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Keeping Secrets

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Nakajima Yoko joined the firm around a year after Mikami Teru, although she didn’t know that she had at the time. She quickly proved herself to be practical and neat and organised and she was promoted rapidly, first simply upwards, then made Mikami’s personal secretary.

“I don’t envy you,” one of the other secretaries said, shaking her head. “He’s a pain. Gorgeous but a pain.”

“A pain?” Nakajima said nervously. She hadn’t really been working there that long after all. She didn’t want to be in trouble.

“He’s just weird,” the girl said with a shrug. “If you move stuff, he yells at you, even if it’s just an inch. He hates mess. You’ll have to know where absolutely everything is and absolutely everything about his cases or he’ll say you’re inefficient. Why do you think they keep giving him new secretaries?”

All of which left Nakajima in something of a panic about her new job.

Of course, Mikami-san wasn’t nearly as bad as they’d made out. He smiled at her when she arrived and said he was pleased to meet her and quickly introduced her to his filing system. Nakajima stayed quiet and took it all in. There was time to get to know him later. Right now, she just needed to get to know the ropes so she wouldn’t mess up her job. This seemed to confuse Mikami-san.

“You’re very quiet,” he said. “Most people aren’t quiet.”

“I just want to know what I’m doing,” Nakajima said with a small smile. “That’s all.”

He smiled back at her warmly and nodded.

“I like efficiency,” he said.

He did as well. Mikami-san clearly didn’t believe in having things done tomorrow when they could be done today. He got everything done rapidly and calmly and utterly efficiently. Nakajima found herself watching him sometimes because she couldn’t quite believe anyone could be that practical. She supposed that was why he was so good at his job. Everyone in the firm knew that he was wonderful. One of the best.

They’d been right though. He did have all sorts of strange habits. Almost obsessive-compulsive about some things. Everything had to be lined up properly on the shelves, even on the same level. Everything had to group up in colours when possible – maroon files, navy blue files, black files, all in lines of colour. He didn’t like the maroon files to be next to the black ones. The thing was, once Nakajima understood it, it was so easy to please him. She found herself grouping the pens carefully in colours, sharpening the pencils to the same length, making sure that everything was placed the way Mikami-san would want it to be. She recognised the slight tense to his shoulders when something wasn’t quite right and the way he would breathe out once whatever bothered him was neatly sorted. She didn’t know why all the other secretaries had made such a fuss about it really.

And yes. He was gorgeous.

Nakajima prided herself in being completely professional. But sometimes while watching Mikami-san, she couldn’t help noticing that he really was quite beautiful. His skin was pale and smooth. His hair was luscious and dark and maybe slightly too long – Nakajima’s mother would have been appalled – but Nakajima thought it was beautiful. Sometimes, when she watched him work and it fell over his face, she had to fight the urge to gently push it back behind his ears, or even just to stroke it. She never would of course. But she rather wanted to.

All the secretaries in the company agreed with her.

“It’s no use,” one of her friends told her. “All the time he’s been here, he’s never dated a single person that we know of. He keeps his private life private.”

“Or he’s gay,” one of the women muttered.

“Ishida! That’s a terrible thing to say!”

Nakajima didn’t think that Mikami-san was gay. She wasn’t entirely certain that he was anything very much. Sometimes, she rather felt that he was like a wind-up doll that didn’t have sexual urges at all. Maybe that was why everything had to be so well organised, so well arranged. Sex would probably be too messy, too uncontrolled for him.

But she was happy enough. Her job was good and she was good at it. Mikami-san trusted her more and more, asking her to do things for him that he’d never trusted his other secretaries to do. She always knew what he was supposed to be doing and where he was supposed to be. She knew if Mikami-san was available or if he didn’t want to be disturbed. She kept his appointments and files in order. She helped him organise everything for the television programme that was organised to interview professionals in their twenties and even went along with him for support. His hands shook with nerves and she touched his wrist gently and even risked smoothing his hair.

“You’ll be wonderful,” she reassured him and he smiled up at her and touched her hand. Nakajima was far too sensible to get butterflies but she felt the warmth of his fingers for what seemed to be hours afterwards, while she watched him on the television and then later while she watched him talk to Takada Kiyomi. That was what made her wonder. She watched them talk and later, when she was typing up his appointments and found a lunch appointment with Takada-san in there.

