"Murdered?" I snapped my mouth shut so fast that I almost bit my tongue in half.
When she looked up at me again, her face was pale but composed. I couldn't even begin to guess what that control cost her. In her lap, her hands were clenched into white-knuckled fists. "I-isn't that what people normally call it when someone's d-dead and covered with...with b-blood?"
I nodded, ignoring her shaking voice. This was a place I'd been too many times in the past. It wasn't a very pleasant one. "Do you know - scratch that." Go, Mr. Sensitivity.
She snorted a little bubble of strained laughter out of her nose. "No, I don't. I saw the blood, and...damnit," Shit, I'd never heard her cuss before - must've been my good influence. "I screamed. Like a scared little girl. They rushed me out. I didn't want to see it!"
I sighed internally as she bowed her head, hiding behind streams of flaxen hair. I don't know how, but she was managing to pull up all of my orphanage-era mannerisms like ghosts I'd almost forgotten. It was rather disturbing. "Hey," I said, "Don't kick yourself. Plenty of other people around to do that."
The look she shot me could have curdled cream. I didn't mind too much - sometimes anger is a good base to grab on to. Doubly so if it's the only one available.
"You should be happy that you're not used to dealing with this shit, you know?" I said, a little sweeter that time.
"I didn't stop running until I arrived here, and realized I was lost. I'm scared," she admitted, and sniffed in a rather unladylike fashion. If I hung around long enough, she'd probably end up wiping her nose on her sleeve next, and then it'd all be over. "What if it's one of those...things? I haven't said a word, I swear, but what if they're after me anyway?"
Well, shave my balls with a rusty razor - I hadn't even managed to have that paranoid thought yet. Showed how distracted I was. "Fuck." I said, and really meant it. "What - never mind, you don't know. Shit. Who as it?"
"I don't think I've met her."
Another bubble of hysterical laughter popped. "You'd remember if you had."
"Okay, then the sixty-four million new yen question is where."
Her eyes were wide with shock. "You want to go there?"
"Want, no. But I think at this point I have to. Fuck." And I really, really meant it.
I left Relena in Akihabara with a fresh double espresso, sweet as sex, black as witch's heart at midnight. Coffee cures all ills, right? Or at least you don't care as much when you're blitzed out of your gourd with sugar and caffeine. I figured that the amazing butler boy would be looking for her pretty soon anyway.
Man, that whole 'Relena acting human' thing was still weirding me out.
The dorm room was a required stop for what I was planning. I tried not to look at the other bed with its neatly folded blankets as I ripped the mattress off my own. The room still fucking smelled like Heero.
After some digging, I extracted my shoulder rig and a police issue Beretta 9mm from the box spring - the better to look the part with, my dear. My stash of fake ID cards was next, with the one I wanted right on top. I'd had to use it less than a month before to get a records search started.
Clean shirt, actually ironed, tucked in and buttoned properly. Black slacks with creases sharp enough to cut celery, regulation thin black leather belt, lock-picking kit cleverly disguised as a pager and cel phone. Okay, so maybe that last one wasn't quite regulation, but it looked the part. Shoulder rig. The hated tie, black silk edition - damned nooses. I topped it all off with a black blazer to hide the rig. I checked myself out in the mirror.
I looked like a frigging mortician. I couldn't help but grin at that as I slipped a pair of gold-rimmed, non-prescription glasses on. They made me look just a little older, easily mid-twenties. It also helped that I'd hit my final growth spurt during my last adventure and filled out a bit. PE could have its uses. If I'd wanted to really go for the gold medal, I could have put powder in my hair too, to grey it a bit, but I hated trying to wash that shit out. Same went for makeup. There was no need to get elaborate for now.
I winked at the hottest mortician on the planet. Show time.
