Location: Tokyo, Japan
Objective: Locate person of interest, codename 'Jericho'
The lights from the neon signs glowed brightly through the window, casting eerie portraits of gleaming faces and shining words on the wall. The floor, cold and splintered from its abandonment, scratched at my legs as I sat sprawled across the old wooden planks. My school shirt was torn across the front, revealing a black lace bra and the bruised skin across my ribs and chest. Hung in defeat, I kept my head forward and down, allowing the bangs of my auburn hair fall around my eyes. Squeezing my eyes shut, I stifled back the growing pain in my side and let out a groan. Rough rope cut into my wrists as I pulled against the restraints one last time.
A chuckle ran through my ears, dragging my attention to the young Japanese man in front of me. Rolling my eyes up from the floor onto his shiny leather shoes, I raised my gaze up his pressed trousers and suit until I reached his face. His hair, dyed blonde, was spiked up in all directions. Clean-shaven, he smoothed his face with his hand - I smiled faintly as he ran his fingers over the blistering red scar across his cheek. Hanging my head, I fell back into my stupor.
"Yoshi!" commanded a booming voice from behind us. "I told you specifically not to bring anyone here." Yoshi shuffled away from me, facing the stranger.
"She was proving difficult to contain. I had no choice," Yoshi spluttered, the ash from his cigar falling on the ground around him.
"I find it hard to believe that one seventeen year old girl would be too much of a handful for such an established businessman as yourself," the voice said again, clicking footsteps approaching the side of the room I was tied to. White alligator shoes came into my view, a short distant from Yoshi. Jericho…
"This…" spat Yoshi, turning in my direction, "This is no ordinary girl."
"So I see," said Jericho, dismayed. I tried to raise my head, but pain coursed through me like a fever in my veins. Every breathe felt like I was drowning and my head swirled in the cascading lights beaming in from outside. "Who is she exactly?"
"We don't know who she really is," murmured Yoshi, his voice begin to quiver. "She's known by the immigration department and her school as Miss Sesilia Smith. Anywhere else, she does not exist."
"And she's in my warehouse, tied up and bruised, why?"
"My men caught her snooping in one of our offices in town not long ago. Seeing as last time her and I met did not go down well for me, it was for the best we held her back. I think she is a spy." I smiled again to myself, remembering the event.
"Uh, so this is the Miss Smith. Really, Yoshi, I expected a little more from the vigilante who scarred the famous… what do they call you now? Uh, yes, the Japanese Godfather," Jericho said. "Very well, whoever she is, she will not exist for much longer. Take care of this by tonight. You have a meeting to attend. You need to be at the Casino by nine. Don't forget the briefcase. I will see you in a few days." Jericho turned on his heels, the white alligator shoes clicking away. Again, I tried to being my head up and glimpse at the man. By the time I had raised my eyes, his back was facing me and Yoshi was standing in front of me – obscuring my view. Damn…
"You won't be getting away from me so easily this time Miss Smith," he clicked, puckering at the large and smelly cigar in his right hand. "I have not forgotten the last time we crossed paths. Every time I look in the mirror I see the mark you have given me and it serves as a reminder of the bitter taste of defeat."
"I had to give you something to remember me by," I sniggered, coughing and wiping my mouth on my bloodstained shirt.
"We have your weapons; you are confined and locked away in an unknown location. This time I think it will be you who tastes the bitter defeat," he smirked, picking up and dropping my holster onto a fold up table. The hand pistol and ammunition clinked against the plastic surface. At the foot of the table, a shining black suitcase and my rucksack leaned against the table leg. His faint smile dropped as he kneeled down and brought his face close to mine. The rancid smell of his cigar sunk into my skin and lungs as he breathed over me.
"If I was you, I'd stop with the sass," he warned, his textured Japanese accent clipped. His brown eyes dropped from my face to my exposed neck and chest. Sinking the burning end of his cigar into the skin above my collar bone, I held back from letting out a cry. Burnt skin sizzled under the pressure. The sly smile of satisfaction broke out across Yoshi's face. I lowered my head again, relieved to feel the release of the cigar from my skin. Breathing deeply, I began to smile, and then chuckle, and then laugh. Within moments, I was laughing so much that my stomach hurt and tears began to well up in my eyes.
"Care to explain what is so funny, Miss Smith?" he asked, agitated.
"Are you really that stupid?" I asked back, managing to speak the words between hic-cupped laughter. "Really?"
