Author's Note:

This chapter's title refers to the root of the world tree, Yggdrasil, which in Norse mythology supported all the other realms. During Ragnarok, it was said that Nidhogg the Corpse-Tearer (a giant blind worm) would rise up from the depths beyond the roots and eat away at Yggdrasil's foundations.

Apologies for the delay- the end of my pregnancy was a bit rough and the birth even rougher. I was in the hospital for a while and recovering for a couple months. And a word of advice, dear readers- writing while recovering from surgery and taking care of a newborn is not easy. Despite that, this work is now dedicated to my little Zane. Who can actually say "mama" now, so that says something about the delay time

Obviously, I do not own Death Note or its characters. There would have been far more nudity if I did.

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Chapter Seven: The Root of Yggdrasil

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8 October 2010, 2am: Subterranean Tokyo

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Her heels rang out on the dampened stone of the cavern as she approached, the sound announcing her presence to every predator in the gritty underground of Shinjuku. The stifling blackness pressed in on her skin, an oily weight that crept down the spine to awaken ingrained terror of dangers waiting in the dark.

She was not afraid. She was death.

She found her father draped negligently over his throne, limbs splayed like a broken marionette. A phosphorescent lamp, the room's only illumination, cast the planes of his ruined face in a macabre green as his lips twisted into a mocking grin.

"Hail, daughter," he rasped. "What news from above?"

She knelt on the stone before him, bowing her head in reverence for the man who remade her mind when all had shattered. "All is ready, father. Fenrir awaits your command to change the game."

"Fenrir has had enough fun, I think," Loki mused, twirling his fingers through the dust on the floor. A single rune, 'uruz', was drawn over and over. Hel tilted her head curiously; like most Norse runes, 'uruz' had many meanings but was often invoked to strengthen the will for the hunt. It was also, she thought with a perverse thrill, used for rites of passage.

"Father?"

"You, daughter. You shall have the pleasure of this kill. It's so important, after all- the change in the great game," he drawled. Loki's skeletal fingers reached out to tangle in Hel's long fall of black hair, running through the silken strands with a detached sort of fondness. "You know you are my favorite, don't you darling?"

"Yes, father. Thank you- I won't disappoint."

Loki laughed, a ringing sound that made the bottom-dwellers in the tunnels beyond cower in fear and loathing. "I know you won't. So deadly, my beautiful sky. I have been remiss in keeping you here in Niflheim when your honesty belongs to the world above."

His fingers retracted from her locks as the great god gathered his limbs to crouch, goblinesque, in the seat. Flaming eyes lit with the spark of madness gleamed from the shadow. "Go now, and fell us a Tree."

Hel nodded, rising once more to make her way back to the surface. A plan was already forming in her head, the kill mapped out coldly and logically just as she had been trained at the Bureau a lifetime ago.

Behind her in the blanketing dark, the Trickster smiled.

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8 October 2010, 3 pm: Loki Taskforce Headquarters, Peninsula Hotel, Chiyoda, Tokyo

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Yagami Light frowned at the stack of papers in his hands, the edges crumpling under his clenched fingertips. His profile for Loki was as complete as he could make it with the knowledge they currently had amassed, but he felt that something key was missing. While all serial killers show some similarity in personality, missionary killers were not only dangerous but also extremely rare. There wasn't much literature existing on them, perhaps less than a dozen having come to light in modern times. Light was almost loath to share the report with L, sure that the great detective would have already come to most of the same conclusions.

"Light?"

He slipped his glasses down his nose, gazing up at Watari over the rims. "Yes, Watari?"

The elderly gentleman favored Light with an admonishing look, the tea tray in his hands held over the younger's head somewhat menacingly. "If I may ask, what have you done to L? He's been sequestered in the music room all morning, and he's been switching off between Chopin and Billy Joel. Clearly he's confused."

"Ah," Light replied, smiling. "I'm sure you heard our argument last night?" At the older man's nod, Light rose from his chair stretching his arms over his head. "I accused him of acting on jealousy rather than any logical reasoning. He was displeased."

