Chapter 17:

Chapter 12: Feather Trail (Part 1)

Flight of The Blackbird

The next few days were peaceful. Andy was nursing his broken face and his more broken ego, so he wasn’t in school. His reign over the class was coming to a close, as fewer people feared him and his goons when they figured out what had happened to them. Kota was praised as a hero, which was exactly what I had hoped for. When asked who else helped beat them up, I told him to say it was a friend from a different school to keep my identity a secret.

I sat at my desk talking to Tomoe about a song she’d heard, but my mind was elsewhere. And by elsewhere, I mean I was trying not to stare at her. She loved old-world music, and would always get really into talking about it, and it was fun to listen to her. She stopped paying attention to the world around her, fully engrossed in her songs.

Despite her shy, introverted nature, she was a heavy metal fan, which struck me as odd but welcome, being one myself. We talked for hours about the songs we liked, their meanings, bands long since deceased, and anything else music-related. They were some of my favorite moments of my time with her, seeing her open her shell a little bit. Her eyes glowed and practically sparkled as she spoke, filling my stomach with knots. Her smile made me start to realize something.

This is a smile I want to protect, so it can stay near me. Though at the moment, she protects me more than I do her. Ironic, ain’t it.

“This song, it’s really dark and gloomy but it’s my absolute favorite from the album. You need to check it out…”

It came to my attention during this particular conversation just how much time I spend with her. Fog overcame my brain and I stopped paying attention for a moment, opting to think.

I have to make a decision soon. She knows everything about me, and as much as I hate to admit it, I’m starting to fall in love with her. I was briefed by Oakman on my choices here. One, I can erase her memory of me and everything about me. I really don’t want to do that, but it seems like the best option. Two, I could turn her into an assassin. The best-case scenario for me, but I don’t want her to live my life. The third option is off the table, I’d rather off myself than have to kill her. What the hell should I do?

I probably looked like a zombie, because Tomoe stopped talking and tapped me on the shoulder. I looked up at her and let out a breath.

“I’m sorry… I got lost for a second,” I said apologetically.

She just nodded and smiled.

“I’m sure you have a lot on your mind right now. I want to help you with it… but I don’t know if I can,” She responded.

If only I could talk to you about this…

“Oh… It’s alright. I’m fine, I just got caught up thinking about something that isn’t super important right now. Sorry about that,” I repeated with a sheepish laugh.

She chuckled as well, but I could tell my response hurt her a little bit. I apologized internally, then urged her to continue. We soon forgot all about that exchange and she returned to her bubbly, music-loving self.

*** *** ***

The remainder of the day passed quickly, and soon enough, the four of us were walking home together once again. Shiro and Kota walked behind us for once, making the journey from the high school to Benny’s a quieter one. No matter how talkative she got when with me, she was still Tomoe, and was quiet when in a group of even her closest friends. I felt a bit proud of myself for being able to bring out her outgoing side.

Definitely a life achievement…

When I finished gloating to myself like a self-righteous idiot, I looked up from the concrete and noticed we had arrived at Benny’s. We went inside and did as we do every day, homework and drinks in our corner of the restaurant. I changed my clothes in the break room, unable to wear the stuffy uniform any longer. Our workload was less than most days, it being a Friday and all. Kota yawned an hour in and decided to go home early, and Shiro followed. I continued to work vigorously, finishing only a few minutes after their departure. I swirled the ice cubes around in my cola and watched Tomoe work. She was smarter than me, but also got distracted easily, so it took her a bit longer to do homework around friends.

After another fifteen minutes or so, she let out a sigh and stacked her papers.

“Phew! Finally finished,” she said way more energetically than I could ever be after hours of homework.

I was leaned back on the booth with my feet on the chair, my mind empty and calm. This was seen by Tomoe as an opportunity to karate chop me on the head, filling my empty mind with… ouch.

“What was that for?” I complained.

“How will I ever feel safe if my noble knight falls asleep?” she responded sarcastically.

I sighed and lifted myself from the chair. Benny saw me stand and came over to us.

“How’s it going, you two?” He asked.

“We’re good, sir,” Tomoe said politely.

“I’ve told you, you don’t need to keep calling me sir, just call me Benny.”

They conversed a bit, and I headed to the restroom to relieve my bladder of all the cola. A man entered the bathroom behind me, which put me on alert. I walked to a urinal, but did nothing. I tensed up and looked into the mirror in front of me, watching his every move. He reached his arm into his coat and extracted something shiny. A handgun, silenced, .45 caliber.

He’s a trained pro. Now I know who sent you, that slimy little shit.

I reacted immediately, sending a roundhouse kick into his arm and knocking the gun loose. He grunted and flicked a knife from his coat into his hand. I whipped around and sent a punch to his face from my other side. He blocked it with his arm, but I could tell I’d hurt him a bit.

Not as tough as you look!

