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Chapter 12

Henry gently pressed his lips to her forehead. “Shyla,” he murmured. “Please forgive me for being so mad at you.”

“Henry,” said Shyla simply. “I forgive you. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you.”

Henry shifted his weight so that Shyla was resting her head on his shoulder. He bent his head down and pressed his lips to her cheek. A flash bulb went off close by, catching their attention. Henry stood up and sidled over to a nearby bush. Shyla slid around the other side. They surrounded the photographer, blocking off his escape. Henry launched himself at the bush, causing the hidden photographer to dive out the back, straight into Shyla. Shyla grabbed the collar of his red and blue checked golf shirt and hauled him to his feet. Henry stood in front of the photographer. “And you are…” asked Henry.

“A freelance photographer.” Came the mumbled reply, his glasses slipping down his nose. “Could you kindly ask your chick to put me down? She’s stretching my shirt.”

Henry reacted in a very peculiar way. He glanced at Shyla, who released the photographer’s shirt. In a movement too fast too comprehend, Henry had kicked the photographer’s legs out from under him and jammed his knee into his lower back. “Do not be derogatory about my girlfriend.” Growled Henry menacingly through his teeth. “Apologise.”

Shyla started a little at the word “girlfriend”. Henry had never made it official. “I’m sorry.” The photographer gasped. Henry stood up and the photographer slowly got to his feet. “The name’s Larry.”

“Well, Larry,” said Shyla, looking him up and down. “What do you want?”

“A photo of both of you.” He replied simply.

Larry saw the black-haired guy, who had introduced himself as Henry, turn and give him a sceptical look. “For?” he asked, unsure.

I’d better tell this guy the truth, thought Larry. He looked pretty damn scary. The redhead, Shyla, looked at him expectantly, and he glanced down. “I was hired to.” He mumbled.

“By?” asked Shyla, looking decidedly confused.

“A news agency.” He replied, glancing at Henry again. Henry scowled at Larry and took a step towards him.

“Exactly why do you need to take our picture?” asked Henry, glaring at him.

Larry gulped. Shyla glanced at her boyfriend. “Henry.” She hissed. He shrugged and stepped back. “Larry,” she said gently. “Why do you need our picture?”

“The news agency was hired by the FBI to find out who the two people are from the photograph in this morning’s paper.” Said Larry, not taking his eyes off of Henry. “I was hired to take pictures of couples in order to match them to the photograph.”

“Why does the FBI want to know?” asked Henry, confused.

“Apparently they need personal bodyguards. Against Liborio Fragale. The ‘business’, as they call it, has been implicated in a string of attacks on small businesses, and the FBI needs to catch them” Replied Larry, looking between the two of them.

Sure, he thought, surreptitiously eyes Henry out. Henry could easily be a bodyguard. He looks like he could handle it without a problem. But her? She doesn’t look like she would be able to take anyone on.

Henry looked at him again. “You can take our picture.” He said, glancing at Shyla.

Shyla smiled and rolled her eyes, but something unsure skittered across her features. “Well,” Larry said. “Um, I want you to stand facing each other.” Larry took a few steps back and snapped a shot. He then dropped down on one knee and took a low-angled shot. “Thank you.” He said. “I’ll need you to write down your names, just in case we need to contact you.”

“Henry Stevens.” Said Henry. “This is Shyla Evans.”

Larry jotted down the names and turned to go. “Thank you.” He said, walking away.

Shyla turned to Henry. “Henry,” she said. “You do realise that those pictures will match exactly, right?”

“I know.” He replied simply. “But this is a good opportunity for both of us.”

“Henry Stevens.” She growled. “We are ninjas, sworn to secrecy. You said it yourself. If we tell them who we are, we run the risk of jeopardising the whole ninja community. And breaking our oath of silence. How is this an opportunity for us?”

“Shyla,” he said. “You need to realise that we are protectors. If telling these people means that we can protect innocent lives, I’m all for it. Besides, what better way to finally bring Liborio Fragale down, than by being in the middle of the action.”

Shyla shook her head. “I think this is madness. And that we should clear this with Master Wong first before just jumping in and making a mistake.”

At that moment, two girls walked past. They were about the same age as Shyla and Henry, and looked to be on their way to a nearby mall. One glanced at Henry and Shyla, and she nudged her friend. They both looked Henry up and down, before walking up to them. “Hey,” the first one said to Henry, smiling sweetly.

Shyla bared her teeth. “Um,” she said, acid-sweet. “Can you not see we are in the middle of a discussion?”

The girl looked at Shyla condescendingly, like Shyla’s presence meant nothing, taking in her camouflage pants and black T-shirt at a glance. “What are you gonna do about it, bitch?” she sneered. “Can’t I admire a good-looking guy when I see one? Especially since he’s obviously not dating you.”

“He’s my boyfriend, and I suggest you get out of here. Now.” Growled Shyla softly, clenching her hands into fists.

Henry stepped between them. “Shyla,” he murmured. Shyla ignored him and glared at the girl around him. He turned to the girls. “I suggest you leave.” He told them.

“Seriously,” said the girl, tossing her blonde curls over her shoulder. “What’s she gonna do?”

Shyla snapped. She launched herself past Henry and attempted to lay into the girl with her fists. Henry managed to stop her by restraining her around her torso. Both girls turned pale. “Go.” said Henry, straining against Shyla’s rage. “Now.”

The girls turned and hurried away, glancing over their shoulders at Shyla, struggling against Henry’s iron grip.

Henry released his grip as soon as they were gone. Shyla fell onto her hands and knees, gasping for air. “Henry,” she gasped. “Please don’t hold me like that.”

Henry dropped down on one knee and pushed the hair away from her face. “You know that if I don’t, you’ll hurt someone. Master Wong knows it too.”

She sat back onto the grass, luxuriating in the feel of the sun on her face. “I’m sorry, Henry.” She mumbled, looking down at her scuffed boots.

“Its fine, babes.” He smiled. Shyla’s heart thudded. Henry’s smile really was heartbreaking.

She glanced up at him. An early summer breeze wafted past. Henry placed his hands on either side of her face and pulled it up to his. He gently pressed his lips to hers. She smiled and pulled away. They both sprang to their feet in the same fluid movement and walked away, his arm around her waist.

Larry pressed stop on his digital camera. The whole scene had been captured. He had grossly underestimated Shyla. As soon as he had seen the two girls walk up to them, he had hit record and concealed himself in a bush. He almost ran back to the newspaper office, cradling his camera like a baby. He burst through the door. “Sir!” he yelled. “I think I’ve found them.”

His boss looked up. “This had better be good, Larry.”

Larry found the video on the camera and pressed play. As the boss watched the scene, his eyes grew wide. “Did you get pictures of them?” he asked excitedly. This would put him in good stead with the Feds, and hopefully get Liborio Fragale out of the picture for good.

Larry nodded. The boss, a balding man named Gary Haroldson, waited while Larry loaded the pictures onto the office computer. After about an hour of careful photo-shopping, the picture Larry had taken was ready to be transposed over the night-time scene. The boss waited anxiously while Larry carefully moved the individual figures onto the picture. They fitted perfectly. Mr Haroldson picked up the phone. He dialled a number. Someone answered on the other side. “We have them.” Was all he needed to say.

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