“Is she dead?” I asked John.
“Yeah,” he said. “She’s pretty dead.”
“Just so you know,” I said, “I’ve seen at least two other people. Have you seen any others?”
“Well,” John said, “she’s the sixth person I’ve killed in this dump.” He sighed. “Still, there might be more I haven’t seen. You want a better gun?”
He was talking about the revolver I had picked up. “Definitely,” I said, “but I’m not leaving this guy behind for them to get prints off.” John reached down and gave me the gun from the dead woman. It was a Walther PPK with a tiny silencer. As he did so, I asked, “Do you have an escape plan?”
“Well,” he said, “either someone threw out a perfectly good Skyline or we’re stealing it.”
“Either way,” I said, “I’m down with that. Lead the way.” True to his word, an orange 2002 Nissan Skyline GTR was waiting for us, almost hidden among the garbage. The way it was hiding seemed almost deliberate.
“Hey, John,” I said, “can you pop the trunk? Just to satisfy my curiousity.” He did. Inside the trunk, underneath the garish spoiler, someone had managed to stuff several suitcases. I popped one open.
“What is it?” John asked.
“Either someone is clandestinely lending their neighbor a lot of sugar,” I said, “or we’ve stumbled upon an LSD buy.” I considered the case for a moment. “You know, we should probably leave the briefcases.”
John walked over and looked at the case. “I mean, it could be cocaine,” he said hopefully. “That’s less expensive, less likely to get them annoyed if we interrupt their deal. I mean, we’re gonna let them keep their controlled substance either way, but…”
“Nah,” I said, “It’s more cubed. Not powdery enough.” I looked at the car. “Besides, this is a nice car. It’s probably part of the deal.”
“I realize it’s a sweet car,” John said. “They should have realized it’s a sweet car and guarded it. Plus, they can get it back if they can find where we ditch it.”
“There’re three other cases in the trunk,” I said. “Want to bet there’s more LSD in it?”
John screwed up his face, estimating grams of LSD in a suitcase, then converting to dollars, then using that and other data to calculate ability and willingness to track us back to the US and do horrible things to us and our families. Finally, he said, “Fuck it. We’ve met scarier and pissed them off worse, and I’ve always wanted to drive a Skyline.”
“Fair enough,” I said. “Let’s get the fuck outta here.”
We then removed all the suitcases of LSD and made a quick check for other valuables. Then John hotwired the car and began negotiating the labyrinth of refuse. When he finally hit the road, he gunned the motor. The acceleration pinned me back in my seat.
“Hey John,” I said as the needles on the speedometer and tachometer rapidly rose, “maybe slow it down, ok? This shit feels like a fucking cop magnet and I do not want to get pulled over.”
“Well…” John said, “remember when you asked how they were planning on dealing with Mayu?”
“Yeah?” I asked.
“I keep coming back to what she said,” John said. “You know, about killing Mayu.”
“She wasn’t informed about it,” I said, “in fact, her exact words were ‘I’m not informed about it.’”
“Yeah,” John said, “That means either they don’t have a plan or it’s already in motion. Plus… I don’t know. It seemed like she knew something she wasn’t supposed to say.”
I opened my mouth, considered the logic and John’s uncanny ability to open his mouth when things were about to go wrong. “Can this go any faster?” I asked.
“Physically?” John said. “Yes. In practical terms, no.” He sighed. “I mean, who doesn’t want to go a hundred fifty miles per hour?”
We continued on the road. Eventually, we got to a large town or small city halfway between our hideout and the dump we had left half a dozen corpses in. Suddenly, traffic slowed to a crawl. We had gone from about forty five miles per hour to five. A long line of cars blocked our path.
“Should we find an alternate route?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” John said. “I only gave a slight skim of the map. I got alternate routes, but I don’t have alternate alternate routes. Plus, I have no clue where the blockage is.”
“Fair enough,” I said. There seemed to be a blockage somewhere, causing traffic to only flow in one direction.
We continued inching down the road at a painfully slow pace. Meanwhile, I don’t know why, I was looking at the roofs of the two-to-four-story buildings we were going by. Suddenly, I saw something jump between the roofs. “Hey John,” I asked, “Did you see…?”
“The roadblock ahead?” John asked. “Yes, I do.” I looked ahead. “Roadblock” was less the word to describe it and more “massive perimeter around a specific building.” JSDF soldiers and various light vehicles surrounded what appeared to be a small campus. They looked on edge, and were all dressed for chemical warfare. They also were checking the various vehicles that were passing quite thoroughly, looking at licenses and registrations, opening trunks, and wheeling mirrors under the chasis. I also saw a few of them dragging Jersey barriers, sandbags, and crewed weapons and laying them in defensive positions.
