Smoke curled up and away from the lone figure standing on the corner of the street at 2:30 in the morning. The red flare of a lit cigarette butt arced through the air, landing in the river. The night was clear, the sky cloudless and dotted with stars. The street was deserted, save this lone person.
Dark eyes scanned the empty street, right hand on the gun concealed underneath the heavy coat the young man wore. He was Asian, a teen or perhaps in his early 20s, with a solemn expression and sharp eyes that took in every detail, waiting for the signal from the other half of this clandestine meeting.
There it came, from an alley 2 blocks down: the flash of a woman's compact mirror. Casually, the young man pushed himself off of the railing and strolled down the street. Ducking into the alleyway, he was greeted with a woman in a black dress.
"Leon Chun, how good to see you." The woman greeted, leaning up against the wall. He wasn't fooled by the casual pose. It was the laziness of a predator that didn't feel the need to be on their guard. Leon knew all too well what kind of a threat this woman posed.
He drew his attention to the manila folder she held in one arm, the reason he was here.
"Mei Li, it's been a long time." He nodded back, not taking his eyes off of the folder. "How is the Rising Sun treating you?" He asked, the seemingly casual comment carrying a deceptive bite.
"No worse than the Red Dragons." She shrugged, a return barb. Leon let it go.
"What do you want for it, Mei?" He asked, cutting to the chase.
"You mean this?" She gestured with the folder. "Just a little information I know you already have. You won't have to do any real work." She smirked, unable to resist the last taunt.
"Let's talk business." Leon said cooly, ignoring the jab.
Leon pulled the brim of his hat low over his eyes as the rain started back up, shielding his face from the downpour. He shrugged deeper into his trench coat as he hurried across the street to a modest-looking office building on the edge of Chinatown. From the outside, it looked like the legitimate corporate HQ of a small shipping and transportation company. Inside, Yao Wang and his associates conducted a different kind of business entirely.
He opened the door for a little old lady who regularly sold gossip for oxy. He tipped his hat to her as she opened her umbrella, then ducked inside the building. The first two floors were clean, for the most part. The first floor was a legitimate shipping company that was a shell for their smuggling operations. The second was a payday loan company that charged extra interest under the table.
Leon took the elevator straight for the third floor.
He was met with a reinforced steel door with a peep hole at eye level. The bolt on the peep hole slid open with a clink, and the doorman looked through.
"Ni hao, Leon. Come on through." He greeted. Usually there was a password of some sort, but Leon was too well-known and too high up the chain to bother with that shit. He slipped through the door and took off down the hallway, towards Yao's office.
The light level on this floor was lower, more sensual. This floor was where they seedy underbelly of Chinatown came to do their business. Instead of desks, many of the offices had beds for the johns and the drug-addled. Big, burly men stood looking menacing in the corners, while young, lithe women flitted around the room looking for business among the junkies strung out on various drugs.
Yao's office was the last door at the end of the hall. The window in the door had been replaced with thick bullet-proof glass, and it was bolted on the other side by a heavy steel bar wider than the door and twice as thick.
Here, the security was tighter. A retinal scanner controlled the bolt on the door, allowing access only to a select few. Leon stared into the device and waited for the bolt to slide out of place before opening the door and slipping into the office.
"Leon, good to see you." Yao greeted, looking up from a stack of papers. "I was just about to call you in to ask about the incident at the club."
"It was handled. The guy was drunk and didn't know what he was doing. No harm, in the end." Leon assured him.
"Good, good. I trust he's been suspended from the establishment for a while?" He asked, adjusting his reading glasses.
"Yes, he's been told not to come back for 3 weeks. And that if there's another incident, we won't be so kind." He nodded, thumbing the folder.
"What's that?" Yao asked, looking up from his papers again, gesturing to the folder.
"Some new information I think you'll find quite interesting." Leon smirked, laying the folder open on his desk and pushing it towards him. Yao's brow furrowed as he picked it up, looking through the pictures and documents within.
"Oh yes, this is interesting. Very interesting, indeed." Yao drawled, a smirk mirroring Leon's growing on his face. "Take a few men and investigate this matter. I want to know more before we make a move." He commanded, waving Leon off with one hand.
"Consider it done." Leon agreed, turning on his heel and striding out of the room.
