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Steele Blades

von ''Grail''

Diese Remington Steele/Highlander Fan-Fiction Story wurde von ''Grail'' geschrieben.
Die Geschichte wird hier mit freundlicher Erlaubnis des Autors präsentiert.

Historian's Note : This story takes place just after "Altared Steele" in season 2 of Remington Steele. It also explains why Steele and Laura managed to survive so many incidents during the series.

Chapter 1-3 // Chapter 4-6

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Chapter 1

Teaser Sequence (in true Remington Steele style)

"Laura, this is an ordinary shop. Why drug and paralyse a woman, dress her as a bride, then leave her to stand as a mannequin in the shop?"

"Get away from her!"

"Open fire!"

"Laura, this is a morgue. We're in a morgue. That means we're dead. That we're walking around right now means we're contravening the laws of nature."

"I am Duncan Macleod of the Clan Macleod."

"What do you mean, we can't die?"

"All it takes is one stroke of the sword...then your head is mine."

"When we reach our hundredth birthdays....will you leave? What about our two hundredth? When are you going to grow tired of me?"

"There can be only one!"

Title Sequence

(cue nifty music)






Main Episode


Special Guest Stars



"How about this one?" Steele blinked tiredly. "I don't think so." With a sigh, Laura put the dress back on the rack. "Well then, Mr Steele, which one would you prefer?" He smiled at her with a slight hint of devilment breaking through the fatigue. "I don't think any of them will suit me, Miss Holt, do you?" "That's not what I was referring to and you know it," she sighed, moving onto the next rack of dresses. Steele adjusted his tie, gritted his teeth, and followed her with an expression of resigned agony. "You know, I've done all sorts of things before," he said wearily, "but I've never done anything quite as mentally draining as shopping." "Mmm," Laura said absently, rummaging amongst the clothing on display. "I mean, it's tortuously slow, painful, and - " "Hold this up a second, will you?" she requested, not listening. Steele grasped the dress thrust into his hands and held it up, doing his best to ignore the snickers from the other shoppers. "No, I don't like it," Laura frowned. "You can put it back, thanks." Hastily, Steele shoved it back into the racks. "And it damages human dignity," he muttered, finishing his previous sentence. "Absolutely," Laura agreed unhesitatingly, not paying the remotest bit of attention. She selected another dress and examined it critically, then shook her head and put it back on the rack.

Catching sight of Steele's reflection in the mirror, she studied him thoughtfully. "You could do with a different blazer." Steele's hands fled to his blazer in self-defence. "What's wrong with it?" "Doesn't go with the tie. Change the tie or change the blazer." Moving past her, Steele studied himself in the mirror, adjusting his tie a little closer to his shirt collar. "Nothing wrong with this," he said defensively, pushing his hair back from his forehead. "You were the one who said we should look our best for this party," Laura retorted, picking out a black velvet dress and wondering whether she had the figure to wear it. She decided she probably did but it wasn't worth taking the risk, and put the dress back. "It's not a party, it's a gathering," Steele said, still looking at himself in the mirror wondering if Laura was right about the tie. "A formal business meeting of a few associates and friends that Remington Steele is pleased to attend. I got the invitation through the post." Laura appeared in the reflection by his shoulder. "Don't flatter yourself," she said caustically. "It was my Remington Steele they invited, not your interpretation of the part." Steele chuckled. "Ah, but that's where you're mistaken, Miss Holt. They said I'd been recommended to them after my skilful handling of the diamond smuggling route from Acapulco to the United States." Laura's eyes widened in anguish. "Again!" "Again?" Steele queried. "Again! Again you take all the credit!" She shoved a goldendress into his hands and made him hold it up for her perusal, as if in punishment. "I do all the hard work and you get all the rewards." "Laura, think of me!" Steele protested. "I have to attend all these parties, mingle with the glitterati of the life is one giant public relations exercise. It never stops! All those women crawling around me, men wanting my autograph..." His mouth curved into a smile. "All those women..." "How terrible for you," she growled, turning and stalking away. "Anyway, who was it recommended you to these people after Acapulco?" Steele frowned. "The invitation didn't say. It was just insistent that we should act like normal guests and not admit our true identities." Laura nodded, accepting it without question. Several of their cases to date had involved rich clients anxious not to be seen using an agency like Remington Steele Investigations, so they had been forced to appear as ordinary people when discussing with their client. This looked like another similar case. "Oh well," she said resignedly, and picked up the black velvet dress again. "I've got a day to lose a couple of pounds, then I should manage this." "Done?" Steele asked hopefully. "Almost." His smile faded. "I need a pair of shoes now. This way."

