Chapter 15

"That is not how I remember it!" Narihisago gripped the beer bottle, already a bit rosy-cheeked and glassy-eyed.

In the midst of the bustling Empty Vessel bar Momoki folded his arms and turned on his stool, eyeing his already tipsy partner. "You were out for ten minutes."

"I was not!" He sputtered, "It was more like … a minute!"

Curling a lip, Matsuoka picked up his whiskey and downed it in a single gulp.

Momoki threw his head back laughing. "I'm not exaggerating, Akihito. God, all those hours spent teaching you that grapple, and on the testing mat you blacked out like a light switch."

After a sip of his beer, he shrugged. "It's not exactly like I had a watch on while the drill commander handed my ass to me. I don't even remember how he got me into that choke hold!"

Signaling the barkeep for a refill, Matsuoka mumbled halfway above his breath, "I can't believe you two drink at my favorite haunt."

Narihisago looked up, moving a bit too swift and nearly loosing his balance. All three of them had already had a few, well beyond the single promised drink. Tossing sheets to the wind, as a sailor might say. "What was that?"

"There's something I gotta know, how did you get past combat testing?"

Momoki threw an arm over his shoulder. "That big brain of his."

He squirmed in the hold. "That's a load of bullshit."

"Nah it isn't." Momoki's speech slightly slurred as he was feeling his cups too. "Talked the ear off the commander. Told him about his career track and how fighting skills weren't a big deal to a detective. Should have heard the way he maneuvered it."

Matsuoka grunted and picked up the refill on his whiskey. His expression wrinkled his scars. "Not a very intelligent choice."

"Awww, come on. It's not like we'll get hurt on the job." Narihisago downed the rest of the beer and set the bottle down. His eyes narrowed. "Hey, where'd you get those scars?"

"On the job." A slight smile curled his lips as the boys both moved backward. "This shit gets real and you novices know nothing of danger, thinking you are smart enough to outwit anything."

Momoki ruffled Narihisago's hair. "Oh, but he is. That big brain of his can solve anything."

Narihisago held up a finger but wasn't fast enough to speak as Matsuoka turned to face the novice detectives. "Wanna bet?"

"Yeah!" Momoki leaned forward, ignoring the stunned expression on Narihisago's face.

"Wait … what are we doing?"

"Alright bookworm," Matsuoka poked a finger into the center of Narihisago's red tie, how about we play a game."

Momoki slammed a palm down on the bar. "We're detectives. A game of clues!" He tapped his temple, "I Spy!"

"Kid's stuff!" Matsuoka snorted.

But a slow smile spread on Narihisago's face, a bit crooked from stewing in alcohol. He held up a hand. "Not if the guess must be tagged."

They both stared at him.

He folded his arms over his chest. "All three of us have to be in on this. One delivers a clue, the other two race to tag the answer first. Champion is the one with the most points at the end of the game."

Their thoughts marinaded in liquor, it seemed like a good enough idea. What could possibly go wrong.

He placed his hand out, palm down. A moment later, Momoki put his hand on his. The two locked eyes with Matsuoka, after a short pause, he grunted and put his hand on top. "By the end of this night you'll be calling me the undisputed champion!"

On the stool beside him, Shingi sat nursing a club soda. He suddenly balked as three of his fellow detectives eyed him. Matsuoka clamped a hand on his shoulder. "And we have our witness."

Shingi gulped and tried to backpedal, but he was stuck against the bar.

"Let's get this rolling!" Matsuoka barked out, "I spy something yellow."

Narihisago walked toward Shingi and flipped his yellow tie over his shoulder.

That darkened Matsuoka's expression.

"Point for Narihisago." Shingi held up a finger meekly.

"My turn." Narihisago rubbed his chin. "I spy something … dark brown."

Matsuoka and Momoki turned in tandem tracing his line of sight, along the bar. Instantly Momoki spotted it, and took a step back. If he was right, that wasn't a point he wanted to claim. He had a feeling that dark brown object was the whiskey in the bottom of a glass belonging to very built man in a sleeveless shirt, concrete dust on his clothing from what he assumed was a hard day on the job site.

The moment Momoki glanced at Narihisago he spied the cocked grin and knew he'd guessed right.

Matsuoka strode right across the bar and reached for the glass, seizing it with a triumphant heft. "Hah! I have it, don't I!"

"Oh, you got it."

"Point for me!" He sloshed the glass around above his head.

Behind him the meaty thwack of a fist into a palm turned many a head in the bar.

