Cover: C.T. McMillan
Model: Megan Crawford (ING: @mleighmoon)
Copyright 2018 by C.T. McMillan
All Rights Reserved
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I could not have come this far without my family encouraging me to pursue my ambition to be a writer.
To Razor’ and ’19 for providing inspiration.
There wasn’t a black suit among the Gorinnis stacked at the bar. They had on their usual flapper getup with the addition of a black armband hugging one sleeve. It was late in the morning, but that didn’t stop them from reaching for glasses. Lotch was kind enough to help them to it, sharing the same two bottles of whiskey.
“So, we taking the monorail?” asked one Gori.
“We’re sharing cars in the procession,” said Lotch. “Me and Cody’re driving one.”
“And me,” said a second Gori down the other side of the bar. “I can fit four.”
“If I can’t fit the rest, we’ll double up,” added a third.
“How long’s this gonna be?” asked a fourth.
The whole bar eyeballed the kid sitting at the far end, totally isolated.
“Got somewhere to be, pal?” asked the first Gori.
“This too much of an inconvenience for ya?” asked the third.
The kid looked like he was ready to get his teeth kicked in.
“What do you want me to say? It’s friggin’ sad. I don’t wanna do this. Do you guys?”
The kid made enough of a point to make the Goris go back to their drinks, Lotch pouring seconds before taking his own swig.
“I used to have all this debt from school,” said the second. “Had to work a janitor’s gig at the museum. Then one day, my prick boss was screaming at me in the middle of the day, the place packed with people. And here comes Cici, half the size of this guy, and grabs his balls ‘til he fainted.”
The bar laughed.
“After that, he made me a package boy, and all my debt was gone after a year’s work.” He finished his glass in one gulp. “True friggin’ story.”
No one wanted to talk after that, but the silence didn’t last long when the doors slid open. Takashi Sterling came in, dressed in a blue three-piece, and topped with his single blue eye mod. His left hand was wrapped in fresh gauze, most of it around his missing pinky. Behind him was a gaggle of a dozen Yakuza, black suit and tie like you’d expect. They didn’t want to be there and the Goris would’ve been happy to show them the door.
“Morning, fellas,” said Takashi, standing towards the middle of the club so everyone could see him. “I know the timing ain’t ideal, given everything that’s happened, but I think Cici would’ve…
Not much you could say about a street alley. They’re either dirty or very dirty. The alley behind Le Speak looked like the next one over, and the next one after that. Garbage bags were packed next to dumpsters the city forgot to pick up last week. The one by the back door was particularly hefty, enough that you’d need a proper truck to empty. It wasn’t too hard for Kiddo when she pushed it in front of the door, clad in her signature crimson peacoat and grey flat cap with round sunglasses. The creaking against the pavement was louder than her arms humming with the effort. Once you couldn’t see the door, Kiddo jogged down the alley and rounded the corner at the street.
“…Now, as a part of the very generous terms outlined by our new partners,” said Takashi, “we’re taking on new blood in an exchange. We get a little of theirs, they get a little of ours. I know we’ve had our differences in the past, but I think this is a good opportunity to…”
The hatch leading into the cellar sat above ground to the left of the club’s awning. Looked like an urban storm shelter with the lock on the inside to keep out would-be boozers. It was the only other exit out of Le Speak next to the main entrance.
Kiddo pulled a small pry bar tucked in the back of her pants and hooked it into the handles of the hatch. Holding the ends of the bar on either side of the handles she bent the metal. The rings of her arms spun under her sleeves until the metal was wrapped around the handles. The lights on her wrists stopped blinking as Kiddo descended under the awning. She took one step at a time, taking it slow to think it through again and again.
Takashi cut his speech short and watched her come in. The Yaks turned her way and squared up under their cheap suits. Kiddo didn’t meet anyone’s eyes as she turned to the glass panel by the door in the wall. The screen blinked on before she fingered the keypad.
“Hey ya, Pinkerton,” said the third Gori.
She kept typing.
“Need an armband for the service?” asked the first. “I brought spares.”
They still couldn’t get a word out of her once the locks clicked and Kiddo took a stool at the end of the bar on the left after the Gori got up.
“Sake,” she finally said.
Lotch was starting to get the picture and passed her a whole bottle, the expensive kind that looked handmade, and kept his distance. He wiped his hands with a rag as he watched her finish it off in slow gulps.