Watari chuckled. "I imagine he was. L has never enjoyed being confronted, particularly with the evidence that he is in fact human."

"Yes, well, proving his emotional involvement by kissing him may have pushed him over the edge."

"You what?" The tray nearly dropped from Watari's hands, and Light placed a hand beneath to steady it. "Light…I do not approve of you toying with L to get the upper hand in your game. And I have high powered rifles."

An offended scowl crossed the younger man's features. "I don't believe in exploiting the feelings of others, for gain or otherwise."

"Might I take that to mean that you also have formed an attachment to L?" Watari asked, a warning note in his voice. "Considering his naiveté of social constructs and despite his seeming callousness, L's emotional state is actually rather fragile. To form a bond of this nature so quickly then lose it just the same…"

"That is not my intention," Light whispered. He found his cheeks burning as he busied his hands reordering the papers in his report. "In fact I am as unsure of all this as he is; I am just more capable of recognizing this 'bond' for what it is than L. With a case this dangerous and his unusual career circumstances, it would be foolish of either of us to dwell on what this could be rather than what it is now."

A twitch of Watari's mustache betrayed the older man's amusement to Light, though he could not for the life of him determine why this situation would inspire humor. "Ah, yes. L's…unusual career. For that matter your own has not been usual, Light. In that vein, I would like to speak to you about an important manner once this case is closed."

With that cryptic statement Watari exited the room, tea tray left behind laden with what Light now noticed was his favorite blend of gyokuro and a few light sesame cookies. He gratefully nibbled on one of the treats while contemplating the mysterious comments his colleagues kept making about his career trajectory. If he didn't know better, Light would think that L and Watari were hinting at some sort of future employment for him. He wasn't sure how he felt about that; Light was well aware of his faults and he knew he was far too headstrong to be held under the employ of a man who so clearly hated being questioned or disobeyed. L's lifestyle was similarly unappealing; while Light was no social butterfly he had no desire to become a nameless recluse constantly travelling without a home. He was after all Japanese, and the Japanese people felt strongly about roots, tradition, and family. The uncommon rapport he shared with L and the boys, the sense of purpose and challenge from like minds and convoluted cases- Light craved these, yet he was also unsure of whether he could accept the drawbacks that came with it. Best to focus, then, on the task at hand. It was time to convene the team and provide what psychological insights he could.

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8 October, 2010, 6 pm: Grand Prince Hotel, Takanawa, Tokyo

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Ryuga Hideki was having a fantastic week. On Monday, he returned from a disappointing shoot in Europe (honestly, the way Amane overreacted to one little pinch on the bottom) to find his agent had secured him an international ad campaign for Calvin Klein. Tuesday he had dinner with a Czech supermodel, Wednesday he received a favorable review for his latest television role from the toughest critic in Tokyo, and Thursday his new Nissan 240Z was delivered. Today, though- today took the cake. Ryuga's agent had received a call from an important Hollywood director, who was looking for a Japanese actor to star in a big-budget American remake of "Ran". He wanted one of his assistants to meet with Ryuga to go over the script and discuss the possibility of his involvement in the project. Ryuga was no fool- a film like that, a Hollywood film, could take his career to an entirely different level. He could be a real star; move to Los Angeles, make millions, be taken seriously as an actor rather than continuously typecast in pretty-boy love stories. And so here he was, in the bar of the Grand Prince, nursing a Yoichi single malt and waiting for his contact.

"Ryuga-san?"

Ryuga dragged his eyes from his whisky and up the mile-long legs of the woman in front of him. She was a beauty for sure, Japanese-American if he wasn't mistaken. Definitely an L.A. woman, all tight muscles and designer clothes and the slightly-cocked hip that read American attitude not demure Japanese politeness. Her long black hair was fixed in a slick ponytail, white Armani power suit crisp and precise but with a skirt a shade too short for Japanese propriety. Hazel eyes sparked impishly at him as she held out her hand to shake. Ryuga grinned; definitely American.

