Chapter 2:

I Can Learn Something From Even the Most Annoying Person.


It’s finally Saturday morning, and I’m already beaten down. What a long journey just to get here. The apartment complexes in this place certainly look way better than in my hometown. There really is no comparison to the concrete boxes they make in New Sheffield. There is a glossy wooden exterior that provides a more comfortable feel. My old place could give even the most resilient people claustrophobia. No need to get too attached, I’m only in this city for a single case anyway.

If only I went to Myrtlewood on vacation instead. It’d be a nice break from the mind-numbing work my department puts me through. Unfortunately, the immersion instantly shatters as the pictures of lost men, women, and children litter the staircase. Who prints out missing persons posters like this? They have a subtle horizontal overlay on them. Maybe they started running out of ink? It’s either that or they need to replace their printers. Regardless, If someone was to give them a once-over, it could almost be seen as disrespectful with how little effort was put into them. One can only be in awe of the sheer number of posters put up. Walking up the stairs, I lost count at about fifteen. This place practically has its very own missing persons epidemic.

I hope my partner is all that the Chief says he is or I’m going to be here for a very long time. Can’t say it’d be too bad though, it's nice and quiet here; New Sheffield gives sound pollution a whole new meaning. New Sheffield is probably the reason why I’ve gotten so spiteful when it comes to my work. It’s possible a town like this could mellow me out in no time. Why was I in New Sheffield anyway? If I knew how enveloped I’d be by a single apartment complex, I could’ve escaped from that place long ago. After all, New Sheffield is just a really congested city with way too many people. The constant buzz and--

“Hey, you the new guy in B-207?”

“How’d you know?” 

“Your agency paid for that apartment a few days ago, and it’s been vacant for a while now.” I knew I’d be late, but there’s no way it's been a few days already. The Chief probably rented that unit out before I got assigned to Myrtlewood.

“What does this apartment come with?”

“Same thing every other apartment has,” this guy didn’t even try to answer my question. Let’s try this again.

“What’s with the attitude, I just wanted to know what amenities this place comes with?”

“Figure it out,” and this guy has the audacity to say that and leave. Some landlord he is, I don’t even have the key.

“Hey! You could at least give me the key.”

“Find it,” who the hell does this guy think he is?

Do I actually have to search for this dumb key? You’re telling me the landlord couldn’t just have handed the damn key to me. Even though I don’t like talking to people, I still would’ve had the decency to give my tenants the keys to their apartments.

Screw it, maybe there's a mat at the door that he put the key under. Back in New Sheffield, my building’s elevator was always broken and I had to climb up twelve flights of stairs. Now I won’t get my daily exercise in; I might turn into Chad with how much office work I do if I'm not careful. The only apartment with a mat in front of it, it's a cliché trick. Lifting the mat it’s like I’ve won the lottery again. I’m so good; I haven’t lost a s-- what the hell! It’s not even there... That’s the problem with being so over analytic, occasionally, you miss what’s right in front of you.

I can plainly see why he didn’t give me the keys. The key to the apartment is still in the lock. That says something about the amount of trust people in this town have for each other, or he’s just an idiot. In the past few days, no one has stolen the key, so everyone could be an idiot as well. Either way, I got my key I guess.

The door was unlocked too, what the hell is going on here. What’s worse: the fact that this apartment is fully furnished or that I have no idea whose stuff this is? The fridge is still stocked for Christ's sake. I mean, I knew this place was furnished, but it looks lived in as well… We’ve probably got a squatter here. Why is it always my apartment that gets broken into? Maybe Myrtlewood isn’t so different from New Sheffield after all, or I just have terrible luck. Of course, leaving the lock in would invite unwelcome squatters, I definitely have an idiot for a landlord. Now that I have the key, that’s not happening again. Actually, I could probably catch them doing it next time if I’m lucky.

According to The Myrtlewood Press’ website, more than one hundred eighty-eight people have gone missing in the last three hundred sixty-five days. The strange thing about Myrtlewood is that about thirty thousand people live here... Those kinds of numbers are staggering and could only make logical sense in bigger cities like the one I just came from. Even then, the ratio does not match up whatsoever. One hundred eighty-eight people is relative to one percent of their population. Who or what could be doing this? These aren’t natural numbers. Even weirder, this place seems to be a college town. Normally, the population of Myrtlewood doubles while academics are in session, but that -- ring-ring ring-ring -- still doesn’t make sense. People go missing at the same rate whether or not the school is in session. This doesn’t add up at all.