"I fail to see the funny side to your situation. We have your weapons; you are confined and locked away in an unknown location…"
"Yeah, yeah, I heard you the first time," I sighed, collecting myself and sitting up straight. "But how wrong you are. Very wrong indeed." I flicked the hair out of my eyes and began to stretch my arms out behind me. Yoshi stood still, his eyes glinting at me through the dim light.
"You see, none of what you just said is true," I continued, ignoring his staring as I began to stretch my legs and neck. "First of all, I know exactly where we are. The lights outside? There's only three places in a ten kilometre radius of Tokyo, presuming you have taken me to another location as to where you knocked me out, where the Mooshi toothpaste brand advertise with large neon lights. These floorboards are water logged and the slight crusting on the surface is salt, suggesting we are near a coast or ocean. The man that just walked in mentioned we were in a warehouse, narrowing our location down to an industrial area, more likely on the fringe not too close to the newer developed parts due to the condition of the room but close enough to have the light from the street advertisements come in through the window. That puts our current location at Nagini Wharf, Tokyo, Japan." Blood began to pump through my veins again, bringing new energy to my limbs as I finished stretching.
"That is very true, although I fail to see how this can be of use to you – seeing as you are about to die," he said, bringing out a familiar black tipped blade. "Do you remember this? This is the same blade you used to scar me the last time we met. I think it would be nice if we stuck to tradition."
"Give it here and I'll finish the job," I said, pressing my back against the wall, trying to pull myself up into the standing position. Yoshi came forward and gripped my arm like a vice, the cigar again blistering against my skin, and pulled me up against him. Small rusty nails protruded from the wooden panels, scrapping against my body. I was now standing, pressed between the wall and his lean body. Using the knife, he brushed my hair out of the way and then traced my cheek with the tip.
"You know Miss Smith, if that really is your name, you would have made a fine collection to one of my brothels – with such beauty and fierce nature I think you would have made me a lot of money," he murmured, scanning my face. "Killing you is such a waste."
"Then lucky for you, that's not going to happen," I managed, bringing my hands down behind me – the nails snagging and breaking through the rope. Pushing him off me, I reached for the holster on the table, only to be pulled back by his grip on my arm. With my free hand, I swung a punch into his right cheek. His grip loosened, enabling me to break free and grab my hand gun from the table. Bringing it up, I aimed it straight at his face.
"What Casino were you supposed to go to tonight for Jericho?" I asked, shrugging on the holster. Yoshi's hands were up in the air; cigar in one and the knife in the other. I took a step forward, being the muzzle of the gun closer to his forehead. "Which one?"
"You wouldn't kill me little girl," he said, shrugging. I raised the gun, pulling the trigger and letting a round into the roof.
"Which one?" I asked again, grabbing the front of his jacket and pushing him against the wall. He cried out as the nails pierced his skin. The clatter of the knife to the floor pierced the silence through the room as I grabbed at his throat.
"You wanted to be captured, didn't you?" he sighed, wheezing. "That's what you wanted all along. You wanted to see Jericho and find out the meeting place. You… You work for CHERUB?"
I rolled my eyes, "More or less. Now tell me, where?" He shrugged, gurgling from him lack of breathe. The tension under my hands went slack as he slipped into unconsciousness. I let go, letting him slump against the wall. Rubbing my hands down the front of my skirt, I put the hand gun back into the holster and secured the strap. Picking up the knife, I strapped it back into its place at the top of my thigh. Moving to the table, I worked quickly; emptying the contents of the briefcase onto the table top. Crisp neat bundles of American hundred dollar bills cascaded onto the floor. Out of the corner of my eye, something small and round escaped the money and dropped to the floor with a clink. It rolled for a small distance before panning onto the ground. Bending down, I picked it up and turned it over in my fingers. It was a poker chip; the shining letters of The Red Dragon Casino glinted in the light. Smiling, I threw it into my rucksack and began to pile in the money.
"That's the problem with you Europeans…" wheezed Yoshi, coming out of his stupor, still slumped on the floor. "You think you can send children into battle and still win. CHERUB, Polevoi Shtab – you're all the same…"
"Please, CHERUB doesn't own me. Thanks for the cash," I said, swinging the rucksack over my shoulder and walking towards the door.
The lights from The Red Dragon Casino blared against my eyes – the red and yellow bulbs flickering brightly in assorted patterns. I took the hand of the chauffer as he guided me out of the back seat of the limousine. My long silk dress cascaded down my legs and onto the red carpet of the entrance to the Casino. Yoshi's money had taken me a long way in the three hours I had it. Although a majority still remained, now lying in the bottom of the Luis Vuitton bag around my elbow, a small percentage was now sitting in the cashiers of the top shops in Tokyo. Lucky for me, my encounter with Yoshi and his Triad gang had left me relatively unscathed – save for the few bruises and broken rib, hidden by the leisurely green silk wrapped around my body. I pulled the fur wrap tighter around my shoulders as the car moved behind me.
