Mikado collapsed onto his bed. Last night, aw man. He just wanted to empty out his mind.
“It’s much worse than what I predicted,” the tadpole said to himself. His phone rang. Mikado looked up. Probably should’ve put that on silence. He frowned as he pulled the phone to his ear.
“Hello?” Mikado mumbled.
“Rise and shine, Mikado!” a raspy Russian voice shouted over the other line. The tadpole narrowed his eyes.
“I’m already up, Zoryn,” he muttered. “What do you want?”
“Good, good, good. Did you get it done?” the old man asked.
“Yeah, yeah,” Mikado mumbled.
“Excellent,” Zoryn said. “Meet me downstairs for breakfast.” The tadpole narrowed his eyes.
“How did you find my hotel?” he asked.
“See you in ten,” the old Russian man said. He hung before Mikado had a chance to speak. The tadpole frowned.
“Creepy old man,” he muttered to himself. Well, duty called. Mikado sat up. He would’ve said no but he needed to get into that bookstore. Might as well try to this over with.
“If all goes well, I will never have to see that asshole ever again,” Mikado said to himself. The tadpole freshened himself up and left the room.
The café was virtually empty. Only the young man at the desk looked half-asleep. Mikado’s cigarette hung out of his mouth.
“Excuse me, sir,” the young man said. “You can’t smoke in here.” Mikado gave him a stoic look before taking the cigarette out of his mouth. The morning clerk blushed and slapped himself in the cheeks.
“Good morning to you too,” Mikado said under his breath. He walked into the café. He looked through all of the empty tables.
“Mikado!” he heard near the bar. The Japanese man turned his head to the left. Zoryn saw at the bar with a full plate of sausage, cherry marmalade on rye bread, black farm smoked ham and gouda cheese with black coffee.
“So good to see you,” he said. “Come, take a seat.” Mikado walked up to the bar with an odd look on his face.
“Are you sure you can have all of that?” he asked. Zoryn grinned with a false set of teeth.
“It’s fine,” he said. “I don’t wear these to eat for nothing.”
“And what about your health problems?” Mikado asked.
“I am going to be fine,” the Russian man, waved him off. “We’re all dying off anyway. Maybe not you, but everyone else is. The Motherland is rotting away and you’ve lost your home too.” He held up a piece of ham on his fork.
“Have some?” he asked.
“Nah, I’m good,” Mikado said. Zoryn drew back his fork.
“Oh, that’s right. You tadpoles don’t eat much, do you?” he asked. Mikado narrowed his eyes at him. A barista walked over to the men.
“What can I get for you, sir?” she asked.
“Black coffee, please,” Mikado said in a low voice.
“Coming up,” she said. The barista turned and got back to work. Zoryn bit into his sausage. The tadpole frowned.
“Okay, out with it,” he said. The old Russian man held up his hand.
Let me finish eating first, Zoryn said in his head. Mikado needed a cigarette right now. Meanwhile, the Russian man smiled as he ate.
Lisette waited outside of a seemingly abandoned building. She held her black coat held around her curved body. She pulled out her phone. 11:28 p.m. Did he always have to be late? A taxi pulled up to the curb. Her heart did little flips in her chest as the door opened. Mikado stepped out of the cab. Lisette put her hands on her hips.
“You’re late,” she said. Mikado bowed his head.
“I apologize,” he said. Lisette rushed forward and embraced him.
“Whoa!” he shouted. His lover giggled.
“Give me a good night,” she whispered loudly in his ear. Mikado gave himself a sad little smile. He might as well. She didn’t have much time anyway. Lisette took him by the hands and led him down the metal stairs. From outside, Mikado could hear the pounding music. Lisette glanced over her shoulder at him.
“What is it?” Mikado asked. She gave him a little pout.
“You don’t really pay me any attention,” she said. He looked baffled.
“What do you mean?” Mikado asked. She whirled around on the stair.
“When I reach out to you, you pull away,” the woman complained. “You always seem so far away when we are together.” Lisette put her arms around Mikado’s neck.
“Why won’t you ever let me in?” she asked. Mikado had no emotion on his face.
“That’s because I can’t,” he said. The tadpole slipped from her grasp and walked further down the stairs.
Zoryn finished his plate.
“Ah, that was good,” he said. Mikado frowned over his coffee.
“Okay, out with it,” he said. “What do you want me to do now?”
“Shhh,” Zoryn said. “Just let me enjoy the moment.” Mikado stood up to get up and leave.
“Wait!” the old man shouted. The tadpole waved him off.
“Okay, fine! I will tell you!” Zoryn said. Mikado stopped and looked over his shoulder. The old Russian man held out his hands.
“Come on, come back,” he said. The Japanese man rolled his eyes and walked back. Zoryn flashed a huge grin.
