by Iniquity

Ringu + Part 1

Heero watched his new partner disappear into one of the empty meeting rooms. As soon as he had entered the room, he saw Maxwell turn around and look at him fiercely.

"Yuy, we have to solve our problem, or at least declare a truce until this case is over. I apologize for whatever grudge you hold against me and I forgive you for being a bastard, okay?" Duo didn't even wait for an affirmative, because he knew he wouldn't get one. He was surprised when he heard Heero approach him and turned. He saw a hand reaching out to meet his.

"Okay. A truce, because we're mature enough to be able to work together despite our differences." Heero saw with contentment that Maxwell met his hand halfway and they shook hands awkwardly. "Let's concentrate on the case."

"Right." Duo separated two chairs from the table and sat down on the left one, immediately opening the manila folders before Heero had time to settle down in the right.

"What do we have?" Heero was all business now. No more personal banter would distract him from the case. If Maxwell was too dumb to help him, so be it. He wouldn't let this idiot keep him from accomplishing the mission. Despite what Lady Une had told him about Maxwell, he had to see for himself whether the other man was worth his Preventers badge or not.

"Aside from the dead teenagers? Not much." Duo snorted. He didn't see his partner's angry reaction at the flippant remark. Heero almost wanted to give him a harsh comment, but Duo continued. "I mean, there must be a connec- yes!" Heero watched with interest as Duo pointed at some lines in each profile and continued explaining his observations. Heero decided something as soon as he saw Duo's eyes flicker with interest, hungry for more information. It wasn't clever to intervene when Maxwell made a snotty remark, because even though he was sarcastic, he didn't give up. He listened as Duo continued. "They obviously knew each other. The girls went to an elitist all-girls boarding school and the boys to a high school very close to the girls' school. That's it, same classes even. Yuy?"

Duo waited for his comment, for any sign of approval that this theory could be held. Heero nodded and watched with interest as Duo continued searching for connections. By now, Heero was more interested in working with the American if only to get a better idea of how Maxwell's brain worked.

"We should divide the investigation into two parts. The girls, Midii Une and Haruko Tsuji, and the boys, Shuichi Iwata and... what's the other guy's name?"

"Takehiko Nomi." Heero helpfully supplied the information quickly to let Duo finish his train of thought. Une said he should trust Maxwell's evaluations and until he had proof that this was a bad idea he would do so.

"Right. Obviously they were close. Otherwise they wouldn't have watched the video together. If, and that's only a very shabby theory right now, they really watched that ominous video." Duo rubbed his left temple in a circle as if the motion would help the gears in his brain run faster.

"Right. You take the girls, I'll take the boys." Heero flipped through the pathologist's information and raised his eyebrow. "What's that? Maxwell, two of them were more than close. Tsuji and Nomi were found dead in Nomi's car, their pants down to their knees."

"A nice way to go at least." Duo snickered, but got serious again as he remembered the photos of the dead. "No, I take that back." Heero saw his partner shudder and concentrated on the task at hand when Maxwell continued with his observations. "This is Japan, which probably means that their parents didn't know. We have to check that."

"Maxwell, you're a gaijin. What would you know about Japanese culture?" Heero didn't like the way Maxwell spoke about 'his' country and decided he would not tolerate such behavior, even though they had declared a truce. He waited for another snide remark, but none came. Maxwell just nodded, obviously deciding that it wasn't worth the fight.

"Anyway, we have to check on that." Duo looked at him expectantly, again waiting for confirmation. "I want to visit the Une family first. If you visit the Nomi family first, then I can call you so that I don't say anything wrong toward Haruko's family. Same goes with Midii."

"All right. You'll have to discreetly search Midii's room for information on her relationship with Iwata. If the other two had something going, then maybe search them too. If necessary, ask Une. She might know more."

Duo nodded, checking the folder in front of him once more. He hummed slightly as he thrummed the pencil on the pages as if searching for something special. "I'll hop by the morgue to check their bags. At least two of the three of them that were found outside their houses must have had their wallets with them. They had to have been driving."

Heero nodded as Duo stood up. "Don't forget to ask the parents if the girls had any sleepovers in the past week."

"You're not ruling the video-theory out either, huh?" Duo twisted his mouth in a sickly grin and was relieved when Heero shook his head.

