Saturday, February 28, 2009

Senseitional Noir!

Act 10: Poisedone

Like I said, world of pain. It felt like my entire body was on fire. Looking down at me, two familiar faces, Annie and Hanna, both looked relieved but still concerned.

"How do you feel, Mack?" Hanna asked. There were some of those paddles nearby, I noticed out of the corner of my eye as well as wrappers and other medical doodads scattered as far as I could see.

"Like I'm on fire," I rasped, gritting my teeth.

"Don't you EVER do that again? You hear me?" Annie sobbed, hugging me.

What did I do? I wondered. Dames. I just don't get them.

"I idea, why you are still breathing," Hanna said, hugging me too.

"Ladies, ladies...awww, crap! Thanks." I said. For some reason, I couldn't move.

That's odd, I thought. Waitaminnit!

"Hanna...what do you mean?" I asked.

It took awhile for her to get control of herself, but eventually she let go of me.

"I mean...I don't know what poison that bitch used. It must be slow acting. I couldn't detect it in your blood, Mack. I'm so sorry!" Hanna exclaimed, hugging me again.

"Aw hell," I said, "it ain't your fault, dear. By the way..I can't move."

They both cried louder. What was I thinkin'? I wondered. That was a dumb thing to say. But it's not like they wouldn't find out.

"The witch wants him to suffer," Akira said.

Akira is still here? Apparently. I couldn't move my head to look.

"Akira is right," I said. "She is Kane's daughter. Or that's what she claims. She told me I would suffer a lot of pain before I died."

More sobbing and hugging. Oh great. Way to cheer them up, Mack, I thought.

"We must take him to Sensei," Akira said.

"Yes! Of course! Gramps will fix him up!" Hanna exclaimed.

"He is not your gramps, Hanna. He's a hermit. A sage," Akira said, sighing.

"He doesn't mind me calling him gramps. He might protest, but secretly he likes it," Hanna replied, hands on hips.

"Yes, that as it may, he is the only chance Mack has," Akira said, resigned.

"You mean, there's a chance he can save Mack?" Annie asked, finally letting me go and wiping her eyes.

"I don't know. There's only one way to find out," Akira said, lifting me up effortlessly. "Let us go!"

Damn, he is strong, I thought, hoping he didn't drop me. Akira effortlessly carried me outside like a rag doll, and I heard him order one of his men to bring the limo around. Soon I was lying on the back seat with Hanna and Annie sittin' on either side watchin' me intently.
Akira sat in the opposing seat.

"Drive," Akira ordered the driver. "Get on 8 east. I will tell you what exit to take.
Go fast!"

"Hai!" The driver responded, burnin' rubber.

I saw Akira get his cell phone out and make a call.

"Master Yukio? Yes, Hanna couldn't identify the poison. I'm taking him to the old man's place," Akira said. There was a pause. "Yes, I think that is his only chance. Yes, I will. Hai!" And with that, Akira snapped the phone shut and placed it in his pocket.

"What...?" I asked, tryin' to control the pain caused by the poison.

"I know an old teacher of mine...he was my Sensei and my Master," Akira said. "He knows Japanese and Chinese medicine. If anyone can save you, he can."

"Thanks," I said, weakly.

"Don't thank me yet," Akira replied. "I'm not so sure Sensei will help us."

Meanwhile, Annie and Hanna fussed over me. This wasn't the worst way to go, I thought, smiling.

"Gramps will help Mack, daddy, I just know he will," Hanna said, looking for confirmation in Akira's eyes. But Akira avoided her gaze.

Nearly three hours later, after exiting highway 8, we followed a lot of side roads, and finally, a long dirt road. A trail, would be more descriptive.

"Just keep moving and you probably won't get stuck," Akira ordered the driver. "Stay away from any soft sandy areas."

"Hai!" The driver barked.

Awhile later the limo was stuck.

"Don't try to get out, we're in too deep," Akira said. "We don't have much further to go anyhow. You stay here, and don't run the AC or the limo will overheat. Help yourself to the water."

"Hai!" The driver replied.

Akira opened the door and I could feel the desert heat instantly burn away the cool, air conditioned air inside the limo. But it was a dry burn.

"You should stay here," Akira said to Annie.

"No way!" Annie exclaimed defiantly.

Akira muttered something under his breath, drug me out and slung me over his shoulder.

"Grab as many bottles of water as you can carry, and bring the sake and tea," Akira said to Hanna and Annie.

It took another half hour on foot, and Akira didn't put me down once. Finally, we came to a small little house with a shaded porch. Near the door was a bell which Hanna was gleefully gonging.

"Stop that, you are going to make him angry!" Akira shouted in a whisper.

Hanna stopped, and while Akira was putting me down on a chair she gonged the bell again. Akira shot her a look and Hanna tried, unsucessfully, not to laugh, which got Annie grinning. They both covered their mouths.

And we waited...and waited...and waited. Twenty minutes later there was no sign of Sensei.

"Gramps where are you?!" Hanna shouted.

Akira gave her a token glance, but he looked more worried than flustered at his daughter's exuberance.

"I'm going to check inside. Stay here," Akira said, taking his shoes off. "I mean it," he added looking back.

Akira tried the door and it opened. He slipped silently inside and closed the door softly. It was so silent I could hear myself breathe. Hell, I could hear Annie breathe too. Time dragged on and it dragged the unwilling seconds with it. Hanna tried to look inside through the closest window.

We all heard a loud thump, followed by another thump and Akira speaking quickly.

"Sensei...Master, it is me, Akira! Wait! Oof! Ow! Will you please listen to me?!"

"Get out!" A voice ordered. "Out I say!"

More thumping and crashing which grew louder. as did Akira's voice as he got closer to the door.

"This is an emergency!" Akira shouted. "Ow! Sensei! Don't you recognize me?"

Hanna ran inside. I started to warn her of Akira's warning but she was already in the house.

"Gramps!" Hanna shouted.

"What's goin' on Annie?" I asked, unable to look inside.

"Hanna is...hugging the old man," Annie said, looking into the window, her hands cupped around her eyes to block the sunlight.

"Sensei," I said. "Don't call him old man."

"Well, he is old," Annie said.

"Let me see," I said.

"What? Are you joking? I can't carry you around like Akira did," Annie replied.

"No, your mirror. In your purse," I said. "You do have a mirror, don't you?"

"Oh, right! Now I see," Annie said, getting her compact mirror out. "How's this?" She asked.

"A little to your left, wait, back an inch...hold it. Can you block the sun so there ain't a glare? Okay, I'm wrong. This ain't gonna work. Thanks anyway," I said, grimacing from the pain.

"Oh Mack, you're in pain," Annie said, coming over to hug me again.

Just then the door opened and Akira came stumbling out backwards, followed by a staff wielding Sensei and Hanna, who was holding his arm and tryin' to talk to him.

"You two! No hanky panky on my porch! Get a room!" Sensei said facing Annie and me.

"Pleased to meet you sir," I said, my voice muffled by Annie's heaving bosom.

"Um...hi," Annie said, waving to Sensei. "We aren't, I mean, Mack here is hurt and..."

"That's what I have been trying to tell you gramps. Mack is poisoned, and it's slow acting, but it will kill him," Hanna said.

"Quit calling me gramps. Why did you bring him here for? Aren't you a doctor?" Sensei asked.

"Well, yes, but I cannot give him an antidote if I don't know what poison is in his blood," Hanna said. "You can help him, gramps, I know you can," she added, starting to sob. "Please, gramps!" She said, hugging him.

Sensei was taken aback from the tears. Obviously, he wasn't used to dames cryin' and huggin' him. Welcome to the party pal.

"Yes, well...ahem. So this must be Mack," sensei said, pointing his staff at me. "You," he pointed at Annie. "I need you to remove your breasts from his face, yes that's a good girl. Go fix me something to eat while I examine him, along now. Shoo."

Annie released me and blushed. She was about to protest but thought better of it, hesitantly moving out of the way.

"Thanks gramps! Your the best!" Hanna said, kissing Sensei on the cheek.

Sensei cleared his throat and said, "quit calling me gramps! And don't think you can manipulate me with kisses. Especially just one. How about you? Are you going to kiss me too? Hmm?" Sensei said, looking at Annie.

"You want me to kiss you?" Annie asked. "Are you crazy?"

"Did I say that? I didn't say that," Sensei said. "I simply want to know if you are going to kiss me like Hanna did, that is all. Don't make me out to be a dirty old man, I didn't start this. And yes, many would call me crazy, having no idea what crazy means."

"What? I never said..." Annie began, obviously getting angry. Hanna whispered in her ear, and Annie nodded. "Oh, okay," she said, kissing Sensei on the cheek.

"I know, you just can't help yourself," Sensei said, smiling. Now go and fix me dinner," he added, moving towards me to get a better look.

"Hmm..," Sensei said, studying my face, and ignoring Annie's indignant gaze. His eyes widened. "You...are the one. I have seen you in my dreams. Death follows you and now you can't run," he said in a low voice.

"What one? What do you mean, Sensei?" Akira asked.

"Silence!" Sensei shouted.

Akira bowed and kept his head down.

"Bring him inside," Sensei said, walking back into the house.

Akira picked me up and effortlessly carried me into Sensei's home. He followed sensei to what looked like the living room. One wall was filled with shelves of old tomes, which sensei now perused.

The other two walls were filled with all sorts of ingredients in jars, wooden and glass containers, labelled in Japanese. It was probably homeopathic medicines, I guessed.
Sensei was muttering something.

"Wart, warthog, wench, werewolf, oh, here it is, witch," he said.

"You are looking up the antidote?" I asked.

"No, I just wanted see a picture of a witch. The wench looks better, in case you were wondering," Sensei said.

