7 DAYS WITH A DRUNKEN YAKUZA
I was hoping I wouldn’t find a body. You’d think I’d have learned to stop hoping by now, but no such luck. It’s a body alright, but on the upside it isn’t the one I was worried about finding. It’s also still breathing, but I haven’t yet made up my mind whether or not I care.
He hasn’t noticed me yet, so I size up the room. It’s a champagne room at an illegal after-hours strip club; the guy who put me onto it had the gall to call it a speakeasy, but that’s giving it way too much credit, and not nearly enough scorn. There’s a small leather couch against one wall, a stripper pole in the middle of the room, a tacky disco ball on the ceiling, a poorly concealed camera in the corner above the door, and the biggest Japanese man I’ve ever seen bleeding out on the floor. He could be a cop, but he’s dressed in a nice white suit that’s rapidly turning red, and the gun lying in front of him doesn’t look like any kind of standard issue police piece I’m familiar with. Beyond that, his shoes are awful nice for a cop, though a good undercover would think of that, but they’re also no good for running, which a good undercover would know, and avoid. Suppose he could be a bad undercover, but my money’s on yakuza. His watch backs me up, as it’s ways out of the traditional police price range, or at least it was before he bled all over it.
The bastard’s tough, I’ll give him that. He’s been shot at least three times, in the front, and two of the bullets came out the other side, but he’s still trying to stagger to his feet, propping himself up with the one arm he hasn’t been shot in, but he keeps slipping on his own blood. He’s sweating the way they do before they pass out and die, which is the kind of knowledge I sometimes wish I didn’t have, but there it is. He’s also cursing in at least two languages I can recognize and pawing for his gun. If I’m smart, I’ll walk outside and call the cops to come collect him. The odds he knows anything about the girl I’m looking for are about five percent, and the odds I can trust him even if he does are about one percent. Unfortunately, my odds of finding her without him might be zero.
“Need a hand there, big fella?” He whips his head around faster than I would have thought he could manage, and the good news is that the blood on his face seems to have gotten there from the floor. He’s not coughing it up yet, which means I’ll feel less guilty when I irresponsibly take him to my tiny apartment to try and patch him up instead of a hospital. Probably still pretty guilty if he dies, though at least if he’s a mobster so it won’t take me too long to get over it.
“Who are you?” he asks, and there’s a ferocity in his eyes that scares me a little. Last time something scared me I was tracking a serial killer. Last time before that was long enough ago I can’t remember. No need to let it show, though.
“That’s a pretty personal question isn’t it? How many of us are lucky enough to really know who we are, after all? Precious few.”
Oh come on Mina, save the smartass until after you get out of the bloodstained yakuza hideout; you’re gonna feel real bad if he bleeds out while you’re cracking wise. Dead men don’t laugh.
The ferocity in his eyes partially gives way to confusion. I sigh and give him something like a real answer. “Let’s start with who I’m not; I’m not the cops, and I’m not yakuza, though I figure you’re one of the above. Which is it?”
He just stares at me. That’s enough to confirm.
“Ok, yakuza it is. You want a hand?” He’s mulls it over, realizes I’m his best chance of survival, and nods.
“Alright, big fella, on your feet.” I put his good arm over my shoulder and pull him upright. I almost slip on the blood doing it, but we manage ok as his legs still mostly work. I start trying to steer him towards the door, but he’s not having it.
“My gun,” he says. I’m about to argue but I can tell it’d be pointless, so I hunch down, nearly dropping both of us back into the crimson pool on the floor when I do, and grab his piece with my free hand. I hold it up for him to see.
“You can have this back if you’re a good boy, I promise.” He scowls at me, almost calls me a dirty name, thinks better of it, and shrugs to the extent his body will let him. I slip his gun into my pocket, and it’s heavy enough that it pulls my trenchcoat slightly to the left.
Sirens in the distance don’t exactly set my heart to racing, as I’ve already tampered with the crime scene about as much as I could without bringing bleach, and there’s an almost certainly an unregistered weapon bulging out of my pocket… to say nothing of the wounded criminal bleeding all over my nice new coat.
“Back entrance?” I ask him. He grunts an affirmative and guides me out with jerky neck spasms more than words. As we sneak out through the kitchen I hear the cops come in the front. I start to wonder about who called them, but give up pretty quickly as it’s hardly the point.
We make my car without further incident, and my new friend, apparently proud of his work with the coat, is more than happy to bleed all over my leather seats, too. I can’t afford a new coat, let alone a new car, so I guess I’ll just claim it’s a design choice. You know, really playing to the whole “tough-as-nails-5’2-half-Korean-former-dancer-failed-poet-private-eye-who’s-also-a-woman” cliché. That’s a cliché, right? No? Just me, then? Well, crap. Guess I’ll just say my boyfriend’s a sloppy eater who insists on drivethrough cheeseburgers with too much ketchup, then. Oh, who am I kidding? Nobody’s gonna buy that I have a boyfriend.
“Are we going to go somewhere, or do you work weekends driving a hearse?” he asks me, and I admit to being a little impressed that he’s still got enough wits about him to be a smartass.
I fight the urge to ask him anything on the way home, and all he asks me is where we’re going. When I tell him, he grunts softly in acceptance. He’s starting to get pale now, and I really need to close those wounds. My place is still fifteen minutes off, and he might not have that much time. Hospital could save him, but then I lose access. Choosing not take him there makes his life my responsibility, so I really oughtta do something about the bleeding. It’s afternoon, and the sun is out so Seattle’s busy, but we need to find somewhere isolated fast or he’s going to die. I pull into the first parking garage I find, and luck into a floor with not much going on. It’s still a stupid risk, but not as stupid as driving around with a dead gangster riding shotgun.
“Take your shirt off,” I tell him as I get out of the car and come around to his side. He’s trying to oblige, but he doesn’t have the strength anymore to fight his way out of the formerly white sport coat or the nice green high-collar silk number he’s got on under it. I help him struggle free, and seeing him shirtless tells me he’s not a yakuza lifer, but he’s no rookie either. In addition to the three oozing bullet holes, he’s got a mountain range tattooed across his upper back and a handful of Japanese characters I can’t read down one arm. To his credit, he has yet to give in to peer pressure and wrap a tacky dragon around his chest.
The tattoos can wait, though, as those three oozing holes are still oozing. He’s also been shot in the arm, making it four total.
“Hold still, and whatever you do don’t scream.”
I pull his gun from my pocket and fire it into the concrete ceiling above, then quickly press the barrel to his first wound. His eyes go wide and he starts to scream, but to my grateful surprise he catches himself and lets out only a pained wheeze as the flesh sears and the wound closes. I rapidly move the gun to his other three wounds, but it’s lost too much heat by the time I get to the arm to cauterize. He’s closed his eyes tight from the pain and he’s chewing the side of his cheek like it’s the only thing keeping him conscious. Maybe it is, but we’re not done.
“I have to get the holes on your back, too,” he nods silently, and dutifully rolls over. If we’re real lucky, everyone who heard the first shot wrote it off as a car backfiring, but there’ll be no such luck for the second one. Police’ll be here in minutes, and that’s assuming there’s no beat cops nearby. I fire again, and press the barrel to his wounds. His flesh sizzles and gives off a sick, acrid smell as the skin singes itself into makeshift scabs. He arches his back with each press, but he does not scream, mostly because he’s chewing a hole in my passenger seat. This is what I get for playing good Samaritan.
Again the gun runs out of heat before I can cauterize the arm, but someone’s definitely called the cops by now, so the arm’s just going to have to wait. I help him maneuver back into a normal sitting position, then race around and into the driver’s seat. I drive as fast as I can without getting us killed or stopped by the parking drones, and as we pull out of the garage I’m only starting to hear sirens in the distance. We’ll make it to my place ok, and then we’ll see just how good of an amateur surgeon I actually am.
