P.O.D --- Payment on Delivery

Fourteen: The Matsumichi Heir
"Where are you going to go now where people won't know you?"

    Ran showed up at Schuldich's apartment with the ticket as the German was packing. Crawford had called him from the car to tell him about the change of plans and the redhead had gone to take care of it, finding whatever flight he could to the Middle East that night. Crawford didn't really understand Schuldich's choice in destination but Schuldich figured he could at least use it as a stepping ground. There was always a mess of some sort in the great sandbox of the world, so that if they couldn't use his talents there, at least he could work his way up into Russia and the countries bordering it.

    "He says it's for good," Ran said when Schuldich opened the door to reveal the swordsman. One hand was out, ticket held between his fingers, and Schuldich took it from him to inspect before bothering to acknowledge the question. A glance at his watch showed that he had two hours before he'd have to be checking in at the airport and he gave a satisfied nod.

    "It is," he said. "I've done as much here as I'll ever be allowed to do; I don't plan on sticking around when Farfarello's goonies are running the place." He propped himself against the door, considering his companion of so many years and wondering what it would be like to start over from scratch. He wasn't looking forward to it, but what else could he do. "Did Yuushi get out all right?"

    "As far as we know." Ran offered a careless little shrug and Schuldich finally had the energy to curve his lips into a smirk.

    "He probably creamed himself when he found out I was leaving," the German decided, reaching out to snag Ran by the collar. The swordsman allowed himself to be pulled forward, accepting and returning the kiss easily enough, and Schuldich squished the part of his mind that said Ran tasted unfamiliar after these past six days. "He won't miss me a bit."

    "It's not like you want him to," the other pointed out, and Schuldich shrugged, releasing him. Two hours left in Japan; he'd have thought he could at least work up the energy to bang Ran one last time, if only because he knew it'd piss Yuushi off. But there was absolutely no interest in such a thing to be found. Ran didn't complain; he didn't seem to care one way or the other if Schuldich was kissing him or not. Schuldich had found this a source of comfort in their years together and wondered why it didn't sit as well tonight.

    "True enough. Where are you off to?"

    "Crawford wants all of his people out of the city," Ran answered, and purple eyes glanced past Schuldich to take in the messy state of his apartment. "He doesn't want us around when this hits."

    "Good idea." Schuldich decided it was probably for the best if Ran in particular got away. If anyone found out that Crawford was involved and then found the redhead through him, Ran had family in the area that could get caught in the crossfire. He opted not to say anything about it, however, knowing that playing ignorant occasional fuck buddy was always best. "You've probably earned a vacation anyway."

    "Mm." Ran just shrugged. "Don't miss your flight."

    "Pay for it out of your own pocket?" Schuldich sent back, and Ran just arched an eyebrow at him. Then the redhead was stepping back and turning away. Purple and blue met and held for just a moment more, evaluating each other and this last second that they would see each other. In a few hours Schuldich would be on a plane out of here and he'd never see Japan again; the contacts he'd made here stayed here and he wasn't stupid enough to think he could keep up contact with them once he was gone. Even an anonymous post card would be too much, especially if Farfarello continued to keep Crawford as an investment. Schuldich knew too much and everyone knew it.

    The moment passed and Ran was heading down the hall. Schuldich lingered in his doorway for just a few heartbeats more, watching the lithe Japanese man head away, and then turned himself back to the task of packing. He locked the door before heading back into the bedroom and set about taking down everything to arrange on the bed. It took another forty minutes before he was confident that he had remembered everything and he pulled his suitcase from the bed, rolling it to the door. The lights were flicked off and he locked it behind himself.

    The hallway was empty, as was the elevator that he snagged for a ride to the ground floor, and Schuldich turned in a key at the desk. He had to pay for the next month of rent as well, as he had cancelled his lease without any forewarning, and he watched as the office ladies stamped his papers and made notes in the computer. Blue eyes checked his watch to make sure he was making good time and at last they were through and he could go.

