The only way to live is to forget that you’re going to die.」
“Even though it was supposed to be difficult mission, my boss lived every day on the job to its fullest. I had thought him to be unhuman but when I observed him well, I realised it was simply because he just did not care about himself. That’s why his subordinates become covered in blood to protect him.”
Bleeding to death, protecting their boss.
The only way to live is to forget that you’re going to die. – ‘Of Human Bondage’ by W. Somerset Maugham
I knew how busy he was.
“’Bourbon’ needs a cover as ‘Amuro’ to be at this location next month. Arrange a client.” I raised my head from my computer screen when a tawny-skinned hand place the thick file on my desk. The dark bags under his eyes told me he hadn’t had a good sleep in at least two days. I even doubted whether he was ever able to take a good rest with the other two identities he had to maintain. “Have the basics to me by the end of this week.”
“Yes, Sir.” He nodded once in acknowledgement before grabbing his jacket that was draped over the back of his chair and left the room. From the twinkle in his clear, blue eyes, I knew he was headed to his shift at Cafe Poirot as Amuro. Of course I knew.
Probably better than anyone else.
In the years I’ve worked under him, I’ve always wondered how he kept himself going without a break. Back when I was first transfered to the Security Police Department, I had been on stand-by with Kazami in the car, ready to back-up our boss at a moment’s notice.
“How does he do it? Is he even human?”
The poor man in the seat next to me nearly choked on the coffee he had been drinking. I never got a reply but it was written all over his face. Later on, I found out it was an unspoken truth within the department.
“Do you think we’ll ever be able to stand beside him, instead of chasing him from behind?”
This was a only a few months later, on stand-by in the car again. I was staring out the window watching ‘Amuro Tooru’ meet his client as a detective. There was no reaction like last time from the man beside me.
“…We can only do our best to keep up,” he replied, slowly after a long silence. I shouldn’t have been surprised. It made sense that we would never be as good as our boss, but perhaps somewhere I had been hoping there would be a day when I could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with him.
I flicked through the file he had handed to me and sighed. The syndicate was negotiating a major weapons deal with the Russians and the exchange was to be made at an old wharf in Touto. Gin and Vodka were to meet the other party to finalise the deal in two weeks time at the lounge of a hotel. Bourbon was to be there to observe the proceedings and determine if the other party would hold true to their words and deliver the goods. Their last dealing with the Russians wasn’t as smooth as they would have liked, but they had what the syndicate needed.
With the information needed in mind, I opened the folder containing ‘Amuro Tooru’s client’ files and skimmed his schedule. He had a meeting with a client tomorrow, but nothing major for the coming month. For a meeting at a hotel, an update on circumstances rather than a new client would be the best way to proceed, but there were other variables to take into consideration. Locking my computer, I stood up and walked to Kazami’s desk to obtain more details on the way the police would be moving on the day.
The next time I saw him that week was 3 days later. I had stayed back later than usual to finish up some paperwork that would be due the next day when the door to the office opened suddenly swung open. The sound, louder in the silent of the night, made my head jerk up from the document in my hand. I jumped out of my chair at the sight in front of me.
“Are you alright, Sir?!”
The scratches on his arms and face were obvious. He was doing his best to hold back a grimace as he put pressure on the right side of his abdomen.
“I’ll be fine. Where is Kazami?”
“He has gone home for the day,” I frowned. He was doing it again. “Sir, perhaps you should get your injury checked first.”
“My car needs to be fixed. Arrange maintenance for it before the mission next month. …I’ll be fine.”
My nails dug into my palm, almost deep enough to draw blood. He was always putting his injuries last. “Understood, Sir,” I gritted out.
I don’t know when I started to notice. At first he would come to the office with small scratches, but put off cleaning the wounds until after hearing our reports. If any of us were injured out on a case, we’d be sent straight to the hospital, no room for arguments. But he always stayed on-scene even if he was injured. Scratches were the lighter ones. The injuries he received became more severe. Though not fatal, the delay in treating them put the entire department’s nerves on edge. From then on, we took even more care to not get injured. I took a liking to wearing dark navy instead of the usual light grey suits.
