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out to her, palm upwards. She frowned at it, and glanced at his face. “Keys,” he said impatiently. She sighed and rolled her eyes but gave him the keys. He signaled for quiet and for her to stop just short of her door. Approaching it soundlessly, he bent his head close to the door straining to listen for any noise there may be in the rooms beyond. “C’mon. There could be a bloody rock band in there going hell for leather and you still wouldn’t hear it,” she laughed. He glared at her, she stopped laughing. Stepping to one side of the door, he inserted the key. He waited a few moments before gingerly turned it. With another sign for her to stay where she was, he pushed the door letting it swing wide. Cautiously, he entered. She slumped against the wall, letting her head rock back against it, muttering, “Men.” If he heard the comment, he chose not to respond. Half crouched he moved slowly and carefully into her apartment, checking every door, corner and possible hiding place as he went. “I’m surprised you didn’t bring a gun,” she called after him as she grew bored of the game and stepped into the doorway. He half turned so that she caught sight of him in profile. “Oh!” she stifled a squeal. “You did.” He straightened and tucked the gun back into the holster under his jacket. “Had enough of playing James Bond?” she asked caustically as she sauntered into her apartment, “Now what was all that about anyway?” “In case they were waiting for you,” he said seriously. “I get the strong feeling they haven’t given up.” “And what happened to the mistaken identity scenario? It’s probably not me they were after,” she walked towards the steps up to her bedroom. “I haven’t checked up there yet,” he called after her. She made a dismissive grunt and brushed him away. “I need a shower and some fresh clothes.” He watched with mixed feelings as she walked slowly up the stairs. She did look tired, or maybe fed up with all the fuss. He was considering putting on the kettle for a relaxing cup of coffee when he heard her call out his name. He ran up the stairs and was beside her before she could take a second breath. She was standing at the doorway surveying the chaos within. Boxes of jewelry and other nick knacks had been emptied onto the bed and the items scattered, the drawers were open and the contents had clearly been rummaged through. A suitcase had been dragged out from under the bed and thrown open. He suspected that the linings had been checked for secret pockets. The sliding doors of the wardrobe were open and everything inside had been piled in a corner, as if they had been thoroughly checked and discarded. For the first time she seemed dumbstruck and stood unmoving, her mouth hanging open in disbelief. He put an arm around her waist. “What..? Why..? Who would do this?” she broke her silence.
“People looking for something,” was all he could answer. He tried to be gentle. “They seem to have concentrated more on the boxes and containers than the contents. Can you tell if anything is missing?” She walked over to the bed and scanned the items strewn across it. She picked up one or two pieces, turning them over in her hand, before putting them into one of the open boxes. Soon everything was off the bed and stacked once more on her dresser. “Good thing I don’t have a lot,” she tried to laugh it off. “All the important things are here.” “Everything is important,” he said sternly. “Even if you don’t think so. What’s missing?” “Not much, a few old keys. They don’t open anything any more. You know how you seem to end up with a collection of old house keys, car keys, dorm. keys, even locker keys. Like I said, not important.” For the first time since the previous evening, he laughed. “They may hope that they open something. Couldn’t go back to the boss with nothing. They do seem determined though. I don’t think you are finished with them yet. My guess is they are looking for something small, but aren’t really sure what it is,” he looked around at the remaining mess. “You don’t have a diary or note book or something, do you?” “Nup,” she said sinking onto her bed. “Never got into the habit. If I write stuff down, I forget it and then I can’t find where I put it. So I try to keep it in my head. And the little address book in my handbag.” “I think we need to get out of here pretty quickly,” his thoughts were spinning madly again, trying to double guess their antagonists. “Chances are they may come back. Grab some clothes for a couple of days. We’re moving to my place. That way we can keep on eye on things here and hopefully they won’t be able to get to you.” She nodded and started selecting underwear from the open drawers, and a few dresses from the pile on the wardrobe floor. She folded the items and put them into the suitcase, adding cosmetics and toiletries from the bathroom. Nick picked up the bag as soon as she had closed it and walked down the stairs with her. “Better call the office,” he indicated the phone with a nod of his head. “Tell them you aren’t well and might be unable to come in for a few days. Oh, and don’t say a word to anyone about last night or the break in.” While Junie was having a long shower, Nick took the time to make a call to the mansion. With Shu’s approval, he arranged for covert surveillance monitors to be set up so that a watchful eye could record all the comings and goings at Junie’s apartment. Everything had been set in motion before she emerged, freshly washed and dressed. He looked up as she came down the steps. There was something different in the way she moved. The uncertainty and temporary meekness had been washed away. “Coffee?” he asked as she came closer. “Sure,” she accepted. “And then we can talk about what’s going on.” She had settled into the couch when he brought around two mugs of coffee. “You pretty much know everything,” he said as he sat down beside her. “About the incident last night? And what I found in my apartment? Maybe,” she answered slowly, turning the mug in her hand. “But what else is going on? There’s something you’re not telling me.” “What do you mean?” he tried to sip the hot liquid, averting his eyes from her.
