Raph stuck his head down the sewer hole. "Hey! You guys alive down there? We could use some help."
Donnie ran to the bottom of the ladder and caught the box Raph threw to him. Raph climbed down and caught the fireproof box Zack threw to him. Donnie opened his box to shift through the papers and books. "What's all this?"
Zack reached Donnie's side. "Me and Allie put this box together before she ran away two years ago. Diaries, old school papers, stuff we may need later. But the important stuff is in that box." He pointed to Raph who posed with the fireproof box.
Donnie jerked the box away from Raph. "What's in here?"
Zack shrugged, "Birth certificates, death certificates, and other important papers that you're supposed to keep."
"I'll go through it," Donnie trotted off to his lab.
April and Leo climbed down the ladder. "You guys are back? Did you find anything?"
"A lot of stuff, babe," Raph answered April. "Trouble is, we don't know if it'll help. Did you guys find anything?"
"Billy was investigating the Hi-Tech Robberies; the cops think the thieves killed him; no one knows where Billy's case notes are; and the Shredder is behind the Hi-Tech Robberies." Leo fell into a chair. "Did I leave anything out?"
"Only that Keno knows Allie and I can't find a Shredder wanna-be through my sources." April knelt beside the box.
"The Shredder? The Shredder is behind the Hi-Tech Robberies? That's impossible! Tell me you're jokin', Leo. Please tell me you're jokin'." Raph fell to his knees beside the chair while Donnie dropped the fireproof box in his lab.
"I'm not kidding. That's what Keno said he heard on the street. It's probably some guy trying to be just like the Shredder. There's no way he could be back from the dead."
"That's what we thought the first time," Donnie reminded them.
"Thanks, I really wanted to remember that." Raph looked up at the lab in the corner of the Lair.
April pulled out a photograph album. "Who's Amanda?" She traced the letters on the cover.
"My mom," Zack knelt beside April. "You really saw Keno, the pizza delivery boy?"
"Yes, you know him?"
"Pretty well. I don't have any friends, so I have to borrow Allie's. Keno's cool. He helps Allie keep in touch with the streets."
"This was your mother's photo album?" April asked as she set it on her lap.
"Yep, Miss O'Neil. Mom started it and Allie tried to keep it updated. But they never let us have our stuff in the foster homes."
"Call me April. Do you mind if I look through it? It might help us get a feel for what we're looking for."
"I don't mind Miss... April. I never knew my parents." The first picture in the album was a black and white enlarged snapshot from the Fifties of a young couple and a small boy standing on the porch of a farmhouse. "That's Grandpa Will and Grandma Sara," Zack pointed to the couple, then the boy. "And that's my dad. There isn't any pictures of my mom when she was a kid. I don't know why." They flipped through the childhood pictures of James Baker and paused at a wedding portrait. "That's both of them."
April compared Zack to the pictures. The result was uncanny. "You look a lot like your father."
Zack shrugged. He heard it all before. "Everybody says that. I can't see it."
April smiled; no, he wouldn't see it. No child ever saw their resemblance to their parents. She never saw it when people compared her to her father. She turned the page to a family portrait of James, Amanda, and Billy when he was about four-years-old. "Where are all the embarrassing baby pictures?"
"We took them out, Allie and me. She said she wanted a dignified album. If she didn't burn them, they're in a smaller box somewhere."
April pointed to the boy in the picture. "Is that your older brother?"
"Yeah, that's Billy. I didn't know him that well. Grandmother Keene took him in after our parents died. I don't think Allie's forgiven her for that. Ya see, we got short changed just because we were little kids and Billy was the oldest." Zack looked down at the floor. "Why do you think they killed him?"
"I don't know. It makes sense that they killed him to keep him from investigating the Hi-Tech Robberies, but it doesn't make sense for them to try to kill you and Allie."
Zack looked up worriedly. "I don't know if I miss him. Is that normal?"
"You said you really didn't know him. I think you have to know someone before you can miss them when they're gone." April turned the page to a laughing four-year-old girl with blonde pigtails. "Is that Allie?"
