About Kameko: Don't know who Kameko is? Simply put she's the Turtles' sister in an alternate universe. If you don't like the idea, then, well, no one's forcing you to read. ;)
Kameko scaled the fire escape of the hotel in record time. At least up here she could get away from those jerks of brothers she had. Honestly, guys could be such idiots sometimes.
She took a seat on the wall, her legs dangling over the street below. She could see for a heck of a distance up here, and somehow, it always made her feel better. Even though she knew she'd never really 'belong' with the people below, up here she almost felt like she was a part of their lives. At the very least, they were a part of hers.
And there was something extra going on this evening. Some local band had set up a small stage in front of the hotel, and quite a crowd had grown to watch the show. The girl singing was apparently a Sarah Mclachlan fan, because she'd already performed three of her songs. Not that Kameko was complaining. It wasn't her first choice of music, but it was pleasant enough.
She was only four stories up, so she could see the goings-on of the people below pretty clearly. But, since those same people rarely, if ever, looked up, they never saw her. When they did look up, she vanished back into the shadows so quickly that it was assumed she was just a figment of the imagination.
'Story of my life', she mused silently. 'Always just another shadow.'
Kameko sighed. She'd more or less accepted her life a long time ago. One of New York's 'mysterious saviors', as some of the tabloids had come to call them. If you save enough people's lives, with them getting barely a glimpse of you – if that – rumors start to spread. They'd been called everything from phantoms to demons to angels. She preferred the last one. She figured the 'demon' rumor had risen out of people catching a sight of her brothers. Close-minded, ignorant people. Even if they knew the truth, they'd be afraid.
'Here we go again, girl. Can't you think about anything else?' She had come up here to relax, and here she was thinking about depressing stuff. She looked down towards the entrance of the hotel.
A sudden breeze came up, and Kameko pulled up the collar of her trench coat. Technically, it was spring, but apparently, Mother Nature hadn't gotten the memo. It was barely forty degrees outside, and the breeze wasn't helping. But there was no way she was going back yet. If she went back too soon, the fight would just start all over again. 'Might as well watch the rest of the show', she figured.
She heard a noise behind her and jumped off the ledge, backing off into the shadows opposite the roof door. She watched silently as the door opened, and a girl stepped out, heading for the edge of the roof.
She looked to be Kameko's age, about fifteen, give or take a couple years. Her shoulder-length blonde hair was pulled back into a sloppy ponytail, and her eyes were red and swollen, as if she'd been crying. She wore a crisp new pair of blue jeans, a white fuzzy sweater, and perfectly unblemished white sneakers.
'Rich girl. What in the heck does she have to be cryin' about? She should try livin' in a sewer. She probably doesn't even know how good she's got it.'
The girl paused a few steps from the door, apparently considering something, and then walked towards the ledge, stopping right where Kameko had been sitting. Her shoulders started shaking and Kameko could hear her say something, though she couldn't make out any words. After a few moments, the girl's sobbing subsided, and then she looked down at the crowd below. She hesitated for a long moment, then climbed up on the ledge, and slowly, shakily stood up.
Kameko's heart leaped up into her throat. 'Oh, God, a jumper! I gotta do something! But what...?' Her mind raced, trying to come up with a way to stop the girl without making the situation worse. She didn't want to startle the girl, because then she might fall accidentally. But she had to talk to her. Taking off her hat and straightening the collar of her trench coat, Kameko stepped out of the shadows.
She spoke softly, hoping not to scare the girl. "Hey."
The girl spun around, nearly losing her footing. She straightened up and faced Kameko, her eyes wide. "Who are you? Where did you come from?"
"My name's Kameko. You want to talk about it?"
"About what? What do you want?" The girl looked terrified.
Kameko put her leather-glove clad hands up to show she wasn't armed. Technically, she was armed, as she always was outside of the lair, but the girl didn't need to know that.
"I don't want anything. Except maybe for you to come down and talk to me. What's your name?"
The girl answered without thinking. "Michelle. And I'm not coming down. Not in that direction, anyway."