"AAAAH!" The scream startled both of them almost out of their wits, and Laura dropped the velvet dress on the floor of the store. As one, she and Steele rushed out of the women's clothing department to where an elderly outfitter was standing with an expression of the utmost horror, staring up at a female mannequin in a bridal dress. "What is it?" Laura demanded as she came to a stop. The old woman extended a trembling finger towards the mannequin. "That thing...its eyes moved! It's alive!" "Alive?" Steele queried. "I know they make them realistic these days, but they don't make them that realistic." "Mr Steele," Laura said quietly, stepping past him and examining the mannequin. She prodded the mannequin in one thigh; the thigh gave under her touch. Laura looked back at Steele. "This is a real woman." Steele blinked and surprise rushed across his face. He moved forward and looked up at the mannequin's face. The eyes were closed now but the woman was beautiful even so, ash-blonde hair framing a face carefully hidden by a chiffony white veil. Her hands clutched a flowery bouquet and the wedding dress itself was one of the more modern ones, reaching to her knees and revealing nicely-formed legs culminating in small feet, daintily shoed.

"Why isn't she moving?" Steele wondered aloud. "She could be drugged." Laura stepped up onto the stand and lifted the veil from around the woman's face. She got the shock of her life when the eyes flicked open and stared at her. With a yelp of surprise, Laura flinched backwards and fell off the stand, caught and set back on her feet by Steele. "Thank you, Mr Steele," she said, regaining her composure. "My pleasure." Steele looked around the shop; people were beginning to gather around them, attracted by the fuss going on around the woman. "Laura, this is an ordinary shop. Why drug and paralyse a woman, dress her as a bride, then leave her to stand as a mannequin in the shop?" "Store, Mr Steele," Laura corrected absently, looking up at the woman. Her eyes were still open, darting from side to side in silent pleading. "Come on, help me. We'd better get her down." They climbed up on the stand and each took one side of the paralysed woman, lifting her off the stand with an effort and carefully lowering her to the floor of the shop. The elderly woman who had alerted them with her scream shivered as she saw the darting eyes and retreated back into the gathering crowd as Steele and Laura laid the woman on the floor. "Someone call 911," Laura directed, crouching over the woman and examining her pupils carefully. She raised her voice. "Blink if you can hear and understand me." The woman blinked once. "So she's conscious," Steele observed. "Just paralysed." "Yes," Laura nodded. She turned back to the woman. "Just lie still and try to relax. We're taking you to hospital."

"Nobody move!" The rough harsh voice cut through the subdued atmosphere in the store like a knife. A young woman let out a muffled scream and ran towards the back of the store as the light from outside was cut off, the men looming large in Steele and Laura's vision. "Get away from her!" one of the men ordered. "She's paralysed!" Laura snapped. "She's ill, she can't - " The snik-click of a safety catch being snapped off sounded loud in the confined area of the store. Laura and Steele stared at the barrels of several submachineguns. "If I were you, Miss Holt, I'd step back a little," Steele murmured, smiling beatifically at the men and raising his hands as he retreated from the paralysed bride. Laura did the same thing, watching powerlessly as two of the gun-wielders shouldered their weapons and picked up the woman, one by the shoulders and the other by the feet. "Just stay still and nobody'll get hurt," the leader said. Like his companions, he wore a black sweater, black jeans, and a black balaclava over his head to obscure his identity. It had the disadvantage of making him look ridiculous, but then people like him were often more concerned with secrecy than style. He swung the submachinegun carefully round, covering the population of the store, as two of his men took the woman out into the main part of the big shopping mall. Beside him, two others were doing the same thing. "Well done, folks," he said chirpily as soon as the men carrying the woman were gone. "Catch you later." Gesturing to his attendants, he turned and ran from the store. There was a long moment of stunned silence. "Well, we've got twenty-four hours until that party," Laura said to Steele. His face held a resigned expression. "Somehow, Miss Holt, I thought you might say that." "Don't look so bothered." She nudged him. "We needed something to do. Besides, think of all the new women who'll ask for your autograph." Steele cleared his throat, adjusted his tie. "Well, I was always interested in doing my bit for truth, justice, and the American way." Laura grinned and sprinted out of the shop.