    There was a cab at the corner letting a businessman out and Schuldich took advantage of the perfect timing to snag a ride to the airport. His suitcase went in the backseat with him and he watched his view out the window as the driver slid into traffic.

    He wondered what he was supposed to be thinking about so abruptly abandoning everything he'd accomplished here. Although he'd always know that it was a possibility- almost a certainty- considering the work he did, he had come to take his stay for granted. He had a comfortable place here, a nice spot in a hierarchy. So Crawford wasn't some incredibly influential mastermind; so what? He'd been strong enough to keep the years good and Schuldich had had fun. Japan had its ups and downs but it was still better than a lot of other places he'd gone.

    Idly he wondered how long it would take his father to figure out he was gone. The two hadn't spoken since coming to Japan; there were too many bad memories in their family history for them to be comfortable around each other, and although things had finally changed for the better, the present couldn't make up for the past. Schuldich had only come here because the old man had been able to guarantee a way in, but he hadn't intended to stay this long.

    Funny how the world worked.

    America had never been a home and Germany had been too much of a relief to come close. The family, desperate to get away from their old troubles and their tight living quarters there, had headed to the other extreme. Two brothers had gotten mixed up in messes they had no place in, one sister had ended up sleeping around with most of her graduating class, and the other three had moved out as soon as they could whether they were financially capable of surviving on their own or not. Schuldich had been the smart one, never getting into a mess he couldn't get himself out of and biding his time for his chance to flee it all.

    Japan wasn't supposed to have been what he was looking for.

    He sighed and considered the envelope Ran had given him, opening it to flip past the ticket and count the money. Crawford must have withdrawn it from his own account and would move everything of Schuldich's there to make up for the loss. There was more than enough to get settled somewhere else and survive until he'd found the right people to fall in with again. Schuldich wasn't sure how much things cost in the Middle East but he was guessing he had enough cash for several months at least.

    The taxi reached a red light and Schuldich glanced up from his envelope in time to see the driver considering him in the rearview mirror. Schuldich arched an eyebrow at him and the man glanced over his shoulder towards the German.

    "Can you speak Japanese?" he wanted to know.

    "I told you where I wanted to go, didn't I?" Schuldich returned.

    "Wow, that's very good!"

    Schuldich made a mental note that hitting the driver wouldn't get him to the airport. "What is up with you people thinking that no one else can master your gobbledygook language?"

    "Japanese is hard," the driver answered, and clapped a hand to his chest. "We know this. We appreciate when foreigners try to speak it; it means they are truly interested in our country and culture." Schuldich declined to comment and the man looked back at him. "You are here on vacation?"

    "I was working here," Schuldich answered, and wondered why he wasn't discouraging the conversation. In the end he decided talking was better than thinking. "I'm being transferred."

    "I see, I see." The man nodded, watching the traffic lights, and started forward when it was green. "What do you think about Japan?"

    "It's small and crowded."

    "Ha, ha!" It was the first time Schuldich had ever heard anyone really laugh like that, and he couldn't decide whether or not to be amused. "Do you like Japanese food?"

    "I've eaten better. You people like fish far too much for your own taste."

    "Do you like Japanese girls?"

    "Never had the opportunity to date one," Schuldich drawled.

    "Japanese girls are very beautiful." The man nodded several times to emphasize this point. "Did you teach English here?"

    Now Schuldich was affronted. "Do I look American to you?"

    "You have blue eyes," the driver pointed out apologetically.

    "Is that what they teach here in school, is that all blue-eyed foreigners are Americans?" The man mumbled apologies in the front seat and Schuldich slouched down lower in his chair, turning his gaze on the window. Silence settled between them for several minutes before Schuldich finally spoke up again, though he couldn't explain why he actually elaborated on the man's question. "I was American- once. I was born in America so I had duel citizenship growing up. At fifteen I changed to my parents' citizenship and accepted being German."

