Case files brimming with information, improperly sorted, organized, never followed up on. Some of them, it even seemed like the police didn't want to follow up on. She didn't entirely blame them - they were overworked and undergunned - but when all of that fell on her shoulders, it was still frustrating. Tale as old as time. City cops blame the "stuck up" feds for interfering, then expect them to fix everything the moment they get authority.
This was a personal follow-up. An open case, one of the worst in the city - seemingly cut and dry on the surface. The metahuman equivalent of some mentally unwell ideologue bombing a nightclub. But the more she looked into things, the more it didn't seem so simple. There was another piece - Lament. A musician that, for the most part, seemed to mostly just be an edgy art project dedicated to murderers. People took their music as a bit of a game, trying to piece together what their songs were referring to. Songs that often contained alleged samples of the victims.
One of those songs featured a sample from the attack on the Pittsburgh Center of the Arts, a sample that, for what it was worth, seemed very real - and, to her ear, sounded nothing like any of the known bystander recordings of that night. The only known recording that was missing, the official one of the band from the venue itself, had been erased - and the lead singer of the performing band was one of the only people who could have done it.
As it stood, he was hardly a primary suspect, but there was - something off about this whole situation. The man had no history, no surname, nothing. He just appeared one day, and then crossed paths with tragedy in the only city where every coincidence could have been planned.
Just a few questions.
Basilica adjusted her mask, approached the door - gap bathed in a glowing red - blaring music on the other side - and knocked.
Quite how he heard the doorbell over all the conflicting noise was a miracle in itself. The song he was working on, the song he was playing, the hiss of the broken noise-cancelling he had been meaning to fix- it was a good thing he was attentive, or he might have ignored it completely. What could it be at this hour, hm? Neighbours? Delivery? Someone from PREMORTEM? Nobody worth turning the music down for, surely. He picked his laptop up from the coffee table and walked it over to the door, headphones hanging loosely off one side of his head.
Oh, she looked serious.
There was a brief look of concern on Kosuke's face. The outfit, the mask, those- fuck, what were those? Weird sharp limbs? Weird sharp wings? He could barely make out the shape in the glare- though, whatever it was, it was smooth enough that he could distinguish each individual LED in the reflections. She looked like a demon. She looked like someone trying her best to dress up like a demon, if all she had to make a costume was bits of broken glass- that's what it was; broken glass. There were few people who would bother going to such lengths for a house visit, and cosplayers typically didn't introduce themselves so formally. She was a vigilante, or a cop, or something functionally identical. She wanted to confront him about something. The question was... what was it?
And the answer was... blindingly obvious.
"Look, if this is about business tax- I've done it right this year, okay? Promise."
He laughed nervously at his own joke. Then, that concern came back.
"You better come in." He muttered, "I don't... I don't want any trouble, yeah?"
"Thank you," she replied - with a warm, non-descript smile - stepping past him into the apartment. She almost imperceptibly winced as she entered, but when she turned to face him again, her face was stoic and professional.
"Would you mind turning the music off?" she asked. "I'd like to have a bit of a chat."
The blaring sound was blinding. She didn't quite believe this Mr. Kosuke was a threat, yet, but she wanted her senses about in case there was a risk of danger. And, well, besides - it was just plain uncomfortable.
Moving to the side, she avoided sitting down, instead standing in the corner of the room near the door. She glanced at his laptop in his hands, then at the headphones.
"I don't mean to bother you while you're working, but I just had a few follow-up questions about the metahuman incident at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts a few weeks ago. You were performing there with your band that evening, yes?"
Kosuke pressed a key on his laptop and took the headphones off- music still blaring through the speakers. He waited a moment for the visitor to properly enter the room, but found out quickly that he'd be waiting a very long time. She was cautious, of course. Hanging by the door was probably a learned habit, given her line of work- or common sense, given her reason to visit. Regardless of how close she ended up next to it, he shut the door behind her.
It seemed to take him a moment to realise what she actually asked him.
"Oh- right." He laughed, "Sorry, sorry..."
He pulled a remote from his pocket and clicked a button, finally pausing the song and allowing relative silence to fall over the room. The speakers remained on, however. It was a particularly intricate and powerful setup, as evidenced by the volume (and clarity, though she likely didn't notice that) of the music it was playing. Turning it on and off, fully, would be too much of an inconvenience, surely.
