New Arrivals
Author-Sue Kelley
Titles

Easier Said Than Done
Part One
by Sue Kelley

Summary: Blair and Jim meet a young runaway from Seacouver named Richie Ryan. Rated PG for violence and language.

Notes: A slightly different version of this story was first printed in Highland Blades 4.

The original version was beta read by Wendy Myers, Dawn Cunningham and Melanie Riley. Thanks a lot, ladies <G>. Also thanks to Judy Schultz and Sandra MacDonald for their help and encouragement. This story takes place during the first seasons of both series, immediately after the Highlander episode Free Fall and after The Sentinel episode Siege.

For the purposes of this story, Cascade, WA is located approximately 80 miles north of Seattle and Seacouver, WA is located 130 miles south of Seattle.

Disclaimer: The characters and concepts associated with the Highlander were created and are owned by Panzer-Davis and other people, not me. Likewise, the characters and concepts associated with The Sentinel were created and are owned by Pet Fly and various other entities, again, none of which I am. A few other characters you might recognize were at one time owned by Screen Gems and I assume still are. Everyone and everything else is my creation. I am making no money from this story and suing me would be an exercise in futility.

"Are you trying to tell me that we can't file a Missing Persons Report?"

Detective Leonard Powell of the Seacouver Police Department tried not to glower at the well-dressed couple sitting opposite him. The man, tall, well-built, with longish dark hair tied back, had asked the question. His face was completely expressionless, but something about the cold set of his dark eyes and the way his accent had deepened indicated he was angry.

No such subtle clues were needed to detect the emotional state of the willowy blonde woman with him. Anger and something else: fear? guilt? darkened her beautiful face as she snapped, "This is unbelievable! You are the police, are you not? You are supposed to look for missing people--"

"I didn't say we wouldn't look for him," Powell broke in. "Look, MacLeod, Ms. Noel, you can file a Missing Persons Report on Richie Ryan if you want to. All I'm saying is maybe it would be better to wait for a few days--"

"He has been gone for *five* days!" snapped the woman. "That is what you told us four days ago. Just how much longer do you suggest we wait, Detective? Until you retire so you won't have to be bothered looking for him?"

"Tessa," the man remonstrated quietly. His eyes never left Powell's face.

Powell took a deep breath and tried once more to reason with the couple. "Look. You've said nothing is missing from your house or your shop. Ryan is eighteen now. You told me last time you were in, you had some kind of disagreement with him." He didn't miss the quick glance the couple exchanged. "Maybe Richie is just lying low for a few days. Or maybe he decided to move on."

"Without his clothes? His paycheck?" the woman demanded.

"His CD player?" the man added, smiling briefly. His face became severe again. "I might have believed that the first few days, Detective, but not this long. Tessa is right. He would have come back for his things, at least."

"You've known him for what? A couple of months? I've known him for five years--"

"You've been arresting him for five years. We've lived with him. There's a difference," the man said flatly.

'Yeah, and I'd sure give a lot to know just why he was living with you. Why you'd take in the kid who tried to rob your store... You and Ryan come from completely different worlds,' the police detective thought.

Opening a drawer, Powell pulled out a blank form and filled in the date. "Okay, we'll file the report. But it's only fair to warn you, every cop in this city is out looking for whoever assassinated Senator Bolt. There's not going to be a lot of concern over one missing eighteen year old who in all likelihood left of his own free will."

** ** **

Tessa didn't say anything until after they had pulled up in the alley behind the building that housed both the antique shop and their living quarters. "The report won't do any good, will it?"

"It might," Duncan MacLeod answered, coming around to open her door. "If nothing else, if we hire a private detective that's the first thing they'll tell us to do. This way it's already done." He inserted his key into the lock and opened the door to reveal a small brick passageway. Tessa preceded him in the door and immediately turned to the left, then went up a short flight of stairs to the kitchen. Going directly to the refrigerator, she opened it with a look of desperate hope on her face.

MacLeod, seeing her face crumple, cursed under his breath. "It's still there?" he asked, knowing the answer. Tessa nodded and pulled out the plate holding the triple-layer chocolate-chocolate cake. Richie's favorite. If he'd come home, even if he'd just rushed in to gather his belongings, he would have grabbed a piece of the cake.

MacLeod went to the woman and wrapped his arms around her tightly. "Tessa," he said quietly, "this wasn't your fault, you know."

"I know, but-- Duncan, do you think Felicia found him? Do you think she--"

"No," MacLeod cut her off firmly. "That's not her way. She got Richie on that beach to serve as bait." He forced out the next words, "I'm not saying she *wouldn't* have killed him, but she would make damn sure I knew he was dead. Otherwise there would be no point."

Tessa nodded and buried her head in his shoulder. Duncan was glad she couldn't see his face. He couldn't tell her the whole truth. If Immortal Felicia Martins had sensed Richie was a pre-immortal--

'She didn't,' he tried to reassure himself. 'Not all of us can. And she never showed the slightest sign of noticing anything different about him-'

A noise startled both of them. It was the bell on the front door of the antique shop, but the "Closed" sign was in the window and any deliveries would have gone around to the back.

The bell jingled again. Tessa pulled away, her face lighting up. "Maybe it's Richie!" she said, leaving the room before MacLeod could remind her Richie had a key. Still he followed, in time to see her open the door to a rather portly man in a cheap suit.

