Conner parked the Lincoln in Tyranny's driveway right next to a long, black limousine. The driver sat low in the front seat, hat pulled over his eyes, apparently napping. Escambia County plates. Both limo and driver were probably rentals.
Conner got out of the Lincoln, walked toward the front door, and tried to get his nerves under control. His plan was simple. Give them what they want, hand over the DiMaggio card. Nothing funny. No shenanigans. It wasn't worth Tyranny's life.
But these guys were dangerous. They'd already killed a bunch of people. So Conner did have one trick up his sleeve. Not a very good trick. Nothing fancy. Just a little insurance in case things got out of hand.
He rang the doorbell.
It opened immediately, Tyranny standing there with a blank look on her face. Half of her was still behind the door, and Conner figured she had a gun in her ribs.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
Somebody mumbled out of sight. Tyranny stepped back from the door. "He said to come in."
Conner went in, and the door slammed shut behind him. A Japanese man stood with a pistol. He was small, but his eyes were hard. He had a lean, tough face. He frisked Conner, didn't find any weapons. He motioned Tyranny and Conner down the hall.
"Don't worry," Conner whispered. "It'll be okay."
Tyranny said nothing, but her hand found his, held tight.
They went to Professor Dan's office, where Conner had taken booze from the big globe during the Dybek party. Behind Dan's desk sat the huge man from the hotel, the one who'd tried to bust down the bathroom door and kill him. Kurisaka. He wasn't naked anymore, but Conner would recognize him anywhere. On the desk next to him sat the metal attach¨¦ case that had formerly contained the DiMaggio card. Their eyes met, and they held each other's gaze for a moment.
Finally, the man said, "I am Ahira Kurisaka." His English was good. "You don't know me. We haven't been formally introduced, but we encountered one another briefly."
"You may also recall you took something that does not belong to you."
"It doesn't belong to you either," Conner said.
Kurisaka's smile didn't reach his eyes. "Yes, possession can be a tricky concept. I would like to submit that my claim of ownership is the stronger by virtue of the fact my cousin Toshi is currently pointing a large-caliber pistol at your head."
Conner cleared his throat, shifted nervously. "I choose not to dispute your claim."
"You're a practical man, Mr. Samson."
"How did you find me?"
Kurisaka explained the homing beacon in the specially made attach¨¦ case.
Conner shook his head. Unbelievable. "Why?" He'd merely been wondering out loud, but Kurisaka chose to answer.
"What sort of explanation would satisfy you?" Kurisaka said. "Would you like the Sydney Greenstreet speech from The Maltese Falcon? The stuff dreams are made of?"
Conner had no idea what the fat man was talking about.
"No," Kurisaka said. "I won't bore you. I'm too tired. You helped tire me, Mr. Samson. This whole business has worn me down, rattled my belief in who I am." He rubbed his eyes, suddenly looked ten years older. "They used to make religious paintings, little golden icons of saints. Many no bigger than a baseball card. People kept them in their homes, built little altars. It seems the icons have changed. Perhaps it's a mistake when we build altars to them."
The billionaire sighed. "Never mind. Let us conclude our business. I want only to return to Tokyo as soon as possible. Mr. Samson, you will now hand over the DiMaggio card."
Conner nodded at Tyranny. "Let her go first."
"I don't think so," Kurisaka said. "How about I have my cousin shoot you both in the head, then I'll take the card from your dead body?"
"I just had a great idea," Conner said. "How about I just give you the card without all that trouble?" As he pulled the DiMaggio card out of his pocket and set it on the desk, Conner thought how cool it would have been if he'd hidden the card somewhere instead of making it so easy for Kurisaka to take it. He really was pretty bad at this sort of thing.
Gently, Kurisaka picked up the card, examined it. His face was unreadable. He placed it within the special attach¨¦ case.
Conner cleared his throat. "We're square now, right? You got the card. Now let Tyranny go. That was the deal." He hooked his thumbs behind his gigantic silver belt buckle, shifted his weight as if standing casually.
"I have a new deal," Kurisaka said. "You've caused me a lot of trouble. You and your associates were responsible for the deaths of several of my men. This cannot go unpunished."
Conner tensed, readied himself to grab the belt buckle.
"So, I've decided my cousin Toshi here will shoot you both in the head after all," Kurisaka said. "Toshi, kill the woman first, so Samson can watch. I think that's only fitting since-"
The office door swung open. "Hey, guys, if it's going to be much longer, I can run the limousine though the car wash." It was the chauffeur, the one Conner had seen napping on his way into Tyranny's house. He still had his hat pulled down over his eyes.
"Dammit, driver," Kurisaka snapped. "Wait outside. We're in the middle of some very important business."
