Chapter 22
The Death of Wanze, CP7 Agent, and its Consequences

Oh my god please help me knee deep in the river trying to get clean
He says wash your hands get out the stains
but you best believe boy there's hell to pay yeah you best believe boy there's hell to pay
come on
Oh my God please help me waist deep in the river can you hear my plea
He says son you come like a beggar in the streets
you might make it boy but by the skin of your teeth.
I rambled with the worst of them
fell in love with a harlequin
Saw the darkest hearts of men
And I saw myself staring back again and I saw myself staring back again.
Oh my God please help me neck deep in the river screaming for release
He says it's mine to give but it's yours to choose
you gonna sink or swim you gonna learn the truth no matter what you do your gonna learn the truth saying
Ate the bread that once was stones
Fell from a cliff never broke a bone
Bowed down to get the kings overthrown
Now I'm all alone and the fires grows and I'm all alone and the fires grows
Swing sweet charity take what's left of me
A new beginning or is this the end
Swing sweet Seraphim take me back again or watch me make the messes of men

-"Barthlomew", The Silent Comedy


Picture it. The red musk of sticky blood staining his hands crimson, the copper smell rising from the soaked cuffs of his dark blue suit, The ringing steel in his hands buried to the hilt in a human chest-he had never seen life fade from a man's eyes before. It was a deadly silent, incredibly intimate crystallization of everything. As if the two of them had been caught in a bubble of time in which all was still and all he could hear was the inaudible sigh of the man's soul escaping, whisking away from the broken jar of his body, seeping through the gaping mouth that had opened up in his abdomen. That, and he could hear the quiet hum of the man's circuits, shutting down, one by one.

It was his eyes, mostly, that gave away the approaching imminence of his demise like the bleeding, terrible wound in his lower chest could never do. Whoever said that the eyes were the windows of the soul had undoubtedly seen that everything could be understood in the curve of the expressive iris. Even when blood tears were beginning to smear the cloudy white corneas and seep star trails down wrinkled cheeks-as was the present case.

The tine was infinite in that moment. Sanji must have thought a million thoughts in the few seconds he thrust the long, brutally elegant blade of the Houchou through the man's suit, through his skin. Through his tissues, through his muscles and subcutaneous fat, through his liver and through his visceral bag. He had kept on boring in,-past shifting, steaming, pumping organs, past more skin, crunching through solid bone once or twice, and ripping through cloth once again and finally freeing the red tip of the knife into the open, starlit air. The Houchou, damn it's thirsting soul, had sliced through beautifully, without remorse or regret.

It held them together, murderous lovers.

And then, with a grunt, he gripped the man's thick shoulder, and pulled the blade of the Houchou clean out. Red ink welled out from the entry point as the flesh collapsed around the wound. The agent sagged and, Sanji, not wanting to dirty his suit, stepped back smartly. Wanze (if that was even his name—it sounded a little too exotic for Sanji to believe it was authentic. But then he assumed that working for such a shady organization like CP9 must make fake names a requirement.) hit the pavement hard. There was an ominous dry snapping noise when his knees slammed the ground. Sanji had an idea that it was the sound of his kneecaps cracking and he almost flinched. But then, broken kneecaps were the least of Wanze's problems.

Wanze looked at him sightlessly, the same big shit-eating grin pasted on his face, red teeth glistening. His hands ghosted unbelievingly over the ghastly puncture wound. His throat issued forth another one of those wet, gurgling noises and blood bubbled at his pale lips and ran down his fat chin in a little stream. And then, finally, he was falling. It was a slow, creaking movement—as if gravity had no say in the matter.

The thud was solid, strangely quiet. And Sanji stepped back, hand still clutching the wooden handle of the houchou knife, lest this was still a bluff (and Wanze's hand might thrust out suddenly and grab his leg.) and nothing more than a trick.

Silence, in the back lot parking lot. The distant sound of light traffic, the whisper of the wind as it ran through his hair and made the sticky heat of the night bearable, only enhanced the quiet around him.

So now he had a dead body on his hands, how pleasant. And now he was a murderer. Oh mother, he had just killed a man. He had brutally, cleanly, unhesitatingly sliced away the man's tenures to life, given him a one way ticket to the here beyond. Sanji, stood, contemplating. And inside, his heart hardened a little more with the realization that he felt almost nothing.


From the instant that Sanji had beheld Wanze, he had had a foreboding that things would not end well. The man's protruding belly, his tacky suit, his flyaway grey hair and bugging eyes, the buckteeth sticking out from underneath his wormy lips—the man himself exuded an air of slippery, insidious malevolence. The kind of man who would slip a little poison in your food, or a knife in between your ribs while your eyes were wandering.

