+ this fic is a sequel to another of my fics, Second Chances. it does not stand alone, and it will not make any sense unless you read Second Chances first (a link to Second Chances can be found in my ffn profile).
+ the premise is this: a slight death note au where the dead do not go into nothingness, but are transported to a mundane afterlife-type place called the 'second world', or to hell. characters that die in the second world, or that escape from hell, end up in the 'third world'. this fic is set in the third world. pretty much everyone is in it.
+ because this is a long, involved, case-filled fic, there will be many minor own characters (as L can't just go on catching the five or so criminals from canon over and over again). however they will exist to complement and support the canon characters, and will never be the main focus of the story or the plot. some own characters may turn out to actually be canon characters in disguise.
+ as with before, I promise that no own characters will hook up with canon characters.
+ overall warnings: bad language, some amount of mindfuck, occasional violence, character death, and just bad puns in general. I will put specific warnings before every chapter.
+ this chapter is, in some respects, a prologue. it is setting the scene for a lot of future events.
L lands on his knees, in the middle of a crowded bus interchange. He inhales slowly and flexes his arms, testing his body.
It still works.
There are people all around him, and they all look relatively ordinary. A short woman hurries past, nearly falling over him, fussing with her cell phone.
"Welcome," she calls, as an afterthought.
So. There are people here. And phones. There does not seem to be any imminent danger, at least in this place.
A man steps over him. He's tall, with lank black hair and a milkshake in one hand. He has a tattoo of a scorpion on one arm, and a faint outline of a crucifix on his forehead. He doesn't look at L, he just hurries straight by.
L gets up, and getting up is easy, reflexive, the same as it ever was. L smiles, because this is what he wanted. A similar world, where he can live a similar life. Where he can find Rae and they can solve crimes forever.
Assuming crime is still common in this world, of course.
Okay, one thing at a time.
L scans around him. The buses are red. One of them reads London Express. It is likely that he is in the same geographic location as when he died.
Something is wrong, though. The world looks different. Fundamentally different. L frowns, and makes his way decisively towards the exit. He sees a young boy lift a wallet out of somebody's handbag, and makes a note of that, too.
Crime still occurs, here. Nothing has changed.
L climbs the stairs easily. His body feels better than it did before, as if he has gotten younger again. And maybe fitter.
He reaches the top of the stairs, and gazes around. The sun is setting unremarkably against a scarlet-coloured sky. He is standing in the middle of a large, busy city. The buildings around him stretch up to eighty floors apiece. There are too many people to count.
It isn't raining here, but a thin mist obscures the horizon in all directions.
Someone touches his shoulder and L whirls around, arms raised, ready for a fight. He finds an elderly-looking woman with a big smile and curly black hair. In the past minute, L has seen at least a hundred people, but she is the first one who actually looks old.
"Hi," she says, stepping back, deliberately making herself non-threatening. "I'm Elka. I'm guessing you just came through?"
She has a big yellow name badge pinned to her shirt. L smiles at her.
"You are a welcomer?" he says.
"There's a place I can take you to," she tells him, nodding. "The British government funds a hotel just down the road. Newcomers are allowed to spend three nights there while they settle in. You get a working phone and everything. It helps a lot of people sort their lives out, and contact the ones they love."
L cannot go to a free hotel. He can't go where people might be expecting him. He has at least one enemy in this world, maybe a lot more than that. He has to find a different place to stay. And he has to do it with no phone, no money, no identity cards, and no friends.
There isn't anything in his pockets. L is on his own.
"No, thank you," he says. "But I appreciate the job you do."
"Where will you go?" Elka asks.
L gazes around again, squinting. It doesn't matter what he does, the wrongness is still here. It is in everything, the people walking, the mist, the buildings, Elka, his own hand, everything.
This world looks different. Better spaced, somehow. Like watching a film with those ridiculous red and green glasses, and…
L raises his hands to his face. Lips. Nose. Left eye. Right eye. Both eyes.
Of course. He is healed. He has his depth-perception back. The world isn't different. The world is normal.
"I'll find somewhere," L tells Elka.
Then he grins fiercely, turns on his heel, and heads towards the centre of the city.
Everything is going to be fine.
