After a few moments Sarah’s voice responded to my request.“Her people insure me Miss Azure will be in touch with you shortly. I assume you are looking for a place to hide?”
I spun the wheel directing the car down a side street and pulling over on the side of the road after a quick check to make sure we were alone. “I am and I think I shook any direct tails but these people won’t give up that easily. I popped the hood of my car. “I am disabling the location tracking software in the car. Until this is resolved use the secure communications protocol I gave you.”
“Verifying new orders. Limiting communications to vital functions and disabling all GPS devices in use. Going silent, I will contact you when I have something.” Sarah’s voice went dead leaving me with only the background hum of LA traffic.
I slid back into the driver’s seat. Taking Asiru on an impromptu tour of the less impressive parts of Los Angeles. “Hold tight, I think we are clear of any tails.”
Asiru was starting to relax after the fight in her apartment and stared out the window, like she was expecting the next wave of attackers any minute. Her voice was soft and distant. “I am sorry I do not. I am aware of my father’s past in Tokyo, and he gave me a way to escape if it ever caught up with us. There were too many of them, and they came too quickly. I barely got to the cloaking device before they smashed down the door.” Asiru appeared lost in thought for a moment then went digging into her bag pulling out a small tablet. “I may have something of use though, a data stream with a long range connection that is not attached to either of our names.”
“Do I want to ask why you have illegal computer equipment so close to hand?” I made my way across LA in the general direction of Cherry in the hopes she would have a little help for me.
“You could ask that. However it might interest you more to know the men in the building set it on fire then vanished into a black van just before the police arrived. No casualties however a Lieutenant Bruno is furious.”
Torching the place was a sloppy way to cover your tracks. It kept the law from knowing exactly what you were looking for. The downside was an entire building going up in flames made them really determined to find you so you could explain yourself to them. “Bruno was born angry. You have anything else?”
“A few contacts in Japan that watch criminal activity. No names here however a few high ups are offended by how badly the attempt to acquire my father has gone. They do not seem to have your name, at least not yet.”
“These being the kind of people that offending tends to be fatal.”
“So I have heard.” Asiru went silent again, alternating between prodding through her small tablet and staring out the window. I had managed to put what I thought was a safe distance between the car and the burning apartment when a text only message flipped up on the cars communicator. ‘Back door, 15 minutes…CA’
I pulled a hard right tearing through a back alley on my way the the back door of the Century Club. I knew this part out town was probably well monitored enough to be safe. I still kept cycling through detection methods on my left eye, scanning the side of the road for ambushes until the car slid quietly into the back of the century club. I told Asiru to stay in the car as I went out to meet with the locals. Waiting for me with an amused look on her face was Cherry Azure. Her blond hair falling down over a short black dress as she spoke softly to a tall drink of water with a bored look on his face, Tim I think. Cherry put a hand on his shoulder as he started to walk forward to meet me. “No need this one is not going to try to shoot me, are you Sam?” Cherry sauntered over giving me her most innocent smile as if I didn’t know better. “So what trouble brings you to my back door this time?”
“Had to rescue a girl from a few Japanese thugs. Not professionals by how easy they went down. Although that probably just means the real ones have not arrived yet.” I returned the insincere look of innocence with a wry grin. “And to cut a long story short I could use a place to hide her. I just made it here a couple steps ahead of some very angry people, among them one Lieutenant Bruno.”
“You two must really learn to play nice one of these days. I rather like the Lieutenant all things considered and would hate to attend one of your funerals…or both.” Cherry peered into the front of my car. “That’s a cute one, I hope she is not stealing your eyes away from me.”
“Just a client Cherry. Or the daughter of one more specifically.”
“Is she? Well that explains a few things.” Cherry thoughtfully tilted her head. “The rumor mill tells me that several guns for hire have been on the move today, almost all Japanese. I even had a few trying to investigate around my club. They were…encouraged to look elsewhere.” Cherry paused a moment to think. “I can keep your girl safe for a while. The people on the hunt are well funded though and don’t strike me as the type to give up easily. I hope you know what you are doing.”
“So do I.” I went around to the car and fetched Asiru introducing her to Cherry. “This is the safest place I can give you in LA. Do as she says and sit tight. I am going to go back to the office and see if I can lay a few false leads for our friends.”
Asiru looked up at me. “I hate this plan and my father has a lot of explaining to do.” She paused for just a moment. “Try to keep him alive, and thank you.”
“All in a day’s work.” I tipped my hat at the ladies then slipped back into the Fairlane speeding back to the office before I was missed.
Sarah shimmered into view the second I cleared the door. “Time to resume communications detective?”
“Yes, has anyone been by looking for me?” I flopped in my chair perusing the news reports of this afternoon’s shootout Sarah had sorted out for me.
“No one at the office. Although one Haruki Kimura has made an appointment to see you in half an hour. Also police lieutenant Bruno sent a message that he wanted to talk to you, and not to leave the office.”
“What do you have on Mister Kimura?”
Sarah moved to one of her favorite spots at the edge of my desk. “Suspected of a long line of criminal activities in Tokyo, never convicted. Should we keep the appointment?”
I considered this carefully. “We might as well. If he was going to come in shooting he wouldn’t have left his name. Let’s see if we can find out what Toshiro got himself into. Save the office recording to a remote location just in case. And stay out of sight when he arrives, no need to give any information he doesn’t already have.”
“Of course detective, all systems are ready.” Sarah slid off my desk and then faded from view.
