E-Mail: notmanos at yahoo dot com
Disclaimer: The characters of Angel are owned by 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy; the------------------------------------------------
character of Wolverine is also owned by 20th Century Fox and Marvel Comics. No copyright
infringement intended. I'm not making any money off of this, but if you'd like to be a patron of the
arts, I won't object. ;-) Oh, and Bob is *my* character - keep your hands off!
Logan looked around at the small clearing,a weedy field that now contained the remains of a foundation that used to be his home,and little more than a handful of ashes.There was nothing here but pain,memories that threatened to surface but never did,and he had nothing to show for it but the crumbling corner of a desecrated book.
And Bob might have photos...
Logan wiped his sooty hands off on the legs of his jeans,the phone wedged between his ear and shoulder,and said,"If I make good time I should be there tomorrow."
"Are you sure?You could wait until I confirm-"
"There's nothing for me here,"he admitted,feeling a slight twinge in his stomach.He had had hopes of something here, some great epiphany,some surge of remembrance,but this place was as ruined and empty as most of his memory.
"All right.Be expectin' you,mate.Take care."
"Yeah,you too.Keep a fire extinguisher handy."
"Asbestos codpiece in place,"Bob said,with a bizarre amount of cheerfulness.
"You're a strange man,"Logan sighed,flipping the phone shut.
Now that he knew where this place was,Logan was sure he could find it again.But he had no idea why he'd want to.
For the meantime,he was staying in a guest house at the back of the estate,and he was out in front of it,just beneath the cherry trees that blocked the view of the main house.The trees were still in bloom but were just about done for the season,so if the wind came up it swirled petals in the air that fell down around him like blush tinted snow.He never seemed to noticed.
She didn't know what exactly he was doing.It looked like some form of tai'chi,only he was doing it with a long, curved sword with an ornate black haft-supposedly something from Kajahara,passed on to him by his grandfather or father (it was not clear which,and he never clarified).He didn't use swords,though;just for meditation.He was tracing slow patterns through the air,moving as if he was underwater,dressed only in loose black pants,and she found watching him sort of hypnotic.
It didn't hurt that he had a really...impressive looking body.He was a bit hairy-she didn't like her guys that hairy-but there was no arguing with that chiseled chest ( in spite of the black fuzz of hair) and well muscled arms that would have been at home on a marble statue by a Renaissance artist.He had a nice back too,which struck her as funny;she never much thought about men's backs before.Sort of like men's butts:she didn't really know a good one when she saw it more than she knew a bad one when she saw it,but that was a damn nice back.He just looked strong,like he could kick some major ass.
"What's so interesting?"Ryuichi asked,putting down his paper and glancing out the window.Much to her parents horror,ever since he returned from UCLA,he insisted on being called 'Ryan',the nickname his American friends had given him.She could understand-she always thought her name was clumsy,but she never liked 'Mari' either.She was just unhappy with her name (her middle name,Sakamae ,was even worse).
Logan was in the shadows of the overhanging bows,but his sword caught a stray shaft of golden sunlight and reflected it back towards the house just as Ryan looked,making him flinch and turn away."What the fuck's he doing?"He asked crossly,rubbing his eyes.He was still stinging from being humiliated the night before last,and the burn from the gun barrel shoved against his head was still visible,even though he had changed the part in his hair in an attempt to cover it up.As far as she was concerned,it was the least he deserved;that was an asinine stunt he pulled,and they were so lucky Logan was not actually shot,although she still didn't know how Jubei could have missed at such close range.
"I think it's some form of meditation,"she said."Enhances the senses or something."She had guessed that last bit because it looked like he was keeping his eyes closed.He moved with a fluid,almost animal grace,like a tiger;you could even see those muscles rippling under the skin...
Okay,she needed to go on a date as soon as possible-when she was ogling strange,hairy Westerners,she knew it was bad.
He snorted derisively."Where does the sword come into it?"
She shrugged,turning her attention back to her French toast-a bad habit she had picked up at college.But there was nothing like starting a day with starch and maple syrup."I don't know.Maybe he's teaching himself to fight even while blind."
"Oh,that's bound to be useful,"he said,rolling his eyes.
"When you can't even fight sighted,I'm not sure you're allowed to comment,"she noted wryly,helping herself to a forkful of toast.
