"Gang's all here," I said.
We were back in the Red Dog's bar area, seated around the same table as before. Hosaka sat opposite Sakura. His bull-necked muscle sat in a chair behind him and to one side, angled so he could see both the table an the front door.
Kitsune perched on a stool and leaned back against the bar.
I looked first at Sakura, then Kitsune, then Hosaka. "Who wants to start first?"
Hosaka cleared his throat, leaned forward, and set folded hands on the table. He looked at me and Mouse. "As I said earlier, you and your associate are going to prevent my assassination."
Kitsune leaped to her feet from the bar stool. "What are you talking about?"
Sakura looked at her. "Harada plans to kill Hosaka-san and take over the syndicate."
Kitsune's eyes went to slits and she spat out something in Japanese.
"It is true," said Hosaka. "Sakura plans to take care of Harada. And she has decided to enlist these two ladies"--he gestured to me and Mouse--"to help her."
"Why drag us into this?" I said. "Sounds like a completely internal matter."
"Seems easy enough to rig something, right?" said Mouse. "Untimely car accident. His brakes go out. He chokes on dinner."
Hosaka shook his head. "I'm afraid I can't order that."
"Why not?" said Mouse.
"Because Sakura has a stake in this," said Hosaka.
"What stake?" I said.
"Four months ago," Hosaka said, "Harada ordered a team to kill her."
My stomach dropped.
I turned to Sakura.
Her expression was blank but she nodded.
Kitsune chuckled. "I'd heard," she said. "But I didn't believe it."
"You went into hiding," I said to Sakura. "And now it's payback."
Sakura gave me a small smile.
"She must see this through to the end," said Hosaka. "And that is why I'm not ordering action against Harada."
"So What's Kitsune's connection?" I said then looked at Sakura. "And why do you need us to help? After what we just saw, seems like you're more than capable of handling anything Harada might throw at you."
"I was ordered to kill you two," Kitsune said to us. "My connection."
"Harada is tying up loose ends," said Hosaka.
"What loose ends?" I said.
"That's the answer to your second question," said Sakura.
A thought struck.
And my stomach went sour.
"Earlier," I said to Sakura, "you said that all of this involved Murphy. What exactly did you mean by that?"
Sakura said: "Harada was the man directly responsible for the death of Connor Murphy."
"Impossible!" said Revell. "Vy lzhets!"
I was shaking my head. "No. It was Burns. Revell told me the whole story. Burns was behind it. And he's dead."
"Yeah," said Mouse. "Good riddance."
"Burns had a hand in it, yes," said Sakura. "But he wasn't really behind it. It was Harada."
"Still doesn't explain Murphy's connection," I said.
"Kunio Harada," said Hosaka, "was--is--a racial purist. Even in this day and age we still have them in Japan."
"So what?" I said.
Hosaka let out a long breath and looked down at the tabletop. After a moment, he looked up and said: "My daughter married Connor Murphy."
"Boszhe moi," said Revell.
"Holy shit," said Mouse.
My chest tightened and I felt as if someone had kicked me in the stomach.
"Kim was your daughter," said Revell.
"Hai," said Hosaka. "She was not proud of that fact. That is why she took her mother's name when she turned eighteen."
"Yashida," said Revell. "Kimiko Yashida."
Hosaka inclined his head. "She left Japan and swore never to have anything to do with the family."
"Harada found out about the marriage," said Sakura. "And that was unacceptable. Mixed blood. Dirtying the racial waters. Murphy had to be eliminated so Harada put out a contract. But he found out that Burns also wanted Murphy taken out. So he piggybacked on it."
And I felt the knot in my gut tighten.
"The first attempt on Murphy," I said. "The gang firefight."
"Resulted in my daughter's death," said Hosaka, eyes narrowed. "That is correct."
"Shit," Mouse said in a hushed voice.
I frowned. "You said Harada piggybacked on Burns's plan. Did they know each other?"
"Not directly," said Sakura. "One of Burns's associates was connected to Lotus. Kazuo Noguchi."
"Another racial purist," said Hosaka. "Noguchi mentioned Burns's plan to Harada."
"How did Noguchi know Burns?" I said.
Sakura said: "Noguchi worked for Lazlar."
The feeling hit. A wave of fatigue. Then the surging noise in my head, a million voices screaming. Tight chest. Throat closing.
A bright white flash.
And Murphy shatters into a million pieces--
A strangled cry fought its way out of my throat and my vision went dead channel gray.