"No. Their deaths are too strange. I'm not ruling anything out yet."

"Good, because I have the bad feeling we may not be able to rule the video theory out." Duo bowed slightly to Heero, a gesture he made completely unconsciously, and left the room. Stunned, Heero automatically replied in a bow but was only greeted with Maxwell's retreating back. 'He has manners after all.' Heero wondered slightly about this, for an American unusual behavior and sat back down. He wanted to take some notes before visiting the two boys' families. Suddenly, he remembered that he didn't have Maxwell's phone number and searched his bag and the desk for his cell phone to call Quatre when he found a calling card in Iwata's folder. The calling card was printed on both sides, one showing the American version of a calling card, the other printed in Japanese kanji. The kanji version had Duo's private number scribbled on it with a pen. Interesting, at least.

While Heero was looking through Iwata's folder, WuFei opened the door and entered, obviously searching for someone.

"Ah! There you are Yuy. Une called me in to make sure you two didn't kill each other." He smirked, but was disappointed not to see his partner in the room.

Heero didn't like Chang. He was Maxwell's partner, and bound to be subjective. At least that's what he had convinced himself of. He didn't know why he felt uncomfortable in the Chinese man's company. Maybe it was because Chang was too observant and too insightful for his own good. "No. That won't happen. We reached a truce."

"A truce? Interesting." WuFei smirked. He had known Duo would try to lull Heero in with that promise. It was the same tactic he had used at the beginning of their friendship. Silently admiring Maxwell's ploy, he just had to make fun of Yuy.

"Yes, we both want to solve the case and we're mature enough to le-"

WuFei snickered and silently congratulated Maxwell to his first score point. He had confronted Yuy with Maxwellism and the poor man had fallen for it hook, line and sinker. "You two agree on a 'truce' and you call yourselves mature? Must be Yuy-logic then."

Angry that Chang obviously took sides with his partner, Heero growled "Why not Maxwell-logic?"

"Maxwell doesn't have any logic. He follows some supernatural principle of world order that has nothing to do with logic." That's what he always said when someone asked him for clarification. The only person who ever looked behind this Maxwellism after the first time being faced with it was Trowa Barton.

"Oh. I see. I'm sorry."

"No, Yuy. Don't apologize. It's perfectly okay to side with his partner" WuFei understood what had made Yuy angry and he didn't want them to fight over something so simple. However, he felt like he had to teach Yuy some Maxwellisms before Yuy tried to kill his partner. Remembering the real intention behind his visit to the conference room, he continued. "Yuy, I came because I wanted to talk to you about Maxwell."

"There's nothing to talk about. Don't worry. I won't harm him."

"Oh, Yuy, you misunderstand. I'm not afraid of you hurting him physically. I know he can defend himself. I just don't want you to hurt him otherwise." WuFei paused and waited for Yuy's reaction. It was essential for their working together.

"Whatever happens - if that video really kills people or not, if you two find the murderer, if there is one, or not - it doesn't matter. The only thing I want you to know is that you can trust Maxwell with your life, and he won't let you come in harm's way no matter how mad he might be at you just moments before."

"That's all you want to tell me? Thank you, but I think I can decide for myself whom I can trust with my life."

WuFei could tell that Heero was angry, so he decided to let the Japanese man find out the truth for himself. WuFei had no doubt that Yuy would learn more about himself than about Duo if he continued watching his partner closely. At least that was the lesson WuFei had had to learn - the hard way. He would never mistrust Maxwell again, and he would never ever call him a gaijin now that he knew his partner's history, something that Heero did over and over again in his mind, even if he himself didn't realize it. It showed in all of his actions toward Duo.

Sighing, he nodded and bowed formally before leaving the office. Maybe he would have to tell Yuy, even if it meant breaking a promise. Yuy would hurt Duo in more way than one if he stuck to this behavior. He belittled Duo's skills and thought that Duo was nothing more than a bratty American.

