Sunday, November 22, 2015

Blossom and Cherry Part 5

I threw my clothes on in almost record time. Settling my hat in place as I walked out the door and almost right into the gaunt form of Timothy. “Where is Cherry? Did her safe house get hit?”

Timothy glanced down at me with a look in his eyes that said he would toss me out the door and lock it if he was allowed. “As you are aware Miss Azure does not appear at the scene of any crime. However she has instructed me to investigate and bring you along for the trip. The car is this way.”

I decided to not aggravate him for the moment. Timothy was a good guy for an enforcer if stiff as a board and lacking in anything resembling humor. Since I had just spent the night with his boss I wasn’t feeling the moral high ground to judge his choice of employment. We made our way to a sleek black racer with tinted windows. I normally like to drive, however there was a good chance the law was already at the scene if shots had been fired and no way Bruno wouldn’t pick out my Fairlane if I even did a drive by. As predicted the place was surrounded with a ring of BULS. Timothy made a slow circle at a safe distance. A few button presses on the dash popped out a long range microphone and we listened in silence. Two men dead in a shootout three wounded. No mention of a young woman. Asiru Ishamoto was probably alive. They would want her for leverage on Toshiro and that would buy me a little time. I focused the camera in my eye on the scene catching what pictures I could before we headed back to the Century Club.

I had just made it back to my car to plan my next move when a message from Sarah pinged on my dashboard. “Detective, We are getting a scrambled phone call for Toshiro Ishamoto. They seem quite determined that he is here.”

“Put them through.” I dropped my hat my hat in the passenger seat and took a moment to clear my head. Unless I missed my guess this would be the ransom call.

“I have Asiru Ishamoto. If her father would like her returned he will be at that following address immediately. “ The voice sounded British, although I was almost sure I was talking to Hakiru using a next generation voice disguiser. Voice scramblers have been around for ages but the current generation records your voice, transfers your voice to text then the text into a synthetic voice, leaving no trace for even the best signal analysis expert.

“This is Samuel Sloan. Toshiro Ishamoto is not here. Even getting a message to him would take days your lot has driven him far underground.”

“I suspect you have a way to get a message out faster than that. If you cannot it will be very unfortunate for the daughter.”

“I don’t know why you are threatening me. I have seen Toshiro exactly once in the last five years and I already have been paid for this job. I was supposed to get the girl out. What happens to her after is not my problem.” Toshiro would go in guns blazing to get her back of course, and so would I when it came right down to it. I figured Kimura was too clever to be convinced his ace in the hole was a knave. Nothing lost trying though.

The British voice did not seem impressed. “I have difficulty believing a man who fought through six people to rescue a girl is quite so heartless a mercenary. Although I do believe Toshiro is not with you at this moment. I will wait for him at the north docks. At seven tonight I will be forced to do something unfortunate to his daughter. I am sure I do not need to tell you we will have the area watched and any sight of the police will result in the young lady’s death.”

“I will do as you ask, but not lead my friend into a death trap. If I see any snipers or it even looks like an ambush I am pulling out and letting the police handle it.”

“You are a clever man Mister Sloan. It is agreed. Do not be late.” The transmission cut off.

“I am guessing we didn’t get a trace on that Sarah?”

“Initial information would indicate somewhere in England. I suspect that is not accurate.”

“Nice touch to match the signal to the accent though.” I started up the Fairlane with no idea where to go. After these last couple days I needed to drive. Perhaps Sarah sensed it since she passed on telling me to use the auto drive this time. “Sarah send out the message marked TI in my database. Hopefully I can at least get hold of the man before Kimura’s deadline.”

“Sending now detective, any other instructions?”

I stepped on the accelerator hard speeding down the Los angeles freeway. “Now we wait. Give me an hour to make sure I am not being tailed then spoof the car’s location. I am sure the police and our new Japanese friends wouldn’t mind getting what they want by ambushing us before the meet.”

“I agree detective. Do be careful.” Sarah’s voice faded from the car.

The next hour was long as I drove in and out of the back roads of downtown LA. Unless they had satellite coverage no one was watching me and I seriously doubted I rated high enough in anyone’s book for that. I spun into the back of the biggest dive in downtown I could come up with on short notice and found Toshiro Ishamoto waiting for me in the back room.

“I see you got my message.” I quietly sat next to him trying to find a way to avoid breaking the news.

