Description: Agent Little's investigations on Darkstalkers have taken him to the strange Twilight Star Circus, where a recent arson has torn down the big top. Without any criminal charges pressed, the detective goes down the rabbit hole of clown politics and soon uncovers the seedy underworld of the circus. With the help of his friend Honoka The Acrobat, can Daniel Jack elude the brutish Sudo and his Ainu Tribesmen and uncover the mysteries of.... The Carnival of Terror!?! (The cover art depicts the interior of the big top tent, with a full audience watching the center ring. In the ring, a significantly endowed Honoka in a red strapless gown is strapped to a giant target board, with several hatchet embedded in it, while Sudo prepares another hatchet. Nearby, several of his Ainu tribesmen are dressed in native american headdresses, and some seem to be actually lizardmen. Daniel Jack himself is swinging in on the trapeeze, one hand reaching towards Honoka... and of course, the reader. The tent is also on fire.) (45 cents)
The arsonist has wrought a great deal of damage upon the Twilight Star Circus. One side of the big top is surrounded by scaffolding, allowing the artisans to effect repairs to the tent surface. Not all of them are Twilight Star employees; the circus had to hire a structural engineer and a fabric technician to oversee the difficult task of making sure the re-stitched fabric works as intended without looking like a Frankensteinian patchwork. It's slow going, and it's due to take another two weeks. An industrial trash dumpster sits off to one side, containing a pile of the discarded, burnt fabric as it's removed from the big top.
Aside from the repair staff, though, the circus is practically deserted, operating under a skeleton crew, numbering mostly in security personnel and a handful of administrative office-workers.
Honoka is -clearly- not pleased to be called back to the circus for an interview. She'd been scheduled for a match in this "Rumble In The Streets" tournament, and she keeps glancing down at her phone every few moments as she paces back and forth outside the circus' administrative trailer, while her friends and co-workers are interviewed.
"You look pissed," comments Sudo, glancing at Honoka around the rim of his sunglasses, as he stands guard outside the admin trailer.
"I -am- pissed," agrees Honoka, with the hint of a smirk visible behind the puffs of frost-laden air. "But it's freaking cold out here." She runs a hand absently against her right arm, continuing another circuit back and forth. The psychic knows everything that's being said inside, of course. But she really does feel the need to pace, and she -doesn't- want to break out the yo-yo strapped to her wrist, for... reasons.
Without a performance looming over her head, the acrobatic juggler is prepared to make another venture out into Southtown -- or more accurately, her next fight. Unzipped, her brushed-leather jacket gives a hint of the cream-colored turtleneck beneath. Hip-hugger blue jeans aren't -normally- part of her wardrobe, but it seemed somewhat appropriate for the cooler weather conditions.
Frankly, Daniel Jack had his own HitBit matches to deal with too.
The agent of Interpol had a lot on his plate right now. Zach being a horrible monster killer. Muggings and attacks on his life. Criminal activity going berserk all of a sudden. And the orders to keep in the HitBit tournament as long as he could. It was a chaotic time, and the fact he was making time to talk with the employees of the Twilight Star Circus was pressing for him as well. Oh, he had his cellphone ready too. He might had to leave at short notice any time.
But there were some facts and details he needed to be resolved.
Of the various attacks after the first round of HitBit fights, the only group that didn't press any charges properly was the Twilight Star Circus. Even the L'Amour, which was noted as being caused by the two fighters, still got some degree of customary investigation in the aftermath. Twilight Star Circus was untouched, and did not have any ongoing investigation with local PD. On top of it being unusual, it also created a prime opportunity for Agent Little of Interpol: it meant that any investigation put forward by Interpol did NOT need department approval, and did not require Interpol to wait for permission from the local investigation teams.
Daniel Jack arrives in a rental sedan, pulling up to where the cooperative witnesses gathered.
The agent emerges from the driver's seat in his Interpol greys, with a grey hat on his head, and a pair of dark sunglasses. He seemed to be doing fine for himself, inspite of his assassination attempt, if it wasn't for the fact he still had a wicked sutured wound on his cheek, from where he had gotten shot. The detective keeps a grim facade on his face, stepping out of the car and emerging. In one hand was his cellphone, with the HitBit app loaded. In the other was a badge, which he quickly raises up to show. Inspite of a tough exterior, when the detective finally speaks, he does so with a rather friendly, if firm, tone. "Hey folks! I'm Agent Little from Interpol. I'd like to say thank you very much for you time on this. I know you didn't need to come out for this, but I just wanted to do what I can to lend some outside help to the Twilight Star Circus." He even remembered the name right. "But jeeze, it's chilly out here isn't it."
"Is there a place inside we can talk, for privacy AND warmth?"
Honoka and Sudo both watch the sedan as it rolls up, while the other witnesses remain in the relatively warm administrative trailer. "Tch, about time," comments the juggler, passing another glance down at her phone before tucking it into her inner jacket pocket. The puppetmaster was irritated enough that her ploy to get out of further Southtown PD investigations only brought down the hammer of Interpol. And then for them to send...