"You might want to duck." Narihisago pointed a moment before the blow whiffed over Matsuoka's head as he managed to just evade the blow.

He set the glass back down and chuckled to the man. "Didn't mean anything from that. Was just a game."

The man who appeared more grizzly than human being, snarled and loomed over Matsuoka.

~ID~

"What's the tally?" Matsuoka slurred as he cracked the top off a beer bottle from the six pack he'd sent Shingi into a store for. The three detectives had split it, renewing their genius in the night air.

With a sigh, Shingi paused the recording and checked his notebook. "Momoki seven. Matsuoka twenty."

He pumped a first in the air.

"Narihisago twenty-one."

Leaning against a lamppost, Narihisago took a sip from his second beer from the pack and popped his eyebrows as Matsuoks scowled. "Oh bookworm's going down … come on," he didn't get the full name out, pronouncing the vowel right but slurring the 's', "Moms. Give us the clue."

Momoki glanced up from staring at the beer bottle label. "Kay … uhhh, I spy somethin' … umm … green."

"I know!" Matsuoka turned and jabbed a finger toward Narihisago's face poking his cheek as he ducked backward. "Stay still, I gotta touch your eye!"

"Gah! Don't blind him. No, you're wrong. S'not that."

Narihisago glanced around in the streetlight. This game was harder in the muted palette of the night. Wandering over to a tree he picked a leaf.

Momoki shook his head.

He tossed that one, and grabbed another.

"Nope. Not that one."

In a mad dive, both Matsuoka and Narihisago picked leaf after leaf from the tree until they had exhausted the full supply leaving the branches without a single quivering bit of foliage. At long last Matsuoka looked up to spy the car behind them. He leaned over and touched it.

"Yes!"

The blaring of an alarm sent them staggering away with their hands over their ears as the car flashed its headlights.

Around the corner as they caught their breath, Matsuoka gloated. "That one goes to me. So … uhhh, I spy something," he began to grin wickedly, rubbing his hands together, "gray."

Immediately Narihisago and Momoki started to search all around as there were a lot of gray things, if metallic counted as gray. Didn't seem like it when Momoki tapped a bike rack.

Bending down, Narihisago cocked his head at the brickwork on the sidewalk. He started an odd one man game of Twister touching four of the gray stones at a time until Matsuoka's fist appeared.

"Hah! Point to me!"

"Bastard."

Narihisago cracked his knuckles and gazed around the street corner they were on … somewhere downtown Tokyo. The street signs were a titch blurry. But they were tied now, at least he thought they were. He needed something tricky, unusual. Rubbing his chin he surveyed the empty street and spied it. The devilish trick. On the other side of the street in front of a construction sight he spotted the red silhouette of the crosswalk signal. "I spy something red."

He leaned back, downing the rest of his beer as he watched Matsuoka from the corner of his eye already sussing out the direction he'd been looking. Matsuoka furrowed his brow and started to storm across the crosswalk, which was now no longer red, permitting safe passage.

"Damn it, he wasn't supposed to get it so quickly." Narihisago followed at a distance. But he stopped a bit short, not entering the street as Matsuoka stormed straight past the clue. Holding up a finger, Narihisago cocked his head. "Where's he going?"

To their shock, and captured in Shingi's recording, they watched as Matsuoka pushed open the fence passing the Hard Hat Required sign, and the No Trespassing sign. A moment later, they heard Matsuoka's grunts as he hauled himself up onto the boom of the crane and started to crawl his way out.

Momoki gasped, "What is he doing?"

The sound was more appropriate for a hyena as Narihisago laughed hard enough to double over. "Oh my God, the idiot! I know where he's going!" He pointed to the red flag hanging at the end of the mostly horizontal boom.

Sure enough, on his hands and knees, with a determined will, and well in focus of the lens, Matsuoka shambled his way out toward the end, groping for the flag.

"Hey," Momoki elbowed Narihisago, "that's not it is it?"

"No way." He could barely answer for laughing. "Not even close."

That became infectious, Momoki's laughter only marginally quieter. "Tell him."

"Why?" Narihisago wiped his eyes. "Hahaha, he looks so sure of himself … our champion! Hahaha!" He fell into Momoki, nearly toppling both of them over.

Tugging on the flag, Matsuoka shouted, "Hey! I got it!"

Cupping his hand by his mouth, Narihisago called back. "Guess again!"

"What?" Leaning forward, he wobbled. His grip on the flag tightened as he employed it to keep atop the large piece of construction equipment. In the still night air a tearing reached their ears. The flag now hung from one corner instead of two. Matsuoka started to shuffle backward off the crane accompanied by the string of curses.

