For disclaimers see Part One.
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Lexina sat down at a corner of a table dropping her cafeteria special onto the surface.
"Mmm, nummy treat," she muttered as she poked at the unidentifiable substance. It certainly wasn't going to do much for her hangover, nor was the mindless chatter that surrounded her. Kim had a nice stash of whiskey that they'd gotten into at the older girl's apartment.
Goddess only knows why I felt the need to drink my weight.
Overall, it had still been a very enjoyable night. The blonde had raised an eyebrow when she'd gotten a look at the various bruises and Lex's shoulder wound but hadn't asked any questions.
Lex had stumbled out of Kim's bed around seven this morning excusing herself for school. The blonde had made her coffee and given her a pleasant send off slipping her phone number into Lex's pants pocket. If it hadn't been for her reticence to be in the same vicinity as her Dhaskalos she would be sleeping right now rather than torturing herself.
Oh well, serves me right.
She'd only stayed in the apartment long enough to switch her leather patrol gear for her school clothes. She'd traded leather pants and boots for black cargo pants and Sketchers. Her leather coat and vest were replaced with a ribbed black tank top and zip up hoodie. The only spot of color was the intense blue of her eyes and the teen was well aware of the intimidating image she cast. It was this image that she depended on to keep everyone at bay.
When the school year had started she'd gotten a few smartass remarks but a knee to some choice places and a good chokehold had put a stop to it early on. Lex had changed schools this year mainly to avoid running into any of her old clique. She doubted any of them would even look at her nowadays but she didn't want the hassle of finding out. She took a bite of her lunch scrunching up her nose in distaste. As she ate she found her mind wandering to how her change in lifestyle had come about. The catalyst, if she thought about it, had been her Mom's murder.
Her Dhaskalos had given her a respectable amount of time to grieve her mother's death, allowing Lex to sulk and cry and neglect her patrols. The Hunter could vividly remember the day Athena had ended her pity party. The woman had barged into the room and fairly dragged her out of bed throwing her into the shower still clothed in her night attire. When the Hunter had finally gotten the presence of mind to get out from under the icy spray she'd stalked to her Dhaskalos' office dripping wet and thinking bloody murder.
The short brunette had been sitting calmly at her desk typing away at her computer. "You're angry," she'd stated without looking up from her work.
"That's one way to put it," the Hunter had ground out clenching and unclenching her fists.
"Good." Her Dhaskalos stood pulling a crossbow down from a shelf. "At the risk of sound trite or cliché anger is more productive then depression. Use it." She'd handed the Hunter the weapon looking directly into ice blue eyes. "You can't save your mother but you can help others like her. If you give yourself to your duties she will not have died in vain, use this as an opportunity to become the best tool for good that you can possibly be."
And she had, drilling with Athena day in and day out, learning magic and patrolling the city with a violence born from the need for vengeance and retribution. There were few she'd crossed swords with that hadn't met their ends at her hands. Those few that had escaped were yet to be heard from again. Lex took comfort in the knowledge that supernatural deaths in the city had taken a nosedive because of her efforts. She knew the war was far from over, would in fact not end until long after her own death, but she held onto the hope that the forces of good would continue to hold their ground while she was one of the Thirteen.
The throbbing in her head pulled her from her musings and Lex closed her eyes to try and lessen the nausea.
God I feel like I've been hit by a bus. The Hunter suppressed an undignified giggle at the thought.
Actually I bet that leech from last night feels a lot worse than I do.
Lex dropped her head down to her chest asking whatever deity was listening to either strike her down or rid her of her headache. The pain behind her eyes pulsed in time with her heartbeat and sheer stubbornness was all that kept her in class rather than at home nursing her head.
Fuck it, I'm not that stubborn, I need some sleep if I'm gonna go on patrol tonight. Lexina stood dumping her tray into the garbage and heading out of the cafeteria. The other students gave her a wide berth as she passed no one willing to test her temper.
Heh, let them hate so long as they fear, right?
She made a quick stop by her locker to grab her backpack and headed for the front door. She settled the bag on her good side hoping to prevent any further injury to her back. She was almost in reach of the doors when a hand came down on her shoulder.
The Hunter fought her initial reaction which was to swing around and stroke out whomever dared to touch her. Realizing her surroundings she settled instead for wrenching free of the voice's grasp biting back a pained yelp as she felt her stitches tighten against her skin.
Fuck a duck.
Hey I rhyme.
God I annoy myself. These internal arguments were beginning to get out of hand.
"Leaving early Miss Ballard?" Lex looked at her chemistry teacher.
"I, uh," the Hunter stumbled for a plausible excuse. When none was forth coming her teacher took her arm and turned her back toward the cafeteria.
"I'll see you in class after lunch I trust?"
"Uh, right. Class..."
"Good." With that he walked back into his classroom and Lex headed toward the cafeteria.
Of all the apathetic, asshole teachers, I have to get the one do gooder who insists on busting my balls about attendance. Not that she cared, she'd just leave through the South doors.
Ah the joys of being one of the gods' Chosen.
Moving quickly from the building to the edge of the fenced grounds the Hunter looked for the best route of escape. The high school had a thing about kids being off campus during school hours so they maintained guarded entrances. Of course, there was more then one way to slip off grounds, Lex certainly wasn't the only one skipping class.
Taking a quick look around for any spectators the Hunter crouched and jumped her powers easily allowing her to clear the eight foot brick wall. She landed lightly on the other side, again scanning for anyone who may have seen her. Athena didn't approve of such blatant abuse of her powers but Lex figured that all things considered she was entitled a little leeway now and again.