“Indeed. I am assuming that your case is not going well.” Toshiro had a unreadable look on his face. I was almost sure he has already guessed what I was going to tell him.

“Kimura has her. He has offered to trade her for you but I do not trust it for a second.”

“You mean that since they have already committed a kidnapping the easiest course for them would be to kill all of us and dump the bodies into the sea?” I was always impressed how calmly Toshiro could discuss the most horrible events, such as a mass murder involving the two of us and his daughter. “And if we do not show what do you think Kimura will do?”

“He’ll kill Asiru and dump her someplace public to make sure you know about it, then move on to another strategy. Not carrying out his threat would make him look weak.” I watched Toshiro closely trying to figure what he had planned.

“I am glad to see my lessons were not wasted on you. So here is what we are going to do. I am going to show up as requested and you are going to find a way to sneak in and rescue Asiru. I can take care of myself if I do not have to worry about her.”

“This is a terrible plan. Not the worst I have ever heard but it makes the list.”

“Perhaps, but I must see this through. Will you be there?”

“I will.” I adjusted my hat as I rose to my feet. “I still have a few hours so I am going to see if I can come up with a surprise or two.”

“I have heard Kimura enjoys surprises. You should do just that.”

“See you there.” I went back to the Fairlane and took my time driving to a small storage locker owned by one Robert Engle. Robert does not actually exist which is perfect for storing equipment I would not want Bruno or any other law enforcement types to ever know about. Kimura would have all the obvious points guarded but perhaps he would not see this coming. I spent the next hour planting a few devices in places Sarah was kind enough to suggest, then hid as close as I dared to the scene of the crime to be.

“Sarah I am going offline until it is time. We are playing this Toshiro’s way for now. If shooting starts call Bruno and tell him to get down here fast.”

“Given this plan I suspect the correct phrase would be when shooting starts.”

“Most likely correct. Signing off.”

It was a few hours and a long LA sunset before the goons started to trickle in. Big black vans with who knows how many inside and one car behind the pack that should contain Kimura and probably Asiru, unless Kimura was being clever and showing us what we expected to see.

Toshiro stepped out from behind a crate half an hour early carrying a rocket launcher on his shoulder and shouting. “The first person who does something I do not like is going to explode violently.” I take back my earlier statement, this may be the worst plan ever. “Now confirm you have my daughter unless you would just like to shoot this out now.”

Two goons came out of one of the vans with Asiru Ishamoto between them guns pointed at Toshiro. Kimura was out of sight for the moment. I wouldn’t stand in front of that launcher if I could avoid it either. “Lower the weapon Ishamoto.”

Toshiro dropped the launcher down just a little. “Let her come away, then I will come with you.”

Goon number one nodded and gave her a shove. She took a few steps forward eyes scanning left and right in a panic for a way out of this. On the fifth step I hit the button in my pocket. Explosions went off around the docks. Most were just a distraction but a few well placed charges took out the lights on the docks, plunging the entire area suddenly into near darkness. Asiru vanished from sight and ran for it, her chameleon field and the sudden change in light rendering her almost invisible as I laid down a line of fire at her escort to give them something to think about besides giving chase. One hid behind a van as the other went down with two bullets in his chest. Toshiro took the cue that the party had started and emptied his weapon at the nearest car, returning light to the docks as the van flew up in the air in a fiery explosion.

Asiru arrived next to my position and I pulled her out of sight as I heard the sound of vans opening and weapons being readied. Sarah’s voice came clear in my ear. “I was going to call the police, but you seem to have attracted their attention on your own. They will be arriving shortly. I have also just got a message from Toshiro Ishamoto. ‘Get her out, I will by you time’.Also I am trying to get sight on you but the camera feeds in your area have been cut off.”

“Perfect, running blind out here we might just walk into a pile of bullets.” I heard the sound of an automatic in the distance. Then several more shots responded. The lights came back on far too soon and I was pinned down trying to find a way out. “The cameras have been cut locally” I turned to Asiru. “We are blind.”

Asiru pulled a small device out of her pocket scanning for a signal. “I think I can get the signal but not watch twenty cameras at once.”

“Do it and send the signals to me.”

“If you want. You cannot watch that many camera’s at once either. Sending…”

“Sarah are you getting this?”