“Give me the details of ‘Bourbon’s’ cover,” he said as he sat down at his desk. I didn’t see a wince, or perhaps he concealed it well but I could tell that small sigh after he sat down meant more than fatigue.
“I will be acting as his client this time as we have determined this case to be too dangerous to involve a civilian,” I placed the file onto his desk as I explained. “’She’ will be approaching ‘Amuro’ to ask him to investigate her stalker. Though a cliche request, it’s one of the most common cases ‘Amuro’ would receive. It also makes it convenient for ‘her’ to stay at the hotel next month.”
He nodded as he listened to my summary and reviewed the file.
“I can always trust you with the client list,” he smiled, one similar to the one he always wore as ‘Amuro’. “Go home early and rest.”
“Thank you, Sir. But you should stil-”
“I am fine.” The tone of his voice left no room for argument.
“Then I’ll be leaving first.”
Two weeks later, ‘she’ approached ‘Amuro’ about a stalker. ‘Amuro’ investigated it in between his shifts at Cafe Poirot and although he had an idea of who the stalker was, it was difficult to lure them out. He suggested for ‘her’ to move out temporarily and stay at a hotel and ‘she’ did, three weeks after ‘she’ first asked for an investigation. They agreed to meet at the lounge of the hotel for lunch, today.
A woman who looked to be in her mid-20s dashed towards the lounge area where Amuro was waiting.
“I’m sorry to keep you waiting,” she apologised, a little breathless.
“You didn’t have to rush,” Amuro chuckled as he pulled the seat out for her, “and please, just call me Amuro.” He passed her the menu before taking his seat again across from her. By the time the waiter brought water to the table, she had made her decision and ordered a pesto pasta. Amuro ordered a carbonara and coffee for two after the meal.
“You’re in dark navy again today. Why do you choose to wear such a colour when I’m sure you’d look good in any other too?” I couldn’t help but stiffen at his question. It was meant to be small talk with ‘his’ client but those were his eyes.
“I like this colour. It’s quite convenient,” I replied. Amuro smiled understandingly and changed the topic smoothly. He was attentive, as a private detective should be to his client, but I knew all the while ‘Bourbon’ was sweeping the floor for the signs of Gin and Vodka. They arrived not too long after coffee was served, and the Russians a few minutes later as if they had been waiting for them all along.
The situation changed abruptly. I had been keeping my eye on the exchange as much as I could without being conspicuous. One second the two Russians were sitting down and drinking their coffee. The next, they were on their feet and shooting at Gin and Vodka. The entire floor exploded in panic seconds after the gunshots were fired when people realised what they were. Amuro stood up and moved to lead me out of the area. The game was up, and it was time for the police to make their move. Had I had more time to think, it probably wasn’t the safest decision to move while the men in black were firing, but it was certainly the most efficient to get the police involved if a ‘civilian’ escaped fast enough. But they noticed us as we moved. Or maybe they had noticed even before that. One of the men pointed his gun at us, aimed at Amuro. My body moved faster than my brain could process the situation. I had pushed Amuro-, no, it was Furuya that I had pushed out of the way. I felt something wet slowly seep from the left side of my body. I quickly pushed a hand under my jacket and applied pressure to it.
An irritated click of the tongue sounded out by my ear and I was ushered out under the cover of tables and chairs through the gunfire. I stopped him at a deserted corner not too far outside the lounge.
“Go, Sir. ‘Bourbon’ has a job to do.”
“But that bullet just-”
“I’m fine. It’s nothing serious. Just a scratch. I’ll meet up with Kazami. He’s not too far from here,” I replied steadily, keeping my voices as stable and strong as possible. He stared at me to determine if I was really fine and I stared right back.
