The Horoscope

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Chapter 20 The Rundown

All journalists were the same. To warn any single one of them of danger, it was necessary to give them enough information to write a story. To give one a story, it had to be released equally to all the others. Press releases were obnoxious, and it could lead to panic in the population. Aware of this, the chief inspector knew he had to tread very lightly.

He entered the smaller newspaper office standing tall, his suit straight, and he didn't show his frustration until he had pulled out of the parking lot. They had been in pure denial that any falsity had been printed on the subject in question. Therefore, certainly they wouldn't be in any danger. The presumptuous confidence was distasteful. He almost wanted to let them go down that way—an article on the front page scolding their competition's carelessness and its consequences while their horoscope page was filled with the same mistake. Prevented only by the innocent victims who might be killed by the simpletons who believed that kind of nonsense, he made his way to the second paper.

On his way, the inspector called his 14 year old son with a task.

"Is this about Saturday? Because I already told you, I'm busy, but I'll come over Sunday," the son began, assuming what the conversation would be.

He could have focused on that, rehashed how disappointed he was that the little time they spent together was being cut into every weekend. Reminding himself that it was a natural part of being a teenager, the inspector stuck to the original topic. The request was simple but strange: to look up on the internet the phone number for all the newspapers in Tokyo and give them an anonymous tip that last week's disaster was about to repeat itself.

Disinterest came through clearly in the son's voice. "Whatever," the most commonly used word in a teen's vocabulary. Not caring enough to complain about his dad doing his own work, the boy had simply agreed. Lunch break was almost over, but "police work" was a great excuse for ditching fourth period.

Satisfied with the substitution for a press conference, the inspector specified that the son be as vague as possible and then pulled into the second parking lot. This paper was exactly the same as the first, only larger, more arrogant, and full of more obstacles. Rather than denying that they had upset Kento, they insisted their informants would have told them already if there was a threat and that there was no way someone could break in anyhow.

Every couple of sentences, they tried to redirect the attention to Japan Shimbun, and the reporters were scrambling to note every word that was said. The information they received was limited, as the inspector was professional at this game. So was the editor, however. Little progress was made until the inspector brought out the sticky note Kyoko had sent with him. Unlike the first editor who gave no evidence of recognizing the numbers, it seemed to mean something to these people.

The journalist jotting things down in the corner stopped his chicken scratch after hearing, "We found this in Kento-jukeisha's house. 1138." His surprised eyes countered the editor's solid scowl, a contrast that could easily get the former fired.

Addressing the reporter by name, the inspector asked, "You know these numbers. What are they?"

After he was caught, there was no way he could deny it, so he was forced to admit, "That is the code to our alarm system."

"I see, it's clearly impossible for anyone to gain access to your security," the inspector mocked sarcastically. With that revealed, the editor conceded to making a deal. Obviously, their situation was not so desperate, since they were still able to bargain quite a bit out of the inspector. In exchange, the newspaper agreed to help the police set up a trap.

The inspector called the cavalry together immediately and told them they better have finished their job by the time they arrived. Tashi pulled into the parking with a rushed warrant in hand and an angry message from the judge. Shortly thereafter, his partner arrived, the passenger of a sleep deprived investigator. They had much to report but nothing that was useful. Only that their time was running short.

Right away, Murata started to organize police for their plan. Another hour passed before Saburou showed up. Doing the favor for the bartender was not finished, but preparations had actually taken less time than expected. It simply had to precede getting essential information. It was a successful exchange, and he felt at last like he may be gaining on the culprits.

When his boss demanded where he had been, Saburou decided to spare him the details and rather present the result: an address in the nearby Ota Ward, a water plant to be exact. Curious, all inquired about the location, and they were assured that at least Hayoshi and Watanabe had plans to meet there this afternoon.

Not one to be easily impressed, his boss questioned, "What took you so long?" At the same time, he was preparing to ambush the water plant.

"I went over to Tsukishima for Okonomiyaki," Saburou replied sarcastically, not willing to believe the reproof was deserved this time. Though the distance to that particular area of town was not far, it usually took quite a while to cross the bridge. His boss got the point—that it had taken him that long to work the lead—and didn't probe further.