The Hunter pulled her skateboard from its pouch on her knapsack and jumped on headed for home. She lived relatively near the downtown core, mostly for ease of patrol: back alleys and dark subway stations were big attack areas. She rode the metro on a nightly basis to patrol the trains and stations then moved to the graveyards near dawn to catch the vamps coming back from their hunts.
I need something for this headache, Siobhan's shop isn't far from here, I wonder if she'll have any of that root she gave me last time. Lex jumped the curb and changed directions heading for downtown proper.
She rolled to a stop outside Siobhan's shop flipping her board into her hand with her shoe. The bell above her chimed as she opened the door and the shopkeeper looked up from her text.
"Lexina, this is a surprise," the redhead smiled at her. Lex liked the Irish witch, she found the woman's voice, both her accent and tone, quite soothing.
Although I would guess that's part and parcel of working with healing magic.
"Someone was in the tank last night wasn't she?"
"Is it that obvious?" The Hunter asked with a groan as she sat at the common area table. Siobhan chuckled and stood patting the Hunter's shoulder.
"I'm sure only to me Little One. I'll get you something to help."
"You're a saint," Lexina leaned on the table closing her eyes as she listened to the witch putter around. A few moments later a spicy smelling tea was placed in front of her and the Hunter took a sip. "Oh that's good."
"Why don't you lie down in the back for a few hours and get some rest?"
"Thanks but I should get home, the school's gonna be calling the apartment soon. If I'm not there when they call Athena's gonna have a shit fit." Siobhan nodded handing the brunette two pouches.
"That one is the tea, it'll help with the nausea, this one is the root. Chew on it, it'll help oxygenate the blood and bring down the headache."
"Thanks, what do I owe you?"
"Hmm," the redhead tapped her chin and looked around the shop. "I could use your muscles shifting those boxes that arrived today." Lex slugged back the rest of her tea and shoved a piece of root into her mouth.
"Let's go to work."
"Hi Siobhan," Megan called out as she entered the occult shop to the ring of the old bell on top of the door.
"Ah Megan, it's been awhile," the shopkeeper came out from behind the counter her hands full of old texts.
"I know, I'm sorry. I meant to get down here during the summer but with my internship being over in Montreal I didn't get the chance."
"It's no problem dear, things have been busier than usual here so I've kept myself occupied." Megan smiled at the woman feeling guilty for not making more of an effort to see her. The shopkeeper didn't have any help in the store so was alone most of the day, Megan also got the feeling the witch had a less than hectic social life.
"I'm glad business is good. Do you want some help with the new inventory?"
"That would be wonderful, I just received a shipment of crystals that I haven't had a chance to catalogue much less display."
"I'll get started on those then."
"Perfect. Oh by the way," Siobhan put down her armful of books and walked over to a box of new shipments. "Ah here it is, this one is a great guide for the solitary witch." Siobhan handed the hefty book to Megan. The blonde opened the book raising an eyebrow at the shopkeeper as she looked up from the text. The woman smiled and let out a laugh handing Megan a second text.
"Sumerian to English, a translation?" Megan whined.
"You wanted to learn some of the languages, that's the best way."
"I suck at translations."
"Practice makes perfect, I'll help you if you need a hand of course but you have to realize that most of the authentic magic texts don't come in English. If you want to learn magic you have to learn language."
"I know, I know. Blah, I had a hard enough time learning English."
"Try learning Groxlar," Siobhan commented as she took up the stack of books.
"Aren't Groxlar's those baby eating demons?"
"Why would you want to learn their language?"
"Mostly so you can scream obscenities at it while it devours your flesh. They're not particularly fond of diplomacy."
"The crystals are over by the register."
"Okay," Megan set her books down and went to the register grabbing the crystal identification book and the inventory list from under the counter. She began pulling each crystal from its velvet pouch writing it down in the book and grouping them by name. The task was long and rather tedious but Megan found it relaxing compared to the fast paced journalism internship she'd completed during the summer. Now she had her second year of university to look forward to. It was barely a week into classes and she could already feel herself falling behind despite her best efforts.
The crack of glass startled her from her task and Megan looked up to see a fist sized hole in the shop's front window. Siobhan came out from the stacks shaking her head and bending down to retrieve the rock. Megan went to the door and looked outside unsurprised to find the assailants long gone.
"What the hell was that all about?" Megan asked closing the door and approaching the shopkeeper.
"I've been having trouble with some of the youth gangs this summer. I'm sure it'll settle down now that school has started."
"Have you contacted the police?"
"Of course, but you know as well as I do that the law enforcement agencies here are useless."
"Something has to be done Siobhan, they may get tired of breaking windows and start trying to hurt you." Siobhan dismissed the idea with a wave of her hand.
"They're young vandals Megan, not hardened criminals." The shopkeeper handed the blonde the rock and picked up the pieces of glass. She arranged them in order and Megan saw the woman's hand begin to glow. The glass melted into a single piece and Siobhan placed it in the hole in the window. Megan's eyes widened as Siobhan took her hand away revealing a seamless patch. The blonde had only rarely seen the shopkeeper openly use magic so it still impressed her to no end. She walked up to the window running her palm along it.
"That's amazing," Megan turned away. "But it doesn't change the reality of things. You need some protection, you should hire another store clerk. I don't like that you're here alone. Something could happen and there'd be no one to help you."
