Knight to Queen's Rook Three
It was a dreary autumn evening in Monument City. As the rain pattered softly on the street, neon signs from small shops reflected upon the asphalt in a dreamy haze. Despite the melancholic appearance of the sky overhead, the city below seemed cleansed.
A single pedestrian walked down the damp, deserted street. As a cold shiver ran through his body, he pulled the collar of his raincoat tighter around his neck. Soaked shoes tramped through a myriad of small puddles forming on the sidewalk. There was no longer any point in trying to avoid them. The leather was thoroughly ruined. The man hastened his steps as a familiar corner appeared up ahead. He turned left at the corner and continued trudging onward. Here the street lights were fewer, and most of the windows were dark. Ahead a single street person huddled in a doorway.
Poor fellow, thought the man. Wish I could do something for him.
The thought was forgotten as quickly as it had been called to fore. The man walked past the beggar's shelter without even a pause for asking about his well being. Suddenly, strong hands wrapped around the man's throat. A realization that the beggar had been laying in wait for an unwary pedestrian came too late. Before he could cry out, the man in the raincoat felt a sharp stinging pain enter his lower back and rip through his entire body. The beggar released him, and he fell to the ground. A slight giddiness began to envelope his senses as more and more blood seeped from his body. He was vaguely aware of the beggar's hands searching his pockets for valuables. The cold, damp night was compounded by the cold chill of death. The man could feel his life ebbing away. The dark street became even darker, until finally there was only the sound of the rain.
* * *
The thief looked down upon his victim with cold, unfeeling eyes. Why should he feel pity when no one cared for him when he was hurt. Absently, the thief began counting the money in the stranger's wallet. A grim smile crossed his lips as he reached the three hundred dollar mark. In all, he had collected five hundred dollars, a large diamond encrusted ring, and an expensive watch. Not bad for just one take, he mused darkly.
As if by a sixth sense, the thief turned to look above him only in time to catch the arrow that was shooting toward him full in the throat. The missile struck him with such force that it pierced through the back of his neck. The thief couldn't cry out because his vocal cords had been cut. The blood welled up in his throat, and he began to choke. The pain in his throat was joined by the heavy ache of his lungs in their desperate search for air. He dropped to his knees, eyes darting about in search of the ingenious thief who had bested him with an ancient weapon. His last thought before his final strangled breath was spent was, I wish I had thought of that. Finally, he collapsed to the ground.
* * *
A tall dark figure stood atop the distribution center for office furniture. In her left hand, made of modern, composite materials, was a long range bow. Across her back was a large quiver of arrows. These were not ordinary arrows. The heads were made of alabaster, and shaped into the form of a chess piece - the knight. The deadly Chess!
Her uniform was an expression of the opposites of the game. Black and white. Light and Dark. Good and Evil. Was this some avenging angel bringing down those who committed the mortal sin of murder? Cool, calculating eyes were hidden behind a dark, full-face visor. The woman had an intimidating stature, and the height of the building made her seem even taller. She turned abruptly and descended the maintenance ladder that ran down the side of the building. She then walked to a black sports car, got in, and drove away from the bloody scene.
* * *
Lieutenant Kevin Brown, homicide detective, walked up to his desk. Unlike the other officers whose desks were strewn with piles of paper both useless and vital, Lt. Brown's was clean and flawlessly neat. Naturally, he had received a lot of ribbing about it when he first became an officer of the M.C.P.D. In fact, his neatness habits still drew friendly jibes from colleagues. But now, it was his trademark.
Not only was Kevin neat about his work space, he was neat about his work. Any case he worked on had to have a simple, concrete answer. He didn't give up until that answer was found, or orders from on high told him to let the case go.
Occasionally, a case would come along that would completely stump him. At such times, Lt. Kevin Brown would rely upon special assistance.
"Yo, Lt. Brown!"
Kevin looked up to see the dispatch officer addressing him. "What have you got, Earl?"
"Double murder over in the market district. The captain wants you to get a move on."
Kevin grabbed his suit jacket of the back of his chair. "Tell them I'll be right there."
Kevin ran out the precinct's rear entrance into the officer's lot. He jumped into his car, a foreign compact, and sped out into the street. The market district wasn't far from the station. After a five minute drive, Lt. Brown arrived at the scene of the murder. Kevin parked his car at an oblique angle and leapt out. Police photographers were already at work. A police line marked off the area to prevent curious onlookers from getting too close.
Kevin walked up to the officer in charge. "What have we got, Alex?"
"As far as I can figure, this gentleman was attacked by the mugger over there," informed Officer Alex Hunter. "Then somebody plugged an arrow into the mugger's neck. From the angle of entry, I'd say the archer was on the roof of one these buildings."
Kevin's eyebrows went up in surprise. "Arrow, huh? Now, there's something you don't see every day on this job."
"If you ask me, there's probably some nut out there who thinks he's Robin Hood," said Alex.
"Right," said Kevin. He leaned forward to inspect the mugger's body. "Hey, did you notice the head on this thing?"
"What?" asked Alex stepping closer.
"It looks like a horse," said Kevin. "You know, like in a chess set.
"Whoever had it made must have been a real eccentric."
"Maybe, but it could be the perfect lead. I'll bet a month's pay that there aren't too many arrow heads like that one."
"I'm not much of a gambling man," said Alex with a grin.
"Check the wire for any similar kind of murder," said Kevin. "Maybe we can come up with something. In the meantime, I'll see if I can track down the maker of these arrow heads."
"Sure thing," said Alex. "Anything else?"
"Well, the mugger's pickings as well as his own stuff are all here, so it wasn't robbery," said Alex scratching his head. "I'll just bet we have another vigilante on our hands like that Kismet character."
"Hmmm," responded Kevin. "I'll bet the mayor will be just tickled to hear that."
Kevin stood up. The ambulance had arrived to take the bodies to the coroner. Kevin waived them on.
"Go ahead. I'm done here." He turned to the police photographers. "But I want copies of those photos."
He looked back to Alex. "Who discovered the bodies? Maybe they saw something."
"We got an anonymous call this morning," answered Alex. "Nobody's been here except us and possibly the person who made the call."
"Did we get a recording?"
"Nope. It was short and sweet. No time to record and obviously no time to trace."
"Well, let's get busy on the leads we have," said Kevin.
The bodies were taken away, and the crowd that had collected around the scene began to break up. A reporter had been going around asking questions. She spotted Lt. Brown.
Great, thought Kevin, just what I need.
The reporter was a handsome woman in a conservative dress. She wore a pair of glasses with a fashion styled frame. She walked with determination toward Lt. Brown.
"Lieutenant Brown, I see you've had an unusual occurrence here. Care to make a statement?"
"Not particularly," sighed Kevin. "but I don't suppose that would stop you from trying to get one."
"Come now, Lieutenant," said the woman smiling, "I'm merely doing my job. The people deserve to know if their city is being threatened."
She spoke with such a serious expression that Kevin almost bought it. Almost.
"Look, I'll give you this much. What we have is a mugging that went bad. Apparently, he was moving in on somebody else's turf and got snuffed."
"With a bow and arrow?"
"Okay, so we have a mugger with a flair for the dramatic," said Kevin.
"You honestly expect me to believe that a mugger shot that thief with an arrow?" said the reporter with a coy smile.
"No, but it's all I'm giving you for now," said Kevin. "Look, I've got work to do."
Unceremoniously, Kevin did a brisk turn and walked to his car. The reporter followed.
"Is there any truth that a new and deadly vigilante terrorist is making its home in Monument City?"
Kevin opened the car door and slid into the seat. He realized that giving her a "no comment" response would only be translated as an admission. This time he decided honesty was the best policy.
"Look, I honestly couldn't tell you, but if I find out, I'll let you know."
She grinned broadly. "Fine, here's my number at the office."
She handed him a card. Kevin took the card and read it. He looked up at the reporter.
"Very well, Ms. Walsh. I'll keep in touch."
Kevin closed the door, started the engine, and drove off heading back toward the precinct.