Roderick Pearce checks his equipment one more time, then wanders over to his garage to select his preferred escape vehicle. Roderick isn't like those ordinary criminals. Oh no. Roderick has style, Roderick has staff, and above all, Roderick has money.
But what he wants, more than anything, is attention. Roderick loves attention. He loves attention almost as much as he loves speaking in the third person about himself.
Roderick is planning to siphon millions of dollars from a London bank. He has the allegiance of one of the Big Four hackers, a person known only as Fivenine. But even though he could just stay home while the transfer takes place, he's going to go and stand in the bank. In his best silk shirt, his top hat, and his four thousand dollar slacks.
What's the point of being evil if you can't be famous too?
Things don't stay fine. L finds a cheap but secure hotel room in the basement of a casino. The receptionist says he can pay the bill when he leaves. Then he stares at his empty room and wonders what he ought to do.
Last time, when he died, Watari was right there with him. L didn't have to worry about accessing funds, or having a safe place to stay. He just went right back to solving crimes. But now he's hungry and alone and vulnerable, and he wants his butler-guardian back.
Or Mail. Or Raye. Or anyone.
L perches on the edge of the uncomfortable hotel bed, and switches the television on. He is looking for crimes. He is looking for clues as to where Rae might be. He is looking for clues as to who Rae might be.
And he is looking for information about this place. A person can never be too well-informed, and right now L really isn't any sort of informed.
So he watches the television, program after program. And he learns that the third world has earthquakes, and disasters, and poverty, and corruption, and ridiculous puff pieces about pop idols. He learns that the casino above him has a reputation for being the most-robbed venue in London. He learns that Ireland has been completely assimilated into England. He learns that religious people are considered a minority in this world.
And, exactly six hours after his arrival, he watches a feature article on the mysterious detective known as L, and how L has been catching criminals in the third world for years.
In Roderick's taunting notes to the public, he refers to himself as a supervillain, Roderick the Great. His crimes are numerous and varied, but they are all utterly dramatic. A murder here, a kidnapping there, a bit of blackmail, and lots of theft.
He parks his car gracefully, and hopes out with a flourish and a little jig. Nearby are two police officers, a tall weedy blond one, and an Asian one who doesn't meet his eyes. Their badges are clearly visible and Roderick immediately knows that they're from the Southwest Police Beat. Roderick waves to them mockingly, knowing full well they aren't allowed to arrest him just for being obnoxious.
Be fabulous, and never get caught. That is Roderick's motto. Well, his other motto is argh I put my purple shirt in with my yellow shirt and now I have two purple shirts oh the humanity, but that's only because he's still learning how to do laundry.
Roderick doesn't suppress an evil cackle as he dances into the bank.
This will be his finest hour yet.
L's immediate thought is Light.
His next thought is please not Light.
His third thought is I don't even know if Light is here. Surely Light wouldn't have gotten out of hell. Is there a tracking library somewhere?
He needs internet access. He needs a phone, at the very least. And for that, he needs money.
He needs to go upstairs and exploit his knowledge of which particular poker machines can be reliably bested with the correct technique. Then he needs to go and buy cake. And a decent disguise.
And then he can worry about the most evil criminal the world has ever seen.
One thing at a time.
"This is the best fucking burger I have ever tasted," Edison says, sniffing reverently at the lump of bread and meat in his hand. "Seriously, the greatest thing about being a cop is that the fast food places serve you straight away."
Edison is new to the police force, only just out of the academy. He's also incredibly naïve, because he's so new that the work hasn't broken his spirit yet. And he's so new to their team that Sergeant Stanton hasn't broken his spirit yet.
Teru Mikami tucks a strand of hair behind his ear, and wonders if Edison is secretly incredibly resilient. He's always suspicious of nice people. He's suspicious of everyone who reminds him of himself.
Understanding that you are a monster is the first step to not being a monster.
Kylie said that, and she's pretty much his only other decent colleague. Teru doesn't actually have any friends. He doesn't let himself have friends. He keeps his fringe long to hide the mark, and he doesn't let anyone get close to him.
I killed so many people.
And then I killed that little girl.
"Do you want a bite?" Edison asks, shoving his beloved lunch in Teru's face.
