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A Price For Madness

by P L Nunn


Part Three


Yohji woke with the after images of a dream -- that to say the least, had been disturbingly explicit -- still lingering in his mind. Disturbing because it had not involved a female in any shape or form and explicit because it had involved a bottle of baby oil and Aya and himself doing rather creative things with both. And liking it.

The stiffness between his legs was testament enough to that. He groaned, throwing one arm across his face and sliding the other one down to assuage his raging case of morning wood.

"Fuck. Fuck!" he muttered, quite disgusted with the byways his thoughts had been taking of late. One fucking night of camaraderie with Aya should godamned well not be evoking these sorts of deviant thought patterns. It was alarming and irksome and fucking scary. He looked at his favorite Neagal girl framed in poster form on the wall, to reaffirm his sense of aesthetic value. Beautiful stylized face, long exotic eyes -- fuck, even the damned art on the wall was starting to remind him of his borderline obsessive, sometimes psychotic, occasionally murderous, hardly ever easy to get along with, red headed team mate.

Maybe an over abundance of pot was to blame, but a body in his line of work needed the relaxation. Needed something to help him just sit back and chill when the rest of his existence bordered on life and death decisions. Or maybe it was the lull in his social life. He hadn't had a serious date in two weeks and what went for pot, went doubly for sex. A body just needed it.

It was the lack of sex that was the culprit, he decided Definitely the lack of sex that was responsible for the dreams. He glanced at the bedside clock and the numbers confirmed what the slanting rays of sunlight coming through his blinds hinted at. It was almost noon and he'd slept the morning away. At least he didn't have a hangover.

Well, not much of one. Not like the bastard he'd had last week after he and Aya had binged the night away. Aya had resented him for that. Didn't so much say it in words, but the cool half looks and the simple pretense that Yohji wasn't in the same room were ample enough indications. Aya had been pissed. Aya hadn't appreciated spending half the morning yacking in the toilet bowl. Aya, of course, blamed it on Yohji. Yohji never had minded taking on the role of the delinquent. Playing the role of the rebel had a certain appeal. Besides, chicks dug it.

Reluctantly he pushed the covers back and swung his legs over the edge of the bed. He ran a hand through his tangled shoulder length hair and debated whether a shower rated higher in priority than a smoke and a cup of coffee. His addictions won out. It had been a damn late night and the call of caffeine was too strong to ignore, so he pulled on a relatively clean T-shirt and ambled downstairs in that and his boxers to see what was brewing.

The smell of food was tantalizing. It was too late for breakfast, which meant lunch was in the works. Ken was cooking. Omi was at the table with Aya, the both of them going over the array of documents that had spread out upon it.

"What's all that?" he asked, drifting past the table with only a brief glance at what was on it and a briefer glance at Aya, who was dressed like he had someone to impress today in a black turtleneck, tan pants and a hand brocaded, silk backed vest, that Yohji knew for a fact was an outrageously expensive article of clothing. Aya did shit like that. He'd scrimp and save to make certain his sister got huge monthly endowments deposited in the trust he'd sit up for her, and then go out and drop three or four hundred dollars on a damned vest. Or an Armani jacket. Or a gold cigarette case to hold the occasional cigarette that he got the urge to smoke. Yohji liked fine things as much as the next guy, but he didn't buy in obsessive little spurts like Aya. All part of Aya's general fucked-upness, he figured.

He did good not lingering in his observation of Aya's attire. Damned good, considering the dreams he'd woken up with. In the back of his mind the whole time he was leaning over Ken's shoulder, harassing the cook, he was thinking about the bottle of baby oil and how nice it had felt on dream Aya's pale skin. Amazingly vivid dream. The damn thing was sticking with him far too long.

There was coffee still warm in the coffee-maker. He poured himself a cup and pulled out a chair next to Omi.

"You finally decided to get up?" Ken observed over his shoulder. "You're getting slothful in your old age."

"Hey, I'm a night creature. What can I say? What is this stuff -- the Kirish thing? We got confirmation?"

Omi nodded, frowning over a stack of photographs. "Yeah, the police records confirmed what the old man told us. Its real. It happened and its happening again."

Yohji took a peek at what Omi was looking at and made a face. It was too early in his own personal morning to look at pictures of mutilated bodies.

"You meet him this morning?"

"Um humm. Me and Aya. We agreed to take the case. "

Yohji shrugged. They'd been in contact with Kirish's go-between off and on for the last week and a half.. Most of their missions now a days were freelance. Very carefully researched, very scrutinizingly thought out freelance jobs. Despite the cold hard fact of what they had been and what they still in essence were, none of them liked to think of themselves as cold-blooded assassins that would kill without conscience for money. Oh the money was a damned fine side benefit, but they were picky about their targets. They'd attempted to sever ties with their previous backers, but there were some things that just could not be severed. Some affiliations that could never be forgotten. It was like working for the devil. Once he got his hooks into you, you were his for life. No matter how long that life might be. The jinxed mission last month had been one Birman had talked them into. She hadn't been happy at the outcome. But, hey, you won five, you lost one. They were still beating the odds.

