AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story takes place ten years after the ending of Azumanga Daioh. It tells of Tomo Takino's biggest case during her tenure at the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Force.
This is not a reunion fic. There will be no descriptions of what the rest of the Azu gang have been up to since graduation. Only two other characters from Azumanga Daioh will appear as supporting cast.
While they aren't sisters in this story, the partnership between Tomo and Torako (from Azuma Kiyohiko's Yotsuba&!) was inspired by the excellent The Other Takino, by Not-as-Thrilling-as-Advertised. I hope he doesn't mind my borrowing his idea.
A screaming comes across the asphalt.
An unmarked police car, modified beyond its already considerable specs, snarled as it fought through the night traffic. Blaring sirens and flashing lights would normally be warning enough to get out of the way, but the supercharged screaming from the engine, echoing from building to building, made even the most sluggish drivers quickly duck out of the way. A startled pedestrian, gasping and putting a hand over her fluttering heart, wondered who was crazy enough to drive this fast on the crowded freeway.
There was no crazy behind this wheel; it was Torako. She needed no instructions on how to push her car to the limit or the quickest way to the hideout – but her partner offered them anyway.
"Left!" Tomo shouted. "Turn left! Left left left-"
"I know," Torako said. She flung the maroon Honda Civic Type-R into a maneuver that would make Michael Schumacher blanch. The car cut through Tokyo's neon night like a secretary sliding a knife through an envelope: with bored precision and no fanfare.
"Faster! You heard the threats, they'll kill her!"
"Calm down," Torako said, weaving the car in and out of traffic like a young Mike Tyson dodging punches. Torako displayed consummate skill in handling the growling souped-up Civic, shifting gears with a deft touch of the gearstick and turning corners with a smooth turn of the wheel. Torako's calm dismissal of the whirlwind of destruction sitting next to her highlighted her skill and control, especially now, as Tomo asked for something no just and loving God would ever wish upon his creation.
"Let me drive," Tomo said. "You aren't going fast enough. Pull over!"
"Come on, why can't I drive?"
Torako zoomed through a yellow light, and dug through her memory for the phrasing from Tomo's vehicular probationary notice. "Excessive damage to vehicle, massive destruction to property, danger to life-"
"I know all that," Tomo said, slapping the dashboard with her hand. "What I want to know is, why can't-" her words were cut off as Torako executed a sharp turn, knocking Tomo's head into her window.
"Ow," Tomo said, rubbing her head. She caught a glimpse through her window of a familiar beat-up car, and instantly forgot her pain.
Tomo grabbed the police radio microphone. "This is investigator Tomo Takino reporting multiple traffic infractions," and then she rattled off the license of the beat-up car, its make and model, and its last known heading. The first two she knew by heart. She knew the driver too, but didn't name her. There's no need to arouse suspicion.
"There," Tomo said, as she hung up the mic. She leaned back with her hands behind her head in a self-satisfied pose. This was hard to do when her partner was going forty kilometers faster than the surrounding traffic on a cramped street.
"Did you just report your old high school teacher? Again?"
"Yep," Tomo said, sporting her patented look of smug accomplishment.
"You sure hold a grudge," Torako said. "Maybe it's time to let it go."
"This isn't a grudge! She's a menace to law-abiding pedestrians everywhere! I'm doing her a favor, if you think about it. I'm keeping her off of the streets so she can contemplate and repent of her past crimes."
"Uh…" Tomo said. "I meant present, of course. Heh heh."
"I see," Torako said. She turned off the side street into an alley, and quickly executed a left onto the main thoroughfare, a street as wide as the summer sky above Death Valley. There was little traffic to dodge, so she punched the gas. The Civic gave an appreciative growl and surged ahead.
"I still think I should drive," Tomo said.
Torako parked and locked the Civic as she and Tomo skulked toward their target, a simple two-story building housing apartments above and a bar below. They were in a back alley in a bar district where businessmen would drink themselves into a stupor before either taking the train home, staying at a hotel, or committing suicide. The alley was full of middle age men with loosened ties and untucked shirttails, staggering from one bar to the next.