"I eat fried rice for lunch," Teru reminds him.
"Oh," Edison replies. "Huh. What did you think of that guy who just paraded past? He definitely looked like he was up to something. Maybe we should go back and check it out?"
"I don't know," Teru replies.
He doesn't know anything any more.
And the days go on. L hustles and saves up a few thousand dollars and buys himself a fake driver's licence. He also buys a veritable truckload of boiled sweets, some new clothes, and a believable mask and wig. He buys some cake mix, and fails so spectacularly that he hides the spattered packages in the garbage and promises himself never to think about baking again.
He scans the news every night for anything unusual, anything that might indicate a person with a super-powerful notebook. His research is inconclusive. The imposter L solves three cases, and broadcasts a short, gruff message promising to apprehend a dangerously annoying criminal known as Roderick the Great.
The Roderick case isn't as simple as it looks. The man has friends, money, and credibility. He keeps his hands clean, despite his ridiculous nature. And he seems to have at least five lawyers on standby. Fake-L needs to find hard evidence.
L feels a stab of jealousy. He wants to be solving cases, too. Now that he has stability, he needs credibility. He needs to find this pretender and win back his own mantle. Win back his own damn name.
Unless, of course, this pretender is Light. In which case, maybe L shouldn't be so quick to challenge him while vulnerable and alone.
Ideally, L won't come across Light until he has Rae by his side. And where is Rae, anyway? It should be looking for L just as hard as L is looking for it. Illogically, L had just assumed they'd find each other easily once they were in the same world again. But L doesn't know the first thing about Rae.
I don't even really know your preferred pronouns.
Statistically, since there are more straight or bisexual women than gay or bisexual men, Rae is most likely female. L resolves to refer to Rae as 'she' from now on. Using 'it' seems disrespectful now that Rae isn't actually around.
L needs to find Rae before Light finds him. Hopefully, of course, Light never makes it out of hell. But L's mother escaped from hell, so L no longer has faith in Jas as a mechanism for containing evil.
And there doesn't seem to be a tracking library in this third world. Nobody knows who is in and out of hell. L wonders if it was always this way, or if Jas removed the library and all memories of it when she destroyed her own powers of omniscience.
As a priority, L needs to locate the owner of the notebook paper and stop them.
L shoves three sweets into his mouth at once and crouches on the ground, in front of his shiny new laptop. The sun is shining through his one, tiny window. He has a purpose and an internet connection and enough money to get by.
He doesn't have Rae and he doesn't have a team but, right at this very moment, he is okay.
The third world is more beautiful than the second world. In the third world, the sun shines, even when it is raining. But at night, the mist makes the shadows longer, and darker, especially in London.
Some people say the shadows have a life of their own.
In the darkness, shadows move.
In the darkness, Shadow moves.
But that's okay, because she hasn't found L.
When L goes to the lobby to pay for the last week of accommodation and a second week in advance, there is a new receptionist behind the desk. She has dark eyebrows and a turned-up nose. On her forehead is a faint, crucifix-shaped mark. The end of it sits right between her eyes.
He's seen that mark before. He noticed it on a handful of people in the city when he first arrived. He saw it on a trucker at the casino last night. He saw it on the six o'clock Indonesian news anchor.
What does it mean?
Are you all part of a religion? A cult? A trend?
Or is it the mark of a disease?
"Thanks for paying early," the receptionist says, flashing him a brief smile. The name on her badge reads Winters. It's probably her last name.
"No problem," L replies. Their hands touch when he passes her his ill-gotten money, and he thinks maybe she might be flirting with him.
God, L feels so old.
And then a flashy-suited man sweeps into the lobby. He is wearing magenta-coloured pants. And a cape. He is, almost inarguably, Roderick the Great.
"Hello, unimportant person," he says, pushing L dramatically aside and approaching Winters.
"Listen, love," he purrs. "I have a message for you."
"Who are you?" she asks, backing away.
"I am RODERICK," says Roderick. "And I just wanted you to know that sometime over the next five days, I will be sneaking into the fantastic casino upstairs. And you won't even know I'm there until it's too late."
"Is that a threat?" Winters asks, tilting her head.
