Mansion of Dolls

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Chapter 01

She was exhausted.

That was the first thing that came to Taryn Lowell’s mind as she opened her blue eyes to stare up at the airport ceiling of Tokyo. It wasn’t from jetlag. Well, at least part of it, that much she knew. Letting out a breath Taryn lifted her hand and looked at a Canadian Army ID-Disc. The chain wrapped loosely around her fingers. The name still could be read on the metal, the engraving still sharp as she ran her thumb over it.

Roy Lowell.

Her brother’s name.

A second thought came to her mind soon after the first, one that seemed to keep asking the same thing over and over after arriving here in the early morning.

What am I even doing here?

It was one that she had an answer too already, but she still couldn’t help herself in thinking. She was here because of one reason. Well, one person actually.

“So how are you feeling?” Taryn then glanced to her left, as she saw a pair of dark grey eyes framed behind a pair of red rimmed glasses looking down at her.

Her friend Rachael Blake, though with only a year in age difference, Rachael being older then Taryn, they were still extremely close. With red strawberry blonde hair, that was redder then blonde, nearly giving off an orange colour that was currently done in a single braid. There were also freckles all over her pale skin.

“Ground control to Major Tom, you in there Taryn?” Rachael said again when her friend only continued to stare at her vacantly.

Taryn gave a short laugh. “Yeah, yeah,” she said as she sat up in her chair before stretching her arms over her head. “I’m here. And I feel fine for the most part, jetlag not included.” She then put the ID-disc back over her neck and in her T-shirt to hide it from view. “What about you Rei?” she said using her friend’s nickname. “How do you feel?”

“Besides feeling like I got hit by a truck, pretty good.”

She looked at Rachael with an arched brow. “Why do you feel like you were hit by a truck exactly?”

“Because!” she said with a now excited smile on her face. “We’re here in Japan of all places! I know we talked about going before but I never thought it would actually happen.”

That was true, it was rather surprising. Even Taryn still couldn’t wrap her head around it. And it was all because of Stephanie Stratford.

Which led to her thought coming back to the forefront.

What am I even doing here?

Again, the answer was clear, extremely so. It was because that woman appeared on Taryn’s front doorstep two months previously. It wasn’t something Taryn really expected, after all, Stephanie was the woman whom Taryn’s now ex-boyfriend cheated on with.

So, seeing Stephanie was a bit confusing. And awkward. Very awkward.

That awkwardness didn’t stop them from talking however, in fact Taryn even offered her to come inside if she wanted. Just because of what her ex had done didn’t mean Stephanie was at fault, at least not really. And from what Taryn understood, Stephanie didn’t fully realize either until after Taryn ended the relationship.

Even then, the whole situation about it and what caused it was really just a big giant tangled mess that all of them seemed to try and figure out how to go about it.

If anything, Taryn got why her ex went for Stephanie. She was tall, taller then him even, with dark sandy blonde hair, and dark blue eyes with a rather athletic build like a supermodel, same with being rather busty.

All in all, Stephanie Stratford was a beautiful woman. And could clearly have whatever she wanted. So, when she shoved the tickets into Taryn’s hands before making a run for it, made her even more confused about the woman. Clearly, she had money to spare, so why spend money on the woman that had been cheated on?

Later Taryn had found that it was Stephanie’s way of apologising. It was an extreme way to do it for sure, but it was not the strangest thing she had been involved in. Hell, Taryn’s Uncle Gerald could probably outdo Stephanie in strides. After all Rachael could attest it, considering he took both girls on a trip for, just because, as he put it.

Again, for her uncle’s actions she knew the reason as to why but had no reason to question her uncle, so in a way she did the same with Stephanie. Yet she still found herself going and telling not only her parents in what she had received, but also Isaac, her brother’s oldest friend. And all gave similar if not the same response.

“You should go.”

All three of them wanted her too, better then being cooped up in the house trying not to think of what happened or the eventual events to come. They wanted her to have fun, at least for the three weeks that she would be here and to forget some of the bad.

Easier said then done. But when she told Rachael about it, and how she wished to take her friend along since she had two tickets, Rachael practically squealed with joy, joy and a bunch of questions. Questions that they did eventually get answers from Stephanie.

Stephanie had in fact known that the two could speak and read Japanese and knew that the two were taking a break from a webcomic to try and come up with new ideas. Hence the trip.

“She could have just sent me a card.” Taryn said softly.

