The Innocent Chapter 15: Tajiri on the Outside

The Innocent

Chapter 15: Tajiri on the Outside

 

Warden Greene walked through the sterilized halls of his Max Lockup wings. It was a much different atmosphere than the General Population. Here the doors were unbreakable plexiglass with electronic locks that inoperable to all but the guards that had the codes. The walls were white and had no windows. The inmates were to walk on the red line when going to the showers, meals, or to the rec area. There was no yard. Any infraction of the rules resulted in a shock from either the guard or the automated weapons that decorated the walls. 

But this was only the part of Max Lockup facility that was for show.

Underneath the Max Lockup was Warden Greene’s playground. Here is where he housed his true love. The cells were the same, but no red line adorned the floor. There were no tasers here either. Instead the guards were armed with shotguns or automatic weapons.

One more floor below was the real gem of Havenville. Here housed the inmates that had become Warden Green’s agents. The team of doctors that were arrested for experimenting on kidnap victims or the homeless. Genetics labs of his own design and a personal space for his old friend James Lockhart; who Warden Greene was very eager to speak with.

“How are your experiments going?” Warden Greene asked as he entered Lockhart’s private lab.

“Better than ever,” Lockhart said. “It has been a long time since I have had access to a proper facility and so many willing subjects. You’ve done good here, Keene.”

“It’s Warden Daniel Greene now. Hugo Keene is dead. So are you, Lockhart.”

“I’ve been dead before,” Lockhart said. “You have been gone long. Everything is going well, I hope.”

“I had some business to take care of in the General Population,” Warden Greene said. He had finished keeping inspectors from the State away from his more sensitive areas since the gas bombing and chapel fire, but Lockhart didn’t need to be bothered with details.

“That FBI agent?” Lockhart asked. “That Slate girl told me when she returned. Dean really did a number on her psyche. You got her back here right before she snapped. She won’t be much use to you now.”

“I suppose not,” Warden Greene sighed. “She served her purpose, though. Make her last days peaceful as you can.”

“You’re keeping him alive, aren’t you?” Lockhart asked. “This Zane character she rambled about. He’s your new tow, isn’t he?”

“You know me well, old friend,” Warden Greene said with a demented smile. “It’s just a spot of fun now that he’s with us for good. His time will come eventually. I am waiting to be inspired. Have anything new to show me?”

“I do actually,” Lockhart said. “Follow me.” Lockhart led Greene down a white walled hallway to where a door was being guarded by to automated guns. The scanners on top of the guns beeped as the two passed confirming they were meant to be here. The door swished open and Greene beheld Lockhart’s newest quest. “This is John Smith number six.”

“It’s beautiful,” Warden Greene said taking it all in. There was a huge metal throne in the center of the room. In the throne sat an old man with all sorts of wires connected to his head. The wires rose to the ceiling where they met a metal orb. The room looked like a small observatory. “Is this what I think it is?”

“I have finished this project from your incomplete notes,” Lockhart said. “You were so close. John Smith here can reach his mind past the walls of Havenville and see into the minds of others. If the conditions are right, he can even get glimpses of the future.”

“Amazing,” Warden Greene said nearly swooning. “Where did you find this test subject? I wasn’t aware of any fodder being this old.”

“He’s thirty one,” Lockhart said. “Before he was John Smith number six, anyway. The rapid aging is due to the drugs needed to keep him alive during the process. It’s quite ironic that the very thing keeping him alive through this process is killing him.”

“I wish we had this months ago,” Warden Greene said. “I would have found out about the rat in my prison without dispatching Slate. How long will he last?”

“Each subject has lasted one month once they’re hooked up to the machine,” Lockhart said. “Give or take a few days.”

“So we better make use of this one,” Warden Greene said. “He looks ready to drop.”

“Within the week,” Lockhart said. “Give or take.”

“War,” John Smith number six muttered. “War is coming.”

“He’s been saying that a lot,” Lockhart said. “The others that had the premonitions didn’t react this way.”

“Of course he sees that war is coming,” Warden Greene said smiling. “We’re almost ready. Soon we’ll be able to march our enhanced soldiers outside of these walls.”

