Sylvester Perry's house was not a complete dump. The plumbing and light fixtures worked. Most of the paint on the inside was still on the walls and the first two rooms a visitor would see were flawlessly well kept and welcoming. But there were cockroaches in the kitchen where Mr. Perry had met a razor embedded in a piece of soap. The bathroom had a spreading greenish black stain of mold.
Nite Owl flinched when the refrigerator kicked on with a thump to wake the dead. Sylvester Perry's blood stained the once white linoleum in a symmetrical pattern. He had been a sixty seven year old man who drew his pension from the city and taught piano on the side. His neighbors denied any knowledge of who might want to kill him and hadn't heard a thing. Mr. Perry had never married, never had children and had no will.
Leather Lamia came back to the kitchen. "Killer forced the bedroom window open. From the looks of the place he was the one who oiled it beforehand."
Both masks wandered back into the living room where the house was disturbingly normal. The couches were old enough to be worn while still looking comfortable. The table and chair were one step above garage sale material. It was the piano that truly dominated the room. The sleek, black finish shone like a mirror.
Nite Owl ran a gloved hand over the glossy surface before opening the lid to look down at the black and white keys. "No signs of a robbery according to the police." Black and white in different patterns but never mixing.
The leather clad woman shrugged. "It would be out of character if he had."
Opening the piano up so he could see the strings, he felt around in its depths. "True, that pimp had a full wallet when police found him." Nite Owl pulled out a piece of torn cardboard.
"Behind you," it read in black magic marker.
With a slow casual gesture that made Leather Lamia place her finger on the trigger of her gun Nite Owl turned to face the direction they had come. In the doorway stood a short figure balanced alertly and watching them. He heard the creak of Laurie's costume as she moved to a better line of sight in the deafening silence. The eyes caught his attention as they darted behind the safety of the ski mask. He had only seen Walter's eyes briefly and they had been utterly unlike this.
"Why did you kill him?" Leather Lamia asked.
Dark eyes, almost black seemed to stare absently into the middle distance, focused on nothing and anything for so long both heroes thought there would be no answer. Slowly the killer opened a gloved hand to reveal a cockroach. Its antennae wheeled wildly about as it tried to crawl away. With the same deliberateness of motion black gloved hands crushed the life out of the insect.
"All life is filth, is that it?" Dan's voice quavered slightly but anger pushed him past the feeling of familiarity that made no sense. There was no black and white shifting mask though the trenchcoat was similar. The killer was even shorter than Rorschach without his platform shoes. but there was something about the set of the shoulders, the placement of the feet and the unnerving silence that was too much like Rorschach for a stranger.
"Not you," The voice was a husky whisper that betrayed no emotion and didn't match the vagueness in the eyes.
"That's comforting." Laur- Sandra said sarcastically.
The vague look was replaced by a thousand yard stare. "Never liked you either, Miss Jupiter."
"What do you want?" Ni- Sa- Dan asked more sharply than he'd intended.
The killer blinked slowly. "Retribution." The word seemed to have been ripped free.
To his own surprise Dan sighed. "Can you set aside the script for a moment or will your mind melt?"
"Melt. Melted. Molt." The whisper took on an almost sing song quality. "Bird born bored-" There was the sound of teeth clicking shut.
Dan felt a migraine coming on and sighed again. He looked back at Laurie and saw behind her mask the same revulsion from whenever she was forced to deal with Rorschach now tinged with horror. "I thought so. What's the P stand for?"
The only answer they received was a nearly soundless retreat.
Leather Lamia burst out the front door and ran around almost catching the killer climbing out the kitchen window. Nite Owl was a dozen feet behind Leather Lamia when she hit the fence. The killer had already gone up and over with a lightness of foot that left them with no doubt about his capacity to climb walls.
They lost the killer after six blocks of weaving through alleys.
Leather Lamia swore. "How did you know about the mind thing?"
"His answer." The killer wasn't faster than Adrian but he was much quicker than they had expected. "That's exactly what Rorschach said when I asked him what he wanted to do about the Comedian's murder. Tone of voice, body language, lack of tone of voice, everything."
Leather Lamia grabbed his arm and gestured at the figure outlined in the yellow of the streetlight. The way he flinched and turned away was familiar but unlike Rorschach. Both of them stayed put. "I'm thinking we shouldn't follow the madman back to his den just yet. What was Rorschach's opinion on booby traps?"
"As long as they wouldn't hurt innocents." Dan said numbly. "I almost remember who that looks like."
"Me too." Laurie said with a frown.
"He's escalating." Dr. Li looked torn between fear and triumph. "He's starting on the pattern that will bring him down."
Adrian felt less optimistic but then he hadn't shared the shoebox and now there was evidence that he might have known about the Perry murder before it happened. Somehow, he doubted the killer was going to hold it over him. It would be petty. "Do they know why Mr. Perry was targeted?"
"They've been asking some of his students, discreetly, and sadly, yes." Dr. Li sighed. "It can't make it to the papers or the killer might be made more sympathetic and we don't want that."
"No." Adrian said quietly. "Definitely not."
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