Chapter Twenty: A Lesson in Getting What You Want Part A
When we reach the HQ I can feel the nerves in the pit of my stomach going crazy. Here it is, once again: that building that dominated our lives. The place where the investigation was carried out, the place where Light Bastard Yagami did his work… the place where L died. Now, Near’s domain. Or ‘N’, as he enjoys calling himself. Ridiculous. Maybe that’s why me and Matt could never live there - two ‘M’s, you see. It would be hard to tell us apart. Seriously, what is he, a preschooler? He’s a fucking joke.
We take the lift up to the floor he’s using as an office. The place is full of cards, all arranged as card houses, some taller than me. What the hell is he doing with his time? He’s supposed to be a detective, not an overpaid child. None of us are allowed to be children. We never have been, that’s not our purpose. As L’s heirs, we’re supposed to be mature and think things through. If this is what Near has been spending his time on, I’m starting to feel a bit more confident.
Then we get to the room. I get this feeling in my gut like we’re not supposed to go in. I go in anyway.
“Hello, Mello.” Near is standing in the exact middle of the room, surrounded by cards. He’s twirling his silver hair round one finger, with a ridiculously childish smile. His big, blank eyes flick across to Matt, greeting him second. “Matt.”
I’m just about to think of some kind of insult to reply with, my hands already curling into fists, when Matt brushes past me and then him to look around the room.
“Yeah, hi, Near.” He says casually, picking up a card from the top of a tower. I see Near flinch slightly. Score Matt one, Near nil.
“So what’s the deal?” I ask, calmed by Matt’s calmness. “You’ve got some kind of case for us?”
“Well, to tell you the truth,” Near begins, still twirling and twirling his hair, “I brought you here to be safer.”
“Safer?!” I splutter, taken aback. “From what? The Los Angeles Little Tokyo Bath Murderer? Because believe me, we’ve dealt with it.”
“Yes, so I read.” Near inclines his head slightly. “No, the two of you were in danger, so far away. I can only offer you protection if you stay in Japan. Specifically, this building.”
“What the fuck are you talking about, Near?” I spit. Score one-all.
“Even though we have not been close, it seems cruel of me if I were to leave you two to die. So, I have brought you here. Please stay close from now on. I will not be giving you exit passes for the main doors.”
“What the - we’re prisoners?!” I explode, hand reaching for my gun already. It’s a second’s work to pull it out and aim.
“I can’t let you do that, Mello.” A calm voice off to the left says, and I look round to see Lidner, pointing a gun of her own at me. Next to her is Lester, in a similar position. I should have known that the Near Fanclub - sorry, the old members of the SPK - would be here.
“Fine.” I growl, lowering the gun. “But somebody better give me some answers.”
“All in good time, M.” Near says evenly. He must have known how much that would piss me off.
“Do not call him M.” Matt interrupts. It’s times like these that I remember why I love him. “We already have codenames. We’re not… L. We’re Wammy’s kids, not his.”
One of Near’s eyebrows quirks. “Not L’s kids?”
“We never were.” Matt replies. “He didn’t bring us up. He didn’t give us a home. He chose us for a responsibility we were too young to deal with, and that’s all.”
“Hmm.” Near considers this, tilting his head to redirect his attention to me. “Do you not mourn L, Mello?”
“Of course we do.” I tell him. “But as a role model who failed, not a father figure or an idol.”
“Interesting.” Is all Near offers.
“It’s been eight years, anyway.” I continue. “We have to move on at some time. Which is exactly why you should tell us what is going on.”
“Nicely argued.” Near concedes, nodding his head. “Well. I will tell you soon. First I am assembling a team. We will all meet in the old HQ surveillance room in just a few hours. Please settle in until then.”
“We have keys for you.” Lidner adds, holding up two sets. “You two will be staying on the floor above. There’s a bedroom and bathroom each, and an independent kitchen for you.”
“So, L even designed living quarters in this building.” Matt muses to me, as we take the keys and follow Lidner to the lift. “I wonder for what purpose.”
“Who cares?” I scowl, put in a bad mood by Near. “Where did you put the chocolate?”
“It’s in my bag.” Matt answers, before he realises why I’m asking. “But… you… aren’t going to eat it, are you?”
I smirk, and we step into the lift to find out what our new jail looks like.
Reasons why we should not have come back to Japan number one: Near is a creepy little jerk, which I’d kind of forgotten about.
Reasons why we should not have come back to Japan number two: bad habits are easy to fall back into.
When we reach our rooms we dump our bags and choose the biggest one to share. Near’s given us single beds, deliberately no doubt, so we spend the best part of an hour trying to manoeuvre one into the other room and then find sheets the right size to fit a double bed. Afterwards we lay on our backs looking up at the ceiling, and that’s when Mello reaches into my bag and pulls out a chocolate bar.
