Author: Ladya C. Maxine
Summary: Tala Ivanov, a law enforcement trainee, is sent to Japan to solve the twisted intentions of a psycho serial killer. Once there, he is sent to interrogate Kai Hiwatari, the most sadistic yet intelligent mass murder in the world. Things only get more complicated when Hiwatari escapes the asylum, and begins a deadly cat-and-mouse game with Tala.
Warnings: yaoi, strong language, mature themes
Disclaimer: I do not own Beyblade or any of its characters. All original characters belong to me. I am not making any money off of this. I write only to entertain.
A/N: This story was inspired by two of my favourite films: The Silence of the Lambs, and Se7en. Note that in this fic the characters are older than in the canon Beyblade series, of course.
by Ladya C. Maxine
Monday, January 10th, 2004.
Stepping to one side to allow an ash-faced officer to barge pass him, Tala looked away as the shaken man proceeded to violently vomit between the police cruisers parked on the wet street. Wailing sirens and excited voices soon drowned out the dry heaves. Curious onlookers stood by on tiptoes, peering over the heads blocking their view of the front of the building. Another officer shouted angrily at two members of a news crew who had been trying to sneak pass the police tape, eager to find out what could have caused such excitement on an otherwise uneventful winter night.
'Not very promising,' Tala thought, watching the traumatized officer, who had slump against a car and was wiping the sick from his mouth and chin. Raising his small recorder, Tala's breath frosted over its receiver as he spoke. "Monday, 23.45. Establishment is an apartment complex."
"Tala Ivanov?" said a voice in a distinct American accent.
He turned to find a stocky man standing behind him, arms crossed and broad face red from the cold. Putting away his recorder, Tala held out a hand, which the other shook firmly.
"Detective Steven Burke," the man introduced himself before motioning, "Follow me."
The din of sirens and the press behind them were muffled when the doors closing behind them. They found themselves in a shabby front entrance hall. The mailboxes to their left—some with broken locks, others with broken doors—had collected more cobwebs than mail. The air was thick with recently stirred dust from the officers examining the place, dusting off anything they found interesting and snapping photos of whatever could be bagged before shoving it into labelled bags and passing it along until it reached one of the forensic vans outside.
"Hope you got enough sleep during the flight over," Steven said, leading the way up the old, poorly maintained staircase. "You know what you need to know, right?"
"About the last week's murder, yes. I wasn't expecting to go to work the moment I landed."
"Tonight caught everyone off guard. I'm supposed to be watching the game right now over at a friend's house while his wife's out of town. Thing is, I live here, so I have to come out every time they find a body." He paused, holding out an arm to stop Tala as well. "What I don't get is why they went through the trouble of plucking a student out of his third year of criminology at some Russian university and fly him in, just for one murder. Either the Captain's just feeling homesick and decided to bring in a fellow Muscovite, or your head of faculty decided that a hands-on investigation would make a great topic for your thesis statement."
"I admit, I was surprised when Bry—Captain Balcov contacted my instructor," Tala said. They resumed their ascent, keeping to the wall to allow those in greater hurry to squeeze past them on the narrow stairs. Their climbing came to an end on the fourth floor. "I want to enter the field of criminal behaviour, but this is rushing things. I read up on the Ginko murder on the plane; do you think this is something similar? Can I record this, by the way, Detective Burke?" He held up the device.
"If you're going to be a part of the investigating team, conform: first names are preferred. Yeah, record away. Just make sure it doesn't fall into the media's hands."
"What's the victim's background, Steven?"
"Still gathering that information. All we know right now is that some of the tenants up on the fourth floor began noticing a strange smell coming from the apartment. Well, stranger than usual, even for this place," Steven said, stepping over something that had soaked into the carpet. "Gary Gao, the tenant, hadn't been seen or heard from for a couple of days. The landlord tried knocking, didn't get an answer, so let himself in with the spare key, then backed out at once because of the smell. 'Smells like sewage rot' he said. 'I know bad news when I smell it.' So he called the police instead, and they made the actual discovery. Hey, who went wild with the tape?" Steven asked loudly as they had to duck under yet more police tape across the corridor. "Stuff's inexpensive, but go easy with it. This is a crime scene, not Kamiya's bachelor party all over again!"
The officers in the corridor chuckled at the memory of what must have been a hell of a party.
"What?" Steven asked, noticing Tala's critical stare.
"Is that appropriate, making jokes at the scene of a crime?"
"I've been in this line of work for almost ten years," Steven said gruffly, putting Tala in his place. "My father, his entire life, pretty much. How did he manage? How do we all manage? Disconnection. Be passionate about your work, but don't get too emotionally attached. In here."
Door 77 was being guarded by a uniformed officer, to make to keep out any nosy neighbour disobeying police order to stay inside their own apartment.
"Lesson two: reality," Steven said, pulling Tala's travel bag out of his hands and leaving it at the officer's feet. "Mistakes won't just be punished with lower grades. We joke around, but we don't mess around. Stay focussed, and until you've gotten the hang of it—for example, able to crack a joke over a cold corpse—watch and learn, and do whatever it is you do that got you out here, and everyone will be happy. Well, except for Gary Gao, but that ship's already sailed. By the way, brace yourself for a surprise."
"I know not to expect the body of someone who's died peacefully in his sleep."
" I'm talking about my colleague. Hang on," Steven said, stepping back outside when someone called his name.
Left in the living room, Tala looked about the cluttered apartment, speaking his findings into the recorder, wondering what type of person could possible stand living in such a place. Granted, if kept clean the apartment would be a comfortable enough home, but this tenant had not been a big fan of housekeeping. Unwashed clothes were strewn everywhere and Tala couldn't help noticing they were of the triple-plus-size range. The furniture was all second hand and shabby; the lamp shade was worn and torn, and the couch before the crackling television sagged badly in the middle and none of the cushions matched. The curtains were still drawn, and judging by the cobwebs in their folds they hadn't been opened for some time.
The stench was the worst. Everyone in here was wearing facemasks for protection, but those were useless against the smell, which was that of wet garbage, mould, spoiled food, and the unmistakable reek of decaying flesh. A pair of gloves and a facemask were pushed into his hands by someone.
"Well, it's about time something tasteful showed up in this place," said a drawling American accent coming from Tala's left, but it wasn't Steven. "Shame you got to cover that pretty face, but health and safety come first."
The man had a good-looking, chiselled face, which was framed by messy dark red hair hidden beneath a black cap. The leather jacket, with a bald eagle patch sewn on the back, covering the t-shirt with a large marijuana leaf printed on the chest, gave the misleading impression that this guy had just wandered in off the streets. Only, he wasn't, according to the badge hanging around his neck.
Openly looking Tala up and down, from head to toe and back again, he met Tala's unimpressed glared with a cocky grin.
"So, come here often?"
"Michael, just because he has a pulse doesn't mean you have to chat him up. And put your mask back on!"
A woman wearing round glasses and an annoyed expression walked over, clipboard in hand. Next to Steven's bulky frame she looked even smaller than she actually was, though her stance alone made it clear who was in charge here.
Sighing exaggeratedly, Michael rolled his eyes and pulled up his mask.
"Just making friendly conversation. You know, welcoming the new kid?" he said.
Giving him an infuriated look, the woman turned to Tala, her blue eyes softening, and held out a hand.
"Detective Emily Watson." Gesturing with a tired expression at the leather-wearing redhead, she said, "My supposed partner, Detective Michael Parker. And you've already met Steven."
Michael's eyes twinkled, giving away the grin he was flashing Tala from behind the mask. Steven snorted next to Emily.
"Tala Ivanov." He accepted her offered hand gracefully, though he glared suspiciously at Michael when the man stuck out his hand as well. Tala shook it anyways.
"Steven, go see if Eddie has come up with anything in the bedroom. And take Michael with you," Emily said.
"I saw him first."
"Love is fleeting," she deadpanned, narrowing her eyes behind the wide frames.
Chuckling and rolling his shoulders, Michael strutted off after Steven, unable to resist tossing a wink at Tala.
"Don't worry, you'll get used to him … in a few years," Emily said. Poking Tala with the edge of her clipboard, she steered him forward. "This way."
Two more men were in the small kitchen, picking through food wrappers and Styrofoam boxes, depositing samples that interested them into plastic bags. They looked up when Emily and Tala entered. Handing Emily a list of their finds so far, they exited.
"Enjoy," one of them grumbled as they walked out.
Each burner on the grease-splattered stovetop had a dirty pot or pan on it, food still caked in them. Used plates and utensils were everywhere, along with empty cans and jars and fast food take-out bags. The beer and soda bottles that littered the floor clacked together loudly he and Emily waded inside. The sound startled the cockroaches that had greedily emerged after the two men had left. There was a loud crunch as Emily accidentally stepped on a roach, but she barely acknowledged it, her eyes following a trail of dripped sauces, soups and crumbs of food across the floor that the pests were feasting on.
The kitchen table stood in the centre of the room, covered in soiled paper plates, bits of half-eaten sandwiches, potatoes, rice cakes, soup, donuts and other junk food. From the crusty nature of the food remains it was clear that they had been there for at least a day, if not more.
Slumped across the table, face down in a plate of spaghetti, was Gary Gao.
Two plastic lawn chairs strained under his dead weight, his massive thighs spilling over the sides. A bulging stomach practically reached the ground while a flabby arm dangled over the edge of the table. His other fist still gripped a fork. He wore nothing but boxers and a dirty white undershirt with food stains down the front.
He jumped, unaware that he'd just been standing there, staring.
"Sorry, it's ... "
"It's always a shocker, seeing your first dead guy. Take a look at these." Even with her slight frame Emily could just barely squeeze between the dead man and the counter. She pointed with her pen to the back of the neck; a couple of strange little half moon-shaped marks dotted the fatty tissue.
"What made them?" Tala asked, studying the bruised indentions. "The muzzle of a gun?"
"Looks like he's been ... like this for a few days. I wonder, why didn't anyone notice his lack of activity around the building? A recluse?"
Emily nodded in confirmation.
"Neighbours say he was a nice guy, but very private."
"Nobody from work missed him?"
"No one here could name a workplace, or even a profession, but he paid the rent every month, on time, so he was employed somewhere."
" ... Does he have a record?"
"First thing we checked," Emily said. "He was a good citizen with a clean record. Anything he earned, he earned legit. You think this could be gang-related?"
"It's a bad neighbourhood," Tala pointed out, "but if he really was the quiet, gentle giant the others make him out to be, and he's never broken the law ... Who killed him, and why?"
"I think it's obvious what killed him" a voice drawled. Michael appeared in the doorway. "Just look at this guy! He was a coronary waiting to happen."
"There was nothing natural about this death," Tala said, kneeling down to look beneath the table. Coarse rope had been cruelly tied around the swollen purple ankles, having cut off circulation long before the man had passed away. "He was bound."
"Kinky," Michael said. "Feeding fetish gone wrong then?"
"Michael," Emily said sharply.
"No disrespect for the deceased, but I still don't see why we're here. We've already got the dead lawyer case from last week on our plates. We've searched the entire apartment and there's nothing. Not a word," Michael insisted.
Steven and a tall, dark-skinned man with a piercing in one ear appeared behind Michael.
"He's right, Emily," the black officer said, leaning against the doorway. "Hate to say it, but I'm with Mikey on this one: I don't think it's the same thing."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence, Eddie," Michael said.
"It might be a murder, but it's not our murderer," Eddie went on. "This guy could have gotten involved in some bizarre sex ring, had someone tie him up and feed him, overdid it, and died. Freaked, the other person just hightailed it out of the apartment without notifying anyone."
"If there was another person we should be able to some fingerprint samples in here," Steven said.
"I say we leave this to another team, get out of this dump, and get some coffee. Whatcha say, Tala?" Michael asked, though Emily was the one who answered, shortly.
While those two squabbled back and forth, Tala inched his way back around the body, almost slipping on a glob of yogurt. Eddie joined him, also pensively looking at the strange marks on the back of Gao's bald head.
"Eddie Jackson," he introduced himself polite.
"Tala Ivanov. Has the body been moved?"
"No." Guessing where Tala was heading with this, Eddie shrugged. "I'll take the shoulders."
Placing a hand on either side of the head while Eddy gripped the broad, fleshy shoulders, Tala counted to three and they both pulled, arms straining under the sheer weight of the dead body. They were finally able to pull him up high enough for gravity to do its work. The body slumped against the chairs, which threatened to break under the readjusted weight.
" ... Damn," Eddie gasped, his lanky body tensing as he stepped back, sending bottles scattering and catching his bickering colleagues' attention.
Tala hadn't moved from where he stood right next to the corpse, staring directly into the swollen, purple face. Orange pasta sauce was smeared across the mouth and cheeks, mixed with dark red blood that had seeped from his mouth, nose and …
Michael whistled from the doorway.
"My bad. It's definitely sick enough to be the same guy."
Emily leaned over.
"His eyes … just like Ginko last week."
She didn't finish the sentence. She didn't have to as they could all plainly see what was amiss. Empty eye sockets stared up at them. Veins and bone remained at the back of the hollowed gaps, but the eyes themselves had been crudely removed; carved right out of their sockets.
"That was pretty gutsy," Michael said, coming to stand next to where Tala was talking into his recorder. "Leave it to the Russians to get right down to business."
"I was brought here to do a job," Tala replied, hoping his voice didn't give away that the sight hadn't left him completely unfazed.
"Uh-huh," Michael said, eyes following a cockroach as it skittered in between containers. "Don't worry, though. Anything happens, I'll protect you."
"Do I look like a damsel-in-distress?" Tala asked frostily.
"Just trying to be friendly. We're gonna be colleagues from now on, aren't we?" Michael tugged at his cap, still watching the wandering cockroach. "Besides, I've gotta make my move before … Hang on."
Everyone looked up at the change in tone as Michael's voice, which had gone from relaxed to dead serious. The cockroach he'd been keeping an eye on had scuttle out of sight beneath the leaky fridge.
"Roaches tend to do that, Michael," Emily said, using her gloved finger to gently pry the corpse's mouth further open. "Hiding is second nature to them."
Michael walked over to the fridge and used his foot to push aside the rubbish. He paused, then pointed down at the floor.
"Yeah, but can a roach do that?"
Shallow grooves had been dug into the old linoleum before the fridge. Twisting his cap backwards, Michael pushed some junk with his foot. Leaning over the counter, he peered behind the fridge.
"There's something on the wall back here! Someone moved this thing, and recently: the grooves are still clean, unlike the rest of the floor. Ed, give me a hand with this."
With some effort the two men pulled the fridge away from the wall.
"We got a winner," Michael finally surrendered. "This is a homicide and it's the same killer."
"I knew it," Emily said, pulling out a digital camera to snap pictures of the greasy word that had been smeared onto the wall.
"Just like in Ginko's office," Emily said.
Steven moved aside as six men came in with the largest body bag Tala had ever seen and a gurney that didn't look like it would be able to support the body.
"Michael, Steven, Eddie, there has to be someone in this building that knows more about this man. Find them and get every last bit of information out of them."
"Yes, ma'am," Steven said while Eddie lazily saluted.
"I'd rather get something to eat," Michael sighed. "This is going to be a long night."
"If you're that hungry, help yourself," Tala said, holding at a mouldy box of doughnuts.
"Point taken," Michael said, balking at the suggestion but slinging an arm around Tala's shoulders. "Though we could get some grub later, if you want."
"Let's get going, Romeo," Eddie said, grabbing the other's arm and tugging him out of the kitchen. "See you guys back at headquarters."
"I don't think I'll ever get used to him," Tala said to Emily as they last left the kitchen, leaving more room for the experts to figure out how they were going to get the massive corpse down the treacherous stairs.
"He kinda grows on you in due time, like fungus. He's a player, but I admit I admire his dedication. He's a good detective, and a good enough person."
Out in the hall Tala breathed in the fresh air appreciatively. The police tape had been removed to allow for the gurney to come through earlier. Tattered yellow remains floated in the faint draft as they descended the stairwell.
"So, what do you think of your first real crime scene?" Emily suddenly asked.
"Memorable," Tala said. "A pretty strong indication how different the real world is from the controlled environment of a classroom or training facility or supervised fieldwork."
"Well, for someone who hasn't even received any degree yet, you conduct yourself very professionally," Emily said, her long ponytail swinging from side to side with every step. "The Captain mentioned that you were the best in your year, but I wasn't expecting you to show this level of maturity and collectiveness."
Tala smiled uncomfortably at the compliment.
"I was only allowed to come here because Bryan is convinced I have a lot to offer."
"On a first name basis with the Captain?" Emily asked with a raised brow.
"We go back," Tala said plainly, looking at his feet as they walked. "Known each other since we were teens."
"Captain's in his early thirties. That's a pretty long time. He never mentioned you, though."
Tala covered up the falter in his steps by pretending to wipe something off his shoes.
"We sort of lost contact when he moved to Japan."
"Captain Balcov is as sharp as a needle, and to the point. If he's put this much faith in you, then you must be really something." She patted his arm encouragingly. "Do you want to make a quick stop at a coffee shop? Station coffee isn't strong enough and Michael will be more agreeable once he gets a few properly brewed litres into his system."
Nodding, Tala followed her out the building and it was decided that they would take his car.
"University funds all its kidnapped students so well?" she asked, walking around the sleek vehicle.
"It's a loan," Tala said evasively, opening all the locks.
People were still milling around on the street. Having heard that a body had been found, they were probably loitering in morbid hopes of catching a glimpse of it as it was wheeled out. Following Emily's directions to the coffee shop, Tala listened to her as she explained the next steps in this new investigation.
Being an experienced detective meant that she could cope better with the scene they had just abandoned. As he listened to Emily he admired her ability to detach herself from the crime, just as Steven had advised him. Despite having been praised for his 'professional' handling of the situation, Tala felt a cold seep down his back every time he thought of the overfed, eyeless body in the festering kitchen.
Read & Review, please.