Luona opened his eyes. Ah…he had dozed off, hadn’t he? He should get some more sleep…
He sat up, cricking his neck and back. He had fallen asleep at his desk in his small, dark office at the police headquarters in the city of Ukiyo. Several files were laid open before him, displaying the current case he was working on. He didn’t remember what they said; he’d need a refresher later, but right now it was far too dark in the office for him to see what was written on them.
He was about to go and pull open the curtains when the phone on his desk rang. He picked up.
“Officer Luona. You finally picked up.”
“Sorry…I fell asleep…”
“No wonder. What’s this, the fourth all-nighter you’ve pulled in a row? You should really go home and get some rest.”
“I will, I will. What’s the meaning of this call?”
“Higher-ups are visiting today. You might want to come out.”
“Ah…yes, I will. Thank you.”
Click. Luona leaned back in his chair, sighing, and rubbed his temples, trying to get his blood circulating again. His head hurt…
He stood up and pulled the curtains open to a view of the gray city. Skies were clouded over…was it mid-morning or mid-afternoon? He couldn’t tell. A flock of black birds flew by the window, scattering feathers that were quickly blown away by the wind. Was it going to rain soon?
Luona opened the door and headed out into the main room, where everyone worked in their own cubicles. He squinted underneath the bright lights and went over to the water cooler for a drink, rubbing his eyes.
“Heavens, Luona, you look terrible,” someone commented.
“Yeah, I know,” he replied, refilling the tiny plastic water cup.
“When’s the last time you slept, man?”
He shrugged, and downed the water in one gulp. “Dunno.”
The door opened, and everyone stood up as one of the junior officers introduced the men who were with him.
“Everyone, these are the officials from Ukiyo’s Magical Crime Division.”
Luona, along with the rest of them, dipped his head respectfully. It was rare for the higher-ups to make a visit, but perhaps they had a special reason today.
“…and this is Police Detective Luona.”
Luona glanced up at the sound of his name. Ah…had he dozed off again? He found a black-haired man in a long coat looking at him. He was very pale and tall, and was staring at Luona with an intensity that wrought fear into him.
“Nice to meet you, Mr…?”
“Thorn,” the man replied. “You look like you need rest, Officer Luona.”
“I’m sorry. I’ll do better.”
“Don’t apologize. Just get some sleep.”
There was some more discussion about things, and then the higher-ups decided to go to lunch. “Oh, Officer Luona, do come with us,” one of the other men said.
Luona could feel Thorn watching him. “Oh, I – I have work to catch up on – ”
“Bring your work with you, then,” Thorn said. “I’m sure you’ll find an opportunity to focus.”
And so Luona went with them. He brought his briefcase with him, which was filled with the current files of the case that he was working on.
It happened that at the restaurant he and Thorn ended up sitting next to each other, which proved to be very awkward, as neither of them were engaged in the conversations around them.
Luona picked at his food, trying to look as if he were paying attention to what was going on. Thorn didn’t seem very hungry either, but at least he was nodding along. He flinched, though, when someone said his name.
It proved to be even more awkward when they were leaving as they were heading in the same direction together.
The wind was blowing very hard, so Thorn pulled up the collar of his coat and checked the sky. There were only a few black birds sitting on top of the wires at the intersection.
Luona was about to talk about the weather when Thorn spoke first.
“I understand that you are the police detective in charge of Case Z?”
“Are you in charge of Case Z?”
Luona had to rack his mind for what he was referring to. But yes, wasn’t it Case Z that he had shoved in his briefcase before they had left for lunch? All the files swiped off of his desk…
“Yes, I am.”
“Then I am glad to meet you, Officer Luona. I am Agent Thorn, specially sent from the Division of Magical Crimes, to oversee your work on this case and to aid you.”
“Oh…you’ve introduced yourself already to me.”
“I thought you might’ve forgotten.”
“Nice to meet you, Agent Thorn.”
“As you, Officer Luona. Might I be permitted to look over what you have so far?”
Maybe it was because of the lack of sleep, or maybe because Thorn was so intimidating, but Luona opened up the briefcase and handed the file over. The pages fluttered in the strong wind, threatening to blow away.
Thorn looked them over, his expression unchanging, then returned them to Luona. “Thank you, Officer,” he said, dipping his head. “That’s all I need.”
“Of course, sir.” Luona picked his briefcase back up. “Thank you for your help.”
They exchanged phone numbers. “I’m looking forward to working with you,” Thorn said. “Now go back home and get some rest."
Luona watched as Thorn boarded a bus, the doors closing with a hiss behind him. Hadn’t they been going in the same direction? Why was he leaving so suddenly? But perhaps it was because they had reached the bus stop…
He reached his apartment, and pulled the door open, with a half-hearted “I’m home”. But it was dark inside, empty as usual, dirty mugs of coffee placed everywhere, on the floor, on the couch, on the table, on the chairs… Papers were strewn everywhere, scribbled over or crossed out with pen, pencil, permanent marker. Books, too, were lying half-open on the couch, on the counter, in the kitchen sink…
Luona set his briefcase down, letting out a long sigh. He fished out the book from the sink, setting it to dry on the dish rack. The lights weren’t working again…
There were forty-nine unheard messages on the answering machine. He pressed play, and began cleaning up the numerous mugs and papers, and changing the light bulbs.
“Luona, dear…you never call anymore. Are you all right? How is work? Please call soon. Love, Mom.”
“Luona, dear…I hope you’re eating well. Your sister just graduated high school today. We hoped you would come, but you must be busy with work. Do video call us sometime; we want to see your face.”
“Luona, dear…” And on and on.
Luona let the messages finish playing, but didn’t bother deleting any of them. He would have to go visit soon, he had promised…
But it was like he hadn’t seen them in forever. He couldn’t even remember what they looked like. Merely shadows and voices…
He couldn’t find enough spare light bulbs, so he only changed two. That would be enough for him to work, he reasoned.
He left most of the mugs in the sink to soak, and brewed himself another cup of coffee. He needed to sleep, but he also wanted to catch up on what Case Z was so that he would be prepared for work tomorrow.
Opening up his briefcase on the table he pulled out Case Z. It wasn’t very full, with only a single suspect profile, along with a list of some incidents, dates, and places.
He looked over the profile. The picture was of a young man with white and black hair and purple eyes. His name was Dema, age eighteen. He was registered underneath “Highly Dangerous” because of his ability, mind-control.
There were very few incidents listed on his transcript. The only major one was when he was fifteen, when he had terrorized his high school. He had been sent to juvie for that, but was released with a collar around his neck that would inhibit his ability and track his movements.
But now, after his recent high school graduation, the tracker had disappeared.
The case seemed simple: find the missing boy and apprehend him. But was it really that simple, that they had sent in one of the higher-ups to help him? There was a severe lack of clues; the whole thing was about as clean as the whiteboard where Luona had been mapping out facts and details a few nights ago. The whiteboard in question was now currently shoved in the doorway to the living room, a coat hanging off the side.
All those books, all those coffees, all those sleepless nights…it was because of the complexity of the boy’s ability that Luona had stayed up every night, researching what he could from books and online…
But this was a mind-controlling ability. You could wipe someone’s mind with it, and leave no evidence of yourself.
Perhaps he should start by calling the Psychic Division to find out more…
Luona set down the file and, after a brief consideration of his coffee, placed the rest of it down on the table. Thorn was helping him now, wasn’t he? And Thorn had told him to get some sleep…
Tomorrow he’d go out and set his sights on the city, and look for the boy himself.
He couldn’t stay in this darkness anymore.