Sunday, February 1, 2009

Kung Fu Noir To the Core



Act 5: Kane and Able.

The revelation from my dream gave me such a start, I awoke Annie.

"What's wrong?" She asked, rubbing her eyes.

"Just a dream," I replied, trying to decipher the meaning. What sword? I knew that Master had once spoken of a sword...a sword of...no, the sword is...what? Damnit! I can't remember. Although I was sure Master Toshiro was alive, I didn't exactly believe people could communicate in dreams. But how could it be otherwise? How else to explain my certainty that he was alive? I dunno, I thought. Maybe I'm starting to crack up.

"I feel so bad for you," Annie said, hugging me. "It must be tough, all those nightmares."

"No, this dream was different," I said uncomfortably. I was uncomfortable, because Annie was so close...and awake. It wasn't so bad when she was asleep.

"Tell me about it," Annie said, moving...closer, her face now above mine. It was dark but there were automatic night lights, and although very dim I could see Annie's face a few inches from mine. Her hair tickled my face and smelled like roses.
She brushed her hair back and smiled.

"Um...ahem! Yeah, well, there's not much to tell. I just saw an old friend," I replied. Not exactly a lie, but not the whole truth either. I didn't want there to be any chance that Yukio would find out Master was alive, even if I couldn't figure out how I knew. How could I trust her? She might do anything to help her sister. I didn't blame her much, but I couldn't afford to take that chance.

"Okay, then how about another hug then," Annie said, hugging me tightly.

"Yeah, um, okay," I said. "Thanks. Okay. That's good, Annie, thank you," I said, trying for a tactical retreat. If I didn't stop this now I wouldn't be able to stop anything else from happening. And that anything else could get me burned, or worse. Naturally, my body didn't care what I had planned and did it's own thing which was quite embarassing, which only pissed my mind off. I didn't think Annie could detect the intense color of red my face was turning, but I was sure she could tell her close proximity was having an...ascertainable...effect on me.

"Well, I'm here for you if you want to talk," Annie whispered, with a come hither smile before moving slowly away. It took every ounce of my willpower not to grab her and pull her close, like those guys did in the classic movies. Yeah, you think Bogie, the Duke, Jimmie Stewart or Cary Grant, to name just a few would pass on this opportunity? My body protested. Mind-1, Body-0. Now my body was pissed off. To tell the truth, my mind wasn't happy either, but it knew this was the best course of action...regrettably. "Um, can you close your eyes? I have to use the ladies room," she added.

Now she's modest? I thought, as I put my hand over my eyes. I heard Annie get out of bed, pause, and walk towards the nearest bathroom. Then I peeked, as she got to the door, but she had a robe on. Blast! I thought. Nice gams, I also thought. Why did I do that? I wondered. I'm such an idiot. That was counter-productive. Body-1, Mind-1. This ain't over, my mind said to my body, which was snickering.

I got up when the door shut and checked the nightstand drawer. Good, my gat was still there. I took it with me as I made my way to the other bathroom. I used the facilities and finally shaved, opting for the electric razor. When I finished I pondered which of the several aftershaves to use. What? No old spice? I didn't recognize any of them, so I grabbed the manliest lookin' one there and checked it out. Eh, not too bad. How about this one? Yeah, that'll do. I brushed my teeth and finished up.

Next, I field stripped my .45. Huh. All the parts were there. I checked the clip and ammo. Yep, real ammo, hollow points. I reassembled my weapon. Good to go, I thought. I put on a robe and checked out the nearest closet. There were several top of the line suits, expensive leather shoes, belts, some ties, t-shirts, socks and...boxers. What the hell? Silk boxers?! No way! Are those freakin' hearts?!! Whoever got these was a real joker. Ha ha. Very funny. This wasn't gonna help foster an image of a tough guy.

Whoever brought these clothes in, must not have made a sound, 'cause they didn't wake me up, which was unnerving. I quickly got dressed, picking a grey suit then I grabbed some brown leather shoes and put them on. After that I got a red tie, but I forgot how to tie it. Maybe Annie knows.

Next I went to the main door to the room and checked the lock. There was some oily residue around it. I dabbed it with my finger and smelled...WD-40. Of course, that would make the tumbler in the lock more quiet. Still, whoever brought the clothes and shoes...and silk boxers, was good. Very good. Akira?

