Chapter 28: Therapy Session
“If you wouldn’t mind putting away those claws, I’d like to strike a deal.”
Hybrid snarled at the Russian man who sat at the mercy of his powerful claws. Were he in the form of a man, he would rebuke the Russian with a comment about negotiating with terrorists.
However as a cat, he merely tightened his grip on the man.
With a longsuffering sigh, the balding old Russian took a handful of Hybrid’s hair. “I said put them away.” With a simple touch, he sent the Clydesdale-size cat flying.
Stunned, Hybrid rolled to his feet, transforming in the blink of an eye. “That’s a cool trick. Can you teach me?”
The Russian stood and brushed himself off with animated nonchalance. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to have a discussion with you – man to man.”
“Absolutely.” Hybrid approached the Russian at an easy pace. “Only, there comes a point when someone who gases people is no longer human, so I fail to see the other man in question.”
The Russian merely laughed. “That’s rich, coming from a cat.”
Hybrid shrugged. “Shall we chat here or over tea?”
The Russian’s face contorted disgustedly. “I don’t drink Japanese swamp water.”
Hybrid actually felt offended. “You call this civilized?”
The Russian shrugged. “Here’s my offer – forget the girl ever existed and I’ll let her live.”
There was a moment of silence.
“The one on TV. The Japanese girl. Akari Makoto.”
Hybrid laughed humorlessly. “Uh-huh. What do you want her for?”
The Russian shook his head. “That’s none of your business.”
“That’s your idea of selling a deal, is it?” Hybrid sat back. “There’s no way I’m letting you anywhere near Akari.” He was ready to attack the man again, despite the power he had.
But his actions were swayed by the production of the Russian’s cellphone. Playing on the screen was live footage of her.
The Russian shrugged. “Perhaps. But did they also have seventeen bombs strategically placed in the common areas of Makoto’s life?”
“That’s Akari to you, Slime.” Hybrid snapped, heart pounding.
“Okay, I’ll consider that your final answer.” The Russian turned to his phone.
“Wait—” Hybrid demanded. He weighed his options grimly. The man could be bluffing. He may very well be all talk.
Nevertheless, it was a chance that he was unwilling to take without gathering information first. “What would you have me do?” He could play the guy’s game for a little while as he investigated the alleged explosives.
“Alienate her. Slowly and painfully.”
Hybrid tensed. “You want me to make her hate me.”
The Russian rolled his eyes melodramatically. “She already hates you. Just give her a long lasting memory of you – after all, you’ll never see her again.”
Hybrid crossed his arms. “How about I just kill you right now?” he suggested darkly.
The Russian merely shook his head. “Should you attempt to kill me, warn anyone, or in any way stray from what I tell you to do, I will decimate the Christian College of Deduction.”
Hybrid’s interest rose. “The Christian School of Deduction?” He repeated carefully. Either the ugly Russian found out who was behind the cat hair, or he was part of Christina’s regime.
“Full of good people.” The Russian confirmed. “They’ll all be dead within two minutes of your disobedience.”
Christina’s regime then.
It wasn’t until about seven that evening that she got to express her frustration to Tadashi. It was better than that, though, because technically it was Hybrid she was venting to, and since he was for some reason adamant about keeping his identity a secret, he had to keep his trap shut.
She’d been busily scribbling away at criminal psychology homework when she’d noticed movement on the other side of the glass door in her room. When she looked over her shoulder, she found Hybrid standing on the end of her private deck, staring out at the water.
Makoto got up, half looking for a distraction and half ready to push him into the ocean, and stepped outside. He didn’t turn to face her, but she knew he’d noticed her presence.
Wrapping her arms around herself, Makoto weighed her regret of walking out in the cold against her curiosity. “What are you doing here?” She called, staying on the opposite end of the deck.
Finally he turned, his hands at his sides and his shoulders tight. He made no move to close some of the distance between them. “I heard about your mission.”
I’m sure you did. “Word travels fast.” Makoto responded. Granted the front of a bank had blown up. It was kind of difficult to miss.
“You left Aikido behind.” Hybrid was peeved about that, still apparently of the mindset he’d been while they were in the jet.
Makoto pulled her jacket more tightly around herself. “I didn’t know what we were up against.”
He stared at her for a long time. “It’s his job to protect you. Not the other way around.”
Makoto narrowed her eyes at him. “I can’t help it.”
There were a few minutes of silence as she redirected her gaze to the water, enjoying the way the orange of the sky and setting sun reflected on the surface.
“Something happened today.” Hybrid observed. “What’s the matter?”
