Ringu + Part 2 (cont)

+

WuFei entered the room and was immediately greeted by his commander's cool voice. "Chang, am I ever glad to see you. What do we have?" Lady Une leaned on the edge of the desk outside of the press conference room. Quatre Winner sat in one of the chairs in front of her, holding a manila folder. WuFei took the scene in and had a hard time trying not to smirk. As always, Winner prepared the conference, marking what Lady Une could and couldn't say without worsening her reputation as the dragon of Tokyo.

"Not much, I'm afraid." WuFei closed the door behind him and looked at the display of the video phone on the desk. The ten-second delayed video of the security camera showed that a hungry crowd of reporters was waiting in the conference room and he almost pitied his commander for having to deal with them. "I talked to Yuy, but he couldn't say much." He paused, waiting for his commander to sigh or bite her fingernails as she always did when she was nervous and didn't have enough information. She showed a calm outer posture, but inside she was fuming, something that easily showed in the nervous habits she had picked up over the years.

Suddenly, Quatre's voice interrupted the silence politely and calmly as ever. "What did Heero say?"

"Basically he's afraid that Duo will watch the video."

"No!" Commander Une interrupted. "Don't tell me Yuy believes that impractical shit too!" Her voice was desperate and she quickly shoved her hand back into the folded position her arms had had before she had started biting her nails again. She had hoped that with Yuy's down-to-earth thinking and Maxwell's brilliance, they would be able to solve the case without stating that there was a killer video out there somewhere.

"Yes, I'm afraid so."

"What did Maxwell say to all this?" Lady Une sighed. This was not good if her elite was hunting after supernatural explanations. She hoped that at least Maxwell had a theory of what might have happened without using aliens somewhere in his explanation.

"I didn't have a chance to talk to him because his phone was out of range or something. Couldn't reach him."

Lady Une grabbed the folder out of Quatre's hand and straightened herself. She had one last question for the Chinese Preventer. "Do you believe them?"

"Yes. Yes I do."

"Ah. Well. Let's hope we're wrong then, right?"

Silently, she watched the two men nod, each of them worrying for their partner. She saluted sloppily as she always did before facing the press and braced herself for the verbal battle in the upcoming conference. She had almost wanted to throw Winner out to the lions, but it wouldn't have been fair. One look at his face and she had been discouraged to do so. After all, this was part of her job as head of the Preventers force and she would not cower in front of a few reporters. Licking her lips, she snarled and entered the conference room. As soon as she was out of the room, Quatre and WuFei started to chuckle.

"She's precious, isn't she?" Quatre managed between two breaths.

"Yeah. She's great." They quickly calmed down, each of them thinking about what could happen to them.

"We have to do something, WuFei. Help them with the investigation or something. If Duo really watches it, he's in deep shit and, personally, I don't think Heero will keep away from it either. He will watch it, if only to prove to himself that he's not a coward."

"That's something he would do, wouldn't he?" WuFei sighed as he saw Quatre nod in confirmation. Enough to lose one of their team, but two? Their team fit together so perfectly now, he didn't want a new partner.

"Stop thinking like that." Quatre interrupted WuFei's thoughts, already knowing what went through the Chinese man's head. "Heero and Duo will know what to do and we're going to help them. Before they're back, we can search the newspaper clips of the past years for any peculiar things that happened in the south Hakone area. Anything that happened there since we don't know the connection yet. I won't let them die."

"You're right." WuFei watched Quatre stand up and took in the calm posture of the Arabic Preventer. He had never asked Winner why he had chosen Tokyo as his department, but then he decided it wasn't really his business. Right now, Quatre Winner looked like a predator, intimidating and determined. "Let's go hunting." He smiled slightly, winking at his partner.

Quatre looked at WuFei puzzled, but then smiled. He remembered how Duo had once told him that he wouldn't want to be the prey if Quatre Winner was on the warpath. His smile widened and ended in a hearty laugh. Obviously he really looked dangerous when determined. Laughing, he went for the door, expecting his current partner to follow him. They would have fun working together, and if Lady Une's somewhat evil plan to make the other two Preventers at least friends worked, he would be paired with WuFei permanently, so it was a good thing they understood each other. Looking over his shoulder, he saw his partner follow him, swinging his car keys on his finger. An unspoken request and Quatre nodded to himself. Yes, they did understand each other.