“Barring tests,” Lockhart said.

“You and your tests,” Warden Greene said. “Real world applications are much nicer.”

“I have something that is sort of a pet project of mine,” Lockhart said. “I’ve fitted one of your animals from Quarantine Wing with some of those skeletal implants. I’ve made some improvements, of course. We’ve brought him back a bit from the brink of madness. He’ll follow orders. All I require is a suitable subject.”

“Subject for what?” Warden Greene asked.

“I want to test him in combat,” Lockhart said. “If this is successful, I want to do the same with the other subjects from Q-Wing. The doctors are eager to start cutting them up.”

Warden Greene thought for a moment. “There’s the spot of inspiration I was looking for,” he said with a toothy grin. “I know just the subject. Give me a bit of time to set it up, and you’ll have your subject.”

“Very good,” Lockhart said.

“Come with me to the Doctors,” Warden Greene said. “I want to see what they’ve been cooking up. I gave them some free reign with a group of subjects while I didn’t require their services. I am eager to see what they’ve done.”

“Those doctors never cease to amaze me,” Lockhart said. “Their hands are more than capable of anything my mind could concoct. You have to see the men that they’ve grafted the extra arms on.”

“Excellent,” Warden Greene said leaving John Smith number six to his own thoughts.

“War is coming,” John Smith number six said to the empty room. “War is coming to Havenville.”

John Smith number six closed his eyes and died silently.

*

Xander and Tajiri sat in the rec yard. They just finished a workout involving weights and some cardio. Tajiri was showing Xander some techniques he learned training in Japan when he was working for the Yakuza. They separated from Wolfsky and Leonard two hours ago. Leonard had to meet with the arians, and they weren’t to travel Havenville alone after what happened weeks ago. Nothing happened to them since, but they were still being safe. Xander offered to go with Leonard since the neo-Nazi’s might not take to well to Wolfsky, but Leonard seemed to take a liking to him ever since Wolfsky rescued him from his would-be rapists. 

“You are both strong and agile,” Tajiri said wiping the sweat from his forehead. “Those attributes along with your mind make you a most formidable opponent. I would have liked to spar with you, but the guards would shock us.”

“Another time perhaps,” Xander said. He was exhausted. He kept up with Tajiri’s regimen, but it was hard. Tajiri worked out in such a fervor. It was almost as if he relished the aches.

“You have a visitor,” Tajiri said looking over Xander’s shoulder. Xander turned to see El Niño approaching with three of his Chicanos in tow.

“‘Sup,” El Niño said. 

“What can I do for you,” Xander said not trying to sound rude.

“I heard what the Warden did to you,” El Niño said. “Twenty years. Fucked up.”

“It is what it is,” Xander said with a shrug. He didn’t want to get into his plan to kill Warden Greene with El Niño, so he was going to have to avoid talking about it.

“You’re a better man than me,” El Niño said. “I’d have Greene’s liver on my dinner tray, yo. You feel me?”

“Yeah,” Xander said. “But what’s a guy in my position going to do?”

“Something,” El Niño said. “I dunno. Just so you know, I got your back. Me and my boys. You know where to find me. Later.”

El Niño nodded to Tajiri before leaving with his silent entourage once again at his back. Xander noticed they were also looking around the yard. It would seem they weren’t the only ones traveling in groups.

“He’s not wrong,” Tajiri said. “After what Greene did your family I would move quicker than you. It’s been weeks since you’ve been out of The Hole now.”

That wasn’t the first time Tajiri spoke of Xander’s situation like that. Xander realized he hadn’t spent much time with Tajiri alone since he first met him and Leonard. Aside from breaking into the Quarantine Wing and being attacked by the ferrel inmates inside, or the time Tajiri snuck into the mess hall to warn Xander he was about to be attacked. Tajiri was the only member of the group that had family outside, and they were only alive thanks to Tajiri volunteering to take the blame for a crime his boss in the Yakuza committed. He had even turned down the FBI’s offer for freedom for helping Xander.

“Do you ever hear about your wife and daughter?” Xander asked.

