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A Murder in Southside Palace (IC)

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March 8th, 9:43PM, South Freedom City

She was good-looking, which seemed like a prerequisite when it came to casino employees. She'd been dead for an hour though, so that probably wouldn't last much longer.

The place was already taped off from the crowd, and press, who snapped photos of the body like vultures at a corpse. With the throng of civilians and people in the casino, Santini wondered how in the world she body could have possibly lain behind the bar near the center of the casino floor four almost an hour without anyone noticing, bartender gone or not.

He gently touched her neck, tuning out the crowd, the cameras, everything that distracted him, and put gloves on, gently leaning her head to one side, taking a closer look at the body, turning on his investigative mind.

Her neck was broken, that was clear enough. But it wasn't a fall, it wasn't an accident. The bruising on her neck was all the way around, like someone had wrapped something around her neck.

Something like human fingers. Very, very strong ones.

"Find anything Detective Santini?" said a low, thick voice. He got back to his feet, and two men were past the yellow-taped off murder area: Alberto Driogano and Joey Finito.

"No, Mister Driogano, not yet. It appears she was throttled to death, by a very large, or very strong person. Strong enough to break her neck." Ben answered, removing his gloves and tucking them away. Ben looked at Finito when he said it. Joey Finito and his twin brother Lono were known better by a street name: Strongarm and Legbreaker, a pair of superhuman enforcers for the Driogano Family of the Freedom City Mafia. They worked directly for Driogano, ostensibly as bodyguards for his person, as "Big Al" Driogano was a "legitimate businessman".

"That is a terrible shame. I'll send flowers and pay for her funeral. This woman died under my employ." Driogano said, in a serious voice. He probably would too. It would look good on TV and be wonderful publicity.

"Well, that's very kind of you Mister Driogano. If you'll excuse me, I have to report back to my Precinct with the evidence I've collected." Ben said, walking out back to his car.

Santini knew what would happen. No one would talk, no fingerprints would be found, and the entire investigation would be stonewalled from Mob pressure and simple lack of any real evidence. So a little more direct methods of information gathering was clearly in order.

The Same Night, Exactly Three Hours Later

Everything got quieter after they shut down the casino floor below. The rooftops of Freedom were always quieter then streets below though.

The Black Terror was abroad making headway at incredible speed: Ben's leaps could clear over five hundred feet in a single jump if he chose, and he ran at nearly fifty miles per-hour across the various rooftops of the Boardwalk.

Southside Palace loomed above like some like of garishly lit titan, the neon still on. Drigano's office was on the higher floors. An impossible climb, but he could make the jump up to the higher floors in only three full leaps, by landing on the ledges just outside the windows every few floors.

He made sure he was unseen as he lept, flying like the grasshopper through the air, or perhaps a flea on the side of a giant concrete and steel animal.

Landing on the final ledge, he looked for the parts of the concrete were the glass was set. Ben was a cop: he knew how security systems worked, and the the window-set ones detected a shatter. The trick was to remove the window without shattering it. Child's play for someone who was strong enough to shatter the concrete sides holding the window in.

After a few well-placed blows he easily lifted the glass out of it's place, and hopped into the dark office.

Something didn't feel right.

Only a second later a viciously powerful fist flew at him from the shadows, barely missing him as he flipped out of the way just into the path of a pair of throwing knives which thudded into his shoulder heavily from behind!

He grunted in pain. They didn't go deep, and hardly even bruised his reinforced skin, but they stuck there anyway. And they hurt.

"I'm sorry, this is a restricted area of the casino. No visitors, customers, or costumed freaks breaking in allowed."

The voice came in the direction of the tossed knife. The man had dirty blonde hair, and a vaguely distant look in his hazel eyes the marked him as a true sociopath, a slight smile playing across his face. Next to him was a skinny bald man with blue eyes that suddenly lit up a bright red glow, his hands lighting up like blowtorches.

From the other side, hiding in the shadows against dark-tinted windows, were Strongarm and Legbreaker, the Finito Brothers. Ben didn't recognize the matchstick guy or the man who lodged the throwing knives in his shoulder, and was currently flipping a new one in his left hand.

Maybe this wasn't going to be so simple after all.

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How in the world did they know to wait for me? Ben ponderd, as he took a low crouching position.

"So how the heck did Boss know this guy was coming?" Strongarm asked his brother, cracking his knuckles. Legbreaker shrugged, cracking his own, loosening his neck.

"Boss says these crime-fighting types like to work with the cops a lot. Everything but a batsignal yeah?" he replied, as he circled the black-clad hero, flanking him with Arson and Target.

I guess that answers that question.

The five figured were mostly still, except for Arson's flickering hands, lighting up the dark office room around him like a low-burning torch, matching his coal-like smoldering eyes and Deadeye's twitchy movements as he fingered the throwing knives in his hands.

And then everyone started moving at once.

Deadeye made the first move, tossed a knife at Terror's left shoulder, the knife thudding into his durable skin, sticking like the other two from before but not deep enough to cause him any real pain. Strongarm moved in next, his heavy fist flying at the black-clad hero, but not fast enough to get past Ben's skillful parry, though his brother's fist connected hard, sending the Terror reeling back from impact.

This is really way more exercise then I was planning on getting tonight, Ben though as he bounced back with superhuman speed, attacking Legbreaker to his right with a fearsome straight punch.

The punch connected like a thunderbolt, sending him flying back blasting into the far window of the office wall, cracking it under his force, the Mafiosi slumping as blood and teeth poured from his mouth.

But Ben didn't slow down. He flew with the momentum of the straight punch, spinning into a left elbow strike at Strongarm's right temple, the blow sending him flying into the far office wall.

Arson raised both hands, sending a blast of red-hot flames from them at the Terror, who nimbly flipped out of the way, the flaming bolts impacting against the windows of the office, shattering them from heat compromising the integrity of the long line of windows.

Well, that shot will trip the silent alarm, Santini thought as he turned towards the firebug and Deadeye, who hurled a new blade into Ben's collarbone, the steel finally causing him to grunt in pain from the impact of the blade. It penetrated his skin fully, into the muscle, causing him to bleed finally.

Deadeye smiled at the sight. "You know, I was beginning to wonder if we were just punching a brick wall here. I guess the Predator rule applies here huh? You bleed so we can kill you," the killer said, a cruel smirk playing across his features.

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