Roderick leans in towards her. L takes the knife from his sleeve, concealing it carefully with his hand. This man is a dangerous man.
"I would act a little more frightened, if I were you," he says. "I'm important. Look me up."
And then, without any further ceremony, he leaves.
Winters jumps over the desk and rushes to the door.
"You shouldn't follow him," L says.
"It's okay, I'm safe," Winters replies. "I'm studying criminology, actually. Trying to work my way into the FBI. But I'm guessing someone like Roderick won't leave any clues when he intends to have an audience."
"Why are you telling me this?" L asks.
"You were watching him the same way I was watching him," she says. "You were looking for evidence."
Of course. Every stupid fucking kid wants to be a detective. And in this world, the detective they want to be is usually L.
And even L hasn't figured out who L is yet.
"Crime fighting isn't a game," L says, tiredly. The last thing he needs is some wannabe making things difficult. What if she decides to start investigating him? That might be uncomfortable when he has so few resources. "Go home."
"But," she says, "I wanted to talk to you-"
"Go home," L says, and goes back to his room.
He has better things to do. He needs to figure out a way to tap into the casino security cameras, and soon.
Winters hurries home, arms folded, bag slung over her back. She lives on the other side of town, and the walk takes about forty minutes unless she cuts through Gladville.
She cuts through Gladville as often as she can. The streets here are long and abandoned, the sidewalks are in disrepair. The houses are old, boarded up, paint peeling. An uninformed person would assume that nobody lives here.
But if that were the case, Gladville wouldn't be considered the most dangerous place in London. People do live here, inside the boarded-up houses. This is where the worst criminals live, the mass murderers and the terrorists. Gladville is where you live when you dare not show your face to the public.
Walking through Gladville is pretty much asking to get murdered. But Winters has been a freelancing agent for forty years. She may not be a famous superdetective, but she's capable and clever and brave. She's been tracking Roderick for weeks and she's collecting evidence against him. Today she managed to get something amazing, a sample of his saliva. For a mastermind, he really needs to get less excited when talking. If she can get a match between his DNA and the hair from the scene of the last robbery, she can finally prove it was him.
There are footsteps behind her, but Winters doesn't turn around. She knows what a human sounds like when they walk, and they don't sound like that. Gladville is overrun with stray cats. She isn't worried and she isn't scared.
She's tough. She has to be tough, to get through life with a first name like Raechyael. It's pronounced Rachel, but spelled like the midwife was having hand spasms while typing out the birth certificate.
"Nyow," says a particularly pretty grey cat, pushing past her leg.
"Uh huh," Winters murmurs.
That man at reception was definitely a fellow detective. And he got a good look at her, too. She ought to have worn a mask today after all. She can't trust anyone. Roderick has tonnes of money, and agents everywhere.
He doesn't know about her, though. He's too focused on L.
And that is her safety.
If there's one thing Roderick hates, it is presumptuous little shits who don't treat him with respect. Especially if, after hacking into their personal files, he finds that they're actually a fucking spy who have fucking files on him.
This isn't about L or fame or greatness. This is just about revenge. And winning.
Roderick wears full body armour and waits in an alley. And when Miss Ridiculously-named Winters passes by, he shoots her three times in the chest. She falls down dead without so much as a protest.
Roderick leaves her body for the vermin. She didn't have any friends and she didn't have close family. He is going to see to it that the world never even knows she existed, much less that she came close to beating him.
Roderick is going to be the most memorable villain of all time, and nothing is going to stand in his way.
'Why do people have crucifixes on their foreheads' L types into a search engine. It generates fifteen thousand results, with the most popular one being a link to an online encyclopedia. The article is called 'God marks'
God marks? L clicks on the link and reads.
'God marks are permanent, non-removable marks on the foreheads of some people in the third world. The presence of a mark means that the bearer has been through hell and proved themselves worthy of a second chance. Some academics argue that the presence of the mark proves the existence of a god. However the existence of a god has never been proven and is largely scientifically unsound.'
Huh. L had not considered that possibility. So the marks denote people who have passed their test. Good. That will narrow down his search for Rae, at least a little.
L turns his attention to trying to hack the surveillance system. He uses some of the programming tricks Rae taught him in their last few weeks together.