She kept her eyes on her plate to try and keep from laughing,aware he was probably giving her the evil look that made him look exactly like a petulant five year old who had just missed out on a cookie."Oh,fuck you,Mari.If you're such a world class butt kicker,join the security staff."
"I never said I was great,I'm just better than you,"she pointed out,grinning in lieu of laughing.When she was going to UCLA-Berkeley,there was a rapist running around the campus,so she and a few girlfriends took a self-defense course,but she had never really had to use it.Yet the fact that she knew any fighting techniques at all put her far ahead of Ryan,who couldn't even win a slap fight with an old woman.
"Too bad you weren't born a boy,"he said snidely.
She kicked him sharply in the shin underneath the table,feeling a surge of old anger at that.
"Ow!"He yelped,shoving his chair back and making a show of grabbing his leg."That hurt,damn it!"
"Good,now you know how I feel,"she snapped,looking back at Logan as she felt a flush of angry heat rise to her face.
She was older than Ryan by two and a half years-not a huge gap,but the business should have fallen to her when the Takabes car bomb killed their mother and permanently crippled and disfigured their father two months ago.But her family was hopelessly old fashioned,and seemed to think a woman could not run the family business-even though she was the one with the degree in business administration,not Ryan (he had majored in getting high-he managed to squeak by with a liberal arts degree,and not even he was sure what that was),and even her father had come to her for financial advice (on the sly) before the attack.And now she was basically running the family business behind the scenes because Ryan couldn't make decision one.He was resistant to dropping the drug running and black market portion of the family business,which she felt was a necessity-Yashida Consolidated was making enough money that they could go permanently legitimate,and she felt with a few reforms she could tighten Consolidated into a great profit maker that would more than make up for the loss of the black market sales.But she was just a 'woman'-what the hell did she know?
God,she hated it.She hated being dismissed as stupid and weak because she was a woman,when she knew goddamn well she was the brains of this family.If this was the U.S.,she could sue over this blatant discrimination.
Logan had stopped,lowering the sword slowly to his side,and then moved at normal speed for the first time in fifteen minutes.He looked up in the direction of the second floor dining room's bay window and frowned,eyes wide open. She knew he couldn't see them-not only was it too far away,but the way the early morning sunlight was hitting the outside of the window would make the glare painful.But she knew,with the slightest of shocks,that he knew he was being watched from here.How?
Who exactly was he?
They had found precious little information on any of the Logans;they were like shadows,like ghosts,as if they didn't actually exist at all.The name on his passport was 'Logan Smith',but if that was his real name,her name was Jane Doe.He had told her he just liked being called Logan,without supplying another name (or indicating whether that was a first or family name),and it made her wonder what he was running from.Maybe he was a fugitive,or perhaps just on the run from something (or somebodies) less than legal-but could she talk?Her family was hip deep in corruption;if he was a wanted man,she could hardly point fingers.
He had some story to tell,she knew that.There was something constantly lurking in the back of his green eyes, something haunted,and she just bet he was a living storehouse of secrets,secrets he would probably never tell.She had some secrets of her own-she wondered if he'd be willing to trade.
"Do we even know we can trust him?"Ryan asked,still sounding petulant,as he followed her gaze out the window. Logan was no longer looking up here-he had turned away,and was walking back to the guest house.She was surprised to find she was a little disappointed the show was over.
"Now you bring that up,"she sighed,watching his retreating back.Yes,very nice;he sort of walked like a tiger too,didn't he?Not so much walked as stalked,head down and shoulders high,padding barefoot over the grass and confetti of blossoms.He looked like a predatory beast of some sort,at any rate,and she found something deeply unsettling about that.But why?He was clearly human.Right?
"Well,if he took money from us,the Takabe's could buy him for a better price."
