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The Oyabun Who Really Should Have Known Better

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Nagi looked over the photographs. “And you still don’t have the source of the break-in?”

Konoe pushed his sunglasses up his nose. “No,” he said, “but--”

“That’s enough,” Nagi said. I don’t care how cool you look, he thought, it’s not going to cover up your incompetence.

“Elder brother,” Sato said. “I’m sure you realize the course of action is clear.”

Nagi was well aware he was too young to be an oyabun; he didn’t need the disdain in Sato’s voice to remind him. “Indeed,” he said, and pulled the knife from his desk.

 

“So none of them can identify the man.”

“No,” Sato said. “To our shame. He left no fingerprints, and disabled the security cameras. The only thing we have is a single photograph.” He handed the black-and-white snapshot to Nagi. “It came from the pharmacy across the street; they have a camera that takes shots every five minutes.”

It was of an elbow. Nagi dropped the photograph on the desk with as much respect as it deserved.

“I know we have failed,” Sato said, his eyes on the photograph. “If you--”

“No,” Nagi said. “The greater failure was Konoe’s, and he has accepted the consequences.” He tapped his fingers against the desk. The facility had been undisturbed, aside from the missing documents and the almost-flawless adjustments made to the security system.

“We’ve left nothing to chance. We’ve doubled the patrols, and--”

“Yes,” Nagi said. Whoever it was-- and it couldn’t be too many; an operation of any size would’ve drawn too much attention-- had only wanted one thing: the files on Nakamura Hideki. Nakamura was a fifth-rate bureaucrat who’d risen to power by kissing the right asses. Lately he’d been wanting to become a fourth-rate bureaucrat, and had made some noise about stamping out corruption and taking initiative against organized crime. Nothing worth any real concern, but they’d been keeping an eye on him. It was an odd choice for a theft, unless it was merely a test of their security system (a test, Nagi noted with some irritation, his operation had utterly failed).

 

The morning paper was marked with a single yellow Post-It note, attached to a small article about the sudden and unexpected death of Nakamura Hideki.

Nagi briefly considered shooting his guards, but it would be inefficient. Better to wait and see.

Sato seemed agitated at their morning meeting; Nagi wondered if he’d seen the note. He’d been drinking more lately, something that was threatening to become a problem. Another problem. Keeping Sato on after he’d taken control had been a mistake, but he’d wanted to avoid a war. Perhaps he could leverage this latest debacle into something better for the family.

“Older brother?” Sato was looking at him suspiciously. “Are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” Nagi said, and began opening the mail. The third envelope was the most interesting; high-quality cream paper, carefully addressed, fat with documents. He opened it last.

Inside was a stack of shadowy photocopies, carefully marked with the same yellow Post-It notes he’d seen that morning. Roughly half were from the documents that had been stolen; the other half were a mixture of government documents, surveillance notes and photographs. Nagi picked one at random -- Sato, wearing his usual sunglasses, leaning into a government limousine -- and flipped it over so Sato could see it fully.

Sato’s face turned white. “Elder brother,” he said. “I can explain.”

“You don’t need to,” Nagi said, opening his desk drawer. He’d had to use this knife far too often in the past weeks, but perhaps this would be the end for a while.

“My hand,” Sato said, extending it, his fingers trembling. “It is the only penance--”

“You really do think I’m a child,” Nagi said, and let the knife fly from his fingers.

 

Nagi wasn’t particularly surprised when the stranger showed up at his apartment that night. “I hope I didn’t cause you too much trouble,” he said. He looked as young as Nagi, dressed in a casual cream suit with a dark blue t-shirt underneath. Not yakuza, then. Interesting.

“No,” Nagi answered. They’d probably have to replace the carpet, but he’d never liked it much anyway. “You saved me some difficulty.”

“I’m glad.” The smile seemed sincere. The shirt matched his eyes.

Nagi put a hand on the gun at his waistband. “Taking a risk coming alone.”

The stranger shrugged. “Probably. Your guards are asleep.” He reached into his jacket and pulled out a small dart. Nagi noted the thin leather gloves he was wearing.“But if I’ve done you a favor, perhaps we can talk?”

Nagi sighed and put his hand back down. “Come in.”