I bring him into my apartment building through the entrance in the alley. He stays conscious until I’ve got the door to my unit unlocked, then collapses like a ton of bricks, taking me down with him. Luckily, none of my neighbors are around to see me get dropped by a passed out hood, or I’d have to change my business cards from “Professional Private Investigator,” to “Lovable Amateur Sleuth,” and even then I might get sued for false advertising if someone had an alternate take on my alleged lovability. I squirm out from under the two-hundred plus pounds of muscle, machismo, and man stink, and once I’ve got the door open I just drag the bastard in by his ankles. It feels a lot like I’m hiding a dead body, which might be good practice for later if I fuck this up.
My first instinct is to plop him on the couch, but that annoying part of my brain that worries about what makes sense instead of what makes my life a little easier points out that he’s going to need the best rest he can get to recover, so the thug gets to bleed all over my nice Egyptian sheets while I bunk on the ratty, lightly patchouli scented couch my friend left me when she skipped town, at least for tonight. But before either of us can rest, I need to actually tend to the fucker’s wounds.
First things first. While he bleeds on the bed, I gather up the medical supplies I have on hand. Bandages are no problem, plenty of those. 100% alcohol ought to disinfect the wound, also not a problem. I have an IV and saline solution in the closet for just such an occasion, so the blood loss isn’t a big deal. But Morphine is hard to get without a prescription, and I’ve been saving my little stockpile of pills for when somebody inevitably shoots me. I almost leave it in the drawer, but his suddenly labored breathing in the other room changes my mind.
I drag all the gear over to my nightstand, and I push the never-used alarm clock and the unread Durrell novel to the floor, making room. My patient’s awake now, but he doesn’t look good. Neither do my sheets. If he lives long enough, I’ll see if I can bully him into buying a replacement set, maybe see about the passenger seat while I’m at it.
“What are you doing?” he asks me, though I have to strain to hear him. He’s not so much speaking words as letting them escape.
“I’m saving your life so you can tell me what I need to know.” I pour some of the alcohol onto a rag and start working on the arm wound. He flinches then weakly shakes his head.
“Don’t waste your time. I’m dying. And loyal.”
I’m betting an awful lot on him being wrong about both of those, but we’ll see. After I’ve disinfected the wound, I go to work with the bandages. Doesn’t take long.
“Take these,” I say, handing him two of my precious little blue pills.
“No drugs. Want to die with my eyes open,” it’s a nice sentiment, but I’m starting to resent his lack of faith in my ability to save his dumb ass.
“Sure, but regardless of which one of us is right about whether or not you’re gonna die tonight- it’s me, by the way- in a minute I’m gonna start carving you up to dig out the last bullet. Whether you’re doped up when I do it or not is entirely up to you.” Then comes the inevitable stare down, and he looks almost confused when I don’t back off. Well, tough shit. He’s not the first mobster who’s tried the tough guy act on me, and he probably won’t be the last.
Eventually, he gets sick of staring and nods reluctantly. He takes the pills, and I busy myself prepping the IV. Naturally, he doesn’t like that either.
“No needles,” he says, trying to sound resolute.
“Alright, fine. Can you tell me what time it is?” I ask him, and as he starts to fumble for his phone with his good hand, I stick the damn needle in his arm without bothering to be gentle about it.
“Bitch!” he shouts and starts reaching for the needle. I grab his arm and resist the urge to jab one of his wounds.
“Knock it off, big fella. I’m saving your life whether you like it or not, so spare me the uncooperative macho routine.” Another staredown, this one shorter. He sulks back into the bed and just sort of glares at me sideways. “Better. I’ll be back in fifteen minutes to dig the bullet out. Leave the needle alone, or next time I’m sticking it somewhere you can’t reach it to pull it out.”
I leave him fuming in the bedroom and head to the kitchen. I pour myself a shot, realize that’s horribly irresponsible right before performing amateur surgery or a wounded felon, then take it anyways. Hell with him. Only reason he’s here instead of a prison hospital or a morgue is because I need his help to find Rose Scott. Not because he reminds me of anyone. Not because I couldn’t bring myself to leave him on that floor. He’s here because I need him to find Rose.
Rose Scott, age nineteen. Japanese mom, Irish dad, Seattle born and raised minus two years at a boarding school in Singapore, ostensibly to get some culture. Popular kid, college student (with honors), volunteers at a women’s shelter. Real sweet girl by all accounts, so of course she was the one who got kidnapped instead of one those sorority cunts who cyber-bullied that little hippy girl into bleeding out in her tub a few months ago. No, they get off with a misdemeanor charge because the law’s consistently fifteen years behind the tech curve and twenty behind the human race’s most capacity for inventive evil. Meanwhile, Rose is dead if she’s lucky, and, well, I don’t much wanna think about how she’s doing if she isn’t.
She’s been gone about twenty-eight hours, which means the cops are on the case now. I was brought in by her overzealous parents the morning after she didn’t come home from a date; cops had to wait till it’d been a full day, and by then I’d already found out that the date was perennial loser Johnny Nagasaki… and already been plenty disappointed to hear that Nagasaki had recently gone yakuza. Checking out a yakuza club I’d heard Johnny hangs out at led me to my giant cranky friend in the other room, but it didn’t get me any closer to Rose. General rule of thumb is that if you don’t have a good lead after forty-eight hours, you’re finding a corpse at best.
I told Rose’s parents as much, and I warned them that death wasn’t necessarily the worst case scenario with Yakuza involved, but of course they still wanted me to try. It’s my ability to look goodhearted yuppies like that in the eyes, tell them their daughter’s most likely dead or chained up in a dungeon somewhere, then still take their money just so I can tell them again for sure in a week or two that separates me from all the PIs you hear whining about how they only ever get divorce work; they don’t have the balls for the real cases. Neither do I, technically, but I can at least stand to tell someone to their face that their daughter or wife or whatever just turned up forty miles down the coastline, waterlogged and purple, eyes bulging out like a cartoon fish, and I can cash the check afterwards without having to stop at a Church or a shrink on the way to the bank. Whiskey’s cheaper anyhow. Which reminds me…
As I pour the second shot, I notice Harry, the cat who hates everyone, silently judging me from the couch. I stare right back at the prissy little black bastard, and he hisses at me. I take the shot anyways, and go right back to thinking about Rose Scott and whether or not her parents are going be any happier knowing she’s become human furniture in some Saudi asshole’s palace, or whatever. Sure, that’s pessimistic, but I’ve been at this long enough to know that pessimism’s the way to go; either I’m right, and my inner know-it-all gets her jollies, or I’m pleasantly surprised. Usually it’s the first one, though my inner know-it-all is never really all that jolly, probably because being right generally means somebody’s dead.
But I’m hoping this time is different. Sometimes I do find them in time, although usually it’s because they weren’t so much missing as “at a hotel with a guy they weren’t supposed to be at a hotel with,” but still. Maybe she just hopped on the back of Johnny Nagasaki’s bike and they’re off in Vegas having a Sex Pistols themed quickie wedding. Maybe she’s really in love with the bastard; I can’t say I’ve never had a thing for a bad boy… and my bad boy’d kick Johnny Nagasaki’s ass from here to, well, Nagasaki.
And, upside, Rose is an easy girl to remember. She’s got mom’s Japanese complexion, but she ended up with pa’s red hair; you don’t see a lot of Japanese redheads. Better yet, she’s got violet eyes, which pop up in less than one tenth of one percent of the world population. Hell, odds are good that she’s the only violet-eyed Japanese natural redhead on the planet. And she’s a dancer, too, tall and leggy with a chest that the fellas who hang out in Yakuza clubs won’t hurry to forget.
Then again, none of that matters if Johnny chopped her up and left her in a dumpster somewhere. The thought depresses me enough that I pour another shot. I don’t think too hard before taking this one, as my little reverie has left me a bit less sympathetic to all things yakuza, so if I happen to cut up my patient a bit more than is strictly necessary while I’m digging around for that little lead ball of karma, I won’t lose too much sleep over it. Speaking of, the painkillers ought to be kicking in by now.
I head back into the bedroom and find him passed out. Good, the less he argues with me the better. No point interrogating him tonight anyways. I disinfect the knife with the alcohol, and grab some cuffs from my gear box. My bed’s a pretty decent queen, and the memory foam is my favorite investment, but sadly it’s not a four poster, so I’ll have to improvise in terms of securing the patient. I dangle his bad arm off the edge of the mattress and cuff it to the bedframe. For his uninjured arm, I get lazy and just cuff it to his ankle. I consider trying to secure the other leg, but I’m whiskey confident and decide to just cut right in.
