A Ranger in New York City
A word of a warning for my readers: There are some dark subjects touched upon in this story. For this reason, I’m giving it an R rating. I could probably get away with a PG-13 rating, but I’d rather not take that chance. As I said, the subject matter is rather dark, but then again, the idea of serial killers is a dark thing. So is torture. In no way whatsoever do I advocate these subjects. This is a story only!
Having been warned, this is your last chance to turn back. Otherwise, here is a story set in the Potential Universe. It’s not necessary to have read any of the stories set in Potential, but it might help where the mentions of SG-1 come in. Chronologically, it takes place before Potential, and just after Ecolea’s ‘The Ninth Chevron’
A Ranger in New York City
Back-story to the Potentials series by Texan - Prequel to In the Eyes of the Ranger
New York City in the wintertime is not a pleasant experience. The driving wind could drive an exposed body into frostbite fairly quickly. But the cold temperatures mattered not to one particular man, who hunted in any weather in any terrain. He was here now, in the cold. He had left the desert of North Africa behind after the kills there. His chosen prey was an endangered species. An extremely endangered species. But it made for excellent sport. More so since his prey rarely knew that it was prey. Even more so since his prey rarely knew it was an endangered species. But rare or not, endangered or not, it did not stop this man.
He had been born in 1920. His younger life was mostly unremarkable save for the fact that he had been found on the doorstep of a poor and destitute family that had barely scraped by in post World War I Germany. By the time he was twelve, he was living on the streets in Berlin, panhandling to earn enough money to eat. At nineteen, he joined the German army. He served in a tank battalion that led the charge into Poland on September 1st.
By 1942, he had risen in rank to that of Captain and had been transferred into the German SS. It was there that he met the man that would be his mentor for the next forty-odd years; Victor Krueger, otherwise known as the Kurgan. Krueger fed on the hate in the young man, and in return, he gave him the training he knew he would need to survive in this particular arena. Krueger was a higher ranking officer and the long standing policy had been for the higher ranks to mentor the most promising ones in the lesser ranks.
As interrogator specialists with the SS, they were assigned to a Jewish Concentration Camp, whose name was eventually lost to time. It was there that the Kurgan began experimenting with mind-altering drugs. He saw the Jews as even less that the Germans saw them. To him, all mortals were destined to be his slaves, to do with as he pleased.
The Kurgan was an Immortal.
Born sometime about a thousand years before the birth of Christ, along the shores of what is now the Caspian Sea, the Kurgan got his name from the tribe he was found by. They were a people that reveled in torture and cruelty. It is said that the Kurgans would throw children into pits with wild dogs so that the two might fight for food. This was considered a sport among their kind. The boy who would become the Kurgan became an Immortal when his father smashed his head in with a large rock for raping the tribal chief’s wife and daughters. When the newly born Immortal awoke from his first death, he killed everyone in the village, adopting the name of his people as his own. His reputation spread far and wide and his skills as a mercenary were sought after by petty Kings and cruel Emperors throughout the world.
Her name was Gabrielle. An average looking young woman of perhaps twenty-five or so years. She was the type of woman that no one would look at twice. She had been an apprentice acolyte of the Kirche des Sammelns, or the Church of the Gathering. Her Lord and Master, Victor Folter, did not know that she had escaped until several hours after she had left the confines of his compound.
“911, what is your emergency?”
“I’m calling from the Beaux des Lilles restaurant. A young woman just came in here. She looks like someone beat the living hell outta her. She’s wearing a trench coat and nothing else. Can you send someone, please?”
“Yes sir. An officer is on the way sir.”
“Are you the manager?”
“Yes I am. Grigori Koltov, officers. The young woman I called about is back here in the office. I figured it best to move her there, so as not to scare our patrons.”
“Any idea who she is, Mr. Koltov?”
“None whatsoever. She looks very scared though and she keeps muttering three words over and over.”
“What might those words be?”
“She keeps saying ‘Not A God’, over and over.”
“Right. Well let’s have a look at her then.”
The two officers in question took one look at her before one of them grabbed his radio unit and called for an ambulance. Whatever had happened to this poor woman, it had been a hellish experience. All they could see of her was her face, and the bottoms of her legs, but even those small areas of flesh were covered in bruises. The ambulance arrived within minutes, and she was taken to a nearby hospital. The officers followed to try and get a statement from her.
“I’m Detective Benson, Special Victims Unit. This is my partner, Detective Stabler. You called about a possible rape victim?”
“She’s in with the docs now. She was in pretty bad shape when we found her Detective.”
“Doc? What the hell happened to her?”
“Something very bad, Detectives. She’s got relatively fresh bruises on top of older bruises that cover most of her body. All she was wearing when they brought her in was a trench coat and a pair of panties. Rape kit was positive for semen. Multiple donors, it looks like.”
“Has she said anything?”
“She’s fairly well traumatized. She keeps repeating ‘Not a God’, over and over. Whatever happened to her it was brutal.”
“Thanks, Doc. We’ll take the evidence over to the Crime Lab.”
“My Lord. Acolyte Apprentice Gabrielle has escaped.”
“What! How could she have escaped?”
“I do not know this, my Master. She was in her bed after last night’s festivities, but she did not appear with the others for breakfast. I sent an apprentice to seek her out and he returned with the news of her departure.”
“Find her. Now!”
It had taken the senior Acolyte less than a day to find the missing Acolyte. Herr Folter had taken three of the stronger male Acolytes with him, to take the wayward apprentice back and to serve as witnesses for disappointing their God and Master. While the evidence was being processed in the Crime Lab, two of the Acolytes were taking Gabrielle from her hospital room. One of them had injected her with a mild sedative and so she put up little or no resistance to their forceful handling.
A few hours later, Gabrielle was on her knees, her ankles tied together, and her hands tied behind her back. She had been made to orally service the four men in the room as she was still in a rather pliable mood from the sedative. Herr Folter then pulled a gun from within his jacket and shot her at short range several times with a large caliber hand gun. But because she had been anchored to a rod set in the floor, so she did not fall over.
He waited, alongside the three senior Acolytes in the room, for her to awaken from her first death. He felt it as a distant tickle in the back of his mind, and he knew that she was coming awake.
“You see, my children. All that I have promised you is real! She awakes even now from her death! She could have served me eternally! Eventually, our Church will be all powerful and all the mere mortals will serve us. As Acolytes you will be the regional governors of my new Kingdom, but all of that is now lost for Gabrielle. She could have lived eternally at the side of one of you; now she will serve the Dark One in Hell!”
With that, Victor Folter pulled his massive broadsword from his coat and swung it in a massive arc that culminated with the separation of her head from her neck. A few seconds later, the immature Quickening within her escaped to hit Folter full on, but it was of so little power that it hardly fazed him. Then with a few more swift blows, he cut her legs and her arms from her body.
“There, my children. The proof that her eternal power was within her always. You will take this tale back to the others. You will tell them what happens to those who disobey the rules of the Church. Senior Acolyte Michael. I have a task for you. Take her legs, and tie them with this barbed wire to a post on the far eastern side of the city. Take her arms and do the same on the far western side of the city. Take her torso, and tie it to the middle span of a bridge over the river. Her head. Her head must be placed on a pike, in front of the hospital from where we rescued her. To serve as a warning that the mortals can not take one of my children from me!”
Some Hours Later
Police officers milled about the front of the hospital while a photographer from the crime lab took photos of the head. SVU detectives had been called in because it was their case originally. Now they were angry detectives. The woman who was as yet unidentified had been killed. Her head was on a stick in front of the hospital. Someone was sending a message, yet unless that person knew what the message was, it would go misunderstood.
As the two detectives approached the crime scene, they saw that a medical examiner was already taking an inventory of the body.
“Find anything Doc?”
“Whatever sort of weapon was used to remove the head, it was very sharp and it was done in one stroke.”
“One stroke? You sure about that?”
“Not definitely, no. But there are no ragged tears of the skin at the incision area, nor are there any obvious hacking marks. I’d say the weapon was very sharp, and that the perp knew something about anatomy. The blade cut cleanly between the third and fourth vertebrae.”
“Alright. When will you be able to give us more details?”
“A few days.”
“Stabler, Benson, what did you find?”
“Just a head, Captain. You know, something about this strikes a cord. I think I remember seeing something about a perp out west leaving the heads of his victims on fence posts.”
“Put out the basics on the wire. Maybe something will bite.”
Fort Worth in winter time is a pleasant thing. There was a bit of wintry nip in the air, but not so any Yankee would notice. But to those of us native Texans, you could tell that old man winter had arrived, and with gusto. But of course, all of that was safely outside my office window and I was stuck in here finishing up the daily reports. It was a quiet day, crime-wise, in the metroplex. Of course, that was bound to change, now that I had finally gotten caught up with all the paperwork. And sure enough, here came that change.
“Cap, this just came in off the wire. Thought you might be interested.”
“Thanks. Well, well, well. What do we have here. At it again, aren’t you, you sonofabitch.”
30 October 1986
It was just as the locals had reported it. A head mounted on a fence post. Ranger Sheridan had been given the case by his Captain and told to look in to what may well be a hoax. It was no hoax. It made his stomach turn at the sight of it. The road that this fence ran along side was rarely used as it ran to nowhere. Had it not been for a ranch hand riding the fence, looking for problems in the fence line, the head doubtless would have gone undiscovered until there was nothing but a few teeth. Instead, they’d gotten the whole thing mostly intact. There were no obvious tracks on the road, even though it had rained lightly the night before. That told him the head had been there for a few days, and the rain had washed away what little evidence there might have been.
The head was taken to the Harris county ME’s office for examination, and Sheridan went to check in with the local Ranger station. A quick search of the missing person’s database turned up no leads. Whoever the head belonged to, he didn’t have anyone looking for him.
One fruitless interview followed another and by the end of the day, they’d gotten absolutely nowhere. The coroner was still trying to identify the victim through dental records, but that could take time. Time perhaps that they didn’t have.
Time proved the Ranger correct in that respect. The phone call went first to the 911 operator in Houston. The response by local police was immediate and the call went up the line to the Texas Ranger assigned to the case. Ranger Sheridan drove to the location and found the Coroner’s office hauling out more than a dozen body bags.
“Ranger. Looks like we found the body that head on the post belonged to. Along with a dozen or so more.”
“What is this place?”
“It was supposed to be one of those charity haunted houses for Halloween, but someone decided otherwise. The staff that showed up a couple hours ago for work came out screaming. Someone called 911 and the first officer on the scene lost his lunch. It’s pretty gruesome in there, Ranger.”
“Alright. I guess I gotta take a look eh?”
“I can’t go in there again, Ranger. I already have too many images in my head I’d rather not have.”
“Perfectly understandable, Lieutenant.”
Sheridan got a powerful flashlight from his truck and went in to the building. Not all of the body parts had been removed yet. Arms and legs hanging from the rafters. Torsos nailed to the walls. And heads on sticks. A closer look at one of the sticks showed that it wasn’t an average piece of wood. No. It was a pike. A head on a stick sent one message. A head on a pike sent a very different message. Sheridan shuddered and went back into the night air. For sure, he would have nightmares about this case.
The person to whom the Ranger Captain was referring was a serial killer that he had first encountered fifteen years previously in Houston. The man had brutally killed twenty-three individuals, including one undercover police officer, followed some six years later by another mass killing in Washington State, before dropping off the scope. Now it looked like he had finally resurfaced, in New York City. He called and got an appointment with the Commandant who had an opening in the next few minutes.
“Captain Sheridan! A good day to you. How goes the desk job?”
“Boring and you know it, sir. But rank does have some privileges, don’t it?”
“So they tell me, but I have yet to figure out what those might be. Have a seat Jake, and tell me what’s on your mind?”
“Thanks Bill. This just came in off the wire.”
“This sounds like that mutt from fifteen-odd years ago.”
“Sure does. If it is, I’d like permission to go out to New York, sir.”
“We can’t take the chance, now can we? Your trip is approved. I’ll call out ahead for you.”
“Thank you sir. If it’s him, I’ll get the bastard. If not, I’ll lend a hand anyways.”
“See that you do. Luck to you Jake.”
Jacob ‘Jake’ Sheridan had been a Ranger for almost sixteen years. In that time, he’d been something of a prodigy, making the rise to Captain in only ten years. The case in Houston had been among his first few cases, and it was still unsolved. Well, he’d only been a Ranger for sixteen years under his current incarnation. Being Immortal tended to futz up a good career.
He’d been in a Ranger company back before the States War and had joined up on the correct side. He’d been in most every major battle without so much as a scratch until the end of the war. A bullet fired from a Union soldier’s repeater had felled him from his horse. He’d woken up sometime later to find a tall, lanky gentleman staring back at him. His head felt like someone had taken a hammer to it, and there was a decent sized hole in his shirt, but other than that, he was alive.
