Sargent Makoto Kino stared down at the shattered body, feeling neither sadness or anger. At any other time in her life, she would have felt a little of both, but, after five years with the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, seeing both the best and worst of humanity, she had grown cynical.
The young man, he would have been quite attractive in life, had been shot six times in the chest and, as if that wasn't enough, thrown from a thirteenth story window. There were five others up there. What had obviously been a party had been broken up in the worst way.
Crime, in recent years, had risen and kept her, as well as her fellow officers of the TMPD, very busy. Despite being horribly understaffed and ridiculously underfunded, they had managed to muddle through. Officers had been lost in the line of duty, good officers, good people, and many had been Makoto's friends.
"What have we got?"
Makoto turned to see CSI III Ami Mizuno, one of the brightest minds ever to have the misfortune of settling into police work. The woman could have been anything, a doctor, a teacher, anything. Why she chose law enforcement was well beyond her reasoning, "What do you think? We got another one."
"Is he it?"
"You know he isn't. There's more where he came from, enough to keep you busy all night."
Ami rolled her eyes, "Tell me about it. It's gotten so bad that I've set up a cot in the lab."
"Are you serious? And they let you do that?"
Ami scoffed, "What are they going to do about it? Fire one of their few remaining investigators? They need every one of us they can get."
It was the truth. Some smart asshole had gotten word out about exactly what the Crime Scene Investigators did. Now, it seemed that every gang had a price on the head of every CSI. None of them were allowed out into the field without an armed escort, "You bunch are disappearing like rabbits."
"I spend more time at funerals for colleagues than I do in my own apartment."
Makoto pulled a pack of Rolaids out of her pocket and munched one. She ate these more than regular food these days. Policing was thankless, stomach-corroding work. She was certain that she would die of a heart attack, or high blood pressure, or a stroke in the next few years.
Thunder rumbled in the distance and Ami glared up at the sky, "I hate working under a deadline."
"What? It's just a little rain."
"Yeah, well, a little rain washes away a lot of evidence."
Makoto shrugged, "We could set up a canopy or something."
"Yeah. And while we're at it, we could invite every gangster in the neighborhood to take potshots at me. No, thanks."
Makoto could see that this abnormally brusque manner hid the fact that Ami was scared. At any second, she half expected a gunshot to ring out and the CSI to fall over the corpse, dead, "Don't worry, kid. We've got your back."
"Thanks but I think I'll worry anyways, if it's all the same to you."
Lieutenant Usagi Tsukino, head of the TMPD's violent crimes division, settled down into a seat outside the Commissioner's office. This was the end of yet another forty hour shift and she was nothing if not exhausted. The budget cuts, loss of personnel and the rising crime had led to long days and sleepless nights for everyone. She absently tried to straighten the wrinkles from her uniform blouse and tuck the loose strands of hair back into her braid. If only her Mamoru were still alive, everything would be better. He had been murdered, right before their daughter turned three, by a drug-crazed teenager, for the forty yen in his wallet.
It had been two years, two long, hard, painful years that she had struggled through without him to lean on. He was her rock, her pillar of strength, her anchor in the rising storm. But, with him gone, she was lost now. The only thing she had left now was her daughter, her Chibi-Usagi, the apple of her mama's eye.
Usagi gritted her teeth against the flood of tears that followed in the wake of Mamoru's memory as surely as thunder follows lightning. If she let the waterworks go now, she might very well drown in them. She cleared her throat, trying to shove the painful lump back down where it belonged. Where it could slowly eat away at her being and embitter her to the world.
"Don't worry, Lieutenant."
Startled, Usagi looked up to see a young woman, one of the force's newest recruits, staring down at her, trying to balance a stack of files at the same time. Such a pretty young thing had no business here on the force. She looked like she spent her spare time, what little she did have, beating back the boys with a stick. She had the look that Usagi was certain she once held. The look of certainty that she would be the one to change the world. The poor kid didn't know what she had coming, "I'm sure the commissioner just wants to speak with you," the girl continued, "I'm sure it's nothing bad."
Usagi regained her eggshell-thin composure as she smiled up at the girl, "Thanks. Er...Don't tell me."
"Probationary Officer Hotaru Tomoe, ma'am."
"Right. Tomoe, right. Sorry. It's been a very long day and I'm just very tired."
"Of course, ma'am." Tomoe tried to bow while continuing to balance her stack of files, finally giving up on the fourth or fifth try. "I'd better go and take care of these."
"Right. Er...Dismissed." She watched Tomoe march off to see to whatever menial tasks had been set before her and she shook her head. They needed officers on the streets, not back here doing paperwork.
Shouting erupted from behind the commissioner's door. Somebody was causing quite a stir in there. Somebody was also about to be cited for insubordination if whoever it was didn't calm down and quickly. When Usagi finally saw who it was, she wasn't surprised. Sargent Haruka Ten'oh, head of the department's SWAT team, stormed out of the office and slammed the door behind her. She looked up at the ceiling with a "why me" expression on her face before turning her green-eyed glare to Usagi, "Lieutenant." she said simply.
"Sargent." Usagi replied, watching Ten'oh stuff her hands in her pockets and march off. It hadn't surprised her that it had been Ten'oh in the middle of that ruckus. Ten'oh was usually in the middle of some kind of ruckus or another, especially since she had announced, publicly, that she was a lesbian. This had resulted in an unusual amount of citations for insubordination. The only reason Ten'oh hadn't been thrown out on her ass was because she was one hell of a leader and a magnificent helicopter pilot, what other officers called "Rotorheads", to boot.
The commissioner's secretary stuck her head out of the door, "He'll see you now."
Usagi stood and gave her wrinkled blouse a final tug. The moment of truth had arrived.
