Seeing Red 22

It was with the type of resolution that feels it might as well get a necessary evil over with as quickly as possible that Mrs. Himura stood from the table and announced, “But not here. Come sit in my car where people can’t hear me.”

Her car, Hajime reflected, was probably the safest of any relatively private place she could have chosen for a couple of strange men to accompany her to, but that they really weren’t psychopaths or con artists was also fortunate. Perhaps personal safety didn’t mean much to her anymore.

Though Sano hadn’t eaten anything since the woman had appeared at their table and necessitated he start holding onto the ghost again, still he cast a disappointedly annoyed glance at what remained on his plate as he stood. But there was nothing to be done for it; the service here seemed very quick, but Hajime didn’t want to wait for to-go boxes; he was already planning to force payment for the meal on whichever employee he ran across first inside.

Once that was finished, they started back toward the park in tense silence. More than one of them was looking around in some discomfort: Kaoru was probably concerned that her father would see what she was doing and make very understandable trouble; while Hajime worried that, after the fisticuffs earlier, he and Sano might be personae non gratae in this location at least for a while (or perhaps a little too gratae among the former spectating kids).  Sano himself, evidently, was too busy keeping a firm hold on both the ghost and his own rising temper to think much about either issue.  And his lack of attention eventually proved justified when they reached and entered the Himura car without event.

Gripping the steering wheel behind which she’d seated herself as if wishing to have something to cling to, Kaoru let out a sigh that was both defeated and preparatory.  Then, for a second time that day, she began speaking at a rapid pace as if she feared she wouldn’t be able to make the confession if she didn’t talk fast.

“I killed my husband,” was how she started. “And I don’t mean that the way people do when they’re trying to find some way to blame themselves for something they didn’t want to happen, no matter what I said before about keeping the car that day. I mean I shot him twice in the head with a Taurus .38 Special.”

She fell abruptly silent at this point, and Hajime didn’t need to be able to read her mind to know she was waiting for their reactions. And perhaps she needed those reactions — the surprise and the horror she expected — to contribute to the order she was trying to set up for herself to regulate her emotions and situation… but unfortunately, Hajime and Sano, already having guessed at what she’d just confessed, could not provide. Hajime just nodded, and Sano’s scowl did not alter.

“It started in October,” she finally went on, perhaps taking revenge for their lack of interested response by not specifying what ‘it’ was. “I don’t remember the exact date, but I know it was late in October because we’d just bought Kenji a Halloween costume when we were out shopping one night, and the next morning he was asking me questions about Halloween. Somehow he had it confused with Christmas, and he thought if he dressed up that meant he needed to give away presents. He was deciding who was going to have which of his toys, and I thought it was so sweet… just like his dad…”

It seemed she was rambling again; Hajime thought there was a point being progressed toward, but Sano obviously couldn’t tell and was shifting even more than before in the back seat, which he had occupied without a word when Hajime had taken the front.

“Then later that same day,” Kaoru went on, “a note appeared out of nowhere on my refrigerator. It said something like, ‘You have a very generous son. If you want him to live long enough to give away his toys for Halloween, follow these instructions exactly: burn this note and cut up an apple for him to dip in peanut butter.'”

Now she got the reaction she’d previously been anticipating. Sano gave a surprised growl or grunt, and Hajime’s brows went down over narrowed eyes. This news was unexpected, and the eventual outcome of the story after such a beginning seemed unpleasantly guessable.

“Apples in peanut butter is one of Kenji’s favorite snacks, and anyone could have known that. But the conversation about his toys on Halloween I hadn’t told anyone about yet. But at first I thought the note must be a joke, even if it wasn’t very funny, because you just don’t think about that kind of crime-drama thing actually happening in real life. I looked around for someone maybe hiding in the house, but it wasn’t a big house… Kenji thought it was a game and helped me look; I was so shaken up that I couldn’t get him to sit still in the kitchen and wait for me.

