So we meet again! Hopefully, anyway, for that would mean you're liking this story! (grins widely)
I know it's been a while. A really long while. I swear I never meant for it to take so long. There have been… problems in my life recently. So this time, it truly was impossible to get online. But I'm back now!
And I have some good news! I've mapped out the main strategic points in the rest of this plot, so hopefully from now on it should go really smoothly. I hope to have Cork done by the end of the year. So, as long as nothing goes wrong, I can finally give you an accurate figure for how long this story will be. It should finish up with fifteen chapters, and this is number eight, so don't worry, we have a ways to go. I'm shooting for at least a chapter a month on this one.
Oh, fair caution- I'm using police codes towards the end of this one, so I'm sorry if you get confused. They're meanings will be listed at the end.
Anyways, I better get started. I hope you enjoy!
Disclaimer: If I owned the TMNT, would I be writing a disclaimer saying I don't?
There was only a slight hitch in his steps as he hurried towards the village. This tree's limbs were heavy, the next one bore a broken branch; a dead bird forever rested here and a bush grew over there. He marked the things he worried he wouldn't remember, making slight cuts in inconspicuous areas where only he would think to look. Leo always varied where and how he placed his marks- he couldn't take the chance of anyone finding him after he'd returned.
He smelled it before he could see it. Stopping, the turtle sniffed the air and reached for the foliage of a parasol plant at his left. Making a large tear in its leafy appearance, he took another step forward, eyes above the ground and looking for a hole in the jungle canopy. When he finally discovered it, there was only a small speck of natural color adorning the vault of heaven. The rest was clouded over by a thick veil of smoke.
Ten yards later, he made it to a clearing. Camouflaged by the forest, he overlooked the village with wonder. It was a small little place; there was an old church and a handful of houses that he could see, as well as two pens of animals. In each case, Leonardo felt that the enclosure was too large for the creatures he was seeing. The animals were making fearful noises while the more docile of them ate. That too wasn't right; he noticed food spilling over the edges of the trough but it never seemed to empty.
Taking his eyes away from the livestock, Leo examined the pathways that lead to the quaint villagers' homes. Outside one burning abode a man held a small girl with dark pigtails in his arms. The child cried into her father's shoulder and an elderly woman, stone-faced by sorrow, wrapped her arms around the man.
Another villager walked by, his face colored in soot, with a dented pail of water. Stopping at the first fire, he patted a petite woman lightly on the back. "Mi amiga," he whispered. She sobbed into her hands and he stepped back, dumping the contents of the pail over the fire. Leaving for more water, he promised her in Spanish he'd be back soon. The determination in his voice professed that he would continue on until, bucket by bucket, he had put this fire out. And as grateful as the woman must've been for this, Leo could see it in her eyes… by then, it would already be too late.
In another corner of the village, a man seemed to be attending his neighbor's injuries, swathing the burn in bandages. A woman gathered her three children, assuring them that their father would return soon with something for supper. Small feet came thundering towards the animals and he heard the group of children count them in Spanish. "¡Los caballos no estàn apresardo ¡Ni cinco de las cabras!" They reported.
Of these voices, he recognized one, just vaguely. Curiously, he watched the boy with the cowboy hat run back to a home, splitting away from the other children. Like a bolt of lighting that branched out in all directions of his mind, Leo tried to trace the stroke back to its source.
He found a child calling for his mother, asking what had taken her so long; a memory of a youth's skepticism as his mother told him about a 'ghost of the jungle'.
Most of the villagers were too busy to notice him. Scanning the small crowd, Leo moved quickly out of the jungle and crouched next to two foul-smelling barrels; rotten fruit, he decided. Another move made when no one was looking brought him to the rear side of the stone church, then the left of it, where no one could see him. Screened by the sheer size of the building, the ninja walked to the next corner and looked for the boy, who ran over to the second house down.
Leo rubbed his hands together. "Work with me…" he advised his healing knee, then darted for the shadows. From this new vantage point, the ninja in blue was able to see that whatever had happened here had taken place several hours ago. There were two other homes that showed evidence of having been set ablaze, though the fire had since gone out. Other residences sported torn curtains; through broken windows, Leo could see what remained of the ransacked innards of happy homes.
The little boy ran up a dirt path and dashed inside the dwelling, leaving the door ajar. The turtle quietly snuck around the back, gently stepping around a trampled garden that had been robbed of its rewards. A small wooden board seemed to serve as a backdoor, and he pressed his ear to it. He could hear the child report the same facts as he had done at the center of the village; the horses and five of the goats had been taken. He also mentioned something about an aunt, though Leo couldn't catch the rest.
And then she spoke. "¡Gracias al cielo ¿Estàn todos bien?" Leo raised his head. It was her.
"En su mayoría. Pero hay partes quemadas."
Rustling sounds groaned from within as the woman began searching for something. "Tal vez tenga algunas cosas que puedan ser de utilidad. Id- nos veremos allá."
He waited, inhaling the sounds of footsteps departing; waited still when they were gone, if only to make sure no one else was there. Finally, he pushed the door open.
The woman whirled around like a viper. "¡Fuera de aquì-!" She stopped, her fist raised. "Spirit!" She gasped, in English now. "What are you doing here?" The woman raced around the house before he could answer, digging among clothes and broken dishes that lay scattered across the floor. She pulled an old, brown cloak up off the ground. "Here, in case someone sees you," she advised, having been informed countless times by now that he couldn't be seen by humans… even if she didn't understand why.
"Thank you," Leo told her, donning the cloth. "What happened?" He asked her.
"Ay…" She sighed, wrapping one arm over her midsection. "Nothing that hasn't happened here before. And it will happen again. They come… they come and take our belongings and much of our harvests every so often. We are out from the government's protection, so they offer it to us, for a price." The woman laughed without humor. "We need more protection from them than anyone else."
He thought about all of the things she'd told him of during her visits. This had never once been mentioned. At least, not clearly. "Your sister," he started. "She'd finished repairing her home not that long ago. It was from an attack like this, wasn't it?"
She nodded. "Yes. They come, these Criministas, every few months or so. And then we have to rebuild." With a sigh, the Central American mother put a hand over her necklace, stroking it. "I must help. You should go back into the jungle, Spirit. It's not safe here."
Leo was going to mention that there were ways he could be of assistance without anyone even catching a glimpse of his green skin. He was going to tell her, but his eyes were locked into place, staring at the ornament she wore around her neck. "They steal your valuables," he said quietly as she made her way to the front door; "But they neglected to take that?"
Stopping, he watched her tanned hand grip it again. "They try," she got out. "Each time they've wanted it- and nearly gotten it, too. But I always find a way to part with some other treasure they find of equal value; perhaps a… service they could use, so it may stay with me." She looked up at him, and Leo could see she was crying. "It belonged to my mother. There is nothing else left of her."
"What did you give them this time?" He asked, keeping his voice level as he took a few steady steps over to her.
She glanced away, and sniffed, rubbing the wetness from her right eye with the back of her knuckle. "It was a beautiful sword…"
The grass is lush, the dirt soft. Rocks, large and slippery stone monuments risen from the earth; the first skyscrapers. The water spills over the edges in a sheet of white and he can't hear anything besides it.
An absolute pool of blue.
It should be viewed in beauty, but instead the waterfall makes him uneasy. His hands scale the stone, feet slipping in between holds until he is behind the water's veil. The mist is so heavy here that he can barely see.
"Tell me how many," a voice says. The wall of rock travels higher behind him. On a cliff that leaks rain, he sits. But the double remains below; it's hard to tell who is real.
The other turtle, as realistic to him as his heartbeat, drinks the water out of the palm of cupped hand. He's kneeling and when he's finished, he wipes his mouth with his wrist. "How many?" He asks again.
The other stares, unreadable. "Did you have fun?"
He's angry now. "I don't do this for fun. You know why I had to do it; I can't protect anyone if can't make myself rise to the threat. I can't lead."
"Keep telling yourself that," the ninja says icily. He examines his fingers, then sits with one leg dangling over the edge of the small precipice.
"I'm learning," he insists.
"Of course you are," he speaks sarcastically. "So tell me what you learned this time. Or anytime, for that matter."
He opens his mouth to tell him but there's nothing there. The words are non-existent and he only succeeds in swallowing mist.
A snort. "It's what I expected. Has the thrill evaporated yet?"
The grass is still lush; the dirt remains soft. If anything, the stone masterpiece has ascended higher. And crimson sheets tumble over its rocky edge.
An absolute pool of red.
The blankets still hugged him, but when Leo woke up, he found himself as cold as January. That, of course, isn't how it should've been; it was June. Hell, the nights were already hot.
He wondered if Casey turned the air conditioner on. But sitting there, he could hear no hum of machinery, not even from the refrigerator, though someone was fiddling around in the kitchen. Groggily, Leo raised his head and peeked over the couch, his ribs scolding him for the movement. He'd started the game back up again too soon. Casey's going through the pantry, digging out spices. "What the hell does thyme look like?" He muttered.
Stretching, Leo shed the bedding he'd been loaned and walked over to the kitchen. Casey nodded a hello and stepped back upon seeing where he was headed. Pushing a few bottles aside with his fingers, the turtle examined the contents of the little jars he was seeing. It'd probably be smart to label these, he thought- especially for those who weren't used to seeing them. In the back, he found something that looked about right. Unscrewing the lid on the jar, Leo sniffed it to make sure before handing it to his friend.
"Thanks," Casey said, then set the thyme next to a bottle of ginger he'd gotten out. "I'm just making sure I have everything," he explained. "I'm making something special for April after I pick her up."
Leo nodded recalling this fact. "Right. I should probably get out of your way."
Lost in the world of unfamiliar spices, Casey came out of his confusion just in time to catch the turtle before he left. "Hold up a sec, Leo," he said as his friend stopped by the window. For a moment, Leonardo feared that whatever the man had to say would involve the events of last night. He considered making a run for it, but kept his itchy feet on the cool, hardwood floors. "I told ya last night that I'd call the lair for you. Just let me ring your bros up, and then we can go," Casey told him, reaching for the hand-held phone.
Sighing, the turtle in blue crossed his arms over his plastron. He longed for motion, something to lose the nightmares in. Standing in place just gave him more time to mull over these matters; probing too deep into his thoughts and searching for hidden meanings tore him in two on the inside.