Having to choose quickly between staying to help set up a trap or actively pursuing criminals, Yamada decided the latter would help him keep awake better. He hurried to ensure himself a seat in one of the vehicles departing for Ota Ward. That left Murata to supervise a dozen officers at Japan's second largest newspaper. It was almost more fun than dealing with wealthy business owners.

The water plant turned out to be mostly abandoned, across the street from the new one, still under construction but already at 85% productivity. Only one branch of the old plant was still in operation, that which desalinated sea water to be used as fresh water. They had decided the concrete structure was too unstable for all that water pressure, but the empty underground corridors made for a perfect hide-out with a variety of escape routes.

While the officers geared up outside one of the many entrances, the inspector glanced at his watch and mentioned, "Hope no one has plans for tonight."

Saburou looked to his watch as well—four o'clock. He hadn't worried one bit about Nori that day, knowing the Konatoya household would look after him well. The casual comment from Kyoko's boss, however, priced at his conscience. Their operation could very well last into the night. According to the timetable Yamada presented, it would go down in the middle of the night if they failed to stop it here. Carli, their nanny, deserved at least fair warning.

Her number was not in his contact list, but maybe her latest call would still be in his recent call log—along with quite a few other numbers he wouldn't recognize. Based upon time, he was able to eliminate the list down to the one most likely hers. It had taken too long, however, as the boss noticed and called it to everyone's attention.

"Let's get going Kyoko-kun, or I'll leave you here to guard the doors," he threatened.

With the phone already ringing in Saburou's ear, he decided to simply hurry rather than abandon the call. Carli was anything but pleased as she informed, "Nori-kun is with us. I wish someone would have told me sooner." The glare could be heard in her voice.

"You didn't know either?" The new father responded, surprised. He had been certain she would be more aware than he was.

Masami could be heard in the background, "It was on my agenda since Wednesday. Kaoru-san planned my weekend around it. If you didn't know, it's your own fault."

Carli snapped back at his disrespectful attitude. Tuning out of the aggravating sound of argument, Saburou caught sight of the crew all waiting impatiently. He tried to interrupt her to get out what he needed to say, but the two were difficult to overpower.

Finally, he got her attention and stated, "I think I might have to work all night."

She was taken aback. "Did you suddenly just spring a sleepover on me?"

"I don't have a choice," Saburou tried to excuse, but he was unable to convince her easily. "You don't realize what we're up against—"

At that point, Carli began to talk over the rushed father. "Your son doesn't have anything he needs to spend the night." She was prepared to start up a list of sleep necessities.

Looking over to his 'friend,' Masami shouldn't have been surprised that Nori was excited about the idea of a sleepover rather than discouraged that the adults were both arguing that they didn't want him. The celebrity himself was not looking forward to the experience now that the duration of it had been multiplied. He could only handle Nori for so long. On the other hand, it allowed him more of a chance to condition this town's newcomer, get the farm dirt out from under his fingernails and the preschool out of the way he dressed. An image of how the boy would look having to share some of Masami's pajamas came to mind. A shiver ran down his spine. This would not be good.

By the time Saburou convinced Carli to keep the kid, only a rookie cop was still outside with him, complaining about his current position in the hierarchy. "Why do I always get the short stick, under the pretense that a task needs more experience?" He grumbled about never getting to do anything more fun than 'guard an exit' that wouldn't be used.

Disappointed himself, Saburou looked around, hoping he hadn't really been left by the team. Admitting the worst, he encouraged his fellow exile, "It'll get better…as soon as a newer kid comes along to pick on."

"Is that the case with you too?" The newbie inquired, hoping he had found some sympathy.

The simple answer was 'no.' Both Yamada and Tamura were newer and younger than him. This week made him feel like a rookie again, though, running around with everyone's undesirable tasks. Mostly it was the overwhelmed feeling, like he couldn't keep up with himself, much less anyone else, that made him feel like he was just barely starting at this job. Once the whirlwind settled down, he'd stop getting left behind like he was incompetent.