    He remembered telling Ken about this the first night he'd been with the younger man. It was more than he'd told Ran. Ran had never asked, so Schuldich had never volunteered the information. Crawford knew that he'd lived in both places but didn't know the timeline. He didn't care because he didn't have to care; it didn't affect their work together. This hadn't bothered Schuldich, though he did wonder why he chose now to talk about it again. He'd often heard that it was easiest to confide in strangers, as it was easy to walk away from whatever they chose to feel about such confessions, but in Schuldich's line of work, talking to anyone about anything personal was rather out of the question.

    "Wow, so you speak three languages! Your company must be sad to see you go."

    "I'm replaceable. Everyone is."

    "Not everyone," the driver argued. There was a red light up ahead and he braked for it, drumming his fingers idly on the steering wheel. "Takatori Mamoru, for example. And Matsumichi Kentaro."

    Schuldich didn't really have time to process the fact that yes, the man had actually just said such a thing to him before his door was opening and he found himself staring up at Farfarello's face. The Irishman leaned over, propping an arm against the hood of the car to rest his forehead against, and arched an eyebrow at Schuldich.

    "Going somewhere?"

    Schuldich wasn't sure what to say in response; nothing he could think of alleviated the sinking sensation in his stomach. "Apparently not."


    Schuldich wrestled with his suitcase but there was only so far he could move it. It didn't fit on the floor so it had to go on a seat, which left him in the middle seat, trapped between it and Farfarello. The Irishman closed the door behind him, ignoring his buckle as he considered the German. Ahead of them the light turned green and the car slid into traffic.

    "Can I help you?" Schuldich asked at length.

    "I told you that you were an investment. Investments don't go running off or they make the money thrown in their direction a waste. I did not give you permission to leave."

    "I don't work for you," Schuldich pointed out. "I work for Crawford. I was contracted to you and I did what you wanted; the chaos left in the aftermath is for you to deal with."

    He saw the hand coming; he could catch it but not slow it, and Farfarello's fingers snapped shut around his throat tight enough to choke his air off. His head hit his suitcase hard enough that he saw stars and his first inane thought was that such a saying had truth in it; he'd always figured that one person had made it up and the rest copied it because it sounded neat. He couldn't get even the smallest of sounds out as Farfarello's fingers tightened and he wondered if it was his imagination that he heard his windpipe creak. The driver said nothing, paying attention to the road, and Schuldich's fingers tightened on Farfarello's wrist.

    Hanae's wrecked car came to mind and it didn't make him feel any better about this. After a short, intense internal debate he decided not to fight, thinking it would make things worse.

    "Did you think I would let you leave?" Farfarello wanted to know. "Did you think I wouldn't notice? How many people does Crawford have influence over, Schuldich? Sixty-three? Sixty-four? I have three hundred people on my payroll and two hundred more that signed over just today in order to follow in Takatori Mamoru's footsteps. It is an insult to me and everything I have worked so hard on that you thought you could just waltz out of here."

    Schuldich's vision was starting to fog black when Farfarello let go of him and the shorter man watched dispassionately as the German coughed and choked. Light flashed against a blade as Farfarello played with it and Schuldich offered it a wary look as he finally managed to get his breathing back under control.

    "I warned you not to fuck with me," Farfarello pointed out.

    "…So you did."

    "I don't think you really appreciate what I would do to you if you tried to get smart."

    "I think I can figure it out."

    "No, I don't think you can." Farfarello considered him, head tilted to one side. "I do not think you have yet been in a situation wherein your imagination can even begin to grasp such a thing."

    "Is this going to be a lesson?"

    "I'd say that I hoped it would be," Farfarello told him, pointing the knife at his face, "but today isn't the day. So instead you're going to sit there and talk to me and tell me if you know where your pretty little lover went."

    Schuldich just looked at him. "…What?"