"I'm certainly not helpless Megan and I can't afford to take on another hire," Siobhan stated.
"Why?" Megan asked following the shopkeeper back to the till. "I thought business was good."
"It is, but I have expenses that are barely keeping this store in the black."
"Like what? A costly cocaine habit?" Megan raised an eyebrow incredulously at the older woman, Siobhan coughed.
"No, I have some ongoing spells which require continuous maintenance and the ingredients get expensive."
"Oh." Megan managed to keep her curiosity at bay for a total of 30 seconds before it got the best of her. "What kind of continuous spells?"
"27 seconds, that's the longest time yet," Siobhan said looking at her watch.
"I counted to 29 and a half, and I'm guessing by the subject change that you aren't going to tell me."
"That's okay, I understand."
"Good, it's getting on in the day, do you have to take care of your niece tonight?"
"Huh?" Megan looked at her watch and cursed. "Shit, I gotta go, I'm going to be late picking her up from school." Megan put the rock down on the counter and grabbed her backpack heading for the door. "I'll come by tomorrow after my morning classes and help with the rest of the inventory."
"Yeah?" Siobhan pointed to the two books lying on the table and Megan ran to the table picking them up and practically sprinting for the door.
"I'll see you tomorrow Little One."
"Hi, I'm Tara's aunt Megan, I'm so sorry I'm late, traffic was insane. I'm here to pick her up," Megan explained in a rush, out of breath from sprinting from the parking lot to the classroom.
"It's alright, Tara's playing with some of the other children who are still waiting to be picked up." The kindergarten teacher said indicating with her head toward a corner of the classroom where Megan's niece was playing with two other children. "Tara's mother informed us you'd be picking her up, I'll just need a piece of ID."
"Oh, for sure," Megan pulled out her license handing it to the woman.
"Tara your aunt is here." The young girl jumped to her feet her eyes lighting up. It was the first time Megan had seen the girl since before her summer internship at the paper.
"Megan!" She screamed as she charged at the blonde her arms open. Megan crouched down and took the girl in a hug lifting her tiny form off the ground. "I missed you."
"I missed you too, did you have a good summer?"
"Yep, Mom and Dad took me to see the whales."
"The whales? Cool, why don't you go get your backpack and you can tell me about it on the way home?"
"Okay." The girl went off to her hook to get her belongings and Megan turned to her teacher.
"I'm Julie Fischer by the way," the woman said holding out her hand. Megan took it shaking firmly and smiling at the teacher. She didn't look to be much older than Megan, maybe her sister's age.
"It's good to meet you, is this your first year teaching?"
"Is it that obvious?" Megan laughed shaking her head.
"No, not really. You look young so I assumed you were fairly fresh out of university."
"Yes, graduated last spring, I substituted here for the first graders last year. When Mrs. Otis retired in June they offered me her position."
"Mrs. Otis? Wow, she taught me while I was in kindergarten, she looked old enough to retire even then." The young teacher laughed lightly and Megan smiled at her pleasant nature.
"I'm all ready Megan," Tara said tugging gently at the cuff of the blonde's sleeve.
"Okay Sweety, say goodbye to Ms. Fischer."
"Bye Ms. Fischer."
"Bye Tara, I'll see you tomorrow. It was nice meeting you."
"It was nice meeting you too. I'll see you around I'm sure."
"I hope so." Megan smiled and led her niece out of the classroom.
"Oh yeah, I've still got it," Megan murmured as she took one glance back at the attractive woman who smiled back at her.
"Got what Megan?"
"Um... nothing Kiddo."
"So how was Montreal?"
"Great, it was a small newspaper but they managed to find me some actual work instead of just sending me for coffee all day."
"I'm glad you enjoyed it," Megan's sister said smiling at the younger woman. "Back into the school groove yet?"
"Not really, I hate it but I'm doing what it takes to get what I want, I guess," Megan said fiddling with her coffee cup. "I'm really finding it hard to motivate myself this year."
"I'm sure you'll find some inspiration somewhere," Sam comforted giving her sister's shoulder a squeeze.
"I hope so."
Lex unlocked the door the apartment just as the phone began to ring. Athena walked out of the kitchen jumping slightly when she saw the Hunter in the doorway.
"I suppose I know who that is then," the older brunette picked up the phone. "Hello? Yes, Mr. Schaffer, I apologize, I meant to call and it simply slipped my mind. No, she's alright just a bit under the weather I'm afraid, the change in seasons always brings it on. Yes, she just needs some time to rest. Yes, of course. Thank you, goodbye now." Athena raised an eyebrow at her before placing the cordless back on the charger. "Perhaps next time you could make your disappearance a little less conspicuous?"
"The change of season brings it on?" Lex asked with a snort. "Sorry, he kinda pounced on me when I was leaving."
"I don't know why they insist on this ridiculous practice. You're over the age where you're legally bound to attend school. Why waste time tracking those who don't want to be there when they should be focusing on those actually in class?"
"Amen," Lex muttered as she followed her Dhaskalos into the study, office time meant field time.
"There was a body found mutilated near the outskirts and the crime scene photos aren't of any help. I can't tell whether it was a demon or just a random, as you say, whacko."
"So we're not considering demonic whackos then?" It looked as though Athena almost cracked a smile and the Hunter sat down in the chair next to her Dhaskalos. "Not mad at me anymore huh?"
