It had seemed like a perfectly ordinary day. Mamoru got up too early, as usual, promising himself – as usual - that this weekend he'd make up his sleep deficit, and read the first of his day's briefings as he ate his solitary breakfast. A final freshen-up, a quick check that he hadn't spilt coffee on his tie and he was ready.
The car would be as chilly and newly-cleaned as ever, he thought, wishing it was professional to wear a warm sweater. He'd told the drivers it wasn't necessary to clean it so thoroughly every day, but they just smiled and looked vaguely insulted, as if the new generation of the boss's family didn't understand how things should be done. His current security, Koga, met him at the elevator and they descended in silence to the garage. He had learnt quickly that Koga had only one interest, baseball, and little inclination to discuss it with the boss.
"Morning, Yamada-kun," Mamoru said, nodding politely at the day's driver.
"Good morning, Takatori-san."
"How's the family, Yamada-kun?"
"All well, Takatori-san, thank you."
"You're finding the new model Aristo all right to drive, I hope?"
"A pleasure, Takatori-san. I believe Toyota are calling them 'Lexus' worldwide now."
"I suppose it simplifies things for the foreign investors."
Yamada smiled and held the door for him and Mamoru slid into the back of the car and made himself comfortable as Yamada and Koga got into the front. He'd had much the same conversation with each of the drivers now and would have to think of something new to say to them for the next morning. He opened his briefcase and took out the collection of the morning's press stories on the company. He frowned at the incomprehensible nature of some of them. So much for that new translation program, he thought, turning to the ones reassuringly originating in the Japanese press. The financial articles were thankfully all positive; he would even have time to skim one or two of the puff pieces included from the society pages about the charity auction he'd attended.
The report of the gun shot was like a cannon in the silent car. Mamoru looked up in horror to see Koga thrown against the side window, then slide lifelessly down, leaving a dark red smear on the glass. It seemed all the more shocking in the pristine interior. Mamoru wasted a moment looking outside for the shooter, only then registering the gun in Yamada's hand. Old – and as he later thought, deeply stupid – instincts took over, and he jumped forward, going for the gun. Yamada dropped it and jerked the wheel sharply, swerving into the next lane as horns around them blared, sending Mamoru sliding across the back seat to land in the far corner, his briefcase falling to the floor. The car sped up, and as Mamoru clawed his way back upright Yamada stamped on the brakes. Mamoru jerked forward, hitting his head hard on the back of the seats. He slumped back, dazed, unsure of where Yamada was taking him. When the car drew to a halt they were in an overgrown garage forecourt. Mamoru tried the door – it was locked.
"Takatori-san, please," Yamada said, pointing the gun at him. "Please be still."
A van drew up and three men jumped out. Mamoru thought his car could withstand their first assault at least.
"Come on, Yamada, get us out of here. I can work something out with the police, you know that. Come on, man. I swear, I'll do my best for you."
The men rapped on the window.
"I'm sorry, Takatori-san," Yamada said, looking sick. "They have my wife."
He opened the doors.
"You should have come to me," Mamoru said.
"What could you do, now he's gone?"
"What the hell's all this talk for?" one of the men said, and pulled Mamoru out. "You, Yamada – over there." Two of them dragged Mamoru to the van. After a minute he heard a shot, and the final man got into the van.
"You're making a mistake," he said, making himself sound confident.
The third of them turned and hit him across the temple with his pistol, and Mamoru knew no more.
When he came round, he was lying on his side on a narrow bed in a small, cramped room, his wrists bound in front of him with zip ties. The small window, set high in the wall was dark; it was agony to try to move his arms enough to try to see his watch. He shifted, trying to find a position that gave him some ease from his cramped muscles. Shit, I've been out for hours, he thought. Then, Poor Koga. Poor Yamada. And his wife. Further thoughts were interrupted as the door opened and one of the kidnappers came in.
"Awake, are you? Come on."
He waited until Mamoru got up, then made him stumble before him into the next room, where the others sat, eating bento from a convenience store and drinking cheap beer. He cut the ties on Mamoru's wrists and shoved the remains of one of the bentos at him.
"If the others leave any you can finish theirs too."
"You should let me go," Mamoru mumbled, stuffing dried-out rice into his mouth, and trying not to wince as blood rushed back into his hands. The container was flimsy plastic, useless as a weapon, and he was out of practice. Maybe they'd stand still long enough for him to rub the wasabi into their eyes.
"Shut up. Drink this."
They laughed at him as he sniffed the open can suspiciously; he was very thirsty and gave in to find nothing more harmful than a couple of mouthfuls of flat, warm beer.
"Thanks for sharing your dinner," he said politely, "how may we resolve this situation?"
"Now that we've made friends, Takatori," the man who'd shot Yamada said, eating the last of the pickles from his bento, "let me tell you about a friend of ours. You ever hear of Oshiro Ichirou?"