When I find you again, we are going to do so many things.
They will both be human and free and together and safe, and nothing in the world will be able to stop them. They will be literal superheroes.
L can't wait.
"Good job letting a wanted criminal get away," Deputy Sergeant Daniels says, smirking. "You know, if it were up to me, you'd be off the force. If it were up to me, you'd be locked up."
Daniels tells Teru this at least twice a day. Usually while standing over Teru in a threatening sort of manner. And always when nobody else is around.
"Yes, sir," he replies, dutifully.
"Say it fucking louder," Daniels barks.
Daniels glares down at him for another few seconds before walking away.
"You're scum, Mikami," he says, quietly. "I know it and I'm going to prove it."
"What are we proving?" Kylie asks brightly from the door. "Sorry for interrupting, but you guys are running late for the video conference, sir."
Kylie never really got the hang of talking to senior officers, and seems to think that just stapling 'sir' or 'ma'am' to the end of every sentence is sufficient.
They walk to the conference room together. Edison has to stay behind to supervise the cells. The rest of them are expected to attend. The chief of police has an important message for them, a message that she's delivering to everyone in the country.
The old Teru would have been excited, but the new Teru is just exhausted.
They arrive in the conference room at exactly three seconds past three.
"You're late," Sergeant Stanton deadpans.
"Sorry, ma'am," Teru says, bowing his head.
"Hey, don't worry about it," Sergeant Berkshire says warmly. "Come and sit down. It's not often we get to have the two Southwest teams together."
"Yeah. We should be discussing criminal apprehension strategies," Kylie pipes up. "Er, I mean, we should be discussing criminal apprehension strategies, sirs and ma'am."
"We will be discussing only what the chief wants us to discuss," Stanton replies.
Kylie has this running theory that Stanton is actually a robot. She's pretty much convinced Edison, too. Teru doesn't tell them that in the second world, sometimes people really were robots and monsters. He doesn't tell them that that was a terrible thing, and not cool or funny.
The television screen buzzes to life, showing a picture of Chief Gabriel Mills. Her red hair is tied behind her head, and her uniform is flawless. She has been the English chief of police for just two months, and the crime rate has already fallen by 2% in that time.
Mills is a force to be reckoned with.
"Ma'am," Teru says respectfully, and salutes in unison with the others. Stanton salutes twice as hard as anyone else.
Sometimes Teru really misses being a lawyer. He hates the hierarchy of the police force. He hates that he has to defer to the idiots and bullies around him. He hates that he will never be able to climb the ranks, that he'll probably always just be a uniformed officer.
But this is how things have to be. He will never let himself have power. He will never let himself become a danger to others ever again.
"I have an important announcement to make," Mills says. "Recently, our police force has allowed itself to be compromised and exploited by certain civilians. This is both a drain on our resources and a blow to our integrity."
What is she even talking about? Teru wonders.
Then he wonders if Stanton will berate him for thinking something disrespectful.
"Therefore," Mills continues, "from this moment onwards, all officers are hereby banned from supporting, working with, or otherwise assisting the detective known as L."
Teru looks up so quickly that his glasses slip halfway down his nose.
L gives up on hacking the surveillance system, having found something far more useful: a floor plan of the casino.
There are just two entrances and one emergency exit, all situated on the same side of the building. There are no windows, and there is an alarm system set up to go off if anyone breaks through the walls or the roof.
How did this building ever pass inspection?
Still, it doesn't matter. There is only one way Roderick can enter and only one way he can leave. Now all that remains is for L to go into the casino, and stay in a place where he can monitor all three doors.
L takes his gun and his knife. He slips a tiny video camera behind his ear. He takes a wad of cash, stuffed into his brand new leather wallet. He needs to be seen to be gambling, because he needs to blend in.
And he needs to be careful. An evacuation in a place like this is going to be huge and disastrous, crushing. L needs to obtain evidence and keep everyone safe. And he needs to stay awake for the next five days straight, without seeming suspicious.
In short, he needs to capture a dangerous criminal with limited funds, limited equipment, limited hacking ability, and little knowledge of the world around him.
Life will be so much easier once L finds Rae.
Roderick is mad. Roderick is really fucking angry.
