Chapter Ten: A Lesson in Dying Part A
For fuck’s sake. I thought I was getting through to him. I told Matt I care about him, he seemed okay. He promised he would be okay. Which makes him pretty much a liar, because he’s clammed up again. He’s sitting in his room, playing games, he won’t even eat dinner with me. He just gets the food and takes it right back upstairs, then returns the plates when he’s done. It’s like he thinks I won’t notice how he’s feeling if I don’t see him. But of course I notice. I can’t believe he broke his promise so quickly. Doesn’t he care that I worry about him? I need to know what’s wrong with him, because otherwise I’m just going to worry.
I go up to his room and knock on the door, which is closed. There’s no reply, except a few beeps from some game or other, so I knock louder.
“Go away, Mello.”
I roll my eyes impatiently. “What are you, thirteen? I’m coming in.” I try the door handle, but it won’t budge. “What the fuck? Have you locked me out?”
“Yes.” His voice floats back through the door, muffled and low. “I don’t want to talk to you.”
“Why not?!” I snap. “What the hell is wrong with you? I haven’t done anything!”
“I know you haven’t.”
“Then why are you punishing me?!”
There was a pause, a silence, and then Matt spoke again, and I could tell he had moved to the other side of the door.
“I’m not punishing you.”
“Then let me in.”
“No. I’m sorry. I want to be alone.” His voice sounds lower down than it was before, so I assume he’s now sat down with his back against the door. I slide down too, resting my head against the wood.
“Please talk to me.” I say.
“Mello, why do you… why do you care?”
“Because you’re my friend.”
“But…” Matt’s voice breaks, and I think he’s crying. I wish he would just open the door. “But I’m not worth it.”
“What? Where is this coming from, Matt?”
“I’m… not as clever as you, or as good at solving cases. I don’t understand things the way you do. I’m not as good-looking as you, or… I’m… I’m not good enough…”
“Matt!” I say, turning to talk to the door again, resting my hands against it. “Of course you’re good enough! If you weren’t, I’d still be with Near. And you are clever, but we just see things in different ways.”
“I… don’t believe that.”
“Matt?” I say desperately, trying to make him understand. “Can’t you see? If I didn’t appreciate you then I would just cut you away like everyone else. But I do appreciate you. You’re my best friend; my only friend. The only person who’s good enough for me.”
There’s a few moments of almost-silence, Matt sniffling quietly, and then I hear a key turning in the lock. The door swings open and Matt’s there, with his goggles on; but they don’t hide the red marks of tear tracks on his cheeks. I stand up to his height, and reach out and pull the goggles off his face.
“You can’t bottle things up, Matt.” I tell him. “It’s not healthy.”
“Hypocrite.” He sniffs. “You bottle stuff up all the time.”
“Yeah, and then I go and kick someone to make up for it.” I smirk. “From now on, then, let’s make a deal. We talk to each other. If anything’s wrong, we have to talk.”
“… Alright.” Matt replies after a moment, and I smile gently, glad we’ve made progress.
“So, you want to tell me what started all this?”
“It’s just…” He sighs, and his shoulders slump. “How can people hurt each other like that? How can they bear it? I mean…”
“Matt.” My voice takes on a harder tone, because I can see what this is about. “What your parents did is not your fault. They were wrong to hurt you. And frankly, they missed out, because their son is amazing. I’m lucky that you went to Wammy’s. you have never done anything wrong in your life, and you didn’t deserve the way they treated you, but I’m glad you’re here with me now. Alright?”
“Alright.” Matt murmurs, and hangs his head. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be.” I smile. “Just try to be happy, okay?”
I feel really stupid. And guilty. I don’t want Mello to worry about me, but sometimes it’s just hard to think of the fact that my parents didn’t want me, that I wasn’t good enough to be L, that I’m still second to Mello. But that’s the way it is. My money bought this house and my planning made Verschmelzen a success, which is something I have to remember. So enough of that stupidity. Mello is right. I have him, and that’s all I need.
