The Devil's Greatest Trick
Disclaimer: Weiss Kreuz, its characters, indices etcetera belong to Takehito Koyasu, Kyoko Tsuchiya and Project Weiss. The Usual Suspects is property of Polygram Entertainment. 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 was inspired by the character of Keyser Soze from the film The Usual Suspects, who hangs like an all-consuming shadow over the film and indeed the world the film's characters live in. It occured to me that this must be rather like how Weiss are seen by the people they share a city with; not by the cops or the civilians - who never give any indication of knowing anything about the covert murders being commited every few weeks - but by Tokyo's criminals. The irony of the way Weiss operates is that the only people outside Kritiker with enough information and insight to have some understanding of Weiss are their potential targets, and this is what this story explores. Thanks, as usual, go to Laila for making sure it actually did that in a coherent and gramatical way.
"The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist."
- Roger 'Verbal' Kint
When he was studying English at Oxford twenty years ago, Mitsuo Hakuta heard the legend of the Sword of Damocles. At the time he didn't understand how terrifying it would be to see the instrument of your death hovering above you and be powerless to prevent its fall. He understands now.
The fire is hot on his face, even through two walls. The smoke makes his eyes water. He can hear the flames searing the inside of the factory, and above that sound the scream of the fire alarm. He knows as clearly as he knows the face of his wife that this was not an accident, and that something is coming for him.
He doesn't know what it is, it's never had a name. He doesn't know when it all started and, as far as he knows, no one else does either. It must have been going on for years before anyone started to notice and it could easily have taken that long because of one simple fact: everyone dies. No matter how much money or power you have, everyone dies eventually. Some of his fellow Tokyo criminals dying was nothing unusual.
Then it wasn't just some of them. Hakuta didn't know when, but one day someone had woken up and realised what had been in front of them for ages: something was cutting a swathe through Tokyo's most powerful bosses. Accusations had flown back and forth and as the body count rose even further at least three other bosses had died fighting each other. Everyone who was accused had denied any knowledge, even the Yakuza had been more forthcoming about the fact that it wasn't them than anyone had expected. Of course, it hadn't been any of the other bosses. The truth was far more disturbing.
The truth was that it couldn't have been any of the other gangs, or bosses, or even the Yakuza. The men and women who had died were safe. Like Hakuta himself they had paid off lawyers, accountants, judges. They were safe from the newspapers, from the police, and from each other. But they had died, and died in droves of... nothing.
Now the bosses were afraid, especially those who had paid plenty of money to read police reports saying that their former allies or competitors had died of heart attacks, strokes, car accidents, falls down stairs, fires, or simply walked out of doors or got into cars and vanished off the face of the earth, and no one seemed to know or believe any different. Some of them began to jump at shadows, insisting that any death at all in their fraternity, even Genji Koga's heart failure, was the work of this shadow that now seemed to hang over it.
Then the whispers had started.
Hakuta knew the whispers had been telling the truth as his factory shuddered around him. Thousands of metres of carefully prepared paper were being consumed by the flames. That last crack had been as the heat breached the storage tanks and gallons of ink poured across the factory floor and into the Sumida. Soon the walls would give way and the entire building would come crashing down, burying millions of perfectly forged yen in rubble.
"Sudou," he shouts into his radio, "can we save the sub-basements?"
"I don't think so, sir!" Sudou shouts back. "I can try moving the merchandise out through the river entrance but—"
There is a sound over the radio. A single, sudden gasp, and then the connection breaks.
The radio is silent. Hakuta nearly drops it, but he manages to shove it into his jacket pocket as he runs out of his office. The alarm has stopped and all he can hear is the sound of the fire as he heads away from it towards his concealed staircase. Juji will be there to escort him down to the boat he keeps moored at the side of the factory for emergencies.
He reaches the stairs and freezes. Juji is there, but he will be no help. There's so much blood in the room it even overwhelms the smell of smoke. Juji's clothes are soaked in it, but his position spares Hakuta from seeing where it has all came from.
This was what the bosses heard in the whispers. Those who died hadn't done so the way the police, the news and everyone else seemed determined to believe they did. The stories never agreed but they might have died of anything from a garrotte to being torn to shreds by a wild animal. Those that did the whispering never came forward to offer detail, they were too afraid that if so much as a face or a name was revealed they would suffer the same terrible fate they had witnessed.
And as he ran for his life, Hakuta understood that the means were not as terrifying as the effectiveness with which the murders were covered up. Paid men in newspapers and the police knew nothing, and would not believe it anyway. It was as though some great supernatural force was dealing this death and the final part of the curse was that the only people who could see and understand this fate were those who would one day suffer it themselves.
But Hakuta is not dead yet. No matter how terrible this force is, it is not all-powerful and it could be escaped. He scrambles down the fire escape, the last living man out of his burning building. Tongues of flame billow out of the roof and to him they seem to turn the night sky the colour of blood. They are consuming his life's work, but not his life.
A car waits in the alleyway behind his building with one of his men beside it. Hakuta drops off the fire escape and almost falls. The guard is on his back next to the car. There is no blood on him, not a drop, and not a single mark on his skin. Hakuta leaves him there and stumbles around the car, counting all four tires punctured.
His mind grasps the inevitability, the certain knowledge that it will all be over soon, but his body refuses to submit. He reaches inside his coat for his pistol and swings it around the alley. He sees something move, just a flicker in the darkness and he fires at it. The muzzle flash all but blinds him and the light from the fire brings the night alive with shapes that seem to writhe with laughter as he wastes bullet after bullet on the empty night.
Then there is a hiss. A flash of silver light rears in the shadows and strikes like a snake, encircling his hands and tearing across his skin as it rips the gun away from him. He spins around and around, helpless and alone with only the wish that it will be over soon.
"What are you?" he cries. "What... who are you?"
The air rushes above him and he turns in time to see a shadow fall out of the night upon him. And, in his last instants, he is granted a gift: he is allowed to understand. For it is no spirit or force or god that descends upon him, but a man. A man with a word on his lips that names the nemesis of Mitsuo Hakuta and all the others who have fallen in the shadows. A word that means everything and nothing.