MSWB Cold Case 088: A Wrinkle In Time

Third File: Dormant

Screams of panic echoed from the Minato-Ward tenements that afternoon. Throngs of residents and informal settlers flooded out of the complex running for their dear lives and a pillar of black smoke rose up to the clear blue sky. Passers-by gathered around the scene quickly. Some of them were frightened by the raging gasoline frames. The rest of them didn't really understand what was going on.

In the smoldering corridors of the tenements, Assistant Inspector Mami Tomoe and the Enforcer Sasayama watched as the gasoline flames hungrily ate up the aging building. Sweat dripped down Mami's brow as she tried to plan her next move. Sasayama, though, already had a clear goal in mind.

"Crime Coefficient is… over 170. He is a target for enforcement action."

The arsonist gasped as he saw the blue light of Sasayama's Dominator from behind the flames. He ducked and rushed down the stairwell. A blast of energy whizzed over his head, missing him by mere inches and fizzling on the nearby wall.

"Stay still, goddamn it!"

Sasayama cursed, swinging his Dominator angrily. However, the flames menacingly rose up to the ledges, forcing Sasayama away. Smoke started to fill the third floor hallways and it was getting harder and harder to breathe. Debris also started to fall from the ceiling. The building wasn't going to stay standing for long.

"We have to get out of here!"

Mami raised up her wristband and made it display the blueprints she had been checking out earlier. She then received an incoming call. It was from Inspector Kougami.

"Tomoe-san! There's reports of a fire in your area. What's the situation?"

"It's an arson, Kou! The Patricia scene was a trap!"

Sasayama spoke through Mami's wristband angrily. The Assistant Inspector was at a loss for words and let Sasayama explain their situation.

"I'll get a dispatch from the fire department, ASAP. The two of you sit tight!"

"I don't know about that, Kou… this place is falling apart fast. I wouldn't give it more than twenty minutes... or at least we wont."

"T-there's a fire exit here! It's in the blueprints! We might be able to make it out of here."

Mami finally spoke. She showed the blueprint to the Enforcer and sent it to Kougami.

"It's right across the hallway from where the two of you are. Get over there, now!"

The Enforcer and the Assistant Inspector nodded and the two of them rushed to where the emergency exit supposedly was and found a large metal door. The whole door was rusted over and covered in graffiti but traces of the label 'fire exit' could be seen in faint white paint. Sasayama reached for the doorknob without second thought but the knob wouldn't even turn. The harder he tried, the more frustrated he got.

Shivers started to run up Mami's spine. Her breaths were short and her eyes were losing their focus. She turned to the raging flames behind her then back to the door and she looked absolutely wild. The stairwell that should have been their defensive bottleneck was now an inferno. The emergency exit was derelict and unmovable. They were trapped in this burning building. The crime scene she had been assigned to investigate and protect was going to be compromised. She was going to fail her mission and she was going to die.

"Tomoe-san!"

Kougami's voice seemed distant to Mami.

"Oy, Tomoe-san!"

The MSWB Inspector's voice was nothing but a blur to Mami at that point. The reality of the situation dawned on her and her mind was blanking out. Mami held onto her elbows with her cold and shaky hands, almost as if seeking comfort from them. As she felt the fabric of the blue Inspector's coat she wore over her dress-shirt, though, only bitterness arose. Then a voice called out to her.

"Assistant Inspector-san… if you really plan to become an Inspector with the MSWB, you gotta keep a cool head in tight situations like these!"

"… A cool… head? B-but…!"

Mami wanted to retort, but she could see that Sasayama had not given up hope yet. As a matter of fact, he was still looking around, wondering if there was a door he could break open. All of the doors were shut tight and were mate of metal, but he still tried to find some way out of this inferno. He was even considering jumping down the full three stories from the ledges if he had to.

"Tomoe-san, if an Inspector loses his or her cool, we Enforcers start to lose confidence as well. You guys are here to give us guidance, you know. You guys are like our mentors."

"Mentor…"

That word resonated with Mami well. It resonated with her in a way that she couldn't explain or hope to explain. It was almost as if that word awakened something that had been lying dormant in her heart. The faces of her three cadets came to mind. She can't let those three aspiring girls down like this.

The warmth returned to her hand and her once clouded mind became clear again. Her logic shifted to its top gear and an aura of intensity was set about her. Sasayama noticed the change. The Assistant Inspector then got to work.

"Kougami-san! Are you still there?"

"I'm still here, Tomoe-san. The fire crews are almost there – hold on."

"We don't have time to wait for the fire crews. This building won't last that long and our perpetrator is getting away."

"Tomoe-san! You don't have to worry about the arso…"

"Sasayama-kun and I will get out of this, Kougami-san, and we will catch that arsonist. There are just two things I'd like to ask from you."

There was silence on the other end of the line for a moment before Shinya agreed to listen to her requests.

"Firstly, if there are any other relay stations nearby, would it be possible to boost its range one way or another?"

"… Karamori might be able to find a way."

"Thank you. And secondly, I'd like to have full control over the police drones assigned to this scene- all five of them."

Shinya gasped. He realized just what Mami was trying to do. With a tone more confident than concerned now, Shinya spoke.

"It's done. Good luck, Tomoe-san."

As Mami cut the communication link, a muffled yet welcome sound filled the hallways. The police drone that had been knocked out earlier was able to reboot and was already running over to their side. Sasayama was nothing short of impressed.

"Well then, Tomoe-san. What's the game plan?"

"We're going to use the drones to chase after our arsonist and to corner him. Then we'll take him into custody – we need to find out why they were targeting us like that. But before all of that, we have to get through this fire exit door."