Wait a minute, this agent looks familiar, notes Honoka, as she squints back at the man in grey. She passes a brief glance back to Sudo, who knocks on the door of the admin trailer while stating quietly, "Agent Daniel Little." The Ainu woman scratches at her nose, before thrusting her hands back into the enveloping warmth of her jacket pockets.
And then he's here, talking with such good cheer he could just as easily be selling vacuum cleaners. Sudo and Honoka both bow in greeting, though the woman is quick to voice the first response.
Familiarity breeds contempt. Or... shoot. Maybe that's not the right phrase.
"It's good to see you, Agent Little!" chirps out Honoka, her expression softening at the recognition of a contem-- familiar face. "What th' heck happened to your face?" she asks, her index finger darting out to tap at her own cheek to illustrate. Her Hokkaido accent is a bit more obvious now that she's speaking in full sentences, unlike the last time she and the Agent spoke together.
Sudo, the circus' chief of security, gestures towards a nearby trailer with a roll-out awning. "Canteen's best for now, admin trailer's bad for privacy." Which isn't to say that the canteen is much better, but with such a small crew present, it -is- less occupied. "Shall we...?"
Contempt breeds familiarity, in Daniel's case.
The detective was friendly. Why wouldn't he be friendly? Interpol often times had to rely less on authority and more on the kindness of strangers. They were like the homeless of the police force; the world was their home. Agent Little tucks away his phone and badge, as he approaches Sudo and... as he approaches the juggler, his eyes narrow a moment. She seemed... super duper familiar- and almost immediately, he bursts out a bright, almost cheerful tone.
Daniel Jack lets a smile spread across his face. He felt a... brief pang of hollowness within. A phantom pain, from one of his most terrorizing cases. He had met a woman who lied her way to a victim of The Butcher, and who fell victim to the monster herself. And here she was, bright and bubbly as ever, "Looks like you've recovered nicely!" Daniel Jack adjust his jacket, he mimics her, touching his torn up cheek. "Me? Eh, got shot in the face by some asshole at my HitBit fight. Part of the reason why Interpol is getting involved in this now. Eh heh heh." Daniel Jack was going to keep the details light right now. He didn't need to feed context to the circus here. As Sudo motions towards the canteen, Daniel Jack tips his hat. "Of course. We need to get down to business." He does shake his head a bit though, glancing back over to Honoka. "Shame you are getting involved in this." Daniel Jack states a matter of factly.
"Especially after The Butcher stuff, you really have the worst luck, don't you?"
Honoka can't help but smile in response to Daniel's amiable response. "Yeah, I never 'ppreciated b'fore how much I'd miss speakin' in complete sentences." The circus star brushes her pink-highlighted bangs out of her eyes as she walks towards the canteen, eagerly fascinated in the agent's abbreviated retelling of events.
She starts to voice her thoughts about luck, but thinks better of it and closes her mouth, remaining silent and pensive for a moment longer.
After a moment, it seems the performer has her thoughts in order. "Well... it's life in the big city, I guess...? But yeah... I kinda showed up -after- it happened."
Sudo opens the door to the canteen, peeking inside before allowing the others inside. He takes point by the door, nodding amiably to Daniel.
Honoka steps inside the canteen: largely consisting of plastic boxes full of non-perishable foods, and other plastic boxes full of soda cans and other such drinks. A shelving system contains more recent purchases, like bread, and whatnot, and there is a small metal box for allowing folks to chip in on later purchases. There's a folding table for food preparation, and some folding chairs -- Honoka pulls one out for Daniel, before taking a seat herself.
Honoka crosses one leg over the other, lacing her fingertips and casually resting her hands on her thigh. "Like, we'd just gotten back from the store when the fire trucks were 'bout finished putting the flames out. I... I didn't know what to think, honestly. Do you have any leads?"
This is a conversation between friends, as far as she's concerned: less an interview and more like catching up on the past few months.
"Now slow down Honoka, you are speaking too fast for me."
That is Daniel's response as Honoka's train of thought runs right off the rails and over the hill right up to the moon. Her accent was... harder to understand than when she was speaking in partial sentences. Taking his seat on his chair, he smiles at the woman, his brown eyes gentle. "We gotta keep a structure to this, okay? This is a little different from the hospital." He nods to her, and gives her a bit of a wink. Not a flirt, but a friendly one.
There really was nothing to worry about.
Sudo corrals the rest of the witnesses into the canteen, and each take their seats where they can. There aren't enough seats, naturally, and Sudo himself is forced to keep standing by the door. Daniel Jack himself pulls out a notepad and pencil, placing it on the table. He seems calm considering, and while it wasn't much warmer, it was much more comfortable. "This is how I am going to do this folks." He starts, looking around. "For now, I'm gonna start with a broad interview. I know you all have questions for me, but I have to ask that you hold off on it until the end." He scribbles some details down on the notepad. "Lets start with the basics here."
"During the HitBit fight, up to the fire, where were each of you?"
Too fast? ... Ah, right, her accent. Honoka can't help but speak it when she's surrounded by the circus trappings, as much of her circus 'family' also grew up in Hokkaido. It's the dialect that's most comfortable to her. "My apologies, Agent Little," she admits with a brief and apologetic nod.
The crowd of assembled employees is a motley crew. None of the employees looks particularly thrilled to be taking seats in the canteen, but it is, at the least, warmer than outside.
