E-Mail: notmanos at yahoo dot com
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arts, I won't object. ;-) Oh, and Bob is *my* character - keep your hands off!
But it still felt like living in prison sometimes.The measures that protected them from harm were also terribly constricting,and she thought she'd go nuts if she didn't get out.It was worse for Ryan,as Logan told him in no uncertain terms that the 'geisha house' (upscale prostitutes) he liked to visit was off limits,because it was too 'porous' and there was no way to protect him there.Ryan had tried to sneak off,but Logan informed him if he went there and continued to go there,he guaranteed he'd die there.Ryan was grumbling that it was worth it,and Logan wasn't his warden,but still seemed afraid to risk his wrath.
Kogane-Chigiri was on the fourth floor of Chiaki's family's department store,but due to the remodeling necessary to complete the restaurant it had been closed for the last two weeks.Neither were scheduled to open for the next three days;Chiaki was having a private opening for a few friends and investors,just to 'christen' the place,and save for Chiaki she knew few of the people who would actually be there.Well,as long as you didn't count Logan.
He seemed less than thrilled about it,but he was acting as her personal escort to the restaurant;he was reluctant to let one of the other security staff do it (he swore it wasn't that he didn't completely trust them,it was just that if you wanted something done right,you did it yourself),and she was even more reluctant to have them come,as they all looked exactly like what they were-hired thugs,with all the social graces,wit,and intelligence of your average table lamp.
But,much to her surprise-and appearances and first impressions aside-Logan was nothing like that.
He was nearly an impossible man to get to know in any sense of the
word.He kept to himself as much as possible.In fact,they had enough rooms
at the mansion that he could have lived inside it,but no,he preferred the
guest house out back (he needed his privacy),and he seemed to avoid socializing
as much as possible,even when it posed no security risk at all.She wondered
if his loner nature was responsible for the lack of records on him,or any
paper trail involving the curiously disappearing Logan clan.But her own
curiosity about him (the more she tried to dig into his past,the more she
came up with absolutely nothing-it seemed impossible,like the violation
of some heretofore unknown law of physics.It made her think of that Monty
Python sketch:he was a man trying not to be seen.But why?)
It took a long time,and lots of patience,but it was seeing what he had done to the guest house that opened a window into the sort of man Logan was.
The guest house-originally set up for visiting relatives that Dad had really not wanted in the house-was crammed full of elegant,Queen Anne style furniture,so it looked like a Victorian era drawing room,and the bedroom and bathroom followed that motif.But one day she decided to pay a visit to the guest house to have an argument with him (she was tired of feeling like a prisoner),and almost didn't recognize it.He had moved out most of the furniture (it was in storage),leaving only a couch,a chair,and a couple of tables;the 'English rose' patterned rug had been rolled up and shoved in a closet,leaving only the bare hardwood floor,and a couple of large floor pillows he used when meditating (he really did meditate).He had added to the now wide open space shelves upon shelves of books,many of them old and she would swear first additions.Most were American/Canadian/English,but several were French, Spanish,Russian,and Japanese-none translated.She found it hard to believe he could read that many languages-and he claimed he didn't-but the books were well used,and inside one of the French books,she found an inscription in French:the only word she could make out was 'Logan'.
There were no personal mementos aside from the books,and the two
ornate swords passed on from Kajahara,which hung sheathed on the wall behind
the sofa in a metal sword rack.She'd even peeked into his bedroom (all flounces
removed-no surprise there-all furniture gone save for a nightstand,a single
arm chair,and a dresser),but there were no photos,no knick knacks,no personal
effects of any kind.She'd been eager to look in the drawers,see if he was
Yeah,she hadn't been crazy about the decor either;but her father seemed to think that was the height of elegance.
She tried to talk to him about his family,but that was a lost cause;he
evaded and dodged the topic at every turn.
