I watched the car sinking into the lake. It wasn’t the vehicle I was interested in, but the man inside. His heartbeat already slowing, the nervous system barely alive even at this point. Brain death was already certain, with less than two minutes before full organ failure. Cecelia’s modified sweat glands did their job as perfectly as ever.
The drug would break into carbon dioxide and water in a matter of minutes after he died, leaving no trace of poison. The blow on his head and water in his lungs would convince a coroner the death was an accident. They’d just assume he lost control of the vehicle, crashed into the lake and was knocked out.
“He’s dead.” How many was that, now? I lost count over a year ago. His only crime was to give two girls walking on the side of a country road a ride to town. He didn’t even want a ‘thank you’ from me or Cecelia. In fact, it was because of his hesitance than Cecelia tagged him with her poison in the first place. Not that he had any chance of getting out alive anyway.
Cecelia’s arms wrapped around me from behind. “He would have done something to deserve it eventually, that’s just how men are. I don’t get what you see in them.” She ran her tongue along my ear. “Girls are much more fun.”
That’s not the problem. “We’re going to have to walk now.”
“Oh, that’s fine, I can carry you. It’s only a couple miles.”
“Then we have to find what we need.” She let me step away. “We should get going, we don’t have a lot of time.”
“You worry too much.” I felt the rush of wind as Cecelia jumped over my head and landed about six feet in front of me. She twirled to face me, her arms spread wide. She’d unbottoned her blouse at some point, allowing me a look at her.
I took a moment to appreciate my twin’s shapeshifted figure. For the time being, she looked like she could be my mother, though I didn’t think our figures would ever be that full. “There’s always scum running around in a city this size, especially on a Friday. I bet we find what we’re looking for in an hour.”
I looked at the the lights in the distance. “If you say so.” Raleigh was possibly the biggest city we’d ever been brave enough to visit. Over a million people in the area meant a hundred native Imbued, plus any who moved here for jobs.
“With your awesome powers? I bet we’ll be done in five minutes or less.” Cecelia started buttoning up her shirt. It was too small for her, but that just made her look better somehow.
I looked down, smiling despite myself. “Flatterer.”
“Maybe, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. You can see people from, like, half a mile away through walls and know what their insides look like better than any hospital could. How is that not awesome?” Cecelia always did know how to make me feel better. “That’s why you’re the Hunter and I’m the Killer. Just like raccoon hunting.”
“Isn’t it the dog that does the tracking and the hunter that does the killing?”
Cecelia’s predatory smile made me weak in the knees. “Well, I do love hearing you pant. Bu~ut you’d rather take care of business first.” She turned, putting a sway in her steps as she walked away. “Your fault for being the responsible one.”
I hurried to catch up to her. She was the only family I had, and I was going to do my best for her. The promise of a reward later didn’t hurt, but it was because I loved her. I prepared myself for the chaos of a cramped city with all its distractions.
It turns out Cecelia was right; I did worry too much. Raleigh was less packed than some of the towns we’d passed through, only a lot bigger. I had no problem sorting through people as we walked until finding the target I needed. In the end, it only took about two hours after getting into the city.
She was in her early twenties with cuts on her arms and bruises all over her body. I could see she had some kind of drug in her, but it wasn’t anything I recognized.
Four men were with her; one played lookout, two held her down and the last was in the middle of raping her. My senses were sharp enough to let me know at least one of the others had his turn already.
“There!” I pointed toward the attack, about two blocks north and a block east of us. “The alleyway.”
Cecelia ran off, but not at superhuman speed. I walked after, watching through my power instead of trying to chase her down. She could take care of herself and I didn’t want to almost get shot again. She was the Killer, and I was the Hunter.
She stopped running right before turning the corner where the lookout could see her. She stumbled into his view and rested her hand on the wall. Cecelia wasn’t just acting drunk, she put drugs into her own body.
The lookout’s heartrate kicked up. He turned to say something to his buddies. I should learn how to read lips. They laughed while one of the other men got off the victim and rushed over to the lookout. No surprise; Cecelia was probably way hotter than the girl his friends were playing with.
He stepped back into the alley next to the other guy, both of them waiting for their prey. I smiled at the thrill of what Cecelia was about to do them. They yanked my sister into the alley the moment she stepped into the path. Cecelia struggled while being dragged in, her yelling quiet enough that I couldn’t hear it from only about a block away.
The lookout punched her in the face. I watched in awe as Cecelia flexed her power, opened her mouth and caught the man’s hand in it. When her jaw snapped shut, it was with all the force of a bear trap and teeth sharper than a knife. Before he had a chance to scream she spit his fingers out at his face.
She smashed the back of her head into the other guy’s face, shattering both cheekbones and everything between them. What killed him was when his head slammed into the alley wall hard enough to break his neck.
Cecelia thrust her fingers forward like a knife into the throat of the idiot who tried to punch her. His death wouldn’t be so quick as the other guy.
