She was a pretty little thing ... for a human. At 5'8" she was relatively tall for a woman. Within her family, though, she might as well have been seven feet. There was none that could match her ... in skill or attitude.
With her shoulder length brown hair, laced through with golden highlights and her gentle face, she could have been a model for some of New York's top agencies. But she declined all the offers. She had a dark secret ... a deep dark secret.
She sighed, looking out the window of her apartment. Her time was coming, she could already feel it. Deep within her soul the creature hummed, clawing at her consciousness ruthlessly. She knew she'd have to leave the city within the next couple of days. It wasn't safe for them. They weren't safe from her...
The ringing phone jangled across already tense nerves. Padding into the kitchen she picked it up on the second ring. "Yes?"
"Boss wants ya," a deep Italian accented voice said.
She hung up. She didn't need to respond. Being summoned by The Boss meant only one thing. It was time to go to work. Changing into jeans, a t-shirt and heavy boots, she gathered up a wad of cash and slipped it into her back pocket. Slinging on two shoulder holsters, she tucked a large, sharp Bowie knife into each, added a light windbreaker and headed out.
An hour later she pulled up to the gates of Claude Rosallano's Long Island home. She pinched her eyes closed, gripping the steering wheel tightly. She hated this part of her life ... but what other choice did she have? She owed the Rosallano's ... owed them big. She knew what they were. She knew what they did. And she cared. She hated being a part of it. They'd have no problem killing her if she turned on them.
Not that she would, she couldn't. While she suspected what they had done with those she'd tracked, she didn't have any solid proof.
She ground her teeth together when the gates swung open. She eased the Cadillac Escalade up the circular driveway. She got out, pushed the dark shades up on her head, and nodded to Bruno when he answered the door. "Heya, Bruno."
Bruno's bald head bobbed on his thick neck. He stepped aside then closed the door behind her. He moved ahead, expecting her to follow. "He's out by da pool, Jaz."
Her boots thudded heavily against the pristine marble of the foyer and hallway. They walked out into the noonday sunshine under a crystal blue sky. She pulled her shades down again, smiling at the older gentlemen seated at a wrought iron table. A large umbrella shaded him from the heat of the day. He carefully folded his newspaper and set it aside as they approached.
"Jaz is here, Boss..." Bruno said needlessly.
The head of one of New York's largest crime families dictated certain protocols were followed and announcement of his guests was just one.
Claude Rosallano waved her to a chair. "Thank you, Bruno."
She sat, silently, and waited. Rosallano just did not summon someone without reason. She'd been around The Family long enough to know when to keep her attitude in check. Now was one of those times...
Eventually the older man looked into her eyes. She had a feeling he could see right through the dark shades, into her very soul. An involuntary shudder shook her nerves. Despite her short stature she had the attitude to match ... in the right circumstances at least, but now was not the time.
She spoke softly, smiling demurely. "You wanted to see me?"
"I did, Jasmine." Claude said. One corner of his wrinkled mouth lifted in a slow smile. "I have work for you."
She kept her mouth shut in front of this very powerful man and waited for him to say more.
He reached under the folded paper and slid a manila folder across the table.
She picked it up, flipped it open and read the contents quickly. She put the file back and pushed her glasses back up on her head. "You know what I need." she said frankly.
Claude snapped his fingers. Bruno appeared at his side, placing a jacket in his outstretched, age spotted hand. He held it in her direction.
She took it, lifted it to her nose and gave it a long sniff. Her eyes slipped closed. She drew her breath in and out in long pulls, catching every bit of scent from the garment that she could.
She got several things.
Cigar smoke ... A thick, heady Cuban
Aftershave ... The sweet smell of Old Spice
Alcohol ... The bitter bite of Seagram's seven
A puff of woman's perfume ... soft and gentle, White Diamonds from Elizabeth Taylor.
Then underlying everything was the unique scent of the man in question ... a mixture of pine needles and wood soap.
She gave one finally sniff, filtering out everything else and marked the unique combination into her mind.
