Chapter 52

The two figures stood silently on a roof two block south of Club Midnight. Clouds had rolled in with the sunset; they glowed with the lights from the city below. Neon shadows danced across the figures; one was as still as a gargoyle, his hooded face calling upon the image of the reaper, only breaking form its solitary target to watch the other. The other’s face floated around, like a leaf caught in the wind, looking everywhere, but not at her companion.

This time Will had gone on ahead. Hawthorne shifted uncomfortably under the sporadic gaze of Stalker. She tried to avoid looking at him. She examined the street below and the people walking by. She looked at the clouded sky and tried to find the moon behind the mass of gray. She even tried to count the number of red cars driving by. But she couldn’t avoid his eyes forever.

Finally, she looked into the shadow that hid his eyes.

“You don’t like me,” Stalker stated.

“I don’t know you, and I don’t trust you,” Hawthorne responded. “I honestly can’t say if I like you. You didn’t exactly give a great first impression.”

“That is fair. But you should be careful. In this business, not trusting you’re partner leads to very bad things. It’s why I work alone.”

Hawthorne looked back towards the street. “You work with Will.”

“I do.”

“Why? Because you know his name?”

Stalker shook his head. “The first time I met Will, before he took off his mask, I nearly killed him.”

Hawthorne’s gaze snapped back to the vigilante.

He snickered. “Now you’re curious. You should check your reactions girl. Worse men than me could read you at a glance. But go ahead, ask the question.” His smile grew out of the shadows of his hood. “You know you want to.”

“That’s enough.” Will walked onto the rooftop behind them. He glared at Stalker. “Stop antagonizing her. You know you can’t answer.”

Stalker’s smile grew larger. “So she really doesn’t know. Years of hiding your skin, and now you’re hiding your face.”

Will grunted and turned away from the vigilante. “The club’s empty for now, but the line’s already three building’s down. If something happens here, a lot of people will die.”

“Did you see Allspades?” Hawthorne asked.

Will shook his head. “He’s either not here, or he already snuck inside. Plask is almost definitely going to be the first one inside. The safe move would be to attack him before the crowd gets in.”

“But the smart move would be to wait until he’s too distracted by the crowd and kill him then,” Stalker jumped in. “If I had guvvy backing, that’s what I’d do.”

Hawthorne glared at him.

“Anyway to find out what’s inside?” she asked.

“Not without mecher tech,” Stalker answered.

“I wish we had Mach or Red Racer. Either of them could get us an idea of what’s going on before we went in.”

“It’s better that they aren’t here,” Will said. “The kid’s too young for this. And for as useful as he is, Mach’s not exactly good for subtlety.”

Stalker glanced between the two. “You guys got a regular team going on don’t you? You got a fire guy right? Every team’s gotta have a fire guy. It’s tradition.”

“Yes, Virginia, there is a fire guy,” Hawthorne said. “But he’s not going to bring us any presents tonight.”

Stalker’s smile reappeared so quickly it seemed instant. “Ooh, banter. Keep that up, it’s really useful in a fight.”

Hawthorne looked at Will. “I think he’s actually crazier with you around.”

Will shrugged.

He looked to Stalker. “Do you know a way in?”

Stalker nodded. “The roof entrance seals up tighter than any prison from the outside. But-” he looked at Hawthorne “-if we could find a way to open it from the inside, it’ll pop right open.”

Hawthorne shrugged. “I should be able to sneak a vine underneath it. Won’t be a problem.”

Stalker’s smile vanished. “Right. That works too.”

Hawthorne’s eyes tightened and Will sighed into his palm.

“Ignore him. Stalker, go ahead and make sure there’s no one on the roof.”

Stalker managed to look disappointed despite his hood, but he leaped from the rooftop towards the Meridian.

Will turned towards Hawthorne. “So?”

She glared at him. “Did he really try to kill you?”

“Yes. He wasn’t the first, and he probably won’t be the last. At the time, he thought he had a good reason. I managed to earn his trust, and he hasn’t tried since.”

“Why?”

Will sighed. “The first time I was in town, I managed to learn his real name. He thought I was spying on him for one of the locals, and he decided I was corrupt. Truth is, I found out his name on accident, and I slipped up when I saw him.”

Hawthorne stared blankly at him. “How do you learn somebody’s name on accident?”

Will shrugged. “Part of my power. We met at the wrong place and the wrong time and I managed to figure it out. It’s not exactly something you can forget.”

He looked at her. “Anything else, or should we get going?”

“How did he try to kill you?”

“That was the first time he tried to sneak up on me.”

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