Vote For Cold Ghost on Top Web Fiction 

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?

 

Chapter 11: You Outta Know

Index

Chapter 13: Linger

 

Chapter 12: Break Out!

It must have been late morning. Yukihiro couldn’t really tell, since the bus had been delayed leaving Toronto, and it was meant to have left before the sun even came up and the winter was strange here. There was hardly any light.

Bus must have stopped – he couldn’t hear the soft rumbles, and he wasn’t swaying back and forth in tiny increments anymore. He’d curled up across two seats at the back, his head resting on top of his precious sports bag in the naïve hope of getting some sleep. Fat chance of that happening. Still keyed up from his narrow escape from hospital, he knew he should get rest where he could, but thought of Jareth Morioka closing in on him, and his hands closing around his neck tightly made sleep difficult.

But the bus had definitely stopped, and people were getting off, but leaving belongings – nothing precious of course, but little mementoes so they knew their own territory. He couldn’t really understand the driver, the shouting felt very far away even though it was barely ten feet. Feeling his tiredness ebb a little, he did catch something about a ‘toilet break’. It might explain the dancing nature of some of the other passengers’ gaits then.

Standing to leave, he tried to hide his grimace. Dull pain still throbbed across his knees and his side, and he couldn’t afford to re-open his wounds. Hadn’t even paid his medical bills, but that was hardly a priority now. He needed energy, food, if he was going to keep on the ball. There’d at least be a vending machine with energy drinks if he couldn’t relax.

An elderly lady, helped from her own seat by her disgruntled looking husband, gave him a sympathetic smile as he trudged along. Yukihiro stopped so they could struggle out in front of him – he was in a hurry but it was no excuse to forget basic manners – and the lady patted his arm as she tottered on past, twittering something about ‘nice young man’.

“You know, you look a little bit peaky young man, rough around the edges. Are you sure you feel well?” the husband asked him gruffly but with genuine concern. “Should say to the driver if you need extra time or somethin’.”

Smiling wanly and inclining his head, Yukihiro played the ‘shy student’ card before rubbing the back of his own neck.

“I ah… I met some old friends the other night, but maybe I haven’t yet recovered, Sir. I think I may have to sleep more on this bus,” he said hesitantly, ever so slightly exaggerating his own accent, downplaying his real fluency level.

The perfect lies had a lot of truth in them.

The older gentleman let out a short guffaw, before giving him a manly thump on the upper arm. Yukihiro tried desperately to hold on to that wan smile as the thump revealed that he also must have a bullet graze or cuts on that arm as well.

It wasn’t long before he was standing out in the bitterness of the cold. He rubbed his hands together as he began to rapidly assess his surroundings – it got cold in Tokyo in winter, but nothing like this. The past ten or fifteen years, they were lucky if they saw one or two days of snow, but this place seemed to come with a permanent iced frosting. Old Man Hanaoka kept a full-on proper chalet for his bochama at some resort up Iwate way – the kid was mad for snow sports – he’d visited Terashima and his team up there once when they were on security detail. Yukihiro had always managed to pull interior detail, sticking by the koutatsu whenever feasible.

The bus had pulled into the back of the parking lot, behind the road side stop, so he had a good wide vantage of the surrounding area. Fellow passengers were scurrying as fast as they could into the warmth of the building, there weren’t any smokers brave enough to mill outside today.

Not far away, he heard the screech of old metal swinging, and then a clatter against concrete. Sounds were getting clearer as the effects of sleep fell away from his head. The crunch of boots and heavy shoes over not so new snow, one set hesitant, the other cautious – they were going very slowly, even for bad weather, like one of the walkers was clearly on the lookout. From under the eaves of the building, he saw two figures walking out into the parking lot close together in single file.

One of the figures was clearly a professional: scoping out the area, but trying not to look too conspicuous. Yukihiro was a professional too though, as the guy clearly wasn’t dressed for the weather, in a long woollen coat made for a balmier winter and the uncomfortable closeness he kept to his ‘partner’ was obvious in the other man’s expression. The arm was draped near the small of the back, fist pressed in. It was a few beats before he realised who the professional was, and the target he was dragging along with him.

For the love of… he’d found that idiotic, soft-hearted mountie boy.  Yukihiro knew the story from there on in – Eddie was more emotional, less practical than his elder half-brother. He might not wait to fork Officer Miller over to the Yoshida main family to tie up loose ends.

