This was supposed to be a Seclusion short, I swear, but I don't know what happened. It just sort of ran away from me, I guess. Once again, a special thanks to David Tai for edits, dialogue, suggestions, and just putting up with my shit in general.

Onward~


Mary Ryan absently blew a giant, pink bubble out of her mouth as she stared at a set of grisly crime scene photos, blood, corpses, and broken things burning themselves into her mind as she carefully combed every single image for any clue she might find that could solve the case, which was proving to be oddly frustrating. It wasn't because she was incapable of connecting the dots — that wasn't the problem. The problem was that local law enforcement was undergoing some massive upheaval following the protests all over Southtown, which meant that there was a shortage of cops. Mary's subordinates (the ones who hadn't been fired, anyway…) were tasked with keeping an eye on the mostly peaceful gatherings but, unfortunately, that meant that some of the detectives were being called on to answer complaints that the lesser badges were now unable to handle.

Naturally, that included Mary, who had no choice but to put her tasks on hold to answer the calls that nobody else could. Not only that, but she had to be on her best behaviour because of what she had done earlier in the year. While it was true that Seth and Vanessa pulled a few strings to help her out of the tight spot she had put herself in, she still needed to do her part to make sure that she wasn't demoted to a beat cop, or kicked off the force entirely.

Just then her extension began ringing, the little, flashing red light signaling that the Chief was calling on her. She set her photos aside, pulled herself upright, and leaned over so she could pluck the receiver from its base.

"Ryan," she said tiredly.
"I need you to answer this call," came the Chief's equally tired voice. "Urgently."

###

Despite the ongoing pandemic, the Vons parking lot was almost oddly full.

Brow quirked, Mary pulled into the red zone out front, put the squad car in park, and exited the vehicle, not at all fazed by the stares and glares being thrown her way as she put on a surgical face mask. What did faze her was the crowd of people gathered just inside the store entrance, holding up cell phones so they could record whatever the hell was going on, seemingly completely unaware that they were (still) in the middle of a public health crisis.

Social distancing? Obviously, they didn't know her.

Mary gritted her teeth, annoyed; she was very tempted to pull her firearm (affectionately called Matilda) from the holster and fire several warning shots into the air to get the crowd to scatter because she really didn't want to be closer to anyone than she had to be, but she decided against it. Instead, she carefully navigated through the group, taking note of the laughter and the yelling that were becoming more and more apparent the closer she got to the front of the store.

Finally, she moved past a very tall man, into the bright, open area. The second she had eyes on the situation she took a deep breath and shook her head.

"No way," she said out loud as she approached the chaotic scene near the deli counter.

"Sir? Sir! I have already told you that if you want to shop here you have to wear a mask!"
"I am wearing a mask! Can't you see that?!"
"That's not — that's not the type of mask you can wear here!"
"Where does it say that?!"

On and on the arguing went, the ordinary, bespectacled store manager versus an older man clad in a collared Hawaiian print shirt, slacks, Dad Shoes, and… a red tengu mask. Mary pushed a lock of hair behind her ear and approached the pair.

"Sir! Southtown PD," she said while gesturing to the badge clipped to her belt, which abruptly stopped the squabbling.

"Officer," the manager started almost frantically. "Officer, this man has been asked to leave and come back with a proper mask —"
"This is a proper mask!"
" — many times now and —"
"My nose and mouth are covered!"
" — he just won't leave!"

Mary put a hand up in front of her to silence the manager, who looked like he was at his wits end.

"Sir, I understand," Mary began. She then turned her head to look at the masked man. "Mister Sakazaki. If you've been asked to leave you have to comply."
"But I'm wearing a mask," Takuma Sakazaki protested, his voice muffled by the ridiculous looking thing that covered his entire face. "There's nothing in the rules that says I can't wear this while I buy a sandwich!"
"I get that, but management reserves the right to ask people to leave if —"
"If what?! This is discrimination! This is —"
"This is gonna piss me off," Mary groaned as she turned her attention back to the store manager. "I'll take it from here, sir."

After a round of profuse "thank you"s from the manager, the detective turned her attention to Takuma, whose dark eyes were trained directly on her.

"I know you," he said, his voice low — menacing, even. "You're King's little friend."
"Okay," Mary replied, completely unaffected by the shift in tone as she gently took hold of Takuma's elbow. "And I know you, too. Now let's go."
"Go where?!"
"I'm escorting you out."