Two trapeze performers are the first to speak up. Slim and svelte, the man and woman seem to be a matched pair. "We were in our trailer, when we heard the fight start. Wandered out to watch the fight." The man shrugs, the woman lowers her head as a pink blush washes over her face.
One man in a crisp white shirt speaks up: "I was going over the financials in the office there."
A security official, well-muscled with a worn gray turtleneck: "I was on patrol. Had just checked that section of the big top a few minutes before the mess happened."
Four kitchen staffers in various states of dress. One speaks for all four, gesturing to each of them with an open hand. "We were prepping food for the next big show."
Honoka raises her hand, a mischeivous smile on her lips. "Sudo and I were at the store," she states, with no trace of accent.
Daniel Jack writes down dilligently on the notepad.
"Trailer. Financials. Patrol. Cooking. Shopping. " Daniel Jack looks up from the notepad, looking at each one of the people in the room. Looking into their eyes, where their eyes were focused on. Subtle cues like that. He had to keep track of everything that was said, and not said, and only seen. It was "Okay, now I'm gonna bring the questions around to each of you, one by one. You answer in turn, in the like. If you can't answer it, that's okay. I'm not looking to railroad you into an answer, but I am just trying to piece together what happened." He looks around once more, giving a nod in acknowledgement, before beginning the next round of dry questioning.
Daniel Jack begins with the trapeze performers first. "Now, just to confirm, did you see anything unusual leading up to the fire? Anybody acting strange, or the like?"
Next, the accountant. "It sounds like you were the last one focusing on the fight; did you go out to see the fire? And en route, did you see anybody unusual fleeing or any unusual activity?"
Then comes the security official. "It sounds like that you know the patrol route as well. Lets say that nobody was there when you patrolled it. How would someone have been able to reach that part of the big top, and started a fire, within the time frame of your patrol?"
The kitchen staff was next. "What kind of food were you preparing for the next show?"
And finally, it was settled on Honoka and Sudo. Daniel Jack watches her carefully for a second, before looking from her to Sudo, and back again. "Which store? And why would the chief of Security need to step out to the store during a major show?"
Daniel Jack's expression was still mild and firm, without a hint of malice.
The Twilight Star employees look at one another as Agent Little notes these little factoids down into his notepad. They've probably -each- been interviewed before, but not in a mass setting like this -- it's usually one-on-one, by journalists. This kind of interview is a new experience. So when Dnaiel explicitly -says- that he's not trying to railroad anyone into an answer, the employees all give an appreciative nod, as various derivations of 'okay' are delivered.
The trapeze performers shake their heads. The woman, this time, shakes her head -- she's still blushing. The man helpfully explains, "We weren't really looking outside at the time." That makes his partner blush a bit more.
The accountant nods his head. "Yes, but I only heard about the fire after everyone else began to shout about it. I... didn't see anyone fleeing, just the man who did it." He pauses, reflecting on that, and adds, "Allegedly."
The man on patrol states, "... Hmm, that's a good question. They caught him outside the big top, so I guess he could've been behind one of the parked cars, and just run up after I walked by." He looks down at the floor, holding up a finger to suggest he's lost in thought... but then drops it. "I'm sorry, I don't really know how else."
The kitchen staff blink back. Their unofficial spokesperson speaks up after a brief delay: "Hamburgers, tempura, rice balls... that sort of thing. Same as we do every night."
Honoka looks at Sudo, but only while Daniel is looking to him. Sudo just looks forward dispassionately, not directly at Daniel, but not strictly away, either. And he's the one to speak: "We were at Isetan, getting groceries for the cooking staff. Everyone else is busy preparing for the show, and there's plenty of patrols." He thumbs towards his seated security staffer at this note. "I usually take two or three people along, and Honoka wanted to get some fresh air."
Honoka laughs faintly, at this. "Yeah, it's... I can't stay here -all- the time."
Sudo concludes with the barest hint of good humor: "And I can't very well let the talent get hurt while out in town, can I?"
"The man who did it allegedly."
Daniel Jack repeats the one phrase, as he scribble, scribbles down. "They caught him outside the big top." Comes another phrase. Daniel Jack seemed to be taking each answer in good spirit, the scratching on the pencil coming through. He nods along, and then smiles. "Okay, I'm going to ask another round of questions, one to one. I think I might be able to let some of you guys go early, as a heads up." He casts a glance towards the kitchen staff as he mentions this, with a wink.
And he begins the rounds again.
To the trapeze artists. "Were you both together before, during, and after the fire?"
To the accountant. "When you say you saw the man who did it, you are showing some degree of reservation. Maybe you can describe what happened, in detail?"
To the patrol man, Daniel Jack does take a moment to pause; Honoka might be able to notice that Daniel is clearly swallowing some emotion he has on this. "You state 'they' caught him, not we. That would be the local police department, correct? Or some local do-gooders from the audience?"
To the kitchen staff. "What were you short on, for the cooking? Just as a general shopping list to Sudo."
And finally, to the duo of Sudo and Honoka, the detective takes a moment to scribble down a last round of notes. Another flicker of emotion, under the stoic mask of the detective, before asking his questions. "Do you typically coordinate with local authorities in terms of security and the like, Sudo? Or do you prefer to handle things more in-house?"