“Once a year,” Tajiri replied. “Someone in the employ of Tanaka comes by with a picture to show me they are well, but I am not to contact them. No calls. No letters.”

“Why?” Xander asked. “I understand your situation, but a letter couldn’t possibly do any harm.”

“You do not understand the way business is conducted,” Tajiri said. “Even if they screen the letters, which they would, there would still be the possibility of one using code to convey a message. If my wife knew what Tanaka did she could have him arrested and me freed. My silence is ensured by their safety.”

Xander wondered why Tajiri didn’t just kill himself. With his son and wife killed the thought had crossed his mind often. If Tajiri died in Havenville it would ensure his family’s continued protection. He said so himself. There was something else that was driving Tajiri to live.

“Would you mind telling the story?” Xander said. “I mean on how it all went down. I’ve been curious since they briefed me on your incarceration in my former life as an FBI agent.”

Tajiri eyed Xander as if he had said something incredibly offensive. Xander hadn’t even seen that look when Leonard made the most crass joke about Tajiri’s heritage.

“It’s not like I’m in the FBI anymore,” Xander said quickly. “I couldn’t get you your freedom if I wanted to. I was just curious. I’ve never heard you talk about your family or what you did on the outside.”

Tajiri sighed. “I guess it is only fair that I share my tale,” he said. “You shared yours when we first met.”

“I kind of had to,” Xander said. “To earn your trust.”

“But you told your tale nevertheless,” Tajiri said. “Even though the facts about who you really are could get you killed. You ask the same thing of me now. How can I deny your request?”

“If you’re not comfortable talking about it -”

“No,” Tajiri interrupted. “I am not, but it is about time I talked to someone. Leonard knows my story but not the entire thing. I probably should clear my conscious before we’re killed. A good place to start would be on my flight to New York City.”

*

Kai Tajiri watched the people walk the streets of New York City from behind the tinted windows of his boss’s limo. He had come to New York to assist in a heist that would earn his small branch of the Yakuza outfit somewhere around fifteen million. His fee would be substantially less than his boss’s who planned this job from Japan, but it was more than enough for his wife and daughter to live happily on for a very long time.

“Stay awake,” Watanabe said. “You need to be alert.”

Tajiri held his tongue. Watanabe knew more than anyone that Tajiri was more than capable of doing his part when the time came. He had been working for the Yakuza since his father died when he was just seventeen. He’d been trained in Tai Jutsu as well as everything he needed to know to keep up with the group of gangsters he worked with. Tajiri always delivered good results, and his boss’s had great respect for him for doing so.

“Don’t worry,” Tajiri said. “I’ll be ready.”

“Good,” Watanabe said staring out his own window. 

The job seem to come quickly. Tajiri barely had any time to take in the sights and sounds of New York City. Then again, he was here for work. Maybe once the job was over he could come back with his wife and daughter and take in everything there was to take in, but Tajiri’s time on this trip was to be spent going over the details of his job. When he wasn’t planning or training, Tajiri’s time was spent doubling as a bodyguard for his boss Tanaka along with Watanabe.

“The guards are at their posts,” Watanabe said. “Take them out quickly and I’ll come in with the rest of crews. We clean out the bank while you go upstairs.” Watanabe had no reason to repeat the instructions to Tajiri. He knew the plan by heart at this point. Once the crew was cleaning out the cash drawers, Tajiri would be on the second floor via stairwell and vent cracking the safe to get the jewels. There was a good chance the elevators would be locked, and it would take too long to threaten someone to get the key. Timing was everything in this job If they timed the job perfectly, Tajiri would be coming down the fire escape with the jewels as the rest of the crew was coming out with the cash.

Tajiri walked ahead of the rest of the crew since the first move was his to make. He pulled his black mask over his face and entered the bank. He spun and kicked the guard to his left in the temple, knocking him down instantly. The spun and aimed a chop at the other guard as he turned towards him. Both guards were down when Watanabe entered with the crew.

“ON THE GROUND!” Watanabe yelled. There was no hint of his accent when he yelled. He had been practicing for weeks. He aimed his gun at the guard by the safe and put a bullet in his head. He aimed his gun at the last guard who put his hands in the air. “Kick your weapon to me and hug the floor.”

