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This Is How I Disappear

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"Startling reports and video out of Tokyo Detention House this evening, where an international tribunal claims the elusive killer behind the recent Kira murder spree was put to death early this afternoon. Representatives have named the man as nineteen-year-old Light Yagami, a native of..."

L stared down at his glass, watching the liqueur swirl and billow as he stirred. It had been Watari's idea to go for drinks, though none of them had protested. Five hours later, they still perched atop their bar stools, bound in place by inertia and a shared, silent guilt.

"This was a very delicate case, and we have every possible confidence in the outcome." The Japanese tribunal representative stood at the entrance to the prison, his face mobbed with microphones and strobed by flash photography. "Today, I saw justice done. I hope this news brings some measure of comfort and vindication to the families of the dead, and reassures the public—"

"Change the channel," Aizawa ordered the bartender.

"Yes, sir. Any preferences?"

"Anything but the news."

The bartender bobbed her head politely and scampered off to adjust the television. She was a petite young thing, wide-eyed and pretty, reminding L vaguely—and uncomfortably—of Misa Amane. She'll be getting the news now, wherever she is. They all will. His friends, his classmates, his supporters... Light Yagami had outlived himself in the assumptions of those who knew him, but that short life, too was at an end. Light was Kira, and Kira was dead. Soon, the whole world would know.

"I hope the Chief's not caught up in that mess," said Mogi quietly. "Last thing his family needs right now."

Watari shook his head. "They agreed to hold off on the announcement until after the autopsy and transfer of the body were complete. I assure you, the Yagamis aren't there."

"Some difference that makes," said Aizawa. "Probably another crowd camped at their house already."

"They aren't home, either," said Watari. "Chief Yagami made arrangements. They'll be staying with family elsewhere until the frenzy dies down."

"That might take years."

"It might."

"Vultures." Aizawa spat the word like poison, color rising in his face. "They could have waited until he was in the ground, at least. They could have given the Chief that much."

Watari said nothing, his face grim and lined, quite unlike the affable butler he had pretended to be. He looks like a soldier now, the way he holds himself, and his voice sounds different, too. Does he even know he's doing it, I wonder? Either way, L found it disquieting, an open window into a room he'd always known existed but had never presumed to peek inside. Looking around, he took in the other men, too: the way Aizawa hunched over his drink, Mogi's aloof silence, the clutter of beer cans beside where Matsuda now rested his head in his arms. Congratulations, Light. If you wanted them to suffer, you win.

"He promised Light he'd figure something out," L said, lacking much conviction. "A private funeral, probably. Worst come to worst, they can cremate him now and save the interment for later."

Shuddering, Matsuda peeked drunkenly over the cradle of his arms. "But we'll get to go, right? The Chief'll tell us."

Aizawa snorted. "Don't be stupid. We're the last people the Chief wants to talk to right now."

"But—"

"We shot his son, Matsu," said Mogi. "Aizawa's right. Leave the funeral for the family."

Matsuda wilted. "He asked us to—"

"I know. He knows." Mogi's voice was gentle. "Give him time to grieve. He'll come to us when he's ready."

A hush settled over them all, leaden and stifling. L shifted uncomfortably atop his seat. With any luck, they're at their apartment now, safe from the world for a few more hours. With any luck. A cruel joke. If there were an unluckier family than the Yagamis in Japan just then, L didn't care to think of it. Don't imagine Soichiro seeing what's become of his pride, or Sachiko bathing her good boy for the last time. Don't imagine the hell their lives will be now, the hell their brilliant son left them. Don't. But try as he might, L could think of nothing else.

"That song," said Watari. "At the end. I know I've heard it before, but—"

"Tōryanse?" Aizawa looked uncomfortable. "It's a children's game. Two kids hold hands, and everyone else goes under their arms until the music stops. Whoever's underneath at the end of the song is trapped. He probably used to play it in school."

"Or with his family," Matsuda put in quietly, his speech slurred. Raising his tear-stained face from the bar, he gave them all a stricken look. "He said he forgave us."

"Yeah, well." Aizawa raised his beer to his lips again, but Matsuda wasn't finished.

"He forgave us. Everything that happened, and he was worried about us. Would you have done that, if it was you? Would you have even thought of it?"

"The speech was scripted, Matsuda," Mogi said. "They couldn't risk letting him talk freely. It was probably all written out in the notebook beforehand."

"No, it wasn't." L's drink was sweet, but it couldn't wash the sour taste from his mouth. "The bit where he forgot a word was written, and he couldn't talk about the details of his crimes. The rest was all him."

He took another hasty sip, avoiding Matsuda's eyes. Aizawa snorted.

"Talk about arrogance," he said. "He should have been asking our forgiveness, not the other way around."

"Perhaps," said Watari. "Though of all his sins, that's hardly the one I'd hold a grudge over."

Matsuda shook his head groggily. "But why? Why would he do that?"

"Because he wanted to, I suppose," said L. "No point in asking him now."

"It doesn't make any sense."

Mogi put a hand on Matsuda's shoulder. "I know."

They all fell silent again, nursing their drinks. A familiar voice issued from the television, shaky but calm.