“Yes detective analyzing information. I assume you wish to know where the gunmen are?”

“Yes and soon.” I took one man out as he came around the corner, then Sarah did her work. A number of images lit up in my cybernetic eye, confirming the locations of each of the men hunting us. It helped but there were still too many to make a clean getaway. I was looking for a miracle path out when several shots rang out from up above dropping the two shooters closest to us. I signaled Asiru to follow me as we made our way up and out. “Sarah, what is going on?”

“I believe Miss Azure has decided to interfere.” I didn’t have time to argue as I broke into a run, Asiru close behind as we cleared the docks proper to run into Timothy.

“Thank you for the assist.”

Timothy gave me his usual annoyed glare. “Not for your sake. They shot one of our people and we do not let that slide.”

Turning back to overview the carnage I caught Toshiro taking a pair of bullets and falling into the sea. My first instinct was to run after him. If he survived he would never forgive me not getting his daughter out of this shootout, so I guided her to safety as I watched Haruki Kimura getting into a limo and clearing the scene before the law arrived. I could already hear the sirens on the horizon and approaching fast. I decided to tell her what I could about her father tomorrow. “Sarah, signal Bruno. Tell him I have Asiru Ishamoto and if he still wants to arrest me I’ll turn myself in.”

“The police have responded and are en route to your location.”

The BULS were fast, escorting Asiru and I to the police station with a minimum of force for once. It wasn’t long before Bruno came in to interview me and I recounted every detail of the night’s events, twice. Bruno was kind enough not to arrest me on the spot, the fact that I didn’t actually fire the rocket launcher or shoot anyone that didn’t shoot first probably helped. After the interview he turned the recorder off. “I really should find a reason to arrest you just for being near this mess.”

“How did they find Asiru in the first place?”

Bruno stood quietly for a moment before answering. “There was a call in on the APB. Funny thing, right after the call a few heavies showed up just before the cruiser arrived.”

“So your mole isn’t just a theory anymore?”

“Looks like not and when I find him I am going to stomp on his throat. Get out of here and don’t ever pull a stunt like this again.” Bruno walked out the door to begin sorting all the people the BULS arrested. I was so surprised not to be in a holding cell I even let him leave without a clever remark.

In the days to come I made a few checks in on Asiru Ishamoto. She was holding up well all things considered and even told me to call her if I needed any computer related assistance. Toshiro’s body was never found. I like to think he made it out of there somehow, even though the more likely situation is that his body was washed out to sea. If Toshiro did survive he was clever enough to make sure no one including me ever found out about it. Five days after the shootout at the docks I received a text only message from an unknown party. “You made a fascinating adversary. I suspect will will cross paths again. K.”

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Blossom and Cherry Part 4

It had been a few weeks since I had enjoyed a ride at the courtesy of the local police department. The back seat of the cruiser was jammed of course and BULS make lousy conversationalists so I was reduced to looking out the window at the setting sun. I’ve had worse treatment at the hands of Bruno. BULS unit one and two escorted me too a gray room, empty except for a mirror and a single white table with a pair of much abused chairs. They shoved me into the too warm room and I sat silently. I am not sure why Bruno bothered with the theatrics of making me wait. I had been through this enough times not to be impressed. When you come down to it a cop is a cop though. I set my hat on the table and watched myself in the mirror. No bullet holes yet in the case, so we’ll call it a win.

Bruno slowly entered the room not saying a word as he took the chair opposite mine. “Well you have made a hot mess. Care to explain yourself or shall I just find a hole to throw you in now?”

I turned in my chair leaning over to face the lieutenant. “Bruno, you have the statement and the evidence at the scene, you have to know it was self defense at this point.”

“Maybe I do and maybe it’s taking a while to process. Like a few months if you don’t start talking.”

I thought it over as I spun my hat on the table. Bruno couldn’t really hold me for months on nothing. A few days when I needed to be doing other things he could manage however. Or find a way to sandbag me later. That man can hold a grudge with the best of them. “The goons were there to kill Toshiro Ishamoto, which I suspect you already knew. He ran out the back and took off on my old motorcycle after we shot the killers. Speaking of the barkeep is he ok?”

“Yeah he took a nasty hit. He’ll live though. How did Mister Ishamoto convince you to stick your neck out in a mess like this? And who is after him?”

