It was a scene trapped in time: cherry blossoms adrift behind them as he posed for a shot with Keiko at the park in spring. He never saw that smile on her again, not after she had taken up the case. Of course, he had known the risks, but she had been one of the brightest in the ranks. He hadn’t counted on her being outwitted.
Watari’s hand trembled slightly as he reached out for the handphone beside the framed photo. Lifting it closer, he peered at the screen, hoping that he’d read it wrongly from that angle, that he’d never heard the loud beep issuing from it when the number had slowly run down to zero.
It still only read: “K is dead.”
When he was five, his mother had left them. She didn’t care about the money; she merely wanted normalcy, love, and a soulmate who would care more for her rather than singing or science. She had gotten none of these things from his father.
When he was sixteen, his father had been stabbed by a street hoodlum. By then, Pastillsh Wammy had become a multi-billionaire thanks to his numerous inventions to the field of forensics (but no thanks to his former singing career, which had failed miserably). At the hospital, he’d had only his weeping son and a bowl of candy he’d always had a sweet tooth by his side. His mouth was bleeding; the hoodlum had forcefully ripped the gold teeth from his gums.
Despite choking on his own blood, he had sung one final song to his weeping son. It was the alphabet song, and the only song he had ever sung to Watari.
A few days later, sole inheritance made Watari the richest orphan in the world.
It was from these experiences that Watari had gained an obsession with alphabetical progression, an intense desire to help orphans around the world, and a promise that none of those orphans would ever brush their teeth for less than three times a day.
Now I know my A-B-C’s…
Watari cursed under his breath. Lucas, the orphan he’d found wandering the streets of London, had intelligence that came nowhere near that of Keiko’s. He knew he shouldn’t have named Lucas on a whim. As far as he knew, only Ryuuzaki the baby he’d found abandoned in a Tokyo tennis court, who somehow reminded him of his father after he grew up had the talent enough to pursue a criminal that had defeated Keiko.
Next time won’t you sing with me?…
But he had sworn on the method he would use to select the detective that would take on the seat of Erald Coil and Hüber Danuve names whose reputations he’d painstakingly established. Six more would have to die at the hands of this criminal before Ryuuzaki would step up to capture the bastard. Watari massaged his throbbing temples, looking again at the frozen picture of himself and Keiko beaming happily away.
The wild-haired, bedraggled boy was sitting on the carpeted floor with his legs crossed. He was meditating in front of sixteen incomplete jigsaw puzzles, a huge pile of jigsaw pieces, and a plate of half-eaten vanilla cake with an indent on the cream on top where a strawberry used to be. Ryuuzaki hunched noticeably upon hearing his name. His eyes snapped open, and he looked over his stiffened shoulder to stare at Watari. “Yes?”
“Could I see you for a while?”
Ryuuzaki shifted uncomfortably. “Is this about the fifteen Cluedo boards I put in the trash because they were just too simple even simultaneously?”
“No,” Watari said after a beat, “but let’s talk about that later.”
“… or has K been killed?” Ryuuzaki watched Watari as his eyes seemed to cloud over. He had learnt that, despite what he had been taught about facial expressions and how to read them, he had only to read the language of others’ eyes to understand how someone truly felt. Not that feelings really mattered to him; they were important only to determine the truth.
Watari remained silent.
Ryuuzaki sat opposite Watari in a crouching position, his toes absent-mindedly scratching at the loose threads on the edge of the seat. He was midway through a chocolate eclair, which he skilfully balanced on a fork held in his left hand. The crumbs resting on his upper lip were all that remained of the peach tartlets Watari had offered earlier. He was staring at Watari the whole time.
I’m going to have to replace that seat, Watari noted. “Ryuuzaki…”
“Since you already know about Keiko,” his eyes drifted back to the photo on his desk “can I rename you Lyuuzaki?”
“You want me to be L?” Ryuuzaki pondered for a moment, nibbling at his thumb while chewing the mushed eclair in his mouth. His eyes stared at an untamed fringe of his hair as he thought. Then he looked back at Watari. “Okay, I’ll be L. Is that all?”
Watari looked at the boy that he had raised from young, remembered how he’d continually nag about him eating too much sugary foodstuff and recite the statistics for the probability of getting diabetes. His lip trembled at the thought that Ryuuzaki now L might die too, but he pushed that aside. No point worrying now; he had a criminal to catch to avenge Keiko, and to avenge his father. “Yes, that’s all for now. You will be briefed later on.”
L plucked the rest of the eclair from the fork with his teeth, and replaced the fork on the plate with a clink before stepping awkwardly off the seat. The edge of the seat was frayed. I must buy a new chair, thought Watari, and fifteen sets of Cluedo, too. He watched as the barefoot L headed for the door.
“Oh, and L?”
“Remember to brush your teeth.”