First the ridiculous Winters girl, and now this. Some blonde bimbo on a popular social networking site has dedicated an entire website to slandering him.
Roderick wrings his hands wrathfully and glares at his computer screen.
'Lol Roderick is the WORST seriously he can't even stick with one type of crime how pathetic is that.'
'I don't even know why L is wasting his time on this loser.'
' I have never met anyone this desperate for attention who wasn't actively on fire.'
'Pretty sure Roderick means loser in whatever language Roderick is from.'
And the worst thing is that she's drawing other people into her ridiculous little hate campaign. There's a notes feed that allows other site users to comment on Roderick. And their comments are vile.
'Just saw his latest note on television. Yawn.'
'Lol Roderick lol.'
Roderick doesn't tell Fivenine. Getting rid of people who mock and threaten him is Roderick's own personal business. The networking site is easy to hack. In twenty minutes, Roderick has all of this woman's information. Louise Ingleton, twenty-nine, waitress and college drop-out. She works at a trendy café called Deliciousyum Foodstuff. She lives in Moore, 8 Crank Road, Unit 11. She lives alone. On another of her personal sites, she complains about not having any friends.
She's isolated, stupid and tasteless.
But she's getting a lot of hits online, and Roderick can't have anyone spreading such filthy disgusting lies about him. He's killed eight people like this, on the side, out of the public view. Nobody knows it's him. Nobody would expect the magnificent Roderick to stoop so low.
And soon, he'll be so famous that he won't have to.
Roderick selects his gun and his outfit with equal, dedicated precision.
Dressed to kill.
And then he goes to clean the world of a little bit of its infinite supply of scum.
No, this is terrible. Teru remembers L. L saved him. L saved him and a fucktonne of people in the second world. L stood against Light in the first world, and even the thought of Light makes Teru sick to his stomach with shame and fear.
He believes in L. He's downloaded every single news program that discusses L's exploits. He owns every book that mentions L. L is a force of good, in Teru's mind. To alienate him from the entire police force is both counterproductive and demoralising.
"Yes, chief," Stanton says, without hesitation, beaming as if she's been living her whole life just for this moment. "Understood. I will see to it that none of my team so much as speaks to an agent of L. I will-"
"Yes, very good," Mills says busily, turning to stare at Berkshire.
"With all due respect, chief," Berkshire drawls, slowly, "it seems like a bit of an unusual request."
Teru perks up, just a little. Berkshire is generally both perceptive and morally functional. Teru's dearest hope is to one day transfer into Berkshire's team, if only Stanton would allow it. If anyone is going to defend L, it will be Berkshire.
Mills doesn't frown. She manages to convey anger without actually changing her facial expression. It's kind of similar to Stanton's talent for scolding people without ever changing her tone of voice.
"Is there a problem, Sergeant Berkshire? To uphold law and order in this country, we need to work as a team," Mills says, emphatically.
That is definitely a threat. Teru tries to catch Berkshire's eye, panicked. Now isn't the time to protest, no matter how much they want to. If Berkshire gets discharged, this whole place will report to Stanton.
"And I am part of that team," Berkshire tells Mills smoothly, with forced enthusiasm. "Put me down as agreeing heartily."
"Very good," Mills replies.
Teru grinds his teeth and doesn't say a word.
"There are two types of gambling in this place," says a bearded man who can barely keep from sliding off his bar stool.
L nods and pretends to be engrossed in his words, while surreptitiously checking the doors.
"Tell me about them."
"There's one type, like you an' me, who comes here with money to play the games and machines. And that type of person be a fine type of person. You can always trust someone who comes to a casino with their pockets full."
"Of course. Everyone who ever gambles within those extremely broad parameters is always unfailingly trustworthy," L says.
"Right, right," Beard agrees. "But there's another type of someone who comes here with their pockets empty, and it's them that you gotta watch out for, because they're after the easy pickings."
"Damn right, thieves," Beard hollers, banging his glass against the table. "I got two hundred bucks lifted right out of my pocket last night. Didn't even see the sneaky bastard."
He suddenly seems to sober up enough to both grab L's shoulder and keep his head off the table.
"So you gotta be careful, lad. Don't let anyone come near you."