MacLeod almost groaned aloud. "Commissioner Comanski. To what do we owe the pleasure?" he inquired sarcastically.

"Have you found Richie?" Tessa broke in.

"Richie Ryan? What do you mean, have I found him? Where is he?"

MacLeod sighed. "Richie has been missing for several days," he answered coldly. "We filed a Missing Persons Report on him this morning."

"Oh." Irv Comanski loosened his tie; he was sweating in spite of the fact the day was cool. "I hadn't heard. I'm sorry," he added belatedly at Tessa's glare. "No, I haven't seen Ryan since you brought him down to the morgue last week to identify--" he broke off and flushed uncomfortably.

"The missing corpse," Tessa finished for him. "By the way, did you ever find it?"

She knew they hadn't. The "corpse" had been Felicia Martins. Not two hours after Richie had returned from his fruitless trip to the morgue she had staggered into this shop covered in blood, setting in motion a chain of events that had led to Richie's disappearance.

Comanski ignored the question. "I'm investigating the murder of Senator Markham Bolt. You've heard about it?"

It would have been impossible *not* to have heard about it. The news had been full of little else for two days, since the popular politician had been discovered in an abandoned warehouse near Seacouver's Waterfront district with two bullets in his brain. Nearing the end of his first term in office, Bolt had recently received quite a bit of coverage for his anti-organized crime stance and it was widely assumed his death was the result of a gangland "hit". The Bolt family was wealthy and prominent in the state of Washington: having founded the city of Seattle in the early 1800s, and Markham Bolt himself had been very well-respected. His murder in Seacouver, 180 miles south of his home in Seattle, had served to focus unwanted attention on the town and its police force.

"You knew the gentleman, MacLeod?" Comanski asked.

Duncan shook his head. "I've done business with members of his family, his grandmother mostly but, as far as I know, I've never met him."

With the air of a conjurer Comanski whisked a plastic evidence bag out of his pocket and presented it to MacLeod. Inside was a receipt from the antique shop, dated three weeks previously, for a set of Venetian goblets. The handwriting was Tessa's. She spoke up, "I remember the sale, but I didn't pay much attention to the customer. I didn't recognize him."

"What's your point, Commissioner?" Duncan asked.

"Just that it seemed a little coincidental: this receipt in his pocket; his car found in a parking garage not a block from here and his body," Comanski said this last as triumphantly as if he'd proved something significant, "found in a warehouse less than fifty yards from one owned by a Duncan MacLeod."

Duncan raised his eyebrows. "That wasn't on the news. But coincidences do happen, Comanski."

"And they seem to happen a lot where you're concerned, Mr. MacLeod," Comanski said, pointedly stressing the "Mister". He looked back and forth between the two of them. "Are you sure neither one of you saw him Monday? He left his home in Seattle at ten that morning and the body was found around three a.m. Tuesday."

Tessa shook her head. "We didn't open the shop Monday at all." Duncan had driven around town trying to find Richie and Tessa had gone to the police station in the morning and spent the afternoon calling hospitals, shelters and what few of Richie's friends she knew about.

Comanski waited, but neither of them had anything else to say. He shrugged and turned to leave. "If anything does occur to you, you know how to contact me. Oh, and good luck finding the kid."

As soon as the door slammed behind the corpulent policeman, Duncan gently grabbed Tessa's hand. "Tess, when you've been looking for Richie, did you ever drive by the warehouse?"

She shook her head, eyes wide. "No, Duncan, I'm not even sure just where it is." Tessa had never been there. Although for tax purposes the old three-story building was used for storage of merchandise for the shop, in actuality MacLeod used it as a sparring ground, and more than once it had been an actual battleground.

"I never looked there either," MacLeod said, turning to run for the back door. "Damn! How could I have overlooked something so obvious?"

** ** **

Richie shivered in the cold wind. He pulled his jacket tighter about him as he crossed the street and entered the dingy diner.

The inside was bright with lights in contrast to the gloomy outdoors, where an approaching storm had darkened the late October sky. Richie glanced around the place. Cleaner than he would have expected from the outside. A long counter separated the dining area from the kitchen. It was quiet and almost empty; Richie had timed it well. Too late for lunch, but still a couple of hours from the dinner rush. Only one booth was occupied, a couple of guys sitting on the cracked green leather upholstery and talking to each other. The one facing the door looked up and Richie felt himself speared by pale blue eyes.

'Cop,' his instincts hissed.

Richie swallowed and thought about leaving, but the clawing in his stomach and the appetizing smell of food conspired to make him stay. He slid into a seat at the counter just as the swinging door opened and a middle-aged blond waitress wearing too much blue eye shadow came out carrying a tray of food. She caught sight of Richie. "Just make yourself comfortable," she greeted him, her smile a flash of white teeth surrounded by bright-pink lipstick. "I'll be right with you."

Richie nodded and pulled a menu from the metal clip that held it. His hands shook, both from the cold and from hunger. He'd had nothing since a package of Twinkies the day before. Mentally tabulating the money he had left he decided on beef stew, hot rolls and milk. He longed for a Coke or even better, a Dr. Pepper, but the milk would be more nutritious. Tessa would be proud of him.

'Don't think about Tessa. Don't think about Mac. Just another screw up in the long line of Richie Ryan disasters.'

