The Trap Is Sprung
"Look out, High Roller coming through!" said Tony, one of the bail bondsmen.
"Oh, come off it," Alex waved at him dismissively. Consequently, he didn't see Orithia emerge from the limousine. She was dressed in a silver mail top, sleeveless with a scoop neck; and a white leather mini-skirt, the skirt slit to allow freedom of movement. A white band winked from her right thigh, suggestive of a garter, but which Alex realized was probably a holster or weapon harness. Orithia's modest jewelry included a torc-like necklace and bracelets - no doubt a gorget and bracers. She wore stylish ankle boots with low heels, making Alex aware of her height and athletic mien.
"Hello, Alex," she smiled, giving him a perfunctory kiss on his cheek. "You look nice."
"You look amazing."
"You honor me," Orithia said reflexively. "Come on, let's go play."
She led Alex into the limousine, whereupon he found Phoebe sitting sideways on one bench, rather than hunch over in the confines of the vehicle. She was clad in a similar fashion, her dress looking to be a velvet minidress, but which would doubtless prove to be supple calfskin. A gold chain-link belt was slung low across her hips, and she held a small clutch that was just big enough for a collapsible baton or small pistol. She wore fingerless half-gloves with decorative studs that were probably entirely practical when it came to punching someone's lights out.
Klepto — Kleoptoleme — was in the back-facing seat. Her ensemble was a Grecian-style dress with more pronounced 'jewelry' at her neck and throat, as well as a hip-to-waist sash of fine mail. She appeared to be idly twirling a set of drumsticks, but she wasn't tapping out a rhythm in the air - she was moving through a martial kata that Alex definitely didn't want to be on the receiving end of.
"Toxic is with Lya and Hitoshi. They'll be waiting at the casino," Orithia said. "And I'd expect a welcoming committee. Two of the puppy dogs were parked down the block, watching you and your office. Are you armed, warrior?"
"Knife," Alex said, taking utility blade out of his pocket. It was a lockback, one-handed opener, the mechanism lubricated to bring the blade into play with a flick of one's wrist. "Other than that, body armor."
Phoebe placed a hand on his chest, pressing it against the armor. "Trauma plate. Lya had said something about you being shot. Were you wearing this?"
Alex shook his head. "No. I got shot."
Klepto stopped twirling her 'drumsticks'. Stab. Beat. Block. Stab. "Do you regenerate, Alex? Or are you like Achilles, just a tough son-of-a-bitch?"
"No, not like Achilles. I'm not sure what I do. Did. I healed, but I don't know how far that grace extends," Alex said.
"But you're becoming more than mortal," Klepto said. "Good. Tonight can be a trial-by-fire. Embrace your divine blood, Son of Tyr. Trust it."
The trip to the Westview Grand is uneventful.
After blundering into the question, 'So, what kind of music do you like?' the Furies treated Alex to an a capella rendition of one of their songs, ending with Klepto putting a decided edge onto It's A Small World, punctuated with more of her drumstick kata.
The Furies weren't just warrior women out of some comic book adventure; they were much, much more … and woe to the opponent who thought otherwise.
Klepto and Orithia exited the limousine first, drawing a few appreciative whistles and 'I'm in Vegas!' phone cam shots. Alex was next, and he offered his hand to Phoebe, who seemed to take it, but barely brushed her fingers against Alex's palm. All of the women had the edge of soldiers on patrol who were expecting an ambush.
"Hey, North! NORTH!" someone shouted across the turnout.
Alex found himself tensing against an anticipated blow or gunshot, but saw Glenn Vernon waving at him.
"I didn't think this was your scene," Vernon smiled.
"Once in a long while," Alex smiled. "Good to see you again, Mr. Vernon."
"All right. Glenn. Celebrating?" Alex asked.
"Just a nice dinner out with the fam—"
The screech of burning rubber cut through the evening air, though it didn't draw too much notice - just another impatient sort cutting around the asshole in the limo.
Or, to be correct, heading straight towards him. It looked to be a used Ford Crown Victoria, the old standard for police cruisers — built in the days of solid steel frames and parts. And, on the passenger side, someone holding a pistol out the window, gangster-style.
Alex pivoted to face them squarely, despite his reflexes telling him to duck. A bullet grazed his side. Another shot caught him close to where he'd been shot the day before. A third slammed into the trauma plate. As he staggered and sank to one knee, two more shots missed him. And then the car was upon him.
"ALEX!" roared Vernon. A woman was screaming, but it wasn't one of the Furies.
Phoebe tossed a side mirror onto the ground with a sneer of disgust. "Cowards."
Klepto had the gunman on the pavement, one drumstick laid across the young man's throat, and the other poised to stab downwards. Orithia was standing close to Alex's prone figure, her eyes scanning for additional threats.