“Then I thought I’d call Kenshin and see if he had something to do with it, even though it obviously wasn’t the kind of thing he would do… but when I reached for the phone, the doorbell rang. I thought whoever it was at the door would probably have the explanation, but when I got there there was no one there, just another note. These were typed notes, by the way. This one said something like, ‘It’s a better idea not to tell anyone about this. No one will answer the phone anyway.’ And then it went on telling me about exactly what Kenshin was doing — it even mentioned the specific breed of dog he was working with right then — and the exact movie my parents had just walked into.

“My first thought was to lock myself and Kenji in the bathroom — because it had no windows — and call the police, but there were too many problems with that idea. What if I couldn’t grab the phone and get in there in time? What if they really were watching Kenshin and my parents at the same time, and weren’t just bluffing to scare me? How could I convince the police I really was in danger? And what if, by the time the police got there, whoever was leaving these notes had just disappeared?”

Hajime might have expected, in the telling of such a tale, even more tears and incomprehensibly choked diction than before, but found it was not so. Though there was in her voice a faint echo of the terror and desperation she must have felt on that first day, the full course of events she was detailing must eventually have inflicted upon her a sense of helplessness that had been beyond activity and bordering on numbness, and it was this last that was most prominent in her dull pronouncement, “So I burned the notes and cut up an apple for Kenji.”

Another silence fell, a heaviness and reluctance for this tale to progress any further toward its inevitable conclusion… but in glancing at Sano, Hajime guessed they had only a few more minutes before another intervention would need to take place. “And then?” he prompted.

More, apparently, out of weariness than anything else, Kaoru sighed. “There were several notes during November, mostly to make sure I knew whoever they were really were watching me and my family and that I really would do whatever they asked. I don’t know what kind of ninja was putting these things in the places I found them, but they must have been pretty amazing, because I never saw anyone, and the notes kept appearing in places like on the refrigerator or the bathroom counter, and once in my jewelry box on my dresser. And they never asked me to do anything unusual — nothing that wouldn’t be completely natural for me to do, but that I might not necessarily have done just then if they hadn’t told me to.

“And I don’t know what kind of network they had watching my husband and my parents, but they kept giving me little hints about what they were doing — things I always found out later were true, just like my parents really were at that Amelia Earhart movie that first day and Kenshin really was assisting on a min pin spay. It was… it was so freaky… I got so scared whenever I found out that something one of the notes told me was true, and each time was worse than before.

“They were conditioning me — I could see even then that that was what was happening — but I didn’t know what for. They were getting me ready for something by making sure I was good and scared and ready to do whatever they asked. You can’t know what that’s like…” Her voice sank to a murmur that was almost contemplative; the horror, presumably, had either passed or taken such deep hold that it had been assimilated into normalcy, and only this dullness remained.

“Not knowing who’s watching you when or where, or when you might do something wrong or what they might do then. Or how to protect the people you love, or even if that was even possible… And imagining all sorts of horrible things and not knowing whether I was exaggerating or what. I got so paranoid I had no idea what was realistic and what was me overreacting.

“I tried not to show it, but that was completely impossible almost right from the beginning, because it was like I became a totally different person.” She gave a faint, frustrated huffing noise. “Between that month and the trauma after and all the anger in January and February, I’m surprised anyone even recognizes me anymore.

“I got into the habit of trying to stay between Kenji and the window, no matter what room we were in, even though I didn’t really think that would do any good. And I didn’t see any way we were going to survive this, even with me doing every little thing they told me. We were hostages, was really what we were, and do you know what hostage survival rates are like?

“I didn’t dare do anything that might even look like I was trying to find out who these people were or trying to do anything about them; no matter where I went, I assumed they were watching through crosshairs. I didn’t want to…” She cleared her throat. “I wouldn’t sleep with my husband. Of course he was desperate to know what was wrong with me — not just because of that, I mean, but because of the entire way I was acting. He tried everything… he tried asking in every way he could, and guessing even the craziest ideas, and bringing me presents because he thought I was upset with him… god, his last month alive, and he thought I was upset with him…” This tangent brought on the tears that the main story hadn’t been able to prompt, and Mrs. Himura was for a few moments overcome.

