I've had the first part of this lined up for a while now, but this is the first chance I've had to polish it up and publish it ;) It's just a short two-parter, but I hope you like it :)
Disclaimer: If I owned Death Note, I'd be a whole lot richer than I am right now and would probably be writing this from the Caribbean. I wish I did own the rights, or at least had some kind of timeshare deal, but no such luck.
"Yagami-san, good evening."
Soichiro shrugged his coat off and hung it up. "Good evening, Emi-chan. How much do I owe you for tonight?"
"Five thousand yen, please."
Soichiro dug around in his wallet and pulled out a rather crumpled five thousand yen note. Emi charged one thousand yen per hour, which was a lot more than most babysitters and a few hundred above minimum wage, but on the other hand she cooked dinner, helped Light and Sayu with their homework, got them bathed, teeth brushed and into bed on time, cleaned up after everyone and – unlike her predecessor – enforced the house rules to the letter. Better yet, she lived down the other end of the street, so was close enough to walk home (Soichiro tended to stand outside and watch to make sure she got safely back, but at least he didn't have to drive her). As far as he was concerned, it was well worth the money, and one thousand yen per hour was nice and easy to calculate.
"Any problems?" he asked as he handed her the money.
"Thank you. No, Yagami-san, there were no real problems, except Light-kun tried to persuade me that he was allowed to stay up until midnight on a Thursday and that you'd said he could watch any movie from your collection that he liked."
Soichiro raised his eyebrows. Light's attempts to charm, wheedle and sometimes blatantly manipulate his way into a later bedtime were nothing new – he tried the same tricks on his parents from time to time – but the movie scheme was a new one on him.
"What did you say?" he asked.
Emi's face was a picture of innocence as she replied, "I pointed out that if you had said that, then it would be much nicer for Light-kun to watch the movie with you than by himself and so I wouldn't let him spoil the surprise."
Soichiro chuckled. That was the other good thing about Emi; she could play Light at his own game. Her three predecessors had made the mistake of thinking Light was an average kid, and his son had run rings around them all.
"Did you get him to bed on time?"
"Yes; he went at nine. Oh, and I ironed Light-kun and Sayu-chan's uniforms for school tomorrow and cooked dinner – there's some in the fridge if you're hungry – and..." Emi hesitated.
"Go on," Soichiro instructed her.
"Yagami-san, I think Sayu-chan's worried about something. She was very quiet all evening and went up to bed at five past six."
Soichiro frowned. Quiet was not a word he normally associated with his young daughter, and as for early bedtime, forget it. Sayu was very proud of her eight pm bedtime, having only recently been promoted from seven thirty, and she never went up a second before she had to.
"Did she eat anything?"
"No. I couldn't get her to come downstairs. I offered to bring some food up for her if she was feeling ill, but she said she wasn't hungry and to leave her alone. It's probably nothing, Yagami-san, but I thought I should mention it."
"Alright. Thank you." Emi was right, it probably was nothing – Soichiro thought that Sayu was just missing her mother – but he made a mental note to check on his daughter before going to bed. "Are you coming tomorrow?"
"Yes, if you're happy with that."
Not really. Soichiro couldn't shake the nagging feeling that with Sachiko away, he ought to look after his kids himself, but he couldn't get the time off work just then.
"That'll be fine. Thank you."
He escorted Emi outside and stood there, watching to make sure she made it back to her house, then he went back inside his own and shut and locked the door.
A quick rummage in the fridge turned up some rice balls, and having skipped lunch that day, Soichiro was hungry enough to eat them cold. Emi wasn't a bad cook for a fifteen year old. Not as good as Sachiko, of course – nobody cooked as well as Sachiko, in Soichiro's admittedly rather biased opinion – but a lot better than Soichiro himself.
As he headed upstairs, intending to lie in bed with a chapter or two of his book, he noticed Sayu's light was still on. Thinking his daughter was enjoying some sneaky late-night reading (a habit Soichiro had also indulged in as a child but couldn't in good conscience condone as a parent) he opened the door very quietly. Often when Sayu was reading after bedtime she fell asleep with the light still on, and if that was the case this time then Soichiro didn't want to wake her.
The door opened about three inches, and stopped. Frowning, Soichiro pushed a little harder.
