Allie grimaced. As an example of ninja stealth, the guy in the trench coat was a poor one. She had seen him at least five times and had lost count of the times she had heard him, and this was a deserted street. She decided she had enough and turned into a side alley.
Mikey hurried after her and an empty dead-end greeted him. He threw down his hands with an exasperated sigh. "Great! Now where did she go?" A grey wall slapped his face and he hit the ground.
When the stars cleared, he saw Allie standing over him holding a garbage can lid. "Greenie? Maybe I didn't spell it out for you, but I thought the idea was clear. I don't want your help." She extended her free hand.
Mikey grabbed it. "You're an angel." He pulled himself up with her help. Then he picked up his fedora and brushed it off. "I guess I should have warned you, I like to hang out with crazy girls. And you're as crazy as they come."
Allie scowled, "Thanks a lot, Greenie."
Mikey frowned, "My name is Michaelangelo, sister."
Allie raised the garbage can lid. "I've only been a sister to two people in this world and one of them is dead. Don't dare try to take his place!"
Mikey threw his hands up to protect his head. This crazy chick--girl-- probably would hit him again! "Chill out! Allie and Mikey. That works for me."
She lowered the lid with a pained expression etched onto her face. "Why do I have a sinking feeling that you're not going to leave?"
Mikey shrugged as he lowered his hands. "I'm just a bad slice of pizza that you can't get rid of."
"Thank you for keeping her occupied." A satisfied voice sounded behind them.
"No problemo," Mikey turned around and Allie gasped. Five ninjas blocked the only entrance and exit to the alley. Mikey jumped, "Whoa! Where did you guys come from?"
One ninja stepped forward. "You will give us the honor of a good fight."
Allie angrily stepped past Mikey, and he shook his head. She was almost as bad as Raph. "I'm not giving any honor to cold-blooded, cowardly murderers!"
The ninja stood frozen for a moment. Then he thrust a bo into her hands. "You will fight!"
Allie glanced at the ninja who grabbed another bo from one of his companions, glanced down at the bo in her hands, and turned to Mikey. "What now?"
Mikey gestured to the ninja. "You insulted his honor. You have to fight or you'll both be dishonored."
"In other words, to keep his machismo he has to beat me up? I thought it's against Japanese society to hit a woman?"
"Most of the time. But certain exceptions are made for loudmouths."
Allie glared, looked at the ninja, and turned back. "Are you absolutely sure I have to fight him?"
"Do you want me to do it?" Mikey growled impatiently, holding his hand out for the bo.
As if she would give it to him. "No." She whirled around and shot the bo into the unsuspecting ninja's groin. "I just didn't want to hurt anyone without a reason." The bo turned up and over to break in half on top of the ninja's skull. "You can have the rest." Three ninjas rushed at Mikey as the fourth confronted Allie. She shrugged and kicked at him. He stepped back from the kick and fell over the garbage cans. Allie grabbed a lid and rendered him unconscious.
Mikey held out his hand. "Focus. Focus." Two ninjas stared at it, convinced he had a special move concerning it. Mikey's other hand punched the nearest one out and he kicked the other against a wall. The last ninja threw himself on top of the Turtle and drew out a long dagger. Allie kept hold of the lid and ran to the struggling pair. The ninja never saw the blow that landed him beside Mikey on the asphalt. "Thanks."
She helped the Turtle up. "I told you I didn't need any help."
"You need help as bad as L.A. needs a stable foundation." Mikey grabbed her
arm and pulled her out of the alley. "Let's get out of here before their buds
come looking for them." The two rushed down the dark, deserted street.
An old Japanese man walking faster than he looked able, entered the alley. The last ninja groaned and tried to sit up, unaware of the danger. The man was on top of him in a flash and held a dagger to his throat. "I am sure you are not eager to die, young friend. Who is your master?"
"He calls himself the Shredder. That is all I know. We only do his bidding." The ninja swallowed nervously, feeling the dagger move with his working throat. The man was holding it too lightly to cut, but he would take no chances.
"And his bidding is to kill these children?" the man accused.
"Yes," the ninja answered.
The man leaned into the ninja's face. "Go back to your master," he hissed,
"and tell him that Clin-san protects these children." He released the nervous
ninja who ran out of the alley and into the night. Clin-san watched him leave
then turned to the direction that Allie and Mikey had ran.
Splinter watched the group climb down the ladder. Leonardo was down first, coaxing someone after him. "Easy does it. Okay, that's it."
"I'm eleven-years-old," Zack informed him. "I don't know what that means in turtle years, but in human it means I'm old enough to know how to climb down a ladder." He reached the floor and turned around slowly, whistling appreciatively. The Lair was intriguing by itself and the Turtles had filled it with all sorts of adolescent pleasures. "Cool. Way cool. And nobody knows you're down here?"
"Nobody that counts." Dan glared at Raph. "Present company excluded."
"Actually, only four other humans know where to find us beside you." Donnie counted them off using both hands. "Dan. April. Keno. And Casey Jones."
Everyone in the group seemed to be in the Lair now and this concerned Splinter. "Where is Michaelangelo?"
Donnie tapped Raph on the shoulder, "You tell him."
Raph turned to Leo and tapped him on the shoulder. "You tell him."
Leo reached out to tap someone but they all stepped away from him. He sighed and shouldered the responsibility. "Well, he... um... he left us to follow Allie."
"My sister," Zack offered helpfully.
"And my friend. She and Zack are in real bad trouble. These ninjas have a hit list out on them. They already got their brother." Splinter frowned at Dan.
April snuck up behind the Turtles. "What hit list? Who's brother?"