Kameko closed her eyes for a moment, taking a deep breath. 'Stay calm, don't panic, take it easy...' She opened her eyes. "All right, Michelle, then I'll come up there." She leaped up onto the wall effortlessly, and grabbed Michelle's arm as the girl gasped and stepped back. "Hey, now, take it easy. I'm not gonna hurt you, all right? I want to help, if you'll let me."
The blonde girl started to cry again. "What do you care? How could you help? You don't know anything about me! You don't know what I've been through! You're gonna try to stop me, aren't you? Well, it won't work! I don't want to live! Please, just leave me alone!"
Kameko nonchalantly crossed her arms over her chest, and stood casually on ledge, as if they were having a normal conversation on the street, rather than a good fifty feet above the ground. "I can't do that, Michelle."
The girl stared at her. "What do you mean, you can't do that?"
"I can't leave you alone. You need someone to be with you right now, and it looks like I'm elected." She paused for a moment, trying to read Michelle's expression. She tried to recall everything she'd ever heard or read about dealing with 'jumpers,' as they called those who leaped from tall buildings deliberately to commit suicide. She had a funny feeling she was about to sound like an after-school special, but if it worked, then who cared?
Kameko decided to shift tactics a bit.
"So, uh, why... why the bungee jump without a bungee?"
For a moment, it almost looked like Michelle was going to smile. She didn't. "I'm tired of it."
"'It': my dad and his drinking, school, Dad's new girlfriend who hates me and wants to send me away to some boarding school, having to move away from all my friends so Dad can be closer to his girlfriend. I can't take it anymore. I threatened to run away and Dad slapped me, yelled at me, and said I was spoiled brat and then Diane came in and started screaming at me for causing trouble... And I just can't take it anymore. I won't take it any more."
Kameko frowned. This kid definitely had her share of problems. And her dad...
"Michelle... does your dad hit you?"
The girl scoffed. "Took you this long to figure that out?"
"Hey, now, no need for sarcasm. Anyway, that's my department. Look, it sounds like your father's got his share of problems, but he can get help, you know. This isn't the answer, Michelle."
"Please, don't start that bullshit with me."
Kameko fought a smirk. The way the girl said 'bullshit', so awkwardly, made it sound as if she'd never used an expletive a day in her life. She sighed.
"I know it's tempting to just end it all, but what about your dad, huh? He'll miss you, and you certainly won't do his drinking problem any favors by taking a flying leap. What about your friends? You keep in touch with them, don't you? How would they feel to know you had killed yourself?"
"I don't have any friends. Nobody ever bothers to call me or e-mail me. And Dad would be happy to see me go."
"I know that's not true."
Michelle had started crying again. "Yes, it is. My dad hates me. If he were out here right now, he'd probably push me."
"No. No, he wouldn't."
"How do you know?"
"I— ...Because all fathers care for their children. Even if they don't – or can't – show it. No matter what happens, Michelle, all fathers care for their children. "
"Yes, he does. He just has a problem. But he can beat it, with your help. C'mon. Let's get down from here, eh? The wind's pickin' up."
Kameko stepped down from the ledge and offered a hand up to the other girl. 'C'mon, c'mon, c'mon...' Michelle started to reach for the proffered hand.
The next few moments happened in a blur, and only later would Kameko be able to sort out exactly what had happened.
The door of the stairwell flew open, bouncing violently against the brick wall it was set into. An angry, red-faced, heavyset man charged through, screaming at the top of his lungs. Even Kameko took a step back from the vicious creature approaching them.
"WHERE THE FUCK HAVE YOU BEEN? WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING UP THERE? YOU GONNA JUMP? GO AHEAD! DO US ALL A FAVOR AND PUT YOURSELF OUTTA OUR MISERY!" He caught sight of Kameko, who was staring at him, mouth agape, shock clearly etched in her features.
Michelle's father was drunk, and angry, and violent, and he had shown up at exactly the wrong time.
"WHO THE FLYIN' FUCK ARE YOU? MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS, YOU LITTLE SHIT!" He approached her, and made a clumsy swing at her...
