21
Nov
19

Snippet: Chrysanthemum Graves

Figured it might be nice to not do something involving the spook, and instead do the beginning. Enjoy.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

“What the fuck are you doing? Where the hell are your shoes?”
The voice came from somewhere further inside the house, the heavy walls and their tapestries deadening it, killing any echoes and making it hard to tell where it had come from. Still, Danny knew it well enough. Calm, despite the words it chose. Deep, rumbling like a subterranean landslide. Faint traces of an accent, but one that was almost impossible to define.

“Taking care of the floor, man! Isn’t that some shit you’re into? Don’t wanna track all over the place.”

Danny’s voice was shrill, nasal, almost the human equivalent of nails on chalkboard. He hated the sound of it himself, and would complain about it to anyone who even vaguely touched the subject, but there wasn’t much he could do about it. Puberty and its mysterious ways had been unkind to him in that regard.

The owner of the other voice had appeared at the end of the hall leading from the entryway. Contrary to his irritation at Danny’s lack of footwear, he was barefoot. A pair of gray sweats were the only clothing he wore. His chest was bare, shiny with sweat. Danny assumed the other man had been in the middle of one of his routines when he’d heard the bell.

“I like to keep my floor clean, yeah. That’s why I don’t want your nasty feet dragging on it. I mean, couldn’t you at least wear some socks? Go put your shoes back on. Then meet me in the kitchen.”

The man turned to his left, slipping through a beaded curtain that blended so well into the wall that it would have been invisible if you didn’t know to look for it. He was silent as he did so, and despite the rattling Danny knew he’d provoke by walking through it, the beads barely moved, as though they refused to defy the master of the house.

“Uh… right. Whatever you say, Ichi.”

His voice shook more than usual, and Danny cursed himself for it. Ichiro had never done anything to make him feel the pulse of fear that always quaked through him in the other man’s presence. Nothing to him, anyway. But Danny still always had to wonder if one day that would change.

He slunk back up the two short steps that separated the main room from the entrance, slipping his feet into the battered sneakers that had last been replaced sometime during Obama’s first term, before moving to follow Ichiro through the curtain.

He slipped past the beads, suppressing a shiver as they slid over his shoulders in a way that made him think of creatures raking their nails against his body in an attempt to snare him. Ichi’s kitchen was clean, though not in the way Danny would have preferred.

A clean kitchen, to Danny, spoke of use and care. Nicks in the counter, a permanent stain under the coffee pot that was so old and ingrained that it was seared into the fabric of the table but shone with polish anyway. Curtains that had faded a little, that maybe had a blot of pie filling at the edge.

Ichi’s kitchen was clean the way a sterile room was clean. Gleaming white tile, black and chrome appliances that looked like they had just come from the showroom floor minutes before, perfectly clear windows without adornment, pots, pans, and cutlery polished to a mirror sheen and arranged on metal runners more suited for display than usage. To Danny, it looked like a surgical ward, and part of him wondered if it had ever been used that way. It wouldn’t have surprised him.

Ichi was sitting at the table in the middle of the room, an oak affair on iron legs that would have looked more at home in a boardroom than a kitchen. Arrayed at five points were short stools of black steel with glass seats. Not comfortable looking in the least, but Danny was thankful he wouldn’t be sitting cross-legged on the floor. Ichi was prone to making him do that, and it always made Danny’s knees ache.

One of Ichi’s brows rose, as his hand gestured to one of the stools.

“Sit. Stop staring. I pay you for information, not to mess up my floors and admire my decor.”

Danny’s head bobbed with enthusiasm, and he slid across the floor putting as little weight into his steps as possible. He made it to the stool without incident, but pulling it out produced an unpleasant shriek of metal on tile, and as he dropped into the seat he saw the black scuff mark the chair leg had left.

Ichi’s expression was unchanged, but Danny thought he could smell the other man’s irritation. He gave a pained smile, shrugged, and sat down.

“Yeah. You do. S’why I’m here. Information.”

Ichi continued to glare, eyes boring into Danny. Danny hated it when Ichi did that; sometimes it felt like the man was sifting through his guts and brain simultaneously, digging up every piece of dirt he could. When Ichi looked at him like that, Danny wondered why the man needed people to bring him information. All he really needed to do was stare someone down, and if he couldn’t just read their mind, even some of the toughies on the Southside would start spewing whatever info Ichi wanted.

“Um. Yeah. You told me to keep an eye out for anybody who’s real particular about their collars, doesn’t ditch their shirts or coats even when it’s boiling outside, don’t talk much. Especially if they’re hanging around the kid, right?”

Ichi said nothing. Danny wasn’t surprised. He cleared his throat before continuing.
“Well, there’s a couple that just got into town. Haven’t seen ’em myself yet, but one of them was asking around for the kid, and the other’s been asking around for someone who sounds a lot like you. Mentioned your back and everything.”

The other man’s hands clenched, producing a click as the thick silver ring on his right index finger rapped against the table. Danny jumped at the sound. Ichi’s teeth shone through his lips in a grimace.

“So they’re here. Finally.”

His voice was a growl, lacking in human inflection. Danny found it most interesting, as he’d expected Ichi to at least be surprised. Or angry. Or anything. Snarling resignation hadn’t been the response he thought he’d get.

