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!)
Salsa hadn't had any trouble smelling out the apartment, once they'd known the area to search. It was on the top floor of an old building under renovation, so none of the units was occupied. The work crew on the main floor had gone home for the day, so it was even easier to enter unobserved than they'd feared.
Salsa hadn't wanted Taketo to come at all: "Don't you have any studying to do?" But he'd insisted anyway: "I told you my break's started." So here he was, picking his way down the hallway in Salsa's wake, as he grumbled, "Don't step on that plaster there," "Hey, don't touch anything," "Watch your head, stupid."
"Hey, I used to come with you all the time when you were working," Taketo pointed out. "Give me a little credit here." He rubbed his chest, absently. Taketo had come to realize that he'd been rubbing his mark lately because it /ached/, in an indistinct but persistent way. But he'd only begun to notice it after Salsa had pointed out his newest habit. Could it be arguing with Salsa that was setting it off? he wondered. But hadn't they always argued like this?
And now, standing outside the door to the apartment Salsa had found, he also wondered if maybe he should have stayed behind after all. What if this turned out to be someone he knew?
"It's not," Salsa said curtly, nostrils flaring. He added, "Much as it completely pisses me off to be in Wolf's debt for anything . . . the police really haven't been here yet. We need to be doubly careful not to mess up any of their evidence." Taketo watched as Salsa undid his bandana then paused, concentrating.
After a few moments, Taketo asked, "Um, Salsa? Is something wrong?"
"Nothing," Salsa snapped, clearly making an effort. "Don't rush me." Finally, a few locks of his long hair, charged with his /seimei-ryoku/, lifted to the keyhole to pick the lock.
"You really think you're going to find something useful?" Taketo asked, masking a worry now forming in the back of his mind: Did Salsa seem to be weaker these days? How long had he been using that much effort for his seimei-ryoku? How had Taketo missed this?
"Yeah, probably," Salsa said, focusing on the lock. "If nothing else, I can compare what I see here with the news reports to find out what the police leave out. That'll tell me what they think is significant here."
"Oh," Taketo said quietly, as the lock gave way. Another few strands of hair slid the door aside with a creak. Beyond was a dark room, with only dying sunlight and streetlight illumination from the windows. Taketo pulled the flashlight from his pocket -- he'd need it, even if Salsa didn't.
They stepped into the room, and the body was immediately evident -- out in the open in the main room of the apartment, propped up against the wall.
"As expected," Salsa muttered, "that damned Wolf was right on the money -- male, 30ish, tied up."
Taketo bit his lip, feeling queasy. Wolf had also said to expect a lot of blood, and hadn't been wrong about that either. "He said this guy didn't know the killer," Taketo said. Though Wolf had also gotten a whiff of the killer's feelings, he didn't know enough about human nature to make much sense of it except the curious observation that he didn't think the killer and victim knew each other.
"Yeah," Salsa replied absently, examining the floor before carefully walking nearer to the body and leaning in. He lifted away the shirt with a single claw. "All rope. You said you were going to be useful, so start writing this down for me."
Taketo tucked the flashlight under his arm and pulled out a notebook and pen. He scribbled down Salsa's comments as he continued to examine the body, tendrils of hair searching for what wasn't obvious to the eye. Later, Salsa moved on to the rest of the room.
"So," Salsa was saying, "knife this time, about this long." He held apart his hands. "Someone who knew right where to use it, no messing around. Like that third killing, but --" Then, "Oi, Taketo. Point it right there." Taketo shone the light where Salsa indicated, and tried to ignore his churning stomach. If the smell in this enclosed space was bothering him, it must have been hell for Salsa, whose nose was sensitive enough to pick up a passing whim.
"Yeah," Salsa said, eyeing the smears of blood on the wall. "Seen that before." He sat back on his heels, resting his chin on his forearms. "Huh. Smelled this guy's trace before, too. He was at that last murder scene."
"What?" Taketo said. "What was he doing there?"
"Don't know," Salsa admitted. "There were lots of people's smells in the area, but I remember this one for being one of the strongest ones. Like I said last night, I've smelled that kind of overlap with the others, too. I need to think about this." He stood up, and said regretfully, "I'd like to take a look at the rest of this place, but we've got to go."
"Go?" Taketo said. "Why?"
As if in reply, "On the third floor!" came the shout. Several other voices called out as well.
"Go," Salsa repeated. "Time for the cops. We're taking the back door." He grabbed Taketo's arm and hauled him into the back room of the apartment, where he unlatched and slid back the window with a few strands of hair, then dropped down to all fours in his dog form. "You know the drill -- hang on," he ordered.
"Are you sure?" Taketo said. "I'm a little taller now --"
"Just do it," Salsa said curtly.
"I used to hate this part," Taketo muttered, stuffing his light and notebook securely back into his pockets. He wrapped his arms around Salsa's neck, grabbed handfuls of his coat, as Salsa braced underneath him -- in the next instant they were airborne, as Salsa leapt out, aiming for the nearest rooftop below.
"Ung, damn," Salsa grunted, "think you are heavier now." His claws scrabbled for traction in the flat roof's gravel. "Your brother's going to be home pretty late tonight. So let's watch TV."