By now the bank was in a panic. The women were screaming and crying as Watanabe’s crew took their cell phones and tossed them in a bag. Watanabe found the manager and held the gun against his head. “The money,” he said. “No ink packs or marked bills or I’ll kill you too. DO IT NOW!”

Watanabe and his crew finished their work, but they were in the back of Tajiri’s mind. He broke into the stairwell and was climbing quickly. When he got to the wooden door that led to the offices that held the safe full of jewels he kicked it open and dashed in before the guards could take aim. He surveyed the situation with falcon-like eyes before ducking behind a desk to dodge the bullets as they were fired in his direction.

Wood splintered as the bullets burrowed into the desk. When Tajiri instinctively knew the gun was done firing he leapt up from behind the the desk, rushed the guard, and connected with a quick hit to the guard’s temple. Tajiri removed the gun from his hand and tossed it to the ground with his other hand. He then pulled his own gun (which he never intended on using) and aimed it towards the first person he saw.

“Safe!” Tajiri barked at the thin man in glasses crouched underneath his desk. “Now!”

The man nodded and said nothing so that Tajiri couldn’t hear the sob in his voice aching to make its way out. He led Tajiri only ten feet from where they were standing and opened an unmarked door that could have been a broom closet at first glance. The only piece of furniture was a four foot tall gray safe with an electronic lock on the right side.

Tajiri had the luxury of time up here. The office was designed to keep men like Tajiri out, and cell phones would not work up here. The elevators and the stairwell would also be locked to keep men like Tajiri out as well. The Irony of the situation was that they were now stuck in here with him and were forced to bend to his will until his task was complete.

“Stay there,” Tajiri said as he sensed the man beginning to move away from him. The man froze and Tajiri went to work. The electronic keypad on the right side of the door was a dummy. Tajiri knew this and ignored it. He used his lock pick tool on the left side of the safe’s door and a small piece of metal swung forward. The lock on this particular model worked in two parts. If Tajiri didn’t get the combination just right the secondary lock would be triggered rendering the safe useless until it could be opened with an acetylene torch. The process would take hours. Tajiri practiced cracking this particular model of safe hundreds of times in Japan, and went right to work on it. 

As Tajiri worked on opening the safe, Watanabe continued getting the crowd downstairs under control and filling up the canvas bags with every bill him and his crew could get their hands on. A woman looked at the pool of blood forming under the head of the man Watanabe shot and shuddered. 

“Time,” Watanabe’s was told by one of his crewmen.

“Wrap it up!” Watanabe said twirling his finger in the air. His crew stuffed the last of the cash they were holding into their bags and begin walking back towards the front door. “You’ve all done great,” Watanabe said walking backwards. “Don’t try anything funny and you’ll live to see tomorrow.”

Outside, Watanabe’s crew were already loading themselves inside the blue minivan that would take them to their hideout where they would stay the remainder of the day. As Watanabe’s foot left the sidewalk to enter the van Tajiri appeared beside him. “Cutting it a little close?” Watanabe asked.

Tajiri said nothing and followed Watanabe into the van. As soon as the door was closed it sped off to blend in with the traffic of New York City. Tajiri heard sirens in the distance as the van cut across the city.

*

“You did good today, Tajiri,” Tanaka said. He had come by the hideout in secret to examine the take. Tajiri was instructed not to show anyone what he had gotten from the safe upstairs, and he had stayed silent even after Watanabe berated him to see what the safe held. The rest of the crew thought they were going in to grab as much cash as possible, but only Tanaka, Tajiri, and Watanabe knew that the true value of their heist was what Tajiri would be able to get from the safe.

The goods were laid out in front of Tanaka. A pile of glittering gems sat on the black cloth between the two. Tanaka held the prize of the heist in his left hand and was nearly drooling over the large diamond.

“I may keep this one for myself,” Tanaka said turning the large diamond to watch the light reflect off it. “Any problems?”

“None,” Tajiri said.

“Only the one casualty,” Tanaka said eying Tajiri thoughtfully. “The guard that tried to be a hero.”

