Nagi sighed. It had rained all day, and it was utterly boring in the house. Schuldig and Farfarello were watching a ridiculous compilation tape Schuldig had made of an American daytime chat show, and Crawford had sunk into the sort of still quietness that said whatever he was thinking about, it wasn't something that was in the present. Nagi stared out of the window silently. He wanted to go out.
Crawford blinked and scrubbed at his face, the first movement he'd made in an hour. He winced a little, rolling his shoulders.
"So, do we have to cross your palm with silver, or are you going to tell us?" Schuldig said, his eyes still on the TV chat show. "For Christ's sake, man, of course she cheated on you! I'd fucking cheat on someone as ugly as you."
Nagi floated a can of coffee off the counter and over to Crawford, casting his eyes up. Schuldig's habit of talking back to the TV always got worse if he watched daytime shows. "What did you see?" he asked.
"War," Crawford said. "Chaos –"
"The usual, then," Schuldig said, and, as the next guest came on, "Fuck me, look at that girl's tits – guys, look! Those are real, right? They're perfect, there's no fucking way they're not real –"
"Fake," Nagi and Crawford said together without looking.
"All flesh is grass," Farfarello said peacefully. "Except for those. Definitely plastic."
Crawford grinned at Nagi, who let himself smirk back. Even if they had thought the woman's breasts were natural it was a point of honour to always disagree with Schuldig on things like that.
"Schuldig," Nagi said. "Stop looking at that and pay attention." He smirked again at Schuldig's annoyed grunt as the television turned itself off.
"I was watching that –"
"I have something more interesting for you to do," Crawford said. "Kritiker just started trying to eliminate Weiß, and we're going to be the knights in shining armour who make sure they don't."
"Weiß are morons," Nagi said with a frown. "What do you care?"
"I care that Tsukiyono is perfectly capable of interfering in my investments as part of his campaign of revenge," Crawford said. "Kritiker set Hidaka up to be captured during a surveillance mission –"
" – on Sasaki," Schuldig finished, looking round at last. "Shit. You said we need Sasaki's lab."
"Don't read my mind," Crawford said without heat. "Yeah. We need it – and Tsukiyono will destroy a lot of careful work if we let him."
"So let's track them down and Nagi can drop a building on Tsukiyono's head," Schuldig said. "Or Farfarello can get a work out – it's almost time for your walkies anyway, isn't it?"
"You know I love it when you take me for walkies," Farfarello said, settling more comfortably into the couch. "I promise not to hump your leg too much this time."
"My leg is too much man for you," Schuldig said, turning the television on again. He sighed in frustration as it unplugged itself.
"It'll be easy," Nagi said, ignoring him. "I'll kill the other three, and Sasaki can kill Hidaka. We can have it done in twenty-four hours." He scowled at the way Crawford was smiling. It was the sort of smile that made Nagi wish he spoke like Schuldig.
"What's so funny, you smug bastard?" Schuldig said.
Yeah, Nagi thought, that was what he wished he could say and sound natural.
Try it, you might like it.
Why bother, you do it for me.
Ooh, bitchy. See, you can do it mentally.
Crawford's grin had gone from smug to outright amused. "If you two have quite finished," he said, "We're going to use Weiß to deal Estet a fatal blow here in Japan. But first things first – we're going to help Tsukiyono overcome his tragic past, make up with his family and take over Kritiker."
Nagi looked at Schuldig, who shrugged. "Will that help us?" he asked.
"It won't hurt," Crawford said. "And Weiß are so fair - they'll owe us one and they'll actually pay up. I'll get Hidaka, Schuldig can deal with Tsukiyono, Nagi, you can get Hidaka's things while I'm getting him. At the same time Kritiker will have an ambush in place for Fujimiya – Farfarello, you'll deal with that."
"No problem," Farfarello said.
"Huh. So we're going to burst in and save Hidaka's virgin ass before Sasaki's goons have their evil way with him?" Schuldig said.
"What's the rush?" Crawford said, taking out his phone. "Let's not look over eager, it'll just drive up the price. You can finish watching your show first."
* * *
Nagi climbed from the car, a block from where Crawford was to meet Sasaki. Schuldig gave him a little wave from the driver's seat.
"Be good. Stay alive."
"I'm picking up his things, nothing else," Nagi said, rolling his eyes. Schuldig always said it when he went off on his own.
And you've obviously listened to my advice in the past, so do it now.
"Don't kill anyone," Crawford said. "We're still playing nice with these people. If you do have to kill someone, make sure no one can trace it back to you."
"And remember, we're just gaijin criminals – don't get showy," Schuldig said.
"You're the gaijin criminals, I'm the local boss," Nagi said.
"Sasaki thinks you're Crawford's fucktoy," Schuldig said sweetly. "Hey, Brad, can I have him when you're done?"
"It'll be so funny when your head implodes," Nagi said calmly.
"Now that you've finished your pre-assignment flirting, perhaps we could pick up the merchandise?" Crawford said mildly. "Schuldig, try to drive like it's your actual job. Nagi, don't kill anyone on camera. Let's go."
Nagi watched them drive off, then hurried through the dark streets to the building Crawford had indicated.
We're parked, Schuldig's voice said in his head. Crawford looks suitably threatening and rich, I look suitably ready for violence.
