Chapter Seven - The Maine Event
Writer's Note : In Highlander continuity, there have been three Rachel Macleods. One was Connor's first wife, who died circa 1570. One was a late 20th-Century kinswoman of Connor and Duncan's, who tends bar in the Macleods' ancestral home of Glenfinnan, still alive as of this writing. The other, depicted here, was a child adopted by Connor whom he rescued from World War Two Germany. She is the receptionist seen in the first HL movie.
CRABAPPLE COVE, SEPTEMBER, 1953
Rachel Macleod ran out and hugged Dan Pierce.
"Uncle Dan! Its been so long."
Dan smiled. The girl reminded him of his stepdaughter, taken from him by his late second wife's vengeful ex-husband when she passed.
"Rachel--do I need to say how much you've grown?"
"Yes! Its nice to hear, and Daddy never seems to notice. He won't let me near a boy."
Connor--or Russell Nash, in this case, got out of the classic roadster he used only for jaunts in late summer and autumn New England, and kept at a property in New Hampshire.
"I've noticed. In fact, its because I've noticed that you can't go near--certain boys."
Rachel went inside with her things, and Dan stopped Nash.
"Russ--I'm glad you're here. My wife's--Hawkeye's mother--relatives are stopping by. I could use the insulation."
"Always happy to provide cover, Dan. They that obnoxious?"
"Frankly--I'm being kind. Its Joe and Amy--Billy's folks. Glad-handing whispering back-stabbing two-faced...."
Connor/Nash stopped him.
"Dan--Dan! Don't sugar-coat it--give it to me straight. Sides', I thought Billy was your favorite nephew and Hawkeye's favorite cousin."
"Ben put up with Billy, because his mother and I told him to. I think he started saying he was his favorite, just to stand being around Billy. My wife and I put up with the brat because his folks would never permit him to be disciplined. The few times I even tried, his father Joe broke out his sawed-off. If it weren't for the memory of the sweetest woman a young man ever knew--I'd send the whole lot packing."
"The memory of a good woman can be just that way, Dan. So where's Hawkeye?"
Dan's face turned sullen, and now the worry-lines were evident.
Connor tried to quip away the man's obvious concern.
"Hey, who hasn't?. Dan, I've seen and been in plenty of wars. They tend to both deaden and heighten one's appreciation for normal life. He'll shake it off, because that's who Hawkeye is. That is what you gave Doctor Pierce, Doctor Pierce."
Dan threw the Highlander off his mark.
"Connor--please go and talk to him."
Macleod stared at the elder Pierce.
"When did Hawkeye tell you?"
"He didn't. About a year back, a records snafu put my boy in the ground prematurely. Least, it seemed like a snafu. They sent this puzzle-talking snot nose punk to tell me. I felt like crawling away to die, Macleod."
Connor recalled a few instances of extended silence from Duncan. In their harsh realm, such silence often turned eternal.
"That sort of thing can do that to you, Dan. Easily."
Dan nodded, coughing a bit as he did.
"Well, it sure as hell pulled a Dempsey on me. But for all the pain involved, that was cleared up soon enough. But just before Ben got home, our little friend shows up again. Told me stories about the 4077th you wouldn't believe. Showed me a photo of you with a man named Duncan from 1942. Then--he showed me one from 1892. Idiot was trying to get me to spy for him. I gave him the bum's rush. Errr--did vampires actually show up at the 4077th?"
Connor nodded, as he moved inside the house to see Hawkeye.
"Oh, yeah. Creatures Of The Night, Bloodsuckers, Nosferatu, Dirt-Nappers, The Undead-------"
Then, Macleod just smiled.
"---ahhhh, but they're good people."
The Pierce home would have been considered a palace to Connor's clan. But then, to people four-hundred years before them, the safety and defensibility of Glenfinnan would have made the harsh area seem like a slice of heaven. Connor wondered : what would seem like an average home, in 2353? And would he be among those who found out?
"Hey, Hawkeye---I need some paintings sealed in padded shipping cartons. Get the lead out!"
No quip came in easy retort as Connor ascended the stairs to the bedrooms. That alone told him Dan's concerns were not without merit.
