Sunday, April 12, 2009

Noir Easter

Act 17: Hard Boiled Egg Fu

It was a dark, rainy, windy and stormy night. The wind had kicked up and blew Annie's rain-soaked hair as she stood on the balcony in her robe. Although this was San Diego, it was still cold enough, especially with the wind, for her to feel it. But she stayed out there, praying and looking.

Looking for what? Annie wondered. What am I looking for? Why am I standing out here in the rain like a damn fool?

"Annie! Come back inside!" Hanna shouted over the wind, rubbing her eyes.

Hanna had been asleep when Annie came out here an hour earlier. When she noticed that Annie was gone she checked the bathroom and then the outdoor balcony. Fear had gripped her, as she concidered the possibility that Annie may be contemplating suicide.

"Okay," Annie replied, sighing.

She slowly walked towards Hanna and lightning flashed in the sky. Thunder boomed in Annie's ears, but she didn't flinch. Hanna jumped.

"Hurry! You might get struck by lightning!" Hanna exclaimed, looking around nervously.

Annie smiled. Poor thing isn't used to lightning, she thought. Another flash lit up the sky and a resounding boom reverberated through Annie's being.

"Eeek!" Hanna screamed, pointing towards Annie.

Annie turned around quicker than lightning, but she saw nothing. Until lightning flashed again. Then she saw it! Who? What? She wondered, assuming a fighting stance. Damn, I lost sight of it again.
Oddly, Annie felt no fear. And why is that? She wondered.

Lightning flickered again but she couldn't see anything. My imagination? No, Hanna saw it. Annie backed her way slowly towards Hanna. Normally, she would've ran back inside, grabbing her gat, but she felt no urgency to do so now, which was... illogical. It was also counter to all the training she had gone through.

"Annie, hurry! It might come back!" Hanna shouted.

Once again, lightning flashed and Annie spied the mysterious figure on the balcony ledge up on the little wall, facing her. More lightning shot through the night sky in quick succession, enabling Annie to see the figure for a few good seconds. It extended it's right hand as if in supplication, and Annie felt an overwhelming sadness...and a yearning in her heart. And...something else.
Before she realized it Annie was approaching the figure.

A shot rang out, coming from behind Annie. The dark figure jumped at that moment and it was dark once again as the lightning stopped and the thunder rolled.

Annie turned and saw Hanna with the pistol looking for the mysterious man. Man? How do I know it was a man? Annie mused. She just knew, she concluded. Sometimes you just know things without knowing why you know.

"Hanna, bring a flashlight! Hanna! It's okay, he's gone! Bring a flashlight!" Annie shouted, walking to the balcony wall.

Hanna joined her a few seconds later, with a flashlight in one hand and the gun in the other.

"Thanks," Annie said, taking the flashlight and shining it on the section of wall she saw the strange figure.

She shined the light below, looking down, but saw no trace of him. Below there was another balcony, but it looked to far to jump. Annie saw something on the ledge and touched it with her finger. She smelled it. Blood. Not much but it was fresh blood.

"I think you hit him," Annie said to Hanna.

"I did? I was so worried about you, Annie! Do you know who it was?" Hanna asked.

"No, but he didn't scare me," Annie replied wistfully, deep in thought.

"Let us go inside. You are freezing, girl!" Hanna scolded, pulling a reluctant Annie from the ledge.

Hanna closed the sliding glass door and locked it. Then she grabbed some towels and started to undress Annie who was still lost in thought...or in shock more likely, Hanna thought, taking Annie's wet clothes off and drying her.

"What came over you?" Hanna asked, as she dried Annie's body.

"Huh?" Annie replied.

"How many fingers am I holding up?" Hanna asked.

"Three, silly," Annie replied, smiling.

"What day is it?" Hanna asked.

"Today," Annie replied. "What a beautiful day, don't you think so Hanna?" Annie asked.

"Were you struck by lightning?" Hanna asked, closely examining Annie's body.

"I like lightning," Annie replied.

"Thanks, that is so helpful," Hanna said. "It does not look like you were struck."

"Do you think he'll come back?" Annie asked, still smiling.

"I do not know. You act like you want him to come back," Hanna replied, drying Annie's hair. "Do you?"

"He wasn't going to hurt me," Annie said, matter of factly.

"How do you know? And if he was not here to hurt you, or us, then why was he on our balcony?" Hanna asked, getting frustrated with Annie's strange behavior.

"I...I don't know," Annie replied. "I just...know. You know?"

"I wish I knew," Hanna said, as she finished drying Annie off. "Here, put this dry robe on."

"Thanks," Annie said, smiling.

"How do you know it was a man. Did you see his face?" Hanna asked.

"No. I almost did before you shot him," Annie replied frowning. "Why did you shoot him?"

"We already went over that," Hanna answered, sighing. "How do you know...okay, just forget it. I got it. You just know."

"Exactly!" Annie said, smiling again.

"I think I am getting a headache," Hanna said, shaking her head. "Now let us get you in bed, there you go. I am going to sleep with you, okay? That way you will warm up faster," and I will know if you get up, Hanna didn't say.

"Okay," Annie said, snuggling up to Hanna and closing her eyes.

God! She is freezing! Hanna thought, using all of her willpower not to jump out of bed. Where in the hell was Daddy?

Akira awoke with a start as lightning flashed and thunder boomed. He had not intended to fall asleep. Mika was nestled in his arms and moaned softly as Akira moved, checking his watch. One thing had led to another and he and Mika had made love on the back seat.

What? It's after midnight! Akira realized looking at his watch in horror. How did I sleep so long? Of course, not all of it was spent sleeping, but still...I better check on the girls, he thought, getting his phone out and making the call.

"Hello?" Hanna answered.

"Hanna it is dad," Akira said.

"Daddy? Where are you?" Hanna asked. "Are you okay?"

"Yes, yes I am fine. I will be there soon to explain," Akira replied.

"Are you sure you are fine? You sound strange, Daddy," Hanna said.

"Yes, I am alright, I assure you," Akira said as Mika moaned in her sleep again. Akira winced.

"Who was that?!" Hanna asked.

"What?" Akira answered, wincing again.

"I head a woman Daddy. What are you doing?" Hanna asked, agitated.

"Oh...yes, that would be...Mika," Akira replied, shaking his head.

"Mika? Who is Mika?" Hanna asked.

"She...I will...explain when I get there," Akira said. "I have to go now. See you soon!" Akira added, quickly flipping the phone shut.

Sweat formed on Akira's brow. What was he going to say? He still had to call Jim about the killing of Yukio and his men. Well, not all of them. Some were missing. There had been less on duty than normal. Perhaps Ryu would know why.

"Come, Mika, we must go," Akira said, softly.

Mika opened her eyes, smiled and kissed Akira. Then she blushed the way she did, which drove Akira wild. Through superhuman effort, Akira somehow managed to stop himself.

"Later," he whispered, holding Mika close. "Let us get a hotel room, mika," he smiled.

Mika smiled back as she moved reluctantly away from Akira to sit up front. She went through her purse putting on some more lipstick as Akira drove. Akira did his best not to look at her too much so he could concentrate on the roads.

When he arrived at the Marriot he grabbed the two backpacks in one hand and Mika's hand in the other. Akira was in luck, as the honeymoon suite was open. He paid cash and took Mika to their room. A busboy tried to grab the backpacks, but Akira waved him off.
They had just entered the room when Mika began kissing Akira.

"Wait. Wait," Akira said, laughing. "First you must meet my daughter. We will have plenty of time later for that. Do you wish to use the restroom first?" Akira asked.

"Yes, thank you," Mika replied, bowing.

Akira bowed back, which surprised Mika. She hurried to the bathroom. She sure does not speak much, Akira thought, smiling. I do hope Hanna likes her. Akira's smile faded. He wasn't very good with words.

He recalled seeing the report on Mika that Ryu had done. She was 38 but she looked no older than 25. Married once with no children. Her husband was deceased, apparently murdered. What was his name?
Akira wondered. Oh yes, he had intended to question Ryu more about the shoddy report which had no more information. Akira made a mental note to do just that. Strange that Mika's husband was murdered too, he thought.

Mika returned a few minutes later and Akira led her to Hanna and Annie's room. Akira knocked hesitantly and waited a few seconds.

"It is me, Hanna," He said.

The door slowly opened and Hanna lowered her gun once she saw Akira. Mika's eyes widened and so did Hanna's.

"It is alright," Akira said, instinctively wrapping his arm arounfd her and holding her closely. "Mika, this is my daughter, Hanna. Hanna this is Mika."

"I am pleased to meet you Mika," Hanna said, bowing.

"The honor is mine, Hanna-san," Mika said softly, bowing in return.

"Please, excuse me," Hanna said, pointing to the gun. "We had an intruder ealier."

"I...I understand," Mika replied.

"Intruder? Where?" Akira said, looking around.

"He, or she was on the balcony, Daddy. I think I shot him. Annie was out there, and I got scared," Hanna said, hugging Akira. "Annie just...walked towards it."

"Shh, it is okay, you did well," Akira said, patting her on the back.

Who could it be? Akira thought. No one knew they were here.

"Can you describe the intruder?" Akira asked.

"Well, I didn't see its face. It wore a hat and raincoat. The hat was the kind those men in old movies wear," Hanna said.

Mika gasped, a look of terror on her face.

"What is it Mika?" Akira asked.

"He...he is a demon!" She said nervously. "He...killed all of Master Yukio men. The screams! The men screamed and he said nothing...killing them all easily. Master Yukio tried to shoot him, but he...he was too fast! He is not human! I...I hid in the closet and Yukio grabbed his sword after he ran out of bullets. And then...then Yukio he screamed. I think he recognized the demon. He said...he said..." Mika said, crying.

Akira held her and reassured her.

"I will protect you Mika," he said. "No man or demon will hurt you as long as I draw breath. Shh. What did Yukio say? Please, explain. Take your time."

"H-he said, "no! It cannot be! I will kill you!" And the demon laughed. I have never been so afraid! He laughed. And...and Yukio, his face, the blood left his face. Yukio tried to fight but the demon laughed and Yukio knew...he was about to go to...hell. Then Yukio tried to make a cannot make a deal with death. Then he...he screamed as it dawned on him...this demon would kill him. Period. After...after the demon killed Yukio he turned and looked at me. I was over. I wept, and he...he reached his hand out to me. I screamed and closed my eyes, praying! When I opened them, he was gone and you were there. He appeared briefly after you arrived. Then he was gone again. Why did he not kill you?" Mika asked, hugging Akira again.

"Because he isn't a demon," Annie said, sitting up in bed. "And Akira has honor."

"Annie, you're awake!" Hanna exclaimed, rushing over to examine her.

"A demon would've killed you both," Annie continued, pointing at Mika and Akira.
"No, he is an angel," she said, smiling.