Once the two were no longer in the store Mary unhanded Takuma, crossed her arms over her chest, and casually stood in front of the parked squad car.

"You can't go walking around in something so weird," she warned. "It freaks people out."
"And you can't go around blindly using your authority to assault people," Takuma retorted.
"Assault?" Mary shot back, confused. "Who— "
"My son!"

Mary groaned as she recalled the events of that morning all that time ago.

"Aw, shit," she began. "Your son —"
"Had to pay for what you did. I should sue you for damages — take your badge for good!"
"Is this about medical? I'll pay for whatever's left of the bill, I don't care."
"It's about more than just the bill, although I'll sue you for every penny of that — and then some!"

Mary narrowed her eyes. There was a part of her that was tempted to just rip the badge off her belt and slam it into Takuma's hand. After all, the damn thing made her Undesirable Number One to the general public, anyway. But she couldn't — wouldn't — do that. Just like she couldn't — wouldn't — take any shit from Papa Sakazaki, either.

"Listen," she began. "You have every right to be pissed about what I did to Ryo, and I'll own up to the fact that it wasn't cool, but you know what? I'd do it again in a heartbeat. You know why? Because King is my friend and I refuse to let your son's bullshit hurt her more than it already has! What she went through was traumatic enough on its own without his shitty opinions hanging over her head!

So, you wanna sue me?! Take my badge?! Go for it! I'll still be around to watch out for her, and if that means breaking more of Ryo's bones then so be it! And take off that damn mask already! You look like a lunatic!"

Takuma recoiled as if he had been struck.

"What do you mean, 'lunatic?!' A tengu is a sign of pride! Manliness!" He exclaimed.
"Whatever, you look like a goblin," Mary shot back. "Now, if you go back in there I'm gonna have to take you into custody, so I suggest you go home and get a normal mask."
"And I suggest you don't change the subject, cop," Takuma responded. "King's little story doesn't change — or justify — what you did."
"Little story," Mary repeated. She started bouncing up and down on her heels while telling herself to stand down. She had to be good, she had to be good… especially since —

Suddenly, out of the corner of her eye, Mary noticed a young man using his phone to record her exchange with Takuma.

"There's no need for you to be recording right now," she told him.
"It's a free country, I can record if I want."
"Faaaaaaaaabulous, but this is a private conversation," Mary informed the bystander curtly.
"There shouldn't be anything private about cops getting involved in civilian affairs in public!"

This moron...

"You know what?" Mary sighed, annoyed. "Go for it. Record all you want so you can upload it to Tik Tok, or Twitter, or YouTube, and gain your fifteen seconds of clout before something actually important overshadows your hollow attempt to catch me abusing my authority. In the meantime I'll just issue a citation since you're not wearing a mask."

The man, who now looked intensely uncomfortable, quickly lowered his phone and locked his eyes on the screen.

"Are you uploading?" Mary questioned. "What's your handle? I'll follow you so I know that you actually had the balls to go through with it."

Without waiting for a response Mary turned back to Takuma, who was observing everything from under his tengu mask.

"Where were we? Was this the part where I give you my badge number so you can issue a formal complaint and get the ball rolling on your lawsuit? Because I can give you a good attorney. She charges about one-fifty an hour."

Takuma didn't answer — just stood several paces from Mary, his posture marked by an air of exasperation.

"You're bluffing."

Mary raised her eyebrows as she removed her wallet from her back pocket and produced an immaculate business card.

"Here —" she held the small item out toward Takuma, who took it hesitantly — "Your best chance to reach her is usually right after lunch — around one-ish. Oh, and you should totally take down my badge number. It's super easy to remember, though. One, eight —"
"Okay, okay, stop," Takuma interrupted.
"What?" Mary prodded sweetly. "I thought you wanted to sue?"

She watched as the eccentric karate master slowly pushed his mask up so that the frown on his face was visible. He looked her directly in her face, and she looked back, not flinching — not even blinking — which seemed to take Papa Sakazaki by surprise. He was probably used to people shrinking under his glare, but, to Mary, it meant nothing. A tense silence fell on the pair until Takuma's gaze shifted elsewhere.