The steel heels of his loafers clicked the blue titles of the Baratie's floor as he walked to the unknown diner who still sat in the exact same position as Sanji had left him in. The big, shit-eating grin stretched across his thin lips, the eyes wide and empty as holes in a paper bag. He walked closer to the end of it all with every step, his long legs clad in black slacks ate the floor up and brought him closer, closer. In his hand, wrist up, he balanced the large porcelain plate covered with a pile of steaming ramen noodles. They were plain, undecorated, but the smell arising from them was making the other diners pause and look up wistfully as he passed.

Sanji laid it gently on the table in front of the man and pulled his chair out; sat down coolly and shook out his silver case. The thin, home rolled cigar he pulled out lit up easily from the tip of the solid silver lighter and the sweet, aromatic fumes spun up and into the air. The Baratie was a non-smoking restaurant, but he had never minded.

The man stuck his fork into the plate and expertly wound up the ramen around the silverware. He opened his mouth wider than Sanji considered necessary or polite and stuffed the whole steaming mass into his mouth, swallowing with what seemed to be a brief second or two of chewing.

The cigarette trembled minutely in Sanji's mouth as he bit down hard on the filter. He absolutely despised it when diners at his restaurant just shoveled in the food he had so lovingly cooked, that he had put a little piece of his heart in and blessed; he absolutely despised it when they threw it in their mouths like so much coal to the furnace, and swallowed it without knowing what they had just missed. The ramen noodles had nothing fancy, granted, but he had made them perfect just the same.

If Sanji had not already believed this relation was not going to go well before, he most definitely knew now. He could tell a man by the way he handled his food and this man was a relentless, classless, malicious idiot.

"My time is short, sir, "Sanji said curtly, "Say what you came to say and be on your way."

"Oh-ho! You won't have that attitude when I tell you why I'm here—you'll be begging me to stay and tell you more." The man giggled nastily, "But I have to congratulate you on these noodles—they're a little too cooked but that's fine, you probably don't have much experience with noodles."

The heat began to creep up his shirt collar. Sanji's voice was so frigid, he half expected the water in the thin, crystal glass in front of him to freeze over. "I have been cooking for eleven years under a master chef; I can cook noodles in any way, perfectly. If these noodles are not to your taste, then it is not a problem with the dish itself."

"Getting offended are we?' the man snorted, still smiling (It seemed to Sanji that the idiot could express any emotion with that same wide smile on his face.) "Calm down. I only said that they were a little too cooked, I like my noodles in a different way."

"How?" Sanji snapped.

"Raw," the man smiled, "Or nearly so."

That's disgusting. Sanji mentally gagged, but he remained composed and cracked an ironic sneer, "Why am I not surprised? Fitting." For a man such as you.

"You sound like there's something wrong with barely-cooked ramen!" The man protested, a little bit of a frown creeping into his eyes. (Not at all affecting his smile, no, not at all.)

"This is beside the point," Sanji retorted, waving his hand the cigarette clutched between his pointer and middle, "I don't care. Get to the reason why you're here. You may enjoy the present company but I do not."

"Wanze," the leer across the table widened, if that was even possible which Sanji had highly doubted it was.

"Excuse me?" He tilted his head slightly, thinking he had heard wrong.

"My name is Wanze," the other repeated, a little dramatically in Sanji's humble opinion. "Government agent—"

"CP9?" Sanji barked, he didn't even care that a few nearby diners shot their table nervous looks and hurried up their last bits of food on their plates. (It was well known that the Baratie chefs picked fights…often.)

"Not quite, I haven't had the honor. Cipher Pol Number…" Wanze smirked and put up two fingers, "Seven."

Sanji relaxed a bit into his chair and matched Wanze's smirk with one of his own, "Not a big boy yet, eh? Don't worry son, your balls will drop eventually."

"Don't get too full of yourself, idiot!" Wanze half-screeched, "CP9 didn't think you were worth the time. They knew I was enough to deal with you! Little kid like you can't handle whatever you think you're thinking you're getting into."

"And why would you think I would be getting into anything?" Sanji mused, "I'm a high school senior with good grades, a lot of money, and a rising name in the culinary world."

Wanze giggled, "Lucchi might be mad at me! He said, 'Go watch that man and tell me if you see anything interesting. Look but don't reveal yourself—we're not sure yet! But you have to go by your instincts sometimes to shine! And yes, I know now!"

"Know?" Sanji repeated. He felt something cold and ice slither in the pit of his stomach. A slimy, nasty creature which sank its little piranha teeth into the lining of his gut. But he kept calm, oh so calm. One twitch of the mouth could be a betrayal.

"I know…that you know!" Wanze chirped and stuffed anther fork-full of ramen into his mouth. "I know that you know too much! You know CP9, you know about the warlords, you know about Robin and about Hancock, about Ace and about the way Lucchi didn't smile when he saw Galley-La burn, but his eyes did! You know about Blackbeard's betrayal and about Blueno's death! You are alive and aware to the death throes of Water 7 when so many aren't. You see through the dark and see us inside!" Wanze was leaning forward intently, his head mere inches away from Sanji's. "And why would you know so much when so many of your kind refuse to admit it! Great men like Lucchi and Jyabura don't pay attention to the small things…but I see…I put two and two together. I am the mouse that takes the spine from the lion's paw!"

