Guilty As Charged
"Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?"
The judge's brow furrowed in displeasure. "Son, this is the court of the state of California—and in your case, this oath should not be taken lightly."
" 'I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth'… and stuff. Happy?"
The slightly overweight, balding judge glared at the apathetic teen slouching in the straight-backed chair. "Yes. Thank you. But you can do without the attitude. I will not stand for such in my court."
"Feh," Inuyasha said softly.
"Inuyasha Takahashi was seen entering the room of the prostitute Kikyo Ito at 8:24 p.m. on the night of May 12, 2004, and seen leaving the room at 8:31 p.m. that same night. Miss Ito was found on her bed the next morning at 9:05 a.m., dead, from several stab wounds, the pimp, Onigumo. The following witnesses will testify that shouting was heard from the room above, then abruptly silenced after Inuyasha stormed out."
"So in the span of seven minutes we had sex, argued, and then I killed her?" murmured Inuyasha to his lawyer, Myoga.
The plump old man gave a longsuffering sigh. "Inuyasha…"
"Does that sound reasonable to you? Look at those fools in the jury, they're falling for it! Just because the prosecutor is handsome and persuasive…"
"He is the best in Southern California," said Myoga, adjusting his bifocals. "You can't deny it."
"Nothing you can't go up against, old man. I've seen you in action; you can make that stupid Shichinintai joker look like a high school Debate Club member."
"Bankotsu Shichinintai is no novice. He's good…very good."
"Not getting nervous are you? C'mon, you haven't even given the defense yet."
Myoga huffed indignantly. "I, nervous? You presume much, young cub."
"That's 'pup' to you." He cracked his neck. "What a pain in the ass. When's this trial gonna be over?"
"When they declare you innocent or guilty. And don't be complaining—you pled innocent."
"So?" Inuyasha said defiantly. "What are you trying to say?"
"Nothing, nothing," soothed Myoga. "I'm just explaining why you have to go through the trial. If you'd pled guilty, that would have been it."
"It's almost as if they're punishing me for not doing the crime," Inuyasha muttered.
"And the jury proclaims you… guilty."
The two legs of the chair Inuyasha was leaning back in crashed to the floor. "What?"
"That's ridiculous!" Inuyasha growled. "I didn't kill her! I—I loved her! I told her to leave her job and spend her life with me—so she wouldn't have to work like…like that anymore! But she refused! She said I didn't mean it and that I would only use her…just like every other man in her life. I stormed out…and now I'm being accused of murder?"
"Not 'accused of' any more," Bankotsu sneered. "You're guilty. Touching as your little tale is, puppy—no pun intended—the jury doesn't believe it."
"I cannot believe this," Inuyasha ground out, his hands clenched in fists.
"Oh come off it, it's not the end of the world. You got off easy because you're only seventeen; you were tried as a juvenile, not an adult. They'll throw you in a juvenile reform center for three years, then you're free to go." Bankotsu smirked. "Stop sulking and accept your punishment."
"Shut up!" Inuyasha bellowed. "How will you live with yourself, after sending an innocent to jail?"
"Juvenile Reform Center, not jail," Bankotsu corrected coldly, his blue-indigo eyes narrowing with displeasure. "And in the jury's—and the state's—eyes you are guilty."
"That's enough!" the judge said sharply, banging his gravel loud enough to be heard over the shouting. "Guards, escort Mr. Takahashi to the vehicle that will transport him to the Los Angeles Juvenile Reform Center. That will be his home for the next three years."
"Damn you!" Inuyasha shouted, as he was being dragged away by the two hulking men in uniform. "You've defiled Kikyo's memory! Her murderer is out there, scot free, while you send me to jail!"
"Juvenile Reform—" started Bankotsu
"Would you shut the hell up already?!"
"I'm sorry Inuyasha," Myoga whispered to him as he was dragged by. "I'll do everything in my power to get you out of there."
"Whatever," said Inuyasha bitterly, looking away. They don't believe me now, why should they later? What a screwed up world this is.
