Home > Midnight Labyrinth (Elemental Legacy #4)

Midnight Labyrinth (Elemental Legacy #4)
Author: Elizabeth Hunter


1

 

 

He chased his quarry up the ladder, launching himself onto a gravel-strewn roof in Hell’s Kitchen. Ducking under a broken scaffold, he followed the dark figure who threatened to elude him. She was half his size, dressed in a black hoodie and leggings. She moved like a cat in the dim, predawn light.

She was getting away.

He ran left, skimming the side of a cinder block building before he leapt across a narrow vent, using longer legs to his advantage. He landed hard, rolled in a single somersault, then took to his feet in one smooth movement. He could feel gravel in the small of his back, and his arm was bleeding from the bite of a rusted ladder, but he kept running.

He was gaining on her. He scanned the landscape as he’d been taught, mentally calculating the most efficient way to get from his position to hers.

His lungs pumped in steady rhythm. In-in-out. He pulled in the humid air and tried not to choke. He’d been running at seven thousand feet the week before. His thin black shirt stuck to his skin. Grey light filtered over a city that still clung to the memory of the previous day’s heat. New York City in July. Another day; another sauna.

The small figure scrambled up the side of a building—sticking to the stained brick like a spider—then she disappeared over the edge and into nothing.

He wasn’t concerned for her safety.

He found the lips of the bricks she’d used to climb. He wasn’t as fast as she was. He was forced to take his time crawling up the side of the building, finding each fingerhold and jutting brick to move his body up the wall. From a distance, he’d appear to be sticking too. He felt a fingernail tear, but he didn’t pause.

Hoisting his body over the edge of the wall, he kept himself low and scanned the urban landscape. Water towers and rusted fire escapes mixed with recently gentrified gardens and sleek patio furniture.

She was barely visible in the distance, leaping from the top of one building to the next.

He ran after her, but he knew it was futile. She’d gained too much ground during his careful climb. She disappeared over the side of another building, and Ben knew he’d lost her.

Panting, he followed her tracks, not allowing himself to slow down. He leapt over the edge of a familiar building and jumped fire escape railings five stories down until he hung on the last rung of the old ironwork.

Ben Vecchio closed his eyes and did three rapid pull-ups, pushing his muscles right to the edge of exhaustion before he gave them a break. He had a runner’s build, but he was six feet tall. Moving a large frame quickly would always be a challenge. He dropped to the ground and jogged down West 47th Street to the deserted playground. The gate was locked, but he easily jumped over.

She’d taught him that trick early.

A small hooded figure perched on the top of a red-and-green play structure. Still breathing deeply, Ben jumped to the first platform and squatted in front of her.

“Believe it or not, you are getting faster,” Zoots said.

“That wall nearly killed me.” With the adrenaline waning, Ben was starting to feel his hands.

“But you made it up. That’s a ten-foot brick wall, and you climbed it.”

“Slowly.”

“But you climbed it,” Zoots said. “Remember, I grew up here. I know every inch of those roofs. I have the advantage.”

He shook his head. “Doesn’t matter. I have to be faster.”

It had to be more instinctive. He wouldn’t have the luxury of running in familiar places.

Zoots rolled her eyes and pulled out a cigarette. “Whatever, man.”

When he’d first moved to New York, he’d watched. There were parkour and free-running groups, but they were cliquish and Ben was a beginner. Though he’d been drilled in martial arts and weapons training since he was twelve years old, parkour was new to him. It was only the lightning-quick reflexes of a girl he’d met a few years ago that had attracted him to the practice. She’d moved inhumanly fast.

Of course, she hadn’t been strictly human.

Ben was. The sweat dripping into his eyes proved it. He wiped it away and sat next to Zoots.

He’d found her by watching. She wasn’t part of the group, but they knew her. She was the one they wandered over to talk to when they were practicing. Zoots was tiny—barely five feet tall—with a slight figure. Her skin was pale under her hood. Her hair was short and her eyes were dark. She came out in the early morning and at night. He’d never seen her in the middle of the day.

It had taken Ben weeks to figure out who she was and what she was to the runners in Central Park. If the young traceurs in the park had a guru, it was Zoots. She claimed to be self-taught from YouTube videos, but Ben suspected that Zoots was like him. He’d been running since he could remember, mostly to get away from trouble. She was just better at it.

Zoots ran everywhere, and she was a loner. She’d ignored Ben for weeks until her curiosity got the better of her. She’d talked to him, and he’d eventually hired her. He wanted to learn parkour, but he wasn’t interested in joining any group. Zoots nodded and told Ben to meet her at Hell’s Kitchen Playground and to bring two hundred bucks cash.

So he did.

She finished her cigarette, flicked off the cherry, and carefully tucked the butt into a tin she kept in her pocket. “Same time next week?”

“Yeah.”

“You’ve been doing this for six months now. You know the basics. You sure you want to keep paying me for lessons?”

Ben raised an eyebrow. “You trying to get rid of me?”

“It’s your money, man.” She smiled. “I just spend it.”

“I need to be faster.”

She eyed him. “That’s practice. You’re twice my size; you gotta figure out your own style. Tall means longer legs and longer arms, but it also means more meat to move.”

“I’ll keep paying you if you keep teaching me.”

“Like I said, it’s your money.” Zoots narrowed her eyes. “You told me once you needed to learn this for work.”

“I do.” His fingers itched for a cigarette. He’d stopped smoking when he was fourteen—his uncle could smell the slightest trace of cigarette smoke—but he still wanted one occasionally. Especially when people started asking personal questions.

“But one of the guys in the park said you were in antiquities or something.”

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