And the Insanity continues.Previous Chapter
Part Two: The Clues
Misha left after filling out some forms- basically a contract and some tax documents, nothing serious. While she filled those out Kenji pored over the various folders, his eyes narrowing as he brought the pages mere inches from his face. Once she left he threw one of them down and pointed at it dramatically.
“This is perfect!” he practically shouted, “all this time my work has missed this kind of information! Dates, names, locations, plans, even intelligence reports on the other organizations! The next time my publisher bitches about ‘fact-checking’ I can throw these folders in her face!”
He nudged the folders toward me and I reluctantly started glancing through them. It hurt to admit it, but it looked like the documents were on the level. All this time I had just assumed Kenji was insane, and while I still believed that, it looked like he was right about at least some of what he had been ranting and writing about for the last eleven years.
The more I looked at these folders, the more nervous I became. This was serious stuff here, and if these groups were as powerful as the documents before me indicated, me, Kenji, and my family could be in serious shit. How much shit, I had no idea at the time. Lucky for my family, most of it landed on me and Kenji.
While I looked through the folders, my heart beating a bit erratically every now and then, Kenji was looking through the clues Misha had provided us. The prospect of a payoff had probably managed to focus him on the task at hand. That or he was biding his time until he could scan and save every single paper Misha had given us.
After an hour or so, with a shot of whiskey in hand to calm my heart- yes I know it only aggravated my arrhythmia, I didn’t care at that point- Kenji told me a rough outline of what went wrong with Mr. Hakamichi’s day.
“Two days ago, around six pm, Mr. Hakamichi left his work to go home, according to his secretary,” Kenji said, “however, an hour later he was spotted on security camera footage across the street from the Brass Wok.”
The Brass Wok was a dive bar near the airport. The only thing that kept it in business was a few dozen local drunks who hadn’t keeled over from liver failure yet. Kenji and I went there at least once a week. For a dive, it was pretty well stocked, and they had the best Jamaican chicken wings I’ve ever tasted. One of Kenji’s informants worked there, too.
“Roughly four hours later, he walked out of the Wok and ended up in a nearby alley. After that, the trail goes cold.”
“I don’t suppose someone checked the alley before they hired us?” I asked.
Kenji nodded, “Misha and Shizune did it themselves when he didn’t come back the next day. They didn’t find any signs of a struggle, or his sword. They would have gone into the Wok, but it was closed.”
I nodded at that, though he probably didn’t see me, “all right, so we go to the Wok and ask Itachi if he saw or heard anything, and move on from there. Easy enough.”
“Not quite,” Kenji said, fiddling with his scarf, “we have a couple snags here. One, if there’s no signs of a struggle, he either knew his assailant or was knocked unconscious. Both of those possibilities have my spleen worked up.”
I used to roll my eyes whenever Kenji mentioned his spleen, but the thing was a disturbingly accurate alarm for danger. It reminded me of Ciaphas Cain- HERO OF THE IMPERIUM- ‘s itching palms. I straightened up in my chair as I digested this new information.
“This is sounding more and more like a bad idea,” I said. A new thought struck me, “wait, this can’t be a coincidence. Shizune’s father goes to a bar we frequent for information, disappears, and now we’re being hired to find out what happened.”
Kenji shrugged, “maybe, man. But I can’t let an opportunity like this pass by. I can finally expose these organizations to the world, so thoroughly and convincingly that they can be brought down once and for all! Besides, for all we know, he just went out the other side of the alley and passed out somewhere and got lost,” Kenji’s face became almost maniacal in its passion as he added, “besides, if it is a trap for me, that just means I’m getting closer to revealing the truth.”
Kenji’s eyes went from maniacal to mischievous, and he ducked down to one of the desk’s drawers. A moment later he came back up and set four small clips of ammunition and two small black pistols with stubby barrels on the desk.
“What. Are. Those?” I asked.
“Type 94 Nambu semi-auto pistols,” Kenji said, as if it were obvious, “six round clips of 8 mm ammo, with iron sights. They even fit in our suit pockets. They may be sixty years old, but they still work- I maintain these babies myself.”