"What book are you looking at, sensei?" I asked.

"You sure are nosy aren't you? I must know what kind of magic the witch used," Sensei said.

"Magic? Seriously?" I asked.

Sensei sighed and put the book down.

"Does this look serious?" He replied, blue lightning shooting between his hands.

"Whoa! That is so amazing!" I exclaimed. "Would you show me how to do that?" I asked.

"No." Sensei said, going back to his book.

"What does magic have to do with poison?" I asked.

"What part of witch do you not understand? Do you always yak this much?" Sensei asked.

"Only on Saturdays when I can't move," I quipped.

Sensei growled and read some more. Soon Hanna arived, bringing the tea.

"What book is that, gramps?" Hanna asked, pouring some tea for Sensei.

Sensei growled again, took his tea and continued reading. Hanna was unperturbed.

"Gramps is not a big talker," she said.

"I wouldn't have guessed," I said.

"Why did he call you the one?" Hanna asked, sipping her tea.

"Beats me," I replied, trying to shrug without success.

Sensei took a drink and ignored us.

"You got anything for pain, Hanna?" I asked.

"It must be really bad if you are asking for pain meds," Hanna replied, looking in her purse.

"I passed bad hours ago," I said.

Hanna put a small white pill in my mouth and helped me drink some tea.

Sensei snapped his book shut and put it away. Then he started rummaging through the ingredients.

"If you are done wasting time I could use your help," Sensei said.

"You got it, gramps," Hanna said.

"Do not call me gramps," Sensei replied, measuring some red colored powder and putting it into a bowl. "Now where did I put those scorpions?"

Scorpions? He lost scorpions? I thought, getting the heebie-jeebies. It's not that i was afraid of scorpions...usually. But not being able to move added a new dimension of fear.

"Are these it, gramps?" Hanna asked, holding up a jar.

"No, wrong kind. I need the Amazonian one's. You can't miss them. The smallest one is 7 inches long," he said, smiling.

"I didn't know you had funnel web spiders, gramps," Hanna said, looking into a plastic container.

"Huh? Funnel web spiders you say? That's odd, I don't recall getting them," Sensei said, looking into the container.

Oh great! Now I had the heebie-jeebies really bad. There's no tellin' what he has crawlin' around this place, I thought.

As if on cue, I heard Annie scream from the kitchen. Hanna ran out to go help, but Sensei seemed nonplussed, as he continued searching for the ingredients he needed.

I saw Akira run by the door on his way to the kitchen. There was the sound of glass breaking, and this time Annie and Hanna both screamed.

"Don't kill it daddy!" Hannah yelled. "Gramps needs it alive."

"What about the rattlesnake?!" Annie shouted.

"I don't know if gramps needs that or not. Here, let me see those tongs," Hanna said.

"You're going to get a rattlesnake with tongs?" Annie asked incredulously.

It was at that moment I felt somethin' crawlin' on my left leg. Since I couldn't move, I had no idea what it was.

"Um...Sensei?" I said.

"Hmmm?" He replied.

"There's somethin' on my leg," I said. "And it's movin' up my leg." Damn. "Sensei? A little help here!" I raised my voice.

"There you are," Sensei said, walking towards me. Sensei reached down and nonchalantly picked up a nine inch long scorpion by the tail. "Now how did you get out?"

I let my breath out, only now realizin' I had been holding it. Hanna came walkin' in holding a rattlesnake by the neck with cooking tongs, followed by Akira with the other scorpion. I fervently hoped that was the last of the lost, giant scorpions, and even more fervently hoped there were no more rattlers slithering around.

"Do you need a rattlesnake gramps?" Hanna asked.

"No, what would I need a rattlesnake for?" Sensei asked. "But I do need that scorpion. Drop that snake, Hanna and help me milk these scorpions."

"No, don't drop the snake, Hanna," I said, feelin' uneasy.

"Don't worry, silly," Hanna laughed. "Here daddy, will you get rid of this?" Hanna asked, handing Akira the tongs and balled up snake.

"What kind of place are you running here?" Annie asked, entering the room.

"Okay, break time is over," Sensei said. "Everyone out, yes you too dear. Chop chop, go cook, I am getting hungry."

"There better not be anymore surprises," Annie exclaimed, leaving the room. "And I need those tongs back!"

"Now, you milk them like this," Sensei said, showing Hanna how to milk a scorpion.

"I sure missed you gramps," Hanna said, kissing Sensei on the forehead.

"I said break time over. And quit calling me gramps," Sensei said, a hint of a smile on his face.

Hannah and Sensei eventually got all the ingredients mixed up, along with the scorpion poison. Sensei then placed the bowl over a burner and heated it up for a few minutes, stirring vigorously. Next he placed the bowl on a piece of white paper and sat on the floor by it.

"I must have silence, you understand? Complete silence," Sensei said. He closed his eyes and wrote, or drew Japanese characters around the bowl. It looked like calligraphy to me, but I couldn't see very well.

It may have been my imagination, or the poison, or perhaps real, I don't know, but the characters on the paper appeared to pulse and glow. Sensei chanted in Japanese and his voice waxed and waned. After about five minutes of this he got up bringing the bowl to Hanna.

"Help him drink this," he instructed. "Slowly." Then he went and sat back down and began to chant again.

Hanna came over and sat by me, raising my head up and helped me drink the foul smelling mixture. It was very bitter but I managed to choke it down. I tried to keep my eyes open, but the chanting made it impossible, and I felt myself falling into a deep sleep.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Neither Life Noir Death Kin Fu

Act 9: Pasterized

"The address is blocked, Mack, but it's in the general area of Clairemont Mesa. An Upscale neighborhood. If you can keep him on the phone for a few minutes we can run a trace," Jim said.

Why am I back here in the past? I wondered. Perhaps I'm dreamin'. But that can wait. Maybe I missed something.

"Okay, I'll be there in an hour or so and we can give it a try," I said. "But this has to be on the QT."

"No problem. But you better fill me in," Jim said.

"Right now it's just all hunches, Jim. I'd rather not speculate at this point."

"Okay, that's good enough for me. I'll call in a favor," Jim said.

"Thanks Jim," I said.

I tried to make sense of Master Toshiro's disappearance. Was he in trouble? Why didn't he call me? I wondered.

I drove as fast as I could but it was lunch time and highway 8 was packed.
I reflected on all the new events. I had to be careful. I didn't wanna get Jim in trouble. I wasn't too concerned about myself. It was imperative I find who killed my family and find Master Toshiro.

Yes, now I remember, I thought, as I watched myself drive. That's somethin' that's always cool about dreams, you can see different perspectives of things you think you know.

Since ths was a dream the time it took for me to get to Clairemont Mesa went by quickly. Funny how in dreams time is so...maleable.

I stopped and bought a disposable phone. I would need two phones for this operation.
I called Jim on my phone.

"Hi Jim, I'm ready," I said, giving Jim the number of the disposable.

"Okay, all set here," Jim replied.

I called the number I had found at Master Toshiro's.

"Hello?" The same man who had answered earlier said.

"Hi, I called earlier. I'm Toshiro's brother," I said.

"...Yeah?" He replied. "I already told you, I don't know your brother."

"Yes, and I'm sorry to bother you again," I said. "I just need to know, have you had this number long? You see, I was thinking, maybe Toshiro gave me an old number. It's been quite awhile since we talked and he always called me, since I'm usually in Hong Kong."

"Well...I.I'm not really sure. Maybe a year ago. My wife usually handle that stuff," he said.

Man, this guy is a bad liar," I thought.

"Yes, I know what you mean. I never really pay attention to that sort of thing," I said. "It's just that..." I choked up, or at least tried to make it sound like I was broken up. "Our sister, she..." I poured it on, hoping this mron would stay on the phone. "Sh...she's been taken from us...I'm sorry, it happened so suddenly," I sniffed.

"Oh...I'm sorry for your loss," he said. "But I..."

"Sh...she w...was found in her apartment, and..." I let out a breath. "This is really hard," I said cutting him off. "Please...forgive me, I haven't spoken about her...since I..."

"...No problem, I understand," he said.

" you think maybe it's been a year?" I asked.

"Yeah, probably," the man said.

"Thank you sir," I said. "You have been most kind. Again, I'm sorry. I hope I didn't inconvenience you in any way," I said, sniffing.

"Not at all. Sorry I couldn't be more help," he said. "Goodbye."

My phone buzzed. "Mack?" Jim said. We got it. I'm going to patch you through to Kim. Call me back after Kim gives you the info, okay?"

Kim handled the tech stuff, like traces, recovering data from hard drives and stuff like that.

"Mack, Kim here. Here's the address. The phone belongs to a Ren Sato. No warrants or record, yet. He runs a shipping business. Sato shipping. He has been under investigation in the past, but he's never been charged with anything. Sh*t, Mack, he's been suspected of human trafficking, drug running, and dealing in the black market, among many other crimes, such as ordering the executions of witnesses that agree to testify. Incidently, no one has ever lived to testify against him. He likely has ties to Yakuza. The guy looks to be dirty but extremely slippery. He has dual American and Japanese citizenship. What do you have on him?" Kim asked.

I copied the address and name down. "Nothin' yet. Just checkin' on a lead," I replied. "Thanks Kim." Kim was phenominal on the computer. Anyone else, I would be waiting at least an hour for all that info.

"Don't mention it. And careful, man. Sato is powerful." Kim said.

"Yeah, will do," I replied, snapping my phone shut. I almost called Jim, but instead I put the phone in my pocket.

