“Tell me that you’ve got something that we can actually use, please, for the love of all the gods and spirits.” Commander Minori Iwata sighed as she promptly eased herself into a chair at the conference table.
“Well, um, ma'am, we’re uh, making a lot of progress.” The research assistant gulped and tugged at his collar. “We’ve identified the main component of the Spirit Dust as being some plant-based product, cut with heroin. Evidently, heroin’s ability to bypass the blood brain barrier allows the drug to be absorbed much more quickly through all parts of the bo-”
“Wait, go back a moment. What kind of plant product?”
“Uh, well, we, uh, don’t really know.” The research assistant winced. Minori’s gaze could’ve melted iron. The meek assistant was no match for her.
“Two weeks of research and you idiots have nothing to tell me besides the fact that the drug is likely a plant.” Commander Iwata tapped her finger against the table. “Alright, dismissed.” The research assistant practically sprinted out of the room in his hurry to leave.
Minori sighed again, and flipped through her notes on the Spirit Dust case. Two weeks since Kaoru had exploded Spirit Dust into the Foundation’s attention. Two weeks of chaos and furious investigation that had yet to yield any concrete evidence or who had supplied the Dojin-kai with such a drug. Two weeks of nothingness.
Minori flicked on the television with a remote, and turned to the Nippon National News. Glancing out of the corner of her eye, she noticed the headline of the day.
“3 GRUESOME DEATHS IN TRIPLE MURDER-SUICIDE? POLICE INVESTIGATION UNDERWAY.”
Iwata cursed under her breath. The civilian media was getting closer and closer to finding out something troubling the longer the situation went on. At this rate, there was no telling when they’d stumble upon the-
Minori’s thoughts were interrupted by a call. She pulled her phone out of her pocket and frowned. Unregistered number. Slightly suspicious, she answered the phone.
“Regional Commander Iwata-san,” a smooth baritone dripped. Iwata stiffened.
“D-director Oda-sama. How nice to receive a call from you.” Minori stuttered for a moment, somewhat surprised by the sudden call.
“We’re getting reports of this ‘Spirit Dust’ business down in your region. We had to silence some of the local media who found a little too much. I don’t want to see this kind of sloppiness in the future, and I want this affair resolved soon.” The voice slithered over Minori’s skin in a way that made her want to shudder. Somehow, there was a quality in the voice that made it seem deeply wrong, despite the richness of the tone.
“Understood, sir. We’ll get it done.” Minori responded, resolute to not show any signs of discomfort. She hated that.
“I should hope so.” The call clicked, and Commander Iwata put her phone on the table. She stared at it for a moment before she stood up and walked out of the conference room.
“I want a memo to all undercover agents on the Spirit Dust case: time is of the essence here. Theater command is breathing down our necks.” Minori waved a hand at her secretary, who scrambled to send a note through secure channels.
Afterwards, Director Iwata opened the door to her office and sat down at her neatly organized desk. Minori looked around for a moment.
Her office was cramped, but she made do with a tight-lipped grimace and a professional organization. Filing cabinets with labels written in an elegant, looping hand lined the walls, while her desk occupied nearly a quarter of the room. She had to squeeze past the desk to get to her somewhat worn chair that creaked when she shifted her weight. An old coffee mug filled with pens and pencils sat on her desk, with a stack of papers as a neighbor.
Behind her on the wall was an array of degrees, awards, and Foundation accolades, framed and polished to a shine. A single photo also adorned the wall, nearly yellowed from age. It showed a smiling and pretty young woman dressed in Foundation-issue containment team fatigues sitting in an armored personnel carrier.
Commander Minori Iwata leaned back in her creaky old chair, and closed her eyes for the briefest of moments.
Then she sat upright and began to do some work.
Detective Katsuo Tanaka kneeled down.
Sifting through some assorted trash on the ground, he found a phone lying on the ground with a cracked screen. However, it still came to life when turned on, and showed a laughing young man as its background, in the middle of a night out with friends, a girl on his arm.
That young man was in a few pieces scattered around the room that Katsuo and his partner, Yuudai Shibata, now searched through. The girl in the photo was huddled in a corner with most of her head missing, blood staining the walls. Discarded needles with traces of Spirit Dust were found with both of them, recently used. The small apartment they lived in was nearly destroyed, furniture smashed and life in ruins.
After making sure all of the bodies were thoroughly dead, Katsuo and Yuudai were now examining the room for any evidence. Katsuo now flipped through the phone’s messages while wearing a pair of gloves. An assortment of family members, friends, and coworkers filled the recent texts. “I love you” and “Miss you” texts flooded the recent messages, never to be seen again or read.
Katsuo frowned when he got to an unmarked number. No name appeared for it, nor was there a lengthy conversation. It was comprised of a single phrase.