* * *
The night air was crisp and cold. The sky was clear of clouds, and a gibbous moon shone on the tall buildings. Light pollution from city allowed only the brightest stars and nearby planets to be visible in the night sky. The tallest building in the city was the John J. Chambers Commerce Building with its clock tower piercing the night. It's face glowed with the backlighting that illuminated it every night. The chime struck as the hands reached eleven o'clock. Tonight, however, the face is marred by an odd dark shape. A crouching figure stood before the roman numeral six. Kismet liked this perch best because anyone who looked up at her would only be able to make out a dark shape. Using genetically enhanced telescopic vision, Kismet scanned the city. Some areas she merely glanced over. These were places where trouble seldom occurred. Other places were given intense scrutiny.
A chilling gust whipped past the spire of the Commerce Building. Despite the skimpy, skin-tight costume she wore, she didn't feel cold. In fact, she was quite comfortable. Kismet shifted her gaze westward toward the center of town. Tonight she hunted a more dangerous quarry than the regular gutter slime she was used to handling. Tonight she was after another hunter. A hunter who kills others with a bow.
Kismet looked down toward the weapon that hung from her belt on her left side. She was grateful that crossbows fired quarrels instead of arrows. If they hadn't, she had no doubt that the police would have fingered her for the murder, despite the fact that she has never killed anyone. Killing was abhorrent to her, and she was angry at the stranger who seemed to treat it like a religion.
Genetically enhanced hearing picked up the distant sound of emergency sirens. From the pitch, Kismet could discern that the sirens were those of police cars. Kismet stood up and glanced around. Soon, she spotted a police cruiser chasing an old sedan in high speed pursuit. Lithely, she leapt from the clock tower to another building five stories shorter. Incredible strength and hard-wired reflexes allowed her to land on the office building's roof without injury. Soon, she had mapped out and began traversing an intercept course with the chase by leaping from rooftop to rooftop with effortless ease. Kismet's final stop placed her well ahead of the speeding vehicles to effect a plan of action. She climbed down a fire escape into an alley and picked up an steel trash can full of garbage. Making sure to keep within the shadows, she held the can aloft in one hand, poised to strike. Within seconds the runaway sedan came careening down the street. With computer-like timing, Kismet hurled the trash can with incredible force creating the desired effect. The windshield shattered into an intricate cobweb pattern as the weight trash can impacted it. The driver was effectively blinded. The car screeched into a spin out and was finally halted by connecting with a telephone pole.
Kismet pulled on the mask that covered her entire face and raced out toward the car to determine the driver's condition. The driver's side door was pinned against the pole. Kismet lifted the front end of the car and pulled it away from the telephone pole. She moved quickly as the police cars were beginning to bear down upon her location. The door had been damaged so badly that Kismet had to literally rip it off of the car. She unbuckled the driver's seat belt and checked him for injuries. Upon discovering no broken bones, Kismet opted to quickly remove the driver from the car in case the gas tank had ruptured in the crash. As she laid the man down on the sidewalk across the street from the accident, three police cruisers pulled up with lights flashing and sirens blaring.
"You! Hold it right there!" boom a voice through a bullhorn.
The driver of the sedan seemed to be revived by the statement. He immediately jumped to his feet and grabbed Kismet around the neck with his left arm while producing a nine millimeter semiautomatic with his right hand. He placed the gun against Kismet's temple.
"Alright, you pigs! Back off, or she gets plugged!"
The officers, who were already in a defensive stance behind car doors with pistols drawn, hesitated. One officer looked at the others.
"What do you think? We could shoot 'em both and kill two birds with one stone."
Another officer, much older than the other five present, shook his head.
"That's not good police work, gentlemen. You have to look at things from an economic standpoint. Even though Kismet is a vigilante, and we're supposed to apprehend her. She keeps crime down, police mortality down, and our paychecks up."
The other five looked at one another at this interesting revelation.
"Stop wasting time, you assh***s!" shouted the gunman. "Let me go, or she dies!"
Before anyone could do anything further, Kismet elbowed the gunman in the solar plexus with lightning quick reflexes. She grabbed the gun out of his hand and tossed the man forward over her shoulder.
The officers reacted and aimed their weapons at Kismet.
"Drop the gun, Kismet. Now!"
Kismet grasped the gun in both hands and, with incredible strength, twisted the barrel into a grotesque angle.
"Holy spit!" cried one officer. "Did you see that."
Kismet tossed the ruined fire arm onto the unconscious gunman, and dashed into a dark alley faster than the officers eyes could follow.
"Jesus!" said the officer. "Is she fast!"
"Now you know why we can never catch her," said the elderly officer ruefully. "Besides we've got what we came for. Let's clean this mess up. Oh, and I'll write the reports this time."
* * *
Lieutenant Kevin Brown was a bit nervous. Rumors had been going around that the elusive Kismet had almost been collared last night. Even so, no one could say what she looked like because her face was covered by a heavy cloth mask. But rumor was that she was some kind of mutant human straight out of the comic books. Most descriptions claimed that she was six foot seven with a build like a bodybuilder, and she could fly like Superman.
Lt. Brown leaned back into his chair. A piece of paper that had been arbitrarily thrown onto his desk screamed out its presence amid the neat stacks of paper. Kevin picked it up. It said, "Call me. Barbara Walsh."
I wonder what she wants, mused Kevin.
He tossed the paper in the waste basket and picked up the phone receiver. Producing the card that the reporter had given him the day before, Kevin dialed the number that was printed in neat sans serif lettering at the center.
"Hello," came a familiar voice. "Barbara Walsh speaking."
"Ms. Walsh, this is Lt. Kevin Brown, homicide. I received a message that you wanted to talk to me."
"Ah, yes. I believe I may have some information you'd be interested in, Lieutenant."
"Mmm hmm, you free for lunch?"
"Only if I'm buying."
There was a pause over the phone. "I assume you already know how I'd react to that."
"Yeah, the Ms. on your business card was my first clue," said Kevin. "But hey, old habits are hard to break. Just humor me okay?"
"Well, alright but don't expect me to make a habit of it."
"Right, where do I meet you?"
"There's a favorite diner of mine on North Avenue by the name of Sydney's," replied Barbara. "See you there around, say...eleven-thirtyish?"
"I'll be there," said Kevin. "Bye."
Kevin placed the receiver back in its cradle with a grin on his face. "Feminists," said Kevin to no one in particular. "God bless their souls, but sometimes they don't know the difference between chivalry and chauvinism."
The smile disappeared.
Damn! Now I'm going to go out of my mind wondering what she's found out. Oh well.
* * *
Trisha sat back in her favorite sofa-chair. She had been running all over the entire city in one evening and was a bit fatigued. Despite her genetic improvements, which allowed her to accomplish things even the most extraordinary human being would be hard pressed to achieve, she did have her limits. Not only that, but she was frustrated because the deadly night archer hadn't put in an appearance at all last night. After returning from her late night excursion, Trisha found that she couldn't sleep. She spent most of the morning trying to work out a likely means of tracking down the killer. Finally, she had to concede, reluctantly, that she would only be able to determine the killer's true behavior pattern after she had struck at least two or three more times. That, however, was unacceptable. Whenever someone was killed in Monument City, Trisha always took the death personally.
Maybe Kevin has something that would make my search easier, Trisha thought to herself.
Trisha stood up and walked to the phone in her room which had a separate line than the one in the living room. This phone was hooked up to a teletype machine used by the deaf which sent messages over the phone, provided the receiver of the message also had a machine. Trisha dialed the Fourth District Precinct's T.D.D. number and attached the receiver to the machine. Once the connection went through and an acknowledgment was made, Trisha typed a message saying that Kevin should contact his informer.
Once that was done, Trisha prepared to go out to lunch with her best friend Joy.
* * *
The diner was a pleasant and relaxing place. Many businessmen and other white collar workers sat at the counter or in booths chatting away about this problem at work or that problem at home. Though it wasn't very crowded, Barbara and Kevin sat in a booth in the rear for privacy's sake. After ordering from the menus, Kevin began his inquiry.
"So," he began, "I understand you have something of interest for me."
"Maybe," said the reporter coyly.
Kevin sighed. "Okay, what's this gonna cost me?"
