Allie walked down the street. It was nice of Dan to try to help her fit in again. But too much had happened in the past two years, too much for her to feel like she had a chance in New York. She would finish school, make sure Billy and Zack got along, and wait patiently to turn eighteen. Then it was off to catch up with Caine. After Chinatown, he could afford to be hospitable to the person who had saved his life.
A boy ran by her, roughly pushing her into a building. A familiar kid: slim
and short with black hair; Allie's kid brother Zack. He dodged into an alley,
but the group of bullies behind him saw the move. "We're gonna get you, Baker!"
Their leader shouted as the five of them ran around Allie. She sighed and shook
her head. How long would she have to rescue Zack?
Two bullies grabbed Zack's arms and held him for their leader's approval. "You're dead meat now, Shrimp."
"No one rats on one of our gang and gets away with it." This stooge made sure to stand behind his boss and punched his palm every few words for affect.
"Why don't you get a brain?" Zack scowled sarcastically.
Another bully behind the leader grinned sadistically. "What should we do? Take his money; take his money and his clothes; or take his money, his clothes, and beat him up?"
The bully holding Zack's left arm scratched his head with his free hand. "I don't know. I don't do too good on multiple choice."
The one holding Zack's right arm grinned, "I like the third one."
Zack gulped. Things didn't look good for him. "How about letting him go?"
The whole group considered it. "Nah."
Allie decided it was time to step in. "You better let him go."
The bully leader swelled up ridiculously with a macho act. "Who are you to tell me what to do?"
"You tell her," one of his stooges supported him.
Allie feigned surprise. "Me? Nobody, I guess. And this is none of my business. But there is one tiny problem with this situation." The bullies looked at each other. "I don't like you." The bully leader tried to keep up his image and swung at Allie. The punch missed and Allie hit him in the stomach, knocking the window out of him. She grabbed his shirt collar, pulled him close, and gave him a good view of her clenched teeth. "I especially don't like people who try to punch me!" She turned slowly to the bullies holding Zack. "Let him go." They released Zack and dusted him off. Allie released her grip on their leader and he lost his balance, landing flat on his butt. "Now, get out of here!" The bullies practically ran over each other as they raced out of the alley and down the street. "Remarkable what a simple command can inspire." She turned to Zack, "Are you okay?"
"You know, this is starting to get really embarrassing." Zack followed his sister out of the alley and into the apartment building next to it.
"What is?" Allie checked the mailbox, then headed up the stairs. She was used to Zack's common complaint but it was amusing to hear how he would phrase it. He tried to say it differently each time, so not to invoke her wrath.
"You always rescuing me! If you were a boy it wouldn't be that bad, but you're my sister! Do you realize how that looks?"
"Sorry, Zack." Allie unlocked the apartment door. "If you want me to let them beat you up, just say so." She shut the door behind them and dropped her back pack on the bar separating the kitchenette from the living room as she entered it for a snack. Saving Zack always made her hungry.
Zack sighed, "It's a no-win situation."
Billy walked into the apartment still dressed in his police uniform. Zack slouched on the couch and stared at the television set, the same place he had sat since coming home after school. Billy stood behind the couch. "Hi, Zack. Where's Allie?"
Potato chips filled Zack's mouth and he didn't swallow. "In her room."
"Allie, get in here!"
Allie walked out of the hall into the living room. "You yelled?"
Billy took a notepad out of his pocket and handed it to her. "I have to go out and work. Watch this for me."
"Fine." Allie took a deep breath and tried to contain her eagerness. "There's a big party at the Gimmick tonight. Can I go?"
"Sorry, I need you to watch Zack tonight." Billy walked down the hall and closed the door to his bedroom.
She followed him and yelled through the door. "Zack is eleven-years- old. I say that's old enough to take care of yourself!"
"I say it isn't and what I say goes!"
"What have I done to deserve this punishment? I've kept Zack all year without a complaint. All year. Can't I have one night to myself, to be with my friends?"
Billy stubbornly refused in his authoritative manner. "No. And that's final." He opened the door and walked into the living room in his street clothes. "Now stay here, and watch Zack."
"He's up to something," Allie muttered as the door closed.
"Huh?" Zack twisted around on the couch and watched her march back to her room.
She marched back wearing a dark shirt and tucking her blonde hair up in a dark cap. "Zack, I'm gone. Lock all doors and don't let anyone in till I get back."
Zack's forehead wrinkled with confusion. "But Billy told you to stay here?"
"And I don't always do what I'm told," Allie opened the door.
Zack shrugged, "So what else is new? Hold up, I'm coming with you."
"No, you're not."
"Yes, I am," he turned off the television set. "You can drop me off at the party and follow Billy."
Allie sighed. How did he know what she was planning? But she was losing time.
"Fine. Let's go."
"Keep this." Zack took the memo pad. "And stay with Dan," Allie reminded him for the thousandth time, this time right outside the Gimmick.
"I will, Allie. Get going before you lose Billy for good." She nodded and ran down the street. Zack sighed and began to mingle with crowd of the club. Most costumed people danced to the music played by a band disguised like giant turtles. "This is way cool!" he stared, searching for Dan.
He found his sister's friend, sitting at a table talking to a pretty Betty Rubble. "For my creations, they can play pretty good. Never had to take a lesson." Zack tugged at the white lab coat sleeve.
Dan turned to him irritably. "I'm your little brother for tonight." Zack told him, trying not to grin at Dan's face.
"What? Allie couldn't make it?" Dan sighed. Why did Allie do this to him? Just because he was an old friend, he would get just about anything dumped on him--even babysitting her kid brother. Betty Rubble sighed and swiveled away from the table.
"She's shadowing Billy. All you have to do is make sure no one kills me." Zack rocked back and forth on his feet with confidence. He knew Dan couldn't say no.
"Okay, fine." Dan turned back to Betty Rubble who had left. "Looks like I have plenty of time to devote to you. Why is Allie following your big brother?"
"I don't know. She doesn't explain her reasons to me. And all I pay attention to is blackmail opportunities."
Dan shook his head and escorted Zack to the bar, getting them two sodas. "Your sister is corrupting you."
"She's not corrupting me; it's survival of the fittest. And I survive fit if
I can get what I want out of Allie and Billy."
Allie slipped down the dark street after Billy. He walked determinedly, as if he knew where he was going and what he was going to do. Suddenly, two figures stepped into a pool of light created by the one functioning street lamp on the street and in front of Billy. "What the?" Billy stepped back instinctually. Allie ducked behind a row of garbage cans.
"Officer William Baker. You have upset certain people with your investigation. You will give us your evidence." One of the figures held out a black-gloved hand.
"I don't know what you're talking about." Billy took another step back. Allie worked her dry mouth. She had spent enough time on the street to know bad news when she saw it.
The ninja scowled underneath his hood. "Perhaps you have no evidence, but we can take no chances." He whipped his katana out of its sheath.
Allie couldn't breath, couldn't think. Her survival instincts kicked in, and she scrambled away from the garbage cans, drawing the attention of the ninjas before she ran down the street.
The second ninja turned to the one who spoke first. "The Shredder said no witnesses."