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!)
"Interesting," Salsa said, slapping his paw down on the TV remote. "Let's play that part again."
"Urgh," Taketo groaned. He'd taped the news special as Salsa had asked, but he hadn't known that he'd wind up watching it over and over as well.
"Isn't it great that the media in this town are such ghouls?" Salsa said, staring at the screen. "Helpful of them to put it all together this way."
"I'm not finding it great," Taketo said.
"Damn tiny buttons. Here, you take over the button pushing," Salsa said, nosing the remote to him. "Go back about 10 minutes to the footage of that fifth crime scene." He started pawing through the newspaper clippings again.
"That's the guy who was strangled in the park bathroom?" Taketo said, gulping.
"Yeah," Salsa said distantly, reading. "And then he was knifed on top of that. Of course, if someone would just ask his brother for more information, we wouldn't have to do this, would we?"
"We've already talked about this," Taketo said.
"So I have to do this instead," Salsa said. "Pause it right there." He turned back to his reading.
"I don't see what you're seeing," Taketo said, sighing.
"Hang on a moment," Salsa said. "Two of them were hard up for money, but this guy," he nosed the article, "had a good job. This other one was a high school student." He looked up at the TV. "Six murders over two months. The killer isn't following any pattern -- the pattern is that there's isn't a pattern. Not with the killings themselves."
Taketo glanced at him. "You mean there's something else."
"Something I noticed at that apartment we went to tonight," Salsa said. "Seeing it in person made me remember something that had bothered me about this particular murder. Hit play." A few moments later, he called for 'pause.' "Now take a look at the far wall."
"The wall?" Taketo said, peering at the TV.
"Yeah. This guy was strangled. But then he was stabbed. Why stab him after he was dead?"
Taketo thought about it. "To make sure? Or maybe . . . for blood? Is that some sort of mark on the wall?"
"Four smaller ones, one larger one," Salsa said. "Remind you of anything?"
"Um, not really," Taketo admitted.
"Here, look at these then," Salsa said, shoving over a few of the articles with photos. "Here and here."
Taketo examined them, as Salsa began to lick his paw. He saw that Salsa had a point. "There's something like it at each place. At first they look like random blood smears, but --"
"They're deliberate," Salsa said. "I'm sure of it. But they're also very different. Let's say different people under duress attempted to copy the same mark. They'd get different results, but it's the same mark."
"Four smaller ones on one larger one," Taketo said, "I guess it seems familiar, but --"
Salsa slapped his wet paw on the notebook. "Here," he said. "Something you see all week if you work at Luna Rental Pet Shop -- all over the floor, printed on all paperwork, stenciled on the side of her van."
Taketo stared at the wrinkling paper before him. "A paw print?" he said. "No way!"
"Way," Salsa said darkly. "Now I just have to figure out /why/."
"But why 'different people', you said?"
"I don't think it's been the same killer," Salsa said. "I think they're all different."
"But how is that possible, if they've all got --?"
"When I know, I'll let you know," Salsa said irritably. They'd finished with their television horror marathon by the time Taketo's brother returned, late as Salsa had predicted.
"What are you still doing up?" Toshifumi said, astonished.
"Hey, I'm a college student, we're supposed to stay up late. Here's dinner," Taketo said, laying out the dishes. "And the bath is still heated. And I've made all of your favorite --"
"Just tell me what you want," his brother interrupted, grumpy.
"Uh," Taketo said. "About that guy today, Wolf? He was going to stay at Karasuma-sensei's, but --"
"As long as it's not in my room, I don't care where you shove that idiot," he brother said, yawning. "But anyone who wakes me up before I have to get up -- and that includes you and the mutt --"
"Got it," Taketo said. "Thanks!"
"Now, you, bed," his brother ordered, "And take that with you," he said, pointing at Salsa, who was panting, wagging his tail, and looking stupidly friendly and brimming with brotherly love on the far side of the room. "What's wrong with him?" his brother said, edging away.
"Salsa? He's not doing anything," Taketo said. But he was also surprised. He wondered why Salsa hadn't rushed for the door for a change.
Stretched out on Taketo's bed later, pawing through his notebook, Salsa observed, "I was right."
"About what?" Taketo said, peeling off his shirt.
Salsa frowned, and stared moodily at the notebook. "I gave your brother some space tonight to throw him off balance, and I finally got something out of him. Only one thing puts your brother in precisely that kind of foul mood," Salsa said. "They got a fax about the location from Wild Half."
"From you?" Taketo said. "But you didn't --"
"I didn't," Salsa said. "Exactly. Did you think that it was a coincidence that they showed up right when I was on the scene? The other bodies were discovered within days, and usually by accident. Landlord checking on a missed payment, kids playing in a park, " he said, flicking a page aside with his tongue.
"Someone wanted them to find you there?" Taketo said, incredulous. "But nobody knows that you're Wild Half but me."
"I wonder," Salsa said, irritated. "Taketo, pajamas. Wear 'em."
"Oh, right," Taketo said, picking up his top and putting it on. "So if that's true," he persisted, "what are you going to do about it?"
"After we take care of that business tomorrow morning, I'll look into a few things," he said, jumping off the bed. Ignoring Taketo's protests, he dragged the blanket off the bed, into the corner.
"But," Taketo asked, "don't you want me to brush you tonight?"
"No," Salsa said.
"No? Are you serious?"
Salsa curled around facing the wall, and proceded to ignore Taketo until he gave up and went to bed himself.