"Mika this is Annie, Annie, this is Mika," Akira said, pondering what the girls said.

"I am honored," Mika said, bowing.

"I too am honored," Annie replied, bowing her head.

"Please excuse, Annie-san," Mika said. "How do you know he an angel?"

"I...just do," Annie replied. "In here," she said, pointing to her heart.

"I hope you are right," Akira said.

"Were you not relieved when Yukio was killed?" Annie asked.

"What?" Mika asked looking shocked.

"Yes, I know, dear. Yukio can never hurt you again," Annie said. "You see, Yukio killed your husband so he could have you."

"Y-Yukio killed my Kaito? you know this?" Mika asked, as Akira helped her sit down.

"I've been investigating Yukio for awhile. I work for the CIA," Annie said.

"What?! You work for the CIA?" Hanna asked, checking Annie's forehead for a fever.

"I'm sorry. I meant to tell you sooner. It's just that, so much has happened. Please understand my friendship with you is not an act. In fact, I intend to quit the CIA. I've had enough," Annie said.

"Does Jim know?" Akira asked.

"I should probably tell him, huh?" Annie said, smiling.

"Th-thank you, Annie-san. Now I know the truth," Mika said, bowing and then weeping quietly into Akira's chest.

"Why would the CIA be interested in Yakuza?" Akira asked.

"Because the Yakuza is receiving shipments soon. Shipments that incudes...sensitive Chinese equipment that the CIA wants. Equipment that is a clear and present danger in the wrong hands," Annie said.

Akira raised an eyebrow and took out his cell to call Jim.

"Hello," Jim answered.

"Jim, this is Akira. We need to talk, it is urgent," Akira said.

"Okay, where?" Jim asked.

"The Marriott. Call me when you get here, and I will meet you in the lobby," Akira said.

"Roger that. I'll be there in about 20 minutes," Jim said.

"Shipments? Yukio sent some men earlier to help receive shipments in Long Beach," Mika said. "He said the GrandMaster would be there."

"That explains why there were fewer men than normal," Akira said.

"When, Mika?" Annie asked.

"I do not know. Soon, Annie-san," Mika said.

"Thanks, Mika-san! Annie exclaimed.

"Ryu will know more," Akira said, calling Sensei.

"What!" Sensei answered, on the tenth ring.

"Sensei, it is Akira. Do you have Ryu?" Akira asked.

"I thought I turned this damn thing off," Sensei grumbled. "Yes, but he is tied up at the moment."

"I need you to extract some information from him," Akira said.

"Extract you say? The man is a babbling mess. He is incoherent and frankly, just plain nuts," Sensei said.

"What? Why? What did you do?" Akira asked.

"Nothing, other than bring him home. Tadeo tried to feed him but he keeps slobbering. Mentioned something about a demon," Sensei said.

"A demon? You mean that was not you?" Akira asked.

"No, it was not me. Apparently he saw the demon, or whatever before I got to him," Sensei said.

"Did you contact Toshiro?" Akira asked.

"Yes, I did. Strangely enough he was not in Tokyo when I called. He is in San Francisco with the GrandMaster himself. That is all my contact knew," Sensei said.

"The GrandMaster?" Akira asked.

"Yes, I would like to know more myself. I am told he is a prisoner. More than he was at any rate. I was planning on going up there to find him, you want to go?" Sensei asked.

"The GM is going to, or may be in Long Beach. He is expecting some shipments there. Something far worse than drugs," Akira said. "I need to know where to go in Long Beach. Ryu would know where, if you can get it from him."

"I will call you back. This may take awhile," Sensei said. "What is wrong, Akira. Something happened there that has disturbed you."

"That demon, angel, whatever he is, destroyed Yukio and all his men," Akira said.
"I saw him briefly but he is too fast for me. He may have visited Annie while I was away. She thinks he is an angel," Akira said.

"Hmmm, and you thought that was me?" Sensei asked, laughing.

"Who else could it be? Toshiro?" Akira asked, irritated.

"Well, he could be, but I doubt it," Sensei said.

"Then who else? Is he an angel or demon? A real one?" Akira asked.

"That would depend on who you are," Sensei replied.

"You know something, Sensei," Akira said, suspiciously.

"No, I suspect something, and I know less," Sensei said.

"Suspect what?" Akira asked, rubbing his temples. "Sensei? Sensei? Blast! I lost contact!" Akira said, slamming his phone shut.

"He is not a demon or an angel," Hanna said.

"Why do you say that?" Akira asked.

"Because they do not bleed," Hanna said. "We found a drop of blood where I shot him."

"How do you know angels don't bleed, Hanna? Have you ever shot one?" Annie asked.

", I don't think so," Hanna replied.

"Look, I do not care, okay? This is all speculation," Akira said.

"But you wanted Sensei's speculation," Hanna said.

"Yes, that is true, Hanna, and I value yours. I am sorry. I am frustrated. We know nothing about this...person," Akira said.

"Let's eat!" Annie exclaimed. "I'll order. Anyone else hungry?"

"I think Annie is losing it, Daddy," Hanna whispered.

"Yes, I see what you mean," Akira replied.

"After what we saw, you think she might be crazy?" Mika whispered.

"Point taken," Akira said.

"All I mean is, she is so happy. Why is she so happy?" Hanna asked.

"I know! Let's all get something different so we can share!" Annie exclaimed. "C'mon! It'll be fun!"

Jim got up out of bed and got dressed.

"Do you have to go so late?" Sarah asked.

"Yes, Akira said it was urgent," Jim replied. "Have you seen my extra clips?" Jim asked.

"Third drawer, dear," Sarah answered. "Are you...expecting trouble?"

"No, just want to be prepared," Jim said.

"Please wear your vest," she said.

"Okay, but only for you," Jim replied, kissing her and strapping his vest on.

Just then the doorbell rang.

"Now who could that be at this hour?" Sarah asked.

"I'll get it," Jim said, putting a jacket on over his vest.

Jim strapped on his Baretta 9 millimeter to his belt and wrapped a snub-nosed .357 around his ankle and went to the door. He looked out the peek hole and saw a man standing there, but couldn't see his face clearly.
Jim put a hand on his gat and unsnapped it, then he opened the door. The man was now standing near the streetlight.

How did he move that fast? Jim wondered.

"Hello?" Jim called out, stepping outside and closing the door behind him. It had been raining all night.

The man stood there silently and said nothing.

"Can I help you?" Jim asked, walking slowly towards the man.

The wind kicked up and so did the rain. Jim saw lightning flash in the sky and thunder roared in soon afterwards.

"Jim," the man said.

Or did he? Jim couldn't tell, over the noise of the wind, rain and thunder.

"Do I know you?" Jim asked.

Lightning struck again, this time close by, and Jim was blinded for a moment.
He felt the stranger put something in his hand, but try as he might he could see nothing, still blinded as he was.

"Jim," he said.

"S-stand back!" Jim ordered, placing his right hand on his weapon and backing up.

Jim blinked a few times and could now see a bit. The man was gone without a trace. Jim checked his left hand. The stranger had left a folded piece of paper. Jim walked to his porch and opened it under the porch light. It was an address. An address in Long Beach. Underneath the address it simply said "Dock number three. Tell Akira. Hurry!"

What's this for? Jim wondered, sticking it in his pocket. Jim went back inside.

"Jim?" Sarah asked from the bedroom.

"Yeah," Jim replied, entering the room.

"Who was it?" Sarah asked, putting her .38 special down as Jim entered the room.

"I don't know. He gave me this address and then just vanished," Jim answered.

"What do you mean, he just vanished," Sarah asked.

"I was blinded by the lightning. The man vanished by the time I could see," Jim said.

"Thank God he didn't try to hurt or kill you!" Sarah said, her voice edged with worry. "Please Jim, retire. You have over 30 years in."

"I will, darling. As soon as I solve this case," Jim said.

"Jim, I didn't want to bring this up," Sarah said.

"What?" Jim asked.

"Well, I was talking to Maria, the wife of Lt. Johnson? She told me that he had heard from the Chief that they were planning to force you to retire soon," Sarah said.

"Is that so?" Jim replied. "Johnson is a weasel, but he's probably right about that. I have to solve this case, Sarah, I just gotta," Jim said, hugging his wife.

"I know, dear, I know," she said. "Hurry, then. You may not have much time."

"I will. I'm tired too, Sarah, but I made a promise. At least now I know who killed Mack's family. I just don't know why, and I can't prove it, yet. I'll call if this is going to take long," Jim said, kissing Sarah and heading for the door.

"Be careful!" Sarah called out.

"Always," Jim said, closing the door.

Akira looked at his watch, for the upteenth time. What is keeping Jim? He wondered.
He's ten minutes late. He looked at Annie, sitting on her bed and smiling. He was glad Annie was so happy but he didn't understand why she was so happy. Hanna checked her for a fever again. Mika lightly touched his arm and he took her hand in his.

The door buzzed. "Room service," a voice said over the intercom.

Akira got up and answered the door after looking through the peephole. He could smell the food. Akira opened the door, his other hand on his gun. The man rolled the food in, and Akira gave him a 100 dollar bill.

"Thanks!" The young man said, as he left.

"That was fast," Hanna said, checking the trays.

"It smells yummy!" Annie said.

Akira's phone rang and he flicked it open. "Yes?"

"I'm here," Jim said.

"Everything okay?" Akira asked.

"I had a...visitor. He gave me something you will want to see," Jim said.

"I'll be right down," Akira said.

Mika was at his side immediately.

"It is okay, I will be right back," Akira said.

"No! Do not leave me! Please!" Mika begged, clutching Akira's arm.

"Very well. Stay close," Akira said.

What could he say? After all she had been through? Akira left with Mika in tow, and hurried to the elevator. He arrived in the lobby without incident, but he remained wary.

"Jim," Akira said, approaching him. "Good to see you."

Jim nodded. "Good to see you, Akira," Jim said, shaking his hand.

"Come, we have a room," Akira said. "This is Mika. Mika, this is Jim, a friend."

"Pleased to meet you maam," Jim said, nodding his head.

"I am honored, Jim-san," she replied, bowing.

Jim bowed back and Mika bowed again. Jim bowed once more and Mika bowed again.

"Okay, let us go," Akira said.

Back in the room Akira began to explain everything, but Annie cut him off.

"Hi Jim!" Annie waved enthusiastically, eating fried chicken. "Are you hungry? We got fried rice, chicken, a salad, steak, baked potatoes, pork chops, ribs..."

"Look Annie, they brought real butter," Hanna said, cutting Annie off.

"Thanks Hanna! That will go great on my baked potato!" Annie said.

"We will join you soon," Akira said. "Drink?"

"Yes, I could use one," Jim said. "Just a shot of whiskey will do."

Akira prepared Jim's drink and poured himself some sake.

