Chapter Eighteen: A Lesson in the Past Part A
KRIMINALIST PART TWO
It’s great, being in LA. Really, really great.
It’s been a while since Kira died, and L, and I’ve almost come to terms with it all. We’ve been working here for two years now, Matt and I. It’s the anniversary today. It’s still hard for me to think of Near - we don’t talk - but I’m successful in my own right now. I may not have caught Kira… but I did catch the infamous Little Tokyo bath murderer, not to mention Albert “Anaheim” Rogers and his crime syndicate. They’re all behind bars now, thanks to me. There’s more than one evil person out there in the world. Kira wasn’t the be-all and end-all we thought he was.
With Matt by my side things are better than ever. It’s onwards and upwards, always onwards and upwards. I cut down to one bar of chocolate a week (on Saturdays). Matt only smokes on Saturdays, too. It’s like we’ve calmed down now that we’ve found our place in the world. Although, when I say calmed down…
“MOTHERFUCKER!!” Matt screams from down the corridor, in his games room. This outburst is accompanied by what I can only describe as ‘loser’ music: the theme that gets played when you get slayed, as Matt would put it. I wander down to see what’s going on; leaning in the doorway I can afford the smirk that lingers on my face.
“Seriously, Matt.” I say. “You can’t even beat that dwarf guy?”
“Yeah, well, sorry Mr Games Genius, I didn’t realise you were such a pro.” Matt sniffs. “Why don’t you show me how it’s done?”
“I think I’ll pass.” I reply. “These things are always so much more rewarding when you figure them out for yourself. And besides… I can think of a much better game to play.”
“Oh, is that so?” Matt asks, tilting his head to look up at me properly. “Please, do tell.”
“It involves you, me, that motorbike out there, and that little place in the woods out near Paradise Springs.”
Matt raises an eyebrow. “You mean those woods that are snowy at this time of year?”
“Oh, yeah.” I smirk. “Why, chicken?”
“Absolutely not.” Matt replies, standing up. “I’m just worried about you… you do realise that the cold makes certain things look even smaller than they are, right?”
“Matt, honey,” I purr, “If it’s really that small, then I’m sure you won’t mind me being on top.”
“Do I get to smoke?”
“If I get to bring chocolate.”
“Well…” Matt grins. “Hell, it’s not every day that you’ve lived in LA for exactly two years. Let’s go.”
We gather up a few supplies, and leave straight away. I don’t really think about it much, but the way we live now is liberating. We used to have people following us around everywhere, Roger and Wammy and the rest of them, and if we wanted to leave Wammy’s House we’d have to wait for the next field trip. Well, unless we happened to be grounded for setting off fireworks in the caretaker’s office. Which I never did. Obviously.
But now we do what we want, when we want. We don’t need to worry about expense; we’re rich. Matt’s online business and the Kriminalist reputation has seen to that. We only get the most high-profile cases these days, the ones worth the real money. We don’t have servants or anything like that… well, we have a cleaner, but she only comes in once a week. On Sundays. She clears up Matt’s cigarette butts and my chocolate wrappers with the same tired air of disapproval. She makes me laugh.
I walk to the bike and get on first, tucking my hair into my collar so that it will all fit neatly inside the helmet. Matt gets on behind me and puts his hands on my hips, holding on tightly. It’s one of the perks of having a motorbike. I start the engine and we go, tracing familiar tarmac all the way up the mountain. It’s good to live on the outskirts of town; traffic isn’t as bad, especially later during the day, so we can make good time. The rush of wind and the feel of Matt’s hands on my hips are all part of what I live for. Maybe I’ve mellowed a little (Ha! Mellow Mello), but I still know where to find the best kicks.
Everything seems like a good idea when you start. Hey, I said, I’m not afraid of snow. Hell, I like snow. In fact, snow is the best thing on this earth except for gaming, cigarettes, and Mello - let’s go enjoy the snow! Yeah, that’s me, Mail Jeevas, snow lover. Or in other words, idiot.
“Fuck, Mello, it’s cold.” I shiver, and Mello laughs teasingly.
“Aww, little Matty’s cold? I thought you said you could handle it?” He mocks, lifting his head to grin at me. He’s lying naked in snow and he doesn’t even look cold. His blue eyes and his blond hair make him look like some kind of ice queen. I think he’s enjoying it. I’m freezing to death, though.
“I did handle it. Quite well, actually. But now I’d like to not catch pneumonia, please.”
Mello laughs even more, and pushes himself up to a kneeling position. “Come on then. Let’s get dressed and go.”
“Go? Not yet! I haven’t had my cigarette.”
