Salsa's on the trail of a local killer, but why has he been shutting Taketo out of his investigation? Taketo wants answers, but he may not like what he learns. (slash!)
"No way," Taketo said, sagging. Wolf, here, now? /No way/.
"Everyone out," Taketo's brother ordered. "Yeah, you too!" he snapped, pointing at the doctor who was plastered against the wall.
"But this boy is clearly ill," the doctor protested, pointing at Wolf. "This is our hospital, not a police lockup --"
"The lockup is where he's headed, once I figure out who he is!" his brother cut him off, shoving the doctor out the door. "You guys can all poke at him later." Then he snagged Tanaka by the collar again, who'd been taking the opportunity to slink out the door as well. "Not you. You're staying right here. And you," he snapped at Taketo, "get in here now."
Taketo crawled obediently over the threshold, and Yamanaka immediately began to yell, "You patriarchal pig! Male oppressor! Tanaka-kuuuun!"
"You -- be quiet!" Toshifumi said. He rolled her backward with his toe, and slammed the door in the crowd's faces, shouting, "I'll be throwing him out too, in a minute!" He slumped against the door, sorting out his handkerchief and glaring at everyone left in the room. "Now," he said. "Who's first?"
"Wolf," Taketo said, picking himself up off the floor, "what on earth are you doing here?"
"Wolf was taking a nap until the fun started," he replied easily. "Comfy bed."
"That's not what I meant --"
"I'll ask the questions," Toshifumi interrupted. "Or have you forgotten that this is a suspect in police custody, and you are assisting in my inquiries?"
"Aniki," Taketo said hurriedly, "this is all a mistake." Or at least he hoped it was a mistake. Somehow Taketo had to head off this looming disaster. His brother Toshifumi had no idea that wild-half creatures existed, much less that he'd been living in the same apartment with one for years. His brother couldn't be allowed to find out -- not in such close quarters with two of them, both of them dogs.
Tanaka, who'd clearly smelled that thought and was opening his mouth to protest the "dog" part as usual, earned another shake of his coat collar from Taketo's brother. "I'm looking forward to hearing all about this mistake," his brother said grimly. "But before that harpy in the hall decides to storm the ramparts, let's start with you." Tanaka went pale.
"Tanaka-kun is a friend of mine," Taketo said, "he's going to the medical school." To Tanaka, he said, with careful emphasis, "You remember my older brother, right? The police detective? The one was really hates dogs?"
"Who, who's a dog?" Tanaka said, even as his eyes were going wide with horrified recollection. "I'm absolutely, one hundred percent human!" He squirmed under Toshifumi's grip, and Taketo could see one of Tanaka's furry drooping ears was starting to slip out from his carefully arranged, sprayed-down hair.
Wolf started to laugh.
"Wolf, you're not helping," Taketo snapped, turning on him. "What did you do to Tanaka-kun?"
"Huh?" Tanaka said, peering near-sightedly at the bed and sniffing. "Did you say it's that Wolf guy?"
"Wolf didn't do a thing," he said smugly. "Puppy came into the room and challenged me."
Taketo could guess part what had to have happened. Tanaka would have scented something very wrong about Wolf the moment he stepped into the room in that doctor's wake -- and Tanaka wasn't wearing his contacts or his glasses today. Tanaka, who refused to admit that he even had basic dog instincts, had practically no control over them; he would have switched into aggressive territorial mode against this invader of his workplace. So that left Tanaka, snarling, hackles raised, circling -- with no real idea why he was even doing it -- while everyone in the vicinity panicked.
"He's lying," Tanaka blurted, "that, that thing was --"
"Thing?" Wolf repeated, now eyeing him narrowly. Then he settled back with a wave, "Ha, Wolf gets it now. Puppy-envy of the real thing, is it?"
Taketo flinched: that shot of Wolf's was probably right on target. As a true werewolf, Wolf's human form really was genuinely human, not the half-human admixture of a wild-half dog like Tanaka. He glanced over and saw that Tanaka was staring straight at him, looking wounded. He'd forgotten again that Tanaka could smell his feelings just like Salsa. "Er," Taketo said guiltily, "Tanaka-kun, I --"
"Wha, what are you implying?" Tanaka wailed. "I'm human! Even Yamanaka-san says so!"
"What's all this about dogs?" Toshifumi said, glancing between them, suspicious.
"It's just a, a metaphor," Taketo said desperately, "for, for, uh," as he fumbled for an answer, everyone jumped at sound of an angry thump on the door, "for men! It's just a metaphor for guy territorial behavioral . . . stuff. You know how guys are, right?"
"Suddenly I'm wondering if I do," his brother said. Then he sighed. "So you know both of them?"
