A Snake in the Grass, Part I


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Scene Title A Snake in the Grass, Part I
Synopsis The hunter becomes the hunted.
Date August 22, 2009


Brooklyn is located on the westernmost point of Long Island and shares its only land boundary with Queens. The East river borders and defines the borough's northern coast, Coney Island, Brighton Beach, and Manhattan beach are to the south, and the Narrows separate it from Staten Island to the southwest.

Downtown Brooklyn is one of the NYC's largest business districts. Between the Bridge and Prospect Park, brownstones, townhouses, and high-end restaurants are dominant. The culturally diverse communities of Williamsburg and Greenpoint are snugged against the East River to the far north. Close by are far more criminally active neighborhoods such as Brownsville, Crown Heights, and Bushwick. Regardless of the social situation, the so-called Borough of Neighborhoods is packed to the gills in post-bomb NYC.

It's close to the witching hour, and there's a snake in the grass.

A police car is prowling a certain block of Brooklyn, a standard route. The black and white of its body marks it as a predator, twin eyes of headlights swinging around as it turns a smooth corner, hitting the windows of houses and stores. It dances across the mouth of an alleyway, careless torch lights back on track as it continues down, its two sleepless souls within its cab peering out of glass for signs of movement. They find none, not while they're looking.

But once the lights are long gone and its engine is just a memory, a black-clad figure steps out of an alleyway, and resumes his brisk walk down the pavement. The tails of a long, leather jacket slither and dance at his ankles, disguising the neat and tidy black suit beneath that, polished shoes hitting the ground at a moderate tempo, neither in a hurry nor at a dawdle. Feng Daiyu has his eyes on the small screen of his phone, scrolling to the only two numbers that really matter.

It's the second one down that's selected, the dial tone ringing in his ear as he turns a corner and heads down the long, brick wall alley that takes him off the exposed street, directly towards a certain block of a certain address. Though the watch shop's signs of Gray & Sons haven't been switched on for almost three years, Feng won't need such indicators to know exactly where he's headed.

Snakes, with the notable exceptions of the South American Boa constrictor and the Amazonian anaconda, are not apex predators. No matter how well they blend in with their surroundings — and Feng does this exceedingly well, camouflaged by the material of his leather jacket, the soft fabric shimmering like inky black scales on the back of a rat snake winding its way through shadow — they are at risk of being preyed upon by other creatures, snapped up between teeth, seized in talons and claws. As the tinny sound of the ringing phone fills his ear, it deafens him to the sort of noises he might otherwise detect beneath the drub of his feet against the cement and the breeze rustling in the trees.

Noises like the staccato click of a safety switch thumbed into the off position. Noises like the rapidly encroaching footsteps coming up from behind him. His attacker gives no verbal warning, no snarled shout or bark designed to spin him around and provide a wider target, and if it weren't for the fact that the first shot goes wide, blowing a hole in the brick behind him, he wouldn't know there was a pistol trained on him at all.

Feng Daiyu is not the only hunter on the move tonight.

Card games, board games, are good for emulating battles. Unless the first move is a killing blow, wherein it's no battle at all, it will always inevitably be your turn. The cellphone goes toppling to the ground as Feng spins as if shot, but only so as to face his attack with a glare of coat and an expression that allows the whites of his eyes and the glint of his teeth to catch the moonlight above.

He's swift, like a snake strike. In the time it takes for a dull, black blade to unsheath from the inside of his coat, Feng is already launching himself forward towards his attacker. His foot steps ring out against the ground, and the cover of darkness blurs lines indistinct. A wielder of a gun does not necessarily expect the target to head directly for them.

Whether or not his attacker is caught off-guard by this kamikaze tactic, he'll never know — apart from a flash of metal, a sliver of pale light glinting off the pistol's barrel, and a vague outline distorted by the whippet swiftness with which his opponent reacts, they could be almost anyone… and Feng has a lot of enemies. The only thing that he can be positive about is the number of gunmen: one.

Two more shots are squeezed off in rapid succession. Like the initial blast, the first bullet misses, whizzes past Feng's left ear and impacts itself in the same wall, spraying the street with chunks of brick and cement. The second, although it does not quite land its mark, his heart, punches through the flesh of his right shoulder and exits the other side with what would be enough force to send a normal man either staggering backwards or to his knees.

The second bullet whizzes by his ear like the angriest hornet. The third passes straight through Feng, but there's no glittering spray of red spraying out an exit wound, and the bullet only imbeds itself into solid brick. The gunman doesn't have time to contemplate the truthfulness and accuracy of his aim as light from distant streetlamps spills across Feng's face around the time he is driving his attacker into the wall.

The attacker's gunarm is captured in a locking grip, the two turning together until a shoulder more slender than Feng's is driven hard into the opposite wall of brick, and his wrist follows in quick succession, a slamming, driving move driven by a vice-like grip in an effort to rattle the weapon loose from the practiced clutch around it.

Tendons strain, fingers flex, and there's a small grunt of exertion slammed from Feng's attacker when he knocks him up against the wall. The pistol comes loose, clatters to the ground at their feet like the discarded cell phone on its side several yards away, bleeding its electric glow onto the pavement. Neither combatant can hear it, but it's still ringing, no answer on the other end of the line — at least not yet.

Fortunately, the weapon does not discharge again when it hits the alley's floor, though the sound of their struggle is likely to draw some attention regardless. Already, lights are blinking on across the street, tenants of adjacent apartment complexes and low-income condominiums roused from their beds and drawn to their windows, peering around the edges of curtains in an attempt to catch a glimpse of what's going on down below even if there's nothing to be seen.