“Easy now soldier. You’re safe for the moment. My name’s Pierson. I’m a doctor and you’re in my field hospital.”
“Your…your uniform is blue.”
“Yes, you’re in a Union field hospital. You were brought in with the other wounded from the battle. Now, I’ve got good news and bad news for you.”
“Give it to me straight, Doc.”
“The bad news is that you were killed in the fighting yesterday. The bullet pierced your heart. I dare say you were dead before your body hit the ground. The good news is that you’ve made a miraculous recovery.”
“Dead? If’n I was dead, then how come I’m speaking to y’all now?”
“You’re Immortal. You can not die. Accept it.”
“She-it, man, you don’t pull any punches, do ya?”
“The sooner you accept it, the sooner you can begin learning what it takes to survive.”
“The others of our kind that will eventually come for you.”
The war had ended shortly thereafter, and Pierson had taken Sheridan under his tutelage and brought him into the Game with proper training. Jake had not had much in the way of a proper education before his becoming Immortal, but after five years under his mentor’s strict lessons, he’d returned to Texas. He joined the Rangers again a few years after he’d returned to Texas, claiming that his father had been a Ranger before the war. And every forty years or so, he’d enlist with the Rangers, claiming to be the son of a Ranger that had been killed in the line of duty, or had died of natural causes. And so the Sheridan clan could lay claim to four generations of service to the Texas Rangers. Along the way, he’d taken one other teacher, recommended to him by Pierson, for more advanced training in the martial arts. It was that second teacher that he planned to see first upon his arrival in New York.
He felt the buzz before he saw him. And then he saw him, and the smiles were wide and clear.
“It’s good to see you old friend!”
“Likewise! What brings you to New York? Business? Or pleasure?”
“Business, I’m afraid. Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t have time for the pleasure of friends!”
“What sort of business?”
“Chasing a criminal, Connor. A serial killer.”
“It’s just rather odd, his modus operandi. He sets up a church of all things. Brings in runaways and street people. Gets them to believe in him, then kills them. Dismembers their bodies. He left a nice little calling card for us about fifteen years ago in Houston. He put the severed head of an undercover police office on a pike for us to find.”
“Aye. So far, he’s got around five dozen murders under his belt, and quite possibly, another one here in the city.”
“That kind of attention, if he’s one of us, we do not need!”
“I agree with you, Connor.”
“I’ll check around, see if anyone knows anything. In the meantime, how about Chinese for supper?”
“Sounds good to me. Been a long time since I’ve had decent Chinese food.”
Jake and Connor had walked quickly to the luggage carousel to retrieve the two bags that Jake had been forced to check. One had his clothes. The other one, his weapons. As a Texas Ranger, he carried his pistol in a holster under his arm, though the airline had been reticent about letting him board with a weapon, but seeing as how he was an officer of the law, they relented after a short while. Still, his second bag held the weapon he needed only for other Immortals. His sword.
“So Jake, you still have a penchant for old weapons?”
“Doesn’t every Immortal have a penchant for old weapons? But yes, I do.”
“There’s an estate sale I was planning to go to in a couple of weeks. Apparently the owner of the estate was a collector of sorts and has, at least according to the brochure, an extensive collection of wartime weaponry.”
“Pretty much every war the US has been involved in since the Revolutionary War. As I said, an extensive collection. I had planned to go primarily for the silver, but perhaps also to pick up a few edged weapons. It’s always nice to see a good example of what keeps us alive.”
“I agree. And what with the dearth of good sword makers nowadays, I find it helps to obtain swords from previous eras. Hell, Connor, I’m still using the saber the CSA gave to me back in the War for Southern Independence.”
“So long as it serves you well, then you should have no complaints.”
“This is true. So, Chinese?”
The rest of the evening passed all too quickly and Jake still had to check in to his hotel. Connor would hear none of it and convinced Jake to stay at his place, as he had plenty of room. Early the next morning, Jake was dressing for his appointment with the NYPD. Steam pressed dark blue jeans with a knife-edge crease, shiny black Roper boots, a long sleeved shirt, of the style he wore during the States War but renewed today as a Cavalry bib shirt, an oilskin duster and his Stetson made the picture complete of a Texas Ranger. Of course, his badge and weapons helped clear up that picture.
Some years ago, Jake had gone to one of those ‘attendance required’ seminars to learn all about the new ‘less-than-lethal’ apprehension techniques. He’d gone home from the seminar with an idea about a new type of shotgun and six months later, he presented the first ‘Sheridan Special’ to his commandant. A tri-barreled shotgun that could be reloaded quickly by a three-round speed loader type clip, like the kind of clip a revolver would take. He hand loaded the shotgun rounds himself, and so each tri-clip held a specific type of round, though if need be he could use off the shelf ammunition as well. One round was pepper gas, another was for taking down doors and was made of compressed powdered metal, while the last was a round loaded with 21 small rubber bullets. He carried five spare clips, four of which were the same as what was loaded in the gun, while the fifth had one armor piercing round, made to stop a truck, and two flechette rounds, each one loaded with fifteen sharpened steel darts that could shred anything in their path.
He wore the Sheridan Special strapped to his right leg, his not-so-standard issue Desert Eagle in fifty Action Express in the holster under his arm, and a back-up weapon at the small of his back. If he ever had the need to pull that weapon it would mean he was in serious trouble indeed. It was a three barreled Derringer type that he picked up at a gun show in Fort Worth. Two rounds of forty-five caliber and one four-ten shotgun round loaded with half a dozen sharpened steel flechettes as a last ditch effort to stop a perp. He caught a cab outside and went down to the Police Station where he would meet one Captain Cragen with whom he had an appointment for 9am.
“Good morning to you Sergeant. I wonder if you could direct me to Captain Cragen? I have an appoint for 9am.”
“Yeah. Just a sec. What’s your name?”
“Jacob Sheridan. Texas Ranger.”
“Texas Ranger? Wow. Don’t think I’ve ever met one of you! Follow me please.”
The Sergeant led him down numerous hallways until they came to a rather average looking squad room. There were numerous detectives, or at least he thought they were detectives sitting at various desks performing the task that was the bane of every police officer everywhere; paperwork. The Sergeant pointed him at a closed door and then left. Sheridan knocked and then entered.
“Captain Donald Cragen?”
“Let me guess. You’re the Texas Ranger the Commissioner said was coming to see me.”
“Was it the blue jeans that gave me away?”
“Nope. Musta been the hat.”
“Darn it. And here I was trying to look inconspicuous too. ‘Morning Captain. I’m Jacob Sheridan, Texas Ranger, but you can call me Jake. Did your commissioner fill you in on the purpose of my visit?”
“He mentioned a case that we’re working on, but maybe you can tell me more about it?”
“Who’s the primary on the case?”
“Do they need to be in here?”
“It would help to go over this as few times as possible. The less graphic imagery in my head, the better.”
“Ok. Stabler! Benson! My office, now!”
“What’s going on Cap?”
“Detectives Elliot Stabler and Olivia Benson. This is Captain Jacob Sheridan of the Texas Rangers. He has some information on the ‘head’ case.”
“Nice to meetcha.”
“Pleasure to meet you, Ranger.”
“Likewise. First off, I need to ask y’all a few questions. Reason is I’m not entirely sure that the perp I’m after is the same mutt you’re after. As I understand it, you found one victim, a female, mid-twenties. Signs of severe trauma, repeated beatings, and decapitation. Is that correct?”
“Correct so far.”
“Did you, by chance, find any tattoos, any sort of religious markings or symbols?”
“Yes. One tattoo. Found on the inside of the upper leg. We haven’t been able to identify the symbol though”
“May I see a photograph of that symbol?”
“Sure, here you go.”
“As I suspected. KS. Inscribed in a triangle. You said her head was on a stick?”
“A pike actually.”
“A pike you say? Yeah, your mutt sounds like the one I’ve been after for quite some years. KS stands for the Kirche des Sammelns, or the Church of the Gathering. It’s a cult type church, for lack of a better way to describe them. The records I’ve managed to find say that they originated in Germany sometime during World War II. Only one time has any law enforcement agency managed to get someone in on the inside. That was in Houston in 1986. The officer in question thought he was infiltrating a drug operation masquerading as a cult. He paid for the truth with his life. The leader of this ‘church’ has been indicted in absentia in Texas on Murder One.”
“So this leader fancies himself a ‘Jim Jones’?”
“Worse. In that case, all of the cultists were enticed into drinking the cyanide, but Mr. Jones didn’t behead or dismember his followers. We don’t have any clue why this guy does. In all of the bodies found to date, in Texas, and in Washington, the victims all had their hearts shredded by a large caliber bullet shortly before their beheadings.”
“If this is the same killer we’re after, then he won’t stop with just one victim, will he?”
“Afraid not Captain. You’ve got a serial killer on the loose with at least 58 victims under his belt. Add to that one police officer in Houston, and what you’ve got is a skilled killer. But before you go off and consult the FBI, let me just add that they’ve already tried to give us a profile, but can’t. Sure what they gave us before worked for a bit, then wham! He goes off and changes his pattern. What’s worse is that we have no idea how he chooses his victims or how he recruits them into his church.
“I’ve been on this guy’s trail for fifteen solid years. I hope to be able to help you all catch him. I don’t care if you claim the collar, all I want is to get him off the street.”
“How do you know it’s a male perp?”
“There is the strength factor at play here.”
“Detective Benson. How many female criminals or females in general do you know that can cut a head off in one stroke?”
“Not too many. I see your point. The head we found was taken off with one stroke. That implies a significant amount of strength and a very sharp weapon, either an axe or a sword.”
“Great. All we need is another damned head-hunter.”
“Another head-hunter, Cap?”
“It was summer of 1985, Elliot. I was young and dumb and in uniform riding patrol when some bodies turned up headless. The press called it a ‘head-hunter’. A few weeks after it started, the detectives on that case caught a break with a live witness who gave a description. Shortly thereafter, another body turned up and its head matched the description. There were maybe five or six killings back then, and then they stopped. But all his victims were men. No women involved back then.”
“And if the perp in that case turned up dead, and you never caught who killed him, well, I’m not sure that it would be the same guy. Did the detectives back then ever have a suspect?”
“They did Olivia. Some guy named Nash. Antiques dealer.”
“Russell Nash? Russell Nash was a suspect?”
“You know him Ranger Sheridan?”
“Know him? I’m staying with him in town. He and I have been friends for what seems like forever. He was my instructor for advanced martial arts. My family has known his family for decades. I can’t believe this. Nash, a suspect. Who woulda thunk it? I’ll have some stuff to hold over his head at dinner tonight.”
“Captain? Sorry to interrupt, but we’ve got another one. ConEd repair guys doing some light-pole maintenance found two arms tied with barbed wire to a pole.”
“Benson, Stabler. Take the Ranger with you. Munch and Fin, go with them and help canvas the area. If this guy is the same one you’re after Ranger, then he’s a bona-fide serial killer. I’m gonna call the Chief and get us some help on this one. Ranger, since you’re the most familiar with his methods, would you be willing to meet with our forensic psychiatrist to see if maybe he can do what others have failed to do; come up with a profile?”
“Sure thing, Captain Cragen.”
“Get going. You’ve got a crime scene to investigate!”
German Occupied France
Major Kruger and Captain Folter were riding in the back of a staff car. They had orders to report to the commandant at Stalag 22, a POW camp where they would interrogate some American prisoners. The road they were on was a dark one, lined as it was on both sides by a forest. They were perhaps halfway to the camp when shots rang out. The driver took two hits, one in the chest and another in the face. Both officers dismounted from the vehicle, one from either side, only to find French Resistance fighters waiting for them. The Resistance fighters emptied their guns into the bodies of the officers and they fell in bloody heaps.
Folter was quite dead, having taken at least thirty shots at near point blank range in the chest. Kruger was also dead; the recipient of a dozen rounds from an American made Tommy-gun. But Kruger was an Immortal with some three millennia of life under his belt. The rounds knocked him down. They even killed him. But his Immortal energies revived him fairly quickly. Kruger stood up.
“French swine! Do you not realize it takes more to kill a God than your mortal weapons! Die!”
He made quick work of them, swinging his broadsword in bold arcs, lopping off arms and heads like a scythe through wheat. When all were dead, he knelt next to the body of his young protégée and waited for him to arise from his first death.
Nearly thirty minutes passed before Folter suddenly gasped for breath.
“Herr Major? You’re alive? I swear I saw you die?”
