Author’s Notes: I do heartily apologise for the late delivery of this chapter. Recently I have started a new job IRL, and I’ve had to do a lot of planning for it and I’ve sadly neglected updating Cold Ghost. Things have been very stressful, and I’ve had a lot of things to prepare and it’s not left me much time for myself on many levels.
I’m hoping that from now on I can learn how to balance the two, as well as my own personal life. I hope that my readers do enjoy this chapter. The new chapter will go live roughly two weeks from now. Thank you so much for all your support.
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 14: Tourniquet
Today was not going to be a good day. Joel realised he should have figured this out when the snows let up and actually let him head out when he wanted to. The phone call from James probably should have been a pretty big hint as well, but it wasn’t like he could have foreseen that.
He couldn’t exactly have foreseen being held at gun point by some nut job gangster either.
After the… incident in the parking lot, his memory was patchy. Joel had a vague memory of Nathan blathering about how high-stress situations could do that, push the limits of people physically and mentally, meaning they could do some really cool and strong stuff, and then not remember it twenty four hours or twelve hours later.
Now, he sat on a sofa in some tiny motel, in some tiny town just off a highway, with a very haggard freak huddled beside the bed on the floor, eye-balling him and pointing a gun at him. Joel had tried to insist they take refuge at a local sheriff’s office, but as soon as he to press his point, Ohno or whatever the hell his name was pressed a gun into his side and demanded they go somewhere quiet and warm.
“You really need to ease up with that thing man, you could get someone hurt with it. Just put it down, and I can get you a doctor.”
He’d been pleading with him like this for five minutes, trying to keep any quiver out of his voice.
“No. I’ve been to doctors, it’s not much safer than the wilderness… I’m not stupid. I know you will contact police as soon as you’re out of my sight,” he mumbled, the sight of the gun faltering.
Never before in his life had Joel been torn between sheer terror and pure frustration. His arguments for why Joel couldn’t move from the room had been changing every five minutes since they had got in, his eyes were over-bright. At the same time, arguments some how sounded more concrete when waving a gun around.
“Then at least me take a look at your injuries, make sure they’re not bad. I’m a First Aider at my work. No funny business, yeah?”
‘Please Lord, let me have left the bear tranquilisers in the First Aid, let me have been lazy…’ he silently prayed. Ohno had insisted he emptied the back of the truck of any valuables when they got the room book, his work’s first aid kit amongst the baggage from Christmas.
“How can I trust you? You could still pull funny business,” Ohno wheezed.
“YOU can’t trust ME? Buddy, you do realise you can wave that damn gun at me as much as you want, it’s not going to stop you from bleeding out if your stitches burst earlier,” Joel heard himself say coldly, still holding his hands at eye level. “During your little standoff with Fredo, yeah? And if your stitches are burst, I’m the only thing that will make the difference between you bleeding out here and you walking away in the morning. I can kill you by doing bugger all.”
That seemed to click in. He seemed to understand ‘bleeding out’ anyway, since as soon as it was out from Joel’s lips, the gun’s aim faltered. He squinted up at him, before letting out a deep breath from his nose, and slowly lowering the gun to sit it on top of the bed, releasing his finger from the trigger.
Two soft words could be heard. “You win.”
Joel let go of the breath he didn’t know he was holding in, and gently slid the gun across the bed covers and hopefully out of “Yuki-chan’s” reach.
So why was he bothering to help, when he could easily get out of all of it just by letting Ohno tire himself out. Why was he bothering to help when he was ‘expendable’.
He didn’t even know how to fix stitches.
“If you want to take off your shirt, I’ll check the bandages,” he heard himself say. He sounded a hell of a lot calmer than he actually was.
At this point, one of Ohno’s eyebrows shot up, even though he was very obviously appeared to be tiring and pale. Did he have an accurate gaydar, or was he just a bit of a prude? Joel rolled his eyes – he was happy to wave a pistol around, but he was afraid of needles and stitches.
“Don’t flatter yourself,” Joel said, not bothering to keep annoyance from his voice. “I can’t exactly cut patches out of your damn shirt, now can I? I need to see the bandages in order to check them, so take of the shirt. It’s not like you’ve got anything I haven’t seen before.”
As he started to strip it off with a rather resigned air and Joel helped him sit on the bed, it turned out that he had a few things that he hadn’t seen before.
Little, round puckered scars that had tiny purple lines running through them – he had a few of those on his arm and his upper chest. Some were new, and some had to be a few years old. Given that Joel put his age at around his early twenties at the latest, this was pretty frightening. One or two long scars, like he’d been badly cut on his fore arms, maybe it was evidence of knife fights. He had the physique of someone who did a lot of physical work – not in a creepy, bodybuilder way. Just a lot of muscle across a compact build.
The piece de resistance was a grand full-back tattoo: of great orange and red and yellow fires, an angry man with a dragon who was gnawing on the innards of lots of little men, who quite rightly look horrified, terrified. Some of the dragon’s coils knotted along his side, but a lot of those were covered by the bandages and gauze pads. It looked like it had taken some time to complete.
It wasn’t until Ohno spoke again, that Joel realised he’d been staring at the rather morbid tattoo for a little while.
“Is the damage very bad then?”
Joel remembered he was meant to be surveying the bandages, not Ohno’s body. Oh crap. Hunkering down, he ran his hands across the bandages gently, probing for any fissures, looking the signs of burst stitches. Ohno’s face was very pale though, his breathing even seemed to be a little bit laboured.