"Enough with the metaphors, your rhetoric won't save you now," he interrupted and leaned back, tearing himself away from the wide circles of those eyes which seemed to be lacking any semblance of sanity. "Get to the fucking point and get the hell out of here. You're a plague."

Wanze went on as if there had been no interruption in his little tirade and Sanji had an idea that the man was so far gone that everything he had said had gone unnoticed. Such was a man was unsafe and Sanji began to shift in his seat slightly as he stretched out the long muscles in his thighs, cracked the bones in his foot and rolled the ball joints of his ankles.

"I saw the weak link in the chain! I saw where that man would break—that man!" Wanze suddenly seemed to snap out of whatever reverie he was in and focused again on Sanji's face, "Tell me! With the fall of Blackbeard, what will happen to the children he has left behind?"

Sanji said nothing, but continued to pin Wanze with his gaze.

Wanze smiled, "It's obvious that you know….but that you don't know what, precisely. Let me tell you. There are too many that are protesting the dirty, filthy way Blackbeard—also known as Edward D. Teach in some quarters—did his followers. Killed the main man and took the best names with him when he left. You'd think they would wander off like lost sheep when their shepherd has abandoned them….but they haven't. Why haven't they?"

He said nothing. But the sweat dripped down his back, between his ballsack, in the creases of his inner elbows. Realization was still distant, but coming fast. Racing towards him, like a train rushing from the far horizon, the whistle blowing hard and the steam of its engines rising above in a black cloud.

"Why haven't they?" Wanze slammed a fist on the table, shaking the delicate structure and making the red wine splash out onto the pristine white of the tablecloth. "Because that man is holding them together. Zoro Roronoa! He is becoming. He is going to take the reins of the old gang and continue the race where Blackbeard left. He's just a kid, but he's dangerous! His family left the city a few days ago, his best friends are in custody. A man like that is ten times more dangerous." Wanze smiled. "Lucchi wants him dead. Better yet he wants a good grip on his balls…Lucchi would rather have him as a weapon in his own hand...but there's no weak spot on that man…nowhere to stick a crowbar in and maneuver. He has other friends, but no one friend that we're sure Roronoa would put down his weapons for…"

It was then that Sanji realized. It did not hit him hard, no sudden intake of breath and widening of eyes. It was just understanding that seeped into his mind, his skin, and his thoughts. The knowledge settled over his shoulders and even though his body registered nothing, he knew that there was no possible way that Wanze could leave this place alive tonight. The ramen noodles would be the man's last meal because Sanji could, under no circumstances, let this man depart with such dangerous knowledge. Wanze had been right—he had realized the one small detail that great minds like Lucchi had passed over (Not completely though because Lucchi had sent someone to follow up the lead.). He had realized it and so held the one key to Zoro's demise.

But Sanji would not let it be Zoro's Achilles' heel. He would not be the fuck-up. Would not cause the man he loved, admired, and needed to be compromised because of him. Yes, he was willing to do anything for Zoro, even murder. Even murder.

They stared at each other: a grimace on Sanji's face, a leer on Wanze's. They stared at each other, nakedly, finally revealed fully and finally to one another. Sanji abandoned any reservations he might have had, any pretenses that he had faked in the beginning of not knowing anything. Wanze, undoubtedly, also cast aside the little, useless, game they had been playing.

The silence between them ached with the weight of the words left unspoken. Sanji knew that whatever Wanze decided to say next would be life-changing, catastrophic. But at the same time, worthless. No matter what, the writing on the wall was written in his blood.

Wanze's breathing was erratic, his eyes shone with childish excitement, his shining white buckteeth stuck out from under his lips absurdly. His smile stretched when he said, "…And then I found you."

"That's enough," Sanji growled, his hands clenching impotently, "I swear on my father's name that if you touch Zoro, I'll rip your head off."

A knowing look immediately seeped into Wanze's fat, lunatic features, "Best friends? Sa-Sa-Sa-ha!" Sanji nearly winced at the noise which he assumed was Wanze's species of laughter. "Best friends! Best friends! He made a fun bet with his buddies that he could spread your pretty legs and lay you and then he realized that he liked you a little too much to do that! And then he thought it'd be a good idea to tell you all about his life and went on the other side of the city—and you swallowed it all up and now I'm going to use you against him!" Wanze began to bounce up and down in his seat and Sanji drew back, alarmed¸"Be grateful for the irony—now it's not him who'll fuck you but you who will fuck him over!"

"I said don't touch him!" Sanji snarled, standing up and slamming his hands onto the table. The wine glass tottered, fell, and shattered as it hit Wanze's plate. The wine splashed and soaked the already desecrated white cloth, "You listen to me you little shit—anyone who hurts him deals with me, do you understand that mothefucker?"

