Captain Mary Smith is on a stake out, trying to catch one of the city's most wanted killers.
But when things ttake a turn for the worst, will she survive to go after the killer for a second time?
This was the monster she was looking for.
Blade in hand, she leaned closer to the wall, eyes filtering to either side of the alleyway. The heavy footsteps were getting closer, could she hear someone wheezing, gasping for breath? The comms device buzzed in her pocket. That would be Rosaline checking up on her. She shot it an unimpressed look and edged forwards, her back straight against the wall.
Maybe she should have told someone she was leaving. But then again, maybe Rosaline should cut her some slack and relax the strict rules. It wasn’t like she was one of the newbies, she was a veteran at this. She knew what she was doing.
She frowned as the footsteps which were nearing her hiding spot suddenly stopped.
There was no way he could have seen her.
Leaning forward so she could peek around the wall. Her heart almost stopped.
Empty, there was no one there.
How on earth had he managed to do that?
Stepping away from the wall, she twisted the blade around in her hands as she stepped towards the last place she saw him standing. Looking up, there would be no way he’d manage to scale the buildings, there was nothing to hang on to.
Where had he gone?
It was then she felt a hand grip her neck. Her own hands flew to her throat and pulled. Her blade fell from her grip as she was yanked back, hard enough to knock the air from her lungs.
She hit the concrete heavily, the back of her skull bounced off the pavement. Groaning, she rolled onto her side, eyes unfocused and blurry. Two heavy, black, military-style boots stopped within inches of her face. She tried to scramble to her feet, her arm was pinned to the ground when she tried to get up. Landing on her back once more, she stared up at the hooded figure standing over her. She saw the glint of a long carving knife in his hand. Looking around widely, her own weapon was on the floor a few meters away. She’d never be able to reach it in time to defend herself.
‘You have haunted my shadow far too long. Everywhere I turn, there you are,’ the man said, his voice cold, distorted and raspy.
Trying to pull her arm free, she gritted her teeth. ‘I think it’s the opposite way around. You have been haunting people’s shadows, praying on the unsuspecting and the vulnerable. It's time it stopped.’
A rough, bubbling laugh filled the air. He pressed his foot down harder on her arm. She grunted in pain, staring up into the darkness.
‘And what makes you think you will be the one to stop me?’ he asked, the blade pointing directly between her eyes. She remained still, eyes looking around to find some kind of escape. She could hear traffic in the distance. The alleyway was too far away from any main roads to get someone’s attention.
‘It isn’t just me looking to stop you. There are many of us, we will stop these attacks,’ she shouted, lifting her head off the ground and spitting up. The man recoiled slightly, his foot lifted off her arm just enough for her to pull it free and jump to her feet. Running to the opposite wall, she grabbed her blade and pointed it at the hooded figure. He hadn’t moved, he seemed like he was frozen. But she wasn’t being fooled again. ‘We can either do this the easy way or the hard way. It’s your choice.’
The man laughed shrilly. ‘We aren’t in some movie. It will end in blood, with your body rotting in a long-forgotten corner, not to be found for months to come. Your death will go unnoticed, just like all the rest.’
She darted forwards and was immediately knocked to the pavement with one swift kick. She cursed, got to her feet. Panting hard, she grunted as she surged forward again, the blade slicing through the air. She managed to get one stab into his left leg before she was grabbed and threw into one of the council bins lining the street. Landing on the concrete with a thump. She heard a whistle from the other end of the alleyway. Getting to her feet slowly, she grabbed her ribs, she wobbled on unsteady legs. Something was broken, white, hot pain flew around her chest. She dodged another kick. But it was when he grabbed her arm and pulled, she crashed to her knees. She screamed, her arm felt like it was on fire. Tears welled in her eyes as she panted through gritted teeth. The hand on her arm remained in place, her head was roughly pushed down so she was bowed.
There was another rumbling laugh in front of her. ‘I wonder who will notice your death? Will anyone mourn for you, I wonder?’
‘I’d say so,’ came a voice from her left.
Looking up, she saw the silhouettes of a dozen people, maybe more. Her chest was heaving as they advanced. Her arm was pulled again, she grunted and almost fell sideways before she managed to stick a hand out to stop herself falling.
‘One more step, she’s dead,’ the brute said. She tried to focus on the voice between gasping breaths. She felt the cold blade against the back of her neck. What was he going to do, behead her? fear gripped her, nausea twisted her stomach as she realised the seriousness of the situation. How many times had she been told not to go out alone?
‘It’d be a shame if you did. She’s one of our best,’ came the same voice. Female, she recognised it. The group continued moving forward, their steps sure and firm on the concrete. ‘Let her go and we can settle this once and for all.’
She was yanked to her feet abruptly, she swayed and almost toppled over. Hands gripped her arms, the blade was still resting on the nape of her neck. Could she sacrifice herself for the sake of the mission? The revolution?
‘One more step. She dies, do I make myself clear?’ the raspy voice bellowed in her ear. She winced, breathing through the relentless pain was the only thing she could do. There’d be no way she’d be able to fight back. She’d be at more risk of dying if she tried to break free. Stay still, follow his movements until he least suspected it. The only thing she could think of doing was slamming her elbow into his stomach to make him let her go.
‘Let her go. Let this end, right here, right now. You’ve taken too many lives. No one else has to die tonight,’ it was Rosaline’s voice, their leader. The one person she retaliated against time and time again because it was fun.