Alex drew a hissing breath. His jacket has taken the brunt of the first shot. The second hurt like hell, but he knew he'd heal. The trauma plate caught the third. And he could already tell the cuts and abrasions from the car's undercarriage were healing.
Still, he lay there for several seconds. He flopped onto his back, and that hurt.
"Thank you, Father," he murmured.
"Prayers later, man," Glenn Vernon said as he knelt beside his friend. He pointed at one of the valets. "You, call 911!"
Alex looked up at his former client and coughed. "I'll be fine. Give me a second."
"You got shot and run over! Fine?" Vernon exclaimed before he noticed the outline of the ballistic vest pressing against Alex's shirt. "You're wearing a vest? Saved your life, man."
"Still hurts," Alex managed a weak smile. He sat up, laying a hand over one bullet hole and feigning a wheeze. He was whole and relatively unharmed. There were sirens wailing in the distance, either the police or the paramedics.
A short distance away, Hitoshi muttered an oath under his breath. North might not be his responsibility , but he was another Scion. And, although they'd expected it, attacked on what was technically his front doorstep, an insult to any samurai's honor.
But North was on his own for the moment. Hitoshi was scanning the crowd for both additional threats, but something more. This was a public hit, the visibility meant as a threat to those involved and a mind-your-place to the mortals in general.
So there had to be someone taking pictures or video. Just another face in the crowd …
From her place in the crowd, Evie watches. Her lips press together in a grim line as she looks towards Alex, but he is well covered by the ladies. There's not much else for her to do, in that regard.
She runs forward, her phone already to her ear as she calls the hit in to the police station. To do anything else would seem abnormal. She scans the crowd, looking for other injured people who may have been hit by stray bullets...
But, mostly, she's looking for anything out of the ordinary. She's not necessarily looking for people taking photos, as Hitoshi is. In all honesty, that angle did not even occur to her.
Evie is not even sure exactly what she is looking for. All she knows is that she must watch. Someone, somewhere will fuck up if she just keeps an eye out...Maybe not now, at this time. But, at some point.
As people take note of Evie's presence, casino patrons begin offering her their cell phone videos and photos amid insistence that they saw it all. Others make sarcastic comments about, 'What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,' and turn away from the scene.
Alex is still sitting on the ground; Evie knows from personal experience that, even with a vest, getting shot is no picnic. But whatever knack Alex North has for soaking up damage seems to be working - for a man who was shot several times and then run over, he doesn't look any worse than a baseball player who slid home.
As the particulars of the crime scene begin resolving themselves in Evie's mind - she has an idea of where the car came from, and that it was a mid-size sedan - she begins to assess the reactions of others at the scene. Older couples who are shocked, even one or two who think it's part of a Hollywood movie shoot. Casino security employees are forming a loose cordon, keeping people from tromping through an area where there might be tire prints or debris that would be of use to the police.
Perhaps five yards away, there's a man standing at the far edge of the turnout. He's wearing a simple shirt and jacket, both black, but clearly tailored. He is standing with his hands clasped before him, simply watching the scene.
But it is what he is watching that makes him stand out. He studies Alex for a moment, then each of the Furies standing nearby. He scans the crowd, and you know he's looking right at Hitoshi Ryder. Another brief turn, and he's observing Lya Bach and the fourth member of her band.
And then he looks straight at Evie, making eye contact.
Hitoshi slowly makes his way through the crowd, maneuvering so that he comes up behind the man with the camera. Once he's behind him he smiles. "Excuse me sir, but you seem to be at the best position to get evidence on what happened to Mr. North over there. You need to come and talk to the Authorities."
"Authorities?" the photographer asks. "I'm not just handing this over. Had that happen to a friend once, police took his camera, came back, everything was wiped, stuff was broken. Nuh-uh. You keep your mitts to yourself."
Hitoshi's smile fades. "Look pal, either you can go over to that detective over there and show her what you have, or I can call her over here and she can arrest you as an accomplice to the whole thing and they take your camera anyways. Granted the accusation won't stick, but who knows what would happen to your camera in the police impound." He snarls pointing out Evie.
"Whoa! I didn't do nothing!" the man says, still playing keep-away with his camera, holding it out of your immediate reach. "Cop lady over there asks, fine. You, who are you, one of the valets?"
"No, I'm not. Now. You WILL follow me over to her." Hitoshi uses a little bit of his power, now fully annoyed with the man.
"Yeah ... sure ..." the man says blankly.
You walk over to Evie Cartwright, who is still surveying the scene.
"Officer Cartwright, this man has Some pictures to show you. I believe he was in the best spot to see what happened." Hitoshi nods at evie.
Evie turns as Hitoshi approaches her. "Photos or video?"
"Video," the man with the camera says, somewhat dazed.