Birman kept track of them. She and the folks she worked for now. They weren't happy about their premiere assassination group's departure from the ranks, but Japan had become too damned hot for comfort and they'd had to get out. They wouldn't have lasted another six months in-country if they'd stayed. Too many enemies. Too many people who had them on their hit list.

They still did jobs in other theaters for the organization. Didn't have a lot of choice. They had their claws into Aya in a huge way. It was the organization who saw to it that his sister was safe and protected from all the same enemies who'd have liked to see her brother dead. They should have done it on principle. They owed them that much. But clandestine organizations like the one they'd worked for didn't operate like that. They got an advantage over you, they held on to it teeth and nail.

"You should see the retainer he gave us." Omi said.

Yohji lit a smoke and pulled over one of the folders Aya wasn't looking through. Police reports, newspaper clippings, information from the private dicks who the grieving father had hired two years ago when his daughter had disappeared. The girl had been pretty. Sixteen and looking eighteen. Would have been a stunner if she'd been allowed to live up to her full potential. The pictures in Omi's stack showed parts of her that Yohji never wanted to see. The man who had done it could not be considered human in any sense of the word.

Two years past there had been a series of disappearances. Three girls, one boy. All gone missing in various teenaged rendezvous spots over a period of about four months. The papers had dubbed them the Make-Out Point killings. Only two of the kids had been found. There hadn't been much left of the bodies. The freak who'd done it had been thorough in his work. One of the girls had had a very rich papa. A very rich, very angry papa who had spent two years looking for a killer that had seemed to evaporate into thin air. Until recently. A boy and girl had been attacked in a popular high school make out spot outside of the city. One of the same spots two of the kids had turned up missing in two years past. No big deal this time, because the kids had gotten away unscathed. Everybody put it off as a prank. Some kid out to scare his class mates in the midst of the very serious job of scoring some first time nookie. The girl had claimed it was some guy playing vampire jokes, because she'd caught a glimpse of pointed teeth. Every body laughed it off. Until the second incident two weeks ago where a boy and girl in his daddy's convertible had almost gotten their skulls bashed in when a man of the same description rushed up and attacked their car, trying damned hard to rip the canvas top off and drag the girl out the passenger window. He would have had her, if the boy hadn't put the car in reverse and gunned it out of there. The girl had gouges an inch deep down her arm where the assailant had raked her with his teeth in the struggle.

The cops hadn't leaked it yet, but Mr. Kirish had resources that verified that the teeth marks matched the marks on the two bodies that had been discovered two years ago. The coroner had deduced that the murderer had filed his teeth to points. It was the same physco. Kirish wasn't out to punish him to the full extent of the law, Kirish wanted him dead.

Yohji tended to agree.

Ken sat down at the table with bowl of steaming pasta covered with chunky red meat sauce. He'd been on an Italian kick lately. He still hadn't gotten the lasagna thing right, but he was okay with spaghetti. There was only so much you could do to mess up spaghetti. Of course a bowl of the stuff next to a pile of gruesome mutilated corpse pictures was not the most appetizing thing in the world. Yohji made an exaggerated gagging sound and stood up, appetite dwindled away to nothing.

"Don't get that on the papers." Omi warned Ken.

"So what're we doing, hitting the local make out points?" Yohji went to lean against the sink.

"Its a start." Ken said between mouthfuls. "Scope out the one where he's made his most recent appearances first. Can you believe the kids still going there after what happened?"

"Kids -- as a general rule -- do stupid things." Was Aya's contribution to the subject.

Yohji shrugged. "Hey, it's a good way to impress the girls. It's a good way to score. Take a date to the haunted house and scare your way into her panties, sort of mentality."

Aya adjusted his reading glasses. Something about the frames and the thin gold chain attached to the arm and looping down behind Aya's neck just made him look --fragile or scholarly or something more -- or less than what he actually was. Yohji took a long drag off of the cigarette, disquieted that his conscious mind as well as his subconscious was finding Aya an appropriate subject for fascination. He looked at Omi's pert profile instead.

"So when we gonna start this thing. I'm fine for sitting out in lover's lane watching the highschool girls make out."

"You would be." Ken said.

"There are three spots including this one that he took victims from." Aya said. "We go and check out the terrain this afternoon before it gets dark."

Fine plan. Go and make notes about the area before the kids showed up. No use getting accused of being a stalker or a pervert by stumbling across some pair of teenagers trying to make out. He'd been too damned sedentary lately anyway. Maybe a little vigorous activity was what he needed to keep his mind off of things it ought not be dwelling on.

There was the chime of the front door bell. The four of them froze, staring at each other for a half of heartbeat like deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car. They didn't get many people come ringing at their door. Damn few visitors and certainly not when they were in the midst of planning a mission. They'd been in this place for six months and in that time, Ken had brought maybe one girl home and she'd left that night. Yohji had had maybe six different women sleep over and all of them understood it was only casual. None of them would have showed up on his doorstep uninvited. He preferred to have his conquests take him home to their own abodes. Safer for everybody.