“Meet up with Kazami as soon as possible and get that ‘scratch’ treated,” he ordered, turned on his heel and ran back towards the lounge. I smiled bitterly at his figure that cared so much about his subordinates but not a single bit about his own self.
My phone had been destroyed in the chaos inside so I had no immediate means to contact anyone. Keeping the pressure on my wound, I walked as quickly as a could to where the team was on stand-by but every step felt like lead. I wasn’t sure how long I walked for but the sunlight told me I was at least near a window or exit. I leaned against the wall, hoping to recover some strength before meeting my colleagues outside but perhaps that was a mistake. My legs gave out under me. The impact against the ground probably tore open my wound even more but I could barely feel anything anymore. Everything seemed to be covered in a haze and my eyelids felt heavy. I shook my head but it didn’t get rid of the haze. The sounds of panic and gunfire still echoed in the background. I squeezed my eyes shut hoping the headache the noise was causing would disappear.
The next time I opened my eyes, the noise was gone and my vision was slightly clearer but the dull headache had only worsened. I took a few deep breaths, and just as I was about to stand up I heard someone call my name. It was Kazami. They didn’t need me to contact them after all, not with the all the commotion caused.
“There you are! Are you alright?!” It was quite amusing seeing Kazami so panicked about someone other than Furuya. “Don’t just laugh. Please say something,” he didn’t find it as amusing as I did, it seemed.
“Just a gunshot wound,” I chuckled. I must have been gone crazy to laugh in this situation.
“Where did you get shot-,” the sharp inhale of air told me he found it. He frowned deeply before calling a paramedic over the intercom as he kept a close eye on me.
The paramedics arrived quickly and checked my injuries as carefully as possible. A few of them were instructed to prepare a blood transfusion but the main paramedic sighed and shook her head at Kazami when he looked at her. By this moment, I had a good idea of what was going on.
“I’m feeling tired.”
“You can hang on. You always do.”
“But I’m tired of chasing. Can I take a rest?”
“…Of course. We’ll take it from here. Thank you for your efforts up until now.”
My vision blurred once again, my body felt heavier than ever before and for the first time since the attack, I felt pain on the left side of my torso.
“Tell him to live for himself, okay?” The grip on my shoulders tightened, whether in consent or not I didn’t know, because the world shut down for me.
The only way he could live was if he forgot he could die. But he should never forget.
“Welcome back, Sir.” Furuya nodded his head in response and swept his gaze across the room searching for the subordinate who had said would meet up with Kazami. He assumed she was being treated at the police hospital since she wasn’t anywhere to be found.
“Kazami, how are her injuries?”
“She…was promoted a rank, Sir.” The entire atmosphere in the department office changed. Some officers dropped their gaze to the floor, others frowned and pursed their lips, all waiting for their boss’s reaction. Furuya’s usually clear, blue eyes showed rare confusion as he stared intently at Kazami, waiting for him to continue with an explanation. “For dying in the line of duty.”
The confusion in Furuya’s eyes deepened. While her injuries certainly were not just ‘scratches’ like she had told him, they shouldn’t have been fatal.
“We found her not too long after the gunfire stopped. We couldn’t see the blood from the wound through her clothes. By the time we did, she’d lost too much blood, internally.”
Furuya continued to stare at Kazami. Suddenly, he turned on his heel started to walk towards the door.
“Sir!” Kazami’s shout made him pause but he didn’t turn around. “I have a message from her. ‘Live for yourself’.”
Furuya walked out of the office without as single word. His subordinates left in the room looked at each other then the door. It was probably best to leave their boss alone for now.
Furuya easily got access to the morgue. The staff lead him to one of the beds before leaving him alone. Slowly, he drew back the cloth over the face.
“A truly convenient colour,” Furuya spat, his voice heavy with ridicule. Towards himself or her, no one knew.
“Who allowed you to go ahead of me? You should have just kept following me from behind and let me walk ahead of you. Who else am I supposed to leave my back to now?”
“…You tell me to live, but who are you to say that?” The cloth crumpled in his hand.
Why do you look so peaceful?