"C'mon, Pierce. I just flew here all the way from The Gathering, and boy is my neck sore!"
The Highlander finally came to Hawkeye's room. It was dark, and the shades were pulled down.
"Heh. Waiting for an air raid, Hawkeye? I heard tell we beat Mister Hitler. Those are the rumors, anyway. Verstehes Du?"
A voice that seemed almost a monotone said a few simple words, from a form hidden under the covers.
"Hello, Connor. How are you?"
Macleod felt his rage rise. Had the war he'd only read about broken his young, lively friend? It wouldn't be the first time he'd seen such a thing.
"Hey, c'mon out. I have a little girl growing up way too fast, looking to make an awkward pass at her old crush."
When Hawkeye's sudden silence continued, Connor yelled out.
"PIERCE, GET UP, OR I SWEAR I'LL POKE YOU WITH MY..."
An iron hand clasped his, and another went over his mouth.
"Will you shut up for once? She only just got to sleep. If she's disturbed...."
But from Hawkeye's walk-in closet emerged a pretty woman in her early 30's, yawning.
"Hawkeye, what's going on? Are your relatives here yet?"
"No, honey. Just--just go back to sleep, alright?"
She wore a sleeping mask, and earplugs. Despite the weather, she was well covered, except for her face.
"Who's here with you? Duncan? Duncan, is that you?"
She removed the mask, and her outer robe. But notably, she did not remove the earplugs.
"You're not Duncan. But---snfff--that wallet you're carrying used to be his."
Now, Connor was again thrown off. But he made both a quick recovery--and an introduction.
"Margaret Houlihan, I presume. I'm Connor Macleod--Duncan's kins--cousin."
She eyed him warily, and sniffed again.
"Is one of you adopted? Because you have almost nothing of his scent, except for the wallet and some imbedded dirt particles."
Hawkeye looked at her oddly.
"Why'd you take out the nose plugs? You know how the smells in this area get to you. Now put them back in."
She brushed off his concern.
"I'm a big girl, Pierce. Besides, the noseplugs smell worse than anything else I've dealt with. Now lets take a look outside..."
Margaret opened the shades, saw a brief glint of sunlight, then almost screamed.
"Too much! Its too much! Why is the sun so bright?"
A Hawkeye Connor almost didn't recognize grabbed her by the wrist.
"You--opening that shade--that's none too bright, Margaret. You can't handle it, right now. Neither of us can. Do you know how much I envy you, being able to go in that closet?"
Now, to Macleod's horror, she slashed at his face with her nails.
"Don't paw me, alright? Your skin is like sandpaper, or serrated metal, or..or something!"
"Hawkeye, your face!"
"Connor--no. I'll be fine."
"The hell you'll be fine. She just took a chunk out of your....nooo."
Normally, the sight of a wound closing up suddenly wouldn't faze Connor Macleod in the slightest. But Hawkeye Pierce was not a fellow Immortal. At least, not of the type the Macleods normally associated with.
Annoyed, Hawkeye put his hand past the darkening window shades, then pulled it back. He showed Connor the hand.
"You'll notice my new nickname isn't Lefty. We're not vampires, Connor. But they're good people, right?"
Connor briefly extended his presence through the Quickening. There was an Immortal in Maine, somewhere--but it wasn't either of the two he saw in front of him.
"Darling--I'm so sorry I hurt your face. Ooohh--I never want to hurt you. I just can't live this way much longer."
Margaret was crying, and Hawkeye was holding her, careful not to touch any exposed skin.
"Don't worry. I'm tougher than you, at least physically. But you seem to catch on to these things quicker."
Margaret looked woozily at their guest.
"Connor--why do you smell like you've been struck by lightning?"
As she fell back into a blessed if not blissful sleep, Hawkeye inserted new nose plugs and refastened her sleeping mask. For good measure, he placed ear muffs on her. He then dropped a single drop of his cologne into a cup of water.
"That'll help mask any odors that get through. Its all she can take, though. Any more and she'll break out in hives or worse. C'mon, Connor. Because I have an explanation that bumps up against your life story, for sheer weirdness."
With precision and stealth, Hawkeye closed the door, entered the hallway, and turned on a record player, a gift from Charles in Boston---Massachusetts.
