Three neighbors come by Kimoto manor to meet Anna, Yoko-chan, and her mother. But do these neighbors have an ulterior motive behind this visit? (Psst, guys, this is the chapter where you grin up to...
Chapter Nine: The Neighbors:
March 2000. SPLASH! Anna dove into the school pool. This place was her sanctuary. The cool water relaxed her so. Her shrink did her right this time. He pressed her to join clubs and being active in school. “Being active 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. She hadn’t had time to adjust yet. In fact, the high school just dropped her in the tail-end of the senior year of the semester (She felt out of place in the beginning due to being sixteen while the rest of her class was seventeen to eighteen. Plus, she barely knew any English then).
Anna was about to give up when she discovered the swim team. What drew her in? A boy. We’ll talk about him later. Back to the pool.
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 did. They became her escape from the pain.
May 2009. The next morning, Anna got a new e-mail on her Yahoo account. Curious, she opened up her mail. One new message from email@example.com. “/Hm?/” she thought as clicked on the message. The woman read it to herself. This message said:
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 needs. I will put in more at the end of each week. Your care should come in the mail this afternoon. Also, be on your guard. Your killers know you are alive again. They will try to kill you again. Be very careful!
Again, no signature. Same person? Money for her? But why? No point in e-mailing back, probably a fake address here too. So, all Anna could do was wait until the mail came in this afternoon. However, more worried fell on her plate just about… now.
Anna looked up when she heard the doorbell ring. “/Hm?/” she thought. “/The movers just left…/” Curious, Anna quietly left her desk and walked out of Daisuke’s office. She peeked into the hallway. Yoko-chan’s mom was at the door talking to someone. Anna kept 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. Her blouse was white and see-through. Her jeans looked wrinkled and dirty. The woman’s jewelry looked pretty expensive though. Gold bracelet, rings, chain necklace, and six silver earrings. So much blinding bling. Too much blinding bling! The other two looked rather subtle. At least the guy did.
The other woman had a Loli Goth theme to her. She had on a short black play dress with white ruffles underneath. Her long black hair was put up into two ponytails. She held a stuffed black and white cat to her chest. This woman’s manner seemed child-like.
The man looked normal. He had on jeans and a t-shirt. He looked American, in fact. Something about these three seemed off to Anna. She couldn’t explain it, but she seemed suspicious about them. Her killers, maybe? She had to see. The main woman grinned at the young mother.
“Hi!” the woman 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 yesterday.”
“They finally sold the manor, huh?”
“Yep. I’m Tanaka Rihoko and this is my little girl, Yoko-chan!”
“I’m Emiko. These are my roommates, Hotaru and Mike.” The other woman and man waved at mother and child.
“Hi,” Rihoko said. “Nice to meet you.” Emiko peeked into the house. The young mother looked at her confused.
“What are you looking for?” she asked. The other woman didn’t answer. She smirked into the house.
“I see you already have a welcoming party here!” Emiko announced.
“Huh?” Rihoko asked as she looked into the house with her. Anna froze up panicked when they saw her. “/Oh crap!/” she thought. “/They found me!/” Yoko-chan perked up when she saw Anna.
“Anna-sama!” she cheered. She turned to her mother.
“See mom!” the little girl cheered. “Here’s the ghost lady I was talking about! It’s Kimoto Anna-sama!” Sweat drop on Anna’s head “/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. She 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 woman. “/Found you!/” she thought. She began to smile again.
“So,” the woman said aloud as she clapped her hands. “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 most of our things this morning.”
“Fair enough,” Mike said. Everyone got their tea and took a drink. Emiko took one look at Anna. The Japanese-American noticed right off the bat.
“What?” she asked, trying to sound polite. Emiko shrugged a bit.
“You look familiar,” she said. “Haven’t I seen you from somewhere?” Anna stared blankly for a moment.
“No…” she replied. Emiko didn’t buy it at all.