The police drone arrived at their side. Through her wristband, Mami made the drone face the door then voiced out her order.

"Door Breach!"

The breaching blast from the drone sent the rusted metal door flying from its hinges. Behind the door was a secondary stairwell still unaffected by the fires below. Mami and Sasayama drew out their Dominators then rushed down the stairs and out of the building. Once they got out of the emergency exit, Sasayama caught a glimpse of a familiar scrappy man.

"Tomoe-san, he's over there!"

The arsonist saw the two detectives and the Dominators they held and was terrified. He thought that the two of them would have died in the fire, but there they were looking for him. He thought that he was seeing ghosts… or demons. He turned around and rushed for the nearby side-streets to find a place to hide.

"Drones in pursuit formation!"

Mami barked out her order to her wrist-watch and the five drones went off into the alleyway to chase after the arsonist. She then turned to the Enforcer and spoke in her calm and composed voice.

"The drones will drive him into a corner. We just have to get there and catch him."

"Roger that!"

Sasayama was more than happy to get such an order.

"We'll split up, Sasayama-kun. We can cover more ground that way."

"Are you sure you want to go alone, Tomoe-san?"

"I'm certain. Let's go!"

With Dominators in hand, Mami and Sasayama dashed into the alleyways. They combed the path, constantly checking their navigation on their wristbands. Sasayama picked up his pace and tried to close the distance between him and the red dot on his map. His prey was close and his excitement was rising. Then, an angry howl reached his ears.

Waiting at the corner that Sasayama just turned was another man holding up an aluminum baseball bat. The man threw the bat down at Sasayama with every ounce of his strength, but the Enforcer just grinned.

Sasayama raised up his arms to block the blow. He then pushed the batter aside then lunged forward with lighting speed. Sasayama threw a punch that connected with and rattled the batter's ribs. He then raised his head up and head-butted the staggered batter who fell limply to the ground. The Enforcer then knelt down by the helpless man and pointed the Dominator at his face.

"Crime coefficient is… over 250."

Sasayama pulled the trigger and the broken batter was shivering wildly before getting knocked out. The Enforcer would have much rather riled the batter up some more. For a moment, he felt like he wanted to use the Lethal Eliminator, but he didn't have time for that. Mami Tomoe was all alone in this alleyway chasing the arsonist. Who knows what else awaited them in that darkness? He feared the worst. He had to regroup with Mami.

The Enforcer got back on his feet and chased after that red dot on the map again.

Down another route in the alleyway, Mami was hot on the tail of the arsonist. She tried not to mind the darkness of the alleyway or the unpleasant stench of the sewers below them. Her mind was focused on the mission now. This case had to be closed, no matter what.

The Assistant Enforcer's wristband then received a call. It was from Sasayama.

"Tomoe-san, bad news. This perp of ours has friends helping him escape. One of them tried to come at me with a bat. I have a feeling this guy has more buddies hanging around…"

"I've already requested for backup from Kougami-san. He and my Cadets are already en route here to help us sweep up the area… but the arsonist is our main target right now."

"I know that… but stay on your toes… gah! Another one, goddamn it!"

Sasayama ended the call and Mami gritted her teeth. She stayed her course and followed the red dot through the alleyways. She then found their arsonist going down a long, narrow path. However, there was a most ominous sight at Mami's feet. One of the drones she had sent into the fray now lay broken on the ground.

She then heard footsteps running towards her. A third man was coming at her with a switchblade. Mami's eyes grew sharp.

Mami anticipated the swing of the knife and blocked it with her wristband. She then tugged the man's knife-arm and tugged him towards her. The Assistant Inspector then hurled an elbow straight into his chest, incapacitating him. With the enemy down, Mami took out her Dominator and aimed at the fleeing arsonist.

"Crime Coefficient is… over 320. Lethal Eliminator is locked by user restriction. Enforcement mode is Non-Lethal Paralyzer."

Mami pulled the trigger and the burst of energy struck the arsonist in the back. The arsonist fell helplessly to his knees. Sasayama arrived at Mami's position and saw the Assistant Inspector panting heavily. However, she was composed and confident. Their mission was completed.

Sasayama smiled at Mami and she smiled back. A gentle breeze blew through the alleyway and rustled the Inspector's coat that she wore. The Enforcer grew to respect Mami that day. This woman wasn't someone to be trifled with, he thought. This woman was well on her way to becoming a fully-fledged Inspector. Then he joked to himself,

"At least this girl's melons aren't her only asset."

Somehow, she looked good in that Inspector's coat.

"... Tiro Finale, huh?"

From the window of a nearby apartment building, a young woman with long black hair looked onto the scene through a pair of binoculars. Her sights were focused on the Assistant Inspector who now started cleaning up the scene and rounding up their assailants with handcuffs. The confident smile that Mami wore and the professional and proper air about her would have brightened up the day of her colleagues, but all of this just made the young woman frown.

The young woman turned away and retreated back into her room. On the end table by the window was a copy of Goethe's Faust. Atop the book were a handful of 2x2 pictures, most of them young women of about her age. The pictures of Patricia, Izabel and Gertrud were crossed out with black marker ink.

A cell phone then rang in the woman's pocket. She picked up the phone and answered.

"Well then, young miss. Were you entertained?"

"I've confirmed something I wanted to see, but this is only the beginning."

"Of course, of course. You still have a lot of targets on your list, after all."

"That's right."

The young woman then laid a hand on the cover of Goethe's Faust before clenching it into a fist.

"I'll be counting on you, Choe Gu-song."

To Be Continued