It wasn't too hard to find the place Relena had directed me too. The building itself wasn't too remarkable - compared to the architecture generally found in Ueno, it was downright plain. It was a shared school mini-tower, maybe seven stories tall, mostly glass and steel with a little bit of aesthetically colored concrete in that style that was supposed to look futuristic and full of hope but just came out as post-modern soulless. If buildings could try just a little too hard, this one was.
No, what made it easy to spot was the fact that every damn cop in Tokyo, and probably several imported specially from Yokohama as well were swarming it. The little white and black breadboxes that the police pretended were cruisers surrounded the building on all sides, lights rolling. If I'd been home, I probably would have cracked a joke about someone opening a new doughnut shop in the lobby. As it was, I just shook my head and made my approach. They weren't controlling their scene very well, which was to be expected since there normally aren't too many crime scenes in Japan, even deep in Shinjuku. No one tried to stop me until I got to the front door.
The officer's blue uniform was heartlessly neat, and as impassive as he probably wanted to be. He held out one white-gloved hand toward me. "ID please." he had an accent so thick that it came out more like 'puu-reese'.
I smiled politely and executed a precise bow. "Of course," I pulled my card out of the little holder on my belt and handed it to him. "Han Solo, Interpol."
He didn't bat an eyelash, not that I expected him to. Quatre and I had been on an old movie and Asahi binge when we'd made the Interpol badges for our merry little band. His read 'Luke Skywalker' and I was pretty sure we'd put 'Obi Wan Kenobi' on Wufei's since it sounded vaguely oriental, but things had gotten pretty fuzzy at that point.
"If you will wait for a moment, Mr. Solo..." he scurried off, going rapid fire about the big guns appearing. I guess it hadn't occurred to him that I'd be able to understand Japanese. A minute later, he rematerialized with a detective who was dressed pretty much like me, except my tie was nicer.
"I am Detective Yamazaki," he said, and bowed, "If you don't mind my questioning, what here is of Interpol's interest?"
I was ready for that one. I pulled on my milkshake thick British accent. "I hear you've had rather an interesting murder. If my sources are correct, the MO is similar to a serial killer we've been tracking across the E. U."
The color drained out of his face like someone had pulled the plug. "The Wraith?"
It paid to keep up on current events in my line of work. "I shouldn't care to speculate over much." I touched my nose and gave him a conspiratorial wink.
"But how did you get here so fast?"
"I'm in Tokyo on other business, very hush-hush. You understand." If my smile had gotten any more ingratiating, it would have stuck and then I would have been forced to take up politics. I switched over to Japanese, keeping my speech just stiff enough that I sounded a bit uncomfortable with it. "We can speak your language if you think it would make the proceedings easier."
I loved open-mouthed looks of shock. They were so cute, in a froggy kind of way.
Yamazaki recovered quickly, to his credit. "Whatever is most convenient for you."
"Excellent. Let's have a peep at the body."
"This way, please." He lead me across a grand lobby complete with chandelier and carefully aged French carpet and through a small metal side door, back into a series of blank hallways eerily similar to the ones I walked through every morning. The carpet was much higher quality, though.
"Were there any signs of a struggle?"
"Not as such." We rounded a corner, coming to a stop by a door wreathed in yellow police tape.
"Have you technicians found any fibers or prints yet?"
"I don't believe so."
"I see." I thought fast. "I'll leave you a secure address - I would like to see the reports when you're done, I think."
"Of course." His Adam's apple bobbed up and down frantically.
I watched various policemen scurry in and out of the room for a moment. One ran out and vomited in a corner. "Don't get many of these, do you."
"No. Murders are most unusual in our country."
"It'll make the front page, I expect. Pity. The rest of the world should attempt to follow your example." I smiled. "Let's have a look, shall we?"
It wasn't quite what I'd expected, but I had a feeling my definition of 'blood everywhere' and Relena's differed quite drastically. There was quite a bit of blood, yes, but all of it was pooled around the body rather than sprayed across the walls like I'd been half expecting.
