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 8: I’m Waiting For The Man

Index

Next Chapter – Chapter10: Trouble In The Fields

Chapter 9: In The City

 

“What’s the situation, what have we got here?”

“Male, Asian in his mid to late twenties: he’s got a bullet wound to the right of his abdomen which is bleeding profusely, but he still seems to be breathing and responding to stimuli, changes in environment. He keeps trying to talk, but no one understands a damn word he’s saying. There’s no ID on his person. There seem to be cuts on his legs as well, but they don’t seem to be too serious, but they will need cleaning.”

What the hell were they talking about? The pain in his side was burning. He tried to reach out to check it, but he couldn’t move his arms. There was something holding his wrists down… How the hell had he got there?

“Then let’s get to work people, get him prepped for the Operating Theatre stat! Get me saline, painkillers and a few pints of Negative O. Holt, I want you with me on this surgery, about damn time you did something more than pat Butcher’s brow…”

“What’s going to happen to him?”

Yukihiro blinked, trying to focus. The lights were so bright, institutional. He could see vague human shapes standing over him, flittering across his vision. These voices, he didn’t know them. He had had to do something today. What had he had to do? Where the hell was he?

“Are you next of kin, son? Friend or something?”

“No… I made the emergency services call…”

These words, they didn’t make any sense to him. A feminine form hung over him, there was a twitch of pain in his arm. They hung something above him. He tried to speak, tried to ask questions, but they misinterpreted. They said something about not struggling, he’d hurt himself on the needle.

“Look that’s great, but there’s no need for you to wait up here. He isn’t in the best condition, but we’ll do our best to see that he comes through this; you’ve got nothing to worry about. You’ve done the best you could. The cops will probably want to talk to you, take a statement, so just go and wait in the reception area for now. I can’t tell you much more than that for now.”

His eyelids felt heavier. The pain ebbed, became fuzzier. Everything got darker.

And then Yukihiro was awake.

It was night. He knew that much. His surroundings were dark, but it was that odd darkness that you only got on a very snowy night, where the clouds looked much brighter than they were against the night sky. It was so odd; he had never paid much attention to that sort of thing before. He was aware of a gentle orange-yellow light to his right; it was very soft and didn’t fill the room. Slowly, things came into a slightly sharper focus.

As he tried to shift into a more upright sitting position – he had been lying on one side, but with his outside arm draped away from his body – there was a sharp pain and a tinkling noise, light weight metal against small light weight metal.

Looking upwards, he saw sealed bags hanging from a pole, tubes draping down and connected to his outside arm. One was filled with a clear liquid, the other dark red, and he could hear a soft intermittent electronic bleep coming from somewhere.

How had he gotten here?

“Oh… are you awake now?”

Yukihiro froze for a moment, snapping round to locate the source of that voice. Automatically, the hand on his free arm reached for his shoulder rig, grasping for his gun. It wasn’t there. Oh fuck, it wasn’t there. His hand has dumbly grasping at the shoulder of institutional pyjamas. Had it come off when he was escaping from the Golden Lotus?

“Hey buddy, take it easy. They only wheeled you out of surgery yesterday, the nurse’ll kill me if you pop a stitch,” the voice said in a low voice.

A shadow approached where he lay – his sight must have still been readjusting to the lack of light in the room. It was a blond shadow.

“Surgery? Like a hospital?” he heard himself mumble hesitantly. As in when a doctor cut you open and had a poke around? And why did he sound like such an idiot when he spoke English?

“Yeah… you’re in hospital. You don’t remember? You don’t remember getting hurt?”

If Yukihiro had had his wits about him, he would have known that now was the perfect time to play dumb. Play the innocent card. Addled by blood loss and whatever the hell was being pumped directly into his stream, his confusion was no cute ploy.

It was also a very inconvenient time to realise that the blond shadow himself was rather cute. Oh yes, definitely a guy, tall and big shoulders, like he had done hard graft. His personal appearance wasn’t very fussy, and he wore his flannel like it wasn’t a fashion statement. Yukihiro hoped that this… inner bluntness was merely a side affect of whatever the hell they had him jacked up on. Or would it be jacked down? There was just too much jacking going on.

Time to deflect, it was time to think. He had to think!

“Have I been sleeping for a long time?” he heard himself mumble. Couldn’t stay here, that was for certain. If he had been out for more than twenty four hours, then he had already been very lucky that Eddie Yoshida hadn’t caught up with him. He didn’t want to push his luck any further than he already had.

Tall, Blond and Flannel sat down on the edge of the bed, the strap of something clasped in his hands. Yukihiro couldn’t really see what from the angle he was lying at. He seemed nervous, a bit clueless.

