Kubota could see the fight leave her eyes.
Her body stayed as rigid as brick, tense enough that he could see her thin muscles twitch as she braced herself to run again, but the wild light in her eyes faded into black and he knew the battle was over.
While her attention was still focused on Tokito, Kubo lowered his gun and took a step forward, then froze when she jerked away from him.
He looked up at Tokito, caught off guard by the soft defensive note in his voice. Like he was protecting some stray, frightened animal. Huh, he thought. How ironic.
Without warning, she bolted again, away from Tokito and slamming hard into Kubo's ready arms. He wasn't completely ready for such strength to come from such a thin, frail body and she flailed wildly against his grip, kicking and twisting and clobbering him with her bony fist. Cursing, Kubo went to grab her wrist and his hand swung through the air. With a start, he realized she was missing her entire right hand.
Tokito watched helplessly as the two grappled for a moment longer, torn by the confusing impulse to protect them both. Still unsure of what exactly it was he planned to do, he barreled towards them, Kubo's name building in the back of his throat.
It all ended very quickly.
Kubo finally wrenched her arm behind her back and brutally thrust her to the ground with such force she skidded into a nearby rusted pipe, slicing open the thin skin on her forehead.
"Whaddya mean, 'oops?' You're not supposed to kill her!"
"It's all right," the older man assured him, looking down at his defeated opponent with calculating eyes. "She's stronger than she looks. She'll be fine."
Tokito frowned at the red tears dripping down the pipeline. "How do you know?"
"No one can be that fragile and that strong. Unless it's artificial."
The woman stirred and held up her hand to the gash on her forehead. She frowned at the fresh blood in her palm, then turned towards Kubo and glared.
"You're Makoto, aren't you?"
"Doubt it," he said coolly, probing in his shirt pocket for a cigarette.
She nodded, as if she knew this was the answer he'd give. "I've seen your picture around. The Yakuza still consider you a celebrity."
"Is that so?" He let out a breath of smoke. "Then what does that make you, I wonder? A trophy?" Her glare darkened, but Kubo ignored her and simply pushed his glasses back up onto his nose. "I have nothing to do with them anymore."
"Then what do you—?"
"Who are you?" Tokito blurted.
The woman froze and her dark, wary eyes shifted to him. She reminded Kubo of a rabbit, terrified by anything that Tokito did or said. He watched her closely, swearing that if she tried to run again, he'd shoot her in the foot. After a few tense moments, she sighed and covered half her face with her black sleeve, still trying to stem the flow of blood.
"I know I've seen you before," Tokito said, frustrated by the blank spaces in his memory.
"So you still recognize me. Even after all this."
She stood, easily rising to Kubo's height and gave them both a sad smile. "Soko. My name's Soko."
"Soko…" Tokito tasted the name in his mouth and frowned when he couldn't decipher it. "That's a weird name."
She chuckled, because there was no way for Tokito to know that he had said the exact same thing when she had first met him. All those years ago.
"So I've been told."
"Soko." She turned her attention back to Kubo. "Come with us for a bit. There are some things I'd like to ask you."
Toki took a step forward. "Yeah! Like, how come I recognize you? And how are you connected with W.A.? And why the hell'd you run away like that?"
Kubo nodded. "Yes, something like that."
"I—" Her eyes landed on Tokito's gloved hand that mirrored where hers should've been. Conscious of his beastly hand, he flexed it and tried to hand it behind his back. "No," she whispered. "Your hand."
Kubo's face remained a cold sheet of stone, but inside, his heart sank at the devastation in her voice. Thus far, every undeclared answer she'd given them did not sound promising.
Tokito shrank away from her. "What about it?"
"Tokito, show her your hand."
The younger man looked up at Kubo. "Why?"
"Just do it."
After deciding it was best not to oppose Kubo's strict tone, Tokito gently pulled off the glove and tried not to gag at the sight of the hairy, clawed appendage. Soko, however, slowly reached for it, dark eyes glowing as she beheld the mutant fist. Kubo inhaled deeply on the cigarette, nervously watching as this stranger touched his beloved friend; something he himself was forbidden to do. Tokito winced as her fingers brushed along the fur and Kubo bit down on his cigarette.
Soko withdrew her hand. "You don't remember it?"
"That's what I've been trying to tell you!" Tokito spat. "Now quit playing dumb and tell us what you know!"
Kubo saw her mouth tighten into a thin line, emphasizing a bent scar on the edge of her cheek. In that instant, he knew she had locked away her words behind those lips and it would be a miracle if they could extract any of the secrets she carried in her bottomless eyes.
Kasai smeared the last of his cigarette into the ashtray and sighed. Outside his office window, he could see the street lamps struggling to life, illuminating the streets with small spheres of amber light. Even with the last of daylight almost completely gone, the city was quick to replace it, and the streets and skyscrapers burned with the millions of bulbs that transformed the darkness of night into one giant rave.
"…yeah…when was this? Yeah, if you could, that'd be great."
