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Spitting Shadows

Chapter 3

“It’s Just Music, Right?”

Midnight came and went. Darkness had long since settled like a veil over the small city of Westwood. An intermittent autumn breeze occasionally rattled the leaves on the trees in a gentle reminder of winter’s steady approach, sending the season’s first-fallen leaves skittering briefly across the pavement in a muted swirl of orange, red, and brown. A single maple leaf, the colour of blood, drifted downwards, catching haphazardly against the windshield wiper of the lone car parked along the side of the quiet, deserted street. There were no street lights here, but one of the tall, industrial yard lamps was functional, its solitary beacon of light adding some welcome illumination to the dreary scene.

Detective Rick Shue sat inside the solitary vehicle, his eyes getting heavier as time uneventfully passed. He glanced at the time. 1:10 a.m. He stifled a yawn of drowsy boredom before finishing off the last bite of his jelly donut and reached for his coffee, gone distastefully cold, to wash down the sweet. But just as he was about to take a swig of the bitter brew, movement caught his eye.

In the shadow of the somber concrete walls, through a gap in the fence that gated off the grounds of one of the abandoned Holt warehouses in this derelict corner of the city, a small swarm of people had begun to emerge one by one. He straightened in his seat a little too quickly, causing a trickle of coffee to dribble down his chin. He made a clumsy attempt to catch the stray liquid with his fingers before it could stain his slightly rumpled shirt.

“Shit.” Jamming his cup back in the holder, he furrowed his brow as he squinted out into the poorly-lit darkness to observe the sudden exodus.

“Bingo,” he muttered to himself, quickly licking the spilt coffee from his fingers.

So there had been something of substance to the rumours, then, those murmurs about a secret gathering that had filtered down through the student population, eventually reaching his attention. Harbouring concerns both professional and personal, Shue had taken it upon himself to conduct a little stakeout. It hadn’t been long before the sound of music drifted out into the street from the condemned buildings, the distant drums like a spectral pulse in the dead of night. With his windows rolled down, he navigated closer to the source of the music. Instinct and personal reservations both told him not to interrupt or interfere.

He sat back and waited, a distant sideliner to something that he did not yet understand.

But as the school liason officer, it was his job to come to an understanding.

The kids had been strangely restless recently. Something was brewing. And whatever it was, it was bound to be a bad blend. Graffiti, vandalism, petty crime, fighting, drugs--it was all on the rise locally in recent months. Shue wanted to get a handle on the situation before things escalated into something worse. Perhaps something more violent.

Although normally rather low key and placid, Westwood had been home to some notoriously bloody and horrific incidents in the recent past. But the city had managed to stay out of the national news now for the past three years. Things had been peaceful, even boringly normal, and he wanted to make sure it stayed that way.

Shue studied the kids through his tinted windows as they began to disperse from the scene. His car, though unmarked, was otherwise obvious on the empty street. There was no traffic in this part of town, not even at midday, let alone this time of night. Some of the teens avoided him by slipping away through an alley leading on to a dark side street. But others moved, defiant or just carefree or careless, directly past his parked car.

His position at the school lent him benefits in these situations. He was known to many of the students, having the chance to interact with them on their own turf. He always took care in his work to let them know that he was working with them, for them, not against them. When he saw a couple of boys he recognized, some of Westwood High’s more colourful characters, he rolled down the window and motioned them over. “Hey, Benny, Zack. A minute of your time?”

Benny was the type who liked to act tougher than he was. He tended to stand out in a crowd, with his cropped blond hair, shaved eyebrows, and the small symbol tattooed on his left temple. Shue was pretty sure that Benny had been involved in a couple of recent theft incidents, but lacked conclusive evidence. Benny was no prince charming and wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he had street smarts and a way of somehow managing to ooze his way out of tricky situations. The punk halted in his tracks, surprise momentarily replaced with narrow eyed caution.

Benny’s buddy, Zack, known for his eccentric fashion sense, his habit of wearing odd coloured contact lenses, and for his blatantly narcissistic, overly theatrical flair, bumped into Benny from behind and then recoiled dramatically when he recognized Shue in the car.

“Heeey, Detective. What’s up, man?” Benny said as he ran a hand casually over his short hair, and then hooked his thumbs in his belt loops.

Shue eyed him suspiciously. “What’s with the crowd, guys? Something I should know about?”

Benny shrugged his shoulders. “Just enjoying a little live music, detective. That’s not a crime, now, is it?” He laughed briefly, the fake sound failing to conceal a youthful sneer of defiance.

“Live music, huh? Like what, some kind of garage band? Way out here in this part of town? You know this is private property, right? And you kids shouldn’t be wandering around out here at this time of night.”

Benny scoffed. “We can take care of ourselves, man. Anyways, there’s nobody here but us. Least, not until you showed up. Jeez, you stalkin’ us now or somethin’?" He nudged Zack in the ribs with his elbow. “See? What’d I tell you about cops, Z-man,” he muttered under his breath, and then flashed Shue a toothy grin.

Shue leaned forward slightly, giving the boys a pointed look, the car seat creaking comfortably around him. “It’s just music, right? No drugs, alcohol involved?”

