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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 10: Trouble In The Fields 

Index 

Next Chapter – Chapter 12: Break Out!

   

Chapter 11: You Outta Know 

It was the next day, and a few days after Christmas that Joel had decided it was about high time to head home to the Canadian Wilderness. Admittedly, he still had more time off that had been allotted to him by Mark, but he still felt the uncomfortable shadows cast by Nathan and his mysterious friend in the big city. At least the snows had eased off and travelling out into the country would be much easier for him, and he could spend the remainder of his time off from work in his own lodge, relaxing. 

Now that he thought about it a little, the lodge was probably a bit on the fusty side and he would need to stock up heavily on food. Had he left milk in the fridge? And if he had, had it developed sentience by now or was it just in the fungal stage of development? 

His mother had protested loudly for a while when he announced his return to isolation, but she’d relented eventually. As much he and his family loved one another, he was used to having his own space now, and the house where he grew up more resembled a zoo or holding cell for Jerry Springer at times over the Christmas period, and it did his head right in at times. 

He was grateful that he had had the chance to finish his interrupted conversation with Mikey from the week before and sort things out. Mikey was still a little bit terrified of going back to college, but Joel had managed to talk him down from doing anything crazy. It helped a lot that Melanie had called a few times to see how he was doing, and they had arranged to spend the evening in his halls when he got back, where the beer flowed and the rules were much laxer. Joel had made it clear to his younger brother however that if his reputation and fame as the Murdering Drag Queen got too hard to cope with, the lodge would always be open to him as a bolt hole, providing he did his own washing up of course. 

Right about now, it was coming up for lunch time and Joel was driving along the main provincial high way in his pick-up truck, occasionally glancing out at the snowy Canadian countryside. He was bundled up in a thick padded jacket and one of Aunt Mabel’s hand knitted deer stalker hats. He was listening to a pirate world radio station on the truck radio station – Joel suspected from their advertising that it was probably being broadcast from Sweden – specifically the guitar styling of Ali Farka Tourke. Normally Joel preferred to listen to standard rock when he was driving and folkabilly when he was in a bad mood, yet for some reason he was in the mood for some introspection. 

Things had been very strange after that guy, the so-called friend, had left the hospital room the other day. Obviously the conversation wasn’t exactly going to flow after Yukihiro had seemingly nearly gone into cardiac arrest. Joel hadn’t even really known what to expect from going to the hospital to see him anyway, there had been no practical point in it. All the same, doing it, going to see the guy and make sure he was doing better did make him feel better for some reason. Perhaps because he had been attacked, it would help his mental recovery to know that there were some nice people out there that weren’t going to beat you up for your cameras. Perhaps it was some kind of weird pseudo-male Florence Nightingale thing and he needed some serious therapy. 

Watching the snowy fields pass him by, Joel’s mind drifted back to the last man that had featured majorly in his life who wasn’t held on a badly scratched DVD. That man was Detective Nathan Hart of Toronto’s Organised Crime Unit, a police officer and a real pain in the ass. More specifically, Joel’s thoughts lingered on the more rosy and warmer aspects of their relationship, before veering back to how things had gone so wrong in his relationship with Nathan. 

It hadn’t helped that they had both been fairly independent characters in their own way: Joel had been living by himself since he had graduated, and he was aware that Nathan hadn’t always had a fantastic home life and had pretty hermitic tendencies himself if his police partner hadn’t insisted on dragging round to his family home for dinner at least once a month. (Joel had liked James as well; it was a shame that his spectacular break up with Nathan had meant that the thought of running into Detective James would have been like running a gauntlet of awkwardness.) 

And Joel needed to stop wallowing in the past. There was no going back with Nathan, it was just… Ugh… It had just been too damn long since he had gotten laid in general, and he needed to stop wallowing in it and nut up already. Also, it would be a good idea to make sure the lodge’s internet connection had been updated properly – no particular reason. 

Changing lanes to come off of the main motorways, he spied a large green and white sign that declared that road side services including food, gas and tourist trap shopping were only one kilometre a way, and felt that odd empty bubbling mix through his insides, the kind you got when you knew you needed sustenance. He hadn’t eaten since breakfast time, and while his mother and Aunt Mabel had managed to pack up a small cardboard box with leftovers, he wanted to keep those for getting back to the lodge. 