“I did die. For that matter so did you. But as you can see the weapons these mere mortals carry can not harm us. We are Gods, you and I. We cannot die.”
“How can this be, Herr Major?”
“No one knows why we are here, Herr Folter, just that we are. There are three things you must know Captain. Three laws that govern our kind. First, all of our battles are one on one. Second, you must never fight on Holy Ground. This is our only refuge from others of our kind. Last, you must fight all who challenge you. In the end, only one will claim the Prize.”
“What prize, Herr Major?”
“Dominion over all mortal men for all eternity! Come now, my brother. I have much to teach you.”
Letter to Victor Folter
My brother. Hopefully all will go as planned this night. I believe I have finally deciphered that Arab’s riddle. My first mentor was wise and strong, but when he turned his back to me, I took his head. Never turn your back on one of our kind, even one who you call friend, for surely they will not hesitate to take your head. Three thousand years I have roamed this planet, and yet the time of the Gathering grows no closer.
I have followers here; all of them pre-Immortals. Thirty-six, I believe, is the magic number. Tonight all of them will die. I have arranged a device which will cut their heads off simultaneously. It is my desire that this will trigger a gathering. If you receive this, then I have failed, and thirty six was not the magic number. Continue my work, my brother. I have trained you well. It is only just that since I have failed, that the Prize go to you.
Victor Kruger had completed his ritual and had shot each victim twice in the heart while they slept. None awoke to the silenced shots. He then slammed a dagger into the hearts of each one of them, so that they would not awaken from their first death until he decreed it. Each body was lowered into place along a specially built guillotine, that would sever nine heads at once, and he had built four such devices. As soon as his experiment was ready in all respects, he moved quickly about the room, pulling daggers from the chests of the dead. Kruger had made a square of each row of guillotines with himself at the center. His children awoke now and found themselves bound to their spots on the floor. The look in their eyes was one of pure terror.
“The time has come Children. Tonight, I will feast on your souls!”
Kruger pulled on a rope which in turn released a counter weight that sent four long and sharp blades crashing down on their victims. Not all the heads hit the floor at once, but it was a close thing. All of a sudden, a white mist began to pour out of each body. The mist grew until it was as dense as a rain cloud. Lighting bolts formed in the center of the cloud and struck out with anger at the upright target in the center. Kruger was hit with round after round and bolt after bolt. The very air seemed to take on an electrical charge all its own. For some strange reason, only a few Immortals felt the pull of the Gathering, almost as if some unseen hand were directing their actions. Sunda Kastagir. Iman Fasil. Vasilich. Connor MacLeod.
The mini-gathering ended just as quickly as it had begun, and at the end, Connor MacLeod of the clan MacLeod, took the head of the Kurgan.
New York City
It was a warehouse district near the river where they found the body parts. Two arms had been tied to a light pole, with barbed wire of all things. But just the arms. Nothing else to indicate that this had once been the complete body of a twenty-something woman.
A few hours later, another police unit called in to Special Victims to say that they had found two legs, sans body, tied to a street lamp with barbed wire.
An hour after that, someone finally noticed a legless, armless, headless torso tied to the central support column of the Brooklyn Bridge. It too, had been tied there with barbed wire.
NYPD Coroner’s Office
“Heya Doc. Got all the parts?”
“You have a strange sense of humor Detective Munch.”
“I’ve heard that one before, Doc. Anything yet?”
“CSU managed to pull a number of intact prints from her hospital room. After we eliminated the prints from the staff there, there were several unidentified ones until a few minutes ago. One set came back as a match for a Michael Kelly. The other one turned up in AFIS, but I’m doubtful of that one.”
“Any particular reason Doc?”
“It matched to something in the Immigration records from the fifties. A man who entered the US who at the time was in his thirties. If he’s still alive, he’d be in his eighties. No, I’m thinking that since the record is that old, that’s it’s a mistake.”
“We did manage to pull one slug from her heart. Big thing too. IBIS shows it as a fifty caliber.”
“I’m surprised there was anything left of her chest after a hit from that!”
“Me too, Munch.”
SVU Squad Room
“Elliot, here’s the ME’s report.”
“Two prints and one usable slug?”
“Well, unless one of the perps is an eighty year old, I think it’s only one print.”
“One of the prints CSU took from the hospital room came back as belonging to a German national that emigrated to the US in the early fifties. The Immigration form says he was thirty-two at the time.”
“Any name on that print?”
“Damn! Ranger. You scared the bejeezus outta me. How’d you manage to sneak up on me like that?”
“Well, I’m a Texas Ranger now, but once upon a time I was an Army Ranger too. So, about that print?”
“According to Immigration, it belongs to a Dieter Eckhard.”
“Hmmm. Hell of a name.”
“How so, Ranger?”
“Look at the etymology of it.”
“The etymology. It’s a study of names and the origins of names. Dieter. It means ‘Warrior of the People’ in German. Eckhard. It means ‘the hardy edge of the sword’.”
“Hell of a hobby you got there, Ranger.”
“It sometimes helps to know why a perp chooses a particular name. Course, in this case, that’s neither here nor there.”
Elsewhere in NYC
Herr Folter was a man vexed by a problem. His first and only instructor had attempted to bring about the Gathering and had failed. But he had also partially succeeded. The Kurgan had sacrificed thirty six young Immortals and had drawn to him several older Immortals, but the release of that many Quickenings had not brought about the Gathering. Folter had taken twenty-two souls from his followers in Texas, and nothing had happened. He’d taken thirty-one souls in Washington, and nothing had happened. His master had taken thirty-six and had triggered a miniature Gathering. But his Master had lost his head at the end to MacLeod.
The Kurgan had once told him the tale of the Highlander, and his pursuit of him across the centuries. He had taken the Highlander’s mentor and then his woman, but had missed the Highlander. Herr Kruger had blamed Ramirez for the scar that ran across his throat. A scar on any other part of the body would have long since vanished in an Immortal, but a cut across the throat was tantamount to a severed head, and such cuts did not heal well at all.
Folter hoped to cause a Gathering. He hoped to gain enough souls to feed him, to increase his strength. But more than that, he hoped and prayed to a God he no longer believed in, that at the end, it would be only himself and the Highlander who were left. Then he would take his head, avenge his mentor, and claim his rightful place as King over all mortals.
In his first life, he been a masterful interrogator for the Nazis. Though it could be said that they were of little vision , they did have some brilliant ideas when it came to disposing of mere mortals. Had der Fuhrer been an Immortal like himself, the Reich would not have fallen as it had. He had escaped the witch hunts after the war, when so many of his fellows had been tried at Nuremberg.
His computer ‘dinged!’ to let him know that an email had arrived. So many changes in the world in so short a time. Technological wonders never ceased to amaze him. It was from a source, a friend of his who worked for the local police, a man who fancied himself a Nazi. Folter snorted at the mere image of such a man trying to impress his fellow SS with his fervor. But what was this? The police had a lead? And they had help as well? Jacob Sheridan. Texas Ranger. This might prove to be a very good day indeed, despite the fact that young Gabrielle had been sent to serve the Dark One in Hell.
Folter had so much wanted to be on hand when these stupid mortals came in to find the nice details he had added to that charity haunted house. But he settled for the series of discreet surveillance cameras he had left inside and outside the facility. They would never be noticed, even by the so-called detailed examinations of the local Police, and then in a few days, he would retrieve the cameras and their precious footage.
He had watched as the first workers arrived at the building, only to run out screaming. He had listened to the intercepted phone call, the desperate plea for help.
“911. What is your emergency?”
“Bodies. Oh my God. Bodies. Lots of them. Hurry! Please come quickly!”
He had watched as the first police officer arrived on the scene, responding to what was believed to be a prank for Halloween. He sat amused as the police officer entered the building and emerged after less than a minute, pale as a sheet of fine white linen, and puked his dinner in the gutter. He sat amused and laughing with dark glee as more cars arrived, screeching their arrival with strips of black rubber burned into the pavement. And he had watched as pick-up truck, of the type that was so prevalent in Texas, pulled up to the scene, and a man in a long greatcoat and cowboy hat exited the vehicle. A man he had later identified as a Texas Ranger.
He had heard the legend of these Rangers. And perhaps, had the circumstances been different, he would have seen the man as an equal. The Texas Rangers were the elite of the state’s police force. These were men who were fully dedicated to the pursuit of criminals and their deeds. Men who would stop at nothing to bring the evil to justice. Such a man was a soldier, defending the innocent from those who prey upon them. Folter had been a soldier once. In this Ranger he saw a kindred spirit. One, who though mortal, would have a chance at understanding him.
He’d seen him again, in the surveillance footage from his compound in Washington state. Perhaps the legends of these Rangers had more truth in them than falsehood? And now, here he was again. In New York City, trying to find Folter. Folter resolved at that moment to taunt the Ranger. To entice him to meet with him. It would certainly make for a better hunt than he’d had in decades. But how to do this? He would have to think on this subject.
SVU Squad Room
New York City had awoken to the fact of one more murder in its environs. But what was one more murder in a city that had so many of them? New Yorkers paid little attention to the story, for the moment buried in the local news section on page twelve of the local paper. For the detectives of the SVU, and for one Texas Ranger, it was business as usual. They would need to capture this man, this ‘cult leader’ before he could claim any more lives. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the only case on their plates. At least not for the detectives of the Special Victims unit. For Sheridan, it was his only case. This was one case he wanted solved before he retired. That’s what he was thinking on of late. Moving on. Perhaps another tour in the military after this life with the Rangers was over. Sixteen years he’d been with the Rangers, with time off in 1991, when his reserve unit had been activated for Desert Storm.
Folter was still thinking on a way to taunt the Ranger. He remembered something his mentor had once told him. Once upon a time, centuries ago, pre-Immortals had been hard to come by. The Kurgan had liked to take his time back then. Teaching them, training them to fight. But, Folter thought, in this new age, where a man could circumnavigate the globe in a day, his only goal for the moment, was the hunt. All the better if the target didn’t know they were being hunted. He wondered for an idle moment, just how much of a challenge a Ranger could put up for him. He tended to go after newly born Immortals, especially ones he had created, but he might have to make an exception in this case. He wondered for a moment, if the Fates had decreed this challenge to him. One day, he would be powerful enough to avenge his teacher by taking the head of the elder MacLeod, and on that day, his life task would be over and the hunt would finally end.
Jake was unaware of the man and his thoughts. He was tagging along with Detectives Munch and Tutuola as they made the rounds of their Confidential Informants, but none had any information related to this new player in town.
As Jake made the rounds about town, Acolyte Michael came in to see his Master.
“Master. I have found a possible new apprentice for you.”
“Yes? Tell me.”
“She is above average in beauty. Twenty-four years of age. A graduate student of philosophy at the University. I met her in the library there. I engaged her in a philosophical discussion on the merits of the news of cloning as reported in the local papers last week. She proved to have a quick mind, and a sharp wit. And she bears the signature feeling you have told me to look for.”
“Excellent! Bring her to me!”
“As you wish, my Master.”
The woman in question was again the library, studying for a finals examination she had the next day. She didn’t know what had made her take the course in deviant psychology, but it had proved an interesting choice. Just now, she was reading a monograph by a brilliant psychologist that she had learned worked for the FBI. She wondered, not for the first time, whether she should follow in her adopted father’s footsteps, or try for a spot at the FBI academy in Quantico.
“Hey there Meredith! Nice to see you again.”
“Hi Michael. Studying for finals?”
“Nah. All done with mine. You?”
“Psyche exam tomorrow morning. Professor Luder has a fondness for a few FBI profilers, and I’m reading one of the assigned monographs.”
“Could I interest you in a study break? Hot chocolate maybe?”
“You know, that sounds really good right about now. I’ll leave my books here, but I’m taking my purse.”
“Yeah. Ya can’t be too careful nowadays.”
“Acolyte Michael. What news of the young beauty?”
“She fell asleep in my vehicle after she drank the drugged chocolate. She awaits you in your chambers, my Lord.”
“Let us go see our new prize then.”
Unfortunately for her, Meredith was everything that Folter could want in a woman. Attractive and intelligent. It was also unfortunate that she wouldn’t be missed for a few days. While true that she did grow up in the same city as her university, she happened to live in an apartment in the Village, well away from her parents’ home in Westchester. The fact that she wouldn’t show up for her final examinations over the next few days, and then would be late in her weekly call to her mother, would only inform the police of her disappearance a week after the event.
One week later
One week with no new clues and no solid leads to follow. The one print they had for Michael Kelly had been a dead end. He’d been reportedly killed in a bar room brawl two years before, according to his former foster parents. The print for Eckhard had been even less fruitful, as the man in question had died shortly after his arrival in the United States.
