I drove the Camaro as we left the property, both of us completely silent. Jeremiah's death answered some questions, but in such a way that it took us back to square one. We had nothing now. His death had not been a suicide, and I knew that because his body had stopped bleeding, while the woman's still had been. She'd therefore probably died after him. Also, there had been no gun beside him with which he could have shot himself. I suppose there was always the possibility of a double suicide, but I doubted that. Jeremiah wasn't the type of man who would give up his life like that. Then there was the possibility of the woman having killed him and then killed herself…but again, it was instinct, a gut feeling, telling me otherwise. What we'd just witnessed was a murder.
From that, it was pretty clear that Jeremiah hadn't been the one killing off the bosses. So if he hadn't done that, what was he responsible for? The bank robbery was a given, but what about destroying The White Tiger? He'd really been after me, I knew that, but how far had he really gone? How much of this was to be credited to our unknown challenger?
"Mello," Matt said, speaking at last. "You can't take me back to L."
I gripped the steering wheel hard. I wasn't in the mood to change my plans right now. I had to get back to HQ and discuss this. Though nothing had been taken from me by this, I truly felt as if I had lost, simply because I'd overlooked the possibility of a completely unknown person being involved. Why? Where had I gone wrong? I'd been set on Jeremiah because…because of Matt? Because Matt was with him? I'd been so set on it being a direct attack on me, something completely personal, and I'd simply assumed…
It was as Near said. It had all been assumption. Clever assumptions, sure, but that didn't change what they were. I'd wanted Matt to be involved, because I'd wanted to believe he was alive. I'd wanted an excuse to search for him, because I could never go do something simply because of emotional attachment. Perhaps emotions were what drove me, but they went in weird directions, taking me with them. Perhaps I could say my emotions were in-tune with my mind. They knew I couldn't show the weakness of attachment through relief, so when I'd met up with Matt again, they'd replaced relief with anger.
"Mello," Matt's voice was stronger this time, demanding my attention. "Don't take me to L."
We were hardly a mile from HQ. I didn't glance at him. "Why?"
"I don't want to be tied down to a profession. That's what would happen if you take me to him. He and Near will want me to help with cases, and I don't want that. If I refuse, they'll probably send me to prison. I'm free right now, and I like it this way."
"You're saying you want to go on being nothing," my voice was bitter, but it was only to keep me from blurting out that I didn't want to go back either. "Living a life that's worthless, meaningless. Achieving nothing." I swerved over to the side of the street and shoved open my door, getting out. "I can walk from here."
Matt slid into the driver's seat, looking at me out the window. "You can come with me Mello."
"Why would I want to do that?"
"Because you're already tied down, and I'm offering to cut the ropes. Look, this has been your obsession your entire life. L, Near, detective work. You don't like it, it's not your passion. It's something you're doing because you've been trained to, not because you want to. You're always focusing on everyone else. It's really kind of bizarre, with your personality. You should be self-centered and egotistical. But you're not."
I clenched my teeth, leaning down against the car. "Oh really? So what am I then?"
Matt leaned against the other side of the door, putting his face closer to mine. "You're insecure. Insecurity is your whole being. You want to know how I know?"
"Shoot," I snapped, glaring.
"You're obsessed with perfection. You dress up in leather and carry around a gun to make yourself look tough. You like the attention people give you over it. You like to have them all stare and acknowledge you. You're working with L only because it is L, because you've been taught to seek his approval all your life. You were taught to want to impress him, that he was the only one who you could impress. That he was the only one that mattered. You even pray because you're seeking approval. And you've been so deprived your entire life, with no one bothering to ever tell you were good enough, or just love you for being you, that you don't know how to grant others the same thing. You don't know how to tell someone you like them."
"And what gives you that idea?"
He smirked. "Because your hello kiss was full of kink, that's why. That's not what I'm asking of you, and it never was. I'm not asking for anything. When I kissed you goodbye back then, I really meant it as a friend. I wasn't saying I want sex. I thought it was the last time I was ever going to see you. Jeez, even Bible guys kissed on the cheek, didn't they? You don't see that anymore. Nothing can ever be innocent, it's like the world is against affection. I'm not a complicated guy Mello. I don't have hidden agendas. I just don't think you should go on living like you do. Doing this isn't going to make you happy."
I huffed in frustration, mostly because everything he was saying was truth and the truth about myself tended to be things I didn't like to hear. I couldn't help that I didn't know how to kiss like he did. I just couldn't to the lovey-cuddly stuff. It was bizarre and foreign to me, something I'd never gotten so I didn't know how to return it. As for desperately seeking approval….well what did he know? He didn't know me so well as thought…I was not desperate for approval, or attention, or anything else. I just liked to get it when it was given. Perhaps at times I would give my all to earn it, but what was so bad about that?
"I'm perfectly happy," I said. "Besides, what do you expect me to do? Abandon the case, L, and Near? To what end? What purpose?"
Matt sighed heavily. "There is no purpose Mello! There doesn't always have to be one! Haven't ever just done something for the hell of it, for fun? All I'm really asking is that you honor your promise. We finished with Takada, that's over now. And you said that when it was over, you'd sit in the passenger seat, and chill, and just let me drive wherever the hell I want."
"I didn't say that! I said we could go drive in the desert, I didn't say any of that other junk."
We both glared at each other a moment, then Matt reached over to the passenger seat and picked up his gun, which I'd tossed there when I'd gotten out. "Okay, new development. Matt holds the gun, and Mello gets his ass in the car, right now." He pointed the firearm at me with cocky pride, a triumphant grin across his face. Cussing him out as I did, I stomped around to the passenger side, then slammed the door after I'd gotten in. He tapped to gun's muzzle playfully against my head once I'd sat down. "Relax, Mel. Don't be so tense, and don't be mad at me. I'm thinking of you."
"This is a kidnapping!" I snapped, glowering in my seat as he pressed down on the gas. We pulled away from the curb so fast the tires screeched, getting my adrenaline going. For fun, he'd said. Just do something for fun. There was a new idea.
"Whatever," he tucked the gun down within his own reach but out of mine. "Just deal with it. You need to quit being the boss for once anyway. You're always the one holding the gun. Maybe being kidnapped will be good for you."
"Yeah right. First police station I see, I'm getting you in one way or another. Don't laugh at me, bastard, you know I will!"
But he was already laughing, and it was too late to stop him. I swear, the only thing Matt ever found truly funny was me. Where other people would get scared and obey, he'd just laugh. He'd really laugh. I don't know why, but I guess he just saw through the facade. We both knew he wasn't going to shoot me, and that I certainly wasn't going to try to get him arrested. We both knew L and Near could do well enough without me, and would probably have the whole case cracked in a few weeks. We also both knew I was happy enough to sit in the passenger's seat, lean my head back and close my eyes, and just let myself daydream for a while.
After all, this was LA, and here, the unexpected was around every corner. We wouldn't be here for much longer, but I'd traveled enough to know the rest of the world had its twists as well. We had a gun, no money, a half-empty Monster drink between us and a beaten-up Camaro, but that was all we needed for a long desert road out of California.
Yes, there will be a sequel. I chose to do a sequel rather than more chapters because the setting of the story is going to change a great deal, and I didn't feel that it would flow well if I just kept going. Thank so very much for reading it!
Did you find the Easter eggs? No? Well start thinking! They really are there!
Now, let me explain something about Jeremiah. He was indeed one of the mafia members Mello worked with, and you can see him in the manga. I can't be sure he wasn't killed, but I can't find him dead anywhere. And no, Jeremiah isn't really his name. I don't think his name was ever given. You can see him on page 197 of volume 7. He's other places as well.