"No, I apologize for losing my temper, I received a call from the Tribunal earlier in the evening that wasn't of a pleasant nature. I took my frustrations out on you." Lex nodded sensing a 'but' coming on. "That's not to say I wasn't angry with you and your mistake, it was foolish, but I could've handled it more appropriately."
"I think we both could've. I shouldn't have gone out like that without letting you know what I was doing."
"You don't have to do that, just keep your mobile on. I respect that you're a young woman with a need for space but you must also remember that you're more than that. Your survival is very important to the Tribunal... And to me."
"Thanks," the teen reached over and gave her Dhaskalos a hug. "I'll try to do better."
"Just try to be safe, that's all I ask." Athena released her and turned her attention to the computer screen effectively ending the pseudo emotional moment.
"So...You want me to go to the attack site and check it out?"
"No, it rained early this morning so there'll be nothing left of the crime scene."
"It rained?" I don't remember that.
"Yes," Athena looked at her. "I thought you were out patrolling?"
"Uh no, I kinda, um, crashed at a friend's place."
"A friend?" Athena knew she didn't have any friends left. The older woman coughed at Lexina's raised eyebrow and turned back to the screen. "I see." The Hunter smirked and leaned over the woman's shoulder looking at the police report.
"So if you don't want me to play CSI what do you want me to do?" Athena reached over and handed Lex a digicam.
"Go play forensic photographer." Lex groaned, she hated the morgue. It wasn't the dead people, she could deal with that, it was the smell. Bodily fluids and chemical compounds; she'd found a skull boiling in a pot once. "Go get some rest, I'll call on you for supper."
"Sewers, I goddamn well hate sewers." Lex pulled off the manhole cover and dropped into the hole, using her telekinesis to move the cover back into place. The city sewage ran parallel to the hospital maintenance tunnels and if Athena's hack of the plans were accurate there was an access tunnel somewhere around her current position.
She flicked on her flashlight trying to ignore the stench of human waste. Something unidentifiable squelched under her boot and Lex let out a frustrated groan.
I'm gonna be some kind of pissed if I ruin my leathers.
Her light swept across the tunnel and Lex caught site of the entrance. The door was chained and padlocked and Lex sighed as she looked around for something to pry it off. Seeing nothing she took hold of the lock.
This job can be real hell on a girl's nails.
She twisted her wrist and the steel gave way with a 'pop'. She tossed the remnants into the murky water and ducked into the tunnels.
Alright, laundry access is over this way. Lex turned off her flashlight and followed the corridors hoping she'd read the schematics right.
Aha, score one for the directionally challenged. Athena'd had her sneak into the hospital morgue once before but she'd used the ventilation shafts on the roof.
It was weeks before my allergies stopped acting up after that damn fiasco. Although I'm not sure soiled sheets are actually a better alternative. Next time Athena can do her own dirty work, she could have just faked being a visiting pathologist or something but no, I have to Spiderman my way up this stupid shaft instead.
Lexina looked up into the shaft, it was big enough to accommodate her body but narrow enough for her to brace herself against the sides.
Someone so owes me a beer for this.
She pushed the basket to the side and stood under the shaft opening. "If I fall to my death you're going to find an unpleasant ghost in your flat Athena. You bloody well know I detest heights." Lex did a mental double take of her sentence.
'Flat'? 'Bloody'? Great, now she's got me speaking Brit. If the words 'car park' come out of my mouth she and I are going to have a talk.
The Hunter crouched and jumped into the shaft shooting out her hands and feet to stop her descent. She moved one hand up then the other following with one foot then the other. Slowly, she made her way toward the fourth floor where the hospital morgue was kept.
This would've been so much easier if they'd just taken the body to the one downtown. Of course, Murphy's Law rears its head just to give me a good kick in the metaphorical testes.
She froze as she heard movement above her and light shone in as one of the trapdoors opened. Voices filtered downward and Lex strained to make out the conversation.
"Those from 212?"
"Yeah, his colostomy bag broke."
His what bag? Oh no. No, no. Don't you fucking dare. Lex tried to make herself small enough for the bundle to miss her.
"Ach." She pulled the sheets from her head allowing them to fall to the ground below.
Thank the goddess they put those in plastic bags. I would've had to go Xena on someone's ass. The Hunter continued her climb her shoulders and quads burning from the effort. The laundry shoot would put her somewhere in the ass end of the morgue, away from the reception desk and hopefully any prying eyes. Athena was working on the security cameras. Once Lex gave her the 'go' signal her Dhaskalos would begin a feedback loop that would tape over the footage of Lex getting into and out of the hospital.
She reached the forth floor and braced her back against the wall. She put on her cellular headset and dialled the house hoping there was enough of a signal to get through. Athena picked up on the second ring.
"Wait one moment, there's an orderly in the hall."
"You know, if you're gonna keep making me haul my ass around everywhere like this you could at least do the decent thing and get me a grappling hook. Hunter Powers do not an acrobat make."
"Nonsense, at your age this type of routine should be nothing more than a moderate workout."
"I'm sorry I think you have me confused with a web slinging Marvel superhero."
"Hallway's clear, go now."
"Yes'm, I be going." Lex reached over and pried open the spring loaded door. She wriggled into the opening and out into hallway landing with a thud. She stood up dusting herself off and taking a quick peek into the laundry shaft.
"You know what, forget Spiderman, I so kick his ass."
"The cold storage is to your right." Lex looked around quickly to ensure she hadn't been seen and slipped into the room.