“Good,” he said. “Here’s what you need to do for the second part of the spell.” Mikado narrowed his eyes as he listened.
Lisette looked hurt. It was easy to understand why. It had to be this way in Mikado’s eyes. He couldn’t focus on that right now.
“Lisette, I need to see your leader,” Mikado said before they made it to the heavy steel doors. He had to take a step back when white smoke hit his face.
“Aw crap,” he said, covering his mouth with his sleeve. “Smoke machines again?” Lisette clung to him as she tried to laugh. Mikado sighed and continued down the stairs. Of course she had to follow behind.
They shouldn’t have gotten this close.
“Let’s spend Christmas together,” Lisette said as she was getting dressed. Mikado didn’t respond. He had his back to her. Here it comes again. Another woman trying to get close again. Lisette stood in front of him at the bed.
“You look so sad,” she said. Mikado glanced up at her.
“Hm?” he asked. Lisette caressed his cheek.
“Talk to me,” she said. Mikado looked away.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” he said. His one-night wife frowned.
“Why are so cold?” she asked. Mikado turned his back. She wouldn’t understand. It was better to keep her out like this.
The couple walked to the bar. Mikado lit up another cigarette. Lisette leaned against him. He tried to ignore her perfume. The pounding music made his head hurt and his ears ring. Lisette started rubbing his shoulders.
“Thanks,” he whispered. A barmaid in a black leather catsuit walked up to them.
“What can I get you tonight?” she asked. Mikado sat up straight on his stool.
“Is Shasha working tonight?” he asked. Lisette froze. The barmaid lowered her eyes. She mumbled something underneath the pounding music. But Mikado still heard her. He rose to his feet and followed behind. Lisette had to follow him too.
“Stay back,” Mikado told her. She clenched her fist to her chest.
“No!” Lisette shouted. “These are my people. I have a right to know what you are going to pass on to them!” Mikado sighed.
“Whatever,” he muttered. They followed the barmaid down the metal stairs.
Mikado looked at the envelope in his hand. Zoryn slid it across to him. He made his made to a cheap motel in downtown Berlin. Why was he already going to regret this?
“Just go up to Room 118,” the old Russian man said. “I will text you the rest of the directions.” Mikado straightened up his coat.
“All I have to do is get this over with,” he said to himself. “If it all goes right, I will have fixed everything and I will never have to meet that bastard ever.” Mikado took a breath and knocked on the door.
“Who’s there?” a muzzled voice asked inside.
“Is this Eber-san?” Mikado asked.
“Who’s asking?” the voice asked.
“I have a message for you,” the tadpole man said. There was a pause.
“Go away!” the voice in the room said.
“But this is important,” Mikado said.
“I don’t care! Go away!”
Mikado sighed. It would be stating obvious of this not working. Mikado puffed up his cheeks. He pulled out his phone.
“He won’t let me in,” the tadpole typed. He hit send. Mikado stared at the door. It didn’t take long for him to get a reply.
“Tell him Sofie sent you,” Zoryn wrote back. The tadpole rolled his eyes before knocking on the door again.
“What do you want?!” the voice asked in the room.
“Uh… Sofie sent me?” Mikado said. There was another pause. Suddenly, the door opened. A pale man with short red hair peeked out. He narrowed his eyes.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“Are you Eber-san?” the tadpole asked. The man looked at him at first.
“Yes, why?” he asked. Mikado handed him the brown envelope.
“What is this?” Eber asked.
“Open it,” the tadpole said. The pale man opened his envelope. He slowly pushes up a brown piece of paper. Mikado waited as he read the information. Eber looked up, trembling.
“Who are you?” he asked. “Sofie did not send you!”
“No,” Mikado said. “Zoryn told me to tell you to get you to open the door.” Eber looked up at him with big eyes.
“Get out of here now,” he said in a trembling voice.
“But…” the tadpole said. Eber pushed him back against the wall.
“Get out!” he barked. “And don’t ever show your face around here again!” The door slammed shut down. Mikado looked down when he felt a sharp tingling on the back of his hand. A new line of curly marks appeared under the first one from last night. The tadpole smiled to himself.
“Heh,” he said. “Looks like he did help after all.”
Mikado and Lisette followed the barmaid down a narrow, dark hall. His lover clung to his arm. He didn’t pay any mind to her. Instead, Mikado focused on the barmaid in front of him.
I knew we shouldn’t have let him in.
“I didn’t want this either,” Mikado said to her. The barmaid looked up.
“Look,” he said. “I didn’t want any part of your little movement. I just… I have my own mission to worry with.” Mikado prayed they didn’t ask any questions. Explaining out loud sounded more than absurd. Frankly, he didn’t have the energy or time. The barmaid had an uncomfortable look on her face.
