Chapter Fifty Three
I took a second to think. If Roy was telling the truth, then he was only able to switch himself with the soda can because he could see it. That meant that he couldn't be far away, so I took off running in the direction he'd thrown the can. Once I was in the street, he was pretty easy to spot.
“Somebody stop him!" I shouted, running after him. If I couldn't beat him up without looking like a mugger, then I'd make him look like a mugger.
I got a few strange looks for my outburst, but nobody moved to intervene.
“Stop him!" I said, pointing at him in the distance. “He just robbed me!"
Now that got their attention. Before I'd even finished my sentence, there were three guys trying to cut him off. Roy skidded to a stop, and then ducked into another alley.
“Get'im!" one of them shouted, and went in after him.
It didn't matter at this point, anyway. I was faster, so I made it to the alley before they did. I could take Roy down by myself if I had to, but it'd be nice to have some help. And now that I'd branded him as the bad guy, nobody would blame me for giving him a good thumping.
He was still in sight when I came to the other end of the alley, and I immediately started calling for help as I chased him. That was one good thing about his neon clothes— they made him easy to pick out in a crowd.
Ninja my butt, I thought as I gained ground on him.
I almost had him. He was only ten feet in front of me, so I put on an extra burst of speed and closed the distance. Grabbing his collar, I threw my shoulder into his back and shoved him into the wall.
“Okay, okay, I give!" he said, trying to push away from the building. I was too strong for him, though, so he stayed right where I wanted him.
“Give it back!" I snarled, leaning in close to his face.
“Are you all right?" I turned and saw one of the men who had come chasing after us running up. “Do you need help?"
Then, suddenly, I wasn't looking at that man anymore. I was looking at Roy.
“Wh- what the hell?"
I looked and saw the man who had come to help me pinned to the wall by my hand. Roy turned and ran, and I went after him again, leaving a very confused man behind. He didn't have a head start this time, so I managed to catch up within a few seconds. This time, I tackled him to the ground.
“Holy crap!" he yelled with his face pressed against the pavement. “What are you?"
“You wouldn't believe me if I told you," I growled, squeezing his shoulder where I knew the pressure point was. He groaned, and tried to wriggle free, but I held him tight.
“Let me up," he said. “I'll give you the money back."
“So you can switch yourself away again?" I asked. “Yeah, right."
“You're holding onto my jacket," he said. “I can't switch if you've got my clothes in your hand."
“Why?" I asked.
“Because whatever I switch with has to be put in the same position I was in. My jacket's all bunched up in your hand. I can't replace it with anything when it's like that."
I gave him a blank look.
“Look, just let me up!" he said. “It's not like I can run when you've got hold of me."
Reluctantly, I took my weight off him and let him stand up. I kept a firm grip on his jacket, though. I didn't know if he was telling the truth, but he hadn't switched himself already so I guessed there must have been some truth to his words.
“Now give me the freaking money," I said.
“Okay, fine, here," he said, and dug into his pocket and produced the cash. I snatched it out of his hand and hid it behind my back. It wasn't a great hiding spot, but at least he wouldn't be able to see it there.
“You owe me two extra for that snow cone you bought," I reminded him.
“Aw, come on!" he whined. “Cut me some slack!"
“I'll cut you someplace if you keep screwing with me!"
“All right, sheesh!" he got his wallet from his back pocket and took two more dollars out of it. I snatched them away and then hid my hand behind my back again.
“Don't mess with me again, got it?" I said, giving him an icy glare.
“Sure, sure, whatever," he grumbled. “Freaking mutant."
“What was that?" I asked, pulling him closer.
Roy smiled. “Nothing. Hey, what's that?" He pointed at something behind me.
I laughed. “How old do you think I am? I'm not going to fall for that."
“No, seriously, there's a cat back there."
“So, it's a really cool cat."
I squinted at him. What the heck was he—
While I was distracted, Roy slipped out of his jacket and dodged to the right. I'd been so focused on him that I hadn't realized that he didn't have the thing zipped up. He didn't manage to get far, though. I just had to reach out and grab his shoulder. Roy raised his hand, gave me a coy wink, and then suddenly I wasn't holding onto him anymore. I felt the money get yanked out of my hand behind me. So what was I…
I heard a screech, suddenly red hot pain lanced up my arm. With a shriek of my own, I whipped my arm back and threw the cat across the street.
“Jerk!" I spun around and yelled, holding my bleeding hand against my shirt. Roy was long gone, though.
As mad as I was at that cat, I couldn't help but feel sorry for it. It wasn't its fault Roy had put it in my hand. Still, I thought as the breeze made my scratches prickle, I definitely liked cats a little bit less now. The scratches would heal. They'd probably be gone by tomorrow morning, in fact. But I doubted whatever D.K. did to me would go away nearly that fast if I didn't get him his money. Problem was, I had no idea where Roy had gone this time.
Having no other option, I started wandering around town, looking for him. Roy was one sly weasel, and if I was going to catch him I'd have to be even sneakier. I couldn't rely on just being stronger than him, because he could just switch himself away. I needed a plan…
After walking aimlessly for half an hour, thinking, I wandered past a floral shop. Despite the hard winter we'd been having, they somehow managed to have a bunch of live plants growing out in front of the store. There were flowers in every color, but it was the leaves that caught my attention. They were green.
