5. Crashed Party

Trigger Marchuck could only describe his current frame of mind as astounded. For a man who had been to some of the more colorful hellholes and hotspots in the world and pulled off jobs that even the most hard bitten professional would instant classify as "grizzly bear hairy," astonishment did not come easily to him. Yet through the reticle of his scope, he could only watch in slack jawed amazement as the final scene of the night's drama unfolded some six hundred yards away from his position on the rooftop of Arisaka Electronics.

And the night had started off so innocently . . .

* * *

"Remind me again how you got the invites for this little soiree," Dimes asked Carillon sotto voce.

"Silly boy," she cooed. "A magician never reveals her secrets."

Okami circulated slowly through the crowd, murmuring into the throat mike hidden under the collar of his tuxedo shirt. "So far, so good, Hyrax. Kanzawa hasn't showed up yet. Not seeing anybody we should be worried about."

"Copy that," the earbug whispered. "Nike reports a limo coming up to the front, it's got government plates." A pause. "It's Kanzawa. Trigger confirms."

"And the girl?"

"Confirmed. And she's so hot," Hyrax whimpered.

"Focus, dammit!" Okami glanced over at Carillon, then reached up to scratch his right shoulder, letting two fingers trail as his hand pulled away. Shimikura nodded and whispered in Tenner's ear. Within a few minutes, Hideo and Tsukiko Kanzawa entered the ballroom where the party was being held. Okami held his breath for a moment. He'd seen the girl's picture before, but it hadn't done her any justice. Hyrax had been understating the case badly. She was devastatingly beautiful.

Bringing himself quickly back under control, Merriweather noted the very smooth way Kanzawa's bodyguards slipped into covering positions, scanning the room without moving their heads so much as a millimeter. As he bent down to peruse the buffet table, he murmured into his throat mike, "Kanzawa-san and daughter have arrived. Three bodyguards. Top notch, too. JSDF is my guess."

"Trigger concurs. He's making out shapes that seem to match that of an MP7 PDW on the bodyguards."

"Impressive," Okami murmured to himself. He straightened up and watched as the caterers brought in fresh carts of food. The world suddenly seemed to lurch to a stop as they moved closer to the buffet table. The whole scene froze in his mind: Dimes and Carillon playing Amerikajin and translator while speaking to Kanzawa, the other partygoers swilling pink champagne and nibbling on sushi hors d'oveurs, the caterers rolling carts out. It was one of the catering staff that caught his eye. He saw the recognition in her face, saw the decision that presented itself and was made in less than a heartbeat, and knew the disaster that was about to hit the ballroom.

"Yuki," he whispered to himself.

A shotgun concealed under one of the vendor carts roared, the massive slug practically tearing the legs off one of the bodyguards and sending him to the ground. The noise and confusion startled everybody in the room, save for the caterers that were even now pulling out submachineguns from under the food service carts and the two remaining bodyguards drawing the stout PDWs from under their jackets. Dimes and Carillon had dragged the Kanzawas down, undoubtedly planting the homing devices they'd thought to bring with them while keeping out of the line of fire. Okami found cover in an alcove and watched as the bodyguards' reactive fire took out three of the gunmen before taking hits in their legs and heads. Two more bodyguards broke into the ballroom, keeping low and turning over cocktail tables as improvised cover. Above the screaming and the shouting, Okami heard the sound of a gun battle in the corridor outside the ballroom. What kind of godawful mess had Dimes and the team stumbled into here?

"What the hell's happening down there?!" Hyrax shouted through the earbug.

"Ambush," snapped Okami, "possibly hostile extraction of Kanzawa One and Two. Bodyguards are in place, trying to eliminate the hostiles, but whoever they are, they're not bush league players." In truth, Okami was impressed by the level of coordination the gunmen displayed as they held Kanzawa's bodyguards at bay. Whoever had planned the operation had put some effort towards doing their homework. But it wasn't going to be enough this time. The op was now blown. In a very short amount of time, Tokyo PD and Koancho agents would be showing up. The gunmen would not want that. Laying down covering fire, the intruders withdrew, leaving three dead comrades behind. In the confusion that followed, Okami trailed after one of the would-be caterers.

"Suspect on the move, female, Asian, heading for the skyway on the 40th floor," Okami spat as he drew his pistol.

"Trigger has her . . .he says he has no shot. Thick glass. Meant to stand up to earthquakes and typhoons, it'll stop a rifle round without even chipping."

"Copy that," Merriweather replied as he trailed Yuki across the skyway, gun held low and away. "She's going for the roof."

Trigger looked through the scope at the roof of the building on the far end of the skyway, seeing nothing but the roof access fire door, some ventilation ducts poking up from the roof, some antennae with airline warning lights langorously flashing red. Moments later, the fire door flew open and a Japanese woman came to one corner of the building and crouched down, looking as if she was pulling on an article of clothing. About halfway through, Okami slowly came out through the fire door.

"Hyrax, get me a parabolic on this," Trigger growled.

The hacker quickly hooked up a large parabolic mike to the box feeding the teams' earbugs.

"Yuki," Okami called out gently.

The woman froze and slowly turned towards him. "Okami-chan," she answered.

"What have you done?" he asked in Japanese.

"I do not expect you to understand."

Trigger growled softly. "I don't fucking speak Japanese! I can't understand them!"

"I'm recording it, Trig," Hyrax murmured.

"Help me understand, Yuki, please." The gun stayed close to Merriweather's hip.

"Kanzawa is not what he says he is, and does not say what all he does." Yuki kept very still, a pistol in her own hand.

"I'm trying to find out more about Kanzawa, Yuki, trying to find out what he's up to. If you know something, I can help you."

"What you know and what is the truth will never be the same thing. Even I do not know the whole truth. Only very small pieces of it, and I am not certain if what I think I know is really the truth."

Merriweather's voice wavered ever so slightly, the faint sound of approaching police sirens floating up to his ears. "Yuki-chan, let me help you. Whatever you're into, I have friends that can help you. I can protect you, and we can expose whatever it is that Kanzawa is doing. Please."

Yuki shook her head. "No, Okami-chan. Wheels within wheels, crushing us all." The gun hand snapped up and put the muzzle of the pistol to her temple, the hammer pulled back by the double-action trigger and falling, a single round blowing the young woman's brains over the roof of the building.

Okami looked down at the body, then looked over towards the spot where Trigger and Hyrax sat in astonishment.

"So much for not leaving any traces," he said sadly as the sound of police sirens grew closer.