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Yoji ran a hand through dark hair - - dark like black ink with shiny highlights from the bathroom's fluorescent lighting - - and cast a last look at himself in the mirrors over the row of airport sinks just to make sure there was something in the reflection that might pass for Sonny Tanaka. She'd said he was a close enough physical match to fool anyone that hadn't seen Sonny in fifteen years. Even family. And it was family he was going into the midst of.
Damned dangerous family.
"Does the name Tanaka Akahito mean anything to you?" She'd asked him after he'd agreed to this little assignment. Korat. Her name was Korat and he'd vaguely wondered if it was a cat. All their previous handler's names were feline related. He didn't recognize the breed, but then he never had been a cat fancier. At least not the four legged sorts.
"Tanaka Akahito?" Of course it did. It had notorious familiarity. Akahito Tanaka had started out Yakuza back in the day - - and had, over the span of several decades - - bypassed such petty interests to become a global player. Anyone in the trade - - on either side - - at least knew the name, if not the specific sins.
"He's dead." She had said, to the point and business-like. They were on a schedule, and a tight one. The whole operation was being thrown together hastily.
"So what do you need with me?"
"He owned an island off the coast of mainland China. It was where he lived for the last seven years of his life. And where he conducted his business. The security is very high. Even higher recently, since the Americans have put their eyes and ears everywhere trying to sniff out known terrorists."
"He was a terrorist?"
"No. He supplied them. He was a weapon's dealer - - among other things and he had a list of clientele that we very much want to get our hands on."
"Ah. You said 'simple'. I recall you saying simple assignment."
"Tanaka Akahito had two sons. Raymond and Sonny. Sonny and his mother fled Tanaka 15 years ago. Sonny was 10. With a few minor adjustments, you'll pass."
She told him. Dark hair. Dark eyes. The proper fingerprints. A few tell tail scars . . . Nothing a little dye and contacts and a thin layer of carefully applied latex couldn't deal with. The information was another matter. There was a lot to absorb in less than a day's time. Names. Faces. Places. The details of 25 years of life.
Sonny Tanaka might have left his father's influence at an early age, but he was no angel. No convictions but the boy had been trouble. Petty larceny, date rape, drugs, assault. There were problems there that maybe went beyond genealogy. Krittiker didn't go into the whys and wherefores - - but then again, Yoji doubted the family would know. Families usually didn't. Even close ones. Especially if they were to blame.
"So, can I rest comfortable knowing Sonny Tanaka isn't going to show up during the will-reading and rain on my parade?" He'd asked before they'd parted company.
She'd smiled at him humorously. "I can guarantee it."
Looking into her cold stare, Yoji shivered, knowing without a doubt in the world that Sonny Tanaka was dead and that Krittiker had had a hand in it. Knowing that more than likely, some of the information he'd been force feeding himself had probably come from Sonny himself under duress.
"Great." He'd turned his back on her and walked into the airport. Three or four days - - maybe a week tops and this would be over with and then he could collect his favor from Krittiker. A week of playing the part of the prodigal son come home to see what daddy left him in the will, so he could get past security that had foiled Krittiker's every other attempt and break into the digital files of Tanaka Akahito's worldwide clientele.
Aya goddamned well better appreciate it.
There was no airstrip on Tanaka's island. A launch had to be taken from the mainland across miles of choppy ocean before the long silhouette of the island appeared on the horizon. There was a damned lot of security. Korat had assured him that he'd pass muster. He had the feeling that they'd been keeping an eye on Sonny Tanaka for a while in the hopes that an errant son might provide a way into his father's fortress. He doubted they'd planned this particular entry or they'd have been better prepared. They certainly would have had another agent properly trained for the job, rather than grasping at the straw Yoji had so conveniently provided them.
So here he was, stepping off the boat onto the dock, breezing past all the hired muscle, pretending not to notice the bulges of hardware under their jackets or the cold hard faces that proclaimed that these men wouldn't blink an eye at the putting a gun to his head and a bullet in it shortly thereafter.
There was a jeep waiting to take him up to the house. The road was paved, an incongruous anomaly in the midst of surrounding tropical greenery. It would have been a pretty place to visit under different circumstances.