With as many tunnels as there were in the plant, the police and investigators split into groups of two to examine as quickly as possible from one end to the other. They kept one another informed on the radios as sections were cleared—a periodical reminder to Saburou who listened from outside that he was missing out on the fun. As much as they could, however, the team remained silent in order to avoid alerting the fugitives.

The tension was unbearable, as minutes ticked by with no news from other teams. Each of them pressed on, waiting anxiously against the wall before turning a corner, searching every corridor to the details for any sort of evidence. With each passing step, the likelihood that their targets would be around the next bend increased.

A sweaty hand shook the gun in its grip.

"You all right?" Yamada asked his companion quietly.

Sweat poured from his brow as he forced himself to stutter, "I'm fine."

Yamada knew better as the shaking increased, and he stopped the officer from proceeding. Backing them both into a dug-out cranny, Yamada tried to address the situation before they were in the heat of things. He was hardly impressed, though, by the sob story the officer told: a pregnant wife. That was a reason to be attentive. This kind of anxiety was more likely to get them both killed.

His unsympathetic response was, "That kind of distracted thinking is why Kyoko-san got left out there."

"It would be more comfortable with the team I'm familiar with," the officer added.

It had to be admitted, Yamada did not know this officer very well, only that he had worked with the same partner for his whole career. Given that the two probably thought on their own wavelength by now, the could back each other up without need for any discussion beforehand. It was almost reasonable to fear anyone else might not be as effective when worst came to worst.

Of course, at this point, it was him and not Yamada jeopardizing their safety. An investigator was not required to wear a gun in all circumstances, nor were they often expected to use it. Yamada thought this might be a good point to take his out. He wasn't afraid to kill someone to protect his team. At his command, a bullet slid into the barrel as he turned back to the soggy tunnel.

"We're on the same team," he promised, "I've got your back."

That said, the officer seemed more like himself again. They continued, as noiseless as before, to search down the abandoned waterways. Large, dripping cracks in the walls betrayed the unsoundness of the once-used structure, but no evidence yet pointed to Kento or his accomplices.

One by one, each of the teams walked without noticing by a warning motion sensor, triggering a silent alert to Hayoshi's computer. The sensors were practically invisible, so it was not surprising only Yamada spotted one, after he had his partner had already passed it. Plucking it from the wall, he knelt down to analyze the small device. As there were several lining up the wall at the same point, it seemed they had in the past been used to measure the height of the water in the tunnel. Only the bottom one was online, a small red light the proof. The criminals must have subtly turned that part of the system back on.

Certain of his conclusion, Yamada announced in a hush through the radio, "They know we're here."

"How exactly did they find our location?" Watanabe demanded, part of his venting lecture. No one responded to him. The implications were far too heavy to dwell on how it happened. Now it was more important to find a way out, a second plan, any sort of escape.

"They triggered sensor 3 in tunnel 4," Hayoshi stated, adding that to the computer plot he was creating of the police's progress. They had been watching it for some time, long enough to know which team was the closest and which routes had no police in them at all. When Yamada unplugged the one, Hayoshi informed, "They're on to us."

He looked silly squatting there with all his equipment, trying his hardest to not get any of it wet, or himself. It was much too difficult for him to set up operations in this underground, electronic hell. With no outlets, everything had to be wireless. With so much concrete around, no signal could travel easily through the air. He had make-shift antennae made from odd combinations of all his devices and USB cords connecting various pieces. It was a stark contrast from Watanabe who paced around anxiously.

Kento, who to this point had hardly spoken, stood to his feet. "It's time," he mentioned shortly and walked away without a thought from the other two. He had only been waiting to hear where the police were not. It was almost six now. With a handful of cash the other two had provided for his train pass, Kento knew he would just barely have time to hit all three newspapers and get out of the city before the cops would be on his trail.

Both accomplices were unnerved by the way Kento left without saying much. There was a lot going on in his head that neither of them wanted to know about. In the end, something was wrong with them as well, but he creeped them out.

The police, now keeping an eye out for the sensors, managed to step over many of them without being caught. When Hayoshi noticed it had been a while since the last alert, he began to worry. He couldn't help but verbalize the concern, which Watanabe immediately jumped upon.