Assuming the tale really was going the direction Hajime believed it must be, this behavior was more than understandable — in fact, he thought, it bordered on miraculous that she was able to talk about this at all, that she was able to function in general.  She was a tougher person than he’d believed; he should have realized it from the mere presence of natural mental shields strong enough to keep him out apparently indefinitely.

He didn’t have time to ponder this, however, or to attempt in his inexpert way to offer some kind of consoling statement that might be able to draw out the remainder of what she had to relate.  For it was time to see to Sano again.

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4 Replies to “Seeing Red 22”

  1. It was with the type of resolution that feels it might as well get a necessary evil over with as quickly as possible that Mrs. Himura stood from the table

    I am going to argue that the second “it” should be “one” instead. I say this because the first ‘it’ refers most decidedly to the ‘type of resolution’ being described, and the second ‘it’ can only referencing itself (which has been established as the resolution); however, as you go on to describe the feeling, or emotion, behind that resolution, it quite clearly cannot be the resolution itself but rather a person since resolutions have no capacity for emotion, but the people who make them do.

    Unless, of course, you are using ‘it’ ala Buffalo Bill when he says to his prisoner ‘It puts the lotion in the basket.’ etc.

    Though Sano hadn’t eaten anything since the woman had appeared at their table and necessitated he start holding onto the ghost again, still he cast a disappointedly annoyed glance at what remained on his plate as he stood.

    I think I know what you mean when you start with a ‘though Sano hadn’t eaten anything…he cast a disappointedly annoyed glance’ but I had to reread this to figure it out, mostly because I guess it seems only polite to stop eating when someone arrives at your table for conversation–especially if there are only two people at the table; especially if it’s the wife of the dead man whose ghost has been haunting you–i’d figure he would want to listen keenly to whatever The Five had to say. With that ‘though’ there, it sounds like the decision to stop eating was entirely Sano’s own, regardless of who was or wasn’t at the table. It is…ambiguous.

    yes, I am in a nit-picky mood today XD

    after the fisticuffs earlier,

    FISTICUFFS! Yay!

    Hajime thought there was a point being progressed toward

    this construction sounds soopa weak, one of the few times I actually care about someone using the passive voice. why no “Hajime thought she was progressing toward a point”?

    burn this note and cut up an apple for him to dip in peanut butter

    First of all, whoever wrote that note must never have burnt something before. if *I* were going to instruct someone to burn a note then immediately cut apples for her son (which, by the way, seems like a leap in logic since we don’t know where the son is at the moment of the recollections…adding a blurb like ‘I went into the kitchen to get a snack for Kenji when I saw this note on the fridge” would have tied it all together nicely) the action which, presumably, is meant to hide the fact that she had a note in the first place, I would have made it a snack with the capacity to disguise the smell of burning paper…say, make some popcorn or eat some nattou, hell even a good sharp cheese for them apples would have cut the muster.

    I was so shaken up

    But in the very same paragraph, she says she thought it was a (tasteless, tacky, cruel) joke and goes on to say that she just didn’t think such a crime-drama kind of thing could happen in real life…which makes the “so shaken up” thing seem like a too-extreme reaction. On the other hand, I can imagine her being extremely distracting, trying to figure out WHO would have “played” such a mean “joke” and how someone could have found out about the decemberween mixup of Kenji’s

    How could I convince the police I really was in danger?

