“If I do anything to displease you, use that and shoot me. I’m a latent criminal – the Dominator will fire.”
Sirens tear through the night air, drilling into his skull. Somewhere on his right, a victim by convenience screams – shrill, desperate cries, enough to lay a soul bare and strip the fearless of their presumptuous arrogance. He clenches his teeth together, willing himself to apathy, narrowed eyes snapping to Sasayama’s grave face as the latter approaches him in a run – alone. “I can’t find her.” His hand curls into a painful fist.
“Compassion hardly suits your image, Inspector.”
Out of the corner of his eye, he notices Ginoza’s lips part in what he predicts to be a contemptuous remark and he lets the words rush through his vocal chords, “She didn’t escape. Her signal for help was ten minutes ago.” Ignoring their ensuing replies, he closes his hand around a Dominator and pulls it from the holder, pausing for a moment while the system registers his identity.
“Don’t wash your hands with blood. Use mine instead. This world can afford to lose me, not you, sir.”
“Ko, you don’t–” “Bringing her back is my responsibility. Back me up.” He does not wait for caution nor compliance before he turns on his heels and heads down the bloodstained streets of the city he has vowed to protect. Their words are noise, but his are resolve.
“Ah, it’s nothing really, sir. I was laughing because they didn’t realise you were quoting Hemingway at them. A Farewell to Arms, isn’t it?”
He trails after the ghost of her, steps slow and silent against the slick pavement. The moonlight grants slanted exposure across a crossroad, marking it as the ideal location to be detected – in that case, she would have made herself small in a nearby alleyway, keeping her eyes trained on the junction, weapon held to her cheek in the hopes of spotting an enemy. But there have been no shots this close to the deployment area of the MWPSB’s forces. He pauses, observing the buildings around him, picturing the flow of her long hair around him, the scent of her. He thinks of the brightness of her eyes in the dark, flicking from side to side, evaluating her options. She is not reckless enough to venture into the junction of hazardous roads but she must have sought an alternative – and he notices the drain pipe pointing to the roofs. Recalling her calloused hands and fluid gestures, he imagines her climbing the side of the building single-handedly, her signature faint smile an effortless highlight. And so he launches himself after her, cradling the Dominator to his chest.
“As Coelho said, ‘Now that she had nothing to lose, she was free.’”
Once he digs his soles into the roof’s tiles, he notes how the taller buildings on either side cast a serviceable shadow over the path he plans to run across; she rises in his esteem. He pictures her in front of him, always a step ahead, head turned at a casual angle over her shoulder out of dutiful concern. Something clenches in his gut when he realises how familiar the litheness of her stride has become – and how quickly this familiarity can be torn from him in his line of work. Even as his heels hammer against the rooftops, his mind strays to her, to the time she clamped her hands against either side of his jaw, eyes ablaze, lips moulding the syllables of his solace, stilling the tempest in his mind. She arms herself with a gaze to scorch heavens or hells, words to be craved or despised.
A scattered lock of her hair catches his eye. He throws himself to the ground, every sinew in his body as tense as a string before breaking point. They had hitmen in the windows of the surrounding buildings. She narrowly escaped a bullet aimed at her skull, ducked, retaliated, faltered, called for help. A second shell bit into her stomach, the momentum throwing her off the roof. His lips pull into a straight line as he glances over the edge of the building, the small pool of blood on the pavement leering up at him. The flame of a lighter catches the edge of his vision, the malevolent undertones of a heavy laugh breach his hearing – and his finger is at the trigger before his blood begins to boil. “Crime coefficient is 568. Mode is Lethal Eliminator. Please aim carefully–” The Dominator shudders in his hand as the bullet spits through the air, lodging deep in his prey’s chest, turning its reluctant host into a flare of exploding blood vessels.
“‘If someone puts their hands on you, make sure they never put their hands on anybody else again.’”
His ankles scream upon the heavy impact with the pavement but he pays them no heed. The contents of his ribcage pummel as he notices the glistening trail of kerosene; the pounding in his ears becomes deafening when he realises what the lighter was for. He runs. His vision narrows to a single, man-sized barrel down the alleyway and he runs, his shoes soaking in aqueous chemical. It takes his knife and a scream he did not know he could produce to pry off the lid; it takes years of body-building to pull her from the liquid depths of her makeshift tomb.
“Please–don’t. Shinya, I… don’t give me someone to live for. Don’t give me someone to lose. I won’t be able to handle it. I can only deal with hatred and scorn.”
He shatters when he crumples to the cold, hard ground. He holds her like a child, cradling her limp body against his chest. His lips are frozen stiff; hers are blue. He buries his face in her throat, convincing himself that underneath the stench of petroleum, he will find her pulse and the aroma of her raison d’être. Her blank eyes witness his pain in suffocating silence, her lips still tilted in the vestiges of her morose smile. He clamps his hands down on either side of her jaw, never again to brush against the sudden dust of pink on her cheekbones, never again to trace his thumb along the ridge of her clavicle. He lifts his head to the impassive skies and he shouts out the broken strings accumulated in his vocal chords, until his voice takes its turn to break.
“You think I enjoy this life? Death will be a mercy. But Shinya–if I have to die for anyone, it soothes me to know that it will be for you.”
He clenches her numb fingers in his, holds them to his cheek. Her forearm falls against the line of his throat and he cannot decide which is colder – her skin or the unforgiving metal band cutting into her wrist.
Slowly, his trembling lips map out the heartlines of her palm.