As nice as it was to know he could maintain small, delicate machines despite his poor sight, I couldn’t help planting my palm firmly on my forehead after he had finished describing the pistols.
“Never mind how you got World War II era weapons,” I said through my hand, “and never mind the illegality of us possessing them, has it occurred to you that if we end up in a gunfight, the odds are very likely we will both die? You’re blind and I have a heart condition!”
Kenji frowned as he grabbed one of the pistols, examined it, and slammed a clip inside it, “dude, I thought of that. First, I am only legally blind, and all my other senses are at ninja-like levels.”
I doubted that; while Hanako’s blind friend Lilly had managed to get her other senses to Daredevil-like points, Kenji was still pathetically dependent on his limited eyesight.
“And my arrhythmia?” I asked.
“Duh, man, you have a good handle on it, I’m sure you can take a quick burst of adrenaline and exercise.”
This was sort of true; over the years the number of pills I had to take each day had been halved, and I had started a regular jogging/running routine years ago. Still, I doubted any doctor would approve me for performing my own stunts in some high octane action movie. With live ammunition. Kenji seemed adamant on the point, so I sighed and took the gun, sticking it in my left inside jacket pocket, and, almost as an afterthought, shoved the two ammo clips into the right pocket. Good thing I didn’t smoke, or neither would’ve fit.
Kenji nodded, and we left the office, locking the door behind us. On the way out we grabbed our brown fedoras on the hat stand by the door, because apparently it’s a rule that all private investigators have to look like American Roaring Twenties gangsters. At least we looked good doing it.
As we left the office, I couldn’t help but hope that this job wasn’t going to be as bad as Kyoto. Naturally I drove us to the bar, an annoyingly long drive in which I called my wife and told her that I’d be late for dinner, and endured another of Kenji’s rants. It took a while, but once we got to near the airport’s outskirts, I managed to find a parking spot, and we walked into the aging wooden dive bar.
I swear the place predated the first Shogun- the building was almost entirely wood, aging wood that had splintered and cracked over the years, decades, or centuries. Every time we came here I wondered how the building stayed upright- the scattered wooden pillars were held up with old phone books and hope. The place was a giant safety violation, but no one cared enough to close it down. At least it was relatively well lit, with old cast iron fixtures bolted wherever a stud refused to rot away.
“Hey man!” Kenji shouted to the bartender, a tall dark skinned man with braided black hair.
I told you, best Jamaican chicken wings in Japan. The bartender, Derrick, waved a greeting and gestured for us to sit down on two old stools. Our informant, the janitor/waiter Itachi, was sweeping the floor on the other side of the building. He was a short young man with dark brown hair and gray eyes, his white apron stained gray. Other then the four of us and the cook in the back, the place was empty.
We took off our hats and settled into the two offered seats, which creaked as we sat in them, and before our eyes two shots of fifteen year old single malt scotch appeared in front of us.
“So what brings you two here in the middle of the week?” Derrick asked.
Kenji and I shrugged, “we need to borrow your janitor for a minute,” I said.
“Ah, it’s like that,” Derrick frowned, “why you always here for my janitor, man? You don’t evah come here just for drinks and wings anymore.”
Kenji laughed, “you know you’re our favorite bartender, man. Coming to visit you must remain a special occasion- Itti’s work related, you know.”
Derrick sighed and barked for Itachi, “I’m gonna go make you guys some wings.”
Itachi took a seat next to Kenji while Derrick wandered off to the kitchen to bark at his cook. Fortunately for us, Derrick was pretty relaxed about his waiter’s second job as our weasel. Hiring him had been a hallmark of Kenji’s PI career, if you let Kenji rant about it long enough. He and Itachi’s grandfather’s had served together during the war, and Kenji was able to suck him in with the whole “brothers in brotherhood” spiel. The money probably helped, too.
“So what do you need now?” Itachi asked.
Kenji sipped his scotch before answering, “was Jigoro Hakamichi here two days ago?”
Normally, Itachi and Kenji played the “my mind is fuzzy, could you refresh it?” gag, so I was surprised when Itachi nodded and sighed.
