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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?


Chapter 14: Tourniquet


Chapter 16: No-where To Run


Chapter 15: No Surprises

Knuckles white, Nathan gripped the steering wheel of his battered Citroen tightly. The heating was on, but it didn’t always fill the little car, and he still had his thick winter coat on. He eyed the house at the end of the driveway through a steamed window – there were a couple of cars parked outside, and all the ground levels lights were on. He could see figures flitting about inside.

“You know Hart, if you’re going to tell them, you’re gonna have to go up and knock on the door,” James said drily from the passenger side.

“Yeah, I know.”

That didn’t make it any easier though. Nothing was going to make this any easier.

“Let’s get this over with then.”

He’d left messages for Liu, but his father, Gao Zhou had cut down all lines of communication after what went down in the Golden Lotus. Said that his boy ‘needed rest’ – he would after receiving a pummelling, but it was pretty telling the way how everyone was playing dumb. The local families were disgruntled about interference from out-of-towner gangsters. There’d probably be some kind of reprisal, but they’d lie low while a cop operation this size was running. They’d want revenge, but they wouldn’t want to pique Organised Crime Unit’s interest.

Whatever the real name was of the guy who had taken Joel, all evidence pointed to a connection of some kind with the Gao family, and some kind of power struggle inside Asian-American gangs.

And time was rapidly ticking out for finding Joel alive.

Nathan kept a fairly brisk pace up the driveway. He heard the metallic slap of door hitting frame, and another pair footsteps crunching behind him. So James was coming with him then.

He tried to keep his cool as he knocked on the door, three times, rapid succession. Christ, he knew that he had to inform the family, but like this? Half of the damn clan had to be still congregated there.

The red door swung open, and an older teen opened the door, in baggy t-shirt and cargos. The blue grey eyes, they were very familiar though. The second he saw Nathan’s face, his brows scrunched up, and skinny arms crossed across his chest.

“He ain’t here.”

Nathan sighed. He didn’t want to have to do this.

“Michael, can you please get your-“

“He isn’t here, and don’t bother going to the cabin,” Mikey barked, moving back to slam the door in Nathan’s face.

James stepped up, and held up his badge. The indignant anger on Mikey’s face seemed to fade to confusion.

“Detective Max James. I understand that this the home of Mr Brian and Mary Miller, parents of Joel Miller, a ranger with the Ontario Park Ranger service. I’m assuming you’re Joel’s brother? Young man, myself and Detective Hart need to speak with your parents, please. We’re here on official business.”

Wow. James was much better with kids than Nathan had given him credit for. Now confusion gave way to fear, and Mikey slowly stepped aside to let the cops in, before bellowing “DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAD, MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM.” A deep irony was that the force didn’t like having Nathan too close to task force activity on this case, but they were more than happy for him to have to do this.

The world seemed to fade away a little, as Mr and Mrs Miller invited them into the living room. They tried to usher Mikey away with his younger cousins who had been playing some board game, but he insisted. A much older man, Nathan assumed to be Joel’s granddad or great uncle of some kind, shepherded the cousins and some of the adults away.

An awkward silence hung for a few moments. Mr and Mrs Miller held hands tightly. James was silent, letting Nathan take the lead on this one.

It didn’t feel real. He’d sat across a table from Mr and Mrs Miller before, nice couple, very accepting of Joel and they’d always made Nathan feel welcome. He shouldn’t be here, telling them that their son had been kidnapped, or at least, that was what they though. They should have passed it onto Violent Crimes, the damn case had landed on them first.

When Mrs Miller started weep silently, in shock, and Mikey wrapped his arms around his mom, staring blankly at both detectives, it didn’t feel like Nathan’s life. No, no-one had contacted them about Joel, no demands or ransoms had come through. Yes, they would accept a police officer on stand-by. But, why, that was what Mr Miller wanted to know. He said it over and over. Nathan wondered if his old man would have gotten half as choked up as this, and decided Joel was a lucky bastard in many things.

“Since, no demands have been made Sir, we can’t narrow that down. As we understand, one of the men involved might have escaped from the university hospital…” Nathan said quietly, feeling helpless.

“Escaped from a hospital? Like a psychiatric ward?” Mikey snapped. Both detectives heard the implication, but it was Super James who leapt in to save the day.

“We’re not really at liberty to discuss too many of the details, since there are still things we’re trying to verify,” James said flatly, giving them the usual official line. “We realise you must feel very frightened and frustrated at this time, and obviously everything that can be done to get Joel back is being done. But we need your family to be vigilant as well, report anything strange…”

“You don’t know what’s going on, do you.” Mrs Miller looked frail and defeated; she looked Nathan right in the eye, refusing to back down or let James diffuse. “You don’t know if…”

Pain burned in Nathan’s throat. He hated this, feeling weak, feeling unprofessional. Other things should concern him when some nut had kidnapped his ex, but he hated seeing Joel’s family like this. He felt like it was his fault somehow, like there was something he could have done and… No. He had to stop thinking useless thoughts now.

“I promise you Mrs Miller, Mary, we’ll do what we can to bring him home. But we can’t think why he’d be taken, apart from being in the wrong place at the wrong time. That’s why important for you to think hard about Joel, if he was in any trouble or you suspected any trouble.

I know he was a smart guy, always dependable. But if you can think of anything odd that might have happened, you have to let us know. We’re doing everything that we can and…”

Other blandishments poured out. Standard procedure: don’t promise them the moon, but prepare them for the worst. James helped with that. Nathan hated it, hated that he was having this conversation about someone real. It was the first time a conversation like that felt so real and yet so numb.

Uniforms would be coming over later, and someone higher up in Organised Crimes would set up a mini-base at their house, just in case someone called with demands. The grandfather and grandmother came back in a little while later, deciding firmly that they would stay and the other relatives could sod off. As soon as a uniform car rolled up the street, Nathan and his partner took the opportunity to melt away politely.

It wasn’t until angry drivers started to honk at him when he stalled on Bloor Street that he started to feel again. He was aware vaguely of James shouting at him, asking him what the hell was going on. Was he okay? Just pull off into this side street, easy does it. He even helped him steer a little, and then they sat in silence for a while, until the burning pain in his throat subsided a little.

“We need to get him back… I swear Max, this isn’t a creepy ex thing. Just, fuck man, what if this is all my fault?” Nathan heard himself mutter hoarsely.

“Nate…” James hadn’t seen him like this in a while now. “Man, don’t think like that. You know what this was, it’s just bad luck. It’s like you told his family, we’re doing everything we can, pumping every damn lead. Don’t kick yourself like this.”

“Yeah, but is it gonna be enough?”

Chapter 14: Tourniquet


Chapter 16: No-where To Run


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