She paid the driver and got out of the cab, slowly stepping up the stairs.
An empty apartment...but this was the last time she would be coming home to this place. Tomorrow was her last official shift, early morning of the day-after-tomorrow was the end. The shipment would arrive. The mission would be over.
Ikuta Toma...would likely disappear from her life forever if he didn't break.
And she had bigger things to focus on, her chief had asked her to distract the yakuza enough so that the cops could come in waves. She really didn't have time to be worrying about this guy.
Now that she was no longer in Ikuta Toma’s den she felt free in this silence of the hallway around her. As if she could see clearly everything she needed to be doing.
She opened her eyes as she pushed her door open and felt her eyes rise to touch the far reaches of her forehead. “Mukai,” She hadn’t expected him here, not now. Not so close to the end. Not on her couch with his eyes reddened with his hands folded in that distinctly disappointed way she hated.
His gaze towards her was stained with water and she gulped feeling her heart constrict. This was a side of him she had not yet been privy to seeing. He had never let her see him this vulnerable. His lips were twisted in between his teeth as she heard his mouth let out a sound of aggravation. His fists were tensed and clenched so she could see his veins grow defined under his tanned skin.
Then without another word he used his feet to kick the glass table before her and she yelped as she breathed a sigh of relief. Thank god it didn't break.
She felt herself glued to the door frame, as if she’d need to run out from it again. He stood up and looked straight at her in a way that made her heart hammer hard against her chest. “If you don’t tell me what the fuck happened straight-“
His voice was desperate as he glanced quickly towards her arm. “RIE!”
She felt her eyes bulge.
That was right.
That was her name wasn't it?
And yet she didn’t feel like Rie when he called her that. It was as if the girl she’d been being for the past few days ducked down and she remembered who she was almost shamefully.
She was this man’s fiancé, she was the best student the police academy had in the class of 2011 and she sure as hell was not that person she had been pretending to be. She was not Lillith. Seeing her startled he laughed mockingly. “You think your sorry is enough?”
“SORRY IS NOT SOMETHING YOU SHOULD BE SAYING TO ME. SAY IT TO YOURSELF.” He’d had enough of her, his anger was getting to him and he grabbed her arm and pulled her in roughly. The skin that had so precariously healed over her wound stretched and she gulped waiting for it to rip open and the pain to seep in again but it didn’t. “How could you Rie?” He banged the door shut as he leaned back on the white door.
If only she could answer him. “Hey-“ She walked forward so she was opposite from him and grabbed his hand. Their fingers automatically molded into each others. “I did what I had to okay?” She saw his eyes flicker to her arm. He was off the door in a second and he pulled her arm towards him again, this time with less force. His thumb ran across the bandages and she remembered she had to clean and switch them. “How long are you allowed to stay?”
“I’m staying the night.” He shot back forcefully. His eyes rising with anger as she nodded.
“Good.” She stepped up towards him and wrapped her arms around his waist. It was a comfortable feeling sinking her head into his chest, feeling the familiar beat of his heart enveloping her like a lullaby. She let out a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding when she felt his arms come up around her. “I missed you.”
“Don’t do anything stupid like that again. Or I’ll go down there and kill them all myself.” He pressed a quick kiss against the crown of her head and she shuddered feeling the warmth of it run down to her toes. Had she been cold before? “Did you have a hard day?”
“Not really…I translated some more documents. I was going to meet up with Inoo tomorrow and transfer the stuff to him. Why do you guys have him working on this anyways?” It was strange that a young student like Inoo would work on such a high profile covert mission vs. doing filing work like Rie herself had been made to do when she interned at the police academy when she was in high school.
“The kid insisted on being able to help the bird who killed Akihabara. You're his hero.” Mukai smiled, ruffling her hair as he pulled apart from her for a second. “Everyone’s expecting a lot but don’t let that affect you all right?”
“I won’t let you guys down.”
“You already did.” Mukai shot back softly and she felt herself stiffen in his grasp. “I told you to take care of yourself and you didn’t. You let me down.”
She should have been sorry she knew that but he was starting to anger her. Did she have a choice? After all the very people it seemed who were sent to protect her by the police force also wanted to shoot her…why were Yamashita Tomohisa’s guards Kato Shigeaki and Nishikido Ryo the ones that the chief had assigned to her protection? “Mukai…do you know anything about the people who are assigned to guard me?”
“Before I left for the mission…I asked for back up and support from the chief. He assured me people would watch over me and ensure my safety.”
“Hell of a job they did.” He scoffed skeptically but she tutted under her breath.
“That's not the point but you don’t know anything about them?”
“The chief hasn’t really given me too many details about your case because he knows I’ll feel emotionally involved… but if you want I can ask around the office and see if anyone else knows about whose supposed to take care of you.”
She already knew who was taking care of her. She simply wanted to know why…why were members from another yakuza team, rather than the police force, the people who were safeguarding her.
