L loved the city of Paris. The smell of cigarettes and cobblestones after a cold rain. She loved the fall most of all, after all the tourists had cleared out and the city was falling back into its natural rhythm. Paris never slept, but it didn't have the same reputation as New York, for instance, because it was calmer. Older, really. And the maturity of the city sank into the bones of its inhabitants, those who filed about quietly in their black leather boots and cashmere turtle necks, carrying cups of coffee so strong they were no bigger than a shot glass. Occasionally, an older woman with short white hair could be seen with a baguette poking out of her woven grocery bag as she hobbled back to her apartment. This early in the morning, the steam from the fresh bread was as white as the woman's hair in the crisp air.
From her perch on the rooftop, L inhaled deeply. She was too far to smell the bread, but she could imagine it. The Parisian skyline was aglow with the fresh morning light, and all she could see were a million chimneys, occasionally the turret of an old church, and la Tour so far in the distance it might just have been an illusion.
It was hard not to get lost in the moment, just staring at the city, but L had work to do. Taking one last breath, she pulled her mask over her face and dropped lightly off the side of the building.
She landed gracefully on the ledge of the window of the topmost floor and peered inside. The lights were still off.
As she knew they would be.
L took a small device out of a hidden pocket in the leg of her black pants and pressed it to the glass. She placed the tip of her finger in between her teeth and slid her hand out of her glove to press her middle finger against a small pad on the device now stuck to the window, careful to avoid touching any other surface with her uncovered hand. It glowed orange for several moments while she slipped her hand back into her glove and caught the device the moment before it fell from the window, a perfectly round piece of glass still attached to it.
The device and glass went back into her hidden pocket, and her hand slid through the hole where she was able to reach the window latch and quietly push the window open.
She hopped lightly inside and walked confidently toward the bedroom. Having studied the layout of the apartment, she did not hesitate before opening the door, reaching for something hidden in another pocket, this one tucked on her upper left arm.
The man in the bed barely had time to sit up before the dart in his neck had him slumped back against his pillow, his mouth still open in the sound of a "Que—" that never left his lips.
L plucked the dart from his neck and pushed it back into the dart thrower, before tucking it away safely back where it belonged.
She checked his pulse - normal. She knew it would be, that in thirty minutes he would wake and realise he was running ten minutes late and be so stressed that he would remember nothing of a strange figure cloaked in black with a white mask breaking into his bedroom. But all the same, it was policy to check the subject's life signs after sedating them. Just in case.
She had thirty minutes, but she didn't need them. She would be done in two. L was never one to waste time. Unless, perhaps, it was to indulge in the smell of freshly baked bread…
Another hidden pocket - this one inside her thigh - and another device. This one like a syringe. She held it in her mouth as she rolled up the man's sleeve, above his elbow. The needle went into the fleshiest part of his inner forearm, and she watched as a small blinking piece of silver in an almost clear liquid was pushed out the needle and into his arm.
She carefully extracted the needle, keeping her gloved thumb against the entry wound to prevent it bleeding, tucked the syringe away, and put a dab of pink goo from a little dropper onto the pinprick in his arm. The skin glue spread over the entire wound, stretching and tightening before it dried completely, almost indiscernible from the rest of his skin.
Once the wound healed, the hardened glue would fall off without the man noticing that it had ever been there.
L rolled his sleeve back down and was back on the window ledge in a flash. There, she pulled the first device from her pocket, still holding smartly onto the glass it had removed from the window. She held it in place before once again touching the tip of her middle finger to the device, watching it glow orange, and then detaching it. This time, the glass stayed in place, leaving only the ghost of a ring in its place.
Anyone looking up at that moment from the street would have seen a black shadow scaling up the side of the building before disappearing onto the roof. Or maybe it really had been just that: a shadow.
Nestled in the 12th arrondissement is an enormous stone building. Several stories high with turrets like those you'd find on an old cathedral. A sign hangs out front next to the French flag that reads in modern lettering "La Societé", followed by "Branche Officielle en Accordance du Traité Valois-Déviant". People were never able to describe what La Societé was, or what it did to any curious tourists who bothered to ask, just that it was some sort of government branch, but if you went down two blocks and up to la Rue Mouffetard, there's a man who plays the accordion every Sunday during the market!
And in this manner, the White Mask Society managed to keep its place, in plain view in the heart of Paris.
Its members were not permitted to be seen entering the premise wearing their masks, but little attention was given to the building. It was incredible how much people ignored boring things, and they certainly seemed to find the largely unmarked government building boring.
Nonetheless, L preferred to use the rooftops for travel when she was in gear. Even without the mask she was still relatively conspicuous, dressed in fitted black gear and a billowing cloak (only when it was cold, of course). She found it easier to scale the roofs, skipping from chimney to chimney. This was all made easier by the fact that she was part light nymph, and as such could "flash", which meant that for short bursts of time, she could travel at light speed. It used an enormous amount of energy to do so, but so long as she only traveled very short distances, it certainly helped with getting around unseen.
It wasn't long before she reached a window that always remained unlocked on the top floor of La Societé, specifically for members like her who shunned the main entrance.
Having spent the entire night out on her missions, she longed for sleep. She never felt tired when she was working, the love of the job and the adrenaline of the mission kept her wide awake. But now, with five subjects successfully tagged, the moment L's foot touched down in the Society, her muscles ached with exhaustion.
It was relatively standard for Trackers to keep a nocturnal schedule. She had been forced to comply as an Initiate, waking at six or seven in the evening when everyone was at dinner, then working through the night and heading to bed after an early lunch. But L hated it. When you sleep all day, you miss life happening. You start forgetting what people do and who they are and how the world works. Everything changes at night. Not only do things look different, sapped of colour and life, but people change, too. The laws of reality. As much as L loved her life as a Tracker, she didn't want to forget what real life felt like. She also claimed it helped her track her subjects better. Helped her understand them.
She had counted down the days until she matriculated from Initiate to Field Tracker when she could keep whatever schedule she damned well pleased, so long as she got her work done in accordance to Society guidelines. The downside of this was that she ended up not getting much sleep at all. A quick nap in the early morning hours, after the sun had risen, and often a couple of stolen hours, perched on the rooftops, under the Parisian sky.
Her nap couldn't come yet, though. She had yet to report to P, the Head Tracker. It wouldn't take long, she reminded herself as she stifled a yawn and trudged down to his office.
On the other side of the city, an American named Kale Robinson-Rain had gotten himself hopelessly lost outside of a cemetery.