Barbara feigned shock. "What? You think that I would only give you information based on self-advancement? I'm hurt."
"I suppose you're only interested in the well being of the citizens of Monument City," replied Kevin with a smirk.
"But of course," answered Barbara cheerily.
"And I've been in this town too long to believe you for even a second." Kevin leaned forward on his elbows. "I've been reading up on you."
"Oh?" asked Barbara innocently. "What did you find out?"
At this point the waitress arrived with their food. Kevin waited until she finished placing the plates down and moved to another table.
"Well, I noticed that you have a knack for writing, shall we say, rather inflammatory articles."
"A little controversy is good for the soul, Lieutenant," said Barbara with a sheepish grin. She too leaned forward on her elbows while resting her chin upon her hand.
"Perhaps," said Kevin uncomfortably.
He leaned back in his seat. He didn't like the idea of her face being that close to his. Barbara, however, maintained her position.
"I would assume," continued Kevin, "that you would like an exclusive insight to the work being done to apprehend this crazed archer."
"Nothing so tedious," replied Barbara. "I merely wish to be informed of the collar ahead of time so that I may be the first to get exclusive coverage of the event."
"Well, I was close," said Kevin. "But how do I know that this info of yours is worth the favor."
"You'll just have to trust me."
Kevin crossed his arms and studied her carefully. She was beautiful in a studious sort of way, and she constantly disarmed you with a look of child-like naiveté. Unfortunately, Kevin was not immune to that pleading look.
"Alright, you've got your exclusive story," said Kevin.
"Great," she beamed warmly. "Now, this is what I've dug up in the morgue."
Kevin smiled. "Interesting choice of words."
Barbara ignored the comment and continued. "I've located incidents where similar murders have occurred."
She laid several newspaper articles on the table. Kevin glanced over the headlines, the dates and the names of the newspapers the articles had headlined in. Each article described a mysterious series of murders where some of the most untouchable organized crime bosses were taken out by an arrow with a head shaped like a horse's head.
"Well, this is interesting," mused Kevin. "First, this guy goes around killing Mafia leaders, and now he's shooting petty thieves."
"What makes you think this killer is a man?" asked Barbara pointedly.
"Why would a woman want to go out and..."
Kevin stopped in mid-sentence and right away wanted to kick himself.
"You think Kismet is doing this."
It wasn't a question. Kevin had initially thought that Ms. Walsh was about to go into a debate over the sex of an unknown killer, until suddenly he realized that she was referring to a specific woman.
"You don't think so?" asked Barbara.
"No, I don't," said Kevin flatly. "For one thing, she's never killed anyone before. And I don't recall ever seeing her with a bow."
"She does use a crossbow," said Barbara. "She could be killing people with that."
"Not with arrows," said Kevin.
A sarcastic smile drew across Kevin's lips. "Because a crossbow shoots quarrels, not arrows."
Barbara sat nonplused for a moment.
"You know, if I didn't know any better, I'd say you were protecting her."
Kevin's face went blank. "Now, what makes you say that?"
Barbara toyed with the parsley that garnished her plate.
"Well," she began, "you certainly do seem rather quick to defend her."
"Only because I think you're wrongly accusing her of a maliciousness she doesn't possess," said Kevin sourly.
"You sound like you know her," said Barbara matter-of-factly.
"Don't be ridiculous," retorted Kevin. "I've been chasing after her for the past five years. I just know her pattern, that's all."
"I see," said Barbara finally.
Kevin decided to move to another subject, although at this point, he really just wanted to leave.
"Did you find anything on the arrows themselves?" asked Kevin. "Like who made them, or even better, who had them made?"
"Sorry," said Barbara, "none of the articles I found were that explicit." She smiled. "However, I do believe that the police can pick up where journalism has failed."
"Right," said Kevin unenthusiastically.
He finished off the ham sandwich that he had ordered and guzzled down his coffee.
"You're going to get indigestion doing that," remonstrated Barbara.
Kevin gathered up the newspaper articles.
"Shoving food down one's gullet is an art learned by police officers and medical surgeons," said Kevin with a wry smile. "You get used to it. The trick is not forgetting your table manners. Thank you for the information."
He carefully shook Ms. Walsh's hand, paid for their meals at the counter, and left the diner.
* * *
Upon reaching his desk, Kevin noticed the out of place piece of paper sitting there. He picked it up and read it. Immediately, he went to the T.D.D. office and dialed the familiar number of Trisha Fate. The connection was made when the message, "It's about time," appeared on the paper. Normally this would have drawn a chuckle from Kevin, except that at the moment he was in a foul humor.
Kevin typed on the machine, "What do you want."
Although, moods couldn't be genuinely expressed on a Teletype machine, this particular curt phrase carried the message clearly that humor was not appreciated at this point in time. It took a little longer than usual for a response to come across.
<I'm sorry if I caught you at a bad time. Sometimes I forget I'm talking to a police officer.>
This time Kevin did smile. "It's alright. I'm sorry if I was rather blunt a moment ago. What was it you wanted to talk to me about."
<It's about the killer archer.>
Somehow Kevin was not exactly surprised that Trisha would ask about the archer.
"Do you have something on him?"
There was another unusual pause. <Actually, that's what I wanted to ask you.>
This statement worried Kevin. If Kismet couldn't locate the killer, his job was sure to become hell on earth in the coming days.
"Unfortunately, I haven't made any headway in finding the killer. However, I do have some fresh leads. Apparently, our killer has been busy in both Philadelphia and New York City before coming here. I'll let you know what I find."
Kevin thought for a moment and then typed again.
"By the way, you might be interested to know that I'm working with Barbara Walsh on this."
There was an even longer pause than the previous two.
<Be careful. She's a viper in bunny clothes.>
Kevin laughed out loud attracting a curious glance from the operator at the switchboard.
"Tell me something I don't know. I'll talk to you later. I gotta get busy."
Kevin hung up the phone and tore the printout from the machine. He returned to his desk and began reading the articles Barbara Walsh had given him. After he finished reading them, he glanced over the dates again. Suddenly, inspiration hit him. Picking up the phone, Kevin called information in Philadelphia.
"May I help you?"
"Yes, this is Lt. Kevin Brown, Homicide, Monument City Police Department. I need a list of numbers to all fire arms and hunting supply stores in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, particularly those that specialize in fletching."
* * *
It was even colder this night than the previous. The wind blew fiercely making Kismet's perch atop the clock tower quite perilous. Even though she had a constant fear of falling, she leaned forward scanning the city for the predators of the night. A light hail began to fall. Kismet put on her mask to protect her face from the ice pellets buffeting her skin.
What a miserable night, she thought to herself.
Just then, a scream reached her ears. She judged the distance to be quite close and began her descent down the side the building on a knotted steel cable, which she deemed a safer way to climb whenever rain or wind made jumping a fatal act. She made it to the roof of the east wing of the building and finished her descent to the ground on the fire escape in rear of the building.
It didn't take long at all for Kismet to locate the source of the scream. In one of the alleys, a man was beating on a teenage girl. From the way the girl was dressed, Kismet could tell she was a prostitute. She didn't care. As quickly as she could, Kismet dashed across the street into the alley and connected with the pimp with a flying kick. The man cried out as he crashed into a collection of garbage cans. He immediately gained his footing and pulled out a forty-five Baretta.
"I don't know who the hell you are, but nobody does that to Slim City Garrett!"
Garrett prepared to fire at Kismet, except she was no longer in the alley. The girl was cringing against the wall, trying not to remind Garrett of his unfinished business with her. Garrett's eyes scanned the alley. Suddenly, a harsh pain came crashing into his head as Kismet cracked his skull with the hilt of her katana. Garrett was sent forward sprawling. The Baretta was thrown from his grip, yet it was still within his reach. He leapt for the weapon and quickly turned to bear its sight on Kismet's heart.
However, before he could fire the gun, the air was cut by a high pitched whooshing sound followed by a sickening thud. Garrett stood frozen in his offensive stance for a few moments. Slowly, he fell to his knees and lowered his gun. Finally, he fell forward on his face, the Baretta still firmly in his grip.