The tall and skinny Torako was the model of detective chic, wearing a black suit cut exactly to her measurements (which weren't much, but they were there). She wore a white French-cut shirt with Union Jack cufflinks. Torako chose that cufflink design because she was heavily into first wave English punk music, especially The Jam.
Tomo was modestly dressed, but in her haste to make it on time, she grabbed a pair of slacks with a malfunctioning zipper. She zipped it up with no hint of modesty, astonishing and delighting the drunks staggering in the street. She also wore her green cloth trench coat, which had a multitude of pockets holding whatever police approved (and unapproved) devices she needed to do her job. Most important to her was that it held her wooden sword.
They made it to the building and entered the bar, heading toward the steps leading upstairs. In the bar was a businessman standing on a table, yelling at the laughing faces gathered around him. He had a tie wrapped around his head and had somehow been liberated of his pants.
A creaky air-conditioner leaking cold, stale air greeted the duo as they ascended the stairs.
"Geez," Tomo whispered. "It's almost October."
"Don't think this is ever turned off," Torako said.
They made their up the stairs, with Tomo occasionally checking behind her to make sure they weren't being tailed. Torako drew her gun when they entered the second floor.
"Why can't I have a gun?" Tomo said.
Reciting from memory, Torako said, "flagrant and intentional misuse, destruction of property, danger to life-"
"I know all that," Tomo hissed. "What I mean is, why ca-"
Tomo was cut off by a door opening directly behind her. A middle-aged lady emerged and saw the skulking detectives. Her face stiffened into a display of great alarm.
Tomo pulled out her badge. She put a finger on her lips and whispered, "Police business, please get back inside."
The woman immediately backed into her apartment and shut the door, locking every lock she had.
Tomo and Torako continued down the hall, walking on the ratty brown threadbare carpet, each step raising a mini dust storm. The smell of mildew grew stronger. Torako put up a hand and stopped Tomo from moving.
"Here's the door," Torako whispered. "Don't step in front of it. Peep hole." Torako bent down and walked to the other side. Tomo crouched and reached into her trench coat. She pulled out a fiber optic scope and placed it under the door, peering into it.
Tomo scanned the room. "It's clear," she said, "except for a light in the kitchen."
Tomo pocketed her scope and crouched in front of the door, facing the doorknob. She reached into her trench coat and pulled out her lock-picking kit, a sight that always bothered Torako to the point of annoyance.
"How did you ever learn enough patience to use that thing," Torako whispered, her pistol at the ready.
"Remember when Kazumi made that stupid rule about not stealing food from her?"
"The one you ignored?"
"Yeah, that one." Tomo slowly worked the lock. Normally, she would have this sort of thing unlocked in less than a minute. However, safety of the hostage was priority, so Tomo had to make use of two of her hated enemies: stealth and patience.
"She got a new desk and she put her snacks in a locked drawer," Tomo said. "She even mocked me about not being able to get them."
"Well, those were her snacks. Keep it down."
"Yeah," Tomo said, working the lock. "But it's how she said it. It pissed me off so much that I put in for a lock-picking kit, and when I got it, I would practice on cars in the parking lot. When I got it right, I broke into her desk and cleaned her out of every snack she has. It was awesome."
"Hmm," Torako said. A bead of sweat formed on her forehead. She was afraid that Tomo would get loud at any moment.
"You know what I did to her today?" The lock clicked before she could finish. Tomo slowly revolved the door handle and nudged open the door. Torako eased in through the opening, and Tomo followed behind. She stuffed her lock picking kit back into her coat, and pulled out her bokken.
The living room was dark and smelled of dust. Cushions were scattered on the stained tatami mat partially covering the floor. A table was in the middle of the mat, and an old CRT TV was in the corner. The kitchen light was on, and Torako counted the voices.
"It sounds like two," Torako whispered.
"I'll go first," Tomo said, pointing at the kitchen with her bokken. "You cover me."