"Yes. And I assume you are from Lionsgate studio, Mrs…?" he said as he returned the handshake.

"It's Ms. actually. Shoko Maki, at your service." She nodded to his empty glass. "You are finished with your drink, then? I have the script and some demo materials for the project in my suite, if you would follow me?"

Ryuga rose from his barstool and gestured gallantly ahead. "After you, Shoko-san."

A promising career and a gorgeous assistant. Yes, Ryuga Hideki was having a fantastic week.

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8 October, 2010, 8pm: Loki Taskforce Headquarters, Peninsula Hotel, Chiyoda, Tokyo

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Light heaved a gusty sigh, pinching the bridge of his nose with his right hand. "Sayu. We talked about this. How did you get back here?"

Yagami Sayu flopped into the armchair across from him negligently, her legs dangling over one arm in a manner that would have horrified his mother, her dark head tilted backward so her hair trailed in rivers on the expensive carpet.

"Bribe-threatened Watari".

"By that you mean you threw a fit," Light said with acerbic bite, "and then followed up with puppy eyes, I assume".

Sayu favored him with an upside-down grin full of teeth, hell spawn that she was. "What do you think?"

Light swatted her stomach with his report. "I think you should be where it's safe. If I'm a target, so is everyone I care about. Oddly enough that includes you".

The smile on his sister's face faltered a bit, but she maintained her light tone. "Except L is keeping you on lock-down here, which means he deems here to be 'safe'. If the World's Greatest Detective thinks this joint is safe, I'll take it. The Wonder Twins are letting me bunk with them and Snowy downstairs".

"You are no longer allowed to watch American television," Light griped. "Though I'm sure since you got this past Watari already there is no point in me arguing. Just try not to get in the way".

Light received an indignantly thrown cushion to the gut for that statement. "I may not be a genius like you, nii-chan, but I'm not an idiot. And I'm majoring in psychology, remember? This creep could totally be my senior thesis. I'll bet your profile report says he's all kinds of messed up".

"Hardly technical or professional terminology, Sayu-chan," drawled a low voice behind the siblings. L slouched in the doorframe, nervously rubbing one bare foot on his opposite shin. "But appropriate nonetheless I am sure".

Despite the fact that he had been avoiding Light all morning, L's eyes met his squarely. A staring contest of sorts ended with Light giving the older man a slow, seductive smirk, the latter's cheeks darkening.

"Well this isn't awkward or totally gay at all," Sayu said, launching out of the chair to snatch Light's profile. "I'm taking this to the conference room to read in relative peace away from thickly unresolved sexual tension". She fairly skipped out of the room, her brother's snide voice calling after her retreating form.

"You'd have better grades if you spent more time reading profiles and less reading yaoi manga!"

A blown raspberry was the only reply, the silence falling over the two men after just as uncomfortable as Sayu had suggested. L, having no social graces whatsoever, broke it bluntly.

"Since Sayu-chan has absconded with your conclusions on Loki, perhaps it would behoove us to discuss just what transpired last night?"

"We had an argument," Light evaded obviously. He would be damned if he was the first one to admit this…whatever it was growing between them. Small victories, childish though they were, made Light's day. "I won".

L's brows knitted in clear irritation, an unusual expression on his normally emotionless features. "Light-kun is being obtuse," he sighed. "He knows very well to what I am referring"

"He is also quite busy, and needs to retrieve the other copy of his profile if we are to get anything done today".

"Light…" A note of exasperation crept into L's deep voice, teeth gritted.

"Busy," Light replied, turning his back on L in favor of flipping through the stack of folders on the table. "Here- my completed profile for the serial killer designated 'Loki'. Not that it is terribly illuminating."

L sighed, snatching the file from his hands with more force than necessary. Light fought down a smile; obviously being put off was not something to which the man was accustomed.

