CASE #6: BIRTH DAY SURPRISE
6.2: COMPLICATING MATTERS
Damien is luckier than his sister. His bedroom is not destroyed by a flying saucer.
The room was made to suit his personal preferences: a black and white color scheme combined with soft lighting and a simple Western design to create a modern yet fashionable overall effect. The black carpet is thick and fluffy. A small bedside table with a shiny top has a stack of books on various subjects ranging from modern fantasy to sociopolitics.
The immaculate bed with black blanket and white sheets looks like something out of a hotel. Damien is lying on it, still in his daytime clothing with his fingertips meeting.
It's not like he can do anything about Dr. Norimasa Suzuki's kidnapping. Let the police be on it. I'm not some clichéd adolescent hero from some teenage novel or comic.
He checks his bandaged left forearm. Anastasia told him it should heal by tomorrow.
A crooked smile appears on his face. The girl is hiding some significant truths from him. He knows it; he's sharp enough to make his own deductions. Yet he puts great stock in her trustworthiness. There's a de facto mutual trust between them, and he doesn't want to ruin it by asking inappropriate questions at the inappropriate time.
She said she's not supposed to end up in this era. Time travel is probably a rare and expensive venture in the 22nd century. Changing the future is a severe, punishable offense.
Will someone come to take her back to the future?
Some of his deductions have worrying implications. He had been harboring them since their first meeting, but somehow he didn't feel like presenting it. He knew she had been lying and the reason behind her ending up in the 21st century was something she was keen on hiding.
But what if it's all a farce? What if it's all a façade?
Anastasia might have a silly mannerism, but Damien has to admit that she is by no means a simple character. Heck, she's probably a person with a personality and background as complicated as himself if not more.
He at least notices that she tries to appear like an open and friendly individual while never actually revealing much about herself. They have talked much, but that is how it was. For example, she explained how her detachable head worked, but never on how she became that way, whether she was born with it. She said her father invented telekinesis but she never elaborated what kind of person he actually was, and what she felt and thought of him.
She's probably not as naïve as she looks.
Damien takes out something wedged amidst the stack of books: a test pen. He touches the tip to his left hand. It lights up and blinks, spelling the Morse code sequence of his favorite word: CONTROL.
Good, I'm still in control. Faint sparks start to jump between the fingers. Still so soon after the surgery, Damien stops right there to avoid injuring himself.
"Anna, I want you to give me a special ability, a special power."
I'm being reckless. The girl told him the change is reversible; she can remove the implant anytime he decides to. Does this really change anything?
A knock on the door makes his eyes move. Damien sits up, recognizing the pattern of the knock. "Come in, Futakawa."
Futakawa enters, garbed in her usual maid dress. "Damien, do you know that, in America, 'Make me a sandwich' is considered a strongly sexist interjection?" she says, placing a plate of tuna sandwiches on the stack of books – brown baguette, with generous amounts of lettuce and tomato.
Damien snorts. With a faint smile, he replies in English, "Exactly. You're the only one in here who'd appreciate that little joke, Miss Jennifer Fuhrmann."
"Humph. I prefer not to use the name of that bastard father of mine, Damien," the Caucasian brunette switches to her native language. "Anyway, I heard from Shoji of your little stunt with muscleman."
"You got some mayo specks on your… specs."
"Ugh, pun." Futakawa takes off her spectacles and wipes them with her apron.
"How's my English?"
"You definitely don't sound Japanese, but your accent is hard to place, probably somewhere between British and American. Still, as good as my Japanese, if I might say so myself."
"Japanese is harder." For a moment, Futakawa chokes on her own spit in a coughing fit. Damien frowns. "What?"
"Sorry, nothing." Futakawa clears her throat. "Your pronunciation of 'Japanese' is a little bit off. It's subtle, but…"
"What the heck?"
"Just a crass joke." Then the maid's expression makes an abrupt change. "Wait… you didn't do that intentionally, did you?" Futakawa puts her hands on her hips, frowning. "Oh yes, of course you did, you and your subtle mind tricks! Nothing is a coincidence if it's you. Wait till I tell Dianne about this."
"Seriously, Futakawa, what the hell?"
"No-no-no-no, young master, you started that!" She points an accusing finger, shakily.
Damien puts a hand on his face. "Get a hold of yourself, Miss Fuhrmann," he grumbles before changing the subject: "How's the preparation for the birthday party?"
Futakawa exhales heavily, her eyes hardening. "Everything is in order, just… you're really going to deal with… that person there?"
"You're not expecting me to change my mind suddenly from a simple question, are you?" Damien takes a sandwich from the plate and takes a careful bite. "I've done more dangerous things than this before."
"Not really, Damien," Futakawa warns. "You've seen what that person was capable of."
"Well, I'll show that person what I'm capable of," Damien answers without apparent emotion, taking another calculated bite. "I have more reasons to hate that scumbag than you your father."
"Y-you can't compare something like that."
"Of course not, but with that statement, I just reinforced existing similarities between the two with imaginary ones to alter the presentation of the idea in your mind. To my advantage, of course."
"And… you're still unconfident of your English."
