Sergeant Houseki was a short, stocky, square-faced man with a pair of kind brown eyes. “Iwaki-san,” he said to me as he entered my hospital room. He bowed. “I’m sorry to have to disturb you, but this matter is important.”
“It’s all right,” I reassured him. “What did you mean when you told Sawa-san that Katou’s accident may not have been an accident at all?”
He sighed, straightening up. He had put his uniform cap under his arm as he looked at me gravely. “We have been trying to determine who or what caused this accident. From eyewitness accounts and the position of the wreckage, we came to realize that it was Katou-san’s car that was the initial catalyst. It appeared to the truck driver, who witnessed the accident, that the driver lost control of the car. So we tested Kaneko-san for drugs or alcohol, thinking that he might have been under the influence.”
"Kaneko-san would never drink while he was driving Katou around!” I protested. “And he doesn’t do drugs!”
He waved a hand to placate my upset. “We know that now. He tested negative for everything. And according to his doctor, all of the injuries he sustained were caused in the accident. So he didn’t have a minor stroke at the wheel, either. After we knew this, we had mechanics go over the car itself, to see if something had failed. And we found that something had - the brakes. But they didn’t fail naturally,” he went on in a grim tone of voice.
I felt fear and unease churning in my stomach. “What do you mean, they didn’t fail naturally?” I asked anxiously.
He met my eyes, his own grave. “The brake line on Katou-san’s car had been partially cut,” he said. “Whoever did it, intended for the car to crash while it was going at high speeds, because they only severed it part way, instead of cutting it through. That way, the brakes would have continued to function until stress on the line finished the job. They must have known that Katou-san would be returning to Tokyo, and that he would be driving on a highway for part of the way. At low speeds, the brakes would have functioned normally, but once the car got on the highway and picked up speed, the vibration in the frame would have finished tearing the brake line apart. Kaneko-san would have suddenly found himself with no brakes whatsoever. He couldn’t stop the car from plowing into another car, which started the chain reaction that caused the pile-up. This was most definitely not an accident. Someone meant to injure or kill Katou-san.”
I stared at him, not quite believing his words. Why would anyone want to do anything to Katou? As far as I knew, he didn’t have any crazed fans or stalkers. And yet someone had deliberately cut the brake line of his car. Why…? My brain suddenly kicked up a memory - a single sheet of paper that had arrived in the mail the day before the accident, a sheet that said simply: ‘You are mine’. Oh no, no. It couldn’t be! Had some one tried to kill Katou because of ME? “What is it, Iwaki-san?” the Sergeant asked alertly, seeing the expression on my face.
“I think I may know something about why this whoever it was cut the brake line, Sergeant,” I replied slowly. I began to tell him about the sinister letter, which I’d dismissed because it was the first I’d gotten, and there hadn’t been anything really threatening in it. He listened in silence to my recitation, and then lifted his brows
. “If you have a stalker, Iwaki-san,” he said with a shake of his head, “Then he or she is a very dangerous one. Usually these kind of people tend to escalate their threatening behaviors – but this one went right to trying to kill Katou-san.”
“What will you do now?” I asked worriedly.
“Contact the Iwaki police, and have them assign both you and Katou-san twenty-four-hour guards starting now. If this person is that decisive, it’s most likely that he’ll try again to get rid of Katou-san, since the car accident didn’t kill him. Please don’t worry,” he continued, seeing that he’d scared me, “You’ll both be under police protection from now on, until you can get private bodyguards. And this hospital is a pretty safe place.”
His reassuring words didn’t totally make me feel better. I felt sick at the thought that my lover had been attacked because of me. If Katou never woke up again, or was permanently brain damaged, that would be my fault. Sergeant Houseki was looking at me in concern. “Should I have a doctor sent for, Iwaki-san?” he asked.
I shook my head, and then regretted the movement. My skull was pounding. “No thank you, Sergeant,” I said hollowly. “I’ll be fine.”
I spent the next few hours talking to the Iwaki police about my alleged stalker, with Sergeant Houseki telling them all about the highway patrol’s findings about the car crash. They promptly assigned armed policemen outside both my hospital room door and Katou’s, since somebody managing to kill a celebrity in their precinct would look very bad for them. Sawa had already told me that reporters were flocking to the hospital, although none of them had been allowed past the lobby so far. The police were hoping to keep the stalker angle, and the fact that the car crash had not been an accident, from them as long as possible. Not that I could blame them. The media feeding frenzy this news would cause would be pretty hideous. I’d seen those baying dogs in full cry before, and neither time had been very pleasant.