+

The car raced through the rain, heading toward the Holiday Resort Pacific located in south Hakone. On the inside of the vehicle, Malice Mizer was blaring and Duo sang along to Sunyikiss while speeding the car up. By now it was six P.M. and the night had already settled. He hadn't even seen the sunset because of the dark clouds in the sky.

He had a hard time trying to read what was on the sign that was above his head because of the frantic windshield wiper movements but when he slowed the car down he identified the kanji. South Hakone, only 48 kilometers.

He looked at the map again and tried to find the street to the holiday resort. It had to be a small road, because the line was hardly visible on the paper. When the CD had finished the last song, the car became silent, a silence that was eating at Duo.

Gone was the flippant behavior from earlier, and his mind was racing again. If the boy had forgotten the video in the room, and the four teenagers had been the next guests, the room they had stayed in was probably one of the cheaper ones. He would take the same room, just to be sure that he didn't miss anything important.

Duo's eyes left the road for a moment as he searched the seat next to him for the mobile he had dumped there earlier with his wallet. He wanted to talk to someone, to call WuFei to get an unbiased view on the case or at least to hear his voice. He hoped he wouldn't interrupt WuFei's quality time with his wife but, knowing the other man, he was probably still in the bureau doing some paperwork Duo had left before disappearing. As Duo straightened again, he realized with a shock that the car had swerved dangerously to the left side of the road. Jerking the steering wheel back, he almost lost control on the wet street. Quickly, he stepped on the brakes and tried to slow the drifting car down. Another car sped by, honking like mad. Duo muttered a few curses and picked up the phone only to discover that it was obviously broken. The crash to the floor hadn't done any good to the battered old mobile. Desperate, he closed his eyes and revved the engine back up. He would not let this incident irritate him. Focusing on the wet street, he sped the car up again, continuing on his way to the resort.

Half an hour later he sighed in relief as the toll gate of Hakone came up. He slowed down, glad that he finally saw another human being again, as the long silence in the car had gotten on his nerves. While he searched for his money, he bantered with the officer, who was much nicer after he had declared that he was a Preventer on a mission rather than a bored businessman. Before he had left again, he had asked for the way to the resort and the officer was happy to inform him.

The driveway to the holiday resort was nothing more than a small alley on the left side of the road. He would've missed it had the man at the toll gate not given him excellent directions. Duo slowly drove through the wilderness and wondered if this wasn't the backdoor of the whole resort, since the road wasn't exactly something one expected from a club that was almost not affordable if one wasn't a member of the exclusive society. The officer at the gate had probably thought he was on a secret mission and recommended going in from the back. Duo involuntarily had to chuckle. He enjoyed the respect and awe he saw in the eyes of some people as soon as he told them whom he worked for, even if not many appreciated 'Lady Une's Kindergarten' as the media denounced them.

Lady Une, the dragon of Tokyo. That's what the criminals told their children at night when they were too old to believe in the boogeyman, an informant once had confided to him. Duo didn't think of her that way. Since the embarrassing incident with Relena two years ago, he considered her a good friend. After another curve in the road, he saw the floodlit parking lot of the resort. Still smiling, he parked the car in front of what looked like the main building and shut the engine down. He stayed in the seat a few minutes, calming his mind as he watched a few people walk by. He saw two women with tennis rackets chatting excitedly as they walked to their room, a family heading toward what had to be the restaurant, and several other people he gave no attention to. Sorting out his mind and getting rid of the trash that had been dumped there was necessary for him to be able to work at one hundred percent, which he intended to do.

As a trained profiler, he could slip into the mind of other people with ease and right now he could almost feel the presence of the four teenagers. They had joked and laughed, some of them glad to have tricked their parents into believing that they spent the night at their friends' houses. The resort, with its surrounding woods, must have looked like the perfect place to spend the weekend. They would have bantered, thrown innuendos around and hoped the card would be up to date so they didn't have to pay the full price.