The sergeant on duty at the front desk walked into the squad room with a package. It was addressed to ‘the Texas Ranger’.
“Ranger Sheridan? Messenger dropped this package off a few minutes ago.”
“Hmm? A package? But I wasn’t expecting anything.”
Jake and the two detectives had looked up at the mention of a package The first hint of trouble came when Jake realized that there was no return address. The second came when he saw no postmarks of any kind.
“Anyone know how this got here?”
“Arrived by messenger about fifteen minutes ago.”
“That explains the lack of a post mark. Doesn’t however, explain the lack of a return address. Y’all might want to stand back for this one.”
“If anyone sent me a package, it would be clearly marked. That there’s none on this package makes me suspicious.”
So saying, Jake reached into his duster and pulled out a small toolset. The first item was a small paper thin and credit card sized scanner which was designed to detect any sort of electrical emissions from the package. None were present. Nor were there any electrical impulses of any kind either. That ruled out wires in the tape. Very carefully, he began to cut away at the brown paper wrapping the box.
All the time while Jake was examining the package, Captain Cragen, having been advised of the situation, had evacuated the area of personnel and had called for a bomb squad. He was surprised when he saw Jake scanning the box and then shaking his head and start to cut open the box. I have to get this man’s file from the Rangers. First a detective and now it looks like he’s got experience with bombs too. I wonder what else I should know about this man or risk a heart attack.
By now, Jake had removed the outer wrapper. The box was plain white with no obvious sign of a manufacturer. The box was not taped together and so Jake carefully pulled the top of the box off. Inside he found a note, a lock of hair, and a necklace, all of which he photographed before removal.
Hello Ranger. We’ve never met, you and I, but I feel as though I’ve known you all of my life. You and I, we could be brothers. We both take pleasure in the hunt. You hunt criminals, I hunt mortals. Though our prey may be different, we are alike. It should please you to know that HPD Officer Garcia died quickly and painlessly. He too was a soldier, though perhaps not as highly ranked as either you or I. The others, the insignificant insects whose souls I laid claim to, they are nothing, they mean nothing. But you. You I shall relish the thrill of the chase, the exquisite pleasures of the hunt. You are a subject worthy of my attentions.
There are still areas of this world of ours where there are no rules. You are an elite police officer. I am an elite hunter. You are my ultimate prey, and I am your ultimate predator. I kill for sport. I kill for pleasure. I kill to feast on the souls of my prey. Be honored, Ranger, for I have chosen you for my next hunt.
This was so notgood, thought Jake. Now the bastard was taunting him! And what’s this? Under the note were two books. The first one was really a pamphlet. Nothing major, except the title. Handbook of the Kirche des Sammelns. The second book however, that one gave him cause to fear. ‘Kazaks and Kurgans: A History of the Tribes of the Steppes.’ Oh bloody hell. Someone who knew the Kurgan. Perhaps someone who worshipped the Kurgan. This was so not good at all.
“Ranger? You ok? You look like you’ve seen a ghost?”
“Huh? What? Ghost? Nah, I’m ok. Rat bastard knows I’m here. Knows I’m after him. He’s taunting me.”
“What else is in the box?”
“A lock of hair. And a necklace. The name on the necklace says ‘Meredith’.”
“Yep. Either a current ‘follower’ of his, or a past victim.”
In the background, a phone rang. Jake could make out only one side of the conversation, but he knew it was not good.
“Cragen…yes sir…we are sir…of course, sir. We’ll get on it right away sir.”
“Listen up people! That was the Commissioner! He says his daughter called home and claims that she’s been kidnapped. She kept saying ‘Not a God’, over and over before the line was cut off. Munch, take Fin and get any statements from any witnesses you can find. Captain Sheridan? Think you can help us out on this one?”
“It’s him, sir. He’s got her. But he’s made a mistake. He taunted me. He wants to hunt me. I’m sorry, Captain Cragen, but your troops will have to work without me for a few hours. I have to follow up on this lead.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. Take Benson with you. Stabler, you’re with me. Let’s go examine the crime scene.”
“Sure thing Cap.”
“So…where to, Ranger?”
“Hudson Street. Nash Antiquities.”
“The same Russell Nash that Captain Cragen was talking about when you first arrived?”
“The one and the same. He’s something of a specialist in ancient tribes. He might be able to give me an insight into this nut’s mind.”
“Sure. Let’s go then.”
It was a good hour later that they pulled up to the antiques store owned by Russell Nash, what with traffic as bad as it normally is in Manhattan. He felt the brush of Connor’s Quickening and hoped that Connor would not mind that he had brought a friend.
“Jake? Back so soon?”
“The case has taken a strange turn Russell. A turn that I hope you might be able to give some insight to.”
“Jacob Sheridan! You’re manners are atrocious! Now, while my friend picks his jaw up off the floor, allow me to introduce myself, since he saw fit to not do so. Russell Nash, at your service.”
“Detective Olivia Benson, Special Victims Unit. I’m just going to look around while you two talk?”
“Feel free to do so. If you are interested, I have a collection of antique weapons on the second floor.”
“Thanks, that might be fun to look at.”
“Tell me Jake, what brings you here so early?”
“I got a package at work a short while ago. There was a short note, taunting my ineptitude, and a book in the package. The writer of the note claims that he wants to hunt me to feed off my soul. The book was about the tribes of the Steppes, particularly the Kurgans.”
“I had hoped to never hear that particular name again.
“Did that beast have any students?”
“I can’t imagine that he would have left any of them alive, Jake. What else did the note say? What are you not telling me?”
“He wants to meet me, I think. There’s a reference to a church, and a time. I think that I will go and meet him. At the very least, I can take him into custody and be rid of him.”
“You have your sword with you?”
“Always, old friend.”
“Watch your head. Speaking of swords, I got a call earlier from your first teacher. Seems he just got into town and wanted to stop by tonight for a drink. I told him you were here and he hoped to see you too. Very shortly, we’ll be joined by another of our kind. Perhaps all of us together can help you catch this crazed killer?”
“We shall have to see if Adam is interested in helping, my friend.”
“You’ll have to see if who is interested in helping?”
“Detective Benson. You startled me. Russell was just telling me that a mutual friend of ours is coming into town for an estate sale, I had hoped to attend while I was here. Apparently there are a number of antique weapons included in this sale, and I had hoped to snare a few pieces for my collection. However I find myself short on cash, and I was hoping Russell here might help me with a loan.”
“Oh. Well. Ok then. Was he able to help you with that gift you received?”
“Yes. About that Russell. You’ll have to fill me in on what you know of the Kurgans.”
“Not really my area of expertise, more Pierson’s bailiwick than mine. He’s due here in an hour or so, perhaps we could meet you later?”
“That’ll work. I’ll call you in a couple hours. We’ll meet someplace for drinks. I’ve got a single malt whiskey you really should try. Damned smooth!”
It was a pair of hours later and the crime scene had been thoroughly examined. No clues were present, but Jake already knew it was the Kurgan’s student that had done this. All that he had heard about that beast of a man told him he was not one to take on a student. That he had done so did not bode well for the Commissioner’s daughter, now in his custody.
It was a luxury building, the likes of which fairly reeked of money. The type of building a visiting cattle baron would buy, just for a weekend party. The builder had set up the floors so that only one apartment was to be had per floor, giving the residents ample space to do as they pleased. The fact that each apartment was completely soundproofed as well made it especially appealing to the man currently known as Victor Folter. The real Victor Folter had passed on some years ago, but all of his mail still went to the same place, and all of his credit cards were untouched and the credit lines secured by a bank vault filled with gold in Capetown.
The Kurgan had found him practicing his torture on the prisoners in his cells during the Second World War. He could scarcely remember what the critical information it was that he sought from the prisoners, but the fact that it gave him the opportunity to practice his technique was all that mattered. Whether his prisoners talked or not, whether they gave up important information or inconsequential information mattered not. What mattered was the dark art he practiced with ease. He had become an Immortal during the Second World War equivalent of a drive-by shooting. But already the Kurgan had been with him, and after his first death, the Kurgan had taken him on as a student, had trained him to stalk his prey and to kill efficiently and quickly. He had learned quickly and took to his gift like a duck to water. He knew that shy of losing his head, no death would be permanent. It was like a gift from the Gods of old. His Master was an old Immortal, and very wise in the ways of warfare.
But then he had left his pupil to his own devices. And the man now known as Victor Folter became a mercenary, hiring himself out to whatever petty government needed his special brand of skills, and for a few decades, it kept him in a lifestyle that he never had before his first death.
And now he was here in New York City, the very city where his Master lost his head. He was after the Highlander, and he would take his head when only he and the Highlander remained at the end of the Gathering. There was no pattern that Jake could see that drove the man. The man collected followers. And at some point in time, that only Folter could determine, he took the heads of his followers, feasting on their immature Quickenings, like a man might feast on a good steak. But this man, this killer, had made a mistake. He had taken the adopted offspring of someone that could pull all of the resources of the New York Police Department to bear.
Elsewhere in the city, Victor watched his latest ‘guest’ with growing anticipation. She was a pretty young woman, full of life, and at the moment, full of fear. She was twenty-four years of age. In the time before his first death, she would have been married by now and she was certainly of child bearing age. Yes, by the time he and his senior Acolytes were done with her, she’d have experienced every form torture he had ever developed, and none would give her any pleasure. For this was not about her, but solely about his pleasure.
Cathedral of St. Patrick
The Church was mostly empty at this late hour, but there were a few people here and there in the pews, silently praying to the God they believed in. Truthfully, Jake had never really been a church going sort of man, even before his first death. He didn’t believe in God per se, but he did believe that there was a higher power at play in the universe. A power with an oft-times odd sense of humor.
The feeling of another Immortal hit him suddenly and he wondered who else could be in this Church. The he saw a man coming up to him. He sat down in one of the rear most pews, and the man took a seat in front of him.
“Ranger Sheridan. At last we meet. I had not thought you to be like me. In truth, I saw you as a potential adversary, a soldier like myself. But here we meet at last and you are more like me than I had imagined. The same eternal power that flows through me, flows through you as well. This shall be a most enjoyable hunt!”
“Who was the Kurgan to you? Why did you send me that book?”
“The Kurgan? He was my teacher. He was the one that taught me the ways of our kind. Do you have any affairs you need to tend to before we begin our hunt?”
“As a matter of fact, yes I do.”
“Then I shall be considerate of that fact. You had not thought me to be one of us, and perhaps you are not as prepared as you would like to be. Tomorrow evening, this same time, at the Arsenal in Central Park. We shall begin there.”
“Why what? Why do I want to hunt you?”
“No, you sick fuck, why do you take their heads? Why so many at once?”
“Ah, that. It is so simple, you will hurt yourself for not realizing it sooner. My Master, the Kurgan, claimed it was a method taught to him by an old Arab Immortal, who in turn claimed to have learned the technique from the Great and Powerful Methos before that same Arab took the head of Methos. The exact number of simultaneous Quickenings has been lost to time, but a certain number of simultaneous Quickenings will bring about the Gathering.
“My Master almost succeeded once. In 1985, he caused the simultaneous beheading of thirty six of our kind, and caused several of our kind to come to this place. I have failed enough times that with my next attempt, I know I will succeed. But first, I will take your head. Then I will trigger the Gathering. Then I will win my matches and make sure that the Highlander wins his. In the end, when just he and I are left, I will take his head, avenging my Master, and taking the prize for myself.”
“Fine. Tomorrow then. On one condition however.”
“State your terms then.”
“If I win, and before I take your head, you will tell me where your followers are.”
“And if I win, Ranger?”
“Can’t help you there.”
“Very well. Your condition is acceptable. Tomorrow night. Tomorrow night I will hunt you and you will die. Enjoy your final night on this dreary little world.”
Jake looked at his watch and realized he was supposed to have met Connor some twenty minutes previously. He made his departure and arrived ten minutes later at a cop bar frequented by the detectives assigned to the Special Victims Unit.
He could feel the rather large disjointed Quickening from just outside the bar. As he got closer to the entrance, the sensation he felt resolved itself into two distinct Quickenings. Behind him, Benson and Stabler were quickly approaching. Jake hoped that it had nothing to do with the case. After the day he’d had, what he wanted most was a good stiff drink and the company of friends, though not necessarily in that order.
“Detectives Benson and Stabler. Please tell me you’re just here for a drink and not to drag me off to a crime scene?”
“Relax, Ranger. Just here for a drink. But the Cap says he wants to see you bright an early in his office tomorrow, so don’t overdo it tonight.”
“My limit is three. Ah, I see my friends now. If you’ll excuse me?”
“Sure. See you in the morning.”