The house was just damned impressive. He had to stop and gape - - not at all out of character, since Sonny Tanaka had never set foot on this island and had for the last 15 years of his life lived modestly, traveling from place to place with his mother in her attempts to escape the notice of the Tanaka dynasty. The house sat on a bluff, overlooking the ocean, glass fronted and appealing. A mix of modern architecture and traditional style. It should have been on one of those shows that toured the houses of the obscenely wealthy.
There were a lot of steps. Yoji slid his sunglasses back atop his head, pulling hair with them when he stepped into the foyer. The muscle opened the inner doors and stepped in before him, standing there waiting for him to walk in like a matching set of over-endowed footmen. He strolled past and met the family.
Oh and what a family it was. Sharks circling a bloody corpse, fighting over who was going to get a go at ripping off that first chunk of flesh. The images of faces flashed across his memory. Tonaka's brothers and their offspring. Tonaka's third wife, young and pretty and childless and likely scared shitless over what to expect from the heirs. A woman who hadn't given her elderly husband yet another heir might not be held in high esteem. She might be looked upon as not much more than a plaything to be put aside now that her protector was gone.
Yoji's glance lingered on her for just a little longer than necessary, appreciating the fragile beauty - - but she wasn't a face that would have meant anything to Sonny, so he kept his eyes dead, saving the expression for the faces that ought to matter. Of course those faces weren't exactly welcoming - - little surprise there, the prodigal son showing up 15 years later to claim his chunk of the family fortune. He was playing the part of a shark as surely as these people. He smiled lazily into the face of one hostile glower and strolled across a carpet worth more money that he'd actually seen in the last year and into their midst.
"It's been a long time, Sonny. You're all grown up." A voice from the stairs, issuing from the one face here that Sonny Tanaka ought to recognize over all the others. His 'big brother', Raymond, with his tailored slacks and his gray silk shirt stretched across broad shoulders and the thickening middle of a man well into his maturity. He was twenty years Sonny's senior. He had graying hair at his temples and a broad, well crafted face that only hinted at his age. His eyes were so dark the pupils blended almost with the iris'.
"Hey there, big brother. Long time." Yoji cast his lazy smile up at Raymond Tanaka. No courtesy, no respect due to the man that was likely the heir to the family power. Just the snide belligerence that Korat had assured him was part and parcel with Sonny Tanaka. Nobody slapped him down for it. But Raymond Tanaka's eyes hardened, crinkling just a little around the edges, digesting the challenge and filing it away for further study. He smiled and held out a hand.
"Welcome home. I've heard that your mother passed a few years back."
Yoji shrugged. "Yeah. She did. You been keeping tabs? The lawyers tracked me down."
"Our father had an - - interest. So did I, but she was very good at avoiding notice."
The hall was full of cautious, curious observers. Raymond didn't seem to notice them, he couldn't take his eyes off of Yoji and Yoji began to feel just a little edge of nervousness.
And that was his introduction into the household. He already knew the basic layout and where Tanaka's office was - - it was just a matter of learning the patterns of security, of sussing out the electronic surveillance and getting into that office unnoticed for long enough to download the information he needed to buy Krittiker's good will.
Maria Tanaka lead him to his room. Her skin was smooth and olive toned. Her eyes round and dark and excruciatingly exotic.
"Are you Spanish?" he asked her while she was showing him the master control for all the modern conveniences this suite offered. She blushed a little, ducking her head, casting him an under the lashes look that sort of shot straight to the pit of stomach and made his loins clench a little.
"Portuguese." She said, voice low and accented and lovely. She was enough, he thought, to make a young man's heart palpitate. Maybe, if Tanaka had been lucky, he'd gone out in bed next to his beautiful young wife.
"Ah. The old man had taste."
She blushed some more, but there was a smile with it, which made Yoji wonder if the blush wasn't well practiced and oft used. He asked her to show him the house and she did, seeming almost relieved at his company after the hostility of the 'family'. He asked innocent questions about the guards and the in house security and how she dealt with all the 'goons' lurking about without loosing her mind. She laughed and wound her arm through his and said 'with much patience'.
Korat's house plans had been accurate. He spied the closed doors of the office in passing. Just a set of doors with a lock. A man didn't need outrageous security measures within the confines of his own home, merely on the outside.
Supper was a torturous affair. The relatives bickered, the two older uncles and Raymond exchanged cold, ominous silences. Tanaka's lawyers sat impassively through it all. They had their fees after all. Yoji whispered occasional amusing things to Maria, when she faltered a little too obviously in her role as hostess.