"Fine. This one seems harmless enough," he brother said, striding to the door with Tanaka in tow. "Let's deal with the lesser problem." He opened the door abruptly and shoved Tanaka into the hovering Yamanaka and the doctor, pronouncing, "Here, all yours! Now go away."
Taketo called, "Tanaka-kun, see you later!" just as his brother was slamming the door in their faces again. "Next," his brother said dourly.
Taketo now turned his full attention to Wolf, and realized with a pang of guilt that he really didn't look well. Even with the usual smug expression, Wolf's face was covered with a light sheen of sweat.
"Are you feeling all right?" he said.
"Eh," Wolf sniffed. "Wolf's a little tired today."
Taketo considered that. If Wolf really was sick, a hospital was the last place he should be. They needed a vet. He had to get him out of here and over to the Karasuma Animal Clinic. First, he'd have to get his brother to let him go. Somehow. It was time to become a bedside lawyer.
"What kind of a name is 'Wolf'?" his brother said, pulling his notebook from his jacket pocket. "Is that his family name?"
Taketo quickly went on the offensive: "But, Aniki, you already know him," he said lowly. "Isn't it kind of impolite to have forgotten?"
"Hunh?" Toshifumi looked confused.
"He was our guest. In our apartment. For three weeks. You took us to the movies once. You had dinner with him nearly every night," Taketo said, piling it on. "He's my," Taketo stifled a wince at the word, "friend from Hokkaido. Don't you remember?"
"Hokkaido?" his brother repeated. Reminding his brother of this was risky -- he'd been furious when Taketo had taken that impromptu road-trip to Hokkaido with Salsa. On that trip, they'd encountered Wolf -- or rather, Taketo had been abducted by him for his own obscure purposes. After Taketo's brother had tracked them all down, Wolf had invited himself home with them.
"Oh, that's right," his brother said, frowning darkly. "For reasons I'm still not clear on, you grabbed some brat's dog and carted it up there." Taketo gulped.
"Wolf hates dogs," Wolf chimed in.
"Hates . . . dogs?" Taketo's brother repeated, now staring at Wolf. To Taketo's dismay, the air around them seemed to shimmer with a cloud of fellow feeling. His brother reached out and grasped Wolf's hand. "You! You're that kid from Hokkaido," he announced.
"That's right, that's right!" Wolf said cheerfully.
Taketo groaned inwardly. Somehow it figured that his brother would only remember Wolf for being the other dog-hater. The irony of seeing his oblivious brother bonding with a wolf over a mutual loathing of the domestic dog was galling. Taketo shook his head and forced himself back on track.
"Aniki," he said, pressing the acquaintance for all it was worth, "you know Wolf, so you know that he couldn't have been involved with, with whatever it was -- he's not even from around here!"
"'Whatever it was'," his brother clarified stiffly, "was a gang fight. Six guys who'd walked out from that neighborhood's high school are filling up the other rooms in this hallway. The police in the area picked up the lot of them, and they were in pretty bad shape."
"A gang fight?" Taketo said to Wolf, incredulous.
Wolf shrugged. "Someone had a fight," he said dismissively. "Not Wolf."
Meaning what? Taketo thought; he had sinking feeling that all it meant was "no contest." Wolf might look sick, but he certainly didn't look injured. Then again, Wolf could naturally heal his own injuries in his half-human form like Salsa did; Taketo's brother wouldn't know that.
"So he just said he wasn't in on it," Taketo said, deliberately misinterpreting for his brother's sake. "Why did they pick him up?" Although How did they pick him up? would have been a more reasonable question. There was simply no way that Wolf could be captured by any normal means, which was another glaring indication that the whole situation was abnormal.
"He was in the area," Toshifumi said defensively. "They found him lying passed out in an alley two blocks away."
"Lying in an alley?" Taketo said, looking at Wolf questioningly.
"Dunno," he said sheepishly. "Wolf's feeling a little weird."
"Let me get this straight," Taketo said slowly. "You said the other six guys were pretty knocked up, but there's not a mark on Wolf. They just assumed he was involved in that fight because he was in the area?"
"And he looks suspicious," his brother said defensively.
Wolf, who'd been following all this with rapt attention, nodded enthusiastically.
Taketo couldn't argue with that. Wolf, with his mop of hair and floor-length pony-tail, was dressed entirely in black: black shirt, black leather pants, black boots, and, he noticed, a full-length black leather coat had been tossed over the chair in the corner. That purple and white bandana wrapped around his left forearm, cuffed to the bed-rail, was the only break in the black. Taketo understood why a now-conscious Wolf hadn't simply broken the handcuff and left on his own steam -- he might have torn the bandana that had been wrapped around that arm by Takahashi, many years ago.
"And," his brother added, "those other guys IDed him downstairs when they brought him in."
"Wait a minute," Taketo said. "All of your eyewitnesses are the guys who'd been arrested? They blamed some complete stranger for everything? How often does that happen?"
