The third floor was unlit, with barely any light aiding from outdoors. Moving around the banister, Capin crept silently toward the open door of one of the guest rooms. He kept his eyes trained on the faint orange outline of a window. A figure moved in and out of the streetlight across the scene. He reached over and grabbed the chair by the bed, gripping its back with both hands. It was heavy and wood. He could feel the ornate carving along the posts that held up the soft worn leather tight between them. He carefully rested its legs back down and reached for the desk chair on wheels.
The figure outside the window moved back into position. The faint scratching sound implied he was attempting to jimmy the lock as quietly as possible, so as to keep their element of surprise. Capin couldn’t help the grin that came back to him there in the darkness, lining up the chair with the window frame.
As the lock clicked the desk chair came flying through the window frame, spraying glass and shreds of curtains everywhere. The air emptying from his lungs was barely audible over the sound. The roof came alive with voices. “Careful!” Capin was already in motion, gripping above the window and tossing himself through the jagged opening. “They know we’re here!”
His feet crunched on the bits of glass as he landed, ducking the pole-axe swung overhead. It stuck hard into the wall and Capin grabbed its owner and smacked his fist across his jaw hard. With that first hit he felt a weight lift slowly. Still holding the Fist of Ak-Fet Sur, he swung him about, tossing him hard into his companion. Letting go to the fight, he felt his wind returning to him.
“Boys. Boys. Boys!” Enry stuck himself to the roof as a few more circled around them. “I don’t recall any of you on the invitation list to this little pajama party.” They moved closer, tightening their circle. “You’re not here to crash, are you? That’s so Impolite.”
He reached back and pulled on the handle stuck into the wall. “Well,” he said, spinning it effortlessly around his back and drawing it’s tip across his front, “I suppose we’ll have to administer that prerequisite lesson. Lesson the first…” His pole-axe swung around hard under their nearest weapons, hooking them. Keeping up the momentum with the follow-through, he yanked them from their grip and sent them scattering off the side. “It’s impolite to point. Lesson the second…” Using the moment as they struggled to keep themselves upright on the slanting roof, Capin took the complete offensive, breaking their ring around him with a litany of attacks, knocking them away and over the edge. In moments only one of them was left, held by the throat at arm’s length. “Here endeth the lesson.” He gave the dog’s head a wink and tossed him over the edge.
Capin slipped into the alley behind the Peking Book House and waited a moment against the inside corner wall. Jenna was sending reinforcements to Bluewolf’s and he’d made it across town in good time, despite the chaos that was sinking into the city. He also knew he’d been followed all the way since he cleared out of Bluewolf’s. He heard the feet coming up to the mouth of the alley and pressed himself tight against the brick. A long shadow stretched out in the ocher street light, its high dog ears leading the way.
As soon as those ears cleared the alley Capin grabbed them, running them straight across and slamming them into the other side. “All the way ’round the mulberry bush, the jackal chased the monkey.” Ak-Fet Sur’s lapdog rolled to his feet. The pieces of his cracked headdress fell around him as he got to his feet. “The dog thought it all in fun.” Capin’s fist smacked the henchman square in the nose. He could feel the bone crack against his knuckles. “POP goes the monkey.” The body dropped to the ground unconscious.
Capin dug his hand into his pocket and fished out his keys as he headed back towards the back door to Melody’s store and let himself in. The lights in the front were on and the soft sweet smell of freshly cooked noodles hung there from upstairs. He closed the door behind him. “Mel?” he called out, Enry slipping back under their collar.
He followed the muffled voice up the steps and into the study. He found her sitting there at the table, reading. It seemed like ages ago since that first time he’d stepped in that room in Wolf’s body. “Have you seen outside?”
“Mmm hmmm.” She nodded her head. She closed the book and slid it away from her, now watching Capin as he crossed over to her.
“We need to find him.” Across the table her green eyes were right on his. Melody’s head bobbed again in another nod. She looked away, but in that brief passing he caught something. Concern? Fear?
“Capin, I-” Her lips hung open as she struggled with the words. “I don’t know if I can.” She stood up, turning her back on him. “Ak-Fet Sur is a powerful agent, amassing an even greater power. But he’s not so arrogant as to stand in the open.” She shook her head. “To find him alone…” She trailed off, not finishing her thought.
Capin rounded the table, putting his arm around her. He held her, wanting to shield her from whatever it was that bothered her. “I don’t want you to fight him, hon. I just need you to find him.” She turned in his arms. “He’s got Corin.”
Melody’s eyes fell. He could feel her lungs give out in a sigh. “Okay,” she nodded. “Okay. I’ll see what I can do.”
Freeing herself from his embrace, Melody quickly went to one of the bookshelves. Gently, she pulled a milky white round stone from its stand at the end of the books and returned to the table, gesturing him to sit. “Okay…” She sat the stone down and sat behind it.
Capin took his seat. He watched her closely, as she set her palms down on the table, with the stone between them and close her eyes. “That’s not your crystal ball, is it?” His tone was an attempt to lighten whatever load she was holding on to.
She took it, her lips splitting in a smile. “Not quite,” she replied, giving him one last look before concentrating on the stone. “It’s actually The Orb of Foose Ka’rat. It doesn’t know the future, but it has a pretty solid hand on the present…”
Her voice seemed to fade out, drowned in the faintest white noise. The light bulbs sunk away and the flickering flame of the fireplace seemed to be eaten in the darkness until it was all gone. There in the pitch, the grey stone faded in with a soft white color. Casting nothing beyond itself it seemed to float there in the nothingness. The colors inside it began to swirl, mixing in greens and blues, just as little specks of light filled the darkness. There it was. The Earth, floating in the vast darkness of space.
Melody concentrated hard on that slowly turning sphere, feeling her way around it, looking. The stars pulled back into the blue sky as the landscape of the Earth spread out as far as she could see. Pausing high over the Midwest greens of North America, everything fell back into darkness as Garrison City took hold. Its sounds, smells, lights… all of it filled her senses with distraction. She pushed it all aside, digging deeper for that clue. Ak-Fet Sur was hiding it, suppressing it from ever being found. Melody knew if you looked hard enough, you could find a needle in a haystack. You just had to bring enough light. She let it loose. The city fell away until all that was left was the Natural History Museum.
She almost let a sigh of relief as the city built back up around her, but then it hit her. That faint burning feeling, like eyes staring at the back of your head. Melody let go of Garrison City, pushing it away hoping to fall back into the folds of darkness. The city stayed. High above it a single, almost reptilian eye looked down on it all. No…
Melody fell backwards off her chair, almost as off tossed. “Mel!” Capin scrambled from his seat to her side. “What happened?” He slipped his hands under her neck, helping her up.
“I’m okay,” she lied, visibly shaken, “He’s at the museum, the Natural History Museum.” He didn’t move, still holding her up. She grabbed his arm and squeezed it, putting on all of the confidence she had. “It’s alright. I’m okay.” She leaned up and kissed his lips. “Go save the world.”
Capin smiled, kissing her back. Enry pulled the cowl back on as he got to his feet. They opened the window and he climbed out onto the side of the building. Capin pulled out the communicator and keyed the channel open. “Gang? He’s holed up at the Natural History Museum…” Enry scrambled them up to the roof. “I’ll meet you there.”