"There are five five fingers on a hand. They are all connected in some way," I read aloud. My stomach growled. I remained in the school parking lot a little longer to try to decipher the riddle that my mother gave me, but my body wasn't getting the best sleep nor nourishment. I slowly drove from the lot, searching for a place I could park my car for the night and get some well needed rest. The thought that Alex more than likely had a hotel room fluttered into my mind while driving, but how would I know? I decided to stop and check the car for anything else that he might have left behind for me. I looked on the floors in the front. Then, I transitioned to the back seats. The floors of the car were extremely clean. I guess that showed that my janitorial skills never left me, when I lost my memory.
I got out of the car and opened the trunk. It was too dark to see what was inside, so I stuck my hand inside to feel around for anything. That's when I felt the mask.
Bronze tried to drive as fast as he could to reach the destination that the boy informed him to go. The child sat in the back seat. The former detective only followed the boy's orders, because he honestly didn't know what his next step would have been. "What do you know about Aya Crawford?" he asked.
The boy didn't answer. Bronze looked in his rear-view mirror at the child to see that he was already asleep. The middle aged man returned his view to the road and continued driving to 104 Grendel Road in silence.
I pulled out a mask, a black slim turtleneck shirt, and some black dress pants from the trunk of my car. Inside one of the pockets was Alex's wallet full of enough money to sustain me for a good while. Since we were technically the same person, my first order of business was to go to a fast food restaurant and eat good! I ate three cheeseburgers, two containers of french fries, and drank a large lemon-lime soda. My body felt awful after that meal. Perhaps, Alex hadn't eaten things like that. Oh well! What's done is done.
I found the key card to the hotel that Alex more than likely stayed in as well. The address was on the card, so I got directions from a gas station and drove over to it. I walked to my room door with the mask and clothes in one arm and placed the key into the slot. When I opened the door, I saw the bed and automatically placed my things down on the floor and flew into the bed. Even with a broken nose, sleep never felt so good.
The rain ceased by the time Felix Bronze reached the location that the boy's mother was supposedly held. He made sure to turn off the car's headlights and park a reasonable distance away from the house. There were short trees spread around the area.
"Heavenly Father, please protect everyone here tonight. Thank you for your love. In Jesus' name I pray, so be it," the child prayed.
Bronze turned around and looked at the boy. "When did you wake up?" he asked.
The boy opened his eyes and said, "I never was asleep. I've been praying the whole time."
"That is too long to be praying. What did you pray for?"
"I prayed for nothing until the ending of the prayer. The rest of the time, I was worshiping and talking to God about the things I'm supposed to do tonight," he said.
Bronze looked at the boy's big, bright eyes as the night's veil shrouded him. "What is your mission, kid?"
The child smiled. "My name is Novato. It means novice or beginner. It could also mean ignorant. I do nothing without guidance. Only God can reverse what my name's definition is. That's worth smiling for, Mr. Bronze."
"How do you know my name?" the tall man asked.
"If people can recognize you, they'd know your name too. Remember, you're a well known detective that was fired," the boy said still holding his smile.
Bronze sighed. He was right. "Well, Novato. I know you're the son of Hirek-"
"Alex," the boy interrupted, in an attempt to correct the man. "Biologically, my father is Hireki, since Alex and Hireki are the same person, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, the man that raised me was Alex."
The former detective listened to the child. He knew deep down that Hireki could have never raised such a person as this. Still, they needed not to waste more time in the car talking. "Normally, I would instruct a child to stay away from a place that could be potentially dangerous, but seeing that you are not ordinary, you can come along. You may be some help to me. I'm not armed," Bronze said.
Novato's smile faded, "You don't need to be. This isn't going to be a physical fight as much as it will be a mental one. Just be ready for the truth and don't let it consume you, detective."
Bronze nodded. He didn't fully understand what the child meant, but he knew that he wanted to learn what really happened to his deceased wife, Allison. "Let's go," he said.
The crickets didn't sing that night. No birds nor other animals made a sound. The rain caused everything that played a part in the construction of the perfect night imperfect. Bronze and Novato stepped into the unknown as the walked up to the small, brick house. The moon lit it more than the light coming from the window of the structure, and while I slept carelessly, my son and companion stood at the door of life and death.
Before Bronze could raise a hand to knock on the door in bravery, the door slowly opened revealing the tall, blonde-haired man named Avery. Bronze stood eye to eye with the pale-skinned man he recognized from The Instrumentalist's concert. Avery smiled peacefully and said, "Well, this is unexpected. Ms. Crawford told me that my target, Hireki, would be at this door; not the second-rate detective and the child I was supposed to kidnap."
"Tell me how you killed Allison...," Bronze said, trying to keep his deep, growling voice calm. "I won't ask you twice."
Avery stepped back and put his hand on his chin, looking downward. "Hmm. Allison. Allison. I don't remember an Allison." He returned his glance at the broken detective. "Can you remind me who that is again?" he asked.