His name was Takatori Mamoru, or at least that’s what he claimed it was. Nagi had encountered the family before; old money, old power. Two sons, but there’d been rumors of a third. Lost, kidnapped, murdered? Nagi couldn’t remember. He’d have to send someone to check the newspapers. He took his tea black and sat at the edge of the chair like someone who was used to having to clear out at a moment’s notice. He was on the handsome edge of pretty, or maybe the other way around: Brad would’ve had an opinion, but he’d fucked off to the States two years ago. Nagi told himself he didn’t miss him.

Takatori claimed he’d been following Nakamura’s actions for his own reasons. He reached into his pocket and carefully unwrapped a small floppy disc. “This should be all you need,” he said. “It’s high-density--you have a drive that can read this?”

Nagi nodded. They’d just installed the new readers last month.

He got a smile in response; something that looked dangerously close to genuine, like Takatori had just seen a gamble pay off. “All right,” he said, getting up. “I’ll be in touch.” He bowed his head down for a moment, low enough for formality, not low enough for deference. “Thank you for the tea.”

“Takatori,” Nagi called, and the young man paused with his hand on the doorknob.

“If this,” he said, tapping the disk, “works out...you could work for me.”

The ghost of a smile turned sardonic. “I’m not cutting off any fingers.”

“No,” Nagi said. “You’re not really appropriate for the brotherhood. It’d be job-to-job.”

Takatori considered that. “Not for the family,” he noted.

“No,” Nagi agreed. “Me.”

Takatori’s head tipped down; just a hint of a nod. “I’ll consider it.”

“Good,” Nagi said.

~

“So who’s your boyfriend?” Brad asked.

Nagi looked at him blankly.

“Snuck in the window last night?”

“Oh,” Nagi said. “He works for me.”

Brad raised one eyebrow.

“Shut up.”

Takatori Mamoru had been working for him for close to a year, but Brad had been traveling for most of that. He’d returned with a new set of contacts in Seattle and a red-haired, serpentine German boyfriend whose Japanese was generally limited to rudeness and obscenity. Nagi knew he wouldn’t stay long, but it was nice to have his presence. Nagi could hardly remember Mom, and Father had been busy with the family for most of his childhood; Brad had been a more constant and reliable presence. He’d been the one to teach Nagi to shoot, to sneak him under the table at meetings so he could learn more about the business. When Father died, they’d decided together that Brad should go overseas and build the business there, so there would be no question about succession. It had worked, but Nagi missed the smug asshole. Not that he’d admit it.

“So what does he do?”

Nagi shrugged. “For me? Reconnaissance, mostly by computer. He’s one of the best.”

“As good as you?”

Nagi smiled his yes.

“And what does he do for other people?”

“He’s good with poisons.”

“But you do like him.” That was Schuldig, padding out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around his waist. “Is there anything worth eating in this apartment?” He walked over to Brad and licked his ear.

Brad rolled his eyes and shoved him off. “There’s a refrigerator right over there,” he said, pointing.

“Mmm.” Schuldig walked in that direction. “Right next to the one empty chair in this apartment, the one you cleaned off for your visitor.” He opened the refrigerator door and stuck his head in. “Seaweed is not food,” he announced.

“Fuck you,” Brad answered in English. “Besides,” he said, switching back to Japanese, “there’s half-a-dozen eggs in there. Eat an egg.”

“Eggs are meaningless without sausage.”

“Stop being so fucking German,” Brad said.

Nagi’s pager beeped. The digits were--

Mamoru always paged him with a line of fours. But it was late morning, and he’d just shown up last night--

Nagi pulled his gun out and went to the window. “Cover me,” he said to Brad automatically, and heard the safety click off Brad’s gun.

It was Mamoru, soaked to the bone, looking like a tiny drowned animal. He pushed a disc into Nagi’s hand. His fingers burned. “The mole,” he said, through a lip that’d been split open. “I gotta--”

“Get the hell in here,” Nagi said. “What’s wrong with you?”

“Leg,” Mamoru muttered, his voice shaky. “I need to get--”

Nagi grabbed his arm and dragged him in.

“He’s come to visit,” Schuldig said, in the best Japanese Nagi had heard since picking him up at the airport. “How sweet of him.”