Benny rolled his eyes, apparently unimpressed with Shue’s ignorance of the situation. “Dude, who needs drugs at a Minus Wave show? Seriously, man.”

“Minus Wave?”

Non-existent brows raised in disdain. “Don’t tell me you haven’t even heard about ‘em? Jeez. Holy shit, man, you should know ‘em. They’re from our school. Heh, my old buddy Joey’s in it. He’s half decent, but only ‘cause I taught him most of what he knows.” He grinned smugly and yanked his hands from his belt loops so that he could punctuate his statement by strumming on an imaginary guitar.

Shue had heard of the band. Had knew the name and that they were apparently quite good, quickly gaining popularity with the students. But he’d been out of town for a while. And music wasn’t exactly his area of interest. “Yeah? That’s cool. Didn’t know you played, Ben. Joey who? You mean Joe Kenway? You know, I don’t know every single student. It’s a big school.”

Benny scratched his head nervously, was about to speak, but was sharply interrupted by a sudden interjection from Zack, who’d been hanging back until now, evidently having waited for the right moment to make his dramatic entrance. “Ha! As if any member of the Wave would lower himself to associate with the likes of Benny Ray.” Zack pivoted in his shiny black boots and gestured towards Benny with a flourish of his arms, as if he were introducing the next act at a circus sideshow.

Benny sneered at Zack with all the foul petulance of a kid who knows his buddy is probably right but refuses to admit it. “Shut up! As if I’d hang with him now that he’s friends with those freaks. Pfff, sure, they’ve got skills, but they’re still fuckin’ nuts.” He punctuated his statement by crudely spitting a wad of saliva onto the sidewalk.

Shue’s eyebrows shot up. “Freaks?”

Benny sighed, already bored with the exchange, his eyes following longingly after the other students as they drifted further and further away up the street. “Hawk and Naotaka. Like I said, freaks.”

Shue felt a chill run up his spine, his interest tinged with foreboding. Taking mental notes, he kept his tone easygoing and casual, even though his detective’s senses were beginning to tingle. “Who else is in the band?”

Benny’s eyes were narrowing again, making obvious his reluctance to continue a conversation that was becoming more and more like an impromptu interrogation. But Zack had figurative stars in his yellow-lensed eyes, apparently eager to talk about a favoured subject. “The Minus Wave, dear detective, is lead by none other than the fabulous Gen Conn, vocalist extraordinaire. And soon, I, the mighty Zach Rowe, will be offering himself as the next addition to the Wave’s--”

The rest of Zack’s usual ego-centric babble faded into mere background static as the familiar name and all of its associations momentarily pushed aside everything else. Gen Conn. Gen. Shue felt a sharp rush of anxious expectations burst painfully in his chest as his suspicions were confirmed, releasing a flood of memories and a tumult of unsorted feelings.

So Gen was involved.

Shue opened his eyes wide, letting the cool night air wash over them until they stung. He let out the breath he’d been holding and forced a wan smile at Benny and Zack. He kept his voice light. “Okay, guys. Thanks for your time. Maybe I’ll look Gen up at school, too. It’s late, so go straight home. No loitering.”

He tossed the two boys a quick salute. Alone again, he took a moment to light a cigarette and take a couple of calming puffs, the smoke swirling thickly around him before wafting out the window.

Shue had been a close friend of Gen’s father, Quinn, for years. Quinn’s murder had come as a shock to the entire community. His dismembered body strewn about like a child’s discarded toy. His renowned music school and his workshop, his finely handcrafted violins… burnt to the ground.

Gen, found alone at the scene of the crime, covered in his father’s blood and unable to remember how or why. Circumstantial evidence and a lack of any other suspect had cast suspicion upon him.

It should have been no surprise that Gen’s state of mind would suffer under the pressure of grief and accusation. But the case remained unsolved. And the end result was that a traumatized boy wound up in the psychiatric hospital, undergoing treatment for severe psychosis.

And Shue had not been able to prevent it. Worse, he held himself accountable and condemned himself to an aftermath of guilt. Because he had tried. But the way in which he went about it had been all wrong.

A confused and grief-stricken boy who had no one else to turn to, no one else who would believe in him, no one else with whom he could let down his guard and allow himself to accept much-needed comfort.

And how had Shue responded? A messy and unwarranted confession to a boy sixteen years his junior. Just what was he expecting?

Gen’s quiet request, like a whispered prayer, haunted him still.

“Kill me. If you love me, please just kill me.”

And Shue’s reply had led to so much more than his illicit dreams had ever dared. Gen’s slender body pressed beneath his own, the forbidden first taste of his skin.

He had madly convinced himself that he could somehow dull the memories and take away the nightmares and delusions that had begun to torment the troubled youth. But in the selfishness of his reasoning, he had taken everything for himself and himself alone.

Later that same night, Gen had attempted suicide.

Blood pooling on the floor, staining the white tiles a startling red.

The bright lights and screaming sirens of the ambulance.

The gut-wrenching wait for news at the hospital. The tense weeks that followed. The acute sense of failure when Gen was admitted to the long-term care ward at the children’s psychiatric institute. The soul-crushing guilt. And Shue had never had the strength or courage to visit him in that sorry institution. Not even once.