I returned to the bed and strapped my gun to my hip. I decided to check the door to the terrace as well. It was a glass door, with one of them twist locks that bolted from the inside. It would make noise to get in through that door, once locked.
As I looked out into the night I heard music coming from the bedroom.


Gypsy, sittin' lookin' pretty
The broken rose with laughin' eyes
You're a mystery, always runnin' wild
Like a child without a home
You're always searching, searching for a feeling
That it's easy come and easy go

Huh. Def Leppard. I didn't know there was a stereo on here, I thought, walking back into the bedroom.

Oh I'm sorry but it's true
You're bringin' on the heartbreak
Takin' all the best of me
Oh can't you see?
You got the best of me
Whoah can't you see?

When I saw Annie my eyes did a doubletake. She was in a beautiful pink evening gown.
Tasteful...and hot! She was standing by one of the closets I hadn't checked. Inside was a stereo and a stand with several CD's. Other than that, my eyes were glued to Annie who started dancing. How do women dance in high heels? I wondered, briefly. Who cares?

You're bringin' on the heartbreak
Bringin' on the heartache
You're bringin' on the heartbreak
Bringin' on the heartache
Can't you see?

Annie noticed me and danced/walked over, grabbing my hands. Apparently she wanted to dance. I could find no rational reason to protest, although I was sure there must be one...somewhere. Body-2, Mind-1.

Oh whoah
You're such a secret, misty eyed and shady
Lady how you hold the key
Oh you're like a candle, your flame slowly fadin'
Burnin' out and burnin' me

The only thing I could think of, other than Annie of course, was to try to avoid stepping on her feet as we slowly danced. My mind was gettin' it's ass kicked, and could barely raise a feeble protest.

Can't you see?
Just try and say to you

You're bringin' on the heartache
Takin' all the best of me
Oh can't you see?
You got the best of me
Whoah can't you see?

You're bringin' on the heartbreak
Bringin' on the heartache
You're bringin' on the heartbreak
Bringin' on the heartache

However, just when my mind had given up all hope, and was prepared to join the party the lyrics of the song helped to break the spell. I somehow managed to pick my tongue up off the floor and put my eyes back inside their sockets.

Can't you see?
Can't you see?
No no no
You got the best of me
Oh can't you see?
You got the best of me
Whoah can't you see?

Nooo! My body screamed. Tryin' to wrest control back from my resurgent mind.

You're bringin' on the heartbreak
Bringin' on the heartache
You're bringin' on the heartbreak
Bringin' on the heartache
You're bringin' on the heartbreak
Bringin' on the heartache
You're bringin' on the heartbreak

I slowly disengaged from Annie, regretfully I might add. Mind-2, Body-2.

"Annie, you look stunning," I said. "Thanks for the dance."

"Thank you, Mack," Annie said, smiling. "How about another one?"

"Okay," I said, but instead of dancing I put my finger to my lips, indicating she should be quiet. I took her hand and led her to the bathroom where turned on the shower.

"You want to take a shower?" Annie asked, a surprised look on her face.

"No, at least not at the moment," I replied. Liar! My body screamed. "I want to make sure we aren't overheard on any bugs."

"Ohh," Annie nodded. In the bedroom the music continued as another song played.

"Your sister. What's the deal. Why did Yukio take her?" I asked.

"She was in debt. Gambling. Yukio sent some men to take her. To work off her debt, they said. They told me if I said anything to the cops they would kill her. Then Yukio arrived and told me to go see you. I'm so sorry I got you mixed up in this!" Annie exclaimed, tears runnin' down her cheeks.

"Hey, it's okay," I said, giving her a hug. "Do you know where they're keeping her?" I asked.

"No. But she used to work as a dancer at a club, the Golden Dragon, I think. I'm pretty sure Yukio owns the place, or he has a stake in it, because I have seen him there before, when Cindy, my sister worked there. He was always treated as a VIP. When I finally convinced Cindy to quit, I thought that was it," Annie said.

"Do you know how much she owes?" I asked.

"$500,000 and some change, I think she said. I thought she had quit gambling, but..." Annie trailed off.

"Okay look, you have to trust me. I'm gonna try to help, but I hafta know where she is for certain. Do you have a picture of Cindy?" I asked.

Annie nodded. "In my purse."

"Good. I'm gonna need that. Like I said before, let me do the talkin', alright? I don't think they'll kill your sister as long as she can make them money," I said.

