Fate or Fortune
Fool: Destiny or Chance?
Grave decisions pave the path beyond,
Lament the past that fate abscond.
Monday, March 20th 2017
San Diego; USA
The rain's heavy patter against the tall pane glass hums its monotony through the airport arrival bay, all but lost in the loud bustle of excited travellers disembarking into a foreign land. It had been an eleven hour flight from Tokyo airport to San Diego, stiff legs and backs were to be expected, yet it did nothing to pacify the crowd. Most were Japanese tourists, arriving in California in anticipation of its fine weather and long stretches of sparkling beaches. Though looking out the window you could swear the travel brochures were being mendacious. Despite that the travellers seemed not off-put, hurrying to the luggage terminal with cameras in hand, already documenting the holiday.
This was where the crowd segregated, those on holidays off to pick up their over-packed luggage, and those who obviously come for business, arriving with only the essentials packed into a carry-on luggage. Among this smart-dressed crowd walked an individual that stood out, not just because of her dress sense, but for the fact that despite her miniature size she commanded an air of great authority. Her thick sweeping leather coat draped around her thin shoulders hung snugly over the top of a heavy wool coat, contrasting greatly with the suits and ties of those around her.
Detective Naoto Shirogane strode out into the visitor's terminal, away from the crowds gathering by the luggage belt and immediately the small crowd around her began to dissolve.
People who arrive for business usually have a clear idea of where they were going, most headed for the taxi-bay, while some greeted colleagues in the terminal. Naoto was supposed to be part of the latter crowd. She stood to the side, out of the way of the bustling thoroughfare as some of the tourists started trickling out as well.
The young detective was promised an escort from the precinct to pick her up but was never informed of the details of the individual, though considering the urgency of the request she assumed whomever it was that was supposed to receive her would be well informed of her appearance. Her uniquely fashionable newsboy cap was a dead giveaway, it was practically her trademark.
Naoto checked her watch, a dark coloured piece of digital hardware that stood in contrast to her classy semi-Victorian period outfit. Unlike most travellers she had set her watch beforehand. A detective always keeps ahead of the game at all times. Be proactive, not reactive.
With slight annoyance she noted her arrival was later than was stated on the travel schedule, yet despite that her company had not seemed to have arrived yet. Unpunctuality was no way to make first impressions, especially not to a Japanese national.
Getting impatient Naoto scanned the shifting crowds, not entirely sure who she was expecting. She spotted a couple of uniformed individuals walk by, with a massive dog on a leash. They were likely just airport security, searching for drugs, or bombs or toe-nail clippers...goodness knows what else Americans were stirred up about.
Five more minutes, that's all she'll give before calling into the department and requesting another driver be sent down for her. Almost like an answer to her thoughts a booming shout rang down the parlour.
"Detective Shirogane?" yelled an indiscrete voice, instantly drawing the unwanted attention of everyone in the vicinity.
Naoto bristled with irritation as she turned to greet the source of the commotion.
A Caucasian man looking to be in his early to mid thirties with light brown hair, tussled in a way that made Naoto think he didn't brush it, waved her down with appalling enthusiasm. In his hand he held an extremely large bag over a box of which contents were undiscernible. Upon his approach Naoto realised the full measure of his size, though it wasn't so much that he was incredibly tall, but that she was noticeably short, even for a Japanese, so that she had to crane her neck up to look him in the eye. This didn't go unnoticed.
"Oh my..." He uttered voice trailing off, although he didn't finish putting his thought into words it was painted across his face as plain as day.
You are not what I imagined you to be.
Not that Naoto would let something as irrelevant as another's views impact on her.
"Hello. Nice to meet you." She greeted him in a neutral professional tone. "I am Naoto Shirogane. You are?"
Snapping out of his stunned surprise the man fumbled with his words, dropping many 'um's and 'err's until he finally paused to take a deep breath. Naoto flinched visibly as he proceeded to introduce himself enthusiastically and loudly.
"My name is Nathan Evans! Umm Detective Nathan Evans! Detective as of last week... Nice to meet you! I hope to learn a lot from you!" He ended with an incredibly awkward bow that supposedly was originally mimicking that of a Japanese greeting but ending up looking more like a western curtsey.