Kismet saw the large arrow protruding from Garret's lower back. Her eyes snapped up to see if the archer still lurked. There was nothing above her but the falling pellets of ice. Kismet ran to a fire escape and climbed at a speed not possible for an ordinary human. Upon reaching the roof, Kismet looked around her. The roof was deserted, and none of the neighboring buildings held any fleeing felons.
Since Kismet could not swear aloud, she summarily spat. This killer, whoever he was, was a slippery bastard. Kismet began to examine the roof for telltale signs of the killer's presence. She looked over the pitch covered gravel on the roof for any clues. Suddenly, she snapped her head up.
God, I am so stupid!
Kismet concentrated on the roof surface. Soon, foot shaped images began to appear at Kismet's feet. Kismet's infra-red vision soon picked up the trail of the archer.
I'd better move fast before this hail cools off the whole trail.
The path led her to the roof entrance of the building and down the stairs. Kismet followed the trail into the basement of the building and then out a rear entrance. There the tracks ended, and evidence of a car having been started was discovered. Kismet quickly followed this new trail until she came upon the car itself. The engine was still warm. By this time she had nearly crossed the entire city.
It wasn't hard to follow the car as it traveled rarely frequented roads. Kismet looked into the window for any telltale signs of the owner. The car was empty. Kismet wasn't sure if she should try breaking into the car. After all, there was the possibility that this was the wrong car. Kismet looked around the sidewalk and located the driver's path. It went into an apartment building across the street. Kismet couldn't follow inside because, no doubt, the first person who spotted her would call the cops, especially after the past two years of being fed hate and fear through the anti-Kismet articles of Barbara Walsh.
Kismet decided to fall back and stake out the apartment from the roof of the building across the street.
* * *
The phone rang in the switchboard room's T.D.D. office at the Fourth District Police Department. The operator picked up the phone and listened to make sure it was a T.D.D. call. Upon hearing the special beeping sound, the operator placed the receiver into the teletype machine's cradle and typed in an acknowledgment.
A message immediately came in:
The message ended. A light winked out showing that the connection was broken. The operator scratched his head. He tore the paper from the carriage and walked into the what the officers liked to call "The Pit". Here, most of them sat at desks writing reports and slaving over papers. The operator walked over to Kevin's desk. Lt. Brown was on the phone. In front of him was a list of names and numbers. Some of them were crossed out.
"Okay," said Kevin into the receiver, "thanks a lot. I appreciate the help. Yeah. Bye."
The operator waited until Lt. Brown hung up the phone. Kevin looked up at him. "Well, Demitrius, I assume you're loitering there because you have something for me."
"Yes, sir, Lieutenant, sir."
Demitrius was always formal to the extreme. Sometimes that irked Kevin. Demitrius handed him the paper from the teletype machine. Kevin took it and read it carefully.
"Is it some kind of code, Lieutenant, sir?" asked Demitrius almost pleading.
"Certainly looks like it," said Kevin obliging the young officer's appeal to adventure. "It's from my secret informer. It may be a big lead to catching the night archer."
"Wow," said Demitrius. Then he remembered that he had a job to perform. "I have to get back to the switchboard room, sir."
Kevin looked up. "Sure, son," said Kevin, "but do me a favor."
"Anything, sir," beamed Demitrius.
"Tell no one about this message," said Kevin as if in super secret confidence. "It could be a good lead, but if it isn't, I don't want the department to get a bad rap for following false info."
"You can count on me, sir!" said Demitrius.
Kevin was amused when Demitrius saluted him and walked back to the switchboard office feeling like the most important person in the world. Kevin hated exaggerating like that to him, but Demitrius always seemed to be asking for it. Sometimes Kevin wished he could share the same sense of wonder at the world.
Well, back to reality, thought Kevin.
A quick check on the license plate number Trisha had sent him revealed that the owner of the car she suspected to belong to the night archer was a woman from Philadelphia by the name of Karina Duvall.
"Call Philly P.D. and ask them for a background on this woman," said Kevin to the records officer.
He walked back to his desk. On the list that he had been working with, a couple of names and numbers were circled. He had called almost all of the stores in Philadelphia which sold fire arms. Most of these sold bows and crossbows, two of which did fletching as a favor to those who preferred arrows made in the medieval tradition.
"I think I'll pay a visit to the owners of these stores," said Lt. Brown. "Right after I check out this Karina Duvall person."
* * *
Karina sat in her room staring at the picture of a young woman on her dresser. She usually sat here staring at the photo for hours at a time. Most of the time she stared blankly. Other times she thought about things that happened in the past. Constantly she talked to the picture before her.
"Well, sis, I killed another one for you. I hope you think I'm doing the right thing." Karina gave a deep sigh. "I made you a promise, and I shall keep that promise forever. No one will ever have to go through the same pain you went through."
She picked up the newspaper that lay at her feet. Upon it an article about the discovery of a dead man in an alley on the west side of town was circled.
"Unfortunately, they don't understand what I'm doing. They say I'm wrong, but I will have to show them I'm not wrong."
She tossed the paper dejectedly aside. Then, her face brightened dimly.
"Guess who I saw last night, sis. Kismet was there when I killed that pimp. He was going to shoot her, but I killed him before he could pull the trigger."
She cocked her head as if in contemplation. "You know, I saved her life. I hope she appreciates that."
A knock came at the door, but Karina's ears did not pick up the sound. The doorbell was rung. The lights in the apartment seemed to flicker momentarily in time with the ringing of the bell.
"Someone's at the door, sis. I gotta go. I'll see you later."
Karina rose from the bed and walked to the front door. After unbolting the lock, she carefully opened the door. The chain lock was still attached, and the door pulled the chain taught leaving an opening approximately an inch and a half wide.
Lt. Brown leaned over and looked through the opening.
"Police, ma'am. May I talk to you for a moment?"
He showed Karina his identification and badge. Karina nodded and closed the door. Kevin could hear her undo the chain lock. The door reopened fully, this time. She was a tall, dark-skinned woman with a trim body. Kevin judged her to be at least six-foot-two because she was only about an inch shorter than he. Her hair, a copper brown color, was short and styled by combing it from right to left and letting the strands dangle down the left side of her face.
"There was a report of a prowler being seen in the neighborhood," Kevin began. "I was wondering if you or anyone you know saw anything suspicious over the past week."
Karina shook her head. "I'm sorry, officer. I haven't been in town very long. I just recently moved here. However, if I see something I'll call the police station and inform them."
"Alright," said Kevin smiling. "Thank you very much, Miss...."
"Duvall. Karina Duvall."
"Thank you, Miss Duvall. Good afternoon."
"Bye," said Karina, and she closed the door, reestablishing all of the locks.
The lieutenant walked out to his car. Karina watched him drive off from her living room window.
"They know it's me. That man was merely appraising the enemy." She pulled the curtains shut. "I'll have to throw them of the scent." She paced the room momentarily. "The question is, how did they discover me? I have always been careful to make sure no one was following me."
She had always had a fascination for strategy. She studied history in college, particularly the strategies of famous war generals. She was hired at the Monument State University Museum as an authority on American and European warfare. No one who played chess with her ever won a game. She knew the advantages and disadvantages of every move on the board. To her, this new game of outwitting the police was simply another move on the game board. However, she could not figure out how her previous strategy had been surpassed.
"I'll have to make a false trail."
* * *
Kismet sat on the roof across from the apartment building where she believed the night archer lived. It had occurred to her that the apartment might not be the correct one, but merely a trick to throw her off the trail. However, the car she tailed the previous evening was still in it's parking space. Apparently, the killer did not suspect that she was being tailed. On the other hand, making herself practically invisible to her quarry was Kismet's specialty. This was especially true since she could combine her infra-vision with her telescopic vision to follow a suspect without being within that suspect's field of vision.
The sun had just sunk below the horizon and twilight illuminated the sky like a dull haze. There were few clouds in the sky, and the evening wind began to pick up. The temperature was unseasonably warm.
If she's in there, sooner or later she's got to come out.