    A fist caught him in the stomach; Schuldich tried to bring up his hands to block it but the Irishman was too fast. It hit hard enough to knock the wind from him and he doubled over, mouth working soundlessly as he tried to figure out how to get his lungs working again. Fingers twisted in his hair and gave his head a savage jerk. He felt something in his neck pop and then that pain was replaced entirely by a new fire. He got his breath back just in time to give a hoarse yell of pain and he swung out blindly, trying to hit the Irishman.

    His eye-

    His fucking EYE—

    The hand caught his throat again, slamming him back against his suitcase, and Schuldich clawed desperately at it, breathing hitching through the searing pain. He went still only when he felt the prick of the blade against his throat and abandoned attacking Farfarello's wrist to grab at his face instead.

    "You listen to me," Farfarello got out, fingers tightening. "You can dye your hair as much as you like to blend in at a distance. You can put contacts in your eyes if you feel the need to blend in up close. You'd still have trouble with your skin tone and height but a man like you knows how to move through people. But tell me how you would explain a scar on your face, Mastermind? Where are you going to go now where people won't know you?"

    "FUCK YOU." Schuldich couldn't get the words out but he could think them almost so loudly that it seemed impossible for Farfarello to not hear them.

    It took a fight to get his good eye to open and he stared at the face that was hovering so close to his own. His fingers tightened on the throbbing mess that was the left half of his face and he grit his teeth against a pain he'd never felt before. Blind- it was blind- there was no way it could recover from such a thing. Through the frantic, horrified thoughts was the chilling realization that Farfarello was right. If Farfarello wasn't going to let him leave Japan, then staying here meant he belonged to Farfarello now. The Irishman knew who he was and he could tip the scales against Schuldich at any moment. It wasn't like the German could disappear and hope that neither side would ever be able to find him, not with this gouge across his face.

    "I want to know if you had anything to do with Ken's disappearance," Farfarello told him, fingers loosening enough on Schuldich's throat to allow him to breathe and speak again.

    "Fuck you," Schuldich managed to get out. He didn't think about it, he just said it. It was a jumbled, strained mantra as hot blood leaked between his fingers. "Fuck you fuck you fuck you—"

    Fingers tightened to cut him off and Farfarello's free hand came up, punching the hands that were covering Schuldich's face. The pain made Schuldich's vision go white and his mouth opened on a soundless yell. His stomach gave a vicious wrench and it was probably only Farfarello's vice-like grip on his throat that kept him from throwing up.

    "I've got five hundred people in this city working for me," Farfarello said again, but his voice seemed muddled and distant through the roaring in Schuldich's ears. "They'll find him eventually because he has nowhere to go. But while they are looking I'll hear a promise from you that you had nothing to do with his sudden disappearance."

    Farfarello's fingers relaxed again, enough for Schuldich to get a strangled sound out, and Farfarello twisted his free hand through dark hair in a grip almost tight enough to yank the long locks out. "I want you to look me in the eye and tell me that you don't know where he is, and I want you to mean it or I'll take you apart piece by piece and leave you all over the floor of this taxi cab."

    "I don't know," Schuldich said through the white tightness in his chest. "I don't know, I don't know-"

    Farfarello's fingers pressed into the back of his hand, pushing hard against them, and there was nowhere for Schuldich to twist his head away to. He sucked in breath through clenched teeth. "Last I saw him he was in his room. I left him there and walked out; this is not my fight and I want no piece of it. Crawford figured out who he was and we decided the going was good."

    "I don't recall saying that the contract was finished," Farfarello told him, "and if I've done my math right, you were only with him for six days. You didn't have the freedom to go in either case, so you're going to have to come up with a better explanation."

    "You're fighting Takatori for rights over a hundred year old bloodline, Farfarello. I want no part of that and I have no place in it as a foreigner. I just came here for the show but it's not to my liking. I don't know where your stupid pet project is and I'd rather not see him ever again considering what he's involved in."

    "Maybe that's true. Maybe not. But you will not be going anywhere until I've told you that you may. Do you understand me?"