No, I wasn't gonna get him involved, I decided. Because if Ren didn't cooperate, well...I wasn't gonna take no for an answer, and I sure as hell wouldn't get a judge to sign a search warrant with only a number and a hunch as probable cause.
Besides, Master may not have much time, if he's still alive.

It only took me five minutes to drive to the Sato compound. I drove right up to the main gate, stopping at the guard shack.

"Please state your business," the guard said, checking his clipboard.

"SDPD," I replied, showing my badge. "I need to ask Mr. Sato some questions."

"Senior or junior?" The guard asked.

Hmmm...good question, I thought. "Both," I replied. Be interesting to get their reactions, I mused.

"Standby," the guard said, going back to his shack and making a call. A few minutes later he returned. "Okay, you can pass. Just follow the road to that big mansion over there."

"Right. The big mansion," I quipped. Who woulda thunk it?

I drove up, circled the driveway until I was closest to the main door and got out. I was kind of surprised they didn't simply refer me to a lawyer. Or group of lawyers.
A butler was waiting at the door.

"Follow me please," he said.

I followed him to what appeared to be a den. There was a young man of perhaps thirty there playing a video game with an older, sixtyish guy. The Sato's, I presumed. It looked like some sort of fighting game. The butler motioned to a plush chair and I sat down.

"Damn you! I lost again!" The older man exclaimed as his character fell to a vicious and bloody combo. "I still don't see what you get out of these games."

"I get to win, father," the younger Sato replied, laughing.

"Come, we have a guest," Daddy Sato said, patting his son on the shoulder.

I stood up as they approached. I will try this the easy way first, I decided.

"Mack...Mack Westphal, I am Ren Sato senior, and this is my son, Ren Sato junior. How may we assist the SDPD?" He asked, extending his hand.

"Thank you for seeing me," I said, shaking their hands. Ren jr. looked nervous and arrogant, I observed, but I couldn't read Ren sr.. "You know my name?" I asked. "I don't recall meeting you before."

"I like to know who I am meeting with," Ren sr. said, smiling. "Technology is grand, is it not?"

That's still pretty fast, I thought. Either someone told them that I specifically was coming, or they had some helluva computer programmer to ID me so quickly from the video feeds.

"Yes. Yes it is," I said. "I'll get right to the point sir, I'm looking for Toshiro
Nakamura. He is...missing."

Junior turned white as a ghost but Ren sr. didn't flinch. "Hmm, that name doesn't ring a bell does it son?" He said, looking at his son intently.

"N-no, it sure doesn't," he replied, still nervous.

"Go see how your mother is," Ren senior said, looking disappointed. "Mr. Westphal..."

"Mack," I said, cutting him off and watching his son slink off.

"Mack...why would you think that we would know where this...Mr. Nakamura is?" Ren asked.

"I traced one of his earlier calls to this address," I replied, lying.

"Hmm...well, we do have a large staff here. I'll be happy to ask around," Ren said. "Care for a drink?" He asked, pouring himself a brandy.

"Yes, thank you," I replied. "That looks good."

Ren poured me a brandy and handed it to me. "I propose a Mr. Nakamura...may you find him safe and sound," Ren said, raising his glass.

Asshole, I thought, clinking his glass with mine and taking a drink. He knows.

"Your son..." I said, after draining my glass, "looked troubled when I brought up Toshiros name."

"Oh, he always gets nervous around strangers," Ren said, smiling. "I assure you, he knows nothing."

"Look," I said, "I know your lying, Sato so you can cut the act. Where is Toshiro?" I asked.

"I already told you, he isn't..." Ren started.

"Bullsh*t!" I shouted, grabbing him by his shirt. "Now talk!"

Four men rushed into the room, but Ren stayed cool and waved them off.

"Or what?" Ren said, smiling. "I suggest you release me, if you value your life."

I pulled Ren closer. "Don't push me," I said. "I want some answers."

"You will never see Toshiro again," Ren said, laughing. "by the way, how is your family?"

"Wrong answer," I replied, hitting Ren so hard he fell backwards into the giant widescreen TV, knocking it over and hitting the floor.

His goons closed in, and I went ballistic. Ten seconds later, the room was trashed, and so were his goons. I saw Ren jr. through the window, running outside. I threw a chair through the window and followed him into the garage. I could hear more men mobilizing.

I entered the garage, which was more like a covered parking lot, to see Ren jr. aiming a gat at me. I dropped down behind a limo, as he fired several shots at me, and got my gun out. I moved to the other side of the limo, but I couldn't see him.
A car started up, and I popped up, sweeping the garage. A black corvette stingray was burnin' rubber, and ren jr. took off.

I ran outside, dodging gunfire from more of Sato's goons, and jumped in my car, a '72Chevy Malibu, and the chase was on.

It was strange, watchin' all this in my dream, from a third person perspective. I followed Ren jr. as he flew past the gate, which the guard had opened. Apparently, he knew it was Ren jr.. Yeah, technology sure is grand, I thought, flyin' past the gate before the guard could close it.

I turned on the red flashing light on my dashboard and closed on Ren jr.. I thought abut callin' it in, but I was too busy tryin' to avoid crashing as we careened through Clairemont Mesa. It was all academic anyway, as we soon attracted other cops anyway, who also gave chase.

Ren jr. was good, but he wasn't as good as me, and he couldn't shake me. The longer the chase went on, the more reckless Ren jr. got. Reckless fugitives do stupid things, and Ren jr. was no different. He was too young to know I didn't have anything on him, until he shot at me, that is. Ren jr. entered I-5 north...goin' south. I followed.

We zigged and zagged through the traffic, and although it wasn't rush hour, it was still crowded enough. I could hear the radio chatter and soon Jim was callin' me.

"Mack! What the hell is goin' on?" Jim asked. "Call me, dammit!" And the radio chatter resumed.

I floored the Chevy and tried to gain on Ren Jr., who decided to try and shoot at me. Not a good idea when you're weaving in and out of traffic, goin' the wrong way! Ren jr., wasn't a very good shot, fortunately, and he soon realized the folly of not keeping his eyes on the road, as he plowed into a semi.

"Sh*t!" I yelled, slowing down, and approaching the scene of the crash. I needed him alive. The trucker slammed on his brakes and stopped, and I also stopped in the same lane, jumping out of my car and runnin' to the scene. I didn't need to bother. Ren jr. was roadkill. His body cut in two. I got there in time to watch him die, his face a twisted mask of utter fear.

"Where's Toshiro?!" I shouted, tryin' to will the young idiot to live a few seconds longer. Of course I got no response.

"What in the hell were you thinking?!" The Chief of police shouted at me. "Do you have any idea how many laws you violated. Not to mention the rights on Ren Sato and his son! His dead son!"

"Chief...I...they know where Toshiro is. Ren, he...knows something about my family's murders," I replied.

"I don't give a flying f*ck what you think he knows!" The Chief shouted, spit flyin' everywhere. "We'll be lucky if he doesn't sue the department! You blew it mister! Give me your badge and your gun. You are suspended until Internal Affairs investigates. And I assure you, you are through. You will never work another day for this department!"

"Chief!" Jim shouted. "You can't do that to him. His family was murdered for God's sake! I know he violated some procedures, but if Mack says Sato knows something, then by God he does!"

"Shut up, Jim! We got rules for a reason! I will not tolerate a vigilante loose cannon on my force, you got that?! And you are suspended for one month without pay for helping this fool!" Chief screamed, his face turnin' red.

I started to leave but the Chief kept yellin'. "Where in the f*ck do you think you're going? I ain't done with you yet, Westphal you stupid f*ck!"

I turned to face the Chief again, trembling with rage. "F*ck you!" I exclaimed, opening the door and then slamming it as I walked away.

There were several of my fellow police officers just outside the door. No doubt listening to the Chief go into his carpet bombing rant. They quickly went to their desks or walked around lookin' busy. I noticed one officer studying me intently. It was Captain Johnson. He had a smile on his face as he watched me walk away.

This was something I couldn't have seen when it happened. Was my dream accurate? Was Captain Johnson the mole Yukio had mentioned? I wondered.

Jim tried his best to get me reinstated, but to no avail. After his suspension he learned that Captain Johnson had given the case of my murdered family to another detective. Jim was livid, but he couldn't get the case back, no matter how many favors he called in.

"I'm sorry, Mack, I failed you, my friend," Jim said, visiting me a few months after I got fired.

"It's not your fault, Jim," I said, drinkin' another swig of whiskey, and passing him the bottle.

"Something really stinks about this. I mean, all you did was hit Sato, and defend yourself from his guards. Sure, you made some mistakes, but nothin' to get you fired. You're right, Mack, Sato knows something, if he isn't behind all this. Look, Mack, I can't get you your job back, but I can help you get a private investigator license. What do you say?" Jim asked, taking a drink of whiskey and handing the bottle back.

"I don't know, Jim. It's useless to even try, I think. Why bother? Sato will never talk. I'll never know..." I trailed off, drinking another swig.

"Mack, you can't give up, okay? I know this is hard, but you got to promise me you won't give up, okay? C'mon buddy, you got some bad guys to catch!" Jim said, looking into my soul.

"Sure, Jim," I replied, drained of emotion. I took another drink, hating myself. Hating what I had become. I just wanted to be numb. I just wanted to drink until I died. God, what in the hell is wrong with me? I asked. But there was no reply.

Jim never stopped tryin' to help me, but I was beyond his help now, I had thought.
Sarah also tried to help. Mostly by fixin' me meals, and hugging me a lot. They tried everything to reach me. Lookin' back now, in my dream, I felt like smackin' myself for bein' such a fool! I felt sorry for Jim and Sarah, wastin' their time on me. Why did they do it? I wondered. What do they see in me?