"My name is Light Yagami. I'm nineteen years old..."

Matsuda paled. Aizawa slammed his beer down on the bar, hard enough to make the bartender jump.

"I told you to change the goddamn channel," he growled.

"I'm sorry," she stammered. "It's big news, it'll be on all the channels—"

"Then turn it off!"

"Yes, sir. I'm sorry, sir."

Light's voice cut off abruptly as the screen snapped to black. L let out a breath he hadn't known he'd been holding. Tōryanse, tōryanse...

Swaying, Matsuda shrugged off Mogi's hand and rose hastily from his seat. "Excuse—excuse me..."

Ashen-faced, he stumbled toward the bathroom, one hand clamped over his mouth. Aizawa sighed. "Well, we know he didn't get the blank."

Watari shot him a stern look. "First rule of this kind of work, son: don't speculate on whose bullet did what. Doesn't do anyone any good, least of all you."

"I'm only saying—"

"He's right," said Mogi. "Not knowing is the point. Just leave it alone."

But Matsuda does know, thought L, watching Aizawa redden and fall silent. L had been too distracted to process the sight at the time, but his memory was perfectly clear: a small piece of reddening paper, pierced by three dark holes. He didn't get the blank. He never fired. In front of his colleagues, in front of the world, Touta Matsuda had broken his word.

"Light, I'm sorry —"

The great detective wet his lip, his grip on his glass tightening. "Someone ought to see him home."

"I will." Mogi stood, retrieving his jacket. "It's not that far out of my way."

L nodded. "Thank you."

"Don't mention it."

He strode off toward the bathroom with Matsuda's coat, his expression unreadable. A few minutes later, he emerged, guiding his stumbling, gray-faced colleague toward the exit. L watched them go without a word, guilt gnawing like a rat at the corners of his mind.

"Poor bastard," said Aizawa quietly.

Watari cocked an eyebrow. "Do you mean Matsuda, or—?"

"Either. Both. Everyone." Aizawa tapped his beer idly on the bar, worrying his lip. "At least it's over."

Only for Light. "It is," L agreed.

"World goes back to normal."

"It does."

Aizawa tapped his beer once more, then raised it. "To the end of Kira."

"The end of Kira," Watari echoed.

L said nothing, but he emptied his glass, making a face at the alcoholic aftertaste. Aizawa set his can down with a sigh, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. "I should get home, too, I suppose. Hug my girls. They have no idea what's going on."

"They'll be all right," Watari said.

"I know. World's back to normal now. God help us all." Grabbing his jacket, Aizawa started toward the exit, pausing in the doorway to glance back. "Ryuzaki?"

L looked up. "Yes?"

"He would have killed us all in the end, wouldn't he?"

"I believe so, yes."

"That's what I thought. That's what I thought, but I had to—" Aizawa cut himself off, nodding grimly. "Thank you. For our lives."

L blinked, taken aback. Before he could respond, Aizawa was gone.


The sun was setting as L and Watari approached a picnic table, the dying rays painting the park a fiery orange. Though L had offered up a half-hearted excuse for his plan—avoiding the smoke detectors, taking in the nice weather—he knew full well his mentor wasn't fooled. Task Force headquarters had been Light's home, too, and nearly every corner held his ghost. The room he'd slept in, bound to L by a chain and a promise. The table he'd eaten at, joking and laughing with his father and Matsuda. His computer. His desk. His chair. The door he'd run toward in his last, desperate hope of escape.

He wanted to die outside.

Watari set the metal can down, glancing around the deserted park. "As good a spot as any, I suppose."

L nodded. "It'll do."

"So that's that, then, huh?" asked Ryuk, hovering nearby with Rem. "Light dies. You burn the notebooks. You win. Just like that."

"Just like that," said L.

"How boring."

"You can leave."

Ryuk said nothing. Ignoring the shinigami, L removed the lighter fluid and supplies from the can, frowning at the brown paper wrapper around one of the Death Notes.

"I wouldn't take that out, if I were you," said Watari.

L ignored him. Pulling the notebook from its wrapper, he stared at it in revolted fascination. Though the pages were dark and warped with their owner's blood, the covers showed no sign of damage. Curious, he tried to pry the pages apart, but they stuck fast, tearing as he pulled. Ryuk chuckled quietly, his voice crackling like dry twigs.

"Hyuk. It'll still work, you know. Pages never run out."

Of course it would. Sickened, L glanced up at the shinigami, keeping his face impassive. "You know from experience?"

"Maybe." Ryuk's expression never changed, but L sensed mockery in his answer. "You could keep it. The clean one, I mean. Tribunal wouldn't know the difference, hyuk. Besides, it already came in handy for you once, didn't it?"

"I'll pass."

"You sure?"

Light's face hovered before his eyes, blindfolded and frightened. Without a word, L tossed both notebooks into the can and reached for the lighter fluid.

"Hyuk. Suit yourself, I guess."

I will. Resolute, L struck a match and dropped it into the can, watching the two notebooks blaze up like so much ordinary paper. Soon enough, he knew, Light himself would receive a similar treatment, leaving only a jigsaw puzzle of bone for his grieving parents to pick through and inurn. There won't be any cameras for that, at least. He'll simply disappear.