Kasai glanced back at the desk opposite of his, where Araki was juggling his cell on his shoulder, a scribbling pen in his right hand, and typing on his keyboard with the other. The older police officer shook his head; it was only a matter of time before the multitasking ended in a spilled mug of coffee.
Sighing again, Kasai fell into his seat and stared at the black monitor in front of him. The week-old reports scattered about his desk were glaringly white, reminding him that he could get away with procrastinating for only so much longer.
"5—2—3—9…yeah. Got it. Thank you, sir. I'll let him know. Bye." Araki hung up and immediately began typing furiously on his keyboard as he spoke. "We just got another lead on 'W.A.'"
Kasai groaned, deciding it was more discreet than banging his head on the desk. "What is it this time?"
"There was a tip-off that someone's in the city who has a direct link to 'W.A.'"
"A direct link, huh?" Kasai grabbed for a pen and began flipping it between his fingers, dismissing the so-called lead for another dead-end rumor. Like the other sixty or so that had been reported this week. "Where'd it come from?"
"Well, we're not sure…" Araki frowned at the computer screen, stumbling for words. "Someone—"
"Told someone who told someone who told someone. Fishing rumors out of the air doesn't help us, Araki."
"I know, sir, but—"
"And besides, it's unlikely that whoever is circulating 'W.A.' would let something so important leak so easily. I find it hard to believe they'd simply let such an asset loose on the streets. Especially a human one."
"But if they did, wouldn't you want to know?"
Kasai snorted. "Yeah. Me and the rest of the world, too. How do you expect us to track down this one person in the middle of Tokyo?"
"Well, we may not have to." Kasai glanced over at Araki's desk, frowning at the smug little expression on his face that said he knew something Kasai didn't. "Someone thought they saw your nephew with a suspicious looking person. Wouldn't it be nice if he managed to track down the suspect already?"
Hope rose into his chest at the same time dread plummeted like an anchor into his gut. Leaning back in his chair, he tried to keep his voice neutral. "You realize this is Kubota we're talking about. When he is ever not with a suspicious looking person?"
Araki turned his screen around, looking quite proud of himself. "That's him, isn't it?"
Kasai squinted at the monitor, ignoring a comment his nephew had made once about him being an 'old man' and needing to wear bifocals. Sure enough, there was a snapshot of Kubota at a street intersection with Tokito at his side—Jesus, did he take that kid with him everywhere?—and a ragged young woman flanking his other.
"Yes," Kasai muttered, "that would be my nephew. Where was this photo taken?"
"From one of the traffic cameras in the Shinjuku district. It was taken about an hour ago."
Kasai frowned. "Do you have any way to prove she's the suspect?"
"Not really." Araki turned to the notes he had scribbled on a crinkled restaurant receipt. "All the report stated was that a questionable person had been seen roaming the streets recently and was believed to have connections to 'W.A.' Apparently, the suspect was missing his right hand."
Kasai took a closer look at the footage, but the image was too pixilated and dark to discern anything.
"Can't you just call him?"
The younger man threw his hands behind his head. "Just call Kubota. He can tell you who she is, right?"
"No." Kasai stood, suddenly itching to move around the small office, glancing periodically at the frozen photo on the monitor. "He probably wouldn't even answer. Kubota's selfish when it comes to information and if he's conducting his own investigation, he won't want to involve the police. We'll only complicate things." He would run and hide at the slightest hint of legalities and red tape.
Araki clicked his tongue. "Tch. After all you've done for him. What thankless relatives you have."
Kasai chuckled. "Yes, he is." When his pacing brought him back to the window, the he stopped and stared out at the blur of lights racing along the highway. "However…"
"If we assume that this person Kubota found is actually connected in some way to 'W.A.,' then we need to have her off the streets as soon as possible. She's probably distributing the drug and even if she's not—"
"The Yakuza. They'll want her, too."
Kasai looked over at his fellow detective and nodded. "She needs to be brought in for questioning, before the Yakuza catch wind of this. If they get to her before we do…well, I don't even want to think about what would happen."
"So how do we find them?"
Kasai went back to staring out the window, until he refocused on his reflection in the dark pane. Kubota would never hand her over. Not only for the sake of his own private investigation, but because his nephew had recently acquired some misplaced sense of "protector" ever since he'd picked up Tokito. If he picked up many more strays off of the street, Kasai would have to start calling him the 'old cat lady.' Except instead of a cane to beat people away, Kubo carried a gun. And that would make things a little more difficult.
Wondering if he would come to regret this decision later, Kasai dragged a hand over his face and sighed heavily.
"Call the chief. Tell him we need to assemble a detachment ASAP. Once we've confirmed her identity, we'll move in."
Araki, suddenly instilled with a new eagerness, went to snatch his phone from the desktop and in his enthusiasm, bumped the coffee mug with his elbow, spilling hot, black liquid across the desk and into the rookie's lap.
Kasai shook his head, chuckling to himself, and reached for another cigarette. As he lit it, he prayed that one day his nephew would forgive him for what he was about to do.
A/N: YAY! I love this chapter, personally. Which is ironic, seeing as how only about 10% of it was actually planned ^_^