He had thawed somewhat,and seemed to look forward to their little chats;she knew,much to her surprise,that she did. But still she felt she hadn't found out anything about him at all.She didn't know his entire name (his real name?), knew he was born in Canada but not where exactly (or when-he refused to say when his birthday was because he didn't celebrate them),and had no idea what he had done before this.He said he worked several jobs-because he "got bored easily"-but he didn't specify a single one.The only information she had gotten out of him was an admission he'd never gone to college,and he was basically 'nomadic',rarely settling in one place for long (which was not exactly a revelation).
One thing she had learned-when he talked about Kajahara,or at least how his father had known him (she'd gotten that much out of him at any rate)-it was with a certain wistfulness,as if he genuinely missed the man.But how well could he have known him,especially since he had previously admitted he hadn't seen Japan for years?
He was a frustrating man who seemed to live to be an enigma,and she found him obscurely fascinating,mainly because she hated puzzles she couldn't solve.What was he hiding?Something kept him on the move;there was something hanging over his head.But she couldn't figure out what,and he certainly wasn't volunteering that information.
Right now he looked uncomfortable.He'd been relieved he didn't have to dress up-it wasn't that type of restaurant or 'dinner party'-but he couldn't wear his usual t-shirts and jeans combo either.He had to wear nicer jeans and a button down shirt (dark blue-well,at least for once it wasn't black,brown,or dark green:that seemed to be his color palette of choice,musty earth tones),but he still stuck with the biker boots and the black leather jacket that wasn't quite biker but did veer somewhat distressingly towards pervert,although when he got out of the car,she thought she saw the waist length coat shift in a strange way.He was carrying weapons,wasn't he?
One just assumed he did,but she'd never seen him actually pull one.He said he didn't like guns,so while everyone else on the security staff carried one,he did not.She had no idea what he carried.Maybe he was the weapon:that wouldn't actually surprise her in the least.Obviously he feared nothing,or at least no man;a gun pointed in his face would only make him laugh.
Now you'd assume he was a psychopath,but he didn't seem that way.He was just supremely confident in his ability to handle anyone and anything thrown his way;it showed in the way he carried himself,like he was relaxed and yet primed to fight at any second.He was a dangerous man,probably far more dangerous than their entire staff of thugs, and yet she wasn't afraid of him.The other goons had a tendency to unnerve her,but she felt strangely comfortable around Logan.Maybe because he wasn't a dumb animal.
Currently,Logan was trying not to fidget as he sat across from her at the small oval table,one he'd had to settle for.He didn't like the first table because either way one of them would end up with their backs to the door,and the second one would have put their backs to the huge picture window that made up the wall on the right side of the restaurant. It seemed to unnerve Chiaki that he was pointing out the many ways someone could be killed in her new place,but before he could annoy her to the breaking point (and embarrass Mariko further),she found a nice little table,back from the window,which would only show their profiles,and a slight rearrangement of the chairs put one of them with their backs to the kitchen (the other would be back against the far wall).Logan chose the seat that put him back first to the kitchen,and Mariko really wasn't surprised;he acted like a bodyguard much of the time,putting himself in what he perceived to be potential harm's way.What she didn't quite get was if he was dead,how could he protect them? His body wasn't made of metal;he was no human shield.The same bullet that could kill them would kill him too.
Chiaki was going for an upscale tourist market with this place:the lighting was low and striving for romanticism,the small tables all laid with white linen tablecloths and elegant crystal vases with a single rose in the center,good china and sterling silverware used for the settings as faint,almost generic piano music played softly in the background.
Logan frowned as he looked around dubiously."I thought we were in Japan."
She almost kicked him under the table,but restrained the urge at the last second."What do you mean? I thought you'd like a taste of home."
"Home?"He replied,with the smallest of scoffs."This isn't home.This is pretentious shit for well off bastards who want to have their Big Mac in Tokyo the same as it is in Toledo,goddamn it."
She felt instantly enraged on Chiaki's behalf,but then she felt a tempering surge of humor.He was absolutely right, and in private Chiaki wouldn't deny it;she was the capitalist poster girl.If there was a market to be exploited,she would find it."Would you prefer sushi?"She wondered.