He was furious, explosive—everything in his body honed in on the fat, pasty features of Wanze and on the fact that he his sole desire in life at the moment was to place a solid, round-house punt right between those insect eyes. How dare this man think to use him against his lover; he'd rather die than let that happen. How dare he think that he would stand by and let Zoro come save him and face the consequences.

Wanze was looking more delighted by the second, even Sanji's outburst did not seem to faze the happy, idiotic look pasted on his ugly mug, "How disgusting!" he barked in that nasty, high-pitched voice of his, "You're fighting for someone not worth the shit under my shoe! He's a filthy, less-than-human gangster! He's unloved, unwanted, a criminal, a low-life! Zoro Roronoa doesn't deserve to live! He's—"

"Shut the fuck up!"

"He's going to die! Rob is going to shoot him in the back of the—"

"Shut up! I'm warning you!"

"—head and he'll die and no one will care but death is too good for him!" Wanze screamed back triumphantly.

"Bitch ass motherfucker, I told you to shut the fuck up!" Sanji roared and with a mighty kick, flipped the table over and sent it sliding across the polished title floor. The commotion from the kitchens was great, and his fellow chefs came tumbling out from behind the double doors where they had been undoubtedly listening from, or at least trying to.

Patty was at the forefront of the rush, a great butcher knife clutched in his ham-like fist, "Sanji! Fighting with the customers again?"

"Shut it shit-cook! I'm going to kill this bitch ass motherfucker where he motherfucking stands or so help me God—"

Even when he was young and just a snot-nose wiping up spills on the floor or scrubbing pans in the kitchen, his temper had been infamous. Since he had nearly starved to death on that piece of rock that was a bad joke of an island, he had had an immense pool of turbulent emotions, none good, which had plagued him for years. Sanji guessed that it was called trauma by some psychologists, but he had never gone and lain on the couch and said how he felt so angry sometimes. So fucking furious that he had suffered so much for nothing, that old man Zeff had suffered so much for nothing. He had been furious at his own impotence.

The cooks tried to restrain him, latching onto his arms, two or three to each and another couple to his torso and still he could barely manage to walk…one…step…at…a…time, towards that ugly pug face of Wanze who only stood there to the side, hands lax at his sides, smiling and looking as if nothing had fazed him, and never would. Had his outburst not scared Wanze in the slightest? He had sent grown men fleeing before with a mere word.

"Hey you, customer! What's the problem?" Patty demanded, directing his attention toward the still form of the agent.

Wanze looked at Patty, his eyes bugging out, "I—I—I thought I was going to die…"

Or maybe this guy was just a full-fledged idiot. Sanji lunged again, managing another step, inciting more cries from the cooks.

"You think you're so smart because of what you found out, you little shit?" He snarled, "You think your shit don't stink because of what you're doing, think you're a big boy now? If you fuck with my friends then I swear to God that I'll kill you where you stand—I swear to God—"

Wanze smirked and unbuttoned the top button of his shirt, "There's nothing you or he can do anymore, as soon as Lucchi hears what I have to say—"

It took all twelve cooks to drag him back into the kitchen; Sanji took some form of satisfaction in that little fact. What he did not take satisfaction in was that the last sight he saw before the steel double doors swung shut was the smile on Wanze's fucking face, bloated and triumphant.

He relaxed and said coldly, "Let me loose."

As expected, none of the cooks even lightened their tight grip on his body. He was going to have fingerprint bruises all over his torso and arms once this day was through. And what a day it had turned out to be and it wasn't even over.

"Patty, tell 'em to let me go," Sanji ordered, glaring at Patty, "I'm not going to maul anyone."

Patty shook his head in exasperation, "Sanji, it's been ten years and you haven't changed a whit. Always trying to solve an issue with your legs instead of your head, letting yourself get riled up too easily, picking fights with whoever you want even if they were no one you should fuck with."

"Enough of your nagging, you're acting like my mother, shit-cook," he hissed, annoyed. He needed to get loose soon so that he could stop Wanze from leaving the Baratie before Sanji could stop him. He didn't know what this impediment would pertain; he did not allow himself to think of the particulars at the moment, it would only bog him down. The way things would turn out, he was completely unsure, but he was certain of one thing. Wanze could not, under any circumstances, be allowed to leave the Baratie. But these damn cooks in his way—Wanze was going to leave before he could shut him up! Zoro needed him to take care of that bastard agent.

"Let me go!" he snarled, giving in to the impulse to throttle some misfortunate's throat. He could feel the capillaries of his skin protesting at the abuse of dozens of fingerpads dug deeper into his skin as the cooks tightened their grip.

"Keep him tight, boys," Patty barked, stepping in front of Sanji and fixing a hard eye on him, his meaty hands on his equally meaty hips, "If we let'm loose, we'll never see the end of the fucking lawsuits—"

"Let him go, Patty," a harsh voice interrupted the chef's order. Sanji snapped his head to the side, eyes wide and unbelieving. He hadn't expected any help from that corner….he hadn't expected anything from that quarter. Zeff had rarely cared about what he did or did not do. No, that wasn't true. Zeff hadn't interfered much in his life—that was worlds away from simply not caring. But now…

"You deaf, ya idiot snowpea? I said to let'm loose, let the kid go." The old chef, his moustache pigtails resplendent clunked his way into the kitchen, his rough peg leg thunking heavily against the blue tiles.