After Mello left to his own room that evening, I was just playing one of the Zelda games from my collection when the phone started to ring. I was a bit annoyed, obviously, but Mello never answers it, so I had to. I got up and picked it up, tucking it under my ear so I could speak whilst playing. And smoking, which was the trickiest bit.
“Verschmelzen headquarters.” I answer automatically.
“H-hello?” A hesitant, teary female voice replies.
“Yes? Are you wanting to hire us, ma’am?”
“Yes, I… do you track missing persons?”
“We try our best. How long has the person been missing?”
“Three days. The police haven’t found anything, and I…”
“I understand. Can I take your name?”
“Penelope Primrose. Miss. It’s… very urgent. I wonder if I could meet you very soon.”
“… How soon were you thinking?”
“Actually, I’m… on the way to your address now. I know it’s a lot to ask, but please…”
“Absolutely. We’ll be ready for you, Miss Primrose. There’s nothing to worry about.”
After I put the phone down, I glance at the clock. It’s past midnight, which means Mello might be asleep, so I now have to go and get him up. Which is no enviable task, I assure you.
I knock softly on his door when I get there, half-expecting him to ignore me. “Hey, Mells? Can I come in?”
“Yeah.” His indolent tone comforts me a little; he was already awake, and maybe he won’t object too much. I open the door and step inside.
“Uh, we have a client coming.”
“Yeah… it’s a missing persons case, and she was anxious to see us.”
“What? It’s… it’s nearly the middle of the night, Matt!”
“I know!” I protest. “But she was really insistent.”
“Matt, what the hell! Couldn’t you just tell her to come tomorrow morning?”
“She was crying and everything!”
He sighs, and runs a hand over his face. “I’m only doing this if you bring me lots of chocolate. Right now.”
“Coming right up.” I answer and quickly leave, grinning. It’s nice to know that things haven’t changed between us, in spite of all the heart-to-hearts. Mello’s still a bitch and I still love it, because that’s just the way we operate.
Heh, back to work, I guess. Matt brings me some chocolate just like I asked, which was nice of him, really; though he knew I wouldn’t leave the room without it. I’ve already taken off a few layers, ready for sleeping, but it doesn’t matter; I just pull on my leather trousers and that’s enough, since I’m already wearing a black vest. I don’t need a jacket in the house, to be perfectly honest.
So I go down to wait with him, and in about twenty minutes we hear the crunch of a car coming up the gravel driveway, complementing the snapping sound my chocolate makes. Matt gets up to answer the door, and soon returns with this pretty, delicate woman, all soft brown hair and big brown eyes and tiny freckles across her nose. I have to admit it, she’s cute. Like a deer in the headlights.
“Thank you for seeing me at such short notice.” She says softly, and Matt smiles encouragingly.
“Not at all. This is what we’re here for, right, Mello?”
“Mello?” She says. “Is that your name?”
“Yeah.” I tell her. “Penelope Primrose, right?”
“That’s right, yes.”
“I’m Matt.” Matt cuts in, trying to get her attention. “Would you like something to drink?”
“Ah… a coffee, please, if it’s not too much trouble.” She says hesitantly, and turns back to me. “Are you the detective?”
“We both are.” Matt says, and leaves to make the drink.
“Oh, I’m sorry.” She says, flushing slightly. “I assumed he was some sort of… assistant. It’s not often you get to speak directly to the person you’re hiring over the phone.”
I smile. “Yeah, we’re a team. We don’t need assistants. Listen, you said a man had gone missing?”
“Yes.” Her eyes drop down to the floor, and I sense a quiet grief about her. “My fiancée, William Pitts. He’s… he hasn’t been home for three days, and I’m worried that he’s in trouble.”
“Of course.” I reply. “Tell me everything you know, starting with the last time you saw him. We’ll soon get to the bottom of this.”