“Residing in Paris during the spring and part of the summer of 18--, I there became acquainted with a Monsieur C. Auguste Dupin. This young gentleman was of an excellent --indeed of an illustrious family, but, by a variety of untoward events, had been reduced to such poverty that the energy of his character succumbed beneath it, and he ceased to bestir himself in the world, or to care for the retrieval of his fortunes.”
Poe's voice—deep and nearly inaudible—accompanied by the soft piano melody coming from the record beside them brought the detective a sense of tranquillity in his usually restless state. His voice had reminded him of a story he had read of a midnight playing of an orchestra, heard by a lone soul in the dead of winter.
However, as enticing as the manuscript of his newest draft being read to him was, Ranpo couldn't keep his attention focused on the words being read to him, and was instead focused on the pure elegance and serenity that had made its grand appearance radiating off of Poe.
In all their previous encounters, they had been in public, surrounded by unfamiliar faces and nonexistent eyes staring down at the writer, causing him to sink down into himself and leaving him stumbling over each of his words.
But within the privacy and familiarity of his home, Ranpo could truly admire the hidden beauty of his friend—hair parted to expose one of his eyes, the collar of his blouse left unbuttoned, and the ease in which he read aloud his works.
Even with being a master detective, it still took him by surprise the day he had first witnessed Poe's relaxed state. Perhaps it had been the lavender plants placed thoughtfully throughout the house, but having walked through the busy streets of the city, the writer fidgeting with the hem of his coat and voice unstable, and then entering the house to see the almost sudden change within him—voice full of emotion, eyes bright and lively—was something he hadn't expected to see.
It was a beauty he wished to see more of outside of his occasional visit—a beauty that others deserved to witness from afar and admire.
With closed eyes, Ranpo lazily reached over to the coffee table and grabbing ahold of his half-drunk glass of wine, taking a long, satisfying sip before haphazardly placing it back on the table, nearly resulting in the several other empty glasses falling.
It had been a challenge convincing Poe to drink. From what he managed to gather, something that had occurred during his time in the Guild had lead to—what he presumed to be at least—a rather concerning fear of alcohol. And although he wanted to know what exactly was the cause, seeing the shift from delight to utter terror after mentioning it during one of his previous visits, he knew that it was a boundary not meant to be crossed.
With the soothing voice of the writer and the soft hums coming from the raccoon that had fallen asleep on his stomach, Ranpo's mind drifted away and slowly was lured into a peaceful state of unconsciousness.
It was the clock ringing nine in the evening that woke him up—momentarily alarmed at the sudden change in the scenery compared to when he had fallen asleep.
The onyx drapes over the window were tied neatly to the sides—giving him a lovely view of the river and road below him, silk sheets cold against his skin, the faint distant scent of Poe that he knew all too well—lavender.
With the protests of his body, Ranpo slowly rose in the bed, the sheets falling off his shoulders and exposing his skin to the nearly unbearable freezing temperatures of the room (he had failed to ever understand why Poe wished for his bedroom to feel like it belongs morgue, his body trembled too much and caused his bones to ache whenever he slept in there).
After grabbing his coat, he walked downstairs to the kitchen where—with his hair neatly pulled back into a bun and wearing an apron slightly too large for him—Poe was, preparing a meal he couldn't quite identify.
“Croque monsieur,” Poe spoke, his dark and sleepy eyes drifting over to meet his briefly as he continued, “I was visiting France a few years ago and a nice old lady gave me the recipe.”
Ranpo hummed, his finger curling around a stray strand of black hair before snickering a reply, “Did that nice old lady also teach you how to look like a stay-at-home wife from America, chéri?”
“This-This is the common attire for those who cook, Ranpo,” Poe muttered, cheeks gently glowing red as he turned his focus towards finishing the meal, “Um, the food will be ready shortly.”
“Right, right.” the detective waved him off, letting out a yawn as he sat atop the breakfast bar, switching on the television to the local news station.
“Earlier this week, we received reports of a group of criminals terrorising the city, with the intentions of eliminating all members of the former organisation called the ‘Guild’ that had wreaked havoc upon Yokohama earlier this year. Officials are warning civilians to stay—”
Boring, Ranpo thought to himself as he clicked to the next channel—one of those crime shows that were so painful to watch that it was nearly hilarious (he had despised them at first—refusing to ever watch them, but Dazai frequently had them playing in the break room that he couldn’t help but come to adore those horrifyingly unrealistic stories).
