Hauntings-Cat and Mouse
Under the bright sky of the morning, we played a game of cat and mouse. He was fast, I had to give him that. He managed to keep ahead of me, easily jumping the gaps between the buildings. He was just as much as a street rat as I was: hoping from one roof to the next, choosing ones that wouldn't be difficult to conquer unless they took you by surprise; occasionally picking a lower platform in hopes of faltering my step, not too low as he would take time to rid himself of the shock; planning his coarse, though ready to change it at a moment's notice.
Despite his skill, though, he was slowing. I was finally able to spot his cloak as it fluttered behind him. If we were on the ground, and not changing elevation so often, I may have had a clear shot with my throwing knives. A blade to the thigh would certainly make his escape more difficult.
But it didn't seem necessary, as he was loosing speed by the second. We were only a mile away from the apartment were the murdered man lay, and I was nearly on top of him. It wasn't a mystery why, as I assumed he was the source of the fresh red blotches that appeared in the gravel whenever dropping from a high point, or a smear when scampering up a higher wall.
I saw a drop in the patterns of roofs and took it easily, barely halting as my feet made impact with the lower roof before sprinting on. Skidding to a stop, I became aware that my mouse had seemed to vanish in mid-air. I looked down into the alley that bordered the building and, figuring it was my best chance, I descended into the pathway.
The alleyway was empty. He wasn't there with me. As far as I could tell. Gripping my blade in my gloved-hand, I hunted the pavement for a smudge of dark blood, hoping to find a sign of the wounded rodent.
The fine hairs on the back of my neck stood on end and I whirled around, barely evading the ariel attack. He landed in front of me, raising his sai with a flash. I matched it with my dagger and we shoved off each other. My back to the wall, I took a half-second to study his posture.
The cloaked man had both sais level to me, ready to steal my blood. But I noticed the slight sagging of his right arm; the way he face me at an angle.
He's favoring his right arm, I thought. It was the only thing that managed to fully run through my head before he lunged at me.
I ducked as he took a swipe at my head. Taking advantage of his momentum, I turned and used my free hand to shove him into the wall. I grabbed him by the scruff of his cloak as if he were now the kitten.
"Drop them," I ordered, pressing my dagger to the back of his throat. Knowing better than to try anything with the sharp steel on his skin, he dropped both sais. As the struck the asphalt with a series of clangs, I grabbed his shoulder and turned him around so that he was facing me.
He let out a yelp as I pushed him against the brick, replacing my dagger with my hidden blade. His eyes were filled with fear and pain, that much I saw before he shut them tight. "Do it," he begged. "Please, just kill me."
I faltered a moment, struck by how young and terrified he sounded. I almost backed off, but the bloody picture of the family, who's leading man was now lost to the dead, flashed in my mind.
"Who are you?" I demanded, hoping he didn't detect the squeak that escaped my lips.
"It's my fault!" he cried in a voice so pained it took my breath away. "I didn't stop him in time. I couldn't... I failed."
My captive was breathing heavily, and I released his shoulder. I looked at me blood soaked glove and closed my fist. Lowering my blade, though still cautious, I asked again, "Who are you?"
He pushed back his hood, revealing the dark haired, scarred face of the man- strike that- boy beneath the hood. He gripped his arm, of which was darkened by blood. "Maddex Howard," he said in a strained voice. I squatted and picked up the sais, keeping my eyes on Maddex.
"Did you kill that man?" I asked quietly.
"No," he opened his eyes, and I saw resentment in their bronze depths. "I tried to stop him. I swear, I tried."
"Him? Who's-" we both looked up to see three heads peered at us from the roof above.
I nodded to them and stepped back from Maddex. Thankfully, he didn't try to stupidly run off as Mercy, Aisling, and Batgirl dropped down to stand next to me. Fang dove and landed and crossed his arms.
"I got back-up," Mercy said, "but it seems you have it handled."
"Pretty much," I said. "But he says he didn't kill our dead man."
"But he was there," Mercy objected.
"And he's soaked in blood," Aisling added.
"Yes," I confirmed, "but the man was shot. He couldn't have gotten close enough to our victim to get that much blood on him."
Maddex shook his head, "I didn't," he said, "I never lay a hand on Gordon."
"Then where'd the blood come from?" Batgirl asked.
Maddex looked down, as if he couldn't stand to look us in the eyes. "The assassin," he said barely loud enough for us to hear. "I tried to stop him, but I was too late."
"You 2 had it out," Fang guessed.
He nodded. "He caught me by surprise. I got in a few good hits, but," he winced. "He got my shoulder."
"Hold up," I interrupted, "Did you say Gordon?"
"Yes," Maddex said, "Gordon Tin, he is your dead man."
I felt my blood freeze. "Let's get him to the cave."
"What?" Aisling said. "We can't let some random stranger into our head quarters."
"He isn't random," Batgirl said, understanding. She took handcuffs out of her utility belt. "He's a witness to the death of a man."
"A man on the list," I said, sliding my dagger into my belt with the sais. "The Key's kill list."