"Okay," Torako said. "Sneak up on-"
"Police! You're under arrest!" Tomo shouted, and she lunged into the kitchen.
A young woman with a handkerchief stuffed in her mouth was tied to a chair. The two kidnappers crowded around the kitchen table, eating a rice dish. They were startled, but not startled enough to lose their sense of self-preservation. Both jumped out of their chairs.
Tomo struck a heroic pose, and pointed her bokken at the one she decided to name Baldy. "Villain! In the name of a just and verdant soc-"
"Kill the hostage!" Baldy shouted to his co-kidnapper. He whipped out a chain and struck at her sword. The chain wrapped around her bokken and he pulled it out of her hand. Fortunately, Tomo had long since been introduced to this trick. While he was pulling away her wooden sword, his lips curling back in assurance of victory, Tomo lunged forward and kicked him in the crotch.
At the same time, the other kidnapper brandished a knife and grabbed the hostage's head, pulling it back to deliver the killing slice to her throat.
Torako rushed into the kitchen and fired two precision shots that severed the potential hostage killer's spirit from his body, in addition to carving out a portion of his head. His body fell to the floor, and the hostage shuddered from the violence of his death.
Tomo surveyed the damage. "Look at that! That was what, five seconds? Three? And we got them all?" She stepped over Baldy, who was moaning in pain. She picked up her bokken and slammed it down on the back of Baldy's neck. He slumped forward, groaning. She grabbed the chain and unwrapped it from her bokken. "I can't believe you did that to Swordy," she said.
"I wish you'd name that thing something else," Torako said. She forced herself not to look at the dead kidnapper, instead focusing on the hostage. Torako leaned in front of the hostage and removed the handkerchief from her mouth. "Aya Suzuki?"
"Yes," Aya said. She lifted up her head to reveal soft brown eyes that could drain hate from a Klansman, and a chin that could cut diamonds. Tears had dug canals into her face, shed in fear over the last three days. New tears were forming, but of relief and joy. "T-thank you so much. I was… just…"
"It's okay," Torako said. She took out her pocketknife and cut Aya's bonds.
"Yeah, no need to thank us," Tomo said. "It's what we do. Did you see me kick that guy? Totally awesome, huh?"
"You don't have to answer that," Torako said, seeing Aya's confusion.
"Hey, Torako," Tomo said, pointing at the table. "They were eating curry rice! I am so going to have that tonight."
Torako finished cutting free the hostage. Aya stood up and rubbed her wrists. She glanced back and forth between Tomo and Torako. He mouth opened slightly, but she sighed and closed it.
Tomo slapped a pair of handcuffs on Baldy, who was still lying on the dirty floor. She saw Torako pocket her knife. "Hey, why can't I have knife- don't answer that!" Torako pulled out her police radio and reported in to headquarters, while Tomo opened the fridge and rummaged through its paltry contents.
Tomo and Torako stood in the living room, the ceiling light showing how decrepit this room really was. A flock of police cars flashing red and blue lights lit up the alley below. Several news vans pulled into the alley, spewing forth reporters and cameramen.
The uniformed officers led Baldy away in handcuffs, while paramedics tended to Aya Suzuki. The dead kidnapper, covered with a white sheet, was carried out on a stretcher. Torako turned away and looked out the window, watching the commotion below.
"What's all this about?" Tomo said, when she pushed toward the window. "Oh wait, I know. It's because we're awesome."
Tomo insisted on giving thumbs up to each officer that passed by. The few that didn't return the gesture ignored her. Aya Suzuki was led outside, her head down, surrounded by a gaggle of police officers.
"Tomo," Torako said, not turning away from the window. "Do you have any idea of who we just rescued?"
"She's some kind of idol, isn't she?" Tomo said.
A stout uniformed officer stood at the door, knocking on the pine door to get their attention. "Detectives? The chief is outside. He wants to see you two."
"Can he come up here?" Torako said, but Tomo had already rushed downstairs. Torako grimaced and followed behind.
Tomo marched outside with a triumphant grin. Cameras and microphones were thrust into her face. The reporters did their annoying shtick of talking at the same time, producing a cacophony of banal questions that dissolved into a stew of incoherence.