Bronze clenched his teeth in an attempt to keep a snarl from his face. "She was... my wife...," he grumbled.
Avery let out a light laugh and chanted, "Oooooh! That Allison. Allison Bronze! She was the one who killed herself, because she was neglected, correct?"
The light brown-skinned man remained silent. He couldn't speak anymore. If he allowed himself even a small bit of leeway to talk, his emotions would take control of him, and he'd attack Avery. His brown eyes stared into the man's chilly, blue ones.
Suddenly, a soft beautiful voice behind Avery said, "You know better than that, Mr. Avery. Please let the guests in."
Avery's smile faded, and he held the door for Bronze and the small boy, Novato. "I apologize. I didn't know that you were important to Ms. Crawford. You two may enter."
Novato walked into the house first without much hesitation. Former Detective Bronze followed slowly. Inside the living room, there was hardly anything, but a few suitcases that were packed and a couple of larger boxes. The walls were plain. There were no curtains on the large window on the wall to the left. There was a door on the other side of the living room which lead to the bedroom.
In the center of the room, a beautiful young woman with long, black hair was sitting on a wooden chair. Her big, dazzling eyes shifted from Bronze to Novato and back to Bronze. She smiled. "Don't be shy, Detective. I'm pretty sure that the boy has told you what to expect from this event, correct? I'm still a little tired from my two-way trip I took today to the Nation's Capital."
Novato stared silently at Aya with an unemotional facial expression. Aya's eyes looked back at Novato. Avery leaned on the front door after closing it. "What happened to Allison?" Bronze asked again.
"And where is my mommy?" asked the boy.
Aya let out a light yawn. "Mrs. Allison was a great woman, Mr. Detective. She loved gardening. She enjoyed caring for people. Those qualities are great qualities in a person."
Bronze growled, "So, you admit to killing her?" His hand slowly formed into a fist.
Aya shook her head. Her small lips gently moved, "No. I met her ten years ago. She made me pancakes. We sang together. I saw her tears that mixed joy and sorrow. I would never lay a finger on her," Aya said.
The detective couldn't hold back any longer. "STOP LYING TO ME AND TELL ME THE TRUTH!" Bronze yelled. "I REMEMBER SEEING THE FAKE ROSE. HIREKI TOLD ME THAT YOU DO THINGS LIKE THIS!"
"Ah. Mr. Hireki...," Aya said as she closed her eyes. "He acts on assumptions. He never saw me kill anyone. I've never killed anyone my entire life. I simply talk to the people that are standing in my way and they either kill themselves or they are killed by someone else. Is it really my fault if a man or woman isn't strong enough to resist their own insecurities, Mr. Detective?" She opened her beautiful eyes and looked up at Bronze.
"I warned you to stop lying," the tall man said.
Novato tugged the detective's sleeve. "She's telling the truth, Mr. Bronze. You were trained to be a human lie detector. You know that she is not making something like that up," the boy said. He looked up at the man. "Don't let my appearance and child's voice force you to put up a wall between your listening and my words. Don't allow your years on this earth compared to mine trick you into believing that what I say is meaningless. The lady before us can move mountains through faith. She is just as religious and spiritual as I am. If you let her continue to press your buttons, you will die here tonight from guilt. You need to accept the past. Your wife died from neglect. God gave you ten years to deal with the pain and guilt that you've gone through. You are not the primary blame for your wife's death. She was the one who took her own life, because she couldn't find a way to tell you how she felt. YOU NEED TO GROW UP!"
Bronze looked down at the child, who was still gripping his sleeve. "You don't need to let the truth stab your heart!" Novato yelled with tears swelling in his eyes. "I can tell that you've gone through a lot! I can tell that your eyes used to hide it well. You feel like everyone you've ever truly loved in life, you abandoned. You feel like everyone turns against you, if you them respect. Don't let those feelings consume you, Mr. Bronze. Don't let Aya win tonight! Though you're in your 50s, you can still grow! God gives us that gift. Grow from your negativity. Don't let it deteriorate your soul!" Novato yelled. Tears streamed from the child's eyes, and he fell onto his knees. He wept for Bronze's soul. He cried for the man's own fears. He desired so much to carry the burden for him, but he knew that the best he could do was support him when that burden got heavy.
Bronze's eyes of anger transformed into eyes of confusion. "Who is this boy? Why is he crying over me? Not even Pastor Brink... did something like this...," he said, thinking aloud.
Avery glared at the boy in shock. He stood up and watched as the child's crying grew more bitter.
Aya looked at Novato. She could tell that his tears were real. He wasn't acting. He wasn't lying to manipulate Detective Bronze. His tears of concern were real. Before her plan to talk Bronze into killing himself were implemented, Novato potentially placed seeds of power into his mind. Aya's eyes changed for a little while. Bronze and Avery were too preoccupied at watching Novato to notice it, but her eyes changed. Her once big, beautiful eyes began to slant. Her eyes did not reflect the light of the room, like they did before. They became dark brown with envy. For the first time in her life, she felt like there was something she couldn't do, and that tore the every essence of her being. Perhaps, it was just because she was fatigued from the flights back and forth on the airplane. Maybe, it was simply the emotional tension she forced earlier that day against Milton and Destiny. All that Aya knew was that Novato was more than she expected.