Mamoru shook his head. He knew Oshiro was in prison; he was one of many who felt Japan needed to rediscover traditional values, although he didn't express this belief through burning people alive or sending teenagers mad through music, like others Mamoru had had to deal with. He had just planted a bomb in a school with a high percentage of minority pupils. It was one of Mamoru's regrets that the police had actually got to him before Weiss had.
"He's unjustly imprisoned by the state," the man said. "We're going to swop him for you."
"Why would the justice system countenance such a thing?" Mamoru said. "I'm just a businessman –"
"You're one of Kritiker's bankrollers," the man said. "Don't even bother trying to deny it, Takatori. Now, you're going to make a little film explaining your predicament, and what we want. After you've finished eating, of course, we're not barbarians – you want this?"
He indicated what was left of his bento. There was only rice left, and that was well mauled. Mamoru took it and ate every scrap. He needed to keep his strength up – they were making no attempt to hide their faces, and he wasn't fool enough to think they meant to let him live. They had to keep on believing his only links with Kritiker were financial if he didn't want what might be his final days to feature torture to get him to reveal secrets as well. They sat him in front of a blank wall and filmed him relating their demands. He went off-script at the end, excoriating himself for causing so much trouble and finishing with a deep bow of apology. He hoped it looked like something a person not too deeply connected with Kritiker would do. Back in the small room with the bed, his hands bound – thankfully more loosely than before – and a bucket brought in for a toilet, he was left alone to think. The kidnappers shouldn't have connected him to Kritiker in any way, not even as a financial backer. Someone had talked, and it wasn't Yamada. He lay down, evaluating loyalties, and hoping there was enough loyalty to him to send help. There would be, he decided. There had to be. Any moment now, whoever was currently in Weiss would come to get him out of this. He closed his eyes, wishing he didn't have to rely on Weiss, but the days of relying on other help were gone, and that was that.
The next day he was taken out of the room in the late morning. His head was thumping; the room had grown more and more airless and the stink from the bucket more and more unpleasant. The headache and disgust had overcome hunger for a while, but the sight of the remnants of his captors' food made his stomach growl.
"Be our guest," the man who seemed to be their leader said, in mean amusement, and laughed as Mamoru ate cold burger buns, a few limp fries, and eagerly drank the water from the melted ice in the drinks.
"Not such a high and mighty fat cat now, is he?" another said.
"Takatori, you need to make another film," their leader said. "Your acting debut wasn't very convincing, and your friends say they don't deal with terrorists. Perhaps you should impress on them that we're merely concerned citizens and that you, my friend, are not going to see your own home again until we get Oshiro. We've treated you well so far. You might want to tell your friends that that could change."
"Yes," Mamoru said meekly, and sat in front of the camera, his hands still bound.
He was put back in the other room, the man who shoved him in wrinkling his nose at the smell.
"Fuck," he said, then, "Here." He threw a bottle of water onto the bed.
It wasn't much, Mamoru thought, but anything that encouraged them to see him as a person was good. He waited for hours, then the door opened to show him angry faces.
"Get him out here."
He was dragged out before he could protest that he would come out of his own accord.
"They're still refusing," the leader said. "We need to show them we mean business. Free his hands."
"You're going to send them one of my fingers?" Mamoru said, moving his fingers to get the blood moving again, telling himself it would be over quickly, he'd live.
"I'm going to send them the whole damn hand, Takatori," the man said. "You're right-handed, we'll take the left, don't worry."
Mamoru went limp in despair, and as the man behind him holding his arm slackened his grip, he pulled free and drove his elbow into the man's solar plexus. He spun round and grabbed up a CD case from the table, sending it spinning into the second man's face, but he was out of practice and it didn't take his eye out, just grazed his forehead, and then they were on him.
"Stupid, Takatori. Very stupid," the leader said, and punched him in the stomach. He looked at Mamoru in contempt as he wheezed. "Pathetic. Hold him down."
Mamoru was hauled up and held against the table, his left arm outstretched. It was going to happen, he realized. There was no rescue, not like before. Shuuichi was dead, Aya was thousands of kilometres away. And Nagi – no point in even thinking about that. I'm going to beg he thought, and wanted to cry, they're even going to have my self-respect.
"Maybe we should send it to his company. They'd at least pay to get him back," the man he'd hit said. "We'd get something for this bullshit."
"So much for your politics," Mamoru said, and felt glad to have managed even that under the circumstances.
"Hold that damn arm straight," the leader said, and Mamoru knew he'd infuriated him. "I'm taking it off at the elbow. "And if this doesn't get us what we want, we're sending him back piece by piece until it does."
Mamoru turned his head to see he had a meat cleaver in his hand. No, he thought uselessly, I don't want this.
