Two-Eyed Jack
by Laura Mason

"It won't make any difference, Joe."

"It might to Mac."

Dawson stared at the cheap spiral notebook Marc had recovered from Galati's trailer. He'd read it first, of course. Half of headquarters had seen it before Marc brought it to Joe, who'd read it slowly, then offered to transcribe the text for their records. Marc agreed; he was busy in the field, and there'd been no Watcher assigned to Galati at the time of his death.

It would seem like a penance, except Dawson's still glad the bastard is dead.

Working at the carnival with subjects. Even if I never saw them, the gossip of coworkers would be more complete than most W reports. But I do see them, every day.

Irena tells fortunes and reads palms in a dark and shabby tent. She has no need to costume herself for this; the clothing she has worn for a decade is finer for her role as Madame Mystique than anything the manager could provide her.

Jakob runs the Ferris wheel, and plays his guitar in the beer garden on weekends. He has a following of town girls who stand outside the fence to listen and squeal when they catch a glimpse of his golden jacket. Their youth protects them from the beer, but not from him. While she slaves to support them, he is "working" with these girls, or their older, more sophisticated sisters, the divorcees who pretend to boredom while they watch him just as intently. Jakob "works" in every dark corner of the festival, and in the open fields beyond, while she waits alone.

He is why these two have nothing, despite their centuries of life. The others, no matter how modest their beginnings, have a better life. She deserves so much more. Any man who is a man would treat her like a queen, not force her to live in that shabby trailer and wander through Europe chasing menial work. A real man would find his pleasure with his beautiful wife, not...

Dawson rubbed at his eyes. Immortals were generally very seductive in a way that all Watchers understood, though no one could satisfactorily define it.

So Claude, assigned to watch a married couple, had fallen in love with his female subject. It wasn't the first time this had happened; assigning someone to a female immortal had always been tricky until the time when the organization began recruiting women. Of course, even that relied on the extensive testing of field personnel's sexual preferences...

Claude Charbelle had been an average guy. Joe had seen his file; there was nothing outstanding about him. Average looks, average intelligence, average commitment to the organization. Even the story the notebook detailed -- how ordinary. Yet this common man and his common actions had killed dozens and almost destroyed the Watchers.

Visited her today, to have my palm read -- but mostly to see her. I walked over to see her standing outside her tent, the afternoon sun making her squint.

Then Jamie walked past, and saw me staring. He laughed and pushed me toward her, and she looked up and smiled at me. She must not have heard his rude remark, for she simply said "Would you like to hear your fortune?" I nodded and stammered out some nonsense, and she took me inside the tent.

It's too hot there, under canvas with no windows. Incense burns all day long, while the sun beats down. No wonder she stands in the doorway whenever she can. She lit candles all around us, humming a song to herself. I sat watching her move to her own music. She has no idea how beautiful she is.

Finally she joined me at the table and took my both my hands, the palms crossed with silver, into hers. Her hands are small but strong, still beautiful though she works so hard. "One must look at both hands, to see what was your destiny at birth -- and what is to be." She spent a long time looking, not moving, her brow creasing. Finally she looked up at me. "You live two lives," she said.

I immediately thought of my tattoo, clearly visible in the flickering light. "Doesn't everyone?" I replied, feeling very exposed. But I am not her enemy, though I document her life. "We all hide in plain sight, and sometimes we hide from ourselves what is plain to see."

"Now, now. Who'd the professional soothsayer here, Claude?" She smiled when she scolded me, and I was so happy to hear she knew my name that I was incautious.

"Then tell me what your own palm says, Madame, for I am certain you will see that we are meant to be on the same path."

But that made her face go very somber again. "One cannot read their own palm, no matter how real the gift," she said. "See, I have the mark -- this 'x' that joins mind and heart. But that is all I can see. It's for the best -- we shouldn't know too much, I think, of our fate."

"There is fate, and then there are things we could escape, if we only seized our courage," I insisted, and she looked annoyed. She knows, I thought. She knows what he is, yet she turns away from me. "Sometimes all it takes to do what is right is to know you will not be alone. My lady... Irena..."

"My advice is that you leave this place. Never come back -- and forget you ever saw my face." She rose and turned as she spoke, and I should have been dismayed, but I heard the emotion in her voice. I grasped her hand and pulled her back to me, and in the dimness of that awful tent I kissed her.

It would be helpful to have someone more fluent in French translating this. Dawson was typing it up in both languages, and the chore gave him a headache. But that wasn't why he headed to the Quai Tournelle to look for the barge.