"Ms. Takino! What were your thoughts when-"
"-discover the location-"
"-expect a reward?"
"Oh, it's all in a day's work," Tomo said, deciding to press on through with whatever popped into her head. "We were outnumbered, see, five of them had AK-47s. There was this big pentagram in the middle of the floor drawn with blood, and we had to fight a cacodemon. Torako was screaming, 'Don't cross the streams!' but I knew that if-"
"Hey!" One of the reporters said. "It's the Tiger!"
Oh great, Tomo thought. She smirked as she watched Torako exit the building, heading straight for the chief. She kept her head high and her path straight, not answering the reporters' prodding questions.
"Torako, how'd you do it?"
"Show us your gun, Tiger!"
"Why do you get a nickname and I don't?" Tomo said, when Torako had caught up with her. "I'm so much more cooler than you."
"It's a lazy nickname," Torako said, as they both headed across the street toward the chief. Police officers began to make a perimeter around the two detectives, keeping the reporters out. "What do you want your nickname to be?"
"Tomo, Destroyer of Worlds!"
"Fitting," Torako muttered. They reached the chief and saluted.
Chief Akiyama was a tall, stocky man, who had all of his black hair despite being in his late fifties. He was wearing a gray suit with a vest, topped off with a fedora. The chief had the right combination of age and looks to pull off that look without coming across as pretentious.
He saluted his two investigators. His face, carved from granite, had a nose that would fit a hawk hunting for mice.
"Detectives," he said, in his gruff voice, "you have performed a valuable service tonight. I thank you for your dedication to protecting the innocent and fighting crime. Tonight, I have a special guest who would like to thank you in person. I am honored to present to you Oda Otomo, district one's representative in the Diet." The last part he added for Tomo's benefit, hoping to prevent her from doing anything stupid (which, right now, was asking why he had two last names).
A hush settled over the crowd like morning dew blanketing a lawn. The tall, lean Oda Otomo, immaculately dressed in a bespoke English suit, approached the two detectives. The patched up Aya stood next to him, looking downward like a fading flower. Oda was at least 180 centimeters tall, and flashed his boyish and charismatic smile that helped him win enough votes to become the youngest representative ever voted into the Diet.
He looked at Tomo, thought better of it, and looked at Torako. "Detectives," he said, in his rich voice, "I am proud to have such fine members in my district's police force. I thank you for rescuing my secretary-"
A light bulb lit in Tomo's head.
"-by going above and beyond the call of duty. Your tireless devotion to the cause of justice is an inspiration to us all. I thank you both from the bottom of my heart."
He bowed deeply, and Torako and Tomo responded with their own bows. A cheer went up from the police, and the reporters readied their mics to feed. Oda and Torako broke their bow to shake each other's hand. Torako nudged Tomo to break her bow, so she could shake hands as well.
The police perimeter broke and the reporters lunged on Oda Otomo, flinging questions about the upcoming re-election, domestic issues, the kidnapping, and the rumor about him becoming the next Prime Minister. Oda smiled and waved while black suited bodyguards, rushing them toward their waiting vehicle, surrounded him and Aya. Aya kept looking back at Tomo and Torako. Her mouth opened and closed, and she slid into the limo with her boss.
"Break this garbage up," the chief said, and the uniformed cops began shooing away the reporters. Chief Akiyama faced his detectives. He looked at Tomo, thought better of it, and faced Torako.
"Great work," the chief said.
"Hell yeah we did great!" Tomo said, speaking for Torako. "Did you see me shoot that guy? He had a Gatling gun-"
"Tomo, get rid of those pants," he said, pointing at them with a hirsute finger. "What the hell? I mean really, what the hell? And stop lying to the reporters. I'm going to have to ask them not to use your interview footage."
"Oh come on chief, they aren't that bad," Tomo said. She reached down and zipped up her pants.
The chief pulled out a bottle of antacids. He opened the bottle and tossed several tablets into his mouth. He chewed them thoroughly before continuing.