Alfred woke to darkness and a dull ache in the back of his head. He groaned, trying to bring his hands up to check out his lump, only to find them tied. The scratch of burlap against his cheek suggested that his head was still covered, as well.
"Jaime?" Ivan's voice came from somewhere behind him. "Are you ok?"
"My head hurts like a bitch and I'm all tied up. Great for the morning after, not so great after a kidnapping." He joked, hissing as his goose egg throbbed. "You?"
"I'm in the same boat you are, plus I'm still hungover. Things aren't looking great." He sighed, a shuffling noise reaching Alfred's ears. Moments later, he felt the press of Ivan's shoulder against his, a reassuring warmth in the darkness.
"Shit." He cursed, trying to loosen his bonds. "What are we gonna do? We really stepped in it this time." He growled as the ropes refused to slacken, giving up after a few minutes of useless effort. His mind set to work, trying to come up with a way to get them out of this. But with his head covered and his hands tied, what could he do?
"We don't even know what they want with us." Ivan pointed out. Though the sinking feeling that they had been found out weighed heavily in both of their chests. Alfred pressed a little closer to Ivan, glad that he wasn't alone in this, at least.
At least they'd cleared the air between them. They could go down as partners, if it came to that. He just wished he had time to say goodbye to his family. They were all in law and law enforcement, they knew the risk any time one of them left for work. But knowing something could happen and having to deal with the reality were two completely different beasts.
He wished Emily was here.
Ivan's thoughts were on his sisters, and the promise he had made to Natalia. She would be devastated, and Katyusha was holding on by such a thin margin, herself. Without him, would they even make it? Katyusha could barely work, she'd tried holding down odd jobs since they'd come to America, but her depression and frequent crying fits had cost her every one. What would happen to them if he was found tomorrow, body unceremoniously dumped in the river?
"We'll get through this." Alfred assured him quietly, a calm conviction in his voice. It made Ivan feel better about their situation, even if he didn't quite believe his partner.
"Of course we will, Jay. We always make it through." He answered back, trying to put some bravado in his voice when there wasn't much to be found.
Voices filtered in through the doors of wherever they were being held, low murmurs that they couldn't put to names or faces. Alfred's mind raced, trying to come up with a plan. Maybe if they rushed them as soon as they opened the door? But how would they know when and where to rush with their heads covered? And they wouldn't know how many there were, or where to run once they were free.
They were trapped.
"Jay, baby, listen. We gotta just do what they say. We'll think of something, but for now we've got no action to take. They've got us backed into a corner." Ivan said, voice low and close to Alfred's ear. Alfred nodded, leaning against Ivan for a moment for reassurance.
"Rob? If...if we don't make it out..." He started, biting his lip.
"Jaime, baby, don't. We'll make it." He murmured, wishing he could be more sure of that.
"No, listen. If we don't make it, I just want you to know I'm sorry. And that I wish we could have had more time to fix things." He sighed, laying his covered head on Ivan's shoulder.
"Me too, Jay. But we'll have time. We'll fix it, and we'll go home." He assured him, trying to believe it himself.
"I miss my brothers." He whispered, only for Ivan to hear. "Mattie...I can't leave him."
"Natalia...I promised her I would be back. She's only 9 years old, and she's already lost so much." Ivan hung his head. "I can't imagine what my death would do to her."
"We can't let it end like this." Alfred growled, snarling into the darkness. "We can't go down without a fight."
"We won't." Ivan promised, hands clenching behind his back where they were tied.
A metallic sound filtered in as a heavy latch or bolt was lifted and the doors flung open. Two sets of large, strong hands grabbed each of them and hauled them out. The bags were ripped off of their heads, leaving them both blinking owlishly in the sun.
The two goons that had grabbed them at the house flanked them on either side, with two more settling in behind them to bring up the rear. Before them stood Mei and Soo, the former staring them down while the latter nonchalantly smoked a cigarette, staring off into the distance.
They were in the middle of a field, with nothing to be seen for a mile in any direction. The soil was bare, the air cold and crisp, the wind biting despite the shining sun. Soo tossed his cigarette butt to the side and cut a glance at them, the corners of his lips twitching upwards in a faint smirk.
