Disclaimer: Audrey appears here by permission of Irisbloom5. I do not own the character.
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Chapter 6: Broken MusicI was halfway home and hoping that I'd make it all the way without incident when the Death Song tore into my mind. I gasped and instinctively clapped my hands over my ears— but only for a moment. Then I took off running towards the Song, clutching my violin case. I doubted I'd be in time to help the victim; the force and harshness of the not-notes told me that the Song was about to crescendo. But maybe I could still catch the killer.
My chase led me away from my original route, past graffiti-scrawled walls and broken streetlights, and finally to an alley where I knew at least one homeless man spent his nights. I paused a few feet away from the alley as the Death Song declined, losing force but not harshness. Definitely too late for the victim. I pulled a bandanna from my back pocket, wrapped it around my face, and removed my violin from its case. But not for the killer.
My violin and bow at the ready and an air song on my tongue, I crept towards the alley and peered around the corner. I don't know what I expected to see, maybe the aftermath of a deadly fight between members of enemy gangs, maybe another mugging gone wrong-- I saw enough of those. But I know what I didn't expect to see: Damian Welsh standing over a ragged-looking man like he had over Lacey that night in the hotel two years ago.
He didn't wear a suit this time, just a button-up shirt and dark jeans, and a fedora that shadowed his face. But the black ring sat on his finger, casting such a strong anti-glow that it hid the victim's face. I could see Welsh’s face, though, shadowed as it was; could make out a smile of grim pleasure.
It's my second chance. Welsh didn't know I was here, and so long as I kept my distance, I could easily overpower him. I could capture him. Keep him here and call the police.
Or serve out justice myself. But the mere thought of that made my stomach twist. Welsh deserved death, I knew as certainly as I knew the notes of my favorite song. However, I knew just as well that it wasn't my place to deal out punishment like this.
However, that didn't mean I couldn't or shouldn't act. Stepping away from the wall, I raised my violin. I had no doubt about which song to use, even if it was normally forbidden. I needed Welsh to stay here, under my control— and I wanted him to confess all the wrong he'd done.
The first notes of the peoples’ song escaped my strings. With them I sent my silent command: Stop. Let him go. Face me.
And he did. The anti-glow flickered away; the last notes of the Death Song cut off abruptly. The homeless man slumped, staring blankly before him, his chest slowly rising and falling. Damian Welsh turned stiffly towards me; stared at me. I mentally prepared my next command.
But before I could issue it, Welsh opened his mouth and spoke a single word: “No.”
The song choked off. Notes splintered and shrilled into fractured pieces. My violin strings snapped with a twang. And the power that I commanded just a moment ago broke from my control and instead wrapped around me.
Welsh advanced towards me. “Drop the violin.”
My mind resisted. My fingers did not. My violin and bow clattered to the ground. I winced, hoping that neither was damaged too much. Then again, I'm probably about to be damaged too much! With this thought in mind, I turned to run.
“No,” Welsh said again. My feet moved without my permission, and I faced him once again. He continued to stride towards me with slow, casual steps. “Well. Some of my associates warned me that someone might be after me. Is that you?”
Don't speak. Don't say a word. But my mouth wasn't mine any more than my feet were. “Yes.” And since I already said that much, I added, “You're going to face justice one of these days for what you did. You can't run forever.”
“Do I look like I'm running?” Welsh stopped in front of me and crossed his arms. “No one would believe what I've done, even if they found out the truth. Your chase has been doomed all along. Maybe you know that and that's why you came after me with your little song, trying to steal my power. Is that it?”
“My chase is not doomed,” I muttered. And then, because he hadn't told me not to, I sang air, pulling breath from his lungs.
“Stop,” he gasped. The power in his voice, even with all the smoothness choked out, hit me like a punch to the throat. I broke off mid-note and stood with my mouth open.
Welsh took several deep breaths. “And be silent.” My mouth snapped shut. “You are wrong. Your chase ends tonight, mockingbird. I end it and take your life and your power to strengthen myself. Kneel.”
I started to obey. Then red-orange light lit the street and a burst of fire rushed over my head. Welsh dodged backwards and to the side, and I felt his control of me snap. At the same moment, a girl's voice behind me yelled, “Run!”