This in mind, Duo exited the car and walked up to the bureau, a nice, big house that looked American if he had any say, even though he didn't really know what led him to believe so. He had never been to America, but from the tales about the cowboys his father had told him, he had the image of a farm house burned into his mind, and this looked like one. Pushing his own memories aside, he concentrated on the task at hand. He entered the building through one of the large glass doors and was greeted by an empty receptionist's desk. Loud voices could be heard from a room in the back and the flickering of the television told him that the receptionist was watching a video. Duo didn't mind because it provided him with the opportunity to go through the last entries in the guest book without asking.

Calculating the date the teenagers had been here, he flipped the book open. On August 28, a certain Yuki Nagayama had signed in, but the signature was obviously faked by Shuichi Iwata because if he remembered right, the signature didn't look like the one on the membership card he had found in Iwata's wallet. He had expected that though. It was no surprise. They hadn't taken a room in the hotel building, but a little hut. On the wall, he could see multiple pictures of the resort, including one of the huts at the edge of the woods. Number 14 wouldn't be too hard to find. It was near the parking area. They had probably taken that one because it was cheaper.

Out of curiosity, he followed his instinct and went back in the book's entries and soon found Matô's entry who had taken the same hut. Silently he wondered if Heero had found the same things out. This was the connection they had searched for! His train of thought was interrupted by a cough. Startled, he looked up and found the slightly annoyed face of the receptionist in front of his. Locking eye contact, Duo tried his flirtiest smile to cover his slip. That the receptionist was a man and certainly not interested in him, didn't count. A flirty smile looked nice, no matter what the situation. He just wanted to get to the room and start his investigation.

"Um, hi!" Duo cut back his exuberant smile and spun a story about how long he had driven and how he longed for a good night's sleep without sounding too suspicious. The receptionist threw him an odd glance when he announced that he wanted to take a hut all alone, and an even more curious look when he specifically requested hut 14. Duo quickly told him about his friend's recommendation and hoped to ease the receptionist's suspicion.

"There is everything you need in this hut, including a little kitchenette, a fully equipped bathroom, and a TV set." The receptionist didn't believe Duo's reasons, but the hut was more expensive and who was he to complain about singles taking family rooms.

Duo pretended to be surprised and his eyebrows shot up. "You have video recorders here?"

"Yes. In fact, it's the only way to watch TV here because we're in a static hole. We can't get any frequencies in. If you want to use the TV, you'll have to borrow a video from the library. You'll find it when you walk out that door, turn to the left and enter the first door you see. You can’t possibly miss it." The receptionist sounded like a recording. Duo was sure the poor man had had to explain the situation thousands of times before.

"Thank you very much." Duo smiled and waited for the receptionist to prepare the form for him to sign. He searched his pocket for a pen and flipped the book open to sign it. Before he even knew what to write, he had already signed and filled in the information on room and date of his visit. Duo Imotoya-Maxwell, September 15, Hut 14. He quietly wondered if he would live to see September 23, but then discarded the thought as unprofessional. He had a case to solve. Still, he couldn't stop wondering if he had just signed his death sentence. A shudder wracked his body and he looked up at the receptionist who eyed him with a skeptical glance. Duo put on a smile again and gave the man his credit card.

After they had taken care of the formalities, Duo left the bureau and went to his car. Before backing up and leaving the lot to park the car closer to the hut he would be staying in, he took a look at the door the receptionist had pointed out. He would search the TV set in the hut first in case the kids had left it in the room before looking for it in the library. Maybe he would find the solution to the whole mystery in the hut, so he wouldn't have to take the existence of a Killer-Video into consideration.

Slowly driving in the near-complete darkness, he searched for the shape of the huts in the darkness. When he finally encountered one, he parked the car again and got out, taking his bag of spare clothing that he always carried in the trunk with him. It would be cold in there, and the shirt he wore underneath his Preventers jacket wasn't exactly warm. After he had locked the car, Duo left the parking lot for hut number fourteen. He wasn't sure what he expected. He just knew that all leads led to this resort, and that the solution to the case would be found here, if he was still alive then or not. Maybe he would have to write his observations down so Yuy could finish what he had started.

Looking at the old wooden door, Duo sighed. This hut was the key to the whole mystery. Whatever the solution was, it would be found behind that door.

A hundred and twenty-eight kilometers away, Yuy cursed his car for being so slow. This was ridiculous, racing after his partner to prevent him from watching a video. Why? Why did he worry about it? He shouldn't care if Maxwell watched the video or not. It wasn't his problem!

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