In the amount of time my partner’s been here, he should have some leads. We’re really going to have our hands full for this one -- ring-ring ring-ring -- oh crap, who’s calling me? That’s not my phone, that’s the apartment’s phone.

“How’s it going?”

“Who's calling?” Am I supposed to know who this is?

“Ya know, ‘sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason.’”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean,” is that some kind of a threat? What is this guy playing at; are they trying to run me out of town already?

“My bad, buddy. I assumed that the chief already gave you my number”

“I still don’t know who you are,” I get that he’s my partner, but my first impression of him is shoddy. He didn’t even introduce himself and went straight to buddy-buddy talk.

“Oh I gotcha, the name’s Hitori Kikai!” You are way too energetic to be working at the NSPD. Does this guy realize we’re looking for, possibly, dead people.

“Why’d you call me?”

“You didn’t pick up the phone for so long that I was worried you may have become just another case. Frankly, since you were a few days late I thought you might have either bailed on me or died-- hehe.” Does he think this is actually funny? “I was just calling to see if you had arrived yet. ”

“Well, I’m not dead.”

“Wow, I’ve heard the guys back home described you as ‘distant’ and kind of a '[REDACTED]’,” they never shut up, do they?

“Funny, I’ve heard the Chief describe you as one of his finest.”

“Eh, You’ll warm up to me. If it means anything to you, I don't picture you as the lazy S.O.B. everyone else describes you as."

“It’s okay, I don’t picture you as the finest detective the Chief describes you as either.”

“Ouch, It’ll take a bit more warming up than I thought,” we’re not friends and this guy needs to stop acting like we are. We just met, plus we’re only working together for this investigation anyway.

“Is that it; are we done?”

“Not quite, we should meet up at Charlie Wendor’s Express in two hours, I have some things I need to discuss with you for the case. Also, Charlie Wendor’s Express happens to be the closest diner to your apartment. Try not to be too late”

“Fine.” -- click --

Maybe I wouldn’t have been late if I wasn’t in a shootout. I get that he’s all happy-happy joy-joy, but life isn’t like that. Being on time isn’t always a possibility.

At any rate, there’s still a couple of hours to try and figure out more information regarding these disappearances. When did these cases start occurring? The rates of people going missing skyrocketed late last year, and since then it has been consistently high. That would make three people go missing every week, at the least. There is no break in these cases either, whoever’s kidnapping these people is relentless and on a schedule. There hasn’t been a single week where people have not gone missing since this whole epidemic began.

It's not like this person is targeting specific people. It’s not just straight, gay, young, old, fit, fat, or anything of that sort. If you look at these cases altogether, the people kidnapped seem to be completely random. With no solid pattern, I have nothing to go off of. Whatever, happy-happy joy-joy said he knew something about the cases. At this point, meeting with him is better than what I’m doing here. I really hope Hitori has some profound insights for me. He should if he’s really the finest detective the Chief says he is.


“Alright, Alright,” if I’m going to eat, Rufus should too. We don’t have any more pizza, so he’ll have to make do with normal cat food.

I don’t have time to go out to eat nowadays, but I remember a time where I used to eat out all the time. When I was about sixteen, my Grandfather took me and my Grandmother out to eat at this place called Billie's Diner every week. It used to be a little tradition of ours, but ever since they passed away I haven’t really enjoyed the atmosphere of places like this. I guess It’s just easier to get food ordered straight to your desk, and it’s way less of a hassle.

Once in a while, it’s nice to revisit places like Billie’s Diner. At least when I go back, I still have those memories I cherished way back when. Although, just like Billie’s Diner, Charlie Wendor’s Express’ fluorescent lights greatly annoy me. The constant buzzing… I can hardly stand it. The quicker I go inside, the less I have to deal with that irritating buzzing sound.

As I walk in, the gaudy decor is on full display. Whoever designed this really went all out with the 1950’s design. The vivid pink and blue colors littered thought this place would almost be an eyesore if it wasn't something I was expecting already. Even those weird stools look immaculate; the leather on the seats looks like it was just refinished. I know people sometimes say they could eat off the floor as a euphemism, but I literally think you could eat off the floors. Never in my life have I seen a place as pristine as this, but that doesn’t say much since most diners I’ve been to were in New Sheffield. Pristine or not, all diners have this strange appeal to them.