Alfred's heart pounded in his chest and ears, so loud he was sure that everyone in the field could hear it. He stood close to Ivan, eyes darting around between the people surrounding them. He assessed his options and came up empty. There was a slim chance that they could fight their way free, but their mission would be forfeit before they even knew what was going on.
"What the fuck, Mei!" He snarled. "You tell us what in god's name is going on here right now, or I will make things as painful for you as possible." He threatened. Mei, to her credit, chuckled and shook her head.
"Sorry about the rough housing, boys. Its easier to keep you from trying to track where we're taking you when you're down for the count. Plus, its a good way to test you." She smirked. Ivan wondered idly if they had passed.
"So where did you take us?" Ivan asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Untie them." Was all she said, and two of the men (Alfred swore they were all taller than Ivan, somehow, and built like brick shit houses, besides) moved to do just that. The pair rubbed at their wrists to get the circulation flowing again, still wary of Mei and her crew.
"Walk with us." She commanded, and Alfred noticed for the first time that the classy dress and heels she seemed to prefer in the city had been replaced by jeans and sturdy boots. How long were they going to be walking? He glanced at Ivan, who gave him a perturbed look then shrugged and moved to follow Mei. Alfred fell into step beside him, catching his hand and squeezing it briefly. Whatever happened, they weren't alone. Ivan squeezed back, and they dropped their hands.
Across the field, through a copse of trees, over a creek, across another field, down into a ravine, over a river, and back up the other side, they finally came up behind an old farm house, the windows shining in the creeping darkness following the rapidly setting sun. Alfred, shivering and huddled up against Ivan for warmth, heaved a sigh of relief.
Mei led them to the back door and knocked out a rapid, seemingly erratic beat. A moment later and there came the click of a lock being undone. Mei opened it and led them inside, Ivan and the overly large men stooping to fit through.
They stepped into a spacious kitchen done in cheery yellow shades, with gingham curtains and a row of gleaming pots and pans hanging above the sink. Alfred frowned, wondering if this was another safe house, or what. Why would they bring them here? And why such secrecy?
They were led out of the kitchen and across the hallway to the top of the basement stairs. Alfred paused for a moment, picturing clean metal surfaces covered with plastic to catch all of the blood. But one of the goons bumped Ivan into him and it was descend or fall. So he took the stairs one at a time, not stalling, but not exactly jogging down, either. Ivan came down behind him, a hand on his shoulder.
At the bottom of the stairs he was greeted not with a plastic-covered murder lab, but a well-stocked rec room. A large flat screen TV was mounted to one wall above an entertainment center stuffed full of movies, tv shows, and video games. What in the hell was this place? And why were they here?
A young Asian man, no older than Alfred, rose from the gaming chair stationed in front of the television, a look of cold indifference on his face. A well-tailored suit, all crisp hems and sleek lines, and an expensive watch completed the picture of a powerful man, perhaps a ruthless one; the gun at his hip spoke volumes.
He stopped in front of them and slipped his hands into his pockets, taking out a pack of cigarettes and fishing one out. Striking a match and lighting it, the man began to speak.
"I was hoping you would put up a better fight." He hummed, looking slightly disappointed. "You two have been some of the more entertaining guests we've had." He chuckled, hitting a few buttons on a remote. The video feed from the house they had been staying in popped up on the screen.
It was footage from the night they had spent in front of the fire, sorting things out. They had been pressed close to each other, murmuring softly so the mics couldn't pick anything up. From this angle, it looked intimate. Breathing in the same space in front of a roaring fire, drinks nearby; it looked a lot more romantic than it had been in context. Then Ivan kissed him.
Honestly, Ivan had been particularly worried about this conversation in hindsight. Had they overheard anything? Been suspicious of them? Was that why they were here? But looking at the footage now, he couldn't see anything that would give them pause. They had unknowingly played their parts, even in that recklessly unguarded moment. He let out a sigh of relief inwardly.
Outwardly he frowned at the video. "We're so glad we could provide some distraction, Mr. Honda." He drawled sardonically, staring him down. "But I think we should get to the matter at hand. If you aren't going to kill us, then get to why you did bring us here."
"Robby." Alfred admonished. "Don't get your panties in a bunch, babe. If they want to try to intimidate us, let 'em." He shrugged, an easy grin on his face screaming 'It's not like its going to work, anyway'.