Aya's beauty vanished for that short while. Her hair wasn't as silky. Her skin wasn't as smooth. Her very name wasn't as mysterious and peaceful. When you're without comparison, of course you'll be the most attractive of your kind, but when there arises someone that you can be compared to, the attention of the masses are divided.
Aya forced her beauty back. She faked a smile on her face. Then, she allowed herself to speak to get Bronze's attention again. "He's lying, Mr. Detective... Don't you see that he's trying to trick you into believing that I am not the blame for your wife's death? He knows that if he forces the guilt on you that he can easily turn against you. He's Hireki's son. He obviously wants to protect his father from your vengeance."
Bronze looked at Aya again. Novato remained on his knees with his head on the ground.
Aya continued, "You were raised by Pastor Carlton Brink thirty years ago, correct? Hireki was obviously jealous of you. He probably heard the pastor mention your name all the time, when he was taking care of him. Hireki killed Brink in order to get back at you. He wanted to play with your mind, and now he has his own son doing it. The think you're weak."
Detective Bronze looked into Aya's eyes. "What did you do with this boy's mother?" There was a sign of strength radiating from his face.
Novato glared up at Aya in disgust. She refused to speak, so the tall detective walked past her towards the door that led to the bedroom.
Aya and Avery's eyes met, and Aya gave him a wink. Avery rushed at Bronze and tackled him from behind before he could reach the door. Bronze hit the ground hard with Avery on top of him. The experienced detective elbowed the man in the face to push him back, and attempted to stand up. Avery quickly stood and slammed Bronze onto his back. "Stay down, Detective. You're too old to be fighting," the blue-eyed man said calmly.
Bronze tried to stand up again, but Avery stomped his foot on the aged man's chest. The detective released a lot of air from his lungs. Aya turned around to watch the fight. Novato wanted to help, but he knew that he'd just be in the way.
"It's too late to save Hireki Midoriiro's wife," Avery said. "Just stay down to reduce you injuries."
"What do you want with my mother?! She doesn't know anything!" Novato yelled.
Aya turned her attention to the boy. "You know very well what this is about, little brother."
"Yeah," Novato agreed. "The lie that you told Mr. Bronze was really what you're feeling yourself. You want to give our father Hell every day of his life! You don't want him have a break! You know that once he is back home with me and my mom, he won't care to obsess over your worldly corruption!"
Avery turned his head and looked at Novato and Aya. "You two are siblings?!"
Bronze grabbed the shocked man's foot from his chest and summoned as much strength as he could to twist his ankle.
Avery shrieked and stumbled onto the ground. The detective staggered to his feet and slouched over to catch his breath.
Aya stood from her chair. "Hireki is a worthless, spineless, stupid piece of scum. He could chase me around his whole life and discover nothing. Right now, he's probably oblivious to all that is going on here tonight."
Novato walked up to his sister and looked at her with the same eyes. "That may be true, but he still was given the task. Neither you nor I can stop what God has planned for him to do..."
"Novato! Your mother is in here! She's on the bed unconscious!" Bronze yelled.
The boy hugged Aya and said, "We all know our destinies. This will be our first and last embrace."
The beautiful woman stood shocked at first from her little brother's actions. Then, she pushed him as hard as she could away from her. "Stay away from me," Aya ordered. "You know nothing about my fate."
Novato scratched his head and smiled. "And you know nothing about mine as well."
"I was a lot smarter, when I was your age."
Novato sighed, "Is this what people mean when they say sibling rivalry? Be well until the next time we meet, Aya."
Bronze struggled out of the bedroom, carrying my unconscious wife in his arms. Avery tried to crawl towards the detective, but he was quickly kicked in the head.
Aya walked in front of the detective. "I'm not letting you leave with her, Mr. Detective."
In a burst of energy, Novato ran right behind Aya and hugged her again, holding her back with all his might. "Run Mr. Bronze! Take my mom to the car!" he yelled.
Without much thought, the tall, slightly injured man walked as quickly as he could to the door. Aya struggled to free herself from the eight year old boy's grip. "I can't let you take her...," she said one last time as Bronze found a way to open the door and run outside.
"Give daddy peace!" Novato yelled, holding on as long as he could. "You have an entire world to manipulate! Just leave us alone!"
Aya continued to struggle free until she remembered something. With that remembrance, she stood perfectly still. "Alright," she said calmly. "You may leave. You're right, Novato. I shall turn the world against your family. They will be the ones to kill you and torment Mr. Hireki until the day he returns to dust."
Novato let go of Aya. "So be it. I prayed for your protection tonight. I thank the Lord for answering my prayers."
"Whether you have prayed or not, God would have shielded me," the young woman disagreed.
With that, Bronze, Novato, and my wife Jennifer left the area and went to his apartment.