Brian leaned against the brick wall behind his back, trying to breathe through the anger and fear pulsing with each beat of his heart. Rain slashed down from the spring Seattle sky in one of their unusual deluges, cold, hard, and unrelenting. Like the Yakuza.
He’d watched Nobu Kowasaki and Taka Sakamura drag Oshi into the Pearl Palace hotel across from the Arboretum twenty minutes ago and his gut sank. The only time anyone was escorted into the hotel meant they were unlikely to come back out alive. Why the hell had they brought Oshi in now? Had his cover been blown?
“Sonovaprick!” Brian snarled the word between his teeth as he checked his appearance.
He straightened the long overcoat and matching fedora, and schooled his expression into studied stoicism. He’d have to go in after Oshi before they learned he was deep cover FBI.
Brian stepped into the rainy gloom and crossed the street toward the twin dragons guarding the entrance to the Pearl Palace Hotel. Guards stood just behind the dragons but wouldn’t show themselves unless provoked. Brian kept his gaze straight and his shoulders back despite the rain.
The doors opened from within, the doormen bowing only their heads in greeting. He hadn’t been around long enough or risen high enough within the Seattle branch to receive more. His attention zeroed in on the concierge’s desk where Nobu and Taka stood flirting with the pretty young woman who ostensibly booked accommodations. He hoped to God he’d never need one. While the hotel had a few real rooms, many of the spaces in this place could be locked down like an insane asylum. The doors locked from the outside and some of the furniture held O rings and straps.
It didn’t help that some of the men high up in the organization preferred the BDSM lifestyle and used the prisoners here whether they consented to it or not. And some were into the darker arts he chose not to research. Not something I need in my nightmares. Brian suppressed a shudder and approached the men at the desk.
“Good evening, Nobu-san, Taka-san. I hope you both are well.” He bowed at the waist, giving them preferential respect.
To his relief, the bowed their heads in return, their expressions relaxed and amused.
“What brings you to the Palace, Hiro-san?” Taka leaned one elbow against the desk as he eyed Brian.
He scrambled for a reason to have approached them beyond finding out what they did with Oshi. “I’m here to question Oshi Sakura to find out what he thinks he was doing. And if he remembers his honor to his family and his clan.”
“I wasn’t aware that Wantanobi had chosen an interrogator yet.” Nobu frowned as he tilted his head. “We just brought Oshi in.”
Brian inclined his head. “Word went out quickly while you were transporting him. I wasn’t more than ten minutes behind you.” He met their gazes. “Where will I find him?”
Neither of them said a word for a few heartbeats and Brian began to sweat. He had no idea how he’d find Oshi in the maze of the Pearl Palace without their direction. The place had been built with the intention of fooling any nosy cops or FBI agents, with half the rooms being real hotel rooms, and secret passages for the other rooms behind them.
“Are you sure you want to speak to that weasely garbage?” Taka’s lip curled in disgust. “He was dressed as a Geisha, a lowly woman, no better than a slut.”
Brian raised his eyebrows. “Like a Geisha?”
“Hai.” Taka’s jaw clenched. “I was almost fooled into believing he was a woman. He is crazy and unfit for the honor of the Yakuza.” Despite the lavish marble tile, Taka spat on the floor in disgust.
Yeah, I bet that would’ve wounded your hyper-masculinity pretty badly. Brian swallowed his smile and let his face fall into his usual sniper’s mask. He’d heard from Cyrus it was fuckin’ scary and it seemed to have the same effect on the men at the desk. They straightened up and shifted a step away from him.
“That is most unfortunate. I will keep that in mind while I question him. Where is he being held?”
Nobu turned to the woman and gestured with one hand. She scrambled to give him an old-fashioned hotel key complete with diamond-shaped card dangling from it. Nobu held it out to Brian.
“The key is for the outer room. Once inside, you will need the card key to open the inner door.”
Brian nodded and bowed once more. “Thank you, Nobu-san, and Taka-san. I am honored with your generosity.”