“You got out of surgery a few days ago, I think. I got a call that evening, but you’ve been in and out of consciousness ever since,” he said. “Are you okay? I can let the nurse know you’re properly awake, and…”

“Why they called you?” Yukihiro demanded, sleepily but sharply. Apparently the drugs had switched off his tact as well.

If Yoshida had sent this guy to do him in, he was done for, no puns intended. He didn’t think that he would be able to escape – couldn’t see any exit routes apart from the door back into the ward, the window would be out of the question in this weather and given his current condition. There was no way in hell that he would be able to fight a guy of his size off physically either; didn’t even know where his own damn gun was.

Tall, Blond and Flannel shifted away slightly, like he’d realised he might have intruded.

“I, uh… I called emergency services for you, when you collapsed in the café. When they couldn’t find any ID on you, because I found you… Well, apparently that means I have to be your emergency contact,” he explained. “Uh, my name’s Joel, by the way. Joel Miller.”

“Oh. I think I see.”

Yukihiro felt dumfounded to say the least. His recent memories included dodging old comrades and bullets. No-one was quite this sickeningly nice to him. Not unless they were gunning for something. The guy still seemed to have plenty to say for himself though.

 “Yeah… Oh, and I brought your bag. You kept trying to hold on to it, but obviously that kind of impeded the EMTS getting you into the ambulance. Actually, they left it at the café, so I picked up and I thought I’d drop it off for you. And… And this is all very creepy, and makes me sound like some kind of fucking stalker, doesn’t it.”

Joel Miller trailed off at that point. Yukihiro let himself unclench a little, and wriggled so that he could sit up a little more. Either this guy was the world’s worst assassin, or the best actor. Joel Miller might even be both. Maybe if he turned nasty, Yukihiro could strangle him with the IV? Might kill himself though if bubbles got in the line, he’d have to disconnect quickly. Or maybe he could wrap the IV round, but then just bop him against the wall. Did he even have the strength for an IV wrap, let alone a sitting roundhouse to the head?

Oh for fuck’s sake… This guy Joel, he was turning red, like a little kid. He was coy, embarrassed. At his age? Shyness? What kind of candy-coated land of fluff did he live in?

Yukihiro might have even described the blushing as cute, after a fashion and several beers. If he was being honest with himself, there was absolutely no manly or ego-saving way to describe it. Cute however, was not something that interested him in the slightest, definitely not while he was sober. It was something that tended to get you into more trouble than it was worth, especially with annoying skinny punk rockers who hung out on the main drag in Shibuya. It was not worth the afore-mentioned trouble. Most of his entanglements were pretty much based on ‘aesthetics’ only.

Then Joel stood up, placing the bag down at the side of the bed, looping the handle against the bed rails so it was still in reach. Those shoulders were broad, pretty sexy, but no shoulder or waist rig was messing up the lines of his flannel shirt. Now, he actually looked really nervous.

“Look, I just wanted to make sure you were okay. Clearly you are, and clearly I’m still screwed up over something I’m sure as hell not discussing with a total stranger and developing a Florence Nightingale Complex, so I’m getting out of here before I make an even bigger idiot of myself,” Joel said quietly, shuffling backwards out of the room.

Yukihiro held his face in a blank mask – basic manners dictated he should be talking more to Joel, at least thanking him, but the quicker he moved, the safer it would be for him.

The door banged open. And they were both royally screwed.

“Ohno… Oh gosh man, is that you?”

His heart nearly stopped for a moment. It was Jareth Morioka – not a comrade, but he knew him by reputation. Jareth Morioka was the wet works man for the Barracuda. Yukihiro wasn’t going to be killed by politeness, he would die of shame. Yukihiro’s English was not fantastic, but he knew enough to know that Morioka was not speaking in the same ‘tough guy’ manner that the Barracuda and Mini used. He even managed to look relieved and sorrowful at the same time, speaking softly.

The beeping noise from earlier, it became more frequent, more insistent.

“Ohno? Are you alright?”

Joel glanced between the two of them – he looked very confused, but at least his blushing was fading. He seemed to have an interest in something past Yukihiro’s head, and that beeping noise was getting more insistent.

“Look uh, I should probably get going now anyway. I’ll leave you two to catch up.”

Ano, chotto matte…” Now his English was failing him.

Morioka was inside the room now, standing at the foot of the bed. He was skilful; Yukihiro couldn’t even tell where he had hidden his guns. He must have had several planted on his person. Joel froze and turned back, looking puzzled, glancing between Morioka and Yukihiro.

“It’s okay love, it’s… Normally he can speak such good English, but I think whatever they gave him is making him slow. How did you end up like this,” Morioka sighed. Why was he fluttering his eyelashes? Did he have an eye infection, or was he Meiji-era prostitute?

“Well, I uh… Isn’t his heart rate kind of high? I’m thinking that we should call a nurse.”