Profile: "Ragnarok Murders"

Suspect: Loki (Alias, no suspects at this time)

Killer Type: Serial. Spree-style: extended bouts of sequential killings over large period with no "cooling off" period or return to normalcy. Specifically designated "mission-oriented" killer, with intentions to rid the world of certain types of people. In this case, killer intends to strike at the justice system and eventually the detective known as "L". Organized characteristics.

Characteristics (Typical):

Abuse in childhood (suspected, from vengeance aimed at failed justice system)

2/3 in McDonald Triad- fascination with fire and sadistic tendencies. Previous murders and/or torture of persons and small animals highly likely

Bullied or socially isolated as a child.

Steady or typical employment highly unlikely.

Characteristics (Atypical):

Extraordinary IQ, estimated above 170

Unlikely to have been involved in petty crime

PCL-R traits:

Interpersonal- grandiose sense of self worth, manipulation of others.

Affective- lack of remorse or guilt, lack of empathy

Lifestyle- attention seeking, lack of realistic goals, impulsivity

Anti-Social- criminal versatility, early childhood behavior problems suspected

Relevant Psychopathy Summation:

Subject lacks empathy and a sense of guilt, is extremely egocentric, and does not conform to moral, social, or legal norms. Though exhibits ability for meticulous planning, also shows highly impulsive nature. Antisocial personality disorder and narcissism likely. Likelihood of childhood rejection by parental or authority figures is high, leading to the development of a fantasy life where the subject is in complete control. No usual facilitators (drugs, alcohol, pornography) suspected. Development from early childhood within fantasy realms, causing retardation of conscience and empathy, resulting in sociopathy.

"While this summation is certainly apt, it does not tell me much that I did not already suspect Light-kun."

"That you said 'much' implies that there was an angle you had not contemplated?" Light replied.

"Mmm. Light-kun saw fit to mention childhood issues several times in just his summation page, and," L continued, flipping through the report idly, "seems to have included a several page long speculation on such issues in the body of the report." He tipped his head to the side, nose crinkling. "Light-kun usually avoids hypotheses not based on evidence from the crime scene or communications from the perpetrator himself, so why has he done so this time?"

"Because he's too good," Light sighed, turning to the window and scanning the city line. "Loki isn't going to give us anything obvious, or any significant forensics at the scene. We have to go out on the proverbial limb if we want to catch this guy, L. It may not be my usual schema, but I'm working on intuition here. I feel very strongly that Loki's childhood may hold the key to not only his psychopathy, but also to his criminality and choice of target."

"Is Light-kun implying…"

"That you may need to look back further than your cases to find out why this man has chosen you?" Light asked, turning back to find L only a step behind him. Rather than back away, Light stepped closer, brushing a stray lock of L's hair out of his eyes. "Yes. Have you not considered this possibility?"

L shook his head, an exasperated sound escaping his pale lips. "Fruitless. My childhood was…sheltered, in a way. There was no contact with the world outside."

"Outside what?"

"Light-kun does not believe I will actually tell him details of my past, does he?"

"I don't see why not," Light returned, annoyed. "You have been watching me and studying every detail of my life for nearly a year. I doubt highly that you did not research my past as well. You know almost everything about me, L. Yet all I know of you is what I've been able to glean from your cases or surprise out of you in the last few days." Another step and Light was nose to nose with the detective, a reprise of the previous night. "Would it kill you to trust someone?"

"It very well could," L breathed, his eyes hard but as open to Light as they had been since they met.

"Then let me tell you what I have learned from observing you," Light countered, "and at least tell me whether I am right or wrong. Give me that. You owe me that after dissecting my life."

L opened his mouth to disagree, but apparently thought better of it at the look in Light's eyes. "I…very well then."

