Tokyo Demons Book 1: Chapter 3
Audio version of Chapter 3 can be streamed on YouTube below:
“She keeps doing that.”
“Is she allowed to do that?”
“She can’t be older than eight, right? Maybe nine.”
Ayase flicked her wrist. The metal lid of the lighter in her hand snapped shut with a click. She pushed the lid back with her thumb, ground the wheel down, and watched the flame jump to life once more.
“I’m getting a nun.”
“Are you sure? We don’t have long here.”
“I don’t think that girl–”
Ayase’s eyeballs rolled up. Sister Kumiko, her arms crossed over her simple habit, glared down at Ayase with dark, disappointed eyes. Ayase snapped the lighter shut.
“I can’t believe you,” Kumiko hissed as she snatched the lighter with one hand and Ayase’s arm with the other. The woman dragged Ayase from her sitting position and into a corner obscured from view.
Ayase knew the couple had still seen her. A man and a woman, probably in their later twenties, who probably couldn’t make a baby. Ayase saw their embarrassed glances before Kumiko’s body blocked her view of the room.
“How many times do we have to have this discussion?” Kumiko pointed the lighter at Ayase, now a disciplinary tool. “Your little stunts aren’t appreciated. Are you here to chase all potential parents out our humble door?”
Ayase stared into those dark eyes. She wasn’t intimidated.
Kumiko sighed angrily and began her speech about being cooperative. Ayase blocked it out; she’d heard it before, and she was too busy staring at the lighter Kumiko bobbed at her accusingly.
So what if Ayase didn’t want to leave? The group home had corners and closets and trees. It had places to run to when things fell apart. Ayase knew she wasn’t like other girls; other girls didn’t feel their bodies breaking up every time they got upset.
She didn’t need some new adults watching her every move. She didn’t need smaller grounds, she didn’t need more attention, and she didn’t need to hear the cooperation speech again. Every time Kumiko snapped about how normal children needed to act, Ayase got a little more frustrated at everyone’s assumption that she was normal.
Her eyes grew hard. She snatched the lighter from Kumiko’s outstretched hand.
Kumiko shrieked. As the lighter was once again confiscated and Ayase’s arm fell to the nun’s grip, the girl noticed the young couple. They stared at her, confusion and pity written across their boring faces.
But Ayase still won. As Kumiko dragged the girl out of the visiting room, that boring couple simply turned their heads away.
Ayase couldn’t think straight. Her heart thundering in her ears, she ran to the hallway window with Jo and Sachi behind her. She slammed her hands against the windowsill, her eyes frantically scanning the school gate below.
There was a motorcycle parked there. No man, just a motorcycle. Ayase stared at the bike as white panic washed her mind.
“Oh no.” Sachi’s spikes pressed against the glass. “Oh no oh no oh no. Jo!”
Jo whipped his head to Sachi. “What?” he snapped. “You think this is my fault, asshole?”
Sachi pulled back from the window. “But it’s that guy!” he cried. “The one from the club! We’ve gotta call the cops!”
“We don’t know it’s him, Sachi.”
“Shut up.” Jo glared daggers at Sachi. He seemed more angry than scared, but the bare shake to his shoulders implied otherwise. “A bike and some gossip don’t mean anything. We’re not calling the cops until we know what’s going on.”
“Think about it!” Jo quickly ran a hand through his hair. “What if it’s not actually him, and we drag them out for a false alarm? If the police think we’re too jumpy, they won’t rush to help us if we really need it.”
Sachi’s hands bunched into fists. “What is it with you and cops?! They told us we could call them for anything!”
“Don’t start with me!” Jo’s eyes flared up. “We wouldn’t be in this mess if you hadn’t jumped the guy, dickhead!”
Silence. Ayase was still pretty out of it–she only caught them out of the corners of her eyes and ears, really–so she only vaguely noticed the school bell ring. She pried her fingers from the windowsill with great difficulty a minute later. She had to go to class…Sachi was telling her she had to go to class.
Ayase couldn’t pay attention for thirty seconds that afternoon. She stared at the board, she stared at her pencil, but every single lecture went straight over her head. Jo had said they needed to wait–he wanted them to stay on school grounds, maybe send somebody to check with the office if the bike was still there after school. Sachi had reluctantly agreed while trying to reassure Ayase that everything would be all right.
But Ayase was beyond reassurance. He’s after you, her brain echoed as it blocked out her teachers. He’s after you, it taunted as she checked the window between classes. The motorcycle never moved, and it remained without an owner, but Ayase still couldn’t shake the doom that stained her heart.