Tōryanse, tōryanse...

"May I ask you something, Ryuk?" he said quietly, his eyes still searching the flames.

"Don't see why not."

"Did you feel anything when he died?"

There was no response. Frowning, L turned to ask again, but the two shinigami were gone. Only Watari remained by the table, the firelight dancing across his weathered face.

"You didn't really think he'd answer that, did you?"

"No harm in asking."

"I suppose not." The old man hesitated, his lip between his teeth. "Speaking of which—I asked about what you mentioned to me. His mother's comment."

"That he'd been beaten in the daiyō kangoku? He probably was. Hardly makes any difference at this point." Something crackled loudly inside the can, and L pursed his lips in disgust. "Let me guess. They refused to speak to you?"

"On the contrary. They answered every question I had."

"And?"

"He did it to himself."

L cracked a mocking smile. "Of course."

"I had the same reaction, but it's true. They weren't gentle, but they never touched him—just grilled him for eighteen hour stretches on four hours' sleep until he finally cracked. I saw the tape, L. There wasn't a mark on him."

"So the bruises—"

"Came afterwards. It's all on the tape. He gave them a full confession, answered all their questions, then asked for a drink of water. Once the detectives left, he stared at the table for a moment, then beat his hands and head bloody on the edge." Watari eyed the flames, his expression hard. "It took four men to wrestle him down."

L frowned. "A suicide attempt?"

"Maybe. Maybe not. Hard to know what was going through that boy's mind."

Indeed. L mulled over the new information in silence, trying to match it up to the image of Light Yagami he already held. For all his genius had at times overlapped with Light's, the boy would forever be an unfinished puzzle in L's mind, a partially-dissected Gordian knot he'd slashed beyond repair. It doesn't matter. I came to solve the crime, not the criminal, and I succeeded. My work here is done. But however hard he tried to ignore it, a shaky voice still haunted his thoughts: Tōryanse, tōryanse...

He could almost hear it.

No. I can.

"L." Watari's voice was hushed but insistent. "Look."

L raised his head. Across the park, a mass of humanity was solemnly marching in their direction, their voices raised in song:

"Tōryanse, tōryanse

Koko wa doko no hosomichi ja?

Tenjin-sama no hosomichi ja

Chitto tōshite kudashanse..."

"Wonder what he'd think of that," Watari said.

It doesn't matter. He's dead. The crowd was impressive for such short notice, perhaps two hundred strong. Most were women, to judge by the voices, but L heard men as well, and a number of the marchers had children by their sides. Countless candles flickered in the mourners' hands, a moving mass of stars.

"Ikki wa yoi yoi, kaeri wa kowai..."

Watari turned back to the can, but L didn't join him. Transfixed, he raised his thumb to his lips, watching the ragtag procession wend by. So many. More than there would ever be for me. The thought should have stung him, but all he felt was numb. It feels like shit, Light. There's your answer. But you already knew that, didn't you?

A weeping girl on the edge of the crowd tucked stray hairs behind her ear as she passed him, a flickering candle in her hands. Something about the motion drew L's attention, and he offered her a weak, consoling smile—only to gape in surprise as she turned his way.

Misa.

Her hair was a short, dark bob now, her eyes framed by square-cut glasses, but there was no mistaking her face. She stopped cold as she recognized him, eyes widening, and L felt his body tense. Lost memories or not, she still knows who I am. If she gives us away to these mourners... Thumb to his mouth, he inclined his head politely to her, but she didn't return the courtesy. Raising her chin in disdain, she began walking again, her face turned pointedly away.

L breathed.

"Well, it's done," said Watari, dropping the poker and wiping his hands. "Are you all right? You look like you've seen a ghost."

Perhaps I have. "It's nothing. Only my thoughts."

"I understand."

Side by side, they watched the procession pass in silence. Then Watari sighed.

"I'll give Light Yagami this much," he said. "He wasn't a coward. He died well."

L shook his head. "Coward or not, he's equally dead. No such thing as dying well."

"You're probably right." Watari put a hand on L's shoulder. "Another case closed."

"Indeed." L let his mentor's hand linger for a moment, then shied away, stooping to extinguish the last embers of the fire. "Book us the first flight you can get back to London. I've had quite enough of Japan, I think."

"Won't the tribunal want to talk to you before you leave?"

Undoubtedly. "The case is closed. There's nothing to talk about."

"They may disagree."

"Then they can take it up with L."

Even without looking, he knew that Watari had smiled. "Understood."

The candlelit mourners still sang in the distance, but neither L nor Watari turned to see. Leaving the can of ash behind them, the two men turned their shoes toward home.


Light Yagami

death by firing squad

On March 15, 2005, delivers a final speech —including an admission to being Kira but no mention of notebooks, shinigami, or any details of Kira's powers —as the tribunal that condemned him looks on. During that speech, forgets the word "machinations" and looks to the tribunal member third from the right for help. Afterward, is put to death without complications or delays.

Dies with minimal pain.

 

THE END