Leo and the Streetwalker

Leo lost sight of his quarry and ground his back teeth together in frustration. It was very rare for anyone to outrun him, but the man he was after was a lot quicker than Leo had anticipated. The man was also either a dare-devil or desperate. Possibly both.

Having chased him across the rooftops for twenty minutes, Leo suddenly realized that the man had vanished. Stopping to assess the situation, Leo's sharp hearing detected the sound of running feet on the pavement below. Darting to the edge of the roof, he'd seen the man dash across a street and into an alley.

Leo had leaped three stories down and given chase. The man was dangerous and Leo held one of his katanas ready just in case the man switched to the offensive.

Hoping it wouldn't come to that, Leo had followed the man's path. He absolutely needed this man alive.

Luck had been with him for four blocks because the streets in this section of the city were deserted. When he passed a seedy nightclub and two bars he knew his luck was running out.

Leo smelled the smoke from a cigarette before he saw the figure standing on the sidewalk and immediately slid to a stop. Blending into the deep shadows, he watched as the smoker paced up and down, noting that the person was well over six feet tall and wearing a very short dress. Certainly not the man he was after.

Scanning the street from his hiding place, Leo could detect no other movement and sheathed his katana. If he were given to cursing, Leo would be using language equivalent to words his brother Raphael was fond of.

"I was on a break honey, but if you want to party you don't need to be so shy," the streetwalker said, looking at the pavement as she tossed her cigarette down and ground it out with the toe of her high heeled shoe.

Her voice was rather deep and when she lifted her head towards where Leo was hidden, he saw her prominent Adams apple.

As a well-trained ninja, Leonardo knew she couldn't possibly have seen or heard him. Curious, he asked, "How did you know I was here?"

She laughed lightly. "Oh, I have a sixth sense when it comes to men. I always know when one is around."

Thinking quickly, Leo said, "Then maybe you can help me."

The streetwalker smiled. "Those are words I love to hear. I'll bet I can help you in all kinds of ways."

Leo tried to ignore the implications, though he felt a little embarrassed. He normally didn't deal with this part of the city's night life, preferring to give the streetwalkers a wide berth. The clock was ticking though, and he had no other options.

"A man ran this way maybe a minute before I arrived. Did you see him?" Leo asked.

"Fifty bucks," the streetwalker said.

"I'm sorry, what?" Leo asked in surprise.

"Information has a price," the streetwalker said. "Everything has a price, sugar."

Disconcerted, Leo told her, "I don't have fifty dollars. I can give you ten, it's all I have. Finding that man is very important."

"Are you a cop?" the streetwalker asked.

"No," Leo answered. "Please, time is of the essence."

"But not so much that you don't mind taking some of it to bargain," the streetwalker said.

"I'm not trying to bargain," Leo said, growing impatient. "I really haven't any more money. I live off the streets."

Something in his tone made the streetwalker take a few steps closer, but she still couldn't see him. "Okay, I'll take the ten bucks, but only if you tell me why you're chasing that man."

Leo hesitated. If this was a confederate of the perpetrator he was after, then saying anything would make matters much worse. He studied the streetwalker as best he could in the dim light and decided to take a chance.

"I'm not a police officer," Leo explained. "I'm more of a private agent, just not the kind who gets paid."

"A vigilante," the streetwalker said knowingly.

Leo didn't care for that term, but he let it pass. "Yes. The man I was chasing is the one who has been kidnapping children and holding them for ransom."

The streetwalker's attitude changed almost imperceptibly, but Leo saw it.

"The asshole who let that little girl suffocate because her parents were late with the payment?" she asked.

"Exactly. My brothers and I have been trying to track him. He kidnapped a young boy tonight and we managed to pick up the man's trail, but only after he'd hidden the child," Leo said.

The streetwalker seemed to think about what Leo had told her. "Okay, give me the money."

When she started forward, Leo backed away. "Just stay there, please. I prefer you didn't see me."

