Ahira Kurisaka's hot tub had been custom-made to accommodate his massive girth. There was also room for the three blond gaijin women. They were white and soft and their large breasts floated amid the bubbles and steam. They lounged, the women surrounding him, idly rubbing his body as they talked and giggled among themselves. They sipped Budweiser beer and listened to KC and the Sunshine Band on CD. Candles flickered and reflected in the room's wall-to-wall mirrors.

Ahira was only distantly aware of the naked women, their blond chatter fading into background noise. He thought about Billy Moto and his hotheaded cousin Toshi and the DiMaggio card. Had Ahira made the right choice about Billy? Had he been unfair? Perhaps he'd made a mistake, placing so much trust in Toshi. The whole situation was unfolding on the other side of the globe, and all Kurisaka could do was wait by the phone for sporadic progress reports.

Ahira felt restless, frustrated. He needed another distraction. He thumbed the intercom at the side of the hot tub. "Send in the redhead."

A voice through the intercom. "At once, Mr. Kurisaka."

Ahira clapped his hands twice. The blondes ceased their talk, rose from the tub, left the room, grabbing towels on the way out.

The red-haired woman entered from the other door. She dropped her robe, skin so white that Ahira's erection was immediate and painful. Round green eyes. She'd been specifically selected for these characteristics. Round hips, full breasts with pink nipples like oversized pencil erasers. Her copper hair fell straight to the center of her back.

Ahira licked his lips. His voice nearly breathless, he said, "Come to me."

Her smile was somehow simultaneously demure and aggressive. She circled the hot tub, approached him from behind, knelt. She massaged his shoulders. He felt her breasts pushing against him. Ahira leaned his head back into her fleshy goodness, closed his eyes. He had to resist reaching for his own erection. Patience. She would be there soon enough.

Through half-closed eyes, Ahira glimpsed the redhead in the mirror, her hands high in the air. She held something, brought her hands down. His adrenaline surged, and his hands flew up in front of his face just as the piano wire tightened.

It had been meant for his throat, Ahira realized. The wire bit deep into his hands, drew blood. She pulled hard on the wire, grunted. Pain, stinging and wet.

Ahira sat up, gripped the wire, forced it away from his face and over his head. He twisted, grabbed at the woman, caught her ankle. She kicked with the other leg. Her heel smashed against Ahira's mouth. He spit blood, but didn't let go of her ankle. He pulled her toward him. She thrashed, but he kept pulling, grabbed a fistful of her copper hair, and yanked.

She flipped into the hot tub, water washing over the edges, dousing several candles. He slammed a fat hand down on the back of her head, pushed her underwater. She flailed, clawed at his hand and wrist.

Ahira's heart beat a mile a minute. An assassin! Right here in his home, where he thought himself safe and secure. She was supposed to have been searched. Had she been? Or had someone on the inside helped her get past security? Maybe one of the household servants had been bribed to hide the garrote wire among the bath towels. If he wasn't even safe in his own home...

She struggled wildly now, panicked. Ahira leaned forward, using his full weight, and pushed her to the bottom.

Of course, a powerful man like Ahira had many enemies, but the attacks had been more frequent as of late. Why now? Could Hyatta...? Would he...? Could Hyatta want the DiMaggio card so badly that he would go to such extremes to keep Ahira from obtaining it? The thought made him shiver despite the steam.

There was no time to lose. He pressed the intercom button.

"Yes, Mr. Kurisaka?"

"Ready one of my jets," Ahira said. "I'm going to America."

"Right away, Mr. Kurisaka."

The woman's struggles had ceased. He held her under another minute to be sure, then released her. She floated to the surface, swirled in the hot tub's water jets.

He grabbed a towel, dabbed at his bloody lip, wrapped his hand.

The time had come for him to attend to matters personally, Ahira decided. He would have his DiMaggio card, and he'd wave it triumphantly in Hito Hyatta's face.


The sensation was new.

Conner had previously experienced the day-after head-pounding and the obligatory room-spin and dry mouth and all sorts of discomfort associated with ye olde hangover, but he'd never before awoken to a gentle rocking, a slow sway that almost lulled him into a false sense that maybe his hangover would be relatively mild. When he tried to sit up, his eyes throbbed in his skull. Electric alarm bells shrieked in his ears. This was more like it.

Conner looked around and immediately understood the rocking. He was aboard the Jenny. Bright morning light washed through the master cabin, gentle waves lapping the hull. Last night's misadventures snapped back into focus.

Conner had decided to make Folger's boat his new hideout for the time being. It was well hidden, stocked with food, and smelled better than his apartment. He hadn't been all that drunk when he'd parked the Plymouth in an out-of-the-way spot and found the inflatable dinghy where he'd left it tied up under some low-growing elephant ears. He'd rolled up the pant legs of his tuxedo and hung his shoes around his neck after tying the laces together. At first, he'd thought the sailboat had been discovered and taken away, but eventually he'd found her, boarded, and made himself at home.

It was the last of Teddy Folger's rum that had taken him to a new level in the hangover department.

Teddy Folger.

Conner thought again about the unfortunate comic-book store owner. What had happened to him after Conner and Jenny had fled with his sailboat? Conner tried to tell himself he wasn't responsible for Folger's troubles. A pang of guilt kept him from fully enjoying a couple of granola breakfast bars he found in the galley. He still felt a little bad when he stripped down to his boxers and took a sun nap on the Jenny's deck.

After a quick shower in the cramped head, Conner searched the boat for some new clothes. Nothing. Not a stitch. He put the tuxedo pants and shirt on again, poked around the boat to see what else he could find. Jenny had been certain her ex-husband was hoarding something valuable.