“Jake! Sit down, take a load off.”
“Connor, I did say I would introduce you to a new brand of whiskey. This bar doesn’t stock it, but that’s their loss. So I stopped earlier today and picked up a bottle of twelve year old whiskey. Try it. And give me your honest opinion.”
“Pour away, Jake.”
Jake kept the bottle well hidden, but still managed to pour out three good stiff shots for his friends. Well, two for his friends and one for himself. He had been introduced to Laphroiag whiskey by a retired Ranger a few years before and had drunk nothing else since then. He had tried other Scottish whiskeys but always came back to this one as its taste was an excellent combination of smoky smoothness and fine wheat. One could almost taste the age of the oaken barrels used in the fermentation process. It was uniquely bold and it went well with his very unique friends.
“Jake. I’ve had many Scottish whiskeys in my time, from home brews to mass produced bottles, but this is, well, there’s no word I can use to properly describe its wondrous flavor. Tell me the brand! I simply must buy a few cases!”
“Laphroiag. Occasionally I’ll come across a bottle or two of forty year Laphroiag, but that’s a rare occurrence. The forty year is even better.”
“Well then, with such a fine whiskey, let me make a toast. To a long and good life!”
“Long life! You always were a man of few words, Connor. But a fine teacher you were as well. And now, old friend, have you any thoughts for me on what we discussed this afternoon?”
“Ah yes. The Kurgan.”
At the mention of that name, Adam’s eyes went wide.
“The Kurgans were a tribe of peoples from the steppes of what is now Russia. It is said that they would throw young children into pits with wild dogs to fight for scraps of food. They considered it a game of sport. The Kurgan is said to have been the only child to ever survive in the pits for more than a year. He was trained to be a brutal and precise killer. He showed no mercy to his opponents. If he had a student, I’m sure he would have given him the same type of training as he himself received.”
“Why the sudden interest in the Kurgan, Jake? I’m mean, we’re all very grateful that Connor managed to take his head, but that’s just it. His head is gone and he’s out of the Game. Permanently.”
“Would you believe I met a student of his, not more than an hour ago? He did not know that I am long lived. Just like him. According to him, it makes us brothers of a sort. I guess, after a fashion, we are brothers, inasmuch as all Immortals are probably related. He challenged me. I have decided to accept the challenge. Tomorrow at 8pm at the Arsenal in Central Park.”
“Did he say why he was collecting followers? Why he was taking their heads?”
“He claimed that he was following instructions his teacher, the Kurgan, obtained from some now dead Arab Immortal, who in turn claimed to have gotten the information from Methos, before taking his head.”
“The Arab claimed to have taken Methos’ head? Or did this young upstart make that claim?”
“This person claimed that it was the Arab that took the head of Methos. Do you know anything about these legends?”
“Can’t say that I do laddie. Are you going to meet him? Are you going to allow him to hunt you?”
“Yes. And while he might consider himself a great hunter, I will prove him an idiot when I take his head.”
“Do you need anything from us?”
“I wish there was some way to empty the Park of mortals, but I will do what is necessary.”
“Well and good. Let us move this party to more private surroundings, Connor. Jacob, your two police friends are still at the bar. It may be beneficial to us to have some help from the Police if we are to clear the Park. Tell them whatever you need to tell them, but remember, our secret must be kept.”
“If you’ll excuse me, I’ll go and get them. Your place in half an hour, Connor?”
“Aye. Sounds good.”
“Detective Benson. Good. You’re still here. I’ve just been given an excellent idea on the case, and I’d like to run it past you and your partner, and Captain Cragen, if you can find him in the next few minutes.”
“I’ll find him, Liv. You gonna brief us now or when we’re all here?”
“When Cragen joins us. But not here. Have him meet us at Nash Antiquities on Hudson Street. All will be explained there. Under more private circumstances.”
“I’ll tell him.”
Forty-five minutes later, Hudson Street, Nash Antiquities
“Connor, friends. I’d like you to meet three of the local law enforcement folks I’ve been working with since my arrival here in the city. Captain Donald Cragen, Detective Olivia Benson, and Detective Elliot Stabler. The quiet one staring out the window is Adam Pierson. Our host, is Connor MacLeod. And I, of course, am Jake Sheridan.
“I’ve asked you three to be here because there is something you need to know, and hopefully something you can help me with.”
“We’re all ears, Ranger.”
“In a few minutes, you might be very angry too. A few hours ago, I met with our perp. In a church. He wasn’t there to confess his sins, and I sure as hell ain’t no priest. I didn’t tell you everything that was in that note. He wants to hunt me. He sees me as the ultimate prey. Well, I’m gonna let him do just that. Only, he’s gonna find out I ain’t that easy to kill.”
“Are you nuts!”
“Certifiable, I’d guess. What I need from you is the complete isolation of Central Park, beginning at six pm tomorrow night, and lasting till probably ten am the next morning. I just don’t want anyone else to get hurt. Will the NYPD do that?”
“We’re going to need some kind of proof, Ranger.”
“If I win, that is if the predator becomes the prey, then he’ll come in quietly and tell where all of his followers are. If I lose, well, I’m counting on either MacLeod or Pierson to avenge me.”
“Now why would we want to let you do something stupid like that?”
“Before I go any further, I must extract a promise from you three. You must swear by everything you believe in that what I am about to tell you, you will take with you to your graves. No one can ever know this secret. Do you swear it?”
“I think you’re nuts, but I’ll swear it.”
“Ask anyone on the street, the common man, and you’ll get a multitude of answers for my next question: Are we alone? Alone, you ask? Alone on this world or alone in the universe. For the latter, I can not answer, but for the former, this I can answer. We have existed since the dawn of time. We have walked along side the mortals of this world, in their passage through the centuries. We have battled from the beginning to win the ultimate prize. It is a fight of good and evil, light and dark, black and white, positive and negative. Call it what you will. The fact remains that we are here, now, and we are on your side.”
“What in God’s name are you talking about Ranger?”
“I was born Jacob Jeremiah Sheridan, though I have not used my middle name is a very long time. I was born in a small town outside of Austin, in what is now central Texas. That was in 1830. I am of a people that call ourselves Immortals. We have always been here.”
“By the standards of my race, I’m young. I was a mere thirty-five when I met my first death in 1865. Connor is a bit older having been born in Scotland in the very early 1500’s. Adam, well, I don’t know his true age, but I do know that he’s far older than any of us in this room. If you fail to believe our story this night, then you will lose access to the one resource that can bring this killer to justice. For you see, the killer is like us. He is an Immortal. The only justice an Immortal understands is meted out by the sword. It is the only way to be sure that he will never kill again.”
The skies outside the Hudson Street building suddenly seemed to crackle with electrical energy as a storm of lightning flashed all around. The very air seemed to glow with the power of a very ancient Quickening. Then just as suddenly as the sky had lit up, it became peaceful once more.
All eyes in Connor MacLeod’s loft shifted to stare at Adam Pierson standing near the window as he surreptitiously lowered his arm. “I am known to my close friends, not as Adam Pierson, but as Methos. As to my age, I was never certain until just recently. But to give you a clue, I witnessed the building of the Pyramids. For a thousand years, I was known by my Biblical title. You know which one. He who rides a Pale Horse and He who was given power to take life over a fourth of the world. The legends of the Four Horsemen are based on fact. For over a thousand years we ranged across this world, taking what we wanted and killing all who stood in our way. The Horseman has been unseated and He will never ride again, but I urge you to take what I know and use it. This man you seek, this student of the Kurgan. If he is anything like his Master, then he will not be stopped easily. It will take the combined skills of all in the room to bring him to Immortal justice.”
Benson looked at Stabler and then at her Captain. All three were thinking the same thing. The quickest way to get to a phone to call for several men with funny white jackets. Three funny white jackets to be exact.
“If you believe yourselves to be Immortal or some strange form of reincarnations, then maybe we should be having this meeting at Bellevue?”
“Why is it that no one ever believes what we tell them, Connor? Why must we repeatedly put on a demonstration that will shock these mortals to their cores? But, as I am the youngest here, perhaps you would care to do the honors?”
Connor nodded and pulled a small handgun from an ornate box behind the couch on which he was seated. The pistol had a silencer screwed on to the end of the barrel. He took quick aim and pulled the trigger in a classic double tap. One round entered Jake’s forehead, right between the eyes, while the second entered his chest, right above Jake’s heart. The entire event happened so quickly, that none of the three police officers was able to pull their service pistols in time to prevent anything. Detective Benson rushed to where Ranger Sheridan had fallen and felt for a pulse but found none. Detective Stabler and Captain Cragen pulled their weapons. One of them held his gun on Connor while the other kept Adam in his sights. This situation had gone from merely strange to completely insane.
“What the hell did you do that for? You shot him twice! He’s dead! And I thought he was your friend!”
“Take it easy Detective Benson. Give him a moment or two. Head wounds always take the longest to heal.”
“Are you out of your mind, Nash? No one can recover from a point blank shot to the head with a forty-five!”
They argued back and forth for a few more seconds, but it was Elliot Stabler that noticed the arcing electricity first.
“What in the hell?”
At his utterance, Olivia Benson looked down at the man she had called a friend for the last week. Small arcs of electricity were dancing across his wounds. The entrance holes were closing up and it almost seemed as if the blood that had leaked out was being sucked back into the body. She had seen a lot of strange things as a police officer, but this was something altogether different. It seemed as if the world had stopped breathing, but it was her, actually. As Jake Sheridan took a breath, she realized she was inexplicably holding her own. His first words amused her for a reason she couldn’t yet answer.
“Uhm, did I miss anything important? Captain? Detectives? Why are you holding your weapons on my friends?”
“He shot you! I saw it! You were dead! I don’t understand?”
“As I stated a few moments ago, the three of us here are Immortals. Something as mundane as a bullet to the brain or the heart won’t kill us.”
“The head-hunter in ‘85?”
“He was one of us Captain Cragen. A vicious brute of a man known only as the Kurgan. He wanted the Prize. I made sure he didn’t get it.”
“Then the other headless bodies were all of Immortals? Is that how you die?”
“We’d rather that little bit of information were kept to yourselves. But yes. That is how we can be killed. Only an Immortal can take the life of another Immortal. Now that we’ve gotten this little bit of melodrama out of the way, perhaps you’d care to listen to our plan now?”
“I think I need a drink.”
“Connor, pour us all a stiff drink, would you? Then, I think, coffee will be in order. I’ve a feeling this will be a long night.”
The next day dawned bright and clear, but the forecast was for dark, snow filled clouds by early afternoon, and at least a foot of it by midnight. Cragen had called in favors left and right, but by eighteen hundred that evening, the park was mostly empty. And quiet. Jacob sat on a park bench, watching the first snow flakes fall to the ground. The memories were particularly deep and violent, and they came at him hard and fast.
It was the scene around him that triggered this memory. In 1944, he’d made the landing at Normandy, then marched inland with the 2nd Ranger battalion to the forests of the Ardennes. The quietness of the forests, bathed in a heavy covering of snow; it brought back memories that Jacob would just as soon forget. He heard a crunching behind him, and was up from the bench seat in less than a second, with his sword drawn and at the ready a second later.
“You are early, Ranger. Are you so eager to meet your death?”
“By my watch I still have an hour. So, perhaps you would indulge my curiosity a bit?”
“I see nothing wrong with that request. Come, let us sit and talk. Soon enough it will be time for the hunt.”
The two men walked over to a nearby table and sat down opposite one another. Jacob reached down into his pack and pulled a thermos and two metal cups, pouring out a coffee for each of them.
“So, your questions?”
“Allow me to properly introduce myself. I am Jacob Sheridan. Born in Texas in 1830. I met my first death in 1865, at the hands of a bullet fired by some Union rifle. I have been here ever since.”
“I am Victor Folter, formerly a Major in the SS. I was born in a small hamlet in what for a time was Eastern Germany in 1920. I joined the German military as soon as I was able, serving with a Panzer division until I caught the notice of the SS. I met my first death in 1942, at the hands of a group of French Resistance fighters. I was fortunate in that the other man killed along side me that day in ’42 was the man you knew of as the Kurgan. He had already identified my potential, and he awaited my first awakening from death. He took me as a pupil and he taught me all that I needed to know about the Game and the Prize. Frankly, I look forward to winning the Prize. I can think of no better situation for one of our kind, than to rule over these insignificant insects that call themselves mortal men.”
“I see. So, you’re less than a century?”
“Yes. Do you now wish to know more about the Kirche des Sammelns?”
