Boulevards of Las Vegas : Chapter 1
"…Meiji Era design. The blade was replaced but the hilt is still authentic, that it is."
Kenshin stood at the counter of the Tama Street Antique Sword store, carefully relating the history of the sword. The customer held it up, letting the blade catch in the light. He shot a look over at the red-haired salesman who was smiling at him.
"Do you have certificate of authenticity?" he asked.
Kenshin nodded. "Of course. All you need is…"
His voice got drowned out by the noise outside. The customer whipped around, looking outside with a panicked expression. Windows rattled slightly, the sword in his hand wavered.
"…and the manager will oversee the final transaction," Kenshin finished.
The customer looked over with surprise. It was like Kenshin had neither seen nor heard anything at all. The customer carefully put down the sword.
"Ah… can you say that again?"
"Of course," Kenshin said with a smile. "All the paperwork is with the manager…"
The windows began to rattle again and the noise was completely overpowering. The customer jumped to the ground and held his hands on top of his head. It was like the world was ending.
"…oversee the final trans… oro?" Kenshin paused and leaned over the counter, looking down at the ground. "Are you all right?"
The customer let go of his head and looked up at Kenshin with a mixture of confusion and surprise. Was he the only one that experienced the near earth shattering experience?
"I'm sorry but," the customer started. "But do you feel all the shaking and…"
The rest of his sentence got drowned out as the noise returned. And looking up, all the customer could see was Kenshin's smile.
* * *
The man screamed, his knuckles turning white as he gripped the seat. His face was etched with fear and his voice screamed out again, desperately trying to get the attention of the woman next to him.
Kaoru frowned and pitched the helicopter forward again. It moved downwards, flying just over the rooftops of the buildings in the merchant district. Below her, Kaoru could still see the car, swishing through traffic.
Kamiya. Report! the radio crackled.
"In pursuit of suspect," Kaoru said, suddenly banking left to follow the suspect. "Now traveling down west on Tama Street…"
The man next to her screamed as the building in front of them suddenly shot upward. Kaoru pushed the stick to her left veering away from the building and lowering down into the street.
Kaoru's face locked up with determination. "We're going to drive him to the side street, over."
Roger that. Back up is on the way.
"No, no, this is a very… bad… IDEA!!" the man cried.
The helicopter shot forward and passed by the suspect's car. As soon as she was far ahead enough, she turned the helicopter 180 degrees and turned to face the car. She got a quick glimpse of the suspect's face before the terrified man suddenly turned down a side street.
As soon as he broke back onto the main road, the suspect found himself being pursued by a flurry of police cars and one helicopter pilot. He drove through the main street and pulled off into the suburban part of town.
Now, without any other civilian cars to worry about, Kaoru made her approach. The man next to her gave out one final terrified protest before falling silent. The bottom of the helicopter came forward, slightly grazing the top of the car. The car swerved and Kaoru tried again, pushing the throttle forward and give the car a push towards a nearby tree. She pulled to the side, nearly hitting the tree herself but managing to pull away and find an empty patch of road to land the helicopter.
Behind her, the police cars came to a screeching halt, as the suspect jumped out of his car and started to run. Officers jumped out of their vehicles and began to pursue him, cutting through the backyards.
The suspect began to think he might just make it now that he lost that crazy chick in the helicopter. But suddenly he came to face with something far more frightening. A snarling dog. The suspect came to a screeching halt but the dog leapt forward, jumping on him and pinning him to the ground.
"Right on, Notarou!" Sano said, coming up behind the dog, his crisp blue uniform swishing as he did. A large patch on his arm distinguished him as a member of a special Tokyo PD branch… the K9 unit. The dog turned and looked up at the trainer. Before Sano could move, he was glomped by the Notarou.
"Not me you idiot!!" Sano cried, trying to push the dog off. Luckily by then the other officers had arrived and were arresting the suspect. After several minutes of struggling, Sano finally managed to stand, walking back towards the rest of the police cars with Notarou following closely behind.
"Sano!" Kaoru called waving from next to the helicopter. Sano waved and walked over, shuffling his feet as he did.
"Oi, jou-chan, nice move," he said.
