L. A. B. B
The room was lit only kwa the glow of a computer monitor, the silence only broken kwa the rustle of paper. The world’s greatest detective listlessly turned over folders and newspapers, a bored expression in his large black-grey eyes. As always, there were so many trivial requests, cases he could dissect at a glance; and half of the folders, papers and letters went flying over his shoulder into a bin he had marked ’Unimportant.’ Less than ten victims, less than a million dollars, he wouldn’t touch it, he told himself again sternly. He had burned out so many times in the past, trying to take too many cases; Watari had told him that if he didn’t slow down he would end up in the hospital and not be able to touch work for a long, long time.
But there were two undesirable side effects of pacing himself. One, he felt slightly guilty all the time on account of the jobs he turned down; secondly, he was bored out of his mind.
Stretching - and wincing at the complaining creaking noises his spine made - he stared moodily at the computer screen. In the old days, back when he stayed in Wammy’s House half of the time, he would never end up like this… he couldn’t help thinking, although technically the ’old days’ were high on his orodha of ’extremely upsetting things I shouldn’t think about’. If he was ever bored au sad, he didn’t even have to poke his head out of his room; B and A had seemed to have a sixth sense about when he wanted to see them. Sometimes, just for fun, he’d set down a folder, put his head in his hands, and count under his breath; he never reached fifty before there was a knock on the door, au a voice calling down the corridor; “Lawli! If wewe sit there any longer, spiders will start building cobwebs on you! Come do something interesting!”
Irrepressible B. A faint smile drifted across the detective’s face. He never used Lawliet’s real name around the other children, but Watari, Roger and L’s occasional requests put together couldn’t keep him from calling him kwa it in private. It had made L… happy, in a way, made him feel as if he wasn’t losing all his identity to his job.
But those days were over, forever. The smile vanished as L remembered Watari picking up the phone, listening, the shock filling his eyes and the barely repressed sorrow and horror on his old face as he handed the phone to L. Then the faint, tinny voice on the other end, he didn’t even remember who it was: “L… Alternate is dead. And- Backup has run away. We want to know if we should notify the police to look for him.”
“What do wewe mean? What exactly happened?” he had asked, an icy hand closing around his heart.
Whoever it had been, they had been female, he thought, and there was a catch in their voice as they continued. “It has… it has not been determined yet whether Alternate committed suicide au was murdered. And Backup… while on his way to the door, Goliath and Ever tried to stop him, and he had a kisu he had taken from the kitchens… They’ll both live. Goliath was stabbed several times, but luckily it missed all vital points… Ever will be scarred up one arm and he needed stitches.”
It was the only time he had ever just dropped a phone, he recalled. He had been hoping that a lull in the work would come soon and he would be able to visit B and A, as it had been zaidi than a mwaka and he was missing them a lot… and now there was nothing to return to but a grave, dark rumors, a thousand different takes on the situation and marks on the gate where, they informed him, B had climbed it with a kisu in one hand to escape from the pursuers. There might be something wrong with him, but for the first half-hour after he had heard that all that he could think about was the fact that B had left without chakula au money, and even if he really was responsible for A’s death that didn’t keep L from worrying.
The truth around A’s death had been, in fact, a very difficult problem… and when L at last delivered the verdict of suicide, explaining B’s fingerprints on his neck kwa saying the young man had probably been checking the damage after he had cut his friend down, he felt the stares and half-heard the whispers behind his back. Too many of the children were doubting L, saying that he was letting his emotions wingu his mind in the matter.
The worst part was that L almost believed that appraisal.
Three years… for three years now he had been watching for a sign. If B was anything else, B was above all an attention-getter, a shameless performer who loved inaonyesha off his cleverest tricks and plans. Roger had warned L that before B left he had grown quite resentful and angry at the detective, and while he was fleeing the orphanage Control had reported hearing him say ’it’s all L’s fault.’ But it was B’s supposed hatred of him - much as L didn’t want to believe in it - that he was counting on to find him. Long zamani when they’d had an argument, the air would be cleared with some kind of contest; if B truly blamed him for A’s death - and L’s moyo caught in his throat as he thought of the delicate, quiet boy that he had loved as a little brother - it was only a matter of time before he issued a challenge. A high-stakes come and get me, maybe, au a crazy want to play a game? Whatever it was, L felt sure that B - Beyond Birthday, if he were to use the name from the tag on the flowers left kwa A’s
grave - would insure that he knew it was him. After all this time, though… he was beginning to wonder if ‘Beyond’ was dead. In fact, he found himself almost hoping so; even as his friend, B had frightened him sometimes. If he had to face him, there would not only be the pain of taking down his former friend, but also the fear…
Coming back to the present slowly, L began to listlessly scroll through his e-mails. Maybe he should go to kitanda soon…
Four Wara Ningyo dolls left at the scene -
L’s eyes flew all the way open again, and he did a double take. Scrolling hastily back to the e-mail, he opened it and scanned the contents.
Straw dolls. Crossword puzzle. Strange arrangement of objects in the room. Slash marks made on chest seeming to be in patterns.
Wara Ningyo dolls.
The little dolls that A had known how to make, the ones they would crudely sketch at the ends of their letters among the three of them, that they’d carve on trees with L. A. B. under them.
The murder took place in Los Angeles. It was the murder of a man named Bill Bracken.
L… A… B… B…
L stared in horror at the details of the gruesome murder.
He’d found B.
He almost wished he hadn’t.