For three years they tried to help me. Three long years, lost in a drunken fog. Wandering without purpose. That's what Jim and Sarah really wanted to give me. A sense of purpose. Meaning. Motivation. A love for life like they had. I wished so often to have the love of life they had, and the joy they radiated.

Why was I such a fool? I wondered. Then my dream went black. What is happening? I wondered, feelin' scared of the...darkness closing in. I wasn't usually afraid of the dark, but this darkness was...malignant. It wanted to suck my life away.

I cowered and shouted out at the darkness. "Get the hell away from me!" The darkness continued to inch closer. "Jim! Sarah!" I shouted, fear gripping my heart. My felt like Death itself was squeezing my heart in it's death grip. I tried to breath, but the darkness was stealin' my air.

"I can't help you through this Mack," Jim said. I couldn't see him, but I heard his voice. "You need to pray...pray to God, Mack."

"Okay," I replied. And I prayed. "God help me, please. I'm dyin' Father. I don't wanna die," I sobbed. "Not yet. Not really."

The darkness remained, but that desire to live grew within me, and the fear began to subside. I had a sense of purpose now...but I couldn't define it...yet. For the short term, I would fight to live.

"You need to go back, Mack. Wake up! Go back!" Jim's voice said.

"Yes, wake up, Mack!" Toshiro's voice said. "Fight!"

"Thanks, Jim and Sarah. Thanks, Master. Thanks God," I said, smiling. Then I a world of pain.

Monday, February 16, 2009

What Do You Noir?

Act 8: Witch Way?

When I came to, Hanna was checking my heart with her stethoscope. I was lying on a gurney in her office.

"Well now, how are we feeling?" Hanna asked.

"Hi Hanna. Kinda sore, but not bad," I answered, trying to sit up.

"No you don't!" Hanna scolded, pushing me back down. I winced. My left side, where Kane had skewered me protested and added several exclamation points to Hanna's scolding words.

"Your heartbeat is very strong, considering the amount of blood you lost. And your x-rays showed no damage to any organs or your intestines, but it was very close. It's difficult to know for sure, however, without a CT scan or exploratory surgery. So you need to be absolutely honest with me, you understand, Mack? No tough guy bullsh*t! I know you are tough. And welcome back!" She said, hugging me.

"Um...okay Hanna," I replied, hoarsely, my throat and mouth were dry.

"Here, let me get you some water," she said, wiping her eyes.

Why is she cryin'? I wondered. I looked around and saw I was hooked up to a blood bag. I had a blood pressure cuff attached to my other arm. I didn't see anyone else in the room.

"Here you go, Mack. Don't drink too fast," Hanna said, handing me a cup of iced water. She helped tilt my head up enough to drink from the straw.

"Thanks," I said, feelin' much better. "Got any whiskey?"

"What?! No whiskey for you mister!" Hanna said, pointing her finger at me. You almost died, and if it wasn't for daddy, you would've!" She continued, teary eyed.

"But I thought you said I was okay?" I replied, puzzled.

"NOW you're okay. You do know your body only contains so much blood, right? Unfortunately, I didn't have any blood on hand. Thankfully, daddy has the same blood type you do. After giving what he could, he sent one of his men to get some more. Looks like he stole it from UCSD Hospital. You had a nicked artery. I was able to repair it, with Annie's assistance. It was close. Too close!" Hanna exclaimed, huggin' me again.

"Hey now..," I said, patting her on the back as she sobbed. "Thank you, Hanna. I'm in your debt."

"You sure are," she said, then she planted a big kiss on my lips before turning away to blow her nose and wipe her eyes.

Needless to say I had conflicting emotions about this. I liked Hanna, a lot, but she really was too young for me. But what could I say? She did make me feel younger, and I was flattered she liked me so much, but still...this was just...wrong.

Maybe I'm over-reacting, I thought. Afterall, it was just a kiss. Yeah right, you just keep tellin' yourself that. That wasn't just a kiss. No way no how. Face it Mack, she digs you. Swell. What could I say? I owed her my life.

Hanna turned around and looked into my eyes, as she bent down. I thought she was gonna kiss me again, but she stopped, about an inch or two from my face. She sure smells good, I thought. Not sterile, like most doctors I had seen. She smelled like sandalwood and cherry blossoms, and...too young.

"Mack, I...I think I..." Hanna said, then she kissed me again, longer this time, grabbing my face with her tender hands.

Okay, maybe she ain't too young, I thought. What am I sayin'? What's my problem? She's too young for me!

When she stopped kissing me, she looked me in the eyes again, still holding my face in her hands.

"Mack...I think I love you," she said softly. "Shh," she said, putting a finger to my lips when I tried to reply. "But I know it'll never work out...I know you love Annie, and you are kind of old. It's obvious she loves you too. I just wanted to kiss you once...okay, see. I'm sorry I took advantage of you, Mack. We can be friends though, right?" She asked, smiling.

"Of course," I replied. "I'll always be there for you if you ever need me. And not just because I owe you my life," I said, smiling. "C'mere and give me another hug!"

What a relief! I thought, huggin' her as a friend. Waitaminnit! Why does Hanna think I love Annie? Do I? I don't know. I wasn't so sure Annie loved me. Man, I sure could use some whiskey right now! What does she mean, kinda old?

"Hanna, I know this is your office and all, but since I can't have whiskey right now, could I please have a coffin nail?" I asked with my best puppy dog eyes look.

"Coffin nail? Oh, you mean a cigarette?" She asked. "Sure. You know, these are bad for you, don't you? Here, have one of mine," she said, opening her desk drawer and taking out a pack.

"Thanks!" I said, as she lit it. "It's been over a day since I had one. Wait, you smoke?" I asked.

"Yeah, sometimes. When I'm stressed out and stuff. Usually I go days without them, though. I bought this pack three weeks ago. Don't tell daddy, okay?" She asked, lighting up one for herself.

"My lips are sealed," I replied. I bet daddy knows, I thought. "How long have I been out?" I asked.

"About 12 hours," Hanna replied, looking at her watch. "It's 9:30 AM."

"12 hours? Geez, I was really out of it then," I said. I looked under the sheet and blanket at my wounds. "Nice stitchin' job, Hanna," I said.

"I'm getting a lot of practice since you have been here," she said, giggling.

"Well, hopefully that will be the extent of it," I replied, laughing. "Have you heard anything about Yukio?" I asked.

"Yes, he got back around midnight," Hanna said. "He checked in on you a few times and asked me when you would be ready to go back to work," she frowned.

"He wasn't...angry?" I asked. I felt I could trust Hanna, but I still had to be careful what I said. This room could be bugged.

"No, not at all. In fact, he looked happier than I have ever seen him," Hanna replied.

Huh. Wasn't expectin' that, I thought. Then again, the last few days had been one crazy moment after another. And last night...that dream, that stuff Kane was doin'...was that really magic? Dark arcanna? I never believed that stuff was real, but now...well, I had experienced it, seen it with my own eyes. That woman...I shuddered. Part excitement and part fear. She...controlled me. I was ashamed, because I...I liked it. Was my mind that weak? My will nothin' more than a sham? I was disgusted with myself.

"What's wrong?" Hanna asked, holding out a bed pan for an ash tray.

"Last night..." I said, "Hanna, I need to speak with Akira."

"Okaaay, no problem, but why are you so upset? Because you killed Kane? You did it in self defense, so don't feel guilty," Hanna said, handing me her cigarettes and lighter.

"Thanks, Hanna," I replied. I decided to keep my thoughts to myself, for now. Akira had seen the darkness, the red eyes. Maybe he could shed some light on it. And I had other questions to ask.

"Oh alright," Hanna said, going to a cabinent and bringing out a bottle. "One drink, two tops," she said, smiling, when she saw my smile.

"You, my dear, are a life saver!" I exclaimed, holding out my cup.

Two drinks and another smoke later, Hanna returned with Akira. Akira nodded and motioned to Hanna, who then left us alone.

"Akira, I...thank you for giving me a fightin' chance last night," I said.

"It was my duty and honor to do so, sir," Akira replied, bowing.

I tried to bow back, but it's pretty much impossible when your lyin' on a gurney.

"Kane," I said, "was he using...magic?" I asked, hesitantly.

Akira looked at me a long time before replying, "yes. I have only seen magic like that twice before. Ancient black magic," Akira said solemnly.

Twice before? Does Yukio know this? I wondered.

"Perhaps it is...renxing fengshu, which uses an effigy," Akira said. "For sympathetic magic uses. Most use it for healing or beneficial actions. But, it can be used to curse, or inflict harm or damage. It began in China thousands of years ago and the knowledge migrated to Japan. There are many variations, of course. It's somewhat like voodoo, in some regards. I did some research after seeing it the first time. Or...maybe Kane was psychic."

I took it all in, and tried to keep an open mind. It seemed so farfetched, but I was there. It wasn't my imagination. I didn't believe it was hypnotism, else I would've lost the fight, and my life.

" it over? I mean, if it was black magic, do I need to do anything else, now that Kane is dead?" I asked.

Akira rubbed his chin with his forefinger and thumb, deeply in thought as he paced the room.

"You should be okay, if Kane was acting alone. It wouldn't hurt to pray, if your religious. Let me know if anything else happens," Akira said. "I know a holy man, a hermit, that may be able to help."

"Thanks," I said. "Akira, how is Yukio?" I asked. I had, afterall killed his father.

"He is in...good spirits," Akira replied. "Don't worry, he isn't angry at you."

"You said, you videotaped the fight?" I asked.

"Yes...Master Yukio will explain everything," he answered sheepishly. Akira moved to within a few inches of me and bent his face down and whispered, "do not repeat Kane's dying words." So faint I barely heard.