“You. Running around with a gun. How long have you had that? Have you always been wearing it? Every time we’ve been together?” “No, I don’t always wear it. Just when there might be trouble. I’ve never had it when I’ve been with you before.” “You wearing it now?” “No. Why? You one of those anti-gun lobbyists?” he tried to laugh it off. “Maybe,” she said into her coffee mug. “Seems there’s a lot we don’t know about each other.” “Like?” he prompted, regretting the word the moment it had escaped his lips. “Like,” she put down the coffee. He noticed that she was starting to talk a little louder than usual. “I don’t even know what you do. I mean, that place, Shu’s house, it’s not like a regular job, is it?” “How do you mean? Exactly.” “Exactly? Yes, exactly. When we first met, you said you negotiated contracts, did some legal work, that sort of thing. Paperwork.” “Yeah, I do. So?” “That was the furthest thing from paperwork I have ever seen,” her voice was reaching a higher register. “Even for a home office, that place was no regular office. And all the men around in suits and stuff. And I bet they were carrying guns too. What are you doing there? Playing cowboys and Indians? Cops and robbers? You’re not into anything… illegal… are you?” “Good heavens, no,” he laughed. “You’re worrying too much.” “Am I? Really?” she was indignant at his light hearted tone. “So what’s with all the “security”? It was like a gangster movie. No, no, more like the mafia.” He stiffened a little. “Just a minute. They’re Japanese. You’re the only American there. Japan had it’s own mafia. Oh, what was it… I’ve heard the name… Yakuza. That’s it, Yakuza. Did you know that when you went to work for him?” “Junie, honey, I though you would have worked it out already. I am Yakuza,” he said quietly but with emphasis. He reached for her hand but she pulled it away quickly. “No you‘re not,” she was all but shouting now. “You’re American. You can’t be.” “I thought you realised when you adjusted the pin on my jacket.” “I just put it the right way round, the character was sideways,” she mumbled, “I thought you would have known by then that I understand Japanese, too. So what was it. I thought it was like a company logo.” “Sort of,” he tried to smile. “It’s the family name, Tendo. The family that adopted me.” “What?” she shook her head, incredulous. “But you’re American. What about your family? Your real family.” “I have no other family,” he said coldly, standing and walking to the counter, his back to her. “You’re not making any sense. Your mother and father. The ones who gave you life. They were American. You owe it to them. “
“I have no other family,” he repeated, turning to face her. “My parents? I owe them nothing. I had one happy memory, one memory only, and that faded a long time ago. I thought the FBI was like a family, but they betrayed me. When Shu sponsored me, that was when I had my first taste of true family. And they have looked after me ever since, as I have looked after them.” “Looked after?” her eyes narrowed again, her mind rifling through recent memories. “Just a minute, you never answered when I asked before. Just how long were you in Japan before I met you?” “Three years,” he answered with a sigh. “Three years? That’s about when something happened that shut the San until recently. That was how long ago Mika said that Shu’s god-daughter died. You were working with them then. She said something about it and then wouldn’t say any more. Did you have anything to do with that?” “With what? The San shutting, or Yuko?” “Either, both. Are they related?” “Sort of. The Mafia attacked the family, all members of it. One of them killed Yuko, I killed him. Then I went to help Shu. We got Aya out and then, well, then all hell broke loose. We nearly didn’t make it.” “She was your girlfriend,” Junie stated rather than asked. “Yes,” he said simply. She had to know, eventually. There was no point in avoiding the fact. “What did she look like? Do I remind you of her?” Nick breathed hard. He was never good at this sort of talk. It never went well, no matter what his intentions. And his voice was rising too. Never a good sign. “What are you talking about? What do you want me to say? No. You don’t look like her. That is not why I was drawn to you,” he was shaking his head. “You don‘t want to have this discussion.” “Yes, I do,” she stood up and faced him squarely, her body stiffening. “Why? It’s pointless,” his arms raised a little at his sides. “No, it isn’t,” she moved closer to him, to peer into his face. “I need to know.” “What? That I had a girlfriend before you? What’s unusual about that? You probably had boyfriends before me, too.” “That’s not what I mean. And you know it.