Patty gaped, then his eyebrows rushed together in disapproval and he frowned heavily, "But Chef! Sanji means to go pick a fight with the honored client that just walked out!"

"That's his business then," Zeff growled, "Closing time was one minute ago and you haven't even started cleaning the kitchen…you'll all leave an hour later and I'm not paying overtime for a bunch of stupid eggplants like you. Let Sanji go and hurry the fuck up before I anally rape you all with my peg leg."

The chefs scrambled and Sanji swore he felt the hands evaporate off his body. He would have laughed out aloud if the entire situation had been a tad bit funnier. Zeff looked at him oddly amongst the bedlam in the kitchen. His look was a mixture of fierce pride, bitterness, and black humor. Sanji was completely at odds on how to interpret that look. And suddenly he was struck by the resemblance that Zoro had with the old chef with that look splashed all across their features. Pride and sorrow. Love and shame. And even though every fibre in his body was yearning to dash across the Baratie and find the fleeing sonofabitch, he lingered a second longer, looking at those carved features.

Zeff gave a low, heavy sigh and said, "Well, what are you waiting for? Get out and do it. Whatever your heart is telling you to do. Just remember—don't hesitate, listen to your heart, what's in here," Zeff placed a closed fist above his chest and rapped it hard, "You'll know when your heart is speaking to you." He dug into his pocket and pulled out some keys, attached to a lanyard. "I picked them off the floor after all the ruckus." He tossed them over.

Sanji caught them in one hand, the cold, greasy metal pressed into his warm hand nicely and Sanji swallowed hard, "Chef—"

"Get out!"ˆ

He tried to smile, but couldn't. It was like he was saying his final goodbyes, here in this moment. But that was ridiculous, wasn't it? How could he ever say goodbye to the Baratie, the only place that he had been able to call home. How could he leave the man he called father, the chefs he called brothers, his life behind? Whatever happened, he always had the Baratie and the people in it. But what could possibly happen to him? Wasn't one of the fundamental laws of nature and its fickle character that nothing extraordinary could happen to him? To everyone else except him?

The bullets of ideas and rhetorical questions which burned their footprints in his mind rushed through the gyri of his brain. He was numb, yet tingling with images and emotions, ideas and premonitions. His legs were so far away from him as he ran across the kitchen, he saw his fingers splayed out—contrasting against the stainless steel of the double doors which led into the restaurant proper. He saw his hands, faraway, as if belonging to another person, one who was happy and blissful in ignorance. He saw, as well, a brief shadowy image of himself. A reflection in the circular windows of the doors.

Sanji felt as if he was caught in slow motion but at the same time everything rushed at him at dizzying speed. He floated, rapidly across the Baratie's floor, rushing to the fish-mouth shaped entrance. His hands thrust out of their own volition. They did not belong to him, they belonged to another person. Everything was so unreal in the world, the nausea of existence overtook him and his head ached with the weight of being.

Then he collapsed into the arms of the dusky evening and the cold whisper of air embraced him eagerly, sucking him deep into the sultry heat of the incoming night and he realized that his loafers were pounding the pavement. He was alive and honed in on the prey that was Wanze, CP7 agent. The wispy white hair, the thickset body. The form in the distance was standing in front of an old, tinted-window buick. Wanze was angrily shaking his jacket, undoubtedly looking for the keys he so stupidly left on the floor of his beloved restaurant.

He screamed something, something incoherent, coherent. Even years later, when everything was still painfully clear, down to the devil lurking in the details, he was unable to remember what exactly he screamed that day. Sanji only remembered the blackness tracing its fingers across his body. And his rage; he remembered that.

Sanji really thought that he would come to a skidding halt right in front of Wanze's surprised, fearful face (But still smiling, let's not forget that one nasty fact.) He would come to a skidding halt, he would light up a cigarette, and he would throw a few harsh words around, mostly dealing with Wanze's majestic level of stupidity, and then depending on what happened….that would decide.

He really meant to think a little bit, maybe give Wanze a chance to back out and be let off with a warning. He really meant to. What really happened was that his legs didn't stop running and Wanze's face got closer and closer and closer and then his hip rotated in its socket so far back that he felt his joint protesting among his stretching ligaments. Then he felt joy, such joy, as he delivered a roundhouse motherfucking kick to that self-conceited, pugnacious, prick that was Wanze, CP7 agent. Right in the gut.

"Get up, bitch. Get up and face me if you have the courage to do so," he demanded. The smoke wafting out into the night, the sun glinting off the edge of the buildings that cut into the horizon like so many rectangular teeth. The little light at the tip of his cigarette was a little sun, in of itself. "Get up before I kick you while you're down and so shame myself because God help me, I won't be able to stop myself."

