The world was a cluttered, noisy massive weapon, constant and unrelenting.Filling his mind, his brain, his thoughts, he craved silence, loved absolute quiet.Or in exchange…a constant loud noise that drove away everything else.
Koji stood still in the middle of a dance floor at the GZ club in Osaka, eyes closed as music pulsed around him.Loud, driving…sending a delicious thrill down his spine, he swayed to the beat, letting it flow through him.
The club was so loud, that despite the throngs of people dancing around him, not one intruded into the blessed peace of the moment.
Koji smiled wider, every atom in his body celebrating to the freedom.Clubs were his favorite places.Each city had at least one that played its music at the highest decibel possible, pushing the limits.He made it a habit to find the perfect club no matter the assignment.
“Koji-kun,” a gentle voice intruded.
Koji brought his hand up to his ear, touching the ear bud lodged there.He didn’t reply, the static from his touch was enough to let them know he was listening.
“Our target has left the building.This is our only window, any later and they’ll be back.”
Koji set the timer on his wristwatch.The map to the next building showed up on his reading glasses as he made his way off the dance floor.Instead of heading to the exit, he turned toward the stairs that would take him to the third floor of the building.Koji shadowed his way up to the roof, avoiding contact with club staff.He took a set of stairs used by maintenance to the roof of the building.
The cold air filled his lungs: a heady mixture of fumes, cooling tar and exhaust, city’s best perfume.Koji breathed out a small cloud.The temperatures were low; spring was still a few weeks away.
Walking to the edge of the building, Koji climbed up onto the ledge and stared at the bus road below.The club was in full swing, people walking in and out of adjacent buildings, laughing and having a good time.It was only ten p.m., and the city was just tuning up.
The building across the club was a go-down, one that held an eclectic list of clients.Koji only cared about one name on that list.Daye Chang.He was a man the authorities had been following for three months now without progress.Ten suspected cases of kidnapping, drug trafficking allegations, three missing person’s cases directly related to Daye.The worst of those charges was a report on five missing children between the ages of eight and twelve.
The only reason why Koji stood on top of this building now. The only reason why he was able to leave his usual world, and step into this…torturous freedom.
Koji looked up at the dark sky and sighed.There were no stars in the city, not like the ones he watched at home.
“Five men leaving the building now,” that gentle voice spoke into Koji’s ear, and he returned his attention to the building across the club.“Your timer is at twenty minutes.Our team is moving into position.Go in with the least amount of disturbance.”
“The police?” Koji asked.
“I’ll send them what they need once the package is secure.”
“Okay,” Koji said, stretching his arms above his head.
Dropping his arms to his side, he retrieved a round rod from a holder on his hip and aimed at the building across.He pressed his finger on a small button on the rod and shot out a line.The expensive metal hook clamped into the wall, extending into a strong star lock.Koji tagged on it to test and dropped the end he held on the club’s roof floor.Lodging it under a thick drainage pipe.
Wearing black gloves, he took a metal bar from his boot designed to move over the wire, allowing him to glide in the sky unnoticed.He reached the go-down roof fast, and climbed onto the rooftop.
“Start tracking,” Koji murmured, “accessing the building from the top.I hope you got the alarm.”
Koji broke the lock on the access door, and crouched as he opened the door to peer down the stairs.
“Security systems hijacked,” the answer came.“If the alarm accidentally goes off, our team will show up first.You just need to watch out for security guards.There might be one or two.”
Koji went down the stairs with confidence making sure to close the maintenance door.
“Should we rob banks instead?” Koji asked, adjusting the glasses he wore.His team watched what he saw, a small consolation in case he missed a bogey.
“Is life only about money?”
“Isn’t it?” Koji asked, as he hurried down a flight of stairs to the second floor.
“Do you really want to rob banks?”
Koji chuckled under his breath.
“Do you know how many people think about robbing banks in a day?”
“I bet you know.”
“Yes.If we started a service, we’d get rich,” Koji teased, moving to take the rest of the stairs down to the main floor.
He felt the intrusion before his partner alerted him.
Koji hurried back up the steps and moved to crouch behind a large flower vase.Pressing his body into the small space between the floor, he stayed still and watched the guard lazily climb the stairs.The man gave the corridor on his side a cursory glance, yawned and headed in the opposite direction.He looked tired, his inspection lazy and routine.
Koji got up and hurried to the staircase when the man turned his back on him.He skipped down the stairs on silent steps and reached the main floor.The main floor was a stunning collection of crates ready for shipment, and service desks.