You’ve done so much better than this guy that it really does sicken me seeing you with him, Lillith.
“Mukai!” She shot out feeling her heart start beating quickly under her chest. Shige knew Mukai. Which obviously meant at some point in Mukai’s time he had met Shige otherwise there was no way that Shige would know about her from Mukai’s perspective which is what he had made it sound like. Mukai had told Shige about her. “Have you ever met a person named Kato Shigeaki?”
“Shige? That baka? I went to his marriage last year!” Marriage?! She must have looked stricken because Mukai laughed. “Don’t worry I didn’t go with anyone…though the girl who caught the bride’s bouquet was giving me some sort of bedroom eyes.”
So Kato Shigeaki was married and close enough to invite Mukai to his wedding? Why had she never heard of this guy before then? “Wait how do you know him?”
“He’s the delivery guy. He delivers things to the chief sometimes. He usually stops to chat around. Yui the girl in the back who sits by Hiroshi? She used to be crazy about him. I think they went out a couple of times and then she said that he wasn’t her type but she never really said why.”
She hadn’t spoken much to Yui but when they’d gabbed over coffee once Yui had mentioned she hated men who got angry, and lied about who they really were.
That definitely sounded like the Shige she was starting to picture in her head. “Has he ever delivered anything to you?” Shige member of the Yamashita yakuza clan and delivery boy didn’t seem to fit together. He either had to be one or the other and he’d already proved that he was a member of the clan at the hospital.
“Not that I can think of. Rie- what’s this about Shige? Did you meet him or something?”
“More like the or something.” He almost shot me. “Do you know Nishikido Ryo?”
Mukai nodded. “Only met him at Shige’s wedding. He was the guy’s best man.”
“What about a Koyama Keiichiro?”
“Rie! What is this about?”
“Mukai- these names. These are the guys the chief assigned to take care of me. To make sure I was safe and that I could do my job in comfort.” She waited for a second to see if the realization would dawn on him.
A metaphysical light bulb turned on in Mukai’s head and she saw him start nodded. “But they’re not from the force.”
“Not at all.” She nodded. She couldn’t tell him where they were from because Mukai seemed uneducated and for now she had to try to control the information inflow both ways. She could neither tell the force nor the clan about this. This was her trying to figure out why either side was trying to play her against the other.
“Rie what’s going on?”
“Nothing just a hunch I had.”
“Why are the guys protecting you not from the force?” The anger that had only just started fading from his eyes was back with a new fury. “I’m going to ask chief this first thing in the morning. We can’t have you going into the shooting range without real cops protecting you Rie.”
“Why would he send a delivery boy-“ She stayed silent looking at him as he let go of her hands. “Wait- is Shige a delivery boy Rie?”
She wanted to keep this information from him but there was no way Mukai would understand how imperative it was that he kept his mouth shut unless she told him what she knew, or at least the watered down version.
If he found out Shige and his best man was the one who shot Rie he would not be pleased. “Do delivery boys carry guns?” She folded her arms and watched Mukai scoff.
“There’s no way I’m letting you step into the field like this. I have to ask him first thing in the morning Rie.”
“Mukai no! I need to figure some stuff out first. This isn’t a very clear mission. This isn’t like Akihabara. This mission is about more than busting a drug ring. There’s another motive here that needs someone’s help…someone who either the chief owes or will owe. Otherwise why would he jeopardize me like this?"
“Rie what are you talking about?”
“Something big is going to go down at the shipment. I need you to stay calm and not run out to me. I’m supposed to distract the Yakuza and lead them towards you guys. Where a larger force of you will be waiting to make the arrest-”
Mukai was getting impatient. “I’ve heard this part before Rie skip to the point.”
She took a deep breath as she looked him in the eye. “Mukai…I need you to capture the cocaine the chief takes from Ikuta and put it in another location that no one knows about.”
“Rie- you know all the drugs we take go to the lock up-“
“No Mukai. I need you to take the drugs from the lock up shortly after they’re placed there and put them elsewhere.” She pushed and saw his face close into confusion. He understood where she was coming from but Mukai really didn't like breaking rules. He only gave of the image of a rebellious cop, he didn't actually like breaking the law.
“Rie what are you trying to do?”
“Just trust me!” She shrieked aggravated with him but felt her heart jump in her throat when she heard him yell back at her.
“I can’t just trust you!” That caught her off guard as she stepped backwards. “Everything you’re saying is making sense but you can’t expect me to blindly follow you into treason if you don’t tell me everything Rie. I deserve the truth. What is it?”
“If I knew it I’d tell you.” She mumbled softly. “All I know is the chief wants this shipment for a reason other than what we think. It’s not just for the law Mukai. There’s definitely something else at play. Something that’s been at play a long time before you and I.” That would explain Shige’s extended involvement with the chief as well...if he and Mukai had gotten that close they had to have been seeing each other over the while that Mukai had worked at the force. “To find out what that is- we need to take the shipment from not only the Takuya clan but ourselves Mukai. When it's away from the chief we'll find out why he wanted it.”