"What do you think they're doing? They didn't stop for a picnic!" He scolded harshly. "They're avoiding your trap."

After a few series of key strokes, the computer geek had easily disabled the bottom level sensors and engaged the ones just above on the wall. Within minutes, the first alerts began streaming in again. They were getting closer quickly. Several minutes passed in silence as Watanabe waited for each police team to be accounted for. The final one came in as Yamada ripping another one off the wall. Ready to leave, the salesperson gathered the strength to push away from the wall.

"By this point, the guards at the doors must be starting to get drowsy," he commented. "That means I'm off. Hold the cops back for me, all right Tobe?"

Hayoshi complained back from behind the screen of his laptop, "I can't believe you're leaving me here as bait."

"Hey, do you know your role?" Watanabe replied, pointing a cocky finger at his companion.

"Of course I know," Hayoshi shot back. "I'm doing it aren't I?"

"Do you know your role later?" The question was repeated, more seriously this time.

Even the programmer calmed to simply assure, "Yes."

Watanabe nodded, walking off in a direction different from the one Kento had previously taken. Now alone in the eerie, dank tunnel, Hayoshi pulled a headset on and waited, trying not to let the solitude psyche him out. Solitaire was not strong enough to quay the suspense, so he took to hacking in the mean time.

That cooled him off until Watanabe's voice came into his ears. "Would you give a quick glance to the guards with your cameras and let me know if they're watching?"

Minimizing his code, the programmer scanned the outdoor cameras. "There are two guards at the doors on either side of you. To your left, the men are currently walking the opposite direction," Hayoshi began to explain.

At the door to the right, one of the two had finished off dozens of snacks to keep boredom from setting in. He didn't appear to be paying attention to anything but his own door. The other—Saburou—heard the slight buzz of motion and, wary of everything, glanced up at the camera now looking down at him.

Hayoshi decided, "To your left, they are distracted by the camera. You are clear to go."

Satisfied, Watanabe dashed out the door.

Saburou knew that camera had moved for a reason. It was the first time in the hours they had been waiting, which meant someone now wanted to know where they were. Was it time for the escape? He looked to his right, but there was no change. Pressing against the wall, he peeked around the corner to his left. Someone was running, and he was instantly after them.

Right away, Hayoshi tried to warn him. "Wait, he's looking for you. He spotted you; run faster!"

"I'm in pursuit of one of the three," Saburou announced over the radio as he reached the edge of the plant's property and turned onto sidewalk. The newbie was already on his way, but that statement got other officers chasing after them too.

Watanabe was nearing a main thoroughfare. If he got there ahead of the investigator, it could easily end very badly. As not athletic as he was, however, Kyoko was catching up. At the corner, the man paused for less than a second to look around. Apparently not seeing what he was hoping to find, he turned right.

Saburou reached the corner panting, just in time to see the target climb into a taxi cab. Taking one look at the traffic, Saburou took out his badge and stepped out into the street. At first, the taxi driver suspected he was just a man jay walking who would continue to cross and didn't slow. When the investigator placed himself to halt the car coming toward him, badge displayed clearly in the fore, the driver stopped, much against the passenger's urging.

Watanabe barreled out of the back seat to flee again, but this time he had much less of a lead. The officers behind Saburou caught up and overtook him while the former rested his hands on the cab, thanking the driver for not killing him with the one ton bullet. He had to let the adrenaline drain for a second.

Rejoining the team on the sidewalk just as they were leading the arrested criminal back to the building, Saburou spotted an ear bud he had most likely been using to communicate with the other two. Relieving Watanabe of the possession, he slipped it in his own ear and wandered away just as the officers began citing his rights in custody. This could definitely come in handy.

Seven o'clock: Yamada's stomach started growling. His eyes were drooping with fatigue so much so that he tripped obliviously over a wrench at the end of the passageway. There was no chance he would effectively examine a scene in his state, which made it a good thing they had reached the end of their allotted tunnel. Nothing had been found, except those sensors which served to prove someone was indeed here. Knowing other teams would soon be finishing as well, Yamada made his announcement: their tunnel was clear.

