Admiral Ackbar, if you knew what would happen to your quote, would you have still uttered it?
Part Four: Confrontation
“Are you sure it's a trap?” Miki asked.
I nodded, “it makes sense. We come onto his turf, try and intimidate him to lower your interest rate-“
“Without any kind of viable counter-offer other than not getting the crap beaten out of him,” Kenji interjected.
I nodded again, “right, and on top of that, we offed three of his employees. It makes perfect sense for someone like him.”
Miki raised an eyebrow, “what, a lunatic?”
Kenji nodded, “yup.”
Took one to know one, I guess.
“The only question is,” Kenji continued, “whether the trap is a fatal one, or merely meant to be painful. Kneecapping all three of us sends a good message, keeps you alive to pay the debt, and gives him the bargaining advantage if he wants compensation for his thugs.”
“Either way we’re prepared,” I said, “since we know it’s a trap, we just need a good plan.”
“On the other hand,” Kenji said, “if he knows we know it’s a trap-”
I raised a finger to stop him, “the last time we played that game, you shot me.”
Kenji sighed and glared at me, “You really gotta let that go, man.”
“Anyway,” I continued after briefly returning the glare, “we just need a good plan.”
“Some food might help,” Miki added.
“So would… never mind,” Kenji was probably going to suggest a drink, but considering our present company, had decided to err on the side of tact.
Miki apparently noticed this and scoffed, “you want a drink, we can stop by my bar. It’ll be on the house; if Haruki asks, I’ll just say it’s cuz you’re old school friends.”
I glanced at Kenji, who nodded. Not being one to refuse a free meal, I agreed, too. We left the café and made the relatively short walk back up to Miki’s bar. Miki stepped in first, and we followed her in after an exchange of glances, since neither of us was quite sure what to expect.
What we found was a well lit place that looked more like a restaurant then a bar. A bar area was to the right, with a sign and some doors on double hinges not too far from the main entrance. A few couples and groups were scattered about. Most of them looked about five to ten years younger than us. I heard some sort of sporting event being televised in the bar room. The dark wooden walls were ornamented with some Japanese style paintings, and another style my pitiful efforts in Art Appreciation belatedly recognized as Brazilian. While we examined the décor, Miki was chatting with the hostess, a young woman with long brown hair dressed in a simple tucked in black shirt and matching pants.
“You wanna sit in the bar, or out here?” Miki asked us.
“Out here’s fine,” I said.
“Unless that’s a baseball game in there,” Kenji said, pointing to the bar room.
Miki shook her head, “football.”
“American or European?” Kenji asked.
“European,” Miki replied.
Kenji shrugged, “Out here’s fine, then.”
The hostess led the three of us to a small round table near the back. After placing down the menus, Miki bolted up to whisper something in her ear. The hostess paused to listen, and when Miki was done the waitress nodded and trotted off. The menu had an interesting mix of food items, but there was a seafood/chicken theme throughout.
Kenji lowered the menu to look at Miki’s left ear, “I take it your husband was from Brazil?”
“Close,” Miki said, smirking, “his mother was one of the emigrants who came back. She decided to infuse the place with her adopted culture to make it more unique. Seems to have worked, so we kept it. Whadda you think?”
After complimenting the mix, we went back to our menus. A few moments later, our waiter arrived and Miki immediately shot up to punch him in the arm. He was a bit taller than her, with lighter skin and short black hair.
“Guys, this is my man, Haruki,” Miki beamed at us as she flung an arm around his shoulder.
“Hi, and welcome,” he said, smiling and apparently used to affectionate shoulder punches, “Mio said you said you were back. I wasn’t expecting you for a few more hours, though.”
“I’m the night manager, he’s the day manager,” she explained to us.
“Although ‘manager’ is a bit generous,” Haruki chuckled, “generally she works as a hostess.”
“I multitask!” Miki countered, “Besides, you do all the real work, anyway. I just keep people happy.”
We placed our orders and Haruki retreated, but he came back shortly after and sat next to his wife.
“So,” Haruki said, “our hostess said your meals were on the house because you knew my wife in high school?”
I nodded, “we were in the same class. Well, she and I were, my associate Kenji was in a different class.”
“We did meet a few times,” Kenji stated, “usually because I thought she was a spy trying to determine how many cherry bombs I had stocked for the feminist invasion.”
“So you’d be Kenji Setou, then?” he asked.
He nodded, “indeed. You’ve heard of me?”
“She mentioned you a few times. You, too,” he added, glancing at me, “said you were a cute guy who fell for the shrinking violet in the back row.”
“Guilty as charged,” I stated, though Miki calling me cute was a bit of a shock. Then again, thanks to Naomi and her “Epileptic Charged Gaydar” I had spent most of the last decade thinking Miki was gay.
“Stop boring them with the past, Haru,” Miki grumbled.
Haruki smirked and glanced at me, “so, Hisao, what was Miki like in school?”
Miki palmed her forehead with her left hand and muttered a few choice profanities, some of which I think were in Portuguese.
I shrugged, “not much she hasn’t already told you, I’d imagine. Track and field star second only to Emi Kotobuki, and not very good at math.”
“Screw math, it’s-” Miki started, but her husband cut her off.
“-boring as hell,” Haruki finished, rolling his eyes, “hence why I handle the accounting.”
As dinner moved along, I picked up on why Miki had fallen for Haruki. He knew when to keep quiet, and when to put his foot down when it mattered. For her part, she would listen, though she’d complain the whole way.