"He's not doing this for the money,"she snapped impatiently.She figured if he actually played by some of the quaintly old fashioned samurai rules,he'd be offended by the offer of cash (and she bet her life on it that he did-standing in the doorway of the bar and assuming he would never hurt an innocent),and he was,though even he seemed surprised by the amount of the offer (although in yen,at current conversion rates it was the equivalent of fifty thousand dollars American).Before he could storm off,she leveled with him:yes,they were desperate,and yes,they weren't exactly free of corruption.But they were working to fix that,and yet the Takabes were hunting them down and killing them like dogs-like they had already murdered her mother,seven cousins,a great uncle,two great aunts,thirteen employees,and her grandmother,and permanently crippled and disfigured their father-and because most of the police were on the Takabe payroll,there was no help there..The genuine tears in her eyes made him pause, and she thought she saw,for a moment,something like empathy in his eyes;she thought he had perhaps lost people to violence too.She was sure he wouldn't have said no,even before Ryan piped up-finally finding his voice again-and mentioned the blood debt the Kajaharas owed the Yashidas.
That was honestly questionable-somewhere in antiquity,possibly the time of Akira Kajahara,or even before-a Yashida spared the life of a Kajahara when he didn't have to,deciding to leave it as a 'debt' to be paid in the future. But the Yashidas never had cause to call on the debt...until now.
Of course,no Kajahara was technically obligated to pay it,and certainly not Logan;he wasn't really Kajahara blood. Maybe his father or grandfather (again,that was never made clear in any records,although judging from the physical description,Logan looked a lot like his father/grandfather) was 'adopted' into the ways of the samurai by Akira Kajahara-who had never married and had no direct descendants-but that did not make him responsible to pay his debts,be they legal or archaic old fashioned 'societal' ones.
But something about Logan,as tough and quasi-bestial as he seemed,still struck her as noble;that hideous 'noble savage' archetype come to life.When he said he'd have to think about it and get back to them,Ryan was sure they had blown it,but she had a feeling they would see him again,so therefore she was not surprised when he showed up on the estate the next day (somehow completely bypassing security-Ryan thought that meant their security was a joke,but she thought that just showed how good he really was).
He had caveats,though:they had to follow his instructions and orders to the letter,and they had to clean up the business.If they agreed to those terms,he would work for them.Ryan balked at the business request,but she instantly agreed,and evil eyed Ryan until he gave in.Although it didn't exactly follow the old samurai rules,she had a legal contract drawn up and everyone signed it,just to keep things on an even playing field-both to keep Logan in line,and to keep Ryan to the "cleaning up the business" promise.
She still remembered Logan giving her a queer look,and then whispering to her,as Ryan briefly argued with their lawyer:"You're the smart one-why ain't you running this place?"
She grimaced,and whispered back bitterly,"I'm not man enough."
He shrugged,and replied quietly,before turning away:"You're more manly than him."
It was really hard for her to keep her laugh disguised as a sudden coughing fit,but she managed somehow,despite the impatient look Ryan gave her.Poor Ryan-maybe he was born the 'right' gender,but someone forgot to sprinkle in the brain cells.
"You're sure about that?"Ryan continued,rubbing his shin.Oh come on,she didn't kick him that hard.What a big baby."It could all be an act,you know."
"Like you acting like you run the business?"She asked pointedly,gazing into his eyes.
He scowled at her,trying to look evil but simply managing to look like a thwarted child again."The hell with you, Mari.This is my business whether you like it or not."
"We'd be bankrupt in a day if I left any decision up to you."
"Then why don't you?"He snapped,taking a stiff gulp of his Scotch.That was his idea of breakfast:'hair of the dog' and cigarettes.She didn't want to call him a hopeless alcoholic,but they both knew he was on his way if he wasn't there already.He was bad before,but ever since the car bombing that killed Mom and left Dad a virtual vegetable,it had gotten worse,and really,when it came down to it,she couldn't blame him.
Ryan looked away from her,back out the window,where sunlight spilled over the wide green expanse of lawns, small well tended garden beds,and opulent cherry trees,which had been her mother's favorite.Logan was no longer anywhere to be seen."Maybe we'll fall apart before the Takabes even have a chance to finish us off,"he muttered,in a rare moment of self-reflection.
"That's not going to happen,"she insisted,even though she knew she was just hoping out loud.
Finally he turned back to her,looking sober,which was also rare for him."Keep an eye on the gaijin.At least until we know we can trust him."
"Why me?"She protested.
"Because I'm sure he can outsmart nearly everyone around here,but not you,"he admitted reluctantly."You'd have to be some kind of Superman to outsmart you,Mare."
That was the nicest thing Ryan had ever said to her.