Narihisago burst back into laughter. "Wow, I think we can count that as the most epic fail of the night."

Momoki held his question until Matsuoka stomped out of the work yard, he followed as Narihisago cross the street. "Alright, Akihito, what was it?"

A second later a red light cast over them. He didn't look at his pointed up unapologetically.

Matsuoka tried to grab his jacket lapels and stumbled. But it went no better for Narihisago who tripped backward as he evaded, catching his weight against Momoki in a giggling fit. This time, unable to compensate they tumbled to the ground in a hysterical muddle.

A car pulled up, a flashlight blazed into toward them. "Hey, what's going on here?"

The mischievous trio raised their arms to block the light from the stunned officer.

He lifted his cap off, "Detectives?"

Shingi stepped forward. "I can explain … I hope."

"Do they need a ride home?"

He turned to find the three of them consumed with laughter while trying to remember if it was a tie or a landslide three different ways to Thursday. Shingi nodded firmly. "Oh, yes. There is not doubt about that."

~ID~

The taste was something like unwashed sweat socks soaked in vinegar, or so he imagined. Akihito smacked his lips and groaned, opening his eyes to discover his living room bathed in blinding light … and an incredibly splitting headache! Instantly he covered his face with an arm and smelled sea salted wool.

The night before refused to come to back to him. Why hadn't he come home and changed out of the suit he'd virtually swam in? Why had he slept in it? Why was he on the couch?

Loud footsteps drew his attention as they paused beside the couch. He peered from under his arm to spy Ayako smiling down at him before she launched into unmuted questioning. "Morning Aki! Do a little celebrating last night?"

"Mmmmph … " was about all he could manage through the throbbing headache. Couldn't she keep it down?

"I gathered you had yourself a good time. At least that's the impression the officers who brought you home gave me."

Slowly he lowered his arm. Brought me home? He peered around. No Momoki. Muku sat at the table kicking her feet as she ate her breakfast. When she saw him looking at her, she held out a fork with some fish and rice. "Daddy hungry?"

That sent his stomach into a twisting tango. Hastily, he scrambled for the bathroom racing the rising acidic gorge.

Ayako's voice carried around the corner. "Aki, the mouthwash is in the cabinet."

Gasping over the toilet he learned a dismal truth as he dry heaved. Apparently he'd already completed this part. With a moan, he staggered up to his feet and rinsed his mouth out, trying to banish the horrid flavor of his barely remembered overindulgence. In the mirror he couldn't believe the sight. Disheveled, his hair was a tangled mess, every stitch of clothing was wrinkled to hell. His bright red tie hung at an angle, the knot tugged loose. And his skin tone was rather close to his eye color … jade.

A knock on the front door stole his attention. A bit wobbly, he used the wall for support as he made his way back to the living room in time to catch Ayako responding, "Yes, my husband is here."

In the doorway he spotted to officers, the front one tugged the brim of his cap down. "Detective Narihisago, we were sent to bring you the first division office."

Uh oh, I have a feeling that's not for a promotion. "The chief gave us the day off for a job well done on the … " his brain scrambled to come up with the name, "Stitcher case?"

"Yeah, he mentioned that. Said he needed to clear up a few things." The officer waved a hand out the door.

Ayako folded her arms, her eyes scolding him.

As stable as he could, he followed them out to the car, grateful that his stomach was at least empty. They opened the back door and he was shocked to see Momoki holding his head. He peered to the side as the door shut.

The car pulled off, jostling a bit, making the ride perfect misery.

"Funetaro? Do you remember last night?"

His bloodshot eyes appeared between fingers. "Which part?"

"Any of it?"

"Well, I remember my father picking me up off the floor by my collar and lecturing me as I vomited into his trashcan. You?"

He shook his head slowly.

"Ayako?"

"Apparently I spent the night on the couch … which just about tells you how that went over. Wait a second … was my car out front of the apartment complex?" It was far too late to check now, but he swore the squad car had been parked in his spot.

Crap! Where did I leave my car?

~ID~

Chief Tominaga drummed his nails against the desk. On the laptop screen, facing the three seated detectives, the video played in all its damning glory. Incident after incident filmed right in their midst showing Matsuoka, Momoki, and Narihisago flagrantly disregarded no trespassing signs, climbed up onto awnings, and engaging in a number of surprisingly coordinated feats for being shitfaced drunk disrupting the peace throughout the streets of Tokyo.