"In memory of Mack, who I know is watching over us," Jim said raising his glass in a toast.

"Hei!" Akira said, clinking his glass against Jim's and drinking his sake.

"You saw him too?" Annie asked, her mouth full of chicken and potatoes.

"What?" Jim asked, choking on his whiskey.

"Annie has...not been all here," Akira whispered.

Jim nodded and smiled at Annie.

"What's wrong with her?" Jim whispered back.

"A visited her while I was gone. Out on the balcony. Hanna may have shot him and he...vanished," Akira said, uncomfortably. "That, along with Mack's funeral may have...messed her mind up."

"I...see," Jim said. "I too had a visitor who vanished, after giving me this," Jim said, showing the paper to Akira.

Akira quickly read it and shook his head.

"I also saw perhaps the same man. He killed Yukio and all of his men. He spared Mika, however. I only saw him for a brief moment, and he was gone," Akira said. "I have never known a man to move that fast."

"I told you, he's an angel," Annie said, now eating pumpkin pie. "Ooh look, whipped cream!"

"Yes, that as it may, he appears to be helping us," Akira said, pouring himself another drink.

"What about this address?" Jim asked.

"I think we should check it out. Mika overheard Yukio sending ten of his men to help the head of Yakuza obtain a shipment, or shipments in Long Beach. Annie says she is CIA and that the shipments are..." Akira said.

"A clear and present danger!" Annie blurted. "Really bad bad bad stuff."

"You're CIA?" Jim asked.

"Only until the end of this mission," Annie said. "This is very good chicken. You want some?"

"No thanks, Annie, I ate earlier. What are these shipments?" Jim asked.

"Chinese," Annie said. "That reminds me, fried rice! I trained for hours to use chopsticks."

Hanna walked over and whispered. "She is getting less lucid."

"Chinese what?" Jim asked.

"I'm not supposed to say," Annie replied, eating the rice. "But you are my friends, right?"

"Of course we are, Annie," Hanna said, walking back and patting Annie's shoulder.

"Bio weapons," Annie said. "Try this rice, Hanna."

"Bio weapons. Is this info reliable?" Jim asked.

"Yep," Annie said. "It's so dangerous it's coming in three seperate shipments, to be combined later. That's what I heard, anyway. Did he talk to you?"

"What? Oh, yes he said my name," Jim said.

"I think he was going to talk to me before Hanna shot him," Annie said.

"I am sorry, Annie, but it looked like he was attacking you," Hanna said.

"That's okay. He's alright," Annie said, smiling.

"What do you want to do?" Akira asked.

"I'm going to Long Beach," Jim said. "To verify this information."

"I will join you," Akira said. "But you three will stay in the car," Akira ordered.

"What kind of car do you have?" Jim asked.

"A cadillac," Akira replied.

"We'll take your car then," Jim said. "I got a shotgun, do you have anymore weapons?"

Akira smiled. "We only have to make one quick stop, and I can get you just about anything you want."

"Good," Jim said. "We don't have time to go through official channels. God, I hope all of Annie's information is accurate, or I'm in a lot of trouble."

"If we survive, that is," Akira whispered.

Jim nodded and sighed. "I gotta call my wife and let her know I'll be late for breakfast," Jim said.

"You can eat with us!" Annie said. "Try a pork chop, Jim. Hey look! Easter eggs! Happy Easter guys!" Annie exclaimed, giving everyone an Easter egg.

"Do not give her a gun," Hanna quipped.

The valet brought the caddy around and Akira gave him a nice tip, and something extra to watch Jim's car.

"I call shotgun!" Annie said, getting in the passenger seat.

"I'll drive," Jim said.

Akira, Mika and Hanna got in the roomy back. Annie lit up as they began to pull out.

"He's back!" She shouted, pointing as they passed an alley. "Stop!" Annie ordered.

Jim stopped and looked, while Annie jumped out of the car and ran towards the man.

"Annie wait!" Jim shouted, but she didn't hesitate.

Akira cursed and got out as did Jim, both pulling their heaters out.
Annie flung herself onto the man they had all seen earlier, hugging him and showering kisses on him.
The man appeared to be shocked at annie's behavior, not sure what he should do. After a few seconds he hugged Annie back.

"It's you! I knew it! I knew you would be back!" Annie said, weeping. "I brought you an Easter egg, see?" She said, giving the man a blue easter egg.

He looked at it as if it were something he had never seen. Or something he had never noticed.

"Annie," he said, his voice gravelly and barely audible.

"Yes! You remember!" Annie said, overcome by her emotions.

Akira and Jim lowered their gats but didn't put them away.

"Your call, jim," Akira muttered.

"Who are you?" Jim asked.

" not sure," the man said.

"You're Mack, silly!" Annie said, holding on to him.

"Yes. I am...Mack," Mack said.

"What the hey?" Jim said.

"It is not...possible!" Akira exclaimed. "Allow us to see your face clearly."

"The light, still hurts my eyes," Mack said. "Do not attack me," he said, taking his hat off and removing his sunglasses. Then he stepped into the light, squinting.

"Oh my God!" Hanna shouted. "You are...Mack!"

Hanna ran by Akira and hugged Mack.

"I am so sorry I shot you," she said, crying.

"Only a graze," Mack said, shrugging and putting his sunglasses and hat back on.

"How?" Jim asked, putting his gun in it's holster.

Mack stood there as the girls hugged him and kissed him.

"You have to be more specific," Annie said. "He's been dead awhile, you know. It's not like he just knows everything."

"Aye...I was...dead," Mack said.

"How did you come back to life?" Jim asked, shaking Mack's hand. "Damn, it's good to see you Mack!" Jim added, giving him a hug.

"Jim," Mack said, smiling. "Aki-ra," Mack said, pointing to Akira.

"Hello, Mack-san," Akira said, bowing.

Mack bowed in return.

" not know," Mack said, slowly. "A choice...I was given...a choice. speak."

"That's okay, Mack, you'll get your voice back," Annie said. "Don't ever leave me, you hear?" She exclaimed, crying into Mack's chest.

"O-kay," Mack replied. _____________________________________________________________________________________

"What do I do with this?" Mack asked, examining the egg.

Monday, April 6, 2009


Act 16: Hooker Fu

"He is just exhausted, I think," Hanna said. He will be fine after some rest, Daddy."

"Thank you Hanna, but are you sure that is all it is?" Akira asked.

"He is old, daddy. You yourself said he was old when you were a child," Hanna replied listening to Sensei's heart again with her stethoscope.

"Yes, he was, but not as old as he is now," Akira replied.

"The only way I can know for sure is to run him through a battery of tests," Hanna said. "Blood tests, urine, feces, EKG, treadmill, the works."

"I understand, Hanna. He is probably too stubborn to take all of those tests," Akira said.

"No doubt, knowing Gramps," Hanna said. "I'll check what I can, though."

"I'll be fine," Sensei said, waking up a few hours later. "Will you quit worring about me and take care of Annie?"

"Alright Gramps, but you let me know if you have any unusual symptoms or pain, you understand?" Hanna asked.

"I will, Hanna. Now off you go," Sensei said. "It is past my bedtime."


"Come now, Annie you have to eat," Hanna said.

But like the last few days, Annie just sat there staring blankly at the floor saying nothing. Hanna had tried everythung she could think of, except for setting up an intravenous feeding tube. It was still a bit early for that, and Hanna considered a tube as a last resort.

"Daddy, I can't get her to eat," Hanna said, looking up at Akira who had knocked and entered the room.

Akira approached Annie who was sitting up in bed, propped by pillows.

" must eat. I know it is hard right now. I know you are hurting. I felt the same way when my wife...lost her life," Akira said, kneeling down beside Annie.
"But you must live. It is not your time."

Annie briefly looked at Akira and went back to staring at the floor.

"I'm going to get Gramps," Hanna said. "Maybe he can get her to eat. Thanks for trying, Daddy."

Akira shook his head slowly. Mentioning his wife brought painful memories. He had returned home to discover his wife hacked to pieces. Thankfully, Hanna was spending the night at a friends house at the time. Akira also found her bodyguard. He had put up a quite a fight at least, as had his wife. The kitchen and living room was a mess and there was broken furniture and items strewn everywhere.

Not as broken as his heart, however. If it had not been for Hanna, Akira would have been much like Annie. After he exacted revenge. Oh, he had tried to find who had done this to his wife, but he never found the person or persons who had done this foul deed. He could not think of any reasons why someone would do this. All he did know was that it was not random murders. Still another reason he had chosen to help Jim and Mack.

"Annie," Akira said softly. "You must eat to sustain your strength. Without strength you cannot get revenge," Akira said.

Annie turned and looked at Akira, her face contorted by anguish and...something else. Anger.

Akira knew that look very well. But after that brief flash in her eyes, she went back to staring at the floor. Akira sighed, and lightly touched Annie's hand before standing up and pacing the room.

Hanna returned pulling a reluctant Sensei behind her.

"It will not hurt to give it a try, Gramps," Hanna said, scolding him.

"I still do not see what I am possibly say that might..." Sensei was saying.

"Shh! We are here. You do not want her to think we are talking about her do you? That would be rude," Hanna said.

Sensei hesitantly approached Annie. He was not good at this sort of thing.

"Well now," Sensei said, "how are you, Annie?"

"Gramps!" Hanna exclaimed rolling her eyes. "You can do better than that!"

"Yes, yes. Do not rush me now. Ahem. Annie, Mack would want you to eat and go on living. I know he would," Sensei said, trying to get through to her. But Annie didn't move or reply.

"He gave his life so you can live!" Sensei said, raising his voice. "Are you not going to honor his sacrifice?"

"It's my fault!" Annie said, breaking out in tears and hugging Sensei. "I should've checked. I thought the blast had killed her. I should've checked."

"There there, Annie it is not your fault. You were still recovering from the blast yourself, as was Mack. I would have thought the same thing you did as would anyone seeing that much blood and damage to the Witch. She used her dark magic to get revenge. But her black desire was denied. She had hoped to kill you and make Mack suffer. But Mack stopped her. For you, Annie. Mack showed the greatest love a man can have by giving his life for you. Will you honor his desire for you to live or let the Witch have the last laugh?" Sensei said, hoping he had not gone too far.

"I-I will...I will live...for Mack!" Annie exclaimed, as more tears flowed. "It hurts Sensei! It hurts so bad!" She said, overcome with anguish.

"I know dear Annie, I know," Sensei said softly, holding her gently.

"And you're right, Akira! I will destroy that GrandMaster scumbag with my bare hands!" Annie shouted, shaking her fists. "And any of his goons that stand in my way!"

Akira nodded and bowed to Annie. "I will help you," he said, his eyes flashing.

"Good, now that we have settled that, let us eat," Sensei asked. "Are you up for cooking, Annie?"

