“You never get used to it, kid.”
I sigh. Not this again.
“What I never get used to, detective, is the fact that you make that damned comment every single time. Not every single time we get to a murder scene, but every goddamned time anything happens. You said it when we saw that car double-parked, when they put 2% milk in my nonfat soy latte, and when the only doughnut left in the break room was one of those godawful blueberry glazed atrocities.”
I take a deep breath.
“And for the last time, I’m older than you. And I outrank you. So stop calling me kid.”
Detective Katsuki shrugs, “Sorry, Captain, but it’s true this time. Besides, isn’t your name Kidd?”
“My husband’s name is Kidd. I’m still Kurohime.”
“Ah, right. I always forget. Never get used to it, women not changin’ their names when they get married.”
Katsuki’s a good cop, if a little slow. And it’s always nice to have a big scary slab of meat around, when you need to bring in the muscle. But his views on gender politics are bound to cause him problems in the future.
He’s right, though, this is a particularly grisly murder. A young man, late teens, stripped naked except for a t-shirt. Wrists slashed, throat torn open, lower body mutilated beyond recognition. And blood. Blood everywhere.
“Any leads on a perp, detective?”
Another shrug. “Colder’n a TV dinner. No leads, no nothin’. No motive, no suspects, nothin’ suspicious at all - ‘cept the stiff, ‘course.”
“This is a girl’s room. Any possibility that she was involved?”
He shakes his head, shoving his massive hands into his equally large coat pockets. “Cleaner’n a whistle. Student Council, volunteer work, whole nine yards. Sweetest girl I’ve ever met. I’d sooner suspect myself. ‘Sides, she took it pretty hard. Turns out he was her boyfriend.”
Producing a bag of after-dinner mints, he tosses a handful into his mouth.
“‘f you ask me, looks like some kinda cult job. Still don’t explain the cold trail, though.”
“A cult, you say? You may be on to something there. A conspiracy, maybe? Any chance of a quid pro quo alibi going on? If it’s a conspiracy, they’d be vouching for each other, I’d imagine.”
“If there is, they’ve done a damn good job of hidin’ it. Big festival last night, an’ almost everyone swears that everyone else was there all night. ‘fit’s a conspiracy, more’n half the school’d hafta be in on it.”
My ears perk up. “Almost everyone?”
Katsuki looks a little uncomfortable as he responds, avoiding my eyes. “There is one kid who doesn’t really have an alibi, but he’s the shut-in type. A real loon.”
“A shut-in? He never leaves his room?”
“Almost never. We found him on the rooftop, drinkin’ and rantin’ ‘bout how ‘they’ got him.”
This last “him” is accompanied by a nod toward the corpse. “Turns out he was a friend of the victim.”
“Yeah, kid had this crazy idea that ‘e was offed by a ‘feminist conspiracy.’”
Katsuki’s other hand emerges from its pocket, holding a bottle of whiskey. Eyeing it appraisingly, he takes a swig.
“May be a nut, but the kid’s got good taste in booze.”
I ignore the rules he’s breaking by “confiscating” the whiskey in that manner. There are more important things to deal with right now.
“We should probably take him in for questioning. No alibi, he clearly doesn’t have any issue with leaving his room, and he’s mentally unstable. Probably some sexually frustrated kid who couldn’t deal with his friend having a girlfriend while he’s still alone.”
“You think so? He seemed pretty harmless to me.”
“They always do. Take backup - there’s no telling what might happen if he gets cornered.”
“I’m on it!”
With a smart salute, the detective runs off to apprehend the suspect.
Poor kid. He probably is harmless. But there’s no sense taking a risk like that. Now I need to go make my report.
It’s a very short trip to my destination - another one of the building’s rooms. I knock loudly and announce myself.
“Precinct Seven Homicide Division, Captain Kurohime.”
The weak, strained voice of a girl answers from within. “Come in.”
I open the door to see two schoolgirls inside, the curtains drawn. One of the girls - the one with bright pink hair - is crying into the lap of the other girl. Stepping inside, I close the door behind me.
Once the door is closed, their demeanor changes. Turning her attention from the crying girl, the other girl fixes me with an imperious gaze, making me feel small and insignificant. The pink-haired girl is no longer crying, but sits next to the first one, equally authoritative.
I had been briefed on this. Shizune Hakamichi, the youngest regional matron in centuries. And she’s not afraid to prove why she deserves the position. Normally, a report is given to the regional matron in private, but her enforcer is a special case. Shiina Mikado, one of the most dangerous enforcers in the Pacific region, serves a double role as Mistress Hakamichi’s interpreter.
As one, the matron makes a short gesture, and her enforcer speaks. “Report.”
I fall to me knee and bow my head in deference. “The operation was successful, mist-”
“Lift your face.” The command is sharp and cuts me off midsentence. “I choose to dispense with that honor. It is far more important that I can see my subordinates as they speak.”
“Yes, mistress.” When the mistress issues a command, to disobey is to sign your own death warrant. “The operation was successful. The law of Man remains blind to our actions. Furthermore, the investigation has given us an opportunity to neutralise a potential threat. I understand that mistress is aware of the target’s friend?”
“You are correct. Setou is more than a potential threat. He has been a thorn in our side for too long. What of him?”
“He has been apprehended as the likely suspect, mistress. Our agents will ensure that he digs his own grave.”
The predatory smile of the mistress is utterly terrifying. It is clear that she has truly earned her position.
“You have done well. You may kiss my hand.”
Her extended hand is tempting. To touch a mistress is a great honor - to kiss her hand greater still. But protocol must be observed.
“My mistress is too kind. My actions do not deserve such an honor.”
“You presume too much, child. I have judged that your actions deserve this honor. I pray that you do not consider your judgment greater than my own?”
Making a very poor attempt to disguise my eagerness, I crawl forward, gently placing my lips against her knuckle. The touch lasts for only a brief glorious moment before she pulls her hand away. Much to my surprise, however, she places her palm on my head.
“Your service shall be remembered for ages to come. You are no longer a child, orphaned to the world. I claim you as my daughter.”
“As you have seen this day, a man who has served his purpose is to be discarded, fit only to work in the mines. But a woman who has served her purpose is to bloom and grow, greater than she once was. Rise, daughter, that we may plan our next step.”
Thanks for reading!
You DID notice the date, right?