They tore out of the shop and chased after the kidnappers. Easily visible, since they were dressed all in black amidst a crowd of colourful shoppers, they were also easily followed by the screams as the shoppers saw the submachineguns the kidnappers were carrying. Laura and Steele ran along the wake left by the rushing kidnappers and swiftly began to gain ground; the kidnappers were restricted by being unable to move quickly with the paralysed woman. They saw Laura and Steele chasing them and picked up speed, but gradually the gap began to narrow. The kidnappers reached the stairs and began to descend, one of them remaining at the top and cocking the submachinegun. Laura saw it first and dived behind a fruit stand, Steele following seconds later as the gunman let loose a hail of bullets on the store. Apples, bananas, oranges, pineapples, all exploded in a shower of fruit juice and fragments and chips of wood flew from the stand in all directions as the rattle of the gun echoed through the store. Screams from the surrounding shoppers grew louder and everyone threw themselves flat on the floor, mimicking Laura and Steele's action. The submachinegun clicked empty. Lying behind the fruit stand, covered in wood chips and fragments of fruit, her hair sticky with fruit juice, Laura looked at Steele. "Let's get him," she said. "Good idea," Steele nodded. They leapt to their feet and charged the gunman. He saw them coming and attempted to run but they were already on him. Laura jumped on him from behind and he fell to his knees, the gun skittering across the floor. Steele punched him on the chin and the man dropped. Laura looked at Steele in astonishment. "Aren't you going to complain that hurt?" "Not at all, Miss Holt. I have a fist of steel, if you'll excuse the pun." She blinked. "Fine. Let's get those others." Laura ran off down the stairs. Steele winced and held his injured hand for a moment, then gritted his teeth and followed.

They reached the bottom of the stairs just in time to see the last of the gunmen step into a lift, the doors closing as Laura and Steele raced across to the stairs. Without stopping for a second they charged down them three at a time, down six flights of stairs only marginally slower than the lift. Emerging into the mall's underground car park, Laura and Steele found they were seconds ahead of the lift. Laura stood in front of the lift doors and waited. "Got them now," she said in satisfaction. Steele frowned. "Erm, Miss Holt, I don't wish to rain on your parade, but has it occurred to you these desperados are armed with submachineguns?" He brushed a piece of pineapple out of Laura's hair to prove his point. "Good point, Mr Steele," Laura said calmly, and she ducked behind a convenient Cadillac. Steele did the same just in time as the lift doors opened and the ugly snouts of two submachineguns poked out into the carpark warily. A moment later the first two men emerged carrying the bride, and then the other two behind them looking around warily. "If you see those two come down those stairs, shoot 'em," the leader of the men said to his companion, who nodded and stopped at the bottom of the stairs. The remaining three crossed to a large white van, parked close to the lift, and opened the rear doors, preparing to push the woman through. "Wait!" A man in a dark blue suit stepped around from the corner of the van, looking down at the woman thoughtfully. He smiled. "Perfect," he said in an English accent, looking down with a smile. "Did everything go smoothly?" "We lost Transom," the leader said. The man in the suit shrugged. "I'll take care of him later." A gloved hand caressed the paralysed woman's cheek. "The important thing is that I have Sarah here back once more." He took a deep breath. "Alright, load her in the van. We'll work out an antidote to the paralysing agent later." He looked across to the gunman guarding the stairs. "By the way, they're behind that Cadillac over there. I saw them come down in the van's rearview mirror." Laura looked at Steele. Steele looked at Laura. "Get up!" the gunman snarled, submachinegun levelled. Hands in the air, Laura and Steele stood up. "What d'you want done with them?" the leader of the kidnappers asked the man in the suit. He was staring at Laura and Steele thoughtfully, intrigued by them in some way. "I wonder...." the man murmured. Then he changed his mind. "No, I can't be bothered. Just shoot them. I'll deal with them later." The gunman turned back and lifted the submachinegun. "Laura," Steele said. "I - " "Open fire!" the leader ordered harshly. The submachinegun roared and bullets spat out of the barrel with deadly force. Laura and Steele were hurled back against the wall of the carpark, sliding down to the floor and leaving a trail of gory red blood behind them.

