Synopsis:

Joel was just a regular ol’ park ranger, minding his own business when Yukihiro, a recently retired assassin for a Tokyo yakuza family, burst through a window and into his life. Now, he’s trapped quite figuratively in a web of deceit and danger that goes beyond the usual ‘hilarious misunderstanding’ and driven straight to ‘running away for dear life’. Will Joel survive the adventure?  Will Yukihiro ever explain what it’s all about or why Triads want him dead?  Or will everyone just be eaten alive by bears?

Previous Chapter: Chapter 5 – Middle of Nowhere

Index

Next Chapter: Chapter 7 – Caught By The River

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Chapter 6: Easy Fight Rambling

Something wasn’t quite right.

It was the next morning, and Yukihiro was loitering not far from the Golden Lotus restaurant. His nose was stuck deep in a romance novel, something nice and fluffy about an office lady and a trucker from Hokkaido, but his eyes were watching the restaurant entrance very closely. He’d been sitting there for quite a while now, on the lookout for Liu’s arrival. At this time in the morning, there had only been service and delivery men, and a handful of regular dim sum breakfast customers. There’d been absolutely no sign of Liu or even any of his associates or relatives in the restaurant front.

Yukihiro twitched uncomfortably, and took a bite out of his chocolate orange parfait. As much as he enjoyed the opportunity to eat cake and read utter trash, the obvious issues worried him.

He had seen no sign of Suzuki or any of his lackeys hanging around, not since the airport. Suzuki’s right hand man, Toru, was nearly seven foot tall and had a face like a disgruntled pug, tended to stick out like a sore thumb no matter where he was. This wasn’t Suzuki’s home turf, and he didn’t have any love for the Yoshida family. There was no love between the Hanaokas and the Gao family, but neither was there any contention. So why would he even show up and interfere on this one in the first place? Had he managed to get to Liu and scare him off or deal with him? There were far too many unanswered questions for Yukihiro’s liking, but neither did he want to wait around too long to find out. The longer he waited around, the more chance there was of the mission being derailed.

“Earl Grey Tea, sir?”

Yukihiro peered up at the waitress, who wore a cheeky smile and bunched hair which had orange streaks through it.

“Pardon?” He needed to be certain. She did look like a Gao, but she could just be a very attentive waitress.

“I said would you like Earl Grey Tea, Sir? We have a limited offer on.”

And about damn time too! Liu must be ready now. Maybe he was stuck in one of the offices.

“Actually, I’m more of an English Breakfast man.”

The waitress smiled brightly and bobbed her head, flicking her eyes to the restaurant across the road. Damn, that was a cheeky smile – she was definitely a Gao, no two ways about it.

“Well, the English Breakfast is all laid out. They’re waiting on you.”

Yukihiro nodded back to her before gathering up his novel and the same sports bag he had been totting since he hit Narita Airport. As part of a pretence of dusting himself down as he walked away from his table, he patted his shoulder rig lightly to reassure himself that it was still there, that he still had that option left to him. He didn’t want to have to use lethal force on this occasion, but he was nervous that he was about to walk into a double-cross blind and he wanted a way out. Liu wasn’t dumb enough to double-cross him at this point – the Gao weren’t strong enough to take on the Yoshida and their Sun Kee Fong friends in Hong Kong – the package would incriminate both of them as well. Suzuki, unfortunately, was dumb enough to set him up by accident if he had been rash and rushed into something, or so he thought.

Calmly, he left the tea shop across the street and headed towards the Golden Lotus, pushing his way through the gathering market day crowds. There’d be an awful lot of civilians around today, so he’d been expecting Gao security to be a little tighter. The restaurant was pretty quiet as he slipped through the door, though there were a couple of regulars sitting very close to the front. It wasn’t unlike hundreds of other stereotypical Chinese restaurants the world over with off white walls and fake willow pattern plates hanging on the wall, it was all very cosy and touristy.

He could make out people sitting at much larger tables at the back of the restaurant, on a large raised dais area. It was usually roped off for private parties or customers who were friends and family of the owner. It was a little bit exposed for Yukihiro’s liking – normally you at least got dragged up to the offices or through to the kitchen – but Liu had to protect himself as well he supposed. Questions were probably already being asked.

Then there was a click from behind, and something very solid pressing into the small of his back.

“Make one untoward move, and I perform some spinal tap that you ain’t gonna like much,” a younger, male voice hissed in English, prodding him in the back for emphasis.

Oh fuck, this couldn’t be good. If he just stayed calm… Taking care not to swallow or shake, Yukihiro automatically spread his hands to just above shoulder height. He should have played it safer; no point in self-recrimination now. Instead he opted for a slightly cocky grin, and walked forward slowly towards the dais when the currently disembodied male voice poked him in the back and instructed him to do so.

He got marched up the dais slowly, and as he stepped up, it hit him. Eddie the Barracuda was a damn sight smarter than anyone had credited him for, as he sat very relaxed at the head of one of the tables, surrounded by several lackeys who all stood around it. To his left hand side, sat a young Asian man who looked like hell. His face was a mass of bruises and he sat hunched, as if it pained him to sit up properly. Long hair was matted with blood, and it was debatable if he could even perceive what was going on around him, he just swayed back and forth.

