I looked down at a dead girl, body slashed from right shoulder to left hip by four deep gouges. Bobcat.
A few weeks before, the corporate sponsored All American Alliance hero Amazing Ashley had accidentally freed a clawed serial killer in Austin, and nearly killed me trying to recapture him. I recovered with no permanent damage, but Bobcat got away. Now, a super-strong criminally insane cat-man with four inch razor sharp claws was loose in my city.
Yeah, I guess Austin was my city now.
I’d made a stand here against the Order of St. George, the religious fanatics who murdered my dad, and who wanted to murder all dragons. I’d spent most of my life running and hiding from them. Now, I wasn’t running anymore. I still kept my scales and wings hidden, though. I wasn’t going to live in paranoid fear anymore, but I wasn’t going to be stupid about it either.
Liberty, the leader of the local chapter of the US government sponsored hero group, The Protectors, had put out an APB with the local Austin police for Bobcat. The Austin area hero community had been on the lookout for him as well. You’d think a huge cat-guy with pointed, fur-tufted ears would stand out in a crowd.
Not so much, really. It’s Austin after all. Home of the weird.
On the UT campus, I’d seen a girl with six inch long elf ears in a chain mail bikini just yesterday, accompanied by a guy who looked like a Klingon, complete with wrinkly forehead and a bat’leth. There weren’t any sci fi conventions in town or anything, just a normal Saturday on campus. Add that to the high number of supes drawn to the area and you got a lot of folks who wouldn’t blend anywhere else blending just fine here.
So, Bobcat was still free. And just past sunset on what had been a 75 degree, sunshiney Sunday in January, some nice young Co-ed ended up as a statistic. She’d still been breathing when the cops called the ambulance.
Jack and I, as usual with Jack driving, got there in record time, but it wasn’t quite fast enough.
Jack brushed the dead girl’s dark hair back from her face with a gentle hand and felt for a full minute, hoping against sense for even the flutter of a pulse. Jack’s my boyfriend, my partner, and the bravest man I know.
She’d been pretty, the dead girl.
“Bobcat,” I said.
Jack looked at me and nodded. His lips tightened in frustration. He drove our ambulance like Mario Andretti, but it wasn’t quite fast enough this time. This was the third pretty young dark-haired girl with claw slashes we’d seen this week. Between his driving and my healing venom, we’d been able to save the other two.
I touched his face, tracing the line of his high cheekbones. He had soft Asian features that normally wore a crooked smile that charmed the world and made him look even younger than his twenty-seven years. I could see in his dark eyes now that he was kicking himself for not getting here faster.
He leaned into my hand for a moment, accepting the comfort.
Officer Flynn made notes on a pad. “That makes six victims. The captain’s on all our asses to find him. I called the detectives right after I called you guys. Long’s on his way.”
I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and speed dialed the second most powerful superhero in the country. It used to make me feel important that Liberty knew me. It still did, I guess, but now, I felt more that she was a friend who wanted to stop this lunatic as much as I did. We both felt partially responsible for letting him get away since we’d both failed to stop him. I put the call on speaker so Jack and Flynn could hear. “Liberty, we found another Bobcat victim. Another college age woman with dark hair. This one didn’t make it.”
I heard a sad sigh. “Where?”
“North side of UT campus, near Eastwood Park.”
“Could he still be nearby?”
“She was still breathing three minutes ago.” I looked around and tried to think like an insane cat-man. I’d seen him bound from roof to roof to put the best parkour practitioner to shame. “Honestly, he could be anywhere by now.”
Liberty’s voice fell with disappointment. “We’ve got to get ahead of him, Dee. Every day he’s free, we lose lives.”
“He’s hit campus twice, both right around sundown. These girls he’s after look a lot like me. I’m up for playing bait.”
“That’s a very brave offer,” Liberty told me. “Unfortunately, he has an embarrassment of choice. You would be one among hundreds of potential victims.”
“Maybe not,” Jack said. “What if we could clear the campus somehow, get all the real students out of sight?”
It seemed like a good idea, but there was a catch. “Bobcat has super-hearing. Anything the students talk about, he’s likely to overhear.”
Flynn said, “The campus police set up a Twitter handle and voluntary cell phone sign-up list for all students and professors. It’s becoming common practice after a few shooters have gone postal on college campuses. We can send out a signal that essentially says, ‘A killer is loose. Stay indoors from sundown to two hours after. Spread the word digitally, but don’t say anything out loud.’”
“That might work,” Liberty said. “Dee would need formidable backup, but they also would have to be nearly silent. I will, of course, lend my own aid, but the other Protectors are all on assignment elsewhere. We’re short-handed without White Knight. Officer, we will need some help from the supe squad.” That’s the nickname for the SWAT team that handles super-powered criminals, usually after a superhero has already subdued them.
Jack looked down at the dead girl. She had light cinnamon brown skin, a prominent nose, thick dark hair past her shoulders and slightly Hispanic features. She did look a lot like me, actually. Except that she was dead from bloody claw slashes. Jack swallowed. He didn’t bother to try to talk me out of it. Jack knew me too well. “Be careful, Dee.”
I would have said something flip, like, ‘Aren’t I always?’ Or ‘You know me,’ but the trouble was, he did know me. Careful is not really something I’m good at. “I’ll try.”