Clearly I did not finish this in February. I tried, but alas.
I owe a big thank you to Anime-StarWars-fan-zach for floating the idea that Light wrote in Roger burning all the files before meeting with Linda and for being nice enough to let me steal it. That hadn't even occurred to me and yet it fits his plans very well. So that's mentioned here and it'll come into play a bit in the next chapter (which is the second-to-last one, agh). Thanks!
I don't own Death Note.
For a second or two, Light stared at the newspaper that lay on the cafeteria table of the police station. A side column had caught his eye, a write-up on the murder of an old orphanage caretaker in Winchester. He scanned the words and discovered that the police were releasing Linda Grey's name to the press as a suspect in the death of Roger Ruvie.
This meant he had won. He had nothing more to fear.
Granted, Linda's obscurity and her status as an unknown quantity had been the only aspects of her presence that made her a danger to his plans. Light knew he had had a habit of overestimating the intelligence of his opponents. In part this had come about from his paranoia over L's constant vigilance, but he had decided after defeating L that assuming intelligence was simply the wisest course until proven otherwise. Most of the time, his assumption would be proven wrong.
Perusing the column proved how ridiculous his assumption of intelligence had been. The girl and her guardian had had a falling out vicious enough to attract the attention of the housekeeper who had been working late. The working theory of police was that after Linda had rushed out, she had returned to kill her guardian; though they had found no witness to her return, the housekeeper had not seen anyone else enter.
This was in keeping with what he had written in the death note for Roger not two days before- throat cut by an unknown assailant after destroying all information pertaining to the Kira case. Almost immediately afterwards, he had written down the name of that assailant: Teru Mikami, dead of a heart attack in his hotel room a day after killing the caretaker of Wammy's House.
Thankfully, Scotland Yard would not be working directly on the murder of Roger Ruvie. That task would fall to a more remote police department, and the Yard's involvement would end with releasing Linda's name and image to the buzzing mass of London. Light did feel a pang of disappointment that even then, they had been unable to secure a photograph of Linda, but as long as she was on the run, she would not be able to come after him.
Mikami would be at the hotel now, no doubt trembling and lost. The man would meet his end in a few hours, and Light could not bring himself to feel much about it. When the body was discovered, he would receive the lawyer's case, paint him as the culprit, and return to Japan. Linda would spend her life in hiding, or be captured and brought to trial for her guardian's murder. Either way, she could not touch him.
Most of the world either bowed to Kira or ignored him. After leaving England, he would need no companion or partner.
For the first time since his school days, he would truly free to pursue his justice.
He turned his attention to paperwork that day and spent the time committing certain names to memory. Most prominent among them was the inspector Felix Temple- the more often Light met the man the more he received the sense that the old inspector was judging him by some unknown criteria and finding him wanting. After that, he made one more dive into the archives of Scotland Yard cases, still chasing a mythical past clue. It gained him nothing save for the names of a few criminals who had been released on good behavior.
Light committed them to mind. If nothing else, their deaths might stun otherwise indifferent neighbors and family members into believing.
While he worked, a knock sounded on his office, and Felix Temple opened the door. "Mr. Yagami," he said with a polite smile. "Good to see you. Do you need any help? What we can do is limited- official stance, you understand."
"I do," Light replied. "It must be hard to accommodate someone who's pursuing a criminal that doesn't officially exist."
It was a cheap dig, and perhaps he let a little too much triumph into his voice. Temple gave him a cryptic nod. "As you say. Of course, just because something isn't regarded as official… that doesn't mean I or the others here won't take steps about it. We don't need official sanction to draw reasonable conclusions."
Light gave him a thin smile. "I would expect nothing less from England's finest."
Temple smiled and lowered himself into the only other chair in the room, making a great show of moving slowly. "Back hurts after a while," he said blandly. "Did you hear about the case we got in Winchester? Pretty sad- old guy killed, and the suspect is the girl who used to be his ward. Tragic."
"No matter how hard we fight, Inspector, there will always be evil we have to face. The world may be safer, but it is still struggling."
"True." Temple shifted a little in his seat. "I just thought you might be interested in it. Didn't that friend of yours get caught up somewhere near that- got lost and nabbed by mistake for loitering?"