He wasn't sure what would be more dangerous- returning home to evoke unwanted questions, or hiding behind the shadow of Casey Jones to avoid them. It didn't sound like the man was going to give him much choice, though, so Leo leaned against the wall.
His attention momentarily turned back to the array of ingredients set before him. Casey seemed to measure the contents of the little bottle of ginger with his eyes. He frowned slightly, apparently dissatisfied with the outcome, before acknowledging whoever had answered on the other end. "Hey, Mikey. You're up early. Batman reruns on or somethin'?" Casey laughed at the response. "Yeah- that was a good one. But listen, Leo's over at my place right now. He stopped in for a little chat last night and I talked him into staying." The ninja noticed how he conveniently left out their encounter on the rooftops. He was grateful, but it didn't really matter. It didn't take much for his siblings to notice a blank when they came across it, and they didn't have to have all of the details in order to fill it in. Casey was talking again; "Yeah, we're heading out in just a few. Is Splinter there? …Mind putting him on for me? Thanks."
And here was the part he'd been anxious over. It appeared that his sensei had been told what was happening, for Casey didn't explain it again. "Mornin', Master Splinter," the human greeted respectfully. The rat was really one of the only people Leo had seen earn such a reaction from him. Turning around, Casey left the kitchen and walked into his bedroom, making the conversation muffled and unintelligible from where he stood. He sighed, letting his arms drop down to his sides. As he sensed the discussion draw to its close, Leo opened the window, letting the warm air flow inside. Casey noticed it immediately as he walked back in; he was well-versed in the signals for his friends' many departures. "Want me to give you a ride?" He asked, reminding Leo that he had offered last night.
However, Leo shook his head, declining the invitation. "No thanks. I could use some air- and I know a route that should take me back without being seen."
"You sure?" Casey pressed. "I can drop you off on my way to the airport."
"That's all right," Leo assured him. "Besides," he nodded towards the items Casey had dug out of his kitchen; "You look like you're going to need some time getting that together."
When Casey turned to look back at his project, Leo ducked out of the window and into the sunlight.
"He seemed a little edgy when he came by," the rat listened as Casey explained himself. "He got me kinda worried, ya know? The guy looked like he could use some time away from home to settle down. Hope you understand, Master Splinter."
The rodent glanced in the way of his sons' directions; Raphael was in bed and Michelangelo watching television, so only Donatello would glance at him in curiosity. "Your concern is most appreciated, Mr. Jones. Leonardo had been… troubled as of late, though his problems remain elusive. His behavior grows significantly out of character, which is mainly why I enforced this punishment upon him in the first place."
"Ah, I wouldn't be too hard on him," Casey replied. "Sometimes, a guy has to figure out things for himself. Just let him know he hasn't gotten away with anything."
Splinter snickered lightly. Though he may not have grown any younger over the years, the rat had never been the type of guardian that let his charges completely off the hook when they did something wrong. "I believe he surely knows this already," the rodent stated. "Thank you again, Mr. Jones. My sons have chosen a good friend in you."
A few pleasant farewells were exchanged before the conversation ended. With it over, the phone felt hot in his hands. Shaking his head, Master Splinter placed it back on the hook and walked over to the couch. His soap operas would start in ten minutes and Michelangelo knew well enough when to take his leave as that time came into fruition. Today's episode would involve Hannah recovering from her amnesia. Unfortunately, the old rat had somehow lost his anxious desire to see this new plot development.
Leonardo had not disobeyed him many times in his young life. And in the times he had, never had the problem been so confusing.
He'd heard the door to their home open on three separate occasions last night. The first occurrence had revealed Raphael's presence to him. Splinter had nearly gone after the pupil but had decided that the turtle's punishment would best be served if his master could show him that he had not been as careful as he had thought.
The second opening had awoken him from his slumbers, too late to determine who it was. At the time, he had believed it was Raphael returning home. But when he'd gotten up later in the night to take a drink from the cup of water at his bedside, the telltale noise had sounded again. This had again displayed Raphael's mien, coming now instead of going. Looking back on these events, Splinter could see that the second departure had occurred too early to have been an arrival, as he'd thought. He'd determined before Casey's call that Leonardo had left as well, though knowing where he was now had provided much of a relief.
Two sons now that refused to obey. Such strict measures would have to be taken to see that they stayed home. But he could not keep an eye on them for every minute of each day. Trained in the art of Ninjitsu since their early youth, getting around such an obstacle would merely be a challenge for them to rise up to.
He sighed, reaching for the remote. If only children could understand the wisdom behind their parents' warnings- the love behind their discipline. How many times would they have to learn that they were just trying to protect them from the hardship that came from such a traveled road?
But Splinter supposed every child had to fall before they could learn to get back up again. You could encourage the child to walk, help them to learn; yet how fast the task was accomplished was truly up to them.
As much as it pained him, Splinter knew that like that situation, there was little that could be done.
Hammil walked into the break room and examined the lone figure sitting at the table, nursing a steaming cup of coffee. Scott always took his religiously with two creams and a sugar, but Bart had used up that last little package of Splenda this afternoon. Just his luck; Aaron was probably pissed by now.
With a sigh, the balding man took a seat opposite of his friend. Scott swirled his beverage before taking another sip. "So what's the verdict?"
"Not as bad as I'm sure you think. They were mad, all right, and that's nearly all I'm going to say. The gist of it is that questioning a suspect is best done when you have the guy in custody. They're keeping you on the case for now, it seems. But damn, Aaron, I'd suggest you watch your step."
Scott laughed. "They liked the profile, didn't they?"
Age hadn't dulled this man's intuition any. "Parts confused them to hell, but yeah, they want to go with it."
"Thought so," the FBI agent nodded. "I had Katie do some digging around the morgue," he changed the subject. "She found a Jane Doe that matched Tawney Elkin's description. He was telling the truth."
"How'd she die?"
"Drowning, but she was picked up with dry clothes in an alley."
"Not his style," Hammil remarked. "Any evidence?"
"A team checked her place out," Scott told him, placing his coffee aside as if it were vile. No sugar, but he'd tried. "They found his fingerprints in the apartment, mainly in the bathroom and on her dresser. I'm thinking he drowned her in the bathtub then moved her. And it is too his style," his friend said with a raised finger. "Daniel Cobb was found facedown in a watery pothole. 'Ren' uses what he finds to be the most convenient methods when he's killing."
"Touché," Bart said. "You been to the other crime scenes yet?"
Scott shook his head; not a negative, Hammil sensed. "Barely a day passed between Spence and the other four. His cool down periods- they're completely erratic." He stared down at the path of liquid his beverage had trailed when it was moved, a thin brown line. "He's an unusual one, Bart."
"We've dealt with some of the strangest perps working for the FBI. Just a few months ago I put away a man who was hiding the arsenic he'd used to kill his boss in his daughter's tea set. I'm sure this guy has his own twisted tale to hide but either way, he'll sing it for us once we get him. That's our job."
"No, that's your job," Scott says, looking up at him as his pointer finger traces little circles in the spilt coffee. "Profilers don't solve crimes- investigators do. It's the first rule of the trade, and if it isn't, it's somewhere in there."
Placing his shoes up on the chair next to him, Hammil laughed. "Whatever you say; but you can't tell me you don't have some sort of hand in the final outcome."
"We make logical suggestions, based on the evidence and deductive reasoning. We're not always right," the older man said.
Hammil smirked. "Most of you come pretty damn close. And you, my friend, are one of the best. You may be a crazy bastard, but I think I'll trust your judgment."
"Good move. Have you been able to do anything with what I've given you?" He asked.
"We have a team checking the records for a child born with the deformities listed. We're also checking for possible injuries that could have arrived at such results; maybe a car wreck or an accident in a wood shop class." He explained, folding his hands over his stomach. "They're checking the name out, first and last. Reynolds, Reginalds… anything that might result in the handle 'Ren'."
Scott ran a hand through his graying hair. "I don't think we'll find anything there. He's too smart to give his real name."
"It was your idea," Hammil reminded him. He couldn't help but resent that, even though Aaron was five years older than he was, the man still had some natural color to his thatch of fur there on top. Hell, the fact he had any hair made Bart green with envy; he was seeing the dome far too soon.
"Leave no stone unturned," Scott said. "Just because it's not probable doesn't mean it's not possible."
"You're one serious pain in the neck, Agent Hardass," Hammil joked, using the nickname his friend had been given.
He was glad that Aaron took it kindly. The man laughed, grabbing the cup of coffee and walking over to the sink. "Et tu, Bartus?"
Hammil chuckled at the play on words. "If you can't beat them, join them." He let his feet fall back down to the ground. "So what are you up to now?"
"More evidence to go through," Scott stated. "There's some very interesting points in the Keefe homicides. I'll keep you posted."
"Sounds good," his friend told him, rising from his chair with a snap of his back. "Call me on my cell if you have something. Dahl and I are heading out to another one of those Japanese weaponry shops. It opens in the next hour."
"I though you hit those yesterday?"
"We did," Hammil said. "Not much luck, but we have the information for you on your desk. The last store was closed yesterday, though. Who closes shop on a Wednesday?"
The profiler shrugged. "No idea." Turning towards the sink, he tipped the cup over. Coffee lacking the grace of sugar flowed over the edge of the Styrofoam container and down the drain.
Terrence Sanderson weighed the yellow package with his hands. It seemed like the contents were nothing but papers, if there was anything at all. He wondered if it held anthrax- he hadn't thought about that in a long time. Oh, he knew he shouldn't have bothered to go back and check to see if he'd locked his car. Sometimes overly cautious about those things, of course he had.
Pleased that the locks were engaged, he'd walked back to the entrance. Pedestrians were already out; one man had been looking at this very package in bafflement, only to glance up when he saw Sanderson heading in there.
"You work here?" He'd asked.
One foot paused in the threshold, Sanderson had nodded, uninterested. "Yes."
"There was this man," the civilian said, looking over his shoulder as if to find him. Shaking his head, he shifted his attention to the yellow packet. "He told me to make sure this got to one of you," he'd explained, holding it out to him.
It was unmarked. Who was it for? As he headed for the break room to heat up his breakfast burrito, Terrence placated his fear and tore the top half of the package open. Sure enough, there were just a few pages of computer paper there.
And reading the first sentence he saw, it became painfully obvious who it was intended for.
Do I have your attention?
I know how The Vigilante finds his victims. The next one will…
The letter was short, ending with a web address. Following it was a list of maybe a hundred names. Sanderson didn't bother reading the rest. What did he know about this case? Very little; while he worked at the police department, his was just a desk job and only saw action through reports. Action terrified him.