    That is just too sad.

    mostly to make sure I knew whoever they were really were watching me and my family

    I find this sentence interesting because of the use of ‘were.’ English grammar has evolved into a state where one can be fairly flexible with generic pronouns and in this case, neither the reader nor Kaoru knows just who is terrorizing her, this ‘whoever.’ As per the comment above about generic pronouns, since the terrorizer is unknown, the gender of the party is likewise unknown and current speakers will often (and to the chagrin of their 8th grade English teachers) probably use ‘they’ instead of ‘he or she.’ That’s not so much the interesting part as the past progressive ‘were’ used with ‘watching.’ If the first ‘whoever they were’ is meant to indicate a single party terrorizing Kaoru, it follows that this single person ‘was watching’ her family. However, you have it so that this unknown entity ‘were watching’ which clearly indicates more than one person acting.

    or the bathroom counter, and once in my jewelry box on my dresser

    I don’t think you need a comma after ‘counter’ since ‘once in my jewelry box on my dresser’ isn’t really part of a list (I define a list as a series of three or more things that all apply equally under whatever conditions are presented, and it sounds like the note in the jewelry box happened once while the notes in other places happened more frequently…the condition of ‘frequency at which notes were found’ is therefore different. I could also argue that since the first two locations are connected with an ‘or,’ they are to be taken as a single grammatical unit and the last location is tagged on as a second grammatical unit, between which no comma is necessary, as in : I like apples and bananas. There is no need for a comma in that situation. Or, more demonstratively (?), “I will go to the store and buy apples or oranges and bananas.”

    I could be completely wrong, however, just wondered..and i like arguing about grammar since the rules are always changing.

    For it was time to see to Sano again.

    Just grammatically, I don’t think this works as a stand alone sentence with that ‘For’ in there…it’s kind of driving me nuts. Either a comma and ‘for it was’ or axe the ‘for’ and just start with ‘It was time’

    Now, the meat of that sentence…wasn’t Sano in the back of the car? I can’t believe you got me to forget about Sano being back there–presumably stewing in kenshin’s raaaage–while Kaoru recounts her terrorization at the hands of some unknown entity. However, it kind of sounds like Sano is NOT in the car at the moment…did he go nuts with raaage and bolt? Is spontaneous human combustion a possibility?!

    Back to the Kaoru (holy smokes, Kaoru Kenshin Kenji…all their names start with K)…I’m curious to find out what threat could be so horrible and so immediate that she would pull a Taurus .38 on her husband. It’s like the question ‘if your spouse and your child were thrown into the water and going to certainly drown, but you could only save one of them, who would you save?’ I think the majority of people would (answer I’d save them both or die trying) go for the kid, which brings me to the topic of losing loved ones…losing a child isn’t the same as losing an adult loved one–not that one is less painful than the other, but the reasons for that pain are different. A child represents both seemingly endless potential and, if it is your own child, your continued presence in the future. Contrasted with losing an adult loved one, one with whom you’ve shared parts (all) of your life, experiences, and more.

    Yet at the same time, I have seen evidence (and I suppose people in general will back this up, nature does, too) that parents will pull out all the stops to protect their young. In that light, I can totally see how Kaoru would be able to murder her husband.

    1. You are indeed in a nit-picky mood today! XD But it’s always nice to have someone reading my sentences with such attention to detail. And you’re right; the ever-changing and often very subjective nature of English grammar makes it interesting to think about.

      Yes, three names in a family that start with K. Not as bad as my dad’s family, where all eight people have names starting with D!

      The biggest problem, for me, with the name Kenji (which I remember you said you don’t like :D) is that I often typo it as “Kenshin.” I don’t write about Kenji much, but Kenshin pops up fairly frequently, and my fingers are too used to his name. Kinda like how “said” often turns into “Saitou.” And woe unto any word that starts with “san.”

      Thanks for all your input! And thanks for reading!

  2. OH SHIT!!!!!!! DAMN. Poor Kaoru!!!!! My heart breaks for her. D: I really like how you wrote her in this chapter and the way you described her mannerisms as she confessed. It can be difficult to get these kinds of descriptions out without them feeling fake or overdone, but this just read extremely well. Kudos for that. :3 This story has been a great read and I was invested from the start…but ever since Saito accused Kaoru of lying, I’ve been crazy hooked!

    1. Like I said, Most Unkind Story To Kaoru Evar. And thank you about the mannerisms and such. It was difficult as shit to write what I believed to be a naturally progressing conversation that conveyed all the information I wanted it to in an emotionally believable fashion, so I’m really glad it worked for you.

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