I have had the idea for this fic for ages – long before I got my mitts on Another Note and even before I made the decision that Narroch and I should cram B into a bonus act of Poison Apple.
Doesn't seem quite as mental when I confess that, incidentally, I came up with the plot for Poison Apple before I'd even seen/read Death Note itself…
Anyway, a little about this fic. It is a multi-chapter story – a mini-fic is probably the best way of describing it, and it will have six chapters, three of which I have already written. :) Additionally, it is also two stories in one – they are linked (obviously), but every chapter will be split into two segments. The first is a present day story, set during the Kira case; the second, written in italics, is an old case, set before the LA murders as described in Another Note.
Like a lot of the writers on FFNet who have decided to write fics including Beyond Birthday, I have taken a lot of artistic liberty – it seems to be a common "glitch" wherein the readers are asked to forget what befell B at the end of the novel. I don't like to call this fic "AU" because it isn't at all removed from the Death Note-verse, it's just… non-canon, I suppose.
Pairings… ehh… BxL, LxB, and Light is in the mix somewhere…
I – Jack the Ripper
Light Yagami awoke to the sight of an unfamiliar room.
His head ached when he moved it and his vision slid in out and out of focus and he felt stiff all over from sleeping in his clothes.
Light was, as a rule, skilled in the art of deduction; adept at taking the tiniest slivers of information and piecing them together to create a theory that in turn birthed a satisfactory conclusion to a question that lay unsolved—
But he couldn't for the life of him deduce quite how he had come to be here; in this room with its white-painted, cracked ceiling and oppressive, peeling floral wallpaper, lying in a bed riddled with renegade springs seemingly designed to dig painfully into one's spine.
Off to his left he heard the rhythmic clacking of laptop keys; he sat up in bed, rubbing at his painful neck as he followed the source of the clacking down to the floor beside the bed.
Of course. It figured. It made perfect sense, all in the form of a single Romanic letter.
"Where the hell are we?" Light demanded, prodding the detective with his foot. "Hey, you. Ryuzaki!"
"We are in England, Light-kun," L answered blandly, pushing Light's foot away.
Light blinked, thrown off.
"Excuse me… we're where?"
"England." L glanced at him over his shoulder. "Great Britain. The United Kingdom. Whichever you prefer."
"We were not in England when I fell asleep!" Light spat incredulously.
"I know – but you should know that you also did not fall asleep of your own accord. I took the liberty of drugging you. I didn't think you would take very kindly to my suggestion of this notion. Incidentally, you have been out for a very long time."
"Can I not turn my back on you for two minutes?" Light snapped, stunned by this revelation. "You invite me to be on the taskforce to help you investigate Kira, I agree to stay late at your hotel to look over clues and case-notes, you offer me a cup of tea, and the next thing I'm waking up in England, with you admitting that you drugged me and brought me here without my permission…?!"
"I knew you'd be angry," L replied nonchalantly, not looking at him.
Light swung his legs over the edge of the bed, glaring down at the detective.
"My father isn't going to be very happy about this," he said coldly.
"On the contrary, he has already been informed. Watari took care of it."
Light heaved himself up and stepped past L, rubbing at his aching back as he went to the window to look out.
"This is kidnap," he muttered blackly; though with enough volume so that L would be able to hear him.
"I know," L responded cheerfully.
"Where are we in England?"
"Where? London, Light-kun."
Light peeled back the musty curtains to glance out at the street below; the scene outside was like that directly out of a history book on Victorian Britain. It was raining, the sky a dull, oppressive grey that seemed to seep down into the scenery itself, the filthy pavement shining with the wetness. The street was very narrow and quite far down, giving the impression that this room they were in was high up. The other buildings in the street were all tall, tapered and crammed close together, with small windows and brickwork that had seen better days.
"It's… nothing like I expected," Light ventured at last.
"We are not in a very nice part of London, Light-kun. All the monuments and theatres and everything are across the city."
"And we are in London at all why?"
"I have my reasons. There is just something that I should look into, and I thought that you might be of help to me."
"Wow." Light came back to the bed and sat down on it. "Must be pretty important if you dropped the Kira case for it."
"Not at all, actually." L hesitated, tilting his head towards Light. "I think that this… may in fact have a lot to do with the Kira case."
"Has Kira moved to England, do you think?"
"No," was all L said.
"No questions at the moment, Light-kun. I will explain later." L went back to his laptop. "At the moment I am very busy."
Light gave a frustrated little sigh and got up once again, heading for the tiny en suite bathroom.
"Okay, well, I have to use the bathroom, so…"
L didn't answer him and Light went in, shutting the door behind him and pulling the stiff little lock across. He went over to the sink to wash his face and, on glancing up into the mirror, caught Ryuk's reflection.
"There you are," he muttered, keeping his voice as low as possible. "Did you come with us?"
"No," Ryuk replied. "You were busy working with that L guy, so I left, and I came back to the hotel room, you were both gone. I had to go all the way back up to the Shinigami Realm to look for you."
"You'd suck as a bodyguard, Ryuk."
"Well, it's not my job to look after you," Ryuk snickered. "What's going on, anyway?"
"I wish I knew. He said something about… well, something over here to do with the Kira case."
"Have you been killing a lot of people over here lately?"
"No. Well, not a significant number. Nothing that would make him think Kira had moved over here, anyway."
"But doesn't he think that you're Kira?"
"Partly. He's not completely sure. It doesn't matter, anyway. He doesn't think it actually is Kira, whatever it is; and it isn't. I can vouch for that myself." Light gripped the edges of the sink. "Look, Ryuk, I need you to go back to Japan. Tell Misa she has to keep killing criminals, okay? I can't do it here, I don't have the Death Note on me."