"My son doesn't need myself or a legal team to fight his battles for him," he stated. "But I will take you up on your offer to foot the bill."
"Not a problem," Mary responded coolly. "You can keep the card."

There was a somewhat awkward silence as Takuma placed the lawyer's information in his breast pocket.

"In regards to King," he remarked after the brief pause, "her behaviour has been very erratic. First there was that whole thing with Yuri, and now they're okay, but her and Ryo seem to be on the outs, which mustn't be allowed to go on, lest I die without ever having a grandson to carry on the ways of Kyokugenryu! The things she told me that day didn't even make sense. Why would she make up such a thing?"
"You… honestly have no idea what the hell is going on around you, do you?" Mary inquired, genuinely dumbfounded.

Takuma raised his bushy eyebrows.

"Enlighten me."

Mary sighed. Obviously, despite hearing a confession directly from King herself, Takuma Sakazaki was completely oblivious — which meant she had a choice to make: go ahead and confirm that King was legitimately assaulted by one of Mr. Big's men, or keep Takuma as far removed from the entire situation as humanly possible… which would, of course, be very hard without knowing what his kids had or hadn't discussed with (or around) him…

Probably best to deflect as much as possible...

"I really don't wanna get into this, Mister Sakazaki."
"So you'll break my son's fingers and tase him in a restaurant full of people, but you won't have a civil discussion with me in front of a supermarket?"
"It's a discussion I flat out don't wanna have," Mary told him. "I just wanna solve this case I'm on once and for all, go home, take my dog for a walk, and watch some reruns of The Office. That's all I want right now."
"And I just want to know what Ryo did that was so bad it made you come after him the way you did! We may be fighters, but your actions were uncalled for! So I want to know why you — a cop — went after him in broad daylight, and suffered no consequences for what you did to him!"
"You seem kinda hung up on this cop thing," Mary retorted with a frown. "This doesn't have anything to do with my job —"
"It was a misuse of your authority."
" — and everything to do with the fact that Ryo crossed me. I did what I did, and — not that you care — I turned myself in afterward because, yeah. I took it a little far. And you know what? I've suffered more consequences than you — or anyone — will ever know, so please spare me your self-righteous bullshit, Mister Sakazaki, because you've dished out plenty of street justice yourself!"

Takuma narrowed his eyes as he glanced downward.

"'Street justice,'" he muttered under his breath.

Meanwhile, Mary tilted her head to the side and smirked in spite of the covering on her face.

"Are we done here? I have to get back to real police work"
"You have yet to answer my question," Takuma replied. "What did Ryo do that was so horrible that you had to step in with a weapon and start breaking bones?! What was it that made you decide that you could be the judge, jury, and executioner? What —"
"Ask him about it!" Mary snapped, her patience starting to take a nosedive. "See what he tells you!"
"I'm asking you."

A deep breath.

"I don't have to answer to you — especially not while I'm working. Besides. You wouldn't like what I have to say, anyway. You've already made up your mind — and I get it. I hurt your kid. I did it, I have my reasons, and I'm not sorry," Mary declared evenly.

Takuma scowled fiercely, let out a low grunt… and nodded his head.

"So that's how it is…"
"That's how it is."

Mary stood upright, started toward the driver's side door, and, with a two-fingered salute, climbed into the vehicle. She turned it on and peeled her mask off, thankful to be free of the bothersome article. With a deep sigh she stared at Takuma through the windshield; his stubborn ass would probably try to go back inside after she left…

The detective furrowed her brow before leaning over to open the glove compartment, where a small package of extra masks sat, unopened. She removed one from its cellophane prison and rolled her window down.

"Yoo-hoo," she called while waving the mask outside. "Mister Sakazaki! Take it."

Takuma stared, puzzled, for just a second, before walking over to grab the item. The second he reached out, Mary pulled it back.

"Look," she said, before Takuma could even utter a sound. "I have no beef with you or your daughter. Ryo… is obviously another story, and that's not gonna change anytime soon. But I'm finished talking about it. Go chat with him… and please leave King alone. She doesn't need any of this."

The two went quiet once again. Finally, Mary handed the mask over and flashed a wan smile.

"I'll mail a check. Now go get your sandwich."

###

It was much later when Mary sat in her apartment, head in her hands, her badge, gun, a bottle of Xanax, and a bottle of Prozac on the coffee table in front of her.

