After two weeks of intense work, without some free time or any breaks, Jodie finally got a Saturday all for herself. In the past weeks, she’d gone home solely to sleep. Now she got a weekend without work, without appointments, or any other kind of obligation. Instead, she slept into the day and even managed to wash some of her laundry that had grown into a mountain in her bathroom. Later at noon, she took advantage of the beautiful weather and the warm rays of sunshine to meet her colleague for a coffee they enjoyed on a, mostly silent, walk through a nearby park. Quite often, Jodie had stared at him from the side as he looked way too good in his black clothes. And on top of that, he wore an also way too tight white shirt under his light jacket that literally invited her looks. Shuichi caught her every time with a smug expression on his face. His eyes were hidden behind his sunglasses, yet she could feel his piercing gaze on her. He had the talent of making her feel both hot and cold in his presence most of the time.
Later, Jodie had lain in her tub, taking a relaxing bath with the thoughts of Shuichi on her mind – unsure if she was trying to drown her feelings for her co-worker in the water or whether she could allow herself a trip down memory lane and some dreaming.
Even after all those years, it was still a bittersweet experience for her to work with him, to see him every day, and still be nothing more than a friend. She was grateful for every day she spent with him in the office, when she heard his voice, heard him laugh – rare as it was – or when they went to lunch together. At the end of each day, however, it became all the more painful for her to realize how much she missed him and how far away they were from their old times. She no longer wanted to be alone but she had no chance to get to know men better when she couldn’t stop comparing everyone to Shuichi. She wasn’t always contended with his behavior, yet she didn’t want him any other way.
In the evening, Jodie found her place on her couch, with a bag of chips between her legs and a glass of wine on the coffee table. She ended up playing some video games, indecisively switching from one game to the other, and finally trying out a souvenir from Japan. A strategic fighting game set in Northeast Asia, with the aim of carrying out missions under different conditions. Jodie needed a moment to accustom herself to the Japanese settings and voice output, but after her first mission, the language didn’t make much of a difference anymore.
Jodie only noticed how time-consuming the game was at midnight when she interrupted her only second mission with the purpose to get her the remaining pancakes from the kitchen that Shuichi had brought to the office the day before. She smiled at the thought of it – Shuichi hadn’t said he’d done them for her, but he’d put the plate on her desk and no one other than her had eaten the pancakes. It was little moments like this that made her stomach tingle and the melancholy grow. Without a sign of guilt, she pitched into the baked goods. She had earned some food for her soul after barely getting to eat anything in the past weeks. Especially when it came from her co-worker.
The upcoming final of her mission involved a lot of concentration and the one or another curse when she almost lost.
“There we go!” She exclaimed with relief as she eventually beat the boss, jumping on her feet, euphorically.
A second later, she uttered a surprised but no less painful sound when her knee connected hurtfully with the edge of the coffee table. Her wine glass tipped over at the impact and shattered on the surface, spilling the dark red wine across the table. As if that mess wasn’t bad enough, the liquid soaked all her notes she brought home from work and which had been scattered across the table.
Cursing, Jodie pulled away all the sheets that came into contact with the wine and drop them on the floor next to where she stood before she went to get a rag to clean up the mess. At that moment, she felt too tired and stressed to pick up the broken pieces of glass and clean the mess. Still, it had to be done.
The game faded into the background while Jodie cleaned up the glass and wine. And eventually, she got busy patting her copies and notes dry. This frustrating case had already cost her enough time and nerves that she didn’t need to make all her thoughts about it disappear into nirvana.
Jodie sighed slightly as she patted the last sheet more or less dry. This case had been on her desk for months, and ever since there had been another murder in this series of murders weeks ago, she couldn’t let go of it. In front of her was the latest part of a code that was left on each new victim of this perpetrator. She didn’t know what it was supposed to represent; it could be a 3 or a 7. But as sloppy as it was written, it could also somehow be a T or a question mark – the previous messages weren’t helpful in terms of their legibility either.
Frustrated about it, she put the piece of paper to the side to let it dry and wiped the table the last time. Then her gaze turned to the TV - 任務完了 the game said.
Ninmu Kanryō, she read the words on the screen that informed her about the completed mission. Her eyes lingered on the last kanji for ryō, which looked oddly like the bloody sign that was left with the last victim. It was too late for her to draw rushed conclusions, but suddenly, she was frantically rummaging through her files and spreading out her transcripts of the messages left on each crime scene.
It can’t be, Jodie thought, her pulse rising – the signs seemed too familiar to her. Every one of her fastening heartbeats drove more and more of her sleepiness away, and instead, she sorted the weird signs in front of her and compared them with the message on her TV screen.
Regardless of the late hour, she took her phone and texted her colleague.
» Are you still awake? «
It took some time until she got an answer.
» What’s it? «
» I think we’re not dealing with a serial killer but a hitman. «
Despite her rather bad lighting, she added a photo of her incomplete puzzle and the kanji from her TV for Shuichi.
» What he left behind was only a part of the kanjis. What he’s trying to write her is “Mission Complete”. «
» That means two murders are still missing until he completes the typeface. «
Again, it took him a while to answer her. He probably only took a careful look at the sent pictures.
» Can we talk about this on Monday? I’m on my way home. «
Still full of energy and zest for action, Shuichi managed to bring her down from her enthusiasm with merely a few words. He couldn’t even tell her whether she was right or going nuts. On the other hand, she couldn’t blame him. After all, he had probably worked harder and slept less in the past weeks than she had.
Jodie had no choice but to spend the rest of the weekend worrying about the remaining parts of the left messages.