They hadn't covered her yet - still taking pictures, so I got the full effect. She was laying naked in the middle of her plain dorm room, like a corpse ready for burial, hands crossed over her chest. Pretty enough, if you liked blondes - and she was a natural blonde, I could see. She had her pubic hair shaved into a weird little exclamation point. Kids these days.
I took a leisurely circuit around the body, checking out the room first. Same as mine, really - bed, desk, dresser, all wooden. A couple j-rocker posters on the wall, a few manga scattered across the bed, a little clothing on the floor including a bright scarlet bra, and a fencing foil leaned against the wall. I opened the bathroom and peeked inside. There was a mess, there. The mirror had been shattered, and her makeup cases and hairbrush were on the floor among the glass shards. Toothbrush snapped in half. I took a closer look at the glass on the floor. There wasn't any blood in with it that I could see.
That was it for the room. Time to look at the body. I'd put it off long enough. Someone handed me a pair of latex gloves and two shoe covers - novel concept, there.
There was an odd little black splotch on the pale skin over her sternum. It took me a moment to realize that it was a single blue-black raven feather. I reached out to pick it up, but my fingers hit a wall of snarling cold around it that left them numb and tingling. Bad idea. Whatever it was, it didn't want to be touched. I already wasn't liking this.
I followed the rusty trails of dried blood up to her face. Her left eye was missing. My stomach rolled, and I bit the inside of my cheek, keeping my expression neutral. The empty socket was a pool of blood that had overflowed down her cheek and chin. There were no other wounds, though, not even a bruise. Clean and neat. He right eye stared at the ceiling, perfect, chilly blue.
I bent down to look at her neck - might as well check for little tooth punctures. Negative for that, but the back of her neck had been cut open with the same clean precision. "May I?" I asked Yamazaki, hovering at my elbow.
"By all means."
I turned her head gently, ready to fight against rigor mortis. Or at least I intended to. Her head fell to the side with barely a touch, revealing a neat, red square of muscle and the barest hint of the trachea. White bone glittered at me on either side of the cut.
The bit of spinal column that should have been there was missing. I pulled its - yeah, that's right, please let me forget this used to be a girl - head back up to its former position.
This was all wrong. I knew I wasn't going to like what I found, but I looked anyway. I touched the dark place inside my head, where what makes me a necromancer lives. It was sluggish and slow to respond, but I forced it out and sent the power, violet in my mind's eye, flowing over the girl.
She was dead. Not just dead rigor mortis, habeas corpus - I was expecting that, after all - but a dead not even I could touch. It was a cold that burned, just like when I'd tried to touch the feather, absolute zero nothingness. I almost whimpered, but I hadn't been working on control for nothing. I redirected my power before I lost it, trying to get an impression of the death, any kind of echo at all from the room. It was impossible to get anything but a sort of feeling, a magnetic tug.
After a moment, I reached out and lifted her shoulder, just slightly. There was a tiny puncture wound there, from a hypodermic needle.
She'd been drugged, and then...murdered, so thoroughly that I couldn't touch her. The essence a soul normally left behind was gone.
Words formed in my mind by instinct - harvested. Reaped. I wanted to throw up.
"I think that's about all I need to see." I stood up, making sure to keep my blood-slicked gloves away from my pants. I peeled the shoe covers off, turning them inside out, with the gloves following. To play a part, you had to have all the right mannerisms. "Detective Yamazaki, definitely get those lab results to me. I'll leave the door guard my card."
"Let me say that I'm catching a scent." There. Give him something to worry about - why the hell should I be the only one. I walked out, scrubbing my hands idly on my jacket to get rid of the powdery feeling of the gloves. I'd have latex and blood stuck in my nose for the next week.
Who knew, maybe I wasn't talking completely out of my ass. Maybe it was some kind of sick, ritualistic serial killer. One that knew magic.
Fuck, what a nasty thought. Feel free to ignore that, God...I didn't want to feel that cold again.
I knew one thing for sure. It wasn't vampires. It was some other kind of monster, something new.