* * *
Barbara sat in her car as the engine cooled parked in an alley across from the apartment building. She had been lucky to notice Lt. Brown's car while driving home from work and decided to follow. She had assumed the Lt. Brown knew more about Kismet than he was telling. Several times before, whenever he was interviewed by the media, he always stated that a concerned citizen had helped him out in solving the case. Barbara had it on good authority that there were few, if any, concerned citizens in the big city. Barbara only had a hunch, but many of her successes had resulted from her following a hunch. She actually believed that there was more to Lt. Brown's relationship with Kismet than cop and criminal. Such a thought hadn't occurred to her before until she had lunch with him. Despite his humorous demeanor, he was quite transparent when it came to the subject of Kismet.
"I'll bet anything that she lives in that building, and I'll bet anything that they're working together."
The question was how to flush Kismet out. There were twenty apartments in the four story building, and she certainly couldn't go knocking door to door asking, "Are you Kismet?"
"I'll just sit here and wait," said Barbara. "If she's in there, she'll have to come out sooner or later."
With that said, Barbara watched the roof of the building intently.
* * *
She didn't know why, but something in the back of Kismet's mind told her to look down. A large car was parked in the alley next to the building she was perched upon. Kismet could make out a face leaning over the steering wheel. Immediately, she recognized who was in the car, although she wished that she hadn't.
What the hell is Walsh doing here?
In the Monument City Post, all editorial columnists had their pictures placed above their articles. Kismet had committed Walsh's face to memory as an enemy she would sooner or later have to contend with. She had hoped that it would be much later. Unfortunately, fate had decided just the opposite.
Then, Kismet made a dismaying realization. If Walsh caught sight of the night archer, it would ruin Kismet's chance of dealing with her. She realized that the archer had been killing only those who committed violent crimes against innocent victims. Kismet respected that, especially since she also was in the same line of work. It was also not lost on Kismet that she had, inadvertently, been rescued by one of the archer's arrows. It was simply the methods by which the archer accomplished her goals that disgusted Kismet. Kismet's plan had been to catch up with the archer and convince her to cease her murderous ways, but continue her work, perhaps under Kismet's tutelage. There were nonfatal ways of bringing a criminal down with an arrow. Kismet never had any angst about drawing blood as long as the blow wasn't deadly. Now, however, she would have to forego her original plan and try and get Barbara Walsh to leave the area. No doubt she, too, had her suspicions about where the night archer resided.
Since, Walsh is always trying to catch me in the act and put me in jail, thought Kismet, maybe I should give her a little incentive.
Kismet climbed down the fire escape that descended into the alley just above Barbara's car.
This ought to get her attention.
Kismet leapt off of the escape and landed on the roof of the car.
"What the hell...!"
Barbara was about to get out of the car when a cloth covered face appeared upside-down on her windshield. Dark eyes were the only visible feature.
"Kismet! I was right!"
Kismet waved at her in a teasing manner as if to say, "Catch me if you can." She somersaulted off the roof and ran across the street into the another alley. Barbara started up her car and, immediately, sped after her. Kismet made sure that she kept far enough ahead of Walsh so that she couldn't catch up to her, but close enough that Walsh could keep her in sight.
Barbara glanced at her speedometer. "My God! She's running at about fifty miles an hour. What kind of woman is she?"
Finally, after running halfway across town, Kismet put on an extra burst of speed and disappeared into a dark alley. Barbara followed only to discover that the alley was a dead end. Kismet was nowhere to be seen.
"Where the hell did she go?"
Barbara got out of the car and looked around. There were no fire escapes here or service ladders. In fact, there was no evidence of Kismet ever having been there.
"Maybe those rumors are true," said Barbara. "Maybe she can fly."
* * *
Kismet had doubled back on her trail and returned to the perch she had left behind. She looked at her nails. They were chipped and scraped.
That's the last time I climb barehanded up a brick wall, she mused sourly. Unfortunately, there was no time to use the grapple on my crossbow.
Kismet turned her attention to the apartment building. Looking at the street in front of the building, she received a dismaying shock. The car she had identified as belonging to the archer was gone.
Damn! She left while I was playing cat and mouse with Little Miss Snoop. Well, I might as well go back to my regular routine. Maybe I'll run into her later.
* * *
Lt. Brown had returned home from his investigations in Philadelphia late last night. He had made terrific headway in finding out who made the arrow heads. His spirits were up as he dressed to go to work. Kevin picked up his morning paper from off the front porch. He got into his car and drove the usual route. He always made a quick stop at a fast food restaurant to pick up breakfast. It was probably cheaper to eat at home, but he had no time for it. At one of the stop lights, Kevin engaged in his usual practice of reviewing the paper by spreading it out, section at a time, on the passenger seat. Every time he stopped at a stop light he would browse through an article.
This time, however, would not be the usual news fare of local, national, and international lip service. As he pulled the Editorial page out, his eyes were assaulted by a sensational headline: Homicide Lieutenant and Vigilante in Cahoots. Kevin almost lost his grip on the steering wheel. He angrily swept the paper onto the floor and literally rocketed the rest of the way to the precinct.
"That damned woman!"
Kevin walked into the Pit and slammed the paper onto his desk. He didn't care that this resulted in blowing some of the papers off his desk. One of the officers walked up to him. It was Lisa Harrigan. She was a short, thin woman with blinding red hair, freckles and a constantly serious look. She never laughed and many of the other officers made bets that one of them could make her break her grim countenance. None of them succeeded, except Lt. Brown. It was quite by accident, and no one else was around to see it. She had made him swear never to tell anyone.
"I see you've seen this mornings editorials."
Kevin searched her face for any sign of an accusation. There was none. All that was there was the same serious face, touched by a bit of concern.
"That's the last time I have lunch with a reporter," growled Kevin.
"You mean woman reporter," said Lisa.
Kevin was jarred out of his angry thoughts. He looked at Lisa again. Her eyes had driven home the point. Walsh had used her charms to make him say things he normally wouldn't have. Now, however, was not the time to remind him of his shortcomings.
"And I thought this was going to be a great day," he said exasperated.
"You want me to do something about it," asked Lisa.
Kevin understood what she was talking about. Lisa had gotten in trouble a few times for police brutality by trying to solve a problem on her own that couldn't be solved through the normal legal channels. A smile played at the corners of Kevin's mouth.
"No thanks, Harrigan. One cop in the hot seat is enough, although I'm quite sure you would enjoy yourself."
Kevin was surprised to see her flash a smile for an instant. It had disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. Her brows knitted together in warning, reminding him of their agreement.
"I hope everything works out, Lieutenant," said Lisa encouragingly.
"So do I," sighed Kevin.
"Brown! My office. Now."
Kevin looked up to see the captain walking toward his office. Lisa gave him a look of sympathy and moved on. Kevin got up and went to the captain's office. After closing the door, he looked at the man sitting behind his desk. Captain William O'Donnell was a large muscular man in his mid-fifties.
"You wanted to see me, sir?"
Captain O'Donnell threw a copy of the editorial page on his desk. The page's headline screamed its insult at Kevin.
"I want to hear your side of the story."
"Well, sir," started Kevin, "I was working with Ms. Walsh on locating the night archer. She had some information that I needed. Unfortunately, she was after some information from me without my realizing it. That is until this morning."
The captain rubbed his temples. "Alright, what exactly did you say to this woman."
It was obvious that the captain had no love of this reporter. She had lambasted Captain O'Donnell in her articles on more than one occasion.
"Basically, she wanted to say that Kismet was responsible for the arrow killings. Believe me if had been that simple I would have run with it. But, I told her, these killings were not Kismet's regular behavior. She seemed to think I was speaking from a personal stand point. She simply took my words and made them say what she wanted them to say."
"Okay, okay. I didn't believe this garbage to begin with," said the captain, "but it's not going to look good for you for a while."
"I can handle that, sir, as long as the department's credibility isn't jeopardized," responded Kevin.
The captain eyed him suspiciously.
"Just in case, where were you at the time when she spotted you?"
"I believe I was at an apartment building on Sixth Street," said Kevin thoughtfully.
"Hmmm. That's where she said she ran into Kismet."