Finally, the shameful mix of relief and anxiety when Gen had returned to school just a scant few months ago. Even then, he had found excuses to evade him, shirking his duties at the school in any possible way, even to the point of taking a leave of absence. He knew that running away meant he was weak willed and sick at heart, unable to face up to his wrongs. He was afraid of his own selfish nature. Afraid of what he might see in the eyes of the one who had so captivated him and whom he had ultimately betrayed.

Even so, from a coward’s distance, he gathered that Gen was at least safe and deemed to be recovered. And that small, inadequate morsel of knowledge was better than nothing.

And now Gen was a member of Minus Wave. And, akin to the band’s name, everything was crashing together like a rough sea upon the rocks.

Shue shook his head slowly as he smoked.

All of the teens who had been in attendance at the midnight concert had wandered off by now, and he remained as a lone occupant of the dark street. He stubbed out his cigarette and rolled up the window. In the absence of the soft sounds and crisp freshness of the autumn night, the vehicle’s interior enveloped him in all its quiet closeness and smoke imbued leather. He started the engine and slowly pulled out into the street.

In his distracted state of reminiscence, he was caught by surprise by the sudden revving of another engine, the bright glare of headlights as a vehicle turned sharply around the opposite corner of the warehouse and stopped abruptly. He pressed his foot to the brakes.

It suddenly occurred to him that the occupants of the jeep must be the band members themselves. He had not seen them leave with the others. They would have equipment with them. It made sense that they would have come with transportation. On impulse, he ducked his head and quickly cut the car’s lights. He had not been anticipating an encounter with Gen in these circumstances. He needn’t complicate things by being recognized now.

He watched as a shadowy figure hopped out of the jeep’s backseat and opened the gate, swinging it wide to allow the jeep passage. Quick, small, and agile, the figure secured the gate and re-boarded the jeep, and it sped off in the opposite direction down the street.

But he knew the gates were padlocked. How did they have access to keys? Quickly, he jotted down the Jeep’s license plate number, waited until its lights were out of sight and then drove on, leaving the derelict warehouses behind him in the night.


He’d barely gotten home before the reports of mischief started rolling in like the tide. This negative wave spread out into the city, on into the wee hours of the night, carried out by unruly youths.

Garbage cans tipped over, the contents strewn maliciously across the street. Windows broken, the glass scattered over the sidewalks. A fight downtown, ending in a broken nose and a dislocated tooth. A mugging, the victim frightened and relieved of his wallet, but otherwise unharmed. A break and enter at the pharmacy on Main. Nothing too serious, overall. But the end result was that a handful of teens ended up in a whole mess of trouble that they could’ve done without.

It ended up being a long night of disheartening work, processing distraught young offenders and all the accompanying paperwork. And as he traced the cause and effect, one common story began to emerge. All of the teenagers involved in these late night disturbances were students at Westwood High. And what’s more, they had all been in attendance at the small, late night concert that Minus Wave had held.

Shue had a bad feeling and it was only getting worse, like a dark premonition that he could not ignore. For the sake of the one student who meant the most to him, and for all of the other kids who had gotten caught up in this mess, he had to find the answers. He had to reach out to Gen.

And this time, he had to do it right.

It was time to pay another visit to Westwood High. It was time to resurrect his ghosts, to meet them head on, face to face, in the light.

It was time to stop running away from his own mistakes.


Date: 2016-03-22 03:10 am (UTC)
kirathaune: (GokuSexy)
From: [personal profile] kirathaune
Interesting to see Shuuei's point of view. And I liked the cameos from Banri and Zakuro!

Date: 2016-06-13 08:15 am (UTC)
helliongoddess: John Lennon Memorial Central Park NYC (Default)
From: [personal profile] helliongoddess
I'm finally back (it's a long tiring and sad story - you don't want to know!) But one of the things that's been high on my "Must do, ASAP" list has been getting back to your story, and seeing where you've taken us with it. I confess I did lurk one (of many) sleepless nights and managed to read chapters 2 and 3 & most of 4, but I was too tired to make a sufficiently effusive, cogent comment, so I decided to put that part on hold till I could return & do it all proper justice.

Loved these chapters! My years of being the admiring little sister dogging the tracks of my big brother's band made me enjoy all the more reading the details about the gig & the aftermath, and admire the way you captured all the feelings and details involved. I also really enjoy your character descriptions of the band members: very vivid and very Saiyuki in spirit, but each with fresh details you've given them to make them more unique and help to place them within the modern world they live in. Perfect examples: the high tech prosthetic arm (I keep wanting to say "automail!") for Naotaka, and just everything about the personification of Hakuryuu, who is slightly Goujun-like, but really very much his own unique being. And the flashbacks to Gen's suicide attempt and hid netherworld encounter with Nii's character were chilling.

I may not comment with every chapter, especially since I mostly read online in the wee small hours, which means any comments might well be gobbledygook! But I'll try to stop now & then as I wend my way to the last chapter. (I can tell already this is one I'll not want to see end!)


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Ditch Gospel

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