Rachael, who was now sitting down next to her, gave her a faint playful nudge. “Oh, come on, you know this is far more impactful then any old card. Anyway, I’m going to see if my stuff has come through, want me to bring any food when I get back?”

Taryn slowly shook her head. “Nah I’m good, not really hungry anyway. I think I might just sit here for a bit or wander around.”

Rachael merely stared at her to see if Taryn’s answer would change, when there was none she got up. “Okay, but if you do get hungry let me know.”

Taryn gave a wave as her friend headed off to the luggage, when she was gone from sight Taryn let out a breath and rubbed her eyes with her index finger and thumb. She just felt tired…


Her body stilled before letting out another tired breath, only this was for a completely different reason. When she lifted her head, her light blue eyes looked up to the young man who stood in front of her. With light brown hair and eyes, his skin slightly tanned from constantly being outside as he rubbed the back of his neck as if to remove some of the oncoming tension that they both gave off. He was dressed in a plain white T-shit with a green and blue plaid shirt over top and dark tanned brown shorts.

“What do you want Robert?” her tone even, but also disinterested.

Robert Grayson, Taryn’s ex-boyfriend.

She looked at him plainly, back when she had found out that Robert had been cheating on her, she had already gone through something she never imagined leaving her rather emotionally drained. His cheating had angered her, her trust felt betrayed. But that all seemed little in comparison to the previous events. She just felt dead inside and wanted all of it to go away.

So, she ended the relationship, right then and there when confronting him about the matter. When he finally said the truth, she told him simply that it was over and that she never wanted to see his face again. And yet here they were.

He was afraid, and now seemed a bit warry of even getting close to talk.

“Ah well, you just seem unwell is all, so I wondered if you might be sick?”

Taryn changed the topic away from her. “Where’s Stephanie?”

“Huh?” he sounded surprised that she would ask him that. “She’s still at customs, getting something looked at. Why?”

“No reason,” she said before standing up and walked past him. “Just that if you wanted to talk to me, you could have approached when Rachael was here. Or are you just afraid of her since she hates you?”

He stiffened, only to then glance away a look of annoyance clear on his face. Giving her the answer, he had always been too easy to read.

“To answer your question I’m fine, tired but you know that already considering what you put me through.” She put her hands in her jean pockets as she headed to a nearest bathroom. When inside she splashed some cold water on her face before looking at her own reflection. Her build was thin as her skin was rather pale, her blue eyes consisting of two different shades, a dark blue ring surrounding the iris with a lighter shade of blue within, yet underneath her eyes was the faint signs of sleep deprivation.

Her medium brown hair was short, just resting at the nape of her neck as her side bangs covered the left side of her forehead. It was a style she was still trying to get used too since it had been cut in donation for breast-cancer.

“Smooth Taryn,” she muttered to her reflection. “Real mature right there, why not add salt into that open wound of his to do even more damage?” she sighed before grasping the ID-Disc that remained underneath her T-shirt. “You know that he knows what he did was total shit to you but can’t keep holding that over his head forever…”

It might have been due to the fact that they never really resolved anything, and everything between them had been left to fester and rot. A bad thing to deal with months later, she could only believe that was where the agitation with him was coming from. But she was still angry with him over what he did. As petty and dumb as it was, he never did try to defend himself or anything, not even an apology.

With one final shake of her head Taryn left the bathroom and headed back to where she had been originally.

Rachael had yet to come back, and it looked as though Robert had decided to head back to Stephanie, a good choice since it was clear they both weren’t ready to be really talking just yet. She wondered briefly as she sat back down in a nearby chair, if they would ever be like they were before all this. Before they had ever even dated.

Just asking that right now would be a waste of air.

Her gaze then landed on a local newspaper that had been left haphazardly on a chair. Taking it she decided to give it a thumb-through, thinking it’d be better doing something and not constantly dwelling on things. A bad habit she desperately wanted to brake one day.

She read through a number of articles, brushing up on her kanji, reminding herself of the different way’s things were written to describe something that was basically the same only to then stop when seeing the image of a Japanese woman. The headline for it read:


In large imposing letters in the English language rather then Japanese. Looking over it she read that the woman had been a journalist in Tokyo, doing freelance work when she had suddenly gone missing.

Taryn had heard that there had been a rash of disappearances on the rise as of late. But Tokyo was a rather large place, filled with millions of people, one missing person would go unnoticed amongst the thousands in a crowd. Yet it was the woman’s peculiar name that held her attention.

June Suchiko.