Hayoshi could hear the static of their radios. That was way too close. Nervously, he gathered all his things into a pile in his arms to make a run for it. He could finish his job above ground just as easily. There was no need for him to stay here, not after Watanabe was caught. As soon as he had taken his first step toward the exit, however, Kento's voice came into the headset, cueing him by a single cold comment that revealed everything.

"I'm in World Shimbun. Are you ready?" Kento said no more than that, yet with Saburou listening in, no more needed to be said.

The investigator was definitely surprised, as that was not one of the two newspapers he had told his boss were most in danger. He passed the discovery along as quickly as possible by giving Murata a call back at the other newspaper.

After hearing the whole revelation, the officer asked, "You told us the wrong place?"

"More likely," Saburou corrected, "he's planning to hit one of those two after this one. If you can get officers there in time to stop him now, it will be better, though."

At that Murata agreed, ordering a couple of his men to join him on the drive over. By that time, Hayoshi had gotten his things spread out again. He was not pleased awaiting Kento's next command as the police were drawing ever nearer. The slightest sound made him jump. In an attempt to distract himself, he tried to imagine Kento, unnoticeable in his janitorial uniform. The discretion was necessary, even after business hours. Too many journalists worked overtime. That was one of the most important reasons Hayoshi hadn't stayed in the field.

If all went as planned, Kento would soon infiltrate one of the editors' offices, where he could close the blinds and work undisturbed. Hayoshi expected at any moment to be prompted for the password to the computer. When asked, he provided the administrator code. Glancing down the hallway, he hoped Kento could type in the replacement horoscopes quickly enough.

Finally, he heard what he was waiting to hear, "Done. Your turn."

All that remained for Hayoshi to do was push send. Actually, it wasn't all that simple. In concept, yes, but it required his backend connection to the newspaper's Ethernet to authorize the sending and to ensure no one else would be able to stop the process. The speed with which he typed out commands was likely the reason everyone thought it was simple for him. He made it look that way.

Tonight he was typing even faster than before. By now, he could hear the footsteps of the approaching officers. It was at least encouraging when a small window opened on his laptop with a progress bar. Slowly, the blue, glowing streak grew across the screen, but it wasn't fast enough. According to plans, Hayoshi was to survey the progress. He cast a glance to where the tunnel turned a corner, knowing they would come around there any moment.

He smacked the side of the computer. Every time Watanabe did so, he scolded the brute. Technology was not something to be manhandled. But in the midst of fear, that fact meant little or nothing. His heartbeat quickened, matching the pace of more than one set of feet seeking him out. 70% was close enough, wasn't it? No one would be trying to stop the sending except the police, and they would be busy chasing him. Even if they took an interest in the computer, would they have the time to stop anything?

Hayoshi opened a couple confusing programs and started some code running in command line that would make getting to the real process more complicated. With his illegal activities at least partially concealed, the cops would be delayed…hopefully enough. He glanced down the path again. Could he really leave it all there, wide open, covered in evidence? An overseas hide-out was calling his name.

Murata called Kyoko. "I'm at the paper like you said, and Kento-jukeisha isn't," he informed, the tone of his voice clearly proving he was dealing with the press. "They won't let me past the door: and apparently he never was either."

Saburou could almost feel the glares of the journalists burning into him through the phone. Still, he had the strength to encourage the other with a peptalk. "Murata-keiji, you are a police officer. You have authority to push through people with just cause, and a warrant to search anywhere for Kento-jukeisha."

"If he was never here," the officer began but decided not to finish the thought.

"If he was never there?" Saburou repeated, slightly upset. "He said it with his own lips."

"He could have been trying to deceive us."

"If so, we still have men stationed at the other newspaper," Saburou reminded him that it wasn't an issue. "Kento-jukeisha wouldn't have wanted to be seen by them. Check in case they overlooked him."

Everyone who had dealt with the press this week, it seemed, had come face to face with their weakest moment. That was what a journalist was trained to expose. Normally unbreakable men had gained no headway against these people. At least Saburou had been able to snap his colleague out of it.

Before he could be assured of his success, however, their boss came over the radio. "We found where they were set up. They left a computer behind, but no one's here. Keep an eye open for someone on their way out."

