Chapter Nine: The Neighbors:
March 18th, 2000.
SPLASH! Anna dove into the school pool. This place became her sanctuary. The cool water relaxed her when she wanted a place to clear her head. Her shrink did right by her this time. He pressed her to join clubs and being activate in school.
“Being activate helps cure sadness,” he told her. Anna didn’t believe him, but she decided to humor him. At first, Anna couldn’t fit in anywhere. Moving from Japan to California was such a sudden change. In fact, the high school just dropped her in the middle of the junior year of the semester. Anna was about to give up when she discovered the swim team just two months before.
In the water, Anna could clear her mind here. She swam underwater to free herself. The pool added to her high “glass box” the same way her studies and the computer would.
May 16th, 2009.
Six days later, Anna got a new e-mail on her Yahoo account. Curious, she opened up her mail. There was one new message from firstname.lastname@example.org in her spam box.
/Hm?/, she thought as clicked on the message. The woman read it to herself.
I have opened a bank account for you under the name of Niwa Midori. I have put most of my wealth into this account, so don’t spend it all in one place. Only use the money for your basic needs. I will put in more at the end of each week. Your card should come in the mail this afternoon. Please be on your guard. Your killers know you are alive again and they will try to kill you.
She didn’t find any signature. Could it be the same person? They had money for her? No point in e-mailing back; probably a fake address here too. All Anna could do was wait until the mail came in this afternoon. However, more worried fell on her plate. She looked up when she heard the doorbell ring.
/But, the movers’ just left/, she thought. Curious, Anna walked out of Daisuke’s office and peeked into the hallway. Yoko-chan’s mom was at the door talking to someone. Anna crept closer for a better look.
A woman stood on the outside talking to the young mother and child. Actually, two women and a man were talking to them. The main woman looked like a straight up tomboy. Her long bright orange hair was tied back into a tight ponytail. She looked somewhat decent this morning with her white and see-through blouse and wrinkled, messy jeans. The woman’s gold bracelet, rings, chain necklace, and six silver earrings could fetch a pretty price though. Too much bling for Anna’s taste, that was for sure. The other two looked rather subtle or at least the guy did.
The other woman had a Loli Goth theme to her style with a short black play dress with white ruffles underneath. She had her long black hair up in two swaying ponytails. This woman’s child-like manner and the stuffed black and white cat she to her chest complete the embodiment of the Loli Goth style.
The man looked normal with jeans and a t-shirt. Just by looking at him, anyone could guess that he was American with his short light brown hair and round blue eyes. Something about these three seemed off to Anna. She couldn’t quite explain it right away. Maybe this could be her killers? The main woman grinned at the young mother.
“Hi!” she beamed, “We live down the road from you. You must be new here!”
“Uh yeah,” the young mother answered, “My daughter and I bought this house a few days ago.”
The tomboy gave off a low while. “They finally sold the manor, huh?”
The young mother pushed up her pink-framed glasses. “Yep, I’m Tanaka Rihoko and this is my little girl, Yoko-chan!”
The tomboy grinned and stuck out her hand at her new neighbor. “I’m Emiko. These are my roommates, Hotaru and Mike.” The other woman and man waved at mother and child.
“Hi,” Rihoko said as she took Emiko’s hand and shook it, “Nice to meet you.” Emiko peeked into the house over the new neighbor’s shoulder. The young mother looked at her confused.
“Uh… What are you doing?” she asked. The other woman smirked into the house.
“I see you already have a welcoming party here!” Emiko announced.
“Huh?” Rihoko asked as she looked her behind her. Anna froze when they saw her.
Oh crap!/, she thought, /They found me! Yoko-chan perked up when she saw Anna.
“Anna-san!” she cheered, waving frantically. She turned to her mother.
“See, mom!” the little girl said, “Here’s the ghost lady I was talking about! It’s Kimoto Anna-san!” A sweat drop formed Anna’s head when she heard those words.
/Again with the ghost thing?/, she thought. Rihoko’s eyes lit up like the stars in the sky.
“Oh cool!” she yelped, “My first actual ghost!” The young mother raced over to Anna and grabbed her by the hands and shook them wildly.
“Pleased to meet you,” Rihoko exclaimed. “My daughter has told me so much about you!”
“Uh… Thanks, I guess…” Anna mumbled. Emiko smirked at the “ghost.”
/Found you!/, she thought. “So,” Emiko said aloud, “May we all come in?” In few minutes, everyone sat in the living room surrounded by packed boxes.
“Don’t mind the mess,” Rihoko said as she returned with the tea, “Yoko-chan and I are still unpacking. We just got the last of our things this morning.”