Apparently the painkillers have not totally kicked in yet.
He’s cursing and thrashing loud enough that I’m already planning a diplomatic reply to tomorrow’s bitchy email from the landlord. I pull the knife back, and let him get his bearings.
“Sorry about that, pal. But it’s either the knife or a slow death by lead poisoning,” he stares at me with that scary, frenzied look again and I’m not quite sure what to do, but then it passes and he just nods.
“I apologize. I should not have shouted. You caught me off-guard.” Guy’s got too much dignity for his own good, and I make a bet with myself that’s what got him shot in the first place. If I win, I owe me one Twinkie. “Please uncuff me, you have my word that I will behave.”
For some reason, I believe him, and the very first thing he does is pull a knife out of his boot. I silently scold myself for never learning how to knife fight, realize that life is not West Side Story, and quickly forgive myself for my unreasonable expectations of me, and mentally prepare to be stabbed. While I’m busy doing all that, he calmly places the hilt of the knife in his mouth, bites down on it, and nods for me to proceed.
Over the next few minutes I dig the bullet out, and credit where its due, he doesn’t’ move. He sweats, he grunts, and he bleeds, but he doesn’t move. When it’s out, I treat the wound and stich it up properly. Next to the other two holes, the ones that are scorched close, it actually looks very tidy.
“Where did you learn to do all this?” he asks as I’m finishing up the stitch job.
“Learning annex,” I snark, because telling him the truth doesn’t sound like much fun; he doesn’t need to know that watching somebody I maybe could have saved die of a bullet wound motivated me to learn how to deal with bullet wounds. He doesn’t need to know that’s probably the real reason I didn’t just leave him for the cops, either, and for that matter neither do I.
“All done,” I say, “get some sleep. We’ll talk in the morning.”
I get up and head to living room, steeling myself for the showdown with Harry the hateful bastard feline over who gets the good pillow, when he asks me another question.
“Who… are you?”
That one probably does deserve an honest answer.
“Mina Davis: private investigator.”
I wake up early, though not by choice. Harry the vicious little ingrate has decided that 4:38 AM is when he needs breakfast, and that lacerating my cheek is the way to clue me in to that necessity. After appeasing the little shit, I decide that coffee is the only reasonable next step. In typical Mina fashion, I have neglected to buy coffee filters, and am now out. Luckily for me, that one that’s sitting on the top of the garbage doesn’t look too bad, so I dump the old grounds out of it, delicately place it into coffee maker, and pour new grounds.
I know the word “soggy” refers to a texture, but I can only describe the taste of this alleged coffee as “soggy.” Texturally, it’s hot liquid, but it tastes like “soggy”. There is no other term, except possibly one that elaborates on the “soggy” thesis; for instance, it would not be totally without merit to refer to this taste as “soggy grave dirt.”
I drink two cups of it anyways. Then, either out of spite or a need for commiseration, I pour one for my temporary roommate, and head into the bedroom.
He’s still out, and the IV bag is empty. He’s breathing, which is generally a good sign; as long as none of the bullets nicked anything vital, he’ll live through this one. If they did, I’ve killed him by bringing him here…but I really want to find Rose Scott, and her life (not to mention the paycheck that comes with it) is worth more to me than some yakuza tough.
I have stuff to do today, so I decide to wake him. He just got shot yesterday, so I decide to be gentle about it. He’s yakuza, so I rethink that decision, and press on his arm bandage.
“Aie!” he wakes up fast and loud, and I have to jump back to avoid a shot in the mouth from his good arm.
“Easy, big fella. Sorry about the harsh wakeup call, I wanted to see if the painkillers had worn off.” It’s a bad lie, but he buys it.
“Why did you help me?” he asks. I didn’t notice yesterday on account of distraction, but he’s got no accent. American. Interesting.
“Because I’m looking for someone and you might be able to help me find them. But before we argue about that, who shot you, and why?”
“Kawada.” I know the name. It popped up in a case a few weeks ago, trying to figure out who had a little mom and pop waffle house burned down. Turned out it was mom and pop hunting insurance money, but Kawada’s name came up on in relation to some similar fires that didn’t have such obvious perpetrators. I don’t know enough about the yakuza to know how high up on the totem pole he is, but he seems to have some pull.
“Why’d he shoot you?” Seems like the thing to ask.
“Disagreement. I’ll settle it,” he looks at his knife, resting peacefully on the pillow bedside him, when he says it.
“Sure. Not any time soon, I suspect.”
“Today.” He stares at me with all this intensity and fire and passion, as he’s sitting there in my bed with blood everywhere, his hair all mucked up, and it’s just adorable. I manage not to laugh, but it takes some doing.
“Listen-“ I realize I don’t know his name, and so does he.
“-Shiro, you walk out of here today, or tomorrow, with those wounds and you’re probably a dead man. We both know you won’t go to a hospital- they have to report gunshot wounds, and I’m guessing you’ve got a rep and a record- so your best chance at recovery is here. You start running around, all four of those wounds are going to reopen, and whatever damage is left inside is only going to get worse, and you’re going to die.” It’s all true, probably.
“I’ll tough it out,” he says, and makes an effort to stand. I decide not to help him, and to his credit, he’s tough enough to do it. But it takes him over a minute to reach his feet.
“Oh, yeah, you’ll be fine.”
I do as he asks, because I wanna see how long it takes him to admit he’s screwed. He succeeds in removing the IV, and he even makes it to the bathroom to wash his face and try to slick down his hair. It’s when he tries to tie his shoes that he’s forced to admit defeat.
“I may have been a little… impetuous a moment ago, Miss Davis. I would like to thank you for saving my life, and I apologize for my…hostility,” the fury in his eyes is gone now, and there’s a depth there I hadn’t noticed before. He’s more than just his image. He might even have a soul, though if he does I can’t imagine it’s worth much. “If it is alright with you, I would like to stay here for a day or two until I regain my strength.” Perfect.
“Yes, but on one condition. I need you to answer my questions.” And the ferocity comes right back.
“I cannot betray any-“
“I don’t want you to betray anyone, unless they abducted a nineteen year old girl.” That one gives him pause. He looks aside, and this time he mutters his reply.
“I cannot betray-“
“Fine, fine, I get it. Let’s try another tact. Do you know a kid who goes by Johnny Nagasaki?” Silence. “It’s not betrayal for you to tell me if you know him. I didn’t even ask you if he hang around with yakuza, though I know he does.”
“Yes, I know him.”
“Ok, good, we’re making progress. If I wanted to talk to him, I’d go look…”
“I’m not a cop, Shiro. I don’t have any interest in arresting anyone. I just want the girl back. “ He sighs heavily, twice. He looks at his shoes, still untied, and finally decides to cooperate.
“Benny’s Pub. That’s where the little weasel hangs out.”
“Thank you, Shiro.”
“Hh,” he grunts with a nod.
I turn to leave.
“Miss Davis, I’m to remain here until I regain my strength, correct?” Or until I have no further use for you, sure.
“Yeah, Shiro, rest up.”
“If I’m to regain my strength, I’m going to need food.” Crap. He’s right.
“Ok. I’ll go get some, and bring it back.” Damnit.
An hour later we’re sitting beside each other at my kitchen counter, wordlessly chomping away on some bagels. He eats his with one hand, his arm rigged up in a sling that’s not only supporting his arm, but now about one third of a bagel’s worth of crumbs.
“Miss Davis, I have another request.” Ugg.
“You can call me Mina, Shiro. What is it?”
“While I appreciate your hospitality, I would prefer not to sleep in a bed rank with dried blood, even if it is my own.” Crap. He’s right. This rescue’s involving a lot less useful information and lot more housekeeping that I’d originally intended.