“WEDNESDAY 2 PM. GOOD STOCK, BRING CASH. PARK, UNDER BIG TREE BY FOUNTAIN.”
Katsuo stood up and nodded to Yuudai. The two exited the scene.
In the car, Yuudai was driving. Katsuo flipped through the case files. Suddenly, Yuudai spoke up.
“You think this will finally be a lead that we can use?”
Katsuo scratched his chin. “Hopefully. Just hopefully.”
“Just hopefully?” The voice had a slight edge to it.
Katsuo glanced over. Shibata was gripping the wheel in a tight lock, white-knuckled and tense. He stared far ahead of him in the road. His eyes were hardened with an uncharacteristic edge.
“Easy, Yuudai. These things take time,” Katsuo tried to calm his young partner.
“Time? The hell does time mean to me when these fuckers are selling this SCP and killing innocents?”
The car pulled up to a red light and Yuudai slammed his fist on the edge of the steering wheel in frustration.
“I didn’t fucking join the Foundation so that we could mosey around a case while people die thanks to something they don’t even understand. Why aren’t we doing more? Where are the other cops? The other agents?” Shibata grimaced. “Where’s the cavalry riding over the hill in those American westerns we watched as kids?
Detective Tanaka sighed. He suddenly felt very, very old. He didn’t feel 35. He felt at least 65. Running a hand through his hair, he closed the folder on his lap.
“Yuudai…we are the cavalry. There’s no one else on this case, and we couldn’t get anyone else here if we tried. We’re the only ones on this. And I know that this means nothing to you, but we need time and patience or else a whole lot more people are going to die because we did something stupid.” Katsuo looked at Yuudai.
His partner said nothing, but his hands unclenched slightly. He muttered an affirmative response, and simply kept driving, silent once more.
Katsuo looked out the window of the car. They had all been like that once. He had been like that once. Recently employed, and still wide-eyed. Still thinking that the Foundation was a miracle organization. Still too naive to know that they couldn’t save everyone. Still too damn stupid.
Katsuo sat in his car, alert and tense. He looked out to where the big tree was located in a tucked away corner of the park.
Underneath the big tree sat Yuudai, wearing basketball shorts and a hoodie. A backpack sat on the bench next to him, and a pair of earbuds were jammed in his ears. He glanced from side to side behind his facade, looking for anyone to approach him.
The time was 2:00.
Yuudai yawned and leaned back on the park bench that he rested upon. The surrounding area was practically deserted, with only an elderly couple feeding birds for company. The air was calm, and peaceful.
Out of the corner of his eye, Yuudai saw a man strolling along the park path. He took a leisurely pace, casually slinging a satchel over his shoulder. He sat down next to Yuudai on the bench.
“Sure is a nice day, isn’t it?” The man said, smiling broadly.
“Yeah, nice weather. My mom would say the nature spirits are happy.” Yuudai replied, not looking directly at the man.
“Oh? She one of the old believers, then. You one of them too?”
“Nah, not me. She taught all that stuff to me when I was a kid, but my knowledge is a little dusty now.”
“Ah, I see. So, I’ve got a package for you.”
Yuudai resisted the urge to throttle the man on the spot. “Oh? Well I think that deserves a gift.”
Yuudai picked up the backpack resting next to him on the bench and handed it to the man. The nonchalant figure unzipped the bag and quickly counted the money inside without pulling it out. Seemingly satisfied, he opened his satchel and withdrew two envelopes, handing them to Yuudai.
“Well, see you later, friend.” The man smiled again, and then stood up to continue his way along the path.
Yuudai let out his breath and tried to calm his pounding heart. He pulled out his phone and checked it.
A faint, but steady beep emanated from the phone as he checked the map. A small pulsating circle moving slowly away from Yuudai’s position was visible on the screen.
Yuudai stood up and went back to the car.
The bouncer looked up and down at Naoki Koga, checking him over.
The bouncer eyed a clipboard in his hand, and grunted. “Welcome to Flare.” He opened the door, letting the young kyodai into the club.
The place was like any other nightclub: loud, sweaty, and obnoxious. The air was sticky with the bodies in motion, and the music pumping over the speakers wasn’t exactly in Koga’s taste. Naoki flagged down the first waitress that he saw.
“Can I help you, sir?” The uninterested waitress said, already looking elsewhere, clearly distracted.
“I’m looking for Shoji-san.” Naoki said, with a little bit of force in his voice to get her attention.
The waitress snapped her attention back to Koga. Her eyes were a little widened, and her hand flew to her mouth. “You’re one of Shoji-san’s friends! I’m so sorry sir, please, follow me.”
Navigating through the sea of people, the waitress led Naoki to a door in the back of the club with an “EMPLOYEES ONLY” sign across it. She opened the door for the young man and bowed gracefully before hurrying away.