Rei Hino sat on her bed, quietly smoking a cigarette. Loki, her partner, lay on his back at her feet. She raised one bare foot and rubbed his stomach, "You're a good boy." she cooed.
Loki managed to sneeze and pass gas at the same time.
Rei wrinkled her nose in displeasure, "Excuse yourself. It's bad enough you smell as bad as you do but to be rude on top of that." She scoffed, "You need a bath."
Loki cocked his head.
"Bath?" she hinted.
With a whimper, he crawled up under her bed, where he knew she couldn't reach him.
"Coward." she accused, "You'll attack an armed man for me but you're afraid of a little water?"
It was true. If Loki was afraid of two things, it was his weekly bath and his annual shots. But Rei loved her four-legged partner all the same. She and Loki were members of the K-9 squad of the TMPD, specializing in both drugs and explosives. They often worked out of New Tokyo International Airport.
Loki was a two year old German Shepard who had bonded instantly with the cop. They had trained together, played together, and lived together and were as inseparable as twins. Though she didn't claim to be a pet psychic, or Dr. Doolittle, she could understand Loki on a base level just by watching his body language. She often entertained the idea that Loki could understand her beyond basic commands.
Rei lay back and felt the bed shift as Loki climbed up next to her and laid down, "Loki!" she barked.
He turned his attention to her, Yes?
"Have you lost your mind? Get out of my bed."
Loki laid his head back down on the pillow, No.
"Loki. Don't you test me. It's too late and I'm too tired. Your bed is in the corner, by the radiator. Go to it."
He rested his head on her chest, But, you're up here. Who's going to protect you if I'm over there?
"I'll be fine. Now, go to your bed." She shoved him off the edge of the mattress. She knew the fall wouldn't hurt him. This was a nightly ritual.
After a moment, he peeked back over the edge, Won't you reconsider?
Head down, tail tucked between his legs, Loki slunk over to his bed. Rei actually felt sorry for him, "Loki?"
He turned back around, the light of hope shining in his eyes once more. He knew exactly what was coming, Yes?
Rei patted the mattress beside her and he sprang up, exactly as he did every night, and settled down as she covered him with a blanket, "Now, you need to be still and quiet. We have work in the morning."
He leaned over and began to lick her face, Still and quiet, you've got it. Good night, Mistress Hino. I love you.
Finally returning home, Usagi slipped out of her coat and pulled her hat off, hanging both on the rack by the door. She pulled her shoes off and slipped into a pair of slippers. As tired as she was, her mind was racing with what the commissioner had told her. She could definitely use the pay raise but she didn't know if she could do the task he assigned her.
Sinking down into an easy chair, she closed her eyes. A gentle hand touched her shoulder and she gripped it, not needing to see who it was, "Hi, Mama."
Ikuko Tsukino gave her daughter a kiss on the cheek, "Hi honey. How was work?"
"I don't know if I can do this anymore." Usagi admitted, "Six murders today, three murders and a rape yesterday. It's scary out there."
"I know, baby. It isn't like it used to be."
She looked over at the door behind which her daughter slept, "This isn't the place to raise a child. I can't even let her outside anymore. I'm so afraid some pervert's going to snatch her up."
"I know it seems bad but it'll get better, you'll see."
Tears began to trickle down her face, "When, mama? The bills are piling up. We might lose the apartment. This isn't how it's supposed to go."
Ikuko dropped down and held Usagi against her as she wept, "It's going to be okay." she soothed, running a hand down her daughter's hair, "It'll get better. It can only get better."
"I can't do this anymore, mama. I can't keep fighting like this." she sobbed.
A sleepy-eyed Chibi-Usa stood in the hallway, rubbing her eyes with one hand while holding a pink bunny with the other. Usagi immediately went and picked her daughter up, "What are you doing out of bed?"
"I couldn't sleep." She murmured, snuggling against Usagi's breast. Usagi sat back down, cradling her child against her.
Chibi-Usa suddenly looked up, "Mama, why are you crying?"
Usagi wiped the tears from her eyes, "Mama just had a very hard day, baby, and she's very tired. That's all."
Chibi-Usa took her mother's face in both her hands, "You're a good mama." she whispered before snuggling down again and falling asleep.
Usagi bit her lip against the urge to cry again. She couldn't bear the thought of losing her little girl.
Ikuko stood and held her arms out, "I'll take her back to bed."
"No, mama. You've done enough." Usagi replied as she stood again and laid Chibi-Usa on the sofa before turning to embrace her mother, "Thank you for watching her."
"Honey, it was my pleasure."
"I'm sorry I need you so often. Daddy must not like it very much."
"Your father understands completely and is very proud of you. As am I."
"You'd better get on home, before it gets too late. Give daddy my love."
Ikuko took a moment to feel Usagi's ribs before they parted, "You're not eating again." she said, frowning in disapproval.
"I know. I've just been so busy. I promise, I'll eat something tomorrow."
"I'll bring you something."
"No, no, Mama. You've done enough for me. I have the next few days off so you stay home with daddy."
"If you insist. But I don't like you working yourself to death like this. You're missing meals and sleep. You need to keep strong and healthy. Chibi-Usa needs you."
After seeing her mother out the door, Usagi, once again, picked up her daughter and took her into her bedroom to tuck her in for the night, leaving the night light on. Chibi-Usa didn't like to wake up in the dark.
She retreated to her own bedroom and lay down on what she still thought of as "her" side of the bed. She left Mamoru's side, the side he used to sleep on, completely open, as if she expected him to walk in and lay down with her, to take her, once more, into his strong arms and hold her tightly as she slept. Seven hundred and fifty days had passed since the night he died and not a moment went by where she didn't think of him. She wished desperately that he was still here with her as she gave his picture a goodnight kiss and fell asleep.