“I actually did not notice that,” I said. “But no, I was talking about the thing on the roof. I thought I saw something get up and then vanish.” I considered the vast array of military equipment before us. “You know,” I said, “we are at a turn we could easily take. Let’s do it and skip… whatever this is.”
“But no one else is turning,” John said. “It might look suspicious or there…” He was cut off by a burst of gunfire. The soldiers in front of the facility turned around to face it or went prone. They all started shouting. “Was that an M-249?” John asked.
Then there was a massive explosion. A large part of the building’s exterior bulged like a boil, then burst in a mass of debris and fire. The force sent some bricks, office supplies, and what looked to be body parts at least as far as we were. I knew this because a keyboard and two staplers hit the windshield right in front of my face like a shotgun blast and something big and heavy landed on the roof, leaving a dent. Other cars suffered similar damage. Burning paper, cloth, and insulation fell like snow. Understandably, there was screaming.
One of those people was me. “FUCKING DRIVE, JOHN!” I yelled as the smaller stuff sailed towards my face. Before I had said his name, John had already slammed the gas.
We sped the rest of the way. John also decided to go onto the highway, and damn any possible checkpoints. “The fuck was that?” John asked. We had been silent for a long time, due to both of us panicking and we were close to the safe house.
“Not us,” I said. “Not Jen’s merry band of maniacs, not our hosts, and I kinda doubt that the Defenders of Fuji or Charlotte’s people would want to blow that up.” I paused, considering everything that had happened on this trip. “You know,” I said, “unless the JSDF screwed up massively, I think there might be another game of James Bond being played here.”
John groaned. “Hey,” I said to him, “whatever they’re doing … isn’t our problem. Doesn’t that make you feel better?”
John considered this. “You know what? It does. It really does. But you know what makes me feel even better?” He pointed to a cornfield ahead of us. “That is where the safehouse is! In fact… oh fuck me.”
“What is it?” I asked.
“A white van just went straight into the cornfield,” John said angrily. “Fuck me, right?” As he said this, he made a sharp turn, driving us through five lanes of traffic and a median.
“John, what the fuck?” I asked, each syllable seemingly delivering a new near-death experience as cars clipped past us.
As we skidded onto the dirt road, John said, “Hey, we aren’t going home without Mayu. Also, as much as I hate her, Jen, and all of Jen’s creepy friends, leaving them to die is going to be the kind of thing that gives me nightmares.”
“Yeah, same here,” I said, “but maybe don’t drive like a fucking… like a fucking…” I searched desperately for something that appropriately conveyed how stupid that was. I gave up and just said, “You and whoever was driving that little compact came close to killing me today then a team of over eleven trained professionals!”
“Shit,” John said. Under the roar of the engine, we had both heard a thump that sounded like a hand grenade. The pop of gunfire began soon after that. “They’ve started. We need to…”
There was a large bang and our car began to spin like a top. When it finally came to a stop, John and I got out, drawing our weapons. “What happened?” I asked. “Are we under fire?”
John checked the front driver side tire. “I think we hit a rock. Tire blew out, we went into a spin.”
“Ok,” I said, “I guess this means we’re walking. Let’s move.”
We headed out quickly but cautiously, scanning the area for threats. At first, the gunfire was intense, but after that, it dropped off to scattered bursts with the occasional explosion. They became less and less frequent as we moved forwards. Eventually, they stopped altogether. That wasn’t a good sign.
We saw our enemy at the same time they saw us. The van was parked directly outside the house, and two operatives in body armor, helmets and ski masks were guarding it. Behind them, the farm house was burning slightly. As soon as the two operatives saw us, they raised their rifles. At that range, an idiot could reliably hit us with the rifles they had. Judging by how fast they were raising their weapons, they weren’t idiots. We, however, had pistols designed for concealability rather than range. Any attempt to hit them would be a dice roll at best.
Before any of us could fire, however, Jen suddenly appeared standing between the two men, pressing a Berretta to each of their heads. There were two pops and both the men fell dead. Jen gave them each an extra security shot just to make sure they were really dead. Then she slid down the side of the van.
John and I both looked at her in horror. Then we ran to her. When we got close, we noticed with relief that she had no injuries apart from what Mayu had given her earlier. However, she did look much more tired, plus she was visibly trembling. “Ah,” she said, smiling weakly, “Nathan. John. You would not believe the day I’ve had.”