chest and took the fastest possible way home.
"Let's begin again. You were annoyed at Midget, after he broke into your office yesterday. You closed the Dojo down, you followed him, you killed him with a sword and then you set his shop aflame. You went home and cleared away the evidence. Wasn't it that way? Admit it! You just could not stand that he had visited you there, in front of all your students. A man like him, with his bad reputation! So yo decided to take him out! Wasn't that what happened, MacLeod? Admit it!"
Duncan sighed. "No," he said.
"Yes, it was! You were there, yesterday, weren't you? You came to his shop after he had closeed down, you took that sword your students saw you with, and you cut off his head. Then you burned down his shop. Confess, MacLeod. If you confess, we may offer you a deal!"
"I cannot confess what I did not do."
"Then what did you do?"
"What did Midget want at your office, yesterday?"
Duncan shook his head. "I have no idea."
"Then why did you draw a sword at him?"
"It is a Dojo. I was training," Duncan said. "I am a teacher of martial arts, after all."
"And just by coincidence, Midget has been killed with a sword," the officer said.
Duncan shrugged again. "That's what you told me," he replied neutrally.
"Okay, let's start again. Where were you yesterday between six p.m. and 2. a.m.?"
"I was at Joe's home, playing a game of poker," Duncan answered. "I told you that, already."
"The whole time? Come on, MacLeod..."
Duncan sighed. He was grateful that Joe and his staff had agreed to provide him with a waterproof alibi, if one should be needed. "As I told you already, officer, I stayed there the whole time. The poker round takes place regularly. It had been planned for weeks. You can check that."
"We will. Now, tell me about that game. What happened?"
Duncan was just about to start recounting the whole game again, for the third time, when the door opened and his lawyer entered. "That is quite enough, officer. Mr. MacLeod will answer no more questions."
The officer looked up at him. "And who are you?"
The man raised a brow. "Ralph Philippine. His lawyer," he replied. "Do you have a court order for the arrest? No?"
The officer gritted his teeth. "So far, this is just a questioning," he said. "Mr. MacLeod was seen yesterday in a violent display with the victim. He is a suspect."
"Did you arrest him or not?"
"So far, we didn't," the officer replied.
The lawyer nodded. "Very well. In that case, we are no going. If you have anything else, please call. Mr. MacLeod?"
Duncan rose. He nodded to the officer and followed the lawyer out.
"MacLeod!" the officer bellowed. "Don't leave town. And if we find anything on that sword of yours..."
Duncan nodded, received a receipt for his Katana and left the office. He was grateful, too, that Methos had provided him with that chemical one could use to find even the last hidden remains of blood on the blade and grip, or on the clothes, so he had been able to make sure last night to cleanse it. In fact, he assumed that the Katana had never been so clean and free of any particles of blood before.
Outside, he thanked the lawyer and went off to Joe's to retrieve Amanda.
Joe made a face like a rainstorm.
Duncan helped himself to a drink. "Hey Joe! What is the matter? It went well. They will even give me back the Katana in a few weeks. And Midget will not kill any more of your people," he said. "So, why do you look as if you lost the bar?"
Joe Dawson did not laugh. "It's Midget," he said. "Midget is the matter, MacLeod. You know the police found the body of Giselle, yesterday? Well, they arrested the Janitor of the school for the deed. He confessed."
He looked grim. "It looks as if Midget was innocent, after all."
Duncan made a face. "Perhaps innocent now," he said. "But I am still sure he killed Mary. And it was high time he paid for that." He sat down in a chair. Joe scowled, and Duncan looked down and started to brood. "He said he was innocent..."
Then Amanda came out behind the counter of the bar, went over to MacLeod, bumped her head against his calves and purred as he lifted her up from the ground into his lap, where she contentedly settled in for a nap.
Somehow, the world just looked a little more peaceful again.
- The End -