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"Skeletons"

8 September 2042 - 1 hour later
Chicago Metroplex, Northern Federation of States

Detective Sgt. Ellen Calhoun was seated in her kitchen picking through the bowl of flash-cooked left-over Thai food and listening to the rumble of the passing Metra train through the condominium windows when the phone on the table next to her buzzed for attention.

She swallowed the bite she'd been chewing, left the fork in the bowl, and reached for the phone.

Tyler. One of her informants.

She pushed the TALK button and put the phone to her ear. "What've you got for me?" she said.

"What you've been waiting on, Sarge," Tyler said in his pinched, nasally-voice. "Info about your sister."

Ellen felt her breath catch in her throat.

Paige.

She took a deep breath, exhaled, then said, "And?"

"Turns out was a couple of ronin," said Tyler. "Out of Bay City. Call themselves Kat and Mouse."

Ellen snorted. "Stupid names."

"Don't laugh, choom. They're SOTA."

SOTA. State of the art. Ellen frowned but pushed the thought out of her mind and said, "I'll make a note of that. And you're sure about this. They're the ones that did it?"

"They were there," he said. "What my people tell me."

Putting them at the scene of the crime.

This was good.

"That it, Sarge?" said Tyler.

"For now."

"My money."

"Tomorrow, as promised. Same place. Same time."

Ellen hung up, put her phone back down on the kitchen table, and sat back in the chair.

Finally.

She gave a snort.

Closed case, my ass.

She'd talk to Hellisen in the morning. There was vacation time she hadn't taken yet and the Captain had been harping on her to go take a trip.

"It's been three months, Ell," Hellisen had said. "Go."

Tyler's news was good timing.

She'd head for the coast.

But first, she had a call to make.

She picked up her phone and dialed.

SOTA, eh?

See you, and raise you.

* * *

10 minutes later
Bay City, California Free State

Kunio Harada, wakagashira--second-in-command--of the Hosaka-gumi yakuza family, walked to his reserved space in the parking garage beneath the Takamura Industries building, remotely unlocked the door of his silver MitsuAudi from the key fob, and had just set his briefcase in the back seat when his phone beeped at him.

He shut the back door, got into the driver's seat, and pulled the phone from his inside coat pocket.

"What is it, Natsumi?" he said. "I thought I said to hold all my calls until--"

"I'm sorry, Harada-san," said the voice on the other end, "but this was urgent."

He blinked. It didn't sound like-- "Natsumi?"

"I know what really happened to Kim Murphy."

Harada felt his gut clench. "Who is this?"

"You don't remember?" A chuckle. Low. Almost a purr. "I'm surprised. After you sent me to Chi-Town to be killed?"

Harada heard himself gasp. He hung up, dropped the phone on the passenger seat, and stared at it, eyes wide, as if it were about to bite him. He could feel his heart pounding in the middle of his chest, a bass drum boom that echoed in his ears.

No. Can't be. It was impossible.

I know what really happened to Kim Murphy.

His throat went dry.

Sakura.

* * *

2 minutes later
Setagaya Business Square
Yoga, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo

Takeshi Hosaka, oyabun of Hosaka-gumi, said to the phone on his desk: "You're sure it's her?"

"Positive," came Harada's voice from the phone's speaker. "It's her. She mentioned Chicago. And the incident there."

Hosaka nodded. "Find her. And see that it's taken care of."

"At once."

Hosaka clicked off the line, then tapped another button on the phone. "You heard?" he said.

"Hai," said another voice. "I did."

"So you know what he's planning."

"I've got a good idea. But I think I'll be a step ahead of him."

"Then do what you must," said Hosaka.

"I'm sorry it had to come to this."

"And I'm sorry I didn't see it sooner."

"He hid it well. I'll give him that."

"But not well enough," Hosaka said.

"Fortune's wheel turns."

"It does," said Hosaka. "I'll leave it in your capable hands."

"Arigato gozaimasu."

Hosaka shook his head. "No, Sakura. I thank you. And so does my daughter."

--END--

NEXT TIME: "Into The Woods"

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