Hiroki shifted uncomfortably in the heavy silence that had fallen over the study. Patricia Wallace was sitting in the massive leather chair behind the desk, her knees pulled up under her chin. She looked ill at easy, though he supposed that if he had lost a spouse and was potentially connected to a murder that he’d be upset, too. In the large chair she looked like a girl, awoken by a bad dream and taking comfort in a parent’s things.
“So … what do we do now?” She asked the room.
Hiroki had no answer. He was still in the chair he had been shown to when they arrived, feeling completely unable to contribute to this situation. Camen was standing off to one side, smoking a cigarette, smoke rising in a cloud above him as he seemed to be browsing the leather bound books on the shelf.
“The most likely thing,” Camen said, “is that the police will come and question you. It might be prudent to cut them off at the pass, go to them and tell them your husband is missing. They’ll question you about the murder, I’m sure, but I don’t doubt that you’ll quickly rise above suspicion.”
“You’re so sure of that?” She looked over at Camen. “What if I, in a fit of passion, went over there and murdered her? Why wouldn’t they believe that?”
“I can’t tell you the specifics of the case, otherwise they might believe that. I’m just going to say that I find it unlikely you’re that capable. It is more likely, though, that they’ll suspect your husband. Especially after you tell them that he’s missing.”
The horrified look on her face prompted Hiroki to speak up before she got really riled and made things difficult. “If they suspect your husband, they’re going to look for him. They have more resources than we do. It’s not a bad thing.”
“I told you I didn’t want this made public,” she said.
“Right now, it won’t be,” Camen said. “The last thing they want to do is publicly name your husband if he’s not the killer. No sense going out and begging for a lawsuit. They’ll keep it quiet enough. And if he’s not guilty as I assume, then he has nothing to worry about.”
“I don’t like it.”
“I’m afraid you don’t have much choice,” Camen said. “Your husband’s mistress turns up dead, there’s enough information to point them towards mob involvement. It wouldn’t take much searching to figure out that she was spending her free time with a lawyer with mob involvement. If you don’t go to them, they’re going to come to you. And they’ll be a lot less nicer about it at that point.”
There was a protracted moment of silence after that, as their client digested this new data. Hiroki shifted in his chair. It was late, he was going to be in trouble as it was, and now here they were telling someone to go see their biggest competitor. This wasn’t exactly the glamorous detective life he envisioned.
Camen finished his cigarette, putting it out in the small ashtray that Mrs. Wallace had given him. He turned around and began to speak. “If you like, we can take you down there ourselves, I can talk to the detective in charge. It’ll make things nice and smooth, they can question you and you can be back home in a few hours.”
“Right now? It’s the middle of the night.”
“If we take her down there now, we’re going to be sitting around for hours,” Hiroki said. “Better to wait until morning.”
Camen shrugged. “If you insist. That’s not quite as pre-emptive as I would like, but I suppose it’ll-“
He was interrupted by the chime of the doorbell. There was a moment’s hesitation, the sound so foreign that nobody moved. Patricia was the first one to speak. “I … how did someone get past the gate?”
“It closed behind us when we came in,” Hiroki said.
“Maybe it’s the police?” Patricia was already standing up, walking towards the door of the study. As she reached for the knob, Camen reached out and put a hand on her arm.
“You wait here. In case it isn’t the police. Stay here with Hiroki, I’ll go check it out.” He reached into his coat and pulled out a small gun from the underarm holster that Hiroki knew he had. He turned towards Hiroki, nodding. “Watch her. If you hear anything go bad, get her out of here and get to the police.”
“You think it’s that serious?” Hiroki asked, heart pounding. He stood up, a sudden rush of energy making him jumpy, heading towards the door.
“I’m not planning on taking any chances,” he said, before he retreated down the darkened hallway towards the foyer, the bell still ringing.
Hiroki closed the door after Camen had left, turning towards Patricia. She was pale and nearly trembling. Hiroki motioned to the chair. “Come on, sit down. It’s fine. He’s paranoid because that’s part of the job. But he’s good at what he does. We’ll be just fine here.”
“But what if we’re not?” she asked. “What if it’s some sort of burglar?”
“Then they wouldn’t be ringing the bell, would they?” Hiroki said. '”Like I said, just sit down and relax.” Once she was sitting down, seemingly a little more under control, Hiroki made his way over to the door. There wasn’t any sound now, just the sound of the two of them breathing in this room.