“No, it’s fine,” Mike said. Everyone got their tea and took a drink. Emiko took one look at Anna. She heard a little rumor through Meifu that Ju-Oh-Cho had brought a descendant of the Eda-Kimoto clan from the dead possibly to trap them to be judged. However, she wasn’t convinced that was it.
I think they’re hiding something more about this/, Emiko thought. /I mean, how can they be so certain that she won’t betray them in some way? Heck, she could even go rogue and look for revenge for herself. The Japanese-American woman noticed the tomboy woman staring at her.
“What?” she asked as she tried to sound polite. Emiko shrugged with her tea in her hand.
“You look familiar,” she said, “Haven’t I seen you from somewhere?” Anna stared blankly at her.
“No…” she replied. Emiko’s smirk said that she didn’t buy it at all.
“I must have seen you from somewhere,” she pressed on, “You look like that interpreter that was murdered last week.”
“You’re right!” Hotaru exclaimed. “She does look like the dead interpreter! Anna sat, focusing herself to smile under the pressure.
/Uh-oh, they’re on to me!/, she thought with all eyes on her. Rihoko straightened her glasses.
“Anna-san,” she said, “Is this true?” Anna bit her lower lip as she tried to think of something to say. A “yes” or “no” answer would just cause her to dig a deeper hole for herself. Nothing that would smooth things over came to mind either. She shut her eyes and hoped for someone to get her out. Suddenly, the door bell rang again. Everyone looked up right away as Anna breathed out in relief.
“I’ll get that,” Rihoko said. She stood up and hurried to the front door. Emiko and Anna watched each on the defense.
“You really do look like that interpreter that was murdered back on the sixth,” Emiko said. Anna shook her head.
“That’s not possible,” she argued, “That woman is dead.” Emiko set down her cup on the coffee table.
“This is true,” she replied, “But, now this is just supposing here, what if she was brought back to live in some way and living among other humans?” Anna tried to laugh off such an idea.
“That’s silly! That kind theory exists in manga and TV,” she brushed off. “I mean, what would be the motive if that happened?”
“That’s what I would like to know,” Emiko said before taking another sip of tea. Anna forced herself to smile after that exchange. /She’s on to me!/, she screamed in head.
Rihoko slid open the front door while all of that was going on in the living room. Tsuzuki and Hisoka stood on the other side. The young mother gave them a rather puzzled face.
“Uh… can I help you?” she asked. Tsuzuki smiled.
“Hi, we’re friends of Anna,” he greeted her, “I’m Tsuzuki and this is Hisoka.” The boy bowed properly.
“Hey,” he said.
“She told us that she would be staying at her old house since she got back to Japan,” the older Shinigami went on, “Is this the right place?” The young mother’s eyes lit up as she gave them a huge grin.
“Great!” she cheered, “You’re friends of the ghost! Come on in!” Both boys had sweat drops on their heads.
/Anna wasn’t joking about the ghost fanatic, was she?/, Tsuzuki thought. The boys followed Rihoko into the manor as she gleefully walked inside. Anna herself was just happy to have some back-up with the tough questions that could come her way.
Rihoko made more instant tea while Emiko studied the two boys closely. Shinigami, huh?/, she thought with a devilish smile, /This should be fun to watch! Tsuzuki and Hisoka had their suspicions about Emiko and her roommates as well.
/There is something off about them…/, Tsuzuki thought. Hisoka nudged him on the arm.
“You sensed it too?” the younger Shinigami whispered.
“Yeah,” he whispered back, “You think they might be tied to the Eda-Kimoto clan?”
“I can’t really say just yet,” Hisoka whispered back. “I would have to get closer to them. I can’t really feel their emotions flowing through me right now.” Hotaru lowered her cup to act on her part of the mini-mission. Emiko looked at the other woman.
“Hoto-chan,” she said, sounding concern for her roommate, “Is something wrong? Are you sick?” The other woman rose to her feet with her fists clenched at her sides.
“Where is your bathroom?” Hotaru asked in a small voice. Rihoko pointed down the hall.
“It’s down the hall to your left,” she said. Hotaru raced down the given direction. Close to an hour passed and everyone looked down the hall.
“Is she okay?” Hisoka asked. Emiko timed herself before making her own more.
“I don’t know…” she mumbled. The tomboy got up and walked down the hall to check on her roommate. Tsuzuki, Hisoka, and Anna all looked at each other before looking down the hall. The trio waited a few seconds before following Emiko.
Emiko made it to the bathroom and put her ear to the door. Water ran inside like a stream. Emiko knocked on the door.
“Hoto-chan,” she whispered, “Have you finished everything?”
“Yes,” the other woman replied, “But there’s a problem.” Emiko looked rather puzzled at that statement.
“What’s wrong?” she asked. The door slid open in and Hotaru looked at her emotionless at first.