She was slow in meeting his gaze, her thoughts racing. She could tell him about the argument. She could vent her pent-up frustration, but he’d only agree with Tadashi for obvious reasons.
She had to tell someone or she’d explode and kill someone.
Makoto’s fists clenched hesitantly. “I can’t tell you.”
He cocked his head to the side in question.
“I have nothing to converse. Unless you’re in the mood to listen to me rant and rave, I’ll be keeping it to myself.” She responded decisively.
Hybrid extended his arms at his sides in invitation, shrugging his shoulders. “I’m not sure being a listening ear was in my job description, but I’ll give it a try.”
Makoto blinked at him twice, pursing her lips into a thin line. She usually only expressed her miserable thoughts in prayer or to Chester. Despite her desire to give him a piece of her mind, she couldn’t deal with judgment or argument. Which basically meant she wouldn’t be talking to anyone that night. With a decisive shake of her head, she glanced down at the boards beneath her feet. “Sorry. I can’t do that. I don’t feel comfortable – that is to say I don’t want to—”
“I understand.” He interrupted. “You don’t want to bother someone with what you consider to be unimportant.” He sounded genuinely concerned and disapproving of his invented notion.
Makoto’s arms dropped to her sides. Her eyes narrowed to slits, anger blossoming within her. For a detective he sure was terrible at deducing facts. “Excuse you, mister secret police. I don’t know what throne you think you’re sitting on, but you’d better open your eyes before I choke you out with your own crown. I don’t care about bothering you – you’re a rent-a-guard. You’re getting paid to be here. As long as it doesn’t involve you getting killed, I’m happy to utilize your hours for my own gain. And as for importance – I’ll gladly recognize your right to your own opinion, but I am not incapable of deeming my personal, trivial struggles important. So unless you can sit there like a dead, unresponsive brick, I won’t be talking to anyone.”
Makoto took his stunned silence as an indication to continue. “And it’s not because I don’t want to bother anyone. It’s because nobody likes being told that someone who can’t talk back is the only person worth conversing with.”
After a few seconds of catching her breath, Makoto watched Hybrid’s arms and legs become long, thickly muscled, black legs and paws. His chest and back broadened and extended, his head becoming that of a cat.
The enormous creature folded his long legs beneath him, resting his chin atop his crossed arms. His big yellow eyes blinked at her expectantly.
Makoto paused, shocked. Cats couldn’t talk, neither could they argue. It was the perfect solution. The fact that Tadashi would be on the receiving end of her rage was only a bonus.
Collecting herself, the young detective sighed in defeat. “A man on my team – I’m sure I don’t need to name him – accused me with all the authority of a judge of being unhealthily insecure. He elaborated, trying to convince both of us that I consider myself unworthy to even breathe oxygen.” She realized she was pacing, her feet stomping indelicately on the creaky boards.
Hybrid merely lie in silence.
“He has no idea what he’s talking about, of course. I’ve never been prone to that sort of thinking. I’ve never been the victim, as is the common psychological hindrance of most women. I generally just get angry. I get abused by my brother – I know I don’t deserve it, he’s just a child. I get hurt by my father because of my gender – I know he’s wrong. I am no less important than anyone else on Earth.”
She was getting mad again, gesticulating animatedly with her hands and pointing accusing fingers at the ocean.
“He doesn’t have the right to turn me into a basket case. He’s trying to convince me that I’m weak. I don’t even know what’s wrong with him, but he makes me mad. I try not to dislike people. Self-confidence that coincides with constant contempt towards another generally leaves the impression that I’m arrogant and egotistical.”
She kicked a rock over the side of the dock and listened as it hit the water. “Yeah, I have bad days. I cry and scream and punch things. But I’ve never wanted to die. I will never commit suicide. Besides it being the fastest way to Hell, it’s the most selfish thing I could possibly do. Oh, no, my life is hard. Instead of muscling through and being stronger than whatever’s hurting me, I’m gonna run like a coward and hang myself so I don’t have to cry in the shower, despite all the people who love me. Strong people don’t commit suicide. I’ve never been weak.”
Makoto was glaring directly at Hybrid, her accusing finger pointedly in his direction.
“My brother went through everything I did and he lets his pain own him, and he fell slave to his anger. I’m stronger than that. I got through the pain and I do good with my life. My dad lost my mom and let his pain turn him into a coward who is too afraid to believe in his own daughter. Unlike him, I keep fighting. I’ve been abducted twelve times – tortured six. Don’t tell me I’m not strong. Don’t tell me I’m not important.”
She spun back to face the ocean. “And, yeah, I let them do what they do to me. Because violence doesn’t solve things. Two wrongs don’t make a right. And I know exactly who I am. I know how strong and important I am. I don’t need them to see it. Whether they see it or not won’t change the truth. All I need to do to them is love them and pray that through my humility under their thumbs, God will get through to them.”
