Copyright © 2012 Corrina Lawson
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
The woman stepped out from the shadows, hands up. Whatever Al had expected her to look like, this was not it.
She was dressed completely in black.
No, she was completely covered in black.
A black fedora hat, black leather pants, a tight black jacket that no doubt hid a black T-shirt underneath and even a full-length black cape dramatically draped around her shoulders.
“Cape’s a little over the top.”
She raised her head, and he could now see below the rim of the hat. Her face was covered by black mesh, the kind they used in Halloween costumes. All of her was over the top, like something out of a comic book.
“What is this? Am I supposed to be scared?”
“I’m guessing you are scared since you’re pointing a gun at me.”
Wiseass. “What’s your name?”
Gimme a break. “Come closer. Let me see you’re not hiding anything under the cape.”
She swept the cape over her shoulders. The jacket hugged her chest, proving that she was definitely a woman. The skintight clothing hugged her in all the right places, especially around her small waist. Nicely shaped legs too.
He saw no weapons or hint of any weapon.
“Will you please put your gun down?” she asked. “If I’d wanted to hurt you, I could have done that without showing myself. It’s not like you noticed me before I spoke up.”
Definitely a wiseass. Great. It was true he’d paid little attention to his surroundings as he’d stumbled up the steps to his apartment. She’d likely slipped in behind him, somehow.
All he’d wanted was a few minutes of peace and quiet. Not another freak. One today was enough.
He took a couple of steps to the wall and flicked the switch on the living-room light. He stared at her for a minute, and when she made no move, finally holstered his gun. Training said never do that in the face of an enemy, but hey, he was in a mood to gamble. Either that, or too tired to care.
“Who are you?” he asked. “Besides Noir?”
“I know who killed all those bank employees. I know who kidnapped the teller,” she said, avoiding his question. “The monster’s name is Jack. I can tell you all about him.”
The killer was a monster, but this one, despite wearing black leather well, was also some sort of freak. It made a certain weird logic they were acquainted.
Al collapsed on his couch and waved his hand at the armchair across from him. There would be a price for her information. There was always a price. No one volunteered to get involved in a homicide investigation without wanting something in return. Though he had to admit, he’d talk to the devil himself to prevent another fucking mess like that in the bank and to save that kid from becoming another casualty.
Noir hesitated a second before sitting across from him.
“What do you want in exchange for your information?” he asked.
“All I want is for you to help me find Jack, his sister and the missing teller.”
“The monster’s name is Jack. So you’ve said twice now. He has a sister too?”
“Yeah. Jack’s human—well, he was once—but he’s just what you said, a monster now. He’s not in charge of anything. Jill, his sister, is the planner and probably the one who sent him to the bank.”
“Jack and Jill?” Al snorted. That upped the freak factor. And he’d thought it couldn’t go any higher.
“I so wish they were a nursery rhyme,” Noir said. “Jill is some sort of doctor or scientist. She probably needed the cash from the robbery to fund her research.”
Noir leaned back in the chair and crossed her legs. Her boots—black, of course—were knee-high. Sleek and dangerous. Her getup should have made her look ridiculous, but somehow it didn’t. As superhero costumes went, it worked. He wondered how old she was. She seemed so self-possessed, but she had a young voice.
“What type of research is Jill involved in?” Al asked.
“Genetic research to alter body types. She’s what caused Jack to change from human into that monster you saw on the video.”
A mad scientist? Great. Add that to the crazy list. “That’s hard to believe.”
Noir could be as unbalanced as this “Jack” obviously was. Too bad. He wondered if her face matched the killer body.
He shook his head, walked to the kitchen and pulled a Coke out of the fridge. He needed a break to think of his next move. She was either crazy or had information he needed. Or both. Whichever it was, he wanted to keep her talking.
“Want a drink?” he called.
“Right, that would require you to show your face.”
“Do you want to hear this or not?” she snapped.
He opened the Coke and leaned in the kitchen doorway. “If I hadn’t seen the bank video, I’d think you were insane. And I’d be arresting you for breaking into my apartment.”
“But you’ve seen what Jack can do. And you need me.”
“Maybe.” He chugged the Coke, wishing it were beer. But not while he was on duty. Okay, probably not ever, if he was being honest with himself. “But why come to me? Sure, I’m a detective, but I wasn’t the senior detective on the scene.”
“I saw you there,” she said in a whisper. “I saw how you reacted to the victims. You care. You want to help.”
“You were watching me?” Just how had she snuck into the crime scene?
“I was looking for Jack.” A pause. “I picked up his trail but I got there too late.”
“I didn’t see anyone who looked remotely like you.” Though how could he know that when he really hadn’t seen her? There was no telling what she looked like without the cape, cowl, hat and all that black leather.
“I stayed out of sight,” she said.
“I’ll bet.” He sighed. “Look, I know Jack’s real. I know I need to catch him. That’s why I’m listening to you. But how do I know your information is good? For all I know, you’re as crazy as he is.”
“I can tell you what kind of equipment Jill uses for her lab and some of the chemicals she needs. Would that help track her down to where the hostage might be?”
“It would.” It definitely would. Crazy or not, it was the best lead he had, and that missing bank teller wasn’t getting any safer as time passed. But he needed more to go on.
Al set the empty can on the counter. “The thing is, I need a reason to trust you. For all I know, you could be working with Jack and Jill. Or making them up. Or have a hidden agenda. Right now, all I have is someone who broke into my place. You see the problem?”
She stood and the cape swirled around her. “I’ve got to stop them. I’ve got to save the hostage.”
“Why you?” he said. “What’s your angle?”
She said nothing.
“Maybe you have a speech ready about great power bringing great responsibility?”
She snorted. “Not likely.”
“At least let me see your face. I can’t trust someone who won’t look me in the eye.”
“You’ll be waiting a long time for that.” She put out a hand. “But, yeah, I see your problem. I know I sound crazy—” She began pulling off a glove, finger by finger. “Like I said, Jill’s playing with altering DNA. I don’t know exactly what she’s doing. I didn’t pay enough attention in science class, I guess. But I’m familiar with the results.”
Noir finished taking off the glove and held up her arm for inspection. “Jill did this to me.”
There was no hand above the wrist cuff.
“She cut off your hand? Fuck!” Al walked closer.
“No, you’ve got it wrong,” she said. “Hold out your hand and I’ll show you.”
He did as she asked. She extended the arm that ended at the wrist to him, as if she meant to give him a phantom handshake.
His hand was gripped by…something. It felt just like a handshake. He could feel the impressions of her fingers on the back of his hand.
But he couldn’t see them.
His mouth fell open. “Your hand is invisible?”
“Not just my hand.” Her grip tightened. “My whole body is invisible.”