"Narihisago," Matsuoka pointed while gripping the side of his head, "how did you get onto that statue?"

He didn't answer. He just stared as Momoki attempted to hide in plain sight, and failed, for it is impossible to hide in a chair.

The chief grunted, "That's what I'd like to know. What the hell did you three think you were doing?"

Narihisago's alcohol steeped brain struggled to come up with something. "You see sir, couldn't have been me. The guy in the video, I don't have a tie like that."

Tominaga leaned over his desk, reached out and snatched his tie pulling it up in front of his eyes. "You're still wearing it!"

"Heh …oh." His head throbbed with every beat of his racing heart.

Momoki spoke to his lap, "Things got a bit out of hand when we went to celebrate solving the case."

"A little?" He pulled up a file on the computer. "Eight counts of trespassing, three of destruction of property, nine for disrupting the peace. And at least four of drunk and disorderly conduct. Most of this on CC security cameras with the footage already filed with the department. Do you have any idea how long all that will take me to clear up?"

Their heads drooped with each of his accusations.

"Detectives, along with one senior detective," he glared at Matsuoka, "after a high profile case out drinking to the point of charges! You're lucky the officers took you three home instead of to the drunk tank. And even more fortunate the press didn't catch sight of your debauchery! The shame this would have brought our division."

"Sir I—"

"Not a word! In the time it took for the men to bring you all here I have already decided on how you will be taught never to do this again." He folded his arms across his chest and stared at them. "For today you will go home and sober the hell up. Tomorrow you will report, in uniform, to the street division."

Narihisago and Momoki stared hard at the floor. That stung, but it was better than getting fired.

"I will see you back here in one week with a proper understanding of how to conduct yourselves. Am I understood?"

They both answered in trained unison. "Yes sir."

At the long silence, Tominaga turned to Matsuoka. "And you?"

"Sir?" He blinked in confusion.

"I meant you as well."

He gawked, fighting for words. "But sir, I'm a senior detective!"

"Who should have known better than to go galavanting all over town and climbing around a construction site."

"I haven't been in uniform in over a decade!"

Tominaga smirked. "I care. Now, all three of you go back home and sleep it off. Narihisago, you can get your car back from impound tomorrow."

"Well, that answers that." He sighed. "The mystery of where I left my car is solved."

The chief narrowed his eyes. "You're going to be interesting to work with, aren't you."

Momoki eyed him. "Never a dull moment."

As they passed through the department office, Narihisago muttered, "How do you think he got that footage? I mean … all of that looked like it was right with us."

Momoki stopped, thwapping a hand in the center of Narihisago's chest as they both looked at Shingi sitting at his desk trying frantically to look preoccupied. "I remember! We weren't alone last night, that snitch!"

Narihisago grabbed Momoki's wrist, dragging him from walking toward the desk. "We're in enough trouble. The chief has enough charges to clear up, he doesn't need assault. Besides, I think Shingi has someone else to worry about."

It was a quick gesture, but it was enough to direct Momoki's attention as Matsuoka left the chief's office and eyed Shingi like a bull about to charge. He dove behind his desk like a frightened rabbit.

~ID~

Momoki tugged the hat brim down to cover most of his face. Already he swore he could feel the blisters on his heels as he and Narihisago patrolled the streets … on foot. So much for savoring the success of their mission.

A call came over the com. "Officers Momoki and Narihisago, you've been requested for security detail down the musical festival, since you're two blocks away."

"Copy that." Momoki sighed as they turned toward the distant music.

"Bright side, at least we can stand still for a while instead of patrolling."

He lifted a shoulder in a shrug as they approached the well controlled crowd building before a stage. Looked to be a dull assignment.

From behind them an excited shout turned their attention, "Bros!"

Momoki instantly froze as Narihisago turned to find Kichiro with a guitar case over his shoulder, walking toward them.

Kichiro threw his arms wide. "Whoa! Didn't think I would see you two here today. Rad! Now you can hear me play! Awww man, this is like a sweet fam reunion! Snazzy uniforms."

As Kichiro bear hugged his brothers, Momoki whispered to Narihisago, "You were saying something about a silver lining?"


So we've reached the end of this 'past foray' and bid farewell to the guys' detective days for now ... but at least on the humorous note of the "Drunken I Spy Tag" game that was their infamy. ;) Next we'll be back to Kura's era, nipping at the heels of FILE: BUSTED. There was a reason I delved back to this case, careful readers will see why in the next story! ;)

See you again soon!