“Your goal is a corridor in the back.The secure room you’re looking for is at the end of the corridor.”
Koji gave up banter and concentrated on sneaking between crates and shipping boxes, desks and packing stations.He caught a glimpse of a camera mounted on the wall, and grimaced.
“I’m camera-shy,” Koji murmured.“I hope I’m not starring in an episode of ‘Thief who got caught’.”
“You’re safe,” the answer came.“I’ll tell you when you’re not.”
“You words make my heart flutter,” Koji mumbled, finally reaching the designated corridor.He walked with confidence, as it was clear of any security guards.When he reached the secure door, he touched the security pad on the lock.
“Nine-two-five-six,” the numbers came before he could ask.
Koji punched in the numbers and the lock beeped once, flashing red without unlocking.
“Are you sure?” Koji asked, glancing down the corridor, worried about the guard who might have come down to the main floor.
“Oops,” the gentle voice chuckled, “punch them in again.”
Koji pressed the numbers in faster this time.The lock flashed green and the door hissed open.He entered the room closing the door behind him fast, and took in a deep breath at the darkness that greeted him.This secure room seemed without the slightest sliver of light.
Taking a torch from his pocket, Koji shone it around the room, the single light cutting through the thick darkness.His breath held when he saw frightened wide eyes looking at him from the farthest corner of the room.
Switching off his torch, Koji took in a deep breath and stepped back to the door, afraid.
“Did you find them?”
Koji swallowed hard, and extended his hand to touch the wall, his fingers searching for the light switch.When he found it, he flooded the room and his heart filled with apprehension.
The five children huddled in the corner watched him.Their anxious gazes enough to undo him.
“How long?” he murmured, unable to take a step closer to the children.
“Two minutes,” the answer came.“You don’t have to engage.You’ve done enough, Koji-kun.Wait for us.”
Koji wished he could remain by the door, but those children…
Their fear so real, it filled the room, like a giant dark cloud.
Koji closed his eyes and forced his own fear back.
“Don’t be late,” Koji said and pushed off the door.
The hit was instantaneous.Panic, fear…such fear…paralyzing...Koji tasted bile in his mouth.He took it in and tried to disperse as much of it as he could, but his soul felt steeped in their fear.Tears stung his eyes and he stopped before he reached the five children.
Three girls, and two boys, crouching down to their level, he held out his hands and worked on taking in as much of their fear to ease the tenstion.
“I’m here to help,” he said, his voice wavering.“I promise, nothing will happen to you.I’ll protect you.”
Koji knelt on the floor, his hands still held out.“My name is—
Koji bit his lip hard, his gaze moving from one worried gaze to another.
“My name is Seiryu,” he murmured.“I’ll take you away from this dark place.”
He knelt for a full minute before the youngest of the girls rushed him, and wrapped her arms around him.
Koji held her, rubbing her back to infuse warmth.She wore thin clothes and it was cold.The others moved closer, though their wary gazes constantly returned to the door he’d used.
“We’re going to start.”
Koji moved to stand up, picking up the little girl in his arms.He took a step back and the remaining four, grabbed on to his jacket and moved with him.
“It’s going to get a little noisy,” Koji said, keeping his tone calm.“We won’t use the door, we’ll make our own.”
He kept a steady stream of conversation as a red line appeared on the outer wall. Continuing up to make an entrance large enough to accommodate an adult.In the next minute, concrete crumbled into pieces and cold air swept into the room.
“Hi,” Ogun Sato waved at him, and Koji glared at the gentle voice that spoke in his head.
“You’re late,” Koji complained.“They’re cold.”
A van appeared at the make shift entrance and Koji hurried the children towards the open doors.Ogun moved to take the girl he held and Koji winced when she clung to him, refusing to let go.
“It’s okay, sweetie,” Koji soothed, moving closer to the van to help her in.“You’re safe now, I promise.”
She shook her head, still clinging to him.
Standing her on the van, he took a step back to look into her eyes.
Finding a smile, Koji touched her messy hair.
“I promise you are safe,” he said.“You’ll meet your grandmother soon.Trust me.”
She let go with reluctance, and Ogun helped her sit close to the eldest girl, wrapping a blanket around her.
Koji checked the timer on his watch and sighed when he saw the numbers turn to zeros. The men who had left were back.He grabbed the doors and moved to close them.
“Get in here,” Ogun ordered, hurrying to stop him.
“No time,” Koji said, slamming the van doors closed and rapping on the top to signal the driver to go.
The van took off at top speed.
“I’m going to pinch you for this,” Ogun warned in his ear.