Mukai’s face crushed into itself as he realized what his fiancé was asking him to do, if they were wrong the consequences would be their jobs, hell maybe even time in prison. “Do you understand what you’re saying Rie? Look…if you’re really so desperate to find out why don’t we let him take it and track him?”
Rie paused as she looked at him…because doing that would mean she had succeeded.
To succeed would be to sentence Ikuta Toma to death.
If the cocaine was where he wanted it, the chief would then focus his attentions on punishing members of the Takuya clan involved. Toma and Jun would both be thrown in and she couldn’t let that happen.
The idea of any harm befalling him because of her made her stomach flop around inside of her, landing each time with a sickening thud of heaviness. “If you won’t help me. I’ll do it my own way. I’ll do what I need to.”
Mukai’s voice was so desperate that she felt like giving in. “Rie…do you understand what you’re getting into here?”
“I lost my loyalty when I realized that the same people who were sent to protect me were sent to kill me Mukai. Forgive me if I’m not jumping for joy at the prospect of giving the chief exactly what he wants…once he has that in his hands we’ve already lost our chance. We won’t know how to stop the chain motion of where the cocaine moves after. It’ll be too little too late Mukai.” Mukai gripped his fists as he growled.
He was angry because despite the fact he didn't want to do it, he knew she was right. How the hell were they supposed to stop it once it was already where it needed to be? The only way they could find out the real meaning behind this mission was by halting it.
“Fine…but you know I’m not going to be able to manage pulling out a whole shipment like that myself.”
“I know. I’ll help you…and I’ll have help too.” She believed it when she said it but Mukai was a little more disbelieving.
The moment Mukai said the word his face flashed before her eyes. A person who deserved the chance he had wanted all those years ago when Christine had been snatched from him.
Part of her really believed that the Toma she usually saw before her regretted the choices he had made back then and only lived with them because he saw no way out. That was why he yelled the way he did when she’d questioned him if he was happy.
Well she’d give him a way out then. This was his shot as much as it was hers. “Let’s just say I know what I’m doing...will you help me then?”
Mukai gulped as he looked frantically at her grabbing her shoulders. “Rie- you’ll be breaking the law.”
“I know…will you do it with me?” She implored clutching his hands in hers and pulling them down just as hard.
She didn’t get answer, but she didn’t expect to as Mukai pulled her into his arms and she clutched on desperately trying to recognize the feeling the warmth of his body arose in her heart.
He softly whispered yes in her ears as he pushed her stray hairs over her neck.
Then she let him kiss her and pull her up onto him.
She needed to remember this so she wouldn't grow weak again.
One more day.
This was it. This was the end.
Tomorrow morning, in just a few hours it would be tomorrow morning and she could leave, pretend none of this happened.
Tomorrow morning she would go against Takuya’s orders and get to the port herself and distract the clan.
First she had to take it away from the clan, even if she had to take the cocaine away from the chief.
And today was officially her last shift at Tryst, and her last night as Lillith.
The first thing she realized looking at the image before her was that the club was eerily empty. Just like every day the music thumped noisily from outside the door and the gaggle of people fighting to try to get their way into Tryst was no different but inside the place was soulless.
She looked around her observing the grandeur of the club in its essence for the first time. The lights were in disarray flashes of red, blue, gold and pink flashing all over the room, the walls actually had indents in them she saw when they weren’t occupied by patrons. The same was with the bar but she quickly realized that she’d been wrong in thinking she was alone.
Ikuta Toma was here. Drinking. And he was drinking something a lot stronger than his usual gin and tonic.
He was smiling as he turned towards her, realizing he obviously wasn't alone in company. “Are you going to keep staring?" He yelled out towards her and she blinked quickly. The creepy atmosphere had merely shocked her but she couldn’t just stand there like an idiot. The moment she was beside him he laughed and started clapping his hand on the bar emphatically as if he was trying to rally a cheer but there was no one around him to laugh with him. “My bartender is here! Sit down Lillith!”
She turned her gaze away from him…because as much as she hated looking at him when he was angry she hated looking at him when he smiled even more.
Especially not like this when she knew that he really wasn’t smiling but dying on the inside. She’d come dressed for work but obviously she didn’t think the club was opening tonight. She was wearing red high heels, since today was supposed to be her last day on the job she’d thought she could go out with a bang and the heels matched her red bra perfectly. “SIT!”
Before she had a moment to think she found herself sitting across him and he looked her straight in the eyes, looking at her through a drunken haze that irked her.
Ikuta Toma did not get drunk.
Ikuta Toma was not vulnerable.
Ikuta Toma was-"I think it's time we had a chat." He took out the gun from his suit and placed it on the bar beside his seven shots. "Don't you?"