An idea began to form inside my head. It was a stupid idea, but it was the only one I could think of. Looking both ways to make sure nobody was watching me, I quickly plucked a handful of leaves off the plants.
“Hey!" the shop owner yelled, throwing the door open and storming out. “You'll have to pay for those, now!"
I looked at her, clutching the leaves tightly in my hand. “Um… nope!" I said, and turned and ran the other way as fast as I could.
Well, great. If collecting D.K.'s money didn't make me a thief, then that sure did. Still, nipping leaves off a plant was nothing compared to what I needed to do next.
I went inside a clothing store down the street from the and pretended to browse. Roy may not have been the brightest crayon in the box, but he knew what I looked like, which meant he would know to stay away from me. If I wanted to bait him close to me, I needed to make sure he didn't recognize me. So, with that in mind, I snagged a random jacket and ran out of the store. An alarm rang, painfully loud in my sensitive ears, but I kept running despite the workers shouting at me to stop. I rounded the corner, shooting through another alleyway, and into the next street before yanking the tags off slipping it on.
Oh, just my luck, I thought, having to shrug my shoulders to keep it from sliding off. Four sizes too big!
Oh well, at least it would hide me better. I flipped the hood up and made for another clothes store. Maybe it wasn't smart to wear freshly stolen merchandise in the middle of a crowded street, but I figured I could outrun any cop that tried to chase me. The jacket wasn't enough, though. I needed a new pair of pants just to make sure Roy didn't recognize me.
I'll probably never be able to come into this part of town again, I thought, taking a pair of oversized camo pants down and running out of the store. More sirens, more people yelling at me, and more of me ignoring them. When I was a safe distance away, I slipped the pants on over my jeans.
“Right," I said, pulling the leaves I'd collected earlier out of my pocket. “Now the fun part begins."
With that, I ventured back into the street, holding the leaves in my hand. I tried to hold them out so anyone could see them, but still hide them enough that they wouldn't realize they were leaves. If Roy thought I was carrying a huge wad of cash, maybe he would come try to steal it. Like I said, it was a stupid plan. But also like I said, it was the only thing I could think of. And since I figured people were still keeping their eyes out for the clothes I'd stolen, I kept to the other side of the shopping district, which effectively halved the area I could work in.
It took another forty minutes of just wandering around randomly, and I was about ready to give up, when he finally showed himself. I saw him before he saw me, though with his glow-in-the-dark clothes it was impossible to miss him.
“Excuse me, good sir!" he said, walking up to me just like he had before. “Could you help me? My mother is in the…"
I flipped the hood back, and Roy's voice trailed off.
“Oh," he said at last. “Crap."
Then I dropped the leaves, grabbed him by the neck, and pulled him into the alley with me. He struggled, but I had too good a grip on him. I kept him moving this time, knowing that if I let him focus on something for too long he would just switch himself with it. This particular alley was behind an L-shaped building, which made a corner halfway through.
I kept his shirt sleeves balled up in my fists, and threw myself backward so that I had my back in the corner.
“Hey, let me go!" he yelled. “Help, I'm being mugged!"
“Shut up, already!" I hissed, and clamped a hand over his mouth.
Usually, when you mug someone you want to have them in the corner. I could tell Roy was confused by the fact that I had put myself there instead, but slowly I saw comprehension dawn on him. If he was facing the corner, all he could see was brick walls on both sides, and me. If I'd put him where I was, he could have looked out into the street for things to switch with. Like this, though, he had nothing to work with.
“I'm done playing games with you," I said, keeping my hand over his mouth. Not only was it keeping him quiet, it was keeping him from turning his head and looking away. “Give me back my freaking money!"
Roy struggled for a few seconds, and then finally relaxed. He looked me in the eye, and nodded.
“Are you going to scream?" I asked. He shook his head, so I slowly took my hand away.
“Well, this is, uh, interesting," he chuckled. “You've got your back to the wall, and you're pulling me closer. Someone might think we're—"
“If you finish that sentence, I'll snap your neck," I said.
“Okay, okay, fine! Looks like you thought this through. You really got me this time."
“It wasn't hard," I said. “Even if you can do magic, you're as predictable as a rock."
He gave me a strange look. “Magic? What? Is that what I've been doing?"
“Well, what else would it be?"
Roy let this information sink in, and got a thoughtful look on his face. “Magic, huh? Who'da thunk it?"
I didn't know why, but I had a feeling telling him that may have been a mistake.
“Never mind it," I said. “Give me the money!"
“All right, here," he said, reaching down into his pants pocket and pulling out the roll of bills he'd stolen from me. Strangely, he didn't seem all that upset about it, now that I'd given him something to think about.
I pushed Roy away, sticking the money in my pocket this time. “Pleasure doing business with you."
Roy laughed. “Maybe we can do this again sometime. You free on Saturday?"
“Nope," I replied, and kicked him in the crotch.
I watched him for a few seconds, moaning in pain and holding himself, and smiled in satisfaction. Then, on a whim, I stripped out of the clothes I'd stolen, knelt down, and forced him into them. I zipped the jacket up to his neck and then, without further ado, ran out into the street.
“Help!" I screamed. “He's trying to rob me!"
NEXT TIME: And that wraps that up! Now Amber just has to deliver the money back to D.K. I sure hope he's not mad at her for taking so long!