"Yeah," Zack answered. "That picture was taken before they died--our parents, I mean. She acts a lot different now." For an unspeakable reason, he felt compelled to explain. "Her and Billy were really close; I think being separated from him affected her a lot more than loosing Mom or Dad. Then we kept getting tossed around foster homes because nobody wanted to adopt a psycho kid like Allie and we had to go together. She doesn't like trusting people, not the people your supposed to trust anyway. She made her friends on the street and finally ran away two years ago. The police found her last year in San Francisco with a biker gang. Ms. Pat, our social worker, told her it was either Billy--who really wanted us--or juvenile hall. She picked the lesser of the two evils. For my sake. She always does everything for me."
"Sounds like you've had a rough life," April closed the photo album and watched Zack.
"Don't get me wrong! Allie gets on my nerves sometimes and she's slightly suicidal but I wouldn't trade her for anyone else. We're a family. A small, largely-dysfunctional family--but a family. And nobody's going to change that."
Donnie walked up to April and Zack. "Is this all the certificates of events in your family?"
"It should be," Zack thumbed through the stack. "All the birth certificates; here's Mom and Dad's marriage license; and...," he jerked his hand back. "Everything you need is there, I hope," he replied quickly.
April frowned slightly and turned to Donnie. "What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to load these dates and other info into my computer and see what it comes up with. It may not be much but it could help. Then I'll cross-reference it with newsworthy events around the same time. They could have relevance too."
"Does he always talk like that?" Zack whispered as Donnie walked back to his lab.
"You get used to it," April answered.
Dan walked out of his kitchen and set a plate of pizza slices on the coffee table in front of Mike, who nodded his thanks and began eating. Allie sat beside the Turtle on the Pennington couch, holding a soft drink with both hands and staring at it as if it could tell the future. Dan straightened his back. "So April was going to check out Billy's lead if he left any, and Raph and Zack got the family records to check out the dishonor theory."
Allie looked up, confused. "We come from a family of farmers. My grandparents still live out on the farm. They have never had any dealings with any Japanese--much less ninjas!"
Mike swallowed his mouthful of pizza. "Maybe it's from your mom's side?"
Allie shook her head. "That's even more unlikely. Mom's family was high class."
"Then you agree with the
"I don't know," Allie moaned. "If I only had a minute to sit down and think it out."
"Come down to the Lair," Mike argued. "You'll be safe there."
"And you Turtles won't let me back out." Allie shook her head, "The only way to help Zack is if I'm out on the street."
"He's worried about you, Allie. And I'm worried about you, too." Dan sat in the easy chair next to the couch.
Allie reached out and grabbed Dan's knee, squeezing it briefly. "I'm touched, Dan, really I am. But I'm not giving up."
Dan sighed, "I figured you'd say that. What do you know?"
Mike answered after swallowing some soda. "The Shredder's back."
"The Shredder! But I thought you guys got rid of him!"
"Funny thing, that's what we thought too."
"Somebody mind rewinding and catching me up?" Allie asked, looking at both of them. "Not like I'm expecting it."
"The Shredder was the guy who killed Splinter's sensei--a man named Hamato Yoshi," Dan explained. "Then he tried to take over the city a couple of years ago. I'm surprised you didn't hear about it."
"I was out of town. Was he the reason you got into trouble?"
"Him and my own stupidity."
"But if it hadn't been for Dan, we would have lost Splinter, our sensei, for good." Mike grinned, "That makes him a-okay in the Turtle book."
"I assume that's not the end of the story." Allie set the soda can on the coffee table.
"We thought he was gone for good," Mike explained. "But he survived enough to make a comeback. But the police found his body after we defeated him that time. He was deader than dead. That's also when we met Keno."
"Keno knows these guys too?" Allie turned to Dan, who nodded sheepishly. "You guys are better at keeping secrets than you give yourselves credit for."
"So this Shredder is either the original--again," Mike exclaimed.
"Or some joker using his name," Dan finished. "Which is it?"
"That's the question I can answer," Allie looked grim. "With a little time."
Dan winced seriously. "Allie, I'm telling you this as a friend." She jumped up and stalked to the window. Dan ignored it bravely. "This Shredder--whoever he is--means business. I don't want to see you or Mikey hurt."