She told herself that she didn’t mind. Only she did, just a little bit. Because Takada was slender and beautiful and professional and cool as Mikami-san and Nakajima was short and plump and only a secretary when all was said and done. Even if Mikami-san trusted her more than anyone else in the firm. Even if she knew him, inside and out.

She truly believed that she did know him. She spent so much time around him, so much time helping him, knowing where everything was so he could find it. She knew every case he was working on. She knew his routine even without having to check. She knew his home phone number and address. She’d even been round to his flat to drop files off late when he suddenly needed them. It was a beautiful flat. Huge and spacious and meticulously clean and colour coordinated. Nakajima did was what considered the most stalkerish thing she’d ever done and asked to use his bathroom, then checked his cabinets to see if there were any feminine products hidden away. To her great relief, there was nothing. Clearly, there was no woman on a regular basis.

She did her best not to try and imagine living in that apartment. It would never happen after all. Just as she did her best not to dwell on playful thoughts of romance and dating, of marriage and becoming Ms. Mikami Teru. She was a secretary, nothing more.

She knew of his secret support for Kira, something that no one else in the firm knew. Mikami had spoken to her about it one day after an anonymous newspaper article came out describing Kira as evil.

“Why?” he raged at her. “Why would anyone say that? Don’t they see, don’t they understand what’s happening to this world? I spend my time trying to banish this evil, trying to bring about justice and they praise me for it, yet damn Kira, the one person who tries more than anyone else!”

“But you do it from within the system, Mikami-san,” Nakajima said quietly, watching him pace. “Kira is, at best, a vigilante. People fear that.”

“He’s not a vigilante! He is a God!

She stared at him, rather shocked and he flushed.

“I’m sorry,” he said, more quietly. “That was … I shouldn’t have. Please forgive me.”

“It’s all right,” she said, half wanting to press him further and knowing that he wouldn’t like it. She hadn’t seen him so worked up about anything for a very long time. It was frightening – but fascinating.

They rarely spoke about Kira – or in fact anything that was not work related – but Nakajima knew that Mikami-san kept a scrap book of Kira cuttings in his desk. She knew that when Kira killed one of the criminals that Mikami-san knew about, he celebrated. She didn’t want to think about that. It was the only thing she couldn’t like about Mikami-san. Glorying death was something Nakajima found abhorrent. She would never tell Mikami-san of course. That was not her place. She never told anyone else about it either. She kept Mikami-san’s secrets because that was part of her job and Nakajima prided herself on doing her job the best that she could.

She knew that something had changed in November. Mikami-san was … invigorated, she supposed. His usual calm demeanour didn’t disappear but beneath it there was something lurking. Not a bad something but … a something all the same. He worked with his usual methodical enthusiasm but sometimes his hands would tremble, his breath would quicken. No one who didn’t know him as well as she did would have noticed. But Nakajima did and she wondered. Perhaps Mikami-san had found a girlfriend? Yet his normal schedule remained unchanged and there was nothing added. She longed to ask but she supposed that Mikami-san was entitled to his own secrets too. And of course, she was only his secretary. She had no right to ask anything of him. Anyway, it was nice to see him so happy. She knew that he was happy, happier than she’d ever seen him before. Perhaps happier than he’d ever been in his life.

“This world is changing,” he said one day as she handed him the files. “Don’t you think it’s wonderful, Nakajima-san?”

“Not if you and I are out of a job,” she said with a small smile. “Your caseload is shrinking.”

“That’s the work of Kira,” Mikami-san said softly. “The work of Kira, making this world a better place.”

Nakajima wasn’t quite sure what to say. Mikami-san wasn’t usually so open about his feelings.

“I suppose so,” she said after a moment.

“You have been good to me,” Mikami-san said quietly. “You are a good person, a loyal person, Nakajima-san. Maybe … ”

He stopped and his eyes unfocused slightly, staring off into the distance. Nakajima wondered if he was off in his own world, his new changed world. She waited politely for him to return to the real one.

“Nothing,” he said at last. “I am sorry to keep you.”

She nodded and went back to her work, wondering what he had been thinking. Doubtless, he’d tell her in time.

“Oh,” Mikami-san said suddenly. “I almost forgot. January 28th – I shall need to leave the office at twelve. I’m not quite sure when I’ll be back, perhaps not even that day. Can you arrange things for me, Nakajima-san?”

“Of course, Mikami-san,” she said, already rescheduling appointments in her head. “What should I put in your diary?”

“Simply … a prior engagement,” Mikami-san said softly and a strange smile crossed his face. Nakajima had never seen him smile like that before. Strange, almost … unbalanced. “A very important prior engagement.”