I nodded. What kinda game was Akira playin'? Is Yukio testing my loyalty, or is Akira helping me? And if Akira is helping me, how much so? What should I do? At any rate, I at least knew the room was in fact bugged. Oh sh*t! I hope Akira didn't hear Hanna say she loved me! I tried to read his eyes, but it was damn near impossible to get anything outta his eyes.

"I must go, Mack. If you need anything at all and no one is here, press this button on the railing," Akira said. "And don't you ever kiss my daughter again!" Then he grinned, bowed, and left.

Damn! I wanted to ask him more questions. Maybe later, I thought, shutting my eyes. I'm so tired. Almost immediately I was fast asleep and dreaming.

It's her! The Japanese lady with the white hair. I tried to run, but no matter where I ran, she appeared in front of me. I tried to change the dream. I usually was successful doin' that, or at least guiding dreams in directions I wanted to go. But it didn't work. No matter what I did she was there.

"Who are you?" I asked, "what do you want?"

She made a pouty expression with her lips, and drew close. She was so beautiful I could hardly think straight.

"I thought you liked me," she said in a sultry voice. "You have nothing to fear from me," she purred, wrapping her arms around me. "come me," she whispered, kissing me.

Like before, the fire within me grew, my lust becoming quickly dominant. I struggled, but it seemed futile. Her mere presence made me high, and it had been so long. I found myself not caring about all my questions, reasons, magic, no magic, Yukio, Kane, only she filled my thoughts. Only her and my lust for her. Then I saw my wedding ring.

"No!" I pulled back, but she held on, sapping my strength. "No," I said, getting weaker.

Gotta...gotta do somethin' thoughts were like molasses. Gotta ring...I clenched my left hand into a fist, staring at my ring.

But the white haired lady pulled my hands down, and continued to kiss me. She made moaning sounds that broke my concentration, and I fell prey to her spell. I knew this was wrong, but I didn't care. Only my animal lust mattered now.

"Leave him be, YOU WITCH!" And suddenly, Master Toshiro was there, shining brightly, although I couldn't see the source of the light. It seemed to be coming from within him.

The witch hissed, but refused to let me go.

"He is mine!" She screamed indignantly.

"Mack! Fight her!" Master said.

"Master Toshiro?" I replied. "Where are you?" I asked, losing my desire to get it on with the witch.

"The sword, Mack, find my sword! Now pray!" Master said. "Pray!"

I closed my eyes and prayed, "Father, please help me," I prayed. At the moment I prayed I felt so dirty and vile for the thoughts I had just seconds before. I was repulsed by myself. "Please, forgive me Lord," I prayed. "Please forgive me," I said to my dead wife, tears streaming down my face. I heard the witch scream and I awoke.

I shook my head, and wiped my eyes. I really had been cryin'. Where is Master's sword? I wondered. His house? I didn't see it last time I was there. Maybe there was a secret compartment or somethin', I thought. I'll hafta check it out as soon as I can.

Then I saw her. The witch! She had a dagger in her hand and she leapt on top of me! What the hell? This was like some Nightmare On Elm Street thing! I grabbed the hand that held the dagger but I missed her other hand. She grabbed my throat as she landed on me, and I felt her long nails digging into my flesh! I grabbed her arm and tried to pull it away, but she wouldn't let go.

She tried to knee me in my cajones but I trapped her knee between my thighs just in time.

"Rotsa ruck, witchy!" I rasped. She snarled in response. Witches don't appear to have a sense of humor, I observed.

I stopped tryin' to pull her hand from my throat and hit her as hard as I could square in the face. She almost released her grip as blood dripped from her nose, then she squeezed harder and the dagger inched closer!

Daamn! This bitch is strong! I thought. I hit her again and rolled to my left. We both smacked into the rail and the gurney fell. "Crash!" "Ow!" I shouted, pain lancing throughout my body. Hanna is gonna be pissed! I thought, feelin' a bunch of stitches breaking.

I hope someone hears that, I thought. At least the crash made the witch let go, but I lost my grip on her as well.

I tried to get up but the witch was faster. She took the IV pole and threw it at me knocking me down again before I could fully get up. I also slipped on my own blood that was leaking from my left arm and dripping from my neck. I tried to get back up and felt the dagger nick my right arm. Damnit! It felt like fire shootin' into my arm!

"Does this mean you don't love me no more?" I asked, gritting my teeth.

"You will die a slow and painful death for killing my father!" The witch yelled.

"Ahh!" I shouted, as the burnin' in my arm got worse. I grabbed the IV pole and swung it back and forth, but she wasn't there. Where did she go? I quickly scanned the room but she was gone. Nobody is that fast!

"Mack!" Hanna shouted behind me. "What's wrong?"

"Ahh!" I shouted, fear gripping me. I quickly turned, still holding the pole like a weapon.

"Stay back!" I shouted. Could I believe my eyes? Was the witch tricking me?

"Okay, okay, it's me, Hanna, remember?" Hanna said, showing her empty hands.

Annie came in next, her eyes wide and her face concerned.

"Mack! Are you okay?" Annie asked runnin' up to me and kneeling beside me, hugging me.

I dropped the pole. I didn't think the witch could pretend to be two people at once. And I knew inside, this was really Annie. That was dumb, I wanted to say, I could've hit you, thinkin' you were the witch! I was glad to see her though.

"Your arm! What happened?" Annie asked, helpin' me up.

Hanna picked up the gurney and lowered the rail, then she helped Annie get me back in it. My IV line had been torn from my arm in the fight and Hannah quickly got some gauze pads to put on it and stop the bleeding. Annie applied direct pressure.

Next, Hanna went to work on my right arm, near the shoulder where I had been nicked. It was a shallow wound, perhaps no more than half an inch deep. The burning sensation was fading and it was replaced by numbness.

"I...I can't...feel my arm," I said, trying to move it, to no avail. "I don't feel so good."

Akira came running in next. "What happened?" He asked.

"W-witch," I replied. "Attacked" It was becoming a real effort to talk.

"P...poi...son," I managed to get out.

"Oh my God!" Annie shouted, holding my left arm in one hand, and my left hand with the other. "Don't you die on me, Mack! You hear?" She said, tears filling her eyes.
"Stay with me!"

I could see Akira quickly searching the room. Hanna was cleansing my wound, but I no longer felt anything. I tried to talk but nothing came out. Hanna checked my pulse.

"She got in and left from the window," I heard Akira say. "There'll be hell to pay from the guard!"

"He's crashing!" Hanna exclaimed.

I'm what? I thought, as everything went black.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Kendo Noir Fu

Act 7: DarKane

I watched Kane to ensure he didn't try to snuff out Akira. When we arrived in the practice room, Akira turned to face us.

"Your guns gentlemen?" He asked.

I handed him my gat, and Kane did the same. Huh. Kane has a nine mil Baretta, I observed. Holds more ammo than my .45, but not much knockdown power.

Kane took his socks off and I followed suit. This was a wooden floor, and bare feet would provide the best traction.
Kane went to the center of the room and sat down on the floor, placing his sword on his lap.

"I'm going to meditate for a few minutes before we begin," Kane said.

"Is that okay with you?" Akira asked me.

"No problem," I replied.

Kane closed his eyes and began chanting in Japanese. But it wasn't just Japanese. Some words, or perhaps they were simply notes he appeared to sing, but more of an intonal sound than singing.

Is the room getting darker? I wondered. I looked at Akira, and his left eyebrow raised up. What is this?

Kane gradually chanted louder. His face took on a redish hue, or glow, as the room got darker. What the hell? He's channeling...but what kind of hellish power is this?

"Dark magic," Akira whispered, so faintly, I wondered if he really said it.

Somehow I had a feelin' this wasn't some parlor trick. This was indeed dark forces at work here. It felt like the room was gettin' smaller, stuffier, closin' in on me. Stifling. I struggled to breath the stale, dead air. The pain in my chest, the cracked ribs, and the blow I had sustained to my face increased as Kane got louder, and it...burned.

This is just an illusion, I thought, grimacing, tryin' to shake it off. But thinkin' that didn't change anything. Kane was gettin' stronger, I just knew it. Illusion or not, Kane's sword is real, and he aims to kill me. I shivered. The room is gettin' colder. I can see my breath! So cold and dark!

I looked at Akira again, and his eyes had grown wide. Even he is disturbed by this...whatever it is that Kane is doin'.

"Is magic real, Master?" I asked, after watchin' an old kung fu movie filled with magic.

"Have you been watching those kung fu movies again?" Master Toshiro asked. I nodded sheepishly. "Magic is not as real as you are," he finished, tapping my chest with his finger.

"Is there good magic and evil magic?" I asked.

"Of course, if you want to call it that. Magic, power, energy, forces...yes, good and evil," Master said.

"Can you teach me good magic, Master?" I asked.

"Ho ho! I already am, Mack!" Master exclaimed, his eyes laughing louder than his voice.

"But I can't see it," I said looking at my hands.

"Can you see the wind? Of course not, but it's still there, right? Just as the arts I teach you are there inside of you. As you grow, you may see or sense this energy in yourself and others. Your energy is very bright, Mack," Master said, smiling.

"You can see it?" I asked, smiling back.

"Truly," Master nodded, chuckling. "You will learn to see if you work at it."

I wasn't so sure I wanted to see this. I had never felt this kind of...intense evil. To be sure, I had encountered some very evil men, I had arrested many of them. But none with this much power. When is he gonna stop? I wondered, trying to clear my head. The darkness was making me groggy. I fought to keep my eyes open.

Kane continued his ugly sounding chant that grated on my nerves until they were raw and exposed. You are alone, a voice whispered in my ears from behind me. I nearly jumped out of my skin as I turned and looked. Nothin' there.
Easy now, I told myself. I closed my burnin' eyelids. Just need to rest them a second.