Chapter 2

"Mildred Krebs?" Seated at her desk, Mildred didn't look up from the papers spread across her desk. "What can I do for you?" she muttered, sorting through the agency's tax accounts and using all her IRS-taught abilities to try and produce some kind of result that wouldn't get them arrested for fraud. If only the boss worked at his tax returns better.... "I'm Inspector Michael Cooper." The cops. Mildred's first thought was to run. Her second thought was to realise she hadn't actually done anything wrong yet. Her third thought was "why is he here?" "Why are you here, Inspector?" she asked, raising her head to look at the man. He was in his early thirties, wearing the traditional trenchcoat and hat, a neat if inexpensive suit beneath it. He wore a grave expression on his face. "You are Mildred Krebs?" She frowned. "Ye-es...." Cooper looked sympathetic. "I'm sorry, Miss Krebs. It's my sad duty to tell you that your employer Remington Steele and his associate Laura Holt were gunned down in a shopping centre earlier today. They were killed outright."

Cold. She was cold. She was very cold. Laura opened her eyes. She was staring up at an antiseptically clean white ceiling, and she could smell the pungent detergent someone had used to wash it with. The room was cold and silent, and she realised suddenly that she was lying on a metal slab - that was why she was starting to shiver. She was also naked under the thin sheet which was covering her up to the neck. Laura sat up, clutching the sheet to her chest, and looked around her. There were a number of similar slabs all around, each one with a motionless sheet-covered form. The room was lit, but the doors were closed and probably locked as well. She was in a morgue. Laura's eyes widened in alarm. Carefully, she got down from the slab and looked around for her everyday clothing. Something dirty grey caught her eye and she realised it was a scientist's lab coat, slung carelessly across a worktop with the neck dangling in a sink. Laura padded over and dropped the sheet on the floor, pulling on the lab coat instead. A hand touched her shoulder and she spun round in alarm. "This is not good," Steele said thoughtfully, ignoring her startlement. Laura sighed and relaxed just a fraction. "Don't creep up on me like that," she admonished him, pulling the lab coat a little tighter. Steele was still wrapped in his mortuary sheet, though around his waist only, his chest bare. "Let's find you some clothes," she said, starting to look around the morgue. Steele grabbed her and pulled her back; she looked up at him quizzically. "What is it?" He was looking very puzzled indeed. "Laura, this is a morgue. We're in a morgue. That means we're dead. That we're walking around right now means we're contravening the laws of nature." She shrugged. "They probably just made a mistake." "What's the last thing you remember?" he queried. Laura frowned. "Erm....we were in the car park and then...." Her voice tailed off slowly, her expression amazed. Steele nodded. "Exactly. There aren't many people I know of who've survived submachinegun blasts at point-blank range." He looked at her in sudden alarm. "Laura, perhaps we're ghosts!" "Now you're being silly," she said scornfully, spotting another lab coat and stalking across the morgue to get it for him. "Ghosts are just figments of the imagination. They're not real and we're not dead." Steele brushed a hand across his chest. "Laura, I felt those bullets." "Surgery," she suggested. "They can do wonderful things with scalpels these days." "Then why are we in the morgue? What did they do, decide to put us on ice while they went for a tea-break?" Laura sighed. "Come on. First priority is to get some proper clothes. Then we get out of here, alright?" "Sooner the better," he murmured, but he followed her quietly enough as they walked towards the morgue exit.

The doors had glass windows set into them and Laura peered through one of these. The corridor beyond was dark, silent, and happily empty. "Come on," she beckoned, pushing open one of the doors, which turned out to be unlocked after all, and stepping into the corridor. Steele followed and they padded barefoot along the cold linoleum of the corridor until Laura stopped suddenly, Steele almost banging into her. She turned and pointed to a door saying "EQUIPMENT STORE #223". "Worth a try," she said. Steele was just about to answer when they heard a whine and hum of lift machinery. Turning, Laura saw the doors of the lift at the far end of the corridor begin to open; she and Steele hastily dived into the storeroom and pulled the door almost shut behind them. A moment later they were peering through the tiny crack, waiting to see who it was arriving. Two men came into view, moving slowly and carefully towards the morgue, wary as if they expected attack. The first was bulky and slightly overweight, but his heavy brooding face contained plenty of menace, the effect heightened by the thin pale scar on his left cheek. The second man was smaller and thinner than his companion, but his vulpine features lent a demonic air which made him seem just as menacing. It wasn't their descriptions that gave Laura and Steele the clue, though. They carried black submachineguns. "Two of our friends from the carpark," Steele murmured in Laura's ear. She nodded silently as the two men drew nearer. "There it is, up ahead," the fat one noted. "Let's get them," Laura breathed. She felt Steele nod in the darkness behind her, then threw open the door and dived on the thinner man. A moment later the sound of fisticuffs echoed in her ears as Steele charged the other one. Laura's victim was knocked back against the wall, dropping the gun, by the force of her charge; she kneed him in the stomach and chopped him on the back of the neck with equal speed. Making small choking sounds and scrabbling at his neck, he dropped to his knees. Laura grabbed him by the neck and choked him into unconsciousness. Steele ducked as a punch from the fat man whistled over his head and hit the hospital wall with a dull thud. Stepping inside the arm, he jabbed two fingers into the man's eyes; he stumbled back with a howl of pain and Steele, abandoning all pretence at a fair fight, kicked him where it'd do the most good. The fat man whimpered and sank to the ground. Standing over the two unconscious men, Laura and Steele regarded each other. "Clothes," they said simultaneously.