"She was their headline act," Annie said. "I can get maybe $100,000 of the money she owes but no way can I get half a million plus with interest," Annie said. "I'm not as rich as I appeared. The porsche was dad's, and I live in an apartment. I work as an RN at Alvarado Hospital, or at least I used to."

Headline act? What's that...oh. She means a strip club, I thought. Hopefully, that's all they're makin' her do. I was so angry at that moment it took a lot of self control not to storm down to Yukio and demand her release, at gun point. No, I gotta play this smart.

"You're a nurse?" I asked.

"Yeah, hard to believe huh?" Annie said.

"Actually, not so much," I said, "although, I thought you were an actress." I smiled.
"Shall we go downstairs now?" I asked.

"Yes. I just have to freshen up a bit," Annie said. Then she kissed me. "Thanks Mack. I don't know what I would do without you. And I'm not saying that because you're helping Cindy and me. I fell...a connection to you."

I was so touched deeply by that. I didn't know what to say, so I smiled and patted her on the shoulder. As I left the bathroom I wished I could tell her I would fix all these problems, but I didn't feel that confident. I was gonna need some help.
If only I could find Master Toshiro. Then there was Jim, but I wasn't sure I should drag him into this.

When Annie had finished I asked her, "Annie, do you know how to tie these?"

"Sure thing. I had to learn so I could help all the doctors that forgot," she said, deftly tying the tie.

"Thanks," I said.

We left the room and went downstairs. At the stairwell was one of Yukio's men. No doubt watchin' who came and went from our room. I coulda swore he snickered as we passed. Yeah, yuk it up bozo.

At the bottom of the stairs was another man who was smiling. I could see him say something but didn't catch what it was. I saw no radio, so he must've been wearing an earpiece.
As we reached the bottom Akira arrived.

"Good evening sir, miss Annie," Akira bowed. If you'll follow me, please."

"Thanks for the clothes, Akira," I replied, bowing back. I tugged on Annie's hand and she caught on, also bowing. Smart gal. Akira stopped.

"It was my pleasure sir. Is everything satisfactory?" He asked.

"Yes, very," I said, hoping he didn't know about the boxers.

"I do hope I didn't disturb your sleep," he said.

"Not at all," I replied.

"Please thank the doctor for me," Annie said. "She got my clothes."

"I will be sure to pass that on," Akira replied. "I didn't know about that. She must've delivered your clothes. May I say you look radiant, miss Annie."

"Yes you may," Annie replied, giggling.

Hmm. The doc was very quiet too. Obviously, she was far more than meets the eye, I pondered.

"I trust you are both hungry?" Akira asked.

"Famished," Annie said.

"Me too," I replied.

"Good, the chef has prepared quite a feast. Unfortunately, Master Yukio will be unable to attend I'm sorry to say," Akira said.

"Oh?" I asked.

"Yes, he is still...out," he said, a perplexed look on his face which instantly disappeared, but I caught it.

Akira doesn't know where he is, I mused. And he's concerned. Interesting. I also noticed Akira had a sword, and he was no doubt packing heat. Something was definitely up.

As we entered the huge dining room I saw a large table. Some men in white, perhaps the chef's assistants were bringing food out of a side door from the kitchen. Although it was covered I smelled roast beef and various vegetables, breads, and gravy. My stomach made a loud and very audible rumble. Annie giggled softly, still holding my hand.

I scanned the room, and at the head of the table sat Kane. I almost jumped I was so taken aback. What's he doing here? I knew I had heard him earlier. He didn't look happy to see me, but he stood up, regardless, as Akira got Annie's chair and then mine.

"Mack. So good to see you. How are you?" Kane asked. "And who might this lovely lady be?" His eyes leered at Annie.

"Fine, sir," I replied, grinding my teeth and seething. "This is Annie."

"Pleased to meet you," Kane said, coming over, grabbing her hand and kissing it.

"Likewise," Annie said, smiling.

"Ahh, you are resplendent my dear," Kane said, lingering. Finally, he let her hand go, and came to shake my hand. I got back up and met his grip. He squeezed almost to the point of pain, his eyes narrowed. I returned his gaze and squeezed back, but not too much. Now wasn't the time for posturing.

"How are you sir?" I asked. "It's been a long time." Not long enough, I thought.