Tajiri said nothing. He knew what Tanaka was getting at. He wanted the crew to only kill if absolutely necessary. The fact that Watanabe had shot the guard made things much worse for them. To top it off, Watanabe had told Tanaka he shot the guard in defense and not in cold blood. Watanabe was stupid if he thought every member of the crew would keep their mouths shut.

“I already head about it,” Tanaka said confirming Tajiri’s instincts. “Watanabe will be dealt with, but I have something else to ask of you before you can go back to Japan and your family.”

“Anything, Tanaka-san,” Tajiri said bowing. 

“The local gangsters that control the area got wind of who held up the bank today,” Tanaka said. “They want to meet and negotiate what their cut will be. Otherwise they promise that we will not leave New York alive.”

Tajiri nodded. “You need me to accompany you tonight, Tanaka-san?” he asked. 

“Yes,” Tanaka answered. “I’ll need you there in case things go bad. I can count on your to keep me protected and get me out of there. There’s nobody better than getting out of a tight spot than you. Can I count on you tonight?”

“You can, Tanaka-san,” Tajiri answered.

“Good,” Tanaka said. “Get your suit. Dinner is at seven.”

*

Tajiri wore the suit he was instructed to bring with him. He had his gun in its shoulder holster and hair cut short. If anything went wrong it would be his obligation to protect Tanaka at all costs. Tajiri left the hideout and got into the back of the car where Tanaka was already sitting. He also wore a suit (which was much more expensive than Tajiri’s).

The two didn’t speak on their way to the small restaurant where they were to meet these American mobsters to negotiate what their cut would be. Tajiri instinctively knew that Tanaka was disgusted and infuriated by this, but he knew Tanaka was fair as well. They both knew that if the tables were turned Tanaka would demand a cut of any money an American mobster would take in during a heist on Tanaka’s turf.

“They’ll take your gun,” Tanaka said as the car lurched to a stop across the street from the restaurant. “Let them. I brought you because you don’t need it. As soon as it looks like someone if going to pull a gun you kill them straightaway.”

Tajiri nodded. He was hoping it wouldn’t come to that. If Tajiri did have to take down anyone, he knew Tanaka and he would both be dead before even exiting the restaurant. With nervous tension, Tajiri left the car behind Tanaka and walked across the street. They were shown into the restaurant by two rather large men that waited outside the front door.

“Welcome!” a large man said getting up from his chair and holding his hands up. The man next to him stayed where he was silently. There were deep scars across his haggard face. “I hope you found the place with no trouble.”

“No trouble at all, Mr. Gambini,” Tanaka said with a smile.

“Please call me Anthony,” the man said. His suit nearly shone in the candlelight as he walked to shake Tanaka’s huge hand with both of his own. The suit was black with fine red stripes. He wore a blood red tie to accentuate the ensemble. “I hate to do this to you gentlemen, but we’ll have to check you for weapons.”

“Not at all,” Tanaka said. There was a flash of steel and Anthony Gambini suddenly had a knife in his throat. Tajiri knew instantly what had happened and attacked the the men on either side of him. By the time Tanaka had a bullet in the head of Gambini’s associate the two others were unconscious. By the door.

“We exit in the rear,” Tanaka said handing his gun and the bloodied knife to Tajiri. Tajiri obediently stashed them both in his pockets. “Watanabe will be waiting with a car. Let’s go before any backup arrives.”

Tajiri silently followed Tanaka through the kitchen where the tiny staff eyed them on the way out. Tajiri held his hand on his gun’s handle waiting for someone to lunge forward, but he didn’t need to use it. Nobody said a word or moved.

“I had to do it,” Tanaka said as they walked down the thin hallway that led to the alley behind the restaurant. “I refuse to give them a dime for a job I took months to pull. They’re lucky I let them die quickly.”

As Tanaka pushed open the back door of the restaurant to flashing red and blue lights hundreds of thoughts passed through Tajiri’s head. He never questioned a job or the word of his boss, and that hard fact about himself seemed to have blinded him to such obvious flaws in what just happened. How did the mobsters know it was Tanaka and his crew who pulled the heist? How would they even know that they had come to New York? How could they have possibly known how to contact them when they were held up in secret? How could Tanaka had dragged them into such an obvious trap?

