9: Mirror-Image Interviews
Mako sometimes felt that his job just wasn't worth the perks. Yes, it had been wonderful to breeze through the promotions, and the success of solving hard cases was exhilarating, and having people on the street stopping to shake his hand and say thank you was wonderful. Locking up some members of the Triads like Shady Shin had also been incredible, and Mako had watched in satisfaction as members of the team that had tortured he and Bolin for so long had finally been put behind bars.
But the parts that he really hated, he thought as he strolled down the street to a nice respectable house in the nicer part of town, was when he had to be the horrible one and tell people the news that no one wanted to hear. "Mr. and Mrs. Daichi?" he knocked on their door. "Hello?"
There was no answer, but that was to be expected. After all, it was still fairly early in the morning—there was a chance none of the Daichi's were up yet.
"Hello?" he tried again, knocking louder. "My name's Detective Mako, I'm with the Republic City Department of Safety. Anyone home?" Oh, sure, Mako, they'll definitely want to answer the door now, he thought scathingly to himself.
Just as he was contemplating knocking down the door, a tired-looking woman in a rumpled nightgown answered the door. "How can I help you?" she asked groggily, rubbing her eyes. Her brown hair was extremely curly and stuck out like springs out of her head. Mako was a bit lost for words.
"Er…" he hesitated. "Mrs. Daichi?"
"Yes?" she looked at him. She was only a few inches taller than him, but Mako felt like he was gazing up at a skyscraper. "How can I help you, Detective?"
"Um, I'm here—" he showed her a crumpled sheet of paper, "—to talk about your son? Satoshi, correct?"
A flash of pain went through the woman's eyes. "Look, we've already talked to the police, Detective."
"I'm aware of that, ma'am. I'm here to talk to your son and his girlfriend to see if they have any information about—"
"Why would my son and Mai Zhen know anything about Satoshi going missing?" the woman snapped, and Mako felt more annoyed than ever. What was it with some people? Didn't they understand that he was only trying to help?
"Ma?" a voice from behind the woman made both of them jump. A boy of about nineteen or so with dark, curly hair, wearing boxers and a faded black shirt stood in the room behind her. "Is everything alright?"
"Are you Hikaru Daichi?" asked Mako before the woman could interrupt him and send the boy away.
"Yes." Hikaru stepped forward despite his mother's squawks of telling him to go back to his room. Mako admired the kid's resilience, if it were him, he would've heeded his mother's words and gone back to bed. "Who are you?" Hikaru asked, cocking an eyebrow.
"I'm Detective Mako, I'm with—"
"The Republic City Department of Safety, yes," his mother interrupted. "I've heard this. Look, Officer, I don't want to be rude—"
That's something you've already failed miserably at, lady, Mako thought with a frown.
"—but I'm not comfortable with my son talking to you," she finished smugly, crossing her arms over her chest. Mako fought the urge to throw something.
"I want to talk to him, Ma," Hikaru said. "It's about Ash's disappearance, isn't it, Detective?" he asked in a smart tone.
Mako could only nod and wait to see how this would be played out.
The mother didn't seem to like Hikaru's disagreeing with her. "Hikaru—are you sure about this? You don't have to if you want to," Mrs. Daichi urged.
"I want to," Hikaru insisted. "It's Ash. I'd do anything for Ash."
Mako was suddenly, painfully reminded of his missing younger brother. The way Hikaru had acted about Satoshi was a dead ringer for the way he acted about Bolin—or used to act, he realized. When had he last acted like that? Yes, he'd thought Bolin was dead for four years and only now realized he was missing, but when he'd known Bolin was alive, he'd acted exactly the same as Hikaru. "Can we talk in private?" Mako croaked.
The mother, with a huff and an impatient look from her son, left the room.
"Sorry," Hikaru apologized. "She was way worse when Ash was declared missing: she was drunk a lot, that's why she's acting like this. Hasn't completely slept off the cactus juice is all." Hikaru sat down on the couch, crossing his legs. "So you wanted to talk to me?"
Mako nodded and sat down on the couch next to the teenager. "So your brother Ash—er, Satoshi, when'd you first realize he was missing?"
"I was with him when it happened," Hikaru said, his voice hitching on the last word. His hands clenched and unclenched before he continued. "Er…my girlfriend Mai, Ash, and I were walking home from school. Then this group of guys came up to us, right, and threw this thing onto the ground. Gas was everywhere, and I kind of passed out." He stopped. "When I came to, I was in a hospital with Mai, and I asked the nurse where—" his voice cracked again. "I asked the nurse where my brother was, and she asked who I was talking about." Hikaru started to cry. "I completely flipped out. I threw things and demanded to see him. 'Is he dead,' I was asking. 'Is that why I can't see him? Is he dead?'"
Mako hurriedly wrote down everything that Hikaru was saying as quickly as he could, ink splattering his skin. "Then what?" he asked.
"Then—" Hikaru paused, and took a deep breath. "Then the d-doctor came in to s-see what was going on, right? And I asked again where—where Ash was. He asked me who I meant. 'My little brother,' I practically shouted. He told—he told me with this bemused look on his face that—that my girlfriend and I were the o-only ones found at the scene."
Mako paused. "So Satoshi wasn't there at all?"
"No," Hikaru croaked. "It's like he just v-vanished off the face of the earth, Detective. If I just had—if I'd just kept my control and hadn't passed out, he'd still be here! It should've been me," he said, punching a throw pillow with every word. "It. Should've. Been. Me," he cried. "Ash doesn't…deserve this."
Bemused, Mako patted the teenager's shoulder awkwardly. He hated this part of the job because he really did not know what to do in these situations at all. Consoling people that weren't his brother was more Bolin's speed than his. "It's okay," he said.