“Hoto-chan?” Emiko asked. Then, Loli Goth rushed forward, wrapped the other woman in a needy embrace, and kissed her on the lips. Her girlfriend’s eyes widened with alarm. She knew her lover would pull something like this, but not right now. Hotaru let go and slowly pulled away. She smiled at her beloved in a warm way. Emiko blinked at her.
“Hoto-chan, couldn’t you have waited until we got home?” she asked with a sigh. The other woman shook her head.
“Uh-uh,” she said, sounding like an innocent little girl. Emiko rolled her eyes and dropped her shoulders.
“You always do this,” Emiko complained, “Can’t you see we’re on an important mission here?” Hotaru only gave her another excited kiss respond. This time, Emiko gave up and kissed back.
Anything to keep her happy!/, she thought, /She probably wouldn’t listen to me anyway. Hotaru pinned her against the wall into the coming flood of kisses. Emiko’s hands wrapped around the Loli Goth’s waist and pulled her in closer as she used her tongue to pry open her lover’s lips. Her lover found herself more than happy to open mouth and receive. Emiko’s nails dug into the back of the Loli Goth’s black dress.
Who cares about this mission anymore?/, she thought. /I haven’t had this in days! The other woman grabbed onto her shirt as if to start unbuttoning it. She just loved to do these passionate spur of the moment type gestures in public places. For this past month, Emiko had been too busy on her laptop to even give her girlfriend any attention. Hotaru all but gave up on relighting the passionate fire between them. For a good while there, they were about to become one of those passionate couples who just live together day-in and day-out. As a matter of fact, the Loli Goth used this mini mission as an excuse to trap her girlfriend like this. The woman smirked in her head with each wave of kisses.
I have you now/, she thought. There is no excuse for you not to pay me any attention now!/ Hotaru already started to entertain thoughts of pulling Emiko into the bathroom and having quick one. The very thought already made her soak up in her white, lacy panties. Her girlfriend’s hand even slipped her skirt and grabbed her in the crotch.
Sadly that ended up on hold because Emiko happened to hear; “Hey is Hotaru …” The couple broke off the steamy kiss and looked up caught-off guard. Tsuzuki, Anna, and Hisoka were staring at them in big-eyed shock. Nobody dared to speak for what forever pregnant minute. Emiko held her girlfriend’s hand with such a tight grip.
“What?” she asked boldly, “We’re lesbians, can’t we be in love and be free to express it where ever we want?” The trio stared at her unable to tell if this was for real or a cover for something else.
A few minutes later, everyone came back in the living room. This time, the lesbian couple sat close to each other. Hotaru had her hand on Emiko’s leg, slightly rubbing it. The tomboy had her arm around her girlfriend’s shoulders. The rest of the crew stared on at them.
“So,” Tsuzuki spoke up, “How long have you been together?”
“Eight years!” the girls said together.
“Wow!” Rihoko mouthed.
“That long?” Anna asked. Hotaru nodded and grinned in pride.
“When I first saw Hoto-chan, I knew I just had to have her,” Emiko bragged as she rubbed on Hotaru’s shoulder, “She resisted at first, but I didn’t give up. Once I got Hoto-chan, no man or woman stood a chance!” Hotaru giggled and nuzzled her on the cheek.
“How cute…” Rihoko said with a smile on her face. Mike rolled his eyes.
“You just couldn’t wait until we got home, didn’t you?” he asked his roommates under his breath.
“But it was so worth it,” Hotaru whispered back while grinning.
“You’re hopeless,” the American man muttered. The little party went on late into the afternoon. Emiko, Hotaru, and Mike excused themselves to go home about four o’clock. Rihoko, Yoko-chan, and Anna saw them off.
“Nice people, weren’t they?” Rihoko asked as she waved goodbye to their neighbors.
“Yeah…” Anna replied. Her suspicions still didn’t leave her.
Later, Anna lied back on her futon thinking about her new neighbors. Emiko’s words made her cringe. /How could she have been that spot on?/, Anna wondered. The tone of her words made it that much worse.
Please don’t let her be the killer/, the woman pleaded to herself. /Please don’t her be the killer! Anna tightly shut her eyes and clung to her black tank top.
Her thoughts were interrupted were she heard her door slide open. The woman opened her eyes and looked up. Tsuzuki stood in the doorway looking in.
“Hey,” he said with a wave and grin. Anna sat up and gave him a little smile.
“Have you come to spy on me again?” she asked with a playful tone in her voice.
“Pretty much,” Tsuzuki said. He walked into the office and looked around. His eyes caught the back wall with the “hidden closet.”
“What are all of these?” he asked. Anna turned to the wall in question. All the way from Tsuzuki’s left to the right side was covered in pictures of Anna and her life up until now. The woman smiled a little warm smile as she walked over to the Shinigami.