Daniel Jack was still keeping himself free of any accusations in his tone.
The employees tend to look back and forth at one another as the questioning proceeds, and every single word is dictated down for future study. It's supposedly just a casual question-and-answer session, but nearly everyone in the room is nervous.
Except Honoka, who is a bit calmer, as she reaches into her pocket and pulls out her cellphone, compulsively checking the Rumble app to see if there's an update on her fight...
The male trapeze artist starts, "Well, yeah, we were fu-"
His partner kicks him in the shin, clearly flustered. "We weren't really paying attention, he said. Is there a -point- to this, Agent?"
Sudo looks over at the two.
Honoka barely looks up from her phone to glance at the two.
The lady sighs. "We didn't see anything. And yes, we were together."
The accountant has a giddy sense of voyeuristic glee on his face for a fleeting moment, before realizing its his turn. "... Well, like I said, I was in the office the whole time. I saw lots of employees running around, some from the fire, some towards it with water hoses. The tournament folks had only brought an ambulance with them, so there wasn't anything they could do. So by that point, I walked outside to see what was going on, and I'd heard a bunch of shouting -- some of our security guys had tackled a man."
The security patroller frowns as the accountant delivers his story -- it makes him look like he wasn't doing his job. Grimacing throughout, he stares back at Daniel as the questions are asked, mindful to stick to the -actual- questions asked. "The man was caught by 'us', and brought in by the Southtown Police Department to jail. The audience was not involved, Agent."
The kitchen staff start to mumble something to one another, but it's right then that Daniel asks them questions. Without hesitation, the chatty one answers like a true professional. "Vegetable oil, hondashi flakes, and stuff to make our tempura batter. We just needed to last long enough until our weekly Costco run, but then this happened." He gives a mild shrug.
Honoka looks up from her phone as Daniel asks her and Sudo a question. She smiles back at Daniel all through the time his attention's upon her, gauging exactly how he's reacting to Sudo's answers.
Sudo nods quietly. "We prefer to keep things in-house when we can. No sense in reporting it when a kid swipes a bag of candy or something minor. But for medical emergencies, fires, and when we can't handle it on our own, yes, of course."
Honoka reaches up to brush her bangs out of her eyes again. While she passes a brief glance down to her phone display, her toes kick once, twice, thrice, and then stop. And then she looks back up to Daniel with an embarassed smile, before putting the phone away again.
Daniel Jack didn't seem flustered at all.
As Honoka does check her phone, the detective does pass her a look. Honoka did seem a lot younger than she actually was. Daniel even considers idly that she could pass as a highschool student, if she really tried. As she puts away her phone, Daniel Jack finishes his scribbling, and puts his pencil down with a tap. "Okay. Sounds good. The trapeze artists and the kitchen staff are free to go." He states warmly, tipping his hat to them. "The rest of you, I need to you stay a bit longer." Daniel Jack waits for the freed employees to leave properly, letting them close the door behind them, before he looks to the remaining employees.
That detective still had a kind look on his face as the next round of questioning comes.
The accountant is asked carefully. "when do you typically process expense reciepts? Do you tally them up at the end of the month, when they come in, or at the start of the month?" A strange detour maybe of the core line of questioning, but this was not a court of law.
The security guard is however asked much more relevant information. "It sounds like you ended up out of the loop. Did you even get a chance to look at the guy, before he was handed off to the police?"
He finally returns his gaze to Sudo and Honoka again, glancing between the two, before settling on Sudo. His lips do tighten a bit, as the smile softens slightly. "As I mentioned before, you have not pursued any investigation on the fire with the local authorities. Are you pursuing an internal investigation? Have you talked to the man that was caught? Do you have any details about both the man and the internal investigation."
It seemed that Daniel wasn't asking Honoka direct questions so far.
The trapeze artists both seem a little embarassed at that; they exit with their heads down. The kitchen staff seems more than grateful to get a pass to leave, and they're practically racing each other to get out the door.
The accountant smiles weakly; it seems he would much rather have preferred to exit with the others, but he's not as far under the gun as the other three. "Um... usually I process those right away as soon as they come in, otherwise it'd kill me trying to squeeze those out with payroll, ehehe... " He hopes that his quick reply is an indication of sound accounting practices, though the confusion on his face is obvious. What does that even have to do with a fire, anyway?
Like the accountant, Honoka seems a bit concerned as to why she was kept here. Her concern is obvious when she re-steeples her fingertips and her ebullient smile begins to falter. Without any real questions being asked... well, what's to say?
The security guard frowns as he glances back to Sudo, his superior. Why -was- he left out of the loop? Well, when he looks back to Daniel, he has a quick and ready answer. "Sir, with all due respect, three guards were pinning the man down. Sending all of us would have been overkill, and if one man made it through our security perimeter, the chance of another taking advantage of the confusion would have been high. So no, I didn't get to look at him." He pauses for a moment, and folds his hands upon his lap with a pointed effort being made to calm himself.
Sudo had glanced over to his guard for a moment, but as soon as the man looked away his gaze returned to the agent. "He had the materials needed to start a fire. The entire act of starting the fire is on camera. Several dozen cameras, though the picture is grainy. It's not really disputable that he did it."