"You're of an age, aren't you?" Raymond Tanaka observed once, catching Yoji leaning in to make some sly comment to Maria. "My father's youngest son and his newest wife. Little wonder you seem to be getting along so smoothly."
Maria blanched, not looking up and meeting Raymond's eyes. Yoji did, with an arched brow. "No one else seems to be making much of an effort. The lady just lost a husband, you know."
"And you a father."
"Yeah. Mom kept a few pictures. I can't remember the sound of his voice."
That got to big brother. His brows drew close and his mouth thinned. "You lack respect, Sonny."
Yoji shrugged and sipped wine. It was very good wine. "I didn't ask to come here. I don't need anything from him. I'm not here to pick his bones." He looked around the table at all the silent, wary faces of the family, almost enjoying himself. Sonny liked to cause scenes. Sonny liked to shock people. Yoji didn't mind it so much himself.
Raymond sat back, and the thin smile was back on his lips, though his eyes were unreadable. As expressionless as - - well, as Aya's sometimes got when he was thinking deep thoughts and didn't want you to have an inkling as to their nature. "Sometimes, little brother, a man doesn't know what he needs, until he's told."
That might have been a threat. It might have been a bit of over assertive philosophy. The lights flickered as Yoji was debating which and a wind out of nowhere beat the shrubbery outside the dining room against the windows.
"The storms come quickly this time of year." Maria said softly.
And didn't that just hit the nail on the head.
Monsoon season. The evening turned black with the storm, the compound lights casting aura's of gray, rain slashed light here and there around the manicured ground. Yoji found dubious shelter on one of the covered terraces to smoke. The wind whipped mercilessly and brought rain with it. His clothes and hair were damp from it, but it was refreshing nonetheless. It was a moment of privacy where he could let the nicotine relieve some of the tension and sit there, as far back against the wall as he could get to escape the worst of the storm, and wonder what the fuck he was doing here. One day's prep and here he was - - running on natural instinct instead of any semblance of decent preparation. The groundwork alone should have lasted at least a week - - he was having trouble keeping the names and the faces straight - - so he didn't call any of the questionable one's by their names. Just Uncle or Cousin. He thought he could slip there and not get called on it. It was supposed to have been fifteen years after all. A ten year old couldn't be expected to recall all the details of those not within the circle of immediate family. Of course it was the immediate family that freaked him out the most.
Whenever they were in the same room, big brother Raymond's eyes would invariably fix on him, with god knew what going on behind that death-still gaze. Maybe he didn't trust this unfamiliar face with his brother's name attached to it. Maybe he'd had other notions of what his 10 year old brother should have looked like a decade and a half down the road. Maybe he was thinking about what the old man might have left the younger son that the older one might covet for himself. It was enough to make Yoji chain smoke, out at the edge of the storm and think bad things about Korat and worse things about that German bastard who was the root cause of his being here.
He rolled his head against the plaster wall of the terrace and soaked in Maria Tanaka's shapely silhouette. So she'd tracked him down. He doubted it was accident. Not with so many dark corners to search in a house so large.
Maybe she was lonely. Maybe she was more worried about him than Raymond. Who knew. He might find out.
"Smoking in the storm? You'll get drenched if the wind changes direction."
He shrugged. "Been drenched before. Smoke?"
She shook her head and sat down on the lounge chair next to him. Stray bits of rain fixed like glassy beads on the blackness of her hair. For a while they sat in silence, listening to the howl of the storm.
"They'll read the will very early tomorrow." She finally said.
"Unh. So, you gonna stay - - if Raymond gets most everything? Do you have family to return to?"
"I don't know. Perhaps. I'm sure I will be well-provided for. Akahito was generous to those he loved."
Yoji flicked ash, wondering if Sonny had been numbered among them. The old man hadn't done much to track him down over the years and he could have, with his resources.
"Sooo, how'd you and my father met?"
Small talk. The sort of meaningless, mindless ramble that men and women exchanged when there were other things on their minds. That she wanted more than conversation of him was clear, and her husband - - and his supposed father - - less than a week in the ground. He wasn't quite ready to go that route - - though he played the game. She was beautiful and she certainly made his body react. A year ago and he'd have jumped at the chance - - mission related or not - - but for the moment, bedding her was not essential to his goal and more importantly - - she wasn't Aya and somewhere along the way, Yoji Kudou, ladies man, tomcat extraordinair, had developed a fierce sense of loyalty - - emotionally, physically, to someone other than himself and his own needs.