Two hours later, I’ve not only replaced the sheets, I’ve also run out and bought him some clothes; he reasoned that I couldn’t grab them from his place because then I’d know where he lived, and besides, what if I ran into some yakuza looking for him blah blah blah asshole. Now he’s got me lugging my TV from the living room into the bedroom, because the bastard has a point that if he has to stay in bed he ought to have something to do. He’s not wrong about any of this, really, but it’s all still pissing me off; I’m choosing to pretend its because the actual chores are annoying, but I’m a good enough detective to know I’m lying: it’s because it reminds me of the doormat I used to be, and I hate that bitch.
The fact that he seems to be enjoying it all so damned much isn’t helping either.
“Miss Davis,” he asks, and I imagine shooting him many times. I almost smile.
“Is it alright if I use your shower? I would like to wash off this blood,” yet another reasonable request. At least this one doesn’t involve me having to do anything.
“If you think you can manage it, go ahead. I’ll be back tonight. Don’t leave, and don’t call anyone.”
“Do not give me orders, Miss Davis.” “Fine. I’ll rephrase. If you want your gun back, if you want to stay here, if you don’t want me to call the cops, you’ll sit here quietly until I get back, and you’ll answer my questions thoroughly when I do. You are of course free to do whatever suits your bullet-riddled little heart, but I’m just offering a respectful suggestion, sir.”
He seethes at the disrespect, and I’m sure he has plenty to say about it, but I’ve got stuff to do so I don’t stick around to hear it. After the door closes behind me, I hear cursing in at least two languages that I recognize. I smile.
By the time I get to Benny’s, I’m done smiling. It was a long drive that gave me plenty of time to think, about Rose, and about what Shiro might do to my apartment if he’s got more rage than I figured… though it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if he killed the damn cat. But that’s only part of what I thought about on the way over here; I spent most of the drive worrying about Rose.
I’d like to think that the worst possibility is that she’s run off with Johnny Nagasaki in a fit of youthful rebellion; she’s such a sweet kid by all accounts that you’d struggle to imagine anyone hurting her, or wanting to. But I’ve seen the evil that these sorts of people are capable of. I know how far they can go, and how deep they can cut. I suppose maybe I’m being prejudiced. Maybe it’s unfair of me to assume that the yakuza are just as twisted and backwards as the mafia or the Irish mob. Maybe I don’t give a damn; fuck ‘em all.
Benny’s Pub is exactly the shitpit I was expecting, full of twenty-something wannabes and burnouts. Lots of mohawks and poor bodyart decisions. The décor, if you can call it that, is blasted out rotten wood with the occasional stained band flyer decaying at an odd angle. The bartop’s made of wood, technically, but at a practical level it’s got more in common with flypaper… though I suppose that’s not really fair to flypaper; fly paper’s patrons rarely puke on the surface. The music, such as it is, is terrible, foreign, and allegedly punk. To me, it sounds more like someone with only six or seven fingers struggling to strangle an alley cat.
Johnny Nagasaki’s not hard to pick out of the bunch. His stupid blue tri-hawk sticks out even here, and he’s dressed like he wants Mad Max to kick the shit out of him. I guess you can call me Mel Gibson.
Should have thought about my outfit before I came here, but I was too busy being annoyed by Shiro. Here’s hoping those theater retreats in college paid off. I put on a smile, and make sure to pull one corner of my mouth higher, make me look a little dopey and flighty. Blink often, makes me look unfocused and shallow. Body language is open; no crossed legs or arms, and I’m moving my hands every time I’m speaking, and when I’m speaking it’s in a voice with a higher pitch and a faster tempo than my usual.
“Johnny Nagasaki?” I say, sidling up next to him at the bar, though I’m careful to keep my elbows from touching the toxic morass coating the countertop.
“The fuck are you, missy?” I take a moment to register the accent, because it’s weird for a Japanese American biker punk to sound like he’s freebasing Lucky Charms, but there it is. Teach me to have preconceptions. Can’t dwell on it for now, need to focus on staying in character. Bubbles and sunshine, Mina, try not to vomit.
“I’m a friend of Rose’s. She asked me to get her a bunch of, er, party enhancers, then dropped off the map. She’d mentioned spending time with you, so I figured…” His reply isn’t all that important, as it’s almost certainly going to be a lie. I watch his face.
“Rose? Afraid I’ve not seen ‘er in a week’s time myself, gorgeous. Might try the library; she ‘ad a test coming up, or sommat.”
He’s better than you’d expect for somebody his age; he answers naturally, not too urgently but without hesitation, and his answer is both reasonable and specific without being easy to disprove. He’s even smart enough not to look me dead in the eyes, but not to actively avoid my gaze, either. He’s good at most of the obvious body language stuff, too, with his arms and legs resting comfortably, and all of his movements natural and relaxed.
Where he slips up is the unconscious stuff that takes active training to perfect. He swallows (as subtly as he can manage, but I’m looking for it) after his second sentence, and again a few seconds after his third. His eyebrow’s briefly draw upward, creating those little wrinkles above the nose I like to call the liar’s canyon… and he fails my favorite, easiest test; when I don’t say anything, he keeps talking.
“Truth be told, she ‘an had it out a bit,” he smiles bashfully, and then he swallows again. He’s lying alright. The only real question is what I’m going to do about it. I could probably sugar the truth out of him, but I’m not in the mood. I drop the act, the smile, and the hammer.
“You’re lying to me, Johnny, and that’s a bad plan. I find out you know what happened to her and you didn’t tell me, you’ll force me to get creative. You won’t like that very much.” That catches him off-guard, and he immediately defaults to type.
“Who the fuck d’ya thin yeh are, bit-” I cut him off.
“I’m the bitch that put Johnny Darwin in his grave.”
He goes silent, and I have to wonder myself why I opened with the big gun. To his credit, he gathers himself and sticks to the script.
“So what? That sick plonker’s in the dirt, good on ya, but I ain’t in the business of kidnap’n’murder, so I don’t know what yeh’re gettin’ at.”
He’s lost his composure now that he knows what it’s about. The canyon of lies makes another appearance, he shifts his weight to point his chest away from me, and his eyes are pointed up and to the right. He’s not sweating, but he’s doing just about everything else that could give him away. He swallows again, too. But he’s not going to tell me anything.
“Ok, Johnny, suit yourself. Be seeing you.” I head for the door, expecting trouble, but none comes. He just cooks the skin off my back with his eyes, that’s all. He knows where she is, or he knows who knows. I need to find out.
Outside, I scope out the bikes. The obnoxious neon blue one is obviously his, so I mark down the plates. If I was a real PI like Reno Bangs, I’d have some cool little tracking device I could stash on it to follow him. Instead, I spend what little money I make on whiskey, old movies, and not having to cook for myself. It’s a living, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a life.
So, not having grownup tech, I just camp out in my blood soaked sedan a few blocks away, and wait. He’s in Benny’s another six excruciatingly boring hours. If I didn’t hate him already for being a shit, I’d hate him now for an impossibly dull afternoon. When he finally does leave, I tail him for about three miles before he notices- and good on him for that, I was three blocks back and staying mostly behind intervening traffic- flips me off, and speeds away. Great. There’s a chance I just got Rose killed because I can’t be arsed to buy real tech.
I’d like it if that was the end of my shitty day, but I’ve got a very probably uncooperative yakuza bastard watching my TV in my bed. I can only hope that Harry the hateful hairball’s clawing him to shit. In order to put off a second probably fruitless interrogation, I swing by an Indian joint for dinner. I order myself some buttered chicken, mango lassi, and a whole heap of garlic naan. I take my time eating it, and have chai and cheesecake for dessert. All told, I spend about thirty bucks I don’t really have stuffing my face. After I’m adequately stuffed, I get some plain rice to go for my guest, try to decide whether or not that’s racist, then do it anyways. It costs two dollars and fifty cents, and that’s still more than I want to spend feeding yakuza. Rat poison’s cheaper, if you buy it clearance.
When I get home, he’s sitting peacefully in my bed, watching Hannibal on my TV, and playfully stroking Harry the treacherous bastard cat I’ve had since a kitten, but never heard purr till just now. I hate both of them, and I refuse to feel petty about it.
“Brought you some food, Shiro,” I say, tossing him the doggy bag. He eagerly opens it and peers inside, but his excitement quickly turns to a scowl.
“I wasn’t aware I was a prisoner, but you seem to think I am. Either that or a racist comic strip from the nineteen forties.”
