Destroyer of Worlds
by Nauro & Morta's Priest
"The human whose name is written in this note shall die." - Rules of the Death Note
My creed to protect the city, even as it plunged deeper into darkness, led me through both the lightest and darkest corners of Gotham city. The manor I was in served as an example of both these extremes. It had belonged to the Cobblepot family for many a generation; like Gotham in its glory days, it used to sparkle with fake pride and real jewels. Now the house had been run down, a shadow of its former glory. I have seen this happen hundreds of times across Gotham, but even throughout all these years, I have never gotten used to how fast everything could be damaged, reduced to rubble.
The reason for my visit was an interesting rumor; according to the word on the streets, someone had a big play on his hands here. I knew the address; I knew what game would be played here. Tonight, for Oswald Cobblepot, that game had ended. Change had come to his family mansion, and not the good kind; fate had once again chosen to strike against Gotham. I had to be vigilant.
The rumors were true: Oswald, the man known as Penguin in the darkest corners of the city, had been plotting yet another scheme, and I had followed the clues that were spread around the city, gathered from criminals and lowlives. As it always was, money and fear of his influence were the things that ruled the underworld, and he had wanted to have even more. There were aspects of the case, however, that I had not expected.
The dark shadow descended on the mansion, armed with will and resilience, hoping to shed light on the matter. Darkness and vengeance personified, the guardian of the city was hunting for justice.
But, for once, he did not find it.
The Aviary, the biggest wing of the Cobblepot mansion, was overwhelmed by a cacophony of noises. There were high-pitched screams of many kinds of fowl, the clatter of furniture struck down by stray wings and claws. It was mind-boggling just how much noise a flock of birds could introduce to dead silence, and it took Batman a moment to adapt. The animals were milling about in frenzied confusion, trying to find freedom from the cage that the Aviary had become; the whole wing was locked, its every window closed shut, the faint light of the moon shining through the highest windows that were far too sturdy to break under the feeble assault. And it reeked in the hall too. Of birds, feathers, and death; there was even a hint of iron in the air.
It was not easy to surprise the Batman, but the grotesque display before him managed it. The Penguin was dead, unmoving, amidst the crowds of panicking birds, his body covered in feathers and scratches. His clothes were in tatters, his top hat thrown away in a corner, crumpled. His bare head, missing patches of hair, was covered with claw marks as well. The worst things, though, were his eyes. They were staring at Batman in frozen fear, encased in an expression forever locked in the rigor mortis, the eyes shining bright in the darkness. Those eyes had seen something, a last terrifying scene glimmering in the deepest ends of the dark soul of a madman.
Oswald's neck looked swollen and his mouth hung slightly open, betraying a strange glimmer of metal inside. Carefully making his way through the herd of birds that used the first chance to try and get away from the room, Batman looked for some kind of explanation. His each step was calculated, sidestepping the occasional dead bird and quite a few misplaced coins on the ground.
The Aviary was a clever choice for a murderer as his killing ground; ironic, perhaps, as Batman did not believe that suicide was ever a viable hypothesis in this case. If Oswald wanted to kill himself, he would not have chosen to do so in front of the birds. The Penguin's psychological profile suggested a devotion to everything with feathers, which edged on insanity. The birds, released from whatever confines the Penguin had held them in, would have covered the murderer's tracks well, making anything of importance extremely hard to spot.
So far he had not found any hint of a killer, and that was a worrying observation. There were coins and crumpled notes scattered everywhere, easily worth thousand dollars. Was this the result of a struggle for money? It would be a petty sum for a man with Oswald's connections, for one whose life had been spent looking for illegal ways to build a fortune.