Suddenly, the blade cut into her neck, then it was gone. She was pushed forwards, strong hands grabbed her before she collapsed. She could hear shouting coming from all around her. hands were on her as she closed her eyes and let the fire engulf her body. The darkness came quicker than she expected, and she welcomed it.
‘What did you think you were going to accomplish going out on your own?’
Sitting upright in one of the sterile hospital beds, Mary slightly opened her left eye and peaked at the ward. Rosaline was stood at the foot of her bed, arms crossed over her chest.
She closed her eyes again and waved a dismissive hand in her leaders’ general direction.
‘There had been sightings. Someone needed to go and check it out, make sure the area was safe,’ she croaked, the stitches on the back of her neck pulled slightly as she spoke.
‘Then you come to me with that information and we go about it in the correct procedures. Do you understand me?’ Rosaline’s voice rose. There was a shushing noise coming from her left. The ward sister, Margot was probably getting more and more irate every second she remained in the bed. It was an unspoken agreement that Mary and Sister Margot didn’t bother each other unless it was absolutely necessary. She was in the hospital ward nearly every single week, with cuts, fractures or other minor injuries to be attended to. But no one could say she wasn’t doing her job, she had the highest record for bringing victims and killers in alive.
It was just this one man who continued to evade her capture.
‘We lost two good volunteers, does that mean nothing to you? Their blood is on your hands,’ Rosaline continued. Her voice was becoming like a loud drone in her ears.
Groaning, she shifted in the bed and tried to get comfortable. ‘Name and rank?’
There was a pause. Mary opened one of her eyes to stare at her leader. Rosaline started back at her, mouth ajar.
‘What difference does that-?’
She opened her eyes properly now ad frowned at the other woman. ‘It makes a difference, trust me. Name and rank?’
‘Andrew Hayes and Liza Clarke, both junior corporals,’ Rosaline said, looking down at a battered notebook which had suddenly appeared in her hands.
Sighing, she rested her head against the pillows. ‘Time in service?’
‘Mary, you are ignoring the fact it was your fault they died-.’
Holding a hand up, she felt blood rush to her cheeks. She struggled to sit up straight. Rosaline remained in place, not offering to help her. after a few moments of wiggling, she was sat straight, her back resting against the pillows. Panting, her stitches burned in the back of her neck.
‘I’m not saying it wasn’t my fault, I fully accept it. But tell me how long they were in service.’
Rosaline sighed heavily, flicking through her notebook. ‘Both ten days, they joined together.’
‘Why did you let them attend? You don’t send any volunteers out unless they have had four weeks of training. Even then they have to be partnered with a senior officer.’
Now she really had the other woman stumped. Mary half smiled to herself, it was about time Rosaline was asked something she didn’t know the answer to.
‘If they weren’t ready to attend a scene, why did you give permission to attend? We can’t be short on volunteers, there’s two thousand of us spread over the country, five hundred are based here.’
‘It was an emergency, all hands on deck,’ Rosaline said, her face paling. ‘I couldn’t check every single volunteer who attended the party. There wasn’t time.’
‘Irrelevant, you always make sure everything is checked and accounted for,’ Mary said. Her throat was burning, she needed something to drink. Slowly twisting her head to the side, there was a water pitcher and glass on the bedside table. Would she be able to manage on her own?
Silence. She yawned and turned to face her leader who was still standing. She was about to open her mouth to ask if Rosaline was alright when she was cut off.
‘Now, General Watson, if you are quite finished berating Captain Smith, I’d like to give her the once over to make sure she’s not messed up my stitches.’
Blinking sheepishly at Sister Margot, the tall, blonde haired woman was fussing with her pillows. She leaned forward slightly, bringing her knees up to rest her elbows on them.
‘I will be back later,’ Rosaline said, snapped her notebook shut and marched out of the ward. Her departure left a slightly uncomfortable silence before the soft murmurs of conversation from the other patients and staff drifted around. She felt cold hands on her neck and filched.
‘Sorry, should have warned you,’ Sister Margot murmured to her left. She laid her had on her arms and frowned as slightly warmer fingers touched her neck.
‘I’m sorry to have burdened you with my presence once again,’ she mumbled as she felt salve being spread on her neck.
‘As long as you don’t end up on one of the mortuary slabs, I think I’ll survive,’ Sister Margot replied. ‘I hope I don’t live to see that day.’
‘I thought you’d be glad to see the back of me,’ she said, letting her eyes fall close. The fingers on her neck paused.
‘How could you ever think that?’ the voice was too soft, too heartbroken that she lifted her head to meet Sister Margot’s gaze. An uncomfortable feeling washed over her as she saw tears in the sister’s eyes. Opening her mouth and closing it again, she had no idea how to respond.
‘Just be careful when you next go out. Please,’ Sister Margot whispered, the last word was emphasised with a squeeze on her shoulder. She nodded numbly and stayed still as gauze and a bandage was wrapped around her neck gently.
Soon enough, a glass of water was pressed against her hand. She took it with a nod and let the water slide down her throat.
‘I don’t want to hear a peep out of you for the next twenty-four hours. You already pulled your stitches out with your shouting match with Rosaline. Rest, I’ll check up on you in an hour,’ Sister Margot said, taking the glass from her. She was helped to lie down, all of the fight and energy vanished from her body, leaving her feeling exhausted. She closed her eyes and let sleep wash over her. Her dreams haunted by a man with a hood covering his face and a long carving knife in his hand.