Practicalities told him that he should wait it out and watch whatever Morioka was up to, check for his car registration but lie low. If Morioka had been floating around on the road, there was a chance that Eddie’s other goons would be chasing him along the way. He could make it seem like the trail had gone cold.

Yukihiro gripped his bag tightly, the bag he’d brought with him. The bag he had nearly died for.

A tiny childish voice in him said that Officer Miller had put himself to trouble for him twice now. He ought to do something to help, he owed him that much. Being helpful seemed to get you killed though. A cold devil within him suggested that perhaps he should follow Morioka and get the drop on him now – the truly foolish thing would be to leave someone that dangerous alive and at his back. Sure, he could run and escape him now, and dealing with him now could bring unwanted attention… but only if he didn’t do his job properly.

Yukihiro had always been good at his job.

It was surprisingly easy to get the drop on them. Morioka was meant to be good at his job too, but he was clearly excited, making mistakes. Yukihiro kept close in to the wall of the service station, waiting until he knew he could take position and use the element of surprise on Morioka. Reaching into his bag, he found the one thing he thought he had lost back at the Golden Lotus. Officer Miller had naively retrieved it for him.

Then getting into position, there was a clatter to his left – a trash can crashed to the ground. Spooked, Morioka spun to face him, keeping a strong grip on the officer. A crazy smile crept on his face.

“Well, well, if it ain’t the man of the hour. You’ve made some very important people very worried. Got a lot of explaining to do,” Morioka laughed, his eyes slightly wild – he was unbalanced finding him here, but clearly seemed to think he had the upper hand.

Silently, Yukihiro cursed his own tiredness and ineptitude, but his aim didn’t waver, his breathing stayed steady.

“Don’t owe you any explanation Jareth. You could do me favour though. Explain why you think it such a good idea to capture some civilian, who knows nothing. What’s going on with that?”

“What’s going on? Your fucking crazy ex-boyfriend has fucking gun to my head, that’s what’s going on!” Joel snapped, emotions bursting out. Rationality didn’t seem to be able to keep him quiet, and will to live may not have yet kicked in. “What the hell are you two doing? When did your English get this good?”

“Me, his crazy ex? Please, nephew. If I’d been fucking little Yuki-chan over there and thought you two were on the down-low behind my back, I’d have bludgeoned you to death in that john, sprayed your fucking brains across the wall,” Morioka hissed, right into Joel’s ear. “I’m using a gun, so this is just business.”

The low growl of an engine could be heard, not far away. It sounded like it was having trouble starting up. He’d have to end this soon, before more civilians got involved.

“If it’s just business, then ease up on the civilian. No need for business to be so ugly,” Yukihiro said, not backing down, scuffling very slowly towards their position.

“Why little Yuki, have you been mixing some pleasure in on the side of your business? Is that why you got such a hard-on for that idiot Suzuki? Come on man, he’s been a street runner since your age. He ain’t gonna progress, he’s a joke. And you followed the guy around like a whipped little puppy. Made us laugh, I can…”

The window pane of the green Jeep behind them cracked and partially shattered. Joel went as white as a sheet, staring at a point beyond them and Morioka’s aim wavered, fury in his eyes.

“Chrissakes you guys, so not a good idea right now…” he could vaguely hear Joel say in a strangled tone, the Mountie’s stance becoming very loose.

“YOU, SHUT UP! AND YOU, THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU, OHNO?” Morioka bellowed. “I have your Mountie friend here with a gun in his ribcage, you do not want to play this kind of game with me! You’ve not got the leverage here!”

“I don’t miss, Morioka,” Yukihiro heard himself say, slowly, audibly, taking aim again. He banished the quavering he felt inside from his voice. “You know I don’t shoot to miss. But maybe jet lag has made you slow, so I’ll explain it to you, nice and simple, the situation that YOU are in. If the Mountie had had anything to do with this, he’d have a red hole in the middle of his forehead right now. He’d be a liability. You know what that word means, don’t you? ‘Useless’ or a ‘problem’. You know I am a trouble-shooter, right? I take care of ‘problems.’ So you must understand, I have no problem with removing a liability.

“He is a nobody. Just was in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and you are just grasping at straws so Eddie won’t spank your ass when you come back empty-handed. So be a smart boy, let the civilian go and run home to your master,” he continued, not bothering to hide his derision.