The waitress stepped in front of him and plunked down a full coffee cup. The dark fluid smelled heavenly, but Richie protested, "I was going to get milk."

"Coffee's on the house," the waitress said easily. Up close she was older than she first appeared--closer to sixty than forty--but her face and voice were friendly. "You look like you could use something to warm you up." She looked pointedly at the jacket Richie still wore. "I can turn up the heat."

Richie stared at her, then felt himself flushing. "No...no, that's okay." He ordered quickly, then shrugged out of his jacket. Glancing around, he noticed the cop-type in the corner was looking right at him and he forced himself not to turn away hastily. For once in his life, the police had no reason to be after him. He caught sight of the other guy now and frowned at the long dark hair, the bright green shirt and paisley vest. 'Guy must be an informant or an undercover narcotics cop or something; those two are about as opposite as they can be!'

"Here you go, Hon." The waitress deposited a basket of hot rolls and containers of butter and honey in front of him. "Your beef stew will be up in a minute."

** ** **

"Jim, what are you staring at?"

"That kid that just came in," Detective Jim Ellison answered. Before he could stop him, the man sitting opposite had twisted around for a look.

"What about him?"

"I don't know... something about him seems... wrong."

Blair Sandburg looked at Jim's expression, an interested light flaring in his own deep blue eyes. "Wrong? What? Something that your senses tell you? Which one? Sight? Smell? Sound?--"

Jim held up a hand to stem the excited flow of words. "Easy, Sandburg. I'm not sure--" He shook his head. "I don't know."

"Concentrate, man," Blair Sandburg's voice changed, becoming deeper, soothing. "Think back, the door opens, the kid comes in--"

Jim closed his eyes, visualizing the scene as Blair spoke. "Not sight, not smell, sound!" He opened his eyes again, his expression triumphant. "His heartbeat. It jumped. " He frowned suddenly. "Just as he saw us." Eyes narrowed in suspicion, he looked over at the counter again.

Blair sipped his coffee, trying to hide the smile on his face. "Well, you can look a little menacing, you know. How's his heartbeat now?" Then, as Jim frowned even more and stared across the room, Blair reached across the table and lightly touched his arm. "Don't try so hard. Focus on him, but only focus your hearing."

Jim relaxed, letting the sounds around him in and then gradually eliminating them one by one until only one was left. After several seconds he shrugged. "Seems okay now," he commented, digging into his bowl of steaming chili smothered with cheddar cheese.

"Good," Blair answered automatically, his mind on his own thoughts. 'That's too slow, too cumbersome... he's got to be able to just focus without opening his senses to all stimuli...' He pulled his ever-present notebook out of his backpack and started scribbling notes. Ellison shook his head as he reached for the Tabasco sauce and added a careful three drops to his bowl. He tasted again, cautiously, then grinned widely and took another spoonful.

"Next time I'll get onions too," he muttered, mostly to himself. "Sure you aren't hungry, Sandburg? I'll even buy."

Blair shuddered, closing his notebook. "No thanks." He glanced around for the waitress and pointed at his coffee cup. "I'm glad food is starting to taste good to you again, but how can you eat *that* stuff? I hate to think of what your serum cholesterol must be."

"One-twenty-nine," Jim answered frankly, scraping the last of the chili from the bowl. He looked up as the waitress arrived with a fresh pot of coffee. "Miss? Another bowl, please?" He grinned at the startled expression on the younger man's face. "Exercise, Sandburg. You oughtta try it sometime, instead of chasing after all those coeds--"

The door banged open again, letting in another burst of cold air. Two young toughs entered, swaggering in ripped jeans and tight tee shirts. "Hey, chica," one of them bellowed at the waitress. "A little service here?"

"Just have a seat anywhere," she returned, disappearing into the kitchen. Instead of sitting down, the new customers stepped close to the cash register. The red-headed kid looked up from his stew, then looked away again, shifting in his seat. Something fell from his jacket pocket to the floor. Jim, focusing his sight automatically, noticed it was half of a used bus ticket.

**********************

Richie jumped when the door opened, looking around nervously. He relaxed. Tough guy wanna-be's. He knew the type. They'd try to buy cigarettes, hassle the waitress when she demanded ID, and generally make asses of themselves. They must not have noticed the big guy in the corner or they would have gone somewhere else to play their games.

The waitress flung the swinging door open, looked mildly surprised to see the two guys still standing there. "I said to have a seat."

"We don't want to eat here, Mamacita," the older and taller of the two drawled. "Just want a package of smokes." He tossed a crumpled five-dollar bill on the glass display case.

The woman stepped behind the cash register and looked at the two sharply. "Let me see some ID."

The kid staggered back in mock-chagrin. His friend sniggered, digging his hands deep into the pockets of his threadbare denim jacket. "Whatsamatter, mama, can't you see I'm of age? Just gimme the smokes."

The waitress rolled her eyes. "I am not your mama, Kid, and I'll be glad to sell you cigarettes once you show me you're over eighteen."

So far the scene was playing out the way Richie had imagined it, but now it took a horrific twist. The younger kid yanked his hands out of his pocket, the right one grasping a small black handgun. "Okay, bitch, keep the smokes, just give us all the cash in the drawer there."