He glances over to the guard for one more moment, before looking back to Daniel. "The suspect was kept in Southtown's jail for the night. But the man agreed to settle, so our legal retainer decided to drop charges."
Honoka seems... increasingly perplexed, as the conversation goes on. She raises her hand. "... Is there some reason I'm still here? I mean, I don't think I have anything to contribute."
Daniel Jack casts a gaze at Honoka, as she asks her question.
For a moment, his expression is blank... until he lets out a little chuckle. "Oh, you got a lot to contribute Honoka." Daniel states formally, grinning. "I guess I haven't been giving enough attention though. I think he can leave now, I'm done with him." He motions for the security guard, and to the door. The accountant, the chief of security, and the juggler was still in retention.
To the accountant, Daniel Jack just asks a simple question. "Did you get the reciepts from Sudo yet?" So short, so simple.
On the subject of Sudo, however, he seems to be getting less and less friendly. "I have a few more for you, sir, but let me get back to one of the questions I asked." Daniel Jack taps on the notepad again. "Do you have any details about both the man and the internal investigation? So far, it seems like your internal investigation was that he was on the camera, and that he had the materials for the arson. I don't doubt that he started the fire. My important question is whether or not you got any information out of him, before you let him go to the police."
And Daniel Jack looks towards Honoka, a smirk as his expression softens. "Well, I suppose you are getting a bit impatient there. You can't wait on your HitBit fight, can you? I'm a little anxious for my own." Daniel Jack chuckles a bit. "Alright, I'll start some of my questions to you then."
"You were with Sudo during the entire time, correct?"
Honoka makes a show of wincing -- okay, it's played out for the sake of melodrama, as she really -does- want to maintain some level of rapport with Daniel -- as the security guard is allowed to leave and not her. But she does smile afterwards to show her intention to cooperate.
Always a good thing, with Interpol present.
The accountant crosses his eyes at the mention of a receipt from Sudo. He does have to think for a moment, as is shown by the shifting of his gaze from side to side. "... Of course I did. I got anything he submitted."
Sudo glances over to the accountant as well, but he's actually in the clear there -- even after weirdness like this event, he's prompt about turning in his receipts. But then Daniel seems to be getting stern with him. Which means Sudo just keeps his cool -- that's one of the things Honoka likes about the man.
And Sudo is resistant to answer at first, just showing a blank and neutral expression. Any other information. It's such a vague question, and yet, such a pertinent one.
"He admitted he did it," is Sudo's delayed response. "He did not answer -why- he did it, and fell unconscious not long after we had him. Legal counsel took care of the rest."
Sudo frowns somewhat, at his own response, glancing over to Honoka.
And Honoka is fixated upon Daniel's questioning. She allows a shy smile to be her response to the query of her HitBit fight, but naught else.
As for where she was... "Yes, I was with Sudo the entire shopping trip." She could pass a lie detector test right now with the same self-assured smile. Softball question, textbook response.
Daniel Jack was steadily winding down to a narrower, narrower pool of people.
As the last round of questions come, the dilligent scribble scribble continues. The room felt warmer, for some reason. "Fell unconscious. Okay. You are free now." He motions at the accountant, letting him take his leave. ONce he has left, there was only two left. Sudo, and Honoka. The detective's exterior does not go any less warm. But now, on Sudo, he does begin to get a little harder.
"Was there any other details about the man, any notable features? Tattoos, scars, unusual jewelry? Did you notice any unusual accent? Any details you can provide about the arsonist would be invaluable." Daniel Jack nods his head, emphasizing the value of it.
And finally, back to Honoka. Every time he looked at Honoka, he seemed to soften just a bit more. "And as you for you, Honoka. What about after the shopping trip?"
The accountant bows properly, as a gentleman should, and quietly excuses himself from the canteen.
Sudo stares at Daniel with the practiced and personable grace of a robot. Which is to say, the tall Japanese man hardly has any expression in his face at all. Pressure? What pressure?
"I'll be direct, Agent Little. Legal counsel has advised me to keep quiet on this, but you seem like you're just doing your job. The yakuza did this. He had tattoos running all down his back. He had a missing pinky. He had completely no remorse. And he had a distinct Kansai accent."
Honoka frowns at Sudo, scratching her cheek at the admission, the -open defiance- of their legal team. But she doesn't say anything at all about that.
Instead, she finds herself caught a bit unaware by the question. What about after the shopping trip...? "... Well, I came back to find the tent I call 'home' on fire, so I was more than a little upset!"
She had raised her voice a bit, which seems to embarass her further, forcing the Hokkaido native to lower her head in apology. "So... like... well, I hugged the other performers and we kind of just... stared at one another in shock for a few moments. There were already people moving to put out the fire, and then the fire department showed up with an engine, so... there wasn't a whole lot left to do." She pauses, glancing over at Sudo again. "We're not really encouraged to help put out fires, ourselves."
Honoka turns back to Daniel with an uneasy half-smile afterwards. "We're -really- not supposed to talk about the yak... the guy. But our legal retainer's been asking all sorts of questions, trying to get us a check for the repairs. I think he's probably who you want..."