Jacob was wearing a wire. It was so small and unobtrusive that it felt like he wasn’t, but he was. Adam Pierson had disappeared for some thirty minutes after their little show-and-tell the night before, and then had disappeared again early this morning only to show up at Nash Antiquities with a few boxes of equipment. To Jacob, the equipment appeared very cutting edge, almost military in nature. Pierson handed out three radio sets, so that the three Immortals would always be in contact with one another. At the moment, Jake’s set was in his day pack by his feet. From one box, Adam had extracted the most beautiful sniper rifle Jake had ever seen. He promised Jake that he would be watching over him the entire time, but from a distance.
Now, as they heard the description of the premise of the ‘church’ broadcast over the encrypted radio link, Adam turned to a different source for information.
“Dad? Are you around?”
“I am here Methos. I have no plans of abandoning you anymore my son.”
“That’s good to know. I have a question.”
“You wish to know if what this Folter claims is true?”
“I make it my business to know what happens to you. I admit to listening in on the conversation, both now and last night. Must you children always use so violent a method for proving your Immortality?”
“It usually works the best. So, is what he claims true?”
“There is no truth to the Game or the Prize, however, there is some truth in the methodology. A Gathering can be triggered by the release of a very powerful Quickening. What his mentor, this Kurgan, attempted some years ago, I was able to dampen somewhat. Even then, some of the energies leaked through, and some went to their untimely deaths. You are fortunate that Connor MacLeod was able to stop that Kurgan. But yes, the release of a very powerful Quickening, or the release of several dozen small Quickenings, if done at all once, could potentially trigger a Gathering. It was something that we overlooked in our early experiments. I’m sorry that I couldn’t be of more help, my son.”
“Not your fault, Dad. Thanks for being here.”
“Always, my son.”
“And that is my story. Enlightening isn’t it?”
“Well, except for one small detail.”
“Oh? And what detail might that be?”
“You say the Kurgan claimed to have taken an Arab Immortal’s head, the one who told him of this Gathering trigger?”
“And that the Arab in question had gotten this information from Methos, before taking Methos’ head?”
“Considering that Methos was the first Immortal who found me, who trained me, well, I sincerely doubt that that old Arab was telling the truth.”
“Perhaps it is more a question of the man who taught you telling a few lies?”
“Ok. I’ll grant you that one. So, any rules for the hunt?”
“We will begin promptly at eight o’clock. To be fair and sporting, I will give you thirty minutes head start. Neither you nor I can leave the confines of the Park. If you leave the Park, this will violate the Hunt, and I will immediately order the execution of my followers. If I leave, you may have your officers around the Park immediately arrest me and I will turn over the location of my ‘Church’. Next, I will not be using a traditional gun. This is a paint ball gun. If I manage to hit you ten times, center mass, then the hunt is over and I will give you one hour to rest before the Challenge. If you manage to elude me until sunrise, then you will also get one hour to rest for the Challenge.”
“Do I get one of those guns too?”
“Mine is, you understand, fully automatic. Yours however, is not. It is a pump action shotgun type, with an 18 round magazine. Here are five spare magazines for you, just in case. Same rules apply to me as to you.”
“Have you picked a spot for our duel?”
“Indeed. There is a fairly large reservoir in the Park. At the approximate center, I have a platform which some of my Acolytes are taking there as we speak. It is one hundred feet, by one hundred feet, with a low railing about the edge. I have instructed them to leave two rowboats, one on either side of the reservoir. Use one to get to the platform after sunrise. I will grant you your hour’s rest after your arrival at the platform.”
“Sounds fair. Hell of a lot more fair than some of the warfare I’ve seen.”
“So you have a been a soldier, yes?”
“I have, Herr Folter.”
“Were you, by chance, in that little fracas with the Reich?”
“Been there. Done that. The t-shirt I got is way too bloody to wear in public.”
“Ach, such a sense of humor! I love it! Perhaps we met each other in combat across the fields of Germany and France, and did not know it?”
“I suppose there may have been opportunities. I was with the 2nd Ranger Battalion. Made landings in North Africa, then Normandy. Fought my way inward with the Rangers. The biggest battle I remember was at Ardennes.”
“I too, was at Ardennes. By the that point in the war, the German military needed not so many interrogators as trained tank commanders. I had a small detachment of SS Panzers in that battle.”
“Did you learn anything from that war, Herr Folter?”
“Yes. Warfare is not for the weak. It is something best left to those who are most able. It would have been better, I think, had only Immortals fought in that war and in all the wars since. In that way, I believe, the vast majority of the peoples we fought for would have been spared what we would see in any case. Our race is unique. A true Master Race as decreed by Mother Nature herself. We are born to warfare, you and I. From the very beginning of our race, we have waged combat against one another.”
“All for some mythical Prize. There are times that I would gladly trade my Immortality for the chance to live a normal life, perhaps raise a family. Mind you, I like my abilities, but just once, I would like to raise a son or daughter that is actually mine.”
“It is a hard life we lead. Always fighting. Never having a chance to procreate. Yet somehow, there are more of us born today than there were even fifty years ago. It is a mystery I would have liked to explore eventually.”
“You could always just give yourself up, Victor.”
“I could no more give up, as it were, than you could turn to a life of crime, Ranger.”
“I think you’re right on that one.”
“It is now eight o’clock and some seconds. Your thirty minutes begin now. I would wish you luck, but I’m not sure I’m that sporting.”
“Same here. Good-bye, Herr Folter.”
“Guten tag, Herr Sheridan.”
Outside Central Park, the Police had formed a strong perimeter. The citizens of New York had protested somewhat at their not being allowed use of the Park, and a few had called the local media, who were now there in force. All along the periphery of the Park, there were blinking red and blue lights, and men in uniform with guns keeping the public out.
When Methos and Connor had heard of the planned final destination of the Hunt, both had made their way there separately. Methos had found a nice building from which to conduct an over watch mission, while Connor put on a set of insulated Scuba gear to check out the platform and make sure there were no traps waiting for his friend.
Earlier that day, Jake had moved around the Park with a detailed topographical map, marking out locations, and examining said locations as possible temporary rest sites. Some years ago, he had learned of the hobby sport of geo-caching. Now, this extra knowledge of his went into action as he created six small caches. Into these he placed extra gear that could come in handy, along with dry socks and small warming packets. In each, he left a packet of strong coffee, two small bottles of water, and a packet of trioxane, with which to heat the water for his coffee.
It was cold outside, bitterly cold with a strong wind. He estimated the wind chill at just above zero. Thirty minutes. That was what he had to get to a secluded spot to change gear. He’d picked the spot earlier. He’d walked through most of the Park with Detective Benson, for whom he felt a strong attraction.
“So why are you doing this? Why not leave it to the NYPD?”
“He’s an Immortal. He’s our perp. In any other case, I’d treat him just like any other criminal, but he is one of my race. Justice may be blind, but Immortal justice is a whole other can of worms. How do you sentence someone to life in prison knowing that this particular type of sentence could mean a literal eternity behind bars? Or better yet, sentence an Immortal to death. For us, anything shy of the guillotine is not a death sentence. What happens when you electrocute an Immortal? Not a damn thing. Our heart stops for a minute or so, then we’re right back to life. How does the mortal justice system account for that? No, Immortal justice might seem harsh to a mortal, but it is the only thing that will guarantee that this particular criminal will never harm another being ever again.”
“You said last night that you were born in 1830.”
“I was. My father, well, I know he wasn’t really my father, but he told me once that he and my mother had found me on their doorstep during a particularly violent storm. There was no note or any sort of identification on me. He told me that he and his wife had prayed long and hard for God to grant them a child. Needless to say, they didn’t turn me away.”
“So, you were what, a foundling?”
“All Immortals are foundlings. We don’t know where we come from, just that we exist.”
“Ok. But since all of you start out as normal babies, then surely some of you would remember having children?”
“That’s the thing, isn’t it? I’m sure that most would think that, but the thing is, all of us are sterile. We can’t have children of our own. In my short life, I’ve been married four times. I’ve raised a number of children that I adopted.”
“Only four wives?”
“I outlived them all. It’s the hardest thing we have to face in our eternal lives; outliving a loved one.”
“Tell me about them?”
“Ok. The first I met after the Battle of Murfreesboro, in Tennessee. I was with the 14th Texas Cavalry under General Ector. Somehow or other I got separated from my unit. I’d taken a bunch of fragments in my back. The wounds weren’t fatal and so I didn’t die and my Immortality didn’t come to the fore. For some reason or other, every Immortal I’ve ever met tells of a violent death that preceded their Immortality. So, I got separated and ended up far from the battle site. It was snowing pretty heavily, and I was pretty much just hanging on to my horse. I had blood in my eyes, and blood all down my back, but I wasn’t dead.
“Marissa found me in the snow. She told me later that my horse had wandered up to her door, and that she’d seen the saddle and the blood, and followed the horse’s prints up to where I was. She nursed me back to health, and I helped her where I could. It wasn’t like we were married by a priest or something like that, but she had lived there with her father and brothers before they’d gone off to the war. They died at Chancellorsville. She had no one left.”
“The Nightingale effect, eh? I mean, she nursed you back to health, and you fell in love with her.”
“Didn’t realize that had a name till now. But yeah, that’s pretty much how it happened. When spring came, I left her. I went back to my unit. When the war ended, I went back there, but the house had burned to the ground, and there was a small grave; unmarked. I assumed that was her and that someone else had buried her. But it wasn’t. I must have stood there for a few hours, making my peace with a God I didn’t really believe in, when I heard someone behind me. It was Marissa.
“Some men had come, she’d told me, after I left that spring of ’63. Union soldiers. They took everything she owned. They raped her, and left her for dead. Then they burned her home. She told me she got pregnant after the rape. She had a child, a daughter, that had died a few months before my return. She said she hoped I would return, and I did.
“I took her with me to Texas, and she and I made a nice home in what had been my adoptive parents home. And for a few years, I was at peace with the world.”
“How did she die?”
“I’d gone in to Fort Worth to pick up Adam. He was coming in on the noon train from Chicago, just for a visit, or so he’d said. Marissa and I, we lived about three hours by horse away from the city. Indian raiders struck the homestead. Burned it and everything inside to the ground. Marissa included. I was inconsolable for quite some time. I’m just glad that Adam was there or I might have done something monumentally stupid. When he left, I joined the Rangers, and I’ve been with them ever since.”
“I can’t imagine what that must have been like.”
Jake had taken his pack with him into a nearby bathroom to change. The last thing he wanted to do was change out in the open. It was too damned cold to do that! He was already wearing thermals so all he did was remove his jeans and his shirt and boots. Adam had, that morning, given him these clothes to wear. Jake had seen them in the news recently. The Army’s new battle dress uniforms. These were subdued winter urban camouflage. He put on the pants and the shirt quickly, trying to retain as much heat as possible. The boots were next. Heavy duty, extreme weather boots, with an inflatable lining that would retain heat, and keep his feet comfortable as well. The web gear came next. A canteen to keep him hydrated. A holster for his Sheridan Special mounted on the side of his right thigh. A cold weather face mask to keep the biting wind from giving him frostbite. And finally, the encrypted link radio set that Adam had provided for him.
“Adam, you all set?”
“Got you covered Jake. Folter is still where he was, enjoying the coffee you left him in that thermos. I still think you should have poisoned that coffee.”
“Nah. Wouldn’t be sportsman like.”
“You and your damned code of honor will be the death of me. Move out Jake. You’ve got eighteen minutes to make it to the first cache.”
“On my way.”
Jake was on the northern side of the Park when Folter began to move out from the southern end. Jake had planted one of his caches near a ravine. This spot must attract a lot of lovers, he thought. Just now, all he could hear was the almost silent bubbling of the water as it passed over the rocks and fed into a pool. Pierson radioed the fact that Folter was carefully examining some spot or other on the south side and that even at a full out run, he was thirty minutes or so from him. So Jake took the time to heat up some hot chocolate and eat an energy bar.
“Jake. I’m back onshore and headed out of the Park to Adam. Platform is clean, no traps evident.”
“Thanks, Connor. Go and get warm someplace.”
“Laddie, tis nothing but a brisk Highland wind, like that which oft blew in over Loch Shiel.”
“Whatever, Connor. After this, and you can hold me to it, I’ll be buying the bar.”
“That’s a good lad.”
“Jake. He’s passing East 72nd and heading north to East 79th. You’ve got time yet.”
Jake had picked a good spot for an ambush and this was where he was headed. South to the Ramble, near 79th street. At best, he’d be able to get off one or two shots, so he wanted to make them count as much as possible. He knew that his Quickening would warn Folter of his presence long before he got into range for a shot, so he’d have to be cautious about things.