“Run,” Tanaka breathed as they were bellowed at by a police office with bullhorn. He wasn’t worried anyone would hear. If they did it was unlikely they would understand his words anyway. “It’s me they want. Let them take me. I give you the task to get me out later. RUN!”

Tajiri did as he was told and broke along the wall of the alley. Tanaka ducked down as Tajiri ran and dodged the bullets they NYPD were now firing into the brick wall to his side. When he got to the street he leapt over the hood of a police car and ran down the road as his muscles burned and his eyes teared. He had no idea where he was or where he was going as he ran away from the boss that had asked Tajiri to guard him with his life.

*

The coming days revealed the answers to the questions that passed through Tajiri’s head. There was a second heist going on all along. One that only the few that perpetrated it knew of. Watanabe was nowhere to be found along with various members of their crew the night Tanaka was arrested. Along with him all the money and the jewels that they had taken were gone as well. There were no trace of either, and this left only a handful of them left to try and pick up the pieces.

Tanaka was a fan of American gangster movies, which was his downfall. When Watanabe planted the seed of the meeting Tanaka bought it without a second thought. What they believed to be four gangsters were actually undercover New York City detectives following a tip. They got word that they were holding Tanaka for the murder of two of those detectives, but was adamant about his innocence. The police were currently looking into the whereabouts of Tanaka’s accomplice. 

“What should we do?” Tajiri was asked. Since he was closest to Tanaka the others were looking to him for guidance. To their disappointment, Tajiri usually stayed silent.

Tajiri knew what he had to do. From what little information he could gather, springing Tanaka from the police and getting him back to Japan was going to be impossible. There was only one course of action. Abandoning what little crew was left, Tajiri sought out the first police officer he could find and turned himself in. He presented himself along with the murder weapons which only had Tajiri’s fingerprints. The NYPD sat silently while listening to Tajiri’s account of how he burst in, stabbed who he perceived to be Anthony Gambini, and shooting his partner after rendering the two undercover detectives unconscious. The two that lived only had a hazy recollection of what happened thanks to the blows they received in the head. They had him. His face matched the pictures they had as the two walked into the restaurant. They were skeptical, but it added up. Even Tanaka was pleading that he had no idea his partner would snap like that.

Kai Tajiri was handed a life sentence to be served out in Havenville Penitentiary. Within months of confessing to the double homicide, Tajiri was the newest resident inside the fortress walls of Havenville. At the end of his first month on the inside he was visited by Tanaka.

“Tanaka-san,” Tajiri said. “It is good to see you again.”

“I am in your debt, Tajiri,” Tanaka said. “I have sent many men after Watanabe for setting us up, but they all came up short. We may never find where he has hidden himself. I will remain in New York to help set up our syndicate. I believe we can prosper here.”

“My family,” Tajiri said. “They will be lost without me.”

“They are now under my protection,” Tanaka said. “As long as you are incarcerated for this crime they will remain safe.”

“Where are they?” Tajiri said.

Suddenly Tanaka became serious. “What would you do if you knew where they were?”

Tajiri said nothing.

“You put me in a very odd spot, Tajiri,” Tanaka said. “I have always valued your service, but you have information that could put me in prison for the rest of my days. Yes, I could run off to Japan where it would be hard for them to find me, but I am beginning to like it here in America. I have more of our brothers coming over every day to expand our family. The Italian families are growing weaker by the day. We have had such a small foothold. It is time to reach into this country and take what’s there.”

Tajiri just stared into the hard face of his boss and calculated Tanaka’s words in his mind.

“But I moved away from what I intended to say,” Tanaka said. “If you ever had a change of heart, it would be easy for you to speak the truth about what happened in that restaurant. Consider your family safe. For as long as you remain loyal, that is. Fear for their safety. With one phone call they can be dead in seconds. Tread lightly when living in your new home, Kai Tajiri. I won’t visit here again.”

Tanaka moved to hang up the phone. Tajiri spoke only one word.