    The taxi pulled over then and Farfarello slid out first before motioning for Schuldich to follow. "Leave the suitcase," he ordered, and there wasn't anything Schuldich could do but listen. There were startled exclamations from other pedestrians as the German stepped out of the cab with blood streaming down his face and Schuldich found himself staring up at the Magic Bus Hospital. Farfarello led the way into the ER as the taxi pulled away from the curb and the Irishman explained the bleeding mess as a construction injury. Due to the fact that Schuldich was bleeding all over the ER, they managed to work him in between people and it wasn't long before Farfarello was watching Schuldich's face get stitched up.

    Yohji and Asuka showed up halfway through and Farfarello left to tend to more important things. Yohji took one look at Schuldich's face and whistled, glancing towards his dark-haired companion. "You win," he said. "I could have sworn he'd go for the arm."

    Schuldich offered them the best dirty look he could manage, and Asuka just smiled.


    Ken didn't think about where he was going; he just went. Anywhere was better than being at the apartment and doing anything was better than sitting still and thinking about everything Farfarello had said to him. The memories that had surged forth after seeing Asuka couldn't be kept back and Farfarello's horrible words put into place the pieces of his childhood that he'd never been able to understand. The picture it painted made his stomach churn and he wished desperately that he hadn't remembered anything. He wished Asuka had stayed missing, that he'd never left the orphanage, that he'd never found out that Omi and Nagi were just allies of Farfarello who had been put in place to watch him…

    And somehow, most of all, he wished he'd never found out that he'd really been just a job to Schuldich.

    Not in the way that he'd expected himself to be viewed by the German, not as just another client in an endless stream of them. He told himself that he could handle that. Like it? No. Handle it? Yes. Ken had lived through enough disappointments in his life to know that he could have gotten over Schuldich's words being just a well-rehearsed routine.

    But to find out that the sole purpose of Schuldich's presence had been to hurt him, to make him pay, to *humiliate* him- just for denting Crawford's car? That he couldn't stomach.

    The fact that he'd bought into everything the German had said despite having no reason to believe him at all made Ken's chest hurt. He wanted to forgive himself for taking comfort in what seemed like the best thing to happen to him in years. Schuldich hadn't been a warm and fuzzy person but Ken hadn't needed or wanted that. He'd wanted exactly what Schuldich had offered: someone to be there, someone to act like they gave a damn, someone to push and prod him out of the stark grays that his life had become. Schuldich had pushed him when Ken had long ago given up, had challenged him in his beliefs, had- had fucked him, and fucked him over, in the end.

    Ken dimly remembered the sound of a camera going off twice, and only finding one photo left on his floor.

    So the other was for Crawford, then?

    Fuck them both. See if he paid for Crawford's car. He'd go to jail first; see if he cared. The idea was better than any thought of going back to Farfarello's apartments and stepping back into a plan that they had made out of his life and existence.

    Where was he supposed to go?

    Where could he possibly go?

    Omi and Nagi had found them last night when Ken hadn't told anyone he was leaving, showing up out of the blue to bring them back to Farfarello. How many people did Farfarello know? If he controlled everyone who had ever been important to Ken, then how many others out here could he possibly have sway over? If he was really going to launch a war against the notorious Takatori Reiji, then he had to have a substantial army, one would think. All Ken knew was that he really didn't want to be found. He'd stuck to the major roads after a serious debate with himself; while he didn't want to be out and about where Farfarello might be looking for him- if the Irishman bothered to find him- it was better than being on a quiet street where he stuck out.