+

Duo left the Preventers building, exiting through the garage. First he would check the morgue, then the two girls' rooms. He would find that video, for he believed it was the key to the whole case. Even if it didn't kill the viewer, it had to show something that somebody would kill for. If the kids had seen it and someone didn't want them to tell somebody, why wait seven days to kill them? It didn't make sense. Duo rubbed his temple again, a futile attempt to draw a mental picture that he could use. Why leave the video so that anyone could watch it? It was essential to find it. Too late, Duo realized that he had already walked three cars further than he should have, so he turned around. He had unconsciously ruled any other theory out. What if there was no video? Unlocking the door with the device on his key ring, he climbed in and started the engine. The deaths of the four teenagers were strange--same symptoms, same time, exactly the same look of sheer terror. What if it were a virus? Duo pondered the idea while driving the car out of the parking lot up into the street.

His first stop would be the morgue. He'd have to prepare some questions for the pathologist. If the teenagers showed the same symptoms, they wouldn't be able to rule out a virus. He had to call Yuy, and if they found the video they'd have to be careful. Continuing his drive, he dug out the cell phone from his pocket and called his partner. He'd had the number memorized for a long time. He could only hope Yuy still had the same number.

"Yuy." Short but clear. Duo had to chuckle. Somehow he liked the Japanese man, even if the other hated him vehemently.

"Maxwell here. When you check out the rooms, be careful. The video, if there is one, might contain a virus or something. Check the parents for symptoms and ask if the kids had any in the week before their death."

"Why do you think it might be a virus?" Yuy obviously wasn't content with the warning, so Duo would have to prove that it was a reasonable conclusion. He sighed; of course Yuy would need more proof. The only problem was that he didn't have any.

"Because of their deaths. No foreign influence, same looks, it practically screams 'virus'. I just don't know which yet. I have to talk to the pathologist first." He didn't want his partner to contract the deadly disease. "Listen, all I want is for you to wear gloves when you go through the room, okay? Maxwell out." He'd stressed the words without raising his voice, something WuFei had taught him. Again he was glad for his Chinese partner's patience. Annoying Yuy further would only hinder the investigation and yelling definitely would've wound him up.

Driving through the inner city demanded all of his concentration and he quickly threw the mobile onto the seat when an elderly woman suddenly crossed the street in front of him. He let out a string of curses in Japanese. Tokyo was a driver's hell, and the fact that the morgue was in the basement of the hospital in the inner city didn't help Duo at all. When he finally arrived, his nerves were shot and he had to calm himself down before finally grabbing the mobile and entering the morgue directly through a separate entry in the back of the hospital. He didn't spare a glance at the cell phone. If he had, he'd have realized that he hadn't broken the connection before throwing the device onto the seat.

On the other end of the line, Heero realized that he had the possibility to get to know his partner from a completely different side by listening. He didn't want to call it 'spying on his partner' but it wasn't anything different. He listened closely as Maxwell cursed Tokyo traffic and involuntarily had to smile. When he finally realized that Maxwell was speaking fluent Japanese, the pathologist had already congratulated him on his language skills. Yuy was astounded. He had never expected the gaijin to know the language so well, but it made sense. After all, this was the Tokyo Preventers bureau, so almost all of the employees knew the national language. He had never thought of using his own language in Maxwell's presence. Something about the American screamed 'idiot' to Yuy, even though he couldn't explain why. Maybe it was more the feeling that Maxwell was unprofessional with that constant grin on his face. Yuy thought about his prejudice and inwardly cursed himself for his own unprofessional behavior.

+

"Ah, Mr. Maxwell, I assume?" The pathologist asked in Japanese; his English wasn't the best and he hoped the agent would speak Japanese.

"Yes. Dr. Takashi?" Duo smiled at the man, feeling thankful for working with a cooperative Doctor--he hadn't met many of them. When the doctor nodded, he added quickly, "It's a pleasure to meet you, even if the circumstances aren't the best."

"I am glad that the Preventers sent someone with good Japanese skills. My English is a bit rusty." The doctor smiled, looking the Preventer over very closely, his eyes lingering on the braid.

"No problem. Did you have a chance to determine what killed the four teenagers? I saw the report, but it didn't tell me much."

Dr. Takashi noted the change in behavior and took it as a sign to become serious and professional. "No, I'm sorry. We can rule drugs out. There was no evidence whatsoever that they were murdered, also considering the fact that they all died at the same time on the same day."

Duo nodded and made mental notes. That had been clear to him since he'd looked at the files the first time.

"What about a virus?" He had been waiting to ask that question because it seemed like it was the only answer left, aside from a mysterious green mist or aliens. The last two he hadn't even spared one thought, but sometimes it helped him to go after completely ridiculous theories to make sure he hadn't ruled anything out.