Koji chuckled at the threat, looking back in to the lighted room behind him.The door he’d closed earlier swung open.
“Oops,” Koji took off in a run, heading to the front of the building.He’d left a motorcycle parked down the street.He would divert attention from the van. He took the corner at the front too fast and didn’t see the man walking to the front entrance in time. They collided into each other hard.
When the man on the ground heard the shouts from the security team, he reached for Koji determined to stop him.
Koji dropped a thin dagger hidden in his right sleeve into his hand and swiped it across the man’s cheek. The man gave a short cry and stumbled back, giving Koji time to escape.
Running at full speed, Koji reached his motorcycle, swung on to the comfortable seat and turned over the engine.He took off down the street with a grin, and started an intricate detour back to the hangar they’d rented out for this particular mission.
One hour later, Koji drove the motorcycle into a secure parking lot, going straight to a plane waiting to take off on the runway.He parked the motorcycle, and threw the keys at the guard who met him.Koji removed his gloves as he boarded the plane and sank into a comfortable seat with a relieved sigh.
Koji looked at the pilot who had come in from the cockpit.
“We’re ready for take-off,” the pilot said.“We’re heading to Tokyo, request from headquarters.”
Koji nodded his approval and the pilot hurried away.
Alone, Koji unzipped his jacket, removed it and placed it on the chair beside him.Sinking his fingers into his hair, he massaged his head and tried to ease the tension growing in his head.
“You gave me a fright,” Ogun said, coming from the back of the plane.“I’m not including your little stunt in my report, but don’t do it again.”
“The children?” Koji asked.
“Safe with their families,” Ogun said.“Left local authorities to handle the aftermath.Saya-san will be happy.”
“I’m glad it’s over,” Koji murmured, knowing the struggle those children would face returning back home.His head throbbed.He’d tried to absorb as much of their fear, take it away, but he knew they would remember it for a while. Removing his glasses, he placed them on the coffee table, and rubbed his temple avoiding Ogun's searching gaze.
Ogun watched Koji, concern rolling off him, and then he sat on the chair across.
“About your other project,” Ogun hesitated, checking toward the back of the plane, making sure they were alone.
“Your staff is preoccupied,” Koji said, finally meeting Ogun's gaze.
He didn’t miss Ogun’s intake of breath.No doubt, his eyes were extra bright tonight, he still felt raw from dealing with the children.
“I’m sorry,” Koji said, lowering his gaze to the coffee table between them.
He started to reach for his dark glasses but Ogun stopped him.
“No,” Ogun protested, clearly apologetic.“I should be used to it by now.”
Koji knew his eyes unnerved many, especially when he was extra sensitive like tonight.
“What have you found?” Koji asked, hoping returning to the topic would draw Ogun's attention away.
“Your mother’s investigation is a steep climb uphill,” Ogun said.“Are you sure it’s not easier to ask Tama or even Saya-san?”
“I’m twenty-one in six months,” Koji murmured.“I’ve tried every trick in the book since I was eight.They refuse to tell me about her.I have to do this on my own, otherwise I will live a life never having known who my mother is, why she died.”
Ogun sighed and nodded.
“I understand, but it’s very difficult to find people who knew your mother.There are no files on her in any database in the country, including her schooling, not even her medical records. She's wiped clean. We’re relying on witnesses.”
“The last six people I've met were dead ends.All they could say was that Misato became a teacher,” Koji complained, his tone tinged with bitterness.“Their memories held no clear picture of her.I read nothing from them.”
“There is a lady living in Kamakura.She says she attended the same high school as your mother.They were friends, but not too close,” Ogun gave him a small smile.“I figure if you meet her, you might get more than I would.”
Koji felt hope spring.
“Are you sure she is legit?”
“Yes, I checked out her details.Her sister still lives in Shinjuku where they both went to school. It is the same school Saya-san attended.Meet the lady to confirm the rest,” Ogun said.He placed a tablet on the coffee table.
“I’ve uploaded all her information on there. We have a week to meet her, she's headed out of the country to see her daughter in Malaysia after that.” Ogun stood.“Look it over when you’re feeling better.For now, try and get some sleep. You don't look good.”
“Do you know why we’re going to Tokyo?” Koji asked, staring at the dark tablet on the table, wanting to read the files on this woman.
His head though…gosh he felt like it was going to explode.
“Your brother insisted,” Ogun said.“Saya told him you’re out here finding the kids and he wasn’t happy. He said he wanted to see you in Tokyo first thing tomorrow.”
Koji let his head fall back on the headrest and closed his eyes, needing relief.