Gramps!" Hanna shouted.

"What? Too soon?" Sensei muttered.

Akira went outside where the sun was setting, casting red and golden light on everything as the night moved in to take over. He loved it here at night, so peaceful and quiet. It was no surprise that Sensei had chosen here to live.

Akira felt his phone buzz in his pocket and ignored it. Probably Yukio, he thought. He had called Yukio yesterday after mack had been killed, and the conversation didn't go well.

"What do you mean he was killed? I sent you there to prevent that!" Yukio shouted.

Akira had explained the circumstances, in between Yukio's rants to no avail. He had also did as Sensei advised, and gave Mack the credit for killing all of the ninja's and the Witch, only saying that Annie was with him at the time.

"What makes you think I care about the circumstances?" Yukio asked. "Do you realize how valuable he was? He was my ticket to taking over Yakuza! Arguably, the GrandMaster may have killed him in any direct confrontation, but I could have cleaned up what mack could not do. Now I will be lucky if I manage to get rid of Suzuki. Although, the GrandMaster is not one to take failure lightly, so he may get rid of Suzuki and give me LA as appeasement. Yes, that would be nice, but it is still a long way from taking the GrandMaster title that is rightfully mine. You were charged with his protection, Akira and you failed. End of story you idiot!" Yukio shouted, no doubt spitting into his phone during the process.

Akira was so angry he nearly decided to drive back and kill Yukio on the spot! He took a few deep breath's and tried to calm down. There would be a reckoning, but now was not the time. Besides that, Yukio was right in saying Akira was the one responsible. But he could not change the past.

"Hei, Master Yukio. You are right, I have failed," Akira said, biting his tongue.

"Be that as it may, I am willing to give you another chance, Akira. I expect to see you by tomorrow. Bring Annie with you. She will be a nice addition to my new whore house, or perhaps I will sell her to one of my Saudi clients. Ha! That sounds much better. They do like white women there and they pay top dollar. Yes, I would take great pleasure knowing that bitch is forced to service Muslims. Imagine the look on her face when she finds out! Hee hee! Can you just picture her wearing one of those bags over her head?" Yukio said.

Akira's blood ran cold at the thought. Was there no depths of depravity Yukio would not stoop to? I will take great pleasure in choking the life out of that monster, Akira thought.

"Akira? Are you there?" Yukio asked.

"Hei. You are...ster Yukio. ...morrow," Akira said turning his phone off.

And here Yukio was calling again. Yukio turned the power off. Yukio could wait until after the funeral. However, instead of getting Annie, he will get Akira's sword drenched in Yukio's own blood! Sleep well Yukio, for tomorrow you die!
Perhaps I should tell Jim, Akira thought, pondering his options. No, Jim was an honorable cop. Still, if he told him what Yukio had planned would it not be honorable to end his life? Certainly, Jim would understand. There was only so much the law could do. And by the time Jim gathered enough evidence to lock up that animal, it would be too late for Annie.

I cannot allow that to happen, Akira thought.

"Time to eat, Daddy!" She said, much more upbeat now that Annie was up and about.

"F*ck!" Yukio shouted. "What is taking that idiot so f*cking long to get here? And why the hell isn't he answering his goddamn phone? He had to pick f*cking hicksville to visit and still he fails to protect that moron, Mack. F*ck!"

"Ryu!" Yukio shouted.

"Hei! Master Yukio?" Ryu replied rushing to Yukio's side.

"Unless you hear different from me, I want you to go see what is keeping Akira, tomorrow morning. Perhaps he is having car trouble. Obviously he is having problems with his f*cking cell phone," Yukio said.

"Hei!" Ryu bowed.

Yukio's phone rang and he quickly answered it. "Yes?"

"Yukio, this is Haru. GrandMaster will be flying down to LA soon to oversee some shipments. He wants you to send ten of your men to help," Haru said.

"Haru! How are you old friend? Why of course I will. These must be very important shipments if the GrandMaster himself is coming to oversee them," Yukio probed.

"Not only that but if this goes well, I hear you may be promoted," Haru said, watching Suzuki commit hari kari.

"The GrandMaster is most kind," Yukio said. "Whatever he may need, I am at his service."

"He will be pleased to hear that. Send your men to Suzuki's headquarters in LA then, the sooner the better," Haru said.

"Yes, as we speak," Yukio said. "How is Suzuki, old friend?"

"Not well at all, Yukio. He has had an unfortunate...accident," Haru said.

"That is too bad," Yukio replied, smiling. "Please give my regards to GrandMaster."

"I will be sure to do that. Goodbye," Haru said.

"Goodbye Haru," Yukio said.

Things are looking up, Yukio thought, rubbing his hands together and calling Ryu to pick ten men to send to LA.

As the next day dawned, Hanna realized they had nothing to wear to Mack's funeral.

"Gramps, there you are. We have nothing to wear to Mack's funeral!" Hanna exclaimed.

"Not to worry. I bought some clothes last time I was out," Sensei replied.

"You bought some clothes for Annie and me?" Hanna asked, not believing her ears.

"Of course. Now where did I put them?" Sensei said, looking around the house. "Oh yes, here they are," he said, opening the hallway closet. "They should fit. I still have a good eye for sizes."

"Gramps! They!" Hanna exclaimed.

"Lovely are they not?" Sensei said, smiling.

"But...but they!" Hanna repeated, in shock.

"No need to thank me," Sensei said. "It was the least I could do. Red is a good color, yes? Only the very best dresses for you and Annie. The saleslady said so."

Hanna rubbed her eyes as if they had betrayed her.

"Um...what about shoes, Gramps?" Hanna asked, hoping they would have time to stop before the funeral.

"I also thought of that," Sensei replied. "Here they are, over here. I got matching pairs," he said, handing Hanna a box.

Hanna opened the box to find black, high-heeled stilettos.

"I-I...dont know what to...say," Hanna said, rubbing her eyes again.

Was Gramps kidding? She wondered. But he didn't look like he was kidding as he stood there, beaming.

"I know what you are thinking," Sensei said.

"You do?" Hanna replied, hoping she wasn't hurting his feelings.

"Yes, you are thinking, how did he know we would like these dresses and shoes so much? And you are also thinking I am so very thoughtful, and despite what Akira told you I am not cheap. Yes, it was difficult to part with so much. Who knew that your clothes were so expensive? Well, I know, now. Ha ha! Quick! Go show Annie. You two are going to look so beautiful!" Sensei said, smiling broadly.

"Er...thanks...Gramps," Hanna said, walking slowly with the clothes and shoes to show Annie. She is going to kill me, Hanna thought. But I do not have the heart to tell Gramps he messed up.

"Are you kidding me?" Annie asked. "We look like...hookers!"

"Shhh! Gramps will hear you," Hanna said.

"But they are so...short, and...and red!" Annie exclaimed, exasperated. "And stilettos? Where did he find these? At a porn shop?"

"I do not know. I am sure he tried his best," Hanna replied looking in the mirror and furrowing her brows. "You really think we look like hookers?"

"Yes, we look like hookers! Haven't you ever seen one?" Annie asked.

"Well, I think so. But in college almost everyone dresses like hookers, so I am not entirely sure," Hanna replied.

"You probably have a point there," Annie said. But trust me, we look like hookers. Low cut, high hems, plenty of leg and bosom showing. Yeah. To be sure, we would probably be high priced call girls, but hookers nonetheless. And these dresses are so tight! My boobs feel like they're going to pop out!"

"Well, we don't have time to stop anywhere now," Hanna said, looking at her watch.
"So we wear this or some of Gramps old clothes."

"Oh! Okay, but I'm not wearing the fishnet stockings!" Annie exclaimed. "I can't believe I'm letting you talk me into this. Good thing there won't be anyone else there. One thing's for sure, Mack would approve of these dresses," Annie said, smiling.

Hanna giggled and Annie joined in.

"So...I should not wear the fishnet stockings?" Hanna asked, after they stopped giggling.

Annie giggled again and Hanna joined in. I guess not, Hanna thought.

"What is taking them so long?" Akira asked, pacing back and forth. "We are going to be late."

"Hurry up, or we will be late!" Sensei shouted. "Stop that, Akira, you are making me nervous."

"You are only nervous because you have to attend a funeral in a Catholic Church," Akira said.

"Well, I am not Catholic. I know very little about their customs. Thankfully, we will be the only people there, besides the Priest," Sensei said.

"Well...there may be a few more," Akira said, hesitantly.

"What do you mean?" Sensei asked, "a few more?"

"I had to tell Mack-san's partner and friend," Akira replied. "And he will probably bring his wife."

"Oh. That is only two. I can handle that," Sensei said.

"Why are you going, Sensei? You never go to funerals," Akira said.

"I would go to yours. Besides, I too feel like I failed Mack-san. I know he would not blame us, but this is the least I could do," Sensei replied.

The door to the bedroom finally opened and Hanna came stumbling out, trying to keep her balance. Annie grabbed her arm and helped her.
Akira's jaw hit the floor.

"They look so lovely," Sensei said, smiling.

"These do take some getting used to," Hanna said, clutching onto Annie.

"Yes, they do. I take it...oomph! You never wore them before now?" Annie asked, catching Hanna again.

"How did you know?" Hanna asked.

"Lucky guess," Annie replied.

"Are they...joking?" Akira whispered to Sensei.

"Shh. You will hurt Annie's feelings," Sensei said. "Pick your jaw up and smile, Akira. See? Hanna dressed like Annie in solidarity. It is the least we can do."

Akira tried his best to smile, ignoring his fatherly instinct to demand that Hanna wear something decent. Sensei was right, he must not upset Annie. Poor girl. She must have lost her good sense to wear that to a funeral. She did look...what is the word he had heard the young men say? Oh yes, hot. Akira forced himself to avert his eyes.

"I will get the jeep," Akira said, thinking that driving would help keep his eyes off of Annie.

"You both look absolutely gorgeous!" Sensei said, as Annie helped Hanna hobble to the door.

"I should say so!" Tadao said, peeking from the living room.

Sensei shot him a look.

"I better get started with the cleaning!" He said, hastily, disappearing from view.

"Remember, do not hurt his feelings," Hanna whispered. "I am sure he meant well."

"Why thank you, Sensei. You and Akira look very handsome," Annie said, smiling.

"Yes, well...ahem. Why thank you," Sensei replied, clearing his throat.

Akira brought the jeep around so the girls wouldn't have to walk in the sand. Especially in those things, he thought, worried that Hanna would sprain her ankles.

As they left Sensei's property they got about where Akira's driver had gotten days earlier to find another car stuck there. Akira slowed down, and drew his pistol, but kept it out of sight. Ryu got out of his car and waved.

"Got stuck I see," Akira said as Ryu approached the jeep.

