There were very few people that Malachite was willing to go to bat for outside Katherine and his family. Henry, Katherine’s younger brother, was one of them. The kid had gotten in with a local gang that Ethan had been quietly supporting, much to Katherine and Malachite’s dismay. The kid was good, if a little hard-headed and easily led astray. So when he had come to Malachite, his voice panicked, and told him that one of the upper members of the gang had put it on his head to get rid of the guy fucking around with their shipments, Malachite had agreed to help.
He’d dressed in the normal everyday clothes that he wore when he was off the clock, and he had told Obsidian he was going to take a few days to spend with Katherine, and he had told Katherine he was going to be on a business trip. Henry had begged him not to Katherine, because she would be upset that he had gotten in over his head, and he had reassured the kid that whatever was going on, he could handle it. He could take care of whatever problem was harassing them.
So it was with all of that in place that Malachite was currently walking along the riverside of the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex, waiting. The shipment had just come in, and the members had left with the first round of deliveries. So he was walking along it, his hand tracing the shipping container. He was waiting. Eventually, the people doing this would show. They wouldn’t be able to resist. Not a single man, alone on the docks.
He had stripped off his studded leather jacket and hung it loosely from the bars on the front of the shipping container, so he was dressed only in a white long-sleeved shirt, a pair of black, torn-up jeans, and his burgundy Doc Martin boots. Plain, because he didn’t want to ruin any of his better clothes should this become a real fight and his clothes got torn.
Mal was hoping that he could avoid a real fight, maybe talk them out of whatever was going on. He didn’t like to break normal people. He had a respect for life, one that challenged his job quite often. He was doing this specifically for Henry. He was willing to do whatever needed to be done in order to get the kid out of the trouble he was in.
Philly had turned out to be a good place to rest. After Columbus, Todd O. Fowler hadn’t been sure he could handle another population center – but he’d at least needed a place to eat, and effectively disappear. Philadelphia was that place. For a city whose industries bettered society, there were more than enough rats for a coyote to eat well.
He’d spent some time following leads and rumors, and establishing just as many. Scarecrow, Fox, Slasher, Death – Coyotl, for those who bothered to actually ask – news had started to travel. Fear had spread with it, the gaunt figure in the canine mask with blue animal eyes. Most hardened criminals didn’t believe in bogeymen, but the softer ones were scared enough to make up for it.
He’d needed to eat three times in the last two months. The first one was a runner; the second was a dealer; the last one was a gang member. He’d used the last as a message, the first confirmation that Coyotl was more than just a howling voice in the night. He’d spent the two weeks since then watching them, the warehouses and shipments they frequented, gauging the response. Predictable was the fear. Doubling watches, everyone looking over their shoulder, whispered rumors and fear. His sharp ears picked up every nervous word, his nose knew the sharp scent of adrenaline whenever one man was alone for too long.
That’s why all of this was weird.
One guard, alone. No coat or armor. The river breeze carried no fear away from him, and his body language was calm. From the top of a nearby stack of shipping crates, Coyotl watched, listened, waited. The others would come back soon, but he needed a look at what was inside this one. If he could find the large-scale dealers, he could leave the low-level gangsters alone with the fear he’d already established.
That meant getting past one unarmed human guard. He really didn’t want to start with a fight. He was still well-fed, and while he wasn’t above violence, he had other means.
He inhaled again, slowly, his eyes on the target, watching for reactions as he focused his voice to a pitch beyond human vocal cords, a high, whining cry like a wind rushing across an open plain at high speeds, or kissing the tip of a skyscraper. A cry of loneliness, of hunger, of winter, of elemental destruction. A voice given to a silent threat. And, more often than not, the only warning Coyotl gave before he struck, lethally or otherwise. Enough of a warning to gauge the response of his prey.
When the sound came, Mal’s ears perked up. Well, that wasn’t a normal person. They twitched as they tried to pinpoint the sound. He hadn’t heard whatever it was sneak up on them, but now he could find it. It was good at being quiet– but there it was, on top of the shipping container stack, north of him and up high. Mal tipped his head to the side as he looked up, at the empty space. He was trying to hide from him, and if he hadn’t made that sound, he would have had the drop on him.
Instead, Mal let his hand brush the steel bar of the bar of the shipping container behind him. He pulled the texture and density of the metal up his arm and across his body. Every part of him turned to steal, and the pieces ground together as he flexed his new skin. Then, he took off at full speed right for the stack of containers. There was a narrow gap between that and the other stack, and Mal could see his way up to the top.
He darted between them, kicked off the ground, and grabbed the top of the one on the right, where there was a lip just big enough to grab. From there, he pulled himself up and pushed off to grab the bar of the next container on the left, using it to push himself high. He grabbed the next lip, stepping up onto the edge of the bar he’d previously been holding. A final yank of his hand and a push off the metal bar had him on top of the right stack of containers.
He turned to face the lone figure on the other stack. It was dark, but his eyes were good. A head full of tight and long curls, black and startling blue eyes looking back at him through the gaps of a skull mask. A long brown duster covered whatever he was wearing beneath it. A vigilante, then. He cracked his knuckles and then spread his arms out wide.
“I don’t suppose I could convince you to give up and go away, could I? You look like you’ve maybe seen a few fights. I’d hate for this to become one.”
He knew he’d fucked up when he saw movement under the other man’s hair, a motion that revealed the sharp ears. Fuck. Fuck, that meant the fucker could pinpoint him. That wasn’t good, but he smoothed over his initial panic to try to follow the shadow in the dark. He rocked to his feet when he heard the hit on the other shipping container – metal against metal. He frowned under the mask. Wait. The guy hadn’t been made of –
Except he was. Each sound only confirmed it, and he ground his crooked teeth, trying to calm his heartbeat. The other meta scaled the stack of shipping containers in a few seconds, and Coyotl just watched and waited, his own, longer ears staying hidden under his hair while he listened. The dim light caught against the reflective edges of the other meta’s body, and Coyotl had to work to maintain composure. He was strong, fast, and – while not quite as big as Arlo – still bigger than himself. This wasn’t going to be the easy in-and-out investigation he’d been hoping for.
“I was about to ask you the same thing,” Coyotl called back, tilting his head. None of his concern showed in his voice. Then, he gestured to the other shipping container with his head. “If you’re willing to let me go in there and take a look around, you’d save us both a whole lot of trouble.”