I Perfect The Art of Ninja-Rolling
I raced up the stairs of the apartment building faster than I thought possible, considering how astoundingly quiet I was being. Usually, I'd be the type to take one step onto the stairs and then just fall down over some seemingly random object.
But I had my mind set on my goal: save my mom and Paul. And I am also one of those people who, went I put my mind to something, will accomplish that goal like it's nobody's business, whatever the cost may be.
Even if it's my own life.
Barely straining to hear past the slight creaking of the sound of my footfall on the creaky steps, I could detect Beardy Head's voice up above on the second floor, and I listened closely to understand what he was saying.
"Barley and Cobbs, you two come with me," he ordered. "We'll take the second floor." Two buff-looking dudes, one Asian and the other with cocoa-colored skin, nodded silently, the tattoos on their biceps slightly rippling. It was incredibly intimidating. I secretly laughed at their names though. I mean, Barley and Cobbs? Really? Who even comes up with these names? They sounded like two old cops from a 1950's TV show or something. The names "Cobbs" reminded me of corn on the cob. And wasn't Barley some sort of spice, or seasoning, or one of those fancy plants? For possibly the first time in my life, I thanked my mother for not naming me something worse than Perseus.
"Cat, Alicia, and Forrest, are you three girls okay with taking the top floor?"
There was a palpable shift in the tone the conversation held. Beardy Head's eyes had taken on a certain gleam, one that I was surprised to see, and his voice had a lilt in it that showed concern.
Now, I know I'm usually not the brightest when it comes to relationships, but maybe that just applies to my own life. I mean, it was fairly obvious- to me at least- that Beardy Head was genuinely concerned about these girls. Maybe even one girl in particular, as I saw the way his eyes seemed to flick back to one girl in particular- the girl with a black catsuit on, kind of like Black Widow or Catwoman-, over and over.
I couldn't help thinking that it was a little cute.
I know, I know. These guys were breaking into our apartment building. They were going to steal all of our stuff. They were going to hurt a lot of people, including my mom and Paul. I'm messed up in my thinking- trust me, I've been told that plenty of times before.
Focus, Percy, I told myself, and I followed my own advice, because I figure I owe at least that to myself. I guess.
"God. Yes, Retlaw, we'll be fine," she huffed as she flipped her long strawberry blonde hair over her shoulder and rolled her icy blue eyes. (I suspected that she was Cat, based on the very revealing catsuit she was wearing.) She was extremely pretty, and believe me, I felt guilty thinking this way about another girl besides Annabeth when she wasn't around, but the tight outfit the girl was wearing really wasn't helping matters much. She was definitely out of the guy's league though, and I almost felt bad for Beardy H- I mean, Retlaw- until I remembered that these people were trying to break in, steal, and hurt people in my building. And also when I remembered his name was Retlaw.
Burglars need better names.
But at least now I thought I remembered all their names: Looney, Ant, Jeb, Barley, Cobbs, Cat, Alicia, Forrest, and Retlaw. Great, I actually got something right for once! And knowing all their names would definitely make it easier to identify them if they tried to get away when I turned them into the police... Oh.
Wait a second.
I'm dead. Heh. I have to keep reminding myself of that, for some reason. I guess I just don't feel very dead: my body still looks intact- exactly how it looked when I died. I take that back: before I was mauled to death by a hellhound the size and color of a fire truck.
Ugh. I shuddered. The image of seeing myself getting torn apart like I had still burned itself in my mind, and the memory of all the blood left a bitter, metallic taste in my mouth. I checked my mouth, and it turns out I had bitten my tongue from the deep scowl my face had been set in.
I checked my reflection in one of the door's glass windows, and as I expected, I saw my own stone-like expression. I did not expect to see myself looking nice and clean in my favorite pair of clothes that I'd worn for my birthday celebration: my orange Camp Half-Blood shirt and a pair of jeans with some Nikes, my clay bead hanging from around my neck like it always did. My expression, however, was not as nice as my clothing; instead, it held the determination and conviction that I felt on the inside. Quiet resolve. A fire burned in my eyes that I didn't think was possible to exist in me, since I was a son of Poseidon, the god of the sea himself.
Odd, I thought as I studied myself. I'm dead, and I'm kind of a ghost. A weird kind, anyway. But still, shouldn't ghosts be invisible?
As soon as I thought that, my reflection, as faint as it already was in the dim, grungy surface of the glass, seemed to rapidly fade away. It took only a matter of seconds, probably even less than one, but in the blink of an eye, the image that I had seen only moments ago of myself vanished into nothing.
I stuttered in confusion. "Wh-a-a-a?..." What was going on here? One second I'm a ghost, then next I'm some kind of freaking vampire cuz my reflection doesn't show up? I couldn't make sense of anything today.
I shook my head, trying to clear out the jumbled thoughts that were colliding on the walls of my brain. Whatever was happening, I wouldn't find out by just standing here, doing nothing but staring at a dirty plane of glass. Besides, the people I was supposed to be following had already started climbing the final flight of stairs.
I jerked my head up at the sound of footsteps overhead. I could hear the sound of the trio of burglar girls' high-heel boots clicking on the steps above my head, the contact between their heels and the wood making a gentle tapping sound that, when put altogether, sounded a bit like raindrops falling on a roof. This was obviously a noise that appealed to the son of the sea god.
The sound of the rain has always calmed me, and it still helped me at that moment, steadying my jittery nerves and cooling the fire that coursed through my veins until I felt composed and collected. I ran up the stairs after...what were their names again? Cat, Alicia, and Forrest, I recalled, my brain clear and my heart determined.