He’d picked a spot atop a boulder, a mere fifteen feet above the central path. He pulled a Gillie suit from his pack and quickly pulled it into place over him. Now he looked more like a small pile of snow than a man with a gun.
There were a few trees in front of him, just enough trees to provide a little bit of cover. Folter was closer now. Less than one hundred-fifty feet.
“I know you are here, Ranger. I can sense you.”
Folter walked closer to Jake, almost as if he were using the sensation of the Quickening to home in on Jake. There, less than one hundred feet. Jake let fly with the two rounds in the barrel. He’d loaded two rounds instead of one, cause he knew he wouldn’t be able to get off two separate shots. One hit center mass, the other on Folter’s thigh. It was just enough of a distraction. Folter was looking left and right and Jake used the opportunity to slip backwards along the boulder on which he had lain. As soon as he hit the ground behind it, he ran quickly into the denser part of the Ramble behind him and within a few minutes the Quickening had faded to just so much extra background noise. Behind him, he could hear Folter shout in anger.
“First blood to you, Ranger! You will not be so lucky a second time!”
Jake quickly made his way south across the rest of the Ramble and the small lake there and into a section that was called Wagner Cove on his map. He’d planted a pair of water bottles inside the water fountain and these he got out and drank down quickly before turning around and running north towards the military fortifications, where he’d hidden his next cache. After retrieving that cache, he’d moved on to Huddlestone Arch, where he’d take the chance to make something hot. Pierson told him that he had Folter in plain sight, running around in circles near the Obelisk. And he made a comment as to Jake’s evasion skills.
“Where’d you learn to E&E like that, Jake?”
“Escape and Evade? At the beginning of WWII, I was with the 3rd Ranger Battalion at Cisterna.”
“I heard about them. Wasn’t the 1st and the 3rd captured at Cisterna?”
“They were, Connor. Six men managed to escape and get back to Allied lines. If I could evade whole companies of German soldiers trying to kill me, what do you think I can do to just one German soldier?”
“Just see to it that you do just that, Jake.”
In a hotel in front of the Park, a different set of ears were monitoring the encrypted radio links.
“3rd Rangers? What ya think, Carter? Think we should recruit him?”
“Another Immortal, sir?”
“Hammond wants to put together a unit, made up of them. Duncan is supposed to be working on a list.”
“But his most recent experience in uniform is what? World War II?”
“Let me see if Pierson knows anything else.”
Jake had heated up some water for another spot of hot chocolate. He’d rather have coffee, but he was saving that for morning. He’d need the caffeine then more so than now. Besides, the pasty energy bars went down so much easier with chocolate. Then he’d move on to his next ambush site. This one, he’d prepped earlier in the day, and it had a trip wire. He’d set one up along the Bridle Path just opposite the Reservoir. The wire ran along the road and was barely visible against the new layer of fresh powder that was still falling. It connected to a simple set of noisemakers that when pulled, a small charge went off and it made an eighty-five decibel bang. Hopefully it would get Folter to look the wrong way so Jake could put a few rounds into him.
He was laying on the ground now, under some brush by the side of the path, once again covered by his Ghillie suit. The range was much closer now. But Folter was still far away. Jake took the time to rig a second trip wire, this one with a different surprise to it. He’d removed the payload of a shotgun shell, leaving only one-tenth of the powder charge and the buffer wad in place. He stuffed it with three paintballs, and rigged the new shell to a mouse trap trigger.
He learned how to rig the mouse trap trigger back in ‘Nam, when rigging such devices meant all the difference between life and death. Hopefully, while Folter was stumbling around shocked by the previous trip-wire alarm, he trip this second wire, and end up with at least one splotch of paint, center mass. Then, while he was looking away, Jake would pump two more rounds into him, and make his retreat.
“Jake, he’s closing on your position fast. I make it about two hundred yards.”
“Roger that Adam. Just finished up another little surprise for Folter.”
“Should I ask?”
“Just a couple of trip wires.”
“I know you are very close, Ranger. Your Quickening shines to me, it calls to me to set it free!”
Folter took a step, then another and another. The fourth step caught the first trip wire and six very loud eighty-five decibel alarms went off within milliseconds of one another. Folter turned quickly at the sound, moving his foot through the second wire. He was rewarded with yet another loud bang, this one from the shotgun shell setting off its charge, and then the sudden feeling of multiple impacts along his chest. And before his ears could clear from the ringing they were still feeling, he took another pair of rounds to his back. He turned quickly, bringing his gun up to fire a spray on automatic, but he missed completely. As Jake ran away, he had enough time to put two more rounds into Folter, one hitting him on the arm, the other on the leg. As he ran away, he called out to Folter.
“That’s six for me, and none for you Victor. I thought you were better than this!”
“Ranger! I will kill you! Slowly!”
Jake ran hard and fast, leaving an easy trail for Folter to follow that led right to the jogging trail around the Reservoir, before stopping and listening. Hearing no pursuit for the moment, he took his time and left a few false trails, then headed south to another cache. He stopped after a good thirty minute run to catch his breath and to dig up the cache, lightly buried beneath Rose Hill. He took the items there, and replenished the supplies he’d used. The mouse trap had worked so well, that he’d taken everything in this cache and put it into his pack and that included two more mouse traps.
“So, Jake. Any recent military experience?”
“Define recent, Adam.”
“Say, in the last fifty years?”
“Well, there was that little skirmish that some folks call Viet Nam. I was with the 1st of the 7th at Ia Drang. More recent than that? Desert Storm. ‘Nuff said.”
“Why is it you like the military where so many of our kind do not?”
“More of a structured environment. Besides, I like this country. I’ll do whatever I can to defend it. Only once have I taken up arms against it, and that was in 1861. But that was the only time.”
“A lot of people were madder than hatters back then. I well know it. I avoided the fighting, but you know I did do my part.”
“If it had been anyone else whose table I woke up on, I’m sure they’d a had a heart attack, and it would have been awhile before I could find a good teacher.”
“Just so you don’t forget your lessons in combat, Jake.”
“Nah. That would be next to impossible, Adam.”
“1st of the 7th and Desert Storm? Ok. I think I like this guy.”
“Those trip wires he rigged, I think he’s more your type, sir.”
“I think so too. He’s got Special Forces written all over him, and I haven’t even met him yet. Think you can access the personnel files and run a name search, Carter?”
“I’ll get on it sir.”
Six hits center mass and Folter hadn’t even managed to come close to hitting him yet. It was still a good three hours to sunrise. Jake wondered if he’d be able to hit him like that again. The next ambush site was near Turtle Pond in front of Belvedere Castle. Here’ he rigged a couple of wires. One had noisemakers again on it, this time pulling them from three points around a central spot. The second one also had shot shells on it, and would pull from three directions to a central spot. Hopefully, with nine paint balls incoming, at least four would hit Folter. But if not, Jake would be in a tree above the spot, ready with at least two rounds for his opponent.
“Ranger! You are close! I can feel you! No more games Ranger! Let us end this! Let me take your head!”
It will be a cold day in Hell when I give up that easily, you rat bastard, thought Jake.
Folter was stumbling about now, the cold was obviously getting to him. It looked like he hadn’t changed at all in the last few hours, while Jake had made sure he always had on dry socks. Cold and wet feet weren’t good for battle. Folter stumbled into the trip wires pretty quickly, the noise makers going off a split second ahead of the shot shells. He looked about in distress, looking for the source of the noise as seven balls of paint hit front, back and sides of center mass. Jake didn’t even need to fire off a round this time. Folter screamed.
“Ach! Ranger! You have won this part of the battle! Meet me in an hour at the platform on the Reservoir! You may be a better shot than I, but with a sword I am quite deadly! You will not be so lucky a second time!”
Jake waited until the sensation of the Quickening had faded before climbing down from the tree. He made his way back to the Castle where he grabbed the last cache. Then he proceeded down to the Reservoir and the rowboat there. He looked across the water and saw Folter rowing to the platform. Jake took his time, breaking out a metal cup and filling it with water. He opened a small wing stove and lit it, putting the cup on it to boil the water. He would sit and change for the coming fight. For this event, he didn’t need all the camouflage so much as he needed something lighter. Rather than the baggy BDUs he chose gear that belonged more to his other hobby; mountain climbing. Fleece lined and tight fitting pants. A thermal long sleeve shirt, along with the same boots he was already wearing.
He sat in front of the low fire he’d made and pulled his sword from its scabbard. This was the Cavalry Saber issued to him during the War for Southern Independence. It needed a bit of cleaning and polishing and this he did with the kit that Connor had given to him a few years ago. He sat and drank his hot coffee and sharpened and polished his blade, waiting for the time to pass. When forty minutes had passed, he stomped out the fire, covering it liberally with snow, picked up his gear and put it into the rowboat, and rowed out to the platform on the water. He arrived with plenty of time to spare and found Folter pacing in the opposite corner.
Jake dropped the anchor and let the boat glide to a stop next to the platform. He got out onto the floating dock and let the boat behind drift off a bit. Then he kneeled on the wood on the dock, took his sword in his hands, and with the blade down, meditated for a few moments to clear his head.
“It is time, Ranger.”
“Very well, Folter. Nice sword you got there. Is that a Swastika on the pommel?”
“It is. I took this from a pompous officer in the Luftwaffe, who had an unfortunate tryst with a woman who later admitted to being a part of the French Resistance.”
“So, before I take your head, were you Waffen SS or Allgemeine SS?
“So you were a political officer, not a real soldier then?”
“I was a Panzer commander!”
“Yeah, so you said. Before you joined the SS. You were with those prancing apes in black uniforms. No better than insects. Your kind was responsible for most of the atrocities during the war. I’m sure the local office for the Wiesenthal Center will be most pleased with the news of your death.”
“They were not atrocities! They were medical experiments designed to create a master race! Hitler knew about us! The Kurgan told him! Hitler wanted to create an Immortal army! The Kurgan and I would have been its commanding officers! But your allied forces destroyed that dream!”
“On second thought, I’m not sure that I want your head. I sure as hell don’t want all that hate inside of me.”
“If you do not take my head, then I will take yours. Now, fight!”
Folter struck first, and then repeatedly hard and fast. He was trying to overwhelm Jake’s defenses with fast strikes that made his own sword ring from the strikes. It was not even the twilight before sunrise yet. There was the faintest of light coming from the east, and only the light that Jake and Folter had on them to illuminate the area. Jake parried Folter’s blows, allowing him to believe he had a chance.
As their quick dance around each other continued, Victor made a move, which Jake blocked with little effort. Victor pulled back to a few feet away to re-examine this Immortal that challenged him to a fight. It was a challenge he was sure he could win. His sword was longer, and designed to inflict as much blunt force trauma as slashing and piercing trauma. It was a heavy sword, made for a hugely muscled man.
Jake was calling everything he had ever learned about the fine art of sword play into this fight. It was a challenge he could ill afford to lose. He very much wanted his head intact at the end of this match. The two of them continued their intricate dance, each scoring the occasional slash across the chest or upper arm of the other. Immortals may heal quickly, but it was not instantaneous. The floor, along with their bodies, was becoming slick with blood. It was unfortunate that the blood on the floor seemed to come primarily from Jake.
But luck was on Jake’s side this day for this challenge. Victor slipped for an instant on the blood-slicked floor, but regained his balance after less than four heartbeats. It was, unfortunately for him, three heartbeats too long. Jake’s sword flashed in for the kill, slashing across the chest first then pivoting a bit to slash across the throat. A heartbeat later, Jake reversed his swing and brought his sword up and across and cut cleanly through Victor’s neck. By the fourth heartbeat, the final one, Victor’s head was rolling across the floor.
On the shoreline, Olivia Benson flinched as she saw the head roll across the wooden deck. Though she had seen dead bodies before, this bold depiction of a beheading caused her stomach to turn. Then the hairs at the back of her neck stood on end, almost as if there were a source of high voltage electricity near by. She stared at Jake without seeing. Her mind was awash with the implication of the events. So she missed the first tendrils of the semi-transparent whitish mist that teemed with electrical energy that sparked out from the headless body of the late Victor Folter. She regained her senses in time to watch Jake fall to his knees, his sword still in his hand and held high above his head. Bolts of lightning and heavy mists reached out towards Jake and engulfed him, encircled him, and became a part of him. And just as quickly as it had begun, it was over.
“How do you feel Jake?”
“Tired, Adam. I feel tired. And unsettled. I think I need something to soothe my stomach down. I feel light-headed.”
“Probably from the blood loss. Yes, it won’t kill us, but you have lost blood volume, a significant amount by what I can tell. I never would have thought to use my blood as a weapon, however.”
“Nor would I, Adam, but it seemed to work out just fine, don’t you think?”
