THREE MONTHS LATER
(Thursday, April 1st, 21:16)
“I say we trade these routes. They’re not very profitable and we can better use the resources elsewhere.” Tsuji Ichiro was pacing back and forth on the immaculately clean beige carpet. Kirishima sat watching him, holding his silence. “Plenty of our partners have said they were interested in taking them over,” Tsuji continued. Tsuji was older than his boss, with short dark hair shot through with gray and dark eyes. He’d been with Asami since the very beginning of the organization, and other than himself, was considered Asami’s most trusted advisor.
Ten of the organization’s most important men sat in the living room of the four bedroom penthouse apartment where Asami had installed his 21 year old lover, Jin. They were preparing Asami for a meeting with their business partners so they could decide which of Andou’s assets they would keep and which they would sell off or trade. The meeting was scheduled for the next evening.
Three and a half months earlier, Andou Seichi, a small time yakuza boss, had kidnapped Jin. He’d demanded Asami’s weapons routes in exchange for Jin’s safe return. Asami had given Andou everything he’d asked for with assurances that Jin would not be harmed but when they got him back he had been raped, tortured, and was addicted to heroin. He had spent two months in the hospital for his injuries and drug rehabilitation.
Even after being released from the hospital, Jin hadn’t been the same. He had been paranoid, prone to terrible dreams and hallucinations, and unable to function on his own. And he wouldn’t let Asami come near him, wouldn’t even talk to him. Kirishima was monitoring Jin’s progress closely and having regular meetings with his doctors and nurse. They were concerned but assured him Jin was making progress as of late. Though Asami had taken up residence in the apartment across the hall, having bought out the entire floor for security purposes, he frequently spent time there even if Jin said he didn’t want to see him.
Tsuji was still pacing and talking. “I could make some phone calls tonight, Asami-sama, to discuss these routes with our partners. I know someone who was present at the two-day meeting that ended yesterday to expand shipping routes to northwestern China.”
Kirishima sighed. “It’s not your place to do that, Tsuji-san. If anyone is going to make phone calls tonight, it’s going to be me.” Tsuji stopped pacing and stared at Kirishima. The silence in the room was heavy. Kirishima gazed back at Tsuji, saying nothing.
“If Asami-sama wants—“
“Quiet. Both of you,” said Asami. He was standing with his back to the group, staring out at the view of the city from the magnificent floor to ceiling windows that wrapped around most of the living room. The city shone like an obscene jewel of lights and neon. Asami had gotten up from the couch and gone to the windows when Tsuji had taken over the conversation.
“Asami-sama, if Tsuji thinks it’s best that the partners be called tonight then he should make the phone calls. After all, he knows—.” Nishio stopped speaking for Asami had turned to glare at him. The young man squirmed in his seat.
“We should–,” Tsuji started to say but Asami put his hand up to silence him. He was staring towards the living room entrance into the darkened hallway.
Kirishima took a slow breath. He could hear the gentle sounds of a guitar playing. It was the first time he’d heard Jin play since before he’d been kidnapped. Kirishima watched his boss take a hesitant step and then another towards the living room entrance.
“Kei, have you spoken with Jin’s doctors today?”
“Yes, Asami-sama. They said he’s been making excellent progress this past week.”
“He might be making excellent progress according to the doctors, Kei-san, but he still has a long way to go with his recovery,” said Tsuji. He frowned. “Still, this is the first time he’s played his guitar since returning from the hospital.”
Asami glanced at Tsuji before looking at Kirishima again. “I want to speak to the doctor myself tomorrow. After the meeting.”
“I can call him now. I can have someone pick him up tonight for a face to face meeting if you want.”
“No, tomorrow’s fine,” said Asami. His voice had faded slightly. The music continued to play and then stopped. Asami remained still, staring intently towards the master bedroom suite.
“Ryuichi, if you would allow me to help you with this matter I’m certain we can get an even better result. Let me,” said Tsuji, bowing slightly, breaking the silence. “Let me use my old contacts to help you with these routes.”
Asami went back to the windows. Tsuji followed, speaking to him in a soft voice. A couple of the other men glanced nervously at them then looked away. He and Suoh exchanged a look then Kirishima stood up, making sure his jacket was buttoned. He walked slowly to where Asami and Tsuji were standing.
“Asami-sama,” said Kirishima.
Tsuji glared at him. “It’s rude to interrupt, Kei-san!” There was always a touch of condescension whenever Tsuji used his given name.
Everyone turned. Kirishima heard Asami take a sudden breath. Jin was standing at the living room entrance, looking uncertain.
“Are you all right?” said Asami, taking his hands out of his pockets.
“Yes, I am. I’m sorry to interrupt,” said Jin, smiling. He was wearing new clothes and he looked almost like his old self. His light brown eyes were shining again, something Kirishima hadn’t seen since he’d been kidnapped. He glanced around the room, blushing. The effect was charming. “I-I heard you were here and I wanted to…to talk to you.”
Tsuji approached him quickly. “We’re having an important meeting now. I’ll take you back to your room so you can rest. I will let you know when this meeting is over.” He put his hand on Jin’s shoulder. Tsuji was in charge of Jin’s security and day-to-day running of the household.
“Remove your hand, Tsuji-san.” Jin spoke clearly and stared up into Tsuji’s eyes without blinking. Tsuji dropped his hand and backed away. Kirishima smiled slightly. It was good to see the young man still had his old fire.