Gunshots. Squealing tires. Screams.
Phoebe makes to rip off the driver's side door, but only ends up with a side mirror for her efforts. She casts it aside.
Kleptoleme simply takes hold of the shooter's arm and shoulder as the car speeds away, and yanks the shooter out of the passenger side window. He lands on the pavement, winded. Reflexively, his gun is being brought to bear, but one of Klepto's drumsticks whistles through the air to strike the man's wrist.
The Glock falls from a hand gone numb from a nerve strike.
"You're crazy, bitch! Fucking pull me outta the car window!"
"It's where we take you next that you should be worried about," says Orithia. "Goodnight, Sweet Prince."
She hits the gunman with a cross-temple palm strike. His head lolls to one side.
"All right, we're a go," Lya says to Toxic as she witnesses the altercation go down. "Let them know and then we'll go through the casino and get this guy in through the back."
Toxic whistles and nods to Phoebe, who nods in affirmation. "This man obviously needs first aid," she says as she looks meaningfully at Orithia and Klepto. "Let's get him the attention he deserves."
"If only," Orithia jokes as she bends down and she and Klepto put one arm each of the unconscious gang member around their shoulders. "Your carriage awaits."
Phoebe watches the crowd for any trouble as Klepto and Orithia weave through the crowd to get to the back alley of the casino where Lya and Toxic will let them in.
"Thank you for your cooperation, sir." she takes the phone and quickly checks to see if the man has a Dropbox app.
Seeing that he doesn't, she takes a second to download it. Evie has a spare Dropbox that she uses to shuffle inane stuff around. There is nothing of consequence in it. She connects to that and plops tonight's videos into it.
She then makes sure that she logs out and deletes the Dropbox app. She makes a mental note to delete that whole account once she gets home.
She nods to Hitoshi as she hands the camera back to the man, leaving the video untouched. Unfortunately, she doesn't feel like she can delete it without drawing ire. The police have been targeted too often for messing with people's videos...deleting them, confiscating phones, etc. To delete something might give someone, even the Lobos, a reason to call foul.
Gently, she nudges Hitoshi in the ribs and nods her head towards the man in the tailored suit.
The man observing Evie, Hitoshi, and the others gives a faint smile that touches mostly his eyes. Some might qualify it as a mischievous glimmer. He gives a hat-tip style gesture.
At that moment, an ambulance pulls into the turnout, the paramedics emerging to unload a stretcher and see to Alex North, blocking the mystery man from view.
Hitoshi nods at the man signaling he had seen him. "Yea, I see him now. Lets go have a quick chat shall we?" He starts strolling over toward the man but is cutoff by the ambulance as it pulls up, forcing him to go around.
"All right, lets get him back to the Security office and secure him before he wakes up," Lya says as she holds open the back door to Orithia and Klepto. They follow inside as Toxic checks the alleyway for anyone observing them before following along behind.
Hitoshi makes his way around the ambulance, but when he does, the man is no longer in view. Which is odd in one sense, as there's still a crowd pointing and murmuring, with no 'ripple' in the crowd to show where the man might have gone.
It's considerably more disturbing from the perspective that this is an affair of gods and their scions, with the Manada de Lobos little more than foot soldiers and patsies.
"Excuse me," Hitoshi asks one couple. "Looking for a man, about 5'10", clean-cut, wearing a black suit?"
"No, sorry, haven't seen anyone like that," the man says. "I heard Vegas was exciting, but I never expected this!"
Meanwhile, Alex is trying to disentangle himself from the paramedics, who have him sitting on the gurney.
"Look, I'm okay. I was wearing a vest," Alex says.
"Patient responsive, pulse steady," one paramedic relays to his partner. He flicks a penlight at Alex's eyes. "Pupils reactive. No indication of concussion. Sir, if you'll sit quietly for a second, I'd like to take your blood pressure."
"When you're satisfied I shouldn't be under a yellow tarp, can I go?"
"Just breathe normally, please. No talking for a moment," says the paramedic. "BP 120 over 80. Take a deep breath, please, Sir? Any pain?"
"No, no pain, no tightness," Alex said, which wasn't entirely true. He'd been in considerable pain a few minutes ago, but that was fading, and not because he was lapsing into shock.
"Who's the officer-in-charge?" the paramedic asked. "Hey, Pete, who's OIC?"
The police officer glanced around. "Looks like it's Cartwright. Problem?"
"Victim's fine. Looks like his jacket and vest took the brunt of it," said the paramedic. "No reason to take him to General."
"Twice in as many days. You're a lucky bastard, North," the officer said. "Yo, Evie! You wanna talk to Superman, over here, or can we let him go?"
Evie's brow furrows once she sees that the mystery man has disappeared. Not good. Not good, at all.