At that point, Sayu screamed. Not the girlish squeak that Soichiro got whenever he startled her out of a book, but a full-throated shriek of pure terror.
It took less than two seconds for Soichiro to hurl himself against the door and crash it open, but in the rush of paternal fear, that was far too long. His mind was already racing, picturing anything from a burglar to a kidnapper to some kind of revenge killing for Soichiro arresting someone's big brother or third cousin or something.
There was a series of thuds from the other side of the door and Soichiro forced his way in, almost tripping over the books that had been piled up as a barricade.
"DAD!" Sayu hurtled forward and threw herself into Soichiro's arms. Burying her face in his shirt, she burst into hysterical sobs.
"Sayu?" Soichiro stared down at his daughter, baffled and more than a little shocked. Sayu had cried before, of course, but never like this. "What on earth's the matter?"
Looking around, he saw that not only had Sayu set up a rudimentary barricade in front of her bedroom door and several tripwires within the room itself, but she'd also closed the curtains and taped them to the wall. When Soichiro surreptitiously peeled one corner back, he found that Sayu had covered the windows in newspaper.
What the hell?
"Sayu?" Reaching down, Soichiro picked up his daughter. This did very little to improve matters, as it meant Sayu transferred her death grip to her father's neck and half strangled him.
"Come on." He carried Sayu out of her room and into his own, hoping that a change of scene would help. Settling down on his bed, he arranged Sayu on his lap and managed to convince her to shift her grip to his shirt before she cut off his air supply completely.
"Sayu, what's wrong?"
Sayu just shook her head and continued to sob, clinging to him tightly. All Soichiro could do was sit and hold her, murmuring soothing nothings, and wait for her to cry herself out.
It took twenty minutes, and Soichiro was certain Sayu only wound down after that because she was too exhausted to continue.
"I'm sorry. I didn't want to."
"Didn't want to what?"
Sayu didn't answer.
"I won't be angry with you, Sayu. Tell me what's the matter."
His daughter suddenly looked up, eyes full of alarm. "Is the door locked? You have to lock the door! You have to lock it right now! Lock it and cover the windows!"
"Alright, give me a moment." Soichiro got to his feet and crossed over to the windows, pulling the curtains shut, then went and locked the door. "There. See?" Soichiro rattled the handle to demonstrate.
"What about the windows?"
"I've drawn the curtains."
"B-but you gotta cover the windows!"
"The windows are covered, Sayu." Soichiro allowed a touch of firmness into his voice. He'd do everything in his power as a father to reassure his daughter, but he was damned if he'd spend ages taping newspapers over his bedroom windows. Sitting down on the bed and hoisting Sayu back into his lap, he pointed. "Look. They're covered by the curtains. You can't see out of them, and that means nothing can see in."
Sayu whimpered into his chest. "Do you have your gun?"
"No. You know I have to leave my gun at work; we're not allowed to bring them home. The door is locked, Sayu, and the windows are covered. Nobody is going to get in here to hurt you."
"But-but what about the TV? What're you gonna do about the TV?"
Soichiro hesitated, unsure. "What would you like me to do about it?"
"Turn it round! You have to turn it round and push it against the wall!"
Oh, this should be good, Soichiro thought wearily. Aloud he said, "Alright. Wait here."
He got to his feet, which wasn't easy, as Sayu seemed determined to cling to him with everything she had and in the end Soichiro just picked her up and held her with one arm.
Unplugging the TV, he turned it around to face the wall. "How's that?"
"Cover it up! You have to cover it up!"
"Alright, wait a minute." Soichiro glanced around, then placed Sayu back down on the bed, picked up two of the pillows and stripped the cases off. Some instinct told him he wasn't going to get any sense out of Sayu until she'd calmed down, and she wasn't going to calm down until Soichiro's room had been secured according to her specifications. Luckily, the TV was a small one and he was able to fit the pillowcases over it without too much trouble. "There. Feel better?"
"Yes, but you have to put something across the bathroom door too! Otherwise she'll get in that way!"
She? Soichiro wondered.
"What kind of something?" he asked.
"Something...something like that!" Sayu pointed to Sachiko's dressing table. "'Cause that's really heavy so if you put that across the bathroom door she won't be able to open it."