The whole process probably looked incredibly awkward to an outsider, it certainly felt awkward to Naoto, to have this much larger, and possibly much older man greet her as thus in the middle of a public area, in a way completely inappropriate to the culture she was visiting, and to the one she left. She had to hand it to the man, to be able to make her so completely uncomfortable within minutes of meeting.
Upon snapping up straight, Nathan held out his equally large plastic bag to the small Japanese detective. "I thought this was the only proper way to welcome you to America!" It was only then as the bag turned did she read the label printed on the side.
Krispy Kreme Doughnuts.
Naoto's eyebrow twitched. Surely this man knew these sold in Japan as well, not that the clean-cut detective ever partook in them. Still it was impolite to refuse a gift, especially when it was offered so sincerely...
"Ah... Thank you." She tentatively accepted the massive box of confectionary she knew she was never going to be able to finish. However this seemed to have pleased the tall westerner as he stepped back with a large silly grin on his face, seemingly satisfied his gift was properly accepted.
"I sure hope you like original glaze! You won't believe the lines going on at the airport Krispy Kreme shop! I had to wait an hour in line!"
Naoto's eyebrows shot up. An hour in line? "Was this why you were late?" She questioned, with a little more sternness than she intended.
Nathan's face instantly fell. "Oh umm... Yeah... I'm sorry... See I saw your flight was gonna be delayed...and um..." His words trailed off into a mumble, in which the young detective only managed to pick up "fabled patience of the Japanese..."
Sighing inwardly the small detective waved it off. "It's fine. Let's go."
The apologetic American instantly perked up, interpreting it as forgiveness. He walked Naoto to his car, mostly in silence, yet excited energy radiated off him in a way the young detective felt as if she was being assaulted with a barrage of banter just by walking beside him.
Nathan procured an umbrella when they stepped out into the rain, holding it in a way to mostly shield her, despite the fact that she was the one wearing a waterproof coat and he was getting soaked.
Naoto realised with some chagrin that westerners were nothing like how visual representations have lead her to believe...
But honestly nothing could have prepared her for this...
"Sooo... This your first time outside your country?"
They had been driving in an amicable silence for a little under half an hour, but Naoto knew this couldn't last. She already anticipated question time would start.
"Then have you come to America before?"
"Then this must be a big first for you!" Nathan exclaimed, diving into an eager introduction of the city. "Usually San Diego has much more sun than this, but you came at a bad time, winter is not tourist season, but wait... its autumn now... winter is long this year... But that's not to say the city doesn't have its winter charms! Like SeaWorld! It's never too wet for SeaWorld! Or what about Legoland? Oh right don't forget you're legally obliged to tip for service around here! It's usually ten percent! Tourists never rememb-"
"Detective Evans. I am not here as a tourist." Naoto cut him off, in a neutral tone of voice.
"Oh, I know. Sorry." Nathan made an apologetic face. "I just thought since this was your first to America you'd use some time off to see the sights... I hear you Japanese are always amazed at the sheer size of our city."
"It's not the size of the city that amazes us." Naoto replied, eyes cast out to the side of the window watching the slight drizzle the storm had died down to pattering against the window. "It's how empty the streets are."
Nathan considered this for a moment, completely ignoring the cynical undertones of that remark and replied "That's because it's raining!"
An awkward silence settled between them, and stretched for a good minute before Nathan made another attempt at conversation.
"So umm, your name. Detective Shirogane..."
"It's awfully long... Shi-ro-ga-ne... a good four syllables." He held up his fingers in emphasis.
Naoto sat in silence, wondering where the tall man was going with this.
"Is there any possibility for me to shorten it? Like Shiro or something?"
"Then how about I call you Detective Naoto?"
"Because it is unprofessional." Naoto answered coldly.
Nathan flinched, but took it in his stride as he continued attempting to make conversation. "Ok Detective Shirogane it is... but if I were to talk to you off duty, would I be able to call you Naoto?"
Remembering that westerners did not have a first name intimacy rule the Japanese detective conceded that in America co-workers probably interacted as thus.
"I suppose so..." Naoto replied, then suddenly realised for Detective Evans to be asking her permission to use first name he must have had some semblance of cultural sensitivity training.