"Good." Light smiled, rubbing his nose gently against L's. "You said sheltered, but it is clear you did not mean it in a figurative sense. Literally separated from the world at large. There are but a few ways this could happen to a child. First, reclusive parents. You, however, show all the hallmarks of an orphan which leads us to the second choice; orphanage. This is closer, but no orphanage in the system would yield a fifteen year old international detective. Watari is clearly your backer, which means he knew you and recognized your aptitude before you became L. Watari isn't the sort to be in someone else's employ with his fortune and obvious genius, so it is likely you were actually his ward. Judging from the similar talents and personality traits in Near, Mello, and Matt, I'd wager that Watari runs some sort of institute for gifted children, usually or exclusively orphaned. Probably somewhere in the British Isles."

L's expression remained stoic, but the same note of panic flitted across his face as when Light named his identity in the limousine. "Am I right?"

"No one but you, Light," L whispered. "No one has ever come so close as you." A slight tinge of despair crept into his deep voice. "You come too close for your own good. What shall I do with you?"

"You did claim I knew too much to let me leave," he replied, a smile creeping onto his face. "And I was promised a ring."

"Perhaps I should go about it properly and ask your father for your hand, then?" L chuckled, taking Light's hand gently in his own and rubbing a thumb across his ring finger.

"If you'd like to end up as target practice," a cheerful voice called from the doorway. "Dad isn't too keen on the boys chasing Light."

"Perfect timing as always, Sayu-chan," L sighed, releasing Light's hand and backing himself into a corner.

Sayu stuck out her tongue. "So, the boys sent me out here to grab you two. Apparently something bigger than Light's boring report just happened and Near is spazzing out. He's muttering something about 'breaking the pattern' over and over again."

L's eyes widened and he loped out of the room; Light hot on his heels and Sayu trotting behind. Serial killers like this never broke pattern, Light thought with alarm. If theirs had, this case could become impossible to solve.

The monitors in the conference room showed absolute chaos; Ukita and Ide were shooting with a handheld camera at a taped-off crime scene, Mogi and Aizawa in the background frantically fighting off a horde of reporters with flashing cameras. His father was at the Yellow Box with Matsuda, both of them juggling multiple phone calls to the NPA headquarters and various other members of the team. Whatever had happened, whoever the new victim was, it was so unusual that Matt had actually dropped his video game and was combing through the previous letters and the map with Mello. The two parallel lines connecting the locations of the murders were outlined in red, but halfway across the city a new dot glowed yellow.

"Ryuzaki! Light! You have to take a fucking look at this. This guy that was hit today doesn't fit at all! Wrong name, wrong place, but the same runic letter and mmph!"

Light clapped his hand over Mello's mouth and gaped at the screen.

"I know that place. It's the Grand Prince Hotel, in Takanawa. Very classy, Misa had a shoot for a whisky ad there once. But that's not anywhere near the route."

L frowned, flickering his eyes over the crime scene footage as Matt brought stills up onto the other screens. "I am afraid I recognize our victim, as well. Is that not…"

"Ryuga Hideki!" squealed Sayu. "This bastard killed Ryuga-san!"

"Indeed, Sayu-chan. Though while he qualifies as a 'star', his name does not have a celestial meaning."

"The letter just came through the translator program," Matt interrupted. "Nothing about stars. He's talking about some tree."

"Yggdrasil, the World Tree," L whispered, rubbing his eyes. "In the myths, Nidhogg the Corpse Tearer gnawed through the base of Yggdrasil and felled it at the beginning of Ragnarok."

"And Hideki can mean 'excellent trees' in kanji," Light agreed. "Loki's done warming up. This starts the war. But the kill pattern still shouldn't have deviated. It doesn't make sense- why there? Why would someone so obsessed with symbols and meticulous planning change so quickly?"

"L, this is Yagami. NPA headquarters is demanding that the task force be returned to their jurisdiction, as the murders have only escalated. They believe you are not making any headway on the case."

"Guys…" came a tentative voice.

"Matsu here. The news networks are all over this already. Takada-san is breathing down our necks for a statement. I can't get to you right now because she's tailing me everywhere."

"Um, guys…"

"Near, please work on a suitable diversion for Ms. Takada. Yagami-san, tell the Director that I will call him personally in one hour's time to discuss this matter," L began, crouching in the nearest rolling chair. "Matsuda-san, I need you to obtain all the security tapes from the hotel. We need to see anyone with whom Ryuga-san spoke."