Taking not of that, Saburou looked around once before turning his attention back to Murata. He could hear muffled arguing in the background which ended abruptly when a lower journalist approached to whisper something into the ear of the man blocking the door. It was obvious the secret of the unspoken words was indeed a serious matter, but Murata didn't overhear a bit of the news, not until Saburou told him it.

For the inspector who had discovered the abandoned computer called over quickly one of the other officers who knew better how to handle one. They had broken through the layers of decoy programming and discovered the almost complete progress bar. The officer informed—just as the low end reporter had—that the paper was being sent to the presses. Attention captured, the inspector let the paper he had been examining, with the latin based characters R, E, V, E, N, G, & E, written upon it, slip to the floor as he made his way to the laptop.

The inspector called to Kyoko through the radio. "They've already hit a newspaper, Kyoko-kun. Contact Murata-keiji and ask if he's seen anything."

Saburou said nothing. He knew already which newspaper Kento had visited, and Murata was there.

Background noise filtered through the speaker, "10% remaining," before the inspector repeated, "Do you copy? Damn it Kyoko-kun, quit dreaming about your son's future. He might not have one if the 10% finishes sending the lie-filled newspaper to be printed."

That was new information to Saburou. "Can you stop it?" He inquired in return and then passed on the bit to Murata, still on the phone with him.

The officer glanced between the two keeping the secret, now knowing exactly what had been said. He heard Saburou repeat the inspector's answer, "We need a password," and snapped instantly into gear.

Pushing into the building, Murata stated, "The one who sent your draft to the printers without authorization is Kento-jukeisha. He's been here, and if you don't cancel that transmission, your reputation will be smeared by the blood of the victims of his second batch of horoscopes."

They were hardly convinced, but at the very least, they were anxious now. Retreating into a side office, hushed discussions began by the man who formerly barred the door and a higher editor. Hushed as they bent over a monitor. Murata had found his way into the room and watched the screen from a corner as time ticked away.

Hayoshi had his back pressed against the wall of a tunnel right near his exit. Quickly approaching footsteps of police could be heard chasing him out, rushing his calculating mind. Still watching the plant's security cameras from his cell phone, the man searched for his opportune moment to run. It appeared they had been warned he would be on his way out. They were all on their guards.

The scapegoat. It irritated him that it had been his position in this particular mission. For what reason? Kento has to be at the newspapers, had been Watanabe's explanation. Besides, you're the one who led them here. Of course, Watanabe had promptly gotten himself arrested despite that. Hayoshi knew, had it been the other way around, he would have successfully escaped, but not now. He was surrounded and pressured from all sides.

With a growl that showed he wouldn't wait a moment longer, Murata interrupted the journalists. "Time's up. Either cancel the transmission now, or I'll take the password from you and do it myself."

Even that wouldn't get through to the hardheaded reporters deeply consumed in their own secret conversation. 95%, Saburou conveyed the update, pressing the urgency further on the officer. Fed up with the journalists' continued delaying, Murata lost his patience. They didn't have time to wait around. He stepped behind the computer and unplugged the power cord. Darkness filled the screen, and shock filled the faces of the three men.

"Oh, now you've done it," fumed the one in a middle position in the company. "You must think you're so clever cutting the power. It'll keep sending through the network, from all the other computers!"

Finally satisfied that he had gotten their attention, Murata leaned over the monitor to the journalists and stated very clearly, "Give me the password, and our men will stop it for you."

Despite being extremely reluctant, this time they complied and handed over the code. One disaster was averted in the nick of time. He was soon informed that Hayoshi had been captured trying to make a run for it. At that, their boss had laughed into the radio and mentioned the programmer had already tracked down security codes for half a dozen local prisons.

Saburou commented—into the phone and over the radio, "Kento-jukeisha is the only one left, and we know two places he's likely to show up."

The inspector asked of his subordinate on the arrested man's computer, "Assuming he's left in the past five minutes, how long would it take Kento-jukeisha to arrive at the nearest of the other two newspapers?"

Perplexed, the officer wasn't sure what to say. How was he supposed to know that off the top of his head?

