11: A Late Night Epiphany
Mako stared up at the ceiling of his bedroom listlessly. Korra slumbered next to him, muttering something unintelligible before turning away from him. He wished he had the ability to sleep the way she did, as stupid as it sounded. His girlfriend could sleep without being plagued by nightmares of Bolin's death and without the aid of heavy sedatives that Doctor Hamato had prescribed. He supposed that her ability had come from years of being the Avatar, from years of stressful tests and supervising surprise attacks on enemy nations or something like that. Mako wished that he could actually get some sleep, for once.
Deep, deep down, he resented Asami for telling him that Bo was alive. If she hadn't told him, then his life would still be semi-normal: he'd wake up at six almost every day of the week to go to the station, Korra would go to City Council meetings and deal with the United Forces and President Raiko and do her Avatar duties. On the weekends, they'd go curl up on their couch and do nothing or go and see a mover, although Mako would always, without fail, storm out of the theater if they ever began to play Varrick's production of Nuktuk, Hero of the South.
But he never meant it, of course. His life was dreadful, boring, a stern monotony without Bolin. He was happier than hell to find out that Bolin was alive, but how was he, Mako, ever going to find his little brother if Mako never got any sleep?
Mako growled and sat up, burying his face in his hands, muttering a curse under his breath.
Okay, he thought, taking a deep breath. Think, Mako, think. Think about it from a detective's point of view. Pretend it isn't Bo who's missing, pretend it's someone else.
That was smart. He could do that. He could definitely do that. The case would, after all, be easier to focus on if loved ones weren't involved. Lin had taught him that in his first week on the job.
Then again, in his first week on the job, his baby brother had gotten stabbed in the back and had been thought of as dead for four years.
Focus, Mako, he told himself firmly. Focus on the facts.
Okay. What did he know so far?
He knew that the Triple Threat Triads were involved in the kidnapping of his brother, and the kidnapping of Satoshi Daichi.
Could the two cases possibly be related? According to Hikaru and the Daichi family, Satoshi had been a good boy, making good grades, never getting into any trouble. Judging from the house and the nice part of town that Hikaru and Satoshi lived in, the family had probably never seen head nor tail of the Triads.
So then why would the Triads target Satoshi? Could it have possibly been random? If it had been Asami and Midori walking down the street that day, would the Triads have kidnapped Midori?
Not necessarily, he thought. After all, from all the time that he and Bo had run numbers for the Triads, Mako knew that the Triple Threat Triads, especially Lightning Bolt Zolt, only used women for one-night stands or long time prostitution deals. The Triads were run by men, operated by men. Women were considered almost inferior to them, unless they gave excellent blowjobs.
What else did he know?
Maybe the basics. Let's start with the basics, Mako thought.
Satoshi was seventeen, that he knew for sure.
Bolin was twenty—no, twenty-one, Mako corrected himself once more.
Mako's mind almost exploded with clarity.
The kidnapping had been coincidental.
At least somewhat.
Satoshi was seventeen, and it had been four years since Bolin had been targeted by the Triads for the first time.
Twenty-one minus four was seventeen.
It all clicked.
Mako remembered his first meeting with Lightning Bolt Zolt. He'd been nine, and Bolin had been seven. It had been around the middle of winter…they'd been almost dead, scavenging for potato peels and rotten apples in the sidewalks and food in dumpsters. Bolin had been sick, even though Mako had given him almost all of his food. He hadn't gotten better for almost five days.
Mako had thought it was the end.
He'd been caring for Bo in the decrepit remains of their parents' house when suddenly two men had stormed in, intending to squat there. Mako was only nine, but he'd stood his ground, shooting pathetic flames at them until they heard sirens in the distance.
The taller one had leaned close to Mako. "You're not a bad bender, kid."
Mako had stared up at him fearfully, standing guard over Bolin's feeble body.
"Want to learn how to be a better one?" The taller one had taken a look over at Bolin. "We've got a doc who can heal your friend there."
That had cinched the deal.
Mako had carried Bolin with the help of the tall man, who, as he'd promised, taken care of him with the help of the doctor. Bolin had gotten better quickly, easing Mako's troubles by the boatload.
Mako had tried to thank the man for saving his brother, but the man wouldn't let them leave.
"L-let us g-go," Mako had tried to sound defiant.
The man had laughed, his chortles echoing around the warehouse. The other men, who were smoking joints and touching young girls inappropriately, laughed dumbly. "Sorry, kid, ain't happ'ning. Once you've rolled with us, you don't come out."