"Yes, I didn't realize I would need a four wheel drive out here. Master Yukio sent me. He could not reach you by phone, and he assumed you would have car trouble. Were you going back now?" Ryu asked.

"Yes, we flagged down this old man and he was kind enough to let us use his jeep," Akira replied. "Tell Master Yukio we are on our way. My phone is broken. Seems one of the ninjas was still alive and attacked me. Unfortunately he broke my phone before I could finish him."

"Okay, I will call him and tell him to expect you," Ryu said. "May I get a lift?"

"Sorry, there is no room," Akira said. "Have Yukio send another car for you."

"What are you dressed up for?" Ryu asked, looking inside the jeep.

"Oh hell!" Akira exclaimed, smacking Ryu on the side of his head with his gun and knocking him out cold. "I was tired of lying anyhow."

Akira got out and took Ryu's phone, keys and gun. Then he quickly tied him up and placed him in his car with the windows down. He left a canteen of water in case he managed to get free. Otherwise, sensei could free him on the way back. Akira finished, got in the jeep and took off.

They made it to the Church with just minutes to spare. The plan was to have a short memorial at the Church and then to drive to the cemetary for the actual funeral.

As they entered the church, Annie was lookin down, as she helped Hanna walk. Annie stopped and reached over to get some holy water on her fingers to cross herself. She let go of hanna as she did so and looked up.

"Oh my god!" She whispered, as she crossed herself again. There were at least twenty people here!

Sensei froze. Akira was trying to nonchalantly push him to the nearest pew.

Annie spied the nearest pew herself and thought it best to sit threre before anyone turned around. So far, only the Priest had seen them, from the look of his wide eyes.

"Ohh!" Hanna shouted, before crashing to the floor loudly.

Naturally, everyone quickly turned to see a hooker trying to get up off the floor, and her hooker friend who was trying to help her.

"Those poor things. Probably booze or drugs," Sarah whispered to Jim, who nodded.

Was that Akira with them? Jim wondered. What's Akira doing with two hookers?

Several of the wives glared at their husbands who soon realized, one by one, that they were spending far too long looking at the hookers. Even those who looked away within a few seconds.
Most of the men and a few of the women were all fellow police officers who had served with Mack or had known him. A few more were friends from his Navy days.

"Sorry!" Hanna said, struggling to get up.

This of course caused everyone to turn and look again. Annie tried to help Hanna up, and she almost made it, but she was more concious of all the eyes on them than she was on her balance, which she lost, and she soon crashed onto the floor on top of Hanna.

After that there were a few audible gasps from the parishioners. Annie tried to quickly get to her feet bt so did Hanna and they were too tangled up for either to catch their balance which only made things worse as they both fell again, gams and arms flailing desperately to find something besides each other to hold on to.

Akira quickly ran over and helped them both up. Then he waved self-conciously, before Annie smacked his hand. He helped them into a pew, and they both bowed their heads, not so much to pray as to hide their faces. Annie pdid pray to become invisible.

"Did Mack have any hooker friends?" Sarah asked.

"None that I know of, but it's possible," Jim replied. "I don't know how they would know he's dead though."

Akira tried to pull Sensei into the row that Annie and Hanna were sitting in but Sensei was still frozen.

"Oh, that poor man. He must be mentally challenged," Sarah whispered.

Or retarded, Jim thought. What's Akira doing with two hookers and a retard?

"That's not nice, dear," Sarah scolded.

"I didn't say anything," Jim replied.

"I know, but you were thinking it," Sarah said.

"Well, that's what everyone called the mentally challenged when I was a kid. You know I mean nothing by it," Jim said.

"I know, I'm just giving you a hard time for staring at those hookers so long," she said, smiling.

"It's not everyday you see that happening in Church," Jim said, "and at a funeral. Besides, I know that man. He was with Mack when he..."

"The retard?" Sarah asked.

"No, the other guy. He's an informant," Jim replied.

"God be with you," Father O'Sullivan said.

"And also with you," the Catholics among those present said.

"Thank you all for coming." He said. "We are gathered here today to pay respects to and to honor the memories of Mack Westphal, a Navy veteran, a police officer and a detective. Mack devoted his life to protect his fellow man. Before I get started would anyone like to say a few words?"

Jim stood and approached Father O'Sullivan who sat down.

"Hi, I'm Jim Taylor, and I was Mack's partner for several years. Before that I served with him in the Navy. I tried...I tried to prepare a speech, but you know what? I couldn't think of the right words to say, so I'll just speak what's in my heart. I think that's what Mack would want anyway. Mack was the best friend a guy could have. He has saved my life quite a few times, but he has also been there for me over the years to hear the least of my problems. And you know, he had a great sense of humor. Yeah, Mack's humor sure kept many of us sane over the years. I would repeat some of his hijinks, but not here," Jim said, smiling. Which drew some laughter from the crowd.

"Then tell us later, Jim," Father O'Sullivan said, to more laughter.

"You got it, Father but you're buying," Jim said, smiling and to more laughter.

As many of you know, Mack lost his family three years ago, and he lost more than that. He lost what he loved doing. I wish...I wish I could have prevented that, as I'm sure you all do. Excuse me. Ahem. I tried to stay in touch with Mack, and well, I'm ashamed to say I didn't do a good job of it. Mack would be the first to say I'm exaggerating, or being too melodramatic, but that's how I feel. Anyways, thanks Mack. Thanks for enriching our lives so much. Thanks for being our friend. Thanks for all the laughs through the good times and bad times. Godspeed, my friend." Jim said, sitting down.

"Thank you Jim, anyone else?"

A few more people spoke, incuding Sarah.

"Is that everyone?" Father O'sullivan asked.

Annie found herself walking down before she realied what she was doing. She was so moved by Jim and Sarah she had to say something.

"Hi, um, I'm Annie. I was with Mack when he...when he died. You see, Mack died saving my life...and...and I didn't know him very long, but I love him. You know? I thought you should all know. Please excuse me," Annie said, sniffling. "I love you Mack, and God bless you. Thank you all for coming," Annie said, quickly walking back to her seat.

"Thank you, Annie," Father O'Sullivan said, wiping a tear from his eye.

"What a sweet lady," Sarah whispered, wiping her eyes. "We should help her, Jim. I bet she could use the money. We can't let her go back to the streets."

"Yes, of course, dear," Jim said. I don't think shes a hooker though, Jim thought, after watching her move, although why she was dressed like one was beyond him.
Above my paygrade, Jim thought.

The Priest finished the memorial and asked everyone to pick up a flyer if they needed directions to the cemetary. As everyone arose and turned, after genuflecting, they could see Akira and the hookers dragging Sensei out of the Church...literally.

"Are you okay, Sensei?" Akira asked as they screeched out of the Church parking lot.

"That was...horrifying," Sensei said, the color drained from his face.

"Why don't you just wait in the jeep at the cemetary then," Akira said.

"Yes, I think I will. You just had to tell a few of his friends, eh?" Sensei said.

"Well, I had no idea Jim would get that many people together," Akira replied.

"Those people sure stared a lot," Hanna said.

"Aren't you glad you didn't wear the fishnet stockings?" Annie asked.

Fishnet stockings? Akira wondered. Hanna actually considered wearing those? We have to have a long talk about clothes. Then again, maybe not. What would he say?

When they arrived at the cemetary, Sensei did indeed stay in the Jeep.

"Hold it," Annie said, before Hanna could get out. "You better take those off first. They are worse on grass than they are in Church," Annie concluded, taking her heels off.

"I will take your word for it," Hanna replied, taking hers off.

At the gravesite there were also some veterans who were the color guard, which Jim participated in, as well as Mack's Navy friends. They all wore their uniforms and taps was played. Jim hadn't decided who should get the flag, which he bought, but after hearing Annie speak he thought it best she should have it, since Mack had no surviving relatives.

Father O'Sullivan began the service and ended it after the 21 gun salute and taps.

As they walked to the jeep, Jim ran up to them.

"Hi Jim. Sorry I missed you at the Church, but we had some...difficulties," Akira said."This is Annie, and this is Hanna, my daughter."

"Your daughter?" Jim asked, shaking their hand and giving them a quick hug.

"Yes," Akira answered succinctly.

"Thank you for the wonderful ceremony and flag," Annie said.

"It was an honor, Annie," Jim said. "This is my wife Sarah," Jim said introducing her as she caught up.

"Hello," Sarah said hugging Hanna and Annie. "Here dear, you keep this as a gift from us, okay?" Sarah whispered, placing a check in Annie's hand for $5,000 dollars.

Annie looked at it and did a doubletake.

"What? I can't take this," Annie said.

"Really, dear, it's no problem at all," Sarah said. "Mack would want you to have it. And here's our number if you ever need anything at all. We can help you into college too, if you want. You never have to go back."

"Go back? What do you mean?" Annie asked. "College?"

"We can talk more later, Annie. About anything you want," Sarah said. "Any friend of Mack's is a friend of ours."

"Thank you, Sarah, but I...I don't...know what you mean," Annie said, flabbergasted.

"Yes, do call us later when you can," Jim said.

"I will," Annie said, "but I still don't see why you would give me this."

"Let's go, Jim, we mustn't pressure the lass," Sarah said, pulling on Jim's hand.

"Wait, what did you give her?" Jim asked.

"Come on, Jim," she tugged, giving Jim the look that every man dreads.

"Okay, okay I'm coming," Jim answered, waving goodbye. "Seriously, call us Annie. You too, Akira."

"I will do that, Jim. Thank you," Akira said. "Nice to meet you Sarah."

"I still don't understand why she gave me $5000 dollars," Annie muttered, shaking her head as they headed back to the car.

"Maybe she thought you were a hooker," Hanna quipped.

"Oh my God!" Annie shouted.

She turned to run After Jim and Sarah but they were already gone.

"Oh no! Now it makes sense!" Annie said, putting her face into her hands. "I have to call them later and explain."

"Explain what?" Akira asked.

"Explain how we didn't want to hurt Sensei's feelings after he bought these dresses," Annie replied.

"Wait, Sensei bought you those dresses and shoes?" Akira asked.

"Of course he did, Daddy," Hanna replied. "He is so sweet. We did not have the heart to tell him this was inappropriate at funerals."

"Inappropriate everywhere, really," Annie quipped.

"Why that conniving little..." Akira said, muttering to himself.

"What's wrong Daddy?" Hanna asked. "You look upset."

"Sensei told me that Annie had decided to wear that dress and that you went along out of solidarity," Akira said.

"He what!" Annie shouted.

Akira had Sensei drop him and the girls off at the Marriott and advised Annie to use a false name, giving her several thousand in cash as well as giving Hanna a credit card. They all said their goodbyes to Sensei who sported a knot on his head after Annie found out the scam he was running.

"Does this mean you will not be my cook any longer?" Sensei asked, rubbing his head.