“I, uh… don’t really know. I mean, what I mean is that I can’t see any bleeding, feels like the stitches are holding…”
“It hurts like hell,” Ohno snapped, enunciating each word roughly. “Been getting worse all day.”
A thought occurred to Joel that he supposed should have occurred to him much earlier on.
“Well, you were on some very heavy pain killers before… Intravenous ones… And before that you were asleep for a few days. You’re probably tripping up because you’re coming down from whatever you were on in the hospital, and you’ve been pushing yourself hard,” he mused aloud.
The assassin grunted and began ease his shirt back on again. He already seemed to be getting worse.
“Shimatta… Tabun mou chotto kangaeta wake da,” he grumbled – Joel had no idea if he was swearing or if he was constructing a concierto.
“Look man, I’ve not got that kind of stuff on me… obviously… But I’ve got some extra strength ibuprofen,” Joel continued, kneeling away to go through the first-aid box. You weren’t really supposed to carry pain killers in first aid kits, but Joel got lazy with tidy-ups on occasion.
Ohno shook his head, a greenish cast starting to come over his cheeks.
“No… I can’t get dull. Morioka might be dealt with, but that doesn’t mean we’re safe out here,” he said, reclining back on the bed.
“Well duh, the entire Ontario Police Force is going to be looking for us, especially if they ever find that guy’s remains,” Joel snapped, the stress of the situation over-taking his common sense once again.
A tiny part of his mind realised that was happening a little too often now. Why was he even trying to help this psycho anyway? Was he complicit in a murder now? Did it even count as murder if the weapon was an enraged and confused bear?
An awkward silence sprang up. Joel didn’t really notice it until after he had snapped shut the first aid box and put the pain killers away beside his duffle bag. Looking up and glancing over his shoulder, Ohno had tried to slouch up and was staring at him intensely.
“You weren’t talking about cops.”
That was a statement of fact.
“I really was not talking about cops, no. Where I’m from… Well, this is usually the kind of thing they’d let us handle internally.”
‘Handle internally’? What the hells-ass-balls?
“Why are cops after me? I have committed no crime, at least not in this country,” Ohno demanded, a calm, cold gaze boring into Joel. He tried not to gulp.
“The hell if I know, but I saw your APB on the television. They’ve handed out your photo to local news networks, so it’s only a matter of time now,” Joel blurted, staring down at the bags.
The lie came to him easier than he would have liked to have admitted, but given the situation and the crack about cops in his home country, he didn’t feel too bad. Maybe if he just dropped hints, maybe he could talk the guy into letting him go. It wasn’t like he had anything to gain by holding onto him.
Of course the whole ‘expendable’ thing meant that Ohno might be amenable to getting rid of him in a much more literal way, especially if there were people besides the cops looking for them. He’d have to dodge that as well.
Hissing and slamming his fist down on a bedside table, Ohno began to spill out a strain of venomous sounding syllables, before burying his face in his hands for a few moments. Joel stayed still – maybe if he stayed very still, he’d forget about him? Eventually, Ohno looked up again, that same intense, calm look he seemed to have most of the time.
“I don’t want to ask who the other people are, do I.” Joel had figured this one out all on his own.
Ohno shook his head, an almost mournful look, almost as if he had a regret.
“It’s better for you if I say very little. Although since you went to the foolish effort of saving me at the parking, they will already assume the worst,” Ohno replied, shrugging. “They will assume you are involved too.”
“WHAT? Now wait just a minute, I…”
Ohno swiped his hand in a curt manner, as if to cut Joel off. Picking up his gun once more, he fiddled with it, checking the cartridge. At least Joel assumed that’s what it was called for that model – they were allowed rifles at his office, but they were pretty old models.
“Yes, yes I know you are not my friend, and you know you are not. But your opinion counts very little in this occasion, Officer Miller. If I may call you that? You see… how to put this… I have something. There are powerful people who want to take it. I think that much you could have figured out for yourself, so I don’t think I am making your situation more dangerous when I tell you this. But this people will assume that either you know what they want and what I have done and are an accomplice, or you are very greedy and you are an accomplice. They’ll want to kill you to.
“However, I still have some things that I must do. I think I have just enough time and not much more to get them done… If you help me, then I’ll see to it you’re… expunged as my associate. Is that how you call it?” he said, rather dispassionately, all while seemingly cleaning out his gun.
Joel thought that was what he was doing, but in all honesty, he was operating in auto-pilot and still hadn’t gotten over the whole ‘assuming you’re involved too’ shtick. He’d never even got so much as a parking ticket before, and he was vaguely aware of the fact he was gaping at this arrogant git.
“Why can’t you expunge me now?” he eventually croaked.
Ohno sighed, and muttered under his breath in venomous syllables again before continuing in English: “Because the other thing that I cannot tell you in detail about must happen before the sponging. I do this thing, then I can get you off. People will owe me favours, you will have real protection. But right now, all I can do is shoot others before the shoot me or you.”
Rather than correcting his sponging – didn’t really seem to be the time or place – Joel tried to contain his own irritation. The situation was simply beyond surreal now, and while normally he had confidence in himself, the prospect of trying to run away from this guy and get to safety in this weather… That probably wasn’t happening, even if he was vulnerable. He still had that frigging massive cannon he was cleaning.
“So basically, I have to take you at your word that you’re going to protect me from… whatever, until you’ve completed your mission? After you kidnap me, and hold me at gun point?”
Ohno gave him a look – the look evil overlords everywhere must have thrown at their hapless minions.
“No, I have priorities First things are first – where do we find food in a run-down dump like this, and where do I get clippers and pharmacy?”