A cold wind rushed over me and I gritted my teeth to stop them from chattering.
You are going to die, a voice whispered, again, behind me. I turned to look, but just like before nothin' was there.

Kane's chanting was givin' me a headache and makin' it difficult to concentrate.
His eyes popped open and they appeared to be glowing red. Kane smiled demonically. Damn! I closed my eyes and opened them again. No, I'm not dreamin'. I closed my eyes again, and tried to pray.

Sleep, the wind whispered, caressing my face with it's chilly tendrils, breaking ny concentration. My thoughts were a mess. I couldn't focus.

"What are you doin' to me?!" I shouted.

Kane laughed maniacally as I felt my conciousness slip away. Stop it. Just stop it...
I searched...for something...I can't remember. What? An unnatural drowsiness sucked me in until I no longer knew what up or down was. Total disorientation set in.
Sleep, cold comfort...God it's so cold!

"Shhh. It's okay," she said, caressing my face. I opened my eyes and saw a strikingly beautiful and naked Japanese woman with white hair and pale alabaster skin. She looked familiar but I had never seen her before.

She sang a haunting melody as she undressed me, her voice like rain on a dark night, lulling me. Luring me...
Her voice caused me to burn with lust. All I could think about was her. I...wanted her.

She giggled fetchingly, and she knew how and where to touch me, invoking a desire within me that I couldn't deny. She embraced me and we kissed, writhing expertly against by body, driving me...insane with lust! Was this a dream? The thought was quickly crushed, as she continued to focus my attention on her. She is so enchanting! I thought, my excitement rising.

I heard a familiar sound...the sound of a sword bein' drawn from it's sheath.
I knew I should do something..."take me," she whispered in my ear, before kissing me again. I was lost in her kiss, and I didn't care anymore if this was a dream or not. All that mattered was feeding my lust, fulfilling my desire, and quenching the fire that burned within me.

"Mack! Mack! Wake up!" Master Toshiro shouted.

I opened my eyes to see Kane slashing at me with his sword! I drew my sword, stopping the brunt of his blow, but his sword bit into my left shoulder. I stifled a scream and tried to focus.

Every move I made was easily countered by Kane, and he only seemed to get stronger and faster as the battle raged on. He brought his sword down and I blocked it, but the force drove me to my knees.

God! Where did he get such strength? I thought, fear clutching my mind.

I missed a block and Kane's sword sliced into my left side. Dammit! This don't look good.

"Remember!" Master Toshiro said.

Remember what? I wondered, parrying another blow.

"Eagle Claw!" Master said.

Of course! Kane knows Kendo, but Master taught me more than Kendo. He taught me Shao Lin Eagle Claw and more!

Kane slashed and I blocked, stepping in I struck his elbow. Kane let out a howl as I pressed him, but he recovered too fast.

I staggered, swaying one way and then the next. Kane looked puzzled. Good, I thought. He stepped in with and brought his sword down. I staggered to the side, with a glancing block of my sword. Let's see how you handle Wushu Drunken Fist! I thought, launching a haymaker left and striking Kane in the eye.

Kane slashed blindly and I staggered back, but he made me pay with a small cut to my forearm. I got the better of the exchange though, and Kane was shaken. Hopefully, his eye will swell up, I thought.

My next strategy will be the hardest. I hafta relax, I thought, preparing for Wing Chun, a soft form of kung fu that requires relaxation, and that uses non-committal strikes, so if I miss I can easily defend or follow through. It also conserve energy, and can use an opponents energy against him. But using Wing Chun with Kendo wouldn't be easy.

Kane was incensed! He roared, and his eyes lit up a brighter red. Good, I thought. I think. Kane sprinted forward, his sword a blur. I centered myself, and relaxed. Be efficient, I thought. Conserve energy. Look for holes...there! I stepped in, locking blades, sending an Arrow Fist to his solar plexus. I got a hasty kick to the abdomen in return. "Oof!"

We both took damage on that one, I thought. I switched gears again. By now, Kane knew I was switching styles, but would he recognize this one? Only one way to find out, I thought, assuming the Chinese Dragon form. Kane shook his head and pressed the attack, his deadly sword giving me no rest.

I must ride the wind, I thought, parrying and then rotating to avoid Kanes slashes.
I dropped quickly and executed a leg sweep knocking Kane off balance. I followed through with a Plum Flower Punch. Kane stabbed at that instant, his sword skewering my left side as I struck him with full force on his right collar bone, shattering it.

From the Dragon back to Kendo, I quickly brought my sword up as Kane struggled to get his free from my side. I brought my left elbow down and pressed in with all my strength, trapping Kane's sword inside of me. Kane deflected my sword a bit with his left arm but I still got it in under his rib cage, and I twisted it for good measure.

We both stood there gasping for breath, bleeding profusely, sweat burning our eyes. But Kane's eyes grew wide, as he sensed his impending death. "ha ha...cough..," he muttered.

"Chinese Kung Fu and Wushu!" Kane spat, smiling, blood coming from his mouth, the fire in his eyes fading. "Listen, Mack! The Grand Master himself...cough...cough...cut down..."

"What? What are you saying Kane?" I asked, shaking him.

", he...killed. Tell...cough...tell Toshiro...sorry..." Kane whispered, wheezing his last breath and sliding to the floor.

I dropped to my knees at this revelation, which felt like a Tiger Fist to the gut! The Grand Master murdered my family? Why? What?! What the hell?!

Akira knelt in front of me. "Wow! Good fight! One of the best I ever saw! I thought you were a goner there. Good thing we got it on video. Now hold still, this is going to hurt."

Akira pulled Kane's sword out swiftly, and I saw a white flash of new pain. I tried to stand up and dizziness overtook me. Wonder how much blood I got left? I wondered, smiling. I fought to stay awake, but I was fading fast. Video? What the fu..?

The last thing I heard before everything went black was Akira's voice, "Mack, I heard what Kane said."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Y'all might recal last summer, when I mentioned one of the undesirable sucky side effects of the AIDS meds I take.

Just to recap, this side effect makes my muscles contract. Think: tension that cannot be turned off by the mind. The good news is, this ain't stress induced by my mind.
The bad news is, my mind can't do bupkis about it.

This is bad enough during the time I'm awake. Naturally, this causes more pain and discomfort. It's even difficult to peck at my keyboard. Relaxin'? What's that?
This doesn't stop when I try to sleep either, which means restless sleep, which is really pissin' off my unconcious and concious mind (not to mention my overworked muscles which don't fancy the idea of non-stop isometrics). The conclusion is younanImous: Talk to Doc and get somethin' to stop this.

Doc has confirmed this ain't stress related, so he gave me some muscle relaxers last summer. They work great at relaxin' my muscles, but they also make me groggy or sleepy, which is why I stopped taking them in December. Now I'm back on 'em and I'm gettin' a refill to boot.

Anyhow, just bare with me. Doc said I may get used to them if I don't stop taking them (hint hint), so we'll see. I don't want my mind goin' on stroke in protest or nothin', so I promise to stick with 'em until the uber-evil, big drug companies make somethin' better.

I'm just bein' sarcasticly jokey there. I thank God for those big farmasuiticles, 'cause they work tirelessly, and invest there hard-earned moolah to invent new wonder drugs for little or no thanks, and contempt from the ungracious lefties. They even help folks who can't afford their drugs, including the ungracious lefties. So thanks, big druggy companies. You guys are alright in my book.

So like I said, please bare 'em for me...I mean bare something...or whatever. I'll be visitin' yer outstandin' blogs for youse guys who have one, whenever I fade in to luciditty. Luciditty in the skyayeyyy with diamonds...huh? Wha? Oh, sorry 'bout that. Where was I?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Noir Lore

Act 6: Nova Kane

I didn't hafta think about it, I quickly rolled out of the way of Kane's deadly feet.
Kane landed, barely missing me. I was getting more air, but it still burned like all get out. Yep. I got me some cracked ribs. Ouch.

I shoulda followed up when Kane landed on the table. Master Toshiro was adamant:
"When your opponent is down, always follow through and make sure he is out. Hopefully, you'll never have to use your martial arts to defend yourself or others, but that's unlikely in the real world. If, and more likely when you find yourself in a situation where you can defend and protect others, or yourself, never, ever, give your enemies a second chance to hurt or kill you."

Sorry Master. I knew what to do, and yet I had foolishly hoped my punch would be enough. Kane won't stop until I am dead, or he is. Period. I will not make that mistake again...if I survive.

Master despised pacifists. "What good comes from choosing not to protect and defend yourself and others? Absolutely nothing. No, worse than nothing!" Master said, passionately.

"This is important to understand: the path of pacifism leads to slavery at best, and death at worst. Pacifists," Master said in disgust, "depend on their betters to defend their life, liberty and property! It doesn't take courage to die or let others be murdered at the hands of evil. Pacifists are cowards and without honor! One doesn't have to be a warrior to protect and defend what is good and right. Anyone can do this. Indeed, it is our responsibility and duty to do so. If we do not, evil will spread and destroy all that we hold dear. There are far worse things than death in this world. Don't ever forget that."

That day two of Master's students quit in protest. One went to a nearby paper which tried to smear Master Toshiro for "encouraging violence and hate." "Barbaric" and "dangerous," they called him.

Of course, they didn't print Master's response to those damned lies. No, those cowardly jackals found a few other so-called "Masters" that taught pacifism, and instructed their students to never use their martial arts to hurt others, no matter what. The reporter called them "enlightened," and "true teachers of peace."