"Jesse, whatcha doin' man?!" his partner half screamed, stepping back toward the door.

Richie heard a deep voice snap, "Police! Drop the gun!" The guy from the booth no doubt. 'I knew you were a cop,' he thought dizzily as he saw the kid's gun stop shaking and aim at the terrified waitress.

Richie exploded into action. He grabbed the heavy chromium napkin dispenser from the counter and hurled it directly at the kid's face, at the same time jumping from his seat and grabbing the hand that held the gun. The gun discharged harmlessly in the air, the waitress screamed, then Richie tightened his grip, forcing the gun down.

Out of the corner of his eye Richie saw the big guy approaching, his gun covering all of them. His long-haired friend was behind him, looking shocked and a little nervous. Richie changed his mind; the younger guy couldn't be a cop; maybe not an informant either; he sure looked as if this kind of thing didn't happen to him every day.

"Okay," Cop said, advancing very slowly. "It's over, guys. Hands up in the air, everybody!"

The older thug and the waitress both immediately raised their hands. Richie thought, 'Now this is typical. I'm trying to be a good guy and I'll probably get arrested for it!' He still had hold of the younger guy, but as he felt him relax, he started to let go.

"No way, pig!" the kid screamed, bringing his knee up. He missed Richie's groin, but still connected painfully with his thigh. Richie grunted in pain, but managed to grab the guy's arm again. They did a weird kind of two-step and then the kid pulled loose and shoved Richie as hard as he could. Richie staggered back, tried to regain his balance, then felt himself fall. His head connected hard with something and the last thing he remembered was a burst of white light behind his eyes and an explosion of pain. Then everything went very dark.

** ** **

"What is it about you, man?" Blair asked Jim as he knelt next to the red-head. "Do you just like, *attract* violence?"

Jim Ellison grinned cheerfully, securing the short kid's arms behind his back with his handcuffs. He only had the one pair but that was not a problem; the bigger kid was crouched by the door crying and repeating the Hail Mary in Spanish. He wasn't going anywhere. The waitress was still screaming, but now at the cook who had come running out to see what all the noise was about. Jim stuffed his prisoner into one of the booths and then stepped over to Sandburg. "How's the kid?"

"He's lucky that display case didn't shatter when he hit it, but he's still out cold. I don't know whether he fainted or what."

Jim frowned, his keen olfactory sense picking up a faint, familiar smell. Blood. He noticed a red smear on the sharp corner of the counter and dropped to one knee beside the kid and Blair, turning the kid's head very gently. "Damn. Looks like he hit his head." He bent over, one hand on the kid's throat, then straightened, pulling his cell phone from one pocket. "He's breathing okay, but his pulse is a little shocky. See if you can find some ID; I'll call an ambulance." One long arm snaked over and grabbed the kid's jacket. As Ellison tucked it closely around the boy's shoulders, he felt something hard and metallic in the pocket. It proved to be a key on a brown plastic ring with the words "Madison Motel" and a number 17 on it in scratched white paint. He frowned. "Madison Motel. That's a block or so from here, near the bus station." Remembering the piece of paper he'd seen fall to the floor earlier, Jim stepped over and picked it up. As he'd surmised it was a bus ticket, one way to Cascade from Seacouver.

Blair had managed to get the kid's wallet out of his pocket and was holding it as if he weren't sure what to do next. Jim took it from him, noticing almost absently that it looked new and fairly expensive. Inside was a driver's license in the name of Richard Ryan with a Seacouver address. The picture and description matched the kid on the floor. A little more exploration revealed a voter's registration card, sparkling white and new, a dog-eared Social Security card and a Blue Cross card, all belonging to Richard Ryan; thirty six dollars and change, a receipt from the Madison Motel made out to "Richie Smith" and some snapshots. Jim raised his eyebrows. The bus ticket and a false name on the hotel receipt could mean the young man was a runaway. He said as much out loud and Blair looked at him.

"How old is he?"

Jim had looked at the license, but hadn't paid much attention to the birthdate. He opened the wallet again. "Hmm. Well, he's eighteen, but just barely. His birthday was in September." He frowned, realizing that what at first looked like decorative stitching was in actually a hidden pocket with something stiff inside. "This is interesting," he commented, pulling out a gold MasterCard. "Issued from State Bank of Seacouver." He glanced up to see the look on Blair's face. "What is it?"

"It's just, I don't know, looking through his wallet seems a little nosy."

Jim stared at the younger man. "I'm a cop, Sandburg. He's an unconscious victim of a crime. What if he were a diabetic or something, or if he was allergic to some medication--?"

Blair held up a hand. "Okay, okay, I'm sorry, man. I just feel kind of-- funny about it."

"Well, don't. You didn't look through the wallet anyway, I did." Jim cocked his head, listening. "I think that's the ambulance now."

A faint moan caused both of them to look down. The kid's -- Richard Ryan's --eyelids were fluttering and he moaned again. After several seconds the eyes opened and he looked up at Blair. "Oh, my head."

Blair smiled. "Hurts, does it?" he asked.

"Don't try to move," Jim cautioned as the kid showed signs of wanting to get up. "There'll be an ambulance here in a minute to check you out."

Blue eyes, a little darker than Blair's, widened suddenly. "Ambulance? No, no way. I'm okay--" He started to sit up, only to fall back with a moan.