Conner found a big folder held together with metal rings, like a kid's school binder. He opened it. Plastic pages with pockets. Inside the pockets, a variety of baseball cards. Conner flipped through them. It seemed like a good way to both protect and display the cards. Many of the cards were from the sixties and seventies. Only the Atlanta Braves Hank Aaron card was autographed.

He put the binder aside, kept looking.

Nothing else of much interest on board. Plenty of food. Beer too, but it was warm. In fact, the entire boat was damn hot. The Jenny had an air conditioner and a small fridge, but Conner either had to put in someplace and hook up to an outlet or run down the boat's batteries.

Conner found tools, took the little outboard motor apart, and went at it with a tin of WD-40, cleaned the single spark plug. When it cranked and sputtered alive, he whooped with the childish glee of simple accomplishment.

He took another nap.

He awoke, fixed a meal, and drank a warm beer. He watched the sun go down and finally decided he couldn't sit on the Electric Jenny eating corn chips and granola bars the rest of his life. The new Conner Samson was off to a slow start. Time to do something. What he needed, he decided not for the first time, was money. Not money like everyone else needs money, for groceries, bills, the daily expenses of living life. No, he needed real money. He needed enough to make being Conner Samson mean something. Conner wasn't dumb enough to think you could buy happiness. But having money and what you did with it was a sign of something else. A signal to the world who you were and what you were about.

He thought about Professor Dan and his big house and Tyranny.

He lowered the inflatable dinghy into the water, checked the ridiculously small gas tank on the putt-putt outboard. Half a tank. He climbed into the dinghy, pants rolled and shoes around his neck again. He'd put on the tuxedo jacket. The outfit somehow didn't feel complete otherwise.

The outboard coughed and spit but finally turned over after a dozen yanks on the cord. He pointed the dinghy upriver and opened up the throttle. The outboard sounded like a Volkswagen on crystal meth. It was slow going. Paddling would almost have been as fast. At least Conner wasn't wearing out his arms.

Joellen Becker had told him Teddy Folger had something that wasn't his. Something hidden and valuable. Conner had no trouble convincing himself he deserved some kind of payment for all the trouble and pain he'd endured.

When he got within a hundred yards of Folger's bungalow, he killed the engine. He paddled the rest of the way and tied up where the Jenny had been. He peeked over the concrete retaining wall, scanned the house and yard. All quiet.

Back aboard the sailboat, Conner had figured he'd come have a look-see, but returning to the scene of a crime wasn't the most genius thing he'd ever done. As a matter of fact, the last time he'd been here, a little Japanese guy had kicked the shit out of him. But whatever the "valuable something" was, it sure wasn't aboard the Jenny. Maybe Folger had it hidden in the bungalow.

He heaved himself over the wall and put on his socks and shoes. Conner approached the bungalow quietly and slowly, but he didn't bother with the war-movie crouch. The house was dark. He cupped his hands and looked through a window, as he had before. A small, dim light, maybe from the bathroom or a closet, but otherwise the house seemed deserted. He looked through windows on the sides and in the front. This time the kitchen was clear. Whatever had happened here before, it was all over now.

The front door was locked. Around back, one of the sliding glass doors slid open quietly. He went in, closed the door behind him. At first, he thought the house smelled only stale, stuffy, but somewhere there was a stink. A bad one.

He moved through the small house, into the kitchen. Bloodstains on the tile floor and an overturned chair corresponded with what Conner had seen through the window on his last visit.

Conner went into the bedroom, where the smell was worse. Much worse.

The smell came from a dead body. Teddy Folger spread eagle on the double bed, naked, bloated and gray, skin slack. He had a bloody plastic bag over his head. Conner grimaced, pinched his nose between thumb and forefinger. Folger didn't look real. He looked like a bloody movie prop, something out of a kid's haunted house for Halloween. The way his body lay, limbs loose at odd angles, almost made it look like he didn't have bones. A limp sack of jelly. A bag full of raspberry jam for a head.

"Not a pretty sight, is he?"

Conner jumped at the sound of the voice. "Jesus fucking Christ." He leapt back, heart thumping up in his throat. His eyes focused on the person sitting in a dark corner. She leaned back in the overstuffed easy chair, legs and arms crossed. It was that woman. The one who'd kicked the gun out of his hands in his apartment. "Becker?"


"You scared the hell out of me."

"What's with the tux?"

Conner ignored the question, rubbed his chest, willed his heart rate back to normal. "What are you doing here?"

"I told you I was looking for Folger." Becker lifted her chin at the corpse on the bed. "I think that's him."

"It is."

"How do you know?"

Because I saw some ninja dudes punch him raw. "It's Folger's house. I just figured."


Conner didn't think she was buying it. He didn't blame her.

"I think we'd better talk," Becker said.

"We are talking. Aren't you enjoying it?"

"Cut the shit," she said. "Maybe we can help each other."

"I'm still trying to repossess the sailboat," Conner lied. "I told you I'd given up before because I thought you were competition."

"You're a bad liar. Try again."

Conner put on his innocent face, the one he used when big, scary guys caught him repossessing their cars. "Honest."

"If you're still looking for the boat, then why did you go see James?"

Oh, yeah. All those lies he'd told her last time. He'd forgotten. Conner backed toward the bedroom door a step. Maybe he could just run for it. He didn't want to talk to Becker. His story wasn't holding up, and her cop eyes kept drilling into him. Even in the dark, he could see her hard stare gleaming suspicion.

"Chill out, Samson," she said. "I'm not going to do anything to you."

"I'm chilled. No worries here." He kept edging toward the door.

"You mentioned two thousand dollars." She paused long enough to light a cigarette, the lighter flame bathing her face momentarily in hellish orange. "I suppose that can be arranged."

Conner froze. "I'm listening."

readonlinefreebook.com Copyright 2016 - 2024