The trio came up to a large steel door. The barmaid took a breath and knocked on the door.
“Come in,” a woman’s raspy voice said. The barmaid opened the door and went back upstairs. Mikado poked his head inside.
“Hello?” he asked. His ears caught a low hissing noise. A woman sat on a couch against the back wall, smoking a cigarette. He could see her eyes glowing in the dark.
“You should not have come here,” she growled. The gold coins on her dress jingled with her movements. Lisette squeezed Mikado on his arm.
“Look, I just wanted to see you for a moment,” he said. The woman on the couch sneered.
“Why?” she asked.
“I am looking for something really important in this city,” Mikado reasoned with her. Lisette looked up at him. The woman on the couch frowned.
“And why should I help you?” she asked.
“You are all in danger,” Mikado said. “The pandemic is coming.” The women looked confused.
“What are you talking about?” the woman on the couch asked.
“I don’t have time to explain,” he said. “Just give me what I want.” The woman on the couch flicked out her cigarette.
“No,” she said. Mikado tried to stay calm.
“I don’t think you understand the gravity of the situation,” he said.
“I don’t care,” she hissed. Mikado turned to Lisette.
“Could you please step out for a moment, Lisette-chan?” he asked. “We need to talk in private.” His lover let go of his arm and walked out of the room. He didn’t move until the door was closed.
“You really are in danger,” Mikado said in a low voice. “The plague is coming for this city in two days. None of you will survive.” The woman eyed him with a cold look.
“And what does it matter to me?” she asked.
“Don’t you care about your life?” Mikado asked. The woman shrugged.
“We’re all dying anyway,” she said. “Why should it matter?” Mikado muttered something under his breath.
“Hm?” the woman in gold asked. The tadpole looked up with a stern look in his eyes.
“It matters to me,” he said. The woman clicked her tongue.
“You are starting to annoy me,” she said. Her dainty feet touched the ground as she stood up. The smoke followed her movements. Her long gold earrings moved back and forth. Mikado got a better look at her face in the red lamp light. She looked to be about in her forties. The wrinkles made her face look even older. Her amber eyes made him shiver.
“Now you listen here!” she snapped, waving her cigarette around in the air. “You do not come in here and stirring up fear! We are trying to overturn this corrupt government! We can’t afford to unravel everything!”
“But I am not trying to stop you or anything,” Mikado said. “I don’t want to be part of this rebellion.”
“I don’t care,” the woman in gold said. She pushed against him on his right hand. Hard enough to make him stumble back.
“You being here puts us all in danger!” she shouted.
“Why is that?” Mikado asked. The woman threw a mug of beer at him.
“Get out!” she shouted. “Get out of here now!” The tadpole put up his hands.
“Okay, okay,” Mikado said. He backed up to the door. He opened it and stepped out of the room. Lisette stood in the dark hallway staring at him.
“And don’t come back!” the woman yelled from the room. She slammed the door shut.
“It didn’t go so well, did it?” Lisette asked. Mikado was about to speak when he felt a tingling burn on the back of his hand.
“Mikado?” she asked. Mikado looked at the back of his right hand. Strange markings appeared on the skin. Each one looked like a curling dark brown spiral. Eight from his thumb to his pinky. A confused look came onto his face.
“Huh? What is this?” he asked. Lisette looked with him.
“Looks kind of cool to me,” she said. Suddenly, his phone rang.
“Excuse me,” Mikado said. He pulled out his phone.
“Hello?” the tadpole asked.
“Mikado!” Zoryn said on the other line. “So good to hear from you again!” Mikado frowned.
“What do you want?” he asked. “What is this on my hand?”
“Oh good, you got the codes,” the Russian man said.
“Codes? You mean…?” Mikado began to ask.
“You’re welcome,” Zoryn said. “Two more to go. I will see you in the morning. Goodbye.” He hung up before Mikado could say another word. The tadpole gritted his teeth.
“What was that about?” Lisette asked. The Japanese man shook his head.
“Something stupid and pointless,” he muttered. “Don’t worry about it.” Right then, Mikado saw the worried look on his lover’s face.
“What is it?” he asked. Lisette looked down at her hands.
“Well…” she said in a small voice. “I was told to give you this while you were in the room with Shasha.” His lover handed him a dark red envelope. Mikado took it and opened it. Inside was a single folded up sheet of paper. When he read it, the color drained from his face. Mikado wandered down the hall, muttering to himself.
“Baby?” Lisette asked. She noticed that he dropped the piece of paper from his hand. His lover picked it up and read it for herself. A puzzled look came over her face.
“Huh?” she asked. “What is this?” Only a string of numbers was written in the middle of the page. 6287121896.