“Those criminals—shouldn’t we be concerned about that?” Poe inquired, a tension in his body Ranpo hadn’t previously noticed.
“There’s nothing to be concerned about,” he began, sliding off the bar before continuing, “They’ve only killed those of low rankings. By if whatever means they get to you, they would certainly not kill you, but rather torture you into giving them information on the other former members,” Turning to look at the writer's paled face, he added on, “That's only if. This house is in your father's name, right? Petty criminals like those don't bother to research past their basic information. You'll be fine.”
Even with his attempt to reassure Poe that all was well, Ranpo could still see his distress—hands trembling through his tight grip on the handle of the pan, jaw clenched shut, his breathing shallow and irregular.
“Yes, of course, of course you're right,” the writer began, biting back the tremble in his bottom lip as he pressed forward,“But...you may want to leave now,” he said, voice low as he brought over the meal—neatly placed in a plastic container—to Ranpo as he continued in a clearer voice, “The storm will be coming in shortly.”
After their hasty goodbyes (“Same time next week? Will that work?”), Poe—his raccoon sleeping in his arms—retired to his bedroom for the night, listening to the soft tappings of the rain outside while he laid there, tired eyes looking out his window to watch the rhythmic droplets of water hit the river below.
Don’t worry about those criminals, Poe, Ranpo had said shortly before leaving, taking his trembling cold hands into his warm ones, You know my deductions are never wrong.
He replayed the conversation in his head, a strange feeling a warmth enveloping him when thinking of the detective—his unconcerned voice, the way he would take his hands and gently rubbed his thumbs in a circular motion on them whenever he would mention how they hurt.
It was the small things—minuscule things, really—the detective did that served as his hypnosis into a state of restfulness, free of the dread he had every time he looked in the newspapers.
And with that, as the clock turned to midnight, the exhaustion hanging over Poe’s body became too much to handle and a state of unconsciousness went over him.
It was the sound of glass shattering that woke him up.
Still being partially asleep, he waved it off as being Ranpo accidentally knocking a vase over as he tried to manoeuvre through the dark to retrieve something he had forgotten (this was relatively a common occurrence after having given the detective his spare key to the house when he had asked for it), but when he sunk back into the bed—listening to what he presumed to be his footsteps and nearly falling back to sleep—his heart stopped as he remembered that he had since then changed the keys, and that he had no way of getting into his home.
Stay calm, Poe thought to himself, his body stiff as he reached over for the pocketknife he kept by his bed, hearing the footsteps of what could only be multiple men, You've been robbed before, you can handle this.
His hand glided across the bed to gently feel for Karl—who stirred in his sleep at the touch before adjusting to curl around his hand for more warmth.
Careful to not wake up the raccoon, he slowly rose from his bed, trying to steady his breathing as he went for the door, silently turning the metal knob until a soft click and then opening the door, a rush of cold air hitting his cheek bitterly.
Creeping outside, Poe grasped tightly to the knife as his eyes darted between both ends of the hallway—the light of a flashlight reflected on to the walls through a mirror towards the staircase.
With his body pressed against the side of the wall to keep his shadow unseen by the intruders, he began to creep towards the stairs, attempting to steady his breathing as the situation became too much to handle.
He has had attacks—long, painful, gruelling attacks that left him bedridden for hours—in predicaments that were far less severe than this one, and as his balance and vision began to fail him, it became clear to him that he wouldn't be able to fight back at them. Nor would he be able to if he had been calm.
Poe wanted to scream—to cry out, to hear the fleeting reassurance that everything was going to be okay, but his lungs were drowned in magma, allowing only loud, violent coughs to fall from his lips—alerting the intruders of his location.
Think, his hands were growing numb and his grip on the knife was slowly becoming loose, I have to hide, I have to hide, that's the only option.
His heart dropped to his stomach as he heard the floor behind him creak and a disembodied voice bitterly laughing, “So this is where you've been hiding these past few months.”
Time stopped, just momentarily. All noises ceased, his heartbeat stopped, his lungs unresponsive. He needed to run, to forget every plan to confront them and just get out of there. But his legs didn't listen.