"Hey, guys, seriously…"

"This is the new letter?" Light frowned at the whiteboard, lips moving soundlessly as he tried to see a connection between the verse and the change in locale.

"Yggdrasil shakes | and shiver on high,
the ancient limbs | and the giant is loose!

And of course Loki has another challenge for us:

To you, aLfodur, who dispenses Justice from Hlidskialf on high-

Frigg's gambit employed will be in vain, too easy to learn young Baldur's bane-

Beauty shielded at Odin's demand, yet still mistletoe finds the blind one's hand-

Destruction and pain await justice and love, clinched with sacrifice of the fair dove-

As Balder falls so too shall they all, who with false pretense answer Alfodur's call."

L's teeth closed on the tip of his thumb, eyes unfocused. "That is the second time he has implied two will be broken by Baldur's death. What does he mean?"

Light shrugged, eyes flickering between the board and the map with increasing agitation. "He also implies that he has learned whatever will allow him to kill me, which he will follow up with the deaths of anyone else with whom you associate."

"GUYS!"

"Not now, Sayu," Light snapped.

"I just thought you might explain to me why this guy's handwriting on the notes changed," she sniped. Both detectives whipped around to stare at Sayu, who appeared both curious and smug.

"Say again, love?"

"His handwriting," Sayu repeated, nudging Mello out of the way of the whiteboard. "Look- in the first letters, this one rune that looks like a wonky English letter H-"

"Hagalaz," L interrupted.

"Bless you," she deadpanned, "That rune is darker than the others, like bold type on a computer. But in this new letter, this arrow shape is darker and the H shape is normal."

"Sayu-chan is quite correct," L replied, turning to Light excitedly. "A secondary pattern, not visible until the first iteration of the primary pattern is completed."

"The map," Mello said, grabbing a red marker and drawing a diagonal line connecting the previous parallel lines delineating the murder patterns. "Not lines, a rune. These two dots were meant to be connected."

"Genius," Light muttered. "A pattern we could not possibly have seen until the new one was underway, as the previous manner of writing hagalaz would have been consistent across all the letters."

Fingers flying, Matt brought up a chart of old Norse runes. "So hagalaz apparently means both a new beginning and a negative force. Har har, this guy's a comedian. This new one, teiwaz, can mean justice, duty, or self sacrifice."

"It is also the symbol for Tyr, the god of justice. The problem with this new pattern is-"

"There is no way to predict where it will go from a single point," Light finished. "We can't tell where any more of the killings will occur without many more data points to show the direction of the arrow shape." He returned his gaze to the newest letter, musing on his profile for Loki. "He counted on us catching this. He wanted us to know the pattern, to understand that we cannot hope to catch him nor prevent any further kills by studying it. He knows what we'll have to do, L. What I will have to do."

"Unacceptable."

Light shook his head. "Necessary. Neither of us can catch Loki without visiting the crime scenes in person, without doing hands-on investigation. It's how he'll get me out from under your protection to make me the next victim. He's challenging me."

"Mello, Matt, and Near are perfectly capable of performing the ground work…"

"I know they are capable, and brilliant. But Sayu just proved that sometimes all it takes is a fresh perspective and new eyes to find the breakthrough." Light's golden eyes hardened. "I'm going to that crime scene, whether you like it or not."

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8 October, 2010, 9:30pm: Grand Prince Hotel, Takanawa

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Light glared at the neat round hole in Ryuga Hideki's temple as though it were Loki himself. It wasn't even the new method of homicide that irked him, as the victims in the Ragnarok case had shown wide variety in mode of death. The way in which they were killed seemed irrelevant; it was the post-mortem posing of the body into a cross, palms decorated with the runes for sun and moon in the victim's own blood, which was important to Loki. Ryuga's corpse was no different, laid out on the formerly pristine white sheets like a sacrifice to the gods.