“I must have seen you from somewhere,” she pressed on. “You look like that interpreter that was murdered a few days ago.”
“You’re right!” Hotaru exclaimed. “She does look like the dead interpreter!” Anna sat nervously. “/Uh-oh!/” she thought. “/They’re on to me!/” All eyes were on her. Anna found herself in a pinch. She hoped for someone to get her back out. Luckily for her, someone did.
Suddenly, the door bell rang again. Everyone looked up right away. Anna breathed out in relief. Rescue had come at last.
“I’ll get that,” Rihoko said. She stood up and hurried to the front door. She slid the door open. Tsuzuki and Hisoka stood on the other side. Rihoko looked confused.
“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. The young mother’s eyes lit up happily.
“Great!!!” she cheered. “Friends of the ghost! Come on in!” Sweat drops on the boys’ heads
“/Anna wasn’t joking about the ghost fanatic!/” Tsuzuki thought. The boys followed her into the manor.
So now, there was Anna, Tsuzuki, Hisoka, Yoko-chan, Rihoko, Emiko, Hotaru, and Mike in the living room. Rihoko made more tea. Emiko studied the two boys closely. “/Shinigami, huh?/” she thought. “/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. Hotaru lowered her cup. Emiko looked at the other woman.
“Hotaru,” she said. “Is something wrong? Are you sick?” The woman didn’t answer. She leapt to her feet.
“Where is your bathroom?” Hotaru asked. Rihoko pointed down the hall.
“It’s down the hall to your left,” she said. The other woman nodded. Hotaru raced down the given direction. Everyone watched.
“Is she okay?” Hisoka asked. Emiko didn’t answer at first.
“I don’t know…” she mumbled. She got up and raced after her roommate. Tsuzuki, Hisoka, and Anna all looked at each other for a moment. Opportunity for spying had arisen. The trio waited a few seconds before following Emiko.
Emiko made it to the bathroom. She put her ear to the door. Water ran inside like a stream. Emiko knocked on the door.
“Hotaru-chan,” she said. “Are you okay in there?”
“No!” the other woman said.
“What’s wrong?” Emiko asked.
“I need you!” Hotaru wailed. The other woman became confused.
“How?” she asked. The door slid open in that instant. Hotaru looked at her emotionless at first. Then, she rushed forward and kissed her girlfriend on the lips. Emiko was startled at first. She knew her lover would pull something like this. But right now? Hotaru slowly pulled away. She smiled at her beloved in a warm way. Emiko blinked for a moment.
“Hotaru-chan, couldn’t you have waited until we got home?” she asked. The other woman shook her head. Hotaru kissed her again. This time, Emiko kissed back. “/Anything to keep her happy!/” she thought. Soon, one kiss became two. Two into four and four into eight. The girls didn’t seem to know how to stop. Too bad it had to, because Emiko happened to hear, “Hey is Hotaru okay…” The couple broke off and looked up. Tsuzuki, Anna, and Hisoka were staring at them in big-eyed shock. They hadn’t expected to see this. Emiko and Hotaru turned to them. Emiko held her girlfriend’s hand tightly.
“What?” she asked boldly. “We’re lesbians, so what? Can’t we be in love and be free to express it where ever we want?” The trio didn’t answer. She had a point there…
A few minutes later, everyone was back in the living room. This time, Emiko and Hotaru sat close to each other. Hotaru had her hand on Emiko’s leg, slightly rubbing it. The rest of the crew stared on for a moment.
“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 in pride.
“She resisted at first,” Emiko bragged. “But I didn’t give up. Once I got Hotaru-chan, no man or woman stood a chance!” Hotaru giggled.
“How cute…” Rihoko mumbled. This little party went on late into the evening. Emiko, Hotaru, and Mike excused themselves to go home. Rihoko showed them the door. She, Yoko-chan, and Anna saw them off. They waved goodbye to their neighbors.
“Nice people, weren’t they?” Rihoko asked.
