It was a bad night. He could feel it. Something was wrong. The Ninja was up, and someone, or some people, were going to die tonight.
“A Ninja is not a magician Ryuu-san, neither is he an assassin.” Sensei Takeshi says. He makes the tea in that slow, deliberate manner of his. He pours a cup and hands it to Mark. “A Ninja is nature’s own protector. A Ninja is one with Nature, and Nature is one with the Ninja.”
Mark sips his tea as he studies his Sensei’s face intently while he mulls over what he’s just heard. His Sensei has not aged a day since the first time he saw him.
“Why do people fear the Ninja?”
Sensei Takeshi regards his young student over his cup of tea. The waters of the Fukushima River can be heard from his front patio. He takes a sip and places his cup on the tea table. “People fear what they do not understand Ryuu-san.” Then he cocks his head slightly and looks at Mark. “Are you afraid of yourself Ryuu-san?”
Now Mark is puzzled. He places his teacup on the tea table. “How can I be afraid of myself Sensei?”
Sensei Takeshi smiles. “There is still so much to be learned Ryuu-san. You still have a long way to go.”
He reached out in the darkness and touched his old life. It was smooth and cold, unforgiving. His mind hung, suspended between reality and forever. The shadows of his past loomed before him. His old life, a legacy of blood and death, handed down to him from a past he did not want, and being called upon by a future he had no power over.
“If we are not killers Sensei, then how come we do that so well?”
Sensei Takeshi cocks his head to the side and regards his student. So young, and yet, so wise. And his face breaks into a smile. To Mark, it is like the sun breaking forth from behind dark clouds; warm, strong and assured.
“Someday Ryuu-san, you will know the answer to that question. Now, drink your tea. It is getting cold.”
An endless cycle of blood and destruction…
Today, he had seen the Ninja. At last, he was no longer an unknown concept; he was real.
But something still troubled him, and he looked at the damaged bug in his palm.
Who had sent the Ninja?
Who had the Ninja been after; himself, or Sally?
Jerry breathed in her scent and smiled. He felt…light. He traced his finger on Sally’s bare shoulder, and she purred in her sleep. He closed his eyes and let himself dream for a moment…
A while later, he left the bed as quietly as he could so as not to wake her. He picked his trouser from off the floor and took out his phone. Almost 1 a.m. Three missed calls. All from Mark, and a message from him as well. ‘Call me whenever you get this message, no matter how late. Urgent.’ Frowning, Jerry used his screen light to search for his boxer shorts, and after wearing it he left for the parlour, turning on the light and dialling Mark’s number. After five rings, Mark picked it.
“Don’t you sleep?” Jerry asked him good-naturedly.
“I was asleep,” Mark answered, sounding surprisingly alert. “Where have you been?”
Jerry looked in the direction of Sally’s bedroom. “I’ve been busy. What’s up?”
“The Ninja came after Sally and I this, no, yesterday afternoon.”
Jerry started. “WHAT!?”
Mark gave him the details of his afternoon, and his findings. “Where is Simon Diri now? Still in jail?”
“Dead,” Jerry replied, trying his best to take his mind off the fact that Sally had been in harm’s way. “Prison riot.”
“According to whom?”
“Think, Jerry. The Senator. Kabiru. Nelson. Victor. Jimoh. Roland. Simon. What do these guys all have in common?”
The realization hit Jerry like a fist to the guts. “Jesus,” he gasped. “You don’t think…”
“I’m not sure, but something hasn’t always felt right about this whole case. And now, the use of a bug. That’s SS level stuff man. And this is when I request a meeting with Sal-”
“Shit! I have to get her out of here Mark!” Jerry said vehemently, as quietly as he could. “I just found her!”
“Good man. Do that. The sooner the better.”
“How about you?”
“Don’t worry. I’ll be fine. My family will be fine. You just take care of Sally. Do what you have to do, but get her out of the picture until this whole thing is over.”
“Got it. Thanks man. We’ll see later in the day.”
After Mark hung up, Jerry sent a text to Boma. ‘Will be in your house shortly. Get a place ready for Sally and I. Urgent. Will be there ASAP.” Then he called Boma. When Boma picked, he said “Check your messages,” and hung up. Then he went into the room, opened the door and turned on the light. He tapped Sally a few times, and credit to her, she came awake. “Why didn’t you tell me about what happened today?”
She appeared confused for a moment. “What are you talking about?” she asked, rubbing her eyes.
“Mark. The Park.”
Her eyes lit up in comprehension. “Oh.” She sighed. “Sorry. You had your own problems. Besides,” she said with a wry smile, “we didn’t have time to talk.”
Jerry gave a worried smile. “Okay, but pack whatever you need into a bag. Not much; just the essentials. We are leaving now.” He began picking his clothes from the floor.
“What do you mean?” Sally asked.