"And furthermore, you can stop reporting on-" he pulled out a piece of paper dotted with hastily scribbled kanji. "-Ms. Tanizaki. We know you have a grudge against her, and anyway we've been disregarding your traffic reports for months. You guys got a lot of paperwork, so get on that before you start helping out the Ueno district."
"Ueno?" Tomo said. "That's in the Taito ward."
"Thanks for the geography lesson," the chief said. "Don't worry, it's temporary. Two of their detectives got arrested on corruption charges, and they need some backup until they rehire. It shouldn't be longer than a month. I'm sure you'll be able to juggle an extra district. You'll still be reporting to me."
"That's not much of an award," Tomo said. "You saw who we rescued, right? Oda Otomo's secretary! Our district one rep!"
"You didn't know who you rescued until just a couple of minutes ago, Takino," the chief said. "But if you want a reward, I tell you what. You two get the next two days off."
"Kick ass!" Tomo said, flinging her fist into the air.
"Although showing some initiative by finishing the paperwork will be noted. Dismissed," he said, with a wave of his hand. He turned and walked toward the crowd of reporters to shame them into going back home, calling them vultures and other unsavory terms relating to a lack of moral character.
Torako tapped Tomo on the shoulder. "Let's go," she said.
The Civic Type-R was cruising along at legal speed, as Torako was taking Tomo to her apartment. They had remained silent since getting in.
Tomo finally spoke. "Notice anything dodgy about that kidnapping? Something completely out of the ordinary?"
"I've never seen kidnappers so eager to kill their hostage," Torako said. "Usually they plead or try to negotiate a release, or attempt escape. These guys went into instant kill mode. There was something they didn't want to get out."
"Eh? What are you talking about? I meant that they used gaffers tape instead of duct tape to tie her to the chair. Who uses gaffers tape? Do they have some agenda against duct tape? It's a conspiracy by the duct tape-industrial complex, I'm telling you."
Torako frowned. "I wonder what antacids the chief uses?"
"Oh? And what does that mean?" Tomo said, fixing Torako with a mock angry stare. "Seriously though, yeah… they instantly tried to kill the hostage. And did you see how she kept looking at us when she got into the limo? I think she wanted to tell us something, but was afraid too. She had been trying to tell us something the instant you took that handkerchief out of her mouth."
"I noticed," Torako said. "It's out of our hands, though."
Tomo arrived at her apartment with less than an hour until midnight. She stormed up the stairs to the second floor, her mouth salivating at the thought of entering curry rice heaven. She unlocked her door, walked into the kitchen, and saw a man standing at the open fridge.
"Eek!" Tomo shouted. "There's a foreigner in my apartment!"
"I'm your husband, dummy," Rico Watanabe said. He pulled an empty box of orange juice out of the fridge. "I wish you'd stop putting empty cartons back in the fridge. I always get my hopes up, and you have to destroy them."
"It's my job," Tomo said, as she pulled her husband's head down and kissed him on the mouth. "You need to stop being so tall."
"I'll get to work on it," Rico said. "We're out of rice, by the way."
"Hey!" Tomo said. "The deal is I destroy your hopes, but you can't destroy mine!"
Rico put his fists on his waist and cocked his head. "The deal has changed," he said.
"Ha, not likely," Tomo said. She pulled out her wallet and grabbed a wad of thousand yen bills, holding them inches away from his face. "Now go out and get some curry rice."
"Are you serious? It's almost midnight!"
"So? I'm hungry," Tomo said. Her mouth spread into a manic leer. "Don't tell me you don't want that rich, spicy taste of curry, coating the delicate, fluffy grains of rice. That symphony of deliciousness playing in your mouth, that warm fuzzy feeling coating your stomach when you swallow. You don't want any of that?"
Rico's face showed his faltering resolve. He sighed and snatched the wad of yen out of her hand. "You suck," he said, after he put on his boots and coat.
"Get the red curry," Tomo said, as he left the apartment. She walked to living room and turned on the TV, wondering what she would do with her two days off.