“Hey, Mells…” I say uneasily, but he throws a pack of cigarettes at me.
“Shut up and light up.” He says.
“You used to hate it when I smoked indoors.”
“It’s not my indoors now, is it? It’s not my ceiling that will stain or my furniture that will smell of smoke. Why should I care?”
“You’re letting him get to you.”
“What, Near? That little fucking baby? No, I’m not.”
“Yes, you are.” I murmur under my breath, but I don’t force the issue. Instead I light a cigarette and then roll over so I can see him, breaking into the chocolate with one hand behind his head, his booted feet crossed at the ankles, looking for all the world like nothing is going on. But it is.
I touch the side of his face, the scarred side, and he glances across at me and sighs. “Look, you know he pisses me off.” He says. “I just want to be done with this and go home. We’re going to solve this one, me and you, Matt. Show Near who’s the best at this game. Then we’ll leave, and I’m done with him forever. I don’t even know why we came.”
“Because we can’t resist a challenge.” I smile. “What would the reputation of Kriminalist be if we didn’t take part in such high-risk cases?”
Mello smirks. “You could be right.”
“I am right.” I laugh. “Anyway, you think we should get Near to refer to us as K from now on? Huh?”
Mello play-punches me on the arm, starting to laugh along with me, and before we know it we’ve descended into wrestling like little boys, me careful not to drop hot ash anywhere and him still protective of his scarred shoulder, out of habit more than anything else. For a moment we don’t have a care in the world.
“Bzztsch - Mello. Matt. - Bzztsch.”
We both jump out of our skin at that; Near’s voice seemingly coming from nowhere. The crackling noise makes us think of the intercom almost straight away, so we head for it to see what he wants; the system is old and looks unused, probably just a relic from L’s time here.
“Near? What do you want?” I ask, not trusting Mello with it.
“Bzztsch - Meet us in the surveillance room as soon as possible for a briefing session. - Bzztsch.”
We don’t reply, just pick up our jackets and head straight down there. We walk into the room to an unexpected sight: a full team again, mostly people we recognise - and not all of them because they cooperated with us in the past.
“Glad you could make it.” Near states as we sit down, in a tone that implies neither gladness nor any other emotion. “The team is now assembled. In case we have forgotten each other, please introduce yourself. I am Near, investigation leader.”
Lidner steps forward, her blonde hair shifting as she looks around at everyone else. She’s the only woman in the room. “Halle Lidner. I’m a spy and a bodyguard. Anyone needs to leave the building, you talk to me first.”
“You’ll know me as Gevanni.” The man next to her announces. “It’s not my name but it will do. I’ll mostly be working outside of the headquarters, but I’ll drop in from time to time. I specialise in tracking suspects and surveillance.”
“I’m Lester. Anthony Lester.” Another man, one I know all to well, steps forward. “I’m Near’s right-hand-man and personal bodyguard, but I’m happy to help where I’m needed.”
“Aizawa.” Another familiar face announces. “You all know me already. I don’t really know why I’m here doing overtime instead of at home with my wife.”
“Patience, Chief Aizawa.” Near chirps, gleefully. “You will find out. Next, Mr Matsuda…?”
“Yes, well, I’m Matsuda.” That well-known bumbling idiot says, waving at everyone in the room, much to Aizawa’s obvious embarrassment. “I don’t know how I can help except to say I have a lot of experience in the Japanese Police Force.”
“And I’m Yamamoto.” An unfamiliar man says, pushing his square glasses up his nose. “I’ve been working with Matsuda-san under Chief Aizawa, but I don’t really know why I’m here either.”
“I’m Matt.” I say, jumping in before Near has to prompt me. I don’t want to start this off by taking orders from him, because that’s not how I mean to go on. “Just Matt. I’m good at… some things, I guess, but mostly I enjoy smoking and playing video games. I’m good for anything computer-related. Of course those of you who haven’t seen us before -” A nod towards Yamamoto - “Will recognise our name instead. Me and this guy are Kriminalist, the LA detectives.”
“There’s just two of you?” Yamamoto raises an eyebrow. “Just you two solved all those crimes?”
“That’s right.” I smile. That’s another point to us.
“And what about you? What’s your name?” Yamamoto continues, turning to Mello, even though Matsuda tries to get his attention and warn him.
“Mello.” He spits, in an acidic kind of way. “Now just what the fuck is going on here?”
“Of course, you will want to know.” Near inclines his head slightly. He doesn’t really seem to be paying attention, instead he’s carefully painting various initials onto finger puppets. “Well. This team has been put together for the purpose of investigating a new criminal. Or rather, an old one. A new spate of Kira killings has been confirmed.”