    He wasn't sure how long he'd been walking. Time had blurred somewhere along the way and so had the noises around him. Traffic and the chatter of the rest of the crowd had stretched into one long hum that vibrated against him. He stuffed his hands into his pockets as he came to a crosswalk, watching the world move around him. He decided then that reincarnation had to exist, because he'd liked to know what he'd done to earn such a lot in life. He supposed it was sins of the father passed to the son- or rather, sins of several generations. And yet…

    ~Bad things always happen to good people,~ he told himself. ~Does that mean I'm a good person?~

    He'd certainly tried at being good, hadn't he? He'd studied hard at school and helped all of the younger children at the orphanage with their homework. He'd helped the Sisters out around the place, volunteering to the do the chores that no one- including himself- had wanted to do. He'd honestly tried to go to college and it wasn't his fault that he had been shortchanged. He worked two jobs and took overtime when he could, both because he couldn't say no to someone who needed a night off and because he needed the money. He used to volunteer at a charity organization before he'd run out of time and energy. He'd felt bad for Kitada Hanae's death even though she'd been rude to him every time they'd met.

    Was he a good person?

    ~If bad things always happen to good people, then do I still want to be a good person?~

    ~Does thinking like that mean Farfarello wins?~

    Pushover, bleeding heart, sap… Too much of an emotional klutz to handle a relationship with a female.

    ~"Do you want to look back on these years and see only what you can see now?"~

    He told himself that he shouldn't dwell on such things because it just meant that Farfarello was right all along about who he was, but he couldn't stop the thoughts once they started. What had he ever gotten out of being a good person? What had ever happened to him to justify his faith in humanity? He'd been kicked aside and manipulated since the day he was born. As a child his parents had pushed him aside to rule their little empire, waiting until he was old enough to understand his role in it before looking at him with any real interest. He'd been an heir to the throne and nothing more, just someone required for the future. People had killed and died to get his family out of power and Ken had spent the last- eight?- years of his life being controlled by people he had trusted.

    Everything from his time at the orphanage to his jobs here in Tokyo to his apartment- it had all been one big game where everyone knew what role to play except him. He was to them what he had been to his father: just the final missing piece in a dynasty.

    And Schuldich…? What about Schuldich?

    Ken had only started to remember who he was yesterday afternoon and in just a little over twenty-four hours he was sick to death of being other people's puppet.

    If bad things happened to good people, then maybe he didn't want to be a good person anymore.

    Fuck them, anyway.

    These thoughts in mind, he pulled out his wallet and dug through the cards he kept there. One part of his mind noted that his hand wasn't shaking on the card that he drew back; instead of worrying about the path his thoughts had taken, he felt instead a surreal calm. He idly wondered if it was temporary, just a state of mind to help ease the shock, or if it was just a piece of him that had fractured long ago and was only just starting to put itself back together.

    "Only time will tell," Ken decided, and somehow…

    Somehow, that was good enough.


    Crawford came back from dropping Schuldich off at his apartment in time to catch the tail end of a meeting. He stood at the back of the room, clipboard in hand, as he listened to the speaker go over the last few slides that were glowing on the board. His eyes stared through the graphs, looking instead inward towards the events of the past few hours. Ever since one of their contacts had managed to dig up enough information to confirm the idle rumor that Matsumichi Kenji had had a son, the world had started spinning around everything he and Schuldich had been working so hard on. It hadn't taken long to pin the identity to Ken but only because Schuldich was somewhat on the inside of what Farfarello was doing.

    On the one hand, there was a fair amount of triumph in being involved in such a huge revolution of Japan's underground. On the other, it effectively put an end to the way things had been the last few years. Schuldich was leaving for good; Crawford had seen the last of the brash, fiery-haired German. After so many years and so many battles fought together, it seemed unreal that the man was being neatly cut out of Crawford's life. Crawford knew why he had to go, however, and he hadn't tried to convince him to stay. Crawford had to trust that the man would pick up the pieces on his own and find other people to play with. The world was a busy place and corruption ran deep everywhere; certainly he would find a place to put his talents to good use.

    Crawford's focus from here on out had to be keeping Farfarello happy. He would lay his bets on Farfarello's side winning and he intended to be siding with the victors- especially since he'd hired out his Mastermind to ensure that Takatori fell. Either way, Crawford had no intention of getting on Farfarello's bad side, considering the power that he wielded by being the guardian to the two heirs of the Matsumichi family.