"Who the hell is that?"

"I'll get it." Omi was on his feet and starting towards the front of the building. Yohji trailed after.

There was a delivery man out front with a ribbon wrapped box. The type you used for packaging roses. He was familiar enough with such boxes, having drawn enough blood pricking his fingers stripping rose thorns during their stint using the occupation of florists to cover their real calling.

"Aya -- Fujimuya?" the man looked at his delivery pad and asked, having just a bit of trouble with the pronunciation.

Yohji blinked. "Aya? Somebody sent Aya flowers?" It was quite unbelievable. Quite astonishing really. Aya didn't talk to people that he absolutely didn't have to enough to engender the sort of appreciation that warranted the sending of flowers.

"I'll take them." Omi reached out for the box. The delivery man gave it over, checked off a mark on his sheet and turned to leave without a backwards glance. Yohji was still staring at the box. Somebody was sending Aya flowers? For some reason it annoyed him. Just grated on his nerves in a way that it absolutely should not have.

"Lets look at the card." He reached for the box and Omi gave him a reproving look and swung it out of his reach.

"Its not for you. Let Aya look. I wonder who's sending him flowers. Is he seeing someone."

"No, he's not seeing anyone." Yohji waved a hand at the ridiculousness of that. "Aya doesn't see people. He wouldn't know how to date if his life depended on it."

"Hummph. Well maybe you don't know everything." Omi said, his nose in the air as he walked back towards the kitchen. "I think it would be good for him."

"Yeah - well --" Who asked you? But he didn't say it. He trailed after, the mostly smoked remains of his cigarette dangling from his fingers

"Who was it?" Ken asked.

"Aya got flowers." Omi announced proudly. It was the same tone of voice he might also have used if his dog had just earned top honors in obedience school or his retarded brother had just successfully read all of Green Eggs and Ham without a single hint to help him out.

Aya looked over the rims of his glasses at the box Omi held out to him, his fine brows drawn thoughtfully. Somewhat suspiciously he took the box from Omi and laid it on the table atop the scattered papers. He pushed it a little to the side, as if he were in no hurry to open it and see what were inside. As if he were planning on finishing reading whatever gruesome police report he'd been scrutinizing before Omi had interrupted him.

"You're gonna open it, aren't you, Aya?" Omi hovered over his shoulder, well into Aya's personal space and oblivious to it.

"Yeah, you got something going on on the side that you're not telling us about?" Yohji taunted, leaning on Aya's other side just to piss him off. It worked, sort of. He got a sideways glare and Aya reached for the box, impatiently untied the ribbon and lifted the top off. Eleven white roses with a single red one nestled in the midst of them. There was a card tied in with the ribbons around the stems. Aya pulled it out and opened it. Yohji took no guilt in reading over his shoulder. A simple pre-printed verse.


Thinking of you.


That was all.

"No name?" Omi asked.

Aya turned the card over. Nothing.

"Weird, huh?" Omi said.

"You've got a secret admirer, Aya." Ken said. Aya looked up at him sharply, a brief flash of surprise crossing his face.

"What's this?" Omi reached down and picked up the bouquet. "Oh, it looks like somebody pricked their finger bad when they were arranging these. There's blood on the petals."

Yohji leaned close over Aya's shoulder to see. Sure enough there was a liberal sprinkling of crimson droplets marring the white petals. The florist who'd put these together had to be blind not to notice. To send them out blood splattered was just damned careless. Nobody was that cheap. Unless it had been done apurpose ---

-- he glanced down at Aya, who was staring silently at the flowers in Omi's hands. Who didn't look happy in the least. Who looked, if truth be told, a little freaked out.

"There's no florist name on the box." Ken said from across the table. "Is there a name on the card?"

"No." Aya said flatly.

"Did you see a name on the delivery guy's van?" Ken looked up at Yohji and Omi.

"No." It had been a plain white mini-van. No name. No logo. They hadn't given the guy much thought, hadn't given him a second glance.

"You been making friends we don't know about?" Yohji asked and expected an answer this time. Aya shook his head.



He opened his mouth. Shut it and took a careful breath. "I don't know. No one that stands out -- other than ---" he faltered and looked away, trying to find a neutral space to stare at that didn't contain expectant eyes. He wouldn't say it, but Yohji knew the answer well enough.

"Don't jump to conclusions." Aya said shortly, pushing the box away, standing up abruptly enough that Omi had to take a hasty step backwards. "It doesn't matter. We've got other things to occupy our attention."

He swept the folder up he'd been reading and stalked out of the kitchen. The rest of them stared at each other, at the suspect box of roses.

"Y'know," Ken said, chin propped on palm. "It could be nothing. It could be some cheap bastard didn't want to replace a few flowers that got spattered."

Omi shrugged. "Maybe. He's right though, we've got to focus on this right now. I'm gonna go and pull up what I can on the hot spots."

"Fine." Yohji muttered. "I'm gonna go and take a shower then." He cast the flowers one last uneasy glance before ambling out.


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