Roger peered over the top of his glasses at the twelve year old boy on the seat opposite. The response didn't so much surprise him as confirm his suspicions. He wondered how far the child could be drawn on the subject. "Don't you want to be number one, Mail?"
The boy smirked, "Hell no."
This was surprising. This was totally unexpected. They lapsed into silence again as Roger pondered his options. Degrees in child psychology and social care, coupled with an inate genius of his own, rendered him perfect for this job. Watari had pestered him for a year or more, before Roger had been persuaded to take on the role of overseer of The Wammy House, Orphanage for the Gifted and Talented. He had neither regretted it nor looked back since. If he hadn't signed that confidentiality agreement, he could have written whole theses on each of the children here.
The deep intelligence in Mail's eyes belied his few years. Roger decided to lay it on the line, no psychological games, just the plain truth. "Your results consistently place you squarely third in this House. It doesn't matter what subject, what section of the IQ tests, even the sporting events... third. Precisely third." He leaned forward. "Mail, has it not occurred to you just how unlikely that is? You've slipped up just once, when you accidentally achieved first place in a Computer Science project. Mrs Wendum said you did not react well when those were posted."
Mail shrugged, "You can't expect me to beat Mihael and Nate, they're too good." The boy, to all extents and purposes, appeared almost mockingly relaxed, but there was a slight tension to his shoulders and his gaze was a touch too intent.
"I'm not at liberty to discuss the results of the other children with you." Roger spoke primly, but a smile danced upon his features. "However I will say this - Mihael and Nate work flat out, as hard as they can, to achieve their positions. Nate has made the number one spot his own, though sheer relentless effort, and Mihael is putting his all into overtaking him." He leaned forward. "Mail, you put no effort in at all, you do not apply yourself, and you are number three. What would happen if we saw your best?"
Mail's gaze had already slid away, surveying the bookcase, the window and the tree outside, the carpet, anywhere but the man on the chair beside him. That mischevious smirk had returned though, "I'd be number three."
For nearly an hour, they spoke in circles, always returning to this same point. Mail was intractable and Roger eventually had to call a truce until another day. He had another three children to see before teatime. Sighing the full-stop on their sparring, he moved onto the final matter. "You heard about the directive regarding names. Have you considered one for yourself?"
Watari, governor of this orphanage, had determined that all of his children should take pseudonyms, not just those leaving as adults to take up roles as detectives. It was a safety precaution long overdue and one which would be applied immediately onto all newcomers.
"Yeah... I decided it doesn't matter."
Roger had foreseen another long argument, so had already figured out the chink in this boy's armour. "Mihael has already changed his name." He hid his triumphant smile, as Mail's expression changed. Shock had registered there and wonder with it. "From now on, we will refer to Mihael as Mello." He pressed home his advantage. "Nate will be Near... and you?"
"It doesn't matter."
"It matters." Roger was tiring of this. Though he prided himself on endless patience with the children, Mail's seeming stubbornness in not applying himself, nor taking advantage of the opportunities on offer in this institution, were irksome. "Matt." He made a note on the paperwork before him. "I will ask the other children... I will inform Mello that your name will be Matt."
He glanced up, but the erstwhile Mail, now Matt, had covered his eyes. The orange goggles, received as a free gift with a racing game a couple of years ago, now ubiquitiously upon the child's face. He had removed them as a concession to Roger at the beginning of this interview. They made his eyes, those portals to the soul and inner self, so utterly unreadable. The boy slowly smirked.
"You may go now, Matt, but my door is always open. You know that."
Matt leapt over the arm of the settee, but paused at the door. "I know."