The blast sent Mamoru across the room. He hit the back wall with a solid impact and slid down, his head ringing. It took almost a minute for him to realize that the explosion had been soundless, and by that time the dust was clearing and a slim, dark-clothed figure was walking towards him, rubble and twisted bodies clearing themselves out of its path. Mamoru blinked up at his rescuer and told himself he absolutely must not grin like an idiot.
"Huh," Nagi said, looking down at him, and didn't say anything else. He looked much the same as he had when he stormed out of Mamoru's employ and Mamoru's life, right down to the stylishly messy hair that Mamoru assumed still cost him a king's ransom in hairdresser's fees.
Mamoru decided silence was probably the best option. Where the hell have you been for four years? sounded too stupid, I hope you don't expect back pay probably wouldn't be taken as a joke, and I missed you - well. That was just pathetic. Instead he held up his still attached left hand, as if it were only natural to expect a suddenly reappeared Nagi would want to help him up. After a moment warm, strong fingers closed around his wrist, and Mamoru found himself hauled up – pointedly, he thought, without telekinesis.
"Thanks," he said, gesturing vaguely at the remnants of his captors. "These guys were beginning to believe that Kritiker wasn't going to negotiate with terrorists. They were discussing how many boxes they were going to send me back in."
"Negotiation definitely wasn't mentioned as being on my to-do list," Nagi said, looking at the bodies, the room, anywhere, Mamoru saw, but him. His gaze fell on the video recorder Mamoru had faced more than once. If it hadn't been broken before, he thought it certainly was now, as it buckled under the weight of Nagi's regard. Finally he sighed and turned to face him. "Mamoru, I'm not the cavalry. Kritiker sent me to take you out."
It was actually interesting, Mamoru thought, how much he must have wanted to see Nagi again, given the way hearing that hurt. It hurt too, to have his suspicions about loyalties inside Kritiker confirmed. "Why you? Why would they trust you?"
Nagi shrugged, casually stepping back, keeping an eye on the way he was trying to move to the side. "There was a big fight, I recall, with words thrown around like murdering bastard freak and fascist self-righteous prick, and embarrassing revelations about preferences in the bedroom."
"That was embarrassing," Mamoru said, gauging the distance to the door. He could hardly outrun Nagi's telekinesis, but he felt he should at least try. "Especially in a board meeting."
"I blame my European education," Nagi said, deadpan. "It's made me overly emotional." He shook his head and put a hand on Mamoru's arm. "Stop trying to sneak off; don't you think if I was going to kill you I'd have done it already instead of chatting? You always said I didn't talk enough so here I am – talking to you."
Mamoru felt some of the tension leave him. He really hoped Nagi was telling the truth. "Why do they want me dead?"
"I don't know; I didn't have time to dig around. They don't actually know they hired me - Crawford told me I should intercept all messages going to someone else in the business, that one of them would be interesting. Don't give me that look, Mamoru, his foresight let me save you." He turned away muttering, "Are we going to fight about Schwarz again? Now?"
"No," Mamoru said. "Thank you, Nagi." He paused, narrowing his eyes. "Though we could fight about the fact that you actually are the damn cavalry. You know, I'd almost forgotten what your idea of a joke was like." Nagi was smiling at him, he was glad to see.
"Again, it's the European education," Nagi said. "I had terrible role-models." He reached out suddenly and swept Mamoru's hair out of his face. "You look like shit."
"I was kidnapped, fed on scraps and they were about to cut my arm off."
"I should kill them again. Come on, let's get out of here. I assume you don't want to officially stay dead and retire to a life of crime? You wouldn't really fit into Schwarz, but Schuldig said to tell you that if you're still cute enough you could be our mascot."
"I'd rather reform the obvious problems within Kritiker," Mamoru said as they warily went into the devastated hallway and down to the doors. "But thanks for the offer – you know, I think I may need a reliable chief of security and a personal bodyguard with paranormal powers. Can I tempt you to retire from a life of crime?"
"Maybe," Nagi said, checking the coast was clear. "Come on, my car's down that street. For now, let me tempt you back to my apartment for a shower and some clean clothes, and then I can buy you dinner." He grinned and jogged towards the distant car, Mamoru beside him. "You'll have to reform the accounting department too," he said as the car doors opened before them and the engine started smoothly. "They'll hand out fortunes to any old random assassin these days!"
Mamoru jumped in, feeling as safe as he ever had before their fight. He wouldn't risk anything by asking What have you done with the real Naoe Nagi? - not yet, not till he was sure he could make it really sound like a quip. For the first time in four years he was happy, foolish though he knew it was. His enemies thought he was dead, they didn't know he had his most powerful weapon back. And just for tonight, he could even relax; Nagi was on his side, and was in high spirits, ready to joke and laugh. It was just like old times only better.