“It’s Indian rice, not Japanese.”
He’s about to fire back, but then we both go silent trying to guess whether or not there’s actually any substantive difference between Japanese rice and Indian rice, and if either of us were optimists, or even just generally good people, we’d probably notice a metaphor there and learn an important lesson. But I’d rather learn why Kawada shot him, or where Rose Scott is.
“So. How’s that honor of yours doing?”
Not wanting to ask me for utensils, he’s scooping the rice straight into his mouth with his good arm. “Just fine, thank you.”
“Spoke to Johnny Nagasaki today. Thanks for the tip.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Ready to tell me why Kawada shot you?”
“Who’s Kawada?” he says between mouthfuls of soggy rice. This is all entirely too frustrating, so head back to the kitchen and gargle with whiskey. Or at least that was the plan, but I screw it up and I end up swallowing it. I’ve never been much good at gargling.
I feel the weight of his gun in my pocket and there’s a part of me that wants to go stick it in his face and yell at him until he tells me what I need to know, but I know it won’t work. Also, that would make me just a bit more evil than I’m ready to be this young; plenty of time to become the very thing I’ve been fighting against after I hit thirty. I’m sure Nietzsche would forgive the delay, just so long as I let the abyss have a good long stare. Maybe I’ll even put on a show, flash a little skin. Have a little fun with my inevitable corruption. It’ll be a good day.
But not today. Today, I’m going to go back in there, and try to talk to that uncooperative jackhole, and I’m not even going to ask how he got Harry the angsty little claw tornado to like him. I take a deep breath and walk back into the room.
“Shiro, I’m sorry about the rice. I had a shitty day and my sense of humor got the best of me. Whatever you want for breakfast tomorrow, you name it, it’s on me.”
He looks up at me, and Harry the piss bandito looks up with him. Two peas in a mean little pod. “Actually, Miss Davis, I would also like to apologize. I am easily upset, but your rice-based prank does not negate your hospitality, generosity, and excellent taste in pets.” The gun feels especially heavy right now. Maybe it’d be lighter if I got some of the bullets out of it.
“No problem,” I say through grit teeth. Need to play nice if I’m going to get my answers. “Can you tell me anything about Rose Scott?” I ask him. He shakes his head, stern all of a sudden.
“No. But I do wish to repay you for rescuing me, and I believe I’ve come up with a way to do so. I wish to hire you, effective immediately.”
I try not let him see that he’s caught me off guard. I’m a better liar than Johnny Nagasaki, but shock can be hard to conceal. “To do what?”
“I would like you to follow the man who shot me, and report to me – and only to me- on his movements.”
He shrugs. “I assume his name will be in your report. I certainly haven’t given it to you.”
“Look, Shiro, I’m happy to play along, and I’ll even check out Kawada for you later, but for now I need to focus on-” he interrupts me.
“Was Johnny Nagasaki helpful?”
“No, he wasn’t.”
“If you take this job for me, I will not only pay your rate, but I will ensure that Johnny Nagasaki becomes helpful.” Ok. I can work with this. But time’s still factor.
He munches another handful of rice before he answers. Harry the Hellspawned feline farts, and Shiro chuckles, which surprises me. The “dignified macho urban samurai” image he was trying to cultivate wasn’t the kind of guy to laugh at a cat farting on him. But then, I chuckled too which hardly scans with the cynical, seen it all embittered private dick that I’m supposed to be, so maybe neither of is quite who we’d like to be just yet. Or maybe some things are universal, and cat farts being funny is one of them.
“How long?” I say again when we’re done giggling.
“I understand your other case is time sensitive; follow Kawada tomorrow, I’ll help you with Johnny Nagasaki the day after.” A day’s a lot of time in a missing person’s case, but Nagasaki’s my only lead and I’m not even sure I could find him in under a day without Shiro’s help, especially now that he knows I’m looking for him. Shouldn’t have blown the “friend of Rose’s” cover so quickly, but time’s a factor and I took a gamble. Looks like I’m about to take another one. Hopefully neither of them get Rose killed. Hopefully that cat fart smell won’t creep into the living room.
Breakfast the next day is a lot more engaging. There are two reasons why. The first is that I got up early and went to one of the nice spots in my neighborhood for take-out omelets, as opposed to yesterday’s cheap shitty bagels.
The second is that, now that we’re working together, we’re both able to drop our guard a little and act like human beings with each other. That we had to enter into business arrangement to get there probably doesn’t say anything good about either one of us, but I honestly don’t care. I can’t remember the last time I had a friendly breakfast with someone. Usually my mornings are just spent slugging it out with my latest hangover, and trying to avoid the tornado of claws and cat piss that is my only constant companion.
“-and I never saw her again,” he says, finishing a story I’d been too busy musing to pay attention to. I nod and take another bite of my breakfast. Shiro’s smiling, and I think it’s because it’s been a long time since he had a real breakfast, too. Breakfast is for people with real lives. People like me, and Shiro, people who live on the margins… there’s not a lot of room for breakfast in the margins. If I were allowed to get lonely, I’d be good at it.
“So…Kawada?” I ask, because God forbid I let a little normalcy into my life. We should be talking about our hometowns, or favorite bands, or how it hasn’t rained in a few days. I should ask him why my rat-bastard little cat has taken such a shine to him. I could ask about the omelet. But asking him about that omelet isn’t getting me any closer to Kawada. I’ve been hired to do a job. I’m anxious to get started. No time for small talk. That’s a good enough excuse for me, anyways.
“You’ll find him around lunchtime, at Sonny’s. It’s a Sushi place near the University. His nephew works there, or something. Kawada never shuts up about it, though he’s pretty quiet otherwise. Be smart, Mina,” it’s the first time he’s used my real name, and we both shift uncomfortably in the moment before he starts again. “He catches you following him, he’ll kill you. He’s not like Nagasaki. He’s not even like me,” Shiro pauses again here, and bends over to scratch hateful Harry behind the ears. “I think he likes the sound of his gun,” he says, and I think to myself how bad can he be?
“And what, exactly, do you want me to find out?”
“Where he’s going, who he’s seeing… if he goes to Matsunaga.”
“I’ve never heard that name in my life,” Shiro busies himself with his eggs. I finish mine, and I get up and go to work. We don’t say anything else.
I have some time before Kawada’ll be hungry for lunch, so I swing by my least favorite building in the city. SPD. A big dumb building full of big dumb people. Their operating budget is thousands of times the size of mine, but I’m still the one who brought down Johnny Darwin. If it were up to these idiots, an innocent- albeit desperately stupid- man would have fried in his place. I walk past two dozen desk jockeys that get paid twice what I do to get nowhere close to stopping guys like Kawada. But maybe I’m being unfair; if it weren’t for these fine, noble public servants, people would just park wherever they want. It’d be chaos.
The thirteenth desk in the second row is the only one I have any respect for. Her name is Linda Lovelorne, and I’m pretty sure she’s got a thing for me. I refuse to ask, because the idiot aspiring poet deep inside is a big fan of alliteration, and I refuse to give it the pleasure of thinking “lesbian license licker Lieutenant Lovelorne” every time I go to see the only cop in this city I respect. Besides, she deserves better.
“Linda,” I say. She’s sitting there in her navy blue uniform, looking over a bunch of paper covered in a bunch of ink that says a bunch of stuff that will never matter to anyone. Those piercing blue eyes of hers that really ought to be out on the street looking for answers peer up at me behind those black bangs of hers, sapphire inmates behind a forest of sharp black bars. She insists she’s pure Irish but I’d bet every cent I’ve got there’s some Italian fruit hanging off that family tree. She’s got that slim, sharp Sicilian frame to her face, and her lips look like they belong on a Contessa somewhere, helping hold up a solid gold cigarette holder. Instead, they give me half of a smile.
“Mina Davis,” she says, leaning back to show off the tacky gold shield on over her heart. The shield’s not bulletproof, but I think the heart might be. “What’d you do now?”