Granted, it's always a possibility that the man isn't an enemy. He just happened to be in the right place at the right time to see things go down and happens to be a scion or other agent of an uninvolved god. But, really...what are the odds of that? Evie snorts softly to herself, Not bloody likely.
Upon hearing the officer call out, Evie makes her way to Alex's side where he sits impatiently upon the gurney. She knows that she has to make a show of it, to seem like things are normal. Well, normal-ish. As normal as it can be when a man has been attacked twice in two days.
Nope. No god business going on here, guys. Move along. Nothing to see.
"Jesus, North," she shakes her head. "Who did you piss off?"
She stands by the gurney and seems to think for a second, "You can go. I doubt you saw anything that isn't going to show up in the various videos and pictures that are appearing on the web even as we speak. BUT...I am going to want to speak to you as soon as you feel like it. You've obviously riled up someone. Maybe someone who lost to you and doesn't like it."
She gently claps him on the shoulder, taking care not to cause anymore pain (even though she's not even sure he even is still in pain), "Do you want us to put someone on watch at your house or work?"
Klepto and Orithia set the unconscious Lobo into a chair with a thud as Lya looks around the office for something to restrain the guy with. "Where's a pair of handcuffs when you need them," she mutters as Toxic enters the room.
"A warrior knows how to improvise," Toxic replies as she quickly undoes her belt and uses it to bind his arms to the chair while Orithia searches him for any other weapons with a look of distaste.
"Ugh... just because they worship dogs doesn't mean they have to smell like them."
"What would I do without you guys?" Lya asks with a smile as she sits on the edge of the desk and whips out her flask for a drink.
"The answer to that is something I never want to have to tell your father," replies Klepto as she gestures for the flask and takes a sip. "So now we wait for Hitoshi?"
"Or for him to wake up... whichever comes first," Lya replies.
"I hope he's a light sleeper," chuckles Orithia.
"Hmm. I wonder ... I just cleared Mr. Vernon, there, of a burglary charge. Wonder if I put some heat on someone else as a result," says Alex. "I don't think I need a round-the-clock detail, Detective, but I sure wouldn't mind a patrol car making an occasional circuit."
"I think I'll have to retire this vest. Maybe even upgrade to a Class III," Alex shakes his head. "Jacket's a write off. Bullet graze, torn up from the car's undercarriage ..."
He gets off the gurney without any apparent discomfort. "If you need a statement, give me a call tomorrow. I think I'm going to go inside, have a nice dinner, and court some friendlier odds."
Evie nods, "Well, good luck. Hopefully, you've used up all the bad mojo for one night!"
She then moves back into the crowd and does her job, taking statements from people and helping to calm the crowd.
She trusts Lya and Hitoshi to take care of the Lobos member. For now, she needs to simply play her role.
Phoebe walks up to Alex with a nod as he's sitting on the gurney. "Alex, I would be honored to escort you. I know where all the fun is happening inside."
The shooter has an extra magazine in his pocket, as well as a serviceable knife.
"Black Talons," Orithia notes, looking at the bullets. They're pre-fragmented rounds designed to tear through body armor and flesh, banned in most areas as, 'cop killer' rounds. "Alex should be on his way to Valhalla."
"Ick. Sweaty boy wallet," Toxic says. "Ramon Gutierrez, age 17. Street address, probably his parents' house. A couple hundred bucks here, didn't get that from flipping burgers. Does he have a phone, Or?"
"On the table. Probably selfies of himself flexing and trying to look badass."
"My being on the casino floor will draw attention somewhere else," Alex says to Phoebe. "Lya has my number if you learn anything interesting. Thank you ... and your bandmates for watching out for me."
Lya takes a swig from her flask and puts it back into her interior coat pocket before picking up the phone off the table. "It's been my experience that gangs like to keep proof of their deeds as a way to show off to the others. It's the digital version of 'Who's got the bigger dick.' Let's see if our boy was even smart enough to lock his phone..."
The shooter's smartphone comes to life with the standard prompt for a four-digit PIN. Lya tries some simple combinations on a whim: 5626 (LOBO), 4264 (GANG), and 5333 (JEFE). None of these work.
"Pull his shirt off," she says. "I want to see his ink."
Orithia obliges. The shooters tattoos are a blend of professional ink and the faded look of prison specials, the usual mix of guns, garishly adorned skulls, and area codes. A couple of pin-up girls and snakes adorn one arm, but it's the fan of cards above one skull that draws Lya's attention.
She taps out 2737 (ASES), Spanish for 'aces,' but also part of 'asesino,' assassin.
The phone unlocks.
"Bingo!" exclaims Lya as she opens the phone. "Let's see what he's got in his photos, shall we? Still not waking up, eh?"
Orithia shrugs. "Guess he's a deep sleeper after all."