"Big deal," Kevin snorted. "If you're lucky, you could run into Kismet anywhere in this town. Besides, I'll just bet the Kismet was fooling with her because of those articles she's written."
"You have any witnesses."
"The whole apartment building, sir," answered Kevin. "You see, I have reason to believe that our killer lives in that apartment building."
"Really? Excellent, Lieutenant. Keep me posted."
Kevin walked out of the office and let out a long sigh of relief. No matter how hard he tried to steel himself, he was always intimidated by the captain.
"Now, it's time to call a certain reporter."
* * *
The light clicking sounds permeated the office as a flurry of fingers ran over the keyboard with practiced ease. Barbara Walsh had received many calls asking who Kismet really was. This had inspired her to try and find out. Now, she has been writing a leader story for her new series: Uncovering the Vigilante Kismet.
The phone on her desk rang. Barbara saved the document file on her computer before answering.
"Hello, Barbara Walsh speaking."
"Hello, Ms. Walsh."
"Why, Lt. Brown," said Barbara in her most charming voice. "What can I do for you?"
"Well, I caught your editorial, and really I must say I'm disappointed."
"Oh?" she asked innocently. "How so."
"You've gotten all your facts screwed up."
"Don't give me that," said Barbara sternly. "I saw you go into that building, and I did run into Kismet there."
"You could have run into her anywhere in town," said Kevin. "Did it ever occur to you that she might have it out for you after all those insulting articles you've written about her. Who knows? She could be watching you through the window of your office."
Barbara's head jerked toward the office window as a feeling of paranoia shot up her spine.
Then, she realized that Lt. Brown was trying to play her for a fool.
"Besides, you had the right building, you just had the wrong vigilante," continued Kevin.
"What do you mean?"
"Hey, you're the investigative reporter," Kevin said scornfully. "You figure it out. In the meantime, I'm going to arrest the night archer. If you're still interested in our agreement, I suggest you be at that apartment building at about ten o'clock tonight. Bye."
Barbara winced as the sharp snap of the phone being slammed in its cradle rang in her ears.
Humph! Guess he can't take it. Ah well, back to the work at hand.
* * *
Trisha leaned against the wall in her living room. She had a devilish grin on her face.
Kevin returned the gaze, but he wasn't smiling. "I hope you know what you're doing," lamented Kevin. "I really didn't want her to be there."
Lt. Kevin Brown had come to Trisha's apartment to find out her reaction to Barbara Walsh's article. Needless to say she was extremely upset. Kevin had walked in and just caught the sight of a katana slicing a newspaper in half. It made Trisha feel better, but not much. Kevin, on the other hand, was contemplating whether or not he should come back at a later time so Trisha could have a chance to cool down. However, when Trisha spotted him she dragged him into the apartment. That was when she related her idea to him. Since she couldn't speak, Trisha communicated with Kevin through sign language.
"Trust me. This will make everybody happy," signed Trisha.
"Especially you, I'll wager," said Kevin.
"And you," she returned.
She reached over and gave him a kiss. Then she invited him to have a seat while she made coffee. After, they were both settled, they began to compare notes.
"My trip to Philadelphia wasn't without its merit," began Kevin. "As it turns out, Miss Duvall did make a purchase of arrow shafts without the heads. Since the lab boys told me that the heads were made of alabaster, I had to assume that she got the material herself, carved the heads, and fixed them onto the arrows. A background check showed that she worked at both The University of Pennsylvania and at the museums in New York City as a specialist in ancient wars. Bronze age Greece and medieval England in particular."
Kevin paused a moment to sip his coffee. He looked up at Trisha with a look of concern on his face. "There's something else. Her older sister was raped and brutally murdered about three years ago." Kevin took a deep breath. "She may be lashing out. That would explain your observation of the kind of people she kills. Violent murderers."
Trisha took this in with a pensive look. She understood since the ravages of the past had made her turn to taking the law into her own hands, even though she tried to follow the basic forms of the law. Trisha wondered if the hit-and-run incident that had crippled her friend Joy had killed her, would she also have turned to murderous revenge? Kevin interrupted her thoughts.
"My worry is that if we try to collar her, she could go berserk. I mean, we would be preventing her from doing what she had vowed to do, avenge her sister."
Kismet nodded her agreement.
"I know this breaks your flair for spontaneity," Kevin said with a smile, "but I'd like you to get to her first. Maybe someone who somewhat understands her way of thinking can convince her to give up peacefully."
Kevin's face showed that he didn't really think the plan would work, but he was clutching at straws at this point. Trisha relayed that she would give it a try, but Trisha already had doubts that Karina would still be at the apartment.
* * *
The curtain of night had fallen upon Monument City. The streets were still busy with cars and late night shoppers. Kismet leapt from rooftop to rooftop until she reached her destination. Kevin had told her which window led to Karina Duvall's apartment. Wearing her mask to cover her features, Kismet secured a line on the roof and descended the side of the building until she was in front of Duvall's window. She looked inside and found that Karina was in the apartment after all. It was the way she was dressed that made Kismet apprehensive. She was wearing a tight-fitting, white outfit that covered her right leg body and left arm.
Great, thought Kismet, first she gives me a bad name, now she rips off my costume.
There was a separation of the material that began at her left shoulder, crossed her heart, and ended at her waist. The upper part of the division was checkered like a chess board.
Chess! thought Kismet. Of course, it makes sense. She's a strategist. Certainly she would be interested in the oldest strategy game created by man. The checkered outfit and the arrowheads shaped like the knights in a chess game merely clinches it.
Kismet rapped on the glass. Karina, who had her back to the window, didn't seem to notice. Kismet rapped harder. Karina still did not hear.
What is she, deaf?
As soon as she thought it, Kismet noticed the all too familiar Telecommunications Device for the Deaf sitting on a table next to the phone. Other than that and a few pieces of furniture, the room seemed empty. There were no curtains on the window and no pictures on the walls. This made Kismet realize that she had been right, Karina had moved out. Now, she was sure that a trap lay waiting in the room.
Kismet discovered that the window was unlocked. She carefully lifted the pane and stepped into the apartment. As soon as she stood to her full height, Karina, as if by some sixth sense, whirled around and faced Kismet. Kismet tried hard not to react as she found herself standing in front of a nocked and drawn arrow aimed for her heart.
* * *
Barbara Walsh decided to appear at the Sixth Street apartment building slightly earlier than the lieutenant had anticipated.
"I'll just bet there's something else going down that he doesn't want me to know about."
Barbara watched the building carefully for almost an hour when she was surprised to see Kismet lower herself in front of the building.
"I knew it!"
She grabbed her camera and got out of her car. She took one more look up to locate the correct apartment and started her way up.
* * *
Kismet was tense, but she stood her ground. Soon, she was able to relax as the archer slowly relaxed her arrow.
"How did you get in here?"
Trisha didn't want Karina to know that she knew about her handicap, so she merely pointed to the window.
"No way, we're four stories up."
Kismet pointed upwards, and Karina understood that she indicated she had entered from the roof. Karina smiled.
"I must say I'm impressed. I never would have had the guts to try."
Her smile disappeared.
"Why are you here? I'm expecting the police to show up. I won't let them stop me." Karina paused. "Unless that article I saw in this morning's paper was true." The arrow was drawn again. "You work for that police officer, don't you?"
Now was the time for Kismet to communicate.
"I didn't come here to fight you," she signed. "I came to talk."
Karina covered her ears as if they betrayed her.
"How did you know I was deaf!?" she screamed.
Kismet continued to sign. "You didn't respond when I knocked on the window. It's alright. I cannot speak."
Karina looked at her with eyes wide in wonder. "You-you're a mute."
Kismet nodded. Karina let her hands drop, her own handicap now forgotten.
"We have a lot in common," said Karina.
She lowered her head. "Except that I left them a paper trail to follow. They know who I am."
She looked up at Kismet again. "They've never found out who you are, have they?"
Kismet shook her head. She began to sign again. "I came to talk to you. To ask you to stop the killing."
Karina tensed. "You expect me to show pity to those who have none? If that is the way you feel, I envy you. I, however, cannot be as altruistic as you."