“Nothing yet. But I was hoping you could do me a favor,” I hate that this is the only reason I ever come to see Linda. After Jack Darwin cut me to ribbons, Linda was the first responder. She gave the first aid that probably saved my life, and if that had been all, it would have been enough. But she visited me in the hospital a couple of times, too, and even came by my place a few weeks after to see if I was ok. By my standards, I was, but it was still sweet. And yet, every time she’s invited me out for a beer, I’ve been busy… which here means sitting alone in my apartment drinking whiskey and looking at missing persons cold cases from desperate families that don’t want to face the truth, and will pay me to face it for them.
“I had a feeling,” Linda says with an easy smile, obviously a lot less conflicted about the parasitic nature of my friendship than I am. That of course only makes me respect her more. “What do you need?”
“You have anything on the Rose Scott case?” Linda shakes her head.
“Don’t even know the name.”
“Missing person. Last seen around sixty hours ago.”
“Nah, sorry. I’ll put in some calls later, but between you, me, and the piss stained floor you’re standing on, our missing persons unit sucks. Last person they found was on vacation.” My tax dollars at work.
“Damn. Can you tell me anything about Johnny Nagasaki? Or somebody named ‘Kawada’?” Linda’s smile goes away.
“I’ve never heard of Nagasaki, but Kawada’s bad news. You don’t want to work whatever case has you in his orbit.”
“I have to, Linda. He’s my in to maybe finding Rose Scott.”
Linda shakes her head. “If you’ve got a lead, give it to me. I can fast-track it.”
Now it’s my turn to shake my head. “Can’t do it, Linda. No real evidence. Gut feelings and heresy’re all I’ve got, and you can’t move on that.” She frowns. She knows I’m right.
“Want me to come with?” she asks. I shake my head again.
“No. Just tell give me what you’ve got.” She pecks away on her keyboard for a few minutes, and somewhere in the background of the cacophony of four dozen cops doing paperwork I hear a printer.
“Everything I can give you on Kawada, plus a few things I shouldn’t. Fifth printer on your left,” she says. I start to leave, but she’s not done talking. “Not joking, Mina, be careful. I’m serious about backing you up if you’re gonna go after him; he’s bad news from way back, and he’s slippery, too.”
“Yeah. So am I.”
“I just… haven’t you been through enough?” she says it out of concern, and experience, remembering watching me bleed after Darwin worked me over. But she’s made a mistake; I’m allergic to pity. Makes brushing her off a whole lot easier.
“I’ll be fine. Thanks for the intel. Take it easy.” I don’t even say anything real as I leave. I don’t say anything a friend would say. Because that would mean I had a friend, instead of just a kindhearted acquaintance I use to do my job.
Sometimes I worry I’m not a people person. Hell, even my cat doesn’t like me.
A few hours later, I’m parked outside Sonny’s, and I’ve just finished reading Kawada’s file. He’s a piece of work, all right. Japanese born, but came to America at age sixteen; he’s in his thirties now. He’s been a person of interest in over sixty murder cases, and an out-and-out suspect in about two dozen. No convictions. For anything. He’s been charged, total, for over seventy major crimes. Every time he defends himself, which makes sense; yakuza paid for his law school. Columbia. Sigma Cum Laude. But he’s never tried a case he wasn’t in. I guess breaking legs and kidnapping teenagers pays better than chasing ambulances.
I study his picture, because, yeah, I admit it, sometimes it’s hard for me to tell Asian men apart. Sue me. I feel worse about what is says about my detective skills than I do about the incidental racism. Anyways, he’s slim, but powerfully built. He’s that weird old kind of strong, where there’s no visible muscle or mass, but you can tell just by looking at him he could tear a door of his hinges if he had to. Sunglasses in every picture, usually grey and flamboyant. Black hair (as if that’s helpful), usually a white suit… ah. Duh. He’s a got a small scar under his lip, on the left side. Allegedly a bit by one of the girls he allegedly abducted. Allegedly. I hate lawyers.
Except one, which reminds me, while I have time. I call my dad. He’s good people, if a little exhausted. He wanted to retire ten years ago, but a bum knee, a bad economy, and a worse ex-wife have delayed the process. Still, he’s content enough as long as the Yankees lose or the Lakers win, and he sneaks away to Tahoe to ski at least twice a year. He knows, vaguely, what I do for a living, but he doesn’t know about Jack Darwin or Kawada or any of the other things that go “stab” in the night. I think he thinks I do divorce work. Good. I wish I did, and I wish I’d helped him with his. His ex-wife is just a few sharp teeth away from a gig doing Transylvania transfusions. A parasite with delusions of martyrdom. I’d call her a selfish whore, but that’s just me being biased, and it isn’t fair; whores work for a living.
Unfortunately, free association is a bitch, and thinking about whores lead me to thinking about what might be happening to Rose Scott today while I’m chasing around some petty internal yakuza feud. As bad as Kawada’s file makes him sound, for all I know Shiro is worse, and yet here I am, scouting a known killer as a favor to a probable killer, who I’m currently nursing…and harboring from the police. Obstruction of justice is an understatement; obstruction is an obstacle… what I’m doing might be closer to deconstruction of justice. My psych minor rears its ugly, librarian-looking head to tell me that I instinctively sided with Shiro because his wounds made him appear vulnerable and sympathetic. My criminal justice major raises its slightly better looking but emotionally crippled head to tell me that all just makes me a sucker.
Luckily for me, the unrepentant mob killer walks out of the sushi restaurant, and I have something less stressful to think about. Unlike most organized crime types, he seems to travel alone; no bodyguards or backup. I’d think it was odd if I hadn’t read his file; if he’s guilty of half of what he’s accused of, it’d really suck to be the guy who tried to kill him and fucked it up. He likes to take his time with vendetta. Allegedly.
So I spend the next seven hours of my day following round the alleged mass murdering mobster shitstain, and I go ahead and cross allegedly off his resume. He’s dipping into more dirty pies than a down-on-his luck Jason Biggs, and I struggle to keep up. His first stop of the day is a dog fight, and it only goes downhill from there. As he leaves, I call in Linda to shut down the idiots who run the joint. It won’t save many of the dogs, but it’s the best I can do under the circumstances, and hopefully it’ll scare them into relative inactivity for a few weeks. If it were up to Linda, she’d probably neuter the bastards, but she’s a good little toy soldier and she’ll book them clean… though with extreme prejudice. Wish I could stick around to watch, but I need to stay on Kawada.
His next stop on his little asshole world tour is a shifty little exchange in an alleyways, Kawada taking a payoff and giving nothing back. The guy he’s dealing with looks like he’s got a favorite seat in the local porno theatre, and a very clear understanding of exactly how close he’s allowed to be to an elementary school. From there it’s on to a slew of dull protection rackets, massage parlors (appalling AND cliché; it’s a double whammy), and a few places I can’t follow without being seen. Probably things I don’t want to know about, but possibly exactly what Shiro wants to know about. For the second time in as many days, I wonder if maybe I should start following Reno Bangs’ example and actually invest in some real equipment. My brain and my gut are fine, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think they’re still under warranty, and their maximum range leaves a little to be desired.
But the universe throws me a bone and lets me keep my whiskey money where it belongs for at least a little longer when he ducks into one of those shady little speakeasies that close at five PM and never seem to have anyone in them, but stay in business regardless. I don’t follow him right away, because right now I look like a detective. But I have a bag of clothes in my car that ought to help with that.
Gone is the trenchcoat and the off-white button up and the blue jeans. Where once I had pants, now there is a skirt, black and short and with no room to hide anything with bullets in it. On goes some vaguely Asian-styled (but Brooklyn produced) high-collar red number with no sleeves and a little cleavage porthole. Naturally, that comes on after the bra that creates the illusion of cleavage. A tube-top would have been better than going to all that trouble, but my shoulders can be… distracting. I’ll do the best I can with what I have. As for what else I have? Makeup that emphasizes my lips and dopeys up my eyes, and heels that add a few inches of height and lose a few miles of intimidation.