...Then gaped in disbelief when she caught his fist in her hand, bringing it to a dead stop in mid-air, micrometers from her face.
On instinct, Kameko's other hand flew up, her small fist flattening his nose with a sickening crunch. In shock, the man dropped to the ground, cradling his hemorrhaging face and cursing her. He was furious, but he was also too afraid to get back up. It was clear that the question 'How could a little girl... do that?' was racing through his head. Kameko briefly entertained the possibility of doing some more damage, but shunted that aside. The man was in bad enough shape already. She stepped away from him and tugged at the lapels of her trench coat sharply, straightening it.
"You disgusting fucker." She shook her head, incredulous. "You miserable, pathetic, disgusting fucker... ...Forget him, Michelle. He definitely needs help, but you definitely need to get away from him until he gets it. There are other places you can go, you know. What about your mom? You have other family somewhere?"
She didn't receive a reply. Kameko's heart skipped a beat, and then sped up, pounding painfully against her ribcage.
A cold sweat broke out over her, though she knew she hadn't exerted herself that much when dealing with the mewling pile of sludge at her feet.
'No. No, no, no.'
Her pulse pounding in her ears, Kameko turned to the ledge.
It was empty.
She could hear screams of terror from the street below.
'Please, this can't be happening...'
She leaned over the ledge.
Michelle's slender body lay twisted on the stage below, surrounded by horrified musicians and passers-by. Even from this distance, Kameko could tell that the girl's blue eyes held no life in them.
At that moment, someone in the crowd happened to look up.
"LOOK! SHE WAS MURDERED!"
Kameko stumbled backwards as more angry voices joined the first, and scrambled to get out of sight.
'They think it's me?! They think I did it! I gotta get outta here, NOW!'
She tripped over the sobbing lump behind her and fell hard on her back, hitting her head. She struggled back to her feet, shaking off the dizziness from the blow and feeling as if she were in a dream.
Or more precisely, a nightmare.
The only trouble was she couldn't seem to wake up.
Breaking into a run, she crossed the vast rooftop and, without pausing to think about what she was doing, leaped across to another building, which stood an easy eight feet away, but was several feet shorter. She landed, cat-like, and resumed her sprint, making for the fire escape on the other side of this building.
Already, she could hear sirens and at least one helicopter approaching. Cursing, she realized just how close she was to one of the precinct houses. Manhattan was just too damn small. Leaping over the wall at the side of the building, she grabbed the fire escape and began the tedious task of descending the stairs.
Fourth floor landing. She turned and started down the second set of stairs.
A spotlight swept across the rooftops, disappeared for a moment, then returned, illuminating the alley.
Third floor landing.
The sirens were close, very close, and the telltale blue and red lights of a squad car shot through the alley.
Second floor landing. No time for the ladder. She leaped over the railing and onto the closed lid of a nearby dumpster, then jumped to the ground.
"This is the police. You're in a dead end, and the only way out is blocked. Come out with your hands behind your head."
'Like fucking hell, I will.'
Kameko's eyes darted across the alleyway. A door, a window, anything, anything would work. She ducked out of sight behind the dumpster. Her boot made a familiar sound on the metal bars below her feet.
She couldn't believe it. She was standing on a sewer grate.
Officers were approaching; she could hear their boots and shouted orders only a few feet away.
Kameko had precious few seconds to escape. She seized the grill, ignoring the trash that covered it, and with one hard yank, it squeaked open. Pushing it open just far enough, she grabbed it from below and swung herself down under the street, pulling the grate down after her.
She heard curses from the police officers, who had reached her just in time to watch her disappear into the sewer. The grate was lugged open again, more slowly than she had managed.
"Michelson, give me a hand with this thing!"
It was opened all the way.
Kameko kept running, expertly dodging trash and slick patches of concrete. Officers were dropping through the grate now, and flashlight beams were bouncing around the tunnel.
'Jesus Christ, doesn't this thing have a bend in it somewhere?'