Cold waves of shock and rage swept over Light and passed as quickly as they came. "I believe so, yes," he said calmly. There was no point in denying this, but his mind raced. Either Temple was suspicious of him, or he saw Mikami's proximity as nothing more than coincidence. Neither option appealed to Light; ideally, no one should have noticed the proximity at all.
"He had an acquaintance that grew up in the area, I believe," he said, hoping his pause had not been too long. "It's a shame about the caretaker. I'll have to ask if Mikami knew the man."
"If he does know him, perhaps he could consider helping out the Winchester police. They've got their suspect, but, as I'm sure you know, every little bit helps."
Light nodded. "Of course. Is that all you wished to ask me?" He could feel his fingers clenching on his pen almost to the point of breaking it.
Temple stretched. "Well, that and to check if you needed help. But you seem to be doing just fine here. Let me know if anything comes up." He rose and gave Light a nod. "Oh, and that reminds me- we've had a slew of stabbings, lately, if you count poor Thomas Carter. Stabbed to death by an old taxi driver who killed himself afterwards. You never got to see him, did you?"
Light shook his head. "I tried to visit him, but no one came to the door when I knocked. After about twenty minutes, I gave up and left. I'm so sorry. I had no idea something had happened to him, or I would have spoken with you sooner."
"There's no way you could have known." Temple waved a hand. "Just sad, isn't it. Crime's been dropping worldwide- even here- and then in less than two weeks, two brutal deaths. I guess it's like you said- there's always evil somewhere." He gave Light a very sharp look before leaving at a slow shuffle.
For a moment, Light stared after him. Then he scrambled in his bag for the notebook he had taken from Mikami's room earlier that day. If Temple was able to find Light suspicious, there would be others. His pen hovered above the paper for what seemed like hours. Temple's death had to be discreet, and while a disease was almost certainly the best way to go about such a problem, he wanted the man gone rapidly.
In the end, a simple car accident, set a month from that day, was scratched into the notebook, along with Temple's name.
He wanted to be sure that there was nothing to pin him to the time of death when Mikami's body was discovered, so Light worked late into the night, long past the hour of the lawyer's death. Then he returned to the hotel. He showered and began checking the internet to see how media worldwide was handling the phenomena of Kira. Many of the articles mentioned in guarded tones how the deaths of criminals had decreased sharply in the past few weeks. A few outspoken op-eds posited that Kira might have gone.
This was grating to Light, but it was sacrificing a knight to take the king.
Ryuk had been silent most of the day, but when Light finally took notice of his handstands to toss him an apple, he did not immediately begin devouring it. "Hang on, Light. If you leave Mikami there, won't the police find out about the death note he's been using? I know they don't acknowledge Kira here, but a book of names like that- they're bound to get suspicious, even if they don't run into me."
"They won't see you," Light said shortly.
"If they find that notebook, they will. No way around it."
"I substituted a false notebook for the one Mikami was using, changing up the spelling of some names and putting Ruvie and Carter among them towards the end. The police will assume he became obsessed with the Kira rumors and went too far in his efforts to emulate him. And when his body is taken back to Japan, I'll substitute the true death note so the police there will assume he was Kira all along."
"Ah. Clever." Ryuk regarded him intently for a minute. "Are you going to miss him?"
"Don't be ridiculous," Light said with the ghost of a smile, and Ryuk cackled. He bit into the apple, gnawing at it with bestial enthusiasm.
"Interesting," he mumble through mouthfuls. "And when you get back to Japan, you'll keep going?"
"The whole world will know me as Kira eventually," Light replied. "But it will take time."
As he spoke, his cell phone began to ring.
Light picked it up and examined it. The number was unknown to him, but what was most worrying was that he had given this number to no one but Mikami and the English police.
As he waited, the buzzing stopped. After a few seconds' pause, the phone began to ring again. This time, he answered it. "Who is this?"
The voice on the other end of the line was old and male. "Ah. Mr. Yagami, I believe? Better known to the world as, ah, Kira."
Light closed his eyes and tried to think. His first instinct was to hang up the phone. His second was to deny any knowledge of the term. In the end, he succumbed to neither.