“Ah, good point.” Mello reaches over to his jacket pocket and pulls out a chocolate bar, unwrapping it with one hand as he dresses with the other. I can’t help but admire his figure as he stretches up to pull his shirt over his head. He’s thin, but not skinny, and the muscles on his arms are strong. It’s then that I realise the way he was sitting; there had been something in the back of my mind telling me it was odd, but it’s only when he covers it up that I realise. The scar tissue on his left side is almost purple in the cold. He was laying on his right side, protecting it from touching the snow. It must be sensitive. Without thinking, almost, I reach up a hand and smooth over the scar on his face, the texture I’ve grown to know so well.
“It’s hard to believe it’s over two years since that bastard…” He says, looking a little distant.
“Yeah.” Mello sighs, and looks out into the trees, away from me. “I still… dream sometimes, of how it would have been if we’d caught him and not Near. If we had taken on L’s name. I always just wanted… a little revenge. I wanted him to pay for fucking up my face like that. I was proud of my looks…”
“You still have them.” I assure him, quickly kissing him on the nose. “You’re gorgeous, Mells. People can’t take their eyes off you when you walk into a room.”
“Yeah, because I’m a freak.” Mello scoffs, and brushes his hair out of his eyes impatiently. “Whenever I think of that bastard I feel so angry. I don’t mind so much about Near any more, and although I miss L I know he’s not coming back… but Kira…”
“Feels like he might show up at any moment, doesn’t it?” I sigh. “He always had another trick up his sleeve.”
“I just keep thinking about those creepy-ass messages Near found.”
I nod. It always comes back to this. A while ago Near was clearing out the old HQ building, apparently to make more room for his toys, and he found an envelope containing three sheets of paper. Each of them was addressed to one of us, using our codenames, with a little message from Kira. I’ll never forget what was written on mine. “This is not game over.” I read Mello’s too - “Each bite brings you closer to death” - and I know he was freaked out by it enough to lower his chocolate consumption rate considerably. We never got to read Near’s. It was probably just another idle threat; after all is said and done that guy is in his grave. You don’t get the chance to try again, not in this world.
“Look, Mells… Just try to forget about it. I know it’s not as easy as all that, but we have to move on. One day you’ll look in the mirror and see those scars and not think of him, I swear to you.”
After a moment, Mello turns back to me with a dreamy half-smile. “Who will I think of instead?”
“Me.” I promise. “Just you wait.”
After a while we get back on the bike and go, leaving behind nothing but two body-shaped melt holes in the thin covering of snow between the trees. Aside from these little remembrances, life is good. Today is an anniversary day, so things are allowed to be weird. It’s not like the anniversaries of Kira’s death or L’s, when we tiptoe around and evade the subject, jumping at shadows and avoiding each others’ eyes; there are times when we can talk about it. Sometimes I almost forget, now that things are good. It’s hard to believe life was ever any different to this.
It creeps me out sometimes, thinking of that weirdo and his obsession with justice. How could anyone so clever think of killing so many people? I guess I’ll never know, and it’s not like I could just walk up and ask him. Like Matt says, he’s in the ground; I just can’t shake the feeling sometimes that when I turn around, he’ll be behind me.
I feel it more than ever today. All the ride home I’m inexplicably nervous. I feel like something is going to drive up, a car or a truck, and push us off the road. Nothing does, but I only start to relax when I’ve parked the bike and taken off my helmet.
When we get inside the routine is so well-practiced we could do it with our eyes closed: I put the leathers away, Matt goes and turns on the computer system. I check the answering machine, he checks the emails. Today the light on the machine is flashing. I press the button.
“You have - one - new message.” The disjointed voice from the machine tells me. “This is - new - message - one.”
There is a brief pause; someone takes a breath. What follows is in Japanese, but I recognise the voice all too well.
“Hello, Matt, Mello. This is N speaking. I am at the Japan headquarters. We are facing a new threat. The current investigation team have deemed it necessary to invite you to help us. This is an international crisis, potentially endangering the entire world. We await your answer.”
The heavy beep at the end of the message makes my scowl deepen. “Fucker.” I mutter.
“Did you hear that?” Matt asks. I look up to see him standing in the doorway, leaning on the frame. “What he was saying?”
“Of course I did, I’m right next to the machine.” I snap slightly, not at him but at the fact that Near has once again butted his girly little voice into our lives.
“No, I mean…” Matt smiles. “He doesn’t want us there. The ‘investigation team’ have asked for us… which means they don’t trust in his abilities. Mello, do you know what this is?”
“What?” I ask, as he sidles up to me, slipping one arm around my waist.
“This is our chance to really, really annoy Near.” He grins. After a few moments I grin too, and we gradually break into progressive sniggers, and then cackles, and then full-on laughter.
I hope Near realises what’s coming to him.