Finally, they left when the doctor came to chase them away. He examined me, telling me that I only had a mild concussion and that I could check out of the hospital tomorrow morning. I thanked him, and was exhaustedly grateful to fall asleep again after that. It had been a terrible few days for me. At least I had the relief of knowing that Katou was safe in his hospital room, with armed guards outside the door. I fell into troubled dreams of a dark shadow pursuing me, one I couldn’t escape no matter how fast I ran…
The next morning, I made my way with slow care back up to the intensive care wing to see Katou. Sawa and Yukihito were with me again, one on either side of me to steady me if I needed it. I was utterly grateful for both their presence and support. I approached the desk, and was just going to speak to the nurse about being allowed into Katou’s room, although it wasn’t the same woman so I worried that I might not be able to get in. But just as I began to speak to the nurse, a light voice cried: “Onnii-san! Here you are! Come and see Yohji! And you too, Cousin Nagisa, Cousin Yukihito,” I turned to see Katou’s sister Youko standing not far away, her golden eyes agleam with mischievous laughter. It hurt my heart to see her, for she was a female carbon copy of my lover. Clearly she’d been told of the ruse that Sawa had used to get us in to see Katou the first time. One of her eyelids went down in a faint wink as the nurse said; “This is your brother?” skeptically, since I didn’t look a thing like her.
“Half-brother,” she replied promptly, “From my mother’s first marriage.”
I had to struggle not to laugh, and I saw that Sawa was also looking away to conceal his own amusement. Something told me that her mother would be very surprised to learn that she’d been married once before, and, moreover, had produced a child from that mythical union. But with the usual Katou family charm and persuasiveness, Youko had made the nurse believe her story. We went down the hall toward Katou’s room together. Youko giggled softly. “That was a really good story you came up with, Sawa-san,” she said to the writer admiringly. “I’m pleased to welcome all of you to my family,” she added as he smiled at her.
“How is Katou?” I asked anxiously.
Her face sobered. “The same,” she replied. “But look at the bright side, Iwaki-san; at least he’s no worse. And I know,” she added firmly, “That he’s going to wake up soon and be all right. You should believe that, too,” she added, patting my arm affectionately. Tears sprang to my eyes, and I looked away. Would she be so kind if she knew that this was all my fault? That I had endangered her brother? “Are you okay, Iwaki-san?” she asked, and I nodded even though that was a lie.
We passed the armed policemen at the door. Youko smiled at them both, as being the good guys since they were there to protect the welfare of her brother. Inside the room, I saw Katou’s parents sitting in chairs near the bed and its still occupant. His mother was holding baby Yosuke, who was babbling happily. The tiny child was clearly going to take after Katou’s side of the family in looks, as the hair on his head was a dark-gold, and his big eyes a slightly lighter color. He squealed when he saw me, for Katou and I had visited to see him several times so far. I felt a lump in my throat as he held out his tiny hands to me and called: “Waki, Waki!”
“Iwaki-san,” Katou’s father said, getting to his feet. The man who was an older version of his son came over to take my hand. “Are you all right?” he asked, looking me over anxiously. I had to close my eyes to keep in the flood of tears at his solicitousness. His family had always been closer to me than my own was, and treated me as the other son that I was pretending to be right now. Even now, when they were terribly worried about their real son, they also cared about me and my welfare.
“I’ll be okay, Katou-san,” I replied, my voice wavering.
“Sit down,” he said, leading me over to his vacated chair. “You look pale.”
I sat obediently, and almost immediately found myself with a handful of toddler as Yosuke hurled himself from his grandmother’s arms and into mine. She started to take him back, but I shook my head and closed my arms around him. I needed this small, innocent life as something to cling to right now. I drank in the fresh, clean scent of baby as he patted the front of my shirt with his small hands. “Waki,” he said in satisfaction, and I buried my face in the side of his neck as tears began to run down my face.