Batman leaned forward, scanning the body more closely. Time of death: Three to four hours ago, putting it somewhere around midnight. Scratches and bruises were superficial, nothing serious enough to kill. Carefully, he shone a small penlight into Penguin's mouth. There were coins there; the small man appeared to have choked on a fistful of them. The man's mouth was bloody, a tooth was missing. No, he realized, there it was - lying along the wall, alongside a clump of hair. The bruises on the Penguin's body indicated a prolonged struggle, and the damage to the clothing seemed consistent with a fight, and the panicked motions of the birds. Both the bruises and the tearing of cloth had occurred simultaneously, as the rips in the clothing were marred with blood.
Inspecting the remains even more closely, he found bits flesh under Oswald's fingernails. There was a chance that DNA analysis would reveal some clues as to the attacker. He took a sample, and moved on. There were many dead birds spread around the Penguin's grizzled corpse, from small sparrows to actual penguins. A lot of the corpses were torn apart, some with broken necks, some, especially smaller ones, bitten almost in half.
All of the cages in the Aviary were open. None looked to be forced; the one responsible had to have used the keys. The locks were not all that complex, but none had signs of tampering. A bowl, with traces of bird food, was turned over next to Oswald's body, and something glimmered from under it. Flipping it over, Batman found the keyring; a quick scan of the fingerprints matched with the ones in the Gotham's Police database - Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot. No luck.
It looked like the fear locked in Oswald's gaze was to be the only clue of the night. But it would not do to be too hasty in his speculations; it was not often that he found a career criminal like this dead, after all. He would get to the core of this.
Some time after the events at Cobblepot mansion, a lone man waited impatiently on the roof of Gotham's central police station. The night was slowly heading to its end; the city on the verge of waking up for a new day, blissfully unaware of what happened in the dark. A narrow beam of light pierced deep into the sky, reflecting off the clouds; a call from a man wishing for answers.
"You found the body." The voice sounded rough, fake, echoing strangely in the darkness.
"Yes." The Commissioner did not admit to any surprise at the sudden appearance of the dark-clad vigilante. He turned off the signal as he looked up to the figure standing in the shadows and nodded in recognition. "Oswald Cobblepot was found dead in his manor a few hours ago. The only clue I have is that Batman was going to pay him a visit."
"Someone got there before me."
"I didn't mention anything about the fact that you might be involved." Commissioner Gordon started pacing around, frowning. "This is complicated enough as it is. Everything is these days, it seems. First the family, then the Penguin's activities, and now this – I'm exhausted. It isn't the only murder on my hands, you know, and Interpol is breathing down my back about it as well. There have been quite a few killings lately that are too similar in their execution to be just a coincidence."
"I'll look into it. If there is a serial killer at large, I will find him." Batman, in fact, had already done some work on the case, spending yet another sleepless night to read all the related material he could find on the Penguin's latest activities, his latest interactions with other criminals that he could interrogate. Interpol believed that there was an international organization or a group of madmen at large; he had already broken into their database to find the details. Each killing involved an elaborate methodology to scare the victim half to death, followed by the kill, and topped off with a complete lack of any evidence to lead to the perpetrator. So far.
"I hope that you do." Gordon let his gaze wander to the moving cars below, over the city that was going about its usual business, as if nothing was wrong. As if no one had been in danger of meeting an untimely end tonight; someone already had. "Is there anything you can say about the Penguin's death, that the guys in lab won't be able to tell me in a few hours?"
"Not much, but there is some. This is a challenge to the criminals of the city, a play of power. When a man is killed in an enclosed space like this, with no signs of entry nor exit, and no visible trail to follow, some might say it's a perfect murder." Batman paused, Gordon hanging on his every word. "It's not. There is no such thing as a perfect crime. There are always reasons and methods, there always exists a connection to follow. I'll find the ones responsible."
"I pray that you are right." Gordon's reply was caught only by the darkness, as the masked vigilante was already gone. The Commissioner smiled as he looked out into over the city, the dawn creeping over the horizon. He was sure that if anyone would get down to the truth of this, it would be Batman. After all, he was the world's greatest detective.