The two guys still by their victim only now realized something was wrong. They were faster than most; sometimes it took thirty seconds for some of them to figure out they should run. These guys were moving in under four seconds. Well, one guy was. The other tripped over his pants and was trying to get back up.
Cecelia made the twenty or so feet to that guy in a single jump, landing on his back. Her heels hit his ribs in such a way that they broke and cut open both his lungs. It might take minutes before he finally drowned on his blood, but he was already beyond the power of medicine to save. Unable to scream or pick himself off the street, he just soiled himself.
Cecelia grabbed something, then threw it at the last man. It wasn’t until it punched through his left Achilles tendon that I could see it as a large screwdriver. Maybe they used it to threaten their victim. Thus came the first real noise from the alley, as the man screamed. It only lasted a second before Cecelia grabbed is throat and started squeezing.
I looked around, to see if anyone realized what happened. The emotions of those closest were some mix of fear and guilt. My heart sank. They knew what those men were doing, and none of them even called the cops. Cecelia’s right, they’re all monsters. Every last one.
With the supposed witnesses looking the other way, I dipped into the alley. Not that I was afraid of being recognized; I didn’t have my sister’s powers, but it didn’t take powers to wear loose clothes and a wig.
Now that I could see the victim, she wasn’t much to look at. Dark brown skin, way too much makeup on, and trashy clothes. With Cecelia busy strangling the last of her attackers, she was doing her best to cover herself with her torn clothes. Not that they covered much even when new.
She looked at me, her heart pumping harder now than when those men were busy with her. “Is you herus?” A fat lip made it hard to understand her, or maybe it was the drugs. She was a regular user of something, probably meth based on how skinny she was.
People are stupid. “Do heroes around here rip throats out a lot?”
Somehow, that actually calmed her down. “No, I guess not.”
I almost wanted to scream at her for being so damn stupid. Any sane human being would be running away right now. It wouldn’t help, of course, but better than standing there waiting to die.
I smiled and did my best to look sweet and innocent. “Mommy and I are new to town.”
It was safe to be honest; she’d never have a chance to tell. “Florida.” I looked at Cecelia now that she was heading back to us. She stopped choking her victim in favor of just cracking open his skull and leaving his brain exposed to open air. Most likely, it would be the rats hiding under the dumpster that killed him.
“Oh. Wha’d ya leaf? I wanna moof thar.”
Cecelia answered for me. “It was just time for a change.” Somehow, she didn’t have a single drop of blood on her. “We should get you to a hospital.”
The woman’s heartbeat jumped again. Cecelia would have no trouble hearing it. “Nuh. I just wanna git clean.” I could tell she was trying to find a way to justify her lies. “They ain’t goin’ ta jail.”
As excuses go, it fooled no one, but it was exactly what we wanted to hear. Cecelia put her arm around the woman. “I guess so. Come on, let’s get you home.”
“Okay.” The woman looked uncomfortable now. Through the drugs and trauma, her survival instincts were finally starting to kick in. Not that they’d do her much good; Cecelia could kill her just as easily as the four rapists.
“So, is this city always so violent?” I watched as a new drug started going through the woman’s system. Some sort of amphetamine absorbed through her skin from Cecelia. I was so jealous at how good she was at using her power. “We just got here and stumbled across you.”
A lie; this was the first truly violent crime we found after hours of using my power to search. Unless you counted those guys duking it out behind a bar, this was a peaceful city.
“Only ta blacks.” Her lips were so swollen that the ‘o’ sounded like an ‘a’.
“No pimp to protect you?” The woman tensed, ready to struggle away from Cecelia. “Don’t worry, we aren’t judging. It’s your body, do whatever you want to it. Or we don’t have to talk about that. Maybe you could tell us a bit about the city, instead? We might want to stay here a while, and it’d be great to have a tour guide. Any good hotspots around?”
“Yeah. Places to hang out, maybe ones with gangs?” Cecelia asked the question like others asked where to get a good coffee. “I love playing with gangs, they bleed pretty. Some even try to fight back.”
“Oh. Yeah.” I could almost see the wheels in her head; hope to point the violent psycho at someone else. “Hewitage is the big’un. They’s a white bower gang. Owns most a th’ city, but we’s in Snakes tewitowy here. They’s a biker gang, they’s cool long as I gib weebies. I jus’ got unlucky tanight.”
Cecelia pulled the woman a little closer. “I could go for a freebie, myself.” I tried not to be jealous. “So, what about the heroes? Can’t they stop a simple gang or two?”
“Uh, they’s got Stawall, she’s got dahkness bowers. Bliss does healing that knocks beoble out.”
“An offensive healer?” I couldn’t help but speak up. “That’s a weird power, wonder how it works.”
“Uh, I dunno.”
I followed along listening and remembering. This city was five times bigger than anything we’d dealt with in the last two years, and that meant five times the chances for something to go wrong. Cecelia believed we could take anything thrown at us, so I had to be alert enough for both of us.