Not that it helped.
"Oh great, but it's still a tad long! Three Syllables! My name is just two. Mind if I call you Nao?"
"What about Naruto?"
Then it dawned on her that he was probably joking, as she turned and saw a grin plastered all over his face.
"Hahaha. Sorry, I couldn't resist. I was holding that in since I saw your name. But Naoto. I like it...it...is a guy's name right?"
It was a baited question, asking not if the name was a male's, but if she was male. Naoto instantly stiffened, in all her years working guised as the opposite gender, nobody has ever suspected... Or at least never thrown it straight in her face.
"Naoto is male..." she ventured cautiously, unsure if this seemingly clumsy detective was actually just playing her, studying her with an eagle eye as he joked behind a mask of frivolity.
"Oh. Ooooh! Ok!" Nathan exclaimed. "'cause I thought it might have been like Jess or Alex sorts of English names, where it could be used for a guy or a girl. I mean, you can never tell with you Asian folks. Ah wait, sorry that was rude..." He immediately shut up upon feeling the intense glare coming from the passenger's seat and contented himself with driving the rest of the way in silence.
He knew the Japanese were an introverted lot, but he never imagined they could be so...introverted..
Naoto jerked out of her abstraction. Nathan glanced once in her general direction before focusing his eyes back on the road.
"We're almost there... Was that a GPS?"
Naoto looked at her watch in confusion. Above the bar that told her the time was a small sliver of a screen that usually displayed [OUT OF RANGE].
"Nineteen Meters...?" She muttered, not quite believing her eyes.
"What was that?" Nathan asked eyes glancing sideways and quickly back to the road.
"Nothing." She snappishly amended as she thrust her watch back up into her sleeve, watch already settling back to default distance.
He was in America, she knew, but America is a huge place and she didn't even know which state he moved to. What were the chances he'd be in San Diego?
...Let alone passing just nineteen meters away from her.
No, it was a mistake, an error in the hardware.
As if to prove to herself thus she let the watch peek from her sleeve once more, and as if it had never changed, it displayed 'out of range' once more.
Naoto let out a small sigh, she should have set the proximity indicator to silent, but she never seen the need to before.
Never had she expected to meet him again, or for the watch to malfunction for that matter.
The young detective sat in silence for the remainder of the ride, thoughts drifting darkly around memories of a buried past.
The car grinded to a sudden stop, wheels scraping the concrete bumper as Nathan parked the car fluidly into a spot in a parking lot.
Naoto wordlessly reached for the door handle, shaking her sleeve over the watch.
She would put these thoughts out of her mind; she had a job to do.
"So you're Detective Shirogain?"
If Naoto had thought Evans was a big man then she was not prepared for the size of the man standing in front of her. It wasn't so much that he was tall, but his sheer bulk spoke all too clearly of this man's fondness for 'Krispy Kreme's and other high fat confectionaries that America was all too famous for. This imposing mass coupled with his haughty disbelieving scowl radiating through an overly bushy moustache made him particularly warped out of proportion from Naoto's much de-elevated level.
"I believe its pronounced Shiroga-ne." Nathan interjected helpfully.
"Hello, nice to meet you. I am Naoto Shirogane." The Japanese detective greeted politely, tipping her hat. "I apologise for my English." A mere formality since there was nothing inherently wrong with her English.
"That's not the problem." The colossal man grunted, "What I want to know is how in the world are you twenty-one years old?"
It was a question Naoto anticipated, she was no longer a child true, but it didn't help the fact that since she masqueraded as a man she would always look and sound like a pre-teen. Before she could answer Nathan cut in.
"Come on Frank, he's Japanese, they're just simply smaller and cuter than the rest of the world."
What sort of reasoning was that?
Naoto glared at him in disbelief, fuelled by the fact that the larger man seemed to have accepted it as fact.
"Ah right... Well the Japanese around here are usually not so small, probably because they live the hearty American lifestyle."
Seeming satisfied with this he composed himself to formally welcome the young detective, who by this point was ready to accept the widely held belief of Americans. However, eager to just get on with the job Naoto did not argue the point.