I kicked again, directly at the gut, but he blocked this as well. I had no weapons other than my wires, so I formulated a plan. I slid the movement one out of my wrist and blocked his incoming attack, then swiped it as his other side, knocking him back even further into the corner of the bathroom. Then, using a bit of a dirty trick, I stomped on his foot, which knocked him off balance. I took in a breath, then fired my other wire at an angle off the ground so that it pierced his wrist. Losing all movement to his hand, he dropped the knife. It clattered to the floor and retracted the wire, then fired it again at his head. His body went limp and he slid down the wall, head sliced in half by the force of the fall. Brain matter leaked from the wound.

I released the breath I’d been holding. In front of me was a corpse and gallons of blood. The porcelain tiles were stained crimson with the life force of a man I knew nothing about.

I’m in public… what should I do? If I burn him it’ll set off the smoke detectors...

I looked around for a way out of this situation. My eyes shot from end to end of the room, and finally spotted a trash can. I walked over to the door, held my wrist to the scanner, and the door locked. Then, I began the most arduous, disgusting, horrific disposal of my life.

I gulped and flung my arm down, and with it my razor-sharp wire.

Chop chop chop

Skin was flayed like butter, and bone sliced like bread. Blood soaked the tiles on the bathroom floor. After successfully dismembering the body, I picked up the lifeless pieces and put them in the trash can. All in all, his body weighed about ninety kilos, too heavy for a trash bag.

Guess… I’ve gotta bring the whole can outside…

Before leaving the bathroom, I opened the closet and grabbed the cleaning supplies. Luckily for me, the flooring was ceramic tiles, so the blood would wash away and down the drain on the floor easily. I sprayed the floor with cleaner, grabbed the hose off the closet wall, and sprayed the blood away.

Five, ten, fifteen minutes later, the blood was completely gone. I had to pay special attention to the brain matter, as it stuck to the floor like glue. I put away the supplies, unlocked and opened the bathroom door, and lifted the heavy garbage can. I held it in front of me to block as much of the blood as I possibly could as I made my way out the back door. Once outside and in the alleyway, I used my finger lighter to light the contents of the trashcan on fire. The sickening smell of burning flesh emulated throughout the avenue, hitting my stomach like a shotgun blast.

I threw up into a nearby dumpster right as I heard the door inside open. Tomoe stood in the doorway with a sad look on her face. She brought her shirt up over her nose so she didn’t have to smell the gut-wrenching body. She walked up behind me and patted me on the back, helping me get out the vomit, then put her arm under my shoulders and helped me to my feet.

“We need to get you home, so you can clean yourself up,” She said calmly.

What the hell would I do without you…?

Arm in arm, we stumbled back to my apartment.

*** *** ***

Tomoe was sitting on the couch in front of my television when I exited the bathroom after taking a shower, changing my clothes, and brushing my teeth several times. I walked into the living room and sat down next to her.

“Hey…” I began, “Thanks for helping me out back there.”

“Oh, don’t mention it. Can’t have you passing out in an alley after almost getting murdered, can we?”

“You… knew what happened?”

“I mean… a man followed you into the bathroom, you took forty-five minutes, then came out with broken eyes and covered in blood. I may not know much about the world of assassins, but I can take basic context clues,” she said with another soft chop to the head.

Note to self, observant and will karate chop for any reason.

“I apologize for doubting you, O great one,” I replied with sarcasm of my own.

This earned me yet another chop. Tired of having my brains rattled, I got up and went to make some coffee.

“Want some crappy coffee?” I asked her.

“Not really, but if you have crappy tea I’ll take some of that,” She responded.

“I have a bit of crappy tea somewhere…” I said while searching through my cabinets to find something that was maybe a little… less crappy? I settled on some Longjing tea I had bought in the predominantly Chinese area of Genesis a few weeks prior. I had a mission in which I chased someone through that area and ended up taking them out in an alleyway and burning them on a roof.

Fun times…

Tea was brewed and stomachs were filled. I brought a plate of cheese and crackers into the living room to fill my previously emptied stomach, but ended up only getting to eat half of it because of an equally hungry Tomoe. We sat on my couch and watched a murder mystery documentary, and she solved the case before the movie even reached its conclusion.

“You’re gonna have a future solving the crimes I commit if you keep this up,” I joked.

“Detective Tomoe is on the case!” She said in a really bad Sherlock Holmes voice.

She’s trying to cheer me up… and it’s working.

Just then, I heard a knock on the door. I groaned and stood up.

Can’t be Tomoe’s mom, Tomoe already talked to her. And Kota’s out cold, Shiro said so on the group chat. Who could this be…?

I trudged over to the door, irritated that someone was knocking this late.

“It’s ten pm, what do you want?!” I shouted, accidentally letting a bit of my annoyance show.

“Have you forgotten me already?” The man behind the door growled in a low, gravelly voice.

My eyes widened and Tomoe froze in the chair, nearly dropping her drink. I rushed to the peephole to make sure I wasn’t hearing things. But when I put my up to the glass, sure enough, it was him. His large arm had a handgun in it, pointed at the door. He smiled manically, as though he’d lost his mind.

“You!” I growled even lower than he had, “I should have killed you the first time I saw you.”


To Be Continued…