"Who are you?" he asked at last. "I'm not sure we've met."
"Ah. I would be very surprised if we had. And I don't think that I'd, ah, be walking now if we had. However, I have, ah, recently come into some information about you. And, ah, I thought you might like a chance to, ah, comment. Or perhaps, ah, discuss what you'd like to do with this information."
Rage coursed through every vein of Light's body. He had written into the death note that Roger Ruvie destroyed all information he had on the Kira case before his death. But the man had overseen the world's greatest detective. He should have realized that the man would send a backup to a third party. Perhaps he had done so long before his death. A foolish mistake, one that he would pay for unless he assessed and took care of this threat.
"I'm curious to know what information you have," he said quietly. "I am not Kira…" this for any recording the man was making, "but I have a great deal of interest in his case."
"Really? Ah. Well, ah, I'm willing to meet. No time like the present of course. Deadlines, ah, being what they are. Otherwise, ah, well. Papers have to run. The press never stops."
"You can't just put my name to Kira's in a paper," Light said carefully. He had to gauge what this man knew. "You'll need proof."
On the other end of the line there was the sound of shuffled papers. "I understand. Ah, I think we'd be better able to discuss this topic in, ah, person. However, I, ah, know about the first, ah, L. Interesting, how he actually, ah, introduced himself to you. I don't, ah, pretend to be him, but, ah, in the circumstances, I may, ah, follow his example."
Light was silent for a minute, weighing every inflection and pause. This level of knowledge meant serious trouble. "You mentioned deadlines and a press. I would prefer that not to happen. But why publish? Why not go to the police?"
"Ah, well. Let's put it this way- Mr. Ruvie's computer was, ah, lamentably insecure, considering the information it, ah, contained."
Silence fell again. Light considered that. If this man had committed a crime to obtain the files, then that might be explanation enough for why he had opted for blackmail. Even a tabloid could topple power; he recalled the affair of the United States senator that had been exposed by what was considered a trash magazine by any objective standard. Though it was almost incredible that this man would believe he had a chance against Light, it was very possible he did not know the full ramifications of what Light could do with a notebook and pen.
That gave him an idea. "I think I can meet tonight. Can you come to Tower Bridge at 3am?"
"Ah. Well." There was some more paper shuffling and the sound of a scraping chair. "Yes. I can."
He hung up and immediately traced the number on the cell phone. It gave him an address on the outer skirts of London. A few more searches and one database check later, he had the name James Gleeson, editor of the tabloid Worldwide News and Affairs.
Linda's hand had to be in this. Given the thinly veiled interview in that publication, she and Gleeson had to be allies. He could not tell if the editor was acting with her help or whether he had become the last line of defense for her, much as she had been for Near. Whatever the reason, he would not be hard to eliminate. Gathering a few tools and checking the battery on both his phone and Mikami's, he slipped outside Bertram's and hailed a taxi.
The night was cold and fine when he reached his destination. There was a construction site nearby, and moving a few levels up the scaffolding gave him a clear view of the bridge. He had arrived a few minutes early in the hopes of seeing Gleeson arrive. Ten minutes later, a thin man emerged from the shadows and walked past the construction onto the bridge. Light raised a small telescope that he had purchased cheaply a few weeks earlier. Then he cursed softly. The newcomer was wearing a mask.
As the man walked, it became apparent that he was ill at ease. He kept glancing over his shoulder and from side to side in nervous spasms. As Light watched, he pulled at the edges of his mask with shaking fingers. Sometimes he would quicken his pace and then slow abruptly. His movement made Light think of a backfiring car jerking slowly and painfully along a difficult road.
This was not what Light had expected. Such nervousness was a rational reaction to the danger this man had walked into, but that begged the question of why he had gotten involved in the first place. For a brief second, Light pondered calling the police and telling them about a suspicious loiterer. He decided against it.
For a few minutes more he remained in the scaffolding. The man had halted a few feet across the bridge. A lone car swept up and past him. There was no other sound.
Light recalled what the man had said about L walking up and introducing himself. Perhaps the man was expecting that as proof of Light's identity. If nothing else, it would move things from this impasse. If Gleeson craved power, Light could dangle that before him much as he had used it against Higuchi.