"Whatever," she said. "I see a dozen faces every night, up close and personal. It's not like I'm going to remember yours."

"Not even for fifty bucks?" Leo quipped, folding a ten dollar bill into a small rectangle.

"You do live off the streets," the streetwalker laughed.

"Catch," Leo said, flipping the money in her direction.

The missile coming at her didn't even faze the streetwalker, who lifted a hand and caught the bill. She unfolded it enough to ensure it was a ten and not a one dollar bill and then tucked it into her bra.

"You see that lovely hotel across the way?" she asked, pointing over her shoulder to a seedy, run down three story building on the other side of the street. "He went in there. It has a side exit, but he never came out. Your guy is in there someplace."

Dismayed, Leo eyed the building. He hadn't brought any of his street clothes with him so he couldn't go into the lobby. Climbing the side of the building and trying to peer through windows wasn't a viable option either.

In the kidnapping where the child had died, the man had only given her parents two hours to come up with the money. Leo had been chasing the man for thirty so he couldn't risk taking the time to wait for his brothers to show up with clothes.

"I need your help again," Leo said, his voice etched with anxiety.

"Uh, uh honey," the streetwalker said. "No way. My break is over and the guy I work for frowns on us giving out freebies."

"My name is Leonardo," Leo told her. "What's yours?"

"Exchanging names is not going to make me want to get involved," she said. "If you must know, I'm Tawny."

"All I need is for you to go inside and ask the clerk about the man who just entered. Five minutes Tawny, please. I've got to know if the man went into a room and if so, which one," Leo said.

"You go mister vigilante," Tawny said saucily. "I know that clerk; he probably won't even look at you."

"I can't," Leo said in frustration. "Please Tawny, a little boy's life is at stake."

"Damn kids and their damn parents who can't keep track of them," Tawny cursed. Small children were her Achilles heel, one of the very few things she couldn't turn her back on.

Leo sensed her quandary. "I'll get some cash from my brothers later and give you everything we've got if you'll help."

"With my luck that'll be about two bucks," Tawny said sarcastically. Pausing to think, Tawny's heavily made up mouth twisted from side to side. "Fine, I'll do it. But I want to see you. If I have to take your word about the money at face value, then I deserve to see your face."

Knowing he didn't have the time to argue, Leo said, "Agreed. Just please do me a favor and don't scream, faint, or run away."

"Shit baby, how bad can you lo . . . ." Tawny began.

Her voice faded to nothing as Leo slowly stepped out of the shadows. To her credit, Tawny didn't make a sound, though her eyes widened. After a minute she started to blink, and then her dark eyes slid over Leo, from head to foot and back up again.

Lifting a slightly shaky hand, Tawny pointed to the weapons on Leo's back. "Are those swords?"

"Katanas," Leo said. "If it would help, you could pretend I'm wearing a costume."

"I've seen a lot of costumes in my life and that's not one," Tawny said. "I'm just going to write this off as weird New York City shit and not think about it anymore, okay?"

"Okay," Leo said. "The hotel?"

"Oh," Tawny turned to look at it and took a deep breath. "Deals a deal. Be back in a few."

"Be careful," Leo called after her as she started across the street.

Tawny lifted a hand but didn't look back. "I'm always careful honey."

Leo ducked back into the shadows as a car sped past. His brothers were searching the entire area where they had first picked up the kidnappers trail, leaving tracking the man himself to Leo. He wasn't going to call them away from that in order to help interrogate the man. If Leo couldn't get him to talk, then no one could.

Keeping his eyes glued to the hotel, Leo patiently waited. He would give Tawny fifteen minutes and then try something else, even if it meant breaking into a room and stealing some clothes to disguise himself with.

Ten minutes had crawled by when Tawny sauntered out of the hotel and across the street, strutting as though she hadn't a care in the world. When she was close to Leo's hiding spot, she turned to lean against a wall, resting one heel against the brickwork and crossing her arms.