"Understood," L says. "Thank you for the very reasonable and useful advice. To change the topic, have you heard about Roderick's latest escapades?"
"That's what I'm trying to tell you," Beard wails. "Everyone knows he's threatening to show up in this here place. The police won't do anything about it, because this place is full of gamblers and thieves. People like to think they're superior to us type of people."
"I didn't realise the force had publically refused to do anything," L says, filing that information away for later. "What can you tell me about the police force in this country?"
Beard grins broadly.
"Have you got an hour or ten?" he asks.
"I definitely do," L replies.
Roderick picks the lock to Louise's apartment. It proves to be only slightly more difficult than picking his own nose. Not that he would do anything so inelegant, of course.
The place turns out to be a bedsit, cluttered and dirty and ugly. Louise lies motionless, sprawled on a single bed. She rouses when he enters the house, moaning and propping herself up on her elbows. She looks like a highschool cheerleader, with cascading blonde hair and skinny legs and big, confused dark eyes.
"Who's there?" she calls into the darkness, staring confusedly around the room and then fixing her gaze in entirely the wrong direction.
Roderick raises his gun and pulls the trigger.
Bang, bang, bang.
This house looks like a cross between a high-end surveillance room and the inside of a dumpster. The floor is littered with food wrappers, filthy clothes, and the occasional dead animal. But on one wall is a series of screens that would make Fort Knox weep with inanimate jealousy.
Every single closed circuit television camera in London feeds into this house. The screens change every ten seconds, displaying snapshots of the scenery. Displaying just-recognisable snapshots of thousands of people. Nobody is safe. Anyone who stands in this room for long enough will eventually see every single person in London.
But one of the screens is different from the others. The feed is permanent, clearer, and changing slowly, as if someone is holding a camera very low to the ground and pushing it along.
This screen is marked 'Shadow'.
Roderick stuffs his gun back into his pocket. Louise collapses back onto the bed, as dead bodies are wont to do.
And then, as dead bodies are less wont to do, she rolls over and extends one arm in Roderick's direction, a pistol in her palm.
"Didn't anyone ever tell you not to shoot a sleeping person?" she asks. "Especially not if they're wearing body armour."
Roderick freezes on the spot.
"No," he says, instantaneous denial. "You couldn't possibly have prepared for this. You couldn't have known I'd come."
"Well, I have been researching you," she says. "Your weakness is your pride, and all those people you killed on your own. I figured you'd come for vicious little Louise. You're surrounded, by the way. There are police officers all around the building."
Roderick smiles. He knows when he's outsmarted. Time to get out of here.
"Nobody can aim well when lying down," he says. "I'd have my gun back in my hand before you even pulled the trigger."
Not-Louise smiles at him.
"Try me," she says.
Roderick tries her, and she shoots his gun clean out of his perfectly manicured hand.
"You okay?" Berkshire asks, waiting back just so he can talk to Teru. "You seem down, son."
"Why wouldn't I be down?" Teru asks. "After what happened yesterday, I'm having a hard time mustering any enthusiasm. The whole Northwest team got reprimanded for helping L, and they were only arresting London's most wanted criminal."
"Well, politics are politics," Berkshire agrees. "You and I are just tiny cogs in the big factory of the police force. But we still go out every day, keeping people safe, arresting criminals and fighting crime. You can't lose sight of the bigger picture."
"What about the slightly larger cog that is Sergeant Stanton?" Teru asks, lowering his voice. Berkshire is the only person he can talk to about this.
"Ah well, I'm sure she's all right, deep down," Berkshire replies, sounding entirely unconvincing.
"Anyway, what matters is this," he says, winding one arm around Teru's shoulders. Nobody has been affectionate to Teru Mikami in a very long time. "Whether we work together or separately, you and me and everyone in the force and all of the private detectives are going to keep making this world better. And one day…one day we're going to make this world good."
"Yes," Teru replies. "Yes, okay."
It's a good thought.
When he gets the news that Roderick has been arrested by fake-L with solid evidence, L half smiles to himself. At least his imposter is doing a good job. And at least now, the casino will be safe.
L goes back to his room, and back to trawling the news.
He doesn't really know what else to do.