How can they be so blind and stupid? I had wondered. What is noble about allowing evil psychopaths to rape, rob and murder? To become slaves? Did these idiots really think that our enemies would respect them any more for choosing not to defend and protect? Evil don't sing kumbaya except maybe to get close enough to cut your throat.

Hell, these are the same kind of morons that hate our military men and women, who look down their smug noses at our heroes, be they military or law enforcement or individual citizens who bravely risk life and limb to defend and protect folks, our liberty and our property. Scumbags! I thought.

I shoved a chair on the other side of the table out of the way and got up...just in time to see Kane tossin' a chair at me. I ducked just in time, cursing under my painful breath.

Akira rushed in, and quickly surveyed the room.

"Akira! Good. Give me your sword," Kane ordered.

Master Toshiro didn't let this cowardly attack on his character stand. He made several calls and visits until he found a radio station willing to let him speak against these false accusations.

"You must never allow evil to go unchallenged," Master said, smiling grimly. "That is how we lose our liberties, even here, in America. We must not be apathetic, because evil never stops."

The vast majority of those who had listened to Master Toshiro on the radio sent many letters and e-mails expressing their agreement and support, as well as phone calls. There was such a positive response the manager asked him to come back, even offering him a job. Other stations also requested him to speak, or debate.

Master didn't take the job, but he did go back occasionally. A few small town newspapers in the area printed editorials which agreed with Master's wise words and eventually, the paper that had tried to besmirch Master's good name printed one of Master's letters to the editor. Not because they agreed with him, no, far from that. Because it sold more papers. Still the hypocrites, I thought. Worse than useless idiots, they're fighting fires with gasoline.

"Why, Master Kane?" Akira asked.

"So I can kill this gaijin!" Kane replied. "Don't you EVER question me again, do you understand? Give me your sword!"

"I cannot do that, sir," Akira said. "Mack is a guest of Master Yukio."

Kane cussed out Akira real good and threatened to kill him, but he didn't attack Akira. I was thankful for the breather, but I was unsure what Akira was gonna do.
For the moment, it appeared he was nominally on my side.

Two more men rushed into the room. "It's about time!" Kane shouted. "And you call yourselves bodyguards. Kill him!" Kane pointed at me.

One day a student, Joe, a former Marine said, "I agree with what you say, Master, but aren't you just preaching to the choir?"

Master looked at Joe intently, until Joe looked away, apparently reconsidering the wisdom of asking that question.
Master just smiled, and replied, "that's a good question, Joe. Consider this, have you ever forgotten my words?"

"No Master," Joe replied, looking down. Master raised Joe's head up.

"That is why I "preach" to the choir," Master said. "So you don't forget or fall asleep. Someday, you might have to sing a solo."

Everyone, except for Yukio had chuckled at that. Joe smiled too, and joined in the laughter.

"Joe, the next American Idol," I said, slapping him on the shoulder.

"Trust me, I can't sing worth a damn," Joe said, to more good natured laughter.

"Trust me," Master said, when the laughter and Simon jokes subsided, "you can sing, Joe, you can sing beautiful songs. You can sing...with your soul."

I pondered that profound statement. At least it was profound to me. From the looks of my fellow students, they were also pondering thoughtfully. Except for Yukio, who looked puzzled and then dismissive. He wasn't much for esoteric philosophy or religion.

Kane's stooges reached into their suits. Uh oh, I thought, reachin' for my .45.

"No guns!" Akira ordered.

One bodyguard stopped, but the other drew his weapon. Akira drew his sword faster than greased lightnin'. The bodyguard screamed as his gun and his right hand landed on the floor. Blood gushed from his arm. The other stooge backed away from Akira, but his hands stayed away from his gun.

"You idiots! I said, kill him!" Kane ordered.

Master Toshiro was born in Japan. He loved Japan, and he loved China, but he hated the Communist government there. But he loved America the most. He had become a United States citizen when he was 33, and he knew more American history than just about anyone I knew.
Often he would quote our Founding Fathers, and other great American patriots.

Someone had once asked Master his opinion about politics. Master replied, "I support any politician or policy that promotes life and liberty and maintains our rights. I also support a strong defense, for they protect our rights. Ideally, our President and Congress will do very little or nothing and our Courts will support our Constitution. It's when they attempt to "help" us, "fix" our problems or legislate from the bench that they get my scorn."

I was pretty sure Kane had a gun, bein' a high-level Yakuza, but so far he had chosen not to use it, although he didn't seem to have a problem with his bodyguards blowin' me away.
The uninjured stooge and Kane went around the table towards me. Great. Now I gotta fight them both. I considered using my .45 but I didn't wanna piss off Akira.

"Hold it!" Akira shouted. "Have you no honor?"

Honor? I thought. I guess there is some form of honor, even in Yakuza, albeit inconsistent and warped.

"Master," I began one day, "You are an inspiration to me. Thanks."

"Mack," Master took a deep breath and was silent for several seconds. "You and many of my other students who are or have served in the military or as police officers inspire me. You live to protect all that is good. Thank you," he finished, choking up, which choked me up. Then he hugged me.

Master had a great love for veterans. Often he would visit the local VA, and he always thanked those of us who had served or were currently serving. Whenever someone who was still serving deployed, he would always make a point to ask us all if we wanted to bring anything to send them in care packages, or if we wanted to write notes to include. When someone returned, he would hold a celebrationary BBQ, with beer and saki.

Master didn't charge us any money for teaching us, although I think pretty much everyone had offered to pay him. He always refused. Based on his small and modest house, and the used and very old 1970 blue Ford Mustang he drove, and the Walmart clothes he wore, Master didn't appear to be wealthy. When he declined offers of money he would simply say, "I have more than enough. I encourage you to give what you can afford to a worthwhile charity, or help someone who needs it."

The only requirements to become a student of Master Toshiro, other than Yukio that is, was to answer a few of his questions to his satisfaction and to survive Master readin' your heart. Trust me, I don't know how he did it but Master could practically read your mind. He would've been an interrogater without equal.

He was lookin' for comittment, honor, patriotism and love of liberty, nobility, honesty, courage, and an attitude to survive and overcome adversity and challenges, and a humble heart, among other qualities that exhibit good character.

Master turned away a lot of people, although there were a few who were persistent and after a year or two Master had finally accepted them. The thing is, they wanted to learn from him so much, they had changed. Although he had the upmost respect for those who had or were in the military or law enforcement, that was no 'get out of Master readin' your heart free card' or guarantee of acceptance.
Many who were turned away were angry and resentful, and easily demonstrated why Master had refused to teach them. Sadly, they failed to see the irony.

Master was always polite about turnin' folks away. "You are not ready yet," he would say. "I cannot teach you at this time."
Rarely, a student would quit. Master would sigh and say, "he or she has changed."
Although he could read people, he couldn't see the changes they would make in life later.

Master's training regimen was arduous and extremely challenging to say the least. I had never been a SEAL but I knew one of the students that was one, and he said other than not losing sleep and bein' able to leave after training sessions, that Master's regimen was as tough as SEAL training. High praise indeed, I had thought.

Kane and his stooge stopped and Kane turned to Akira.

"Akira, you are really starting to piss me off. I will finish this, and you would do well to not interfere if you value your life," Kane said.

"If you are so intent on finishing your fight, then it will be on my terms," Akira replied. "First rule is this, only one at a time."

"Fine!" Kane said. "Go kill him," Kane ordered his stooge.

"Ah ah! Your gun," Akira said to the stooge. "Place it on the floor and kick it to me."

"The stooge looked at Kane and Kane nodded. He wisely took his gun out, slowly, and did as directed. Then he approached me. Had he concluded Akira was too far away to use his sword, he would've found himself full of holes, 'cause I was positive Akira was packin' heat.

Terrific, I thought. I get to fight the freakin' Hulk. Stooge towered over me, and he was easily three times my width. His biceps were bigger than my thighs. This wasn't gonna be no cake walk. Odd that Akira didn't ask for my gun, I mused. I don't think he aims for me to use it, but I will if it means impending death, I decided. If I get a chance, that is. Should've known Kane would have bodyguards. Kinda surprised there are only two, although they are both big enough to make six, in size anyways.

"Many sensei's will say size does not matter," I recalled Master saying once. "Well that's bullsh*t."

Master rarely cussed, but when he did, he meant it. Although, bein' a squid then a cop, bullsh*t to me didn't even qualify as a cuss word. I was sorta surprised at what Master was sayin', and even Yukio was intrigued.

"Now, I'm not saying a little man can't beat a big man," Master said. "But it is highly unlikely a good little man can beat a good big man, all things being equal, which is rare but happens often enough."

Our resident former SEAL nodded. He would know about that. He didn't talk much about his experience as a SEAL, being humble and the fact that most of the stuff he did was classified. About all he could talk about was some of his training. Master himself often asked questions about it.

"But what about speed?" Sam asked. He was the smallest guy in the dojo, and one of the fastest.

"Of course speed is very important," Master said. "However, so is strength. And so is the ability to fight through pain and any disabilities you incur during a fight. We all know you are tough, Sam," Master continued, smiling.

"Again, I'm speaking from all things being equal. Even that doesn't guarantee the big man will win, but the odds are in his favor in a fight. When I say all things being equal, I mean spirit, intelligence, wisdom, mental and physical toughness, speed, strength, conditioning, flexibility, endurance, and thriving under adversity, and so on. Now, a real fight won't usually last long. Certainly not as long as a boxing match can, or a football game, so endurance may not be as much of a factor.
The big man doesn't have to hold back in that case, and it doesn't take very many blows from the big man to cause a lot of damage," Master said.