It's the same thing no matter who she was with. No one believed what she could do. No one except Skulls, and Caine. She wished either one was here, helping her. "You should know by now, Daniel," she hissed through clenched teeth. "That I see everything through to the end."
Mike watched both of them. Had he made a mistake about her relationship with Dan? "I hate to interrupt, but we shouldn't stay here long. The last thing we want is for those greedy crooks to show up here." He stood up, grabbed his fedora, and stepped to the door. "Thanks for the pizza."
Dan stood up and walked over to Allie as she stared out the window. "I know you can find this guy. I know you can find out why he killed Billy and why he wants you and Zack dead. But I don't think just you and Mikey can take him down."
"I don't have a choice," she gazed out the window.
"Allie, are you sure?"
She whirled from the window. "Dan, I'm going after this guy. For Billy and Zack."
"Not for you?" he asked harshly. "Not to relieve some of those bitter resentments you hold against the world in general?"
"Maybe I am," she stormed to the door.
That did it. "Allie." She turned back to him. "Be careful." They never said they were sorry; there was no point. Allie knew Dan didn't mean to hurt her feelings, and Dan knew Allie talked angrily to keep from physically hurting someone.
Allie smiled slightly, "Thanks."
Mike leaned against the wall in the hallway and he tipped his hat to Allie. "Going my way, fair lady?" He fell in step beside her.
Allie shrugged, "I can't stop you. But this is my fight."
"I'm not arguing with you, I only want to help. Don't start your speech." The Turtle held up his hands and interrupted Allie's angry outburst. "I'd hate for anything to happen to you. Especially since we've reached this level of understanding."
"What level of understanding?" Allie snorted as they left Dan's building.
"I think I know you."
Allie gave a short laugh. "You just met me a couple of hours ago. How can you know me?"
"You remind me of a girl I knew once. Except that she knew when she was in over her head."
Now Mike saw the trap he was in. "Well... I... er... liked her. But she was in love with someone else."
"I still don't think you know me," Allie tossed her blonde hair over her shoulders.
"Maybe," Mike admitted, "but I think I have a pretty good idea." Allie started protesting, but Mike pulled her into an alley.
The voices he had heard came closer. "I thought I saw someone on the street."
"You think it could be the chick?"
"She was last seen around here."
Allie stood behind Mike in the shadows of the alley. "We have to get out of here," she whispered.
Mike spied the trash cans. "How good are you at Frisbee?" She stared at him bewilderedly. He crept to the cans, passed a lid quietly to Allie, and picked up another one. "Come on."
"I think there's something you should know." Allie whispered as they crept to the mouth of the alley. Mike's cleanly-thrown lid downed one punk and the other whirled around. Allie's throw missed him completely. "I never learned how to play Frisbee!" she cried to his incredulous face.
He grabbed her hand and yanked her down the street. While running, he spied the crumbling subway station. They hopped over the turnstile and jumped on board the train pulling out of the station. They collapsed in an empty seat, panting from the sprint. "You never learned to throw a Frisbee?" he finally managed to ask.
"I had a disadvantaged childhood, okay! There's nothing I can do about it now."
"You can learn how to throw a Frisbee."
"Would you drop the Frisbee issue, Mike! And people say I'm obsessed."
"Well, I finally get a good idea and you screw it up!"
"Just drop it!"
Lotus pulled back the hood of her ninja jumpsuit, letting her long, black
hair flow down her back freely. Some people would argue about her beauty, but
never to her face. She had a bad habit of taking remarks made about her looks
the wrong way. She stepped into a phone booth and dialed a number. "Has Clin-san
returned? I will leave a message. The girl has help and I am following a clue."
She hung up the phone and stared at the building soberly.
Dan opened his apartment door, not sure what to expect. The slim, Japanese girl dressed in a black, loose-fitting pantsuit wasn't what he thought he should expect. But that was one thing the Turtles had taught him, never take anything for granted. "I don't know what your game is, but," he touched the alarm panel mounted next to the door, "this system works both ways. And the cops are getting tired of ninja-related crimes."
She sat on the couch. "If you do not trust me, why did you let me in?"
He sat in a chair facing the couch. "I was curious. Why would a nice girl like you be interested in people who nobody knows I know about?"