It's the usual. Cars, selfies with the girlfriend, los hermanos, guns ... and an assortment of photos that would likely implicate him in several assaults and shootings.
That includes a photo of Alex from what looks to be just outside his office, a photo of yourself and the Furies outside the Dive, and a photo of Hitoshi's torn up front lawn. There's not a photo of Evie, but if she just had her visitation, whoever is directing the gang may not have come up with a reason to add her to the list.
"Mmummff," Gutierrez mumbles, beginning to regain consciousness.
"Hitoshi's wanting to go all medieval on his ass...but I've got an idea," Lya says as she grabs her sharpie and writes something on a piece of paper off the desk. "Everybody in close for a selfie!"
She kneels next to the unconscious thug and holds up a piece of paper on his chest that says "He told us everything!" as she sticks her tongue out at the camera and the others gather around with big grins and various hand gestures. The camera flashes and Lya smiles at the picture now on the lobo's phone. "Perfect! Now to check his phone history and see who I can send this to if he doesn't talk..."
Hitoshi heads inside through the front of the Casino so that anyone that knows him will assume he's inside with the bigwigs. Making his way through the crowd he makes it to a stairwell and after looking around to make sure no one that matters sees him, he ducks inside and heads down to the basement, ducking out into the machine room. Inside the generators and laundry machines are loud and noisy. Kneeling down he picks up a large paper sack full of tools and items he bought hours before. With half the lights out, it's rather dark, but he knows exactly where he is going as he weaves his way between the equipment and opens the door to the Security room and steps inside. The room was where security roughed over those people caught cheating at the casino before they were handed to the cops.
"Alex is fine, and Officer Cartwright is in charge of the scene." He sets the sack down on a table and starts laying the items out. The first is rope, the second a boxcutter, then lemons, rubbing alcohol, salt, bleach, plastic sheeting, duct tape, pliers, bottled water, a screwdriver, a plastic apron, rubber gloves, finally a soldering iron. Picking up the plastic sheeting and the duct tape he works in silence taping it up over the walls and out onto the floor. Finally he looks over at the chair the man is on. Dragging over another chair he uses the screwdriver to loosen and take off the back of the chair leaving just the risers.
"Ladies, you are better at knots than I am. Secure him to that. I want his back exposed with nothing for him to lean against.. Oh, and make it tight... Please."
"We already have him tied up." Toxic says.
'I know, and you did a wonderful job, but in the chair he's in, he's comfortable, and we wouldn't want than now would we?" Hitoshi replies with a grin.
Toxic grins back. "On second thought, no we wouldn't." It takes her and the girls mere moments to retie the man to the new chair. Hitoshi walks over and after putting on the apron and gloves opens a bottle of water. Taking a quick swig he dumps the rest over the head of the ganger. "And now the fun."
He leans in close. "Wakey wakey."
The shooter - there's no mistake that he's the trigger man - sputters as the cold water snaps him back to wakefulness. The way the room is lit - a sharp cone of bright light above the subject, surrounded by shadow - is a classic interrogation setting.
"I ain't tellin' you nothing, police-man," he snarls. He struggles a bit as he notices the ... implements ... arranged on the table beside him. "Whoa, hey, that's illegal."
Hitoshi chuckles a low, evil chuckle. "police? Police? Hey Toxic, you see any police here?"
"Nope, no Cops here." Toxic replies. She looks over at Klepto. "Hey Klep, any cops around?"
"The only cop I know of are out on the street." Klemto says.
Hitoshi look back at the man. "Seems we are fresh outa cops round here man. What we do have is four pissed off women, Lya, and Me." He pulls the chair that the man was originally in up behind the man but doesn't sit down yet.
"mmm, Nice ink you got there, but it's crap compared to what the Yakuza wear. Now, I'm going to give you one chance to spill your guts and save yourself a world of pain. After that well... as you said, all that stuff IS illegal."
"You work for the 'kuza?" the shooter says. "But everyone says you hate the gangs."
He glances about the room, trying to figure out an escape route, sees nothing that isn't covered with plastic sheeting. Klepto is standing in the background doing her drumstick kata again. Twirl. Slash. Stab. Twirl.
"I ain't telling you nothing," he repeats stubbornly.
Hitoshi snorts. "No, I don't work for the yakuza." When the man says he won't answer Hitoshi shrugs and grabs the bleach, lemons, Salt, and Boxcutter, and sits down behind the man.
"I'm gonna tell you a story so I want you to pay attention. It's about one of my Run ins with the Yakuza a few years ago, and just what they did to me."
He pulls out a sharpie marker and starts outlining the mans tattoo's. Leaning forwads he speaks real low in the man's ear. "After that, I'm going to do you a favor and get rid of some of this horrible ink on your back. Sadly though, it's gonna hurt like hell, and I don't have any Novocaine."