Bolin whimpered, hiding behind Mako. Mako had been prepared to fight everyone in the room, but then the man had pulled out a heater. Mako nearly wet himself.
"Still wanna leave, kid?" asked the man rhetorically before chuckling at the look on Mako's face. "That's what I thought. Welcome to the Triads, boys. Name's Zolt. Lightning Bolt Zolt. Just remember you made a promise, and that means you can never leave, got it?" His hands had heated up with a crackle of white-hot flames. "You don't wanna know what happens to those who try. You gotta earn your keep, cuz once I get the slightest idea that y'all aren't faithful or doing your job—you're out of it so fast it'll make your head spin." He sent a ball of flame at Mako, who barely managed to duck. "Got it?"
Mako nodded fearfully. "Y-yes, sir."
And so they'd stayed until Toza had rescued them, nearly seven years later.
You gotta earn your keep, cuz once I get the slightest idea that y'all aren't faithful or doing your job—you're out of it so fast it'll make your head spin.
It had been a random kidnapping, Mako knew that for sure. Satoshi had just been at the right place at the right time. If it had been any other seventeen-year-old boy, they would've been kidnapped too.
Its intentions were not random, however.
But obviously, Bolin hadn't been "earning his keep".
Then Satoshi had been kidnapped.
Usually when the Triads kidnapped someone, they left a note or some graffiti that would try to point the fuzz towards them.
But they hadn't this time.
What had Hikaru said?
There was no one at the scene except him and Mai.
No graffiti, no teasing note.
Satoshi Daichi had been taken, not for sport like usual, but on purpose.
Bolin hadn't "earned his keep".
So they'd brought him Satoshi, to make some sort of example out of him.
Mako gasped, almost falling off of the bed as his mind worked furiously. Spirits. Shit. Oh, Spirits, no… Mako let loose a tirade of angry curse words under his breath, amazed that he hadn't woken Korra.
Now both Satoshi Daichi and Bolin were being held captive by the Triads.
But the Triple Threat Triads weren't your every-day, normal, run-of-the-mill kidnappers. They were careful, concise, and clever. When they kidnapped Bo, their intentions were probably to break him. And then…Satoshi would've been sent to break Bo even further.
What would break his little brother?
What if Satoshi was dead?
Or worse…what if Bolin was dead?
With that revelation, he actually did fall off of the bed.
He had to tell Lin. Right away. As soon as was physically possible. There would definitely still be police officers around during the night. He snuck a glance at the clock, which read four thirty-six a.m.
Mako usually went in at around six, but this was close enough. At least the time had a six in it, which was what he'd tell Lin. He struggled to put his pants on, almost falling down the stairs. His shirt was on backwards and he had on two different shoes, but Mako didn't care. He had to tell Lin.
Suddenly, the phone rang loudly. Mako pounced on top of it, hoping it didn't wake up Korra. "Detective Mako speaking."
Chief Beifong, who was on the other line, began speaking immediately without a hello, as was her style. "We've got a situation, kid. Triad scum's resisting arrest near the police station, at the Sato warehouses." Like usual, her voice was more clipped and harsh when she was under pressure. "Detective Sergeants Hideki and Akemi couldn't help out, they're dealing with some leftover paperwork. So you're up."
"O-okay," he stammered. "I'll be there. Chief, there's something I—" He heard the tell-tale click which informed him that Lin had hung up on him. "I'll tell you there, then," he muttered before putting on his jacket, scribbling a quick note for Korra, and leaving the house. He jumped in his beaten-up Satomobile and quickly drove to the warehouses.
A huge spectacle awaited him: five squad cars were parked haphazardly around the warehouse, and shouts echoed around the place. Mako almost jumped out of the car before it was fully parked and ran to the warehouse. He found Lin and several officers trying to hold down a squirming forty-something man.
"Dr. Toshio Zhen," grunted Lin, trying to put handcuffs on him. "You are under arrest for being a member of the Triple Threat Triads, assaulting a police officer, and various attempts of fraud. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to consult an attorney before speaking to the police and to have an attorney present during questioning now or in the future. Anything to add, Detective Mako?"
Mako was caught off guard, but still managed to answer the question. "Er…If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you before any questioning, if you wish."
Dr. Zhen looked up, and Mako felt like he'd gotten struck by lightning. He recognized him. He'd interviewed his daughter, Mai, earlier in the week. But that wasn't all…he was positive he'd seen the man prior to that.
"Hello, Detective Mako," said Dr. Zhen in a low voice. "How ya doing?"