No, it wasn't the difference, per se. It was…

"Problem, Light-kun?"

That. The staring. The prodding little questions interrupting his focus, his attempt to tune out the room to see the crime in his head. The implication that he hadn't needed to risk coming, that he would find nothing that Matt and Mello could not.

The fact that L might be right on that one. Light had seen nothing out of the ordinary, the scene almost preternaturally clean. And this wound…

"Perhaps," L quipped, slurping obnoxiously on a cherry-flavored lollipop, "Light-kun is stumped due to the low rate of gun crime in Japan."

"Shut up, Ryuzaki."

The detective hummed around his treat, enjoying his vengeance for the hair gel-and-clothing related indignities forced upon him by Light as a condition for joining the team on site. "Has Light-kun even seen a gunshot victim before?"

"Shut up, Ryuzaki."

All right, so Light hadn't ever seen a gunshot victim in person before. There were less than 200 violent gun crimes committed in the whole of Japan each year, most of which were perpetrated by organized crime syndicates- not his area. Frankly the amount of blood soaking through the mattress was disturbing him. Not to mention the obvious skull fragments and brain tissue. Ugh. You will not vomit at a crime scene again. You will not vomit at a crime scene again.

"Mello, Matt, if you please…"

Matt looked up from the preliminary evidence report Ide had handed him, grinning cheerfully. The weirdo. "Definitely a 9 millimeter slug. Probably a short barrel compact, less than 40 caliber, since the dude's head is relatively intact."

"That's intact?" Light asked. Matt gave him a pitying look.

"You really haven't seen a gunshot wound, huh? Trust me; the real high powered guns are much worse."

"True, love," Mello continued. "And there's not much for powder or soot around the wound- probably fired from around 5 centimeters or less. You know, I think this might be a woman."

"Statistically women avoid head shots," L stated, leaning so close to the body he was practically nose to nose.

"Statistically women use compact weapons with high concealed carry ability, smaller caliber, and make a point to make less noise," Mello returned.

"A 9 mil isn't really small caliber, Mel."

"It is if you're a pro." Mello sighed. "We would know what kind of gun this was from already if the Japanese didn't have such shit ballistics facilities."

Light frowned deeply. "What part of 'practically no gun crime' do you not understand, Mello? It's illegal for Japanese citizens to own handguns- any handguns. And we don't use 9 millimeter rounds, so this isn't a police issue gun."

"So, import. Either smuggled in, or the shooter is an import herself," Matt mused. He paused to glance at his phone. "Text from Near. Says he found a match on the rifling. We're looking at a Glock, probably a model 17, 19, 22, or 23. No way to tell, since the barrels are rifled by mass production."

"Law enforcement," said L, shifting away from his examination of the body. He waved at the police units, indicating they could remove Hideki's corpse. "While private citizens own Glock handguns, they are most common among members of law enforcement units. Unfortunately, they are popular in 36 countries for that use. I myself use a Glock 22."

"Law enforcement…"

"You have a theory, Light-kun?"

"A background in law enforcement would explain how the scenes are wiped of all forensic identifiers. The ways in which the victims have been killed until now have been through brute strength, though the specific method has varied somewhat. But this kill is a shooting of almost surgical precision. I think we might be looking at two of our three 'children' of Loki as the ones carrying out the deeds." Light stopped short. "And now you're saying the gun is a small weapon likely to be used by a woman. I believe that we have been familiar with the work of 'Fenrir', and are now seeing the work of 'Hel'. I also suspect she might be the one with law enforcement training. This scene is much more meticulously staged than the others."

"Looks like you may be onto something, Light-o," Matt interrupted. "Near says that he and Matsuda have finished looking over the security footage. Ryuga met a woman here in the bar, and they immediately went up to the suite. The few witnesses that remember her describe her as a Japanese woman, though the manager stated she was Japanese-American, with a white suit and briefcase- that's it. The tapes show almost nothing of her- she was positioned perfectly in each camera's range to show as little of her as possible without looking staged. We don't even have a profile of her face to go on. She's good. Near actually sounded impressed."