She was… exhausted. But it wasn't her normal I've-Been-Working-This-Case-For-Thirty-Six-Hours-With-Barely-Any-Sleep exhausted.

No, this was a different beast — clearly the direct result of her chat with Takuma Sakazaki. The conversation had triggered something in her mind; the thoughts she spent months trying to deal with clawed their way back to the surface, and though she had stuffed them down long enough to solve her case, and drive her bike home, and walk her dog, they finally caught up to her.

She didn't regret any of the things she had done under the protection of the law: the kneecaps and Yamazaki and beating the shit out of Ryo in the middle of the Pao Pao Café... not by a long shot. But she was, once again, iffy about where she truly stood in the eyes of the law. Once again, she found herself wondering if she was as bad as the rest of them.

And the way Takuma kept on bringing up "authority," and throwing "cop" in her face — as if it was a dirty word… it certainly didn't help. If he changed his mind and decided to take her to court she'd be screwed…

…but she'd be... oddly okay with it…? Maybe?

King, however, would not.

King, who was at the center of everything.

If that incident had involved a stranger, Mary never would have committed any of the acts she was currently in hot water for. But seeing her best friend brutalized and reduced to a PTSD-riddled… mess… she couldn't let it stand; she couldn't let what Ryo told King after he found out about the rape stand, either. And she knew that, if the tables were turned, King would do the same things for her.

...Hell, maybe even worse.

But now she had the whole Sakazaki family to deal with. And, soon enough, Terry — who would no doubt discover the real reasons behind her numerous indiscretions. She took a very deep, choked breath and wished she could just spill her guts to him; tell him why she lost her shit… tell him all about Yamazaki's involvement, even… but that would compromise King. And she was not gonna do that.

"Anton…?"

Mary robotically called to her dog, but he was dead asleep in his bed across the room, so he didn't respond. She made a face and reached for her phone, which was resting on the side table. She needed to let it out — maybe even get some perspective. She just hoped she wouldn't be seen as a bother — especially at this hour. She deftly pulled up the Favorites list and stared down at the tiny picture before tapping it. The line rang three times, and then a somewhat groggy voice answered.

"Mare…? What's wrong?"
"I'm… can we just… talk for a bit...?"

Mary's voice came out small; weak. It was unsettling.

There was the sound of rustling fabric, and Mary knew right away that Cécile Levasseur had bolted upright in her bed, wide awake and ready to help in any way she could.

"I'll be right over."


Let's talk about Mary, shall we?

* Mary's issues with her badge were first seen in Good Cop, Bad Cop and has been ongoing. If you're reading Seclusion Stories then you might remember Vanessa's narration about her being in the throes of some kind of "existential crisis."
* If you're keeping score, Mary kneecapped King's rapist in MLS and was put on leave for two weeks following that incident. She then goes on to do it again in Bang, turns herself in, and is actually brought in front of the DA (this is all off-screen) before she's finally allowed to leave... sans gun and badge (chapter 5 of Red). Finally, she beats up Ryo in Aftershocks, turns herself in for that, and is helped out by Seth, Vanessa, and their... connections. She's put on leave again. Then there's Yamazaki. I mean... that's pretty self-explanatory. She called in a favour: go after the gunman after the criminal justice system failed.
* Mary does these things for King because she loves her friend and doesn't want her to have to be the bad guy anymore (she says in Silver Linings that maybe she can keep her (King) on the "straight and narrow"). Also, I mean... is kneecapping a violent rapist really that bad?
* As for Takuma, obviously, his understanding of the situation is... not good. King told him directly that she had been raped (see Hurt) and he actually laughed because he thought she was surely joking.
* Vons is a grocery chain in California. It exists elsewhere on the West Coast as Safeway.
* COVID-19 is still a thing. WEAR YOUR MASKS!
* Terry knows about the kneecapping incident at the prison, and he knows about Ryo, but he doesn't know why. The only thing he does know is that Mary worked a case that hit "close to home." The stuff with Yamazaki is also on the down low.
* Just like Mary is always willing to lend King an ear (or commit acts of violence on her behalf) King is absolutely willing to do the same for Mary. They're a couple of "fucked up bros" and I love them.

Okay, that's it. Let me know what you think in the comments/review section down below. Unless you're here for the sole purpose of being an asshole. In that case, I'm not interested.

See you all next time! Cheers~ :)