"Our intel was correct," Harada said to the man on the monitor in front of him. "She's the one."
Takeshi Hosaka, oyabun of Hosaka-gumi, frowned, creasing an otherwise unlined face. "How did we miss it?"
"We never saw this coming, Hosaka-san."
"Does she know?"
"I don't think so."
"We must be sure."
"My men will continue to watch her."
"And the boy? Takahashi?"
"Single minded. He only wanted revenge. I don't forsee any problems."
Hosaka looked at him with slitted eyes. "But..."
"But he will continue to be watched."
"I thought as much." Hosaka leaned back. "To other matters. Has there been any word?"
Harada frowned. "None for the past two weeks."
"Three dead. No sign of the other two."
"Seattle. Nothing after that."
Hosaka gave a slow nod. "Do what you can, but ensure this is a priority. She must be found."
"You have my word, Hosaka-san."
* * *
Inside her father's study, Daniela Vittorio threw up her hands and slumped back in the armchair, the leather creaking beneath her slender figure. "Perchè, Papa?" she said. "Why?"
Giovanni Vittorio, a balding, heavy-set man wearing a gray polo shirt, leaned forward, elbows on his desk blotter, thick fingers laced in front of him. "You don't need to rush this, tesoro."
"It's been almost a month. Should've been taken care of by now. I can take care of it."
Vittorio arched an eyebrow. "Like you took care of Renaldi?"
Daniela frowned and looked away. You won't let that alone, will you. "I had that under control."
"You rushed it. It was only a matter of time before he gave in. Now he's found a new lease on life. And you gave it to him." Vittorio let out a long exhale. "Patience, Daniela. When will you learn patience?"
"To hell with patience. The time was right to strike, Papa. I knew it. You knew it. And it was my call."
"And you got shot for it," said Vittorio. "Six times."
Daniela gritted her teeth, felt acid rise in her throat. Damn you, you old fool. "You'd deny me payback?"
"I deny you a second death," Vittorio said. "Have you even taken a look at those two? They're connected. Heavy hitters."
"We can handle ronin--"
"They're connected to Righetti."
Daniela blinked. Merda.
Vittorio smirked. "Didn't see that one, did you? We go after them, Righetti's going to see it as an attack on him and his people. There would be blood."
"And you're afraid of a little blood?"
"Ragazza stupida! Of course I'm afraid. So should you. It would be war." He jabbed a finger at her. "You don't know what you're dealing with here. Let me handle it."
"Papa, don't you see--"
Vittorio made a dismissive gesture with his hand. "Enough. I don't want to hear anymore about revenge on this Kat and Mouse. Are we clear?"
Daniela looked away.
Vittorio slammed a meaty hand onto the desk top. "I said, are we clear?"
She nodded, still looking away. "Si, Papa."
I'll find another way.
* * *
Jade stood in front of the bathroom mirror under the hazy light of the bare bulb above the sink and glared at her reflection.
"You look like shit," she told herself.
Her reflection stared back, an angular faced woman with short, blond hair.
Short. When it used to be long. Braided in a single plait, down to the small of her back.
Then that little bitch sliced it off and left in the middle of a Southside flophouse.
Now she looked like shit.
And the little bitch would pay.
Soon. Very soon.
In the other room, her cell phone chirped.
She yanked the pullcord on the bulb and turned off the light, then went to pick up her phone from the low table cluttered with stained shop rags, half-loaded pistol magazines, and tools.
"Jade!" said the singsong voice.
Her info broker.
"Michelle," said Jade.
"That's Mee-chelle," the other woman said, emphasizing the first syllable. "Been two years, girl. When you gon' get it right?"
Jade gave a small grin. "Mee-chelle."
"Now that's better. I been trying to call for the last half hour. You not avoiding me, are you?"
"Was taking care of some things."
"Well, sound like it's all taken care of now so listen here--I got one for you."
"Is it good?"
"Ain't they all good, honey?"
"Yeah, they are. And what's this good one?"
Jade sighed and sat down on the edge of a battered off-white floral print couch, avoiding the exposed springs on one cushion.
"No, no," said Michelle. "Not like that last one. Look, I know babysittin's not your style but they were paying damn good."
"Good thing they were."
"Now this one," said Michelle, "is the geek's family. Client wants you to delete his wife and daughter."
"Haven't had one of those in a while."
"So you game?"
"Of course I'm game. Why wouldn't I be?"
"Well...the last few weeks--"
"Why didn't you tell me? Got me all worried you got yourself greased or something like that."
"Not in a million years."
"I gotta watch out for my people, you know."
"I know," said Jade.
"So I can tell the client we good?"
"How much is the good?"
Jade smiled. "Yeah. We're good."
"Fill you in later."
She hung up.
Then caught movement out of the corner of her eye.
He hand flashed to her left side then whipped out toward the wall.
The tanto struck the gray mouse scurrying along the floor and pinned it to the baseboard with a wet thunk. It squealed, twitched three times, and died.
Jade put the phone down on the table and looked at the pinned rodent. "That was practice," she said.
NEXT TIME: "Rest Stop"
NEXT TIME: "Rest Stop"