The girl smiled, "I am not very nice but thank you for the compliment. The knowledge you refer to is common in some circles."
"Like ninja dojos?"
That made the girl guarded. "Perhaps. Can you tell me where your friends are?"
Dan leaned back with a laugh. "I'm not the one most people confide in. Anyway, all they told me was they wanted to leave before anyone followed them here."
She stared into his green eyes that he didn't try to avert. "They are in danger, not from me, but they are."
Dan stood up, "I believe you. But I don't know where they are." He opened the door. "You better go."
She paused at the door. "Tell her not to face the Shredder. It is not wise."
"I tried already. Allie doesn't exactly have an open ear." She nodded and walked out the door. "Wait a minute. Is this Shredder really Oroku Saki?"
The girl stared at him incredulously. "How can he be? Oroku Saki is dead."
Dan shut the door as she walked down the hall and picked up the telephone.
Leo answered the phone in the Lair. "Hello?"
"Hey Leo, you haven't heard from Mikey, have you?"
"No, Dan. Why?"
"Allie and he were here for a little while. Allie wants to go after this new Shredder."
"Why am I not surprised," Leo said sarcastically. "But they know about this Shredder?"
"They said he was the one who put out the hit list. Why?"
"The Shredder is supposed to be the mastermind behind the Hi-Tech Robberies. And Billy was investigating them."
"Okay," Dan took a deep breath. "I can see killing Billy. But why try to kill Allie and Zack?"
"Maybe he thinks they know something," Leo suggested.
Dan frowned, "I'm worried about her. Allie is, well, vindictive. She won't condone murder, and that's what egging her on--not self-preservation. No matter what she says."
"We're all worried," Leo stopped as Raph walked by.
He was playing a hand-held video game. "Die, space scum! Die!"
"In our own ways," Leo continued.
"But after they left, a Japanese girl came asking about them."
"You didn't tell her anything, did you?" Leo cried, alarmed.
"I don't know anything to tell," Dan admitted. "But she said this new Shredder was not Oroku Saki."
"That's a piece of good news. But why did you let her in to begin with?"
"She knew about Hamato Yoshi, Tang Shen, and Oroku Saki and knew that I
Donnie stared at the computer screen and scratched his head. "That can't be right." He looked out over the Lair. "Zack, do you know how old your parents were when they got married?"
Zack looked up, "I always heard they were in their twenties." He, April, Leo, and Raph walked up to the lab.
"According to his birth certificate, your father was born in 1954, and your parents were married in 1970."
"But he would have been only sixteen," April frowned.
Zack stared at them, "So, what's the big deal?"
"Parental permission for one thing," April answered. "And most sixteen-year-old boys don't marry twenty-year-old girls."
"Are you sure, Donnie?" Leo asked.
"I'm sure, Leo."
Raph shrugged, unconcerned. "So, like Zack said, what's the big deal? They got married young, people used to do that--some still do. So what?"
"That's a valid argument, Raph. James Baker could have been an extremely intelligent person who finished high school at fifteen, got married a year later, and a baby delivered for Christmas."
"If that's a sign of intelligence, what's slowing you down?"
Donnie ignored Raph. "It doesn't add up. It's a fact that doesn't fit."
"You've been reading those mysteries again. Next thing we know, you'll be calling yourself Sherlock McTurtle."
"Can you check it out, April?" Donnie said evenly, ignoring Raph ribbing.
"The birth certificate?" Donnie nodded in response to April's question. "Sure, but do you think it'll pan out?"
Donnie frowned uncertainly. "I hope so, maybe it'll tell us why this new Shredder wants to kill Allie and Zack."
"Don't get your hopes up too high." Raph answered the ringing telephone. "Hello? Yeah, she's here." He covered the mouthpiece. "You gave Channel Three our phone number?"
April grabbed the phone receiver. "Only as a place they can reach me at. Hello? Okay, I'll be there in a little while." She hung it up. "Will and Sara Baker are at the station and they want an interview."
"My grandparents?" Zack asked. "Can I go, too?"
"It maybe safer if you stay here," Leo answered. "Be careful, April."
"You worry too much. I'll be fine. Good luck."
"Same to you, babe," Raph called after her.