“Yeah…” Anna replied uneasily. There was still something off about these people. She couldn’t figure out what, but she would soon enough.
Later, Anna lied back on her futon thinking about her new neighbors. Her thoughts were interrupted were she heard her door slide open. The woman looked up and saw Tsuzuki looking in.
“Hey,” he said. Anna gave him a little smile.
“Have you come to spy on me again?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Tsuzuki said. The woman smiled at him again. The Shinigami walked into the office and looked around. He looked ahead on the back wall. The man looked on interested.
“What are these?” he asked. Anna looked up with him. The back wall was covered in pictures. Not just any pictures, these were pictures of Anna and her life up until now. The woman smiled a little warm smile.
“You like?” she asked. “I got bored last night and did a little decorating.” 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 in his arms in what looked like a dorm room. The pictures went left to right. All of the years were there. Infancy, preschool, grade school, junior high, high school, America, college, and now. Anna looked so happy and free-spirited in each one. One picture caught Tsuzuki’s eye in particular.
The girl was eighteen in this one. She had on a school swimsuit. Anna stood at the pool smiling. He could tell this was a good memory. The Shinigami looked at her.
“When was this one?” he asked as he pointed at that picture. Anna looked up some. Her eyes lit up some.
“Swim team, senior year,” she replied. Tsuzuki looked on intrigued.
“Really?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Anna said causally. “After I left Japan, I was a bit depressed. The guidance counselor pushed me to join some clubs. ‘Being active helps cure depression,’ he said over and over again. So, I took his advice and joined the swim team.”
“Did it help?” the Shinigami asked.
“Not really,” the woman said. “But I did have fun and the water did clear my head.”
“I see,” Tsuzuki said with a nod. Last night, he learned about college Anna. Tonight, it was a snippet of senior year Anna. The missing story of the ten-year gap slowly came together.
“You can have the picture if you like,” Anna offered. Tsuzuki looked at her surprised.
“Really? You mean it?” he asked. Anna nodded.
“Yeah, go on, take it!” she encouraged. Tsuzuki paused for a moment 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? The Shinigami nodded.
“Okay…” he said at last. The man turned back to the wall. He reached towards the picture in question. Tsuzuki gently took it off of the hard white wall. He carefully removed the 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 sat up and walked over to her computer. She moved the mouse to wake it up again. When the log in screen returned, she used her fingerprints to log back in again. Anna pulled up the e-mail as Tsuzuki walked over to her.
“Got another e-mail this morning,” the woman went on. “Tell me what you think.” Tsuzuki read the e-mail for himself. He turned to Anna.
“Who sent this one?” the Shinigami asked. The woman shrugged.
“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?” Tsuzuki shrugged.
“I guess…” he said. “You will need it after all.” Anna looked at him.
“I suppose…” she replied. She turned back to the message.
“Hello, my name is Niwa Midori,” Anna said. “And my killer is still on the loose.”
Meanwhile down the road, Emiko, Hotaru, and Mike watched Tsuzuki and Anna at her laptop via live feed on their computer. They managed to bug the manor during their visit. Now, time for some surveillance.
“So what’s the word, girls?” Mike asked. The lovebirds turned to him.
“She’s really nice,” Hotaru said.
“But,” Emiko spoke up. Anna can’t be trusted; she’s a 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. The girls looked at him oddly.
“How do you mean?” Emiko challenged. The American sat up some 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 doesn’t.” Emiko sneered at him cross.
“Your senses must be getting dull!” she snapped. Mike shook his head again.
“No, it’s not that,” he said. “She has this warm, soft kindness to her soul. This kind can’t be faked. It’s the kind that Daisuke had to him.” 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. Mike nodded a bit.
“Fair enough, he said with a shrug.
“Thank you!” the butch tomboy said. Mike 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. Looks like Tsuzuki and Hisoka weren’t the only ones watching Anna until this case was over.