“Odd name…” she looked back to the photo of the woman who looked to be in her late twenties or so. She could have been younger for all Taryn knew. She hoped that this person would be found, yet it was only a passing thought as she then left to go check on her friend.

* * *

It was almost ten in the morning when the four of them had arrived in the hotel. Stephanie had informed them that they would be on separate floors so as not to bother each other. But insisted that they would all at least get together and eat for the time they would be in Tokyo. Something which everyone agreed too even in exhaustion.

When the Taryn and Rachael reached their room with the assistance of the staff, Taryn went in first only to pause, her eyes glanced to a near by mirror only to frown faintly as she looked at the room. “Wait a second,” Taryn said then went to one of the beds and looked at it. “We can’t use this room.” She said. “I think there might be bedbugs in here.”

Needless to say, it caused a bit of a commotion with the staff of the hotel and Stephanie, and ultimately the two girls were moved to a different room within the afternoon.

“Where there really bedbugs in that room?” Stephanie asked Rachael not long after.

“You’re asking me that?” Rachael said. “Taryn was the one who checked the room.”

“Yeah, I know it’s just… when I heard I did a bit of looking, but there haven’t been any cases of bedbugs. I mean, if there was anything there had been a murder once but that was long time ago before my father took over this hotel.”

Rachael was quite for a moment before offering a smile. “I bet it was a bit of a scare, but I’m sure it’s just an isolated incident. Things like that do happen sometimes you know?”

Stephanie folded her arms across her chest. “If you say so, anyway sorry for holding you up. I’m sure you and Taryn probably want to get some sleep. Let me know if something like this comes up again.”

With a nod Rachael headed into the elevator and up to her new room, where Taryn already was sitting on the bed near the window cross-legged reading a book.

“You’re not going to get some sleep?” Rachael asked as she removed her light grey hoodie and placed it on the back of a chair.

“I will in a bit, you can get some sleep though if you want.”

“That’s the plan,” she said as she sat on the edge of the bed and undid her braid. Only to then pause and look at her friend. “Hey… thanks by the way.”

Taryn cast a glance to her friend before looking back at her book. “No problem, I figured you wouldn’t want to be in a room like that. Even though I’m used to it I know you aren’t. It’s not the first time and it definitely won’t be the last either.”

“I at least hope it will be for this trip.” Rachael said while stifling a yawn. “I don’t need another fright in my life like last time when we were in that abandoned hospital four years ago.”

“That only happened because you decided not to listen to my warning.” After saying that Taryn was rewarded with a pillow to the face.

“Okay, okay, now shush and go to bed! I don’t need a reminder of that.”

Taryn let out a soft laugh. “Yes Ma’am.” But her smile slowly faded away as she went to draw the blinds closed.

Sleep had been difficult, something that for nearly the past three months she had not been able to rest properly. And much like then she still had difficulty, finding herself jerking awake from a memory that felt like a nightmare. It had taken her a moment to realize where she was before looking down at her hands. Even now she could still feel and see the blood that had once coated them. Balling them into fists she pressed them to her eyes and let out a breath. Then looking to the clock, she saw that it was now almost four. She had slept for a total of three hours.

It was at least something. She looked to her friend who was still fast asleep before getting out of bed and putting on her shoes. Then went and wrote a small note leaving on the bedside table near her friend so that when Rachael woke up, she’d at least know that Taryn had gone out.

Taking her phone, wallet and sunglasses she went to leave the room only to pause and look back at her still sleeping friend before silently leaving the room.

The sun was still high up in the late afternoon of the streets of Tokyo, Taryn had no plans to sightsee at the moment. She just wanted to walk around for a bit and get her mind off her dreams. As she walked through the busy streets a thought then came to her as she took out her phone and dialed a number while walking down a less busy way. It rung a few times before a warm deep voice picked up on the other end.

“Kon’nichiwa Taryn-san.”

Taryn laughed, she knew her father had been waiting to use that. “Hi Dad,” she said as a genuine smile came to her face. “I just wanted to give you a call letting you know that we arrived safely, and now I’m currently wandering around the streets of Tokyo near the hotel.”

“You’re by yourself?” he asked.

“Yeah, everyone else is sleeping right now. I did too but… it didn’t last long. But I slept more then I had before so, that’s a good sign, right?”

“Yes, it is,” he agreed then asked. “How’s the weather? Is it hot?”

“About the same as our own summers in Canada.”

“Oh, a scorcher then, what about your hotel room? Is it fancy?”