Feng's attacker, relieved of his pistol, has no intention of surrendering now that he has his back to the wall. Instead, he steers his knee toward the other man's midsection and thrusts it deep into his gut, punctuating the blow with a ragged breath hissed out through his teeth.

An unstoppable expulsion of breath is given rather than any true groan of pain, save for the tinge of voice that accompanies it. The draw back in is shallow, adrenaline-heightened, and there's a wicked curve to Feng's mouth as if, perhaps, he were enjoying this on some level he can't really define. The gut-blow of the attacker's knee has him staggering back a step, grip torn from that wrist, but Feng is moving a moment later in defiance of aching muscles.

The hilt of the knife comes swinging around, a blunt blow aimed for the jaw, and as the momentum carries through, whether a hit, miss or clip is achieved, the knife in Feng's hand comes down again to swipe a punishing slash low and thigh level, the matte black of the blade giving off not even a shimmer of light as it moves.

The impact of the hilt colliding with the mystery attacker's jaw snaps his head sideways, momentarily exposing his profile to Feng as, dazed, he reaches back and clutches at the wall behind him to keep from tipping over. In the next instant, the knife's blade cuts cleanly through denim and splashes blood in a thin obsidian line across the legs of Feng's pants. Droplets, too, spatter his shoes, drip onto the gritty pavement.

It isn't a crippling setback for his opponent, but it hurts, and Feng may find some satisfaction in the way he favours his left leg over his right as he twists away and crab-scuttles along the wall, shuffling in an attempt to put more distance between them. At the same time, even as he retreats, carbon steel cracks into the shape of a knife in his right hand, arm swinging around to point the blade at the center of Feng's chest, its tip raised. A pistol isn't the only weapon his assassin came armed with.

The smooth sound of clicking metal is his only warning before the vicious movement sees the curve of the blade coming to drive through flesh, muscle, bone. Feng's own assassin's blade goes sweeping through the air as he brings an arm to fend away the attack, and this time he hisses like the snake he emulates as it manages to pierce through leather, worsted wool, cotton and finally the flesh of his forearm. With a growl that comes from deep within his throat, the arm shoves the other's away, forcing them both to stagger from each other with all the tension of hissing cats falling apart in the act of territorial fighting.

A crescent slice of teeth shows a Cheshire cat smile in the darkness, as Feng brings about the knife to point its ceramic tip in his attacker's direction, and as if summoning up some kind of curse, there's an invisible lashing out of force that whips from his pointed position and slams into the gut of the attacker.

Feng is moving in the next moment, launching himself forward with a flash of leather and thunder-pound of shoes against concrete.

A snarl of pain expelled from his lungs, Feng's attacker doubles over, one arm clutching at his midsection, the other thrust out to break his fall when he drops to his knees on the concrete. The hand supporting his weight is the same one with the knife held in curled fingers, its blade scraping across the ground as he struggles to push back to his feet. Daiyu isn't supposed to be Evolved, isn't supposed to have those sorts of tricks hidden up the sleeve of his jacket or the suit he wears beneath it. If the man on the floor of the alley wasn't surprised before, then he almost certainly is now, his breath coming in heaving gasps, ambient light reflected off the trail of blood dribbling from the corner of his mouth where the hilt hit his jaw.

Things are looking up for one of them.

Feng isn't about to let him get on his feet. Long strides carry him over in fluid, gliding movements, and they don't stop. A foot comes down on the attacker's abdomen, weight crushing him back down against the alley floor as Feng's weight rocks over it in a brief and ruthless moment. For as long as it takes for his other foot to come down hard on the attacker's wrist, the one with the knife.

Blood glistening from where that blade had sliced through the sleeve of his coat, Feng crouches down over the crumpled, bleeding figure, a knee digging deep into his gut and foot still firmly planted on that arm. His eyes slant a quick gaze, first, towards the fist grasping the slender knife, then down to the face of his would-be assassin in this moment of stillness.

The movement of his back beneath leather could only be described as a recoil, although he doesn't back up an inch or distribute his weight. The black knife in his own hand rotates once within his fist, a butcher's contemplation.

She — because his attacker is in reality not a man but a small, slender woman of little height — looks up at Feng's face with glittering eyes that flash like flints, her bloodied mouth set into a stubborn expression of defiance. Her grip on the knife's metal handle tightens, knuckles audibly making a great effort to maintain a hold in spite of the pressure bearing down on her wrist. As she breathes, her midsection moves against his knee, pressing with every inhalation and subsequent exhalation, some wetter, more serrated-sounding than others.

Feng has Eileen Ruskin right where he's been wanting her, though there's no sign of the man he claims is her father or any of the other former Vanguard members she's been known to associate with. Apart from the knife clasped in her hand and the shadow looming over her, she appears to be alone.

No words. None are necessary.

Feng's head tilts as he studies the young woman captured beneath his weight, knife that gives no reflection going around like a spit roast in his bony grip, before he brings it around to hover the blade several inches from her face. It swings like a clock pendulum, back and forth— chiding, as if this were some kind of discipline.

The knife flips back a moment later, the hiss of ceramic against leather as it's sheathed within his coat.

Then, his arm goes up, a fist cocked, and comes down again in one swift and economical blow. No more serpent eyes, sarcasm, the stars above glimmering like scattered diamonds on black velvet high above them between the slicing overhangs of the rooftops looming over—

Just darkness.

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