A/N: This came out of a very long coach journey. The style is... odd... but it's meant to be. I'd like to know what you think of it please.
The grey streets of the city flow with people. Eddies and knots come together and break apart again, the current bottlenecking past street vendors, temporary dams forming at crossings. Fast paced. The current, the hurry, sweeps everyone along together in a wave of navy and black coats. No one has time to look up.
Several figures on a rooftop, high above the rushing streets. One of them unmoving. One of them walks to the edge and looks down.
"Stella?" calls the man taking photographs.
"Over here, Mac," she replies without turning.
He joins her. "What are you thinking?"
"Take a look around," she says. "This building's a few stories shorter than the surrounding ones. Sniper shot, it could have come from any of them."
"Have you got a trajectory?"
"I forgot you just arrived. No, not yet. He fell from there." She points at the roof of the hut-like structure which contains the entrance to the service stairwell.
"Why was he up there?"
"Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe he liked the view."
The man on the ground has a bullet hole above his right eyebrow. His eyes are open. He looks up at the sky, blankly.
Another man steps through the door and waves. The two figures at the edge walk forwards, and the three of them meet in the middle of the paving slabs.
"Hey Don. You get anything for us to go on?"
"Sorry Stell. I've had uniforms knock on all the overlooking apartments. No one saw anything."
"City this size. All those people, and no one ever sees anything."
The grey clouds swell overhead. The three figures tilt their heads to look at where the dead man fell from. The concrete walls of the flat-topped hut are sheer. It stands higher than any of them can reach. From the street it isn't visible. From another building the extra height is insignificant.
The man who had been taking photographs half closes the door. He uses the other man's shoulder to balance as he puts his foot on the handle and pulls himself up, his hand holding the doorframe. From there he clambers onto the gravel-studded surface of the roof.
"Anything up there?"
"Cigarette ends, lots of them. He's been coming up here for a while."
"Assuming it's the same guy."
"DNA'll tell us that."
The two people below watch him inspect the two sides the body landed at the corner of. He stops and crouches down. His black coat is the same colour as the roofing felt, from above.
"Here. Marks in the gravel. Pass the camera." He reaches an arm down for it and the shutter clicks several times. He stands and plants his feet in the marks they can't see from beneath him. He raises his arm and points. "That building. We'll get the lasers up here, pinpoint where the shot came from."
- - - - -
Later on. Another rooftop. Heavier clouds now. Only two figures here, man and woman. They've been here for ten minutes, if anyone's timekeeping. "There's nothing here, Mac."
"There was at some point. The sniper shot definitely came from here."
"There isn't now." She walks to the railings and traces with her eyes the path through the air to the bright lines of thin yellow tape. Below, the river of road and foot traffic flows steadily, yellow taxis standing out from the dark pedestrians and cars.
His phone rings and he speaks briefly. Then he turns again to her, while she stays facing away from him. "This building only has the reception we came in through, no trade entrance. Flack's pulled the tapes, he'll get them to Adam. In the meantime, no one saw anything unusual."
She hasn't moved. "He probably assembled the rifle here. The parts would fit into any bag or briefcase. Even inside a thick coat, possibly."
"Hopefully we won't have many suspects to choose from once we've viewed the tapes."
They leave. Two more figures in dark coats to merge into the stream of pedestrians.
- - - - -
The next day. The same rooftop again, the second one. Another man lying still on the concrete. Another perfect circle on his brow. The same two silver-box-carrying investigators. The flow beneath and around the building is unaffected.
"This is a game," the woman says. "He's playing cat-and-mouse with us."
The man's face is grim. "Yes, and we need to find him quickly."
"Which building do you think the shot came from? Although it's sort of obvious."
He points. "That one. It's the only one taller than this."
They can't see the roof of that building. The glass eyes of apartment windows stare at them blankly.
From the other roof they look like toys. Puppets. Three puppets, one with broken strings. The people on the pavements are indistinguishable from each other. The leaden skies are still waiting.
"Is there anything useful for us in that building?"
"Don's in there now, should have just arrived."
The white police car is anchored against the current. A pebble. The puppets move, crouch low by the third.
A man with a gun and police shield on his belt leaves a reception desk. He presses the button for the elevator, watched by CCTV cameras. No one remembered anything suspicious. They haven't noticed whether anyone passing through the hallway was carrying a bag.
"He never saw it coming," the woman says. "Straight into his brain."
The man nods. "The sniper was waiting a while, lining up to take the perfect shot. Both victims were chosen by chance. Just two men who went outside for a cigarette."
"Maybe our sniper just hates smokers." The man smiles slightly at her comment.
The puppets jerk upright, pace the roof.
The police detective steps out of the elevator. Top floor. He walks along a corridor lined with doors. Nameless, faceless people live behind them, too busy to notice someone dying on the building opposite. Then, or now.
Specks of water fall from the sky and are battered by the wind currents, too small to really be called raindrops.
The navy and black flow over the tarmac pulls hats down, turns collars up, opens umbrellas. Heads are bent.
"Who cleared that rooftop?" the woman asks.
"I'll check." The man speaks on his phone. His head jerks up. He ends the call. "No one. No one thought of it."
The movements of the puppets are agitated.
The police detective opens the door to the roof.
"Mac, call Don. We need to warn him."
A magnified face in a scope.
"NYPD! Put your hands up!"
The tick of a slow, grey second. Plenty of time.
A surprised gasp of breath accompanies the slicing of invisible strings. A puppet crumples, falls to the ground.
On one rooftop, a man is roughly wrestled into a pair of handcuffs, furious curses bouncing off his triumphant face.
On another rooftop, blood is mixing with the rainwater.
The two men stare across the gap. They can see one black figure bent over the other. The third has been forgotten. The sniper laughs. The other man grabs his radio from his belt with his free hand, shouts into it. A few metres away the words are lost into the wind. He dials a number on his cell phone.
It rings. It keeps ringing.
Neither the woman nor the man notice the phone. Warm blood is on both of them. Neither of them looks up or moves out of the same line of sight. Neither of them is able to think of that.
Sirens cut their ghostly wail through sheets of rain. The waves of the live flood on the streets part for them.
The perfect shot had been compromised by the shout's distraction. But it was still a shot.
He's still bent over her. "Stella…"
"Mac, it's ok. It's ok."
Red blood drips from between her fingers, clenched around her upper arm. He helps her to sit up. Grey rain drips from the curls of her hair. The other rooftop is empty now, but anyone who looks out of their windows could see them, but no one does. No one cares enough to look.
The door is thrown open and a man runs across the roof, polished black shoes slapping on the wet slabs and in the shallow pools of water. The displaced water soaks into the hems of his trousers, but he doesn't try to avoid the puddles. There's fear in his blue eyes. His phone is still dialling, but now he snaps it shut as he approaches them. He stops and crouches.
"You're alive. Oh God, you're alive."
"We're fine, Don."
"You could have answered your phone. I thought one of you was dead, I couldn't see who he hit. Hell, when I saw Stell go down I never considered that it mightn't have been a fatal shot." He keeps staring at the woman, as if she's risen from the dead. For him, she has.
The other man lifts his phone from his pocket, looks surprised at the list of missed calls. "I didn't hear it."
"I called dispatch too. Back-up's already here, they're holding the shooter. EMS should be along about now."
"I can walk, just give me a hand."
The two men support the pale-faced woman between them. They walk across the grey concrete, between the puddles, beneath the clouds, beside the raindrops. Above the streets and the cars and the flowing, pouring torrent of people. Anyone could see them, if they were looking. No one is. No one ever is. No one ever looks up.