"Well don't just sit there," the boss scolded, as if everyone had the resources of his investigative team. "Look it up."

He did, and after searching diligently, he revealed, "About 40 minutes to either one, Sir, but in different directions. I assume you meant by train?"

Satisfied with that, the inspector ordered, "Kyoko-kun, get Murata-keiji back to his trap and tell him we're off to stake out the other one."

The message was successfully passed on.

It was the larger of the two remaining newspapers that was hit. The majority of workers had gone home already, and the tile hallways echoed loudly as Kento casually made his way around. Somehow the sound of this hollow quiet felt wrong, like the alarm he had already silenced was still resounding against the walls as a fearful warning. Who was there to warn? The man asked himself assuredly. Anyone who had heard it would be upon him by now. Since no one was, the place was as empty as it appeared at first glance.

Confidence restored, Kento logged on to a computer. Hayoshi was no longer in contact, so he had thrown away his ear piece a few stops back. The ex-photographer didn't need extra help anymore. They had decided that because this thoughtless journal had kept his user account from years before.

It was a small thing to enter his adjustments and send it off. Seeing the status bar pop up lifted a large weight from his shoulders. Revenge was sweet, but it would taste like honey the next morning as media and law enforcement alike came crashing to their knees. Grinning a terribly evil grin, he took his leave, rearming the security system as he exited. 1136.

Two down, a third to go, Kento thought without a worry as he made his way to the nearest train station. Neither of his companions had given him any indication that anything had gone astray from their plan. The police hadn't followed him out of the water plant. He had no way to know the first transmission had been cancelled, and why would he doubt the second would go through?

The train pulled away from the station headed north toward the third office. At this time of night, rush hour was over. He expected the trains would be emptier, but then he recalled how people who lived for more than revenge on the past liked to go out on Friday nights. There was a young couple chatting a few rows behind him, a group of men talking loudly about sports to the right. How would he know they were Murata's officers?

A man in a light brown suit collapsed in the chair beside him, with his tie half undone and the top button of his shirt unfastened. "Mind if I sit here?" He inquired, cordiality hardly covering that he would stay even in the answer were no.

He ran his fingers through his hair and—to Kento's dismay—thought to strike up a conversation. "I hate working overtime. Don't you? The coming home late and—"

Kento stared at him with no interest at all and stated blandly, "There are other seats available."

Ignoring the suggestion, the newcomer continued, "You know what, I got a picture on my phone today, looks just like you." Murata held up the image of him at the newspaper's computer only a few minutes before. There was a fear in Kento's eyes, but he just kept talking. "A reporter friend of mine sent it to me. They wouldn't let us set up this trap in their office from foolish pride, but they promised to get evidence when you stopped by."

Kento stood, concealing his intentions to run away.

"You're under arrest," Murata revealed. He began to put the handcuffs on Kento, but they had only closed on one wrist when the culprit dug an elbow deep in the officer's face. He ran for it. Maybe if he could get into another train car, the idea came to mind. Clearly the men to the right were police as well—their conversation had ended abruptly—so Kento ran towards the back. He threw open the door between the two cars, hoping there would be one without police.

The girl took after him fastest, her gun drawn. His best hope was to get far enough ahead to lock a door between them. A couple cars in a row were empty, but by the time he was far enough ahead, officers from the back of the train had started forward to corner him.

Approaching the next station, the train put on its brakes, sending both unsecured passengers to the floor. Kento recovered more quickly than the female officer, though, and slammed the door shut on her. The doors to exit the train opened, and a woman's voice announced the stop name. Only after grinning at her through the door did he turn to leave and find the two officers who had been waiting in that car to catch him.

It was simple and clean. They had even finished early enough that time remained to take Nori home before bed time. But Kyoko's work was not yet finished. He still had to return to the bar and fill that favor for his contact. Nori would be fine until morning; he was sure of it.

Nori plopped himself down on the pillow beside where Masami sat and inquired curiously, "So what are we watching this time?"