I could hear Sawa and the others making small talk, while they waited tactfully for me to recover my equilibrium. I felt gratitude to each and every one of them. I took slow, deep breaths, holding onto Yosuke, and the faint trembling finally began to subside. Finally, I lifted my head and looked at the man lying in the hospital bed. I thought that there might be a little more color in Katou’s face, but otherwise he looked the same as he had yesterday. I closed my eyes again, bowing my head as Yosuke patted my face with his hand. Guilt and grief lanced through me. Please, Katou: I begged silently, :Please wake up. Come back to me. I don’t know what I’ll do if you don’t:
Sawa and Yukihito were staying in the same hotel as Katou’s parents and Youko. I checked in there as well, under an assumed name. I didn’t want the reporters to discover my whereabouts. I just couldn’t face talking to them right now. I left the hospital in a car with smoked-glass windows that Sawa had rented for us. The writer himself was pretty famous, and he also felt too tired and worried to want to face the jackals at the moment. After visiting hours at the hospital, we all went out to dinner together. I didn’t say much, and I had trouble eating. I could see that everyone was watching me worriedly, but I couldn’t force myself to act normal. And it didn’t help that the two policemen assigned to me were always nearby, constantly reminding me that I had a dangerous stalker who’d tried to kill Katou.
That night, I lay on my hotel bed and stared blankly at the ceiling. My next set of shadows were outside my door, watching over me. I wondered exhaustedly what this crazy person was doing right now. Perhaps waiting for his or her next opportunity? Or perhaps watching me if they knew where I was? I felt cold and exposed. I rubbed my hands over my face wearily, feeling empty inside. Dealing with a madman was hard enough - but that, combined with the emotional upset over Katou’s condition, was making this situation almost unbearable. I wanted to scream and cry and fall apart, but I couldn’t. Not now, not while I still had hope. If Katou didn’t wake up, then perhaps I’d give in and fall to pieces. Because I was pretty sure that I couldn’t face life without my lover. Living in a peaceful medicated state in an asylum somewhere would be a perfect existence if I was alone – and moreover if I was alone because Katou had been put into a coma by MY stalker.
I cried, quietly and for a very long time. Finally, I fell into an exhausted slumber, turning on my side and curling up in a fetal position. I didn’t wake up until late the next morning, and despite my all over state of numbness and despair I still felt better physically. My headache had receded sometime during the night. I awoke to the sound of Sawa knocking on my door, and after I took a long hot shower I changed clothes and went out to breakfast with the writer, his lover and Katou’s family. Then we all went to the hospital again. Katou’s state hadn’t changed, but the doctor was still optimistic. We sat around his hospital room talking and occasionally looking at the man still sleeping in the bed. We were hoping that our voices might rouse him, but they didn’t.
The third day was much like the second and first had been. The only thing that had changed was that the Katou was taken off the ventilator, as he was breathing fine on his own now. When I expressed my concern to Sawa about the fact that he’d have to go back to work, he only shook his head and produced a sophisticated laptop. He could do his writing on it, he said firmly. He and Yukihito would be staying until Katou woke up, which he believed was going to happen any day now. I was grateful for their continuing presence, and that of Katou’s family. His parents were going to have to go home soon. But Youko was also determined to stay, and had talked to her husband about remaining in Iwaki until her brother woke up.
I knew that I’d have to go back to work eventually as well. The mortgage on the house still had to be paid, and someone had to take care of Katou’s medical bills. But every time I thought about it, weariness rose up in me in a nearly uncontrollable wave. All I wanted to do was sit by Katou’s bedside, in spite of the fact that he didn’t do anything or move. I derived comfort from being near him, and of knowing that he was still alive. I had the superstitious fear that if I left him he would die. Being able to see him breathe was very reassuring to me.
Katou’s parents went home on the fourth day, for his father had to go back to work. The reporters were still camped outside the hospital, and I still refused to talk to them. I was alone in Katou’s room on the fifth day, for Sawa, Yukihito, Youko and Yosuke were out shopping in the city. Since we had no idea how long we’d be here, they intended to buy clothes and other supplies. I sat with my chair next to Katou’s bed, holding his limp hand in my own. I was careful with it because of the shunts inserted under the skin. I lifted his fingers to my lips, and kissed them. “Katou,” I said, as tears rose up in my eyes once more. “I’m so sorry. This is all my fault. I miss you so much…” I began to sob softly, my head bent.
His fingers spasmed, but I didn’t notice. I was too deep in a state of weary depression and despair. But then, to my shock, I heard a familiar voice speak to me. “Don’t cry, Iwaki-san,” my head shot up, my eyes widening, as I met a pair of concerned, tired golden eyes. “Why are you crying, Iwaki-san?” my lover asked me hoarsely.