"You are impossible!" Annie said in a huff. "But I love you anyway," she finished, kissing him on the knot she had created.

"It hurts here too," Sensei said, pointing to his lips.

"It surely will hurt there if you don't knock it off," Annie replied, waving a fist.

"I do love feisty cooks," Sensei said, laughing.

"Take care Gramps!" Hanna said, giving him a hug.

"You too, little one. Watch out for your father, he needs you," Sensei said softly.

"I will, Gramps. When we get settled I want to examine you more completely, okay? If you have any problems you call me," Hanna ordered.

"Okay," Sensei replied gruffly. "Caring doctors sure are busybodies."

"You both go on in," Akira said. "I need to have one last word with Sensei."

The girls waved and headed towards the door. Sensei whistled and they both turned to wave again and giggle. Then he took their picture.

"I'm going to contact Toshiro now, and then go home. I can see what you have planned, Akira. Be careful, okay? You have my blessings," Sensei said, placing his hand briefly on Akira's head. "I better get out of here before the ladies confiscate my camera, hee hee!"

"Thank you Sensei," Akira replied. "We will visit more often."

"But not too often," Sensei said. "I need my beauty sleep." And with that, Sensei took off.

Annie and Hanna had run back towards the jeep...well, Annie did, and Hanna just managed a fast walk, trying not to fall.

"You decrepit old coot!" Annie shouted, shaking her fist at Sensei as he drove off.

"Well, look at the bright side," Hanna said, catching up to Annie. "We will all laugh about this the next time we are together."

"Oh I'll laugh alright," Annie said, "after I kick Sensei's ass!"

"Please, get some new clothes," Akira said, after getting the girls to enter the hotel lobby, turning to Annie and Hanna and giving her several more thousand dollars. "And take this," he said handing Annie his gun. "You may need it. I'll send a car after I check in with Yukio. I may be driving myself but if not, the driver will have a password, which will be...hooker," Akira smiled.

"Daddy!" Hanna exclaimed.

"Ha ha, very funny, Akira. Are you our pimp?" Annie asked, laughing when Akira turned red. Hanna joined in.
Akira hailed a cab and gave the driver directions. He hoped that Ryu hadn't gotten free or warned Yukio what he had done, but just in case, he had a cover story ready.
Akira arrived, and paid the cabbie.

He approached the door but sensed something was wrong. He looked around but saw nothing. He opened the door with his key and entered, immediately resetting the alarm. He snuck into his room and grabbed his sword and another gun.

So far, so good, Akira thought. He thought for sure he would run into a guard, at least by now. Akira slipped through the house silently. A sword in one hand and his gun in the other. Now he knew for certain something was wrong when he saw the slain guard. Akira moved from room to room, clearing the first floor. He had found three more slain guards, all dead by the sword, and all but one decapitated.

Akira crept up the stairs, the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end. He wasn't one to frighten easily, but for someone...or several men to enter the house undetected and kill four of his men thus far without any sign that any of them had any warning, meant he was dealing with the very best. Perhaps Yukio had done this. Yes, that would explain it, but why?

Akira saw a shadow out of the corner of his eye, upon reaching the top of the stairs, and quickly turned. But all he saw was another decapitated guard. He searched the north wing, finding three more dead guards, all with their throats slit. Akira searched every room carefully, and then backtracked. He felt the blood of one of the guards and checked to see if rigor had set in. No. The killings were recent.

Again, another flickering of shadow, this time dead ahead! But he couldn't focus on it and it was gone as fast as it had appeared. Sensei? He wondered. He could have gotten here first with time to spare, Akira thought as he searched every room he came to, fast approaching the last one...Yukio's room.

The door was open, and two guards were lying dead outside of the threshold, there faces frozen in fear, their throats slashed. Akira entered Yukio's room. Inside was another dead guard, this one decapitated. Akira checked the closet, opening the door quickly, ready to fire.

"Eek!" A woman screamed, covering her head with her arms.

"Silence!" Akira whispered. "You are Yukio's consort, are you not?"

She nodded. "Who did this?" Akira whispered softly.

She just looked up at him, shaking her head no.

"Please! Do not leave me," she begged.

"I will not leave you, I promise. I just need to check the restroom," Akira said.

Akira checked the rest of the room and stopped at the bathroom. Last room, he thought, other than the attic and basement. He didn't relish searching those areas.
He opened the door as fast as he could and stood ready. Inside there was blood everywhere. Yukio's blood. On the bathroom floor laid Yukio, hacked to pieces, his eyes relecting the horror of the hell he had seen as death came to claim him.
His sword lay on the floor next to him, but Akira could tell Only Yukio's blood was on it, as the top side was clean.

Sensei? Akira wondered, shivering as a cold wind blew by him. Yes, Sensei would allow the woman to live. The GrandMaster or some other assassin would not. Akira backed up into the bedroom and felt another rush of wind. The woman screamed again and Akira whirled as fast as lightning. Nothing. Just the wind, Akira thought.
Except all the windows were closed.

Akira backed up to the wall. He was a hard man. He had seen all manner of horrors throughout his life. Akira didn't scare easily. But right now, Akira was more frightened than he could remember being in recent memory. Sensei's vengeance is an awesome force, Akira thought, shaking from the cold...or something else.

Akira scanned the room and caught a brief glimpse out the window on the bacony. A shadowy figure.

Wait! Sensei said he was contacting Toshiro. Maybe he did this, Akira thought. Is that him? But when he blinked the shadow was gone. The light of mid day, which had earlier been so dark, shone brightly in the room once more. Akira considered chasing the shadow, but he decided against it. First of all it may have only been a trick his eyes played on him and secondly, he had to ensure the safety of the girl.

Akira mustered his courage and went to the closet, holding his hand out for the lady hiding in there. She hesitantly took his hand and he helped her up.
She is a knockout! Akira thought, trying not to stare at her naked body. He tried hard to recall her name.

"Mika? You are Mika, right?" Akira asked.

"Hei. I am Mika. Please get me out of here kind sir," she pleaded.

"Here, let us get this on you," he said, grabbing a kimono and helping her put it on. "I am Akira."

Before he could close it she hugged him tightly. He could feel an exciting heat radiating from her bare, alabaster breasts, and supple, well groomed body.
Akira hugged her back.

"It is okay. I will protect you," Akira said softly, caressing her hair as she sobbed.

Her hair smelled of cherry blossoms, and the aroma was heady. Akira didn't want to let her go, but they had to get out of that house. He didn't know why, they just did. Akira looked down at Mika and her wet eyes gazed up at him, drinking in his masculinity. She kissed him, and he kissed her back. It just felt right to do so.
It was a long, and very hot kiss, and it took all of Akira's willpower to gently pull away.

"Here," Akira said. "Wear these sandals. Come with me, Mika. I have a few things to get from my room and then we will leave this evil place."

"Thank you," Mika said, her voice heavy with the sexual tension they both felt.

I think I love her, Akira thought, smiling as they headed for his room. Akira grabbed an overcoat to conceal his sword, and several clips for his gun. He also took some cash he had handy and stuffed his pockets. Yes, $50,000 should do it, he thought.

At the bottom of the stairs he saw a backpack that wasn't there when he entered.
He carefully examined it. There didn't appear to be any traps. Slowly, he unzipped the main pouch. Inside of the backpack were stacks of cash! This must be close to a million dollars, Akira thought, hefting the pack. Who left it? Where did it come from? Akira decided to take it. Who knows when I will get another job, he thought.

Outside, on the porch was another backpack. This one too was full of cash. What is going on here? Akira wondered. Mika had not seen the contents of either pack. She sure will be in for a surprise, Akira thought. He entered the garage and chose the decked out black caddy. He opened the door for Mika and she smiled sweetly, kissing him on the cheek. Akira smiled back.

"Let us take the scenic route back to the hotel, shall we?" Akira asked.

Mika answered with another kiss. Akira was sure the girls would be fine for a little while. He took off from the compound and headed for the beach.

Inside the Marriot Annie asked for a room. "Do you have a penthouse suite?" She asked.

The man behind the desk looked at Hanna and Annie with disdain.

"Are you sure you can afford it?" He asked, sniffing, his nose up in the air.

"Do you take cash?" Annie asked, waving a pile of bills under his nose.

"Why yes! Yes, of course, Madame! Please accept my apologies," he said, a contrite and fearful look on his face.

"You know, you should not judge people so quickly," Hanna scolded.

"Quite right, Madame. Thank you for that kind advice," he said, bowing.

After paying for the room Annie and Hanna headed for the elevator. Just before it shut two men in suits entered. They were both very large men, but apparently in good shape. They both ogled the girls.

"Would you care to join us for an afternoon drink?" The blondhaired man asked.

"No thanks," Annie replied curtly.

"What? We aren't good enough for you?" The blackhaired man asked.

"No, you aren't," Annie answered, glaring at the men.

"You were waving a lot of cash down in the lobby," blondie said, moving closer to Annie.

"You guys better turn the f*ck around and shut the f*ck up, right f*cking now!" Annie shouted.

"Or what, slut, you'll call for help?" The black haired man said, hitting the emergency stop button.

Annie brought her knee up, but blondie was expecting it, and Annie knew he was expecting it. So instead, while blondie preoccupied himself with blocking her knee and grabbing it, she gouged his eyes, really hard!
Blondie screamed in pain and surprise. Then Annie kneed his groin, with all her strength. Blondie fell like a sack of potatoes, and Annie kicked him in the throat.

As Blondie was gasping for air, Hanna jumped up and kicked his fellow goon in the gut. The stilettos she was wearing enhanced the effect. As he was bent over in pain, trying to catch his breath, Hanna brought her knee up into his face. Crunch! Breaking his nose and splitting his lip. She finished him off with a kick to the groin, for good measure.

As both men writhed with pain on the elevator floor Annie restarted the elevator.

"Is everything okay?" A voice asked through a speaker. "This is security. We saw what happened on the video. Man! You gals rock!" He exclaimed.

"Yes, we are fine. You can pick up this riff raff on the twentieth fllor," Annie replied.

"Oooh! I got his blood on my knee!" Gross!" Hanna exclaimed, her face twisted in disgust.

"That's alright, Hanna. We'll just take a long, hot! shower together," Annie said, smiling at the camera.

"Now that's cold, ladies," the voice on the speaker said. "Thanks for the image though," he said, chuckling. "You gals are hot!"

Annie and Hanna giggled, waved to the camera, and got off on their floor.

Friday, April 3, 2009


I saw Doc on Monday, and there's some good news to report. I'll count the blessings:

1. My weight is back up to 170 pounds!

2. My CD4 count (an immune cell measurement) is up to 570, the highest it's been since I was diagnosed with AIDS! That's about 25-30% of a "normal healthy" person.