If he had been anywhere but standing in front of Morioka, and trying to make sure he had a clean, fatal shot at him, Yukihiro could have laughed his ass off at his face. The way the rage bubbled, his face turned purple in frustration. Probably wasn’t even because Yukihiro had made it clear he’d take out the civilian if he had to, just wounded pride plain and simple. Jareth Morioka did not like to look stupid – he liked his reputation.

“You two seriously, keep it down and knock it off,” Joel said, a tremble creeping into his voice.

Yukihiro resisted the great temptation to roll his eyes at the civilian’s whining. He would have thought that a little more gratitude would be in order, remarks about liabilities aside. People could get over-emotional and take things like that to heart sometimes.

“Do you ever keep quiet? You are very outspoken for someone who has two guns trained on him and has been told he is collateral damage,” he heard himself snap.

“Do not DARE think you can fuck me over like this Ohno, I have the upper hand here!” Morioka roared, shaking his gun. Why didn’t the moron just try and open fire already, so Yukihiro could get a clear shot at him? He was like a Hollywood villain, all with talking and not acting.

“That would be because a grizzly bear just wandered into the parking lot,” Joel replied very softly, jerking his head behind them, sheer terror and panic slowly creeping across his face.

“Grizzly-te, nani wo?”

“For fuck’s… how dumb do we…”

Maybe one day, he would look back and find the whole thing quite funny.

On cue, both Yukihiro and Morioka glanced in the direction Joel had indicated, towards an old beat-up Land Rover. A very large bear had wandered onto the parking lot, just as Joel had pointed out. It was huge and smelly, and its fur was matted, and it stared at the three men dully, as if slightly perplexed to find them in what was clearly a parking lot aimed at bears and not human beings toting silencers. There was a half chewed fish flapping in its great big jaws.

But it couldn’t be an actual bear, right? They only roamed around free near the Arctic Circle and Hokkaido. Yukihiro felt shock slowly seep through him. He’d been in fire fights, seen attack dogs used for security. But bears were cooed over by high school girls, and sat in department store windows with ribbons round their necks. They did not stare at him dully, clearly pondering which part of him would make for the best eating. And didn’t they sleep in the winter?

 “Just… don’t do anything to startle it. If we stay quiet and not move very quickly, hopefully it’ll just retreat into the forest or leave us alone. Whatever you do, do NOT antagonise it or run away fast, or it’ll think you’re prey and attack you,” Joel whispered, shifting to his left and away from the bear slightly – Morioka was rather preoccupied and released his hold on him.

He hadn’t gotten any brighter though.

“Pair of spineless… the hell are your balls? I’ll deal with this!” Morioka shouted, shifting forward.

He shoved Joel aside roughly, and leapt forward and swung round to aim, firing at the bear several times in rapid succession. Joel crashed to the ground, and sliding along the parking lot for a few feet on his stomach. But most of the shots buzzed straight past the bear and over its head, with only one grazing its paw, impacting in the side of the Land Rover, tearing up the windows.

“Uh oh.

The bear roared, and reared up onto its hind legs. Charging Morioka, it smashed him onto the ground, it’s great maw hanging wide open. For some reason, Yukihiro couldn’t really see what was happening. Next thing he knew, he was flat on his ass, pain throbbed through his side. Maybe if he stayed low, the bear wouldn’t see him, maybe…

Strangled screams tore through his ears as he futilely began to try and crawl backwards, visceral gurgling noises. Yukihiro hadn’t dealt with nature before – the animals he dealt with were rarely so… focused. They could be felled by a bullet, not an entire clip. Blood began to dribble towards him.

Suddenly, very dark blue eyes were in his face, storm. A hand clamped around his shoulder, and lifted him up roughly by the front of his warm parka. Things became fast again.

“MOVE! ON YOUR FEET!” hissed Joel.

Yukihiro stumbled at first, the pain in his side beginning to grow worse. The grip stayed there on his shoulder, pulling him along and away from the carnage. He wanted to glance back, Morioka’s screams of pain were ringing in his ears.

But that grip wouldn’t let him turn, wouldn’t let him falter. It urged him to do what he had always done.

He tried to survive.

Chapter 11: You Outta Know

Index

Chapter 13: Linger

 

Vote For Cold Ghost on Top Web Fiction

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Author’s note: This is a work of fiction, and while I have done research in preparation for this novel, I cannot claim to know everything there is to know about bears.



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