"Madam would you like me to take your bag for you?" asked the doorman, his white gloved hand extended towards me.
"That's quite alright," I smiled, slipping a hundred dollar bill into his fingers.
"If you wish," he said knowingly, a large smile spreading across his face. "Please, enjoy your night Madam." I strode past him and through the gold plated doors. Inside, the sound of flicking cards, poker machines and laughter pilled the air. Young women in bustier and fishnet stockings roamed the room, offering drinks to losers and kissing cheeks of the victors. Striding past the crowded public tables, I made my way over to the stair case at the back of the room. It's marble and golden plating poured from the second floor, meeting the main room with two American men in sharp black suits. Approaching them, I planted a small smile on my face.
"I'm sorry Madam, but you cannot come up here – this is the private playing rooms," one of the security guards said, his Japanese rigid.
"I think you'll find that's why I'm here," I said in English, opening the top of my bag and letting him peer into the contents. The man nodded, moving to the side and allowing me to pass. Another man in a black suit met me at the top of the stairs, his hands clasped in front of him. I passed him the bag, of which he rummaged through before opening a grand door at the top of the staircase. Several men, with their cigars dangling from the sides of their mouths and crisp Italian suits, turned to face me as I walked in. Their eyes scanned across my body and hugging dress. The man with my bag led me to a table at the far end of the room, where three men sat waiting for a card game to finish.
The first man was an elderly French man, his moustache as small and thin as his wallet that sat opened on the table. He threw his cards as I took my seat, a red six and a black four worthlessly landing on the green table top. He left quietly as the man who led me places my bag beside me and escorts the man out.
The second man at the table was Japanese and in his late forties, his pile of tokens also dangerously low. He flitted his eyes up at me as I straightened myself in my seat.
The last man was more like a boy; his clean shaven face showing the softness of childhood but with the ridges of a young man. His fingers playfully tossed the tokens in his hand as he examined his cards with the other. He was well built, with blond hair, and being dead on 6 feet tall with a stocky build. I controlled my breathing as he raised his blue eyes, the penetrating coldness sending shivers up my spine.
His name was James Adams, and this was not the first time I had encountered him during my missions. First, it had been in Cuba with the Koscov case, then again in Montreal during the medication bust. Out of a total of twenty five missions, twelve of them had made me run into him. He was as dangerous as he was flirtatious. Oh, yeah, and he was supposed to be my arch nemesis.
I sat at the poker table, studying the cards before me. It was a good hand; the aces staring back at me as I threw another few chips onto the board. The Frenchman on my right threw his cards and left the table as another member joined our group. I concentrated on my cards, my pile of tokens stacked high in front of me.
I had been chosen for this mission because of my mathematical skill. I chose to do this mission because I felt like James Bond. For the last week I had been living it large in Tokyo; sweet suits, plenty of drinks and numerous hours in the Casino winning big and loosing nothing. Tonight, however, was the last. Jericho was supposed to be arriving within the hour, giving me the small window of opportunity to fulfil the mission.
I glanced up, awaiting the man on my left to make his move, and I saw her. Her green eyes were sparkling and bright as she watched me from across the table. The colour of her dress matched the colour of the iris's that stared me down. Locks of auburn hair framed her face and fell to below her shoulders in soft curls. She smiled slightly, showing her white teeth beneath the ruby red lips. The fur on her shawl looked as soft as her skin.
"Monsieur Adams, do you wish to show your cards?" asked the dealer, his eyebrows raised. I dropped my cards on the table, revealing the winning combination. A few on-lookers clapped as I collected my winnings and stacked them, ready for the next round.
"You play very well… For a cheat," she whispered, coming up behind me and placing her small hands on my shoulders. She leaned in from behind me and kissed my cheek softly, her lips brushing past my ear. "Then again, that is all you English are good at."
"And so what are the Russians good at, if not cheats?" I asked, turning in my chair to face her. Sleek and elegant make-cup covered her face and highlighted her features; bringing out her emerald eyes and large ruby lips. She had kept her hands on my shoulders as I had spun around, keeping us in an intimate embrace. I put my hands on her waist and pulled her close.
"Beating English spy ass," she replied, playing with a lock of my hair. "Namely you, Mister Adams."