“I owe him one. And I was not hired to protect him. His daughter Asiru is a student in LA and my job was to keep them away from her.Before you ask I don’t have her. Since they have not tried to use her it is a fair bet that they do not either. You met Haruki Kimura in my office. I don’t know how many are looking for him. I am almost sure he is in charge though.

“A heavy like that, perfect. You do know how to pick em. I am putting out an APB on Toshiro Ishamoto, Asiru Ishamoto. If you see them and don’t tell me I’ll run you in for obstruction for real next time.” Bruno stood up making for the door. “I’ve got guys trying to keep an eye on Hakiru Kimura. He is a slippery one though. Do me a favor and stay clear of him. Your homicide case is trouble I do not need. You can go as soon as the paperwork clears.” Bruno left the room as the door clicked locked behind him.

The BULS escorted me out an hour later. Sarah must have caught wind of what happened as the car was waiting for me as I walked out into the night. I blinked stifling a yawn as I collapsed into the car. The case should hold till morning and I needed at least some sleep.

Sarah greeted me as soon as my fingers touched the ignition.“Welcome back detective. One of your shorter stays at the police station by my count. I suspect you could use some sleep however Miss Cherry Azure has requested your immediate presnce at her club. Where should I send the car?”

“Let’s see what Cherry wants. Sleep can wait another hour and she is cutting us a few favors as it is.”

“Of course detective, any other instructions?”

“I am going to close my eyes till we get there. Handle anything that comes up.” I slid my hat over my eyes and let the car handle the trip.

I blinked slowly eyes adjusting to the light as the Fairlane pulled slowly into the back of the Century Club. Cherry was there waiting for me, her man timothy standing over her with an annoyed look on his long face. I could just make out him whispering as I slid out of the car. “This is a mistake.”

“Shhh…” Cherry put a finger to his lips. “Not in front of our guest.” She turned to me, perfectly filling out a short black dress that left no curves and very little else to the imagination. “So you have made a mess again Sam. Is that the third gunfight today I am hearing about?” Cherry flashed me a smile that could melt stone.

“The second. I am guessing the reinforcements have arrived.” I stared down into her flashing emerald eyes, lit up with the touch of red implants she used for effect at the club and mischief in equal measure.

“That is what my sources say. With this many in town I can’t do much more for you that offer you sanctuary in the small part of Los Angeles I control. They won’t come near the Century Club unless they are ready for a full out war. We are quite ready for them if they do. Isn’t that right Timothy?” Cherry looked back over her shoulder.

“Of course Miss Azure.” Timothy nodded his head, otherwise holding the motionless stare of a man almost always on his guard.

“Sam take me up on my offer. There are going to people looking for you and at the very least I can give you a place to sleep. Sometime when bullets are not flying I’ll find a better way to entertain you.” Cherry stared up at me waiting for an answer.

“You win Cherry. I am too tired to argue about it.” I gently touched her cheek, meeting her stare. “And thank you.”

“I almost always do.” Cherry signaled to one of the bouncers. “Show Mister Sloan to the private room I had set aside and make sure he is not bothered.”

I allowed myself to be led to a small, lavish room in the private area of the Century Club. I just managed to slide my coat and hat over a hook before a deep sleep overtook me as the beat of the club echoed in the background.

I just barely woke up to the creaking sound of my door opening at what had to be the middle of the night. I slid to the left my fingers closing around a heavy lamp on the table as I tried to make out who was coming in.

“Put the lamp down Sam, I am certainly not here to hurt you, not much anyways.” Cherry sat next to me on the bed the lights in her skin bathing the room in a soft red light. She seemed to have misplaced her dress on the way in although she was still dressed in black, just much less of it. “I hardly ever get to see you anymore and don’t even try to tell me you haven’t missed me a little.”

“I have.” Cherry was an occasional pain but I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy her more often than not. My fingers traced the flecks of red in her skin “Staying the night?”

“I thought you would never ask.” Cherry kissed me as the red light dimmed plunging the room back into darkness.

Cherry left early, leaving me to wake up to a buzzing message in my ear. “I’m here Sarah. What is it?”

“Detective we have received a number of anonymous messages over the last hour. I believe Asiru Ishamoto has been kidnapped.”

“Find out what you can then send me the data. I’ll start at the club and see if the guards Cherry set are intact.”

“Already working on it. I will contact you when I have something.”