Oh no, that was Liu. That sorry bag of tenderised meat was Liu, one of the smartest fixers from the Taiwanese families… No, he couldn’t let emotion show, he had to stay calm. He kept smiling, couldn’t show the Barracuda any weaknesses.

“Well… this is a surprise. I wasn’t expecting to bump into anyone on holiday, Yoshida-san,” he said, surprised that he was actually half pulling off the whole “staying calm” thing. He reverted to Japanese quickly; the Barracuda himself had an excellent enough grip to follow Family discussions without the need of a translator, but he knew that not all of the Barracuda crew spoke the language.

The language switch didn’t seem to put Eddie off any though; at least it didn’t seem to put him off yet.

“Ah young Ohno-kun… How good of you to finally join us. You kept us waiting quite a while you know. I was having an interesting conversation with your young friend here,” the Barracuda said in reply, grinning quite widely as well. Of course, he did have a gun on the table, his hand drumming the barrel; with nearly ten guns at his side, he didn’t have much to be nervous about. “We were talking about property of my dear elder brother… It seems to have gone missing, and he seems to think that the two of you would know where it is. Would you care to enlighten me?”

Yukihiro made a mocking mournful face – he was probably about to go, so he’d go out in style if nothing else: “That is terrible news Yoshida-san! How awful. I am sure that this is the first I’ve heard about Yoshida-shachō and this missing property of his. Are you sure he’s not just misplaced it? After all, they do say that ‘even monkeys fall from trees.’”

The Barracuda’s face darkened dramatically, and he snatched up his gun, pointing it directly at Liu’s battered face.

“DON’T START WITH ME BOY! Is this a game to you, do you find this amusing? Wipe the fucking grin off of your damn face when I’m talking to you! I’m giving you a chance to hand this over, end this farce, before I end your partner’s life! Now hand over the fucking package!” The Barracuda screamed in English.

Yukihiro licked his lips, his smile wavering now slightly, and took a sharp, hissing breath in.

“I’m afraid I can’t do that Sir. Things are complicated you see…”

“FUCK COMPLICATED! Stop dicking me around, and hand it over! You want your punk-ass little partner to get smoked, is that it? What, you think if you play dumb with me, I’m gonna go easy on you? Do you think I have ‘fuckin’ idiot’ tattooed across my forehead, or something?”

“Hey Pa, come on, can I deal with him?” The disembodied male voice took on a nasal tone, the kind of nasal tone you heard in younger, more posh men trying to sound tougher and older and they weren’t quite capable of a deeper voice. What the hell, had some jumped up teenaged ‘gangstah’ wannabe actually gotten the drop on him? And him real-life, bona fide gangster? This day got better and better.

“No Jonny, today’s going to be watch and learn. Watch and learn how your pa deals with two-bit thugs like these.”

Great, a complete moron who wanted to sound like Hollywood tough guys in front of his blood-thirsty daddy, and Big Daddy more than happy to indulge. Yukihiro decided against protesting that he was AT LEAST a three bit thug, possibly even a four; but he didn’t want to be tortured as well, and mouthing off would probably only encourage the Barracuda to be creative in his ‘ministrations’.

“Look, all right all right, just please leave off of Liu. I’ve got the package here, but it’s in my bag… you want me to hand it over to you, I’m going to have to whip it out for you. Just be cool, I can give you the package…”

The Barracuda was grinning again. “So now we get somewhere.”

He raised one hand above his shoulder level, and let the other slide up to the top of the bag’s shoulder strap: “I’ve got stuff in the bag… I need to get it out first, okay?”

Lazily the Barracuda gestured with his gun, flicking his wrist to indicate Mini Barracuda who still had his own barrel pressed up into the small of Yukihiro’s back.

“Son, you do the honours, relieve Ohno of his bag.”

“Heh, ain’t so much of a tough guy now, are we Ohno? Not now your precious ‘partner’ is on the line, eh? Eh?” Mini Barracuda drawled; Yukihiro could practically hear the smug grin that was probably plastered across his pimply face. He felt the pressure of the young man’s hand on his shoulder, grasping at the bag’s shoulder strap, as the gun barrel moved away from his back. Mini Barracuda must have shoved it back in the holster.

“Son, enough of the cheap villainous small talk, we have a plane to catch,” the Barracuda chided.

Yukihiro didn’t know what his next move would be, if he even had a next move to fall back on. He might as well fall back on a sword at this point. He was thoroughly screwed and not even in a good way. Crap, it really was all over now. It was only starting to hit him just how deep in they were. He’d known how dangerous this mission was from the beginning, but the Barracuda had what he wanted. He’d probably want a full clean-up operation, and…

“OMAE-TACHI, TOMARE DA ZO!”

Or had things just gotten more intriguing? He didn’t dare move; he knew what the Barracuda’s reaction would be. A loud barking noise tore through the air, and then several more followed.

“ARRAGH!”