Daniel Jack's eyes gleam.
"Yakuza." He repeats, writing it down. "And you both came back in time to see the fire ablaze." Daniel Jack nods a bit, running a finger on his cheek wound again, before wiggling his mustache. "If the Yakuza is involved in the fire, I think I have a good idea why you didn't press any charges or investigation then. I'll hold off on anymore questions on that until I work with your legal council. Interpol is well equipped to deal with organized crime cases, but there is a very... delicate approach to it, to ensure that the victim parties don't end up getting screwed." Daniel Jack nods firmly at Sudo, tightening his hand into a fist for emphasis. "Don't worry, Interpol will help you out here. Besides." He casts a glance to Honoka's uneasy half-smile.
"You still seem -very- distraught about it."
Daniel Jack smiles a bit. "I think that's good then." He casts a glance to the door, rising up to a stand. He then looks back to Honoka, then the guard. "Sudo, you may leave now. I have a few last remaining questions for Honoka here. Don't worry about it, I'm not gonna interrogate her like a bad cop." The detective smiles at Sudo, flashing those pearly whites. He would escort Sudo to the door, and then, shutting it behind him, would return to the table... and take his seat. And say nothing. Scribble scribble. Silence. Scribble scribble. Until finally, he would ask a simple, direct question, in that same friendly but firm tone.
"So, you got Darkstalkers here, Honoka?"
Sudo, for the record, does not breathe a sigh of relief when his information about the yakuza is conveyed. He glances back to Honoka, the only remaining Twilight Star employee left in the room. He feels like he's let the circus down.
Honoka responds to that by placing her hand on top of his, and flashing him a reassuring smile despite her own misgivings. "It'll be okay. Agent Little's good people, Sudo."
For the record, Sudo is not really placated by that either, turning back to Daniel. "I am glad you appreciate the seriousness of our situation, Agent." He nods quietly to the dismissal, placing his other hand atop Honoka's and patting it lightly as he rises to his feet. "Thank you. It is reassuring to have someone like yourself looking out for us." With one brief pause to look back at Honoka, he steps outside.
He'll remain within earshot.
Honoka, for her part, keeps smiling right up until the moment Sudo is escorted outside, at which point the unease returns. It could be sickness -- but it's more likely anxiety. Distraught...? She'd started to answer him before, but closed her mouth before any thoughts could spill out. And now, with Daniel writing, she feels the urge to remain silent out of sheer politeness.
She does hazard a quick peek back at her phone. Disappointed, she tucks the phone back into her pocket, right before Daniel asks his question.
"... Dark...stalker?" Honoka's eyes widen, like a deer in the headlights. She moistens her lips, breaking away from Daniel's gaze to look down for a moment.. before lifting her gaze back up to meet Daniel's.
She starts, hesitantly. "They're not... -illegal-, are they? I mean, if we -did- have any here, I mean, that'd be fine, right?"
She breaks her gaze again, finding herself staring at a nondescript corner of the room, pinkness blossoming on her cheeks at her seemingly unintentional admission. "I guess, um... well, what kind of... 'darkstalkers' are you trying to find?"
Daniel Jack's expression gets suddenly empathetic.
"It's okay Honoka." He states, reaching his palm out towards Honoka. "I've talked with Zach. I'm in the loop on this. Don't be nervous on it. Interpol doesn't recognize Darkstalkers as existing." The detective continues, scribbling down on the notepad with his other hand. "And since they aren't recognize as existing, there are no laws dealing with employing them at all. What's the saying, innocent until proven guilty? No crime here, no risk, no penalties. Absolutely secure here. Interpol won't even use these notes as toilet paper, they care so little about it." Daniel Jack chuckles a bit.
"Would you believe they think that the Glenn Clan is committing fraud, since monsters don't exist?"
Daniel Jack gets his composure back, as he keeps focused on Honoka. "With that said, I am just checking up on whether or not this might be a retaliation. I have some reason to believe there might be some... hate towards Darkstalkers. Considering that Darkstalker are as much under the table as... some things."
He glances back at the door.
"I wanted to check up on whether or not there were any recent threats against Darkstalkers." He turns back over, lowering his voice a bit. "Any pressure, harassment, recent 'discoveries,' stuff like that. I'm just checking up if this is a retaliation of some kind. If it was, well, I could understand why you wouldn't want anybody snooping around investigating. That's why I wanted to talk to you alone about it because I don't know if your companions are in the loop as much as you are. But I know -you- are in the loop, after our little... Butcher adventure. You and your friend, Zach Glenn." Daniel Jack scratches at his heart.
"Has there been any threats or anything against the circus's Darkstalker employees?"
Seemingly assuaged by Agent Little's calming reassurances, Honoka smiles. Of course it's okay: she can be -honest-, because he's talked with -Zach-. She doesn't reach out to take the hand, but she does nod her head encouragingly. Innocent until proven guilty -- good. No crime here, no penalties. Absolutely secure.