"I won't discard the idea, but it's not very likely. The exact time of death, the expression of their faces, it just doesn't fit."

"May I see the dead, please?"

"Are you sure?" Dr Takashi didn't understand why this nice man wanted to study the horrible features but he could only open the drawers as Duo confirmed his request. After he had wheeled Haruko Tsuji's body out, he watched his visitor closely but he could only observe the initial shock of the sight of a dead body, and not the typical reactions like puking onto the floor, going pale, or even fainting. Maxwell just studied the face closely, rubbing his temple. He was astonished as he heard the Preventer thinking out loud.

"What if they saw themselves in a mirror? The two people in the car saw each other with horror, Haruko was on a motorbike, probably near a shop window, and Midii was in the kitchen, where they had a glass front in the living room." He paused after he remembered that he wasn't alone. "Doctor, what virus would supply the victim with hallucinations? Hallucinations or something that made them look different?"

"Hm... I can't think of any right now, but I will ask my colleagues and call you back tonight. Maybe the dermatologists have some ideas."

"Yeah, that would be a great help. Thank you. One more question. Can I have the possessions you found with the dead?"

"Of course. If you would please come with me to my office? I have the new reports there as well as the box containing their valuables." He led the way to a small bureau at the far wall of the pathology lab and turned to see if Duo had followed him.

"Did you empty their pockets? I don't want to have to go through their clothing."

Dr. Takashi nodded and answered Duo with a smile. "Of course. Here, all you have to do is sign the release forms and there you go." He offered a pen and waited patiently for Duo to sign the dotted line.


A short time later, Duo left the hospital with the possessions of the victims. Quickly searching through the wallets, he didn't find much that could clue them in as to what had happened to the teenagers. The only interesting thing seemed to be a membership card of an exclusive holiday resort north of Tokyo in Iwata's wallet. The name of the person who signed the card wasn't Iwata but Nagayama. They would have to search for this youth as well. He had probably loaned Iwata the card for a trip. That could be the solution.

Swiftly he dug the cell phone out again to call Yuy. After punching in the numbers he waited for an answer and flipped through Midii's wallet with one hand.

"Yuy."

"Hey, it's me again. Where are you?"

"Still the bureau, I searched the Internet for information. If we can't rule out a virus, there might have been more people infected already."

"So?"

"Yeah, one other case. A small boy. No sign of foreign influence, no suicide, no drugs, his heart just stopped, and he looked like he was scared to death."

"I've had a talk with the patho-"

"Yeah, I know." A pause in which Yuy seemed to think about how he could explain to Maxwell without telling his partner that he obviously spied on him. "You left your cell on. I could hear the conversation. What else did you find out, and what was in the wallets?"

"Oh." Duo paused as well, digesting the quite embarrassing information; he should have checked his mobile. Angry with himself, he shook his head. No point in taking it out on Yuy. "Well, there's something interesting. A membership card for Holiday Resort Pacific in south Hakone. Belongs to a Yuki Nagayama. If you check the family of the deceased boy, make sure to see if they had been there on vacation a week before his death. Same for the two teenage boys. They might have called it sleep-over or whatever. I have to stop now to fight my way out of the inner city. I'll call you later." Those words said he hung up, checking the display to see that he really had disconnected the line this time. He hadn't said anything compromising, had he? No point in stressing himself over Yuy listening to him during investigations. It definitely shortened their conversations.

He pondered his theories again. What if the resort was the connection between the five deaths? If the kid Yuy mentioned had seen the video at the resort and the next who had watched it were the four teenagers, the resort would be the place where they could solve the mystery. Duo sped up the car. He had to go to the families and see if the teenagers really had been at the hotel seven days before September 5. He could then check the video out, and if it really killed the one who watched it, there was no point in them both risking their lives. If the video had suggestive messages or odd pictures, he'd have to trust his own skills to find out what the connections were and describe the facts in detail to Yuy so he wouldn't have to watch it. The idea that a video could kill was ridiculous, but after seeing the four teenagers' very real bodies, he had no doubt that something horrible had caused their death; something he wouldn't even wish on his worst enemy.

[prologue] [part 2] [back to Singles a - k]