"Let's play a fun game," Dwayne suggests. "It's called Throw Used Tissues At Each Other. Could be a laugh."
"I hate you," you tell him, without looking up from your notebook.
You're still trying to write stories that don't make any sense. You're still fat, you're still useless, and you are still hated by everyone who knows you except Matt.
You're still in love with Matt, you're still alone, and you don't believe in angels.
Nothing has changed. Everything is the same.
You are so, so tired of being alive.
L goes back to the casino every day. He finds different people to talk to, and learns new things about the third world. On Wednesday he meets a woman with bright orange glasses, who recounts for him fake-L's latest exploits. L isn't as unimpressed as he expected to be.
On Thursday he sits with a young man – only sixteen – with a cross between his eyes and a dapper bow tie. His face goes pale when L brings up hell, and he refuses to talk about what he went through.
"But it sucks afterwards, too," he tells L. "I mean, the god-mark stops famous criminals from getting thrown back in jail just for what they did in the first world, but it also means everyone knows you did some terrible shit."
"Is there any way to get rid of it?" L asks.
The boy snorts.
"Not unless you get a whole new face stitched on," he growls. "Bandaids and makeup just dissolve if you place them over the top of it. If you get a skin graft it grows right back with the new skin. The only thing to do is grow your fringe long."
So the mark actually has some passive supernatural powers. That is…oddly terrifying.
Why are you doing this? What do you hope to gain by branding people in this way?
"And that's not the worst part," the boy continues. "The worst part is what the hell-god tells you before you get sent back here."
L tilts his head. So people in hell know about Jas, at least to some extent. Interesting. Does that mean she has less power in this world than the second?
Well, perhaps that doesn't matter. She has less power now, L knows that for certain.
"What does she tell you?"
"That if you fuck up again – if you murder even one person – then you end up straight back in hell. Permanently. There are no second chances for someone with a god-mark."
"Interesting," L replies.
On Friday he pretends to be drunk, and makes friends with a truck-driver who has a tattoo of Light's face on her biceps, over the words never again.
"He was the most evil fucking bastard the world has ever seen," she says.
L learns that hating Light Yagami is an international pastime. He sleeps well that night, better than any other since he arrived.
On Saturday, L ends up in a useless conversation with a young couple who only want to talk about cats.
"Bengals are my favourite," says the young man. "They're so smart."
"No way," says the other young man. "Siamese are the best. They're loyal and very clean."
L turns to the bar to order another cocktail-with-all-the-juice-and-sugar-hold-everything-alcoholic. But when he moves, he feels something slightly odd in the general region of his pocket. He reaches out, lightning fast, and snatches the thief's hand before they can get his wallet into their bag.
"I don't think so," L says quietly.
The thief is a tall woman, with bubble-gum coloured hair and too much makeup. The young couple haven't even noticed L's predicament, too busy arguing about whether striped cats are better than spotted cats.
"You have ten seconds," L says, "to explain why you targeted me, out of all the people in this part of the casino."
He touches his gun with his free hand. He doesn't want trouble, but he may have gotten it anyway. The woman doesn't seem concerned by being caught, and that in itself is unnerving.
"Let me tell you what's going to happen," she drawls. "I'm going to ask you one question. And then, you are going to let me go. And then I'm going to give you back your wallet, and walk out into the parking lot and get in my ride and go home."
L stares at her. She knows something about him. But that doesn't mean she knows who he really is, and that doesn't mean he is without an escape route. L scans the surrounding crowd. Nobody else seems suspiciously alert.
L closes his hand around the gun.
"Ask your question," he says, carefully.
"This is a dive," the woman says. "I mean, this is actually the worst casino in London. The drinks are expensive, the food is inedible, most of the games are rigged, and the company is unenjoyable. I mean, like, what is a boy like you doing in a place like this anyway?"
Everything grinds to a halt on her last few words. L feels like he is suspended underwater. Because of course. Of course she is. She was always better at disguises than he was.
"Looking for trouble," L says, releasing her arm.
"Good," Wedy says.
Then she turns and disappears into the crowd.
+ thank you for reading
+ update times: I am really not sure about the frequency of updating. I am hoping to have another chapter up in two to three weeks. we shall see!