3. I get to stop taklin' one of the most toxic AIDS meds (DDI)!

4. My triglycerides (a side effect of the AIDS drugs) is down from 1,400 to 560!

5. My viral load is down from a high of over a million to 155! (Per ml of blood)

6. The Peripheral Neuropathy I have may (or may not) decrease as a result. Time will tell. At any rate, it's unlikely to get worse!

7. I quit taking the bupropion (a social anxiety drug) several months ago. It used to be very difficult for me to cope with bein' around a lot of people (such as Walmart at rush hour). Bring it on! (Hey, I still don't like it, and who does? But I don't feel like I'm gonna freak out or nothin').

8. I'm actually starting to get noticeably stronger. Meanin', for the first time in nearly twenty years I'm increasin' my energy! It's been a long, slow slog, but jusy knowin' it's possible fills me with hope!

9. Patti and I are gettin' along better than ever. I would be lyin' if I said we had no rough spots, but we are improving...together. Patti is doin' so much better, too. I'm proud of the progress she has made! She is one tough cookie and my love continues to grow for her! :^)

10. I am so thankful for you, my friends, my sisters n' brothers under the pelt!
One could not ask for better friends and family than you guys! :^)

11. And even the painful, depressin' bad times. They are a blessin', because it has helped me grow stronger, increasing my hope, love, and faith, centered around truth.
And it has increased my gratitude and thankfullness. I avoid bitterness n' envy like the plague. I quickly notice, often by readin' what you guys write, when I'm takin' what I ought to be thankful for...for granted. And O! How I cherish and love my God given Liberty!

12. And I more easily recognize God's hand in my life, AKA my Destiny! My purpose(s) for bein' here! It's an ongoin' process. How can it be anything but? And yet it is so much more incredibly clearer than ever before! Miraculous?! You betcha! Hey! I'm supposed to be dead according to our best medical science. Dead since 1992 and never more alive!

13. Thanks Doc! And Thanks Lord! You guys rock! :^)

Noir News

Act 15: Death Fu

"Hanna...hurry!" Annie said, her voice cracking.

"Annie! Annie, what happened?" Hanna asked urgently. But there was no reply.

Annie's voice brought tears to Hanna's eyes. The anguish and pain in her palpable it hit her like a Mack truck...Mack! Oh no! She knew it was Mack! Oh God!

"Whoa, what's the rush?" Akira said, as Hanna sprinted past him. Akira grabbed her arm.

"It's Mack, Daddy! Didn't you hear?" She shouted, burying her face in Akira's shoulder.

"Now, let's not jump to conclusions little one," Akira said, taken aback. He softly patted his daughter's head as she clung to him in desperation.

"Didn't you hear?" She sobbed.

"Yes...yes I heard, dear," Akira said. "I heard."

"We must hurry! There might be a chance!" Hanna exclaimed, darting off at full speed.

Akira followed, running as fast as he could. Whatever was wrong, they were needed.

"No Mack, no! I can't lose you! I won't! I won't!" Annie shouted in grief, as the light in Mack's eyes began to fade.

Blood gushed from his chest and it was all Annie could do not to lose it. She applied pressure to Mack's wound and struggled to get her backpack off. Nervously, she fumbled for the first-aid kit, cursing when she couldn't get it open with her free hand. She would need both hands, she thought in horror.

Annie removed her hand and the blood continued to pump out of Mack's body. So much blood! Annie quickly got the box open and grabbed some gauze, feverishly tearing the packages open. Then she remembered she needed a seal for Mack's chest as more blood bubbled out, along with air from one or both his lungs. The blood was frothy like beer suds. Mack would probably laugh about it and make a joke if he were concious. She pulled out her cigarettes and removed the cellophane wrapper, applying it to mack's sucking chest wound. Then she applied the gauze and held it there firmly.

Mack tried to talk but blood had oozed out instead. He mouthed "I love you" and his eyes briefly flashed the light of love...before fading out.

"I won't let you die! You hear me, Mack? Don't you die on me! Mack? Mack?!" Annie sobbed, shaking uncontrollably.

"Nooo! Please God! Nooo!" Annie wailed.

Her heart felt like it was going to burst and she couldn't breathe as the anguish poured out of her soul. She had never felt pain this intense. But she had never loved anyone as much as she did Mack, except for her grandparents and Dad, but that was a different kind of love. The pain of loss spread through her and her heart shattered into a million pieces as she realized Mack was no longer breathing.

Sensei had heard everything over his radio as he cleaned and swabbed up more ninja blood.

"Oh dear," Sensei said, steadying himself after Annie's anguished call.

He sat down and tried to calm his heart. The pain in Annie's voice cut deeply into his psyche. He could not help but feel empathy with the poor girl.

"Oh my," he whispered.

Sensei got up and steadied himself taking even, deep breaths until he was focused, and once again in command of his emotions. Once he was composed he walked towards the ninja prisoner. He tore the duct tape from his mouth.

"Please Don't kill me! I'm sorry!" The prisoner bowed profusely, scared out of his wits and shaking.

Sensei drew his sword and brought it down in a flash!

"Aaaaahhhh!" The ninja screamed shutting his eyes. Then he opened one eye, realizing Sensei had cut his bonds.

"I will be back in awhile. If you value your life you will not try to leave," Sensei said, sighing. "Because you know what the GrandMaster will do to you if he finds out you are alive. And remember this: if you betray us or try to hurt us in any way...I will personally send you to the hell where you will be flayed alive for eternity."

"I swear! You have my word, I will sit right here," the ninja said, bowing continuously. "Thank you Sensei, thank you for sparing my life! I swear my allegience to you blessed Sensei! I am at your service!"

When the ninja looked up Sensei was gone. He breathed a sigh of relief. But inside, he was riddled with guilt. That poor girl, he thought, shaking his head. When Master Suzuki sent them here, he was told the people here was a violent gang that had killed fellow Yakuza, shooting them in the back.

After spending some time here, it was obvious these were honorable people who took no joy in killing. They weren't told there was women here, and a doctor. He also didn't enjoy killing, but he came for his father, to prove he was worthy enough to be a part of Yakuza. Instead he discovered that Master Suzuki was dishonorable, and without any redeeming qualities.

Tadeo hung his head as guilt overwhelmed him. What had he become? How could he justify what they had attempted to do? This wasn't the first time he felt guilt, but it did make the decision to turn on the Yakuza easy. The kindness these good folks had shown him had a profound effect.
I vow to serve Sensei, he thought. These people know true honor and they live it.

It took 20 minutes before Hanna and Akira found Annie. They both gulped down air as they approached, sweat pouring from their bodies.
Annie was sitting with Mack's head on her lap crying softly. Her hand on his chest, covered with blood, her other hand stroking his hair.

The scene was so heartwrenching Akira got choked up as tears involuntarily flowed from his eyes. Hanna quickly checked Mack's pulse and then broke down crying. She held Annie tenderly.

That's my girl, trying to be strong for Annie, Akira thought, wiping the tears from his eyes and turning away from the girls so they couldn't see his tears.
Akira got his cell phone out and called the same number he had dialed earlier. This time there was an answer.

"Hello?" A man's deep voice answered.

"He's dead, Jim," Akira said, barely audible.

"What? Akira? Who? Who's dead?" Jim asked, sitting down at his desk at the police department. "Akira?"

"Mack. I am sorry, Jim," Akira said, barely maintaining his composure.

"Mack? Dead?! Mack?!" Jim asked, the weight of the world crashing down on him as he tried to comprehend what Akira had said.

"Hei. I will call back later, Jim. I...I cannot say anymore right now," Akira said.
"I am sorry," Akira repeated, snapping the phone shut.

LT. Johnson was outside Jim's door, just about to knock when he overheard the last part, about Mack being dead. A smile spread on his face and he was so gleeful he had to return to his desk. His talk with Jim could wait. Besides, he wanted to celebrate.

Jim sat there in shock. Mack. I'm so sorry I wasn't there, my friend, he thought, bowing his head. My God, what happened? Jim regretted not seeing Mack earlier when he had a chance. Once Mack was on the inside he couldn't see him or communicate in any way.

Akira had explained everything. Yukio hiring Mack, Kane's death, and that the GrandMaster was behind the murders of Mack's family. Without Akira, Jim would have never gotten anywhere on this case. Besides that, he had information about the drug suppliers, shipments, the human slavery ring Yukio ran that he had already broken up. Unfortunately, he couldn't link Yukio to the slave ring, because the judge had thrown out all the key evidence he needed on dubious technicalities.
And now he had a direct link to the head of the Yakuza. The case was about to be blown wide open, and Mack was dead.

It was never Jim's intention to get Mack involved. That was unexpected, but Yukio was known for doing the unexpected. When Jim got that first call from Akira a few months back he almost couldn't believe it. Akira had risked his life by telling Jim what he had. But he was careful not to blow Akira's cover, and he had kept everything to himself, knowing Yukio had at least one highly ranked cop on his payroll.

Akira had read about the gruesome murders of Mack's family and that had pushed him to contact Jim.
Akira was old school Yakuza. He had no problem with gambling or protection rackets. Even prostitution didn't bother him much as long as it was voluntary. But these growing number of murders and drugs and human slavery...well, Akira would have none of that.

Akira had done his homework and had carefully researched Jim before contacting him.
He had to be sure Jim was an honest cop, and that Jim wouldn't betray him. Jim didn't even tell the DA about Akira, and when they broke up the human slavery ring Jim had worked it out so that Akira was never referred to even as an anonymous source.
Nothing Jim had done could connect Akira to anything.

Therefore, Jim believed Akira's report of Mack's untimely death. It was just difficult to think of him as gone.

"I'll miss you, my friend," Jim whispered, wiping his eyes. "I'll finish what you started. The GrandMaster is going down and I'm going to bring the Yakuza crashing down around him!" Jim vowed, clenching his fists.

"Annie," Akira said, gently placing his hand on his shoulder. "I am sorry for your loss."

"No!" Annie shouted. "No! I won't let you die, Mack! I won't!"

Annie furiously began CPR and breathed into Mack's mouth, beginning compressions again.

"Help me!" She screamed hysterically.

"Annie..." Hanna said, gently.

"Help me!" Annie screamed again, before breathing two more breaths into Mack.

Hanna began compressions, counting. She knew it was hopeless, but Annie needed to see for herself. They both worked feverishly for 15 minutes, switching when Hanna got to tired.

Sensei drove up in an old jeep, jumped out and ran to the scene. He watched for a moment at the superhuman efforts of Annie and Hanna to revive Mack. Akira bowed his head in respect.

"Sensei," Akira said, barely a whisper.

Annie and Hanna looked up, only now aware Sensei had arrived. Tears filled their eyes and rivulets streamed down, cutting through the dust on their dirty, angelic faces.
Hope filled Annie's gaze, but Hanna knew better.