"Whoa." Lex looked at the slabs full of partially covered bodies. She lifted the sheet off one cadaver blue eyes widening at the large 'Y' incision on his body. "Gross dude."
"What is it? What do you see?"
"I see dead people," Lexina answered in a small voice without missing a beat. She smiled at the exasperated sigh on the other end of the line.
Hehe, that'll teach her to send me to the morgue.
"I suppose I walked into that one." Lex chuckled. "You're looking for Katia Milokov."
"Aight." The brunette kept low investigating each tag.
"I don't understand why you liked that movie so much. It's completely inaccurate in its portrayal of..."
"It's called entertainment value Athena," the British woman snorted into her ear.
"Perfectly good stories are ruined for so called 'entertainment'. Troy was nothing but a complete bastardization of Homer's work."
"Oh my goddess."
"And don't get me started on that trash Underworld."
"Hey, that was a good movie."
"If you want to learn exactly how vampires and lychens aren't, it's a perfect movie I agree."
"Jesus, it's not meant to be a 'Vampire Killing 101' video guide, it was meant to be a love story with some T and A thrown in."
"No self respecting lychen would..."
"Ever date a vampire, yeah I know, blah, blah, blah. Oh, here we go."
"Yeah," Lex pulled back the sheet and looked at the child. "How old is she?"
"Report indicates she's 14."
"God, I hope it was a demon 'cause I wanna piece of whatever did this."
"Mind on the mission, get the pictures, we'll need them to help narrow our search."
"Right," the Hunter pulled out the digital camera and snapped photos of the girl's body feeling the familiar anger settle in her stomach.
Demon or not, if I get to whatever did this before the cops do it's gonna have a fucking bad day.
"How does it look?"
"Like a demonized Dahmer tore this kid apart. She's got multiple lacerations along the abdomen and facial area. Looks like COD might've been exsanguinations, her throat's been ripped open." Lex picked up the chart scanning the autopsy report. "Organs were removed, heart, liver, kidneys, intestines..."
"Those weren't located at the crime scene, the killer must have taken them with him."
"Need anything else?"
"No, I think that should be everything."
"Am I clear to go?" She heard the typing of keys as Athena checked the cameras.
"No, three people are approaching your location."
"They gonna pass by?"
"It doesn't look like it."
"Shit, there's no other way out."
"The ventilation shaft."
"Goddamn," Lex ducked low running to the corner where the access panel for the ventilation shaft was hidden.
"They're almost to the door."
Lex grabbed the grate and ripped it from the wall. She tucked herself into the vent pulling and holding the covering in place.
I hope they don't look too close. The grating had been screwed into the wall and she'd left a nice pile of drywall dust when she'd taken it off.
"They're coming in."
Lex held her breath as the door opened.
"You're here about the Milokov girl right?"
"Yeah, prelim done yet?"
"Here she is." Lex heard the sheet rustling and two intakes of breath.
"Cause of death?"
"Well, that was a tough one, massive blood loss, internal damage, but my guess would be this...Blunt force trauma. He hit her at the base of the skull probably killed her instantly, but the lacerations happened anti-mortem."
"She was trying to run away..?"
"Your words detective, not mine, I can only tell you what killed her."
"Sure thing, hope you catch the guy." The Hunter listened as two sets of footsteps left the room.
C'mon buddy go have a coffee. A phone rang somewhere in the room.
"Hello?" A pause. "Alright I'm on my way."
Thank fucking Christ.
"He's gone," Lex let go of the grate and kicked it out crawling out of the small space. She stood to her full height stretching her back.
"That wasn't fun."
"Get a picture of the wound and get out of there."
"Ugh," Lex landed in a crouch and looked up at the laundry tunnel. "Do you want me to drop off the photos before or after patrol?"
"Are you planning on coming home after patrol or are you visiting your friend again?"
"Umm, maybe I'll drop'em off before patrol. Just in case. I'm heading back into the tunnels so I'm going to lose the signal."
"Alright I'll see you shortly." The Hunter disconnected the line and put the headset back in her coat pocket. She surfaced in the alley way breathing deeply of the city air.
I'll take a lungful of diesel exhaust over rat crap any day.
A scream ripped through the alley and the teen turned toward the sound. She took off at a sprint her heavy boots splashing in the muddy puddles of the alley. A woman was being wolf packed by a gang of what Lex sensed were perfectly human street punks.
Weehee, warm up.
Lex didn't bother slowing her pace as she dropped her shoulder and charged into the nearest two. She snapped a sidekick at the arm of the boy who held the victim hearing the distinctive pop of breaking bones. The brunette turned one eighty hook kicking the next nearest in the head and using her momentum to throw a roundhouse into the kidney of the last boy standing. The two she'd charged began to gather themselves and Lex grabbed a shoulder of each and pushed sending them off their feet and into the adjacent brick wall.
"Y'alright?" Lexina asked turning to the shaken woman who merely nodded. She shied away as Lex approached and the Hunter held her hands up. "Easy, I'm not gonna hurt you." She crouched and picked the woman's purse and umbrella up handing them back to their owner.
"C'mon let's get out of here," the woman nodded again stepping over the boy with the broken arm. They reached the open street and the young warrior flagged down a cab. She opened the door to the vehicle waiting for the woman to get settled before closing the door.
"Thank you," the woman said through the open window.
"No problem. Have a nice night." The cab pulled away and Lex turned back to the assailants.
They can walk the 50 feet to the hospital, little punks. Lexina's cell rang as she walked back to the apartment.