"Room three seventeen," Tawny said. "He's been living there for a couple of months. Doesn't talk to anyone, brings meals in and other than that, doesn't leave his room very often. Oh, and you better add another ten on top of that 'all we've got' promise, because I had to give the clerk the bill you paid me with."

"Do you know how the rooms are oriented?" Leo asked.

"Well of course I do," Tawny said. "Silly question. You're lucky because that room isn't a street facing one, so he can't see us. His room is on the left side of the building, top floor, second room from the end."

"Thank you," Leo said.

"What are you going to do, Leonardo?" Tawny asked, her voice lightly teasing. "Walk through the lobby and hop into the elevator?"

"No," Leo said. "I have ways of getting into places unseen."

"I'll bet you do," Tawny said. "I'll bet you use your big, long blade to get men to talk too. Suppose this one won't? You know very much about men?"

Leo cleared his throat. "I know about bad ones."

"Hmm. I know more," Tawny said. "Your methods of persuasion will leave marks that you probably won't want the police to find, unless you aren't planning on turning him over to them."

"He's going to prison," Leo said with conviction.

"Then I'll meet you at his room," Tawny said. "I guarantee he'll tell me what you want to know or you won't have to pay me a cent."

"What happened to not getting involved?" Leo asked.

"You're paying me, remember?" Tawny shot back. "The clock is ticking."

"All right," Leo agreed. "I'm going in through the window. I'll wait until you get into the room. If he won't open the door for you, I'll let you in myself after I subdue him."

"Keep your blade tucked in sugar," Tawny said. "That's a little kinky even for me."

She pushed off from the wall and once more crossed the street. While Tawny went in through the front door, Leo climbed to the rooftop of the building he was near and used a power line to swing over to the top of the hotel.

Leo found the window to room three seventeen. The curtains were pulled across it but hadn't been adjusted very carefully and Leo could see inside. A man was sitting on the narrow bed and although the only light came from a tiny lamp and a television, Leo recognized him as the man he'd been chasing.

The room was little; barely enough space for the bed, a nightstand with a phone on top of it, and a short dresser that held the small television set. Leo could see the door to the bathroom as well as the one that led to the outer hall.

A quick glance showed Leo that the only thing keeping the window locked was a thumb latch on the sill. It took but a moment and one small tool from his belt to slide the latch into the open position.

Leo lifted the sill a fraction, enough so that he could hear sounds but not enough to allow wind to blow through and give away his position. Just a second later there was a knock at the door and the man jumped to his feet, staring at the door but making no move towards it.

"Open up honey," Tawny said in her most seductive voice. "You called for room service and you do not want this dish to get cold."

The man walked over to the door and peered through the peep hole. Tawny seemed to know what he was doing, because she called out, "Getting an eyeful baby?"

"I didn't call for nobody," the man said.

"Yeah, that's not the first time I've heard that after somebody looked over the goods," Tawny said, her voice now a little angry. "The caller asked for me sugar and time is money. If you don't want to play after all, I don't care, but I don't leave until I get paid. Do I need to say that a little louder?"

"Goddammit," the man muttered, and then, "Be quiet, I'm opening the door."

As he slid back the chain and turned the deadbolt, Leo lifted the window, letting the other sounds cover the slight creak given off by old wood and dried on paint. Tawny strode past the man despite his trying to block the doorway, and then stood at the foot of his bed, facing him.

"I didn't say you could come in," the man said fretfully.

Tawny stood with one hand on her hip and examined the nails on her other hand. "Green is the only color I stop for sugar. It's the only one I go for too."

"Fine," the man said, making his way to the nightstand.

Tawny turned with his movement, keeping him directly in front of her. The man pulled open a drawer and took out a couple of bills, holding them out towards her.

"Add two more just like that and I'm gone," Tawny said.

Leo saw the man tense and knew that Tawny had pushed past his breaking point. Already nervous and on edge, the man snapped.

"Did you think you were gonna scam me?" he asked in a harsh voice.

As his hand dipped back into the drawer, Leo leaped through the window.