"Alright." Soichiro moved the dressing table across in front of the door, hoping that Sayu wouldn't remember that that particular door actually opened inwards. "There. The bedroom door's locked, the curtains are drawn so no one can see in, I've barricaded the bathroom door and I've put two pillowcases over the TV and turned it to face the wall." Quite what the reasoning was behind that one, Soichiro was afraid to find out. "I promise nobody's going to come in and get you."
He sat down on the bed next to her. This time Sayu didn't just hug him, she clambered back into his lap and curled up into a tight little ball, clinging to him and hiding her face in her father's chest.
"Sayu?" Soichiro spoke very gently. "Are you ready to talk to me now?"
His daughter made a small noise that he was unable to interpret.
"I can't help you if you don't tell me what's wrong."
Sayu looked up at him, her entire face swollen from crying.
"I'm going to die tonight."
Soichiro stared at her. "What? Who told you that?"
"Is this something Emi-chan said to you?" Even as he asked the question, Soichiro knew the answer was no. Emi had babysat for the Yagami family for the past eighteen months and there had never been any problems with her. Besides, she was well aware of how impressionable Sayu was and how easily she got nightmares.
Sayu shook her head. "No. Emi-san doesn't know. I didn't want to tell anyone. I wasn't going to tell you 'cause I thought you might worry."
"That was wrong, Sayu." Soichiro kept his voice as calm as he could. "If something upset you as much as this, you should have come to me immediately."
Sayu sniffled a little and didn't answer.
"When's Mama coming home?" she asked.
"Monday. Remember? I told you last night." And the night before, Soichiro added to himself, and the night before that. Sachiko had never left her children before, and while Light had taken it in his stride, Sayu was having far more trouble adjusting.
"I forgot." Sayu curled a little tighter, squeezing her father's hand so tightly that Soichiro's fingers began to tingle. "Why did she go away? Doesn't she like us anymore?"
"Of course she still likes us. She just had to go away because your grandfather's very ill, and your mother wanted to look after him for a little while." This was a slightly rosy version of the truth; that Sachiko's father was dying of cancer and Sachiko had gone to be with him at the end. "I promise she'll be back after the weekend, Sayu. Why do you think you're going to die tonight?"
"If you tell me, perhaps I can think of a way to stop it happening."
"N-no. There is a way but it's bad."
"Is it? Why don't you tell me about it?"
Sayu swallowed. "I...I gotta make a copy of the video and show it to someone else before it's too late. If I don't, I'm gonna die."
Soichiro didn't follow any of this – what was it, some kind of visual chain letter? – but it seemed vitally important to Sayu.
"Do you still have this video?" he asked.
Sayu nodded, face mashed against her father's shirt. "Yes. It's under my bed. Momo's guarding it."
"Is he? Alright." Soichiro had bought a VCR with copying facility for those times when more than one detective needed to see the tape and he had to bring his work home with him. "Why don't we get it and take it downstairs? Then you can make a copy and show it to me."
"No! Then the ghost woman will come out the TV and kill you!"
Well, that didn't work, although it did explain a lot, including Sayu's insistence on having the television hidden. Soichiro tried another tactic.
"Sayu? Who told you about this ghost woman?"
Sayu shook her head, lips pressed tightly together.
"I can't say. If I do, she'll hear me and she'll come out of the TV early!"
"She'd have a job," Soichiro couldn't resist saying. "Those pillowcases I put over it are pretty thick. Not to mention she'd only get about five centimeters before hitting her nose on the wall."
"But she could push the TV away from the wall and get out that way!"
"Alright. Alright." Seeing Sayu was working herself into another panic, Soichiro changed tack again. "We'll forget that then. Can you tell me who told you not to tell me?"
Sayu shook her head again. "No. Light said I shouldn't tell anybody."
Oh, did he? "I see. But you don't have a TV in your room, Sayu, so how was the ghost woman going to get in there?"
Sayu rolled her eyes, her expression one of complete frustration with the stupidity of adults.
"Well, she'd come out of the one in the lounge or the one in here and walk to my room!"
"I see," Soichiro said again. Well, at least his daughter wasn't lacking in common sense...
"That's why I put the newspaper over the windows, 'cause I thought she'd come in through there when I shut the door. And Momo's under the bed so she can't come out from there."