Lost in thought, he nearly bumped into Bartholomew Hammil. "A-Agent Hammil!" He stuttered in surprise. Everyone here knew about the FBI working on the issue. "Sir," he gave no time for greetings. Hammil seemed so tall in comparison to himself. He was only five foot three, quite thin. Hammil seemed like a giant in his eyes, though he too couldn't have been that large. "Sir, I have something you should see," he said, practically thrusting it into the superior's hands.
The man looked over it calmly, the clockwork behind his eyes grinding. "It could be nothing," he looked up at him and placed the paperwork back into Sanderson's nervous grasp. "Nevertheless, take it to Agent Scott. He should still be in the break room. He'll know what to do with it."
"Yes, of course," he spoke as Hammil moved away from him.
Nodding even after he'd left, Sanderson continued to his destination. He didn't need the damn burrito anymore, the gas station meal only managed to burn his taste buds, anyways. All he wanted was to be rid of what had been born of the yellow packet.
Rays from a summer sun struck Leo's body; a dummy to its target practice. It felt good; turtles love sunlight and it does well for their skin. This was true for even the mutant variety of the species. Like a drug it warmed him and he had to remind himself to treat it as such and be aware of its dangers. Traveling at night was preferable, when they could blend into the shadows that covered the earth instead of ones that just accented it.
Japan had been similar in this sense, as had a few of the other places he'd traveled to during his training. Central America had been unique though; its plant life alone had provided enough cover for him day and night, as long as he was careful. And because of that, he'd been allowed to enjoy the sun as much as he'd wanted.
Just a friendly reminder that not every memory he'd left behind there was bad.
Nearly upon Manhattan, he felt so good that another drug called to him, one far more dangerous than the sun. Angel Racine lived only a few streets away…
He was recovering quicker from the nightmares of tonight than usual. Leo hadn't even seen Bryant Keefe in his hauntings, much to his surprise. It made him wonder if he was getting used to it.
Apparently the affects of the dreams hadn't worn off quite just yet, because he shivered then in the embrace of the sun, thinking about the double in the waterfall. Thinking about how a place as big as a jungle somehow provided absolute seclusion, even from neighboring parts of the growth. Thinking about all those places you could hide; all of it reminding him that he never wanted to get used to those feelings.
He walked right past Racine's road, not even looking twice from his rooftop pathway. It was becoming difficult to leap across buildings with his ribs. They'd been nice and healed, only giving him a little rub of soreness every once in a while, when he'd gone out and tangled with some of the most dangerous men in New York. How many times had he been hit there last night? At least two, Leo figured, stopping to massage the plates of his plastron in an attempt to soothe the aching. He'd barely felt it last night but sleep has a tendency to either completely refresh you or just make you feel ten times as worse. "Don's going to be pissed," Leo muttered.
Tapping, like footsteps. He turned, ready to draw his weapons, when he saw Mikey and Don perform a series of acrobatics that put them on his rooftop. "You're right." Michelangelo arrived first, speaking with a smile and keeping up the title of resident joker. "He is pissed. What else do you have for him to brood about?"
Don landed only seconds after, a mere marginal degree more pleasant than last he'd been seen by his older brother. Leo's hand was still poised over his side and the denizen genius rarely missed these details. "Please tell me you didn't hurt yourself again," Don sighed. From his tone, the turtle in blue couldn't tell if he was worried or frustrated. Likely both.
"I didn't," the leader was quick to inform. There were nice cuts and some small bruises, but that didn't make the qualification of 'hurt' by his standards. "Just a little sore. Nothing out of the ordinary."
"That's good to know." Don's voice betrayed nothing. Mike looked uncomfortable, standing between them.
Letting his hand fall away, Leo raised his chin slightly. "So what are you guys doing here?"
"We came to make sure you came home," the purple-clad ninja pointed out the obvious. "With no stops in between, of course."
"If I wanted to kill somebody you wouldn't have found me," Leo told him. There was a certain paranoia that came from killing. The deed itself blocked out everything but the sensory input of the echoes of blood and fear that fell into his chest like lead. Only three times had his guard fallen- the first night that had started this, the murder of Javier Vergara, and the last had been with Bryant Keefe. That was, however, three times too many. Honestly, considering that Don had handled the papers holding all that precious information regarding the whereabouts of his targets… he really couldn't guarantee that they wouldn't have caught him in the act.
It was scary to think about.
Mikey stretched. "'If you wanted to…'" He repeated thoughtfully. "Like last night?" His little brother looked up at him and the disappointment Leo saw there was crushing. "I thought you said you were going to try?"
Leo struggled to maintain eye contact. "I am trying. The goal's the same… the method's just different," he explained.
"More corpses aren't the same goal," Don said softly, rubbing the back of his shoulder. "Leo… serial killers have a lot of typical habits that help law enforcement identify them as such. Many have difficulty abstaining from carnage."
He knew what his sibling was getting at. "The quicker I handle this, the faster it ends," he spoke hurriedly.
Don folded his arms over his plastron. "I just love the way you refer to this," he said irritably. "Murder is murder though, no matter how you put it."
His snicker tasted raw even to his own tongue. "You don't know what it is, Donny. It's not a series of words that can be defined in a dictionary with synonyms and antonyms. And it certainly can't be explained away by example or your science projects." Leo's speech came smoothly, rephrasing what he had told his siblings a hundred times by now. "This is something you can never understand. And if you want to stop me your way, you have to understand it." When neither answered, he looked over the edge of the building, examining the parked cars below that resembled the Hot Wheels they used to play with as kids. "I'm going home now," Leo told his brothers, not bothering to look to see if they were coming. "See you there."
He couldn't blame them if they didn't follow right away of course. The sun didn't feel so good as you walked through the damp and dark tunnels of the sewers, even in the summer.
A thin breeze gently played with the tails of Michelangelo's bandana as he stood near the edge of the building. The near fully grown baby of the family nevertheless maintained enough space between himself and the city's range of sight as he basked in outdoor pleasures. "Dude, I wish we had a trailer. With a couple of disguises, we'd probably be able to pull off a camping trip. A lot of people do that this time of year."
"Don't be ridiculous, Mikey," Don said absent-mindedly, facing the opposite direction. "You wouldn't survive a single day in the open without an electronic source of entertainment."
"Three words, bro," Mike shot back at him over his shoulder. "Handheld. Video. Game."
Despite his current mood, Donny couldn't help but grin at that. Who said Mikey wasn't clever. "I do believe that defeats the purpose, brother." When his sibling just laughed, the purple-clad ninja swung his bo around in a slow, figure-eight pattern, his brown eyes tracking the movement.
He hadn't felt this angry with his brother for a long time.
Leonardo was a rather intelligent soul, so Donatello was having difficulty explaining away the foolishness of his actions. As his grip tightened on the staff, the object doubled its speed. He didn't understand what exactly could compel his eldest brother to set out on this dangerous path. How could he be so, for lack of a better word, stupid?
With a mighty flick of his wrist, Don made the bo staff spin end-over-end in the air for a moment before catching it. "Of course," he whispered thoughtfully, "For my abundance of intellect, I'm no better than he."
"What'd you say, bro?" Mike asked, turning away from his view.
It was an innocent question, the wielder of the nunchucks hadn't been able to make out his brother's mutterings. However, Don treated it as if he had. "We keep his secret, Mikey- that makes us nearly if not just as responsible for these murders as Leo."
The turtle clearly had pushed the circumstance to the back of his mind; he looked none too happy about retrieving it. Mikey shook his head. "We aren't the ones doing it. We barely even know exactly what it is that he's doing half the time."
"But we know he's killing," Don insisted. "And we've known for a while. Promise or no promise, we should've said something to Splinter."
"How much better do you think Sensei could handle this?" Mikey questioned. "At the best, he could probably hold him back for a bit, but that's all. Face it, dude- nothing short of a bullet is going to stop Leo on this one."
Glaring, Don placed his bo staff back across his shell. "That's what I'm afraid of, Mikey. He's already gotten a few nasty wounds. With the people he deals with, it's only a matter of time before an injury turns out to be fatal."
The look of daunting fear passed over Mikey's face. He'd thought about this before- many times before, Donny realized. He sighed in apology when Mike looked away.
Neither said anything for several moments. Finally, the younger of the two set off in the direction of home. "I'm hungry," Mike stated as they went along their way. "Wanna stop for pizza on the way back?"
Donny shrugged. "Sounds fine," he told him, not bothering to mention once again that pizza was not the healthiest selection one could make to start the day out with.
He could feel a strange new feeling inside of him now, two emotions in one. It felt like something stuck between loving his big brother deeply, as he did with all of his family. Yet at the same time, there was such hatred for the love he held for him. He hated it because it seemed to be the only thing keeping him from putting a stop to this when it should've prompted him to act.
They arrived in front of Dragon Claws at nine o'clock, on the nose. Hammil was pleased to find the establishment ready for business and held the door open as his partner, Jacob Dahl, walked through. Entering was a relief; the shop was air-conditioned, creating soft but cool breezes to dismiss the heat from his skin.
The trademark tells of a good operation involve the appearance of what is being offered, its environment- if it is a constant one, and the men and women who manage it. The interior of the weapons shop was very attractive, sparkling with products neatly arranged. The staff, of course, had yet to be examined, but from what Hammil could see so far, the fifth store was the nicest among the lot. "It might have something to do with the offender's background," Bart thought out loud, temporarily viewing this place as the Vigilante's supplier while he checked a price tag. "I wouldn't say he's from the slums."
Jake tucked his hands into his pockets, examining the scene thoroughly. "Thought that was Scott's job- the analyzing and shit," he remarked on criminal profiling. Hammil's partner was fairly young, a little older than thirty, though he still responded to certain situations like a twenty-year-old. But when it came to the job, he was strictly business. His business, anyways; while he respected it, the man lacked the appreciation for criminal profiling. Like so many men, Dahl was in it for the action.
Kneeling down in front of the glass counters, Hammil inspected a series of throwing stars spread neatly for display. They looked exactly like those that had been extracted from two of the victims. The other shops had as well, but it was a relief to see another option when the four before it had failed. They were looking for an obvious revelation here, something to speed things along. If they didn't get one, a little digging would hopefully reveal the answer. If they did, they'd still have to dig, just not in so many spots. "Did I ever tell you I wanted to be a profiler?" Hammil asked.