“ She went to slap his upper arm. He caught her wrist. Their faces were inches away as they spat the words at each other. “Not if you don’t tell me what you really mean.” She pulled her arm away; he let go. They were still standing firm in close proximity, neither willing to give way. “You know what I mean,” she was snarling the words, her eyes on fire. “You. Me. The whole deal,” She dragged a breath past her bared teeth as she fought to get the words in order and not simply scream. “Tadao was right. Wasn’t he? You knew what he said but you didn’t say anything. You didn’t defend me.” She started pummeling his shoulders and chest with both her fists. “So that’s how you see me. Some sort of trophy, companion, distraction, whatever. Someone you can take to these do’s and show off and not loose face.”
For a while he had tried to deflect her blows. When he had managed to grab both her arms, in one quick turn he had pinned her against the wall with his body. Her words were cut short. “That’s not how it is. You must know that,” he growled, his own temperature was rising rapidly and he was having trouble thinking rationally. “How can I know that?” she was still fighting him, her body arching under his. “The Japanese have their prostitutes and whores. They keep them in houses like gilded cages, selling them off to rich businessmen, rewarding their favorites with a night of pleasure, giving them to people who do well. And you. You dressing me up in your lover’s clothes. Putting me in her bed.” “Don’t be stupid. That’s was just coincidence. You’re raving. C’mon. This isn’t you talking.” “Yes it is. You really don’t know me. You never met the little girl who’s doting father was bribed away by a pretty face, a warm body in bed. Someone who could look after him in ways she couldn’t. Stealing him from me.” “Oh ghods!” he groaned. “Don’t tell me that’s what this is all about. I am not your father.” “You men are all the same,” her eyes flashed wildly, her chin lifted defiantly, her teeth snapped close to his face. With a little effort he managed to trap her arms behind her body as he pinned her against the wall. “Don’t you dare try to psychoanalyse me, you misfit,” she continued to berate him. “Look at you, turning your back on your upbringing, your country. You are too the same as my father. That’s what he did.” “I don’t know what you are talking about,” he tried hard to calm down. He really did not want to hurt her but knew that if she pushed too hard he could quite possibly loose that tenuous hold he had on his trained responses. “You going to turn your back on me too when you get one of those pretty Japanese girls. Like half of them at that dinner party. That’s what they were, weren’t they. Paid ‘companions’. Urrrgh! I should have guessed. I’ve seen that before. All dolled up, pretty as a picture, nothing to say.” “Now, c’mon. You don’t know that. Don’t confuse tradition and courtesy with intelligence.” “What do you know?” she snapped at him, challenge in her eyes and posture. “You can’t even satisfy a real woman.” “Is that so?” he rose to the challenge. He knew she was baiting him but could not resist the challenge that had been thrown at his feet. The moment he responded, she knew that she had his undivided attention. His body pressed harder against her. This was not what she had had in mind as she tried to wriggle out of the way but his hip still had her pinned. Despite the anger and frustration that she still felt, that familiar odd twinge was growing in her belly. She tried to turn her head; he was quicker and had engaged her lips before she could move. His free hand slipped around her neck. Unbidden, a tingling sensation crept down her spine, one vertebra at a time. His tongue probed at teeth that were clenched shut, coaxing and tantalizing. Without much physical effort, his arms encircled her and lifted her to the lounge. Her arms were still trapped as he pushed her against the firm cushioning. He was lying on top of her and his hands were slowly, enticingly, working their way down her body. She squirmed, refusing to give in to the overpowering
