The Last Hello

Disclaimer: Weiss Kreuz, its characters, indices etcetera belong to Takehito Koyasu, Kyoko Tsuchiya and Project Weiss. This fanfic was written for fun rather than profit and any resemblances to persons living or dead are purely coincidental.

Author's Note: This story takes place in the winter before the events of Kapitel, and as such is a prequel of sorts. It is also an homage to the private detective novels of Raymond Chandler, and attempts - I hope, sucessfully - to imitate his style. I refer anyone interested in the source material to Chandler's Philip Marlowe novels, particularly The Big Sleep, The Little Sister and The Long Goodbye. My thanks to Pichi for her help in the idea's conception and to Laila for her encouragement during the writing process, particularly for the reassurance that I was still writing an homage rather than a pastiche.

Chapter One: Super News

Youji Kudou sat in the coffee shop like a man in a Hopper painting.

He'd been sitting there for half an hour, drinking cups of coffee as slowly as it's possible for a man to drink a cup without it getting cold. Right now he needed any warmth he could get. It was dark outside, and January snow drifted in between the buildings and filled the streets until Youji felt like he was living inside a souvenir snow globe.

There were only four other people in the coffee shop. Youji paid the most attention to the girl on the table next to him, a college student with melted snow in her hair whose only company were four heavy text books on molecular biology. She had returned Youji's smile, but he'd failed to steal her attention away from the quaternary protein structures. Then there were the two middle-aged salarymen at the bar, who would nurse their mugs without touching them until they cooled, then toast and drain the coffee in a single go before starting again. Youji felt quite sorry for them.

Then there was the man in the corner. He was sitting almost underneath the small mounted television but was straining his neck to watch it. He seemed more interested in the TV programs than his coffee; he was trying to drink it without taking his eyes off the screen. He was about thirty-five and wearing a suit that would have been at home in any office in Tokyo. Youji could only see one unusual thing about him: in a city of offices where uniformity was prized, most men, in Youji's experience, had something to distinguish them from everyone else, however tiny it was and however hard you had to look to see it. But this man had nothing; he wasn't even wearing a watch.

Youji thought he must have been telling the time by the programs on the television. When Super News came on he put his mug down and strained his neck to see. From the other side of the room, Youji watched him watch the solemn anchor announce that police still had no leads in the death of a member of the Prime Minister's security detail, found dead in his apartment the previous week with his wrists slit. At this time, Youji heard, a statement from the police did not rule out suicide, but the investigation was ongoing and there were so far no links to any credible threat to the Prime Minister or any member of the Diet.

That report ended and it was like a switch had been flicked. The man went back to his coffee and finished it quickly, then stood up to wrap himself up in his winter clothes and left the coffee shop without looking back. Youji felt the gust from the door, counted slowly to twenty, then got up and walked out into the cold.

It was like walking into a wall. He wrapped his coat close around him and pulled his hat down, letting snow gather on the brim, but he still felt his skin freeze. There was almost no one on the streets now, rush hour was over and anyone who could was taking a warmer route home. Those that were out didn't really look like people anymore, just bipedal bundles of warm clothes moving slowly through the snow and slush.

Youji picked his bundle and followed it. Unlike almost everyone else on the street, the bundle and the man inside it were heading away from Shinjuku Station. Youji wasn't surprised; no one actually lived in this part of Shinjuku unless they lived in a hotel or above their shop. Every city had parts like this, a place where everyone seemed to come, but not one where they actually stayed.

Youji's mark seemed to be staying. He headed towards one of the large tourist hotels a few streets away from the station. He didn't stop at the front doors; he kept on going and turned the corner around the side of the hotel towards the back entrance. Youji rubbed his hands together for warmth one more time, jammed them deep into his pockets, and followed.

Someone hit him. Not someone, he knew exactly who it was. It was a bad punch, landing on the side of his head just in front of his ear, but he was going to have the good grace to fall over. He crumpled, pulling his hands out of his pockets in time to stop himself from hitting the snow too hard, down on his hands and knees and staring at the pair of scuffed, uninteresting shoes for a few seconds before his hands got so numb he decided to pull them out of the snow and straighten up before he got frostbite.

He stayed down, unthreatening, and looked up at the man who had hit him. The dim light and the bulk added by the winter clothes might have made him more intimidating to someone else, but to Youji he just looked scared.

"Who are you?" the man demanded.

"Most people don't have to hit me before they ask that," Youji responded. "How about I hit you then ask the same question?"

The man took half a step back and raised his fist. He'd probably do a better job of the next punch, so Youji didn't give him the chance. He pushed himself to his feet and smiled.

"Actually," he continued, "I'm not going to bother hitting you or asking you who you are. I know that already. You're Daisuke Sakai, a junior detective in the Tokyo Met who's never cracked a major case. No wife, no children, no family in the city. But a week ago you were involved in the death of a young cop who worked protecting the Prime Minister. You two had never met before, but you did have one thing in common: as well as being Tokyo's finest, you both report to an organisation that calls itself Kritiker."

Sakai had spent the entire explanation looking as though he didn't know whether to make Youji shut up or let him keep talking, but when he heard the last word he seized Youji by the collar of his brown overcoat and spun him around. He slammed him hard against the wall, and Youji was grateful that his extra layers took most of the blow.

"How do you know that name?" He demanded.

Youji managed to keep his smile. "Wrong answer. What you should have said was 'what's Kritiker?' Didn't they tell you that?"

This earned him another shove against the wall. "Who are you? How do you know that?"

Youji grinned. "My name's Youji Kudou. I'm the guy Kritiker sent after you."