The powerful jump carried Leo over the bed and he slammed into the man just as the kidnapper lifted a gun. Leo brought the side of his fist down on the kidnapper's wrist and the man dropped the weapon.

Their momentum carried the pair into the wall, the force cracking the sheetrock. The kidnapper threw a punch at Leo's head which the ninja easily blocked and then Leo spun the man around and tossed him face down on the bed.

Before the man could move, Leo planted a knee between his shoulder blades and yanked the man's hands back. When the man struggled, Leo pulled his arms up. The painful movement encouraged the kidnapper to be still.

Leo glanced over at Tawny. She had backed into a corner during the fight, but it appeared that had been out of prudence more than fright. Her eyes were shining as she stared at Leo, a little smile curving the corners of her mouth.

"Mmm, I love a guy who knows how to handle himself," Tawny said.

"Could you switch off the lamp?" Leo asked. "Go ahead and leave the television on."

"Sure baby," Tawny said.

As Tawny walked over to deal with the lamp, Leo looked down at the kidnapper and said, "Where's the boy?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," the man answered, his reply muffled by his mouth pressing against the mattress.

"The child you kidnapped," Leo said, grinding his knee into the man's back. "Where did you leave him?"

The man grunted from the pain and then laughed. "Fuck you. Break my arms, I ain't telling you shit."

Tawny was suddenly standing in front of them and she lifted her tight skirt enough so she could squat down. Looking into the man's eyes, she said, "He's not going to break your arms, sweetheart. My friend here is going to hold you down while I play with you."

The kidnapper started to struggle again. "I don't swing that way," he told her.

"Well, you never know until you try something, now do you?" Tawny said.

Standing up, Tawny walked around the bed until she was behind them. Leo turned to look back and saw her removing the man's shoes. When the kidnapper tried to kick her, Leo jerked his arms higher.

Tawny's hand brushed the side of Leo's leg as she reached for the waistband on the kidnapper's pants. As she began to pull them down, Leo looked away, not sure how far she meant to go but not wanting to watch.

"You a little shy, Leonardo?" Tawny asked in a light tone. "You might want to close your eyes; I'm about to give this child molester his first jailhouse lesson."

Leo felt the man shift under him as though he was trying to crawl forward. Holding him tightly, Leo repeated, "Where's the boy?"

"Let me go," the man said.

"Wrong answer fool," Tawny said.

Leo heard her hand strike bare skin and the man under him gasped. "St . . . stop that!" he shouted.

"I'll bet you're a virgin," Tawny whispered, her voice husky.

"I'll tell you!" the man shouted in one quick rush of breath.

"Well, that didn't take long," Tawny said.

"Start talking," Leo ordered.

"In the water tower," the man said, talking so fast his words tumbled over each other. "I dumped him in the empty water tower on the apartment building on Marsh."

"Tawny, yank that cord out of the lamp would you please?" Leo asked.

"My pleasure." Tawny did as directed, handing the cord to Leo.

Leo quickly tied the man's wrists together and then pulled the man's ankles up, tying them to his wrists. Climbing off of the bed, Leo dug out his shell cell and called Raph, telling him to check the water tower.

While he waited for a return call, Leo looked through the drawer the man had opened. Inside was a large amount of currency, all of it twenty dollar bills.

Tawny was checking the dresser in the meantime and suddenly called out, "You need to look at this, Leonardo."

Leo joined her and looked into the drawer she'd opened. Inside was a map that had been highlighted in several different colors, a sack of money, and photos of all of the children who'd been kidnapped.

"Don't touch anything in there," Leo said. "You'll leave prints and this is evidence."

"You don't have to tell me twice," Tawny said, her hands up as she backed away.

Leo's cell phone rang and when he answered it, Raph came on to tell him that the boy was inside the water tower as the man had told them. Raph also said the boy appeared to be all right, but they hadn't gone down after him.