He stood there, paralysed, as the intruder slammed him into a shelf, the piercing crash of a glass ornament breaking into hundreds of pieces against the wooden flooring pulling him out of his trance and a rush of resistance coursing through him, begging him to escape—but it was already too late.
Before any words of pleading could come from his lips, a strong grip went around his neck, pulling him into the air right as the lightning struck outside, giving him the appearance of the intruder—brunette hair, glassy grey eyes, a muscular form, and clothing that suggested that he wasn't from the city.
Poe tried to say something—anything—but his throat closed up and he began to lose consciousness.
Heavy footsteps were heard next to him, followed by a voice that he couldn't make out. Before he had any chance to react to the new addition, the sharp pain of something being injected into his neck was felt—then everything faded to black.
Waves crashed into the obsidian boulders against the shore, passerby shrieking and laughing as they attempted to dodge the water that sprayed on to the sidewalk. The sky a canvas of pink and blue and purple cotton candy.
Ranpo had never been keen on early morning walks by the ocean—of the seagulls violent chirping, of the sound of young children playing follow the leader to school, of the lovers holding hands as they talked loudly about their love for each other to the lone jogger next to them—but after his visit with the writer the previous night, something felt off, leading to a violent case of insomnia as his tired brain failed to figure out its cause.
Was it because his detective skills were becoming impaired?
He pulled the morning newspaper out of his coat before reading the front headline—an unsolved murder case that had made the top headline for the past three weeks. He had never thought of solving it, however, due to frankly not caring about the case.
It's simple, he thought to himself as he read through the information given to him, There's a mob hiding in the basement parking that targets the people who work at the establishment.
Civilians always have made him weary with how little their brains could come up with answers to childish riddles. He could've done the case with his eyes closed.
Ranpo flipped over to the next page and read its equally as large headline.
“Danger! Has a new terrorist group made its way into Yokohama?”
It was the same story he had heard last night—criminals targeting former Guild members, either killing them or kidnapping and torturing them until they give out the information that they need.
His mind flashed to Poe, of how his eyes went wide as he asked him, Will I be okay?.
Of course. They won't attack you—I know they won't, Ranpo thought as he rolled the newspaper back up and placed it in his coat, They're cowards and even if they did, I wouldn't let them.
Somewhere, church bells rung, signalling midday. The bells soft echoes and gentle melody became his only strong grip on reality.
It was jet black, the room they had put him on, but even so, Poe knew he was bleeding severely, he could smell it—feel it run down the side of his cheek before dripping on to his white blouse.
He had a headache threatening to burst out of his skull—colourful shapes swirling around in his vision to only add on to the pain as a feeling of nausea crept up his throat.
“Des yeux qui font baisser les miens,” He sang to himself, trying to calm himself as heavy movement in the room next to him became excruciatingly loud, “Un rire qui se perd sur sa bouche.”
“Stop fucking talking in that damn language,” A disembodied voice from behind began, the sound of a match being lit, “The last person we had down here wouldn't stop talking to herself in English, so I ripped off her tongue before dumping her into the river.”
Oh. That's right. He wasn't alone—he was never alone in that room; they didn't trust him to be kept alone in there.
Poe's head rolled up to the ceiling, watching the faint glow of the lighter being used behind him, before hearing the creaking of the wooden door open, sunlight streaming in and burning into his eyes.
“Are you...here to kill me already?” his voice croaked, his throat dry and sore from the hours of screaming and sobbing from their last session two hours prior.
The captor—blonde hair and striking blue eyes—laughed without humor as he walked towards him, grabbing a handful of his hair before yanking him back into the chair before responding, “I would need the information you have first before I would think of doing that.”
He motioned towards one of his men, placing a bottle of vodka into his hand—Poe's eyes widening at the sight of it, his legs, although numb, began to tremble.
No, he thought, Anything but that.
“Eu une mauvaise expérience avec l'alcool, n'est-ce pas?” the man snickered, pleased with his captee's negative reaction, “The last person we had in here told me about your past—those neglectful parents who took their drunken rage out on you, those coworkers who forced alcohol down your throat nightly and left you to puke your guts out.”
The writer stayed silent, his eyes staring past the captor—Think, there must be a way out of this. He had written stories in the past of characters in that sort of predicament, using their plentiful of knowledge to escape.