She obeyed as always, altering his diary, moving appointments. She supposed that if it was important, Mikami-san would tell her about it eventually. He usually did.

On the 29th of January, Mikami-san didn’t come into work. Nakajima called his home number but got no answer so she asked if she could go round and check. He had to be seriously ill or seriously hurt after all. Mikami-san had never missed a day’s work. She’d seen him work with a high fever, refusing to break his routine for something so petty as sickness. He’d let her give him medicine and bring him cooling wipes for his face and even held her hand as he thanked her. The only reason he could possibly be missing work now was for something horrendously serious. They said she could but before she could leave the office, a man came in and asked to speak to her, giving his name as Gevanni.

He told her the news quite gently. That Mikami-san was not at home but in a high-security prison on the charge of murder. That he would never be coming into work again and in fact probably never leave isolation.

“That’s ridiculous,” she said limply. “Mikami-san loves justice. He would never hurt anyone. Never! There’s been some terrible mistake.”

“No,” Gevanni-san said quietly. “No, I’m afraid not.”

She went through all the scenarios in her head. That Mikami-san was covering up for someone, that Mikami-san had been framed by someone with a grudge, that Mikami-san had been framed by incompetent police. That somehow, somewhere, someone had made a terrible, terrible mistake. Because Mikami-san was a good man and good men didn’t commit murder.

“But why?” she asked and Gevanni-san looked away and wouldn’t give her a straight answer. Just that enquires were pending and that sometimes, people did strange things. He gave her a tissue when she began to cry and patted her shoulder gently, telling her how sorry he was.

“He’ll hate it in there,” she said miserably. “He … he needs his routine, he … ”

“He’ll have a routine,” Gevanni-san said. “You shouldn’t worry about that.”

Nakajima didn’t think that he understood. She didn’t argue. She asked if she could have Mikami-san’s address so that she could write to him, perhaps even send him things. Gevanni-san seemed surprised but gave it to her just the same.

“You may not get a reply,” he warned her. “He’s … highly unbalanced.”

Nakajima didn’t ask for details. She helped Gevanni-san clear out Mikami-san’s desk, showing him anything that he felt he needed to see. She refused to join in with the gossip that was going around the firm, refused to say anything that she knew or comment on Mikami-san’s character. No matter what Mikami-san had done, she would still keep his secrets.

She wrote him a letter that night. She wrote him several letters that night. She didn’t really know what to say. That she didn’t believe it? That she couldn’t understand it? That she just couldn’t accept that the man she’d half-dreamed of marrying, the man whose name she’d childishly doodled in front of hers was apparently some sort of cold-blooded killer? None of those things would help him now. She eventually sent him a simple note, offering support and encouragement and saying that she would willingly fetch him in anything that he needed.

She received the reply eleven days later, when Gevanni-san came around to her flat to tell her about Mikami-san’s suicide. He hadn’t left a proper suicide note – only a brief letter to her.

Nakajima-san. Thank you for all your assistance. You have been good to me over the years. I would have been good to you. Yours, Mikami Teru.

She cried when she read it, for lost things and useless broken dreams. Gevanni-san stayed with her for a while, holding her hand, murmuring apologies and finally leaving her when she asked to go to bed. He left her the note and Nakajima hid it away in a drawer. She didn’t quite know what she wanted to do with it. She didn’t quite know anything any more.

She found the note again some years later when she cleared out her flat in preparation to move in with her new husband. She read it over and over, wondering what might have been going through Mikami-san’s head when Mikami-san had written it, pondering over each meaning. It didn’t matter now. It hadn’t then either, not in the end. She would never know what he’d been thinking, never be able to understand why Mikami-san had done it.

Never really know if he’d been Kira or not.

She thought he had to have been. Kira’s killings had stopped after Mikami-san’s incarceration and there had been no other significant arrests made on that day, at least not ones that had been made public. Exactly who Mikami-san’s “victims” were had never been mentioned anywhere and there had been Gevanni-san’s caginess, his refusal to really answer questions. The fact that he was apparently in charge of the case but was clearly not a Japanese policeman.

Nakajima knew that she would never know now. That really, it didn’t matter in any way any more. She’d thought about talking to people sometimes – her mother, her sister, her husband. Perhaps they would be able to comfort her, soothe her fears. But she knew that she never would.

Even now, Nakajima Yoko still kept Mikami Teru’s secrets.