You know what does not have a strange appeal, that guy talking to the waitress. If I’m a betting man, I would assume that’s happy-happy joy-joy himself. All that laughing and joking doesn’t fit the mood; no one eating or working is even close to the energy level that he is at here. but me telling him that definitely won’t change anything.--

Oh god, he’s waving me down… wait is he waving at someone else? Hitori doesn't even know what I look like. When I first walked in here, I didn’t notice him waving me down. But now, I can tell he is waving to everybody walking in also. It's ludicrous to think that someone can be so sociable. Now that I think about it, since I was able to deduce who he was, he probably was able to do the same for me. I wouldn't picture myself as an easily recognizable person, but that in of itself is probably the reason I stand out. I don't know the guy that well yet but I'm going to go out on a limb and say he did recognize me and he’s just that outgoing.--

“Yo buddy, over here! It's me, Hitori! I got a booth for us!”

“We’re partners.” Sigh. There’s no stopping it now, I have to walk over there.

“Of course we are! Have a seat, I ordered you some Pep-C.”

“I don’t like Pep-C,” why’d he even order for me. This guy doesn’t know me or my preferences.

“Cheer up pal, it sounds like you don’t like much of anything,” how will I be able to work with a character who doesn’t listen in the slightest. It feels like his personality is the exact opposite of what we need in a case like this. It gets on my nerves how easygoing he is; this is a serious job, not a playground.

“Whatever, tell me what you got,” he brought me out here for the case, so he better have something useful to add.

The waitress is coming over with our drinks, we have to wait a little longer to discuss now that she’s going to interrupt us, “Two Pep-Cs. Are you two ready to order?”

“Yea,” happy-happy joy-joy said before I could even delay this order. How the hell am I supposed to order, I’ve never been here? I don’t know what’s on the menu and I just sat down.

“No,” I tried to say, but this idiot contradicted me at the exact same time.

“So would you like me to come back in a few more minutes or...?”

“Sounds like my buddy needs a little more time, a few more minutes would be appreciated.” That obnoxious smile again, it's like he can’t help but show it off. Anyhow, I have time to think now.

Wow, she left abruptly. She couldn’t wait to get away from us; I guess we’re both having a bad day. It’s kind of weird how she just tipped her head to us and left. She didn’t even wait for Hitori to finish talking, not that it bothered him. I bet nothing bothers him.

“Buddy, you have got to try their Sailing Sally burger! You won’t believe it, but the jalapeño cream cheese, pineapple, and salami patty really work well together!”

“That sounds disgusting. Putting pineapple on pizza is egregious enough, so why would I put it on a burger?! And did you say cream cheese!?” That has to be the most foul thing I’ve heard of… well it's probably better than shrimp pizza.

“Hey Hugo, are you a betting man? 'Cause I think that you’ll like this burger, in fact, I’d bet a thousand bucks on it.” Of course I'm a betting man. I feel as though I've got the knack for predicting outcomes when it comes down to it. This score will be especially certain since it's something as grisly as pineapple and jalapeño cream cheese on a burger. If, God forbid, I actually like this burger, he can have the one grand for hell has truly won me over.

“You're on.” As I say that, he immediately waves the waitress down. He sure doesn’t waste any time.

“So, what’ll it be?”

“Two Sailing Sally burgers, one for me and one for my pal.” You won’t be calling me pal once I take that thousand from you.

“Anything else?” Nope, just me, him, and two thousand dollars on the line.

“That’ll do it, thank you. Sorry for making you wait.”

She walked off again. I’m starting to see a pattern and I’m not liking it. Diners always used to make me feel welcome, but this one is particularly different. Something about her attitude just feels off.

“Get this, I’m sure you know that about two hundred people have gone missing so far, but what you don’t know is that twenty-nine people have gone missing within one hundred miles of this town.”

“Okay, elaborate.” I haven’t had the opportunity to check out nearby areas, but I need more information.

“I have a theory about the disappearances. There has to be multiple perps we’re looking for. Seeing how meticulous these kidnappings are, no one person has the time to traverse this much land and plan out their crimes. There has to be upwards of six people working on this together,” I don’t know where he got such an arbitrary number.

“Why six, how do you know this isn’t just an unlucky town with unlucky people?”

“Fifty people… that could be unlucky, but two hundred! That’s pushing the boundaries of luck, my friend.”