With a jolt, Mako remembered where he'd seen Dr. Zhen before. He'd been the main doctor for the Triple Threat Triads, yes, but he'd—he'd also healed Bolin, when he and Mako had first joined the Triads. Spirits.Mako wanted to throw up.
"How's that brother of yours, kid?" Zhen asked in an infuriatingly calm tone. Mako wanted to burn his mustache off, along with the rest of his internal organs.
"Fine," he spat.
"Really?" asked Zhen in a smooth voice. "Because the last time I saw your little brother, he was bleeding out from a gunshot wound in his arm. It hit an artery, and I had to give him stitches."
Mako froze in his path, his mind crashing to a halt, only registering the crucial words. Bolin. Gunshot. Arm. Artery. Stitches. Bleeding out. He found himself shaking Zhen's shoulders as hard as he could with no memory of getting there. "Fuck you, you bastard!" he yelled, cocking his arm back so he could punch Zhen in the mouth. "Where's my brother?"
"You tell me or I swear to the Spirits that—"
"Whaddya gonna do to me, weasel-snake?" asked Zhen smoothly. "Seriously…your brother is probably dead by now. Zolt probably got sick of him and shot him to death. I would've done it a while ago."
Mako snapped and punched Dr. Zhen in the face as hard as he could. "Shut your mouth, you no good nasty son of a bitch!" he roared, almost breathing fire. "Shut up!"
He felt himself being dragged away by several officers while Lin restrained Dr. Zhen. "Where's my brother?" Mako repeated, breathing heavily.
Lin's eyes widened to the size of yuans. "GUN!" she yelled as loud as she could right before a loud bang echoed in the warehouse, and Mako collapsed to the ground, clutching his stomach before blacking out to Lin's shout of "Get me a healer!"
He slowly returned to consciousness with a groan, trying to rise from his bed, but he couldn't do anything or move anything. "Korra?" he mumbled. An annoying beeping noise echoed in the room. He figured it was his alarm clock and tried to set it off, but still couldn't move.
"Mako?" a scared voice whispered that he half-recognized. Mako opened his eyes, prepared to meet the cerulean-blue eyes of his girlfriend. Instead, his amber eyes met bright green eyes.
For a heart-stopping moment, he thought the green eyes belonged to his brother until he realized that it was his ex-girlfriend. "'Ami?" he managed to mumble in surprise, feeling like he had a mouthful of cotton.
Asami exhaled in relief. "Oh, thank the Spirits you're okay. How do you feel?"
"Like shit," he croaked. "I—Asami, w-what hap-happened?"
"You were shot in the chest, Mako," Asami said gently. As Mako's vision slowly improved, he noticed Midori and Korra sleeping on the floor. Asami was sitting on his bed. "The bullet nicked a lung, but didn't hit anything major. You've been out for almost two days."
Suddenly, everything came crashing back. The warehouse. The gunshots. Dr. Zhen. His epiphany. Spirits. "'Sami," he said, trying to sit up. "I know where Bo is."
Four thousand volts of electricity couldn't have brought Asami to her feet faster. "Where?" she almost shouted, her heart beating out of rhythm.
"Well, er, I don't know exactly where. But I do know where Satoshi Daichi is and why they took him."
Asami's jaw dropped to the ground. "What makes you think I give a flying flip about Satoshi Daichi, Mako? Where's Bolin?!"
"That guy that we were trying to arrest last night, Asami?" Mako instead asked, and continued without waiting for a response. "He's a Triad member, and he healed Bolin when we were little kids. Apparently, the Triads hired him to treat Bolin's gunshot wound."
Asami's hands flew to her mouth. Tears pricked her eyes and she let them fall down her face without abandon. "Oh, Spirits…oh, Bo," she groaned. "Oh, Bolin…Spirits, what did you get yourself into?"
"That's not all, Asami. Dr. Zhen—that's the guy—he mentioned Lightning Bolt Zolt had Bolin. And that Dr. Zhen would've shot Bolin a long time ago if given the chance." Tears trickled down Mako's face. "I wanted to rip the guy a new one."
Asami choked out a laugh through her tears. "I'm glad you're alright, Mako…hang on. Korra!" she shook his girlfriend awake. "Korra, wake up, he's awake."
Korra shot up and almost tripped in her haste to get to Mako. "Mako! Oh, Spirits, babe, you alright? Oh, no, of course not, but…oh, Spirits, I'm so glad you're awake," she rambled. "Honey, I love you so much…"
"Love you too," he said, kissing her on the cheek. Midori, who had also just awoken, stumbled over to her surrogate sister and smiled at Mako. "Guys, look, I have to tell you something about Bo…" He proceeded to tell them every bit of his epiphany from last night, Dr. Zhen, and the connection between Satoshi Daichi and Bolin.
