Read Catwalk: Messiah Online

Authors: Nick Kelly

Catwalk: Messiah (32 page)

Her vision shifted and red lights danced across the ground in the darkness.

Demon trail.

He'd darted out of the alleyway. He had made an escape attempt, but she could still catch him. Shia sprinted down the alley, nearing full speed in a few steps. She raced forward, intent on the unholy light along the street.

Her focus shifted to the otherworld. She reached the end of the passage and turned the corner. She collided with something solid. The air left her lungs. Stars danced in her vision, and she struggled to draw in a breath. This wasn’t Rissu, far too physical and of this realm.

She forced her need to fight deep down, focusing on the night.

The figure staggered backward, spinning before stabilizing against a parked truck. A beam of light darted over the ground, over the car, into the sky and then stopped. A flashlight.

A demon wouldn't have a flashlight.


She struggled to right herself and dropped the throwing stars down her sleeve.

Breathe, Shia, breathe.

She didn't attack humans without cause. She shifted, and she took another deep breath, stabilizing.

The man stood upright, leveling the flashlight at her face. Standing, yet still craving air in her lungs, Shia lifted her hands in self-defense. She blinked, willing her eyes to adjust to the sudden glare in the dark.

It was bright.

It took seconds for her vision to right itself. When it did, she could make out his silhouette against the grey night air, but nothing more. As if hearing her thoughts, the man moved the light from her to his own form. He focused the light on a piece of paper in his hand. Centered on the paper was a black and white picture of a Rottweiler.

He turned the light beneath his face, illuminating him in campfire ghost story fashion.

"Have you seen this dog?" He asked.

She bit her tongue. Hard. If she hadn't already locked her knees, they might have buckled in embarrassment. Oh, gods. Ryan. She took a deep breath, forcing her heart rate to decelerate, demanding her body come back into her control.

"Good evening, Detective Calder." She watched as his eyes widened.

He switched the light from himself back to her, studying her as she winced from the pain of the sudden brightness.

"Dr. Ronin, out for an evening run?" He asked.

Shia dropped her gaze, taking in her black sweats. Not something she wanted to be seen in, but there you had it. Thank the Universe the dark fabric hid the cuts it suffered and any blood loss she’d suffered.


She darted a glance over his shoulder, the red lights still hovered over the street. Had the demon sprinted right past him? Her gaze swept over him, making sure he held no hint of red light. She shifted her shoulders, settling her swords in lower. He shouldn't be able to see them, but she didn't need to take the chance with the eagle eyed homicide detective. As odd as he seemed sometimes, he appeared very aware in the human realm. She wouldn't put it beyond him to notice the otherworldly going-ons.

Ryan tilted his head and followed her gaze for a moment over his shoulder before focusing on her again. "Well, I figured you weren't grocery shopping. Looks like you worked up a good sweat." He flashed the light at her feet and along the entrance to the alleyway. "You drop anything?" The light criss-crossed over the demon trail, which glowed like fire in Shia's eyes.

She wished he'd kill the light, but knew he wouldn't. The glare amplified in her head a hundred times over. She squinted. "Thought I heard something in the alley, but no one's there. Decided I better make up my time." She shifted, torn between letting her eyes drink in his dark form and chasing after the Rissu.

Wait a minute.


A shiver raced through her. "You're out looking for a Rottie?"

Please tell her this wasn't his dog she'd failed to rescue.

Ryan nodded, "Yeah, Mrs. Bradbury in Apartment 4-G is missing her dog. She's pretty broken up about it. I figured it was the least I could do to help. Especially because Mrs. Bradbury listens to Joe Cocker when she's upset...and her hearing aide isn't always up to par." He moved the light from one side of the street to the other, checking for any uninvited guests. "Nothing inspires a man to community service like Joe Cocker at a hundred and twenty decibels."

Despite her duty, her lips twitched. Decorated homicide detective way laid by an elderly neighbor and 70's soul-singing icon. Priceless. She sobered. She didn't want either of them finding out how the dog died. The crack of bone in teeth still echoed through her head. She wished she'd found the Rissu minutes before. The four legged should have lived.

"You live nearby? Rottie's stay pretty close to home. I can keep an eye out for him while I run." Over Ryan's shoulder the trail began to dim.

"That would be great. You can't miss him. He's got a collar with rhinestones...something about his resemblance to Elvis. I don't know." Ryan handed her the flier. "Two blocks south of here. Trust me. You'll hear 'I Get by with a Little Help from my Friends' before you ever get in the door. My number's on the flier if you find anything, but I think you have it from the Felder case."

Shia nodded. She knew more about Ryan than she cared to admit even before their cold case, the Felder homicide. She bit her lip as the Rissu's trail dimmed and faded. She shouldn't have let him side track her. She was faster than him. He never would have realized it was her if she'd kept moving. Her entire body warmed.

"What's his name?" She’d replace the dog. She couldn't in good conscience let an old lady mourn the loss of her beloved family member because a demon decided to make him dinner.

This job sucked.

Ryan shrugged. "What else? Joe." He gave her a quick once-over. "You mind me asking something personal?"

"You can ask. I may or may not answer." She'd already delayed too long. She rocked from foot to foot, ready to be on the move again.

"The nation's capitol isn't always the friendliest place, especially in the dead of night, for a good looking girl. You have some pepper spray or something handy?" He half-grinned. "Professional courtesy and all..."

Shia smiled. "Don't you know, Detective, I am a weapon. I run the nights. It's the best time. No one out to stop me."

She wasn't about to reveal the swords, throwing stars or baton hidden on her body. He didn't need the influence. The worst she encountered was a stray homeless or a demon. The demons, well, they were hers to handle anyway. The homeless wandered on their way, thinking she was an illusion. She preferred it that way.

"I'd like to share your confidence, Dr. Ronin. I'd feel better hearing you had some tools to help you stay safe." He unbuckled a small container of pepper spray from his belt. "This is compact. It shouldn't affect your running stride, but it could help in case you bump into the wrong night creature."

Her hand lifted. He didn't know about the other creatures of the night. The pepper spray dropped into her palm. The one detective who she thought would do well in her realm had never questioned her findings. Sometimes, she'd had to reach to explain a death. He worked the cases, focused on the facts. She wondered what he'd do if she presented him with a demon, the Rissu?

She sighed. He'd never even see it. Few did.

"Thank you, Detective. I'll be sure to return this to you tomorrow, if you stop by the morgue."

He nodded. "Thanks. I have the Huang results to pick up. I'll adjust my schedule. Enjoy your run, Dr. Ronin."

Shia shifted, unsure. Ryan never spoke more than a few words, directed at work to her. He was quiet, but he was out looking for a Rottie who belonged to a neighbor. The Rissu was long gone. She'd have to hunt it down tomorrow. And Ryan? He wasn't of her realm, but one of those to protect who now had a demon in his neighborhood. She'd be sure to keep her running route close by. She didn't want some Rissu munching on him or his elderly neighbor.

"Good luck with your fliers and finding the Rot. I hope she eventually turns the music down, for your sanity." She murmured.

She pulled her hood up over her hair and took a step forward.

She stopped and turned, casting a glance back at him. "Detective Calder?"

"Yes, Dr. Ronin?"

“Be careful of the shadows."

It was the only warning she could give him. She wished she could have given him more. She turned and set out at a sprint on her regular path. She didn't need him asking for clarification. He was one to do so. She sprinted away from him faster than she should have.

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