“Mrs. Wallace, I’m going to turn off the lights. Don’t be alarmed.” Hiroki reached up and flipped the switch, plunging them into darkness. Then he cracked open the door and peered out into the darkness of the hall. The hallway was empty, and Hiroki couldn’t see any motion out in the small part of the foyer he could see from here. The house felt suddenly like a tomb, large and still and indifferent.
Suddenly there was the sound of two heavy impacts, one accompanied with a low grunt. Hiroki was ready to bolt if need be, but in the gloom of the hallway he saw Camen coming down the hall. Of course, he was coming down the hall at a full run, his gun out. “Hiroki, come on!”
Hiroki turned towards Patricia. “We need to go, now!” To her credit, she was up in a flash, the two of them both making their way out of the study and into the hall. Camen caught up with them, handing Hiroki the keys to the car. “What’s going on?” Hiroki asked.
“There’s someone here. I tackled them, but they’re still here. I don’t know if they’re armed or not.” The three of them raced out into the foyer, Camen at the lead, gun out and scanning the darkness for sign of the assailant. Hiroki led Patricia to the open door, Camen right behind. Out in the yard, they were nearly completely exposed if someone wanted to take a shot at them, but Hiroki knew the drill on safely getting to the car and ran at a half crouch to the vehicle.
He put Patricia in the back, telling her to get down and stay down. Then he made his way over to the driver’s side of the car, Camen right behind him, gun out and sweeping the yard. Out here it seemed much brighter than inside, but the shadows made it hard to tell what was trees moving in the wind and what was the intruder.
Hiroki started the engine even as Camen was climbing into the passenger seat, peeling out of the parking lot and towards the gate. The headlights revealed that the gate was open, the sliding mechanism smoking faintly. Hiroki kept his eyes on the road, though, getting them out of the there.
“What happened?” Patricia asked.
Camen settled into his seat. “I opened the door but there wasn’t anybody out there. I felt like someone was watching me, though, and got out of the doorway so I wasn’t such an obvious target. Just in case this was the same person who killed Ms. Falchi.”
“I heard a struggle,” Hiroki said.
“While I was hiding, someone rushed in through the door. I grabbed them, but they were ready for me and there was a fight. I ended up landing a punch that knocked them to the ground, though. Then I went to get you. I’m not sure where they went, but it seems we’ve lost them.”
“What do we do now?” Patricia asked.
“Well, you can’t go back,” Camen said. “But apparently whoever killed Falchi is after you.”
“You’re sure they’re related.”
“No…” Camen shook his head, pausing. “We need to learn more about this case. And quickly. But until we get a grasp on what’s happening, we need to get you to safety.”
“What did you have in mind?”
Camen shook his head. “I don’t know. I need time to think. Hiroki, I need to get you home. I’ll take over, and I’ll pick you up tomorrow afternoon.”
Hiroki’s jaw tensed. The last thing he wanted was to be dropped off and sent back to the safety of his apartment and his mother right when things were getting interesting. This was an adventure! This was exactly the kind of thing he had signed up for when he insisted on being Camen’s assistant. But it was always ‘get Hiroki out of the way’ first and ‘have awesome experiences’ second.
Hiroki trudged into the apartment to find his mother sleeping in the recliner in the living room. He set down his bag and gently shook her awake. “Hey mom, I’m home.”
“Oh, Hiroki,” she said, yawning and stretching. “What time is it?”
“A little bit after three,” Hiroki said. “Sorry it took so long. Ben’s server was invaded, had to fight off the intruder and secure the data.”
His mother nodded, glazing over at the first mention of the technology he was ostensibly hired to do. She climbed to her feet and began to head towards bed. “I worry about you staying out so late. You can’t be running around at all hours at your age, it’s unnatural.”
“Mom, everyone my age is running around at all hours,” Hiroki said. “The difference is that I’m getting paid for it and building up a resume. Don’t worry, I take care of myself. And Ben looks out for me.”
She scoffed. “That man doesn’t look like he can take care of himself, much less anyone else. I don’t trust him. He’s shifty.”
Hiroki rolled his eyes. “Whatever you say.” When his mother went to bed Hiroki sank into the living room couch. He sighed, turning on the TV for some noise and light but not really paying attention to it. At this rate, he wasn’t sure he would ever fall asleep, anxious about what Camen was doing right now, fleeing a would-be intruder—maybe a murderer!---and leaving him here to wait for information.
Thinking about the case, and the adventures that he could be going on if only he wasn’t stuck here, Hiroki fell asleep on the couch, accompanied by the muted light of the TV.