"Goddamn you!" Wanze screeched, flailing and struggling to get up. Or Sanji assumed that was what he said. It was kind of hard to yell anything coherent at a respectable volume right after you had one of his feet slam into you. Wanze was wheezing and coughing, spitting dime-sized spots of blood onto the black pavement. In the darkness, they barely showed, and looked like holes drilled into the ground. Holes that would lead straight into hell. But then, hell would be a better place to be then Water 7, give or take a few weeks. Or days. At least down there you knew you were damned.

Wanze managed to gain his knees, and with a mighty heave, gained his feet as well. He stood there, not the steadiest, but standing just the same. It was all Sanji needed. His hips twisted, the move slick and flawless, propelling his leg like a stone in a sling. The point of his shiny loafer slammed into Wanze's thick side and threw him violently against the car, slamming his body against the rear-view mirror. Wanze screamed, the high-pitch sound causing Sanji an inward wince.

"You'll be sorry for this!" Wanze shrieked from the floor, struggling back up, his suit a mess and his face blotchy with red and purple spots of pure impotent fury. "You'll be so fucking sorry for this you shit! You and Roronoa and every single piece of shit that tries to stop us!" He was struggling for the door, clawing for the handle, obviously forgetting that it was locked.

"Shut your damn mouth! Sanji snarled, reaching down to seize the back of Wanze's suit, and hauling him. He flipped him around and threw him against the driver side of the junky, shady-as-fuck black sedan. Wanze might have fallen, but this time Sanji held him there, pressed up against the tinted window. Sanji could make out only the reflection of his movements in it.

"Shut up! Not so cocky now, are you fucker? Not so damn righteous?" He spat into the agent's florid face. His hands fisted tight into the folds of the shoddy suit and he began slamming the man into his own car, punctuating each slam as he snarled words of rage. "You…BAM…goddamn….BAM….piece…"

There was an ominous crack on that last one and the second slam after it shattered the driver seat's window. Wanze screeched and Sanji threw him one last time into the car and stepped back. He didn't want to get anywhere near that broken glass.

The agent struggled up, and lightning-quick, he thrust his hand through the broken window and clawed at the door lock. With a small click, the door swung open and Wanze swung open the door. Sanji lunged forward, reading Wanze's intentions a little late, meaning to stop Wanze from trying somehow to start his car or get inside and hole himself up in there. Wanze was jabbering , gibbering, even screeching some weird form of laughter and Sanji felt the goose flesh ripple up his spine.

"Get your ass back here!" He snapped, seizing the tails of Wanze's coat and yanking hard. Wanze screamed some negative and dived into the car. Sanji set his legs taut, braced himself with his long legs, and hauled hard on the fat form. The jacket which he had clutched in his hands ripped; it sounded like the low, ominous purring of a panther in the shadows. His grip slackened, and Wanze thrust forward excitedly. Sanji spat something foul and lunged forward to fill his fists with more material.

Wanze screamed triumphantly, just as Sanji clutched the seedy jacket and gave a mighty tug and hauled him out. To his horror, there was no resistance and gravity was overwhelming him before he even could think another thought. The breath was slammed out of him as he hit the pavement brutally. Wanze toppled on top of him with a high pitched giggle that Sanji positively loathed.

"Die you son of a bitch!" Wanze shrieked and Sanji felt a sharp, razor-like pain shoot down his side like venom. He roared from the raw pain which exploded along his stomach. He bucked hard and Wanze screamed again just as he was thrown unceremoniously off. There was a metallic clatter and Sanji, as he scrambled up, hand pressed to his shrieking side, saw a long knife resting on the pavement.

He recognized it immediately. An 18-inch Houchou knife. It was a monster—the blade sharpened to a lethal point in order to create the most delicate slivers of fish. It would go through human flesh like a fish through water. Had Wanze stabbed him with it? He was disgusted at the sacrilege more than worried about the damage. That knife should never have been subjected to such an injustice. But right now he needed the knife on the other side of the world from him.

He lashed out and kicked the knife—it went sliding and hit the car's tire. Wanze screamed in triumph and lunged for it. Sanji screamed, "No motherfucker—" And pounced. He only barely noticed that his side was burning hot with pain. It had been removed from his mind entirely. Sanji snatched at the polished wooden handle and picked it up, eliciting another scream from Wanze. Wanze scrambled up and wailing, threw himself at Sanji.

What happened next, Sanji years later would still question whether it was pure instinct or deliberate will that caused him to raise the Houchou knife and slide it through Wanze's fat body. He couldn't remember thinking anything in those simple motions, but at the same time it was no surprise. When reality and the world had reasserted themselves, the fist which grasped the knife's handle was inches away from Wanze's gut. The knife had slipped in like if the solid mass of flesh and bone had been mere butter, warm and soft to the touch.