"Actually,I would,"he said,continuing to give a cursory look around the room before turning his gaze towards the window.Chiaki had admitted the view was no good,and she was going to do something about it,but she hadn't said what.Logan kept turning his gaze towards that bland knot of buildings across the way,the darkness of the closed shops contrasting with the warm yellow lights of the open stores and businesses.The sky above wasn't night time dark but that curious navy blue color that seemed to refect the lights of a crowded city;light pollution blue.
"What are you looking for,snipers?"She teased.
Rather than answer her,he asked,"Is the window polarized or mirrored on the outside?"
She stared at him,but it took a moment for him to look back at her and notice."What?"
"I can't believe you're looking for snipers."
"Things are not safe now,Mariko.The Takabes are going to make a move,and soon.You've probably pissed them off, which means they'll probably be sloppy-or extra vicious,depending on if they get outsiders or not."
"Do you ever take a break,Logan?Do you ever let your guard down,even for one second?"
"I'm doing what you hired me to do."
"That's not what I asked."
For a long moment he just frowned at her,but there was a sudden and curious sadness in his eyes,warring with the typical anger.He felt like he couldn't ever let his guard down,didn't he?Why?What was he running from?
She almost asked,but one of Chiaki's cousins,Namika,a university student playing 'server' tonight,came over to their table and robbed her of her moment.She was almost convinced if she had managed to ask just then,he might have told her.
Logan,being in the mood he was in,inspired her to order a big bottle of wine;she didn't care so much about the food.
But while on her second glass of red wine,something suddenly occurred to her as Logan poured himself another glass of wine."Why don't you ever get drunk?"
He raised an eyebrow at her,setting the nearly empty bottle beside the vase."I know my limits."
"I don't buy that,"she instantly replied."It never seems to effect you at all.You seem constantly sober,which is a shame."
He raised an eyebrow at her again,but this time he was almost smiling."You wanna get me drunk?"
She shrugged."I think it would be interesting to see what the real you might be like,without the guard."
There was a darkness that moved behind his eyes,like she had just triggered some sort of additional defensive mechanism."You might not like the real me."
"I'm willing to risk it."
He stared at her for a moment,then shook his head and looked away,continuing to scan the room for mystery assailants (what-did he expect ninjas to suddenly spring out from the walls?).There were only five other couples here,most Chiaki's family but barely acquaintances to her,and while they kept up a quiet,steady drone of conversation,their eyes always seemed to scud back to her and-most notably-the gaijin she dared to bring here.From the way Logan's shoulders seemed tight with tension,she knew he knew it,but he felt he couldn't say anything since they were friends of her friends."I'm not,"he muttered,turning his gaze back to the window.
She had finally talked him into shaving his ubiquitous close cropped beard-at least for tonight-and he looked sort of strange.She had gotten used to him as hirsute,although she thought that would never happen.He looked oddly young without his beard,his normally intense face tempered with a sort of innocence that she couldn't believe he'd ever possessed.
Back in college,she had decided she was no judge of Western faces;it was a hideous joke to say all white guys looked alike to her,but they sort of did.If it wasn't for differences in hair and eye color,she'd have been completely lost,and even then she occasionally goofed up.Logan had what she imagined to be an unusual face-was he handsome?She couldn't say.She thought he had nice eyes (for a Caucasian),but that was about the only judgment she could make.
And,as weird as it sounded,she would swear his stubble had grown back since they had gotten out of the car,but no man's hair grew in that fast...did it?
She wanted to tell him his big secret was going to come out someday-one way or another-but rather than have that argument,she just had another drink of wine.
She had the dreadful feeling this was going to be a long evening.
When Mariko left to go to the bathroom,he looked around the room and glared into submission anyone he caught staring at him.They all looked away,flustered and embarrassed,but the sense of being watched-and the sense of basic wrongness-didn't leave him.