Twenty minutes later, the lift doors up from the morgue parted to reveal two sorry-looking people. The thin man's clothes were too tight for Laura, giving her minor agonies every time she moved, while Steele was almost dwarfed by the fatter man's clothing; he had rolled up the sleeves of the sweater but it still did him little good, because they kept falling down. The submachineguns they had left, empty, in the morgue beside the two unconscious men. Stepping out of the lift, Laura led the way to the exit from the hospital. "The first thing we have to do is find Mildred and tell her we're alright," she noted over her shoulder, "and then - " She stopped moving and speaking at the same time, and Steele bumped into her. He was about to complain when he felt it too; a buzzing, harsh-edged and somehow travelling through the air, surrounded him, giving him pins-and-needles and making his hair feel funny. Almost against his will, he turned in the same direction in which Laura was already staring. The man in the ponytail regarded them carefully, standing at the entrance to the hospital with a very attractive blonde woman beside him. Steele and Laura stared silently at him, intrigued and worried by the effect he was having on them. For a long moment, the four people stared at one another and said nothing; then the man turned to the woman. "Wait over there, Tessa," he instructed. She nodded and moved away, glancing back at him a little worriedly all the same. The man moved across to Steele and Laura; he was about Steele's height, his long hair black and his clothing fashionable without being expensive. His eyes searched their faces.

"I am Duncan Macleod," he said, "of the Clan Macleod." Steele and Laura stared at him. "Congratulations," Laura nodded eventually. Duncan didn't smile. "What are your names?" "Laura Holt. This is my boss, Remington Steele." "Remington Steele Investigations," Steele added. Duncan looked at them carefully. "I don't want any trouble. Not here, not outside. I don't want to fight. I'm out of the Game at the moment." "The Game?" Laura looked up at Steele, who shrugged, then back to Duncan. "Who even said we wanted to fight you, Mr - ah - Macleod?" "Duncan." He looked them over again. "Wait. I've heard of the two of you. You were the ones who protected the Royal Lavulite jewels." Steele shrugged deprecatingly. "Well, I can't take all the credit. Some of it was due to Miss Holt here....though I did mastermind the operation." He winced suddenly as Laura carefully and with great malice stepped on his toe. "You're new," Duncan noted. "New to what?" Laura demanded, getting annoyed. Duncan glanced back at Tessa, still waiting with an expression of concern on her face. Then he turned back to Steele and Laura. "Not here, not now. Where do you live, Mr Steele?" Steele told him. "Go there and wait for me. I'll be about half an hour. Don't let anyone else in, especially if you sense them like you did me." "But why - " Laura started to ask. "Don't," Duncan interrupted her. "I know you don't know me, but this is important. Please. I'll be half an hour." Steele put a hand on Laura's shoulder, stopping her from speaking. "We'll be there." Duncan nodded, turned, and walked away. Laura waited until he was out of earshot before she turned to Steele, looking up at him angrily. "Why did you do that? We could have got some answers out of him?" "Could we?" Steele responded. "How do you interrogate someone in the middle of a hospital, Laura? Besides, he's said he'll be at the flat in half an hour. This is the first real guarantee we have of getting some answers." He turned towards the exit. "Come on." They left the hospital and started down the steps towards the small group of taxis parked nearby, Laura following Steele with the occasional grimace of pain from the too-tight clothing. As they reached the bottom of the steps, they stopped again and stared around. The shiver was back, buzzing in their minds. "Over there," Laura said quietly, nodding to where a limousine was parked a short distance from the hospital entrance. Steele squinted, trying to see through the limousine's open window who was inside. The car door opened and the man in the blue suit from the underground carpark stepped out. He smiled at them from across the carpark. "Nice to see you again," he said, "Mr Steele....Miss Holt." The sword in his hand glinted evilly.