The front door opened and Haruki Kimura entered at exactly one minute before his appointment. I rose to look down at a Japanese man standing just inside the entrance, waiting with his hands calmly folded in front of him. His obviously tailored black suit and small bowler were immaculate and my infrared picked up complete metallic replacements of each arm and part of the shoulder. I made a mental note to avoid a fistfight. This guy must hit like a truck full of bricks.
“Mister Kimura I presume, do come in.” The man silently walked into my office stopping right in front of me. I didn’t bother to offer him a seat or go to my desk. It wasn’t going to be that kind of meeting. “What can I do for you today?”
Haruki Kimura’s eyes were dark and hard. He took a moment to size me up, then stared straight into my eyes. “I am told you find missing things, among other pursuits.”
I nodded briefly. “Correct.”
“I am looking for an old friend that I have reason to believe has entered the City of Los Angeles recently, or possibly will be coming in under a false name. My information leads me to believe you knew him long ago, making you the perfect person to search for him.” This Kimura was careful. He either knew he was being recorded or strongly suspected. “Will you do me the courtesy of dropping any pretense of not knowing who I am talking about?”
I paused for a moment. “If that is the way you want it. I have no idea where Toshiro is and if I did I wouldn’t tell someone was going to harm him.”
“I suspected that would be your answer. There is another matter. Earlier today several private contractors completely failed to accomplish what they were hired for.”
I looked back at him eyes unblinking. “I am sure they will not enjoy your employers views on failure.”
“True. That is not my concern however. Before leaving Los Angeles for.” He paused. “Other opportunities they commented that a man with a metal hand and one glowing eye was seen in the area. I admit to being conflicted about this. I must complete the task I came here to do, but have no need to involve any young women. Targeting children is not how men should do business, don’t you agree?”
“I completely agree. I may have a client that would be interested in that information. If you are giving your word that if you find your old friend the hunt stops there.”
“I am and of course anyone providing information would receive a significant financial reward. Although if what I have heard about you is true this will not motivate, so I give you one warning. I will get what I came for. Possibly, your actions in this matter may keep several other people safe. There are others involved who do not share my sense of restraint.” Haruki Kimura barely moved as he spoke.
“I will take it under advisement.”
The impromptu stare down was interrupted by the over six feet of police Lieutenant Anton Bruno bursting through the door followed my the echoing mechanical footsteps of a pair of BULS units in tow. Haruki turned to face him as he paused for a moment. “I heard you were in town, if you are roughing up Sloan I can come back.”
“Unnecessary officer, I believe my business here is concluded and I have overstayed my welcome.” Haruki turned to me and bowed. “I have left contact information if you wish to make a deal.”
I returned the bow. “An honor to meet a man of your renown Mister Kimura.” No reason to insult what was likely a hired killer, not without a really good reason anyways.
“You clearly have other clients to deal with, I can show myself out.” Haruki turned and strode out the door without another word.
I returned to my chair kicking my legs up on the desk. Irritating the good Lieutenant was another matter entirely. “What brings you to my door Bruno?”
Bruno moved forward knocking my legs right off the desk with a hard backhand. “You know perfectly well why I am here. Why were you involved in a shootout at a high end apartment building today? And where is Asiru Ishamoto?”
I sat up in my chair. “I don’t know where she is.” Technically true. I wasn’t quite sure where Cherry stashed her. “I might be able to give you a couple hints though, quietly. You arrest me I call for a lawyer and say nothing.”
Bruno turned to the BULS. “You two outside and no one comes in till I say so.”
The lights in the machines eyes blinked. “Orders confirmed, Lieutenant.” Bruno sat in the clients chair as the metal footsteps echoes off into the hallway.
“Ok I’ll do this your way for now. What do you have?”
I turned to the empty space. “Sarah suspend recording.” Sarah appeared leaning on the wall at the far side of the office. “Taken care of detective.”
Spinning in my chair I leaned over the desk facing Bruno. “The man who just left is looking for Toshiro Ishamoto, I don’t know why but it is almost certain they are going to kill him if they find him. A different group of goons went after his daughter, presumably to force him to reveal himself. They failed to acquire her and she is on the run and hiding.”
“Let me guess. Eight bruisers all Japanese and very recently found beaten, executed, and publicly dumped as a warning to others.” Bruno slid a small device out of his pocket and sent me the morgue photos of at eight men, the ones I had fought my way through on the way up to get Asiru.
“I think you have it. Since we are being civilized one free warning. My source was sure that they have a man in your department.”
“Yeah. If you repeat this ever I will run you in so many times you will think you live at LAPD headquarters, but I think you might be right. Did he give you anything else?”
“No he doesn’t know who the man is. Despite everything I wouldn’t keep that from you.”
“We’ll do this your way for now.” Bruno stood slowly and adjusted his suit. “If I this becomes a giant mess I have to clean up, I’ll be back with so many BULS the bruises will take months to heal.”
“Glad to see you haven’t lost your edge Lieutenant.” I stood as Bruno walked out then turned to Sarah. “How many people do we have staking out the place at the moment.”
“Three obvious groups of police officers and two Japanese gentlemen that are trying very hard not to be watching the building. There may of course be less obvious scouts beyond them.” Sarah walked across the room her hands moving as she searched for information. “Local map uploading. There seems to be a hole in the police coverage.”
“Probably with the actual tail right behind it. I need to find a way out of here without bringing the circus.” I scanned the map, looking for a way out of here that didn’t involve bringing several criminals and the LAPD with me.
“And soon I suspect, I got an anonymous message asking you to head to ‘the old place in an hour, T’”
“Perfect timing as always. And I think I have an idea.” I slid my hat on and turned to the window.