He nods at Lya at this point.
"You've got to forgive my friends... Hitoshi went through a lot in Japan that he never talked about because it was so painful.." Lya visibly shudders as she walks into view holding his phone, "and my friends are excited at the thought of finally seeing a demonstration. Me, I'm not nearly so bloodthirsty... I just ask real nice and people do it for me." she turns the camera around to show him the picture she took earlier. "Like your friends for example. I'm sure they don't look well on snitches, do they? So you see...you've got 3 choices: you could justifiably break under torture and tell us what we want to know... you could be all tough and take the pain and torture that Hitoshi is going to put you through and still not tell us anything, only to be killed by your own gang after I send this to everyone in your phone history... or you could tell us what we need to know, share a drink with me, and then go on your merry way." she pulls the flask out from her coat with her other hand and gives it a shake. "Perfectly aged rum... what do you say?"
"Right. So you're my friend, chica? You gonna protect me from el loco cabron over there?" the shooter sneers. He spits at you. "Fuck you."
Lya takes a drink and leans in towards the ganger. "I'm the only friend you have right now, pendejo... and trust me when I say this..." she takes another sip and looks pointedly down at his crotch before she looks him in the eyes, "You're not going to be able to fuck anything when he's done."
She leans back and returns to sitting on the desk where she starts messing with his phone again. "Let's see... you've got a Facebook account? Of course you do... who doesn't?" she looks up at the ganger and grins. "And oh... you were kind enough to leave yourself logged in, too! I think everyone's just going to love your new profile picture. Now... how do I change your status to 'Dead Man Walking?'"
"Yeah, you do that. Let all my boys know what you look like," the shooter smirks. "Only walking dead will be you people."
"I'm a musician, dude... if everybody didn't know what I looked like by now, then my PR man wouldn't be doing a very good job, would he?" Lya smirks. "You did get one thing right though...we'll be the only ones walking after this."
He gives a short, barking laugh. "You wish. El Jefe, he's in with powerful people. You? You'll be street pizza like your lawyer friend."
Hitoshi's fist crashes against the man's jaw.
"Manners dude, apparently your mother taught you none. Now. Since you were dumb enough to NOT take my friend's kind offer, you get to deal with me."
Hitoshi picks up the boxcutter and pour rubbing alcohol on the blade to sterilize it. Then he starts swabbing the man's back with the remaining alcohol.
"We don't want any of this getting infected, that would be inhumane."
He looks over at the band. "Ladies, I know you have seen a lot on the field of battle, but this won't be pretty. If you wish to leave, please do so now."
"You hit like a girl," the shooter sneers. He adopts a bad Arnold Schwarzenegger imitation. "Are you a girly man?"
"He doesn't know what we used to do to ourselves, does he?" whispers Phoebe to Klepto as they lean against the wall in the shadows.
"I was as surprised as you were that we had two of these again once we were summoned," Klepto quietly replies as she briefly cups her chest.
"In other words... do what you will, Hitoshi... we're not squeamish," Toxic replies.
"Start with the fingers, Hitoshi," suggests Lya after taking another drink from her flask. "Once you start with flaying a man, it's kind of hard to top that... you know?"
"I'm saving those for a necklace for Toxic." Hitoshi jokes. Then he sighs, and all emotion drains from his face.
"Now, I keep promising you a story man, and I haven't yet delivered." He picks up the boxcutter and starts lightly scratching lines on the man's shoulders. The lines are not very deep, they barely draw blood.
"A few years ago I had a run in with the Yakuza while visiting japan..."
"What jeffe? Thats it? I get worse scratched than that fucking my bitch!"
Hitoshi's fist crashes against the man's jaw again.
"I'm not yet done. Anyways, they started out small as well. Tied me to a chair just like you are. The only difference was my best friend from childhood was forced to watch as they made these same cuts. Now here's the interesting part. These cuts are mere annoyances, however..."
He picks up a lemon and cuts it in half rubbing it against the cuts.
"This stings like a bitch."
"Ow! Fuck you Cabron! That all you got?" The ganger winces.
Hitoshi picks up the boxcutter again. "No, I'm just doing as my friend asks and starting small. Now where were we? Oh yes. I had nearly the same reaction. Lemon juice stings, but it's not enough. Thats okay. I have better stuff." Picking up the duct tape he cuts a good size strip off of it.
"I, I thought you wanted me to talk!" The ganger's eyes go wide and Hitoshi leans in close.
"Yes, yes I do, but not right now. Later you will talk." He seals the man's mouth with the tape then sits back down. The ganger struggles and Hitoshi punches him in the kidneys.
"The Yakuza were nice enough to use an actual scalpel on me but I was in a hurry to pick this stuff up. The next thing they did was cut strips down my back."