Unlike his companion, Kosuke decided to sit down; leaning back against the couch as he rested the laptop on the seat next to him. It was only when she asked her second question that his posture changed.
"You're not bothering me at all, it's... it is fine."
He leaned forward, elbows on his knees- miserable, like he knew where this conversation was heading, like he had been here before.
Basilica raised her eyebrows as Kosuke turned off the music on his laptop - imperceptible behind her visor - but she didn't say anything, instead waiting and watching as he realized what she meant and stopped the music over the speakers instead. He seemed all out of sorts. To be expected, considering his situation, considering what he experienced, considering the police questioning he doubtless already endured. He looked uncomfortable at her second question -
A bad reminder.
"My condolences. That must have been traumatic."
Her husband was the people person. He was the one that knew what to say in situations like this - knew how to make people more at ease. Her? She was more a go straight to business type, so she did exactly that.
"Kosuke, do you know what happened to the venue recording of that night?" She leaned in slightly, hands folding at her waist. "There was one, yes?"
He sighed heavily, contorting his shoulders into what looked like a shrug. It was uncomfortable. He was uncomfortable.
His discomfort spiked when she brought up the recording. Of course it did; he was one of two people to have access to the tapes, and likely the only one halfway willing to talk about them. At least, he hoped he was. God, if they had talked to Declan before this...
He grit his teeth, his eyes trained on the floor.
There was a pause. A stillness. A silence, marred only by faint feedback from the speakers. Then, Kosuke reached for his laptop.
"I've... removed some things- unimportant things. That's all. The- uh, the order of events, identifiable voices, anything that could affect your investigation- all of that's still there. I didn't... I didn't try to fuck with evidence, I swear, that's not- that's not what I wanted at all, I just..."
He looked up at her, nervous.
"That's the version you can take, okay? I promise- I promise it's enough."
He was nervous. Uncomfortable. Which, of course, didn't always mean something, but in this case - well, at least he came clean, even if he'd tampered with the evidence.
"You know you can't do that. You know how that looks," Basilica said, voice level, hands at her sides. Non-threatening. Not because she thought Kosuke was a dangerous, but more because she thought he was afraid. Afraid of - something. Something about the recording. Something he had to hide? Or something he was forced to?
A heartbeat of a pause, silence hanging in the air, almost as loud as the music had been moments before.
"Kosuke, who was the woman who attacked the club that night?" Basilica tilted her head forward. "Is she tied to Lament? Did either of them talk to you?"
He was a child caught throwing a brick through a window, or something, unable to look at his teacher even though they both know he did it. His eyes were darting around the room, lingering on the looming speaker-boxes, looking at everything but Basilica.
"It's not about how it looks."
The statement was spoken quietly; self-evident, to him, but meaning next to nothing aside from a continuation of his panicked defensiveness. He pulled the laptop closer to him, clicking through to bring up his files, scrolling past a few sets of images to find a set of nested folders. It was a transparently useless way of 'hiding' what was inside, but this version was- well, it had been sanitised, scrubbed clean of anything that needed to be hidden. He paused when the final folder was over, cursor hovering over the file.
Then, she asked about Lament.
Kosuke's posture stiffened and he retracted his hand, head snapping around to face hers. This wasn't- she wasn't- Lament wasn't causally involved at all, he made sure of that, so how did- the only thing he had done was release that- ah- ah.
Lament couldn't seem like the biggest of his worries, given that fact.
"I don't know her." He frowned "Nobody does, that's the problem. I don't know if she had it out for me then, I don't know if she has it out for me now- I haven't... I haven't been threatened by her, I can tell you that. I haven't even been contacted by her. Either she doesn't give a shit, or she's planning something. I don't know which one's scarier."
He shook his head.
"Lament's a fucking vulture, man. I've heard he managed to get near-perfect audio of the event, which- fuck, I mean, if that gets out, then-"
The tension returned once more. Kosuke closed his laptop and set it back down on the couch beside him. He laughed nervously.
"You, uh- did either of them say they were threatening me? I don't know how much you guys have already figured out- if there's an attempt on my life, I mean, I'd like to know about it..."
There wasn't any accusation in the question, wasn't any harshness to the tone, but it was far from conversational. Cold. Formal. The sort of way a clerk speaks to you when you don't know how to properly fill out a form. Basilica folded her arms, watching Kosuke fumble with the laptop for a few seconds, then seemingly forget what he was doing and set it to the side.