"But I just got here—"
"Ryuk, this is possibly what L is up to. Maybe there is no real reason for us to be here – he just took me away from Japan unexpectedly to see if the killings stop."
Ryuk gave a grudging nod, rolling his yellow eyes as he backed off through the bathroom wall.
"Okay, see ya later…"
Light finished up in the bathroom and came out, running wet fingers through his hair to smooth it back into shape. He glanced about for L, who had since vacated his spot on the floor – his laptop was closed but still flashing in stand-by mode.
He found the detective over by the window he had previously been at, holding back the curtain so that he too could look out at the drab, dull street below.
"Doesn't it just look like a perfect place to be a detective, Light-kun?" he said; it was less of a question and more of a statement. "Dark, filthy, with all this Gothic Victorian architecture and choking smog hanging over the entire city—"
"Heh. Sounds like the beginning of a crime novel."
"You'd be surprised. A lot of the most famous fictional criminals and monsters are British Victorian inventions." L tilted his head in thought. "Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, Frankenstein, Jekyll and Hyde…"
"What is this, an educational field trip?" Light snapped irritably.
"No. These are just points of interest." He paused for a long time. "…Of course, they weren't all fictional, were they?"
Light gave a bewildered shrug, not knowing what L was getting at.
"You are familiar with Jack the Ripper, I presume?" L supplied at this.
"Well, not with him," Light replied sarcastically.
L gave a humourless little laugh.
"Well, no. Nobody was. He was never caught."
"I know who you mean. Murderer in Victorian London, definitely killed five women, though possibly even eight or nine." Light arched an eyebrow. "Don't tell me we're here to catch Jack the Ripper, Ryuzaki."
"Don't be ridiculous, Light-kun." L glanced at him, his expression unreadable. "Really, I'm surprised at you."
"I wasn't being serious, but why are you mentioning him?" He paused. "Do you think there's a similarity to Kira, the way a faceless serial killer was given a notorious nickname, or—?"
"No, nothing like that; though that is an interesting point, Light-kun."
"Then why are we here, Ryuzaki?"
"Because whilst we might not be hunting for a murderer who surely expired before the 1930s, and most likely before that, we are here to find a murderer."
L looked again at Light, who offered nothing by way of reply to this.
"…One who was also never caught."
"What are you going to do about this, L?"
L glanced up at Watari from the newspaper he'd been immersed in; the elderly man was pouring tea over at the small table near the door of the hotel suite.
"What do you mean, Watari?"
"I mean that." Watari nodded at the front page of the newspaper as he came over with the cup and saucer. "These murders."
L blinked as he took the teacup, sipping daintily at the hot drink.
"Why, catch the murderer of course, Watari." He tilted his head. "We came all the way up to London from Winchester for this. What else do you suppose I should do?"
"I know you're going to catch the murderer," Watari responded pleasantly, sinking into an armchair with a cup of his own. "That goes without saying. I meant… do you have any idea how you're going to go about it? There appears to be no connection between any of the murder victims. They were differing genders, had different ages—"
"No, that's not true, Watari. That's not true at all. On the surface there appears to be little connection between all of the murders, but when you do some digging – very little, I feel that I have to stress – you find that there is, in fact, a very obvious connection between all of them."
"Here, I will show you." L put his teacup down and leapt nimbly from his armchair, padding across the room to retrieve a file he'd placed on the desk. He brought it back over, handing it to Watari. "Now, I confess that I probably have something of an unfair advantage over the London Metropolitan Police concerning this now that I've spotted the connection…"
Watari flipped some sheets back and forward.
"All I see are differences," he said at length. "The gaps between the ages of the victims—"
"That's it, Watari. That's the connection." L pointed at the information on the first victim. "First victim, male, Caucasian, British origin, aged fifty-two. Second victim, female, again Caucasian and of British origin, aged thirty-nine. Third victim, female, black, African origin, aged twenty-six… You'll find that there's a recurring number of years separating their ages."
Watari was silent for a moment, calculating; then he looked up, frowning.
"Thirteen," he said.
"Right. Thirteen." He got back onto his own chair and took up his tea again. "That was all I needed, that recurring thirteen. I know who the murderer is. All I have to do is find him."
"And this murderer would be…?"
"Here, I'll write it down for you."
L scrabbled about for a piece of paper and a pen; when he came into possession of both, he wrote something with a quick flourish and held it out to Watari, who took it in puzzlement.
The number thirteen, written in its numerical form:
"Thirteen?" Watari seemed puzzled. "I thought this was your solution, not the actual murderer."
"Look closer and you'll see that it's actually both."
Watari adjusted his glasses and squinted harder at the paper; and then raised his eyebrows in a manner that was still somehow extremely grave.
"B," was all he said.
L gave a detached nod, staring off across the room at something that wasn't there.
"Right," he agreed absently. "B."
Additional note about this fic – it has a "Gothic" twist (as in, the literary movement rather than the black-lipstick-and-eyeliner kind…) and thus each chapter is themed around a figure from British Victorian-period literature… with the exception of Jack the Ripper, who was, of course, a real person. Not that that has stopped movies, novels, comic books and cartoons from using him as a character, but whatever.
…However, an interesting point is that the overall title of the fic comes from Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, which, while coming from what would also have been the Victorian period, is American. That's it, though – everything else is British, which unfortunately means I had to leave out Edgar Allan Poe, but I guess I kind of overuse him anyway…
Anyway… yeah. Not much happened this chapter, but hopefully your interest is piqued enough that you will come back for chapter two!
P.S: You know, it seems like an exaggeration that it is always raining here in Britain – it's not, though, ironically, it is actually raining where I am as I write this…