Sighing, Dahl raised his eyebrows and examined a long and elegant wooden stick. "Only a few hundred times."
Bart smirked. "The process is fascinating- that's what intrigued me. But just because your attracted to one avenue doesn't mean you'll do well on it. Figured that out mighty quick." With a heave, he stood. "Besides, there was another purpose calling me," he spoke the lie he'd rehearsed so many times. Truth was, he was just another one of those men, young then but more conscious of how he'd aged now. He too had come into this for the action, and it was starting to catch up with him.
A petite, Japanese girl walked up to the other side of the counter, barely old enough to drink. She smiled brightly and Hammil noticed that the only flaw in it was that one front tooth was chipped. "May I help you?" She asked pleasantly with an American accent.
Here was a situation to transform a certain FBI Agent into just another young man. Jacob Dahl smiled boyishly as he approached, leaning his elbow against the counter. "Why, yes you may," he told her, momentarily forgetting his job.
Hammil was quick to remind him. "We're here to speak to the owner. Is he here at this time?"
She blinked, slightly surprised, but managed to remain professional. "Of course," she said. "I'll go get him for you."
Though he'd never been good at adding the details up in the days he'd desired to be a profiler, Bartholomew Hammil still noticed them. After all, some things were still quite simple, like glancing at a nametag. "Thank you, Sachiko," he said, praying to God he'd pronounced it right.
Sachiko smiled at him as she disappeared behind the curtain. Dahl casually turned his neck to look at him. "You said it wrong," he said with a little grin.
"And how would you have said it?" Bart asked him.
Jake shrugged. "Same way, I'm sure. But girls don't smile like that when you're right. They smile that way when they think you're funny."
Hammil shook his head. "Jacob Dahl: women expert. Is this why you aren't married?"
"I'm not married because I'm taking my time," Dahl extenuated himself.
Now it was his partner's turn to grin. Jake might also have had a full head of hair, red to boot, but Hammil had been wed happily for twelve years. "Clock's ticking, my friend."
An aging man pulled the curtain aside, followed by the female assistant. The family resemblance was as obvious as a pointed gun. "My daughter tell me you want to speak with me?" He asked, lacking the fluid vernacular his child had acquired. His halted speech betrayed that English was not his first language.
Straightening his shoulders, Dahl looked the man in the eye. "You are Ryohei Hirano, yes?"
The owner placed his hands on the counter and nodded. "Hai," he said, reverting back to his native tongue. Somewhere in the back of his brain, Hammil thought that meant yes. "You have… unpleasing merchandise?" The man grasped at straws, almond-shaped eyes darting towards their sides, looking for a return.
"No, nothing like that," Hammil assured him. "Mr. Hirano," the agent copied the pronunciation his partner had used. "It would be best if we could speak with you in private."
Hirano's eyebrows furrowed in thought. He turned to look at his daughter, then nodded. "Sachiko, there is new shipment at the back of the store. Check and see that all has arrived," He told her. Respectfully, the girl nodded, bowing her head to all three men in the room before leaving.
Her father watched her go before looking back at the two men. "Is there something wrong?" He asked.
More focused now that a certain distraction had been removed, Jake tugged at his left sleeve, straightening out a fold. "Depends, Mr. Hirano. How do you view murder?" Dahl asked, offering the salesman his badge. Hammil closed his eyes and mentally slapped the agent's wrist, showing his own badge as well. Sometimes his partner showed a tendency for the dramatics.
After examining their identification, the questioned responded in kind. "Murder?" He sounded astounded. "Oh, I have not killed anyone."
"No one's said you have," Hammil told him. Leaning a bit harder onto the counter, he opened his hands. "You've heard of the Vigilante Killings, correct?"
The Asian man nodded quickly. "Yes. I see on news quite often."
"Good," Bart said. "You see, the killer doesn't always stick to one weapon in his attacks. His typical arm is a sword, but in two instances we've recovered a throwing star. We've matched the item to five stores, including yours," he explained, pointing down at the sharp little objects in the display case as he did so.
Slowly, Hirano lowered his eyes to see what they meant. Bending over, he used a key to open the case and took out one of the throwing stars. He laid it out atop the surface of the glass. "The shuriken?" He looked at Hammil imploringly. "How do you know that I sold it to this man?"
"It's possible you didn't; that's what we're here to find out," Dahl said. "Do you keep records of your transactions?"
"Of course," Hirano said, moving towards the computer at the end of the counter.
Jacob Dahl followed. "We need a list of customers who have either frequently bought these, uh," he visibly recalled the word; "These shuriken or have purchased them in bulk." They had determined through the nature of the crime scenes that the offender had most likely not planned on using the shuriken in certain kills. The presentation of the bodies suggested they'd been used because it was either convenient or done as a last resort. This implied that the 'Vigilante' possibly carried these throwing stars, or shuriken, around with him and likely had several on him at all times.
With fingers like lightning, Ryohei used the keyboard, eager to help. "The shuriken not a popular item," he told them. "Customer typically want just a few, not many." After a few clicks of the mouse, he had the information they wanted. Machines sounded as he printed out the list for them. As ink struck paper, Hammil could see the list was small, just like the other stores. Hirano spoke as the slow printer worked its magic. "Ah," he said as what he was viewing brought a memory back to the surface. "There is a woman who buys much of our shuriken. Very nice lady," he reminisced, momentarily forgetting what his favored customer may be involved in.
The man placed the paper before them, all six names. "Do you remember anything about her?" Hammil asked.
"She is most attractive. Hair like yours," he said to Dahl. "Sometime, she come in with a man to help her carry things."
"Yeah?" Dahl asked. "Anything striking about him?"
The shopkeeper shrugged slightly. "Tall man- six feet maybe."
Hammil raised a hand. "Let's get back to the woman. Do you have her name?"
Hirano let his finger dwindle down the printed list. "Let me see…" It came back up and stopped at the second name. "Ah, yes. April O'Neil." He folded his hands. "Such a nice lady."
It was surprising how natural it seemed to be following his old routine, even if he was doing it on a single-time basis, for now, anyways. Raphael yawned as his feet touched the floor. To protect people during the night, the Nightwatcher had logically needed to sleep during the day. What time was it now? Two in the afternoon at least, he was sure. The rest had done him well, so at the very least he'd gotten in a good nine hours or so.
He didn't think to look at a clock until he was downstairs and in the kitchen. Ah, it was just past three, he noticed; Raph had only been an hour off. Much to his pleasure, he found two boxes of pizza on the table and immediately went into them. It seemed like his brothers had gone all out with the toppings; Mikey had ordered then. Choosing carefully, Raph swept two slices up and onto his plate before heading for the living room.
The walking stick fell on his head with a crack, making him jump. The turtle had to maneuver just to keep his meal off of the floor. With a wince, Raph rubbed his sore skull. "Ow, Sensei! What the shell was that for?" Splinter shot him a look, one of those 'drop the act or you'll get it worse' glares that only he could pull off while still managing to keep up the appearance of a betrayed parent. Though Splinter hadn't known he was the Nightwatcher, there had been many a time where he'd incurred the wrath of his teacher for being out late. While the hotheaded student knew how to slip away without a sound from their home, doing justice to the title of ninja, didn't always mean he left quietly. On hindsight, Raph realized he should have thought to do that last night. Of course, these occasional strikes to the head probably weren't helping much. "So what's the verdict? Dish duty?"
"Do not take this in jest, Raphael," Splinter scolded him. "Your lack of obedience deals out harsher wounds than those made by a reprimanding hand." Though a wave of guilt washed over him, Raph opted to say nothing. While he never had any intentions of upsetting his sensei, he knew that saying sorry meant that you were repentant enough to ensure you didn't do it again. It had never been this way with him. Splinter sighed. "Two weeks. You shall see to the dishes and return cleanliness to the bathroom."
"Wait- that it?" Raph asked, surprised. Typically, he received a larger penalty than that. "Not that I'm complainin', but that's all I gotta do?"
Safely resting against the floor, Splinter folded his hands over his cane. "Trust that I will find you more tasks as time progresses, Raphael. But for now, I have had to split the frequent means of punishment between you and your brother."
Raph blinked, "Mike do something while I was out?" He questioned. Nothing looked broken… The truth struck him then as he saw Leonardo putting the broom back into the closet. A grin spread over his features. "No way. 'Fearless' got on your bad side?"
"Raphael!" The rat chided. His voice softened. "You of all people should understand that something does not sit well with your brother for him to behave in such a manner. I had hopes that you may have touched upon the source of his actions."
The ninja is red shifted, recalling how his master had enlisted him for his help. "Nothing more than before, Master Splinter. Leo's keeping a tight lid on this one."
A look of sadness passed over the rodent's features. "Very well," he said, turning for his room. "Thank you for speaking with me, Raphael. I will leave you to your duties."
Raph bowed his head slightly in a symbol of respect before turning towards the couch, falling besides Mikey without disturbing his meal. Picking off a loose anchovy, Raph threw it into the face of his baby brother who paused the game he was playing. "Yo shellferbrains- remind me never to let you decide what goes on a pizza from now on. Now its gonna taste like fish."
The anchovy was plucked from the turtle's beak and examined before being dropped into the bottomless pit that was Michelangelo. The younger of the two grinned. "Dude, we live in a sewer. This might be the closest thing to culture as we get."
Snorting, his brother removed the rest of the disgusting toppings from his pizza before taking a bite. "You do remember that this is New York, right? There's plenty out there for you to do that doesn't wind up offending my taste buds." He looked up as Leonardo came back into the room. "Hey there, Splinter Junior," he greeted, unable to stop the evil smirk from finding his face as a host once again. "Heard you got busted."
Leo glared at him. "Don't you have an appointment with a toothbrush and a toilet bowl?"
"S'cuse me for being curious," Raph retorted, swimming in the general good feeling of seeing Leo in a position he was all too used to finding himself in.
His big brother just shook his head, walking off to the kitchen to tidy up, he presumed. Don walked out of his lab, making a beeline for the fridge. "I swear," he grumbled, retrieving a ham sandwich and a Dr. Pepper from the box; "Any man who displays the gene for such idiocy that compels him to place loose change in a CD drive should be given the death penalty."
Mikey laughed. "Bro, when you're president of Geekland, I'm sure you'll set that law into place."