"Supernatural Pest Control Center, Lexina speaking." A sigh.
"One of these days it's going to be someone calling a wrong number and then where will you be?"
"Heckling the other person's inability to accurately push numbered buttons?" Another sigh.
"A second body has been found."
"I knew I shouldn't have gotten you that police scanner for summer solstice."
"Harlington and Robespierre."
"On my way."
Lex slowed to a stop as she reached the crime scene. She pushed her way through the crowd stopping as she reached the police barrier. She took out her camera and snapped a few discreet pictures. The forensic team was working the area and effectively blocking the Hunter's view of the body.
Two of the investigators stood from their crouched position and moved away from the body and toward Lexina.
"Looks like the same MO as Milokov."
"Two girls in two days, this guy is escalating. We need to catch him soon or we're gonna have more dead girls on our hands."
"He's got to slip up sooner or later."
"Let's just hope it's sooner." The rest of the conversation was lost to the Hunter as the pair moved away. Sighing the brunette flipped open her phone and dialled the apartment.
"What have you found out?"
"Cops think it was the same guy. The place is crawling with people, I won't be able to get at the body for awhile if at all."
"That's fine, I just needed to know if we were dealing with the same assailant. Bring me the photos, I'm going to start trying to find the demon."
"You think it was a demon then?" Lexina asked as she moved out of the crowd and onto the opposite street.
"I'm not certain but I'd like to investigate just in case so we'll be prepared."
"Fair enough," Lex cut through the park adjacent to the crime scene. The turf was worn down and had numerous bald spots, testament to years of abuse and lack of funds to maintain the upkeep of the grounds. The sandbox remained from where the old jungle gym had once been, the city had removed it some time ago for safety. The park was more of an open field now then a playground.
"Ach," Lex felt her boots slip in the mud, her reflexes weren't fast enough to get her feet back under and she grunted as her butt impacted with the ground.
"Are you alright?" Athena's voice was muffled by the layer of mud that coated the cell phone. The Hunter picked it up wiping off the receiver before she spoke.
"I'm fine, just thought I'd take in a mud bath on my way home." Lex grunted as she got to her feet. "Sewage, shit and sodden soil, if this night gets any better by midnight I should be soaking in sulphuric acid."
"At least your alliteration skills are beyond compare."
"Ha. Ha. Ha. Look, the uptight British woman made a funny." Lex got to her feet with a sigh hoping no one had witnessed the rather embarrassing debacle.
Dammit where's the camera? Ah there it is. Sitting in a muddy footprint..?
Lex bent down placing her hand next to the print, it was easily big enough to fit her hand twice over.
"I think I found something."
"What is it?"
"A footprint, two toes. Big, very big." Lex turned on the camera and snapped some photos putting her hand beside the print for a scale reference.
"Can you track it?"
"I'll try but the prints are probably gonna stop shortly after the grass."
"At least we'll know which direction it headed. Perhaps we'll be lucky and it will have left some sort of trail." The Dhaskalos' toned indicated she thought this was an unlikely event but one could always hope. The Hunter followed the track toward the edge of the park grimacing when she caught site of the open manhole.
"Fuck, he's using the sewer."
"Are you certain?" Lex looked at the bent manhole cover with a raised eyebrow.
"Eh yeah, fairly. The tracks lead right to the entrance. Whatever this thing is it's strong enough to bend two inches of solid steel."
"Well, my thoughts had some more cursing in them but I agree." Lex snapped a couple of photos of the twisted manhole cover and looked into the sewer. Her backpack only held the usual vamp gear, she wasn't equipped to track down the demon with her current armaments.
"I'm coming in, I'll load up on weapons and hunt this thing down."
"We'll discuss tactics when you get in."
"Be there in a few."
"The size of the demon relative to it's footprint as well as the footprint itself have narrowed the field..."
"But..." Lex bit into an apple as she sat placing her bare feet up on the desk.
"The narrowed field isn't quite narrow."
"How 'unnarrow' are we talking?"
"Approximately thirteen hundred parent species not including the less documented subspecies."
"Your definition of narrow is surprisingly wide." Her Dhaskalos sighed and threw a book into Lex's lap.
"I'm not going through all this Mandarin on my own." Lex lifted the tome and squinted at the cover.
"Isn't this Cantonese?"
"Indeed. As fun as this book wormy crap is I still have to go back out for routine patrol. My leathers should be dry by now."
"Of course, when there's actual work to be done you decide it's prudent to go prancing around killing vampires."
"Excuse me, I do not prance... I gallivant." Lex said with a sniff as she dropped her feet to the ground and stood.
"If you decide to spend the night with your 'friend' again let me know so I can excuse you from class beforehand. The last thing we need is child services inquiring into your chronic absenteeism."
"School's only been in for two weeks, how can I already be chronically absent?" Athena gave her a look and the Hunter chuckled. "I'm going, I'm going."
"Do try to refrain from being shot."
"Everyone's a critic."
Lex skateboarded along the path hoping to bait, something, anything, into attacking her. Aside from the crime scene earlier it had been a decidedly uneventful night and she was seriously considering calling it quits despite the relatively early hour.
I bet Kim could spice up my night.
Decision made she headed in the pub's direction reaching for her phone as her board ate up the terrain.
"So what excuse would you like me to use for your absence?"
"I dunno, be creative. You could always say I opened an envelope with white powder in it and was placed under quarantine."
"No, that won't work, you had anthrax last week remember?"
"I take it patrol was somewhat less than exciting?"