Why had she gone to that stupid club? Because Sachi had asked? She’d decided long ago that letting down classmates was necessary in her life; she had to keep some distance or she put herself in danger. Look what being nice got you, she thought as she stared blankly at her desk. Now some sort of felon was after her, and he probably knew her secret.
Her attacker had caught her at a vulnerable moment in the club. She remembered releasing a single insect when the thug knocked her–clearly he had noticed it. It explained that nagging feeling she’d had for days that someone was following her. The headaches, the panic, the fact that she’d had a horrifically vivid dream the night before where she was locked up and he was peering down at her through a magnifying glass. Her subconscious was trying to warn her. That man had learned her secret and he was going to chase her down.
Why else would he come to her school? She and her friends probably weren’t worth revenge, and it wasn’t like Jo or Sachi had any sort of weird ability. The thug wouldn’t have gone to the authorities or the media with his story since he’d been assaulting teenagers to protect a drug deal. No, he couldn’t drag her to the government for dissection (or worse) until he had her in his physical grip again.
Ayase’s palms began to sweat. He was coming for her directly so he could deal with her directly. By the time the next class ended, her brain was so packed with wildly terrible fantasies that she barely heard the bell ring; when she dumbly made for the hallway, she half-believed the thug awaited her there with a machine gun and a camera crew.
She stopped in the doorway.
A throng of students crowded the hallway window. They chatted loudly amongst themselves, the ones in the back trying to peek through to the outside.
“Did you see the guy?” someone asked excitedly.
“No. But I think that’s his bike!”
Ayase froze. She didn’t see Sachi or Jo in the crowd. She turned back to the classroom; it was empty, except for a girl asleep in the front row.
Ayase pushed her way through the crowd. When her hands finally slapped against glass, she looked down to the gate below.
The motorcycle was still there, although a contraption she’d seen on illegally parked cars now locked its back tire. A man on a cell phone paced beside it.
“Tsuyoshi said he ran right across the track during gym!”
“He could see him from the tennis courts?”
“Tsuyoshi’s full of shit.”
“Did you see the old lady? Daisuke said he saw an old lady, too.”
“Daisuke doesn’t wear his glasses during gym.”
“He’s still got contacts, moron.”
“Kiss my ass. And Daisuke’s a liar.”
“Shut up–he’s my boyfriend!”
The speculations of the students turned into panicked mush in Ayase’s brain. He was on school grounds, and he wasn’t even hiding himself. She heard someone mention the word “big,” and it was accompanied with an exact description of the man from the club. He was here. He was in her school.
As Ayase’s sweating hands formed a foggy lubrication with the glass, she stared at the man down below who paced by the bike. As he murmured something on his cell phone, he looked up at that window and suddenly met her terrified eyes.
It was the cop. The one from the station–the one Sachi had stared at in the hallway. His eyes dragged back to the motorcycle as he continued his conversation.
Did you see the old lady?
Ayase numbly stepped back from the window, the students shifting and spilling to take her place in front. Detective Nakajima was a little old. She was old and…she knew about the man from the club. The motorcycle was locked with a government contraption. The cop outside was on a phone call with somebody.
The police were there. Ayase turned and sprinted toward the nearest set of stairs.
She heard her name being called, but only in an abstract sense. She had to get to that cop. She had to tell him that the man in the club was after her, and that she needed protection. She had to tell the cops he was crazy. Even if they caught him and he did reveal Ayase’s secret, the cops wouldn’t believe him, right? The man was a criminal. The police surely heard weirder stories from felons trying to slip away.
Ayase suddenly stopped running, her school slippers sliding her so close to the stair edge that she had to grip the railing. She stared down those stairs, her breath catching in her throat.
Could she…could she really risk everything she had on the police? They claimed to be after the man from the club, but they hadn’t explained why. Everyone was always talking about how corrupt cops were–maybe the man had dirt on them they needed to keep quiet. And in a situation like that, wouldn’t he barter another secret for his freedom? Something he could prove if only the police got their hands on the girl in question?
They could be making a deal, Ayase thought frantically. And she’d be walking right into their trap. They could be plotting together for her, couldn’t they? That cop was on a phone call with somebody!
“Ayase!” Someone gripped Ayase’s wrist.
She instinctually jerked her arm free, spinning around as she did so. As if the world had slowed around her, she saw Sachi’s wide eyes shift from worry into panic as a few strands of her hair swished up in front of her face. She also realized, in equally slow motion, that there was no stair beneath the foot she stepped back with.
Proceed to Chapter 3, page 2–>