The woman going by the name of Honoka Kawamoto was not born yesterday. She may be exuding friendship and cooperation, but her inherent distrust of authority keeps her from volunteering everything under the sun. No, in the grand scheme of things, Honoka has volumes to share with the man, yet she is perfectly content to let the small trickle of information appear as if it's as momentous as the bursting of a dam. For while he is portraying the confidence and self-assurance of a man who has all the answers, the fact remains that the detective has only seen a tiny portion of the full picture.
Won't even use the notes as toilet paper. Nice touch, but she's disinclined to believe him all the same.
Honoka cracks a smile at the mention of the Glenn Clan. She knows all about it. She senses a small threat there, tightly interwoven with the suggestion that Zach is complicit in this line of interrogation. She knows of Zach's intense loathing for darkstalkers. Honoka remains placid -- but her smile fades before long. Why are you bringing up -Zach-, she wonders, if not to turn a dial somehow...
Retaliation, against darkstalkers? It makes sense. ... It makes too -much- sense, actually.
Honoka cracks a smile again, at that. "Hate towards -Darkstalkers?- We don't have any in the -cast-, I can tell you that much. But the few dar-" She scratches her cheek, hesitant. "There's got to be a less, um... -loaded- word we can use than that, right?"
The unease returns, with a small chuckle. "Look, if someone was upset about these people -- and they -are- people, you know -- why would they attack the circus, instead of just getting to the point? There's only two or three. And no, I've not heard any trouble -- they're family now, they'd tell us." Leaning back in her chair, she lifts her hands up into air quotes: "Like the rest of us 'freaks'."
Uneasiness ramps down again, as she finds the small humor in saying this. Self-deprecation is a mood the Hokkaido native knows well. "We're all freaks and outcasts here, Agent Little. Just between you and me? Whoever set our tent on fire wants us all gone. Or, at the very least, wants to watch us all suffer."
Honoka exhales lightly, but mostly keeps her gaze upon Daniel. "So, um. No. No threats made, as far as -I- know."
Daniel might be overplaying just how much he was in the loop, that was true.
But while his last encounter with Zach was... negative, he did have pure intentions. He had to keep an eye open for this kind of stuff. Because right now, there was evidence of a hate factor in the criminal activities. It could be for the Ainu and the Burakumin. It could be for Darkstalkers. Could be a lot of things. But it was a factor he couldn't ignore. As Honoka asks him, 'why would this happen' to her and her family, well, Daniel Jack's smile was gone. He gets a faraway, distant look in his eye. He waits until Honoka states that no threats we made, before he speaks, slowly and calmly.
"Let me tell you about hate, Honoka.
"Four easy, simple letters. H A T E. People blame it for a lot of things; fear, greed, power. But when you boil down to it, Hate is just an action. It's a club, it's a hammer, and every single man, woman, and child is its nail. Hate is as much a human condition as love, sleep, sex, and violence. Hate's cheap, Honoka, and Hate's easy. Hate runs deep in the whole human condition, and it is something I stare into every day."
"Let me you tell you about what I've seen hate do."
"This was back in Omaha, when I was still a kid. Been a nice city for a long time, but you always had the creeps. Racist creeps, you dig? Well, what had happened was that there was a car accident out on Military and 72nd. T-Bone. One of the local Neo-Nazis got hit by a nice young white dame who wasn't paying attention. No injuries, but a terrified young lady. My father Samuel Little saw her walking out into the street, and nearly got hit by oncoming traffic. Now, my father was coming up in his patrol car, and had to settle this out. So once the place got secured, he took the time to talk to her, calm her down, and all that nice stuff. She was found at fault, as you know, but my dad went the extra mile to make sure that she was taken care of. She thanked him, she swapped insurance with the Neo-Nazi asshole, and moved on. About a week lady, they get a call, and the woman was found bloodied and bruised, stripped naked out at the park by Standing Bear Lake. Apparently, from what they found out later, she was grabbed while on the streets, beaten and assaulted before being dumped out as an example." Daniel Jack sighs. "You wanna know why, Honoka?"
"Because she said thank you to the man who helped her."
Daniel Jack looks off to the corners of the room, as he continues. "If they can't hurt them, then the next best thing is hurting their loved ones. Their family. And if you can't even reach them? Then you lash out against every single person who has even given them the time of day. Whether it's Darkstalkers, who are just as much people as anybody else, or if its Ainu, or if it Japan, or if just a scared white woman who thanks the wrong man at the wrong time. That's what the four most bitter, hollow, and powerful letters in the world are, Honoka. Hate." Daniel Jack pauses a moment, his mind processing something. "Honoka?" He finally says aloud.
"You got a lot of Ainu and Burakumin working here?"
Hatred is a feeling that the psion needs no further explanation of. Hatred is all-consuming, and never-ending. It can never be eradicated, for it is an unfortunate constant of the human condition -- just as Daniel explains.
Honoka's body language shifts, in a subtle sense. Her legs remain crossed as one foot slips to the floor, and her arms... cross. One hand tucks beneath the protective folds of her jacket as she listens, leaning forward, intently listening to Daniel's story. She looks invested -- one hundred percent attentive.
In a way, she is. It's a good story, and Daniel's a good storyteller.
In another, she feels disgusted. Patronized. This simple man is on a mission to save the world. His dad was a police officer -- this explains quite a bit. He thinks that, by rooting out the truth and the answers, he can weed out the bad people from the good. And he can save the world from itself.