The little fruit loops balanced precariously as they swayed back and forth, buffeted by the slow breaths. Another loop, just like the others, was placed on top of the stack at a precise angle, just enough to offset the wobble entirely. The structure stabilized. L sighed in contentment. The light trace of artificial vanilla and lime in the air made his mouth water with anticipation.
"You shouldn't play with your food," Watari muttered disapprovingly as he noticed the little tower. "You will cover everything if it falls, and I'm not cleaning up after you. Not again."
L looked up with shadowed eyes, snatching the top ten loops from the tower in a single move and depositing them into his mouth, smacking loudly as he considered their taste. They were sweet, of course, with a slightly tangy edge to them. These had probably been a bit too old to eat, but it was not often that he found anything sweet in the pantry at all, and he had taken advantage of Watari's oversight. The old man was very meticulous about keeping him from eating too many sweet things, even if he eventually gave in to requests, so L had to know when to take advantage of these bouts of forgetfulness. Even if slightly unhealthy, the sweets were still delicious.
"You are well aware that 'playing' with my food is a complex mathematical challenge, not a child's foolish endeavour," L asserted after a moment, his eyes never wavering. "To keep my brain functioning effectively, I require challenges. My job as detective, I am sorry to say, has lacked in challenge over the last several weeks. I am beginning to get bored. The brain requires sustenance or it starts shrinking, decreasing my capacity for solving further crimes."
Watari sighed softly as he moved over. "Will you at least consider looking at the latest cases, then? There are many awaiting your attention, and you keep dismissing them all as too easy. Why not do something a little easier then, until more is available for you?"
L rose up from his comfortable crouched position with excruciating slowness, lifting up his cup with stacked fruit loops by its handle, and very carefully moving it with him as he walked to the table. "Show me what it is that you believe I should solve, Watari. I have seen nothing of interest, only boring kidnappings and even more simplistic murders. They are contemptibly easy to solve for even the regular police."
Watari sat down with a long-suffering sigh, opening the little laptop that he almost always carried in the pocket of his waist-length leather coat. A large letter 'W' was printed on the lid in a beautiful font, the same that L preferred for his own signature. His eyes roved over the screen for a few moments as he clicked and tapped his way to his mail messages. L could follow his progress by the sound of the keystrokes; ALT key, left-mouse click, another mouse click, receive messages.
"Seven cases. High priority ones, that is, including one that has Interpol notification requesting your involvement. There are dozensof other cases that remain open as well, though they are less urgent."
L shook his head. "First case: Robert Murphy, murdered in Scotland, fourth of June, last year," he recited without glancing at the screen that was presented to him. "Found in one of Scotland's Lochs with a knife embedded in his sternum. Millionaire, fresh off a merger that increased his wealth substantially. A grieving widow and a caring friend of the family who helped arrange the funeral are listed as primary beneficiaries." He looked up. "90% chance that the caring friend is the widow's lover, and that the killing was related to the money that they were to inherit. Expectation: The widow will marry the friend within six months, citing their close relationship in the wake of her husband's death. The couple will move away with the full sum of money, and it mysteriously disappears into foreign bank accounts before any inquiries can be made."
"Well, that's very judgmental of you," Watari replied, affronted.
"Benedict Anders, former Englishman adopted into a German family. Accused of seven murders occurring between June to October of last year, though DNA evidence contradicts his involvement in any of the crimes. Each of the killings was witnessed publically and all photographic evidence suggests that Anders is responsible nevertheless. 30% chance of a look-alike abusing the similarity. 60% chance that Anders carries two DNA-signatures instead of one. Chimaera syndrome."
Watari frowned. "Is that even possible?"
L ignored the comment. "Oswald Cobblepot, suspected involvement with crime circuit, found murdered by unknown parties two days ago. Choked on money he was likely made to devour, though there are few specifics. Suspected to be the work of a serial killer, though the connection here is speculative at best. Interpol seems confident, but they always are, even when it's decidedly unwarranted." He looked up with dull eyes. "90% chance it is criminal warfare, since this occurred in Gotham City, well known for heavy gang activity and numerous criminal elements."