Joel reckoned what with everything that had happened in the last few days, he deserved a little treat anyways. It was the holiday season after all, and there would be no living on cheese burgers when he got back to his own place. The American style diner in the nearest town to where he lived had closed down for the season, and the take away places only did pick up orders and not home delivery after mid November for their own personal safety and insurance rates. 

Ten minutes later when he was savouring the hot, bitter coffee which was the only thing that was defrosting his frozen cold fingers and his shoes kept sticking to linoleum floor that had probably been serving since the late Fifties. Despite all of this, Joel was still positive that he had made the right decision on this one. He glanced around the little road side café, watching the other travellers come and go for a while. While he had been waiting on his food arriving, a one or two old Greyhound buses had arrived in the large, open parking lot beside the old café. Looking around the place, it seemed to be mostly people like himself: travelling to get home. 

And then his cell phone rang, vibrating and jumping around in the pocket of his heavy jacket. Rolling his eyes, Joel put down his mug of coffee and fumbled around in his pocket, and drawing the cell phone out with a sigh. 

“For crying out loud Mom, I only just sat down to have lunch, the food isn’t even here yet!” Joel laughed, with a slight exasperated air escaping into his voice. He was starving, he was allowed. 

There was a beat of silence – how odd – before a low voice appeared at the other end of the line. It wasn’t his mother. 

“Hello there sir; I am correct in believing that I am talking to a Mister Joel Miller Esquire?” a cool, calm voice asked at the end of the phone. The voice sounded familiar to Joel, but he couldn’t place it straight away. 

“I, uh… Yes, speaking, this is Joel Miller. Who is this? What’s this about?” Joel coughed, trying to grasp for equilibrium. 

The voice went low and hissy and Joel could hear standard office noises in the background, phones ringing, people talking, it definitely sounded like indoor noises. 

“For crying out loud… Joel, This is Max James, from O.C.U. I’m Nate’s partner.” 

Joel sat up rigidly. Great, this is just what he needed right now, the good old Best Friend gambit, screw that noise. After all, how was poor little Nathan meant to have known that Joel was deathly allergic to lilies? Joel’s own voice became very quiet, but there heat burned through. He wasn’t entirely sure why, as it was highly unlikely that it was Joel that Nathan would catch out on the phone. 

“Max? What the hell is going on, how did you get hold of this number? Did you go through Nathan’s stuff?” 

That was followed by an indignant snort, a slightly smothered one. 

“No Joel, shock, horror but this world don’t revolve around you. It was the darnest thing, you see, I investigate an assault, and who’s details do I find listed as an emergency contact for when the victim gets up? A victim who has absconded from the hospital without official medical discharge and might not actually be a victim, but possibly involved one of the biggest inter gang wars we’ve seen a few decades?” Max James drawled sarcastically, but his voice returning to a more audible level and the background became quieter. He must have found a more private place to have this conversation. 

Joel tried to remain calm. He took a sip from his giant mug of coffee. It was an action he’d probably regret later, but what the hell, he’d live on the edge. 

“What the hell are you on about Max, are you insinuating something? Because I’m pretty sure this could constitute as police harassment, and you don’t want that on your permanent record,” he snapped back, heart starting to beat out a much heavier tattoo. 

“Report me if you like Joel, I ain’t got the time for this. You gave a witness statement to police officers earlier in the week. From the paperwork sitting in front of me, it looks like you found some guy bleeding, injured, called an ambulance, the works. Which was a very nice, noble thing for you to do, don’t get me wrong… Thing is your new friend ran away from the hospital earlier today, although to be honest, we’re hoping that it was this morning, because if it was last night that he slipped off, then A LOT of people are going to be embarrassed…” 

Then Joel’s heart sank as he recalled the visit from the very officious so-called friend when he had been visiting. It all started to make sense now. 

“Aw man… H’s in some kind of trouble isn’t he? Being abused? Max, I have to be honest with you, some guy showed up was there when I was, and he…” 

“Fuck’s sake Joel, you didn’t hear the bit about “biggest inter gang war”? Look, man, I don’t know how to say this. I know shit went down with you and Nate, but you don’t deserve to be in the middle of something like this, you’re a good guy. Joel, I need you to come down to the station, as soon as you can, it’s serious and it’s for your own safety, trust me on this,” Max said, his voice softening slightly. 