That felt good.
That felt incredible.
She sucked in the sharp, sea-salty air and straightened her shoulders. “So don’t tell me who I think I am, because nobody gets to throw the switches inside my head.” Her eyes shifted to his venomously. “That’s my turf. I don’t take kindly to trespassers.”
With that, she spun and marched back into her room.
But then she paused, hand on her knob. “I meant what I said when I called you a rent-a-guard. But the entirety of who you are is not limited to a facet of your job description. You have been very kind and considerate to my desires this evening. Thank you very much. I needed to get that out.”
A soft breeze blew past, but carried no sound.
Makoto pulled her door open, a sigh of relief escaping her lips.
“Goodnight, Akari Makoto.”
When she looked back, he was gone.
The next morning, Makoto was called to the president’s office before classes.
She wondered if it had anything to do with Tadashi’s conference with Savannah the night before.
Nevertheless, Makoto shouldered her backpack, let Aikido out of the car, and marched through the parking lot. Despite her friendship with the president, Makoto’s stomach twisted with dread.
Her journey across campus seemed to take an eternity.
Whatever Tadashi had said to her, whatever deal he had finagled to get her in some special needs program – all Makoto had to do was deny the claims.
She could prove it.
Chester could testify.
What is this, a court martial?
Chill out, Mako.
Minutes later she stepped into Savannah’s office. “President Anderson?”
Savannah turned from the window, her eyes briefly moving over Aikido. She clasped her hands behind her back.
Makoto stood at attention, wary of the president’s observant gaze.
“I have accepted your re quest for a partner.” Savannah stated finally.
Oh. Not anything to do with Tadashi.
That’s a relief.
“As is regulation, I’ve done my research throughout our available students.” She moved to her desk and withdrew a file from her neat system. “After nearly a week, I found a perfect match. His strengths are your weaknesses. Your aptitude tests scored compatibly. Your intelligence testing was nearly identical – however, for the sake of confidentiality, the comparative scores are classified. While you are an academic prodigy, he is an athletic Olympian. You speak Japanese, Chinese, and Korean, not to mention English. He speaks Japanese, Vietnamese, Russian, and English.”
Makoto was stunned for a second.
It really did seem like a perfect match.
Hadn’t she said...
Savannah Anderson confirmed Makoto’s fears with two condemning words: “Kido Tadashi.”
Makoto would mourn the loss of her sanity for years to come.
Hold on, did she say our intelligence tested nearly identically?′
Oh, that was blackmail, plain and simple. ‘Hey, Kido, guess what, we just so happen to be the same level of stupid.’ Makoto smirked.
“I’m sorry?” She returned blankly, praying that it wasn’t so. There weren’t many times in her hectic life that she prayed God would erase and rewrite something that just happened – that she knew of anyway.
Standing there in front of Savannah, her last shred of hope dangling by a thread, Makoto prayed for it to be undone.
It’s not that surprising, really. Most of my students who hate each other are actually on equal ground with each other.” Savannah commented, fixing Makoto with an even stare.
“Do you expect us to survive this partnership?” Makoto demanded.
Savannah raised an eyebrow. “If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have put you together.”
Had Tadashi arranged the partnership? Had he orchestrated it to give her a slow and painful death?
“What about Chester? I was partners with him – it was great.” Makoto pleaded.
Savannah frowned intently, as though she was trying to count Makoto’s remaining marbles. “Chester’s graduating. In weeks.”
The young woman’s heart sank. “Right.”
“Will you work with him?” The president asked.
Throat tightening, Makoto nodded. “Yes ma’am.”
“Good. I’ll inform you if I get any assignments for you.” Savannah said dismissively.
Makoto bowed. “Yes ma’am.”
She was halfway out the door when the president stopped her: “It was you, wasn’t it?”
Confused, Makoto turned back.
It was her?
Savannah had spoken to Tadashi the night before.
It was obvious that Makoto disliked him.
Tadashi had come bearing demoralized claims.
Savannah swiped a quick finger – perhaps subconsciously – under her eye.
Her eyes flicked down toward Makoto’s hand for a fraction of a second – it was almost undetected.
Savannah had been referring to the ugly bruise on Tadashi’s eye.
She wanted to know if Makoto was the one who clocked him.
“Yes ma’am. It was me.” She admitted. Then she bit her tongue. Could she get suspended for that?
But Savannah only smiled. “Good girl.”
“What was that all about?” Chester whispered as she snuck into Bible class two minutes later.