“I think it has, Jake. Now, seeing as you are no longer occupied, what say we go somewhere for a nice round of whiskey?”
“You read my mind, Adam.”
“God I hope not! I’d imagine that Victor Folter doesn’t fancy spending the rest of eternity encased in the mind of a lawman. A shame he didn’t tell us where his followers are.”
“Ah, but he did. It’s all up here now. An old building. Upper Manhattan.”
Jake rowed across the small lake to the waiting police detectives of the NYPD. He gave them the address and then he, Connor and Adam adjourned to the same bar they’d been at the other night. The media were still trying to figure out why the Police had cordoned off the Park. The statement about a manhunt was believed for the moment. As the police cars raced off to the location of the victims, the media followed, and they witnessed the police helping thirty odd people out of the building, a few in handcuffs, but most wrapped in blankets. Odds were, they would need a lot of counseling to undo the lies that Victor Folter had washed into their brains.
The rest of the conversation was continued over a number of rounds of drinks at the nearest cop bar they could find. The televisions in the bar were all on to various news channels all telling the same thing; the Police Commissioner’s daughter had been found alive and the kidnapper had been killed in a shootout with a Texas Ranger. There were pictures of Jake on one of the television sets in the bar, and the bartender sent over a round of drinks to his table on the house, as a courtesy to the Ranger.
“It’s strange, Adam. I’ve taken a few heads in my time, but none have ever been as dark as this one. His thoughts are unsettling, but I think I understand him now. It wasn’t his fault entirely. The Kurgan, that bastard demon spawn from Hell, he really fucked with young Victor’s mind. Yes, it’s true that he was at one point an officer in the Allgemeine SS, but that was decades ago. The times he lived in at first were fairly tumultuous, but I believe with a kinder teacher, he might have turned out alright. If it had been a not so kind teacher that found me, I daresay I’d still believe in slavery today. Hell, I’d probably still be fighting for the Confederacy, trying to restore it to its glory days. But the teacher that found me was you, Adam, and for that I will be ever grateful. You taught me one very important thing; to look at the world with an open mind.”
“I did? I must have missed that part. But then again, I’ve had far more practice at being the cynic.”
“Perhaps, but the role of the cynic suits you, Old One.”
“Still want to go to that estate auction this week-end?”
“Sure! I have a few pieces I’d like to add to my collection, if I can find them.”
The drinking continued as it had been, and the conversation turned from aspects of Immortals to life in the world as they knew it. Jake Sheridan was oblivious to the secret goings on in Adam’s new life as a member of the SGC. Hell, Jake would be hard pressed to believe Adam in the role of a very modern military officer. The man he had met on a battlefield field hospital in 1865 was a far cry from the man seated across from him at this table in a cop bar. He imagined that this man in the bar was even further from the Horseman than anything he could imagine.
He looked over the patrons of the bar. Law enforcement for the vast majority of them, some active, some retired, and some just well wishers. He saw the members of the NYPD’s Special Victims Unit and raised his glass in toast to them. He saw, out of the corner of his eye, the way that Detective Olivia Benson stared at him. He knew that she had been privy to the Quickening, and he knew that she had felt an attraction to him prior to that final scene with Victor. Now he wondered if she were afraid of him.
It was a hard thing, to love a mortal, knowing full well that one such as himself would only have a few score years to live life with them. She was definitely an attractive woman. He wondered for a few fleeting moments, whether he should make the first move. He was staring towards the front of the bar when he noticed three men and a woman enter the bar. From the moment he laid eyes on them, his senses screamed ‘Military!’. He wondered what they were doing in a cop bar.
The older of the four seemed to pause for a moment as he scanned the bar, looking for a friend perhaps? Then his eyes zeroed in on the table he and Adam were sitting at, and the four made their way to the table. The large black male with them seemed off to Jake, though he couldn’t for the life of him figure out why. But he certainly was an imposing hulk of a man at well over six feet in height, and built like a linebacker.
“O’Neill. You know, my leave’s not supposed to be over yet.”
“I know. But when you mentioned that estate sale, well, I thought maybe the team could use a little R&R.”
“After two years in close company, I needed the R&R too, Jack. But must we all take it together? I would have assumed that two years of me in close contact with you four would have been enough.”
“Two years to us. A matter of days to everyone else. But are you going to let us just stand here? Or are you going to introduce us to your friends?”
Truth be told, Jake had wondered why Adam hadn’t introduced them yet at that point. Their conversation was a mystery to the others at the table. But again, Jake and Connor were both having a difficult time picturing Adam in the military.
“Colonel Jack O’Neill, Major Samantha Carter, Doctor Daniel Jackson, and Murray. I’d like you to meet an old friend of mine and a former student of mine, Jacob Sheridan, of the Texas Rangers, and Connor MacLeod. I believe you already know his cousin.”
“Pleasure to meet y’all, I’m sure. Adam’s mentioned nothing about y’all, but it seems he’s made mention of some of his abilities?”
“Kinda hard to hide something like that, wouldn’t you think Mr. Sheridan?”
“Call me Jake. Or if you must be formal, then Ranger Sheridan or Captain Sheridan will suffice.”
“Texas Ranger, eh? Never thought I’d meet one of you guys. Are the legends of the Rangers true?”
“Some are. Some aren’t. Most of the stories have a few grains of truth in them.”
“How long have you been a Texas Ranger, Jacob Sheridan?”
“Seems like centuries to me, uhm, Murray?”
“Then you are also an Immortal?”
“Telling tales out of school, Adam?”
“I trust these people with my life Jake. You can do the same.”
“I trust them only because I trust you, Adam. I extend that courtesy to them for that reason alone. But I do not like the idea of the military knowing what I am.”
“Nor do I, Jake. But it was a necessary thing. And someday soon, perhaps I will explain it all to you.”
“I’ll take you up on that. So, Colonel? Hope you like whiskey, cause that’s all we’re drinking here.”
“Sounds good to me. Ever been in the military, Sheridan?”
“A few times. Mounted cavalry for the CSA. Infantry in the Great War. Have been a member of the 2nd Ranger battalion on and off since the Second World War. On for the wars, off for the peace.”
“Second Rangers, eh?”
“Yep. North Africa, Italy, and later, Normandy. Hell of a thing. War that is. A hell of a thing to inflict on anyone.”
“I think I’m gonna like you Sheridan.”
“Should I be worried about that Adam?”
The next day dawned cold and clear. Temperatures hovered in the teens, but there was little wind to add a chill. Jacob had watched the tearful reunion between the Commissioner and his daughter the night before on the news. This morning, he had spoken briefly with the Commissioner before coming into the SVU unit to finish the paperwork and bid his good-byes to the men and women of that unit. He respected their abilities and he respected their jobs. It was a job he certainly didn’t want. He saw enough men and women with criminal intent to leave the truly deranged killers to the experts.
“Ranger? All finished now?”
“Yep. The last of my paperwork has been emailed and faxed in to Ranger headquarters in Austin, with copies to my commander in Fort Worth. Quite frankly, Captain Cragen, after chasing this mutt down for ten years, then capturing him after only a couple weeks, well, I thought I’d take a few days off before heading back home.”
“Well, if you need anything you know where to call.”
“Thanks. I’ll keep that in mind. Oh, by the way, I have something for you.”
“A gift? You shouldn’t have.”
“Think of it as a something to remember a visit from a Ranger. I make a few dozen of these a year. They’ll take any twelve gauge cartridge out on the market. It’s a break-open loader, and the box there has a dozen spare clips in it. All you gotta do is fill up the clips and you’ll be ready. It’s a short barrel, so the effective range is maybe a dozen feet, but as a back-up weapon, it’ll save your hide if it comes to that.”
“What do you call this thing?”
“A Sheridan Special. If any of y’all ever get a hankerin’ for anything from Texas, y’all know who to get a hold of. If you’re ever down in Texas, just call me up. I’ll make sure to play the right proper host for y’all.”
“Thanks Sheridan. Have fun in the city and have a safe flight back to Texas.”
“Thank you sir. Bye now.”
Jake had managed to get just outside of the building before Detective Benson caught up to him.
“Uhm, I was wondering if you might have dinner with me before you leave?”
“That would be a pleasure, ma’am.”
“I’ll call you tonight. You’re still staying with Connor?”
“I’ll be there through Monday next. He, Adam and myself will be attending an estate auction on Saturday. If you’re not busy, maybe you could join us?”
“Ok then. I’ll talk to you tonight.”
Jacob Sheridan, Immortal and Texas Ranger, felt like a young school boy out on his first date. It was not an unpleasant feeling and certainly not one he’d had in the better part of over a decade. His last love had been a supply sergeant for his Ranger battalion during the Desert Storm. And sadly, she had been one of the few deaths in that war. It was true that Jake was no stranger to romance. But it was also true that he feared it. Feared it because of the eventual loss of his partners, a loss that was unavoidable.
Olivia Benson was wondering how she could have feelings for this man sitting across from her in the Greek restaurant they were now in. He had ordered for both of them, something traditional he’d said. But as he did so, she took the time to study him now that their obvious attraction for one another had been revealed. She saw in his eyes a strength that was uncommon in the men she dated. A strength that spoke of countless fights and battles. She’d already seen the criss-cross of scars across his back and chest. She knew he’d been alive through some of the more tumultuous periods in US history. She wondered if she could love a man like Jake.
“Penny for your thoughts, Olivia?”
“My thoughts might be worth more than that, Jake.”
“Don’t carry that kind of cash with me, though. Will you take a credit card?”
She laughed. It was a carefree and easy laugh.
“Maybe you should just cut to the chase and buy something for me instead.”
“Maybe. Somehow, I get the impression that flowers or chocolates just won’t do, though.”
“Oh well, flowers and candies are nice, but I’m a practical woman.”
“Hmm. Ok then, how about a new gun?”
Now she laughed even harder. It was a good thing too.
“Depends on your choice of firearms, Jake.”
“Well, there’s nothing like the feel of a Desert Eagle in fifty AE in your hands. But I’m equally happy with a decent rifle or a good shotgun.”
“You carry the Desert Eagle?”
“Good God, why? Wouldn’t so powerful a round do too much damage to a perp?”
“Nah. Not if you place the shot just right. But I generally use the gun to stop a fleeing vehicle. You can imagine what a fifty caliber round can do to an engine block. For the perps, I use my shotgun. And before you ask, it’s loaded with less-than-lethal rounds.”
“So is what they say about the Rangers true then?”
“What do they say about the Rangers?”
“Only takes one Ranger to control a riot?”
“One riot, one Ranger. It’s been our unofficial motto since the 1800’s. Might have been true then, when the cities in Texas were still fairly small. But nowadays it takes more than one of us to control a riot. I, for one, would hate to walk into a riot all alone. I don’t like those kinds of odds.”
“But you can’t be killed, right?”
“True. But how did you react when you saw me come back to life after Connor shot me? Now think of crazed rioters seeing that.”
“Not a pretty picture.”
“Enough shop talk. Here comes our meal. After we’re done here, I thought maybe you’d be interested in some coffee? Perhaps a drink or two?”
“Coffee and a long chat with you will have to do. Too much paperwork at the office to do much drinking tonight.”
“Ah, yes. The bane of every law enforcement officer everywhere. Paperwork. Perhaps we should toast to that, eh? Here’s to short stacks of paperwork that can be completed in minutes!”
The next few days passed in a whirlwind of sights and sounds. The last time Jake had been in New York City was at the end of the Second World War. Things had certainly changed in this great city, but it was still too much of a city for Jake. He knew his time there was coming to a close and he longed for the wide open spaces of his home state. This budding romance with Olivia was turning into a good thing, and he promised to write and to call every now and then. She promised the same as he boarded the flight for Texas.
Connor promised to make sure the items he’d bought at the estate auction would be sent out shortly and perhaps he’d go out for a visit as well. New York City in the winter could be a harsh thing indeed, and he longed to see Texas again. Methos had left the night before, on a small business jet that sported USAF markings on the wings. Jake wondered about that for a moment. The military was aware of their kind. He was unsure how he felt about that. But if the situation could be judged by Methos, then perhaps it was a good thing.
All he knew now, as the plane climbed to its cruising altitude was that the man he had chased across several states had finally met the only justice he would understand. At the point of a sword.
And then there was Olivia. He would make it a point to see her again, and as often as he possibly could. Such a beautiful thing, this thing called love.
Disclaimers: Highlander is not mine. That wonderful series belongs to Rysher productions. Nor is Law and Order:SVU mine. That belongs to Wolf Films. Lastly, the characters found so often on the premier Stargate Team known as SG-1 are not mine. Though they appear only in a few paragraphs, they belong to Gekko Productions and to the SCI-FI channel.