"Well we sort of got off on the wrong foot. I am Frank Peterman, head detective on this case, off the clock you can call me Frank, or Peter, whichever you prefer." The large detective paused and shuffled through his papers he picked up from the desk behind him. "For now we will get you processed." He pulled out a small wad of sheets from the stack. "Here we are, I need you to take this to Mike two desks down, show him your ID and he'll take your prints and witness your sign in, while you're at it go to the cage down the hall and get your firearm registered. I'll speak to you after you're done."
The process took longer than expected. Naoto anticipated there would be certain amounts of paperwork involved in jobs abroad, and she saw the necessities of such precautions as most agents of the law would need, however what she objected to was for Nathan to accompany her and turn every meeting into a long-winded introduction. By the time she finished all the formalities it was already well past dark.
"Finally." Peterman grunted as Naoto approached his cubical alone, she had ditched Nathan somewhere by the water cooler to chat down some other one of his co-workers. Peterman turned around in his swivel chair, sagging dangerously under his weight. "I wanted to get home before I have to leave for work again."
Peterman picked up a thick beige folder on his desk and tipped it open, pulling out the case files and offering them. Naoto accepted and flicked through, brows knit in disbelief.
"You had sounded sceptical when we contacted you with the overview of this case, yet here you see the case files with your own eyes."
Naoto looked up, still frowning. "I don't see how this is possible... We caught the culprit." As well as disabling the means to accomplish it... yet...
"And yet the signature left is exactly identical to that case." Peterman concluded throwing down three photographs, each depicting a body hanging upside-down from various high points.
Naoto frowned as she reached for the first crime scene photograph.
The first victim had the look of a Caucasian man who seemed to be in his...twilight years? Naoto flicked through the case files again. The first victim, a university professor, age forty-three... Naoto grimaced, the age of Caucasian people tend to be hard to guess. He was suspended from a broadcasting tower.
The second photo was of a young Caucasian teenager, the case notes claimed he was hung from an antenna but the spokes had snapped off, the photo was of him sprawled across the roof.
The third photo depicted a man of African descent who appeared to be...younger than the professor, suspended in powerlines, in a very similar fashion to that of a victim in the original case.
There was no cause of death listed for any of the victims.
Naoto looked up, meeting the eye of the head detective and nodded grimly.
"I...cannot deny it." She paused, gathering her thoughts. "However the incidences that occurred in Inaba had occurred under very...mysterious circumstances..."
"That's an interesting way of saying that you never figured out how the murders were carried out." Peterman scoffed.
The young detective stiffened, she was practically the only investigator on the case with intimate knowledge of how the crimes occurred, yet she would never have been able to explain it.
In the Inaba reports Nametame's confessions, as well as Adachi's, was tacked in. Of course, no one would believe their claims of how they threw people into the Television. Even Naoto couldn't believe it when she first heard of it during a school camping trip where she had managed to integrate herself into the group that she believed, at that time, to be the prime suspects.
With a frown Naoto scanned the map of San Diego City, noting the spread of the murders. "I will tell you now," she paused, considering the best way to break it to the American Detective. "The murders in Inaba occurred in a very closed off and controlled environment...with very few inhabitants mobile inter-regionally. What you're dealing with here is on a much larger scale. Add in the fact that the method of murder is really touch and go and you have, excuse the cliché, a needle in a haystack."
Peterman grunted, "That's fine, I don't need you to get your hands dirty, I need you to brief my men on team about that case you worked on and provide insight. More specifically on one aspect. The involvement of our current suspect."
With slight surprise the young detective paused, then furrowed her brows. "I didn't realise you already had a suspect."
Peterman pulled out another sheet from his beige folder, this time a leaflet containing the information of a single individual.
"The suspect is a Japanese Ex-pat. His name is-."
Before she could stop herself Naoto uttered in a strangled voice.
A/N: Check out the neat artworks Kharta has done for this fic, link in my profile.
A thank you to my Beta reader and video game reviewer Jahan. If anyone is into video games take a look at his reviews on the PALGN site. Needless to say he did the Persona 4 review.
Fanfic dedicated to Kharta. Happy birthday you hopeless fanboy!
Disclaimer: I do not own Persona. If I did Persona 5 will have been out already.