It didn't help that Mariko was distracting him:she was asking too many question he didn't like,and she looked really nice in that dress.It was a simple black shift that contrasted nicely with her porcelain skin,teamed with a diaphanous black mesh wrap with interwoven silver metallic threads and really impractical high heeled shoes that would probably twist her ankle if they had to move fast.
Yeah,he was Mister Paranoid.
But he felt it was always warranted.Even if he wasn't escorting a woman on someone's hit list,he was still a mutant, which damned him to the status of pariah for the rest of his life.His unnatural life.
He'd lived too damn long and seen too damn much,and yet the face he saw staring back at him in the mirror looked exactly the same as it had seventy five years ago,and he wondered if it would ever change.He looked thirty on the outside,and felt a million years old on the inside,and knew the twain would never meet.Was it ever going to stop?
Sometimes,at very low points in his life,he had despaired over it.He had even tried to kill himself a couple of times, but his body would never let him succeed.Kill him?That was a good joke.The best he could do was hurt himself and knock himself out for a while,but that was all.
And all these thoughts were distracting him further-he had to focus,damn it!
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath,centering himself and focusing on all his other senses.
When he was learning to cope with his mutations,his hyper-acute senses had almost crippled him.He lived in the woods by himself often,because people were too noisy,too noisome,the sensory overload of too many people making him sick,driving him crazy.He eventually learned his own form of meditation,his own way to unconsciously shove it all aside,ignore the excess,but he could bring it all back on by simply letting go,dropping his concentration and letting it flood over him.He let the stimuli wash him away.
He started to strip away the layers of noise:conversations around him,whispered but as loud as gunshots (a woman was complaining to her husband that this place was a bad investment two tables over;off to his left,one man was complaining about Mariko bringing in some ugly foreigner and ruining the decor as well as her already fragile reputation (which was damn funny-they hated him because he was white?Wait until they found out he was a mutant),while a couple by the door,introduced as Chiaki's parents,were having a quiet but deadly argument over the man's mistress);the canned piano music,loud as the roar of an ocean (and driving him fucking bananas);the clink of glasses and the scrape of silverware against china as loud as car crashes;footsteps downstairs as loud as...
Footsteps downstairs?The building was supposed to be empty.
He opened his eyes and pulled out the small two way radio he kept in one of his inside pockets.Trying to hide it in his coat as best he could,he whispered into it,"Tetsuo,check in."
The guys objected to their duty,but by now they obeyed him, whether they liked him or not-this was not a popularity contest.Tetsuo was the visible man,the one in the car downstairs,but there were two others as well:Ichiro in the back,not as visible as Tetsuo but certainly expected by anyone with a lick of sense;and Kenji on the corner at the end of the block,most likely not expected by anyone.As far as he was concerned,it was not enough men,but with Ryan meeting with his 'directors' (now there's a hit that could take out a lot of Yashidas at once) and the staff stretched to the limit as it was,he couldn't justify having anymore men on this.Especially since he was the one with Mariko, and, as Ryan liked to joke (he thought it was the height of hilarity,showing how humor impaired Ryan was) he counted as at least two men.
He had given Tetsuo enough time to respond.Depressing the transmission button with his thumb,he said, "Ichiro, check in."
He waited,and started to strip away all the layers of scent:people-still too many people-their perfumes,colognes,and deodorants warring with the smell of wine and food and roses;meat charring,sizzling in its own fat,mixed with the astringent scent of green tea wafting from the kitchen,along with blood...
"Kenji,check in,"he asked without much hope,as he got to his feet,chair scraping back loudly on the hardwood floor. While the other diners gave him incredibly dirty looks,he said,"Nobody panic,but I suggest you leave now."
As he crossed the dining room to the kitchen,ignoring the mutterings of the people who obviously thought him to be a rude and uncouth Westerner and didn't take him seriously at all,he heard footsteps pounding up the stairs:a dozen men perhaps,maybe even more.