Dinner was great, and after finishing up and Miki saying she had a quick errand to run, we waited for her by the entrance. Although just ducking out and dealing with the loan shark without her would be safer, easier, and make more sense, it was her problem, and she had a right to be involved. Besides, if we tried to stop her she’d probably punch me and go without us. On the way out Miki hugged and kissed her husband goodbye, and as we left the building she turned to give it a longing look.
I placed a hand on her shoulder, “don’t worry; we got this.”
“Damn straight!” Kenji added from behind us.
Miki nodded absently. I wasn’t entirely sure she heard us, but when I tugged her shoulder to get her moving again, she quickly started a long confident stride.
“So what’s our plan?” Miki asked, “And could it please be more involved then ‘shoot them all.’?”
“I’ll stop doing it when it stops working,” Kenji retorted.
“That was an extreme situation,” I stated, trying to assuage a now slightly disconcerted Miki.
Kenji grinned, “Necessity is the mother of ass-kicking.”
“That,” a downcast Miki interjected, “I agree with.”
I was partial to the part where we stopped the bad guy and didn’t die, myself. Despite Miki’s misgivings, or perhaps thanks to them, Kenji and I were quickly able to come up with a plan that was definitely the best we could come up with. Kenji wanted to go back to the office to get the shotgun, but relented when I reminded him we were trying to avoid a body count.
“You remember the plan?” Kenji asked as we approached the abandoned lot.
“Yeah,” I said, “you go around back, while I go into the trap while babysitting,” I glanced at Miki, “no offense.”
Miki shrugged and fiddled with her switchblade. She was using her left hand to constantly flip the small weapon open and closed. The sound seemed to be calming to her as she stared intently at the moving steel. I made a mental note to never get on her bad side.
Kenji nodded, “keep her alive, and keep him and his thugs occupied until I show up.”
I nodded. The plan was pretty simple. Miki and I would walk in and spring the trap. Kenji would break through the back door and sneak behind the loan shark and whatever thugs he had undoubtedly brought with him to take out whoever was trying to kneecap us. When the loan shark was defenseless, we’d persuade him that lowering the interest rate was in his best interest. Violently if need be. We could probably get him to wipe out the debt entirely, but Miki had insisted she pay what she owed him. We both respected that, so we let her have her way. This whole mess was her fault, after all. Well, maybe it was my and Hanako’s fault for not reaching out after high school. Either way, I was not looking forward to someone trying to shoot me again. There are some things you just don’t get used to.
The plaza we were going to was a series of old structures of wood and stone blocks painted beige, with a few large boarded up rectangular windows. While we cautiously mad our way to the front door, Kenji slithered off to sneak around the back, nearly tripping over an old piece of stray pipe in the process.
“We’re fucked,” Miki muttered.
“Have faith,” I said, “’Blessed is the mind too small for doubt.’”
Miki sighed, “Never had much use for religion.”
I smirked, “how about tabletop miniatures?”
That earned me a confused stare, which was better than her being nervous, at least.
The only front door still in place –the rest were boarded up- was metal with some glass squares built in, though at the moment the glass was replaced by plywood. I tested the door and, finding it unlocked, nodded to Miki. She nodded back, and with my hand as nonchalantly close to my revolver as I could get it, I opened the door.
The abandoned building was filled with piles of office supplies, construction equipment, and wood. Lots of wood, stacked in blocks around the walls or spaced out in the wide expanse of the building itself, reminding me of cover emplacements in a third person shooter. The walls were originally white plaster, but most of them had been gutted to get to the wires, exposing the wooden pillars and crossbeams normally concealed within, while the wires hung limply like the intestines of a disemboweled animal, when there were any wires at all. The high ceiling above us was filled with metal vents and pipes. A few fluorescent bulbs flicked and glowed, providing the only light in the building. The building itself was pretty open, and a single floor. At the back of the large room stood the loan shark, flanked by two conveniently close piles of boxes of chairs and boxed paper.
We slowly walked in and closed the door behind us. Fully inside the room now, I was able to see the back door in the back wall, to the left of all three of us. The loan shark had one of his hands near his side, which made me uncomfortable. I turned my head to tell Miki to stay behind me, but she was already doing so.
It was at this moment that I most lamented our lack of proper armament. Though explaining it would’ve been a bitch and a half, a Tesla grenade and pistol would have made this job so much easier. No sense regretting the past, so I mentally shrugged and took three slow, careful steps closer to the loan shark, Miki following close behind.
“Alright, we’re here,” I barked, smirking as my announcement made the loan shark jump, “now spring your trap and let’s do this.”
“You come into my office, kill my men, intrude on my business, and-” I groaned and pulled out my revolver, aiming it at his head.
“I have a rule against monologuing. So, I will ask you once: reduce the interest rate, or I remove the organ of your choice from your body!”
“You okay?” Miki whispered.
Honestly, I doubted it. I was probably directing my own guilt about abandoning Miki- my word choice, deal with it- and taking it out on the poor bastard in front of me. I had nearly ruined my relationship in high school with Hanako. Having not been there for one of our friends when she needed help was pissing me off.
“You bastard!” the loan shark ducked behind one of the piles of boxes and snapped his fingers, “Kill that fucker and shoot off both of that bitch’s hands!”
Damn drug addled punks with more money than sense. From behind both piles of boxes emerged two men in black suits. Both of them were armed with Uzi’s, which were naturally aimed at me.
“Okay, that’s my fault,” I said as the two thugs opened fire.
Obvious trap was obvious.
Now while they duke it out, I’m gonna go buy some bug bombs for my apartment. Those roaches are going to die slowly and painfully for being so creepy and elusive.