Los Angeles-Present Day
He tried to stifle a yawn,and reached for his soda,which he downed in a single gulp-he preferred his caffeine cold as opposed to hot.Coffee smelled good,but it always tasted like industrial grade paint thinner to him,no matter what they added to it to make it more palatable.One drink of coffee and he would swear he could feel his stomach lining just peeling away.
Bob found something on a Japanese website about Yashida Consolidated (which was acquired in a takeover by a financial group known as Takashi-Ryune in the early '80's,and technically no longer existed),but it seemed to be pure p.r. spin,nothing really honest.But right now he was just trying to confirm suspicions;thanks to his voluminous contacts,he had a lot of info on the bloody gang war that destroyed Yashida Consolidated and the Takabes interwoven nets of businesses.And he wasn't sure how much to tell Logan,and when.
Gods,this was going to hurt him.
He'd had more pain than any man had a right to put up with,and Bob really didn't want to make it worse.But he had said he'd try to find something of his past,knowing full well it might be very ugly indeed.Still,he hadn't expected to find so much so soon,and something quite as bloody,nasty,and messy as this.
But the big question,the one that kept him from getting too much sleep last night,was how much he should tell him about the very ugly death of the woman Bob suspected had been Logan's wife.
Nasty business.The cruelty of people oftentimes surpassed demons,which should have been surprising but wasn't. Many demons had the excuse that what seemed cruel to people was just a natural function for them,something in their genes-but most people didn't have that excuse,and yet they came up with the most hideous tortures imaginable, things that would give pain demons orgasms of ecstasy.It made him wonder sometimes why he even bothered with people.
No,he knew;he had humans in his family,and he did not turn his back on family.But sometimes humans could leave him so disillusioned.
There was a familiar rap on the office door,and before he could say a word,it opened and Helga peeked her head in. "Hey old man,"she said,weariness reflected in her voice and usually sharp jade green eyes.She only knew a few fragments of this story,but even she had an idea how ugly it was.
"Hey hon.Find something?"
"Yeah,"she admitted,entering the room and closing the door with her tail.She was dressed conservatively for her- a red tank top that contrasted with her dark green skin and only showed a little bit of her cleavage,low riding,baggy green cargo pants,and open toed sandals-but then she'd been hitting some of her old merc haunts in search of information.
Anticipating her,he shoved his chair back from his desk,and she came over and carefully straddled him,sitting on his lap but facing him,positioning herself with practiced care so she didn't crush his balls (neither of them would have been terribly happy about that).She rested her forehead against his-she had had a long night too-and he stroked her soft green hair until she was ready to talk."Dickeye said there's a new player in town,"she said quietly,referring to a busybody Rohas demon who saw absolutely nothing wrong with that colorful nickname."Who's taken over the heroin smuggling racket from overseas.All he really knows about the guy is that he has ties to the Yakuza,and everybody believes he's responsible for the death of the old smack lord,who died in a real suspicious fire last month.His huge Bel Air mansion went up in smoke in under an hour,killing him and five other people inside,two of whom haven't been identified yet because there was almost nothing left but a few random bones and teeth.The arson investigators figured some super volatile accelerant had been used to spread the fire so fast,like napalm or rocket fuel,but they never found a trace of chemicals."
Bob nodded,but carefully so he didn't accidentally headbutt her."So fire woman not only works for a drug kingpin, but can also light things as well as people on fire.Lovely.Do they have names?"
"He didn't know them-the Yakuza connection's freaked everyone out.But I have a connection down in Chinatown who knows everything there is to know about the players in the Asian drug market,and I'm expecting her to get in touch with me any time now."
After a moment,where she ran her cool hands through his hair and he slid his hands down to the small of her back,she asked,"How does Logan factor into this exactly?"
"Well,we have two possibilities:this new drug family are connected to the Bloody Friday incident,and have a score to settle,or it's simply a case of someone not wanting the ghosts of the past dug up for some reason."
"Cover up?Of something even worse than a massacre?"She sighed."I love how nothing is ever simple."
"Well,it keeps things interesting."
"Do you think they'll want to bury Logan if they know he's still alive?"
The million dollar question.The ultimate irony was,if he was indeed the Yashida's Westerner samurai,he had absolutely no memory of it.But would some distant family member with an unreasonable grudge or a desire to see this relegated completely to the graveyard of history care about that?The fact that Logan was still in existence would be considered a threat.