"Morning Kagome! Do you want some eggs…for…breakfast?" Mrs. Higurashi trailed off as her daughter raced down the stairs and out the door.
"No, Mama, I'm late today! See you after school, love you, bye!" came the distant shout.
"Kids," Grandpa grumbled. "Why, in my day, we would eat a hardy breakfast the moment the sun came peaking over the horizon! It wouldn't do to start a day of backbreaking menial labor with an empty stomach. Which reminds me of that story of folklore from ancient Japan where—"
Mrs. Higurashi sighed. "Sota, could you please close the door?"
"Kagome, you're late," Eri whispered playfully as her friend slid into the seats in the auditorium. "The meeting started thirty seconds ago."
"Oh, shut up," Kagome whispered back, a smile on her face. She adjusted her skirt, smoothed down her wind-blown hair, and then relaxed into the uncomfortable chair. "Do you have any idea why they chose to make this meeting first thing in the morning?"
Ayumi shrugged. "So we can mull over the fascinating things they have to tell us all day long?"
Kagome and Yuka snorted.
"Welcome to our very last NHS meeting of the year!" the blonde NHS sponsor chirped into the microphone, nearly blowing the eardrums of every student present. The entire auditorium winced. "For all of our new juniors—welcome! For all of our departing seniors—an even bigger welcome to you! I know all of you have a million things on your mind, but please try and pay attention for this short meeting."
Half the members of the club were already caught up in the latest gossip.
"I know graduation is close—"
"Eeee!" Eri squealed. "I'm so excited! We graduate in exactly four weeks!"
"Also known as one month," Yuka said under her breath.
"Hush, guys, I want to listen to this," Kagome said.
"—has come to my attention that many of you seniors have not completed enough community service hours to graduate! It's cutting awful close, guys—and some of you haven't even come near the requirement. I suggest that you find somewhere to rack up those hours and get cracking!"
"Aw, crap," Kagome said, dropping her head into her palm.
"What's the matter, Kagome?" Ayumi asked. "Haven't gotten enough hours yet?"
"Nowhere near I need to be," she mumbled.
"Kagome! Knowing you, I would have thought you'd be done at the beginning of your junior year!" said Eri.
"Yeah, well… I was busy! It's not easy studying hard enough to get a—"
"1500 on the SAT," her friends chanted in unison.
"Yes, we know," Yuka added.
Kagome grinned sheepishly. "That sounded pretty boastful, didn't it?"
"It's okay, Kagome!" Eri twittered.
"Yeah, we know you're not trying to make us feel stupid on purpose," Yuka said, winking.
Kagome made a face.
"So, how are you going to get your hours in?" Ayumi asked.
"Dunno." Kagome shrugged. "Any suggestions?"
Her three friends answered in the negative.
"But you better hurry," Ayumi warned, "before all the volunteer positions around town are taken."
"Yeah, good idea." Kagome stretched and yawned. "I'll research some options after school…"
"Kagome! Do you know how you're going to get your community service hours yet?"
"Oh…right…I'll call up some places tomorrow. Gotta go, Mama, I'm late, love you, bye!
"Yeah, yeah, I'll go close the door."
Two Days later
"Kagome, have you gotten any hours in yet?" Yuka asked, leaning against her locker.
"Oh…" Kagome's hand hovered above the book she was about to grab. "Right…"
Yuka steeled her with a look. "You don't even know what you're going to do yet, do you?"
"Hey, I never said I wasn't a procrastinator…"
Four Days later
"The Juvenile Reform Center?" Kagome squeaked.
"That's right." The guidance counselor nodded, pushing her bright red retro glasses farther up on the bridge of her nose. "It's rather late in the year, not many opportunities for community service are available now."
"But—but—is it—safe there?"
"Oh perfectly," the counselor nodded, her glasses sliding down her nose again. "These boys and girls may have gotten into trouble, but remember that they're being changed for the better even as we speak." She paused to push her glasses up. "And keep in mind that they are in cells…"
"So… what would I…do, exactly?" Kagome asked, resigned to the fact that once again her procrastination had gotten her into a "fine kettle of fish" as her Grandpa would say.
