Jasmine stared at her hands, studying them as if they belonged to someone else. She turned them over, and the red filigrees wrapped around, criss-crossing over the paler skin of her palms. Several of the lines intersected, but the points moved as she watched. They kept shifting, rearranging until they formed two stylised eyes, staring back at her.
She blinked and shook her head. The eyes shifted to spirals. The patterns responded, in ways she didn’t yet fully understand, to her thoughts and emotions. The eyes had been a manifestation of her paranoia, far too obvious symbolism.
There were four men sprawled on the sandy ground around her. Three men and a teenager, she corrected herself, reassessing their ages. They each groaned and gasped in pain, clutching at the points where she had made contact with their bodies. One of them- the one who had wielded the metal bar- had a newly broken nose, with blood smeared across his face. Jasmine turned her hands over again. There was a trace of blood across the knuckles of her right hand. She wiped it away.
Beyond the barriers at the end of the alley, the crowd carried on its bustle. If anyone had seen what just happened, they had quickly hurried on their way. There was a brief disturbance of the flow of the crowd, and two figures stepped from it. They stared at her for a moment, looked down at the bodies around her, and then glanced at each other. Sharing something that was a mix of nod and shrug, they started toward her.
The man, tall, broad and blonde, placed a hand on the top of a barrier, and levered himself over it with a strange grace. The woman, short, petite and dark, thought about trying the trick, but quickly resigned herself to walking around the barrier instead. She hustled, without breaking into a sprint, until she had caught the man up and could, more or less, match his strides. Carla and Kyle had found her.
“It happened again?” Carla said as she drew close to Jasmine.
“And it was like I was only partly there, like before. No, actually, less like before. I didn’t feel so distant, though I was still not completely in control.” Jasmine stared at the ground, as if she should be ashamed of something she had just done. “It was like watching someone else playing a game. I could think of what my body should be doing, but sometimes, it did something else. It made the right choices, though, I guess.”
“And these guys?” Kyle was kneeling by the one with the broken nose, doing a visual triage of the wounds she had inflicted.
“I seem to attract them, I don’t know why. Don’t worry, I haven’t done permanent damage to any of them. Apart from that nose, I don’t think I’ve broken anything.”
The teenage member of Jasmine’s attackers said something, but it was hissed through clenched teeth. Carla and Kyle looked to Jasmine for a translation. “Chen has us marked.” she said, then asked, “Who is Chen?”
One of the men berated the teenager, threatening injury if he should expand upon his comment. Jasmine moved, shifting until her right foot filled his vision. She only wore light shoes, but her kicks had been fast and precise. He silenced his threats. Nonetheless, the teen said nothing more.
Kyle could guess what had been said, without Jasmine translating. “I bet Chen’s some local gangster or crime lord wannabe. I’m sure we know someone who can fill us in on him. Let’s get out of here, and leave these four to their pain.”
“Jas, your top’s torn.” Carla noted. The material had ripped down the front, where one of the thugs had managed to get a lucky hold, to reveal a skintight top in the same shade of red as the patterns on Jasmine’s arms and legs.
“I told them I didn’t want to wreck any more of my clothes.” Jasmine pinched the edges of the tear together, shaking her head in disappointment.
“Here, drape this over your shoulders and tie it at the front.” Carla unwound the black and white keffiyah from around her neck, and Jasmine covered herself as suggested. “There you go. Almost decent again.”
They were a few steps away from the four sprawled thugs when Jasmine stopped and turned around. “Next time, I won’t be so careful about breaking bones. Tell Chen not to trouble us, and all will be well.”
“Did you just get us involved in a fight with the Triads?” Kyle asked.
“I don’t think so. I offered peace. Sort of.”