Chapter 3

"But why?" Tessa demanded, frustrated. "I don't understand why you have to go and see those two people, Duncan. Is it just because they're the same? The same as you, immortal?" "Something like that," Duncan nodded. "Can't it wait?" Tessa cast a glance in the direction of the hospital ward. "Jacques is dying. You promised to come with me." "I know, sweetheart, I know." Duncan shrugged helplessly. "There's nothing I can do. Rules are rules - I have to meet them, tell them the rules." "They could work it out for themselves," Tessa muttered rebelliously. "They don't have to," Duncan responded. "Not while there's someone to help them. And they'll need help."

"Run!" Laura cried. She looked round and saw Steele already vanishing into the darkness. A glance back over her shoulder showed the man in the blue suit advancing, sword at the ready; Laura sprinted after Steele as fast as possible, through the grounds of the hospital. During the day, the hospital grounds would have been pleasantly laid out, with nicely-mowed lawns and well-kept paths for weary patients to take a stroll and forget their fatigue. To Laura and Steele, it was a dark and shadowy place, filled with menace and threats in every corner. They skidded round the rear of the hospital and ran, as one, towards a group of trees that offered the only cover in this part of the gardens. Overhead, a raven watched them with evil eyes. "D'you think we've lost him?" Laura demanded, leaning against a tree to get her breath back. Steele was watching the entrance to the copse warily, his eyes searching through the darkness. "Unlikely, I'm afraid," he responded absently. "I was hoping you'd reassure me, Mr Steele," Laura retorted, pushing herself away from the tree and standing beside him. "What have we gotten ourselves into this time? A paralysed woman dressed as a bride and placed as a mannequin in a shopping mall, a madman with a sword, a mad Scotsman who thinks he knows what's going on, and now a chase." She sighed and clicked her heels. "There's no place like home," she said hopefully. "I'm sorry to rain on your party, Dorothy," Steele said, "but I don't think that's going to happen. Look." The entrance to the copse, faintly illuminated by the light from the windows of the hospital, darkened suddenly. The man in the blue suit smiled at them.

"So here you are," he said, his accent faintly Teutonic. "Which one first?" "First for what?" Steele demanded. "First to lose your head, of course," the man said. "But then, I wouldn't expect you to understand - you're new, after all. So I'll just take your heads now." "I wouldn't do that," said a new voice from behind Laura and Steele. They spun round to see a figure move out of the shadows, eyes hard. Duncan stared at the other immortal. "These two are under my protection. You have to go through me first." The man considered him. "And who might you be?" "I am Duncan Macleod, of the Clan Macleod. You?" "Lentz, Christopher Lentz. You wouldn't be any relation to Connor Macleod?" "My kinsman," Duncan nodded. "I thought so. There aren't many Highlanders in the Game." Lentz hefted his sword thoughtfully. "How old are you, Duncan Macleod?" "Old enough." "Old enough for it to be too much of a risk," Lentz smiled. "I'll come for Mr Steele and Miss Holt some other time, then. Bye." "I don't think so." Steele and Laura's eyes widened in surprise as Duncan unlimbered the dragon-head katana he had been carrying inside his trenchcoat and stepped forward. "Let's find out now." Lentz smiled. "No, no. I never fight the experienced, Macleod; only the weak and the unready. I'll see you sometime." He turned and ran, footsteps fading into the night. Duncan took a couple of steps after him, then apparently changed his mind. He turned and looked at Steele and Laura, who had stood by as silent witnesses. "Are either of you any good with a sword?" he asked.