Ivan drew Alfred into his arms and held him tight. "They could have hurt you." He growled, clutching him close.
"But they didn't. Well, they did, but a bump on my head ain't shit. I'm fine, promise. I know you wouldn't have let anything happen to me." He cooed, pressing a kiss to his cheek. "Now," He said, turning to Honda, Mei, and Soo. "He does have a point. The faster we get down to business, the faster we all go home safe and happy, yeah?"
"Of course." Honda agreed, waving an idle hand at Mei, who crossed the room to fetch a map, which she rolled out onto the table. It was a map of the docks, a few positions and the exits all marked.
"The Vargas brothers have called a meeting with Yao in a warehouse down by the docks. It's the best chance that's come up so far. There's only a few ways to get to the warehouse without taking a long walk off a short pier. Two sides border a steep, rocky bank, and two face a maze of shipping containers. Everyone will have to come in the same way, through the shipping yard. If we play our cards right, we might even be able to make it look like the Italians called in the hit." Mei started, while Honda made a few marks on his map with a red marker.
"We've set up a choke point here, in the maze of shipping containers between the docks and this warehouse." Honda explained, showing them on the map as he spoke. "We've also set up something similar on the other side, in case he comes from that way. We suspect, however, that he'll come through from the dockside. Finnegan, you'll be up on the roof with your sniper rifle, waiting for a clear shot. Delacoeur, You'll be on the ground, in case things get messy. We don't expect things to get messy." He smirked.
"Once you've taken the shot, retreat." He told Alfred. "I don't care if you hit him or not, retreat after the first shot. And whatever you do, none of his men see your face, got it? I want plausible deniability." He stressed.
"Everyone will know you hired someone, but they won't know who and they won't be able to prove it, so they won't say shit?" Alfred asked, a grin like a knife's edge cutting across his face.
"Exactly." Honda chuckled, rolling up the map.
"We'll talk more when the time comes." Mei assured them. "For now, we should all rest. It's a long walk back to the van tomorrow morning." Alfred gave her a horrified look, and she chuckled, shaking her head.
"You really thought we went through all of the trouble of walking you here just to drive you back?" She snorted, Alfred glared at her, clenching his hand into a fist. Ivan just pulled him into an embrace from behind, pressing his lips to his ear.
"Calm down, babe. It's only a few miles." He chuckled softly. "You can do it." He teased.
"Sometimes I hate you." Alfred pouted, though he didn't break the embrace. Soo made a gagging noise and rolled his eyes.
"Get a fucking room, you two." He snorted. Alfred blinked, wondering if that was the first time the man had spoken to them. He thought maybe it was.
"Gladly, I'm fuckin' beat." He yawned, rubbing his eyes tiredly. "Got any spares?" He asked Kiku.
"Yeah. Daisuke, show them to a room." He ordered, and one of the overly large men stepped out of the lineup and motioned for them to follow. They trailed behind him to the second floor, which seemed to be nothing but bedrooms. They were unceremoniously, but not unkindly dumped into one by the bruiser, and left to find their way to bed themselves.
Alfred flopped face first into the bed as soon as the door was shut behind them, toeing off his shoes and wiggling into a more comfortable position. "Jesus fucking Christ it has been a long-ass day." He groaned, face buried in a pillow.
Ivan yawned and removed his own shoes and coat, crawling into the bed beside Alfred. "You can say that again." He rubbed a hand over his face, staring up at the ceiling. "I thought we were going to die." He let out a long sigh.
"Yeah, me too. And now I don't know if I'm too wired to sleep, or two exhausted to stay awake." He huffed, removing his glasses and setting them on a conveniently placed night stand. "I'm really hoping its the latter. That's too long a walk to be taking on little to no sleep."
"Mmm." Ivan agreed, his own eyelids already drooping shut.
Alfred propped himself up on his elbows, watching Ivan as his eyes closed and he quickly drifted off to sleep. That had been fast. Al stuck his tongue out at the lucky bastard and flopped back down, mind whirring back through the events of the day. He wasn't sure he'd ever be able to sleep again.
And yet, 10 minutes later when Soo was sent to make sure they weren't snooping around, he found them both fast asleep.
Haha I bet you guys never thought you'd see me again!