"You too," Kaoru said with a smile. "Not a bad run for your first real shot at the action, ne?" She knelt down and looked at Notarou. "And how's your… partner?" she said with a smile, as she petted the dog.
"Better than yours," Sano said, motioning to the passed out co-pilot.
Kaoru frowned as she saw the figure slumped in the copilot's seat. This was the third time this month! Tokyo PD needed to send her stronger people because none of them lasted after the first pursuit. Of course, she wasn't sure there were any pilots left at this point.
"Didn't Megumi say you shouldn't be doing things like this anymore?" Sano asked.
Kaoru shot him a look. "She said I shouldn't do anything that would cause me stress. Sitting at a desk all day… that was causing me stress. This is just fun," She said with a smile, seeing her fellow officers shoving the suspect into the back of the car as he yelled about lunatic helicopters and possessed dogs.
"Right," Sano said with a shrug.
"So, you're still up for celebrating tonight?" she asked.
Sano smiled. "The chance to have other people pay for my drinks is all the motivation I'll need."
"Who said we were paying for you?" Kaoru asked.
"Hey! It's my god damn party," Sano said, backing off when he saw the smile spreading on Kaoru's face.
"So you want a lift back to the station?" she asked, pointing a finger at the helicopter.
Sano looked at her strangely. "Jou-chan… I may not be smart, but I'm sure as hell not stupid enough to get in a helicopter with you."
* * *
Kaoru clung onto Megumi's arm as she laughed and pulled her friend into the crowd. Megumi could only sigh at the younger girl's exuberance and wonder if another lecture about over-activity would be in order.
Not that Kaoru would even listen. Since being given approval from her doctors a few weeks ago, Kaoru was determined to get readjusted to her old life. That meant no more desk work, no more quiet nights at home… sigh, Megumi missed those already. And from what she was hearing from her friends at the precinct, Kaoru's wild streak was getting worse. She had managed to go through three partners in one week.
"Come on Megumi," Kaoru whined slightly, dancing around to get her attention.
"Kaoru," Megumi said, "just wait a minute. I need to talk to you about something."
Kaoru stopped and looked up her. "What is it?" she asked grimly, knowing the look Megumi had when she was about to say something serious.
From over on the other side, Kenshin watched as the two women stopped dancing and began talking. He turned to ask Sano what he thought but saw the man was already enjoying the free liquor that he was getting from the rest of the group.
Kenshin smiled slightly, still trying to get used to the idea of Sano as a police officer… a K9 police officer. But then Kaoru had pretty much given him the option of studying at the academy to become an officer or janitor at the precinct. And the only thing Sano hated worse than working for the law was cleaning.
Of course the academy had taken one look at him and stuck him as the training dummy for the K9 units while he was studying there. Well, that was before Notarou showed up. The stubborn dog didn't take to anyone except Sano. So they decided that he would just have to study to be a K9 specialist.
Which was why they were out celebrating. A few months short of graduating, Sano was already enjoying work in the field as part of his training. This was the end of his first day and what better way to celebrate it then with friends at a local club.
Suddenly there was a shriek in the crowd and Kenshin stood up, followed by a wobbling Sano. In the middle of the dance floor, Kaoru was clapping her hands excitedly as she nodded frantically.
Megumi seemed to be trying to say something more but gave up and with a motion over to the table, sent them both back to the men.
"What's the matter?" Sano asked as they sat down.
"Megumi has a medical conference in the United States and said I could go along to help," Kaoru smiled.
"That should be nice," Kenshin said with a smile.
"Where in the States?" Sano managed to get out.
"Las Vegas," Kaoru said with a smile. "How much fun does that sound…"
"Wait, wait, wait," Sano said waving his arms. "Did you say Las Vegas?"
"Yes," Kaoru said.
"Gambling capital of the world?"
"Ah… yeah, I guess…"
Sano's attention flicked away from Kaoru to Megumi. "Let me go instead. I'll do much better work than jou-chan ever will."
"HEY!" Kaoru cried, looking over angrily at the other man.
"I can carry more things than her too," Sano said, frighteningly sober suddenly.