Hikaru looked up at him. His eyes were swollen to slits, his face streaked with tears and hideously contorted into an expression of agony that was literally painful to look at. Had he looked like this when Bolin died, Mako wondered. Sadly, he thought, probably not.
"It's not okay," Hikaru retorted through his tears. "I practically killed him…"
"You haven't killed anyone," Mako said fiercely. "Him getting kidnapped is not your fault, Hikaru, alright? Repeat after me, okay? It's not your fault."
"It's…" his voice hitched. "N-not my fault."
"It's not my f-fault. It's not my fault," he repeated miserably, burying his face in his hands and sobbing. "It is my fault, Detective, no matter what you say, I'm still gonna f-feel guilty…" he trailed off. "Oh, Ash, I'm so sorry," he whispered.
Now completely freaked out, Mako made to stand up, but Hikaru grabbed him. "You're going to find Ash, aren't you?" Hikaru asked intensely with a gaze that made Mako feel like he was getting x-rayed from head to toe.
Vaguely, Mako was aware that he'd never felt that intensely for anyone in his entire life. Not for Korra, not for Asami, not for his parents, not even for Bo. Hikaru and Satoshi Daichi really had a brotherly bond like no other. Spirits. As he locked eyes with Hikaru, he knew that there was absolutely no backing out of this. He would either find Satoshi or die trying. "I'll do my best," he promised.
"Thank you," Hikaru whispered.
Mako tossed Hikaru a business card, which the stunned teenager caught. "This is my number, alright?" Mako said. "Call me anytime if you want to talk, okay?" He couldn't believe that he was even doing this: he was practically pulling an Asami by taking this ruffled teen under his wing like she had with Midori.
"Okay," Hikaru said slowly. Mako made to leave. "Hey, er, Detective?" he called.
Mako turned around. "Yeah?"
"You have any siblings, sir?" Hikaru asked while Mako's heart thudded to a stop. How exactly could he respond to a question like this? Yes, I do, but he probably hates my guts. Yes, but I thought he was dead for four years and now he's being held by the Triple Threat Triads. Yes, but he's missing and went missing right under my nose. Yes, but I haven't been as good of a brother to him as you could've been, Hikaru.
Because, really, he hadn't been a brother in such a long time, he'd even forgotten what it was like to be one.
Hikaru Daichi loved his brother so much, that was plainly obvious. He would go to the ends of the earth searching for Satoshi if it were possible, and would fight the armies of Heaven and Hell combined to get to his brother. Hikaru was the poster boy for the Brother of the Year Award.
And what was Mako? Some two-bit street rat turned firebender turned detective with family issues and a missing little brother who was probably being tortured at this very second by some idiotic gangbangers with revenge issues.
"One," he found himself saying. "He's missing, too."
Hikaru didn't blink. "How old?"
Then, like the horrible person that Mako was, he actually had to think about it. Bolin was twenty…no, twenty-one, he realized. It had been his birthday a while ago, and Mako had completely forgotten it. "He's twenty-one," he muttered. "His name's Bolin."
"How long has he been missing?" asked Hikaru.
Mako almost said four years, but then realized that that was probably an inaccurate statement. After all, he really hadn't been missing, so to say, for the last four years. Only the last few weeks had Bolin really been missing. But which was worse, he wondered, to have a missing brother or a dead one?
"Few weeks," he croaked.
"I hope you find him," Hikaru offered, and Mako wanted to bury his own face in his hands, but wisely refrained. This teenager—this man, he corrected himself, was more of a man than Mako could ever, ever dream of being.
"Me, too," Mako stated before leaving the modestly furnished living room and the house with a small wave to Hikaru.
Once he was alone in his police cruiser, he scavenged in the side compartment until he found what he was looking for: a picture of Bolin, Asami, Mako, and Korra that had been cut out of a newspaper once they had defeated Amon. He traced a finger over his little brother's sixteen-year-old figure. Did Bolin still look the same as he did in this photograph? Was his hair longer? Maybe his frame bulkier? He tried to picture his little brother, but all he could think of was the last time he'd seen him, which was when he was bleeding out on the floor of a warehouse on a failed raid to catch that idiot what's-his-name…Hasir.
"Oh, Bo," he muttered, gazing at Bolin's jubilant and goofy expression in the picture. "I love you. I'm going to get you back if it's the last thing I do. I promise you."
Meanwhile, a few feet away from Mako's cruiser, two men watched from an alleyway, completely hidden in the dark shadows. "Look at Mako," mocked the first one, whose eyes were so blue that they looked almost neon.
"Whaddya mean, Xin?" asked the second one.
Xin handed his partner a pair of binoculars, and he watched through them as the detective's shoulders slumped and Mako started to cry. He felt a slight twinge inside of him watching the sad scene, kind of like he was invading the man's privacy. He had been told many times by both Xin and Gainika that having a good strong grip on your emotions was key when you were in the Agni Kais. But sometimes his emotions couldn't always be held in check, like now. He handed the binoculars back to Xin and tried to sound detached. "So?"
Xin shook his head like he'd said the stupidest thing on the face of the earth. "C'mon, Liao, don't you get it? This is the brother of the dude that Gainika's got locked up with Lightning Bolt Zolt."
"So?" Liao asked, honestly not understanding it.
"So…don't you think that Gainika would like the matching set?" Xin asked smugly, and Liao immediately shook his head no. "Aw, come on," Xin whined. "Why not?!"
"Because you heard Gainika, she's already preoccupied with Bolin. You've seen her when she gets too busy and stressed out, Xin." They both cringed, remembering how she'd been when she had had to date Bolin.
"Fair enough, Liao," Xin nodded before giving him a quick pat on the back. He caught a glimpse of his wristwatch and swore. "Damn, come on, we're going to be late for the debriefing."