I grabbed my violin and bow, stood, and took off all in one motion. A second fireball rushed past me, and I heard Welsh cry out in pain. This time I spotted the fire’s source: a red-haired girl in a t-shirt the color of the shadows and well-worn jeans. Another flame balanced on the palm of her open hand. “Follow me!” She tossed the final fireball at Welsh, turned, and dashed down the street.
“Got it!” I caught up and glanced over my shoulder. Welsh rolled on the ground, trying to put out the flame on his sleeve. He paid us no attention, but I wasn't about to take chances. As we ran, I shifted my bow under my arm and plucked an pizzicato melody of light and on my violin strings. At the next intersection, as we turned right, three other versions of my rescuer and me split off from us. One turned left and another went straight ahead, while the third disappeared into a sketchy-looking corner store.
My guide and I ran several blocks and finally stopped near an apartment building that looked like it should've been condemned years ago. I leaned against the wall, gulping down air, while my rescuer bent over, panting, hands planted on her thighs.
She recovered enough to speak first. “You ok?”
“Yeah.” I nodded, still breathing heavily. “Thanks to you. You ok too?”
“Yeah.” She straightened up. “Who was that guy?”
“A murderer. I've been hunting him.” I grimace, realizing anew how close I came to both success and death in that encounter. Why was I so stupid? If only I had used a different song, hadn't gotten caught up in my desire for his confession, I might be turning Welsh over to the police right now. Instead, not only did he get away— with a few burns, sure— he nearly killed me just like he did Lacey and so many others.
My rescuer's voice broke me out of my self-reproach. “A murderer?” She perked up, almost excited. “Who'd he kill?”
“A lot of people.” I lifted my violin to examine it in the dim light of the streetlamp. It was a bit scratched up, but aside from that and the broken strings, there was no damage. Thank God for that. I carefully replaced it in its case and turned my attention back to the girl. “That was cool, by the way. Your thing with the fire.”
“Thanks.” She held up her palm, let a flame spring up there and watched it dance. “You seem to have a thing too. With music?”
“Yeah.” The confirmation felt odd in my mouth. I hadn’t dared admit the secret out loud, even to myself, since I left home. Even then, no one but Grampa knew anywhere near the full truth of what I could do, and he only knew because he’d been there when I found out myself. There were plenty of people I would’ve loved to tell, sure- my parents, my siblings, Uhjin, my youth pastor back home, the worship leader at my church here in the city. But I didn’t want to risk losing them; didn’t want them to think I was a freak; didn’t want them to ask questions I couldn’t answer. So I kept silent.
But this girl already knew my secret, and I knew hers. So I sang a brief strain of notes and the flame in the girl’s palm took the shape of a dancing woman who leapt and pirouetted and then disappeared into a firework-burst of sparks.
“Cool.” The girl closed her hand and the remnants of the flame disappeared. “You were out busking earlier, right? By the statue? My friend and I saw you. You’re good. Were you doing your thing then?
“Thanks.” Am I that recognizable, even with the mask? I tugged my bandanna down around my neck before adding, “And yeah, a little, just for fun.”
“I thought so!” The girl grinned triumphantly. “Lannis thought there was something odd going on too, but I wasn’t sure if we were imagining it. So are you a real super? You know, like Starlight?”
“No.” I shook my head. “Just a girl with weird powers. You?”
“Same.” She shoved her hands in her pockets, disappointment flavoring her tone. “Anyway, will you be ok getting home now?”
“I’ll be fine.” I wasn’t hurt, thanks to her. Just shaken. “Just tell me how to get back to Archer Street and I can make it from there.”
“Archer Street?” The girl thought a moment. “Ok, you want to go three blocks down that street—” she pointed— “make a left, walk one block, then take a right, walk another block, and you’ll hit Archer. Got it?”
“Three blocks, left, right, one block. Yeah.” I adjusted the strap of my violin case and stepped away from the apartment building. “Couldn’t I just go four blocks down the first street?”
“You could, sure, but I don’t think you want to.” The girl shook her head. “Not unless you want more excitement tonight.”
“I’ll pass, thanks. And thanks again for your help. You seriously saved my life.” I suppressed a shudder, thinking again of what could’ve happened to me. “See you around sometime?”
“Hopefully.” The girl headed for the apartment building door. “Be careful.”
“I will.” I headed down the street she’d told me. Please God, get me home safely. I’m not ready for another near death experience tonight!