"Look, kid, Richard, I said don't move!" Jim put his hand on the kid's chest. "You just need to relax. Everything's going to be fine."

Ryan had his eyes closed tightly against the pain. Blair patted his shoulder reassuringly. "Listen to him. He used to be a medic. Besides, if you don't listen he'll just yell louder until you do."

"Funny, Sandburg." Without looking the Sentinel could tell the screeching tires outside belonged to a patrol car. "I'm going to take our would-be gunman over there outside. You stay here and don't let Richard move around." Blair nodded.

** ** **

Duncan had been gone for over an hour and Tessa was pacing back and forth, smoking one of her rare cigarettes and willing the cordless phone to ring.

She'd taken the "Closed" sign out of the window, hoping that business could provide a distraction; plus they'd been closed so much lately. Finally the jangling of the bell announced a customer and she turned in relief.

A man entered the shop. Tall, slender, early forties, with hair of an unusual silver blond color. He moved easily in a dark suit and a long overcoat that proclaimed Savile Row just by the cut and quality of the material. As he stepped near Tessa she caught the scent of expensive cologne.

"Can I help you?"

The man smiled, showing perfect white teeth. He was close enough now that she could see his eyes. Green eyes, with no warmth in them. Like polished agate.

"Dear lady. The pleasure would be mine, but I was looking for someone else." The voice was cultured, flavored with a faint accent that Tessa couldn't place. "I was in here a few days ago and a young man waited on me." He pulled a card out of his pocket and presented it to her with a faint inclination of the head.

Tessa's breath caught in her throat as she looked down at the card. "Richard H. Ryan". Richie had had the cards made up and he had been so proud of them that both Tessa and Duncan had refrained from teasing him.

Tears stung her eyes and she turned away quickly, blinking them away. "I'm sorry, Richie isn't here right now--" she stopped as something occurred to her. Turning, she looked at the man again. "When did you say you were here?"

The man shrugged. "A few days ago. The young man was showing me a certain item; I decided to purchase it and I want to make sure he gets the commission. When do you expect him back?"

Tessa felt her heart start to pound heavily. The man was staring at her as if he could see right through her. Then his head came up and he looked around with a wary expression on his face. The expectant look changed to something else and before she could react he had turned to the door. "Another time, dear lady," he said, flinging the door open and running across the street, mindless of traffic. She just caught a glimpse of the car he got in--- it was a new-looking Mercedes-- before the door to the living quarters slammed open and Duncan stalked into the room, sword drawn. He surveyed the shop in a glance, then, seeing she was alone, laid his sword down on one of the display cases and rushed to her side. "Who was it? Did he try to hurt you?"

"No, I'm fine. I've never seen him before," Tessa replied, burying herself gratefully in his arms. "Duncan, he was looking for Richie. He had this card and said that Richie had waited on him a couple of days ago."

MacLeod stared at the scrap of paper in a kind of dawning horror. "Damn."

"What?" Tessa pushed away from him and stared into his face. "Duncan, what's wrong?" Belatedly she remembered that he'd gone to the warehouse. "Did you find something?"

"Yes. Someone's been living there. They built a fire, and there were a couple of Dr. Pepper cans and some junk food wrappers about."

Tessa drew in a deep breath at the name of Richie's favorite drink. "You think it was Richie?"

MacLeod hesitated, then reluctantly pulled something out of his pocket. With horror Tessa saw it was identical to the business card the stranger had brought in. "Richie had some of those in his wallet," she breathed.

"I know."

"So if Richie was there when Senator Bolt was killed--"

"He may have seen something, heard something."

"And you think that this man, this Immortal that was here, was the killer?"

"It's possible. Tessa, what did he look like?"

Tessa described the Immortal as best she could, including the cold green eyes and the unusual hair, but Duncan shook his head. "He doesn't sound like anyone I've ever met," he said.

The anguished look on his face almost broke Tessa's heart. "But Richie must be all right! I mean, this man was here looking for him, so he must not know where he is either. Duncan, shouldn't we call the police?"

"I don't know. Tessa, he's an Immortal!"

"But if the police think that Richie may have seen something, they'll at least look for him! And if we give them a description of the man who came here--"

MacLeod frowned. Finally he said, "You're right. You call Comanski and tell him we might have some information for him."

"What are you going to do?"

"I'm going to see if I can track down Connor. Maybe he'll recognize an Immortal by that description."

**********************

Richie was terrified.

He did *not* want to go to a hospital. He wanted to get up and get out of here, to go back to the bus station and get as far away as thirty-six dollars would take him. But every time he tried to move, either the big cop guy or his long-haired friend would gently push him back down, or his own whirling head would do the job for them.

When the paramedics came in they didn't listen to him either. The big guy, whose name, it appeared, was Ellison, flashed his badge and from then on Richie might as well have been invisible. Well, not invisible exactly because all the activity centered around him, but *he* didn't have any say about it.

The dizziness and the roaring in his ears got so bad that he closed his eyes, just for a few seconds he thought, but when he opened them again they had started an IV with some clear liquid in a bag. The sight of that huge needle stabbed into the crook of his arm made him even more dizzy and he laid back again, vaguely surprised to discover he was lying on a stretcher.