"Just be a friend, dear!" the guidance counselor said, pushing a paper clip onto some papers. "Most of these kids don't even have one visitor in a year. Talk to them, read to them, discuss politics, movies, celebrities, I don't know. You'll think of something." She glanced at the clock. "Twelve o'clock! Lunch break! I hope that helped you dear, now back to class, there's a good girl."
"Juvenile Reform Center," Kagome muttered disbelievingly to herself as she rose from her chair. "Mom's gonna love this…"
"The what?"Mrs. Higurashi shrieked. "You're going to volunteer at the what?!"
"The Juvenile Reform Center."
"Kagome, those kids are criminals! Convicts! Who knows what they've done to earn time in that place!"
"I'm sorry, but what do you want me to do? I have no other options left!"
"And whose fault is that, young lady?"
"Mine, yes, I know! But what am I supposed to do, not graduate?"
"That would certainly teach you a lesson…"
"Mama!" Kagome groaned. "Please! Don't make this harder than it already is."
"I don't like this, Kagome."
"Neither do I, but I don't have a choice. I need to get these hours in about…three weeks now."
Mrs. Higurashi sighed. "Fine. You can volunteer—with a couple of conditions that we'll discuss later, of course."
"Right. Thanks, Mama!" Kagome smiled brightly.
Her mother smiled back, albeit a bit weakly. "So…just how many hours do you need?"
Kagome's smile froze. "Oh…not much…only about—um—twenty-five," she whispered the last word, averting her face.
Inuyasha stared at the bleak grey wall, bored out of his skull. A week… he'd been in here a week and he was already going crazy. He had no friends (not that this was a change, but still), he still had to go to freaking school, and he was cooped up in this cage half the day!
"What a life." He jiggled his foot, his back slumped against the wall. "Too bad I don't like to read…or write…or draw…or talk to people…"
"Too bad they don't have TVs in this place," his cellmate added.
"Was I talking you?" Inuyasha shot back.
The little kid shrugged and went back to his cat's cradle. Inuyasha watched with zero interest. The kid only knew about five different variations, and he did them over…and over…and over…
"So, kid," Inuyasha drawled. "What are you in here for?"
The kid glared at him. "Why should I tell you?"
"You don't look very old."
"Ten?" Inuyasha said in disbelief. "You look about five."
"Shut up!" The small brunette crossed his arms, glaring at Inuyasha with big green eyes. "And what are you doing here anyhow? This is your first time, ain't it?"
"How the hell would you know?" Inuyasha snarled. This kid was starting to get on his nerves.
"'Cause you're not the typical 'bad boy.' The worst thing about you is you cuss. You wince every time someone makes a derogatory comment about a girl, you shy away from any kind of weapon, and you absolutely refuse to hang around the booze addicts and druggies. Are you seeking atonement or something?"
"Where did you get such a big vocabulary? Most of my friends don't even know what 'weapon' means."
The kid shrugged. "Like you said, there's not much to do here. I spend most of my time reading the dictionary."
"You read the dictionary."
"Every other book they got in here is as dry as dust. Comes in handy during visiting hours. If you sound educated, people think you're not as dangerous. Great logic there. They say Hitler was absolutely brilliant."
Inuyasha couldn't help staring at the kid. "Are you sure you're not some type of child genius?"
"I wouldn't know. My parents died when I was three. I've been in foster care ever since."
"And that's why you're in here?"
"Not exactly… the last foster family I had? The Lawrences? Mrs. Lawerence was—if you'll excuse the term—an ass. I set her on fire."
Inuyasha nearly choked. "What, did you throw a match on her?"
"Of course not," said the kid witheringly. "I used my fox fire."
"Oh, so you're a fox demon."
"Well, excuse me. This mildew seems to be clogging up my nasal passages."
"You're a dog demon?"
"Half," Inuyasha gritted.
"Is that why you're in here?"
"Yeah, probably. I had Bankotsu Shichinintai as the prosecutor and Lockman as my judge. Both humans, both anti-demon."