MacLeod was walking toward him, so Dawson waited, one hand on his cane and the other grasping the notebook that was tucked inside his jacket through the fabric of the pocket. MacLeod's face was tight, closed up -- not that he'd never seen it like that before. He started off casual, making light of things that had been in his nightmares. MacLeod's words were correct, but the tone was arctic.

"Have you seen Methos?" Dawson asked, even though he knew the Old Guy was gone. He'd made it clear enough during their last phone call.

"It won't make any difference, Joe." The tone of Methos' voice set Dawson's nerves on edge.

"It might to Mac."

 "His friend is dead, and he was forced to take the Quickening. Do you think what Shapiro did will suddenly be okay because Galati lied?"

"No, but the truth matters to MacLeod--" he insisted, deliberately emphasizing the difference between them, hoping it hurt Methos.

"The truth is that we betrayed his friend, and he was gullible enough to imagine Horton and his men in whatever vague scenario Galati described. All Jakob had to say was that a Watcher was responsible for Irena's death, and Mac was ready to blame the bastards who killed Darius. He didn't look for the truth any more than Shapiro did."

"Methos..."

"He doesn't need to know, Joe. It won't make him happier and it won't change what we did. I've got to go. See ya."

"Is there something you want?" MacLeod asked, and Dawson fumbled through a reply, his hand so tight on the notebook that it hurt. When MacLeod refused and stalked home, Dawson turned away. He shouldn't have come here, bearing a truth that didn't matter.

Truth hadn't healed the Watchers; knowing why so many of their ranks had died didn't change anything. It hadn't helped Jack Shapiro, either; he'd put a bullet in his brain. The hatred had been the only thing keeping his pain at bay.

And the truth didn't matter to MacLeod anymore. Like Galati, he'd been permanently damaged. Dawson walked away, still carrying his truth -- to be filed and forgotten, no longer important to anyone.

I'm seeing her again tonight. Jakob the fool is "working," probably fucking that idiotic blonde who sits smoking at the beer garden every night, thinking no one notices how she devours him with her eyes.

He imagines my beautiful Irena sitting alone, waiting. Worrying that he is working too hard. Going to sleep cold and alone, wishing he were beside her. Nothing could be further from the truth, for she will be happy, warm, enjoying bliss with me from the kind of love he could never understand. She is mine and I am hers, and he is nothing to either of us.

Tonight, I will tell her what I've planned. We will escape with our salaries when the carnival moves next week, and go to Prague. There we will take out Demetrios. She will have his Quickening, the house -- a mansion fit for her at last -- and whatever money he has in his safe. Finally, the years I spent watching that bastard make sense -- my reward will be giving Irena what she has always deserved.

I wish we could make sure of Jakob. I have a gun with me at all times now; I could shoot him and give her his head. But I know she'd refuse. She's softhearted about him, as one might be for a slow child. She's coddled his weaknesses too long, and won't see that he could interfere in our new life. But I will be there to protect her from him.

Dawson closed his eyes for a moment, trying to imagine the scene when Jakob Galati found them together in his bed. He'd killed them both, of course. Irena permanently, though he must have regretted it later. Why else spend the rest of his miserable life tracking those who wore Claude's tattoo?

 

Many thanks to McJude for the lyric, which follows.

Dark Lady
Cher

The fortune queen of New Orleans
Was brushing her cat in her black limousine
On the back seat were scratches
From the marks of men her fortune she had won
Couldn't see through the tinted glass
She said, "Home James" and he hit the gas
I followed her to some darkened room
She took my money
She said, "I'll be with you soon"

Dark lady laughed and danced
And lit the candles one by one
Danced to her gypsy music
Till her brew was done
Dark lady played black magic
Till the clock struck on the twelve
She told me more about me
Than I knew myself

She dealt two cards, a queen and a three
And mumbled some words
That were so strange to me
Then she turned up a two-eyed jack
My eyes saw red but the card
Still stayed black
She said the man you love is secretly true
To someone else who is very close to you
My advice is that you leave this place
Never come back and forget you ever saw my face

Dark lady laughed and danced
And lit the candles one by one
Danced to her gypsy music
Till her brew was done
Dark lady played black magic
Till the clock struck on the twelve
She told me more about me
Than I knew myself

So I ran home and crawled in my bed
I couldn't sleep because of all the things she said
Then I remembered her strange perfume
And how I smelled it once in my own room
So I sneaked back and caught her with my man
Laughing and kissing till they saw the gun in my hand
The next thing I knew they were dead on the floor
Dark lady would never turn a card up anymore

Dark lady laughed and danced
And lit the candles one by one
Danced to her gypsy music
Till her brew was done
Dark lady played black magic
Till the clock struck on the twelve
She told me more about me
Than I knew myself

Feedback?

Back to the Highlander page