"We have no reason to believe Lament or the woman who attacked that night are after you." Or any reason to believe Lament and that woman were connected at all. "If there was a threat to your life, I assure you, we would let you know. However -"
She reached for the laptop, placing a hand on the lid.
"This laptop contains evidence pertaining to an ongoing criminal investigation. Evidence that, up until now, we believed had been destroyed. By you. If you don't mind, I would like to borrow this. I'll take it down to the station, have a copy made of the data, and have it back to you within the day."
The eyeless stare of her visor was focused on Kosuke's face, her lips a thin line, as if daring him to say no.
"I'm- look, I'm sorry, but I can't let you take this- I can't let that recording leave this room, I can't let it get out there-"
He reached down for the laptop, his hand trembling almost a little too much. Though she was staring directly at him, hidden behind that mask, he seemed unable to meet her eyes. Panic didn't wear well on his face. It seemed unfitting, like it was something he wasn't meant to express, something the structure of bone and muscle wasn't built to accomodate. Kosuke exhaled sharply, composing himself.
For a moment, it seemed like he was going to change the subject. For a moment, it seemed like he wanted to.
"Meant he could pick up the live parts. Most devices can't--the sound's too low for them--but, a guy like that, he'd have good tech. If he releases that shit- fuck, if he even listens to it..."
Kosuke stopped looking even vaguely towards her, instead focusing his gaze on the laptop. It was either paranoid protectiveness, or just the most convenient place he could turn to without catching her stare.
"Right. I- I should just explain myself now, shouldn't I? No point trying to lie any more- no point trying to avoid it. It's not like it's even that complicated, really..."
He gave a nervous chuckle- reluctant and stalling for time.
"I am... I believe the term is meta--human. There's... I can make this sound, this inaudible thing, that, like- well, you saw what happened. I- it's not something that happens normally. I mean, I can use it if I want, but I don't want- I, it's something I can control, but not- sorry, I'm struggling to put this into a sentence for you."
There was a pause as he gathered his thoughts, a terse frown forming on his face. When he resumed speaking, his voice was flat, almost robotic, like he was reading from a script.
"Okay. My voice can push people to hatred, and delusion, and violence. It's... infrasound, of some kind- I've got this mutation that allows me to speak that low. Always had it, ever since I was a kid- that's why I started singing, I wanted a way to control it. I thought I'd managed pretty well so far, I thought it wouldn't be a problem anymore, but clearly..."
He shook his head.
"Yeah. That's... that's why you're not having that laptop. I can't risk it falling into anyone's hands but mine."
A musician with a power like that. A dangerous combination. Something about the confession set Basilica on edge, had her less at ease than if he hadn't just - told the truth. She let her hand fall away from the laptop, taking a step back.
"If that's the case - then I believe I'll let you be," she replied, levelling him with that eyeless, almost-accusatory gaze. "If you encounter the assailant from the club again... or Lament, please call."
She moved for the door, opening it - then paused.
"No. One more thing. If Lament is capable of capturing this effect you have. If you're... aware of this. That must mean you have used your power live, yes?" She glanced over her shoulder. "Why would you be afraid of him misusing them otherwise, Kosuke?"
She took her hand off the laptop, but that didn't seem to be enough for him. He stood up, following her to the door, seemingly unwilling to let her leave. The concern hadn't left his face. If anything, it had spread; through his posture, his gait, the speed at which he moved. Kosuke seemed incredibly rattled by this.
Her question, rather than making this worse, resulted in an exasperated, incredulous sigh.
"No? I'm aware of this because I've recorded my own voice and listened to it back- I can hear the tone in the recordings, and that's... well, I always assumed that was enough, unless there's some other factor to it that I hadn't considered."
"The Valkyrie was at the back of the crowd. She wouldn't have been able to hear my actual voice from that distance, just whatever the speakers could carry. If anything, that fucking- that event was what confirmed it for me, that the nature of my power is-"
His voice caught. He raised his hand to excuse himself, pausing for a moment to regain composure.
"Sorry, I- I'm getting defensive, I know." He shook his head, "I just... I don't... I can't have anyone know about this, okay? Shit, I don't- I don't know why I told you all of this- look, I really shouldn't have, can you just-"
He finally looked up at her, peering through the visor- it would've been direct eye contact, if both pairs weren't obscured.