"As you would say...Quite. If there's nothing else..."
"No I think you can knock off for the night."
"Awesome, my phone'll be on if you need me."
"Right, see you in the morning."
"What the..?" Lex jumped off her board and kicked it into her hand. The pub was ablaze, flames shooting from the broken windows. She grabbed one of the onlookers, recognizing him as the bartender from last night.
"Someone smashed out the windows and tossed in some Molotov's." Lex crouched covering her head as an explosion rocked the street. "Back Bar," the man offered as way of explanation.
"Where's Kim?" The man looked around at the crowd that was gathering.
"I don't know, I don't think I saw her come out, she was in the bathroom when everything started going down."
"Shit." Lex strapped her board onto her backpack and melted into the crowd. She took the alley to get around to the back of the bar where the bathrooms were located. The window ledge was well above her head but the Hunter wouldn't be deterred. She jumped, landing awkwardly on the edge of the sill bracing her arms against the frame.
Kim was slumped in the corner near the wall and she didn't look to be moving.
"Crap," Lex prepared to kick in the window hoping she wasn't about to do something that would cause a back draft. Her last fire safety class had been in elementary school. The glass shattered and the Hunter ripped out the remaining wood frame jumping into the bathroom.
"Kim," Lex shook the older girl trying to get some kind of response. The brunette coughed, her eyes were burning from the smoke. The bathroom was largely undamaged though Lex could feel the significant heat of the fire through the door. They'd have to go out the way she'd come in. She took the limp blonde in her arms jumping onto the windowsill and out into the alley. A second explosion pitched her forward and the Hunter shielded the waitress' head with her body wincing as shards of glass pelted her.
"Puta Madre," the Hunter shook out her hair looking up at the window where flames were now devouring what was left of the wooden frame.
"I'm gonna take a guess and say that was the liquor room." The blonde stirred beneath her and Lex smiled as she slowly came to. "I was pretty sure you'd get me hot again but this is overdoing it just a tad don't you think?" The blonde almost made a smirk.
"I was always a bit of an overachiever," she began to cough holding her hand up to cover her mouth. "What happened?"
"Bar caught fire," Lex slowly stood bending over and taking the smaller woman into her arms.
"Well thank you Captain Obvious, I meant how'd we end up out here? I don't remember seeing you in the bar before I went to the washroom."
"I wasn't, I got here after all hell broke loose, bartender said you'd been in the bathroom and hadn't come out yet. I came around back and spotted you in there."
"That window is eight feet high." Lex shrugged as she came around the front of the building and spotted the ambulance and fire trucks hauling ass down the street.
"Nothing a jump and a chin up couldn't accomplish."
"You're amazing," the waitress said before tucking herself more tightly into Lex's arms. The Hunter felt the blush coming on and was grateful for the darkness that would hide it from her companion.
"You'll need to get checked out by the medics. I think you passed out from smoke inhalation."
"That's possible, although I also have the worst survival reflexes. I pass out when I'm stressed. When I heard the commotion I tried to get out but something was blocking the door on the other side and we keep the windows nailed shut. I kinda freaked." Lex mentally raised and eyebrow.
Wouldn't common sense dictate that it would be prudent to break the window then?
Give her a break Lex, she's probably not used to the whole quick life or death decisions. Not everyone actually has to make those types of decisions on an hourly basis.
I suppose so....
Cut the kid some slack she was probably pulling a major wiggins and wasn't thinking properly.
And unlike some people -namely herself, Lex admitted wryly- perhaps Kim didn't react to being freaked out by lashing out at anything in reach. The Hunter's knee jerk reaction to fear was getting her violence on and breaking whatever she came into contact with, frequently bones, occasionally public property.
"Kim! Kim!" The bartender yelled as he caught sight of them.
"What is his name anyway?" Lex asked.
"Him? That's Matteo, why?"
"Because, I keep calling him the bartender in my head."
"It's a quirk, don't worry about it. Can you stand?"
"I'm quite comfortable." Lex raised an eyebrow but made no move to put the blonde down just yet.
"You alright girl?"
"Yeah Matt, I'm fine, thanks to tall, dark and lovely here." His eyes went wide at the statement and the Hunter grimaced she really didn't want this played up. A lot of her being able to do her job was linked to her anonymity. She couldn't afford to have anyone catch wind of her abilities.
"It wasn't a big deal, I just broke a window and pulled her out." Lex looked at the bar where the fire fighters were busy dousing the flames. Somewhere along the course of things a number of police cars had arrived as well.
That's my cue to bail.
"Uh, here," Lex handed a startled Kim to the well muscled man. "I gotta blaze."
No pun intended.
Kim followed her eyes to where the police cruisers were parked and back to Lex nodding in understanding. "If anyone asks..."
"Haven't met you before tonight," Matteo stated with a curt nod.
"Have no idea who you are," Kim added.
"Thanks guys, sorry the night didn't turn out better."
"Hey, I'm not a piece of KFC, I ain't complaining." Lex smiled at the blonde before ducking into an alleyway and disappearing into the shadows.
"I'm afraid the fire wasn't an isolated incident."
"What do you mean?" Lex asked as she towel dried her hair. She'd washed her leathers for the second time tonight and left them hanging on the balcony to air out the stench of smoke.
"It appears to have been somewhat of a concerted effort, three other bars were attacked in the same manner, two banks were broken into, schools were graffiti'd, grave markers were desecrated and any number of houses were burgled."