Wanze had frozen as soon as the Houchou had penetrated, his grin still there, but now it was a grimace. His hands were outstretched, as if still meaning to strangle Sanji, and they flopped down uselessly to his sides even as Sanji watched. He shuddered, once. But couldn't tear his eyes away from the sight of death.


In the end he called the only person he could think could possible help him in such a situation. Gin arrived nearly fifteen minutes after Sanji called, jogging into the parking lot with his grey sweatpants and dragon-emblazoned jacket. The dark had risen fully by then and only the ghastly orange of streetlights dimly illuminated the parking lot. The Baratie's kitchen was still fully lighted and Sanji, if he paused his breathing and stilled the thumping of his heart, could faintly hear the sounds of rock music and the chefs laughing and the clatter of dishes. The chef's cars were still scattered around the parking lot.

Sanji leaned against the car, smoking. Cigarette butts littered his feet, the black ash scraped across the pavement. He couldn't believe the chefs were still in the kitchen, performing their duties as they did every night before. An eternity had passed for him between the time he had come charging out of the Baratie and the time he had thrust the Houchou knife through Wanze's belly and so murdered him. But it had been only about half an hour. Impossible to believe.

His mind wanted to drift off in an effort to evade the consequences of his actions. Relentlessly he dragged it back, like a greyhound straining on its leash. He was calm and cool inside, his gut was ice, but his mind wasn't there. Sanji felt as if it had seeped through his fingertips the moment he couldn't tell if he had meant to impale Wanze on the Houchou or not. Had it been self-defense or deliberate murder?

There was no escape from the life he had just taken here in this desolate inner-city parking lot. He felt like crying, but felt as if there was nothing so vulnerable as tears left in his body. He had killed a man.

"Oy! Sanji, what's up?" The voice called out, and Sanji turned to see Gin, walking towards him. Sanji had not wanted to call anyone he really cared about. He didn't know how they would react with what he needed help with. He didn't want them to be involved in what he had done and what he needed to do. But Gin, Gin owed him one.

"Gin," Sanji greeted him coldly. Not because he had a problem with Gin, but because it felt like he was made of ice, "I'm here to cash in that blank check you offered me. I'm sorry to do it so soon, but present circumstances leave me no choice."

The other man nodded, "Sanji, I owe you my life. There's nothing I wouldn't do for you to repay my debt."

Sanji leaned down to take off his shoe, and slipping his hand in it, quickly cleared off the jagged edges of window glass which remained. He swung open the door and wiped off the glass from the driver's seat. "Hop in Gin, we're going for a cruise."

Gin swung into the sedan, "Let's ride then."

Sanji took out the keys he still had and easily located the car's. The engine revved on and he flicked the headlights on before pulling out into the street. There was no other way to say it.

"I've got a dead man in the trunk of the car. I'm afraid I killed him. I need a place to put the remains so that they won't immediately attract attention."

"You've got to be fucking with me," Gin said.

"I expected you'd say that," Sanji said tersely, "But I'm the furthest I can possibly be from kidding. I need you to help me. What say you?" He drove into the night, not really aiming for anything but to get past the city limit and into the more rural areas. He really didn't mean to drive past Water 7's encircling wall, emblazoned with gang tags and philosophical graffiti. He remembered the beginning of it all. That fateful day in which his and Zoro's destinies had collided like two cosmic pool balls on the pool table of some insane god.

He remembered Nami in the passenger side of his Lexus, shrinking back from the dark of Water 7. He remembered the sad pathetic sight of the dilapidated apartments and trash littering the streets. He remembered pressing his foot onto the accelerator and whisking themselves out of the place—like a soap bubble floating by, refusing to be touched or defamed. Well, now his little bubble of idyllic thought had been popped and he better slow down and let his ride cruise by the neighborhood because he belonged here now.

Gin was staring at him, "Sanji, don't fucking joke with me. Are you serious or not?"

Sanji reached down and squeezed side where Wanze had attempted to pierce him with the Houchou but had only scraped him pretty bad. His hand came away wet. He held it up, not looking at Gin, palm up. The streetlights lit up the car for a second and Sanji could see, out of the corner of his eye, the ink which filled his palm.

"How bad are ya?" Gin asked, "Someone tried to do ya in my friend. But I guess you got the best of him in the end."

"CP7 Agent, Wanze," Sanji remarked, almost casually, "He knew too much for him to live. I had to kill him."

Gin threw back his head and let out harsh laughter, "Thinking like that becomes second nature to you here in Water 7. I like you more and more Sanji—you were born on the wrong side of these walls. I can even believe that there's a dead man in this car."

"You best believe it," Sanji muttered, "It's why I called you—where can I dump him?"

"Well," Gin's eyes sparkled, even in the dark, "I've dumped more than my share of corpses before. The Don was a man of men. Where you want to dump him depends on what kind of message you want to send. You want to publicize a threat—dump him in a boss's territory. Want to throw him CP9's face? Throw him in front of the police office with a note on his body."