“Have you ever been to the Western River Provence?”

“I have not.”

“Keep in mind that this place is a lot bigger than Myrtlewood. But, when I was stationed there nearly seven hundred people went missing. I understand that some of those seven hundred people were kidnappings, but a majority of those missing people were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s not like seven hundred people got murdered either, these were simply cases of unlucky people.”

“That’s false equivalency though. I actually did follow those cases, and this situation is nowhere near the scale. The Western River Provence has one hundred times the people living in it, and only three times the disappearances. Don’t you see how backward that is? I understand how the Western River Provence is totally an unlucky place, but the statistics don’t correspond in this scenario.”

“I see your point, but it’s hard to believe that six or so people could cause all this grief. You make this sound like a cult.” You’re telling me that each possible member is responsible for kidnapping two or three people every month. That could sound doable for a professional cult, but is that really the most likely scenario happening in Myrtlewood?

“Regardless, what other possibility could it be?”--

“Two Sailing Sally burgers.” She really came out of nowhere this time. Oh and she’s gone again. We didn’t even have time to respond to her, but that obviously doesn’t matter to her.

“Thanks!” Happy-happy joy-joy really had to go the extra mile, didn’t he. Sometimes it’s okay to give back what you get; we’re getting the cold shoulder from her, Hitori does not need to act so friendly.

“You can stop now Hitori, she hasn’t earned your friendliness at all. Every time you’ve said something to her, she’s turned her back on you or returned dull and thoughtless responses.”

“I think you’ve done the same thing here quite a few times already. Secondly, I think people deserve to be treated well, even if they haven’t earned it.” What else should I expect, everybody has their own personality traits and one of his is to be the friendly guy.

“So be it,” I can’t help but shrug at that one. I guess he's not doing anything wrong. We just have different views on human nature.

“So anyways, try the burger and tell me what you think.”

Ugh. It looks so disgusting, who in their right mind comes up with this stuff. Whatever, a bet is a bet. Chomp.


"Ya know, silence speaks volumes,” This cocky-- ah damn it, he just can’t keep his mouth shut. What will I become if I admit to liking pineapple and cream cheese on a burger? Do I actually… like it? What am I saying, this is one of-- no, THE best burger I’ve ever had. If nothing else, I am a man of my word.

“I’ll… I’ll get you that money next time I see you,” I can’t believe this… Hitori turned me into a heretic. Have I reached rock bottom?

“Eyyyy! What’d I tell you! I knew you’d like it.” What can I say, when he’s right, he’s right.

“I just met you and I’ve already lost one thousand dollars, what does that say?”

“It says you don’t know your own taste in food-- hehe.” Does he have to rub it in with the laugh? Haven’t I gone through enough pain? I just--

“Breaking News: the New Sheffield Police Chief, Thomas Stenton, has just resigned over multiple Title VI allegations. Even though Mr. Stenton has denied such claims, he has since stepped down and retired. We tried to get a quote from both Thomas and Chad Stenton however, they both chose to not speak any further about the matter. Chad Stenton, the current Lieutenant Officer of the NSPD, has allegedly benefited from the aforementioned malpractices.”

“Did you hear that Hitori? People like that actively negate the good work people like us try to achieve, good riddance. It’s like morality doesn’t even matter when people like this nullify your every action.”

If we look at it that way, all our actions won’t matter. Just think of it like this, Tom got weeded out for being a scumbag and now there’s one less scumbag we have to worry about.”

“Always the glass being half full kind of guy.”

“And your glass is empty because you didn’t want what was in it-- hehe.” Man, I hope I never see you again. I have had enough of your gaiety for a lifetime.

“Whatever, let’s go pay,” we both get up and walk to pay the check, but our waitress is just blankly staring at us. I really don’t get this girl’s problem with us. At this point, it is very unnerving.

“Two checks please.”

“No. No. I got this, one check please. You’ve not only lost a thousand dollars already, but I invited you out. Let me pay.” How humiliating, he’s paying for me out of pity. I guess there’s no point in arguing with him, I just want to leave this place. “Alright man, I’m going to go chase a few leads, be safe out there.”

“I guess, you too.”

Existing in the same room as Hitori wasn’t all bad. He brought a semblance of what I remember from the days when I went out to eat with my grandparents. I don’t really care for his hospitality but he at least tries to make you feel welcome... I can’t say something even close to that for anyone else I’ve met in this town.