Kriminalist

Chapter Twenty-Five: A Lesson in Hiding Part C

NEAR

Several days pass, and still there are no new deaths from Kira. I begin to question myself; were those deaths really planned, or just coincidence? Then I look around at my investigation team and know I am right. These people believe I am, and their trust cannot all be false.

It brings up worries to my mind. I know my team well, from their extensive files and from previous cases, most notably that of the previous Kira. These men, though often unassuming and seemingly normal, are among the best investigative minds of the world. Only three people may challenge them; myself, Mello, and Matthew. I do not question that. There is no need to second-guess what is undisputable fact.

Though as time passes I become yet more uneasy. In these several days I have made yet more discoveries in my daily life; a torn Jack of Clubs here, a seven of Spades screwed into a ball there. It seems that someone is trying to unnerve me, and though I am usually the most calm of souls I regret to find that it is working. Who is it that places these things around for me to find? I can think only of two answers, and both worry me equally. The first is that one of the men on my team is not who I think he is. The second is that a God of Death - a Shinigami - is somewhere here, haunting us, controlled by the new Kira and bribed into distracting us… from what? His bigger plan? Why does he not move? I am reminded ever frequently of the message L first received from Light Yagami - the message that made no sense, had no bearing on anything, other than a simple taunt. I do not wish to be pulled in to such a trick, but I cannot afford to miss what could be crucial evidence.

I pace my chambers thoughtfully, tying knots into my hair and breezing past towers of cards that I stood on ladders to complete. They hold no pleasure for me now. All I can think of when I look at them is those mysterious letters painted onto the cards left for me. I go back to what serves as a bedroom on this floor and lay my cards out on the bed. There is the beheaded King of Hearts with his ‘L’, a painted Queen of Hearts who now wears her hair in blonde bunches and gothic clothing, with the ‘A’ painted over her heart. There is the Jack of Clubs missing the very edges of his card, torn carefully as if to make a rough border, with the ‘E’ over his face. Moving over them quicker, I see the ‘O’, the two ‘P’s, and the ‘V’. In only three days these cards have haunted me. No matter how I order them - “POP VALE”, “VEAL OPP”, “LOVE PAP” - they still hold no sense or meaning for me. I wonder if there are still cards to come. Sighing, I sweep them carefully back into a small plastic bag - the type usually reserved for evidence found at crime scenes - and seek out Mello. It is time, as it were, to lay my cards upon the table.

MELLO

Three days. Three fucking days. Where is he? Images of him flash through my mind - dead, tortured, chained up. Unconscious in a ditch. And still there’s no ransom note. I know what I would be thinking if I’d been hired to this case. No note, no reason for him to leave? Then, Ma’am, if you’ll excuse my saying so, either he’s been killed outright or he ran away and you don’t really know him at all.

But could he have run away? I seize onto that tiny hope; yes, could he conceivably have hated the idea of staying with Roger so much that he simply skipped out? That he figured himself safer if no one, not even I, knew where he was? Yes, yes, that makes sense. That makes so much sense.

But is it true?

Over and over in my mind I run the possibilities, hating this confinement which leaves me powerless to look for him. Relying on Gevanni is something I would much rather avoid. I don’t know him, I don’t trust him. For all we know Gevanni is on the other team. I know there isn’t anything I can do, but all these apples everywhere really aren’t fucking helping. The first one was bad enough, it’s going off now, getting all dried-up and shrivelled, but now I’ve got a whole collection of seven. Not all of them are real apples - I’ve found a carved rosewood decorative piece, a felt toy, even a little plastic phone charm. But they’re all apples, and they all have those fucking stupid letters carved or painted onto them.

It’s driving me insane. What the hell do they mean? I should know this! I should be able to work this out! But all I can think of right now is Matt and whether he’s alright, whether he’s alive. Surely I would know, somehow, if he was dead? Surely I would feel it?

Near knocks at my door at some point in the evening, and I reluctantly let him in. I’m focusing all my fear for Matt into anger at him, and even though it’s getting me nowhere it does make me feel a bit better. He’s the one that’s keeping me locked up here, anyway. If it was me looking for Matt I could probably find him in less than a day.

“I have something to tell you.” He announces, girlishly twirling his hair as ever. I only glare at him in response, until he pulls out an evidence bag full of what at first glance are ripped up pieces of paper.

As he lays out the cards and I grasp the full realisation of what I’m seeing, my anger only builds. “You lied to me.” I accuse him.

“No; I merely failed to mention the truth.” Near replies calmly, making me grit my teeth. “That is not lying, I think you will find, Mello.”

“Alright, you deceived me.” I spit, and then allow a sly smile to creep across my face. “Which is alright, I suppose, since I was also deceiving you.”

I go to the drawers beside the bed and pull out all seven of my apples, arranging them in a row under Near’s cards. We each examine the others’ carefully, trying to find some sort of meaning in the apparent random strings of letters.

Together we have the following:

L A E O P P V (cards), L Y O O U K D (apples).

“No matter how I arrange them,” Near says, “They just do not appear to make sense.”

“I know.” I say, anger forgotten temporarily as I chew my lip, looking down at this puzzle. “It’s as if we’re looking at the wrong language. The wrong order, certainly.”

“Why don’t we just try and sound it out?” He suggests, beginning with his own first string of words. “Upload… love… poky… clearly wrong…”

“Lad love…” I try, but falter as I realise there’s nothing coherent to continue with.

“Do value yolk… no, day vole look pup.”

“Day vole… are you serious with that guess?” I ask, looking at him askance.

“No, not really. This is getting us nowhere, Mello.”

“I’m aware of that.” I snap, irritably. “But what else can we do? This makes no fucking sense!”

“Perhaps the puzzle isn’t finished yet.” Near responds, calm as ever. “I think maybe we are missing something, some key to help us.”

MATT

I’m so close above their heads it seems strange that they can’t see me or hear me breathing, just as I can see and hear them. I feel like shouting down at them! It’s so obvious, but I’m the only one who can see it!

Not that it’s really a fair comparison between the three of us, because I have more clues than them. Nine more clues, to be precise. Along with the “G” I first found, now I have two “O”s, two “D”s, an “E”, an “A”, an “S”, and an “F”. And when you put those together with the other fourteen letters… well. I’m surprised the other two didn’t even think of it. It is so glaringly clear!

But now I’m faced with a dilemma. I can solve their problem - I can tell them the answer to their riddle - but to do that I’d have to come out of hiding and face them. And Mello will probably be a lot more angry with me than I at first estimated. I hadn’t really thought this through, you see, and now it seems there’s a lot of danger involved. And he seems a lot more worried than I’d thought he would be.

But in all good conscience, I can’t stay here in silence and let them try and figure it out when I know I have the answer. It might be nothing, but it might be a clue. And I can’t let that slip by.

I take another glance at the screens; they’re still in Mello’s room, talking it over. I take a deep breath. It’s time to tell them what I know.


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