Death Note: 23 Days Later
Entry 8: The Eleventh Hour
Twenty three days. That's the maximum length of time a Death Note can affect someone. A little over three weeks, tops. That's it. Twenty three days. Five hundred and fifty two hours. Thirty three thousand one hundred and twenty minutes. One million nine hundred eighty seven thousand two hundred seconds.
Twenty three days. That's all I had. Now all I have left is one day. One measly day left to live, and nothing to show for it. For all my brilliance, for all my genius, I've been outsmarted by a notebook.
And that's how it all happened. I thought I could win. I thought I could defeat the Death Note. Conquer death itself.
I thought wrong.
So here I am, on the final day of my life, lamenting my own defeat. I tried. I really did, but that's all there is to it. End of story.
I laid on my back amidst the scattered toys and cards that littered the control room floor, staring up at the ceiling, my mind blank for perhaps the first time in my life. I couldn't think of anything. I was like a computer that had crashed and presented nothing but a black screen with a single flashing prompt, waiting for input.
"Looks like I finally have my revenge, Near," said Light, standing above me and leering mockingly. "You never were worthy of the title 'L', I told you. You're nothing but a cheap imitation. I guess I'll see you in oblivion ..."
Mello appeared beside him, scowling down at me with disdain. "Giving up, Near? I expected better of you than this. I gave my life so that you could defeat Kira, and this is the thanks I get in return? You lose to some idiot Kira fanboy a few years later. What a disappointment."
"Yes," L concurred, standing opposite Mello with his hands stuffed in his pockets and a bored look upon his face, "A big disappointment. I had high hopes for you, Near. I thought that if anyone could succeed me, it was you. Evidently I was wrong about that."
These taunting fragments of my tortured psyche vanished, leaving me alone once more to ponder my own failings. As if I needed reminding. No one was more disappointed in me than I was. I'd let my team down, and I'd let myself down. There was no escaping it now - in a little under twenty four hours I would be dead. And that's all there was to it.
I frowned. Someone was calling my name, and this time it wasn't a figment of my imagination.
It was Linda. She had left half an hour ago to go and check on something. She must have returned.
"Stop sulking and come take a look at this," she instructed in tones that would accept no argument. With a weary sigh I forced myself to sit up and stare across the room to where she stood. She had an intense expression upon her face and was holding some manner of plastic container.
"What is it?" I asked without much enthusiasm. Linda upended the contents of the container upon the table and then set it down on the floor, before gesturing for me to come over. At this point I had so little willpower left that I'm afraid I just sat there and stared, not moving a muscle. Eventually Linda got fed up and picked up a crumpled piece of paper, before tossing it directly at me. It hit me in the face, prompting me to flinch. Realising that the container she had emptied was filled with crumpled up bits of paper, and that she had just thrown one of them at me, I scooped the projectile up and carefully opened it up. After smoothing it out I was eventually able to read it.
It was very strange. It was a seemingly normal piece of paper, upon which someone had written the same name over and over, repeatedly, each time more frantic than the last.
I frowned again and glanced up at Linda, who was leaning on the table and watching me expectantly. "What is this?" I asked her.
"Evidence recovered from Taro Kagami's hideout," she explained, "You never looked at any of it, did you? Well apparently there were half a dozen of these pages, all with the same name written on them, all screwed up into a ball. Your team found them lying in a corner of the room where Kagami had his Notebook and computers set up. It looked as if they had been thrown there."
I glanced down at the paper in my hand, realisation dawning on me. This was a page from his Death Note. They all were. Kagami had repeatedly written the same name down in his Notebook, again and again and again, growing increasingly frustrated as he did so. Then he had torn them out, screwed them up and hurled them across the room, as if in a rage.
"Near, do you realise what this could mean?"
Of course. It was obvious. He had written down someone's name, and they had not died as a result. Upon learning of this, the latest Kira had gone into a frenzy and tried repeatedly to use the Notebook to try and kill this person, each attempt ending only in more failure. Or so I deduced.
In other words ... the Death Note had failed to kill Shiori Akino, despite the fact that Taro Kagami had the Shinigami eyes.
How was that possible?
"I suppose her name may have already been written down in another Notebook ..." I offered tentatively, my eyes rooted to the crumpled page I held. Linda snorted.
"Yeah right. Have you seen any evidence that there's another Death Note out there in use?"
I had not. Which did not necessarily mean that there wasn't one, but it did seem unlikely. In which case ... I lowered the page and stared at Linda, my heart beating fast.
"We need to find this Shiori Akino and see if she is still alive," I said, thoughts bouncing about inside my head like a pool table after the break shot had been made. If she was still alive then it would mean that she had somehow survived having the Death Note used against her. And if that happened to be true then ...
Then there might still be a chance for me after all.