The pipe was long and straight, and as it was, she was a sitting duck, easy shooting for the people chasing her. But then, they didn't have her excellent night vision, and they certainly didn't know the sewers as well as she did. She heard snarled oaths in at least three languages echoing down the tunnel, as several officers slipped or tripped and fell to the ground. Not daring to turn and look back, she estimated that there were five people struggling to keep up with her.
"STOP! Stop or I'll shoot!"
'C'mon, there's gotta be a joint in this god-damned pipe somewhere!'
She found her chance. The pipe was too small to stand in, but with her small frame, she could crawl through it quickly enough. She dropped to her knees, sliding on the concrete, and dove through the opening. She could see light less than ten feet away on the other side. She had to be quick, though, because if those officers caught up with her, they could easily fire one shot through the narrow pipe – there would be no way they'd miss her.
"Good God, where'd they go?"
Three feet, two feet...
"Stop! Stop or I swear I'll shoot! Damn it, don't make me shoot you, kid!"
Kameko scrambled through the opening on the other side of the pipe and took off again. She had a feeling that some of the cops had been filtered out by their inability to negotiate the small pipe, but at least one of the officers was doing a surprisingly good job of keeping up with her.
Then again, he'd had two chances to shoot her and hadn't taken them, so maybe he wasn't all that impressive after all. She heard an explosion from the small pipe and jumped, grabbing at several smaller pipes that ran across the top of the larger tunnel and pulling herself up, just managing to get out of the path of the bullet before it reached her. She heard it hit a wall some distance down the pipe, and then bounce again, and again, until she could no longer hear it.
She couldn't help it. She yelled at them.
"Are you moron's outta yer minds?" She dropped back to the ground and charged for the juncture she could see about twenty feet away. "This is a sewer! Any bullets you fire're gonna ricochet! They might even come back to hit you!"
They hadn't been expecting her to say anything. The same cop that had shouted at her before yelled again.
"Then stop running! If you give yourself up now, they might go easier on you! The longer you run, the worse it'll be!"
"I didn't kill that girl! If anyone killed her, her father did!"
"That's not my call, kid! You gotta talk to the judge! GOD DAMN IT, STOP RUNNING!" Another shot was fired.
Kameko skidded around the corner, hearing the bullet ricochet and bounce down the tunnel in the opposite direction. She never slowed down as she weaved her way through the sewer system, taking as many turns as she could in the effort to shake off her chaser. She couldn't believe how well he was keeping up with her, never more than fifty to a hundred feet behind her.
'The police must be improving their training regimen... unless this guy has some kind of martial arts training... that might explain it... Man, get lost already!'
At long last, she spotted a series of storm drains. So much light was filtering down through them that the sewers were clearly lit. Choosing one, she leaped up, grabbed the edge of the drain, and hauled herself through it and onto the street above. Amazingly, no one even noticed. She'd lost her bearings in her frantic flight, and found now, to her disbelief, that she had come out in the middle of Time Square. Disappearing now would be easy. She giggled, almost overcome with hysteria (that wasn't entirely from amusement), as she heard the officer's curses filtering up through the noise of the city.
Straightening her coat yet again, she slipped into the nightlife crowd and made her way down the street. After several minutes of walking, she turned down an alley and leaned, exhausted, against the wall. The events from only minutes before came back to her, now that the need to flee had passed. In an almost trance-like state, she made her way away from the crowds of citizens, away from the sounds of helicopters and sirens and horns and street vendors and bickering New Yorkers, toward home.
Later, in the safety of the old subway station she called home, she wouldn't be able to remember how she got there. She wouldn't remember returning to the sewer, or threading her way to the hatch that led down into the lair; wouldn't remember ignoring her brother's taunts and heading straight for the shower.
When she at last emerged from the bathroom, wrapped in an over-sized towel, she didn't even notice that her father had the evening news on. She disappeared into her bedroom and pulled on clean shorts and an old t-shirt. Only then did she begin to be aware that she was home. She felt tired, but she didn't want to go to bed. Instead, she returned to the 'living room', such as it was, and sank onto the couch, looking up just in time to see one of her closest friends reporting on the apparent murder of a sixteen-year-old girl in lower Manhattan.
And Kameko began to cry.