Joel knew the tone: it was the same tone Nathan got when he tried to explain parts of his work that he didn’t think Joel would really understand very well, concepts and  ugly truths that it was safer for civilians not to know. 

“What’s serious?” Joel said; his voice completely even. He surprised himself with his own calmness. He’d probably kick himself later that he had gotten it straight away, but right now Max’s words had no connecting associations for him. 

“We have reason to believe that your friend, Ohno Yukihiro is not in fact a mugged tourist or whatever cover story he sold you; in fact he seems to have a variety of names. We think he’s involved with the Japanese yakuza, and that he was part of a big inter gang deal that went sour a few weeks back. That’s as much as I can tell you legally over the phone and probably more; I tell you any more, you could be setting yourself up as a target. It would be a really good idea for you get to the station right about now, we’ve got questions we need to ask. Even the littlest thing could help us track him down,” Max explained. 

“Do you know his actual real name then?” 

There was a pause there. 

“Well, we have one or two aliases, but nothing dramatically solid and nothing I can tell you about right now. Let me put it this way, there may or may not be people who would be willing to hurt you to get even the littlest bit of information on him. Come on man, you’re a civilian, you understand the position I’m in, you know Nathan can’t get in contact with you, right? Where are you right now, man? Maybe I can send a squad car round to pick you up, apart from the hospital staff, you’re the last person who was seen in his company…” 

Joel felt his head spin, and put a hand to his forehead, cradling it in his palm and leaning against the table. This was the last time he was doing anyone a favour for a while, that was for sure. 

“Crap… Max, I’m eating lunch a road side café just off of Highway Twenty Four, I’m about two or three hours outside of Toronto now. I was going back home today…” 

And then Max proceeded to swear, a lot. He started with small cuss words, and worked his way up quickly to some very complicated profanities and blasphemies involving pineapples and spears inserted into delicate areas. Objectively, Joel was pretty impressed by the police detective’s repertoire. 

“All right… All right… Here’s what we’re going to do, we’re going to stay calm.” 

For a moment, Joel nearly had the strength of mind to roll his eyes at that line. Bloody genius, was he? 

“Do you want me to start driving back?” 

“Y’know man, it’s probably best for now if you just turned yourself in.” 

“WHAT? Fuck Max, I’ve done nothing wrong!” 

Okay, that had probably drawn some stares from other patrons. 

“I know, I know how it must sound when I put it like that, but listen up. I think Chambers would rather you were inside city limits as soon as possible, but it would probably be safest for you if you went to your nearest sheriff’s office or something. Ask at the bar or whatever if they have the phone call of the nearest police station, and I’ll see if I can’t mobilise them from our end. Get someone to drive you along there, phone us when you arrive and stay there until I can send a mini-escort,” Max said, energy and anxiety bubbling in his voice. 

Joel took a very long slug from his coffee, which again probably wasn’t a smart move given that he needed to stay calm and focused at this point. He glanced up at the television over the left hand corner of the bar – the head waitress stood just underneath brewing multiple kettles of tea and coffee – and began to stare at it, hoping for a distraction of some kind. 

“No offense James, but you sound like my mother, it’s starting to freak me out. Is it really that bad, what’s going down?” 

There was another sigh at the other end of the phone, and a creaking noise like a door, a rapid intake and outtake of background office noises. 

“It’s bad enough as it is Joel, please don’t ask me for more details. Look, just get yourself to the nearest police station, okay? Can you do that for me? …. Joel, are you there? Joel? Joel?” 

Joel was there, but James’ words weren’t really registering with him, especially not after he had just seen a delightful artist’s sketch of What Ever His Name Really Was’ face, looking much moodier and hard bitten than Joel had remembered him being when he visited up on the wall mounted television. He also seemed to have longer hair in the sketch too, as well as something of a slight Mick Jagger pout. Checking the corner of the screen told him that it was a local news channel, but all he was getting was the artist’s impression of a mug shot – the sound had been put to mute, presumably so as not to irritate the non regular customers during the day. 