The young guy with the long hair stayed beside him, talking to him, and when the paramedics picked up the stretcher to put it in the back of the ambulance, he climbed in and sat by Richie's head. One of the paramedics climbed in too, and then the ambulance started moving with a jolt. The movement and the wailing siren merged with the pounding in his head and he closed his eyes with a moan.

"Do you feel sick?" someone asked. He couldn't tell if it was the paramedic or the other man; he didn't know what he answered or even *if* he answered, but hands rolled him over on his side. Just in time, too, as his stomach picked that moment to expel everything in it.

When it was over Richie fell back against the flat pillow under his throbbing head. "Damn," he muttered weakly, feeling cold tears streaming down his face. "That cost me six bucks."

Somebody chuckled and he forced his eyes open to focus on a pair of very blue ones looking down at him. The guy from the diner. He was holding Richie's hand and Richie, oddly enough, felt grateful for it.

"Who are you?" he croaked out.

"My name is Blair. Blair Sandburg." He smiled. He had a very warm smile. Richie squinted at him, trying to figure something out. "How old are you?"

"Twenty-six," Blair answered promptly. "How old are you, Richard?"

"Richie," the teen-ager corrected, then froze, feeling terror shoot through him. "How'd you know my name?"

"It was in your wallet." Funny thing, the guy almost looked embarrassed. "Is there anybody you want me to call when we get to the hospital?"

"Mac..." Richie started, then he remembered and shut his eyes, trying to force back the tears. Not Mac, not Tessa. They wouldn't want to hear from him now, and it wasn't safe... 'It's not safe? Why not?'

"Mac who?" Blair asked insistently. "What's the phone number?"

Richie tried to shake his head, which was a mistake. He whimpered at the pain spiraling through his skull, closing his eyes tightly again. He heard voices, heard the word "hospital", and knew he had to get away. He had to run! But he was tied down and Blair was holding on to his hand and he couldn't get free. His stomach heaved again, and he knew he was going to be sick but then the blackness came and with a sob of relief he surrendered to it.

** ** **

Comanski wasn't at his desk. The young man Tessa spoke with on the phone said he would have the detective call her as soon as he returned. He asked what the call was in reference to and she hesitated, then simply stated she had found some information the Commissioner wanted.

Tessa made omelets, remembering that neither she nor Duncan had eaten lunch. MacLeod came out of his office and announced that his kinsman Connor didn't recognize her description of the Immortal either. Duncan poured two glasses of wine as Tessa served the omelets. They were just sitting down to the table when the phone rang. Tessa jumped.

"It might be Comanski," Duncan commented. Tessa nodded and reached for the receiver.

It wasn't Comanski. It was Powell, and his first words made her heart leap into her throat.

"There's been a response on the Missing Persons Report you filed."

** ** **

Blair Sandburg sat in the waiting area off the Emergency Room of Cascade General, clutching the coat and a plastic bag containing the effects of Richie Ryan. The ER nurse had come out with the stuff shortly after the gurney carrying the young man had disappeared around the corner. Blair was politely, but firmly, detoured to the waiting area and presented with a clipboard of paperwork to complete. He managed to fill out the top section using the information from Richie's driver's license, then handed the papers and the Blue Cross card to the ward clerk.

With bureaucracy satisfied for the moment, he went through Richie's wallet, taking out everything, looking for a phone number or anything that might indicate who "Mac" was. He had no success with the first quest, but hit paydirt on the second. One of the snapshots, that looked like it had been cut down from a larger picture, was of Richie sitting on what looked like a fallen log. A beautiful blonde woman was seated next to him and a tall man with dark hair stood behind them, a hand resting lightly on both of their shoulders. The man and woman were older than Richie, but they didn't look quite old enough to be his parents. Blair flipped the picture over. "Me. Mac and Tessa. On the Island," was written in surprisingly neat print, with very black ink. Blair sighed, then stuffed the picture back into the wallet. Pulling out the driver's license, he walked over to the nearest pay phone. Dialing long distance Information, he asked if there was a Seacouver listing for a Richie, Richard or R. Ryan, giving the street address on the license. He wasn't too surprised that there wasn't. Well, no real problem there; Jim could access the police department computer to find out the phone number that went with the license.

The nurse called his name and he looked up, then stood, gathering his coat and Richie's along with the bag containing the wallet, the motel key and another ring of keys. The nurse didn't say anything, but gestured for Blair to follow her. He did and found himself outside a curtained-off cubicle. A harried-looking doctor greeted him and said they were waiting on Radiology to come take some X-rays; that the young man was in and out of consciousness, in considerable pain and highly agitated. The doctor obviously assumed Blair was a relative, or at least a friend, and Blair didn't tell him any differently. He nodded agreement when the doctor asked him if he would be willing to try to calm the younger man down.

Richie's eyes were closed tightly when Blair slipped around the curtain into his cubicle. Dropping the coats in the corner, Blair came close to the bed, smiling at the nurse who was recording Richie's vitals. The IV was still going, there was an oxygen tube in his nose and a bank of monitors chirping, humming and beeping.

The nurse finished writing in the chart and patted Richie's hand. "Mr. Ryan, your friend is here." She said to Blair, "My name is Marcy. If you need me, just hit that red button there. Or yell, I'll hear you." Flashing a reassuring smile, she left, yanking the curtain closed behind her.