"Tough break. Why were you in court in the first place?"
"Nice try, but no cigar."
The kid sighed. "What's your name?"
What could it hurt? "Inuyasha."
"I'm Shippo," the kid beamed. "Pleased to make your acquaintance!"
"No, the pleasure's all mine," replied Inuyasha sarcastically.
"So, Inuyasha," Shippo said, bouncing over to the cot of the former, "what are you in here for?"
"Didn't we cover this already?"
"Come on, I told you my story!"
"On the contrary, you just said you set your foster mom on fire."
"So they put me in here for attempted murder. Six months. Better than last time."
"'Last time'? How many times have you been in here, kid?"
"I've been in and out ever since I was five. I think this is my seventh time."
"No wonder you've got that dictionary memorized."
"Ahhh…" Kagome sunk into her cushiony chair, savoring the feel of a Friday afternoon with absolutely nothing planned for the weekend. She'd already taken all of her AP exams, so the only classes she had left were ceramics and chorus. Neither of those ever gave out homework, and the final exams were cinchy.
She let out another sigh. Maybe she'd watch some anime for a couple of hours, or go do something definitely unproductive like…bake cookies!
She happily padded down the stairs in her socks, entering the kitchen and heading straight for the pantry. "Mom, do we have any of those slice 'n' bake cookies?"
Her mom, busy at the stove, gave her a look. "Cookies?"
"Yeah, I have this weird craving—"
"Are you planning to share them with the kids you're going to visit today?"
"Huh?" Kagome asked, rummaging though the closet in search for the cookie dough. "What kids?"
"The kids at the—the juvenile reform center?"
"The…" Kagome groaned, slumping against the wall. "Aw, man…"
"See…pull the strings like this—and there, you've got Jacob's Ladder!"
"Whoop-de-doo," muttered Inuyasha, although he looked rather pleased with himself. He quickly untangled the string from his fingers and handed it back to Shippo.
Shippo yawned. "Geez, I'm tired."
"Well that's understandable. You were out clubbing all night."
Shippo glared at his cell mate. "Are you even able to say something that's not sarcastic?"
The kitsune sighed and flopped on his hard cot.
Inuyasha, already sitting on his, leaned against the stone wall and stared out the window. Nine days… nine days I've been in here and it already seems like an eternity. Where the hell is Myoga? He said he would try and get me out of here.
But then, that jury was convinced that I was guilty. Fools.
Kikyo… who hated you enough to kill you?
"Whatcha thinkin' about?"
"Nothing!" said Inuyasha defensively.
"You've had that look on your face all week. That pained expression. Do you have girl problems?"
Inuyasha stubbornly stared at the opposite wall.
"It's either that or constipation."
Inuyasha snorted. "It would probably be less painful at least."
"So it is a girl. Who is it? Huh? Huh?" Shippo bounced over to the hanyou's cot and jumped up and down. "Tell me tell me! I love secrets!"
"Good—then you won't mind if I keep this one!" Inuyasha whacked the kitsune on the head and sent him flying into the opposite wall.
"Quiet down in there!" the guard yelled from his post.
Both Inuyasha and Shippo glared at him.
"Go stuff your face with a donut," Inuyasha said under his breath.
"You deplorable excuse for a sentinel," Shippo said, putting on his orator's face. "Thou art to be pitied among men—"
"What's that from?" Inuyasha asked, getting the feeling he was going to be asking that question a lot.
Shippo shrugged. "I dunno. It sounded good though."
The hanyou heaved a sigh and resumed his stimulating activity of staring out the barred window. It was going to be a long three years.
Okay, this time I'm actually going to be consistent with my spelling of Japanese names. I.e. "Kikyo" "Shippo" "Koga" — I'm not going to add a "u" on the end (i.e. "shippou" "kikyou"). After I posted the first chapter of Charade I realized that I spelled "Kouga" like so and didn't use a "u" for any other name… Anyhow. Just wanted to make that clear.
Anyhow, what do you think? Tell me the good, the bad, the in-between. Push that little button in the left-hand corner… Watch for Chapter Two!