“About as fancy as you guys get when we go on a trip. So, in other words it’s pretty normal.” Taryn said. “Oh, by the way, is Mom there?”

“No, she won’t be home for a bit longer, both she and Isaac are dealing with a bit of a dispute before taking it to court. You know how that all goes.”

She did indeed. “And what about you? Your subordinates at the police station giving you any grief?”

“I wish they would, they keep giving me space to the point I feel like I need to make a new damn rule about it. As much as I appreciate the concern it’s a bit much.”

I bet it would be. “Are you still at the precinct?”

“I was just about to head home actually, why do you ask?”

Taryn hesitated but knew that it was better to just get it out and ask rather then keep it bottled up, nagging away at her. “Have you heard anything then? About the case…?”

“Sweetie…” he sighed. “Taryn, you know I can’t tell you any information.”

“I’m not asking for that Dad, I just… I want to know if there’s at least been a decision made. I don’t need to know the details.”

Her father was silent for a moment. “There hasn’t,” he said finally. “But I believe one will be made by tomorrow. That’s all I can tell you.”

She felt a bit of tension from her shoulders relax. “Okay… That’s good. Anyway, changing the topic, was there anything you wanted me to get for you while I’m here? I asked Mom, but I never did get the chance to ask you.”

“You didn’t ask Isaac?”

“He said he didn’t want anything, even though I pressed him for it.”

Her father gave a short laugh. “Well he does work under your mother so even if you tried to pry something out it won’t be easy.”

“That’s an understatement, but really, is there anything you want?” she glanced up at some of the street signs of shops before stopping when her gaze noticed something. A mirror to notice on coming traffic. With a faint frown she lifted her sunglasses briefly.

“Well, would it be possible to get a sword?”

Taryn drew herself away from what she saw back to the conversation. “A sword? You mean a katana? You want me to get you a katana, really?”

“I’m joking hun, you don’t have to get my anything.” Taryn was quite leading her father to say. “You’re planning to get one aren’t you…”

“Only if I find one, though we probably shouldn’t tell Mom about it.” She heard her father laugh as she looked back at the store. “Anyway, I need to go, give my love to Mom when she get’s home.”

“You know I will, be safe okay?”

“I’ll be as safe as I can, bye Dad.” When she hung up, Taryn walked to the close by convenient store and then looked to a nearby telephone poll before entering.

The conveyance store was small, mainly for quick on the go type of things, snacks, drinks, frozen meals and magazines. Reaching the store counter, the man behind it looked to be of middle age.

“Sorry,” the man said in English. “I can’t serve you.”

She glanced around the store, it was practically empty. She looked back to the man and spoke in Japanese. “I’m not buying anything, I only hoped to get some change if you have any.”

He gave her a narrowed look, then sighed switching to Japanese. “How much?”

“Five hundred yen in coins please.” When they did the exchange, she gave the man a nod and left quickly. She knew that there were some places that wouldn’t except people from other countries. But she was glad to at least get some change. She then headed over to a nearby vending machine and received a glass bottle of water. Then headed over to a flower shop that she had passed when talking with her father, hoping the store owner would be willing to let her purchase some flowers.

“Are you sure this is what you want Miss?” the woman said in Japanese.

“Yes,” Taryn said in Japanese before then noticing a white toy rabbit with a ribbon around her neck. “And could I get that as well please?”

After receiving what she had asked, which were seven light pink roses and one white chrysanthemum, Taryn thanked the shop owner and headed back to the telephone poll. When finished she took a step back to look at it before turning to leave only to stop momentarily when two Japanese women stopped at the poll and overheard some of their conversation as she took out a small ornate silver compact mirror from her back pocket.

“It was a while back,” said one of the women. “Three years ago, a little girl was in a hit and run, when she died a number of people came to leave offerings. It was tragic. But I heard the family moved away not too long ago…”

Taryn lifted her sunglasses for a moment when she looked into the mirror and smiled before heading back to the main street when her phone rang. Looking at the ID she knew who it was right away. “Sleep well Rachael?”

“I did but still feel tired, where’d you go?”

“Just a walk around, that’s all. Hey since your up, want to try and find a ramen shop? I’m feeling a bit hungry.”

“Sure, I’d go for some ramen, hey, you sound really happy, did something happen?”

Taryn put her sunglasses back on as her smile remained on her face. “No not really. Just the norm for me, anyway meet me down at the lobby and let’s get some food. For once I’m staving today.”

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