"Why?" Kismet signed.
A dark look covered Karina's face. "They killed her. Stripped her off her dignity, then took her life. They destroyed her."
Kismet stepped closer. "Karina, what happened to your sister was the fault of that one man, not every criminal in existence."
Karina shot her a piercing glance. "You wouldn't understand. You're no different than the rest of them."
"I do understand what your feeling," pressed Kismet. "But, killing is not going to help your sister's spirit rest peacefully. Only your own spirit being at peace will do that. If you are willing to forgive the actions of a wayward human being, I'm sure she would, too."
A look of pure hatred filled Karina's expression. "Never! There will be no forgiveness! From this day forward they will have to answer to Chess for their crimes!"
Kismet realized that there was no reasoning with her any longer. Chess drew her bow, and Kismet unsheathed her sword. It was at that moment that Barbara Walsh entered the room. What happened next occurred too quickly for Kismet to react. If she had the ability to scream, she would have. Chess instinctively turned and fired the deadly shaft at Barbara's heart. The force hurled her into the hallway and slammed her into the wall. Seeing what had happened, Chess prepared to bolt.
In the following instant, Lt. Brown appeared with his gun drawn. Chess had nocked another arrow and was about to release it at Lt. Brown. It was then that Kismet reacted with lightning speed. She made a running leap across the room, knocking Kevin out of the path of the arrow. A sharp sting informed Kismet that she had not herself cleared the danger completely. The arrow had lodged itself into her right thigh. Chess in the meantime had made use of Kismet's line and ascended to the roof of the apartment building. It wasn't long before siren's could be heard outside the open window.
I guess she finally found the strength to use the line after all, thought Kismet with a gallows humor.
Lisa Harrigan appeared in the doorway with her weapon in hand. She saw Barbara Walsh in the hallway with an arrow protruding from her body. Inside the apartment, she found Lt. Brown lying on his back with Kismet on top of him. She pointed her gun at Kismet.
"Put that damned thing away!" roared Kevin.
Lisa was stung by the shock of his command. She watched in confusion as he carefully lifted Kismet off of him and laid her onto the floor.
"You okay?" he asked Kismet.
Kismet put a hand against his cheek and nodded. Kevin turned to Lisa. "Check on Ms. Walsh."
She nodded absently and left the room. Kevin returned his attention to Kismet. She used her hands to sign to him.
"The things I do to keep you alive."
"We've got to get you out of here," said Kevin.
He was preparing to lift her up. Kismet put up a hand to stop him. She sat up and, with Kevin's help, eased herself onto her feet.
"Look, we've got to stop the bleeding," said Kevin forcefully.
Kismet nodded, reached down and pulled the arrow from her leg. Kevin winced in empathy. Next, she removed her mask.
"Are you sure you want to do that?" asked Kevin looking back toward the door.
Kismet signed to him that there was nothing else to make a bandage with to stop the bleeding. Lisa had returned and was surprised to see Kismet unmasked. She was sitting on a small chair tearing the mask into strips and administering to her wound. Lisa looked at Kevin. "Then, the article was true," she said impassively.
"Yeah," sighed Kevin. "How's Ms. Walsh?"
"She'll live," replied Lisa sarcastically, "but her camera will never see another sunrise. It was a good thing she had it strapped around her neck."
Kismet had finished tying the cloth strips to her leg and was transferring her dagger to her left leg. A considerable amount of blood was on the floor.
"You must be pretty tough," marveled Lisa. "Most people would be unconscious after losing that much blood. But then, your not like most people, are you?"
Kismet smiled and shook her head.
"Lisa," said Kevin, "I need you to do me a favor."
Lisa knew what the lieutenant was going to ask her, but she let him finish anyway.
"I mean, I know how much of a dedicated cop you are, and I wouldn't want to force you to make a decision that would compromise..."
"Don't worry, sir," interrupted Lisa, "I'll keep your secret."
Kevin was silent. Kismet eyed Lisa with an expression of appreciation. Lisa turned to leave, but stopped short and turned her head back to the others. "But just remember, lieutenant. The moment you let my secret out, the same will happen to yours."
She continued her walk out to give Barbara Walsh assistance. Kevin let out a pent up sigh of relief. Kismet turned a curious glance up at Kevin as if to ask, "Secret?"
Kevin understood the unspoken question. "That information is on a `need to know' basis, and you don't need to know."
Kismet pouted slightly. Then she smiled and stood up.
"Are you sure you should be standing on that leg?" asked Kevin with genuine concern.
Kismet gave him a passionate kiss, and went to the window. Before she stepped out, she turned back to Kevin. "I'll be fine," she signed. Then, she grabbed the line and climbed up at an incredible pace.
Lisa had returned to the room. "A-ha, so that's how it is."
Kevin nearly jumped when she spoke. His cheeks were flushed. Lisa stood there with a broad grin. Kevin wiped his face with his hand. "Now I know why you don't laugh around the office. You like sadistic humor."
Lisa let out with a full and heartfelt laugh. It sounded like music to Lt. Brown's ears.
It wasn't long before Barbara had come to. The paramedics had arrived and helped her outside. Lt. Brown and Lisa Harrigan followed. Several lab officers were dispatched to check the room for clues. Lt. Brown had learned that Kismet had been spotted leaving by the window. A few police officers gave chase, but she eventually gave them the slip. Kevin walked up to Barbara Walsh. She was nursing a lump on the back of her head. Apparently, she had hit it against the hallway wall when the arrow knocked her back. Barbara looked up at Kevin.
"I heard you almost caught Kismet up there," she said in a sheepish voice. "I guess I had made a mistake."
"Well, we're only human, Ms. Walsh," said Kevin evenly.
"I also heard that Kismet was fighting against Chess. She was wounded by an arrow. Is that true?"
"Considering what kind of person Kismet is, wounded would be the only way I could probably catch her," said Kevin smiling a bit. "But then, a creature is most dangerous when wounded and cornered. I'm lucky I'm not going out in an ambulance."
Barbara managed a nod of agreement, although it caused her head to throb.
"You'd better get a doctor to look at that," said Kevin. "You could have sustained a concussion."
"Don't worry about me," said Barbara. "It's been a pleasure working with you, lieutenant."
"Wish I could say the same," replied Kevin.
Lt. Brown turned back to the gathering of officers who were questioning the residents of the apartment building about its mysterious former occupant. He made a mental note that life in Monument City was never dull. He would have to check on Trisha later to see how her leg was doing. By now, the muscle should have reknit itself, and the skin should be scarring over. By tomorrow evening, the leg would look like nothing had ever happened to it.
"Okay, boys," called out Kevin, "let's wrap this up."
He got into his car accompanied by Lisa and headed back to the precinct.
* * *
Trisha reclined into to tub of hot water and sighed as tense muscled finally relaxed. She had been upset that Chess had gotten away, but now was the time to temporarily forget such things. Trisha examined the scab that covered what was once a hole in her leg. Despite the fact that she hated being the kind of genetic freak that she was, it had its advantages.
Lisa had been right. A normal person would have slipped into unconsciousness after losing as much blood as she had. In fact, she might have died from it. Fortunately, she was no normal person. Her body could manufacture blood nearly three times faster than the normal human provided it had the nutrients to cover it.
Trisha scrubbed off the dried blood that still clung to her skin. It wasn't much fun playing human pin cushion to bullets and arrows, but sometimes it was necessary. After all, life as a superhuman vigilante was always a guessing game. There aren't any role models to fall back upon. Not real ones, anyway. Trisha simply had to make things up as she went.
The one big problem was that now another person knew her true self. It seemed to be getting harder and harder to keep a secret these days. Hopefully, Kevin would make sure that she kept the secret.
I wonder what her secret was, thought Trisha.
Realizing that she would never find out, Trisha was content to slip back into the bath water and close her eyes in contemplation.
* * *
Kevin sat at his desk finishing the report on the previous night's incident. There was no way for them to track Karina Duvall, now. Kevin had hoped to have Kismet at least get her to plead guilty. They could have gotten her off on an insanity plea. It wouldn't have been too far from the truth.