"So ...What? Every criminal in the city decided it was his turn to be a badass?"
"I'm afraid it may be something more sinister. I believe all these crimes were meant to distract from the ultimate goal."
"Haven't figured it out yet."
"Great..." Lex sat on the desk facing her Dhaskalos. "Anything looking good?"
"Perhaps something in the banks? The security deposit boxes at the bank on Eglinton were broken into."
"How long till the bank gets its inventory of the boxes sorted out?"
"Days, weeks probably, and there's no guarantee that the lists are completely accurate."
"Does this even fall into our bailiwick? I would think it would be more of the PD's problem then ours."
"Normally I would agree..."
"Something is off with these attacks, they don't make sense. This simply isn't the time of year for it."
"You mean we can schedule this type of things? Does that mean I can book a week off for..?"
"It's statistically improbable." Athena interrupted. "Temperatures are moderate, there's no full moon, activity this day last year was noticeably low and there have been no major events within the last month to trigger such a crime spree. Statistical analysis of all these factors combined with..."
"Whoa, easy with the geek speak English," Lex said holding up hand to stop her mentor's verbal deluge.
"Why you insist on calling me that is beyond me."
"Cause it makes your ears turn red and you get this little twitch. Plus it stops the techno babble," Lex answered reasonably. Athena tapped her pen on the desk giving the Hunter a look. The younger brunette grinned in response.
"At any rate, there was no statistical reason for the wave nor is there any police mention of elevated gang activity."
"So you're thinking what? Big cult thing? Impending apocalypse? Cause I thought we acted out that drama this summer? Remember, us and Siobhan and three other Shadow Hunters and their Dhaskalos. Dhaskaloses...Daskilli? What is the plural for you guys anyway?" Athena rolled her eyes.
"Magical involvement is a possibility. It could explain the sudden appearance of the demon."
"Coulda used it to distract the cops, half the PD is patrolling for that thing."
"And the rest of the emergency units are taking care of the aftermath of the attacks. This city is practically without protection."
"Except for me," Lex dropped to the floor. "I'll go back out, patrol till dawn, see if I can get any information."
"There's no way your leathers are dry."
"I'll go in my school clothes, it's all the same color anyway."
"Yes well, you could stand a little variation in your color scheme."
"I have some dark blue tanks."
"I meant something you don't use to coordinate with your bruises."
"I have that one..."
"Blood red doesn't count either," Athena said beating Lex to the punch, referring to the sole red hooded sweatshirt the Hunter possessed. The teen sighed and walked out of the study headed for her room.
"Any specific areas that I should target?" She asked as she pulled her towel from her body and tossed it into the laundry basket.
"Downtown will likely be the hot spot it has a high crime rate generally speaking and most of the attacks have been closer to the suburbs."
"So the DT is gonna be deserted."
"In regards to police yes."
"Great." She tossed on a set of low rider jeans and a tank top. A long sleeved t-shirt and hoodie followed to ward off the night's chill. She threw on her bracers checking the trigger release for the knives to ensure they were functioning. She tied her hair back tossing a baseball cap overtop to complete the look. Aside from the color she looked like any typical teenager so hopefully she could move through downtown unnoticed.
She slipped into her sketchers strapping two stakes to each leg with elasticized Velcro bands before rolling her pant leg down. Her last adornments were her leg sheaths a contraption she'd jerry rigged in the summer. The harness snapped onto her belt and two straps clipped around her upper and lower quads. She'd sewn pockets onto the straps and could hold a six inch blade and two vials of holy water on each leg negating her need for hauling around her kit bag. She grabbed her cell phone and headset along with her skateboard and wandered back into the office.
"These people are coming out of the woodwork," Athena mumbled. "Do you want me to go with you?" Lex looked at her Dhaskalos contemplating checking the woman for fever. It wasn't that the woman was a slouch in battle, quite the opposite, but Athena hadn't helped her patrol since she'd been a Protégé.
"Um...No I should be okay, I'm gonna need you to prioritize for me. I'll maintain constant comms." Lex put on her headset and checked her cell's battery strength. "I should have enough juice to get me through the night." Athena turned in her chair and dug into her bag.
"Here," she handed the Hunter her cell phone. "It's fully charged, tuck it into one of your pockets." Athena quirked an eyebrow, "unless those are only painted on," the Dhaskalos pointed at Lex's pants.
"Very funny English, I'll have you know this is what all the cool kids are wearing."
"Yes, I believe I've saw the gothic commando in Vogue earlier this week, how could it have ever slipped my mind?"
"Careful Athena, I might actually start thinking you've got a sense of humour."
"I'm leaving now," Lexina growled as she grabbed the cell from her Dhaskalos and headed out the door.
"Wait for a second."
"What? You gonna insult my hat now?" The Hunter asked from the hall. Athena came out of the office handing her a package full of zap straps.
"What the hell am I supposed to do with these?"
"Riot cuffs, I'll do what I can to route the police to your locations after you've handled them."
"Sounds good," Lex slipped the package between the straps on her thigh and cinched it a little tighter to prevent them from slipping. She felt a hand on her shoulder and looked at her Dhaskalos quizzically.
"Be careful, you're not faster than a bullet and fire doesn't care who it kills." The Hunter saw genuine concern in the older woman's eyes and did her best to offer a reassuring smile.
"I'll be okay," she rested her hand atop her Dhaskalos'. "I'm a smartass not a dumbass I'll watch my back."
"I'll call once I get near downtown proper."
To be continued...
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