There was no usable elevator-they had been powered down and closed up until renovation was complete,and even though he was roughly sure he could get the sealed doors pried open (he wasn't super strong,but his mutation had at least made him stronger than your average human),there'd be people waiting for them downstairs.The only back way out was through the kitchen...and the closer he got to the door,the stronger and more rank the smell of blood became. Blood,shit,death;the smell of food left on the stove just starting to burn.
Before he even touched the door,he sensed someone just beyond it,making the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.He paused long enough to bark at the other diners,who were still murmuring to themselves about what a crude bastard he was,"Get the fuck down now!"
He sounded angry enough that several instantly complied,slipping under their tables and obviously thinking he was a madman,and he wondered if whoever the Takabes had hired would care about killing innocents-or witnesses, depending on your point of view.
Mariko had come out of the bathroom then,and looked at him,startled but,to her credit,she just looked shocked.She didn't eye him like a madman."Logan-"she began,but he held a finger to his lips to silence her.He tucked the radio inside his jacket pocket,and after a moment,he shoved the kitchen door open as hard as he could with both hands,and was not surprised by the hard,bone jarring thud of the door slamming into the person who had been standing behind it.
And that's when the shooting started.
Logan had wheeled away from the door the second he shoved it,grabbing for Mariko as he sprinted across the room,a fusillade of bullets tearing through the door (and,judging from the sudden,abortive scream,through the man who had been standing before it),whistling past him and through him,the tiny missiles of metal shattering every vase as patrons crouching under tables screamed,their voices nearly lost in the concussive blasts of the sub-machine guns.
It was against all his natural instincts to run from a fight,but he had no hope of winning this one.They were boxed in,all avenues of escape blocked off by men-many men-with semi-automatic weapons,and Logan had lived long enough to know when he should cut his losses and go.But go where exactly?
Bullets randomly burst through him,white hot needles of pain that tore his skin and sprayed his blood in a fine red mist,but he was banking on Mariko never noticing in all the chaos.
It was the continued shattering of glass that gave him an idea of where exactly he was going."Hold on to me!"He shouted to Mariko,all but picking her up as he sprinted for the window,which was peppered with bullet holes but still relatively intact."Don't let go!"
She looked and smelled terrified,but she hadn't screamed,and she obeyed him,wrapping her arms around his neck and burying her face in his throat for protection as he jumped at the last second,turning to the side so his shoulder burst through the window first.
Under his weight,momentum,and the constant barrage of bullets,the entire picture window exploded spectacularly, reduced to a rain of deadly slivers that cut him even as he began the four story fall towards the ground.
He did his best to aim for a dark blur on the rapidly rising street-a parked car was his best guess-and turned in mid-air,so his back was towards the ground and Mariko was completely on top of him,so he could act as a human shock absorber and hopefully not kill her.
To say the landing was rough was an understatement:the second he impacted he car roof it was like he had actually been hit by a bullet train,all his breath bursting out of his lungs in a single forced exhalation as he felt ribs snap, vertebrae separate and crack,and the back of his head bounced hard off the metal,causing black spots to explode in front of his eyes.It briefly robbed him of vision as his consciousness seemed to slide away,a sliver of pain deep in his head expanding before slowly fading.He didn't completely lose consciousness,but it was a close thing;for a moment, he felt as insubstantial as a pinata after the candy has been completely beaten out of it.
Skull fracture?Probably,judging from the itchy hot feeling plaguing all of his broken bones and damaged internal organs,the instantaneous healing response feeling not unlike a billion tiny insects,exoskeletons warm from the sun, crawling inside his body,busy mites swarming,teeming,working furiously to patch up the holes in the hive wall before the deluge.
He dimly saw Mariko looking down at him,but it was through a thin scrim of grey fog."Logan?"He heard her say, from down a long and hollow tunnel.Her dark eyes seemed impossibly wide with shock and fear in the pale moon of her face."Logan?Are you all right?Can you hear me?"
It took him a moment to remember how to work his vocal cords,and then another moment to make them work."'m okay,"he said,hearing well enough to know he had slurred his words a bit.
