Kriminalist

Chapter Nineteen: A Lesson in the Past Part B

MATT

The funny thing about Mello and Near is… well, actually, there are two funny things. The two funny things about Near and Mello are that, first of all, they think they’re so totally different, when actually they both think in the same way, the way that L taught them; and secondly that they both hate each other so much that they lose all sense of subtlety when dealing with each other. Near gives us ‘cryptic’ easy-to-read messages, while Mello would probably like to punch him in the face. And the only one who can see it is me.

Of course, Mello would probably shoot me if I told him that.

Not fatally; I mean he would just shoot me in the foot or something. He’d feel really bad about it afterwards. But I think it would make him just angry enough to do it without thinking. That’s how much he hates Near. So I’m thinking that this trip is going to be very… interesting. I’ll probably have my hands full with keeping Mello calm. At least Near doesn’t know our real names.

I worry about that, sometimes. I know Kira isn’t around any more but there are other ways to use a name. Mello wouldn’t ever tell them my real name, I know he wouldn’t, just because he’s tough enough and he would probably rather die than give anything to Near. But I’m not that strong. I think if they threatened Mells I would have to tell them. No matter how much I didn’t want to; I’m the weak link in the chain. I worry that one day, Mello will be hurt or ruined because of me.

But in this day and age it’s hard to believe Near would want or need our names. The only reason he would try to find them out would be to lord it over them that he was a better detective, and he’d already done that by catching Kira. Light Yagami. Halfway through packing I pause to shake my head and sigh, remembering those old days. We were younger then and not so aware of how the world works. Now we know, we’ve done it all on our own and we’ve become a success, while Near sat in his tower watching his minions work for him. What does he know of the real world? Of making friends and falling in love, and business deals? He may have won that case, but I think we know who benefited most in the end.

And if Near needs our help on a case, then… that must mean even his people know we’re better than him now.

I wonder how Mello will handle it, though. It’s true that he’s calmed down a bit lately, but the old Mello is still inside, just waiting for a chance to pull a gun and take over again. I don’t mind. I can deal with his crazy side just as well as I can this side of him, this loving side that I know I’ve been instrumental in bringing out. He’s still as hard as nails where it comes to criminals; if they even try to mess with him they soon realise their mistake. About three months ago we got a death threat from a Mafioso. That night Mello went out on his bike while I was asleep, broke into the guy’s house, put a gun to his head, and managed to produce enough evidence to not only have him convicted, but clear himself of the breaking and entering charges.

You don’t mess with Mihael Keehl. And I guess, for the first time, Near is really going to figure that out.

MELLO

Matt’s so enthusiastic about everything, he thinks nothing of getting on a plane and heading right back to Japan. It’s been two years. That sounds like a long time but it’s not. It’s not a long time at all. It’s far too short.

I still remember that hotel room. That shower. The feeling of defeat. I don’t think Matt realises how hard it is for me to even think about going back.

But looking into his face, I feel a fire kindled inside me. An old fire that I recognise. A fire that says I will not back down and allow myself to be beaten, and that Near will be made to suffer for even thinking of going up against me. There’s a word in my heart and it’s revenge.

So we get our bags together, packing clothes and chocolate and cigarettes (though only for emergencies, we tell each other). Then Matt goes into his little computer nerd-out room and sets up a secure conversation line to Near, using webcam, microphone and speakers, like L used to. Some things never change.

“Hello, Near?” Matt says as I lean over the chair behind him, feeling a little edgy. The screen on the other side is blank, and for a few seconds it seems it will stay that way; but then the picture flickers into life and there’s Near, looking at us with his fucking creepy little L-reincarnated eyes and twirling his hair. There are some things I wish I could change.

“Matt. Mello.” Near acknowledges, his blank stare flicking between us. “You wish to give me your answer.”

Not a question. A statement. Already I want to rip his head off for being so damn know-it-all.

“Yes.” Matt replies calmly. I wonder if he feels the same irritation I do, or if I’m just overreacting. It’s not easy facing up to your rival without finding a million things to hate.

“That is your answer?”

“A few questions first, Near.” I cut in.

“Of course, Mello.” The stare flicks back to me. “What is it that you would like to know.”

Again with the statement. Out of view of the webcam I clench my fists. “We’d like to know exactly what is going on.”

“I cannot tell you in anything but person.”

“This is a secure line, Near.” Matt points out.

“Which you are no doubt recording for later analysis. This makes it very simple to steal. Please do not try to negotiate. I cannot reveal the details until we are face to face.”

“How important is this?” I ask. “And how long have you been investigating?”

“It is of the utmost importance. We have been investigating for one month, almost exactly. Mello…” Near shifts a little, and leans in. “I can tell you one thing. This case is of equal, or possibly more, difficulty than the Kira case. The best minds in Japan are working on it and it is not enough.”

“Perhaps that’s because the best minds in Japan aren’t there yet.” I smirk. “We’re on the next flight from LAX. Check your airport schedules.”

In perfect synchronicity with my own intentions, Matt reaches up and cuts off the link. I pat him on the shoulder and move away, lost in thought, but knowing that we just got one-up on Near, despite his holier-than-thou tone. While he wastes time trying to figure out what airport we’re flying to and which flight we’re on so he can keep us in sight, we have time to finish our preparations and get our thoughts together.

So, Near’s preferring to keep us in the dark; but that’s fine. We’re used to figuring out things our own way, and this case will be no exception. We’re a good team, Matt and I. No, we’re an exceptional team. I don’t think Near realises yet just how exceptional we’ve become. He doesn’t stand a chance.

We jump in the car and head down to the airport, having made arrangements for the bike and some of our technological equipment to be transported soon after our flight. We’re going to need everything we’ve worked hard to buy if we’re going to beat Near this time. He better be ready for the fight of his life.

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