"I just want to throw him somewhere where he won't be found soon," Sanji interrupted, "I don't have anything I want to say. Fuck, I killed him because I didn't want anything to be said."

"Too late," Gin laughed, "Sometimes I forget you're a virgin in this game. Half the city probably already knows—was there a lot of screaming."

Sanji paused for a moment and cursed Wanze's loud mouth, "Yeah, there was."

"There you go. Better to throw him somewhere where he'll shine."

"I don't anything about where he should go," Sanji snapped, "He can rot in the parking lot of a thrift store for all I care. This is why I called you Gin."

"All right, all right, no need to lose your cool," Gin said soothingly, "Tell you what—this is his car right? Let me handle it. I'll drop you off where you want to go and then I'll take care of your dirty laundry."

"Will you? That sounds fucking great right now," he said, "I don't want to shove this onto you…but I'm exhausted."

"Don't worry, " Gin smiled, "I owe you one…and yeah, that's natural. Murder does that to you."


Wanze, Cipher Pol No. 7 Agent, private detective and government officer under the direction of Rob Lucchi was discovered around 3am in the morning. The Grand Line's Fire Department was summoned by witnesses and callers to 911 to the scene in response to a car which was burning. The scene was in the middle of the Galley-La's apartment's charcoaled remains. After the fire was completely extinguished, around 4:30am—the black husk of something remotely human was pulled from the locked trunk of the car. The body was identified as human and hours later, positively identified by dental records. Forensic specialists released a statement about the immense difficulty of finding anything in the burnt out hunk.

"Wanze's death means nothing to the forensic team," Jango drawled, "They'll never know more than what the body tells them. But here, the body can tell nothing. Wanze himself was a secret, his existence limited to the beige confines of a classified folder. The black sedan he drove has nothing attached. It's a blank slate."

Zoro nodded, absorbing the information in. The murder of Wanze, CP7 agent had been a sensation in the city and among the people. It had not been an explosion, but a slow building up of excitement which boded unwell. It was a mystery. Luckily, he had Jango.

The crooked cop smirked, "I heard them discussing it when they were in a meeting. But they don't know that there's a little potted plant in there that has a bug in it—and not the kind that has wings and flies. I put in there on a whim. And I picked up something about Wanze that might interest you. The cause of his death!"

"Spill it then," he growled, more annoyed than ever of Jango's tactless theatrics.

"In due time my good sir," Jango smiled, "I just wanted to pause and say that you've become quite the leader since Blackbeard ran away and Ace landed in the hospital. You've got a number of men following you."

It was true. Though Zoro couldn't have fathomed how the remnants of Blackbeard's thugs had coalesced around him and begun to reclaim the streets they lost—this time in his name. It had happened so quickly, so unnaturally natural—answering questions in matters of gun importations, shipping of cocaine, who to fuck with and who to strike a deal with…everything had fallen into his hands. And because he wanted to save his friends and come out strong, he had taken the reins of leadership in his inexperienced hands and run with them.

"Not by my wish," he said to Jango, "Not at all."

Jango smiled, "Well, I was thinking that I might raise my fee a little…"

Zoro tiredly contemplated drawing a katana and decapitating Jango, then decided against it. He needed Jango right now, there wasn't any other sneaks in the police department that were as stupid and as enamored of money as Jango. He fixed an eye on Jango, "Your fee is as high as it should be. If you ask me again…you won't be leaving this place alive."

The cop smiled nervously, "All I ask—"

"I'll raise it, but this time only. It's a limited time offer."

"Well thank you my good-" Jango gushed.

"Get to the point," Zoro snapped, "I've got things to do."

Jango smirked again, "Well, I heard the main man himself say this to his secretary with the great legs—Kalifa! Man, I would love to do her…Well, anyway, I heard him say that he was going to look into the reason why Wanze was killed—that the guy he was sent to investigate must have done the deed! Sanji Blackleg was the man—"

Jango could have just stopped talking then and there. The sense of vertigo was palpable, intense—the nausea rose in his gut and throat and it was all be could do to grip reality with his clenched fists. The name of his beloved crossing the lips of that crooked cop's mouth was surreal—absolutely impossible. He felt as if someone had slung low in his gut and knocked the dimensions out of him. It was horrible, the blackness that swallowed him alive like a living beast.

What he had most dreaded had come to past like a doomed prophecy. Zoro could only stare sightlessly at the man in front of him as he watched his world collapse and dematerialize on impact. Somehow Lucchi (God damn him!) had found the soft patch in front of his jugular and had struck. But Sanji….Sanji had thrown himself completely and utterly into the chaos! Sanji should never have done anything, so much as looked Wanze the wrong way no matter what Wanze had said! Wanze was an idiot, alive. He was a buffoon, a fool—it was obvious that he had been given the dirty jobs. But, dead—oh, dead he was going to haunt them all. The smell of his stinking carcass had brought him more attention than he ever got alive and Lucchi had stopped and looked. The reverberations of his death were going to rock them all to their very foundations, starting with him.