But Megumi wasn't impressed. "Please, you think I don't know you well enough to not know you would spend the entire time drinking, gambling and ogling the show girls?"
"Ha," Kaoru responded, looking over at Sano.
"Besides," Megumi said, "Kaoru will be less of a financial drain then you."
"Yeah… wait a minute," Kaoru said. "What do you mean, financial drain?"
"Well, you don't gamble because your luck is atrocious," Megumi said, "and all it takes is one drink for you to be passed out."
Sano laughed and Kaoru shot Megumi an angry look. "I'll have you know that I am a very good gambler and I can hold my liquor."
Megumi raised an eyebrow. "Really? I seem to remember a certain night on a beach outside of Tokyo where a rather inebriated…"
Kaoru jumped up and shook her head feverishly. "Megumi! You promised not to ever mention that again."
"Don't get angry, jou-chan," Sano said, pulling her back into her seat. "Now what was this about a beach?"
"NO!" Kaoru cried, hitting Sano lightly in the arm.
Megumi sighed. "Really now, between the two of you, I think I'd rather take Ken-san with me instead."
Kenshin cringed, having a bad feeling about what coming next. There were only about two seconds before Kaoru and Sano started in again, further inflamed by Megumi's suggestion that she take Kenshin.
He watched them fight and tried not to smile. Even if Sano did yell a lot more lately, the two girls were definitely a good influence on the two of them. The ex-gangster and the ex-street thug had really come about full circle. Both were in respectable jobs, both were making a steady income and actually helping to keep up the Kamiya household.
If someone had told him a year ago that this is what his life would become, Kenshin would have laughed at the idea. But things had changed. A lot. Looking over at Kaoru laughing over something Megumi had just said to Sano, he knew things had changed for the better.
Still, it looked like the situation was rapidly degenerating. He should probably step in but… Las Vegas sounded nice. A vacation sounded nice. Especially after the manager at the store came back and had a heart to heart discussion about Kenshin's selling manner and his girlfriend's antics.
Which is when Kenshin had to explain that the noise didn't really bother him that much and that the pilot wasn't his girlfriend, just his landlady (since that seemed the simplest explanation for it all).
And the manager had said while the appreciate the crime free streets, the weekly runs by a helicopter down the street was just not good for business and could Kenshin please do something about it since the pilot was his girlfriend.
Then Kenshin had tried to explain again but… it was hard to argue when Kaoru had a habit of running into the store everyday, her helmet still with her and relating the story of how she caught the latest bad guy.
"Megumi-san," Kenshin asked, finally breaking into the conversation.
"Yes?" she said, glad from a momentary break from the argument.
"How are you getting to Las Vegas?"
"ANA, of course," she said with a smile. "And first class to boot…" Megumi trailed off, seeing the look on Kenshin's face. She shook her head feverishly. "But it's… first class," she said firmly.
* * *
"It was first class," Megumi lamented as she sat down in the middle of the aisle in economy.
"But this way," Kaoru said, taking a seat next to her, "we can all go. And we can trade your suite at the Bellagio for two rooms." That didn't help Megumi's mood one bit.
Sano sat next to her suddenly and reached out hesitantly for his belt. "What's wrong with you?" Megumi asked.
Sano shook his head. "I just… don't like flying."
"The whole idea of it! I mean, what's keeping the plane in the air??"
Megumi sighed. "Didn't you ever pay attention in high school physics?"
"I never made it to high school physics," he replied.
"Come on Sano," Kaoru said, reaching over and poking his arm. "There's no reason to be afraid. Flying in an airplane is just like flying in a helicopter!"
Sano's only response to that was a glare that said 'how many partners did you loose this week?' Sano clicked the belt into place and began to look up and down the aisle. "Don't we get free drinks with this flight?" he asked.
"We would," Megumi said bitterly, "if we were in first class."
"Maa maa," Kenshin said, sitting down next to Kaoru. "It'll be fine. We'll fall asleep before we're even halfway there."
* * *
Six hours later…
"Red!" Sano called.
Megumi pulled a card from the top of the deck and yawned. "Black," she said, flipping the card over. "I think your luck is worse then Kaoru's." She shot a look over at the other girl but Kaoru was curled up in her seat, earphones in her ears and hands at her mouth while she watched the film on the screen in front her.
