Bay City lay spread out in front of me. In the near distance, I could seen the steel and glass towers of Corporate Plaza clawing at a gunmetal gray sky. I could hear the city humming in my ears, could smell its sharp metallic scent in my nostrils.
On the gravel rooftop behind me.
She was standing nearby, a worried look on her face.
"You okay?" she said.
Closed my eyes, then took in a long shuddering breath, let it out slow, opened my eyes, and looked at Mouse.
"It was supposed to end over there," I said, pointing just behind her.
"I know," she said. "You put a bullet through his brainpan."
"And he was dead. And it was supposed to be over. It was supposed to be fucking over. Why isn't it over?"
And suddenly the world blurred, like I was staring out a window during a rainstorm, and I was kneeling on the gravel rooftop, my hands were fists, clenching and unclenching, and I heard a voice howling in agony.
And I realized the howling came from me.
Suddenly, hands were on my shoulders, shaking me, hard.
I blinked back blurred vision.
Mouse was staring at me, her eyes boring into mine.
"Now we know the whole truth," she said. "Everything. Including the man behind. And we've got the chance to end it. All of it. For good."
I nodded, slowly.
"Now are you gonna sit up here crying like some spoiled teener or are you gonna help me put Harada into the ground?"
I let out a snorting chuckle. "Somebody's gotta make sure you don't get your ass handed to you."
"Bite me," Mouse said with a grin.
* * *
"Well, Kat?" said Sakura. "What's it going to be? You in?"
I was back in my seat at the table in the Red Dog's bar area.
All eyes were on me.
I looked at each one of them in turn.
Then said: "We're in."
Hosaka gave a small nod.
Kitsune did the same.
Sakura looked at me and Mouse then smiled. "Excellent."
I gestured at Kitsune. "Her, too?"
Sakura nodded. "Kitsune has agreed to help."
"Just like that," I said. "After she tried to grease us. Twice."
"In one day," said Mouse. She looked at me. "That's gotta be a record, right?"
Sakura started to say something but Kitsune held up a hand and turned to me. "Harada's assassination plot dishonors White Lotus. I can't, in good conscience, allow that to happen."
"And we're just supposed to trust you," I said.
"You have my word," said Kitsune.
"And her word is her bond," said Hosaka.
I glanced at Hosaka then back at Kitsune. "Screw us over and I will personally end you."
Kitsune inclined her head. "I expect no less."
"So," said Mouse, rubbing her hands together. "How do we kick Harada's ass?"
Sakura looked at Hosaka. "The party begins at 20:00, correct?"
Hosaka nodded. "Hai. Though my guests may start arriving earlier."
Sakura said: "And the catering staff will be there at 18:00 to set up."
"Hai," said Hosaka.
Sakura turned to me and Mouse. "Get to the mansion at 17:00. I'll disable the security systems shortly before and get you two onto the property. Once you're in, begin the distraction. Harada should be at the house by then."
"I can see to that," said Hosaka.
"And I'll verify," said Sakura.
"So what kind of distraction do you want?" I said.
"Anything to lure house security outside and away from Harada," said Sakura. "He'll likely keep one or two with him but I can handle them."
"Keep them occupied," I said.
"Yes," said Sakura.
"Shoot to kill?" said Mouse.
"Suppression fire if at all possible," said Sakura. "Minimal collateral damage. Harada's the primary target. But if they get too close, do what you have to." She pulled a sheet of paper folded lengthwise out from an inside jacket pocket and laid it flat on the table.
Satmap printout of the property.
Sakura pointed to a spot just inside the main gate. "Your best spot should be right here," she said. "To your left as you come into the gate. It's about fifty meters from the gate to the front doors."
"Rifle range," I said and turned to Mouse. "We'll bring the FAL and the M4."
Mouse nodded but frowned slightly.
"You can use your blades if they decide to get up close and personal," I said.
"I know, I know," she said.
I looked at Sakura. "They'll be chromed, right? Security?"
"Yes," said Sakura.
Mouse tapped me on the arm. "Grenades," she said. "We can bring the blooper."
"Good idea," I said.
"The more noise, the merrier, right?" Mouse said to Sakura.
Sakura nodded. "That's the idea."
Kitsune said: "What do you want me to do?"
Sakura said: "Stay near Hosaka and keep an eye on him. If Harada, for any reason, decides to strike early, stop the assassin. But leave Harada to me."
"You think he'll strike early?" said Kitsune.
Sakura shook her head. "Be there just in case, but I think it's doubtful. Harada will want a lot of people around when it happens. And then he'll immediately take charge and catch the killer."
"You know this for sure?" I said.
"Based on what I have been told," said Hosaka, "that will likely be his plan. Emergency hand-off of power. Public declaration. The move will no doubt raise his standing in the eyes of the other members. And will likely catch the notice of the other yakuza families."
"Who did Harada hire for the attempt?" said Kitsune.
Sakura shook her head. "My sources haven't tracked him or her down yet. And Harada seems to have hidden that information so far."
"No ideas?" I said.
Sakura shook her head. "I have someone working on it. I'm sure they'll let me know as soon as they find out."
"Maybe you just don't have the right person for the job," I said.
Sakura quirked an eyebrow. "That so?"
"We know a guy," I said. "Net jockey extraordinaire. Can probably get the info before tomorrow."
"Let him prove it," Sakura said. "He has twenty-nine hours."
"I'll make the call," I said.
Jake pushed back his chair and stood up. "Sounds like you've got everything under control. Don't see that you'll need me."
"Are you sure about that?" said Sakura.
Jake put both hands on the table, leaned over the satmap printout, and studied it for a moment. Then he said: "Given the size of the property, I'm figuring at least twenty house guards. Maybe two dozen. At max." He gestured to me and Mouse. "They can handle that easy."
"If you say so," said Sakura.
Jake flashed her a grin. "Lady, I know so." He sketched all of us a loose salute.
Then he fixed me with a look and winked.
Heat bloomed in my belly.
Jake grinned, turned, and strode out the back hallway.
I cleared my throat and fought back the frenzied butterflies in my gut.
After a moment Sakura looked around the table. "That should do it," she said. "Any questions?"
"Yeah," I said. "Did Harada know the ganger shootout led to Kim's death?"
Sakura got up from her seat. "We're done here," she said and started for the back hallway.
"No, we're not," I said, getting up.
She whirled on me. "We. Are. Done."
Her tone froze me in my tracks.
Sakura held my gaze for a few seconds, then turned, and stalked out of the bar.
"You must excuse Sakura," said Hosaka.
I turned, found Hosaka standing nearby, adjusting his suit jacket.
"Excuse her for what?" I said.
"Harada was aware the gang battle killed my daughter," said Hosaka. "He tried to hide the evidence." He craned his head back a little and looked at me through narrowed eyes for a moment. "Can I assume you are aware of Sakura and Murphy's...brief history?"
"I am," I said.
Hosaka nodded. "When Connor Murphy was killed, Sakura did her own investigation. She found out what happened to Kimiko. And because of that knowledge Harada went after her."
Hosaka must've seen the expression on my face. He gave me a small smile. "Hai, Kat-san. Not an event she wishes to be reminded of."
"How many?" I said.
"How many...what?" said Hosaka.
"How many men did Harada send?"
"Thirty," said Hosaka. "Unfortunately."
"Now if you'll excuse me," said Hosaka, rising from his seat. "I must get back. Should all go as planned tomorrow you both will be well compensated for your time. And whatever accounts you may have had with White Lotus will be cleared. Forever."