The abominable stooge was within' striking distance, but I waited for him to strike the first blow. I had to take him out fast, the sooner the better, if at all possible. This would be another death match it seemed. I certainly wasn't gonna take a chance and try to knock this bohemoth out, not when I knew he meant to kill me.
No, this was a take out all the stops moment.

One of the hard parts was mentally gettin' past his formidable size. Psychologically, my natural brain was sayin' there is no way to beat this tank and to run like hell! What I needed to do was ignore that, actually bypass it and go into what Master called the "David mode of being."

"All things being equal, you must access your spiritual powers," Master said. "Your David mode of being. Or Gideon, if you prefer. There are plenty of underdogs to choose from. Does anyone seriously think that David would have beaten Goliath without having more spiritual strength? No, of course not. And let me remind you of this, there is no guarantee you will always be able to access that spiritual energy, but there are ways to make it easier to access," Master said, lookin' at me.

I had thought he meant just our own spirit, at the time. I sort of filtered out the God part of the equation, which is what Master meant by it not workin' any time we might want. Hell, at the time I just wasn't very concerned about religion or God. Since then, that had changed, when I got married and had kids.

Since the murders I had avoided God and religion. I was at first mad at God for allowing the murders to happen. Eventually, I realized it wasn't God's fault, and I had asked Him for forgiveness, but I still rarely prayed or had much of a relationship with Him.

No, up until Annie had entered my office I cared not whether I lived or died. In fact, I was shootin' for an early grave. The only thing that kinda kept me goin' was the drive to bring the murderers of my family to justice. And since this was California and the death penalty no longer was enforced, that justice would come from my own hands, I had decided. Some would call that revenge, but it wasn't just revenge and I was determined to be absolutely sure, in the event I found the killers. Is that wrong in God's eyes? I don't know. Maybe He would tell me someday.
In the meantime I was prayin'.

Not havin' much time I made it short n' to the pont. Need some help here. Thanks.

Bluto was a top notch fighter, and very confident. I could tell from his eyes and his movements. He led off with a punch, and I ducked, knowin' he would follow through with his left, which I quickly side-stepped. I elbowed him with all the strength I could muster in his side "crack!" And backed off.

Bluto smiled. Crap.

I hastily swung my bamboo sword and Master sidestepped easily before striking me in the back of the head.

"Ow!" I exclaimed, rubbing my head.

"Why do you think I'm so fast?" Master asked, smiling.

"Um, because you are?" I replied.

"No...I'm 65 years old. You are faster than me, Mack. I still know a bit more than you, and I'm spiritually stronger than you, but only because you limit your spirit. But I'm only faster than you because you think I'm faster, not because I really am. You are one of my best students. You are good enough to now be faster and stronger.
Now you must believe it," Master said, chuckling.

"If you say so, Sensei," I laughed, drinking in his wisdom.

Bluto aimed a sidekick and I barely moved outta the way. Damn! He's a lot faster than he looks, I thought. But not as fast as me, I decided. Bluto punched, I stepped to the side and then Bluto stepped in and swung the same arm in a backhand arc, catching me on my left cheek. The blow knocked me back into the table, which I grabbed to stop from falling.

Damn! Such force! I thought, as hot blood began to trickle down my face and neck. The left side of my face was almost completely numb, before the pain seeped in as the blood seeped out. Bluto smiled. No more mister nice guy, I thought, gritting my teeth. And suddenly, I saw.

And time...slowed...down.

I immersed myself in eternity and my senses heightened. My spirit leapt within me and power coursed through my veins. I had forgotten to do this, seeing only the obvious and not goin' deeper. For the first time in over three years I felt my spirit and I felt the hand of God, there, with me...within me. A door opened and channeled the pain I felt into my spirit, makin' me stronger still. Stronger and faster. My mind was sharp and clear. I had total recall of all of Master's teachings.

Bluto kicked again, and it was so slow I had to wait, stopping myself from reacting. I felt like tapping my toes and laughing it took so long. I easily avoided the kick and moved in, striking Bluto's throat with a flurry of punches. By the time his eyes widened, I had hit him several times. Then I jumped, striking Bluto's nose but aiming for the back of his head. "Crunch!"

I stepped back. Bluto blinked once, a look of utter shock n' awe on his face, then he closed his eyes, and fell backwards. It seemed to take several seconds before he fell, "boom!" lifeless, to the floor. I turned and looked at Kane, who's mouth was hanging open. His eyes narrowed as he tried to grasp what had happened.

Akira pursed his lips, his gaze leavin' Bluto and then resting on me. Then he smiled. He gave a slight nod, and I nodded back, smilin'.

"What is with you people?!" Doc entered the room with her bag, obviously upset.

"He needs help first, dear," Akira said, motioning to the one handed leviathon stooge.

"Geez, dad, did you do this?" She asked, checking leviathon dude out.

Dad? I wondered.

"Yes. I did tell him no guns," Akira said almost apologetically. "And Mack was kind enough to provide the tourniquet."

"He needs to go to ER," doc said.

"No hospitals!" Akira and Kane said at the same time. "They'll ask too many questions, honey," Akira said. "Just take him to your office. I'll have some men help you."

"I'm getting tired of the no hospital rule," doc said, lookin' angry. She glanced at me, after gettin' leviathon stabilized. "You tore your stitches!" She exclaimed firmly, her hands on her hips.

"Um...don't look at me, doc, he did it," I said pointing at Kane who scowled.

"Is that true, Kane?" She asked.

"Yes, that's true! Now get him out of here so we can finish this!" Kane shouted impatiently.

"Don't yell at my daughter," Akira said, his hand on his sword and his eyes flashing. "Do you understand?"

"...Yes, well...I apologize, doctor," Kane replied, glaring at Akira.

"Whatever!" Doc said. "My name is Hanna, Mack, okay?" Hanna said, sternly. "Don't tell me you forgot already!"

"Right. Um...sorry Hanna, it won't happen again," I said, hesitantly.

"Wait, you told him your name?" Akira asked, lookin' at Hanna in disbelief.

"Of course I did, daddy, Mack isn't going to hurt me, silly, are you Mack?" Hanna said, giggling.

"No, of course not," I replied, nervousely as Akira glared at me. "Honest," I added.

Akira scowled. I knew that look. A father's frustration with clueless daughter look.

"You are going to stop this nonsense, right daddy? Please?" Hanna pleaded.

Just like that, she went from angry to giggling to pleading. She is very beautiful no matter what emotions she expresses, I thought. I had no idea she was Akira's daughter! Apparently, she got her stunning beauty from her mother.

"Are you okay, Mack?" Annie asked, from the doorway.

"How long have you been there?" I asked, surprised.

"Well, after getting Akira and the doctor..." she began.

"It's Hanna!" Hanna exclaimed.

"I mean Hanna, sorry Hanna, In time to see your last fight," she said, lookin' worried.

"What?" I hadn't seen her but then again I was sorta preoccupied. Still, how could I not know? I felt so...aware.

"I'll let you know when this is over," Akira said, smiling. "Why don't you go with my daughter, Miss Annie."

"Oh! This isn't fair!" Annie protested.

"Tell me about it," Hanna quipped.

"I...apologize, dear lady," Akira said, bowing. "This won't take long, I suspect."

"Okay, but you better not get hurt anymore, mister!" Annie said, lookin' at me with concern.

"That goes for me too. Watch yourself," Hanna said, lookin' worried.

"Uh...I'll do my best," I replied.

Akira spoke into his earpiece and two men arrived. They looked around the room, obviously full of questions, but they said nothin'. Professionals, I thought.

"Help the doctor..." Akira began.

"Daddy!" She exclaimed.

"Help my daughter, the doctor," Akira said, turnin' red, and Miss Annie, take this man to her office. And if you so much as look at these ladies wrong..." Akira finished, his eyes sayin' what he didn't hafta say.

"Hai!" "Hai!" Both men replied, bowing profusely and doin' everything they could to not look at Hanna or Annie.

"I want you both to support him and help him up. Are you listening to me?" The doc said, angrily.

"Hai!" "Hai!" Both men replied, averting their eyes like the dames were Angels or somethin'.

They do look like angels, I mused. Angelic, anyway.

It took longer than I thought it would to get leviathon outta the room, since the men were afraid to look at Hanna or Annie. Plus, leviathon was still in shock.

"Get up you big baby, your legs still work!" Hanna ordered. "Will somebody grab his hand? Not that one, cutie, the one on the floor."

Akira's employee turned beet red, at that, and he kept glancin' at Akira, bowing, and finally picking up the hand like it was a dead rat with his forefinger and thumb. His embarassment melting into disgust as his nose wrinkled.

"It hurts!" Leviathon shouted, crying.

"Well next time you'll think twice about trying to shoot Mack now won't you?" Annie berated.

"Here's your hand," Akira's employee said, trying to give it to leviathon.

"Waaahhhh!" Leviathon moaned, sobbing uncontrollably.

"What are you doing, you moron!" Hanna snapped.

"Well I, I don' see..." he stuttered, lookin' down.

"You carry the hand and don't show it to him again. It's like tryin' to work with a six year old! Hanna said, lookin' up and gesturing.

After they finally got leviathon outta the room, Kane said, "can we please get on with this?"

"Okay, wait a minute," Kane replied, whispering into his earpiece. About a minute later, another man arrived carrying two swords.

Akira took the swords throwin' one to me and one to Kane, which we both caught easily.

"Please follow me," Akira said. "There's been enough blood shed in the dining room.
You'll finish your fight in the training room. No fighting until we get there."

"It's not too late to call this off, Kane," I said.

"Shut up! I'm going to enjoy killing you!" Kane answered.

"You really need to lighten up," I said, as we followed Akira. Kane cursed under his breath. Still the same jovial Kane, I thought, wondering how I could find humor in the situation.

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, 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.