"Sounds of the ocean. Birds lightly chirping. Gentle stuff. It'll help her rest."
Connor didn't speak until they were well away from Hawkeye's bedroom.
"You love her?"
"Well, only--ya know--to distraction."
Pierce sat down in a corner, seemingly fearful of a window opposite him and the pinprick of light it gave off.
"What happened? Well, that's the real trick, isn't it? Three years ago, Margaret and I were not a couple. In fact, we were about as far into not being a couple as a couple of people could get without opening fire at twenty spaces. And I'm not just talking about that phony Hollywood garbage where if they argue, they're really in love. There may have been something there, even then. But there was also one hell of a lot of contempt. Open, outright, and flowing as easily as the blood from those kids that they sent us to patch up. Post-Op, OR, CO's office, unit functions, you name it. We were each firmly opposed to the idea that the other person should even exist on the same planet. Maybe the same universe."
Connor smiled, attempting a reassurance he didn't exactly know how to give in this case.
"Sounds like a real stormy romance."
Hawkeye shook his head.
"Storm, yes. Romance--No."
Connor asked the obvious.
"Then what changed things? And don't tell me they didn't change. I've had ladies as enemies, and they didn't rest comfortably in my closet, unless they were hiding from me."
Hawkeye lightly smiled, belying the grimness of his current circumstance.
"First, we had to allow for the skills we possessed. Then, we had to work together, normally, or in some kind of crisis. The wounded came before any lofty ideological whatevers. Also, I just couldn't look into those eyes and keep on hating. Imagine my surprise when she told me she felt the same. Or don't imagine. Because no one could imagine that. The funny thing was, we hit all kinds of plateaus, physical, emotional, maybe even spiritual. None of which necessarily makes two people a couple."
Macleod sat down on the floor, as well. He was actually more comfortable that way. Old habits die hard.
"Duncan indicated to me that maybe Henry Blake didn't just die as a fortune of war."
"Depends on which war you're talking about. The Korean War didn't kill Henry. There's an underside to this government, Connor. They tried to control Henry. But Henry, to our great shock--and probably to his, wouldn't be controlled. So they killed him."
"Is this the 'they' in *that's what they say*?"
Hawkeye looked down.
"No. This is the they who gives the they in that's what they say their say, their opinions, and their paychecks, all without the first set of theys ever knowing about it. If they know what's good for they."
"Sounds like a scary bunch."
Pierce put his hand to the wall, and felt it.
"The sun is past its apogee. I'll be able to go out soon."
Rather than ask how he could know such a thing without looking, Connor continued.
"Ok. But how did you two end up being so sensitive to almost everything?"
"During Margaret's and my first crisis, we got sent influenza shots. They were experimental. Unfortunately, these experiments were being conducted by the research firm of Frankenstein, Jekyll, and Phibes. Every other man, woman--and--ya know --who was exposed to the same level of this witches' brew died---and died horribly. Not horribly you read in the paper horribly. But people--Connor, people were turning into liquid. Margaret and I even thought we were dying. We're not. But we are changing."
Connor looked back at the bedroom.
"Dan didn't mention Margaret was here."
"That's because he doesn't know. I found her, last night, running like wild to find me. She was naked. The clothes had burned off her body. She left to see me last week. From California. On foot, it took her four days to get here. The friction from her speed had just ate away what she was wearing. I knew this--because the same thing had happened to me--twice."
Before Connor could react to this revelation, Dan called up.
"Ben--the family's here."
"Lets just hope they start in."
Connor grabbed Hawkeye's shoulder.
"Didn't I ever tell you not to go looking for a fight?"
"Yeah. And right after you told me that--you went out hunting for the head of some Spanish baron."
"Now, now. I said not to look for a fight. I never mentioned duels."
They were downstairs and outside when Connor noticed that Hawkeye had donned sunglasses.
"Have we returned, General MacArthur?"
"Connor--your sword may not need sharpening, but your wit sure does."
"I don't sharpen my sword. I clean and polish and hone it."
"That's good. Most men can't admit that kind of thing openly. Tell me, do you at least shut the door?"
Connor rolled his eyes, and they walked out into the yard.