"Leave him there," Leo said. "We have to let the police find him. You guys stay in the area to make sure they do, I'll take care of getting them to the location."

When he hung up, he saw that Tawny was standing next to the phone.

"I'll call them, Leonardo, and I'll wait here until they come to arrest this pervert," Tawny offered.

Leo smiled. "We still don't know how much money I can scrape together. That's a lot of involvement for what might be a small payday."

Tawny shrugged. "I'll take my chances. It isn't often I get to rescue a kid." She looked down at the open drawer full of cash and sighed. "I guess this is all marked or numbered or something."

"Probably," Leo said.

"Oh well, easy come, easy go," Tawny said, flipping a well-manicured hand into the air. "I guess mister kidnapper and I can become acquainted while we wait for the police."

To emphasize her point, Tawny leaned down and slapped the man's rear, now clad in only his underpants.

"Leave me alone, freak!" the man yelled.

Tawny was laughing when she looked back up at Leo and he asked, "How did you know what to do?"

"Baby, I can smell a homophobe from a mile away," Tawny said. "Just like I can tell when someone has no experience. If you ever want to party with me, I do have off hours."

Leo felt a flush rise to his cheeks and hastily asked, "Can you remember a phone number if I tell it to you? I don't want to write it down in case the police search you. When this is cleared up, call that number and I'll bring the money I owe you."

"I wouldn't last very long in this business if I had to write everything down," Tawny said blithely.

He gave her the number and started for the window, stopping when Tawny called his name.

"You just make sure you're the one delivering the money, Leonardo baby," Tawny said with a wink.

Two nights later, Leo waited on top of a clothing store very far away from where he'd first encountered Tawny. Her phone call had finally come, though Leo hadn't doubted that it would.

A taxi pulled into the curb over a block away and Tawny stepped out. This time she was dressed in a tasteful pantsuit and wearing attractive but sensible shoes.

She looked around carefully before crossing the street and walking towards their meeting place. As she turned the corner that would put her out of sight of the cabbie, Leo leaped from atop the building, flipping once in mid-air before landing directly in front of her.

Tawny's hand lifted to her chest, but she didn't appear to be all that startled.

"That's very hot, Leonardo. Are you trying to impress me?" Tawny asked.

Leo smiled. "I'm the one who's impressed," he said. Reaching into his belt, he took out a roll of cash and handed it to her. "That's a little over of a hundred and thirty dollars."

Tawny flipped the bills and said, "Thank you. Prompt payers are so rare."

From another hidden pocket, Leo extracted a ten dollar bill and presented it to her with a bow. "To replace the money you had to give the clerk."

Laughing, Tawny accepted the money. As she was tucking the money away into a small clutch, Leo opened up a section of the newspaper he'd brought along.

Tawny glanced up at the sound of the paper crinkling and grinned. "It says I'm a heroine."

"It does," Leo said, his smile broadening. "It also says that you're getting the reward that was offered for that man's capture. Is that why you offered to wait for the police?"

"I think I told you before that time is money," Tawny said, "and opportunity is something you grab onto as soon as you see it."

"Whatever the reason, I am more than grateful you decided to help me," Leo said, his expression serious.

"Hell, keep looking at me like that and I'm likely to fall in love," Tawny said. "Here, give me that paper so I can autograph it for you."

Surprised, Leo watched as she snatched the newspaper from his hand and got a pen out of her clutch. Very quickly, Tawny scribbled something beneath the news article and then handed the paper back to Leo.

"That's my private number," Tawny said. "Just in case you ever feel the urge."

Tossing her head, Tawny turned and left, her hips swinging in a slightly exaggerated fashion. After she rounded the corner, Leo looked down at what she'd written.

"It was nice to finally meet a real man, even if he is a turtle. Call me if you ever want to learn something new."

Below that Tawny had signed her real name. A rich tenor voice broke the silence of the night as it began singing, "I've met my true love, his name is Leonardo . . . ."

Leo found himself laughing and blushing simultaneously as he climbed back up to the rooftops.