They bowed in return before dismissing him for more pleasing matters of flirting with the woman. Brian didn’t wait. He strode to the bank of mirrored doors for the elevator and pressed the button. No one joined him as he stepped onto the elegant car and he calculated how he’d get himself and Oshi out of the Palace without alerting anyone until too late.
In addition to the Palace being used as a dungeon, it housed the clan’s prostitutes by which they made profit on the underground sex trade in Seattle. Most of the cops didn’t know of this brothel, but just enough higher-ups and officials had been bribed or took advantage of it to shut it down. It was one of the reasons the Casita de la Sabiduria wanted to solidify their business dealings with the Norigato clan of the Yakuza.
Not if I have anything to say about it.
Brian stepped off the elevator on the sixth floor and glanced down at his key. Room 649. Four and nine were unlucky numbers in the Japanese culture. They must really want to get rid of Oshi. He squared his shoulders and strode to the door, keeping his gaze straight ahead. He didn’t wait to enter, but inserted the key and pushed inside.
Despite the unluckiness of the number, the room had been decorated in a modern art deco style with muted earthy colors of brown, tan, cream, and black. A geometric rug in black, tan, and cream sat before the bed with a white duvet cover. Brian scanned the room. A closet door braced on the wall beside the bathroom and a wardrobe stood opposite, perpendicular to the TV. Where the hell was the door to the cell?
He almost headed for the bathroom before he noticed a key pad on the handle of the “closet” door. He paused and scanned the corners of the room, looking for cameras. He didn’t want them to see him when he took Oshi out of here. Nothing tripped his awareness so he slid the key card into the electronic lock. The door clicked and he pulled it open.
The room on the other side sat in shadows, with concrete walls and floor, a steel sink, a toilet, and a few blankets on the floor for a bed. The walls held no windows or decoration in stark contrast to the opulent room behind him.
A body dressed in torn silk robes huddled in the corner. Long, tangled, silken hair lay in disarray around the shoulders, hiding the face, and bruises decorated the slender arms wrapped around drawn-up knees.
“Oshi-san?” Brian whispered the words, hoping they hadn’t installed bugs to listen in.
The person cowering in the corner didn’t move and Brian’s gut sank. Had he been led to the wrong room?
“Oshi-san, it’s Hiro. I’m here to take you out.” He raised his voice a little, willing the figure to move.
The head lifted, one bruised eye swollen shut and the other glazed as the tangled mass of black hair slid away from the finely boned face. Oh, great Buddha. It was definitely Oshi, but he’d been beaten badly enough to make his face misshapen with the swelling and split lips.
“Hai, Oshi. It’s me. I’ve come to take you out of here. Can you walk?” Brian wanted to help him, but if cameras watched his move, he couldn’t risk it. He needed as much time as he could get.
“Hai, they only broke my arm.”
Sonuvaprick! The word tore through Brian’s mind and he clenched his jaw to show nothing on his face.
“I understand.” He calculated how they’d escape as Oshi slowly uncurled, using the wall to push himself up. “We will get that tended to after we get out.”
“Out? But…” Oshi shot a look at the door. “What about the case and…?” He waved his good hand to encompass himself and the world outside the door.
“It’s over. We have enough.” He wanted to tell Oshi his cover was intact, that the Norigato Clan only knew about his gender fluidity rather than his status as an FBI agent. But if anyone listened in, the game would be up. “Let me take you home.”
Home. The word meant so much, yet seemed so foreign. But Brian realized home belonged with Oshi. Without him, Brian was nothing more than a cold, remote warrior lost in the darkness. Oshi brought light and life.
“Home.” Oshi sobbed and staggered into Brian’s embrace, resting his face against Brian’s chest. “You’ll always be my home, Hiro-san.”
Brian closed his eyes and held him tenderly, not safe yet, but definitely on the path.
There you have it. I didn't expect the song to bring so much out, but it tapped into something brewing. Stop by the following other flash fiction authors below and happy reading.