Slowly he starts cutting down the man's back well enough to draw a good amount of blood. One slice, two slices. The ganger struggles and is clearly in pain as a tear falls down his cheek. Behind him a simultaneous tear falls from Hitoshi's cheek. After five cuts he stops cutting and picks up the bag of fine grain salt.
"After that they picked me up and laid me out on a bed of fine salt. Do you know what that does to those cuts? It gets into every crevice, every cut, and it so burns. Imagine every move you make grinding more and more salt against those cuts. Oh wait, you don't have to imagine."
He throws a handful of salt against the gangers back. The ganger arches in pain struggling to try and get away from the pain he was cause. He's now screaming behind the duct tape. Hitoshi waits until his struggles have stopped. He takes the knife again.
"Ready to talk?" He asks. The ganger just glares at him.
"Okay then. So as I was saying, When the salting was done, they moved on to something more caustic... Bleach." He looks around. "Will one of you ladies hand me the bottle of bleach on the table over there?"
Lya shakes her head. "I don't think that's what she meant by starting small, Hitoshi," says Toxic as she walks up to the man struggling in the chair and grabs his hand. "She said..." the man's pinky makes a sickening crunch as it suddenly bends in the wrong direction, "start... (crunch goes the middle finger)...with... (crunch goes his trigger finger) the fingers."
Hitoshi looks over at Toxic. "Lya has her ways, I have mine, and apparently you have yours. Nicely done."
He leans in to the ganger. "Now, I'm going to remove the tape, and these girls are going to ask you some questions. And remember, I can do shit like this all day. Hell, I'll even get creative."
He rips the tape off the ganger's mouth taking some mustache hairs along with it.
"That was for the one of you who slapped my ass," Toxic says seductively into his ear as she runs her fingers down his other arm towards his unbroken hand. "Want to see what I do to people who shoot at my friends?"
"Last chance, buddy..." Lya warns as she shakes her flask. "I'll bet a strong drink would be good about now, eh? Much better to have alcohol in your stomach than bleach on your back, I'm sure."
Behind the anger and defiance still flashing in the shooter's eyes, Hitoshi can also see the doubt beginning to creep in around the edges of the man's world. It's not the physical pain, of course - it's the pain felt in one's spirit, the black despair when the torture has stripped away everything else, and there's nothing left, just you, cold, naked, and alone. The fact that you failed yourself and the people who were depending upon you. And that there's no one riding over the hill to your rescue. You're it.
It's the bright line between life and death.
Weakly, he shakes his head, then lets it fall.
"No mas," he whispers. "No more."
Hitoshi stands and slaps the ganger on the shoulder. "Smartest thing you have done all night." He steps around the man and sets the tools on the table and carefully strips off the apron and rubber gloves so as to not get any blood on his actual clothes.
"He's all yours ladies." With that said he heads out the door. It slams closed behind him, but a second later opens again.
"Hitoshi." Poebe's voice calls out and he stops.
"Yes?" He asks quietly.
"Was all that you said just now.. did it all really happen?"
Hitoshi is quiet for a moment. "Go ask Lya. She knows. Have a good night Phoebe."
"Okay, have a good night Hitoshi."
Hitoshi just waves with his left hand and starts walking again. Phoebe can see that his Left Pinky is shorter than it should be. Then he passes through the second set of doors and heads up to the Casino bar.
"Aww... killjoy," mutters Toxic as she stands up and rejoins the others against the wall.
"They just don't make them like they used to," laments Orithia.
Phoebe lets the door close and turns back to the others. "At least not this guy, anyway."
"Finally! One of these days somebody's going to take the drink offer first," Lya sighs as she hops off the desk. "Now as promised... I'm sure your voice is a bit hoarse after all the screaming." she nods to Orithia who grabs the back of the guy's head and holds it back so Lya can carefully pour some of the rum into his mouth.
"So tell me about El Jefe and why you want to kill Mr. North so much."
"The lawyer? El Jefe's friends want him out of the way. We take care of that, we get rewarded," the shooter says.
"Is that the only person you've been contracted to hit by this El Jefe? What does El Jefe look like? Has he ever said more about his actual name or who his friends are?"
"Mario? We call him El Jefe, but, you know, he's just the guy who picked up the pieces from ... before," the shooter says. "You understand, this gringo in a suit comes along, talks a line about helping us score, we figure he's full of shit. Told him to fuck off. Guy just smiles and hands Mario a business card, says it might come in handy.
"And then Esteban, I don't know what happened to him, man. One night, he just went crazy. I mean loco. Not drunk. Out-of-his-mind crazy. Some of us tried peyote once, this was way worse. He was raving about how the End of All Things was coming, and we needed to pick sides.
"He blew his brains out, man. Boom, right in front of us, ate a bullet.