Raph grabbed his chest as they jumped and whirled around. "Gees babe! You've been hangin' around us too long!"
"Don't you know surprise is the biggest cause of heart failure?" Donnie collapsed in a chair.
"Who's on this hit list?" April insisted, ignoring their antics.
"Just me, Zackery Baker. My one claim to fame," he looked proud of the fact.
"What did you do to earn recognition on a hit list?" April asked, staring at the boy incredulously.
"Would you believe absolutely nothing?"
"As we were saying," Leo tried to pull their attentions back to the conversation. "Mikey decided to follow his," he gestured to Zack, "crazy sister who decided she didn't need any help tracking down the ninjas and taking care of them. Her name's on the hit list, too."
"The police officer on the news was their brother?" Splinter asked, pointing to the television set.
"Yeah," Zack answered, trying not to sound like he got a morbid satisfaction out of it. "Creepy, huh?"
"The ninjas chasing Allie and Zack killed him. And the symbol they wore is the same symbol on April's threatening letter." Donnie handed their sensei one of the ninja's bandannas.
April looked around, confused. "Ninjas? What ninjas? The Foot Clan's back? I thought you guys kicked Shredder's butt for good."
Splinter took the bandanna gingerly. "It still looks familiar. Like a ghost from the past." He closed his eyes and meditated. "I have seen this symbol before. Before coming to America. But I cannot remember."
"We don't know who these ninjas are, April." Leo glanced at Splinter. Their sensei gazed thoughtfully at the symbol on the bandanna. "All we know is that they want to kill Allie and Zack and they already killed their older brother, the cop."
"How many times do we have to explain this," Raph complained.
April turned to Zack. "The headless cop is your brother?" Then she grimaced, realizing the way that had sounded. "Sorry, I didn't mean to sound insensitive," she lapsed into an uncomfortable silence. Interviews, she could handle. The Turtles, she could handle. Some anonymous kid off the street with a just murdered brother, she couldn't handle. The irony of life, she decided.
"It's all right, Ms. O'Neil. We weren't close. I suppose Sterns is saying he died bravely in the line of duty."
April blinked at his attitude. If his brother's death shocked him, he didn't show it. "That's what he's saying. Why?"
"It was bothering me. Billy was off-duty and he was out doing what? I wish Allie had said."
"Allie, your sister?" April filled her mental notepad a mile-a-minute. She could almost see it--an April O'Neil exclusive for the eleven o'clock news.
"What would Allie know about Billy's investigations? She called them boring and pathetic." Dan pulled off his wig and fake glasses.
"But she didn't like his running off," Zack explained patiently. "So she followed him. And doesn't it make sense that those ninjas would kill him because of a case? Why else would they?"
"Maybe your family did something to whoever's leading them," Leo leaned against the wall. "You know, the revenge syndrome."
"My family?" Zack tried not to laugh. "My dad's parents still live on the farm where the Bakers have lived for years. I can really see one of them getting mixed up with ninjas!" He turned to Dan, "You've seen my grandparents, back me up."
"The kid's right. His grandparents probably don't even what a ninja is. If they ever got mixed up with any, I'd start growing a shell."
"What about your mom's side?" Raph squatted and spun his sai point down on the floor.
"High society with money. I don't think so."
Donnie pulled at his chin. "What we have here is two highly plausible scenarios that need investigating. Zack, do you have any family records?"
"Back at the apartment."
"What about Billy's case notes?"
Zack shook his head, "He never brought his work home."
"I think I know what you're driving at, Donnie." Leo turned to Raph. "You take Zack back to his apartment and find those records."
"Righteo," Raph saluted. "Come on, kid. We'll take the van."
Dan followed them to the ladder. "I'll come too. You can drop me off at home so my parents don't flip."
April grimaced as they left the Lair. "I suppose you want me to get inside the police station and find out what case Baker was working on, huh?"
Leo smiled innocently, "Would you please, April? We'll keep the usual arrangement, complete exclusive for you. I'll even go if you need me."
"Harrumph. You're coming anyway. I want one of you guys stuck with this leg work."
"Fine with me," Donnie headed toward the corner of the Lair that was his lab. "I'll dig out some programs that might help us sort through this."
"Come on, Leo," April sighed as she twisted around a mound of junk to get to the ladder. "I got a news van, just in case something turned up. You can be my camerama... Turtle."
Splinter meditated in the near silence, trying to remember where he had seen
the symbol before.
Japan, many years before he raised his sons--the Turtles--many years before
Oroku Saki killed Hamato Yoshi and Tang Shen, many years before they ran to
America. Splinter remembered sitting in his cage, hearing his Master Yoshi
reason with another member of the Foot Clan, just a trainee, who argued hotly
with him. The trainee brushed against his cage as he left the room still angry,
letting the rat see his family symbol embroidered onto a patch on his bandanna.
"Yes," Splinter breathed as he fingered the symbol on the bandanna. "Yes, it is the same. But who was he? Who was the trainee that argued with Master Yoshi? Why does he kill children now?"
"Master Splinter?" Donnie watched him concerned. Sure he was old, but he had never talked to himself before. "Are you all right?"
"I am fine, my son. I do not like this; what have these children done to deserve death?"
"Nothing, as far as we can tell," Donnie answered as he shifted around the papers on his desks and tables. "Can you remember where you saw the symbol before?"
"Yes. In Japan, before Master Yoshi left for America. It is the family crest of another member of the Foot Clan."
"The Foot Clan, again?" Donnie groaned. "So April's right? The Foot is back?"
"I do not know, Donatello. I do not know. And I am afraid we will not like the answer."