"Please inform Near that he should not be admiring a murderer's acumen," L snapped.

"He also says the manager's right. Ryuga's agent confirms he had a meeting here with an executive from an American movie studio about a role, and that he checked it out before okaying it. Whoever she is, she has some connections to exploit in America."

L cursed sulfurously under his breath. "Americans," he sighed, "My contacts with the American government and law enforcement are not as significant as my European connections." Then a sly look passed over his face. His lips twisted in a wry grin, and he glanced sideways at Light. "But perhaps someone else here does have excellent connections with the Americans. Or at least, one American."

"You can't be serious," Light said, flushing to the roots of his hair. "I haven't spoken to Steven in person since he left Japan. I've exchanged exactly three emails with him. What makes you think that this is a connection I can exploit for this case?"

Matt nudged Light with a playful elbow to the ribs. "Gevanni is a pretty hot shit field agent for the FBI. Maybe he can get some information on former agents who left under weird circumstances, or even current ones who might be in Japan. If it comes under the auspices of L and as a favor to a former lover? Might be more of a motivation."

"Precisely my intention," L replied. "It is likely from the use of a common law enforcement weapon and not a military one that our Hel was trained by one of those agencies and not the armed forces. This is reinforced by the knowledge of forensics and crime scene staging. Further, her skillful avoidance of security suggests a clandestine position. Hence, the only rational choices would be the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency. The latter is less likely than the former, as the CIA performs mostly surveillance while the FBI functions as national law enforcement."

"And we don't want to alert any higher ups, since we don't know what sort of connections Hel had to exploit," Light continued in a weary tone. "Yes, I understand. You have just put me in a rather…awkward position, that's all. Between Mikami and Steven, I feel like I've been more useful for my romantic connections than my intelligence or deductive skills."

"Don't let your father hear that, Bocchan."

Light started as a heavy hand was laid on his shoulder from behind. He turned to find Aizawa and Mogi had finished escorting the body to the coroner, and had returned just in time to hear the end of the conversation. "You know how he feels about the attention you seem to get from men these days. He'd be furious if he found out you were seeing that FBI agent last year."

"You knew about-"

"Matsu," Aizawa interrupted. "Matsu figured it out, and you know he can't keep a secret. We don't much care, Yagami-kun. You never let it get in the way of the job. But the NPA is pretty conservative, and you're already 'the nail that sticks up'. There's quite a few in the department who wouldn't mind seeing you get hammered down, so watch your rear."

Light exchanged a wry glance with L. "Your insinuations about my career trajectory seem more apt every day." He gave a stiff, formal head bow to his colleague. "Thank you, Aizawa-san. I appreciate both the discretion and the candor."

Aizawa gave a careless shrug, huge hair bobbing slightly with the movement of his shoulders. "So what is the word from L? We're due to be recalled tomorrow, except for you since you're under protective custody. Even your father was removed from the case."

"L will continue the investigation on his own, of course, with the assistance of his own agents," L interjected, scratching one hand behind his head in what would seem a nervous gesture to anyone not paying close attention. Light wasn't buying it. "He has, however, instructed me to extend a proposition to any of you still interested in remaining on the case anyway. Could you let the others know that if they are willing to defy the NPA in this matter, they should meet Watari in the top level of the parking structure of the British Embassy at 8 tomorrow evening? He will wait only ten minutes before departing." A small smile crossed his lips then. "L also wants to convey his thanks to each member of the team even if none of them decide to continue on in this matter. He understands perfectly the situation in which you find yourselves."

Aizawa nodded curtly, clapping a hand on Mogi's shoulder as they left the suite.

"And now, a return to our headquarters Light-kun. I have a pair of wolves to set to task, and you have an email to write to an…old friend."

Light pinched the bridge of his nose for the second time that day. A migraine was threatening, he was sure. Gods save me from manipulative dark haired men.