"Mac?" Richie asked hopefully. He cracked his eyes open and looked at Blair in confusion. "You're not Mac."

"No. I'm Blair. Remember me from the ambulance?"

Richie moved his head slightly, closing his eyes. "My head hurts," he moaned.

The doctor had told Blair they were reluctant to give the boy anything for the pain until they had an idea of what kind of injuries he had. Blair said, "I know it hurts. They're going to X-ray you soon and then they'll be able to figure out what to do." 'I hope,' he added to himself. Blair was not all that trusting of modern medical practices, preferring a more natural, holistic approach. He decided to see if he could get some information. "Richie? I tried to call your friend Mac, but I don't know his number. Can you tell me what it is?"

"Five three--" the boy started, then stopped. "Mac doesn't want to hear from me." Even groggy and filled with pain, there was no disguising the desolation in his voice.

"You sure about that? What about," Blair remembered the woman in the picture, "What about Tessa?"

Richie's eyes opened at that. "I hurt her."

"You did? How?"

The curtain jerked back and an orderly entered, pushing a portable X-ray machine, the doctor Blair had spoken to right behind. "Okay, Richie," the doctor said, faking a cheerful voice, "We're going to take some pictures and then we'll be able to dim the lights in here a little bit. That should ease your headache."

Blair started to step away from the bed and was surprised when Richie grabbed at his wrist. "Are you going to leave?" There was no mistaking the fear on his face.

"No, not if you don't want me to," Blair soothed. "I'm just going to step right outside and get out of the way, okay? But I'll be right there."

Richie held his eyes for a second and then nodded, laying back. Giving him a reassuring grin, Blair slipped out.

Jim Ellison was waiting for him. He had gone onto the station while Blair had accompanied Richie to the hospital, in order to do the arrest report. Glancing at his watch, Blair was surprised to note it was almost six p.m. He'd lost track of time sitting in the waiting room.

Ellison's normal poker face was creased with a cat-ate-the-cream look that Blair recognized as meaning the detective was immensely pleased about something. "Hi, Chief," Ellison smiled. "How's the kid?"

"Scared and in pain. I'm not sure how much he's aware of what's going on. What are you doing here?"

"Well, you need a ride home, don't you? Or were you planning to walk back to that demolition zone you live in?"

Blair hesitated. "Thanks, but I think I'll stay around for awhile." He rushed on, "Do you think maybe you could go back to the station and track down the phone number for Richie's address? I don't know if he lives with this 'Mac' person he asked for--"

"It's 'MacLeod' and yes, he does."

"What?" Blair stared at Jim, whose smug look deepened.

"After I got the juvenile delinquents booked, I called Len Powell. He's a detective down in Seacouver; an old friend of Simon's." Blair nodded at the mention of Simon Banks, the Captain of Major Crimes and Jim's boss.

"And?" he prompted.

"And before I even got the kid's name out of my mouth, Powell was telling me there was a Missing Persons Report filed on him. Apparently, the kid's an orphan, been in and out of foster homes and shelters all his life. Powell didn't go into a lot of details, but somehow the kid ended up with a couple named Duncan MacLeod and Tessa Noel. Seems he disappeared several days ago after some kind of argument and they've been frantic ever since. Powell was going to call them and I gave him my cell--"

A ringing sound from underneath his coat stopped him. Ellison made a face as he finished "--phone number." He flipped the phone open. "Ellison... Yes, Mr. MacLeod?"

** ** **

While Duncan was still on the phone with the Cascade policeman, Tessa ran to their room and started throwing night things and toiletries into a weekender bag. She packed a change of clothes for both herself and Duncan, then went down the hall to Richie's room and found some jeans, a clean T-shirt, and a sweater, and put them into the bag together with a couple of pairs of underwear and socks. She carried the bag out to the living room. Duncan was still on the phone, with Powell this time, canceling the Missing Persons Report. He ended the conversation hastily and hung up. "I called the airport. There's a small commuter flight between Seacouver and Cascade, but it's already booked for tonight. And it would probably take almost as long to fly into Sea-Tac and rent a car, then drive to Cascade, as it would to just drive the whole way. We should be able to make it in four hours, maybe less if traffic isn't too bad around Seattle."

"Where is Richie?"

"Well, right now he's in the hospital." Duncan reached for her hand to reassure her. "He was involved in an attempted robbery and he got knocked in the head; apparently he's awake and talking so maybe it isn't very bad."

"He tried to rob someone?" Tessa was sad but not terribly surprised. After all, they had met Richie when he tried to rob the antique store. But Duncan shook his head.

"No, apparently he was something of a hero. He kept a waitress from getting shot." He took the suitcase from her hand. "I asked Detective Ellison not to tell Richie we were on our way."

Tessa, who had been following him through the apartment, stopped dead. "Why?"

"Because I don't think Richie is thinking right now, he's just reacting. He's been reacting ever since Felicia staggered in here. Plus, if he *did* see something the night Markham Bolt was killed, he's likely to be in a panic."

Tessa had forgotten about the Immortal visitor. "Oh, Duncan. Do you think Richie's in danger?"

"He should be safe enough. No one but you and I, and now Powell, knows where he is."

** ** **

Jim Ellison closed his cell phone thoughtfully. Blair had gone down the hall for coffee and he accepted a styrofoam cup from the younger man's hand. "That's funny," he said aloud, taking a deep breath. He made a face as his taste buds were assaulted by a fluid that tasted strangely like lineament.