She folded the jacket, picked up the file again. She read its contents twice more, memorizing them, closed it and rose from the table, pulling the shades down over her eyes. "I'll call when I have word."
"I know that you will my dear." Claude said. A slow, confident smile broke the ancient lines of his tanned face. "Time is of the essence."
She gave the Italian a crisp tilt of her head. Those five simple words said he expected results in less than a day. And she was good enough to provide them.
Riding back into the city she went over the most likely places to start. His apartment ... place of work. She went down the line, discounting the least likely from the file she'd read and going with the less obvious. She didn't tend to ask questions when it came to her work. She simply did what was asked and tracked down whoever needed to be tracked.
In truth, she really didn't want to know.
In her heart of hearts, she knew what happened, but she refused to acknowledge it ... she simply refused.
She arrived at the suspect's apartment and sat for a moment. Rolling down the window, she took the air into her lungs with a long, deep breath. As she'd done with the jacket, she filtered out all the usual New York garbage and waited for that unique combination to hit her.
It took a moment, the neighborhood was ripe with all manner of smells, but eventually she caught what she was looking for, faintly underlying everything else. It was so faint, that she knew it had been awhile since he'd been there.
She started the engine again and moved on to the next place on her mental list. His job. The results were the same, it had been awhile since he'd been there.
Next was some of his known haunts ... O'Malley's Pub on East 131st street ... Luigi's Pizzeria on 140th ... and down the line she went. She caught his scent at each but faintly, letting her know in each instance he hadn't visited them for at least two weeks.
She hit pay dirt at his girlfriends building. His scent was just a few days old.
She spied a parking garage and slid the Escalade into a vacant spot on the third level. She got out and began walking. She started at the top of the garage and worked her way down. Nothing. Not even a faint trace of his smell lingered. She headed out to the street, pacing the sidewalk in front of the woman's building until she had his direction.
Down two blocks ... a left ... another block ... a right ... two more blocks and she had to pause, loosing it for a moment under a passing garbage truck. Scrunching up her nose up to ignore the smell, she sneezed when it passed to clean it out again.
She walked ... eyes half lidded as she continually pulled at the air around her. Two blocks after the garbage truck ... another right ... then down a set of steps ... into the subway...
She almost lost the trail in the tunnels but caught the faint whiff again as the #3 whistled by. She waited about 20 minutes for the next train and got on. At each station, she got off again ... sniffing while the passengers came and went. She got back on until she finally found it at one of the Brooklyn stations.
It was strong here, new, fresh and her heart skipped with excitement. She was almost there, she could feel it. Her blood hummed, now that the prey was close. Licking her lips, she opened her mouth, breathing in deeply. His scent filtered over her senses and she smiled. It was predator's smile, a victory smile. The hunt was almost done.
The scent collected in her mind, strong and prominent, just a few hours old. She took a steadying breath, beating back the beast. It was too close to her time to be doing this. The animal within clawed at her, gnawing at her gut to be free of the human flesh.
She stopped, leaning against the railing to gain some control. Normally the beast within could be tamed, even when she was on the Hunt. With a little over a day to the moon rise, it was harder now. She slid down to the steps, folding her face into shaky hands. "I've got to get out of this business!"
Sweat collected on her forehead, slipping into her eyes. Her heart thumped in her chest, trying to expand. Her fingers curled against her head, pressing into her skull hard to keep the beast at bay. Now was not the time to loose control.
People buzzed around her. The coming and going of the trains rattled the concrete. Her body hummed ... every nerve sensitive to every sound. She wanted to scream, she wanted to run. She needed to get out of the city. She pulled at the air, beating the beast back into dormancy.
Thirty minutes later she stepped out onto the street again. The scent of her prey was still strong, hanging thick in the air. She turned left out of the station and stopped in her trek in front of Brooklyn Police Department, Station House #55.
She had him now. He was in the building. She knew it just as surely as she knew her own name.
The Hunt was over.