The scream was Mini Barracuda. The boss’ son must have crumpled, and he collided into Yukihiro pushing them both to the floor. What the hell had just happened? Yukihiro scrambled from lying flat on his face and twisted around to see what was going on. He couldn’t get very far with Mini Barracuda still on top of him – the young man was clutching his hand, a deep tear across it, blood splattering everywhere. There was a coppery, metallic smell floating in the air, mixed in with burnt things.

He didn’t even have time to think through the details, like who could have shot Mini Barracuda down like that; who would have had the sheer balls to cut in on a meeting like this. The Barracuda was shouting loudly, and his men had flipped the table over, taking cover and getting their guns out.

Yukihiro stayed down on the ground, wriggling to behind another table. His heart was pumping, and noises and colours, they seemed strangely muted now. The noise, the opening gun fire, it seemed to be coming from another part of the restaurant, maybe from the kitchens? He couldn’t see though, too many people screaming, and furniture and décor shattering apart from bullet impacts was obscuring any clear view. Crap, there weren’t even any reflective surfaces, no way to check who it was… The Barracuda and his men had dropped to their knees and elbows, wriggling to find safe firing positions.

Yukihiro couldn’t really make out what was being said by whoever was putting down the opposing fire… The opening cry had been shouted in Japanese, but he was pretty sure that he could hear someone else verbally abusing the Barracuda’s family lineage and sexual prowess rather colourfully in Min Nan. It seemed to involve camels and turtles, and possibly the testes of a baboon – his Min Nan was shamefully rusty. It felt weird thinking about those kinds of things.

There was no time for messing about; his mind had eventually realised that. He needed to get out of here and quick. Just because this accidental Samaritan had gotten him out of the Mini Barracuda’s clutches, it didn’t mean they wouldn’t try and take him out as soon as they had dealt with the Barracuda and his men.

Leaning down onto his side, he stretched out his arm, reached with his fingertips for the bag’s strap. Mini Barracuda had dropped it when the bullet tore across his hand. He was still curled up on the floor, shrieking and hyper ventilating. This must be his first shoot out then; lucky for him, frigging moron. Odd, the squeals seemed far away, as did the return fire of the Barracuda’s men.

Almost there… He nearly had it… Cripes! He flinched and ducked as low as he possibly could when automatic weapons fire hit the dais wall, and one of the wooden fence posts splintered spectacularly over their heads. Just a little further; that was all he had to go. He grabbed the strap with awkward finger tips, and then yanked it towards him.

Then, just another few feet in front of him, he noticed Mini Barracuda’s gun. It must have skittered out of its owner’s grasp when he had been shot.

Could he get to it? Did he have the time? Crap, the little git must have had it on a safety lock then, if hadn’t gone off when he dropped it. He could take out the Barracuda if he did get a hold of it. That was never part of the original plan; it would only piss off Yoshida even more a nagging little voice told him, the more practical side of his brain, and you’ve got a gun in your freaking shoulder holster so what do you need this one for? The part of his brain that held his survival instinct just screamed “KILL THEM ALL, KILL THEM ALL, RUN, RUN, RUN, RUN, RUN!”

Survival Instinct was winning, one nil then.

Unfortunately for him, Mini Barracuda hadn’t gone completely into shock, at least not yet. The younger man had gone completely mad though, judging by the look in his eyes.

“You… You set us up… I’ll kill you for this… Made me look a fucking moron… It’s all your fault…” Mini Barracuda hissed, rolling onto his back, scrambling for the dropped gun.

Uh oh – this couldn’t end well for him.

Yukihiro was about to shuffle over on his belly for the gun – he wasn’t going to be killed off by some gangster’s snot nosed brat. Then more automatic weapons fire tore out, hitting the wall and large two way window behind them, and both men ducked down again, arms over their heads. That mixture of a coppery smell and burning smell was starting to saturate the air, though the burning dominated; both sides must have taken bad hits now. Paintings and decorations were shredded and clattered to the floor, and the two way mirror shattered and collapsed rather spectacularly in a loud cacophony of tinkling.

They didn’t used to make escapes like that, not even in Hollywood.

He gave Mini Barracuda a vicious elbow to the face; he thought he heard a sick crack and a nauseated cry, but he wasn’t staying around to find out. He got to his feet and began to scuttle over to the window, trying to stay low.

Everything felt so slow. Only bursts of noises reached him now and then, the loudest was his own blood surging. He was almost there. He was almost home free. He just had one foot on the window ledge. He was almost…

Then there was pain. It was white hot and it seared along the right side of his abdomen. He stumbled and tumbled through the window, colliding to his knees, nearly dropping the bag. Probably cut his legs on impact, but for some reason his mind felt numb. It wasn’t important. It didn’t matter who had rescued him, or tried to kidnap him. It didn’t matter who had injured him. There was only one thing that was important anymore. Only one thing mattered now.

He had to run. He had to get away. He had to escape, away from this madness.

He had to survive.

 

 

 

Previous Chapter: Chapter 5 – Middle of Nowhere

Index

Next Chapter: Chapter 7 – Caught By The River


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