"What do you mean, we can't die?" Laura repeated incredulously. "Which part of it didn't you understand - can't, or die?" Duncan asked with just a hint of a grin. "I mean you're immortal. That's how you survived all those gunshots when Lentz had his men fire on you." "Then why intervene when Lentz attacked?" Steele asked. "If we're immortal, it wouldn't matter." They were sitting in the back of Duncan's car, a 1950s Thunderbird; Tessa, his partner, had agreed to take a taxi back after she had finished visiting her friend, a Frenchman who was dying of cancer. Duncan was driving them back to Steele's apartment, answering questions along the way. "That's the only way you can die," Duncan said, answering Steele's question. "If someone takes your head, it's all over." "And how old are you, Mr Macleod?" Laura asked. "Duncan. I'm three hundred and ninety-three." "Soon be getting middle-aged," Steele said flippantly. "And what's this Game you and Lentz mentioned?" Laura pressed, ignoring Steele's comment. "Do all of you try and chop each other's heads off for a laugh, or is there something else?" Duncan swung the Thunderbird around a corner. "Yes, there's something else. Each time you take someone's head, you receive the dead immortal's strength and knowledge - it's called the Quickening. When there are no more immortals left, the last of us will have the power to rule the world - or destroy it." "Oh marvellous," Steele said, staring at the back of Duncan's head. "So if there's a sword-wielding maniac chasing me, at least I know he has a good reason." "Please, Mr Steele," Laura said tetchily. "Duncan, what else?" "That's the basics. I'll tell you the rest when we get to Mr Steele's apartment."

"Did you get them, sir?" the chauffeur inquired, leaping out of the driver's seat to open the rear door of the limousine. Handing him the sword, Christopher Lentz climbed into the back. "No, I did not," he answered shortly. "Another of us intervened. A Duncan Macleod, kinsman to Connor. Another Highlander." "I'm sorry to hear that, sir." The chauffeur seated himself at the wheel and pulled the door shut. "Where to, sir?" "Home," Lentz ordered, thinking hard. He picked up the cellular phone which was resting beside him and dialled a number. After a moment, the connection was made, and a slow smile appeared on Lentz's face. "Yevgeny? I want you to dig into the files. Everything you have on a Duncan Macleod, and then Remington Steele Investigations as well."

"Is this some kind of a joke?" Mildred demanded. Beside her, Cooper's face reddened into near-apoplexy. "What the hell is going on?" he demanded in turn. "Who stole Steele and Miss Holt's bodies?" The mortuary attendant went white. "Er, sir, I don't - " he began to stutter. "Sir, sir, n-n-nobody could have - " "Could have what?" Cooper bellowed. "Are you telling me that they got up and left by themselves?!" "Inspector," Mildred interrupted sharply. "Inspector, it's late and I'm tired and I haven't done the washing yet. Unless you've actually got some bodies for me to identify, I refuse to believe they're dead. Can I go now?" Cooper opened and closed his mouth without saying anything, like a goldfish that needs feeding. Eventually, his shoulders slumped. "Yes, Miss Krebs," he said. "Thanks for your time." Mildred harrumphed in irritation, turned, and left the morgue with the faintest of shivers at having had to go into that dreadful place in the first instance. Cooper turned to the mortuary attendant, an evil look on his face. "I want to know everything about this place's security procedures," he said. "And I mean everything." The attendant went even more white.

"So what do you know about Christopher Lentz?" Laura demanded. Duncan shrugged. "Nothing." "Nothing?" Steele prompted. "Nothing. I've never met him before." Duncan considered the cup of coffee he was holding. "He said he only killed the weak and the unready. Probably preys on people who have just turned immortal and haven't had the time to get a sword and learn the Rules. I know others who do that." "People like us," Laura said grimly. "Yes." "So we have to learn to fight with swords?" Steele said sceptically. Duncan shrugged. "No. You could just sit there with a big notice saying Take My Head if you wanted." He put the coffee-cup down. "I'm going to go back to Tessa now. Don't leave the apartment unless you have to; if you sense another immortal, make sure it's me before you open the door. Understand?" "Alright," Laura nodded. Steele did the same thing, noticeably more reluctantly. Duncan rose and headed for the apartment door. As he put his hand on the handle, he turned. "By the way." Laura and Steele turned. "What?" Duncan grinned. "Don't lose your heads." He pulled the door open and left the apartment. As the door closed behind him, Laura and Steele looked at each other. "Drink?" Steele asked. She nodded wordlessly. "Drink," he confirmed, and crossed to where a bottle of wine was sitting unopened. A couple of wine glasses were swiftly filled and he passed one to Laura. "Cheers," he said. "Yes," she said absently, drinking the wine almost in one gulp and holding out her glass for more. Steele silently refilled it and Laura drank half of that as well before relaxing a little. "Well," Steele said, sitting down beside her, "this is turning out to be an unusual day." "Unusual?" Laura gave a short laugh. "I think you mean unique, Mr Steele, don't you? I've been shot, I've woken up in a mortuary, I've been chased by a man with a sword, and then told by another man with a sword that I can't die. That's pretty unique. Ouch!" she said sharply, putting her finger to her mouth. "Problem?" "I've cut my finger." She showed him the small drop of blood welling up from the cut. Then it happened. A tiny grey spark of energy danced on Laura's finger for a moment. Steele and Laura stared at the smooth skin with no trace of the wound. "Good grief," Steele said slowly. Laura raised haunted eyes to him. "Mr Steele....I think it's true. We are immortal."