Daniel Little is waging a losing battle, motivated by useless sentiment. And this man's quest for truth, this quest to find those responsible, ignores the reality of the situation -- that sometimes bad things happen to good people. An ineffective means to an end that, in Honoka's mind, no one -really- wants.
Sometimes, part of Honoka would insist, that the better solution is to bring the hatred to the hateful. So that those who were on the brink might be discouraged, dissuaded from visiting their one-dimensional views upon others.
He is a good storyteller, though. Tears spill forth from Honoka's eyes as she listens, and she doesn't reach up to brush them away. She listens. "That's... that's terrible..." she admits, honestly. She knows hatred isn't exclusively a Japanese problem -- she sympathizes greatly with everything Daniel spoke of. She hated having to pretend to abide by Donald Trump's angry and charged rhetoric while continuing to provide quality entertainment for the crowd. She believes Daniel -- and she resonates with everything he says.
Even though she believes herself to be thousands of miles ahead of him.
Honoka? Her name. Her eyes blink, and she snaps out of the reverie she'd fallen into. "Yes. I... "
She brushes her eyes dry. "I know a little bit about hatred," she admits, with a weary half-smile.
She withdraws the hand from her jacket, flattening a palm to the stylized sun hanging around her neck. "There are many Ainu here. Burakumin... Well." Her half-smile fades as she grows a bit more serious. "We don't ask."
Sh laughs faintly afterwards -- not out of humor, but a need to lighten the mood. "But probably, yeah."
She sits up straight again. "But, um... without getting too much into the specifics, I was always told that we didn't have to worry about the yakuza attacking us." She smiles hesitantly, pointedly leaving out the -who- and -why- of that subject.
To say nothing of her recent capture -by- yakuza, in direct defiance of a protection contract.
Frankly, Daniel Jack has been close to responding hate with hate.
Fear could drive hate. Fear if the known, the unknown. A promise of security. A promise of revenge. Daniel Jack could very well look at his feelings of Zach as hate. There was a hate, a hate for racists, for wicked people in the world. And yet, through that glimmer of hate, there was a pressing question: What would Daniel do about it? Daniel Jack could really destroy Zach's life, couldn't he? For revenge? For control? For fear? For power? But that glimmer was there. Would he actually do it? Would he actually destroy Zach's life, when all he wants is for people live in peace with people. That glimmer was a dampening presence, something that Daniel Jack could stare into, and make that choice to not choose hate.
Because hate is easy.
Daniel Jack notices that Honoka had gone into tears. He reaches around a bit to see if he had a hanky... but he didn't. As she resolves the tears herself, Daniel Jack just shrugs. "I expected that is the case. That's the strangest thing about this whole thing. I've only seen this kind of stuff with Mad Gear, and for the Yakuza to act like Mad Gear..." Daniel Jack just shakes his head. "No threats though. Right, now I got a question about-" He starts, tapping a finger on the table.
And then, there is a ringing sound.
Daniel Jack reaches into his jacket, chuckling a bit. "Hey, maybe its a HitBit update." The detective puts the phone to his ear, and answers firmly. "Hello, Agent Little speaking." He pauses a moment, smile still on his face. And it doesn't fade, per say, than suddenly and violently stop. Daniel Jack stands up suddenly. "Okay Lita, I'm on the case. I'll field any Interpol agent ahead of time!" Daniel Jack hangs up, sticking the phone in his jacket. "Interviews over, Honoka, I gotta get down to Narita. There's been an accident, buildings are tumbling down." Daniel Jack rushes to the door of the canteen, practically bursting it down. "I'll follow up on this later, Honoka!"
"Thank you for your assistance!"
Much like fire, hatred destroys all that it touches. And, like fire, it is a universal constant -- and even a necessity. For fire, loathed though it may be, is necessary from time to time to prevent stagnation, to eliminate rot and decay. And from it, a new life can be born anew.
Countries have risen and fallen according to the simple word that Daniel emphasizes time and time again.
If it weren't for that damned phone, she would have been more than willing to answer Daniel's question in a way that points further towards the yakuza. She's got to set him straight, after all! He's got some good ideas, but... darkstalkers? Honestly! Where did -that- come from...
She makes a mental note to ask Zach what his deal is, there.
But, nonetheless, anything else she says now would be awfully suspect. Honoka looks pointedly away from Daniel as he speaks. There's no mistake that she can hear everything he says, and possibly some of what Lita says in the close quarters of the canteen, but Japanese politeness really demands feigning ignorance.
Until her name is called, anyway. Honoka glances back, forging a smile in spite of her hesitant countenance from earlier. Again: politeness. As Daniel rises, she expresses her own sympathy for the conditions reported: "... Oh, no. That sounds terrible. I hope no one's hurt!"
Belatedly, she calls out from the doorframe of the canteen, "No, thank -you-, Agent Little!" She bows, properly formal as one would expect.
And as she watches the Agent enter his car, the puppetmaster tucks her hands into her jacket pockets, a detached smile crossing her lips. "I do hope you find your answers."
Log created on 12:32:02 02/02/2016 by Lee Chaolan, and last modified on 17:59:50 02/03/2016.