Discouraged, the child celebrity threw the remote in his hand to the floor and stood, "It's Saturday morning, and all that's on is reports about my brother's attack and coverage of Kento-jukeisha's scam and arrest." Wandering over to a tall, white bookshelf beside the screen, he wondered, "What would you watch if there was nothing on?"

A silence of deep thought passed while Masami scanned through his DVDs for one that appealed to him. Eventually, Nori provided the name of a channel, adding, "They never play news or anything like that."

Masami whirled around in shock. He watched those shows! But it was Nori! That wasn't possible coming from the clueless, six-year-old boy. The older boy recalled a day he secretly watched one of those shows. Carli came into the room, ripped the remote from his hand, and beat him senseless with it. Then, another time, when Atsushi had caught him, he did the same. The other guard saw it once, and Atsushi beat him again.

He remembered clearly what Carli told him each time so adamantly, "You are far too young to be watching that mental vomit!"

And there sat Nori, innocence perfectly preserved, suggesting they watch it. A cd dropped to the floor as Masami gaped at the younger boy. "Didn't your mom ever tell you," he started, but he faded off after that. Experience had already shown him Nori's parents were about as distant and rare as his own. Certain that Carli would get her chance to reform him too, Masami just moved on. Turning back to the collection to choose from, he decided on one and took it out.

"Do you like Rurouni Kenshin?" He asked of Nori.

Curious, the boy cocked his head and repeated the name. "Never heard of it." Then, making his way to the bookshelf, he asked, "Can I see?"

Masami handed him the case for the anime television series, season one. Nori glanced at it, then across the other options. Noticing almost half a shelf was full of the same exact kanji written across the case he held, the guest pointed out, "You have a lot of them."

"It's my favorite anime, even if it's a little out of date."

"Well, if you like it," Nori shrugged, ready to watch it, until something drew his attention. "Books?" He noted, reaching out to grab a Rurouni Kenshin novel. Not only was it out of place, but it would certainly have a reading level that was much too high.

"Don't touch that! It's a gift from my brother," Masami growled protectively.

"I only wanted to," Nori began, but knowing his friend to be serious, he backed down and away. For a moment they had actually been enjoying each other. Instead, the younger questioned, "Can you even read them?"

"Yes," the older boy insisted haughtily, but he cooled off and admitted, "a little."

"What good is a book you can't read?"

Something prompted the high and mighty celebrity child to share a real piece of himself with his "pretend" friend, so he explained, "He gave me the first five last year, saying, 'If you like the anime so much, you're sure to love the manga.' They're signed by the author and everything. I was so excited, but then Carli-san wouldn't read them to me because 'books should have words, not pictures.' And Atsushi-san isn't any good at reading aloud."

"Uh-huh," Nori agreed, eagerly awaiting the time when Masami would reach the answer to his question.

"So I got mad, super mad. I told Aniki that it was the dumbest present ever and that I didn't want anymore. But then, I sat down and tried to read one myself, and I didn't get anything. But I did it again, and again, and again. And now, I can read it…parts of it. Like when Kaoru-san shouts, 'NO!' to Kenshin-san before he charges in to fight, or every time he adds, 'That I will,' back to the end of his sentence, or the kanji for 'battosai.' And…on my seventh birthday when he gave me the option of two more or two days at Tokyo Disneyland, I chose the books. I'll read them someday. A true anime fan has too. Then, he made me promise I won't ever buy any without him, which means I'm gonna get the next one next year."

Nori was unsure of the strange story, but if Masami was excited for it, so was he. "Well, let's watch it! I want to know if it's any good," Nori decided, returning to his seat in anticipation with a direct view of the television. Compliantly, the older boy set the disc in the DVD player and pushed play—though, it wasn't at all against his own will either. Sitting in his own seat beside Nori, he began episode one, and together they watched as the theme song started to play.

Now the little pain sitting in my heart

Has shrunk in a bit, but it really does hurt me now.

Those silly horoscopes, I

Guess I can't trust them after all…

And tonight I thought,

I'd be just sitting in my sorrow…

I just can't see it anymore.

All of a sudden, Nori commented, "Masami-kun, thank you for letting me come over."

Masami smiled and ordered, "Watch." Maybe Nori won't be so intolerable, he thought.

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