OK, Nagi thought. One minute, then I'm in. He looked around carefully. No cameras, no people. He looked up and picked a third-storey window, then took a deep breath and pushed down at the ground. Shit he thought unwarily as he rose, swaying a little, and hoped Schuldig wasn't listening. Shit, shit. He really had to practice this more. He landed on the window ledge neatly enough and concentrated carefully on how the window frame felt. There were no traps, he thought in triumph, it wasn't even locked. He shuffled to one side as the window obediently opened itself and he slipped in without touching the frame. Crawford would kill him if he left prints, he thought, pulling on a pair of latex gloves. Crawford would kill him if he knew he'd forgotten to put these on before now.
The room was boring; a little untidy, a porn magazine lying on the bed. One of Sasaki's guards, Nagi thought. Incompetent fool. The man really was a fool, he saw, and had left his wallet on the chest of drawers. Nagi gestured and it flipped open, revealing a thick wad of bank notes. Nagi floated them out and over to his hand. An object lesson in the need for good security, he thought. He put a hand over the door lock and it unlocked for him. He opened the door, and paused, not feeling any prickle of electricity. Still no cameras. He shook his head at such laxity and checked the only other room in the corridor. Another guard's room, he thought. This one was neater, and he hadn't left his wallet behind. Nagi closed the door and headed for the stairs. Ah, now there was a camera, one pointing up, one down. Crawford wanted subtlety, so Nagi carefully, slowly thought about the camera pointing upstairs moving just a fraction, just enough to give him space to slip past it without alerting any watcher who suddenly found themselves looking at a blank wall. There'd be one on the next landing, he thought, and even more carefully moved it, without ever looking to see exactly where it was. Only when both had been moved did he enter the stairwell and go up, fast and quiet.
There were only two rooms on the next floor, and cameras pointing at both doors. Nagi looked at his watch. Damn. Time to pick up the pace. Schuldig? Hey, Schuldig!
What? You’re interrupting my highly important task of looking exotic and menacing -
Does it look like you've got all of Sasaki's people down there?
There was no response for long enough to make Nagi worry, then, Yeah, he's pulled them all in to try to intimidate Crawford. They're bargaining and Crawford's allowing himself to be reluctantly driven up in price. You should see the fucking state Hidaka's in.
I'll be out in under five minutes, Nagi thought. Do you need back up?
Nah. Just get back home, it's cool.
Nagi looked up at the cameras and they wrenched around to face the wall. No point in being subtle if no one was there to appreciate it, he thought. The first door was locked, the tumblers sliding neatly into place as he concentrated. He opened the door and crept in, stopping dead at the sight. Don't break any of the merchandise, Crawford had said. Just get Hidaka's things and go.
The merchandise slowly raised their heads and looked more or less in his direction. The girls were pretty, a matched pair, their eyes huge and blank. They would have been prettier without the dark bruises on their thighs, Nagi thought. They watched him, too drugged to be wary, too drugged to be - anything.
"Close your eyes," Nagi said harshly, and felt he could breathe again when their eyelids slowly drooped down. Fuck, he thought, are they even ten? It was none of his business, he had no time to worry about anything other than his work. Hidaka's stuff wasn't here, time to move on. He locked them in again and went to the other door.
The room was full of equipment. Children's clothes – in sizes that would fit adults as well, Nagi saw with amusement – little sweeteners for clients who liked instruments of discipline in matching sets, a box of tapes marked Training videos. Nagi wondered if the girls from the next room featured in them, then frowned at his lack of focus. He gestured, and boxes taped shut tore themselves open for his inspection. Hidaka's belongings were in the fifth box. Nagi floated it into the air, holding it there as he spun the wobbling cameras back to more or less their original positions, and locked the door behind him. The window opened for him and he climbed over the torn-open boxes, taking his box in his hands as the piles of equipment rearranged themselves more or less as they had been. Then, his whole self taut with concentration, he stepped out into empty air.
* * *
He was several streets away when his phone rang.
"Hey, you OK? We're on our way back."
"Just tell yourself I listened to your advice. I'm fine," Nagi said. "No problems your end?"
"Not a one. Unless you count Hidaka drooling on Crawford's pants a problem."
Nagi heard Crawford laughing in the background, and let out a breath. They were both all right. "Gross," he said, just to make Schuldig laugh. Crawford said something indistinct.
"Crawford says we're on track for averting this war if we keep our momentum, so I'll be out negotiating with Tsukiyono by the time you get back," Schuldig said. "Don't eat all the food, don't touch my stuff."
"Whatever. Hey, Schuldig? Be good and stay alive."
He hung up before Schuldig could respond and hailed a taxi. He'd made more than enough money to ride home in comfort. All the way back he stared out the window, thinking how Crawford said this was so important, that the huge payout he'd made for Hidaka would safeguard their investments. It'd be different when Schwarz controlled Sasaki's labs, Nagi thought, remembering the girls' huge, dead eyes. Crawford would have another, more efficient way to use the drugs. Underage kids got too much attention – Sasaki was a sloppy moron, putting merchandise like that on the market. Schwarz weren’t fools; when they controlled Sasaki’s labs they’d use them efficiently. He sat back, putting the memory from his mind.
It would be good to get home.