“Sal, there’s really no time to explain. I’ll do that on the way.” He turned to look at her. “Just trust me, okay?”
Sally looked at him, and then nodded. “Okay.”
Jerry smiled at her as she rushed to her wardrobe. When he was done, he waited for her in the parlour. Twenty-five minutes until 2 a.m. Ten minutes later, Sally stepped out of her room with a small travel bag, her hand bag and laptop bag. Jerry took the travel bag from her, and they left, turning off the lights. Jerry waited for Sally to lock up, and then they both went downstairs to his car. They put her things into the back-seat, and then Jerry slid in behind the wheel while Sally took the passenger’s side. As they rolled up to the gate, Sally called out to the security guard, who opened up the gates for them.
Outside, Jerry said “I don’t think you should go to work anytime soon.” His face was grim.
“Because I have reason to believe that your Boss is involved in everything.”
Now Sally turned to face him fully. “WHAT!?”
Bad vibes. Victor had been getting them all day, and they’d intensified after speaking with Nelson earlier, and being home alone wasn’t helping. Maybe he ought to call one of his girlfriends to spend the night with him, help him forget. Nelson was running. Leaving the country. Smart move, maybe, but hadn’t The Big Man said everything was under control?
That’s right, who would you trust, him or yourself? After all that’s happened?
That was it. He was going to leave town as well, until some semblance of control returned. If asked, well, family emergency. There was no way he was going to stay here and wait, like a marked man…
And like that, it all clicked in his mind, and the thought stopped him cold. One thing Victor had been known for in the Service had been his rock-solid conclusions. Sometimes they were slow, sometimes they were fast, but when they came, they were as solid as rock.
The Senator, Kabiru…the suggestion that they sit tight till this was over… What if the plan was for this to be over when their lives were over?
He checked the time. Nelson’s flight wasn’t until morning; maybe he was gonna still be awake. Dammit, why had he been blind to everything? Nelson had warned him!
Victor picked his phone and dialled Nelson’s number. When it rang four, five, six times, and Nelson still hadn’t picked, he became worried; Nelson always picked a call from any of them, no matter the time.
Victor swung his legs from off his bed and stood, redialling.
The lights went out.
He jerked his head up, looked out the window. He could still see light from the neighbours’ houses. Victor felt a sinking feeling in his stomach. “Oh God,” he breathed. He dialled the SS headquarters, gave a code, and reported the situation.
“That’s about ten, fifteen minutes away Sir!” the operator remarked.
“Then you don’t have much time. I don’t think I’ll last that long. Alert the closest Police Station ASAP.”
Moving fast, he tossed his phone on his bed and went to his drawer and pulled out his Glock 17. The weight had reassured him on many an operation; tonight, it felt like he was holding useless paperweight. He checked the clip, checked that a round was chambered. Dressed in his boxer shorts, Victor crab-walked to his door and slowly eased it open. He gave his eyes a few seconds to get used to the darkness, and then stepped out into the hallway. He gave up all thought of his guards coming to his rescue; if the killer had done this, chances were that they were dead by now. As silently as he could, Victor crept to the small balcony above the sitting room downstairs. He scanned as carefully as he could, but saw nothing but shadows and shapes. The little moonlight that filtered in through the curtains did nothing but deepen the shadows. He had to get down there…
As quietly as possible, Victor made his way down the staircase. His heart threatened to drown out all sound. He breathed deeply and tried to calm his heart; no good not hearing anything now. He made it to the downstairs corridor, checked that it was clear, and stepped out. All the rooms were closed. Good. He didn’t think he had time to clear-
A tsk-tsk sound behind him, and his heart fell. So this is how it ends, he thought, as he swung his gun around in the darkness. Oddly, he felt no fear, just a firm resolve, that leaden feeling that came in battle, the feeling that you were living on borrowed time.
He never completed the turn.
The bokken slashed upwards into his hands, and he reflexively pulled the trigger, burying the bullet harmlessly in the wall. The gun went flying in the darkness, and a freight train hit him in the ribs. He felt something crack, and then he was sailing through the shadows. He fetched up hard against the wall beside the glass door that led into the sitting room, his elbow hitting the glass and breaking it. He felt something sharp and painful as he slid down to the floor, and then something wet. The bokken smashed down on his shoulders, shattering them. Oddly, he didn’t feel anything, no pain, just certainty. Something struck his throat, and his head snapped forward as he struggled to breathe. He felt himself being lifted up, and the movement ground his broken bones together. The pain cleared his head and made everything stand out in the darkness, but he couldn’t scream, couldn’t breathe. He felt eyes staring at him, Death nothing but a silent menace, a scientist staring at a specimen.
“Look at me, Victor,” Death spoke. “Look at me, and know how, and why you must die.”
Death let the moonlight fall on its face, and Victor’s eyes widened.
He knew Death. He’d known Death, another lifetime ago.
Death was Vengeance.