Would they not learn from their past though?Both the Takabes and the Yashidas had underestimated Logan,and they paid a bloody price for that mistake.Maybe that's why 'firestarter' would play a big role in any move against him- mutant against mutant.In theory,it was a good idea,but they had made no contingency plans for the likes of him and Helga,and Bob knew that,even with drug money and possible Yakuza backing (although it was equally possible it was a rumor spread to back others off),the battle was completely lopsided in their favor.After all,Logan had survived everything they threw at him twenty five years ago,and he and Helga weren't about to be taken down by a bunch of penny ante mobsters.Hell,it'd be surprising if either of them even broke a nail.
Bob heard the noise of the door knob being turned,the music from the bar's front room swelling louder as the door opened,and they both looked to see Logan look at them,and then instantly start closing the door."That'll teach me to knock,"he muttered.
"Come back,"Bob said,surprised he'd arrived so quickly.He was way away in Alberta when he called him yesterday.
"Yeah-if we were fooling around,I'd have locked the door,"Helga pointed out."Tetrass demons like to watch."
Logan looked at them both from the doorway as if they were insane and ticking him off because of it."That's more than I ever wanted to know,"he said,reluctantly coming back in.
Helga left his lap and sat on the corner of his desk as Logan tromped in,looking paradoxically tired and wired.There were dark crescents beneath sleepy looking green eyes,his dark hair scruffy and less pointy at the sides than usual (a good thing,as far as he was concerned),and Bob knew part of the reason Logan made such great time was that he skipped sleep altogether.From what he gathered,Logan did that quite a bit-mostly to avoid dreaming/remembering -but Logan also knew damn well he was almost completely invulnerable,and therefore saw nothing wrong with pushing himself over the limit time and time again:he'd always recover.It was absolutely no way to live,but some small part of Logan had a death wish,and he kept groping for it,hoping he'd find the right alchemy that would finally shut down his body's hyperactive survival response.Even Krek's success in doing so had not stopped him from flirting with self-destruction.
He was dressed as he seemed to be always dressed:worn,distressed
brown leather jacket over an open buffalo plaid flannel overshirt and a
tight black t-shirt that hinted at the really solid physique beneath;worn,aged
blue jeans,loose but with several worn spots a dozen or so threads away
from being holes;and brown leather work boots that probably
Logan didn't sit in the chair before his desk more than he collapsed back into it,sliding his small pack off his arm and letting it plop to the floor at his feet (plop,not thud-Logan continued to travel light)."Did you get any photos?" Logan asked,not even bothering with foreplay.But he rather liked that about him-as much as Bob enjoyed the meandering preamble,usually if only to annoy others,there was something refreshing about someone who always wanted to cut to the chase.That's why he loved Helga.
"I'll check my email,"he said,sliding his chair back up to the desk so he could comfortably access his laptop."Kayley said she'd scan and send any that looked like something I might be looking for."
"You have email?Oh,I should have guessed."
"Sexgod at apple dot com,"Helga said,with a playful smirk.Well,hell,that had been her suggestion.
Logan stared at Bob in disbelief."You're kidding."
"No,she's not,"he assured him,as he accessed his mail page.Bob was tempted to tell him his password was 'ohmygodlookatthesizeofthat',but even if you were amused by your own jokes,you shouldn't share your passwords and let someone else use them.
"Mine's brazenhussy,"Helga offered,still grinning.That was true,and her password was 'littledick',because,to quote her,"No man would type that in a billion years".She had a very good point,and he used variations of that as passwords into his highly secured files-they had never been breached.Coincidence?
Logan actually cracked a rare smile at her."I could have almost guessed that."
"I bet you could,lover boy,"she said,giving him a flirtatious wink.
That had been the wrong thing to say.Helga was just teasing-she loved to tease-but Logan glanced down at the floor, looking almost embarrassed.He still felt bad for sleeping with her?What exactly did he have to do to prove he really didn't care that he had?Helga was a big girl,she could make her own decisions for Ganesha's sake.Oh well,just a human societal more' thing.