"Please, please, don't let this information reach the public. I'll help you investigate, I'll show you the tapes, anything I can do to offset this, I will, I just- I can't let this get out, after all I've done to control it, if this- it would destroy me. It would absolutely destroy me. I-"
His posture shifted. He straightened his back, widened his stance, and leaned over, placing his hand on the doorframe to block her exit. Kosuke didn't quite seem as meek and defenseless as before- and, as minor as the shift was, it might have been a little more effective than he intended. Robotic, almost. Planned.
"I can't let you leave until I have your word on that. I'm sorry."
Everything about this encounter was turning on its head. She'd never seen someone so readily and willingly go from victim to suspect over the course of a ten minute conversation. Basilica's throat tensed, hand slightly extended. Not many windows in a place like this, but there were screens, bulbs, lenses. Plenty to work with.
"Don't worry. Those details won't make the public record."
Her hand shifted, but instead of summoning glass, her fingers reached for a set of handcuffs in a side pocket of her leggings.
"To get it out of the way - you have a right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in court. You have the right to talk to an attorney before we ask you questions, and you have the right to keep them with you when we ask you questions. If you can't afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. If you answer questions without one present, you can stop at any time."
She took a deep breath.
"You are being detained. This is not an arrest. You aren't being charged. I'd recommend full compliance, which means bringing that laptop - if not, I'm certain I can get a warrant for it, but that means doing things the hard way." She shook the cuffs. "Right now, Kosuke, I'd really recommend not doing things the hard way. We can walk down to the station with your things, have a nice, longer chat, and you can be out by the end of the day. Got it?"
So, this was it; this was where his act had landed him.
Kosuke grit his teeth, moving to the laptop and tucking it under his arm in panicked compliance. He hadn't had to deal with the police before, of course; he was a musician, and a legal business owner, he hadn't experienced anything like this before. He looked over to the officer, mouth open, as if to start some vague, scattered apology, an excuse, a plea, but he mercifully kept it shut. The speaker feedback was starting to give him a headache, anyway- they didn't like being paused for this long.
"Mind if I, uh-" His voice caught in his throat, "-Um, turn off the speakers? Leaving them on like this, uh... it damages the..."
He trailed off, reaching for the remote, finding it in the pocket of his jeans. His finger hovered over the Play button for just a moment.
Then, he turned off the speakers, and threw the remote on the couch.
"I- can I ask that this laptop doesn't leave my sight until I've explained myself?"
The room was cold, small, and white. White tiles on the floor, white panels on the walls, white lights shining brightly up ahead. Basilica settled into a chair behind the desk, gesturing at another - small, hard, and plastic - against the wall across from it.
"Do you want to drink anything? Need to use the restroom?" Curt, official. "We might be in here for a while, depending on where this goes. Considering only you know how long this is going to take us - I'll let you be the judge of if we need anything before we start."
She opened a manila folder, set it to the side, then pulled a lemon-colored notepad out from the desk's drawer.
The room was cold, small, white, and really starting to get to him.
Kosuke had only been in there for a few moments--a minute, max--but his eyes were already starting to strain, and he knew it was only a matter of time before that strain took root in his head. He pushed the sunglasses further up his face, trying to minimise the amount of light leaking in through the sides, but it seemed futile.
"I'll have a coffee, if you're offering." He mumbled, "But- can you turn the lights down in here a bit? Not that I won't co-operate, I just- I'm a lot nicer to talk to when I don't have a migraine."
He shielded his eyes in the meantime, tilting his head downward to try and force some shade. The subject of his surname seemed to make him frown, but that could also have been the light.
"The lights don't turn down," Basilica replied sharply. Moving to the corner of the room, she pulled two cups from the cabinet and flipped on the small, grimy coffee machine. It began to gurgle. Glancing over her shoulder at the man, she tapped her fingernail on the edge of one of the cups, lips a thin line.
"There isn't any information on you, Kosuke. No background. No history. You weren't able to provide identifying documents, and you - don't have a surname?"
She tilted her head forward.
"At first I assumed you were in some sort of witness protection. It'd match up. Quiet, low profile life, no paper trail. But the more I learn, the more confusing things are."
Coffee began to dribble out of the spout, filling the room with the scent of cheap grounds.