"Mm. Good thinking." Soichiro didn't see any reason to point out that newspapers over the window and a cuddly duck-billed platypus under the bed wouldn't be much of a deterrent to a normal assailant, never mind a supernatural one. Sayu was frightened enough already. "So let me make sure I understand this. If you watch a tape and don't copy it and show it to someone else before a certain date passes, a ghost woman comes out of the TV and kills you. Is that right?"
Sayu nodded and snuggled into the comfort of her father's ribs again.
"And remind me again, Sayu, how do you know this?"
"I can't say."
"Really?" Soichiro kept his voice very calm.
"Yes. Light said I'm not allowed to tell you that I sneaked downstairs and watched that film with him."
It took every ounce of self-control Soichiro possessed not to smile – Sayu looked so very serious! – but somehow he managed it.
"Oh, is that right?"
"Yes, 'cause he said he'd get in trouble and you'd be really really mad at him."
He was right about that, Soichiro thought but didn't say.
"Sayu, I want you to listen to me very carefully, alright? What you saw wasn't real. It was just a film."
"Bu-but I saw the tape Light showed me and then the phone rang and there was this scratchy whiny buzzy sound just like in the film! And Light was with me, so how could he have made the phone ring at just that time?"
"I don't know," Soichiro answered honestly, while thinking that this was something he would have to ask his son about and soon.
Like sometime in the next five minutes.
"But I do know it's just pretend," he went on. "And I'd never lie to you, Sayu, you know that." This wasn't quite true, but Soichiro refused to believe that praising Sayu's artistic talent based on the blobby pictures she brought home from school could be considered a lie.
"But?" Soichiro prompted.
Sayu swallowed. "People make mistakes. Like...like when I'm in school and the teacher asks me how to read the kanji for dog and I say fire 'cause I really think it says that. Being wrong's not like lying, right?"
"No, Sayu. Being wrong isn't the same thing as lying. And yes, sometimes adults can be wrong about things just like children can." Soichiro tightened the hug a few notches. "But I promise you, I'm not wrong about this. You're not going to die just because you watched some video."
"No. No buts. You're not going to die. And you're certainly not going to die if you talk about it." Soichiro smoothed his daughter's hair. "So tell me, when did you see this video? What time?"
"Um...well, it was kind of..." Sayu's voice tailed away and she squirmed and looked down, playing with the buttons on her father's shirt.
"Go on," Soichiro told her, correctly interpreting this as when I should have been in bed. "I won't be angry."
"Five past eleven at night. It was when Light had Kaneda-san to stay the night. They were talking and they woke me up and so I went downstairs."
Ah. Understanding was beginning to dawn on Soichiro.
"And they showed you this film then, did they?"
Sayu nodded. "Yes. And then Light said that he'd found this docu...doca...doc-thing about people who watched the tape."
"Documentary," Soichiro corrected automatically.
"Yes, and it was like a film and Light said he'd watched the tape too and that he was going to die at seventeen minutes past six the next morning unless I watched the tape he'd made. And I didn't want Light to die! And you wouldn't want him to die either, would you?"
Soichiro was beginning to think he could quite cheerfully murder Light himself at this point, but he shook his head.
"No, of course not. You're a good girl, Sayu. So if this tape were real, you'd die at five past eleven tonight, is that right?"
Sayu nodded, swallowing.
"Which means—" Soichiro checked his watch— "that if it were real, then there would still be twenty minutes to go. So will you be alright here for ten of those minutes if I just go and ask your brother about all this? Maybe there's something he forgot to tell you."
"Can I come with you?"
"No. I think it would be better for me to talk to Light alone about this."
"Can I lock the door, then?" Sayu begged.
Soichiro studied her for a few minutes, then said, "Alright. But I want you to open it the second I tell you to. Agreed?"
"You promise I'm not gonna die?"
"I promise, Sayu. It's alright." At least, it was for Sayu. It wouldn't be for Light when Soichiro got to him, but there was no need for Sayu to know about that. "You'll be fine. I'll be back very soon."
He rose to his feet and headed out the bedroom, taking care to shut the door behind him. Seconds later, he heard the sound of scrabbling on the other side and then the click of the lock.
Well, that was one of his children sorted, at least for the moment.
Now for the other one.