With Morioka’s slow approach, Yukihiro felt his stomach start to churn and up-heave. There was no way out. He’d have to take his chances with an IV wrap then.

“It’s okay, you can go now,” Morioka said, cold dismissive smile sliding across his features. “No worries.”

No, screw it. It’d be better to snatch the bag and just jump out of the window. Maybe if Joel was such a Canadian gentleman, he would try and knock over Jareth Morioka when the little prick tried to shoot him in the back. The tension in his stomach was slowly

Rather than reply to Morioka, Joel just glanced between him and Yukihiro again. He looked… worried perhaps?

“You know, your friend doesn’t look so good, and that ECG activity is bothering me… I’m going to go and shout on a nurse. Ohno, is it? Do you want a sick bag over?”

Jareth Morioka’s face screwed up with simmering irritation – he wanted to explode, dominate, blow the idiot’s brains out  with a well-placed bullet but Joel was a civilian, not a two-bit punk that Yoshida had foisted on him. The mask of civility was cracking.

“And I just told you, that it isn’t your place to worry about it. So you can fuck right off, before I throw you out of this damn room,” he hissed, before turning to glare at Yukihiro. “Where did you find this fuck-wit?”

As the tension in the room hit a breaking point, so must have the tension in Yukihiro’s stomach. The pain killers, whatever was in this IV, wasn’t helping any either. A bitter, disgusting taste hit the back of his throat, and bile erupted across his bed sheets.  Vaguely, he was aware of Morioka stepping back, disgusted and complaining loudly about it. He was also vaguely aware of Joel stepping, past the assassin and hitting the call button. The tall man hunkered down at the bedside, trying to make eye contact with him

“Sir, I think we better shout on someone, this could be serious,” Joel said, pulling the soiled blankets down.

Morioka laughed loudly, no joy or happiness in his tone.

“And you are WHO to tell me, what to do, little man? You can’t even hear right?”

Joel’s brows drew together, and those blue-grey eyes became cold. There was no posturing; he just met the glaring head on and held his ground.

“I’m Officer Joel Miller, I’m a Park Ranger, that’s who I am! And I’m the one who found your… friend here and got him to hospital. Not that that… Fuck man, why am I even arguing with you? This guy, isn’t he your friend? Get the hell over yourself and get a nurse,” he growled. “Before your friend ralfs up his own spleen.”

Morioka’s jaw wiggled, like he’d been pole-axed mentally. Yukihiro knew that as soon as he had heard the word ‘officer’, the assassin had gotten spooked. He knew he was some kind of cop now, obviously one that had an interest in Yukihiro remaining alive. That was the special name they had for police officers in Canada, right? It would be too much of a liability to kill Yukihiro here and now, too many witnesses, too much collateral damage that the Barracuda wouldn’t be able to afford to pay away.  It was a truth universally acknowledged that it was suicide to kill an uninvolved cop so publicly. It was a few more moments before Morioka’s gaping maw snapped shut.

Then that icicle smile was back once more.

“Ah, so that’s how it is.”

Joel Miller looked very confused: “So that’s how WHAT is? What the hell are you talking about?”

“Well played Ohno, very well played. You know, I think I’ll leave the two of you alone. Clearly, I am the one interrupting. But we have matters unsettled, and don’t think I won’t be back.”

Relief – it slid over him as he watched Morioka’s shadow stalk away down the hall through closed shutters. The beeping noise was still insistent, but it had slowed down a little bit. Yukihiro let himself slide back onto the over-fluffed pillows and managed to stifle a loud sigh. Glancing over at his unlikely saviour, Joel was blinking and shaking his head. Clearly he had no idea of what had just happened. Yukihiro rather liked it that way.

 “I hate to say this, but your friend there is fucked in the head. He talks like a Bond villain or something,” Joel said, handing him over some rough paper towels. “Are you going to be alright? Look, the nurses will be here in a few seconds, just hold on okay?”

Dumbly, Yukihiro nodded, not really trusting his voice. He was still dry heaving a little. And Joel was right – inside of a few seconds, a flurry of activity started up, nurses hustling Joel to the far side of the room, the doctor checking over him, checking his pulse, flashing little lights into his eyes. Different drugs were prescribed, and the nurses preceded to bustle about stripping away the dirty sheets and binding him up in clean ones.

He didn’t see Joel leave the room, or at least he wouldn’t remember it later.  It was rather a shame. This fit, oblivious man had just inadvertently saved him from an assassin. Yukihiro could no longer operate on the hope that the spectre of possible police protection would keep Morioka away a while longer. He would need to escape as soon as possible. Otherwise unwanted attention might land on his oblivious saviour, that he wasn’t sure the officer could fend off.

 

Previous Chapter – Chapter 8: I’m Waiting For The Man

Index

Next Chapter – Chapter10: Trouble In The Fields


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