"Try it again," Sano said, trying to shake the sleep from his eyes.
Megumi held the pack of cards in her hand. "Shouldn't you try something a bit… I don't know… more likely to be found in Vegas?"
"What?" Sano said. "But this is what I play all the time."
"Probably why you always lose," Megumi said. "What about Poker, Blackjack?"
"Those are gaijin games," he replied.
"And we're going to gaijin casinos," Megumi replied. "So do you want to learn or not?" Sano looked at her and nodded. Megumi took the cards in her hand, split the deck and shuffled them quickly. "Black jack it is," she said before spouting of the rules of the game while she dealt the cards at blazing speed.
From the end of the row, Kenshin stood up and stretched his legs. Long plane rides never suited him. The last one he had taken was for a job when he was still the Hiten assassin but that was a memory he was all too happy to bury away again.
He walked down the aisle, letting the blood flow back into his legs. He looked up and saw the curtain for first class had opened slightly. He smiled, glad that Megumi couldn't look in and see what was going on.
Suddenly the curtain flung open and a stewardess walked out. Before she had the chance to close it, Kenshin got a good look inside. Something caught his eye and he shook his head as the stewardess closed the curtain. No… it couldn't have been.
Kenshin walked forward, trying to peek behind the curtain. He could have sworn that he saw someone familiar in there. But… but, they couldn't be here.
"Can I help you sir?"
Kenshin turned around to the stewardess and shook his head. "No, I'm just stretching my legs," he said before turning around and walking back. His mind replayed the scene a few times before he decided that it must have his imagination.
Reaching the aisle, he saw that sleep had finally taken over at least one of them. Megumi and Sano were enthralled in the mechanics of Blackjack but Kaoru had finally nodded off to the movie. He leaned down and pulled the blanket back on top of Kaoru before taking his seat. But unlike her, sleep eluded him as his mind was plagued with doubt.
* * *
Misao hung quietly from the ceiling, her gloved fingers typing away feverishly at the keyboard but not making a sound. The rope holding her legs was taunt and barely moved as she worked.
How's it going? a voice crackled through the headset.
"Fine," Misao whispered. "I feel like I'm in a bad Mission Impossible movie though."
Just keep going, security hasn't found us yet.
Misao sighed. That was her partner. All business, no fun. Not even a little laugh at her joke. When she got home to Tokyo, she was going to have a long talk with Kaoru and find out if he was like this with all his partners.
The computer whined and Misao smiled. Computer virus… implanted. She pulled the disk from the slot and signaled to Aoshi to pull. A few seconds later, she and Aoshi had crawled out of the air conditioning ducts, stripped off the black body suits to reveal the two business suits underneath and walked out of the building.
As soon as they had climbed into the car, Misao sighed. "That was too easy," she said.
"You should be glad we had no problems," Aoshi said as he turned the key in the ignition.
Misao waved him off and pulled out her cell phone. "Job's done," she said as soon as they picked up.
"Good job," Okina said. There was a pause. "We're going to send you on the next mission right away."
Misao's eyes perked up. "Something happened?"
There was a pause. "Yes…"
"Is everyone alright?" Aoshi suddenly asked, unable to hear the conversation. Misao just nodded as she listened to Okina relate the information. The moment she hung up, Aoshi was looking at her for an answer.
"There was a jail break," she said. "Yumi escaped and they can't find her. They think she's already fled the country."
"Where would she go?" Aoshi asked.
"Well… most of her contacts were in Japan but…" she trailed off.
"But what?" Aoshi demanded.
"The Juppongatana yakuza had a few connections internationally. She probably fled to one of the other Mafia families…"
"China?" Aoshi asked. But Misao shook her head. "Italy?" But he was wrong again. He looked at her and suddenly realized why she was being evasive.
The tires screeched as the car made a U-turn in the middle of the street to head towards the Kyoto airport. Yumi had not fled to the Chinese triad or the Italian families, but the child of all the Mafia organizations. The American mob. The gangster organization that had found a perfect home in the city of Las Vegas, the same city Kaoru had told him that she and the others were going away for vacation to.