"Oh, I'm doing great. Never better. Yes, it has been a long time. So I hear you are working for Yukio now?" He asked, releasing my hand and trying, unsuccessfully not to glare.

"Yes sir. Apparently Yukio thinks I may be of assistance," I replied.

"Doing what?" He asked, walking back to his chair, which Akira quickly got for him.

"I don't know yet," I answered. "He was going to tell me this evening. Looks like he got caught up in traffic or unfinished business."

"Yes, no doubt," Kane mumbled. A few waiters appeared after the food was placed to pour water, and warm sake. Another waiter served the food, serving Kane first.

I took a sip of sake. Very good, I thought. And just the right temperature. Annie also took a drink. Kane downed his, and a waiter immediately refilled his cup.

"Excellent nihonshu," I quipped. The Japanese name for sake.

"Yes," Kane replied, downing his second cup.

He is not a happy camper, I thought. Perhaps he's angry that Yukio hired me. I concentrated on my meal. "Superb," I said to the chef, standng by. He quickly bowed and waited.

"Yes, very good," Annie said, following my lead. The chef bowed again and waited.

Kane said nothing and ate little, more preoccupied with drinking. The chef continued to wait patiently. I felt sorry for the guy. He probably got the same treatment from Yukio more than a few times. Yukio was much like Kane, only Kane was wiser, or maybe more cunning is the word and quieter. Old school, and less reckless, but I still didn't trust him. How could he have changed so much? Master Toshiro said they used to be the best of friend. I reckon life in the Yakuza changed him.

As the meal went on, and Kane drank more, his gaze lingered on Annie for longer periods. Annie wisely kept her eyes on her plate or looked at me whenever I made small talk.
Near the end of the meal, Kane banged the table causing Annie to jump.

"Where is he?! Why doesn't he listen to me? I'm getting tired of this blatant disrespect!" Kane shouted, drinking another cup of sake.

I knew Kane had a temper. More than once Yukio arrived for training with a black eye, swollen nose or fat lip as well as bruises. It didn't take a lot of brains to figure out who did that to him. Some of it may have been provoked, knowing Yukio, but not justified. I often felt sorry for Yukio, who never answered Master Toshiro about the beatings or if he did, he lied. But Master knew. A few times I could hear him arguing with Kane behind closed doors. That seemed to work, for awhile.

"Excuse me, Master Kane, I must go get more nohonshu," the waiter said, bowing.

"Hurry up then!" Kane shouted, backhanding the waiter and knocking him down.
The waiter quickly got to his feet and ran out of the room.

"Well, let's retire, shall we Annie?" I said. "It was so good to see you again, sir," I bowed, then got Annie's chair.

"No!" Kane shouted. "She stays here with me!"

Oh great. I had a feeling this wasn't going to turn out well. Mostly because there was no way in hell I was leavin' Annie with this asshole!

"Sir, Annie has a date with me," I said.

"So what. You work for Yukio, and Yukio works for me. That means you work for me gaijin. She stays," Kane said. "Now leave us." He gestured with his hand.

Gaijin isn't necessarily a bad word, but gaijin in the sense and tone Kane said it is. Most likely outsider or non-Japanese, and potential enemy. At least that's the way I took it. As I suspected, Kane was still Yakuza. I was kinda surprised to learn Yukio was workin' for him though.

"No sir," I said, steeling myself.

"What?" Kane said, getting to his feet unsteadily. "You dare to challenge me? I'll teach you some manners!"

The chef ran out of the room, and the remaining waiter backed up out of the way.
Kane threw his chair down and started to walk towards me, hatred shooting from his eyes.

"Please!" Annie exclaimed. Please let us leave in peace."

Kane stopped and looked at her grabbing the table to keep himself steady.

"I won't hurt you. I just want a little company. Is that asking too much?" Kane asked.

The other waiter returned with the extra sake and was smacked again for his trouble.

"No one sneaks up on me!" Kane said. "I'll kill you for that!"

"Kane!" I shouted. Damn, I should just get out now with Annie, but I couldn't allow Kane to kill the poor waiter.

Kane turned towards me again. "Insolent whelp!" He shouted, moving towards me.

"Annie, get out," I said, standing between her and Kane. "Now!" I shouted. I had no idea how good Kane was, but I was pretty sure he was very good, even when drunk.

"I can't leave..," Annie began.

"Move!" I ordered in my best command voice. At that she jumped and then quickly left.