He hesitated before climbing down the scaffolding into the street. This man was a threat, one he would have to dispose of before leaving England. He was an amateur threat, a blackmailer who was trying to set himself against a god. This was just another nuisance.
Yet he could not shake a troubled feeling that only grew stronger as he walked toward the bridge. The man had not noticed his approach, and Light slowed. Perhaps he would have been wiser to leave the man to his own devices and deal with the fallout. It was not too late to make that choice; he could go back to the hotel. Yet the risk of his name being attached to Kira's, given his own history as a suspect and the recent attempt to throw suspicion on Mikami, was far too great. He had to face this threat.
Again he checked the man through his small telescope. What he saw astonished him. Furtively, stealthily, the man slid a hand into his pocket and took out a cell phone. Light could not see what he was dialing, but the gesture was repetitive, and he was left in no doubt that the man had dialed an emergency to 999.
That decided him. He could not be found in the vicinity if the man planned to tell police what he knew. England's refusal to acknowledge Kira would not be enough to keep Scotland Yard from calling in Interpol if the man pointed to Light in those circumstances. And due to the mask there was no possibility of eliminating Gleeson before the law arrived on the scene.
Despite himself, Light felt a surge of admiration. This step had been well-taken. He turned and then froze, just in the shadow of the scaffolding a few yards away from the bridge.
There was a faint shadow under the stairs of the scaffolding, a darker blotch where there should have been a dim view to the construction site beyond. As he watched, the shadow moved forward. It was a girl, clad in a black sweatshirt and jeans. A ski mask was pulled lopsidedly over her face. However, it was her hands that arrested Light's attention. She was carrying a gun.
He watched her for a moment. "Linda Grey," he said at last. There was no question in his words.
"I'm not sure why you've fixated on me, but I promise you, all I want is to find Kira and put a stop to this."
"You don't need to worry about the act." The girl's voice was rough, perhaps from crying, perhaps from dehydration or hiding in cold places. "I don't have a recorder. I'm not with the police. I'm on the run, remember? Thanks to your lawyer's stunt."
Light examined her closely. Her sweatshirt was streaked with dust and her jeans contained faint dark streaks. She had been hiding somewhere dirty and probably had been wearing the same clothes for the past three days. It was unlikely she had the money or access for a recorder, but he felt inclined to check. "How did you get the gun?"
"There was a kid who did graffiti in my neighborhood," she said quietly. "He's not a big-time gang member or anything, but he knew people. He knew where I could hide. And he got me this."
Light stared at her almost pityingly. "You might have been better spent trying to get a recorder." Surreptitiously, he opened one of the cellphones in his pocket and began to dial the emergency number. "If you believe I'm Kira, that would have been a safer option. You still would have lost. But it would have been a better move."
"Stop." The word was almost a snarl.
Her hands were shaking on the gun, which made Light wary. "You didn't have to do this in the first place," he said gently. "I'm working to make the world better, and I have. Surely you can admit that. Crime has decreased. People- good people- will actually have a chance to live their lives well."
"Do you really care about good people?" Linda asked. "Your family's pretty much destroyed. Weren't they good?"
"They were necessary sacrifices," Light said sharply.
Sirens sounded in the distance. The girl caught her breath and Ryuk gave a breathy chuckle. Light stared at her confusion, understanding dawning. "You held that man at gunpoint too?" He laughed. "He called the police in. Quite understandable if you threatened him. Were you holding the gun to his head when he spoke to me?"
Fury tightened every line of her body, and even her shivering shoulders froze. Light could not believe how crudely she had proceeded. She had no plan and was running on blind luck and desperation. Yet the gun in her hands was going to be hard to evade. For all her blunders, she had him pinned. He wished he could have taken back his laugh. Keeping a smirk off his face, he adopted a gentle tone.
"You don't have a chance of winning, Linda. If you turn yourself in, I can get you off the murder charges of your guardian. I have the evidence that's needed."
"You mean the notebooks?" the girl asked, and laughed hoarsely. "The fake one you planted on Mikami, or the true death notes?"
Light stared in his turn. "You were in the hotel," he said at last.