"Sensei! Oh Sensei! Thank God! You can help Mack, right? You can bring him back!" Annie blurted, jumping up and hugging him.

"I...oh child...I am...I can only do so much. But I will do what I can," Sensei said, clearly moved by Annie's faith in him and troubled by it.

For Sensei knew what Annie did not: he was only human and there were limits to what he could and could not do.

Sensei knelt down next to Mack and examined him, checking his eyes. Then he placed a hand on Mack's head, and appeared to be in prayer. A very long 30 seconds later he reached into a satchel he had brought and took out a handful of ground up herbs, a greenish grayish color and sprinkled it around Mack's wounds, primarily his chest area.

Next, Sensei opened a vial of clear liquid and said something unintelligible in what appeared to be a prayer over it, and poured it into Mack's mouth, saving some to pour on Mack's eyes.
Finally, he placed a hand on Macks head and on his heart and prayed some more.
Mack glowed a soft blue, then green, then red, then yellow and finally white as Sensei's words increased in volume. It still sounded like gibberish to everyone there.

When Sensei was finished he collasped on top of Mack. Hanna and Annie quickly lifted him off of Mack finding that he was unconcious. They gently laid Sensei down on his back, and while Hanna attended to him Annie went back to Mack's side, and holding his hand in hers, she prayed.

A minute went by and Annie began CPR again. Hanna wearily got up to help. Poor thing, she thought. Annie is in denial but Hanna would help as long as she could.
Akira stood over Sensei, providing shade.

A half hour later, Sensei awoke and shook his head to clear the cobwebs. He watched Annie and Hanna still doing CPR on Mack.

"Stop," Sensei said.

Hanna stopped but Annie continued.

"Annie...Annie. That's enough," Sensei said, pulling her from Mack.

"Nooo!" Annie screamed, trying to fight Sensei off, pounding his chest with her fists. "I won't let him die! Mack! Maaack! I need you!" She screamed. "I can't do this my myself! I don't want to be alone again! Don't leave me alone, Mack. Please!"

Sensei held her and finally Annie stopped fighting and collasped in his arms, crying with such despair she broke every heart that could hear her cries. Only an anguish born of true love can hurt like this, Sensei thought, holding Annie.

Akira looked away in shame as tears flowed once more from his eyes. He had failed to protect Mack. He had to live with that dishonor.

"Daddy, it is not your fault," Hanna said, hugging her father.

She knows me so well, Akira thought, hugging his daughter tightly. It did not matter if it was his fault, Mack was his responsibility and he had failed. I will avenge you, Mack-san, Akira vowed. I will destroy the GrandMaster and send him into eternal torment.

Sarah was waiting for Jim when he arrived home. He couldn't tell her over the phone and he couldn't stay at the office pretending nothing was wrong. Sarah knew something bad had happened but she waited patiently for Jim to open up.
Jim kissed Sarah, grabbed a few glasses from the kitchen and went directly to the living room. He opened their liquor cabinet and poured himself some whiskey.

"What will you have, dear?" Jim asked.

"Is it that bad?" Sarah said, concern edging her voice. Jim nodded solemnly. "A bit of apricot brandy then, please."

Jim brought the drinks to the coffee table in front of the couch and sat down. Sarah sat beside him and Jim handed her the brandy then took a deep drink of his whiskey and sighed, rubbing his eyes.

"Sarah, it's...Mack," Jim said, breaking down.

Jim had wanted to tell her more but he couldn't get it out. But Sarah knew, even if she didn't know the details.

"Oh Lord!" she said, dropping her brandy to the floor and holding Jim as they both cried.

"All forty?!" The GrandMaster shouted, enraged. "Including the Witch? What did they have, an army? Tell me everything!"

"I believe so, Master. I barely escaped with my life," the voice said on the phone. "I was shot in my right shoulder by a sniper and played dead. The Witch told me that she would take your personal bodyguards and finish him off. I heard an explosion and looked through the binoculars. All I could see was the Witch lying on the ground all bloody. The gaijin and a woman emerged from a cave. After watching them for a few minutes the Witch shot the gaijin and he in turn finished her with his sword before dying."

"So he is dead then?" The GrandMaster said.

"Yes my lord!" The voice replied.

"And Akira?" The GrandMaster asked.

"I...I do not know, my lord," the voice said. "We never heard from the groups that attacked the house."

"Very well. Go to the safe house and await further instructions. I'll send a doctor and some men to get every detail so you be ready," the GrandMaster said, hanging up before hearing the reply.

"Forty well trained men! My personal bodyguards and the Witch!" He shouted angrily. "This gaijin must have been very deadly indeed to kill that many, even with Akira's help."

"What about Akira?" His second in command asked.

"I cannot afford to lose any more men. As it is we are severely shorthanded at the moment. Pull some men wherever you can. We have three big shipments arriving in LA over the next two days and they will need all the help they can get. Let us hope Akira is dead. If he has managed to survive we can always finish him off later if he gets in my way again," The GrandMaster said.

"As you say, my lord," the man said.

"Who planned this assassination?" The GrandMaster asked, still irritated at the loss he had sustained.

"It was the head of the LA Yakuza himself, Master Suzuki," the man replied.

"I will not tolerate this incompetence. Tell him to commit hari kari to atone for this dishonor. If he does not, kill him and his entire family!" The GrandMaster said pounding his fist on his desk which collasped in a broken heap from the force of the blow.

"Hei! Your will be done, my lord!" The man replied, bowing. He was relieved to get out of the room alive.
Sensei carried Annie to the jeep and gently placed her inside. She had fainted from exhaustion. Hanna watched her while Sensei and Akira gently placed Mack's body in the back of the jeep.

"I'll be right back," Sensei said, returning to the cave entrance where the Witch laid.

He pulled Mack's sword from her heart and brought it down again, slicing her head clean off. Then he took a piss on her head before returning to the jeep.

"We will bury him with his sword," Sensei said. "Besides, this sword will have no other."

Akira nodded. It was a magnificent sword. Sensei cleaned the sword as Akira drove and placed it in Mack's hands. Rigor was just beginning to set in. The sun caught the sword and the brilliant light it reflected made Sensei turn away so he would not be blinded.

"I am sorry, Mack-san," Sensei whispered. "We will take care of Annie for you, I promise," he said, bowing his head.

When they arrived at Sensei's house, Sensei had to stop Akira from killing the ninja, since Akira had thought the man had gotten loose on his own and was trying to escape.

"Akira, we can use him. He knows much, and," Sensei said looking into the ninja's eyes, "I believe we can trust him. Now carry Annie inside. She can sleep on my bed.
I will return later."

"Where are you going Gramps?" Hanna asked, hugging him.

"To make funeral arrangements little one," he replied, kissing her forehead. "Hopefully without a full blown investigation. We were justified to defend ourselves but this is California, not Texas. Besides, I despise paperwork and bureaucrats."

After Sensei drove off with Mack's body Akira sat on the floor staring at the ninja. Hanna had gone to wash up, so they were alone. The ninja fidgeted nervously under Akira's baleful glare.

"What is your name?" Akira asked, after a long and uncomfortable, for the ninja, silence.

"I am Tadao," he replied.

"Ha! Tadao? Loyal man? Loyal to whom I wonder," Akira said. Tadao meant "loyal man."

"Loyal to Sensei and you, Master akira, if you will have me," Tadao answered, bowing.

"Why should I believe you?" Akira asked. "Perhaps you only say that to save your own skin. There is no honor among thieves."

"It is true, I only wanted to save myself after being caught. But after...after hearing that woman's anguish on the radio, and seeing for myself how decent and noble you all are, I have had a change of heart and I beg your forgiveness," Tadao replied, bowing again. "My life is yours to do with as you wish, Master Akira."

Akira detected sincerity in Tadao's eyes and in his voice. Damn it! He thought. I was looking forward to beating the truth out of him, but now I can not, knowing Tadao is sincere. Ah well, there will be beatings aplenty when I face the GrandMaster and his men, Akira thought. Perhaps it is wrong, but I feel a sense of justice when I fight evil men.

"I accept your life," Akira said. "Let us get some refreshments and discuss what you know of the GrandMaster. Afterwards we will clean up this mess."

"Thank you Master Akira!" Tadao said, bowing. "I will not let you down, I promise!"

"Sensei trusts you and so do I. There is no need to bruise your forehead further," Akira said, a hint of a grim smile showing.

Sensei returned that evening, after the sun had set, without Mack's body.

"How is Annie?" Sensei asked as Akira walked up to meet him.

"She woke up a few times from nightmares. Hanna cleaned her up and managed to get her to drink but she will not eat. She has not said a word except in her troubled dreams," Akira replied.

Sensei nodded. "I arranged for Mack's funeral the day after tomorrow," Sensei said.
"I believe he was Catholic, yes?"

"Yes he was," Akira said.

"Good. Father O'Sullivan was kind enough to help with all the details. I gave him your number in case he needs anything," Sensei said. "You may want to tell Yukio and your men. Also tell them that Mack killed all the ninja's himself. They must not know about Annie."

"What? Ohh," Akira said, nodding in understanding. "Yes, that will do nicely. How many did Annie kill, Sensei?"

"More than all of us," Sensei replied. "You must protect her cover at all costs."

"Cover?" Akira replied, pondering. "You mean she's?" Akira asked without finishing the question and in a whisper. "She is very good."

Sensei nodded. "Yes she is, and she needs all the help we can give her to get through this. I trust Tadao but do not tell him. He has no need to know."

"Sensei..." Akira began.

"Yes?" Sensei asked.

"I have also been working undercover, giving Mack's old partner information. I am going to help him bring the Yakuza down. I...I am sorry I did not tell you before," Akira said, bowing his head.

"My...why that is good news indeed, Akira!" Sensei said, embracing Akira in a hug.
"I knew you would choose to follow good, and I am proud of you, Akira-san."

Akira stood in shock. Sensei had never hugged him like this before. Especially when he learned Akira was in the Yakuza. Akira slowly recovered from his shock and hugged Sensei back, fighting back tears.

"Thank you Sensei," Akira said, joyfully solemn. "And please forgive me."

"I do forgive you. I know your decision to follow in the footsteps of your father was under duress. You were trying to protect Hanna. I cannot blame you for that. And now that you see a way out you have chosen wisely! Now, let us eat and prepare. Tomorrow I will contact Master Toshiro."

"You know where Master Toshiro is? He is alive?!" Akira exclaimed.

"Yes, and like you he is under duress. More so, actually. I will explain later," Sensei said, patting Akira on the back and smiling. "I need to rest. I have spoken more today than I have in the last five years combined," he said, chuckling.

Then Sensei collasped. Akira caught him before he hit the ground.

"Sensei!" Akira shouted. "Hanna!" He shouted again, picking Sensei up and carrying him to the house.