Hajime imagined that a drop of blood or a strand of hair would not hide in a room as bright as this. Nothing could hide here. Each tile of the room was white as clean polished ivory. The walls were less so, due to the emulsion needed for the projector screens to function without a glare; they were the color of milky-white broth, the kind made from pig-bones in his old country. The room always made his stomach uneasy, as the holograms moved too fast for him to picture. He wondered why he had thought of blood, but he soon let the thought pass onto work as he was accustomed to do.
There was an underlying current of hatred towards his employers, and he was sure it was reciprocated. The company had taken on new ways of carrying out business, and honor had slipped away. Was there nowhere left in the world that they had not touched? For the moment Hajime had suppressed these feelings as a nauseas child waits for the car to reach his destination. Somehow he knew this feeling would not pass, but he had a responsibility; he had the honor of his job to uphold.
He touched the projection in front of him, stretching it to view one of the offenders in Case 0782. He had always believed that nothing should come between him and executing the business at hand, even his personal feelings. He flipped through the photographic projections: six faces in total. Their skin was eerily iridescent from the projectors. Their pallidness was disconcerting for new enforcers, as all the pictures looked taken from obituaries or autopsies – expressionless, motionless. However, they were simply official photographs – some taken from mugshots, others from security cameras. Hajime had managed to remind himself that these were just files and these men were not dead yet. In fact, that was the point.
But for all the time he had spent on his career, looking at these criminals, searching them out and hunting them down in the name of the common good, he felt empty, and he wondered if this was normal for a man his age, or normal for an enforcer, for that matter. They paid him enough, and the job was as honest as a job could be in this region.
He breathed in slowly and rubbed the back of his neck.There was nothing remarkable about this case, or the case before it – nothing out of the ordinary about the crimes, nothing special about the assignments. Yet now more than ever he had felt the weight of these cases bearing down on him. How many years had it been since he left the mainland? Twenty? Leaving his family behind had been a mistake. His shoulders began to tense. This company had stolen his life from him.
He caught himself before he could let this line of thinking get too far. He breathed in and out slowly. No, he thought. He didn’t leave them behind; he mustn’t think this way. He mustn’t let himself get bogged down in all of this. He sighed. There were times when he glimpsed the immensity of his life, the crushing weight of its intricacy. He felt now as a boatman does before a storm, watching the sky roll with clouds, when the colors shift and the smell of even the air has changed.
“How terrible,” he said to himself, unaware that his partner had just entered the room.
“What’s terrible?” asked Shawn.
Hajime thought quickly; he didn’t want to ruin the motivation of a partner so young. He smiled to the boy. “There is nothing exciting about this case.”
“That’s a shame,” said Shawn. He stepped over to Hajime and spun one of the file logos until the right information came up. “You don’t like much action though. What’s really bothering you?”
Hajime said nothing, trying to keep his body and face calm enough so Shawn couldn’t gather further insight into the situation. Hajime wasn’t sure if this was habit from years of enforcement or simply his nature. He supposed they were one and the same.
Shawn zoomed in on a file. He looked over to Hajime as if to change the discussion.”This is an easy one. No heavy work. We could leave our firearms here. I’m sure you’d be relieved to do so.”
Again, Hajime said nothing, but he gave Shawn a slight nod.
“Right. I’ll get the car. You must be tired.”