Logan had closed the door,but music was still leaking through,as well as Lia's occasional curses at various customers who were trying her admittedly slender patience.Without really being consciously aware of it,Bob started singing under his breath as he waited for his email to load;singing actually helped him think,although almost no one actually believed that."This body holding me reminds me of my own mortality.Embrace this moment. Remember,we are eternal,all this pain is an illusion."Bob then got an idea of what he was singing and shut the hell up.Considering everything he had to tell him,"Parabola" 's lyrics probably sounded inadvertently cruel.After all,did Logan really have a mortality,and did he need to be reminded he was quite possibly,worse case scenario,eternal?He didn't think Logan noticed,and he was glad.
"It looks like she came through for me,"he said aloud,glad he had something to say and cover up his musical faux pas."I have photos."
Logan was instantly up from his chair,and came around the desk to have a look,eyes alert and his whole being exuding anxiety,impatience,fear,and desire.He wanted to see the photos,but he was afraid of what he might or might not see,and yet he simply had to see-not looking at them was not an option.Bob's heart went out to him (because he knew the end result,and Logan didn't even know the beginning yet,did he?),and he hoped,if Logan did indeed turn up in these photos (and his wife?Shit,what if his wife was in them too?),it wasn't anything he'd regret seeing; something that would haunt his unquiet dreams.He had enough crap like that shoved in his subconscious.
The first photos seemed to be security camera stills from an underground garage (?) (did Japan have any of those?),underlit and not sharply focused,so it was impossible to say who exactly they were seeing.It looked like a group of four men,and possibly a woman or just a smaller guy with a questionable haircut,but it was clear there was one non-Asian in the group.But that's all that could really be said."These are shitty,"Logan said,in case Bob had missed that.
"We could always try and enhance them,"Helga said,and Bob felt the tip of her tail snake under his shirt and tickle his back.
"Yes,but the resolution's poor,"Bob pointed out."It may not help much at all."
There were eight photos in all,a time code in the lower left corner showing their progression down the timeline,and it occurred to Bob that Logan had to be the gaijin because he seemed to be deliberately avoiding looking directly at the cameras,no matter where they were and at what angle.That was too good to chalk up to mere paranoia-that was a guy who knew when he was being watched.Bob noticed too that he grabbed the woman's elbow in one of the shots, steering her gently away from looking in the direction of the camera.
Bob felt his stomach clench in anxiety-it was Logan's wife;he was trying to protect her from the cameras too.Shit.
"Is that me?"Logan asked dubiously,leaning closer to the screen for a better look.
"Looks like it,"Helga said,still tracing circles on Bob's back with the tip of her tail.
"Who are these people?What's going on?"Logan wondered,and he sounded annoyed.With himself probably,because he didn't remember.
"As far as I know,these people are all connected with Yashida Consolidated,"Bob told him."This might be in their corporate parking garage.Given time I can probably match faces to names,but odds are everyone in the photo is dead.Except you,of course."
"Who's the woman?"He asked,his voice suddenly pitched lower,as if he was bracing for some terrible blow.
Luckily,Logan had kept her from looking directly at the camera,so Bob felt comfortable lying."I don't know.I'll have to have a look at the employee files."
But Logan was just radiating tension like barely suppressed rage,and Bob asked,"Do you recognize her?"The most they could see was a partially obstructed view of the side of her face,revealing a delicate nose and an oval face,her small chin pointed ever so slightly,her stylishly cut hair a sleek pseudo-bob that clung to the contours of her face,her black hair as glossy as a panther's pelt.If she was the woman he thought she was,she was lovely,striking,although not ravishingly gorgeous;she did have the kindest eyes Bob had ever seen.He bet she had been one hell of a dame.
Logan stared at that fragment of an image,that partial silhouette,for the longest time,as if his life depended on whether or not he recognized that face,that moment in time.He gripped the edge of Bob's desk so hard he was surprised it hadn't shattered in his hands or his claws hadn't sprung out,and he saw small beads of sweat form on Logan' forehead,as if trying to remember was a physical exertion that pushed him to the limit.After what seemed an eternity,he said in a harsh,frustrated whisper,"I don't know."
To be fair,his somewhat stringent security measures had worked well for the past five months.The Takabes had launched several attempts on the lives of various people in and around Yashida Consolidated,but each was a failure,and they had seemingly backed off to do what Logan called 'regrouping'.There had been a lull from any violence for almost a month.