The chauffeur's hands moved like a blur, went into his jacket, and came out with a pistol. He put the pistol into Toshi's back. "Drop it."
Toshi tensed but dropped his gun.
The driver took off his hat, stepped out from behind Toshi.
Toshi's eyes popped.
Kurisaka's mouth fell open. "Billy Moto!"
"That's right," Moto said. "Back from the dead and very pissed."
When Billy Moto had flipped over the balcony during his battle with Toshi, the world had blurred. Moto had braced himself for the crunching impact that he would surely not survive. But then the slapping palm fronds. He'd bounced off branches, little cuts on his face and hands.
He hit canvas. It ripped but held. He'd slid to the bottom, went over the side, and landed with a thud on the sidewalk. A pair of women sipping umbrella drinks at a small table screamed. More people rushed to him, crowded around. He gasped for breath, pushed himself up.
"Jesus, buddy, you okay?" someone asked.
He didn't answer, looked up at the palm trees, the canvas tarp stretched tight over the poolside bar. He grabbed an umbrella drink from one of the women. "Pardon, but I think I need this." He tossed back the drink.
A miracle. Or at least very good luck.
"Sure," said the woman. "You scared the crap out of me."
Billy Moto pushed his way through the crowd. He already knew what he would do. He would watch and wait and have his revenge.
"You guys seem like you have things to talk about," Conner said. "We'll just run along and get out of your way."
"Don't move, Mr. Samson," Moto said. "This will all be sorted out soon enough."
Tyranny tried to hold Conner's hand. She was scared. He brushed her away. He needed his hands free.
"This is a mistake, Billy." Kurisaka stood, spread his hands. "I feel only relief to see you alive and well. I owe you an apology. And an explanation. Put down that gun, and let's talk about what's troubling you."
"I think you know exactly what's troubling me," Moto said. "You ordered your lapdog here to kill me. Why? I wasn't fetching your collectible nonsense quickly enough. You are a spoiled, evil, fat man. I officially give my notice."
He looked at Toshi. "As for you, I believe I owe you this."
Moto put the pistol further into Toshi's back and pulled the trigger twice. The shots shook the room, blood erupting from Toshi's chest. Tyranny screamed. Toshi's body hit the floor, piled on top of itself, arms and legs folded awkwardly under him, butt sticking in the air, eyes rolled back.
Moto turned the gun on Kurisaka.
"Billy, I can see you're upset," Kurisaka said. "But I know you. You are an intelligent, reasonable man. And I am a very rich and powerful man. Name your price. How much do you believe yourself wronged? We'll call it severance pay."
"It's too late for that."
"Then you'll just have to kill me, Billy." Kurisaka stood straight, put his hands in his jacket pockets, and puffed out his enormous chest. "Go ahead. I suppose I deserve it. I'm a big enough target. You won't miss."
Moto held his arm out straight, the pistol pointed at Kurisaka's heart. He sucked in breath, held it.
"Well?" Kurisaka said.
The fat man sounded cool, but Conner saw a glistening sheen of sweat on his forehead. Everyone in the room held their breath. The moment stretched an eternity, and in the dead silence they all heard a sudden snick.
Moto glanced down, saw Toshi's hand rise and fall. He drove the switchblade into Moto's foot. Moto screamed, pointed the pistol at Toshi's head, and pulled the trigger three times. The bullets shattered skull. Moto grimaced, hopped on one foot, turned the pistol back to Kurisaka.
Kurisaka had drawn his hand from his jacket pocket, a silver revolver in his fist. He squeezed the trigger, shot Moto in the chest. Kurisaka shot twice more, the chest again and the belly. Moto convulsed, spit blood, and pitched forward on top of Toshi.
Kurisaka spun, took aim at Conner.
But Conner had already sprung the latch on the belt buckle, held the tiny single-shot derringer. He shoved Tyranny to the ground, aimed fast, and pulled the trigger. The pop sounded small and comical. Kurisaka stood up straight, eyes crossed. A little trickle of blood down his nose from the neat hole in the center of his forehead.
A perfect shot.
The giant billionaire fell across the desk, scattered papers, the telephone, bottles of cheap booze.
Silence. Smoke hung in the air.
Conner helped Tyranny to her feet. She trembled, held on to him. She looked pale, eyes wide.
"Are you okay?" Conner asked. "Are you hurt?"
"I'm okay, I think." She checked herself. "Yes."
Conner said, "I need to kiss you."
They pressed into each other with desperate zeal and relief, kissing hard, teeth mashing against lips. Finally, Tyranny pushed away, color in her cheeks, tears down her face, breath coming short and sharp. She said, "Conner?"
"I need a favor."
"Yes. Of course. What is it?"
"Can you help me get rid of these bodies before Dan gets home?"