Part Three: Blue on Black
Joe was on edge. All night long, whenever the door opened, he’d hoped it was MacLeod. He knew Mac was still angry with him after this morning and most likely wouldn’t show, but he couldn’t stop checking every time. By an hour before closing Joe was worried. He would have been glad to see Mac even if he fell through the door blind drunk. The last two customers left, and he had decided to close and go check the barge when Ash walked in. She came over and sat at the bar, dropping the backpack at her feet, leaving her jacket on.
“Cognac please, Joe. Make it a double.”
Joe brought it and she drank it at down at once, took a deep breath, then handed him back the glass.
He gave her back the glass, and came back with another and the bottle, and poured for them both. He knew something was wrong and he had a sick feeling MacLeod was involved; he’d felt from the beginning that there was some connection between him and Ash. The silence was broken by the jukebox, cycling in automatic play.
“Night falls and I’m alone, skin chilled right to the bone.
You turned and you ran, slipped right from my hand.
Blue on black, tears on a river, a push on a shove, it don’t mean much.
Joker on jack, match on a fire, cold on ice, a dead man’s touch.
Whisper on a scream doesn’t change a thing, don’t bring you back,
Blue on black.”
Ash closed her eyes and turned her head away, but that didn’t hide her expression of anguish. She turned back, sorrow in her haunted amber eyes.
“Isn’t there anyone left who loves him?”
Joe heard the grief in her voice, and knew she meant Duncan. “There was, but he pushed everyone away. It’s like he can’t let anyone love him. The one person who tried the hardest got hurt the most, almost as much as MacLeod hurts.”
“Could you get them to come here?”
“I could call, although as it is there’s no guarantee anyone will come.”
“It’s that bad?” Her voice was so soft he barely heard her.
“Yeah, it’s that bad.” Joe took a sip of his cognac, and wondered what bond she had with MacLeod.
“Maybe he’s better off...” Ash turned toward the door, two seconds later it opened. In walked a large man wearing a long coat.
“I’m looking for Duncan MacLeod.”
Joe started to say he didn’t know who he was talking about, but never got the chance.
“Anyone looking for MacLeod is looking for me.” Ash was on her feet, shrugging out of the baggy jacket, her scarred arms revealed by the short sleeves of a loose sweater.
“I don’t want you, child, my fight is with MacLeod.”
“Then your fight is with me first.” Ash’s voice was as cold as her eyes.
“If you insist on dying, then come on outside.”
“Around the back is better, more private.” Ash led him out the back door, Joe following them, curious how she knew the way. They reached the alley behind the club, and Ash turned and faced the stranger.
“What is your name?”
“What does it matter to you, child?”
“I like to know who I’m killing.”
The man laughed. “Then you don’t need to know, because I will be the one who kills you.”
“You might want to tell me, just in case. I always say a prayer for my victims.”
The man laughed again, pulling his sword from his coat while taking it off. “Jonas Kandler, since you insist. What is your name?”
“I’ll be the one saying the prayer.”
Ash’s right hand went up to her back, behind her shoulder, inside the loose neck of the sweater and came out with a sword of a design Joe had never seen. Short, the back of the blade slightly curved, the edge arched oddly, the end toward the tip of the blade wider, making the blade appear bent. Even the hilt was strange, flat, it wrapped around the back of her hand like an extended pistol grip.
Kandler’s sword was a cavalry saber, at least eight inches longer than Ash’s strange blade, and combined with his much greater reach, Joe thought she was in trouble.
Ash stood and waited for him to come to her. Kandler obliged, lunging forward. Ash danced away, graceful, Kandler came after her, swinging his blade in an arc of silver death that Ash suddenly darted under. Then the grace turned brutal, while moving in, her left hand slipped behind her lower back, pulling down another sword identical to the first. Kandler never saw it coming. She swung around fast, slashing deep into his side right below the ribs, as she drew the blade to her the arched edge pulled into the cut, making it much deeper. Then the odd-shaped swords showed what they were designed for, close in hack and slash, the weighted edges devastating, slicing flesh, crunching bone, incredibly fast. Within a half-minute Kandler went from aggressor to victim, on his knees, bleeding from a dozen wounds. Ash stood over him, arms held out wide, swiftly she brought both blades in, slicing and crushing, crossing each other in the space below his head, taking it off like a double horizontal guillotine.
Blue fire shot out of the wound, up into the air, twisting, searching for its target. It found Ash, slamming into her, flickering over her, driving her to her knees, screaming. The lightning battered her, pounded her until she fell. When it finally stopped, Joe went to her, he thought she was crying, but when he got to her he realized the sounds were not sobs. She was laughing. She looked up at Joe, her eyes glowing with joy.
“They never learn.”
The light in her eyes died suddenly, and her face went blank. She was no longer in an alley in the dark. The sunlight was blinding, the sand under her bare feet was hot, and there was a dull roar, like the ocean. Ash blinked and was back in the dark. Joe saw her eyes come into focus, but the light was gone from them. He reached to help her up, a spark of blue flashed between them, stinging.
“Touching me is not a good idea right now.”
Ash stood and walked over to Kandler’s body, bent and wiped the blood from both blades. She sheathed them, one up from the waist, one down from the shoulder. Joe knew they were strapped next to her skin. She went back inside. She was so cold; she had never been so cold, even with the Quickening fire running through her. She drank the rest of the cognac in her glass, bent and picked up the backpack.
“Call whoever you can. You have twenty-four hours. I’ll come back here and talk to whoever shows up.”
“What is this about, Ash?”
“Duncan MacLeod is dead. The question is do we let him stay dead.” She walked out into the dark.
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