“Thanks, Ogun,” Koji said.“Let me know when we get there.”
Ogun laid a blanket over him and squeezed his shoulder.
Koji was glad when Ogun closed the door separating the rest of the plane from him.The absolute silence in the room was enough to ease some of the pressure in his head.He stretched out on the comfortable chair and allowed his mind to rest.
Heading to Tokyo, he thought, drifting between consciousness and oblivion.
His brother would be angry.Tama hated it when Koji left the Sukiyama Estate in Enoshima.They would argue, Koji didn’t like arguing with Tama, but he couldn’t help it.He needed answers, and the only way to get them was out here.The only way to get out was to join cases like the one he’d just finished.Otherwise, he stayed locked up at the Sukiyama estate.
If only he could persuade his hardheaded brother to give up the truth.
If wishes were cars…he’d own the roads by now, his last thought before slipping into oblivion.
Koji startled awake on a large bed.The screeching sound of a car’s brakes filled his head, followed fast by a screaming wife, a crying child, and dogs barking.Koji pressed his fingers to his ears, curling up on his bed as the onslaught continued.
The last thing he remembered was falling asleep on the flight to Tokyo.Ogun must have helped him up here, and forgotten the most important part.
Koji groaned when the off note voice of a woman singing in the shower filled his head.So painfully offbeat, it hurt.He stumbled out of bed, and headed out of his bedroom.
Hands braced on the wall, he made his way to the living room.
A laugh filled his head, coupled with excited conversation, Koji stopped, feeling like he might double over with all the stimulation.
Tokyo, this city was so hard on him.
His head filled with noise one moment, then the next, blessed silence flooded him and he let out a grateful gasp, sliding to the floor.
“Is it better?” Tama came to crouch beside him.“I’ll remind Ogun not to forget to engage the active noise controls.Koji, can you walk?”
Before he could answer, his brother lifted him up and carried him into the living room placing him on the couch.
Tama perched on the glass coffee table, his gaze unreadable.
Everyone Koji met, brought him noise, yet his brother remained a silent, private entity.
Saya had worked overtime closing off Tama’s thoughts, hers as well and parts of Ogun.
It was a blessing, since Koji didn’t think it would be good to know everything about the people living with him.Still, in some cases, like knowing the truth about his mother, he rather wished he could read Tama’s mind.
“You’re not at home,” Tama stated, his dark gaze enough to let Koji know he wasn’t happy.
“Neither are you,” Koji replied.“Where were you?”
“Working,” Koji said, giving his brother a small smile.
Tama scoffed, and shook his head.
“You look drained.”Tama reached out and brushed hair out of Koji’s eyes.“Was it hard?”
Extremely, Koji wanted to say.Instead, he shook his head and forced a smile.
“A walk in the park,” he lied.
Tama studied him too closely, those dark eyes seeing too much.
Koji clutched a throw pillow on the couch, ready for a lecture.
Tama surprised him when he stood up and moved away.
“I’ll make you breakfast.”
Koji watched him head to the kitchen, and sat on the couch feeling cheated.It worried him when Tama acted nice.Like now, he frowned.
“I’ll make you fried eggs on toast,” Tama said, his voice muffled in the kitchen.“I need you to come with me later.”
Koji nodded his head at this statement.
Yep, Tama would never give without taking.Escape a lecture for a service, Koji sighed and closed his eyes.
“Where to?” he asked.
“The offices, there is a board meeting.”
“I don’t appear for those.”
“Tama, you know I only follow what you want, so why do you need me there?”
Koji hated board meetings.The two times he attended, he’d hated listening to the thoughts of men and women meant to be loyal to Sukiyama, but were not.It was better to let Tama handle that level of betrayal.
He opened his eyes when Tama didn’t reply and found his brother looking at him from the kitchen entrance.
When he lifted a brow, Tama gave him a small smile.
“Would you prefer to talk about last night, and why you were out in Kobe instead of home?” Tama asked.“I clearly asked Saya not to send you on those cases.”
Koji got off the couch fast, and stretched his arms above his head.
“Fried eggs on toast sound wonderful,” Koji said, dropping his arms down.“Should I wear a suit too?Wow, I wonder how the company’s stocks are doing.I should check that right now.”
Tama chuckled when Koji picked up his phone from the coffee table and got to searching.Koji stopped when Tama returned to the kitchen, and let out a soft sigh.
Shaking his head, he threw his phone on the couch and headed to his bedroom for a shower.The faster he did what Tama wanted, the better.Then he would get to meet the woman who might know his mother.