The tourist crowds started to thin out, and with another turn, the streets were empty. The tops of the buildings surrounding the main plaza were closer, and he decided it was now or never. He lunged for the man.
He managed to grab the man’s legs, and they tumbled to the ground. But the man rolled out of his reach, and Marco used his arms to lift his upper body and jump into a crouch.
He now stood between the man and the plaza. There was no way he was letting the bastard through, and since they were now alone, with no humans in sight, Marco reached a hand to the west—the direction of elemental water—in case he needed to draw on the elemental water particles in the air to do his magic.
But the man just stood there, not trying to get away or even bothering to attack. Marco knew that inaction could be a tactic, so he kept up his guard, and waited.
Then the man did something Marco should have foreseen—but had overlooked—and crashed through the window of an abandoned house to the left.
Marco grabbed the gun tucked into his waistband under his shirt and crawled through the broken window, careful not to cut himself on the glass. Once inside, he rolled to the side and hid behind an overturned couch that had seen better days. His finger near the trigger, he peeked around the edge, looking and listening for any sign of the man, or anyone else that might happen to be inside the abandoned house.
The coast clear, he inched his way toward the open door in the back of the building. There were footprints in the dirt on the floor, leading toward the back door, but they simply stopped a few feet from the exit. The prints looked fresh, but no one could just disappear into thin air.
But then he remembered. He’d seen it happen once before.
The odds were long, but he could be dealing with a shadow-shifter.
Even with the sun filtering in through the threadbare curtains, the room was half engulfed in darkness. Marco moved to stand in the light near the window and debated using his elemental magic. While streams of water or shards of ice might draw the shadow-shifter out from his hiding place, it would also reveal Marco’s abilities to his opponent.
And the last thing he needed was to destroy the cover he’d built up over the last eleven years by using his magic in front of a stranger. Especially if the man somehow managed to escape.
Another option would be to throw something heavy at the first sign of suspicious activity and force the shifter to return to his human-looking Feiru form. After what had happened in the States, Marco had learned that a shadow-shifter could only shift once every twenty-four hours. If he could scare the man into shifting back, it would give him a chance to catch and interrogate him.
Deciding to try the latter approach first, he circled around by degrees and checked the shadows for movement, careful to keep his back exposed to the light. Then he saw it—a piece of peeled wallpaper near the ceiling that waved back and forth in the still air.
Marco did a quarter turn away from his target, placed a hand on an old kitchen chair nearby, and swung it around, tossing it up at the spot on the wall where he’d seen the movement.
Right before the chair smashed against the wall, the man emerged from the shadows and rolled to the ground, out of the way. Marco jumped after the man, but the shadow-shifter dashed out the back door and slammed it shut. He heard a screeching sound of something heavy moving across the ground.
Marco pushed against the door, but it wouldn’t budge.
The bastard had blocked him in.
Left with no other choice, he made for the broken window he’d come through, and crawled outside.
He made his way around to the back alley, and saw the rusty metal display case sitting in front of the door, but there was no sign of the shifter. After checking up and down the alley, looking into every possible hiding spot, Marco accepted that the man was long gone.
In case the shifter came back with reinforcements, he made his way back toward the street of vendor stalls, careful to take a different route than the way he had come. He needed to find Cam and tell her what had happened.
Thanks to the appearance of an unknown shadow-shifter, he was now going to have to spend more time with Camilla Melini than he’d counted on.