The doorbell cut through the silence like a knife, and they both jumped in shock and surprise. Steele leapt up and stood beside the sofa indecisively. He looked down at Laura. "It could be...." Laura shook her head. "We'd have sensed him." "Yes, but - well, but - " "Oh, for heaven's sake, stop worrying," she said in annoyance, and got up from the sofa. Nudging Steele aside, she crossed to the door and stared through the peephole in the centre. She turned back with worry on her face. "Who is it?" Steele asked. "Another immortal," Laura said. "Who?" She grinned suddenly. "Someone who's always around." She pulled open the door. "Hiya, boss," said Mildred.

The building was at least six storeys high, the first five taken up with a big department store right in the centre of the city. The sixth floor was closed to all but the most exalted people, because Christopher Lentz had no intention of allowing any immortal up to his private penthouse. As he had told Duncan in the copse outside the hospital, Lentz fought only the new immortals; let the older ones kill each other, he would stand on the sidelines and, when the time came, be one of the last ones. He entered the penthouse in a bad mood, annoyed that Duncan Macleod had intervened in his killing of Steele and Miss Holt. Passing a uniformed servant without a glance, Lentz opened the big double doors into the penthouse's main room and looked around imperiously. "Sarah?" he demanded. The bedroom door opened. "Yes, dear." Her ash blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, the woman who had been paralysed in the shopping mall entered the room with her eyes suitably downcast in respect. She came as beckoned to Lentz, and he kissed her perfunctorily on the cheek before throwing himself down on the sofa. "Did it go well, my lord?" Sarah asked. "No, it did not," Lentz said bad-temperedly. He looked at her with a sudden snarl on his face. "And don't pry into my affairs!" His hand blurred and slapped her round the face; Sarah flinched with the blow but did not cry out. "Yes, my lord," she murmured submissively. "Good," Lentz said. "Are you pleased I rescued you?" "Yes, my lord." "Good." Lentz said again, examining his fingernails. "It was a clever ploy, hiding you the way they did; unfortunately, they forgot to account for the fact that one of them would talk when put...well, under pressure." He noticed his ex-wife's slight shiver and his smile widened. "Robert talked in the end."

"Mr Lentz?" a nervous voice asked with a Russian accent. Lentz looked up lazily. "Yes, Yevgeny?" The Russian was thin and looked underfed, his clothes slightly too big for him and poorly tailored. "Mr Lentz, I did as you asked. This is the information we have on Duncan Macleod." He held up a sheet of paper. "And this is the information on Remington Steele Investigations...there's something odd there." Lentz frowned. "What?" "Remington Steele....we have no information for him. None." Yevgeny blinked nervously. "I have no idea why not. Our best information-gatherers were unable to get anything." Lentz took the two sheets of paper, pushing Sarah aside, and examined the one on Steele and Laura. "So they were," he mused aloud. "Intriguing." He crumpled the sheets and threw them back to Yevgeny. "Have the chauffeur bring the car round at six pm tomorrow," he ordered. "I will be practicing up here all day tomorrow. I'm not to be disturbed unless it's absolutely vital - is that understood?" Yevgeny nodded. "Yes, Mr Lentz." He hurried from the room as Lentz looked round. Sarah was still kneeling on the floor where he had pushed her. The immortal smiled. "Sarah, stand up." She did so, still looking down. Lentz took her chin in one hand and raised it. "Don't look so sad," he admonished. "We still have the rest of the night in which to play." Sarah smiled; but as Lentz pulled her toward the bedroom the smile faded and didn't return.

Chapter 4-6

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