Shuusei and Saya were peering over Luka's shoulder as he narrowed the window for the satellite imagery to scan. Takano looked on as he prayed. Conner Johnson's cell phone records had showed he spent the majority of his time in the Oku-Tama area of the Chichibu forest. That particular area was about 90 minutes outside of central Tokyo. Takano looked over at Onodera's clock. They were now at two and thirty-one minutes. If they found Onodera's location and left in the next five minutes, then by the time they would arrive, Onodera would only have about an hour left.
"You know I work better without anyone looking over my shoulders," Luka finally said exasperatedly. Shuusei and Saya backed away quickly at this. "Thank you!"
"I should come with you when you go to find him," Takano said softly.
Saya turned as she was the only one who heard him. "Takano san," she began. "I don't think that would be a good idea. We don't know what or who all will be waiting for us when we arrive."
"And he won't know who you are. I'm coming with you," Takano replied with the authority expected of the head editor of the Emerald shoujo division of Marukawa. Saya gazed into Takano's eyes and knew she could shout until judgment day, but it wouldn't do any good.
"You really love him, don't you," she whispered. Takano's eyes widen briefly before nodding his head.
Saya sighed. "Okay, but you've got to keep your head down, and when I say jump…"
"I ask how high," Takano cut in with a wry smile.
"No. You just jump," Saya breathed as she turned back to Shuusei and Luka.
"Got it. They're in the eastern part of the Oku-Tama area." Luka quickly opened a map and circled the exact location. This is about a 100 meter area of where Onodera is located. If you want the exact spot…"
"We're going to need dogs to do the rest," finished Shuusei. "Luckily we bagged some of Onodera's clothes when we went to his apartment. The dogs can smell those to track him."
"Great, I've got the search team and tactical up and ready to go. I've also got two ambulances on standby," Saya called as she walked away to the car. "We should be careful, the kidnappers may still be there."
The cops and Takano made record time to the Oku Tama area. That was the benefit of having sirens, however, when the parade of cars neared the area Luka had circled on the map, everyone began to switch off there sirens except for the car Shuusei, Saya, and Takano were in. Takano anxiously looked out the window; they were so close to Ritsu, he could feel it. Would Ritsu be alright when they found him? Takano looked down at the watch, Onodera only had about an hour and fifteen minutes left.
"We're at the area, you should turn off the siren," shouted Saya to Shuusei. Shuusei nodded and turned it off. "Thank god, I can finally hear myself think, can't I dearie? Yes I can, who's a good boy? Yes you are," Saya baby talked to the Akita Inu that was calmly sitting with her in passenger seat. Takano almost felt sorry for the dog, whose name was Hachiko, but everyone called him Hachi, because he knew how much he himself hated baby talk. Apparently Hachi was Saya's dog that she had trained to help with police work. How she had done that though, Takano had no idea. Akitas' are never bred to work in groups like many hound and sporting breeds. Saya probably had Hachi work separately from the other group of dogs Takano decided.
Hachi had been friendly enough with Shuusei, but when he met Takano, the dog had cocked his head, and then turned around and completely ignored Takano. Takano had to smile at that, the attitude most Akitas' have towards strangers always managed to make Takano think, "Finally, a dog that gets it!"
"We're here," Shuusei quietly said. Everyone hopped out of the car then. The vehicles that were following them drove a little further ahead before pulling over. The area where Onodera was buried, was approximately 100 square meters. There were four other teams besides Shuusei, Saya, and Takano so that left 20 square meters for each team to check. They were at a dirt road, a couple kilometers away from the approximate location of Onodera's burial.
Takano looked down at his watch again. It read 58 minutes and 14 seconds. "Everyone stay quiet," Saya stated into the radio. "We don't know who else might be here. The use of deadly force, to protect yourselves and the hostage, has been granted. Good luck everyone." With that Saya looked up at Shuusei and Takano and nodded to signal to move in.
The woods were hauntingly quiet except for the crunch of leaves and sticks underfoot. There pace was slow, with Hachi returning back to Saya every few minutes to smell Onodera's sweater, and Shuusei looking around for signs of trouble with his gun drawn. Takano kept his guard up as well, but in terms of helping, he found himself completely useless.
The useless feeling reminded him of when he first met Ritsu again, and he had called Ritsu useless. "Sucks to be on the wrong end of that, finally," Takano thought despairingly as he look around again.
"Shuusei," called a voice on the radio.
Shuusei pulled out the radio quickly and answered, "Yeah, Mikihisa."
"We just reach the area, Luka found. We're proceeding into it. There is a lot of cover here though for someone to hide in, so when you and the others get here, be careful."
"Noted," Shuusei replied before looking back at Takano. "You know, you can go back to the car where it is safe."
"Is it safe for Ritsu? I'm fine, we just have to focus on finding him," Takano answered. Suddenly, Hachi growled.
"What is it, boy," Saya asked grabbing her gun from her holster as Hachi took an attack stance to the side, baring his teeth threateningly. "Hands in the air," Saya called. "Or we will shoot!" The air remained tense for a few seconds before a squirrel ventured out into the path.
Shuusei blinked, before bursting out into laughter, "Saya, are you sure your dog's nose is ok?"
Saya turned a glare on him, but still kept up her defensive stance, as did Hachi. Takano hadn't realized he had grabbed a rock from the ground until he looked down at his hand. At that second, Hachi took off as fast as he could.
"If your dog's chasing a damn squirrel I'm going to be seriously furious," Shuusei shouted as all three of them took off after the dog. Saya just pursed her lips as she ran.
Hachi started barking, growling, and snapping his teeth like a demon dog when he suddenly veered out of sight. "Hachi," cried Saya as she picked up speed. Suddenly, the three of them found themselves in a clearing with Hachi growling and digging in the ground. "Oh shit," Saya breathed.
"What," Takano asked.
"This is Hachi's sign for finding a dead body," Saya answered quietly.
Takano felt his heart stop. "No, no, no that's a lie. It has to be a lie!" Takano shrieked as tears started to well in his eyes.
They watched as Hachi and Shuusei dug. Hachi with his paws and Shuusei with the shovel he had been carrying on his back. "I hit something," Shuusei sighed with sadness in his eyes; as he leaned down to brush some dirt away with his hands. Shuusei stopped a moment later, "Well, that's unexpected."
"What," asked both Saya and Takano.
"He means the body," said a sinister voice behind them. Saya and Takano turned around as Shuusei looked up, just in time to hear the shot ring out. Shuusei fell, face first into the dirt as Saya and Takano both ducked for cover as Conner Johnson continued to rain bullets down upon them.