“This meeting can wait,” said Asami, not taking his eyes off Jin. “We’ll talk again later.”
“Asami-sama, if you would just allow me to make those phone calls in the meantime…”
“Tsuji—,” said Asami.
“Can we go out to dinner? I haven’t been very hungry lately but it seems my appetite is back.” Jin smiled at Asami as he walked up to him. He had a slender, graceful build and his delicate beauty was almost radiant. “Dinner with me is more important than this meeting or those phone calls.” Asami laid his hands on Jin’s shoulders, squeezing gently. Some of the other men got up from the couches and walked out of the room. Kirishima remained where he was, next to the window.
“We can do whatever you want.” Jin leaned up to Asami and kissed him on the cheek. Kirishima watched as Asami enveloped him in his arms.
“I feel much better. I’m not so afraid anymore.”
“There’s nothing to be afraid of. No one will ever hurt you again. Everyone here, all these men, and I have made your safety our highest priority.”
“Yes,” said Jin, sighing, “I know.” They kissed gently and then Jin looked up at Asami. “Dinner. I want to go out but first I want to show you something.” He grabbed Asami’s hand and pulled on it. Asami glanced back at Kirishima, nodding, then followed Jin out of the living room.
“He seems much better,” said Suoh, coming to stand next to Kirishima.
“Yes. One of the doctors told me he might ready to talk to Asami-sama this week.”
“Addicts frequently show promising signs of recovery then relapse,” said Tsuji, walking up to them.
Kirishima frowned. None of them had ever referred to Jin as an addict. He looked at Tsuji, who was staring hard at him.
“Suoh, go check the security station,” said Tsuji.
“I said go check the security station. Right now.” Tsuji had raised his voice, causing the few men in the room to look at him but he was still staring at Kirishima. Suoh hesitated then walked out of the living room without speaking.
“You think,” said Tsuji, stepping closer to Kirishima, “because you were promoted to this job in just four years that makes you better than me.”
“I’m neither better nor worse. I’m only doing the best job I can at Asami-sama’s request. You need to let go of your bitterness, Tsuji. You are in charge of Jin’s day-to-day care and security. There is no responsibility more important than that.”
“I’m a glorified babysitter! I worked long and hard for the position of First Assistant and you took it out from under me! Everyone expected me to be First Assistant, not you!” The other men in the living room were standing around. None of them were looking at them directly but everyone was listening
“Arguing with me isn’t going to help the situation,” said Kirishima. He brushed passed him and left the room. He was standing in the security room doorway talking to Suoh when Asami and Jin walked out of the master bedroom, holding hands.
“To dinner, Kirishima-san!” Jin said, then giggled.
They went out and had a lovely time. On the way home, they collapsed in each other’s arms in the back seat of the limo. When Kirishima opened the car door, Asami had climbed out, smiling. He picked up Jin, partially clothed, and carried him into the penthouse. Kirishima was happy for his boss but still feeling cautious about Jin’s recovery.
The next evening Kirishima drove Asami to the meeting with their partners. Asami had been very happy and relaxed all day long. He’d told Kirishima he was going straight home afterwards and to cancel all his appointments for the rest of the weekend.
Asami finished a phone call he was on. “Kei, have you heard from Tsuji yet?”
“No. Shall I call him? They should be back from their outing.” Kirishima was checking on Jin every hour. Tsuji had told him earlier that Jin had wanted to go out for a late afternoon walk.
“No. I’m sure he’s eating his dinner. Just make sure we hear from Tsuji before we go into this meeting.”
“Yes, Asami-sama,” said Kirishima. The traffic was thick but they were making good progress. They would arrive at the meeting early per Asami’s usual practice. Kirishima mentally went over the final details of the meeting. They’d gone over all the possible scenarios. There would be no surprises.
Kirishima’s phone rang. It was Tsuji.
Kirishima inhaled sharply. It took everything he had not to drop the phone. He thanked Tsuji, closed the phone then made a decision. He pulled the car over to the side of the road as soon as it was practical and cut the engine.
“What is it?” asked Asami as Kirishima turned in his seat to face him. Kirishima said nothing just looked at his boss, uncertain how to explain.
“What’s wr— ” Asami’s voice trailed off and he went pale.
“I’m so sorry but…Jin. He’s gone. He…he shot himself. I’m so sorry, Asami-sama.”
“What?” Asami leaned forward and grabbed Kirishima by the front of his shirt. “What…did you…just say?”
Kirishima didn’t reply. He just kept looking at his boss, watching the impact of his words steal across his face and settle painfully into his eyes.
Asami let go of him and slumped in his seat. He was trembling. Then he shoved open the car door, leaned out, and threw up. Kirishima pulled out an unopened bottle of water and a clean handkerchief from the glove box and handed it to Asami as he pulled the door closed.
“I’ll cancel the meeting, Asami-sama, and take you home,” said Kirishima, watching him take a drink of water and wipe his mouth.
“No. We’re going forward with this meeting. Call Tsuji and tell him not to touch anything, and to lock the door. I want to see the room as he found it. Have him call the police to alert them but they are not to come until I say so.”
Kirishima stared at his boss. “Are you sure that’s…?”
“Yes, Kei, I’m sure. Now get us to the meeting and call Tsuji.”