feelings at war within her. A hand, cool against her hot flesh, moved slowly up her leg, pushing aside the flimsy fabric of her dress. It plunged between her thighs, drawing the wetness to his fingers. “So you like it a little rough sometimes,” he whispered against her neck, blowing aside the loose hair. She shuddered, a small groan escaping her throat as she felt herself slipping away from anger and towards euphoria. He managed to undo his jeans and loosened them from his hips. Deftly he whipped off her panties. Then he paused a moment, confusing her. “I do love you, don’t ever forget it,” he whispered hoarsely. “Stop talking and show me, you idiot,” she gasped. He pulled her towards him, releasing her arms. They immediately wrapped around his body pulling him into her. He thrust; she pushed, gyrating her hips against his groin. Her fingers raked across his back, her nails scoring into his tight flesh. In a movement so swift that it left her head spinning, he lifted and turned her around his body so that she was on top of him. They continued to move in unison, reaching emotional heights that threatened their sanity until they were both spent. They collapsed into each other’s arms breathing hard and fast, their bodies twined about each other without the strength to separate. “What are you thinking about?” he asked softly after their shallow breathing had been the only sound to disturb the stillness for a long period. “This and that, nothing much,” she mumbled as she turned a little inside his arm. “Like what?” “Like I’m going to need another shower,” she pretended to pout. “That sort of nothing.” “What else?” “Nothing.” He relaxed into the cushioning of the furniture contemplating the ceiling for a while. His body felt heavy, grounded. “What are you thinking now?” he asked lightheartedly after a few minutes. “What are you playing at? Stop it, you tease,” she playfully thumped his closest upper arm. “You know the boys were only teasing, don’t you? They didn’t really mean what they said. It’s like a game of one-upmanship they constantly play. That’s why I didn’t say anything at the time.” “I still don’t get that you could be one of them,” she muttered. “Why not? You know the Yakuza recruit from all over.” “Not usually Caucasians, surely.” He tried his best to shrug, if it is possible to shrug while lying down with an arm around another person . “And… and…” she was searching for the rational arguments, but failing. “And you don’t have tattoos like them.”
“None so blind as they who will not see,” he said jovially, letting go of her and sitting up. He pulled his shirt over his head and turned his back to her. “I had a lot of old scars by the time I got to see the artist, and some new ones not quite healed.” She sat staring at his back with her lips slightly parted in awe of the great workmanship. Her fingers followed the fine tracery of thin lines depicting two long narrow dragons that lay along his spine. One was red, the other yellow, pale lines blending with the network of fine veins beneath the skin surface. Starting from beneath the waist the two figures grappled and intertwined, crossing the spine itself, sometimes together, sometimes opposed, until the images reached the soft flesh nestled below the neck between the shoulder blades. Here the dragon heads, in perfect unison, looked away from each other. “He designed something different for me,” he had continued as her fingers moved slowly up his spine, “He said it represented the two parts of my nature, my heart, east and west.” “I’ve never seen anything like it,” she said softly when she found her voice. “You didn’t have this done here.” “No,” he replied simply, feeling that there was no need for further detail. “Three years, eh?” she whispered remembering a previous conversation, “I’m surprised you didn’t end up with a Japanese girl.” “I was too busy,” he grinned remembering the arduous days of training and the weary nights while he continued to recover. “For three years?” she sounded incredulous. “Yep, and could have stayed longer but Shu asked for my return. Things were getting busy here, too.” “Oh,” she began. He could almost hear the wheels of her mind ticking over. “Please don’t ask about my work,” he warned her before she could form the questions. “There’s a lot I can’t tell you. There’s still some sensitive stuff. Better you don’t know any of it in case anyone asks.” “What if we were married?” “Even more so.” “There shouldn’t be secrets between spouses. That’s the American way.” “It’s not our way,” he said with emphasis, re-affirming that he was indeed one of the Yakuza family. She pouted, foiled again. He would not budge in his attitude. Though it riled her she knew without having to contemplate it that she would have him no other way. She also knew without any doubt that she wanted to be with him. For how long, in this temporary world, she could not guess, but definitely for now and for a good distance into the foreseeable future. “So what’s this beef with your father?” he tried to change the direction of the conversation. “Nothing.” She moved again, this time twisting away from him. “Don’t tell me that. There’s enough there to keep a shrink occupied for a long time,” he responded, leaning around her a little. “You saying I’m nuts?”