So he flirted and he made sly innuendoes, but he didn't make the move she wanted him to. But, but the time she began to realize it wasn't going to happen, it became a moot point anyway. Someone else joined the party. Big brother Raymond who strode through the glass terrace doors and left them open to the wind and rain, who loomed large and dark against the storm, staring down with barely perceivable lines of irritation on his face.
"Its late, Maria and you have an house rising early to see to tomorrow."
She flinched, nodding her head immediately in assent.
"Its a good thing she's got you to remind her of her duties." Yoji took a long drag off the dregs of his cigarette as the girl gracefully padded back into the house.
"Its a good thing she does." Raymond agreed. "If she were to - - let's say - - spread her legs for another man with her husband only freshly buried - - it would be a disrespect in need of punishment."
Yoji laughed, flicking the used butt out into the rain. "Yeah, whatever you say." He rose, not wanting this conversation - - not knowing if he was capable of a one on one with the one man who just might be able to see through the lie.
Big brother's hand shot out and slammed into Yoji's shoulder, pushing him back against the wall hard enough to threaten his wind. "She gave you no discipline, did she?" A big body pressed close, forcing him back into a corner of rough stucco. "There isn't a woman alive that knows how to teach the proper respect and she let you turn into a punk."
"Back off." Yoji growled, but didn't force the issue, absolutely certain that violence wouldn't get him any closer to that office and its contents and his subsequent retreat from this island.
"But she did give you one thing," Raymond ignored the command and trailed the fingers of one big hand down Yoji's cheek. There was the slightest tremor in the hand on his skin, the slightest - - what? - - exhileration in those dark eyes. "This pretty face. You look good, little brother, and I expected you to turn out looking like me."
Oh - - fuck. Yoji felt his gut lurch. The bile rose in a little stream up the back of his throat. Krittiker had assumed - - and nothing Sonny Tanaka had told them had suggested otherwise - - that Sonny's mother had fled Akahito for marital reasons - - but maybe, just maybe it had been something else. Maybe it hadn't been for her sake at all, but for her 10 year old son's.
"Tomorrow," Raymond said softly, his voice barely audible over the storm. "No matter what happens - - you just remember, we're family. You and me, Sonny - - no matter what that whore told you or how long you've been gone. You just remember. Family."
"Okay. I'll remember." Yoji nodded, saying what Raymond wanted him to say to get the man off him. It worked. Raymond took the step backwards that Yoji needed to slip out from between him and the wall.
He got back to his room and stood there with his back to the door, cursing under his breath. He really, really didn't want to dwell on the possibilities of this family's history. Of, what just might have been going on between big brother Raymond and Sonny. The idea of pedifilia was sickening enough - - add incest to the mix and - - and he truly needed just one more smoke to calm his nerves.
Simple job, his ass. If he ever saw Korat again, it would be too fucking soon.
Yoji got a few hours sleep, before his internal alarm clock went off and he roused to the utter silence of the house. The storm still railed outside, but by now, he'd gotten used to the constant howl of wind.
He crept out into the hall, straining for the sound of anything that might hint someone was up and about. At four in the morning, no one it seemed, was. So down the hall he went, keeping to the darkest shadows regardless of the house's apparent slumber. Across the balcony that overlooked the main hall and towards the fine double doors that led to Tanaka Akahito's office. He was careful with the lock, just in case there was an electronic trip - - and in short order had slipped inside the dark room and over to the desk with its flatscreen computer monitor and its hidden keyboard. Within fifteen minutes and he'd accessed the files Krittiker wanted, slid a disk into the port and made a copy and was on his way out.
No one was the wiser. Job done. Just like that. It was just a matter of getting the hell out of here tomorrow and he'd be home free. The only problem he'd face then would be explaining to Aya where he'd been and why and enduring the subsequent storm of indignity that admission prompted.
Back in his room, and he popped the disk, with its deceptive label and its overlying musical track into a CD case proclaiming it was the latest offering of a popular alternative band. He laid it on the dresser next to the portable CD player he'd brought with him. Nothing was ever so well hidden as when it lay in plain sight.
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