I’m… somewhere. In some large, windowless building that’s decorated with fake Edo Period prints and tacky samurai suits of armor everywhere. There’s a katana on the mantle of practically half the walls I see as I’m dragged around the place.
I can only guess that this is the location of the Japanese mafia headquarters, and I’m finally about to meet its leaders face-to-face.
What a fortunate turn of events, besides the being captured part.
There’s a lot of dudes here, most of them in suits because I guess that’s just the right way to conduct business in the underworld even for the low-level goons. Even though it makes not very much sense. These dudes who beat up and kill people for a living are all wearing well-fitting suits, ones that don’t exactly provide a lot of mobility in tense physical conditions, and ones that need to be dry-cleaned so they aren’t easy to wash. Then, after they actually do crimes, you’d be hard-pressed to imagine that many of them are able to escape more than a couple months without damaging the suits, or getting blood all over them, or making them smell all like smoke from the illicit tobacco trade the mafia is always up into. So this one $300+ suit purchase soon turns into, like, a dozen in just a year or two at best. What a waste of money and resources, and all part of the sinister plot by the tailor-industrial complex which controls all the strings, literally, to our society.
But I’m sadly not here to bust the only group more shadowy and evil than the Ascendants; I’m here to bust some crooks who like racketeering with guns and drugs and gambling and all those fun vices.
And now I’m entering the throne room, of sorts, a central room in this pseudo-Nipponese complex. It really does have a sort of palace-like air, with a long table right in the center, and a massively oversized chair at the end furthest from the door. That chair is where one certain man currently sits.
Ohata King, I presume. He’s exactly what you’d expect. Bald, permanent scowl, mustache, goatee, black suit, black shirt, no tie. A small tattoo under his right eye that reminds me of my own mole from this distance.
Right by his side is another man, frighteningly pale with a long nose and a slightly hunched posture. A sniveling advisor if I’ve ever seen one. The man speaks to Mr. Ohata in his ear, too quietly for anyone else to hear, and he listens intently. This advisor reminds me more than a little of the Data Broker, that enigmatic fellow I met briefly while under capture by Donald Blyth back in June. Wow, how the time flies when you’re having no fun at all. It feels like just yesterday that I was being tortured and extracted for information by a criminal boss with an ego problem, and now look at me? I’m about to be tortured and extracted for information by a criminal boss with an ego problem.
The goons set me down at the end of the long table, opposite Ohata King.
“Hey,” I say.
I fully expect him to reply to me in that angry R-trilling voice I’m used to with these types of dudes, but instead, he replies in clear, heavily accented English: “Interloper. We finally meet. Nami told me about you.”
“Wow, a celebrity knows all about me… That’s awesome.” Actually, the fact that I went on what was sort-of kind-of a date with the very famous Hope Winters hasn’t really set in for me yet. Or the former mayor of Atlanta, or its police chief, or one of its most prominent businessmen. I guess I’ve run into so many famous people that I’ve become a little bit numb to it all.
And the number of those famous people I’ve met while being tied up and held by nameless baddies is also staggeringly high. I really don’t want to think about that part right now because I’m really worried people are going to start thinking I enjoy being tied up and trotted around places.
“Can you introduce yourself?” Mr. Ohata asks.
He furrows his brows. “Would you like to introduce yourself?”
“No. I would not.”
“Will you introduce yourself?”
“No, I will not.”
“Yes, you will,” he says with a commanding voice.
“No, I will not,” I repeat, a lot more sheepishly this time.
The advisor eyes me with a curious, creepy face and then whispers in Ohata’s ear. Ohata shakes his head. “I don’t think he is the spy.”
“I’m not a ‘he,’ I’m a ‘they,’” I say, but it goes over his head. That one’s a bit hard to explain grammatically to someone not familiar with English’s nuances, so I guess I’ll—wait a minute. “’The spy?’ What the heck does that mean?”
“The spy is sure to be an insider,” he says. “This one is not even Japanese.”
The advisor says something in Japanese, seemingly in disgust. Kinda rude, you know.
“So, you are a cretin,” Ohata King says.
“What’s with the English?” I ask. “You’re the only dude in this whole organization who’s spoken to me like the clueless white person I am. Or that Nami woman too, I guess kind of, but I think she only spoke English to throw me off-guard and beat me up.”
He laughs warmly. “Oh, you cretin. I’m the new leader of the Atlanta branch of my family. I must use English to prove I am worthy.”
“Makes sense, I guess. So once you prove yourself, you’ll go back to all Japanese again?”
Instead of answering me, he changes the subject. “If you’re not a spy, then what are you?”
“Just a hero who wants to protect the city they love,” I say.
“A ‘hero,’ huh.” He shakes his head. “Well, I can’t let you spoil my Summer Festival plans. I will make you suffer.”
The man stands up and shows off his incredible muscles… along with his relatively short stature. I know short people can be pretty scary—I know Mr. Larkins is whenever it gets close to quarterly report season—but, honestly, Ohata King isn’t doing it for me. When I look at this man, I genuinely cannot imagine him strangling me to death, or beating me up in a bare knuckle brawl, or anything. If I didn’t have a bunch of guns trained on me, I’d snap my restraints, dash on over there, and give the dude a noogie.
He notices my lack of intimidation and scowls.
“Take them away,” he mutters. “Torture them and let me kill them later.”
I should be upset and worried about this, but I’m honestly just really impressed that he got my pronouns right on the first try. This dude is really good at English for someone who just came to Atlanta!
Some of the guys in suits pick me up and begin to carry me away from the long table. Ohata King, followed closely behind by his oily advisor, exit the room from a different side, but he keeps looking back at me all the way until the door closes behind him.
Okay, so I’m being dragged through the Japanese mafia headquarters in bindings, with guns pointed at me and no idea how to get out. But I’m honestly mostly focused on Ohata King. He’s a lot less interesting of a fellow than I originally assumed, and that just makes this whole case more fascinating to me.
All this big conspiracy leads back to him, but he himself is… just sort of average? It’s bizarre how not-that-menacing the guy is. But it’s also a pretty useful data point to catalogued in my sleuthing brain.
If I don’t get murdered in the next couple hours, I think I can use this. Though… kinda give it 50/50 on the murder part.
This week, I recommend Villager Three. I really like this story, because it’s really cute and has a really cool world.
As of this writing, I have 982 unique followers across all my fictions on Royal Road. With no new non-joke stories in over 18 months, that’s pretty impressive. But my mind’s been scarred ever since some jerk online told me I wasn’t a real writer yet because I don’t have 1000 yet. Well, that number’s finally getting really close, and it’s so exciting!
And to make things even stranger… it’s 982 on Tapas as well! (Or it was as of Sunday 6/20. Hopefully it’s higher now.)
To ramp up the stakes, I’m going to declare my next big ultimate goal (because you know I like those): Once my follower count passes 1000 on both websites, I’ll post my next action-adventure web novel. Nothing else but that. So if you enjoy ATL here on the main site, please subscribe on Royal Road. (It’s not on Tapas, but my other two web novels are.)
You up to it?