“Not at all. But there are deep seated issues there that you have not resolved yet. Is that because he died?” “You an amateur psychologist now?” she tried to laugh him off. “Don’t need to be. It’s obvious something is up whenever your father is mentioned.” “No there isn’t,” she refuted, defensively. “Yep. There it is now. Are you mad at him for leaving you when he died?” “He left me long before then,” she muttered grumpily into the couch upholstery. “Oh?” Nick encouraged. “For that floozy,” she grumbled uncharitably. “He even gave her Mom’s room, and Mom’s place in his bed. I saw them.” “Ahh,” he felt he was grasping an understanding. “Don’t you start with the ‘Ahh’s and ‘oh’s. You don’t know what it’s like. It wasn’t right.” “So if it isn’t too delicate, what happened to your mother?” “She died. She was very sick the year after we got back from the first trip to Japan. “ “First trip? When was that?” “I was 3 when we first went. She died before I turned 7. Then we were back there just after I turned 9, me and Dad.” “And how long were you there the second time?” “Three years, that’s about how long they post diplomats.” “Did you go to school there?” “No, I had a tutor. The embassy organized all the staff seeing as Mom wasn’t there. So they sent a housekeeper, and a nanny as well. Then they sent her,” her voice trembled a little on the last word. “Her? This is…” he began. “A ‘companion’, they called her,” she spat out the words filled with hate. “He told me he had to have a partner for some of the special occasions. But he started seeing her more and more, and eventually she even moved in.” “You father needed adult company, and female company. It is not unusual. But it does not mean he loved you any less. What happened when you came back?” He put tightened both arms around her even though she seemed to pull away and curl tighter into a ball. “Everything seemed to go back to normal,” she admitted. “Then when the time came around and they asked him to go again, he went on his own. He said it was because I had to finish my schooling properly and get started at University. There would be plenty of time for jaunting around the world when I had a degree behind me. That’s what he said. But what he really meant was that it would give him more time with her without an almost adult kid around to ask awkward questions.”
“When was that? He was probably right,” Nick offered consolation. “I was 16,” she answered simply. “See, he was right. You would not have coped with a tutor nor could you get into the school system over there at that stage.” “Stop taking his side. Men! You’re all the same. Stand up for each other.” “Do not,” he giggled into the back of her neck. “So what happened then? Did he bring her home with him?” “No,” she paused thoughtfully for a moment. “No, that’s strange, isn’t it?” “Perhaps. Or maybe she could not leave her country behind any easier than he could leave his.” “He may as well have stayed,” she grumbled. “He never completely came back. I never realised just how much until after he died.” “Until then, there was always a chance that you would reconcile your differences,” Nick suggested rationally. “No. Oh, I suppose that could have been part of it. But no, that’s not what I meant. Like, I thought the place we lived in when we were in Japan was supplied by the embassy, or something. But he had bought it. It was in his will to go to her. That’s why I went back recently. To make the legal transfer. That’s when I found just how much he had turned his back on me, and his country.” “Eh?” “He had married her. Can you believe that? He had actually married her and never told me.” “Looking for the right moment,” Nick whispered. “But you never gave him one.” “Don’t you dare make this my fault,” she raised her voice angrily while jabbing the back of the couch with her fist. “Shush, Shush,” he soothed, clasping her wrists and folding them against her body, holding her as close as possible. “So that’s what this is all about. Listen, How do you know it wasn’t genuine love? Following his heart is not a betrayal of you, or his country.” “Is that how you rationalise it? Is that how you salve your conscience?” Her voice quavered. “I have not betrayed my country,” he said softly. “But they are my family. Most of them are American too. Don’t cut yourself off like this. Open yourself up a bit. You won’t get hurt any more than you are already hurting yourself. “ She was sobbing now; ever so quietly. He held her against him, feeling every shaking breath. He held her until she slipped into exhausted sleep.