"I watched him die," she replied. "And then I went to Gleeson's and told him what to do. One look at the gun and that was enough. He's a coward. But even then, I think he wants you done."
The wailing of the sirens drew nearer, echoing across the water of the river. Light looked at her. She had taken a few steps closer to him, but not enough for him to lunge for the gun. "Think about what the police will find here," he said. His tone was kindly, almost the tone he might have taken trying to explain a math problem to his sister Sayu. "You pointing a gun at me. A witness you've threatened. That won't look good, even if I show them what Mikami wrote. You have a chance to get out of this, Linda. Just put the gun down and run."
She closed her eyes for so long that Light wondered if he should take the chance to run himself. Almost unconsciously he shifted his weight. Immediately her glare snapped back, pinning him in place. But as quickly as it appeared, the fury in her eyes died. It was replaced with a calmness that reminded him of dead water, and that stillness was unsettling. "You're wrong," she whispered.
"What do you mean?"
The gun ripped through the night and exquisite agony tore through his chest. The sensation was a blend of a ferocious kick and being stabbed with a blunt instrument.
Blinking, he found himself staring at the night sky, which whirled and danced and blurred above him. Coldly, brutally, he could hear a voice above him that boomed like a judgment. "The police will find a body. They'll find this." There was a tugging in his coat, twinges of hot agony, and a clatter coupled with fresh pain assaulting his chest. He put his hand to find a notebook that turned more slippery with every passing second. The figure just beyond his range of vision stooped and crouched beside him. Dimly he saw the figure reach up and remove a black mask from a thin face with large eyes.
"Goodbye, Light Yagami," the voice said quietly.
Twitching, he forced his hand in the girl's direction, and she moved back with wide eyes. Light wondered dimly what she thought he could do to her with a touch; then he saw her staring above him and realized that she was looking at the shinigami. She would not have seen Ryuk before now, he realized and felt an almost childlike sadness at the wasted false notebook in Mikami's room.
Light could feel life gushing from him with every passing second, but if he strained, he could control his limbs. He tried to turn to the side and the notebook fell from his chest to the pavement. The page it opened too was invitingly blank. His fingers were drenched in blood, and that would have to do. Fitting, he supposed, that he take his last life with the remnants of his own.
Then the girl kicked the notebook out of his reach.
Light screamed, a bloodcurdling shriek that made Linda spring back. "You idiot!" he choked when he had control of himself. "You worthless- you fool! You haven't won! This isn't fair! You're no L, you don't think! You can't stop this!" He slammed his bloody hand on the pavement. "Ryuk, show her! Write her down!"
The girl stared from Light to the shinigami, dread apparent in every line of her expression. She did not run or try to conceal her face, however, and the seconds ticked by with agonizing slowness. Still she did not move or collapse to the pavement.
Twisting in agony, Light strained his head to his right. Ryuk was hovering, looking down at him with his notebook in hand. The skeletal smile was still in place, but no longer did the shinigami have the nonchalance of a detached observer. His gaze was remorseless, inscrutable, the grin a mask worn by a judge.
"You ask me for help?" he demanded, and the harshness of his voice broke over Light like the crack of a gavel. "Me? I've never interfered. And I told you that I would do one thing at the end of your venture." He began to write. "Your name is mine, Light Yagami, and so is the pathetic life you had left."
The whole sky and the surroundings had faded. Nothing remained to Light's vision but the blackness and the pain in his chest and the shinigami hovering above him. Still, Light strove to speak and finally succeeded. "Pathetic? I was going to remake the world! I was going to be God! I surpassed you! I was going to remake the world." As he thought of the rot and how it would reset he found himself crying. All his effort had been for nothing. "I was going to change things," he whispered. "Don't. Don't."
Ryuk leaned closer. "Change things? What do I care? It's all for nothing in the end, Light. That's all there is after death. For humans and shinigami alike. All of it is for nothing."
Cold seeped into everything until it was the only thing Light could perceive. Every limb in his body was heavy as lead. One last time he tried to reach out for Ryuk, for the notebook. Instead his fingers slipped across the pages, leaving nothing behind but a trail of blood and the prints of a thumb and forefinger.