Damien ignores the jibe. "Just stay alert and keep the guns ready, Futakawa. As usual, let's hope that we won't need them."
"Yes, Master Utsunomiya." Futakawa heads to the door. Then she turns. "Oh yes, Dianne is wondering: is your present for her ready?"
"I'm buying it tomorrow. I haven't forgotten. I already know what I'm giving her."
"It's not something like that pair of shades with pink lenses you gave last year, is it?"
"I gave her other presents too, Futakawa."
"And none of them was her favorite color!"
"That's why I gave her those… rose-tinted glasses. I saved the world from her horrible color preference."
"So you're a humbug playing wizard?"
"You're not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy," Damien finishes without looking up.
Futakawa smiles briefly at the reference before her expression reverts into seriousness. She stops at the door. "But… seriously, Damien, unlike Dianne and Shoji, I'm against your little schemes. Things go wrong. Would your parents approve of you doing this?"
Damien shoots her a cold, silencing glare.
"Right. Goodnight, young master." Futakawa gives a deep bow and closes the door.
Damien pulls out a laptop from underneath his pillow. Flipping it open and keying in the password, he reloads the email page his browser is on. A new message appears in his inbox. His heart skips a beat at the English title.
Thompson Corp. – The Private Search for JD2634
Damien clicks on it.
To Mr. Damien Utsunomiya,
It has been almost a year since the 2013 Galapagos Triangle incident. Our efforts of searching for flight JD2634 – and for Tomoyuki and Kazumi Utsunomiya – have not brought back any results. The probability that they are still alive is close to nil. In fact, we haven't even found any trace of the other 261 passengers.
Rough weather is causing us to stop the search, and it does not seem like the storm is going to abate for at least three days. We might be among the best search teams you can find in the entire world to do this job, but even we are unable to do anything before the time reaches one full year after the incident.
Director of Operations, Thompson Maritime Exploration, Inc.
A sinking feeling fills Damien with sickening horror. He finds himself shaking. The shock from hearing the news brings him to type in a frenzy:
What the hell? After all the millions of dollars I fed your team? I promised you triple that rate if you can find at least one of my parents alive, quadruple for both, twice if you find their remains! Now, 365 days since, the court is going to declare them dead, fucking dead! Fuck the court, I'll pay you mor
Damien stops at 'mor', and he laughs – a strangled laugh, pressing his palm on his face. He falls back onto his bed, the laptop still balanced on his lap. His laughter continues, his whole body trembling. "It's useless," he speaks aloud. "It's useless, Damien, you've been so stupid! Deluded! You're… it's a self-deception all along!"
His laughter slowly abates.
Dammit, my eyes are getting watery.
He quickly deletes the unfinished reply. He brings out his mobile phone and types another email to his sister.
But he swiftly changes his mind – another unfinished email gets deleted.
Dianne shouldn't know… yet.
"Shoji, Damien didn't say anything about his parents," Futakawa begins, crossing her legs. Sitting on a sofa at the lounge, she is facing the elderly butler. "It's two days until they shall be legally declared dead."
"It's all out of our hands," Shoji answers without looking up from The Happy Prince and Other Tales. "What fate has decided cannot be stopped. He's learning that."
"Shoji, you know what this means, do you? Both of them are going to get even more inheritance, no one can stop him now, he's going deeper and deeper into shady territory."
"He reads Machiavelli."
"Shoji!" Futakawa reproaches. The butler does not look up, so she continues in a more delicate tone, "Do you remember when old man Mishima asked me to teach Dianne how to use firearms?"
"The late Master Mishima Utsunomiya," Shoji corrects.
"I think… it's wrong, it's simply wrong. No one their age should be taught all that. They shouldn't be involved in all of this."
"Thank you, Futakawa, for teaching the young missus. We won't be alive today if not for that," Shoji answers calmly.
"This family is twisted," the maid continues. "Something is wrong when they're living like that. How can Genichiro be so calm knowing that the young master was making a deal with the yakuza? How can there be… that person, someone so despicable who wants us all dead?"
"Thank you for still sticking with us, then, Futakawa."
Futakawa exhales, her worried face being replaced by a warm smile. "To hell with all that. So… well, Damien won't tell me, but I believe Damien has told you about his plan?"
Her jaw drops when Shoji says "No."
Damien is asleep while still wearing his daytime clothing. His laptop lies folded by his knee. By his head, his mobile phone vibrates. His eyes flick open. The vibrating stops. They widen as he registers the name on the screen.
Depressing Panda: 7 Missed Calls
The phone vibrates again. Damien shuts his eyes and takes a deep breath. Then he answers the call. "Hello, Hungry Panda? Can I help you?"
"Yes, it's me," answers Isoroku's soft yet emotionless voice. "I heard of what happened at the Medical Exhibition."
"Ah, I see." Damien silently stifles a yawn. He's still drowsy and trying to think of what could possibly cause the police officer to call at that time of the night.
"Congratulations, I believe you've made yourself a new enemy."
"Eh, what?" Damien knows he sounds stupid, but that's the best reply he can come up with in his current state of mind.
"I can offer you my help, but you need to know what you're up against. Let's talk about Prometheus."
Author's Note: I'll try my best to update every Saturday.