"This makes it so much easier," Kane said, laughing. "You see, I'm dead set against you working for Yukio. Now I'll kill you and that will be that. I never liked you anyway," he spat.

I just stood there, waiting. Kane advanced and like lightning his right leg shot out. I dodged to the side and grabbed my chair, holding it out between us. Kane kicked at the chair, smashing it to pieces. I dropped the piece I was holding. Kane performed a roundhouse which I blocked but the force knocked me into the wall, hard!
Kane followed through with a punch to my head. Instinctively, I ducked, but I still caught a glancing blow.

Damn! He's tough as hell! I thought, blood seeping from my cheek. And fast! I feinted with my left which Kane easily ducked and caught him with a right uppercut to his chin.
Kane fell back onto the table, dishes and food flyin' everywhere. He was still for a second or two but my hope that this was over quickly faded as Kane grabbed a plate and threw it at me, hitting my right shoulder.

Ow! I thought, that's a hard plate. Kane launched himself, again leading with a kick. I tried to dodge, slipping on the spilled mashed potatoes. Kane's kick caught me on my chest as I fell, "Crack!" Right on my stitches. Blood came spurting out as I struggled to catch my breath. It felt like he broke a few ribs, I thought, the air feeling like fire in my lungs as I desperately tried to get up. Kane jumped, his feet aimed at my head and neck.

14 comments:

walt said...

X-cellent!

But... who's Jim? Somewhere, in the overflow of detail, I misplaced him.

You thought Annie was an actress? Oh - you mean, your Mind thought that. Because we, yer loyal readers, could ascertain that your Body thought otherwise.

Good "detail" about tying the tie. Sort of tied the story together.

Now, Kane is Yukio's father, right? What ever happened to the long-lost son, the vagabond, who ran off as a child, named Kwai-chang? (I know: don't mix metaphors!)

And sheesh, now Mack has to worry about Akira, and the kindly Doctress! Will he and Annie never find a moment's peace?

Yer loyal readers want to know!

Robin Starfish said...

And the music crescendos, martial mayhem kicks into high gear, the audience gasps and leans further forward off the edge of their seats...

...and the director yells "Cut!"

Aaaaarggghhh!

Bogie said...

Well now, lishen 'nere Mack. Yer gettin' wise to the dames, butcha' gotta remember who to mix it up with and who to just plug with the ol' 45.
An' thanks f'the earworm, Mack. I was jus' lisnen' to Glenn Miller when ya threw on them daft lepers.
Now I got that heartache song stuck in the old noggin.

Bogie

Joan of Argghh! said...

Still here...

:o)

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hey Walt,
Jim was Mack's partner when he was a homicide detective for SDPD.
That'll be a demerit for not taking notes.

Ha ha! Okay, for bein' funny you get minus that demerit, so yer cool!

Akira and the doctress...yes, there is a plot twist that will soon play out. :^)

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Who needs John Williams when we got Dojo? :^)

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hey Bogie,
Yeah, that tune is kinda catchy.
Not Glen Miller catchy, but catchy. :^)

I think right about now, Mack is seriously considering your advice.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hi Joan!
Well, in that case, I'll hafta write the next chapter sooner.
No repeats this week. :^)

mushroom said...

This is so much fun. Looking forward to the next one.

Jimmy J. said...

Mack, Mack, you've got your gat strapped to your hip. I know you like to grind these Yakuzas up and spit 'em out. It's the manly thing to do, but sometimes the path of least resistance is "peace through superior firepower."

This is like the old Saturday movie serials - always leave 'em hanging so they gotta come back.

I'll be baack!

Gecko said...

What fun to read this, Ben!

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Thanks Mushroom!
Me too...well, the one after the next one, since I already did it. :)

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hi Jim!
Ha ha! Hopefully I covered that well enough in the next chapter. It's not like Mack is adverse to shootin', but there are a lot of ramifications and stuff.

Besides, what would he say to Yukio? "Sorry man, but I shot your dad."

Not cool. Of course, no matter what happens now, it ain't gonna be cool...or is it? I can't wait to find out! Bwahahaha!
Hey, this is so secret even I don't know where the plot is goin'. :^)

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hey Gecko!
Thanks! I'm havin' fun writin' it.
Most the time anyway. I'm one of them writers that ain't too keen on a lot of interuptions. It ruins the moment, you know?

But that's Patti's job. Interuptions that is. :^)