Naoki was confronted with a set of stairs, and he cautiously made his way down them, alert for any surprises. At the bottom of the stairs, he opened another door, and stepped inside.
The music here was in better taste, but it was no less loud or obnoxious. Yet the people in this room were very different from the ones upstairs. These ones seemed more lethargic, moving with a molasses air of sweet indolence.
In the center a crowd of people danced slowly, nowhere near in time with the beat of the music. Naoki furrowed his brow until one of the people dancing looked at him.
Her eyes were a multicolored rainbow of shifting hues and light. The girl was rapidly blinking, and every time she did, her eyes shifted into another kaleidoscope pattern. The eyes were beautifully colored, yet horribly dead, as if no life stirred behind them.
Naoki mentally shuddered, and looked away.
Elsewhere throughout the room were many more people laughing and dancing, yet all with the same languid movements. A couple in the corner was destroying and reassembling a painting with their minds, giggling while doing so. A girl leaned down and sat on a man’s lap, grinding into him while burying her lips into his. Their faces seemed to melt into each other’s, and perhaps they did.
Masked waiters darted from spectacle to spectacle, carrying trays with syringes, pipes, and other tools, presenting them to the various patrons when they seemed to come out of their trance, and always making sure to make notes on a paper when they did so. A group of men simply lying on couches and making lights appear in the air above them was approached by one such waiter who merely handed them carefully rolled cigarettes. The men greedily grabbed the cigarettes and smoked them, sinking back into an air of complacency. The waiter frowned when he came to the last man, who seemed not to react. Checking the man, the waiter tutted and signalled to a few other servants who came to help him drag the body out of the room.
Naoki wanted to vomit. One of the masked waiters glided up to Koga and presented a tray. A single syringe sat on it, pretty and unused. A greenish liquid was inside.
The yakuza pushed away the tray and said, “I’m looking for Shoji-san.”
The waiter bowed obsequiously and led Naoki to one of the booths lining the sides of the room.
The booth was occupied by a lean young man wearing a large pair of sunglasses and with a normal tobacco cigarette in his mouth. A girl was in both of his arms on both sides, laughing and giggling at him while a circle of associates sat in the booth, similarly occupied.
The man glanced up when the waiter approached. Naoki cleared his throat. “Are you Shoji-san?”
The smoking man grinned. “I might be. Who’s asking?” Naoki almost cringed at the cliched line.
The man grinned even wider. “Ahhh, so you’re the one that my old grampa sent, eh? Sit down, bud, have a drink. Like my nightclub?”
Naoki sat down, somewhat stiffly. “It’s nice, sir.”
“You bet your ass it is. Paid a lot of money for it too. So, let’s get straight to business. You want to get hooked up in the Spirit Dust business, huh?” The man leaned away from his girls to put his elbows on the table. One of his girls stood up, and seductively walked over to Naoki’s side of the table. She sat on his lap.
Naoki was unfazed.
“I am. Your grandfather told me to talk to you about it.” The girl put her arms around Naoki, who continued to ignore her.
She purred into his ear, “I’ve had a couple yakuza boys before, but nobody like you.”
Naoki ignored her. She didn’t interest him, and nothing she did would.
“Yeah, I’m the guy to talk to. So, your local outfit wants some Spirit Dust, they gotta pay up a fee to us when they sell. You dig?” The man grinned again. Naoki already wanted to hit him. This punk was playing at grown-up.
“I understand, and I’m aware of the fees. Can we get set up with a supply soon?” Naoki asked, as the girl started to kiss his neck.
“Sure, sure. So serious, man. Sure you don’t want to stick around? This party’s pretty great, and the girls are interested in you.” Shoji motioned towards the room. Another body was getting dragged out.
“I think I’ll pass. Not my type of party.”
“Sure, sure, I get it, not that kind of guy. We’ve got some guys who are pretty interested too.”
“I’m good, thanks. Will you stop that?” Naoki referred to the girl who was now stroking his lap. She looked somewhat shocked for a moment, as if she really hadn’t expected him to refuse her advances. Then, she reluctantly slid off of him.
For a moment, a shade of annoyance flicked over Shoji’s face, before he went back to his grinning demeanor. Naoki cocked an eyebrow.
“Well, I’ll see you around then, Naoki. I can call you that, right? We’re friends.” He offered a hand.
“Right. Friends.” Naoki shook Shoji’s hand, making sure to grip tightly.
A twinge of pain shuddered through Shoji’s body, but he didn’t show it. Naoki left the hedonist scene, and then went out of the nightclub.
The brisk night air invigorated him as he headed for his car. Yet one thing wouldn’t leave his memory, try as he might.
It was those goddamn eyes.