Don just rolled his eyes, taking his late lunch back to work, it seemed. The phone rang as he past it. Sighing, the brainy turtle set his food down to answer it. "Hello?" He asked. Since Michelangelo had quit his job as Cowabunga Carl, they'd resorted to the old-fashioned 'wrong-number' plea for anyone calling unwanted. Don frowned, looking at Raph suspiciously. "It's for you."
Rising from the couch, he marched over and snatched the phone away from Don. "S'up," he spoke into the mouthpiece. Donatello had always said he had an eloquent way with words.
"Hey Raph," Cash said. No wonder his brother had been apprehensive- it wasn't often they got a kid asking for them on the telephone. "Who was that? Another space buddy of yours?"
"Just my bro, kid," he said, turning away when Donatello smirked. "What're you calling for?"
"Oh. I was just wondering if maybe you could teach me a few new things tonight."
"You finished with what I already taught you?"
"Yeah. Well, maybe. …No, but I'm practicing… sorta," Cash explained.
Raphael smirked at this. "Sorry, kid. You know the rules. Defense first."
"Please?" The boy begged. "Everyone says the best defense is a good offense. And there's this awesome move I saw on Spiderman 3-"
"Well Spidey ain't a ninja, Cash. And he ain't the one teaching you how to fight. Besides, I don't think I can meet up with you tonight. I got some things to do. So just keep workin' on what I showed you last night, got it?"
His threats seemed to fall on deaf ears. "Fine, whatever," Cash relented. "But when I kick your butt next time I see you, can we work on something a little more cool?"
Raph laughed, deciding not to point out that the chances of the boy beating him with the moves he knew were slim to none. "Kid, you beat me and we do whatever fake move you can pull out of whatever action movie you want. Now get back to it- I gotta go."
"Okay," Cash mumbled. "See ya, Raph."
"Later, kid," the ninja said, hanging up. Turning around, he saw Donny smirking at him, a mischievous look in his eyes. Raph pointed a finger at him menacingly. "Don't even say it, egghead."
"Fine," Don shrugged, taking his food and walking away. Not bothering to look at Leo, who was finishing up in the kitchen, Raph took another slice of pizza. As the brother in purple walked away, he heard him shout back at him. "You big softie."
Raph threw the anchovy he'd just peeled off at him, satisfied when it stuck to the back of his head with a squelch. Untouched by his sibling's angered shouts, he returned to the couch, oh so very grateful that Mike had not heard over his gaming and that Leo didn't seem to care.
That was odd, really. Normally, his big brother would've been on his case about befriending another human. No lectures? He was almost disappointed. But Leo just came out of the kitchen with a distracted expression and entered the dojo. When no whispers of steel sung for the rest of the lair, Raph knew that Leo's other punishment must have been cleaning the practice weapons. No bother then- he wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth.
The silence that followed was marred only by Donny's random frustrated instructions to those he spoke to over the phone and the exploding spacecraft on Mike's video game. It reminded him a little of times before Leo had returned from his pilgrimage.
Maybe Splinter had been right about the situation. Popping the last piece of crust into his mouth, Raph decided to keep an eye on his sibling.
Fresher pizza smells meant Mikey didn't feel like cooking tonight. The savory aroma produced by four cheeses caressing a combination of several meats implied that his little brothers needed extra help in dealing with the burden he'd put upon them. Perhaps included there was the image of himself apparently watching it crush them and choosing to do nothing about it. Leo didn't need to open his eyes to see that. The question was if that happened to be the truth; if it was also viewed that way on the other side of the looking glass.
This bedroom was the sole remaining thing that hadn't been harmed in being a confidant. But knowing all that lay hidden in its space kept the turtle from gaining back that certain level of calm he used to so easily slip over his skin. He felt restless; it was as if the people he'd marked on his map could see him through their individually assigned dots, past the mirror and staring him right in the eye. They were taunting him in the silence, reminding him that they were still among the living. Not that they wanted to die, of course; it was more along the lines that he couldn't kill them.
Opening his eyes to stare at a brick ceiling instead of rapists and murderers, Leo thought of newspaper articles. Crime breeds everywhere in its black and white fibers, with the exception of the comics and want-ads, perhaps. He could see future articles reading of the latest bloodbath and broken family. Later on, he could see the lead suspect being dropped of all charges, or a crooked jury finding him or her not-guilty.
The streets of New York filled with innocent screams. They'll always be filled with screams… just how many?
With his right hand, Leo rubbed his eyes. The heel of his palm felt clammy against his beak. He wished everything Donny had said to him would just get out of his head. He could stop if he wanted to. The simple truth of the matter was that he didn't want to, not when he could make the world a little safer for everyone. And certainly not when he was so close to finishing his training. Removing his hand, the ninja blinked as the sick-mindedness of such a statement started to show.
He sat up. I don't even know why I'm doing this still, Leo thought, eyes on the floor. There just wasn't one particular reason anymore. It was a quest, desire, necessity, and a duty rolled into one package now.
It was reason enough for him to go out again tonight.
Master Splinter's cane chatted with the floor as it came closer to his room. The turtle in blue looked up as the rat entered his doorway, unable to draw breath for a few seconds. "Leonardo." Splinter still looked cross, standing there with his hands folded firmly over his walking stick, tail flickering back and forth.
Respectfully, Leo straightened his posture. "Yes, Sensei?"
His father and teacher looked him over. "Dinner is prepared. I'd like you to join us." Leo nearly sighed in relief. If he hadn't known what was coming next, he probably would have. As the rodent came further into his room, he spoke again. "But before we do so, I wish to speak with you," Splinter said, standing before him now. Leo nodded, waiting for him to continue. "Surely you understand that I only set the restrictions for leaving the lair due to the nature of your recent actions, yes?"
"Of course, Sensei."
"It has disturbed me for some time, my son," Splinter admonished. "I have tried to understand your reasons for this, I have attempted to ground you in an effort to give you the time to see the outcome of your endeavors and realize the danger for yourself. You, however, have impeded all of my attempts. There is an old saying, Leonardo; you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink.
"If you continue down this path, my son, there is little I can do to stop you. But I will no longer carry the burden of looking after what it does to your brothers, and I wipe their hands clean of it as well. Your family has tried to help you, Leonardo. Perhaps you are not yet ready to accept it, but you have not held back from giving further reason for it, nor in hurting your family for denying it. From this point on, the grief you cause your brothers fall on your shoulders and yours alone." Splinter sighed and placed a hand on his shoulder. "I pray you relieve yourself of it soon," he said softly, then turned to leave.
When he was gone, Leo found himself staring off into space, confused by what had happened. If this burden was just being passed down to him now, what was it that he had been carrying for so long?
Not yet tired, due to how long he'd slept, Raph had thought he'd been the only one up still as the clock rolled around midnight. Mike had drifted off amongst his collection of comic books in his room while Donny had fallen into a state of slumber in his chair promptly following the end of his day's work. Splinter was in bed, he knew, and he hadn't seen Leo since dinner.
Mixing the bathroom trash with the usual garbage, Raph found that he was bored. He leaned against the wall; April had just returned from Africa today. There was no way he'd be getting Casey out for some head-bashing tonight, then. He almost wished he'd agreed to meet up with Cash after all.
Well, flying solo again couldn't hurt. Besides, with the lack of practice, Raph was starting to feel rusty. Working out in the dojo couldn't cure that type of itch; though it was entirely possible, Raph doubted that he'd be engaged in deadly combat with an enemy whilst hanging around a dojo. Better he was acquainted with the feel of the city and the pulse it beat to when the battles came.
Decided, he headed for the door to the lair. And there, much to his surprise, he found someone else standing. The evidence snapped together inside Raphael's mind as he faced his sibling. "You went topside," he said with an uncritical smile. Raph laughed. "Never thought I'd see the day when Splinter's pet disobeyed a direct order. So whatcha up to?"
"It's doesn't involve you," Leo stated. "Besides, you're in no position to judge."
"Ah no," Raph was quick to tell him. "Forget that I have every right to judge- you ain't about to lecture me for doing something you're about to do yourself. Got that, Leo?" He hissed, pointing a green finger at him.
His brother folded his arms over his plastron. "Honestly, I hadn't thought to until now."
When none of them moved after several seconds, Raph relaxed a little. "So…" He began. "I won't tell if you don't," he joked.
Much to his surprise, a smile flickered in and out of place on the leader's face. "Deal," he said, moving for the door.
Raph brought himself out of his stunned expression and got in front of him. Who was he to pass up on the 'get out of jail free' card? "Hold up, bro," he said. "Let me take care of that." Walking over to the mechanics that controlled the door, he pressed a button to switch it to manual function, tapping it a second time to get the door to part far enough for him to get his hands through. He and Leo drove the two ends away from each other until they could get past. In the sewers, they closed it. "It's just the machinery working that makes the noise," Raph explained. "When you get back, you switch it back over to automatic and no one's the wiser about what you've been up to. And don't forget to push on the lever instead of pulling it when you go in."
"I'll remember, thanks," Leo said as they walked. "Should I be concerned about this? I mean, you haven't been doing this too often, have you- no trips outside that I failed to stop?"
"Of course not, brother," the ninja in red said unconvincingly. He actually hadn't; he'd forgotten about the whole trick really after the Nightwatcher retired. But Leo didn't need to know that.
His sibling glared. "You better not have," he warned lightly.
"Easy, Leo," Raph shot back. "From what I hear, you'll be using it more often than me." The elder turtle didn't seem to have a response for that one. "Ya know, you got everybody all freaked with this new leaf of yours. Something up?"
Leo flinched at that, but shook his head. "Nothing to worry about. I'm just settling some things out for myself."
Raph hummed in thought. "Never figured you to leave the lair to do that."
"I spent the majority of the last two years in cargo holds and caves," Leo pointed out to him in frustration. "There are certain aspects of my conduct that I'm still finding my way back to."
The holder of the sais shook his head. "Whatever." He knew there was more up with that story than Leo was letting on. It was tempting to tackle him right there and beat the truth out of him. If he thought it would accomplish anything, he probably would've done it. Lord knew it would make him feel better, at least.
They approached an exit and Leo began to climb the ladder Raph followed. In an alley, he examined his sibling. "So where you headed?"
Leo shrugged. "Around." Just as Raph was about to point out that Leo didn't do 'around', seeing as he couldn't go anywhere without a destination and route planned, his brother spoke again. "Listen, Raph. For what it's worth, I'm… sorry about what happened yesterday. You caught me in a bad mood, but that gives me no right to attack you like I did."