"That was only one time," I sighed, pulling her closer so that our legs were touching. "It's been too long Danita. The last time I saw you, you were high-tailing it out of the Louvre with a very expensive piece of art under your arm and…"
"And that was Danita. Today, I am Sesilia," she tutted, fixing my tie.
"Am I ever going to find out your real name? It seems only fair, seeing as you already know mine," I asked as I ran my fingers up and down her side. She flinched as I reached her ribs, moving away from my touch tenderly.
"Not only are English cheats, you are also stupid. Using your real name defeats the purpose of being a spy! No one is supposed to know who you are. CHERUB has sure gone downhill," she murmured, pulling herself away.
I sighed, bringing my glass to my lips and feeling the warmth of the whiskey pour down my throat. I looked over her again, noticing the snug fit of the dress and how it hung onto the curves of her hips and chest. "Babe, I probably know you better than anyone who thinks they know your real name. I know you mentally… I need to work on the physical."
"Bah! You wish," she said, rolling her eyes. A small blush escaped from her composure, pooling her cheeks red. I stood up and took her arm before taking her to sit at a private booth on the side of the room. As she settled herself in her seat, I closed the thick red curtains – enclosing us in a dimly lit cacoon.
"You are here for Jericho yes?" she asked, pulling up the hem of her dress and pulling out the M1911 pistol strapped to her thigh. I nodded as she began to check the rounds and clear the safety. I had seen this pistol before; it was her personalised weapon. The pistol was silver with an engraving of thorny roses twisted on the slide. The grip featured a cherry token in the center. Five charms hanged from the butt on golden cord; a sand timer, teddy bear, skull, baby bottle and a rabbit. I wish CHERUB would issue us with more weapons like that…
"He is roughly five foot two, with brown curly hair and tanned skin. Most likely of a Latino decent. Likes to wear white alligator shoes and owns half of the world's cocaine supply," she added.
"You've seen him? When?" I breathed, blinking twice.
"Only briefly and not too long ago. I had a little run in with a mutual friend of ours."
"Jeez, I've been here for a whole week and no sign of him."
"Your time is wasted, he will not be here," she said matter-of-factly. "Yoshi Nagisaki was supposed to run the meet-up, not Jericho; they both have probably skipped town by now."
"So why are you still here?" I enquired, slumping back in my seat and loosening my tie. She raised one of her thin eyebrows, cocking the weapon and placing it back under her dress.
"I have bigger fish to fry than Jericho. He is just a pawn in this ever growing chess game. You see Mister Adams, this is another advantage of the organisation I work for – we have no objectives, and we have no rules. We can change and adapt to new facts and people. CHERUB, on the other hand, is very much only one-dimensional. You put the small-time crooks away, whilst the masterminds run free and live the high life," she dismissed, reaching up and sitting on my lap. She pulled her arms around my neck and held my chin with her fingers. "That and I had some money to burn and I knew you would just love to see me in this dress."
"Are you trying to recruit me? Or just play with my emotions?" I asked, running my hands up and down her legs – noticing the small lump up on her thigh concealing her weapon. This was the closest I had ever gotten to this mysterious girl, and I wasn't going to waste it.
"No darling, I'm warning you. There's a storm coming James, and your government, including CHERUB, had better batter down the hatch," she said, lifting my chin up. My breathing grew heavy as she stared me down with those memorising eyes…
"Can you kiss me?" I whispered, the words barely escaping my throat. She smirked at my direct approach and lowered her gaze.
"I find that kind of devotion sinful," she said. "Perhaps it was even the origin of sin. But I think it's safe to say that you and I are already damned." I expected her touch to be tender and hesitant but there was nothing sweet or kind about the way she held me. She roughly parted my lips with hers, deepening the kiss by grabbing the front of my shirt tightly. She kissed me as if I was her salvation. Her hands moved away from my chest and down my arms to my wrists. I breathed her in and pulled her closer to my chest. Lightly grazing my tongue over her lower lip, she leant back.
"Mr Adams, you never change," she smiled, straightening my tie again. I went to push her fringe out of her eyes, but was snagged back by the metal cuffs chaining me to the light on the side of the booth.
"You know, we should try this hand-cuff thing when we're off duty. Tell me your name, and I can look you up. I might be even interested in trying this kissing this again. I find it a lot more enjoyable then you beating me up," I tried, pulling on the tight cuffs. She laughed and slid off my lap.
"When you get back, you can tell your boss Mac that he should stop having you check up on me. I'm not a little girl anymore," she said resentfully. "And you're beginning to become boring."
"How do you know Mac?" I asked as she opened the curtain and stepped back into the main room.
"Why don't you ask him yourself?" she posed, shutting the curtain closed.