“You like it?” she asked, “I got bored last night and did a little decorating since I was going to be here for a little bit longer.” Tsuzuki followed Anna’s life story with his eyes. The first picture was of an eighteen-year-old Daisuke holding a seven-day old Anna high up in his arms in what looked like a dorm room. All of the years-- infancy, preschool, grade school, junior high, high school, America, college, and now—looked like stills from a popular slice of life movie. Anna looked so happy and free-spirited in each one. One picture caught Tsuzuki’s eye in particular.
The girl was eighteen in school swimsuit by an indoor pool in this one. He could tell just by looking at the big grin on her face that this was a good memory. The Shinigami looked at her.
“When was this one?” he asked as he pointed at that picture. A small smile flashed across Anna face when she saw it.
“Swim team in my junior year,” she replied.
“Really?” Tsuzuki asked, intrigued.
“Yeah,” Anna said, “After I left Japan, I felt so depressed and isolated. I didn’t really know anybody in a foreign country and my English wasn’t very good at the time. The guidance counselor pushed me to join some clubs as an attempt to help. ‘Being active helps cure depression,’ he said over and over again. So after Christmas break, I took his advice and joined the swim team.”
“Did it help?” the Shinigami asked.
“Not really,” the woman said, shaking her head, “But I did have fun and the water helped to clear my head.”
“I see,” Tsuzuki replied as he smiled. Last night, he learned about college Anna. Tonight, it was a snippet of junior year Anna. The missing story of the ten-year gap came together piece by piece.
“You can have the picture if you like,” Anna offered as she leaned on his shoulder. Tsuzuki turned and gave her a stunned look on his face.
“Really? You mean it?” he asked.
“Yeah, go on, take it!” she encouraged, nodding. Tsuzuki paused to let her offer sink in. She was letting him have a piece of her memories. What did this mean, did she fully trust him now?
“Okay…” Tsuzuki said at last. The man turned back to the wall and reached towards the picture in question. He gently took it off of the hard white wall. The Shinigami carefully removed the duck tape from the backside and gently stuffed it in his jacket. Tsuzuki turned back to the wall of pictures. A gap now sat where the picture once was. He looked back at Anna.
“What about your little timeline thingy?” the Shinigami asked.
“I’ll fix it later,” the woman answered, “Which reminds me…” Anna walked over to her computer and pulled up the e-mail.
“Got another message this morning,” the woman went on, “Tell me what you think.” Tsuzuki walked over and read the e-mail for himself.
“Who sent this one?” the Shinigami asked afterwards. The woman shrugged and shook her head.
“Dunno,” she said, “No point in replying; might be a fake e-mail address.”
“Think it’s the same person?” he asked.
“Who can say?” Anna asked, “Should I take the money?”
“I guess,” Tsuzuki said, “You will need it after all.” Anna looked at him.
“I suppose,” she replied, “Maybe I could try and ask the bank who opened the account for me tomorrow.” She turned back to the message.
“Hello, my name is Niwa Midori,” Anna said in fake cheerful tone, “And my killer is still on the loose.”
Meanwhile down the road at a house called Wisteria House, Emiko, Hotaru, and Mike watched Tsuzuki and Anna at her laptop via live feed on Emiko’s computer. Hotaru bugged the manor while she excused herself to the bathroom.
“So what’s the word, girls?” Mike asked.
“She’s really nice,” Hotaru said as she sat on her girlfriend’s lap.
“But,” Emiko spoke up while stroking the Loli Goth’s hair, “Anna can’t be trusted; she’s an Eda-Kimoto after all. They all are cold and cruel under their sweet and sunny façade!” Mike shook his head.
“This isn’t the case here,” he said.
“How do you mean?” Emiko challenged. The American sat back in the red-painted oak chair.
“Don’t ask me how I know,” he said, “Usually all of the women in Eda-Kimoto clan have this icy, cold, heartless nature to them. Anna lacks that.” Emiko sneered at him.
“Your senses must be getting dull!” she snapped.
“No, it’s not that,” Mike argued, “She has this warm, soft kindness to her soul. This kind can’t be faked. It’s the same that Daisuke had.” The other two went dead silent in shock. Everyone knew about Daisuke and his struggles very well. He lived and died a pure soul. Mike’s statement changed everything now. Emiko shook her head.
“In any case, we need to keep Kimoto Anna under surveillance until she checks out clean,” she informed her roommate.
“Fair enough, Mike said with a shrug.
“Thank you,” the butch tomboy said. The American rolled his eyes.
“Whatever,” he mumbled under his breath. Emiko pretended to ignore him. She, Hotaru, and Mike turned back to the screen. Anna and Tsuzuki returned to Daisuke’s office from the mailbox outside. Anna had a white envelope in her hands.
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