"Relax," Raph said, spreading his arms. "It ain't like it was the first time. Won't be the last either, I guarantee it."
The other ninja wilted slightly at these words, seemingly thinking about something. "Yeah. I guess not." He looked back at Raph then. "Well, I'll see you later then."
Raph waved without enthusiasm, watching him go- waiting until he was far enough ahead that he could tail his big brother without him noticing.
A female scream stopped him, and Raph looked back in the other direction. When she cried out again, he stepped on it. To hell with it, he thought, bringing out the sais. Unlike the owner of the scream, Leo was a big boy. He could look after himself.
In the last few hours, April had laughed, cried, then laughed and cried all at the same time. Holding on to Casey's arm as they walked towards the entrance of their apartment building, she found herself smiling uncontrollably, filled with thoughts of wedding preparations and a happy home. They passed a well-dressed civilian talking on his cell phone as they entered. Inside, a woman exited her apartment and locked the door, talking excitedly to another female friend besides her while a young man read today's paper. For a reason she couldn't explain, the simple tasks these people carried out in their lives gave her pleasure, as if they were another small step to climb on her way to a life as 'Mrs. Jones'.
They pressed the button to call for the elevator, stepping aside when it arrived. She let go of Casey's arm and he rubbed her back, in between the shoulder blades. He was beaming, she noticed, proud that he'd carried out the days' events so perfectly. Well, the salmon and been a little dry, but even that seemed taintless now.
Out of the elevator, into their home. Luggage sat by the doorway, a few of her things waiting to be unpacked. Her jubilation had settled down some on their ride home. As she'd taken the ring out from inside the visor of her motorcycle helmet, her excitation had caused several to look their way. But now that had expired, her mind had begun to clear. There was so much to discuss, so many people to tell… "We should call the guys," April said, the corners of her mouth turning up again. Maybe the initial excitement hadn't worn away as much as she'd thought.
A strange look fleeted through Casey's eyes, but it was gone just as quick. He walked over to her and wrapped his arms around her waist. "Nah, let's wait until tomorrow. We can tell 'em in person." He kissed her forehead as she nestled into his chest. His heart beat into hers like a drum.
Two knocks at the door drowned out his solo. April blinked, then separated from her fiancée, giving him a small grin to apologize for an interruption she had nothing to do with. Casey took a seat in his favorite chair as she moved to open the door.
The men on the other side, clothed in suits, nodded at her. They looked rather familiar; April tried to place them in her memory as she spoke. Had they been downstairs? "Hi…"
"Good evening, m'am," the younger man said. "Are you April O'Neil?"
For now, she couldn't help but think. "Yes."
A balding man took out a piece of paper while his companion showed her a badge. "Ms. O'Neil, we're from the FBI," the agent with the papers told her quietly. "We have a warrant to search your home."
This brought Casey over quickly. "What?" He looked at the documents as they were handed over to the redhead. "What for?"
The men didn't answer. Out of nowhere, nearly ten officers from the NYPD came through the hallways and entered their home; April, stunned, had to move to the right just to let them through. She watched as they went through their things, two cops setting up at her computer and another set carefully nosing around items with a brush. Were they dusting for fingerprints? "What's this all about?" She asked.
A soft hand landed on her shoulder and she turned back to see the older agent looking at her. His eyes were kind, but deathly serious. When Casey put his arm around her protectively, he withdrew it. "Ms. O'Neil, Mr. Jones- we need to have a little talk."
It was like turning your sense of ethics off, Leo decided. He wondered if surgeons faced the same dilemma as they started their career. Of course, surgeons typically were trying to save lives.
Breathing out, the air expelled was cool as it drifted past his beak. Crates filled with cans of beer had taken up residence behind Senad Painton's home, some found in stacks that reached the turtle's chest. Taking a step backwards, Leo allowed himself to fall upon one of the shorter piles. The metal in his hands felt hot and chilly, all at once. The shuriken was coated with blood and other bodily fluids. The ninja wasn't thrilled with the sensations it had on his palms. Painton's van had been left open, the gray door hanging at an angle right above the dead man's feet. Rising again, he scooted over to the car and reached inside for a water bottle that had been discarded on the floor in favor of a Bud Light which sat in the cup holder's version of a seat of power next to the dash. Seemingly opened only once, it provided just enough liquid to wash the blood from his hands. But even when it had mixed into a light red puddle on the ground, he could still feel its stickiness in between his fingers when he made a fist…
Putting the used shuriken away, Leo stepped over Painton's corpse, careful not to tread through the black river trailing out of the man's liver and mouth. He thought about taking the van and retracing his actions to pick up his last few victims and drop them off at a place much more suitable. Inez Jaeger had already been left dead in the alleyway behind the strip joint she danced at. He'd come up from behind her and snapped her neck clean and quickly. She'd probably been found by now. James Noer had been stabbed in the gut on his way home from work; it had been stupid of him to walk, no matter how close he lived to his job. Noer too had been dragged into an alley.
But Iggy Langford was waiting to be found leaking blood into the manicured lawn of his neighbors. Leo had found him using their hot tub while they were gone; judging by the broken section of the fence, he'd come uninvited. Rudik Casillas remained cooling in the bushes behind a McDonald's. Like Jaeger, he didn't expect him to stay hidden long, though he wished he could've found a better spot for him. In the heat of the kill, he'd neglected to do this and now regretted it. It'd be just his luck that a child would discover the cadaver. The thought alone made him sweat.
Bending over, he lifted Painton's wrist and examined the cheap watch. No, there was no time for that. He'd already wasted enough of the night in bothering to kill Jaeger in Manhattan. The rest of tonight's kills had been localized to the Brooklyn area. If he hurried over to Red Hook, he could probably send Brad Crespin to an early grave and then take care of Angel Racine on his way home.
He started towards that direction, breaking into a run to keep his adrenaline going. It was like everything was melting away- no more guilt. All that remained, set for him to see just as neatly as his dots, were the reasons why he had to do this. To protect his family, to be able to command the respect a leader should have with his very presence, to learn how to do what's necessary and how to take drastic action when the time came. And because he needed this chapter of his life to be forgotten as quickly as possible, for his brothers' sakes.
Crespin lived in an apartment building that was very similar to April's. It just wasn't as nice, nor as… homely. Adding to the shadows that crept across buildings, Leo moved along the fire escape, the noise of the nightlife disguising any subtle sounds he made. The ladder was old and rusting; the turtle grit his teeth and bore with it, counting the floors as he went, looking for unoccupied dwellings when he reached the correct level. There was one- but the window was locked, of course.
He really needed to practice a few more tricks when it came time for these, Leo decided. He knew that by covering glass with duct tape, you could create a silent break-in. Smash the pane and the tape stuck to any shards, eliminating the resulting sounds when it shattered.
There was no room for a blade to slip under this window. And here he was fresh out of duct tape. Teeth clenched, Leo drew a ninjaken and flipped it around, keeping the hilt a mere few inches away from the glass. He focused on the sounds beneath him, depending on them to again cover up his actions.
A convertible pulled up to a stoplight. Even from here, Leo could make out the sound of drunkards. They were listening to the radio and a rap song came on. Laughing in an uproar, the song was turned up. When a man shouted at them to keep it down, the laughing continued and the song got louder; the turtle could make out the lyrics now.
He took a deep breath and rammed the end of the sword through the glass in rhythm to the beat. Three strikes, the last two to make room for his hand without cutting his wrist. Reaching in, he twisted the latch and pulled the window up. Poking his head inside, the ninja in blue was pleased to find carpet- the falling glass would've been ever quieter. However, it also hid said sharp pointy objects. Not that it was a big deal; with a quick jump, he cleared the danger zone.
A walk through the empty apartment led him to the front entrance. Leo unlocked the door and eased it open gently. He winced as the hinges squeaked, stopping it from swinging completely open. The turtle glared at the poor lighting in the hallway; nothing short of a blackout would conceal him here. Hidden for a short time, he glanced at the numbers on the doors; they were all odd, but none of them were Crespin's. Leo scowled; if the numbers followed any order, the door would be the next one to the right across the hall. He would have to trust that the rest of the building would be just as noisy as the door; that he would be warned by thundering footsteps of the hum of an elevator if someone were nearby. He didn't like taking such risks but there wasn't an access point on the other side of the building. Who exactly had approved of their fire safety?
He finished opening the door, leaving it unnoticeably ajar to provide a quick exit. Slowing his steps in an attempt not to attract attention, Leo moved over to the correct door. Faintly, his hand grasped the doorknob and he twisted it gently.
It was unlocked.
Recoiling away from the handle as if it had the power to strip the flesh from his bones if he held it a second longer, Leo took one step back. Not only was it unlocked, he noticed now, but the door wasn't even shut. No sane person would leave a door open when you lived somewhere like this. Even if all that you thought was superstition, its seedy appearance would make the devil take such tiny precautions. And Crespin was highly intelligent- before he'd committed his crimes, he'd designed computers for a living. Later, he moved onto intercepting wire transfers and enticing women in chat rooms. He was efficient, with a deadly quiet. And if his door was open, he'd either been killed or-
"I know you're there," a calm voice spoke. "I don't receive many visitors, and the landlord isn't due for a few weeks." Or somehow, Crespin had known he'd be coming for him. Leo's hand drew in on themselves, excited and infuriated.
"If you don't come inside," the man spoke quietly on the other side of the door; "I'll have to let my neighbors know you're here, won't I? You'd probably prefer we kept this visit in the background, I suspect."
Leo wasn't going to go in there if he didn't get to kill him. And he wasn't going to kill him if his swords could be heard cutting through human flesh the next room over. The walls couldn't be that paper thin, could they? "Hurry now," Crespin cajoled, taunting him. "You don't want me to start counting."
He had his swords out by then. With a tap, he pushed the door open and slid into the room, quickly dodging away from the doorframe. He didn't think the man carried a gun, but he wasn't about to take any chances.
There was no gunshot. A brief look of fear passed across Crespin's face as he took in his appearance. Unfortunately, none of it lingered in his voice. "You certainly differ from the typical murderer, don't you?" He asked.