“You and the rest of us, Pink,” said the second Gori. “Talkin’ about the good ole days can only do so mu–“
“Y’know,” she placed the bottle down, “I never killed anyone before?” She gave the bar a slow glance before turning back, shaking her head. “Not one. Not ever. Everyone says Pyongyang is dangerous at the lower levels and they’re right. It got worse after I lost Dad and my arms. But I never had to killed anyone. I stole, picked fights, begged for food, even tried whoring one time… Got cold feet the last minute. It was survival. Wasn’t out for blood or desperate enough I had bite someone’s throat out. All anyone needs is a little.”
The mood shifted. The Goris were wondering what Kiddo would do once she was done talking while Takashi was making his way to the door.
“After I snuck into that container, I realized, this time, I really had nothing. No friends, no family, no house, no purpose. When I woke up in Seattle,“ she said taking her cap and coat off, the reveal of the new arms that put her audience further on edge, “this short, bug-eyed old man made me the woman I am today. Cici thought because of where I’m from, I was a hard-up bruiser that knew how to play dirty. Course, I didn’t, but I faked it because I owed him. Then I had new friends, new house, and a reason to keep going. Cici made me, and there was no way I’d let him down by telling him I wasn’t a killer.” Kiddo joined her glasses with the cap and coat. The steely solidity of her Slav eyes made Lotch duck under the bar. “And now he’s dead. I spent 10 years putting on a stupid accent and a tough-bitch façade for that man and then Tak splattered his brains all over me.”
The Goris turned to Takashi at the door. He was dialing a code in the panel that was changed minutes ago. As she went on, one Yak came to her right-hand side, waving off the Gori in the opposite stool. Then the guy next to him and the one on the wall gathered with their buddies in cautious anticipation.
“After that, I just wanted to leave. Make the rest of the money and skip town. No way I was going to give that traitorous schnook the same respect. It was going to take a while, but some one was looking out for me yesterday. I must be a real high roller to be so lucky. If I couldn’t serve as a warrior, then I made up my mind to do it as a mother. I finally had enough to start the family I wanted.”
The words were harder to get out, Kiddo’s lips curling inward. It came to her when she pulled her driving gloves off, one by one. “Enzo tired to kill me last night before turning our gun on himself… The second he put his hand around my throat I knew it wasn’t him. The cops told me someone jumped his brain and while they were looking for evidence, they took my money. All I needed to start over, what I worked so hard to get, snatched away… Now I’m back to nothing. No home I want to go back to, no boss to serve, no money to start my family, and no man to love me. I just wanted to leave this all behind to be a mother.” Kiddo balled her hands and talked through clenched teeth. “But when does anyone get what they want?”
It was just a matter of time. The Goris kept their distance while the Yaks were ready to draw. Takashi joined his new friends with pistol in hand, screwing off the suppressor. Kiddo reached around and held her sword in her lap, the Yak to her side reaching in his jacket.
“Dad was a funny guy. He was a Russian that loved Japan, but he lived in Korea because he couldn’t afford it. Anything Nippon, he knew it like the back of his hand. Right now, he’s looking down on me thinking I’m a ronin, samurai without a master. He’s thinking I could find work as someone’s bodyguard like those ancient movies he made me watch…” She sat up straight, one hand over the business end of the sword. “But this isn’t a movie, I was never a samurai, and I’m not a ronin.”
The blade shot out as fast as she threw her arm to the side. The Yak beside her was playing statue with an angry set of eyes that were slowly rolling up. The blade hovered over his shoulder, a clean red stripe painting the width of the metal. The Goris piled into each other once the sword came out and the Yaks and Takashi got a face-full of crimson.
Kiddo kept her back to them as she slid off the stool. When she faced the Yaks their wakazashis and batons were out. Some carried blades similar to hers, but smaller. Takashi was squared up and ready to take aim. She took the sword in two hands and held it down at her hip, face locked in a scowl.
“I’m just mad.”
Blade Runner, Directed by Ridley Scott
13 Assassins, Directed by Takashi Miike
Old Boy, Directed by Chan-wook Park
Ghost in the Shell, Directed by Mamoru Oshii
Metropolis, Directed by Rintaro
Yojimbo, Directed by Akira Kurosawa
A Touch of Evil, Directed by Orson Welles
Battle Angel Alita, By Yukito Kishiro
On the Waterfront, Directed by Elia Kazan
About the Author
C.T. is a Florida native and proud gun owner. He is a fan of all things military, comic books, and a self-proclaimed movie buff. In his off-time C.T. reviews movies on a blog no one reads and writes screenplays that will never get made, but enjoys it nonetheless. He hopes this book thing will actually pay off so he can do it forever.