His brother had the grace to look mildly ashamed. "At any rate, until we get this cleared up --"
"Well, I don't see any reason to hold him here at all," Taketo argued. "He was in the area, but so were a lot of other people, and no one arrested them/. He doesn't have any injuries, but all those other guys /do/, you said -- how could that even be /possible? One guy against six? How would he manage that? They put all the blame on him, but wouldn't they have tried that on any unusual stranger who was brought in at the same time? And if he wasn't conscious, he couldn't say anything about it!" Taketo finished triumphantly with a shout of "It really is police oppression!"
"Eh?" Toshifumi said, reeling. "What are you -- ?"
/I'm sorry, Aniki/, Taketo thought, then loud enough that everyone on the other side of the door could hear it, he declared, "You're arresting innocent people just because they look suspiciously cool and fashionable!"
"Yeah? Wolf's cool and fashionable?" he said, fascinated.
"Shut up," Taketo muttered. Then he shouted, "It's like we're becoming a fascist state! Police brutality!"
"I see now that sending you to college was a mistake," his brother said.
"Bet that female in the hall agrees," Wolf said helpfully, watching the door. Taketo knew that Wolf's sense of smell was far more refined than Salsa's, so he had no doubt that Wolf had an inside track on how feelings were running out in the hall at the moment.
"Yes!" Taketo seized the suggestion, "Let's ask Yamanaka-san her opinion about policemen!"
"No!" his brother said, "let's not/." Then he sighed, and rubbed the back of his head. "Enough already. He would have been released anyway for lack of evidence. And, unlike you it seems, I /do have more important work I should be doing right now."
"I know," Taketo admitted, watching his brother fish the key to the handcuffs from his pocket. "Aniki, we'll get out of your hair as soon as we can."
"Besides," his brother added acidly, "if he's going to be staying at our apartment again, I'd rather he didn't get there by way of a jail cell. You should get him looked at by Doctor Ethics out there before you go."
"Oh, uh," Taketo glanced at Wolf who was now flexing his freed wrist and looking a little disappointed. "I think he might be staying with Karasuma-sensei this time."
"That guy with the glasses?" Wolf said, straightening immediately. "Wolf's going to Disneyland again?" His eyes began to glaze over in excitement.
Great, Taketo thought with genuine satisfaction. If Wolf was anything at all like Salsa, getting him to cooperate with vet treatment could have been next to impossible. "Maybe we could," Taketo said, by way of enticement; "We'll have to go there and ask him, won't we?"
"Let's go, let's go," Wolf panted, struggling off the bed.
"Aniki, we're going to --"
"Get out of here," his brother said, tossing Wolf's coat at him, and walking to the door. To Taketo, he said, "You'll have to find your own way back, though. I'm going to be at the station for the rest of the night." At his brother's tired expression, Taketo blamed himself for having taken advantage of him, even though he hadn't had a choice. "See you later -- all of you, out of the way!" he barked, swinging open the door.
Then Taketo stiffened. Just now, he thought, disconcerted, that felt like --? Slapping a hand to the back of his neck, Taketo whirled around. "Wolf, what are you --?"
"Hmm? What?" Wolf was pulling on his coat, not looking in the least like someone who might have been nosing the nape of anyone else's neck a moment before. He murmured, "Yeah, just like Wolf remembered -- real nice," and he grabbed Taketo's arm: "Like the loud cop said, let's get out here."
Taketo let Wolf tow him bodily out of the room, down the hallway right through the protesting throng that had gathered there, and out of the building, where Wolf's burst of energy finally gave out. He doubled over and leaned against the wall.
"Ungh. But Wolf doesn't feel so good right now," he muttered.
"Hang on a little longer. We'll have to get a ride to Karasuma-sensei's place," Taketo said, worried.
"Steal a car?" Wolf suggested brightly.
"No!" Taketo said. Even if Wolf really hadn't been in the gang fight, his past escapades ought to have resulted in an arrest record the size of a small library. "We can take a taxi," Taketo told him, scanning the street. "I think I've got enough on me."
"Wolf loves riding in cars." Wolf sighed happily. "Hey, Wolf has money." He dug around inside his coat and produced a collection of wallets and a cell phone with an incongruous kitten mascot hanging from the strap.
"Wolf," Taketo said, his own stomach bottoming out, "where did you get those?"
"Off those weak guys," he said, dismissive, "after Wolf kicked their asses for 'em."
"Oh my god," Taketo groaned, glancing around furtively to be sure no one else had spotted this. "I don't want to hear this, I do not want to know. Just . . . just put those away /right now/."
Wolf shrugged, and all of it disappeared back into the depths of his coat. How on earth the police had missed those in their usual search was a mystery Taketo never wanted solved. /Please forgive me, Aniki/, he thought sadly.