Separating himself from the wall, Leo reached back with the tip of his sword to close the door. Like the one he'd previously used, this one creaked as it went but it seemed to be in better condition than its prior. The turtle glance around, taking in the playing field. Brad Crespin didn't seem to require much. In the shadows, he could make out a computer, the screen blank. Adjacent to that was the beaten couch the criminal sat on, watching him through the steady light a lamp provided. Sitting on a small stand beside him, it had no shade. While the ceiling lights seemed to be in working order, they remained lifeless, making Crespin and his lamp the focal point of the room. Leo shook his head; this guy had been watching too many movies.
When he didn't answer the man, Crespin took a sip from his Corona. "I guarantee you, the FBI has applied every know statistic to get an idea of who you are." He closed his eyes. "Seventy-six percent of known serial killers are from the United States- mostly from California, but New York isn't far behind. Forty-four percent begin killing in their twenties and twenty-six percent in their teenage years." Opening his eyes, Crespin looked him over. "Eighty-six percent are heterosexual, ninety percent are male. And eighty-nine percent are Caucasian. So considering how you don't particularly fit into that last demographic," he smiled; "And that the majority of homicide cases are solved within forty-eight hours, I think it's safe to say that either you're very skilled at what you do… or you're one damn lucky son of a bitch."
The turtle glared at him. "You knew I'd be coming," he said, his voice as monotonous as his partner in conversation.
Crespin laughed. "Just about every small criminal in this place 'knows' your face will be the last they'll ever see, even if they never see you coming in the first place." He took another swig of his beverage and made a satisfied sound. "Oddly enough, they're the ones you don't touch. It's the dangerous one you seek out, the ones that think they can handle you if push comes to shove."
"Except for you," Leo said, slightly sarcastic. "You knew. You knew with enough certainty that you decided to leave the door open."
"Well, I wasn't expecting you tonight, but yes, I did presume you'd be after me soon. I fit your modes of operation, having repeated offenses with a general lack of time served for my sins, something the media draws attention to in a twisted display of glory." He gave him a light smile. "You are the 'vigilante' of the past, come to rectify the present."
Leo kept his gaze locked in the other man's eyes, refusing to be lured into a false safety net. He wasn't going to let Crespin believe he'd figured him out. But nor would he underestimate him. "You talk too much." It was little wonder now how his victim had come across that information; cut it down to fit his killing style. If he himself could find everything he needed to know about his dots with just a few clicks of the computer mouse, then why couldn't this man?
Despite the look of alarm that ran through his eyes, Crespin seemed to relax, further slouching in his seat. The criminal had long, brown hair that stuck loosely to the couch's back. Leo vaguely recalled that awaiting death, most people would try to make themselves as comfortable as possible. The other half of the community fought it. Clearly, this soul had found no comfort in that last one. If he had, Leo knew he'd have left by now. The turtle took a small measure of pity on him for that.
He seemed to have accepted death, by another man, at least. The concept of a giant turtle filling in for the Grim Reaper was enough to give anyone unease. Leo grinned at that one.
Both Casillas and Noer had screamed when they'd seen him. Those that inspired fear in others always had something to be afraid of themselves.
As if he was sensing his thoughts, the man shifted in his spot. For the first time that night, Leo could hear a crack in his composure as he spoke. "What are you?"
The ninja smirked, but didn't answer his question. Quickly, the expression faded. Why was he just standing around? Kill him and be on your way, his mind reasoned.
"Whatever you are, you're smart," Crespin said, putting the beer bottle down. It was empty now, he could see. "But it doesn't matter. They'll catch you."
The thought made him shiver involuntarily, so slight was it that he hardly noticed. "No," he delivered his response without difficulty, nevertheless.
Crespin laughed. "Do you know how many people have said that over the years? You're no-" He realized the incongruity of his words even as they left his mouth; "Different… They will find you. The irony of the matter is that you'll burn harder than-"
"I'll die before they can touch me!" He insisted, surprised by his own outburst. But it was true, for being captured meant revealing his very existence to the world. How much probing would it take for someone to discover that there was more than one mutant turtle out there?
Shaking his head, this indifferent opponent went on. "It might not happen soon, but eventually they will. And when they know who you are, they'll demand you pay with your-"
He was tired of this; enough was enough. Pulling out a shuriken, he threw it easily at the man's sternum. Crespin gasped and yelped at the same time, instinctively touching the wound while looking up at the ceiling. Walking to the couch, he ripped the weapon out from his body. Here, the light from the lamp started to touch him. Leo felt like a toned shadow. "Don't worry," he told Brad Crespin as he raised the ninjaken, just its tip gleaming by the weak light. "I have no need for you to suffer."
The dying one whimpered, forcing his mouth to form words. "At least I… got what I needed," he finished just as the blade entered his heart.
Leo almost wished he could take the blow back. What the hell had he meant by that? All of a sudden, the ninja in blue felt dread close in around him, suffocating him. Too late, he realized, he'd made a mistake. But what was this threat he found himself in the presence of? As if he were answering him, Crespin's head lolled to the side, in the direction of his computer. Anxiety tightened its hold on him.
Why not use the regular lights, he was reminded. Why rely on that stupid lamp. Trick of the mind; it drew you in. Crespin had wanted him here.
Silhouettes were revealed to him. From this vantage, the little webcam that sat atop of the monitor stared at him. The screen was darkened, but the computer could be heard humming quietly, meaning the monitor had simply been turned off while everything else went about its business.
Sick to his stomach, a dark rage filled him. He didn't waste another second in destroying this uninvited player with a powerful, downward slice.
Hammil had arrived with company in tow. Sitting at the desk that had been provided for him, Aaron Scott was finishing the addition of last night's murders to the strange character that was the Vigilante. The fourth body had been discovered earlier that day, remnants of a killer's last outing.
Ren displayed very strange behavior. He clearly felt some manner of remorse over a number of the actions he'd carried out; this much Scott had been able to discern by the end of their conversation. But then… he'd gone out and resumed his killing, seemingly with a new fervor.
This morning, he had been briefly puzzled by this. Now he understood. Ren had been so concerned about his family, Scott recalled. Somewhere in that speech, he'd advised that for the sake of his family, he needed to bring this to an end. The FBI Agent doubted his words had been misinterpreted. Ren was simply choosing to finish this by another method; by making his strikes harder and faster, wasting no time now in his mission. These were the critical times now.
He wondered what information the couple would provide. Fingerprints matching those of the Vigilante had been lifted off of the crime scene. Having arrived an hour ago, the engaged pair had been separated, where they awaited questioning by himself and Hammil. Dahl had opted to watch their apartment with a select group of NYPD, in the chance that their man showed up.
To his left sat the yellow envelope, the papers it had contained spread over its frame. The input it offered hadn't been overly enlightening; much of it had already been determined by a team that specialized in detecting such patterns.
This man claimed to be a potential target of the Vigilante. He hadn't exactly stated his reasons for handing over this information; all there had been was the brief letter, the list, and the web address at the bottom.
Deprived of a good cup of coffee, Scott had started the work day by looking up the site. The first thing he's seen was the bold print which revealed where the mysterious sender lived. The only thing on the page besides that was the live video feed, revealing the inside of Brad Crespin's home. Aaron had had the site running all day, though he wasn't always watching it. He could here the quiet sounds in the background as he went about other business.
So he'd been surprised when Crespin finally spoke. The most sound the man had made thus far was the occasional laugh at some unknown source of amusement. Even if he'd spoken to himself with the passion of a madman, these words would've caught his attention. "I know you're there."
Scott, setting out to speak with Ms. O'Neil and Mr. Jones, had turned back around, walking to the computer. He'd almost forgotten, but at the very least, this was something to keep an eye on for awhile. Hammil could hold off for a few more minutes.
Upon hearing Ren's voice, he knew this could wait even longer than that.
He glanced up at the address posted on the screen, rediscovering that Crespin lived in Brooklyn. Jacob Dahl was in Brooklyn. He wasted no time phoning the man. "Jake," Scott skipped a civil greeting; "He's in your neighborhood." Hurriedly, he gave the young agent the address, filling in the details for him.
The conversation hadn't ended by the time he hung up. However, it quickly took a turn for the worse. Resembling the effect of a water balloon bursting, blood splattered away from Crespin's chest in a split arc. Scott had flinched at that. Even with his line of work, it was difficult to treat such events apathetically. Seeing the dirty deed performed was always worse than viewing the aftermath, as well.
But suddenly, that too seemed unimportant. Coming closer, Ren proceeded to retrieve his weapon. He was somewhat visible now, a silhouette with features. All Scott could really make out was his hand, then the sword.
The hand… the deformity wasn't the worse of it. It was impossible to make out exact physical characteristics with the killer's position. It had to be a glove. There was evidence suggesting that the Vigilante resorted to their use, though it wasn't usual. It was hard to make out as the murderer moved, but it made the profiler doubt this too. There in the light, sliding smoothly back into the darkness…
With a green hand, Scott decided that maybe Ren's paranoia had some realistic foundation after all.
Look close enough, and all sorts of interesting people became obvious on the streets of New York. For the most part, you could recognize the ones to stay away from on sight; take a further examination and you'd become wary of even the normal ones.
That was something Dahl had learned from working with the FBI. No one was normal.
Agent Hardass ended the conversation quickly, making Dahl roll his eyes; he leveled his iPhone and opened the Internet, going straight to the mentioned site while starting the car.
He quickly came to understand why so many people thought driving while using a cell phone was dangerous. Dahl had to do a double-take; the shuriken to a man's chest had not been what he was expecting. The silhouette of the killer made him shiver. The deformities seemed twice as complex now; missing fingers and toes, he knew, but a back that was double the size of a normal person was obvious.
How could he have been missed? Jake wondered, regarding all of the people he and Hammil had spoken to around the crime scene. No one recalled having seen a person with this description. The Vigilante must have planned his affairs from afar.
Seemingly a lifetime ago, Dahl had had a girlfriend that lived down in Brooklyn, this same neighborhood. He'd been a teenager then, so with testosterone running through his veins instead of typical blood, her wild and promiscuous nature had induced in him a burning desire for her. And while she did not exactly require the same from him, she'd been more than pleased to strip down for him on her daddy's Firebird on more than one occasion. An aggressive seductress with the appearance of an angel, she had made it blatantly obvious with her actions that she had deserved to be cast out from heaven. She gave her body to any interested party, be it man or woman, stole from whoever had the most cash, even if it was charity, and smoked or did whatever made her feel good. Despite this, the young redhead had loved her. She'd roll her eyes whenever he told her this while she pulled his hands down over her bare breasts. "You don't love me, Jake," he could remember her telling him as she licked his ear. "You just like the taste of me."