As I reached the top landing of the last set of stairs, I passed a window to my right. I did a bit of a doublt-take, since I was so surprised to see that it was night outside: there were no stars out, not this far into Manhattan, but I could see the cone-shaped beam of car headlights on the roads and the steady twinkle of streetlights. I wondered why it had taken me so long to notice how late it was. Maybe time passed slower when you were dead? Or maybe I had just been really distracted all evening. Either way, I realized with a start that I'd been dead for almost half a day, depending on what time of night it was. I looked around for a clock but didn't see one.
I felt totally immersed in my self-given mission as I darted behind the girls. We had reached the third floor (too soon, for my taste), and as the girls gathered in the center of the hallway, I tried to stealthily roll behind them (ninja-style) and perched in a doorframe outside Mrs. O'Shaughnessy's apartment. (What? A little ninja-rolling never hurt anybody. Except myself. Besides, every guy wants to be a ninja when he's younger. And even though I was dead now, I was livin' the dream!)
"Okay, girls," said the girl in the catsuit, who I still presumed to be Cat, for obvious reasons. "Any preferences on who gets to sack each room?" Neither of the two other girls said a word, although one of them shook her head fervently, so Cat, who seemed to be the leader (at least of the female trio), started to point and rattle off apartment numbers to the other two, who stood captivated as they listened.
Stupid as I was, I decided to take the moment to stop listening and study the other two girls. (Hey, I know it was stupid, but don't blame me; blame it on the ADHD. I'd been creeping around for so long, trying to stay hyped up on adrenaline while also being surreptitious and stealthy. It was hard. What can I say? I needed a break from the dullness.)
Ahem. As I was saying, I turned my attention to the two other female burglars. One girl, who I recognized as the one who had shook her head when Cat asked them on their preferences, had light brown hair cut short in a bob, light skin, and green eyes that made her seem constantly on alert. Her whole demeanor mirrored that image, as she rocked back and forth on her heels and bounced on the her toes as she listened Cat speak.
Dam, I thought. This girl must be even more ADHD than I am.
Next I shifted my gaze to the other girl. This girl had dark curly hair that fell to the middle of her back. Her tan face was peppered with an array of dark freckles, dusted so lightly and delicately that they looked a bit like sprinkles on a cupcake, (and yes, I know it's weird for me to say that). The lower half of her face seemed pretty enough, though I couldn't see the top half (her nose, her eyes and eyebrows), since it was blocked by a dark green beanie that sat low on her head. And I noticed that, even though she wore a dark grey sweater that seemed to droop off of her thin frame, revealing nothing but her shoulders and her bra straps (I blushed when I saw this; forgive me for being a gentleman), I could still tell that she felt uncomfortable in the clothes she wore: the revealing sweater, the super-tight black skinny jeans, the dark boots that climbed to her knees. It was like she was trying to be as revealing as the other two girls. Like she was trying to fit in. To go unnoticed, fly below the radar. My theory was further confirmed as she adjusted the saggy beanie she wore, and she kept tugging it down. Apparently, though, her efforts didn't go unnoticed, because her nervous habits and my attention were both broken by someone interrupting both.
"Alicia!" Cat half-yelled, half-whispered. It came out more like a stage-whisper, and I suspected that she was still trying to be a little quiet for anyone who was super close-by (like me!). "Have you even been paying attention to me?" she asked, someone frustrated. "Have you been listening to the apartment numbers I've been telling you?"
Alicia, since that was her name apparently, stared at that ground for a few seconds, her face still not fully visible to me, before shaking her head in shame. I felt kinda bad for her, but I was also grateful for her reprimanding, because I realized that I hadn't been listening either. (See, this is the part where I was being stupid. Intelligence would have taught me to try to find out which girl was going to be looting my parent's apartment so I could take her down first. But noooooo.)
"Do you need me to say it all over again?" Cat asked with an annoyed huff as she placed a hand on her hip and flipped her long, strawberry blonde hair over her shoulder.
Gods, thought. She is such a diva. She belongs in the Aphrodite cabin. I immediately felt bad for thinking that, as I remembered how un-divalike Piper was.
I guess Alicia nodded, because Cat rolled her eyes and said, "Fine. But listen up this time." Alicia nodded again, and I did too, subconsciously leaning forward and straining to hear my apartment number be called. "Forrest, you take the first few rooms, apartments 301-310. Alicia, you get 311-320. And I'll do 321-330. Sound good?" Alicia and the bright-eyed girl, who I realized was probably Forrest, both gave an emphatic nod, but I barely noticed.
I was still taking in the fact that my apartment number, #321, was only minutes away from being attacked by this girl Cat, who I had sat and listened to like an idiot for the past few minutes when I could have been taking her down.
I turned my attention back to Cat, but the fair redheaded girl wasn't there. I whipped my head around as I heard the familiar click of boots on the floor, and I spied her moving down the hall towards my apartment.
My apartment, number 321. My apartment, which my mom had specifically picked for me when I was younger and we first moved in, just because it was 3-2-1. My apartment, which was going to be broken into first, since it was at the beginning of the hallway.
The blood in my veins, which only minutes ago had seemed cool and icy, began to boil with rage. My eyes turned red, my vision blurry and fuzzy. And my throat seemed to burn with the bile that was begging to come up, though I pushed it down. I set my sights on Cat's retreating form as she neared Apartment 321, her hips swaying with confidence. As I got up from my ninja-stance on the floor, my body still frozen in a crouch, I had only thought on my mind:
Nobody messes with this ninja's house.