Her brows drew down in concern-she caught the slurring-but then she glanced up at the former window they had just fallen out of.His vision started to clear and some of his bodily control seemed to come back to him,as he moved his hand and shoved himself off the slightly flattened car roof and rolled onto the hood,which was covered with a fine layer of broken glass.Some of it was from the former picture window;the rest was from the remains of the windscreen,which had shattered on impact.
His body was still furiously healing itself,but he knew he had to move,and now-the gunmen had to be on their way. While he was all but bulletproof,Mariko was not,and he had to get her out of here.
He wondered why the hell he had agreed to do this-not for the first time,either-but then he remembered the blood debt the Kajaharas owed the Yashidas.No,he was not a Kajahara-not really-and never would be,but he felt in his heart he was;he wished he was.And he knew Akira,had he been alive,would have honored it,so he would pay tribute to the man who had helped him so much by doing this in his name.It was the least he could do.
"How can you be all right?"Mariko went on,her voice breathless from shock."We just fell four stories."
He rolled off the hood and onto his feet,broken glass crunching beneath him and opening new cuts on his arms and hands.The grey fog was almost completely gone,and while he had a minor head rush,he was able to stay steady on his feet."Flak jacket,"he said,as it was the only thing he could think to explain it.Not only was it bullshit,it was lame,but he didn't know what else he could say.He held out his hands (no longer cut) and helped her off the car roof to the sidewalk,but she kept staring at him with her wide,almond shaped eyes,and even when he let her go she kept ahold of his biceps,her hands gripping him so tightly he thought maybe she was feeling for bullet holes (luckily,none hit his arms-his shoulder was another story)."Do you own a flak jacket?"She asked in disbelief."And how would that keep you from becoming sidewalk pizza?"
"I'll explain later,"he said,breaking her grip before grabbing her arm himself and pulling her down the street towards Tetsuo's car.He hoped she'd either forget,or he'd have a brainstorm by then.
But that was if there'd be a later for her.He smelled the men,heard their shoes scuff on the cement before they emerged from the alley,and shoved Mariko violently away,out into the street."Take cover!"He shouted,as he ran for the men just as they emerged from the dark alleyway.
He tackled one,burying his shoulder in his midsection and knocking all the wind out of him,but the other three men fired their guns.Still,it was rushed and in close quarters,so they missed,bullets ricocheting off the pavement and punching through parked cars. Logan ignored the acrid scent of fresh cordite and the new assault of the crack of gunshots on his ears,and kicked the nearest man hard in the stomach,doubling him over as he drew his saber from the hidden sheath inside his jacket.
It wasn't a proper katana,or one that Akira had given him as his 'son',but it was well forged Spanish steel,small enough to comfortably conceal beneath his coat,and as sharp as a surgical scalpel.He could use guns,and had- everything from single shot pistols to full automatic sub-machine guns-but he never liked them,and he had had his fill of them.There was something about a bladed weapon that guns could never compete with.Mainly,they were extremely quiet.
The saber sliced through the air,chopping the gun from the hand of one of the thugs as he spun into a back heel kick that knocked the gun out of the hand of the fourth man,but the first man had recovered and took aim at Logan-
-only to have Mariko sneak up behind him and smash one of her shoes into his neck,the stiletto heel puncturing the side of his throat.
He grabbed his neck and staggered,gagging slightly as he wheeled around to face Mariko,but Logan slashed his saber diagonally down the man's back,not a lethal cut but a completely debilitating one.He was still falling when Logan caught the movement out of the corner of his eye,and he whirled rapidly,slashing the sword around in a high arc, instantly cutting open the faces of the two men charging him.
They screamed and grabbed their faces,reeling backwards,and he planted a side donkey kick that broke several of the fourth man's ribs on impact,a sound like dead branches snapping under the weight of snow in the winter,and he yelped as he fell back,arms wrapped around his torso.Logan spun into a kick that caught the man solidly on the side of the head,and he went down like a ton of bricks.
Logan could hear the footsteps of others rapidly approaching,and knew it was now or never if he wanted to get Mariko out in one piece.