"Mario kept it all locked down, kept us from losing our shit. And I guess he figured if the other gangs heard about Esteban going cuckoo, we'd be the whipping boys. Turf war.
"So Mario calls this gringo, calls himself Mr. Lyman, who says he wants local talent. I seen him that one time, and it didn't look like he needed help. Bunch of serious Arnolds backing him up, driving his car. But he pays really fucking well. I mean high roller, whale-level stuff. Got some diamonds for my girlfriend, not fuckin' JewelryMart crap, either.
"But every now and then, the word comes down. Place needs to be hit, someone needs persuading. Your lawyer friend must be on his shit list. We don't ask questions. We do the job, and we get paid."
"Phoebe, would you check on Hitoshi? Unless I miss my guess he's probably in the bar." Phoebe nods and quietly leaves the room.
Lya takes another swig from her flask before walking over to the prisoner. "I'm going to offer you another drink before I tell you about your friend Esteban."
The gang member nods warily and then leans his head back as Lya pours some more rum down his throat. She waits until he swallows before she continues. "You see... your friend Esteban saw the truth of it: the end of the world IS coming...at least according to one religion... and you guys are helping the side wanting it to happen. Esteban had an attack of good conscience and just couldn't take it any more. " She takes another drink. "So what about you? Are you looking to have a life with your girlfriend...or are you more interested in the quick cash before the world burns and takes you with it?"
"The End of the World, for real? Like all those crazy preachers on the television?" the shooter scoffs. "It's all talk so you put money in the basket. What are you going to tell me that will convince me Esteban wasn't on drugs?"
"I'm not saying that Esteban probably wasn't on drugs... but ask yourself this... why would I lie to you?" Lya replies as she gets up and paces in front of him. "My band and I like to sing, drink, and have a good time... not sit in back rooms in the dark and threaten peoples lives. There's no honor in it... no fun in it... " she stops in front of him and jabs a finger in his chest as the Furies murmur in agreement. "But fuck me if I won't do what needs to be done to keep this world kicking, buddy... and right now that means keeping my new lawyer friend alive."
She steps back and leans against the desk. "This isn't going to be on TV with some lady with a giant bouffant crying for cash. You've seen it... it's all around us, dude. Haven't you noticed the world going to shit? People not caring about each other... killing each other over shoes or bad grades... wars all over the world that never seem to end... you'll ignore it and say 'Oh that's just the way the world is...' but in reality that's the way the world has become... until one day..." she slams her hand against the desk, "BOOM! Those missiles aimed at Russia get launched because it turns out that name on the list that you happened to 'take care of' was going to be an influential diplomat that wasn't there to stop fucking World War III."
She takes a deep breath and lets it out with a sigh. "Do you get me?"
"What do I care? World hasn't given me shit, lady. Shitty public housing. Shitty schools. People I don't know tell me to speak English when I use a Spanish word. My mom's a fucking housekeeper at a place like this, cleaning rooms just to scrape by.
"Get a job? Get a haircut. Cover up your ink. Use the back entrance. It's all bullshit to keep minorities in their place," he says angrily. "Cleanin' up after the rest of you.
"So bring it. End of the World? Maybe the next one will give a shit about us."
"The World doesn't give a shit about anyone... and why should it?" exclaims Klepto in frustration as she steps out of the shadows. "You walk around thinking you deserve life handed to you on a silver platter... it's pathetic. Until you grow some damn balls and make your life your own in spite of the world, all you'll ever be is a lowly pawn in someone else's power struggle... in this world AND the next." Klepto spits at his feet.
"Yeah... I think we're done here," Lya sighs in disappointment. "Orithia... if you would?"
"Once a dog... always a dog," she mutters before she strikes his temple and knocks him unconscious.
"We'll gag him and make sure he's immobile in here before I call Evie and let her know where she can pick up her shooter."
Lya slides open her phone and fiddles with the ganger's phone for a moment. "Wouldn't want to lose such a wonderful photo now would I? I think I'll make it my lock screen on my phone," she jokes to the others. She fishes Evie's business card out of her back pocket and starts dialing. "Evening Officer," she begins once it's answered. "My band and I seem to have run into a rather dubious character fleeing the scene of the shooting tonight, and we wanted to let you know where you could pick him up for processing."
"Is everyone all right?"
"Yes...yes... though the foolish man did try to attack Toxic... so he might have a broken finger or two..." she scratches her head, "...okay, maybe three."
"We'll make sure he's taken care of, Ms. Bach."
"Excellent. Have a good night, Officer." with that Lya hangs up her phone and smiles at the others as she puts her phone away and wipes down the ganger's phone with her shirt before putting it in his back pocket.
"I think that's a wrap for tonight, guys. Who's up for a drink or three in the casino?"