She'd been right, of course. At the time, he'd been unaware of what the real concept of love was. As he grew into a man, he had learned. But Dahl doubted he ever would have made it that far without her. When Aimee Pollock's body had been found with a broken neck outside an adult video store, Jake had realized he felt little grief towards her death. It was saddening at times, yes, but he never really did cry. All in all however, it made him grasp the concept that life isn't just about what makes you feel good. That was just an added bonus. So on his quest to find out what the point of existence was, he'd always come back to her, wondering if that fallen angel might have turned out a little different had she come to the same conclusion. If her life hadn't been cut short, Dahl thought she might have become a masseuse. She'd always had these magic fingers…
Now, as the car roared to life, the FBI agent found that she had given him more than his future. There had been times when Aimee had been angry during their relationship. What made her happiest was going around town, tossing rocks through windows and streaking through the streets in front of them; her tantrums had taken them all across Brooklyn. One of the most frequent causes of her frustration had been her eleventh grade math teacher. Dahl remembered the place well enough, right down to the address. He said a little thank-you to Aimee as he recognized Crespin's residence to be within the very same apartment complex.
Eyes scanning over the streets, Dahl reached for the radio. "Dahl to available units, ten-thirty-five. Ten-twenty- Dikeman, heading towards Wolcott. I've got a twenty-seven-one, assistance needed. Over."
There was a crack of static. "Ten-four, Agent Dahl. En route. Over," the first unit replied. He waited for the second one. "Copy, sir. Ten-forty-four. Over."
"Negative," Dahl told the unit. "Continue assignment. Over."
"Ten-four," they responded. "Will stand by. Over."
"Understood. All units maintain radio silence. Over and out."
Placing the radio in his belt loop, the man stopped in front of the building. It was older than he remembered. Jake walked over to the entrance, aware of metal creaking faintly as he drew closer. He frowned, pausing. There was nothing. Inside now, up he went, quickly finding the room. He pushed it open slightly, and the dead body was quite visible from this vantage point. Moving in deeper, he checked the small apartment and quickly determined the killer was not here.
Squeak. The door shut. "What the hell?" Dahl muttered, rushing back towards the entrance. So as not to disrupt the crime scene, he'd barely touched the door. It had been left open on his encounter with it, and the FBI agent had only nudged it slightly. Quickly, he made it back into the hallway, doing a sweep of his surroundings.
Damn it! There was no time to be knocking on every door, just to see if there was an uninvited party therein. The killer could very well possibly be heading downstairs now; grabbing the radio, he broke the silence. "Ten-thirty-five," he told the unit that had followed him; "Keep an eye out and standby. Offender may be heading in your direction."
"Copy," he heard, already paying the officer little attention. Dahl walked over to the closest door and lifted a fist, pounding it hard on the thin membrane that was the door. If he'd applied any more force, the man was sure it would've shattered with the next blow.
The face that appeared behind it looked pissed off at first, glaring at him with bloodshot eyes. The expression of the shirtless man shifted magically within the next few seconds as Dahl flashed the dreaded badge in his face. "Are any of these apartments vacant right now?"
Staring at him stupidly, the man stumbled with his tongue. Dahl could smell the pot that danced over his skin. "Uh…"
He wanted to slam him into a wall to make him think faster. "Answer the question, damn it!"
By the grace of God, some sense finally seemed to enter his brain. He pointed to the door next to him with his thumb. "There- in 2E-"
Wasting no more time, he hurried towards the empty residence. The stiffness of the doorknob implied that it was locked, so with a powerful kick of his foot, he entered by force. The layout of this room was very similar to Crespin's- Dahl could see the window from here. It was broken, the obvious entry point. The soles of his sneakers were thick enough to protect him from the glass on the floor, and the window pane had been left up on the Vigilante's way out. As he began to climb, the metal creaking, he could see a large shadow towards the top of the building. In the back of his mind, Dahl thought it looked like a hunchback. "Freeze!" He yelled.
The figure flinched; as he looked down, Dahl could see his eyes, illuminated by the reflection of New York City lights. And he wouldn't have followed the tradition of the criminals before him if he'd done just that, chatting about the weather as he placed his hands behind his head.
The distraction, however, had at the very least given him time to further close the distance between them. Jacob Dahl had managed to gain a level and now there was just two separating them. However, the next one up for the killer would be the roof. He remembered that these buildings were closely spaced, but was there enough room for Ren to move about?
An audible grinding of metal followed by a snapping noise drowned out these worries. The surface he stood on twisted beneath his feet and the lower half of the fire escape plummeted. It occurred to him that the thing would be taking him with it on its suicide mission if he didn't act now. Doing the first thing that came to mind, Dahl reached for the railing that hung above him to his right. Gravity pulled down on him, popping the joints of his arms, as the metal collided with concrete. He cried out, tightening his grip. Lord, what he would give to have considered being a Boy Scout back when he was a child.
There were more creaking noises, making the man fear that the rest of the structure was going to go with it. What he hadn't expected was to hear a voice. "Grab my hand!" He heard someone shout at him.
The bulky figure of the Vigilante had returned. Dahl shot his head up in surprise, only to freeze. Dear God… The face… that face was green. It was like nothing he'd seen before- "Take my hand," the creature repeated, more forceful than the last time.
Blindly, Dahl reached out with his left palm open, closing it around the offender's when they met. He was surprised by the strength he wielded as he was hauled to his feet. And then in the blink of an eye, he was gone.
Stunned, the FBI agent was nevertheless rooted in place. Shaking himself out of the shock, he hurried the final level up to the rooftop, mostly for the sake of his own safety, but also in a final attempt to glimpse his savior- a murderer. Dahl knew that all efforts to catch him now would be in vain, but it didn't prevent him from alerting the back up.
A rooftop away, the green-skinned killer leapt over a gap between buildings with an agility he'd seen only in the Olympics. He was skilled in martial arts, just like Scott had figured in his profile.
Maybe that wasn't all just a bunch of cock and bull after all.
He ran hard, legs pumping him further and further away from the scene of his last kill. Leo was relying solely on his sense of hearing now to tell him whether or not he was being followed.
Once, not as long ago as it now seemed, he'd stood on a rooftop in the rain. The turtle could still remember what his intent had been when he'd followed after the Nightwatcher. He'd meant to knock the sense into him by any means necessary, talking at first, a display of force later, if that didn't work. There were simply a number of ways that the best of intentions could change into something… despicable. There had been a fleeting thought in the back of his mind at the time. Perhaps if he could make one person, just one, understand this, then maybe it would be enough…
The cold shock of who had been wearing that mask wasn't as sharp today, but it was fresh enough that he could feel how angry he had been with his sibling.
What was it he had said to Raph? Leo dug the memories from their graves inside his mind. There had been a lot said that day, with what had actually been mentioned and that which had remained unspoken. But Leo recalled what one of his biggest problems had been with his brother's actions. That by going out every night, by creating a potential situation that could cause his identity to be revealed, he'd risked the safety of not just himself, but their family.
His chest was heaving by the time he made it to the Brooklyn Bridge. He was on the promenade for a grand total of five seconds before he began to climb up the suspenders, walking on the cables when he reached the top. That was one of the many advantages to being a ninja. Balance was crucial to the martial arts, so for him, keeping steady wasn't much of a difficulty. Anyone who looked up now would see nothing more than an over-sized speck of a shadow. He didn't want to let his emotions impair his steps, however; such a mistake could end badly. Leo came to a rest on one of the towers, sitting down in an attempt to pacify the quiet shakings of his body.
From up here, it'd be nearly impossible to make out the people below him, traveling in their little cars. Would he see the authorities if they passed by below him? Black and whites, or perhaps something else? He couldn't be sure if any such vehicles rolled on by, but it didn't matter. None stopped, so Leo was assured that he'd effectively shaken the man off of his trail.
But lord was that a small consolation prize. The turtle in blue held his head in his hands. What a hypocrite he was. "At least Raph had a costume…" He mumbled. Yes, his brother may have taken a big risk as the Nightwatcher, but no one had seen the strange face under the helmet without Raph having willingly shown it, if you ignored how Leo had exposed him during that fight. Now… at least one man had seen him. And what about that webcam? How many people was there that had seen him in the act of murder? How much of his body had been visible?
Cursing, he struck the tower, ignoring the sharp needles that stabbed his knuckles as he did so. He hadn't hit it hard enough to break anything, anyway. The nighttime skyline stared at him from all directions. Leo watched it, his temple furrowed in thought. "Why can't I do this?" His words came out in a whisper. "Why do I keep slipping up?"
For the first time since this had begun, he found himself horrified. "God, what have I done?"
Why had he turned around? Yes, he'd saved a life, but what had been the price? How could he have been so stupid? What was he going to do?
Slow down, his mind supplied. You're going too fast. Slow down.
Leo shook his head, closing his eyes. The mornings were bad enough. If he never stopped to think about it, it wouldn't hurt so much.
He knew from experience; pondering on the subject for too long would be the end of him.
Better translate the Spanish. Thanks go out to Jerico Cacaw for correcting me on some of this!
¡Los caballos no estàn apresardo! ¡Ni cinco de las cabras!
The horses are gone! And five of the goats!
¡Gracias al cielo¿Están todos bien?
Thank heaven! Is everyone else well?
En su mayoría. Pero hay partes quemadas.
Mostly. There are some burns, though.
Tal vez tenga algunas cosas que puedan ser de utilidad. Id- nos veremos allá.
I still may have some things that can be of use. Go- I will meet you there.
¡Fuera de aquì-!
Get away from-!
And here's the ten code- I hope it's accurate.
10-35: Major crime alert/suspicious person
10-20: My location is...
(10) 27-1: Felony crime- homicide
10-4: Message received
10-44: Permission to leave patrol
There. Now, I recently realized I've made a few mistakes in certain parts of my stories. This tale has reached the beginning of June of this year and I had cash, for example, go to a movie that didn't come out until July. I went and fixed that but I'm leaving one error here.
Agent Dahl has an iPhone. If I recall correctly, the iPhone wasn't released until later that month. But as close as it is, I decided to let it pass.
Also, if you're wondering why Cash has the number to the lair, you'll recall it was given to him back in the earlier chapters.
Wow, you wouldn't believe how long this chappie ended up. I'm so relieved that it's done.
So, if you liked it and wouldn't mind adding an extra dash of happiness to its success, drop me a review. Thanks for reading!