How he knew that she had been detained by the president was proof that the greatest mysteries are the detectives who solve them.
“That,” Makoto glared at him as she jerked her Bible out of her backpack. “Was the president carrying out a kill order.”
Chester waited. He knew she’d explain.
He just had to wait for her to arrange her pen beside her book.
As predicted, she slammed her pen down – paused to straighten it – and turned on him. “Tadashi is my partner.”
He snorted so loudly the whole class turned to look at him. He focused on his notebook and fixed a pained look on his face, covering his mouth and coughing.
“It’s not funny.” Makoto hissed as soon as the class was once again listening to the professor.
“It kind of is.” Chester composed himself. “I’ll talk to the president.”
Makoto shook her head. “Don’t. It’s my problem. I’ll deal with it.”
“Or you’ll kill him.” Chester added in another cough.
A morbid smirk curled Makoto’s lips. “What did I say?” Her eyes fell to the chapter they were studying.
After class, Tadashi entered the math building looking too focused and determined to be heading to calculus. Makoto saw him when she heard people hurrying to each side of the hallway and looked back to find students diving out of his path to keep from getting trampled.
She watched curiously as his glare locked on her, his eyebrows furrowed deeply over his eyes, his hooded expression striking terror into the hearts of every student in the math building.
He would make quite the antagonist in any sci-fi thriller. It would be no surprise to anyone present if the police came in and started asking questions because Kido Tadashi – no, they were American – because Tadashi Kido had gotten a wild hair and killed eighty people.
Makoto forgot about her class and turned to face him, curious about his apparent conquest.
He stopped directly in front of her and turned on his heel to glare at everyone who was still staring. In mere seconds they were moving again, pointedly ignoring the two Japanese students in the middle of the hallway.
Makoto’s reaction to his strange behavior was a conglomeration of befuddlement, intrigue, and irritation. She couldn’t help but wonder what he could possibly have to tell her, since he had accused her the day before and then listened without interruption to her thoughts on the matter. Nonetheless, she felt no anger towards him since her decompression.
“If you’ve come to apologize, you don’t need to. I forgave you yesterday.” She announced flatly.
He faced her again, her words obviously having given him pause. In fact, it seemed she had derailed his train of thought entirely, as was evident by his sudden loss of purpose.
After shuffling his feet awkwardly and staring at her shoulder contemplatively, he refocused and regained control of his tongue. “Upon considering what I said to you yesterday, I had intended to apologize to you for attempting to make public that which you had kept private.”
He was playing with fire.
“I decided not to, though, when I realized that apologizing for speaking truth only enables hypersensitivity and encourages the delicate handling of emotions.” He tucked one hand in his pocket and maintained eye contact for the sole purpose of making sure she just kept listening and didn’t walk away.
Tread carefully, Kido, you’re on very thin ice.′
“And while I believe in that completely, it later occurred to me that it didn’t apply to the situation. My conclusion on the matter is merely this: I may have misjudged you. I may not have. Either way I attempted to take control and claim authority over you and I should not have. But since you’ve done away with the apology and forgiveness part can I please say what I came to say?” He waited desperately, toying with the straps on his backpack.
She felt alarmingly calm despite his onslaught of insensitive expression. She preferred bare, sharp truth to sugar-coated fiction anyway. She respected people who just said what they meant rather than withholding fact for the sake of feelings.
So despite her desire to inform him that he’d perhaps said too much already, she smiled pleasantly with a simple nod. “By all means.”
A bit of admiration overtook his features before he reverted back to his prior mission and his mood changed.
Makoto flinched, very nearly terrified. She stepped back warily. He didn’t look angry. He just looked serious. “Anderson wants to see you. She’s given permission for you to skip math.”
Silence followed his words.
He seemed like he wanted to say more, but he didn’t.
“Is that it?” She questioned, unbelieving.
He nodded and started to move on, but stopped. “I never told you – what you and Christina did – what you let her do – it was selfless and brave.” Tadashi bowed, spurring her to mimic him.
“President Anderson?” Makoto knocked on her office door, and then sat in the seat that Savannah offered to her.
“I’m sorry to deprive you of calculus—”
“—Though, given your current grade, I believe you can afford the absence.” Savannah smiled proudly at her student. She smoothed down her skirt and took her seat. “I have a note here about your request to enlist with ENIGMA.” Her eyes met Makoto’s questioningly.
Straightening eagerly, Makoto asked, “Have you considered it?”
Anderson gave her a look. “You have to earn that, Akari.”
Of course she did.
Of course she hadn’t earned it yet.
She’d been kidnapped nine times.
That didn’t exactly scream ‘capable.’