It took another few seconds of Max bellowing at him before Joel could gather up the where with all to reply to him. 

“You guys, put out on a warrant or something on his head, didn’t you? Fuck, James his bloody face is up there on the bloody local news channel! How the hell did he even walk away? He was fucking shot, he could barely lift his own head!” 

“… The Toronto Police Department are asking people who were in the area on the morning of the incident, if they have any information at all, to come forward. If they do see Mr Ohno, they should not approach by themselves him as he could be disorientated, although he is badly injured, he should still be considered dangerous. He may not understand his surroundings, or still be very confused from his medication. Instead, they should get in contact with their local law enforcement authorities, and contact this special hotline number at…” 

“Max, seriously what the hell is going on here? I can see his freaking mug shot on the lunch time news, who is this guy?” Joel hissed, hunkering down in his little booth and looking about nervously, as if What Ever His Name Really Was watching him right at that minute, waiting for him to slip up and do something conspicuous, and send him to sleep with the sushi, or the fishes or the whales, whatever it was gangsters did these days. 

Max sighed loudly right into his ear, before hissing ‘oh fuck sticks crap-tacular’. There was a loud clattering noise, and eventually he spoke to Joel again, whispering. 

“Look Miller, I really need to go, Nathan just got back to the office. He knows there was a contact number given that we had to check out, but he doesn’t know you’re the Good Samaritan yet. He’ll start birthing kittens if he thinks you’re in trouble, and Chambers doesn’t want him to get all fired up on this case. Get your ass to a police station, call me then, AND STAY THERE. Seriously man, no arguments on this.” 

“Wait, what do you mean Nathan doesn’t know? Why doesn’t he know I’m the emergency contact? Max? Max?” 

Max had hung up on him. Just a dial tone hung on the other end of the phone. Cursing mentally to himself, he slammed his phone shut, and cradled his face in his hands, pondering his next move. 

Since Max had gone to the trouble of phoning him, it was obvious that SOMETHING serious was going on. They had put out a warning and description on the lunch time news, normally this kind of news could wait until six o’clock in the evening at least. Had something been said? Had What Ever His Name Really Was given up Joel’s name or something? Who the hell was he anyway? 

Okay, he had to calm down, RIGHT NOW. As easy as it would be to just cave and panic, Joel took a deep breath. The coffee wasn’t helping. He was aware a family of four, probably obnoxious tourists judging by their co-ordinating snow jackets, were giving him odd looks and the guy who was operating the till up at the bar was watching him curiously as well. 

First thing was first: he called over the waitress and asked that his order get changed to go. He knew that he was supposed to go to the police station as soon as he could, but he knew he wouldn’t be able to concentrate if he didn’t get something in his stomach quickly. Once that was done, he decided to pop off to the men’s room – his order would probably be ready by the time he got back, and if he was going to hurl, he would have rather done it now than in his pick-up truck. 

The bathrooms were like men’s rooms in diners the world over – certainly not filthy, but aside from the usual noxious gases, the smell of heavy citron bleach hung in the air and the lights flickered frequently. The door in was just along the corridor from a backdoor which was probably normally some kind of fire exit, but it had been propped open with crates of beer, presumably to allow one of the staff members easy access between the diner and a small supply van that Joel had seen parking when he had drove in. 

The nasty shock came when he was washing his hands. He felt a cold pressure at the back of his head. 

“If I were you Mister Miller, I would not try anything foolish. I have a gun to your head, and a fairly good escape plan. All you have at this point is your health, and even that is fairly tenuous. So if you would be a gentleman and stand up slowly, put your hands on the back of your head? That would be a great help to me.” 

And it was a voice that Joel knew. Struggling to keep down nervous bile, he did as the voice commanded him to and stood up properly slowly, and slid his damp hands up from the sink to interlock them behind his head. Looking into the streaky bathroom mirror, through the crook in his arm he could see The So-Called Friend standing behind him, looking very pleased with himself. 

“Hoooo-boy, I’m fucked, aren’t I?” 

“Oh Mister Miller, you have no idea.”

 

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Previous Chapter – Chapter 10: Trouble In The Fields

Index

Next Chapter – Chapter12: Break Out!

 

  


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