“Gone mute, have we?” the man said, uncapping the bottle and pulling Poe's head back even further before forcing the bottle into his mouth and pouring every single bit of its contents into his mouth.
It burned in his throat as it travelled down to his stomach that hasn't had food in days, churning and causing him to cough it up, the alcohol mixing in with the blood that had dried in his mouth.
His head pounded—excruciatingly in a way that he had never felt it hurt before, a lobotomy on his brain and having been denied access to anesthesia as he is left there to scream and struggle within his shackles as the procedure commences.
Through the haziness of his mind, Poe lifted his head, looking at the dangling lights on the ceiling that seemed to multiply and change colours the longer he looked at them, everything else around him during black.
He could hear the captors unintelligibly speaking to him—in harsh, insulting voices, that echoed in his ears as the men let out roaring laughter at his deteriorating state.
Strong hands grabbed ahold of his jaw, forcing him to meet their eyes as they snarled and spoke, “I'll be back in three hours exactly. You better be ready to speak or its another three bottles of liquor for you.”
After the men made their leave out of the room and the blinding lights switched off, a stream of tears that left his eyes stinging fell down his cheek as the reality of his situation began to set it; he wasn't like the characters he have written in his books, he wasn't going to be able to escape his bindings and sneak out of that horrid place—he was going to die there, mass amounts of blood poured from his lips each time he coughed, and no one was going to be there to save him.
Ranpo, a sob escaped from his lips, I'm sorry it turned out this way.
“You look like shit.”
It was neither a humorous remark or a concerned one, it was simply just him pointed out how the detective looked—dark circles under his eyes, hair unkempt and disheveled, a crankiness in his appearance that suggested that he hadn't had his daily intake of sugary substances.
“Not that you look any better than me.” Ranpo retorted, sitting—no, falling—into his seat, a migraine slowly forming as he used his hands to shield his eyes from the burning sun. What did I miss?
Dazai let out an empty laugh as he pulled a chair up in front of his desk, sitting down in it backwards as he asked, “It's the Guild case, isn't it? You know, another body believed to be an ex-member was found against the river this morning.”
“They won't take him.”
“Of course they won't. After all, why take a high-ranking official who has ties directly to Fitzgerald?”
An uncomfortable silence fell over them—only the sound of construction work on the other side of the street and the sharpening of a pencil in another office was heard, the detective realising the grave miscalculations in his deduction.
“Before you leave,” the brunette began as Ranpo rose from his seat with a new sense of energy that hadn't been there before, “There's an abandoned apartment complex by the river. I sent the police out there thirty minutes ago, now they are waiting for your command to open fire on them.”
I'm going to die here.
That ending the only one Poe could think of—of slowly bleeding out from the untreated stab wound in his stomach, of the alcohol burning his body from the inside out, of dying alone with no one's remorse.
It was always going to end like this. he concluded, his eyes growing heavy and a sense of relaxation surged through him, forgetting the pain that had felt unbearable only seconds before.
He could hear the sound of gunshots and piercing screams of the men outside the room—were they in pain? was there a fight? did rescue come?
The writer tried to concentrate on the noise, but the ringing in his ears slowly became louder and louder until he could hear nothing but the monotonous tone of ringing.
The consciousness that he had been trying so hard to keep a firm grasp on slowly began to fade, his heart desperately clinging on as his mind told him to let go, to accept the fate that had been chosen for him.
He took one final breath for everything ceased.
Ranpo was never the type to cry—the last time he remembered crying was from laughing at the police for their god awful work that he needed to come clean up before more mistakes were made. He never cried—he despised it.
But when he turned on the light switch and saw the bloody, broken form of Poe laying unmoving in the chair, tied up, he lost all the control he had over himself—running over to the writer's side and unbinding him from the ropes that had been pressed into his skin, attempting to pay no mind to the gaping wound in his stomach before pulling him out of the chair and into his arms.
Stay calm, stay calm, he said to himself, hands trembling as he searched for a pulse, choking back an uncharacteristic sob, Where the hell is his pulse?
The detective pulled Poe into a hug—not caring about the blood seeping into his blouse—letting out a sigh of relief as he pressed his fingers against his neck, feeling his faint pulse.
“It's going to be okay, chéri,” he began, brushing his hand through his blood matted hair, “Reste jusqu'à ce que l'aide vienne.”