“Coward.”

Tajiri didn’t think it was possible, but Tanaka’s face grew harder. “Perhaps,” Tanaka said. “It is a dishonorable path I walk, but it is mine. It is not your place to question my decision. I thank you for the sacrifice you have made for me. Know that as the years pass by that you do it not for me but for your wife and daughter. May they knew peace as you shall know hell. Goodbye, Tajiri.”

*

“Years after, my heart remained conflicted,” Tajiri told Xander. “I called Tanaka a coward the last time we would ever speak, but was he really? I was a fool to believe what he did to me was an act of a cruel man. It was the act of a desperate man. Tanaka-san is a victim of his own fears. His fears caused him to act dishonorably, and that is a hard fact that he has to live with for the remainder of his days. Tanaka-san tasked me with ensuring his freedom. I have done as I was asked with no hesitation.”

“How could you think like that?” Xander asked. “You’re in here for a crime he committed!”

“Am I truly innocent?” Tajiri asked. “I do not enjoy killing, but I have still killed. The two guards that were unconscious when I set the chapel on fire along with the Ten of Clubs were not the first. I killed in Japan when it benefitted Tanaka-san or the Yakuza. There is blood on my hands that won’t wash off. Not even behind these walls.”

“How could you speak about a man who threatens your family to keep his secret?”

“Tanaka dragging my family into this is regrettable,” Tajiri said. “I would have kept his secret regardless. You have recently lost your family to violence, so I can see where you be offended by this. Do not question my motives when you are driven only by duty and revenge. The only thing that can ensure my family’s safety now is my incarceration or an honorable death.”

Xander was silent. There were wisdom to the words of Tajiri, but he didn’t want to see them. Not just yet.

“I have one more question,” Xander said. “Would you return to them if you knew they’d be safe?”

“Wouldn’t you?”

*

Leonard left the Neo-Nazi’s with Wolfsky by his side. Their jumpsuits were considerably lighter without the weapons they were hoarding for the walk over. It was only one installment of what Leonard owed for the task that he had asked.

“Was it wise?” Wolfsky asked. “They seemed taken aback by what you requested of them.”

Leonard thought for a moment. “You can’t really trust anyone in here,” he said. “Even if they agreed, there is no guarantee they will follow through.”

The meeting was short, but many words were exchanged. Leonard had been buying protection from these savages with weapons for years, but their patience was growing short. Ever since he asked them to bail Xander out of a heavy situation and stitch him up afterwards they seemed to be agitated by any request. In their minds, Leonard should be working for them. Not the other way around.

“I think my love affair with the white power movement of Havenville Pen may be coming to an end,” Leonard said.

“Ending anything with men such as those would mean your death,” Wolfsky said.

Leonard sighed. He had come to respect and trust Wolfsky a whole lot more ever since he was rescued by the big man seconds before he would have been raped and killed. “I know,” Leonard said. “But what choice do I have. If Xander does what he says, we may not have much longer any way.”

“That’s the inside talking,” Wolfsky said. “Wolfsky has met many men on the inside. Some are weak willed and some are strong. Xander has the strongest will of anyone that ever stepped foot in this concrete hell. You are strong as well, Leonard. You need to see it.”

Leonard laughed. “I didn’t even mean to commit the crime that got me locked up here to bring with,” he said. “I surround myself with people that can protect me because I can’t do it myself. The only reason Xander wanted me on his team is for what I can make. Leonard Kelly and strong do not go in the same sentence, big man.”

“Wolfsky disagrees,” Wolfsky said. “You’ve stayed alive this long. Wolfsky has seen men like you come and go in Havenville. Mostly go. What you lack in psychical strength you make up for with your mind. You may not be able to kill three men with your bare hands like Wolfsky, but you can put things together into fine instruments of death like nobody Wolfsky has met.”

“I make instruments of death for prison inmates,” Leonard said with another chuckle. “I was supposed to be a computer engineer!”

“You are good at what you do,” Wolfsky said. “And we will all need you in the end. You will see.”

“That’s the part I’m afraid of,” Leonard said. “The end.”

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