I hate this play, but I know it works. When you absolutely, positively, have to get close enough to a dangerous criminal to hear what he’s saying… you need to make him stupid. Studies show that people have an exponentially harder time focusing on anything logical, or analytical (like, say, suspicion) when they’re thinking about sex, and doubly so when they’re looking at someone they view as a sexual object. And the color red, all over my torso and my lips, is the strongest confirmed sexual signifier; it’s why strawberries are the most sexualized fruit, and it’s why “Crimson & Clover” is the sexiest song ever written. There’s a small chance that only one of those is clinically confirmed, but I stand by both as objective fact. I’m not the belle of the ball or anything, but luckily the fashion industry has spent a century coming up with ways for us to tart ourselves up like lobotomized centerfolds… but I’m not bitter; the mainstream media evened the scales when it spent that same century teaching the male of the species not to take lobotomized centerfolds seriously.
So, fully in character as Bimbo Barbie, I saunter into the speakeasy. Black walls and navy blue booths, busty bartender with black hair and bronzed skin, bad lighting… and bad, vaguely pornographic black-and-white art all over the walls. Kawada sits alone sipping something with enough gin in it that I can smell it from here, and I hate him even more. Nothing good ever comes from gin-drinkers. His suit, white, is immaculate and freshly pressed. His sunglasses are still on his face, even though I can barely see in here and I sport 20/20. He carries his gun in an arm holster under the suit, but he knows how to sit so as not to give it away… but I know how to look for somebody sitting so as to not give it away. He’s also got something in his right boot, probably a butterfly knife or a switchblade. There’s a small, tasteful black ring on his left pinkie, and I vaguely recall that pinkies have some significance in yakuza culture, but I suck at my job so I can’t recall what.
As far as bodylanguage goes, this guy’s a thousand percent sure of himself. He doesn’t turn his head to look at any new sounds, and he doesn’t react to anything sudden. The bartender drops a glass and he might as well be deaf, but I’m half sure he’s already clocked my heart-rate from four seats down. He’s confident, sure, but he’s confident because he knows he can take care of himself. If I didn’t know he was a moral catheter bag, I’d admire him.
In order to maintain my cover, I start ordering the girliest drinks I can think of without grimacing. They all taste like candied diabetes, and my liver cries out for whiskey. But I’m on a job here. I can tell right out that he’s not a man who’d be receptive to being approached; he’s a guy who takes what he wants. A predator. Not entirely unlike Jack Darwin, my subconscious reminds me, and my stomach crawls and my palms sweat and I hope to Hell he can’t smell the nervous on me from four seats down. But, as Jack once said, I’m a pro, and I soldier through. I tell the bartender, loudly, about my clingy, whining boyfriend. About how I need a real man, somebody who can put me in my place and show me who’s boss. You know, just (loudly) between us girls. I never look Kawada’s way, because it’d give me away. I tell her I like white guys, too, just to make myself that little bit of unattainable I need to be interesting. That scores me a sideways glance, but that sideways glance is all I need. Red clothes do a little work, I’m sure, but it’s the bodylanguage where I really get him. Did you know that if you look at someone’s mouth, instead of their eyes, it subconsciously forces them to think of you sexually? It won’t make them attracted to you, and it’s no love potion, but if you happen to be their type, and you happen to be wearing red, they’ll happen to wonder what you look like bent over their couch. It’s a dirty trick, but it’s also science, and I think I’ve got the old bastard hooked. I’ll know for sure soon enough.
I start whispering (loudly) to the bartender about what I really want. If I’m being honest- just between us girls, of course- what I really want is a guy to push me around a little, especially in the bedroom. Somebody who’ll smack me if I mouth off when I shouldn’t, someone who’ll chokefuck me till I almost pass out. It’s all disgusting, and it’s all bullshit- my sexlife is comatose- but I know my audience, and these mob fuckers are all about power.
Sure enough, Kawada comes over and starts buying me drinks.
“What’s your name?” he asks, lighting a cigarette for himself and offering me one. I take it, and I’m very particular about how my lips tease it around my mouth, while I stare at his.
“Well…. My parents named me Chastity, but that never really fit, ya know, so I mostly go by Charlie. Whats yours?”
“You may call me Ryo.” It’s his real first name, which is a good sign. If he was on his guard, I would have gotten one of his seven confirmed aliases, or god knows how many unconfirmed ones. “What brings you to a place like this? I’ve never seen you here before, Charlie.”
Sex appeal helps, but there’s only X amount of dumb I can make this guy. He’s asking the right questions about the right things, and I roll the dice that I know the right answer. “I heard about if from this really cool guy I met at the club last week. Johnny Nagasaki, I think his name was. He was cute. Kinda immature, though…” I sip my drink much more slowly than anyone who’s doing it properly, but the effect seems to work.
“Yes, he is. I’m surprised he knew about this place, honestly. A piss-infested little rathole with too many guitars is more his style.” I can’t tell if Kawada just hates Johnny, which would be good news, or if he’s suspicious, which could be very, very bad. I need to make both of us dumber.
“I guess you’re right. I just thought if a guy with such a cool bike suggested a place, it MUST be good. I’ll tell you a secret, Riou… a bike with a big engine really revs MY engine, you know?” I pause just long enough for him to judge me for it, before I touch his arm and ask, “do YOU have a bike, Riou?”
“Hmph,” he smiles, but it looks like it hurts to do it, “No. I drive a BMW.”
“Oooh… I love a good stickshift.” I wink, and manage to keep the vomit down. I’ve never referred to myself as a feminist, but my inner Gloria Steinem is kicking and screaming and tearing up every single Maxim cover in my memory. But it’s working. He’s respecting me less and less, and his gaze is lingering on my lips and my tits, such as they are. And then I finally catch a break.
“Kawada,” a voice from the door says. I turn, feigning drunker than I am, and see a smartly dressed Japanese woman in purple and silver. Narrow-rimmed glasses. Flats, not heels. And two gigantic Samoan sons of bitches flanking her. Gotta be the Oyabun.
“Oyabun,” Kawada says with deference, and I’m all proud of myself for knowing the term. She asks him something, probably about me based on her gaze, in Japanese. I don’t speak it, but between the recorder in my purse and the Google on my laptop back home, I bet I can figure it out. They don’t need to know that, though. They fire back and forth a couple of times in Japibberish, and I bring back the loud whisper to ask the bartender what they’re saying, just to make double sure nobody takes me seriously.
“Excuse me, Charlie, I must discuss business.” They move over to a booth, and my shitty tape recorder isn’t picking anything up from here. I hope against hope that they’ll speak English, but they’re smart enough to stick to Japanese, and professional enough to keep their voices down anyways. There is one word I make out that I recognize, though.
They use that one a lot, and I can pick up the subtext pretty easy. She’s not happy about what happened between Shiro and Kawada, and he’s not happy that she’s not happy. Wish I knew the specifics, though… if she’s mad he shot him that’s one thing, and if she’s mad they didn’t find the body it’s entirely another. Even though I’ve only spent a few hours watching Kawada from a difference, and maybe two minutes talking to him, it’s weirding me out watching him be all submissive and deferential. That Oyabun broad is made out of ice… no, that’s not right. Ice can crack. She’s frozen steel.
Kawada’s apologizing now, or something close to it. She’s accepting it, but not warmly. I catch other words I recognize. “Nagasaki,” for one, and I’m betting they don’t mean the city. And then my heart skips a beat when he Kawada, listing something, says “Scott.” That word’s not Japanese at all. And Oyabun doesn’t like the list, from the looks of it. She strikes Kawada hard across the face. He doesn’t flinch, but I can see his fingers start to point towards his gun just for an instant before he catches himself. The Oyabun gets up and leaves after that and a few more hushed words, and the whole bubbly bimbo routine was worth it just for this, just to watch that piece of trash Kawada squirm.
I still don’t know if Shiro’s anything close to good, but if Kawada wants him dead then I’m damned glad I kept him alive. While Kawada stews in his booth, I plop some cash on the table and make an exit. I’m sure he notices, but after what just happened I can’t imagine he cares. It’s taking everything he’s got not to follow her into the parking lot and shoot her. I follow her into the parking lot myself, but my agenda’s a little different.
“Hey!” I say, and she ignores me but both her bodyguards look. “Hey!” Still ignoring me. She’s headed for a big black limo and if I can’t get her to listen to me in-character, the other choices are too dangerous. I let her go, or think I do, but once she’s in the limo the window lowers a few inches and she peers out at me.