Tracking her down proved surprisingly easy. Kagami had been targeting criminals, just as the original Kira had done, and he'd used his computer to find their faces in the online news. Since we had his computers to hand, it was a simple matter of going through his internet history in order to locate the relevant crime report naming Shiori Akino.
A graduate of To-Oh University, Shiori had been arrested months ago for the murder of her abusive boyfriend. She cited a year of emotional and physical torment at his hands as the reason for her crime. She had been too afraid to go to the police, and one night when her boyfriend returned, drunk, a fight had ensued and Shiori had defended herself.
It was a simple matter to contact the Japanese police, unfortunately we were forced to wait hours for them to get back to us. This may have been my fault - when I had tracked Kagami down and sent my team in to apprehend him in Kyoto, I had done so without informing the local police, who did not appreciate learning that armed Americans had gunned down a criminal in their jurisdiction. In the end I had to call in a favour from Aizawa, who emailed me the relevant information.
Shiori Akino was still very much alive, and was in prison awaiting trial.
After some more wrangling I was able to arrange for a video conference with her, all the while the precious time I had left continuing to tick by. At long last, Linda and I sat and watched as prison security led Shiori Akino into a conference room where a member of the Japanese police was waiting with a laptop, the live feed being streamed directly to the monitor in front of us.
One look at her told me everything I needed to know.
In that moment my mind exploded with activity. Thoughts, images, ideas, information, all whirled and spun around me in a supernova of data as I sat, open-mouthed in enraptured epiphany.
That was it. That was the exception I needed, the weakness I could exploit. In that instant I saw exactly what I needed to do to win, to defeat the Death Note and save us all. It was so simple. The kind of thing Mello would think of. It could work. It would work.
Assuming I could put my plan into effect before time ran out.
"Thank you, that will be all," I said, pushing the speaker button before me. My words echoed back at me via the video feed, albeit masked by my voice filter. Shiori seemed confused, whilst the police officer that had set up the video conference spluttered.
"What? I thought you wanted to talk to her?"
"That will not be necessary," I answered matter of factly, "I have the information I need. Oh, and Miss Akino? You may have just saved the lives of five people, myself included. If all goes well I will do everything in my power to have you pardoned and released."
Needless to say my words completely flabbergasted everyone, including Linda. She turned to me as I severed the connection, her brow furrowed in concentration.
"I don't get it," she said, "Why isn't she dead? And how is this going to help you?"
Smiling widely, I got up and snatched up one of the Death Note rule cards from the floor. As I straightened I stared at it, the details of my plan rolling over and over in my mind as I went over each step that needed to be taken.
"We spent weeks looking over the rules, searching for some loophole to exploit," I explained, "I was certain one of the rules could be used to our advantage, and it turns out I was right. The thing was, it wasn't any of the obvious rules I had picked out. The key to defeating the Death Note lies with this particular rule."
I tossed her the card and she caught it, her eyes widening as she read the words printed upon it. Meanwhile I picked up one of the secure telephones and put a call through to Rester's cell phone. He answered on the second ring.
"Near? What is it?"
"Commander, there's been a development. I have the solution to our dilemma, but it will require some specialised and highly dangerous equipment."
"What do you need?" I heard him ask, unable to conceal a hint of excitement from his voice. I smirked at that and told him what I wanted. Anyone else would have asked me why, or protested that such things were difficult to obtain on short notice. Not Rester. He knew me, and knew better than to voice such questions or concerns. If I said I needed something, he wouldn't waste time asking me why.
"Meet me at the Yellow Box Warehouse as soon as you can," I added, glancing at a wall mounted clock and then at the LED countdown, my mind calculating at dizzying speed, "I'll contact the rest of the team and instruct them to do the same. Time is of the serious essence, Commander. I don't think I need to point out that our lives are on the line on this one."
"I'll be there, count on it," Rester responded, before hanging up. I did likewise. I had several calls to make. Even if all went well, we would still be cutting things extremely fine. It would be a terrible shame to finally have the solution dangled before me, only to die before I could implement it.
I sat, perched in my usual fashion, and wrapped the phone cord around my finger as I waited for the next member of the SPK to respond. As I waited I glanced over at Linda, who was slowly starting to piece together my plan.
"You're insane," she said when it finally hit her. I couldn't argue with her there.
"Will you do it?" I asked. Linda chortled and extended her hands.
"You have to ask?"
Roger picked up and I relayed my instructions to him. It would be difficult for him to make the rendezvous on time, but not impossible. And given what was at stake, I didn't doubt that he would find a way. I hung up and then punched in the number for Gevanni's cell. As I waited for him to answer, I regarded Linda with a certain warmth I was unaccustomed to feeling. She produced a fresh lollipop and shoved it into her mouth, her cheeks flushed with colour.
"If I live through this ... I owe you one."