"What's funny? Is that MacLeod guy going to come here?"

"Yeah, he said he would be leaving right away. But he doesn't want the kid to know he's coming."

Blair frowned. "Why not?"

"I don't know, he said something about Richie tending to run first and ask questions later. Seems real odd to me... I don't think that kid's going *anywhere* for awhile--" He broke off as the sounds of yelling pierced his ears. One didn't need to be a Sentinel to hear it; Blair turned too. A nurse popped out of Richie's cubicle and looked around, then spotted Blair and beckoned frenziedly for him. Blair tossed his coffee cup toward a trashcan and took off down the hall, Jim close on his heels.

Richie Ryan had managed to pull himself to a sitting position and was struggling to get off the bed. The doctor was trying to gently shove him back down with one hand while the other waved an X-ray film in the air. "Look, Richard, if you would just calm down--"

"I am *not* spending the night in this place. You can't keep me here against my will."

The doctor caught sight of Blair with Jim looming behind him and said, "Mr. Sandburg, a little help here? Richard... Mr. Ryan seems to think he can leave."

"Mr. Ryan" was having great difficulty even maintaining his balance. Blair hastened to other side of the bed and grasped his shoulder. "Look, Richie, you need to relax."

"I won't stay here. I can't stay here!" Panic colored the kid's tone. "Look, I'm eighteen, okay, I'm an adult. I'll sign whatever papers you put in front of me, but I won't stay here--"

"Why not?" Jim interjected in his most reasonable tone. Blair was on one side of the kid and the doctor on the other; the detective stood at the foot of the bed and stared the kid down.

Richie blinked, then winced, one hand flying to his head. "I don't have any health insurance."

"Yes, you do," Jim returned evenly. "We found the card in your wallet."

"It's been canceled," Ryan muttered hastily.

"No it hasn't," Jim said. Actually, he had no idea whether it had or not, but he could tell the kid was making up excuses.

The doctor waved the X-ray in front of Blair, who hadn't said anything. "He has a concussion. He could have a subdural hematoma or any number of other things. He needs to at least spend the night here, where we can wake him up every few hours and make sure he doesn't slip into a coma."

"That makes sense," Jim pointed out. "Head injuries are nothing to mess around with, kid."

The teenager had calmed a little, but he started struggling again at Jim's matter-of-fact tones. "I need to get out of here. I'm not going to go into a coma and I don't have a subdural tomato thing." He glared viciously at the doctor who was trying to inject something into his IV. "Don't you dare! I'm fine! Just let me out of here!"

"You are *not* 'fine'," the doctor fired back.

Ellison thought this whole argument was academic; he could tell from the pallor of Richie's face, as well as his erratic breathing and wild heartbeat, that the kid was probably going to pass out soon. He doubted if he'd even make it to the door. And once the kid was unconscious the hospital staff could do whatever they wanted. Before he could point that out, though, another voice spoke up. "He can go home with me," Blair volunteered.

"What?" Ellison, the doctor and Richie all said, in varying tones of shock, fury and relief.

Blair shrugged and ignored Richie and the fuming detective, speaking directly to the physician. "Look, you said he needed to stay calm and quiet, he obviously can't do that if he's fighting every minute about being here. I have the room and I know what to look for, I'll wake him up every two hours and make sure he's responsive and if anything goes wrong I only live about ten minutes from here."

"Sandburg, are you nuts?" Jim bellowed. No one paid any attention to him.

"Man, that's nice of you, but--" Richie said weakly, finally relaxing back on the bed.

Blair raised his eyebrows. "It's either me or the hospital, Richie. You try to dismiss yourself against medical advice and we'll just have to follow you until you keel over, which should be somewhere around the parking lot." He jerked his head at Jim. "You know he's a cop. He can arrest you for vagrancy and handcuff you to the hospital bed."

In spite of his fury, Jim had to suppress a smile. Give Sandburg his due, he was a master at BS. Vagrancy. Now that was a good one, although since Richie Ryan apparently had taken a room at the Madison Motel, he technically wasn't a vagrant. But either the kid didn't know that or Blair's self-assured tone convinced him otherwise, because he gave Jim a wary look through sunken blue eyes and relaxed a little, nodding his head.

"Okay," he said faintly.

"Okay?" Blair repeated, although Jim couldn't tell if he was talking to Richie or the doctor or both.

The doctor hesitated, glancing from Richie to Blair and back again. "It would be for the best if he stayed here," he started, but he must have seen the stubborn expression on the kid's face as well as Jim could. "Okay," he surrendered. "But you follow my instructions to the letter, and *you,*" he continued, turning on Blair, "keep a close eye on him and bring him back in if he won't wake up, if he starts talking strangely, *anything.*"

"Now wait a second," Jim broke in. Blair and the doctor both glanced at him like they'd forgotten he was even there. "Can I have a word with you, Chief? Out in the hall, maybe?"

Blair nodded and looked back at the doctor. "Is Richie ready to go?"

The man sighed in defeat. "Let me put together some things you may need, and then I'll start getting the paperwork in order."

Blair looked down at the kid in the bed. "You just relax and cooperate, okay? I'll be right back."

**********************

Continued in Part Two...