Watari shook his head tiredly. "These are all valid cases, I should think. Merely waving them off as inconsequential will not make your work any more interesting."
"These cases are boring," L argued immediately. "They are mundane, they have simple solutions from basic premises. I have solved seventeen minor crimes in the last two weeks, and each of them was barely any more difficult than these supposed quandaries. The police is merely being lazy, choosing to rely on their best when such is not warranted. If I am not truly needed, I refuse to be put to work merely to give someone an afternoon off." He scowled as he took a sip from his tea. "This drink is cold."
"It's been there for two hours. I did tell you it would cool down."
"Warm it up again," L responded, holding out the cup by its rim, dangling it from two fingers; it wobbled dangerously. "I don't drink cold tea, it is disgusting. Also, add more sugar. I can still taste the bitterness. Four more cubes, please."
"You will need to choose something, or you will lose credit among the international circuit," Watari warned. He rose up from his seat, and L figured he was being deliberately ignored now. Good. Perhaps he would have some time to consider what to do when he did not have any cases. There was definitely something he could be doing, but he was not sure what it was yet.
The old man closed the door behind him, but L didn't even notice. He began stacking fruit loops once again.
"This is Wammy's House."
"Roger. Good," Watari said, running a hand through the tuft of hair he had left."I hoped to speak to you for a few moments."
"Of course... is something wrong?"
Watari hesitated. "It's... L is under-stimulated by the recent rash of relative peace," he said finally. "With his fame higher than it has ever been, criminals have limited their activities to avoid his attention. The calm is having... stifling effects on his activity levels. He has spent several days distracting himself, but that cannot last."
"Such is the risk for people like L," Roger agreed after a few moments. "Near and Mello already display such behaviour, even though they do not take after L in all other respects. I believe the only cure is a good puzzle."
"L breaks puzzles easily," Watari complained. "He calculates chess moves in his head - he knows the odds of winning against me before we even play, and gets annoyed when I do not move the pieces quickly enough for his liking."
"Then he must have a case. Any case." Roger cleared his throat. "I have received a call from Interpol already, concerning your lack of response to one of their latest serial killers. A possible international hitman, as I understand it. Though it may be uninteresting compared to other cases, perhaps it is a good idea that L solve it anyway."
"You want me to sign him up," Watari concluded. "He will resent it."
"Bribe him with sweets."
"He already eats too many..."
"We cannot afford to waste a mind like his. Indulge him, and keep him productive."
Watari nodded, though nobody was there to see it. "I will accept those cases on his behalf, then. Hopefully the ice in my own fridge will be enough to make up for it. I don't think the six-number combination lock has been cracked, as of yet."
"Call me if there are further developments. I will keep sight on the house until the end of the season. I think everyone would be happy to see you again."
Watari doubted that, but hung up without mentioning it.
"I will only accept cake," L called from the other room. "I have already eaten your ice cream. Also, you forgot that the wall is thin. Your memory is getting worse. Perhaps you should make an appointment with the neurologist."
Fantastic. Watari shook his head in annoyance as he considered where to get some more snacks at eleven in the evening. The only reason he put up with this behaviour, odious though it was, was pure and simple duty. The fact that he did not complain - much - betrayed just how complex his life really was, and how much he wished it to remain that way.
L was tough to work with; the orphanage's greatest creation, and its worst monster. L was peculiar, and eccentric, and probably a little mad. After all, he was the world's greatest detective.
"This note will not take effect unless the writer has the person's face in their mind when writing his/her name. Therefore, people sharing the same name will not be affected." - Rules of the Death Note
Author's Note: This is a cooperative little project with Nauro, who also has an account on FFnet. Hope to get some good feedback on the concept and so forth, let us know what you think.