    Crawford idly thought of the miserable looking man he'd bumped into almost a week ago, frantically bowing beside a tattered car that looked like it should have been trashed at least twenty years prior, and tried to imagine such a person inheriting Japan's underworld. It seemed absolutely ridiculous, and Crawford had no doubts that it would always be Farfarello pulling the strings. How the Irishman had found himself in such a lucrative position was beyond the American's understanding but he had to envy the man for it.

    The meeting ended with a few closing remarks and two questions and the room slowly emptied. Crawford made his way to his office to find his secretary gone on break. There was a little notice on her desk for any guests and he knew that she'd set any desk calls to be forwarded to one of the other ladies. He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket, checking to see if Ran or Schuldich had left him a message regarding the other's flight, and found two numbers logged. One was Ran's, most likely telling him that the ticket had been delivered. A glance at Crawford's watch said that there was an hour and a half until Schuldich's flight, so the German was most likely on his way to the airport or there already and going through security. The second number was Farfarello's, and Crawford frowned at it as he pushed his office door open.

    "You shouldn't make a face like that. It might stick."

    Crawford looked up to find that he had a guest. Hidaka Ken was perched on the edge of his desk, hands to either side of him to help prop him up. The American paused as he was shutting the door, considering the other man, and finally pushed the door shut the rest of the way. "Hidaka," he said. "Or should I call you Matsumichi?"

    "Whichever name is easiest for you, I suppose," was the answer. "I haven't been bothered to pick a preference yet."

    "Then shall I instead say that I am honored by your visit?" Crawford wondered lightly. "It would be courteous of me to offer you a drink."

    Teal eyes were calm as they considered Crawford, and Ken gave the slightest shrug. "It would be courteous but a waste of your breath. I want nothing from you; you've given me more than enough. Where is Schuldich?"

    "Schuldich is currently preparing to leave the country. We found out today just what we had gotten involved in and things have grown too dangerous for him to stay. Our colleagues would love too much to put his head on a stake even after what he's done to Takatori."

    "'Our' colleagues," Ken mused, as if testing the way it sounded. "So he is gone, then. Where to?"

    "I was not in charge of his travel arrangements."

    "Of course you weren't." Ken slid off the edge of the desk and started towards Crawford, hands in his pockets. "I don't appreciate being played with, Crawford. I will not be treated like an idiot and a fool any longer. I do believe you'll be paying for your own car's repairs, and if I require anything else of you, I'll be sure to let you know."

    Crawford idly wondered where the bleeding heart and self-effacing youth from six days ago had gone. "Of course," he answered, because it was all he could say. This was Matsumichi Kentaro; if people didn't relish the thought of saying no to Farfarello, he couldn't even begin to imagine what sort of courage it would take to turn such a man down. With everything Ken was on the verge of inheriting, it would be tantamount to suicide.

    "Good. Good bye, Crawford. I do hope I won't see any more of you."

    Crawford inclined his head to the younger man as he passed and Ken shut the door behind himself on the way out. The American considered the closed door for a long minute and decided it was perhaps a very good thing that Schuldich was leaving. According to Schuldich's reports Ken had still been pretty much the clueless youth while Schuldich was with him; Crawford didn't want to dwell on what Farfarello could have said to Ken to make him change in such a way.

    He carried his phone over to his desk, preparing to call Farfarello back and see what the man wanted, but his new position put him close to the window and an idle glance out spotted the black van at the curb. It seemed to be waiting on someone and he guessed it was Ken's ride. With a finger resting above the call button he waited for the minute it took Ken to get out of the building.

    And so it was that when two men melted out of the milling pedestrians to hit Ken over the head with large sticks and haul him into the van, Crawford managed to see it all.

Part 15
Back to Mami's Fics