“Um, yeah. Sounds like it, boss. I’ve got a couple guys sniffing them out, checking their credentials. They’ll call me as soon as they know more, and I’ll call you right after, but I figured you’d wanna know ASAP.”

“For once, you’re correct.”

Ichi steepled his fingers, bowing his head into them for a moment and closing his eyes. If he hadn’t seen the behavior before, Danny might have thought Ichi had slipped into a narcoleptic fit or something. He knew the other man was just thinking, though, and thinking hard. Danny remained quiet, giving Ichi time to muddle through whatever was going on inside his skull.

“Daniel.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Where is Raioh?”

“The kid? Last I saw him, he was on the schoolyard, playing baseball or something. Mark’s got an eye on him, will pick him up after school. You told me not to mess up his life too bad unless we have to. Since they haven’t found him yet, figured we didn’t have to. Yet.”

Ichi nodded, keeping his head behind his hands.

“Correct. So long as they don’t go near the school, he stays. Have Mark take him somewhere else. A vacation. You do not know where, I do not know where, no one knows where. Mark and Raioh only. Understood?”

“Yeah,” Danny said. He’d learned there was no such thing as a disagreeable order a long time ago. What Ichi said was how it went down, and asking questions was liable to become more trouble than it was worth.

“Good.”

Despite the word, very little of Ichi’s expression seemed to imply anything good about the situation. He folded his hands on the table, staring at the reflection of his own fingers in the mirror sheen for a long moment, then spoke again.

“You say they are asking about me. Or someone a lot like me, anyway. What, specifically, have they asked.”

Danny coughed into his hand, looking away. Bringing up this subject was liable to get Ichiro ansty, possibly even angry, and Danny preferred not to talk about it. But when your boss’s back is covered in an exceptionally elaborate tattoo that quite a few of the less-than-savory folks in the neighborhood are aware of, it tends to be a central point of identity.

“Well, they were… uh… asking about a guy with a tattoo.”

Ichi’s face remained stony, eyes unblinking. Danny took it as a cue to keep talking.

“Said they’re looking for a man with a big flower on his back. A chrysanthemum. Stylized. Heavy ink.”

Ichi nodded.

“Unfortunate. But not entirely unexpected. What else?”

Danny gulped. He wasn’t looking forward to the next detail.

“They also mentioned that the flower might be covered up or overlaid with a dragon or a snake that wraps around the guy’s shoulders.”

He glanced down into his lap, not daring to meet Ichi’s gaze after that. The other man had done some touch up work on the elaborate tattoo once he had settled here, and supposedly only a handful of people were aware of the changes. Even if someone had come looking for him, the change should have thrown them off, at least for a time. But if these goons were asking about the serpent as well as the flower, that meant they knew something they shouldn’t… and Danny could be held responsible.

Ichi surprised him, however. There was no anger, no accusations. Just a slow nod.

“I see.”

Ichiro took a deep breath, eyes closed, as though centering himself. Danny took the opportunity to raise his eyes again, watching the other man carefully. Several seconds passed with neither moving before Ichi spoke again.

“It will be fine. Bring them to me. Make no threats. Make no promises. Find them, and inform them that I wish to speak to them. Give them my name.”

Ichi’s eyes opened, locking on Danny’s and seeming to spark with a fervor and passion Danny rarely saw coming from the man.

“But do so only after Raioh has been escorted away.”

Danny nodded.

“Uh, sure. Yeah, I can do that. But…”

He trailed off, throat running dry.

“But what?”

Danny coughed again, then bit the tip of his tongue to force some spit through his mouth.

“Is that the best idea? I mean… what if they’re here to cause trouble?”

Ichi laughed, a low rumble like the idle of a diesel truck, but Danny didn’t think there was any actual amusement in it.

“And if they are? They know who they are looking for, and know enough to be aware of things that have changed since the last time their organization saw me. Better to face the tiger head on than hide and have it strike you in the back. Besides… they may only be looking to curry favor with Oyabun Kenose. They will not receive such favors, but let them try, regardless.”

Ichi pushed up off the stool.

“You know what you are to do. Now do it.”

He turned away from Danny, giving the man a full view of the elaborate flower that had been painstakingly etched into his back. Circles of yellow and white, done with a traditional chiseled style, the chrysanthemum. Ichi had told Danny once they were flowers of mourning, done to remember the dead. Danny had never asked who was being remembered, but had often suspected it had to do with the boy Ichi was so determined to keep safe.

Laid atop and intertwined with the flower was a much more recent addition. A long black serpentine dragon, claws digging into petal groups, with the tail circling around to Ichi’s ribcage and the head lapping at his neck. Being significantly fresher, Danny could still see some of the blood beads caused by the chiseling.

Shaking his head to clear it, knowing he had better things to do than admire the craftsmanship of Ichi’s tattoo or worry about the implications of it, Danny stood up.

Through some miracle he avoided causing anymore gouges in the tile floor.
He scurried out, phone already going to his ear and Mark’s number being speed-dialed. Best get it done.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

KA Spiral no signature


0 Responses to “Snippet: Chrysanthemum Graves”



  1. Leave a Comment

What's your opinion?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


Show your support

Adopt an Artist

Take pity, and eternal gratitude will be yours; helps keep this site running and the words flowing.

PayPal Donate Button

Archives

Follow Insomniac Nightmares on WordPress.com

%d bloggers like this: