Warnings: Spoilers for the whole series, shonen-ai, PG-13 language.
This story gave me so much trouble, so it took me a long while to write it. My big idea was Mello going to prison if he had survived the Kira case, and then I had a bunch of smaller ideas floating around beside it. I got to thirty pages with this thing at least three times then ended up deleting almost all of it. Then I thought of the Death Note doujinshi Limelight, and suddenly all the ideas were able to work together. I've never even read it, I just know the basic plot, but it helped inspire me.
There are little things sprinkled throughout for you to discover, so you can start solving the mystery yourself. Think of it as Easter eggs. My late Easter present to you.
And yes, Mello really did commit all those crimes. I found references for every one of them in the manga. I'll even give them to you, at the end of this chapter.
Death Note and all related characters belong to Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata.
"We, the jury, find the defendant Mihael Keehl guilty of one count of 1st degree murder, accomplice to multiple counts of 1st degree murder, two counts of manslaughter, accessory to the purchase and sale of illegal substances, illegal possession and use of explosives, theft, kidnapping, accessory to kidnapping, extortion, nuclear blackmail, accessory to hijacking, and espionage."
"The defendant, Mihael Keehl, is hereby sentenced to life in prison, without the possibility of parole."
"This court is dismissed."
And that was it. My life might as well have ended that day, the day the judge and jury looked at me as if I were lower than scum in the gutter, the day the words "life in prison" sounded throughout the court, and throughout the entire world. The reporters, the flash of cameras, microphones shoved in my face. Coverage of the case in newspapers, on the TV, the radio. Everywhere. Kira may have been gone, but he sure did leave a mess to clean up. I, unfortunately, was part of that mess.
I once introduced myself as Mello, an alias chosen for my safety. But no longer. The name Mello was worth nothing now, just as it had been ever since Soichiro Yagami saw my true name. Mello was gone, and the man now known to the entire world as Mihael Keehl was behind bars.
I'd gone through the weeks since Takada's death and my arrest in an uncertain daze. One part of me acknowledged the loss, but most of me was still trying to keep up. I'd had it in my head for years that, someday, I would become better than Near. It wasn't just a dream; I believed it would be truth. That it would unavoidably be truth. Hopes die hard, but mine died fully when LA State Prison came into sight. Only then did I realize it was truly over, and that I had failed.
As I stepped off the bus, handcuffed and already dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit, I got to thinking that this was to be my life. Caged until I died, living with the lowest kind of scum. How had it come to this? At what point had I reached their level? How was it possible, that I was as low as them?
I was supposedly lucky. Lucky, lucky, lucky Mihael. So very fortunate. Lucky to be in chains, lucky to be strip-searched and leered at by other inmates. Lucky because I wasn't dead. Death would have been preferable to this. I would rather have died, I would rather have gone down trying. I couldn't imagine growing old here, day after day the same, decades to think over everything. Wondering if it could have been different, if there was anything I could have done, or if it all had been futile from the start, a useless fight. I couldn't live like that. I wouldn't be able to stand it.
The guards knew it too. They'd been warned by the doctor who examined me before I came that I could develop suicidal tendencies, so they put me under close watch. Why did they bother? Why did they want to keep a murderer alive? But they drugged me up and locked me away, and I spent the remainder of my first day in a heady state of euphoria.
My first stroke of "luck" had come during Takada's kidnapping. According to Rule IX in the Death Note, if a name is accidentally misspelled four times, the Note will be rendered useless against that person. Takada, in her panic, managed to scribble down my name wrong multiple times, totaling over four, therefore causing Rule IX to take effect, essentially forever removing my risk of being killed by the Note. However, on her final try, she spelled it right. It wasn't fatal, but it still had an effect, one that baffled doctors. I heard them refer to it several times as a "spasm of every bodily system", but managed to figure out that it meant my body had shut down completely for a brief amount of time. That little episode caused the truck to wreck, and while I was out with a concussion, Takada, under the influence of a Death Note, set fire to the truck. Again, luck plagued me. All the proper people arrived in time to pull me out and haul me off to the hospital, where the doctors found my entire system to be in chaos in what was, as they said, one of the strangest things they had ever seen. My heart was having an especially difficult time getting itself back into a rhythm again. The end result of my three day hospital stay was a clean bill of health - though they were a bit concerned about my sugar intake – and a heart medication prescription. They also warned me to try to stay calm; too much stress and I could give myself a heart attack.
Then I was left to wait, to sit in a jail cell until it was announced that the Kira case was over. Though it wasn't publicly stated, I knew the case's ending could only mean that Near had won, and Kira was dead.
Then came the arguments over where I was to be tried and how they were to go about it. They weren't used to dealing with supernatural cases, that was certain. Still, as I was at the time still considered an American citizen, I was shipped off to LA to be brought up before a judge. He asked "How do you plead?", and I said "Guilty" with the cockiest smile on my face that I could possibly muster. Why deny it? What was the point? I wanted it over with quick, but it still took months for all the charges to be collected and proven. Then it was off to prison.
The one thing that was a true distraction to my mind during that time was Matt. I had been in the hospital at the same time he was, but managed to get very little information from the doctors and nurses. When I was at last told something, it was only the blunt words, "We can't legally cremate a person until all brain activity has stopped. That's the only reason he's still taking up a bed here."
For that reason alone, I was grateful for the meds. They took away the pain I felt for failing him. Most of it.
I wasn't built for prison. 5' 6" and a measly 114 lbs wasn't going to earn me any respect, even with a scar over half my face. After I was moved off suicide watch and into the main cell block, I realized just how vulnerable I was without a gun in my hand and thugs around me. It stung to realize that tough-guy Mello had been little more than a kid hiding behind his firearm and a gang. I could fight, but I was too lean to be a good brawler, and I wasn't well trained enough to fight as I was built. I knew this would cause trouble for me, so I avoided leaving my cell. That iron door was the only defense I had now. I managed to cling to my pride by reminding myself that I was far smarter than anyone in that prison, but I hated feeling as if I was weak.
I didn't know what to do with myself anymore. Good behavior soon earned me some freedoms, but I saw no point in them. To what purpose could I study, or devote hours to working out? I was never going to be let out of here, I was never going to overcome Near. It was over, my entire purpose in life. I had tried and failed. I'd lost my chance…
…and I didn't expect to be given another one.
A year in prison does something to you. Something changes, something gets turned off. It was no longer waking up in the morning and thinking "What am I going to do today?", it's waking up and thinking, "Food." Then going from food, to toilet, to pacing, to food. Again and again. Repetition. No thought, no differences. Perhaps something like a caged animal would get to feeling. It was partially my own fault, because I rarely went out, but I couldn't be blamed for that. I was a target, and I wasn't so stupid and prideful as to go and get myself hurt for the sake of trying to prove I wasn't afraid.
It was night, and I was lying on my mattress, staring at the rosary I'd hung at the foot of the bed, trying to figure out if I still knew how to pray. It was a pointless activity, but somewhat new. I strangely hadn't thought of it yet, and now it didn't seem like a bad time to try. I was feeling clean, which was unusual, but the guard had forced me to shower today for "sanitary reason". He could have just told me I stank. I hated all the beating-about-the-bush and code-talking that was done around here. The guard that patrolled my section - David was his name I think - was perhaps not so bad as the others, but he was bad enough. My first day, as he'd given me an injection of lorazepam, I'd cussed him out and he'd done nothing but smirk and say "Same to you." His nonchalant reaction would have left me ticked off for the rest of the day, if it hadn't been for the drugs.
At any rate, by that time of night, David was usually off work, yet I kept hearing him talking in the corridor outside my cell. His voice was an easy thing to recognize because it was so deep, so I was certain it was him. It was just murmuring, a quiet conversation with someone, but I couldn't figure out why he hadn't gone. I didn't have a watch or clock, so the meals and guard changes were the only way I could really keep track of time. David was throwing everything off with his late stay.
I sat up as the thump of boots approached my cell. I heard the click of the electronic lock withdrawing, and the door creaked open.
"What do you want now?" I grumbled, glaring at David as he watched me with that "I know your kind" bordering-on-a-smirk expression. "Haven't you bothered me enough for the day? Why the hell are you still here?"
"Get your stuff," he said. "We're going to take a walk."
"If you'd rather leave your things behind, I don't give damn," he said. "All you have are the beads anyway." He jerked his thumb toward the rosary, and I sat up angrily, snatching it off the wall and putting it around my neck. I did have some other things, some notebooks and pencils that I'd used to pass the time in here, but they didn't matter to me. I wasn't sure why the necklace did mattered, but it had seen me through a lot.
I presented my wrists automatically for the cuffs David held. What was he about, taking me out of my cell this late? Was I being transferred? But that would happen during the day, wouldn't it?
"What's going on?" I said. "I like to stay away from talking any walks in the dark around here, especially while in chains. Can't this wait until morning?"
David shook his head as he led me from the cell. "Just stay quiet."
I hated following orders so easily, but continuing to question him wasn't going to get me anywhere. The halls were almost totally silent at this time of night. Judging by the route we were taking, I quickly assumed that I was being taken to the Warden. But why so late? Couldn't this have been done earlier today, or couldn't it have waited until tomorrow? Why was this being done now, in the dead of night, as if it was something to be kept secret?
I was indeed taken to the Warden's office, but we didn't enter it. The Warden was already waiting for us outside her door. Personally, I hated the woman. She was one of those "tough" people who had a tendency to look down their nose at you. Not only that, but she smirked like David did, the kind of smirk that meant they thought they already had you figured out.
"What's going on?" I said. "Doing something illegal in the dead of night, are we?"
The Warden sniffed, her gloved hands clasped behind her back. "Hardly illegal, Mr. Keehl. Merely rather unconventional. David, bring him this way."
I raised my eyebrows curiously, and didn't need David's encouraging jerk to begin to follow after the Warden. She led us through back halls usually reserved only for employees, until we reached a loading area, where I supposed shipments of food and supplies were usually dropped off. There were no trucks there now, but there was a car, an old Rolls-Royce by the looks of it. It was in good condition though, something that would belong to someone with a lot of money.
An older man dressed in a stiff, immaculate uniform stood waiting by the car, and he gave a slight bow as we approached. When he spoke, it strangely wasn't to the Warden, or even to David.
"Mr. Keehl, I presume?" he said, his British accent bringing back old memories. I nodded. What did he want with me? "I am here on the behalf of my employer, who has a most beneficial offer for you. Would you perhaps be interested?"
It was an odd contrast, the restraint of the handcuffs telling me I was a criminal, and this man's polite tone telling me I was someone to be respected. "Who's your employer?"
"I am not at liberty to say, sir."
Well that little line reeked of suspicious activity. I frowned uncertainly. "Shouldn't I know who I might be working for?"
"You will, in time, if you accept the offer. My employer wishes for you to make an unbiased opinion, however."
"Ah, so it's someone I know?" If knowing this "employer's" name could make me biased, then it would most likely be someone I either liked or disliked, as opposed to someone I didn't know at all. I'd known plenty of people throughout the years, from all walks of life and many different places, but there were only a three of them that I could imagine doing this, two of whom were in hiding. The third…well, if I was told it was him, I certainly would be biased. Biased enough to send this suited man back to his employer straight away, and answer his offer with a very sincerely meant, "Go to hell."
"What are the terms of this offer then?" I said. I already had my suspicions firmly set on who might have arranged this, but I knew I couldn't be too certain of anything. After all, this would be a strange move even for him.
"I shall explain, sir. Madam Warden, if you would please remove the gentlemen's restraints." The suited man smiled politely, and the Warden huffed even as she began to unlock the cuffs.
"I hope you know what you're doing," she said.
"Indeed," the man nodded, still smiling. He withdrew an envelope from his jacket and held it out to me. "This letter is for you, sir. I was instructed to deliver it if you showed interest in my employer's offer."
I frowned, ripping open the envelope quickly. The letter within was printed on plain white paper, and wasn't marked with a company seal or a name.
To Mr. Mihael Keehl,
As you have expressed interest in my offer, I suppose I must elaborate on my terms. It is quite simple really. I have heard of your upbringing and abilities, and believe your talents to be sorely wasted in prison. I wish to offer you a position as an investigator working under me. In exchange for your work, you will be freed from prison and provided with food and board. However, there are several terms you must agree to. You will be under surveillance by camera, your movements outside of HQ will be carefully tracked, and your departure from HQ will only be allowed if I approve it. I believe we can work well together. I am fully prepared to tolerate you, if you can agree to be civil. I hope to receive a positive answer.
Oh, the man's name is Benjamin. Do not underestimate him. Give him your answer, and he will take care of the rest. Do not bother to ask him about my identity.
There was no signature.
"This is all already arranged?" I said, looking back to Benjamin. "If I say yes, you'll take me right now?"
"Indeed, sir," Benjamin took out another envelope, this one already opened and filled with carefully folded papers. "All the appropriate signatures have been made. The judge and the governor have approved your release. We also have a letter from President Sairas legally putting you into the custody of my employer, should you agree to the terms. All the arrangements are made."
So this was someone with enough authority to get through to all the important people, a fact which instantly gave me more proof to back up my suspicions. Well if Near wanted an underling, he would have to look elsewhere. It was not that I did not relish the idea of freedom, but if it was freedom at his hands, I certainly didn't want it. Accepting this meant I would owe something to him, and I never wanted to be in his debt. I wasn't going to jump to accept such an offer, as if he were doing me such a merciful favor.
"I can't agree to this," I said. Both David and the Warden gave me a look of disbelief, but Benjamin just nodded as if he had expected it.
"Very well, Mr. Keehl," he said, opening the driver's side door of the car. "I shall inform my employer of your answer."
I turned away, without David's encouragement, prepared to head back to my cell, when a voice calling my name from behind stopped me.
"Mihael-kun, I believe you would like to rethink your answer."
My heart pounded, adrenaline and panic coursing through me. No…it couldn't be…but I knew that voice. I didn't want to turn around, but I had to know for certain. How could I face him? The jury's verdict was ringing in my head, the judge's words. Guilty, guilty, guilty. Murder, kidnapping, theft, blackmail, extortion, espionage…
"The defendant, Mihael Keehl, is hereby sentenced to life in prison, without the possibility of parole."
I'd sunk too low. Far too low for his attention. I'd shattered all my teachings, abandoned every hope and dream and bit of good in my life for the sake of my own gain. Why was he here? He was supposed to be in hiding, he was supposed to be dead…
I braced myself and turned, meeting the eyes of the hunched man with messy black hair who stood by the back door of the car. He smiled slightly as I looked at him, then pulled a sucker from his pocket and put it in his mouth. "My offer still stands, if you are perhaps more inclined to answer positively this time."
As I promised, here is the list of references for Mello's crimes. I hope you have the mangas handy.
1st degree murder: killed a mafia boss, referenced in Death Note v. 7, pg, 197
Accomplice to 1st degree murder: the killing of the mafia members while obtaining the Death Note, the killing of the organization first sent after him by the President, and the killing of SPK members. Referenced in Death Note v. 8, pg. 73, pg. 80, pg. 177, and pg. 106-107
Manslaughter: caused the death of two mafia members during the explosion used to destroy the mafia hideout. Referenced in Death Note v. 9, pg 78
Accessory to the purchase and sale of illegal substances: the mafia family he was a part of actively sold drugs. Referenced several times. Ex. Death Note v. 8, pg. 73
Illegal possession and use of explosives: destroyed the mafia hideout to avoid arrest. Death Note v. 9, chapters 73 and 74
Theft: stole the Death Note from Japanese police. Volume 8, chapter 64
Kidnapping/accessory to: had the Director of Japanese police and Sayu Yagami kidnapped, and personally kidnapped Takada himself. Referenced multiple times. Ex. Death Note v. 7, chapter 60, Death Note v. 8, chapter 62, Death Note v. 12
Extortion: threatened the lives of the Director and Sayu in order to obtain the Death Note. Referenced multiple times. Ex. Death Note v. 7, chapter 60, and Death Note v. 8, chapter 62
Nuclear Blackmail: threatened the President of the United States that he would be forced through the Death Note to launch a nuclear strike. Referenced in Death Note v. 8, pg. 134
Accessory to Hijacking: ordered the hijacking of the plane Mr. Yagami was on. Referenced Death Note v. 8, chapter 64
Espionage: spied on the SPK, which was, at first, an official government organization. Referenced multiple times. Ex. Death Note v. 7, pg. 163 and 181.
If you don't know what any of the official terms mean, look them up on Wikipedia. I did :)