“Tell me honestly, little girl, do you speak Japanese? And don’t bother with the act. It’s no in the traditional harlot’s nature to watch the conversations of strangers so intently, or quietly, and certainly not through the reflection of the mirror behind the bar.” Crap. I drop the act, and try a new on that’s a little closer to my own personality.
“I don’t. Honest. I was watching you because I was hired by someone to find Shiro Shimozawa, and the only leads I had led me to Kawada.” Her bodyguards both start to move on me, so I speak faster. “I don’t care if he’s dead, he just owes somebody money and they can’t find him. I’ve got way too much respect and good sense to shake this tree any further, and I only followed you out here to come clean because I don’t want you to have any reason to worry about me-” they’re still moving, so I talk even faster and pray Kawada doesn’t walk out that door and make everything worse “-which is why I told my cop friends not to worry about me when I told them I was following Kawada here.” It’s a risky play, but it stops the mooks in their tracks. And to her credit, Oyabun smiles.
“What’s your name?” she asks me. Fuck it.
“Mina Davis. Private investigator.”
“Well, Mina Davis, private investigator, I would advise you not to investigate myself or my friend Mr. Kawada further. However, if you happen to find Shiro Shimozawa, I would appreciate it if you told him- from me- that I would like to see him, and that Mr. Kawada is very sorry for his poor behavior.” Huh. That might actually be good news, or she might want to look Shiro in the eyes while he bleeds out.
“I’ll do that,” I’m careful not to let the Liar’s Canyon form, and I catch myself on every other tell I can think of, so fingers crossed she buys it when I finish saying,”-if I ever find him. Off the record, so far my best guess is that he either skipped town or somebody else he owed ran out of patience.”
She digests it for a solid thirty seconds, and I’m at a disadvantage here because basically the first thing she ever learned about me is that I’m a duplicitous bitch, but she smiles that gambler’s smile of hers and let’s me off the hook.
“Thank you very much, Mina Davis… private investigator. I suspect we shall not meet again, but if we do, it will be my pleasure. I cannot, however, speak for my colleague, Mr. Kawada,” her eyes dart to the exit to the bar, and Kawada’s standing there watching us. Out of earshot, but watching us. Fuck.
The woman in the car smiles, and winks at me. “If he asks me, Charlie, I’ll simply tell him you wanted to know if he had a wife. I told you that he does, but that she’s in Japan and very broadminded.”
And with that, she’s gone and I’m staring down a killer. Not the first time, I guess, but all the same I’m less than comfortable.
“What was that about, Charlie?” I get back into character as fast as I can, praying he pays less attention to body language than I do.
“You’re MARRIED?!” I shriek at him in my very best Fran Dreshser. Kawada’s shoulders relax, and then shrug.
“What can I say,” he says, “sometimes a man gets distracted.” The longer I stay, the higher the chance of me screwing up or him wising up, so I take this opportunity to flip him the bird, call him a cocksucker, and march away in an indignant huff. It feels better than it should.
I make is six blocks before I give in to my desire to pull over and put my real clothes back on.
The world’s always gonna be shit. You could be a messiah or a superhero and you still couldn’t stop the world from filling with the reeking, poisonous moral refuse that spews from the throbbing diseased anus of humanity’s soul. No matter what you do, no matter who you are, no matter how “good” you are, you’re gonna be swimming in that shit for the rest of your life.
Then why do you fight?
Better to swim in shit than drown in it.
“You’re good, Miss Davis, and you’re smart. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, you’d have played this just right. You’ve wrestled enough monsters before that you think you know how it all works, and maybe you do. You know, for instance, that honor among thieves is bullshit, but that the illusion of it is important. But I’m not a thief, Miss Davis: I’m a killer. Your rules and experience do not apply to me. I am not your Italian mobster who believes in family, or your Irish mobster who believes in pride. I am not your Chinese Triad or their obsession with power. I am not even the yakuza belief in honor and loyalty. I am certainly not your American lust for money. If I cared even a little about money, Miss Davis, I would walk into a casino and take it. If that sounds simple, it’s because it is; you walk into a place with enough guns, security be damned all to Hell; there’s somebody there who doesn’t want to get shot, and he’ll tell you how to beat the security. So why don’t I just do that?
Because I’d rather shoot him, Miss Davis. Money is nothing to me; I have all that I will ever need. I don’t do this for money or power. I do what I do because of how it feels. Because I want to. I do this because I get off on it, Miss Davis. Because there’s nothing better to me than hearing you scream and beg as I slice you up like meat. No, wait, sorry. Not like meat. This is no time for simile. I’ll rephrase: While I slice you up, Meat. Have you ever beaten someone who couldn’t fight back, Meat? Do you have any idea how good it feels? Don’t bother to answer. I know you don’t; if you did, you’d be like me. You’d be happy. But you’re not happy. You’re meat. And that’s exactly how I’m going to treat you.
First, like all meat, you need to be tenderized. I’m going to use a golf club, because my backswing’s been getting a bit rusty and I need the practice. Then I’m going to lock you in a trunk for a few days while you piss and shit and bleed all over yourself, marinating in your own juices. Then I’m going to take you back out of that box, while you’re hungry and thirsty and tired and sore, and I’m gonna slice you up with a straight razor until I’m tired, too. Then I’m gonna sleep, and you’re gonna bleed. And if I like the way it smells, I’m gonna have what’s left of you cooked in a stew just because I can, and because it’ll make a good story to tell the next stupid piece of meat with delusions of humanity. If I don’t like it, I’ll just bury you alive and leave you wondering whether you’ll die from blood loss or asphyxiation first.
Either way, no one will ever come looking for you. Why would they? You’re meat.”
He smells like expensive cologne and cheap blood.
If you die on your feet, you get to go to Gangster Heaven. It’s one big luxury speakeasy with an open bar and trim as far as the eye can see. No guns allowed, though, so I’ll make sure and bring my knife. Otherwise I won’t have anything to give Kawada when I see him there. And that would be rude.
“You know, Kawada, ninety-nine times out of a hundred you’d have played this just right. You’re smart, and you’ve tangled with cops enough that you think you know how everything works. Hell, maybe you do. But I’m not a cop. I’m not your law-and-order robot, or your serve and protect idealist. I’m not your grizzled old veteran or your wide eyed rookie. I’m a private investigator, and the operative word there is private. I don’t do what I do for justice or power. I do it for me. I do it because a long time ago, I couldn’t stop bad things from happening. I couldn’t stop things like you from happening. Wait, no, sorry. This is no time for simile. I’ll rephrase: I couldn’t stop you from happening, Thing.
I’ve killed before, but I don’t believe in it. I don’t think people should kill other people. But you’re not people. You’re a thing. So I’m going to treat you like a thing. Things need to be used for a purpose, so first I’m going to use you to send to a message. Seattle is my town, and that means certain Things are not allowed. You are one of them. That’s why there’s a camera here, to record what’s about to happen to you once you’ve ceased to be useful. Because, like many Things, you have an expiration date, and that day is today. When someThing becomes useless, or worse, destructive. It has to be thrown out. It has to be taken to a dump, and buried. Now, sometimes, like now, you have garbage you can’t take to the dump. Stuff like grease, or mold, or rotting piece of roadkill. But it really should still be buried.
Sadly, I’m a little too sore to work a shovel right now. SomeThing happened to me, and it’s gonna take me a little while to recover. Luckily, I have a friend who’s hale and hearty, so she’s going to help me bury my roadkill. After all, the vermin wouldn’t be dead if she hadn’t run into it, so in a way it’s her responsibility, and I think it’s important for the youth of America to learn responsibility, lest they fall in with a bad element like, say, the Yakuza. So young Rose here is going to spend to the next two hours burying you in the grave you dug for Shiro Shimozawa. After that, I’m going to turn off the camera, and pop a squat and piss on your grave. Then I’m going to edit the tape, cut the soundtrack, and send it to Japan. Or maybe I’ll keep the tape for myself, give me something to watch whenever I need a laugh.
Either way, no one will ever come looking for you. Why would they? You’re noThing.”