“Shut up,” Nagi and Brad said together, and Nagi added, “Call Maeda. Now.” Mamoru was burning through his jacket; the leg of his grey suit was matted with blood. “You better not hemorrhage to death on my floor.”

“Stopped bleeding,” Mamoru said. “Just need some antibiotics.”

“If you don’t die first, yeah,” Schuldig said, the yeah in heavily sarcastic English. “He’s a mess.”

Nagi could hear Brad on the phone. “Now,” he said. “No, it’s an order. Put your fucking golf clubs away and get over here.”

Mamoru reached out for the disk. “Naoe,” he said. “It’s important--”

Nagi nodded.

“I’ve got him,” Schuldig said. “I’m better at this than I look.”

Nagi looked over at Schuldig, whose fingers were on Mamoru’s pulse. He did look competent enough. “Don’t let him die,” he ordered, and went to his computer.

 

Maeda settled Mamoru in Nagi’s bed, stuffed him full of antibiotics and told them not to move him for two days.

“He’s not part of the family,” he said, the disapproval solid in his voice.

“He’s been working undercover,” Nagi snapped. “The leaks to the Kansai prosecutor’s office are going to stop tonight because of what he’s done.”

“I--” Maeda’s face hesitated. Don’t forget who’s in charge, Nagi thought with a certain level of satisfaction. “Elder brother, I didn’t mean to suggest--”

“Of course not,” Nagi said. “I would appreciate it if you didn’t share any details about this night. We don’t want to compromise his effectiveness.”

Maeda bowed his head. “Of course not. I’ll check again on him in two days. The equipment I brought should be enough to keep him until then. Kyoko will stop by to check the IV line.”

“Thank you.” Nagi smiled his most gracious oyabun smile; it hurt his face. “I’ll page you if we need anything more.”

He left Brad to handle the rest of the details.

Schuldig had cooked up the eggs and was eating a plate’s worth, curled up cross-legged on the futon. He’d folded it up from the night before when Maeda first got there, quietly scrubbed the blood off the floor, and generally seemed unconcerned about the whole business. He was a more flamboyant boyfriend than any Brad had picked before, but clearly he had the right temperament for life with the yakuza.

“Take off your shirt,” he said now, speculatively. Maeda was saying goodbye to Brad; Nagi heard the door shut behind his back.

“Now?”

Schuldig shrugged. “We’re not doing anything else tonight.”

“Very funny.” Nagi looked at him. “Why?”

“I’ve seen Crawford’s,” Schuldig said. “I want to see yours.”

Nagi sighed and pulled his shirt off over his head.

Brad was eight when Mom and Father married; his father had been an American GI Mom had met when she worked on Okinawa. He’d been taken into the family, but they’d always known he would never be considered a viable leader to many of the kobun. His tattoos were enough to signify loyalty, not leadership, covering his shoulders and upper arms. Brad and Nagi both shared the pair of carp on their left shoulders, one swimming up, the other down. But the peony on Nagi’s lower back was his own, and the sakura blossoms that both shared had different patterns, Nagi’s spreading further to cross his shoulder blades. It would take years more to finish the work he needed as an oyabun, but it was a start.

“Pretty,” Schuldig said. “Turn around.”

Nagi rolled his eyes and turned around. His chest wasn’t as elaborate, but Schuldig still sized him up. “That’s enough,” Nagi said, when he started feeling like a museum display.

“Where’re you going to sleep?” Brad asked.

Nagi sucked in breath. “I don’t know.”

“Just go in with him,” Schuldig said, getting up from the futon to put his empty plate in the sink. “He dragged his half-dead ass here to give you a disk.”

Nagi walked into his bedroom. Mamoru was sleeping now, his breath shallow but even, the premature grey in his hair stark against the white pillowcase. He was stupidly pretty in sleep. The IV clicked quietly as it dripped.

His skin was cooler to the touch now.

The voice startled him, soft and weak as it was. “Naoe?”

“Go back to sleep,” Nagi said. “You’re all right.”

Mamoru reached out and traced the line of cherry blossoms on his chest. “Thank you,” he said.

“Do I need to tell anyone you're alive?”

Mamoru shook his head no. His eyes were already closing.

Nagi leaned over and kissed his forehead. “I’ll sleep here tonight,” he promised, and watched Mamoru as he fell back asleep.