“Yes, and I think he knew you would come after him,” he said. He turned in his stool to face us, and only then did I notice the fear and resolution in his eyes, “he has a message for anyone coming to find him, one he told me: for the sake of his children, stop looking.”
That stunned both of us. By the time we had recovered, our wings were ready, a nice pile of them on a platter before us.
“You know we can’t do that, man,” Kenji said finally.
Itachi sighed again, “I know. Just, be careful. I’ve…heard things.”
Kenji raised an eyebrow while I started on the wings, “What kinds of… things?”
Itachi’s eyes went from fearful to calculating in an instant, “I don’t know, my memory is a little…”
“Fuzzy,” I cut in. Itachi nodded. Kenji sighed and pulled out his wallet from a pocket. He waved a few thousand yen in the waiter’s face, which lit up at the sight of the notes.
“Hmm, I remember something about the…Yakuza.”
“What?” the four of us said. Derrick had heard Itachi, too.
“I’m not sure,” Itachi said.
Kenji, to his credit, did have a sense of nobility about him. Perhaps that’s why he downed his shot and threw the glass at Itachi. His aim was off by about three feet, but that might have been on purpose.
“Hey!” Derrick said as Kenji grabbed Itachi by the apron.
“This concerns the family of some old high school friends, and I would appreciate your help in the matter, okay?”
The idea of Kenji considering Shizune and Misha friends was as startling as it was a lie. More likely Kenji’s curiosity had been piqued by the mention of the Japanese mob. Or he didn’t want to pay for the information, either was likely.
“Tell us what you know, and we’ll double your usual fee,” I said, trying to keep the peace. Itachi nodded heavily, and Kenji let go of him.
“All right, you got it. Just calm down,” Itachi sighed, closed his eyes, and opened them a minute later, “Jigoro Hakamichi used to be a member of the Yakuza- he got out years ago, after leaving a trail of bodies and some missing limbs. He built that business of his on old contacts and friends who had gotten out, too. Unfortunately, his work with them left him enemies outside of the organization.”
“What kind of work was that?” I asked.
“Espionage on potential rival groups. Turns out he had a ton of dirt on all these ancient societies. He kept it for protection for his family- see, they have this weird honor system, because he was able to get the information without killing any of the other organization’s members, they couldn’t touch him.”
“What about the Yakuza?” I asked.
Itachi shrugged, “simply put, when he was done with them there weren’t enough left to do anything about it.”
“Are you saying they’ve grabbed him for revenge?” Kenji asked as he nibbled a wing.
Itachi shook his head, “never, he’d wipe them out.”
The idea that the only people Jigoro had killed were his own did not settle my nervous heart.
“Well then who did?” Kenji asked.
“I have no idea, but, I do have a theory,” Itachi said, “those secret organizations suffer from major infighting sometimes, and it wouldn’t surprise me if one faction within one of them wanted that info Jigoro had to advance their own clandestine career.”
“What about the honor system?” I asked.
Itachi laughed, the nervous laugh of a man caught between two brawling giants, “anyone willing to use the info is either scum or desperate, and neither of those groups tend to care one shit about honor.”
“Anything else?” I asked.
“Just one thing,” Iatachi said as he got off the stool, “if you do find him, he’s just as likely to kill you for finding him as he is to thank you.”
The weasel stuck out his hand and Kenji forked over his payment.
“We’re fucked,” I said after another drink and some wings. Remembering my earlier shots, I made a mental note to not drink for a few days to give my liver- and my heart- some time to recover.
“Nah, we got a real lead now,” Kenji said, smiling maniacally again as the bar’s lighting once again glinted against his glasses.
“How so?” I asked, tipsy enough to humor him.
“If he did that much damage to the Yakuza, odds are good they’re watching him, looking for a possible sign of weakness in case they want revenge.”
I rolled my eyes, “wonderful, all we have to do is contact the Japanese mob and ask them to admit to stalking and possibly conspiring to commit murder.”
Kenji’s smile didn’t waver as he finished his second shot and said to me in a dramatic whisper, “I know how to contact them.”
I. Love. My. Job.
Now if I could only find out why the post insists on posting without spaces between paragraphs, despite having it set for that in my document.