Korra swore once he'd finished. "Shit," she muttered under her breath. "He was shot?"
"Oh my Spirits," Midori mumbled, clutching Asami. "Spirits…I hope he's okay…at least somewhat."
Mako stared at the sixteen-year-old curly-haired teenager, who hung onto Asami. "I hope so too," he finally whispered, wishing more than anything to be correct.
One day until he was due to be released from the hospital, one of the nurses knocked on the door. "Detective Mako?" she asked in a lilting tone.
He cleared his throat. "Y-yeah?"
"There's someone here to see you, it's a young man."
Mako tried to think of any young men that he knew and could only think of Satoshi Daichi's brother, Hikaru. But Hikaru had already seen Mako in the hospital: he'd come yesterday bringing some flowers and a large bag of sizzle-crisps. Had he come again or something? "Um, send him in, please," he asked the nurse politely. She nodded and returned with a young man around his age that Mako had never laid eyes on before in his life.
"I'll leave you two be," she said with a nod before leaving.
Mako stared at the stranger, taking in his overall appearance. He wore beige pants that were torn at one knee, a black shirt, and combat boots. His eyes were amber, indicating he was a firebender, but his hair was very light, almost colorless. His fingers, which were stained with soot, twisted at the hem of his shirt. "Do I know you?" Mako asked, unsure of what to say.
"You're Detective Mako, right?" asked the amber-eyed stranger.
The stranger pressed on. "Bolin's brother?"
Mako nearly fainted. His fists clenched at the bedspread and he fought to keep his composure. "Who are you?" Mako inquired instead, in a voice that trembled badly.
"My name is Liao. I'm one of the Recruits of the Kasai Mage Makumei." Mako wrinkled his nose in misunderstanding. At Mako's look of confusion, the guy—Liao—continued. "We prefer to call ourselves the Agni Kais."
Liao's last sentence echoed in Mako's head like a bullet in a metal box. Agni Kai, Agni Kai, Agni Kai echoed in his mind along to the staccato of he's a spy, he knows Bo, he could know who shot him… Oh, Spirits. Damn, damn, damn! With unnerving strength, Mako flung himself out of bed and tackled a surprised Liao into the wall with a loud thud that would probably bring every nurse in the hospital running. Mako's hands fumbled at Liao's hands, pinning him effectively to the wall with every ounce of strength he had. "You son of a bitch!" he yelled. "What, you think that just because you're an Agni Kai that you can come in here and—"
"Shut up, they might hear you," Liao hissed, and Mako cracked up.
"I don't give a shit, you smug bastard, now you tell me where my brother is or else I swear that your blood will decorate the walls of this room!"
"You and what army?" He coughed, his face turning puce as Mako's hands now gripped his throat. "Let—go—of—me…" Liao choked.
"Give me one good reason why I should!" growled Mako.
"I—can t-tell you where your brother is-s…" Mako released Liao, who fell to the ground, coughing, spluttering and clutching his throat. Liao took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Damnit, kid, what's your problem?" the Agni Kai spat.
"What's my problem? What's my problem? Oh, I don't know. My brother's being held captive by sadistic gangbangers with anger management issues and I was just shot in the chest by some Triad scum doctor, which caused me to remain in a coma for almost two days. Forgive me if I'm a little tense!"
"I didn't pose any threat to you at all! I walked in here and just told you who I was—"
"You might as well have put a fucking gun to my head with your finger on the trigger!"
"You think I have a death wish, kid? Everyone and their mother knows that the Avatar is practically your fiancée—no one is stupid enough to mess with you unless they want Avatar Korra to come after them!"
"Will you stop calling me kid?" Mako snapped, already pissed off beyond belief at this prick and the fact that Mako was yelling at some Agni Kai Recruit while wearing a fucking hospital gown. "How old are you, anyway?"
"I'm twenty-eight," Liao said in exasperation. "I know you're twenty-three, so I think I'm well within rights to call you kid, kid. Besides, if I called you Mako I think you'd take it as a threat and kill me."
Mako didn't bother arguing with that—after all, Liao was right. "Fine," he spat. "But why would an Agni Kai recruit want to come here? Especially if—if you have my brother held captive."
There was an uncomfortable silence in the hospital room. Feeling awkward, Mako sat down on the bed. Liao took a deep breath. "Because…I want to help you."