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The River Casts Shadows by Ali
The River Casts Shadows by Ali
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The River Casts Shadows

Joe woke up in his trailer for the first time in a long time without having dreamt previously. He did a double-take on that. Just to be sure.

But, yes. It was true. He didn't dream. The images were gone. No longer haunting him. He felt such a powerful relief in that revelation.

The winter had made the day seem darker, but he could roughly tell it was about close to noon. Without much planned to begin with and no place to go, he comtemplated the day's possible line of events.

Jun and Jinpei had gone out of town as of yesterday, back to their old orphanage. There was a gathering of old friends and acquaintances, an event the two didn't want to pass up. Their little trip made Ken think a bit about Shimada Guard, his own home back in Seclusion, but he only thought of it at its minimum capacity. He had work to handle at Archangel Air. "The winter assignments are hell", he had said. But he then thought of calling home, just to maybe speak to one or two of the kids. And that thought, too, had been cut short. Joe had slapped him on the back of his head with the flat of his hand, just to unfreeze his brain for a second. "Just go to work and feel guilty, you stupid ass," he had growled impatiently.

So Ken was mostly likely still at work since yesterday. Ryu? Ryu had taken the oppurtunity to head back home to his dad's place; it was way warmer down south. He wasn't due back until the end of the week.

Which leaves me no choice but to got to the Residence, he thought. The generators are shot again, and it's freezing as it is.... if I stay here tonight I'll turn into a human popsicle by morning.

A shower was much needed, but a stupid idea. Stupid, because in reference to previous thought, the generators were down; the water would come out as warm as Alaskan snow. Wonderful.

He changed out of the previous night's clothes, packed a few belongings and left the icebox of a trailer. Unhooking it from his car, he piled in and drove the Shelby Cobra, now with its top up, away from there, heading to the edge of Utoland City where the lone Residence stood.

He set the car on course for his usual parking spot in the driveway. There were no other vehicles, as he had anticipated. Which was good. That meant he would be alone for the day.

Climbing out of the car, he felt the sharp winds of winter tear at his hair, ruffling it over his eyes. He brushed it back as he gather his things and headed for the door, fumbling for his keys. He found the one he needed and slid it into the keyhole, a turn of the wrist unlocking the door.

The moment he stepped in, the warmth coming from the central heating system was as close to heaven as he could get for now. He breathed it in, warming his insides, then shut the door behind him.

The house was dead silent. Unlikely.

"Hello?" No answer. "Tante Marie?" The housekeeper didn't respond.

Joe's hand felt for his gun, freeing it from its holster. Undid the lock.

He dropped his belongings and cautiously moved around to the kitchen. His light blue eyes darted left and right, taking in everything around him, making note of little things as he walked in slow, dangerous steps.

Feeling his shoulder close to the kitchen's door frame, he held his breath and waited, counting to ten before making his move into the room.

...Nine.... Ten!

He whipped to the left, turning into the door frame and smacked into the closed door. Staggering as the door swung in, he barely cleared the way as the door swung back out again, as though eagerly waiting to nail his nose again.

"Oww... chikuso..." he swore, rubbing his nose. It was then he noticed a note attached to the murderous door. A piece of orange paper scrawled with firm black ink.

He got up and pulled it off. Ken's neat scripture lined the paper.


        Tante Marie's got the week off, and Hakase will be in

May-eau-East for the next three days. Any eating and   

fending for will have to be done upon own accord.

I may come home, I may not. In any case, don't wait up

for me.


Joe crumpled the sheet of paper and threw it towards the wastepaper basket in the corner. 'Towards' was right; 'into' would've been better, but it didn't happen. It bounced off the rim and landed on the floor.

"Now, I think the shower would be a good idea."

Reholstering the weapon, he went back for his bag and hauled it upstairs with him, jets of hot water calling his name.

Okay, so for once, Ken was right, his thoughts rang as he towel-dried his damp hair. A hot shower *is* better than a cold one.

He caught himself. "But only at this time of year," he corrected to no one. He slid into a pair of jeans and a shirt before pulling a sweater over it. February and still chilly, he bitched. BC Island winters were never like this.

He froze that second. He hadn't thought of BC Island in a long time, directly, at least. Their last mission - his and Ken's anyway - brought back a fragment of his memory that had been lost for a long time, and had begged to be found. Found indeed, in a situation that nearly got both him and his slightly younger 'brother' burnt to ashes.

Memory of the rose. Of blood on the white sand. Of a limp hand that had not yet let go of his gun. Of why, why, why.

The son of the Galactor Organization's top Mafia man. The thought ate away at him, sending a wave of bitterness into his throat. Had it actually taken nearly ten years to find out that truth? And he actually

shared that truth with the blue-eyed workaholic boy scout by the name of Ken Shimada?

The latter could not be avoided, to say the least. Besides, it was Ken who gave him back that memory, much to his relief and distaste. Relief because Ken, he could trust. They bickered and got on each other's cases, sure. What else did 'brothers' do? They had a mutual trust, a code of thier own, and that was more important and that was what had stood firm all throughout.

But the distasefulness came from the fact that Ken had discovered that secret, and Joe could never leave it behind, not as long as he could see Ken every day and have him as a reminder of that discovery.

For some reason, though - and this had been sitting in a cloud right

above his head for a while now - the memory seemed incomplete. There was still one more fragment missing, and he could not figure out what it was.

At least, he figured, it doesn't make me nauseous or gives me migranes when I think about it.

He paced around the room a little more, and finally decided to walk beyond his door a bit. He wanted to see if anything much had changed around the Residence as of late, snce he hadn't been back for a while.

He passed Ken's door and stopped dead.

        to be continued...

Before you decide to fade away
Before you throw it all away
Before you make a decision you may regret Think :
"Burn. Live. Thrive."
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