A shadow loomed over Kevin's desk. He looked up to find Lisa Harrigan hovering behind his chair.
"Something I can do for you?" asked Kevin.
"You free for lunch?"
"That's not very damned funny," groused Kevin.
"No, I mean it," said Lisa earnestly.
Kevin thought for a moment. "I suppose so. Why?"
Lisa leaned in closer. "I was curious. How did you meet her?"
Kevin felt a tight feeling of apprehension in his gut. "I don't know," he said. "I don't think that's a subject I want to discuss."
"Please," Lisa entreated him.
Kevin shook his head. "Why do you want to know?"
"Let's just say I've been a...fan for some time," said Lisa. "Believe it or not, she was the one who inspired me to become a police officer."
Lisa shook her head. "As serious as a heart attack."
"As usual," retorted Kevin smiling.
He glanced at the clock on the precinct wall.
"Alright, you win," Kevin sighed. "I guess that's my problem. I just let you women walk all over me."
"Com'on, sir. I'll still respect your authority."
Kevin chuckled. "Okay, okay. Where do you want to eat?"
"Anywhere else but Sydney's."
"Deal!" said Kevin.
The two headed for a small cafe on the east side of town. The weather had warmed considerably, so they sat at an outdoor table. Almost immediately, they were met by a waiter who promptly took their order.
"So, you wanted to know how we met, huh?" began Kevin after the waiter had left.
"Well, to be honest, there isn't much to tell," said Kevin rubbing his chin.
"Com'on," said Lisa sternly, "don't hand me that."
"Okay, okay. You see, about a year after she first appeared on the scene, we had strict orders to arrest her on sight and to shoot if she gave resistance. Now, personally I didn't think that was necessary."
"Naturally," said Lisa with a glint of humor in her eyes.
"Anyway, I was coolin' out at this very cafe when someone tried to hit me with a brick. When I looked at it, there was a note attached to it asking me to join her in the alley beside the cafe. I figured that since she was risking her freedom to talk to me, it must have been important."
The waiter appeared with their orders, placed the plates on the table and retreated back into the cafe.
"So," continued Kevin, "I decided to chance it. I had never gotten a good look at this Kismet person before, and I figured this would be an interesting learning experience."
"So that's why you chose to eat here for lunch," said Lisa.
"Yeah, I suppose so," mused Kevin. "Actually, I don't know why I picked this place, but now that you mention it..."
"So did you see her in the alley?" asked Lisa.
She reached down, picked up her fork and began eating the spaghetti and clam sauce she had ordered.
"Well, I stepped into the alley. It was actually a small service hall. It had a brick wall at the end that closed it off. There at the end, sitting on a trash can, was Kismet. She wasn't wearing a mask. I was kind of surprised."
"I can imagine," said Lisa through forkfuls of pasta.
"I'll pretend I didn't hear that," said Kevin with a smirk. "Anyway, she identifies herself with a card emblazoned with a `K'. That was a trademark of hers in the early years. She used to leave calling cards at crime scenes where she had been."
"Really?" said Lisa with interest. "How come she doesn't do it any more?"
"Well, once the media had brandished her name in almost every newscast, it became unnecessary," said Kevin. "Anyway, she wanted to work closely with a particular officer so that she would have a more reliable influx of information with which to work."
"Why do you think she picked you?" asked Lisa with a mischievous grin.
"You know, I knew you were going to ask that," said Kevin. "According to Kismet, she claims that it was because of my susceptibility to feminine wiles."
"I guess I should have figured on that one," said Lisa.
"She also said she was attracted to me," said Kevin in mock arrogance.
"That's not surprising," said Lisa.
Kevin wasn't sure what to make of that, so he decided to play it off.
"Well, anyhow, we worked out a contract. Basically, if she ever gets discovered, which is highly unlikely, I'm supposed to disavow having any knowledge of her actions. Of course, that was before things changed between us. We sort of...torched the contract."
"Well, that's certainly romantic," said Lisa.
"So, you've heard my story," said Kevin picking up his cold roast beef sandwich. "Let's hear yours."
"Me?" squeaked Lisa.
"Sure," said Kevin. "How'd you get interested in vigilantes?"
Lisa started to blush.
"Well, I don't know. I suppose it was because Kismet is a woman. There aren't too many heroines out there for people interested in criminology."
"I suppose not," said Kevin with a chuckle.
"I'm serious," said Lisa. "I mean, even though I'm a police officer, I've always felt that law enforcement organizations were, well, too organized. We spend so much time on protecting the rights of the criminals that we seem to be neglecting the real problem."
Kevin frowned. "I'm not sure if that's a fair assessment."
"Really? I'm surprised. Especially since you help someone who's above the law."
Kevin sat rigidly in his chair.
Lisa took a breath. "I'm sorry, sir. I didn't mean it to come out like that. What I mean is, we are the punitive force, not the preventative force. People like Kismet should be cleaning up the bad guys while we should try and prevent new ones from springing up."
Kevin smiled. "You sound like an idealist, Harrigan."
Lisa poked at her lunch. "Maybe I am." She twirled the fork and took another bite of her meal. "Do you think I could meet her?" she asked.
Uh oh, thought Kevin. Here I go again.
Kevin cleared his throat. "Well, that's really up to her."
"Would you ask," pleaded Lisa.
Kevin sighed. "I suppose I could do that. I'll let you know."
Lisa smiled. "Thanks, lieutenant."
"Please, call me Kevin."
"I don't think so, sir," said Lisa shaking her head. "Wouldn't want the guys to talk."
She gave Kevin a sinister smile. "And I wouldn't want to get you in trouble with your woman."
* * *
Kevin was standing on the visitor's terrace of the clock tower. The night was cold, and a chilling breeze was picking up. Kevin had on a heavy coat. No one was here as the place was technically closed. However, Kevin was able sneak into the stair well that led here. An almost imperceptible thump was heard behind Kevin, but he was not startled. He had been expecting it. Kevin turned and faced Kismet, who was leaning casually against the wall of the building.
"Hi there," said Kevin amiably.
Kismet pulled her mask off and greeted him with kiss. She realized that there was a specific reason why he had agreed to meet her in such an unusual spot, but it could wait for a bit.
"I need to talk to you about a couple of things," began Kevin. "First, I'd like you to try and find Chess again. That is, if it's possible. If you could get her to change her mind about killing people, I'd be much appreciative."
Kismet gave him a puzzled look. "You don't want to arrest her?" she asked in sign.
Kevin pursed his lips. "I'd been talking to friend of mine who got me to thinking about the reason why I agreed to work with you."
"You mean it wasn't my gorgeous legs?" asked Kismet playfully.
Kevin chuckled. "Okay, the second reason why I agreed to work with you."
"Anyway," continued Kevin, "I think people like you and Aura and the Pack, even Chess once she's straightened out, are really what we need in law enforcement. Within moderation, of course."
"Why, Kevin," signed Kismet, "isn't that treason?"
"Perhaps," said Kevin. "But as my friend pointed out, we're only covering one half of the spectrum. Punishment. We're not doing anything about prevention. As long as we're working on the one side, we're gonna need all the help we can get."
Kismet was genuinely surprised as the level of soul searching Kevin had been doing. She gave him a comforting embrace.
"Oh, yeah, before I forget," said Kevin. "There's a friend of mine who wants to meet you."
"Lisa," signed Kismet.
"She says she been a fan of yours for quite a while. She says you were the one who inspired her to become an officer of the law."
Kismet's eyebrows went up. "Oh really? Imagine that."
She seemed to ponder the implications. Perhaps her existence wasn't so opposed to the established judicial system after all. This made Kismet even more interested in Lisa Harrigan. She looked at Kevin with a smile.
"Tell her I would like very much to meet her. Where does she live?"
"Uhm, 2600 Kepler Street, Apartment Seven. Why?"
"I'll meet her at her place. Tomorrow night."
Kismet turned to the steel line that had allowed her to descend to the terrace from the clock face. She stopped and turned back to Kevin.
"Oh, yeah. Tell her to leave a window open for me."
She grabbed the line and scrambled up. Within seconds, she had disappeared into the night.
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