By R. John Quisenberry
The next day, Jeremiah was in his office in the back of the Jasmine house, his bordello, and bar. Grey was looking over some manuals for the security systems. It had been a boring day and both of them were looking forward to a good workout in the dojo. Every evening, they would spend a couple of hours honing their skills together. Jeremiah was just about to suggest an early start to their workout when the red light over the office door began to flash.
Each of them calmly put away their papers and made their way to the office door. “Shall I use the back way? Or is it better to come from the front?” asked Grey.
“You get all of the fun most of the time. I’ll take the front line this time. Let’s make it fun!”
As he stepped out of the office door, Jeremiah brushed a speck of lint from the lapels of his tasteful, black, suit. With an air of disdain, he looked up and looked over the scene in his foyer. “Sir, my employees are not trained to provide this kind of entertainment. Please release Lisa and we can talk about what your current customer service needs are.”
The stocky, mid-thirties man in a yellow kimono sneered as he clutched the delicate blond by the throat and pulled her closer to his chest. The bloodshot nature of his eyes made his drunkenness obvious to all who had trickled out of their private rooms to investigate the noise. The hostess, an Asian woman of medium height and long, dark hair that spilled over her red kimono was breathing hard and glaring at the man. The bruise blossoming in the delicate skin below her right eye set Jeremiah’s teeth on edge. The angry glares of the hostess and Jeremih made the scared assailant back toward the rear exit of the room.
“I paid for this woman! Then she dares to tell me what I am allowed to do! I do not take orders from a slut!” the man bellowed.
“Sir, our employees have a contract that allows for a clear limit to the services they are willing to render. Unfortunately, you have chosen to violate the house rules. You did not accept her refusal and take your business to a more willing party. You have compounded the situation by laying hands on not one, but two of my employees. We are going to have to do something to work this problem out.” Jeremiah stated in a calm, clear voice.
“You do NOT tell me what to do! I am Igor Ivanovitch! I paid for this woman. She must do what I say! Bossy woman gets in my way, she gets hurt. My only problem is you not making sure your people know their place!”
“Mr. Ivanovitch, while I am flattered that you have chosen to partake of my hospitality, I fear we do not cater to your particular type of entertainment. I suggest ‘Bubba’s Boneyard’, or ‘Leggsy’s Lays’ across the plaza. They have many venues, both real and virtual, that should fit your requirements.”
“I am here and I like this one. I bought her for tonight. Go away and I will not take this out on you when I take over the Free Zone!”
As Jeremiah edged closer to the man, he carefully slid his hand around the doorframe of the rice paper panel he was passing. Pressing gently on part of the framework released two throwing knives into his hand. “Sir, I fear you have been misled. I am currently the leader of the businesses in the FZ, and I do not plan to resign.”
“Hah! Do you think you have a choice? You be nice to me and I will give you a job keeping these whores in their place!”
As Igor was inhaling to laugh again, Jeremih’s first knife stuck into the hand holding Lisa by the throat. Screeching in pain, Igor released his grip on her and cradled his wounded hand in the other as blood poured from the injury. “I will get you for this! I am protected! You are dea… erk!”
His last statement was halted by Lisa’s knee in his groin, shortly followed by a katana blade lifting his chin. Cutting his eyes to look at the wielder of the blade, Igor was graced with a gentle smile from Grey as their eyes met.
“Would sir like to leave now? I will be happy to escort you to the exit.”
Jeremiah frowned gently. “You will be getting a bill for damages and the trauma you have inflicted. If you do not settle the bill, My friend, Grey, and some gentlemen from my organization will be happy to visit you and help you to fulfill your obligations.”
Igor did not say anything, but the look in his eyes was filled with rebellion as Grey walked him to the front door with the sword to his throat the whole way. Grey released him once they were past the embarrassed-looking bouncers. With a last defiant look at Jeremiah, Igor pushed his way out of the building and into the chilly February night.
The customers and employees milled around marveling at the evening’s events while Jeremiah went to speak with Lisa and the hostess. “Mrs. Roberts, Lisa, I am giving you both the night off with pay. Sally can take over the front of house. Go and tend to your injuries. You will, of course, seek medical treatment and have the bill sent to me.”
The girls made their way back to the changing rooms in the back after thanking the two warriors who had averted disaster. Jeremiah and Grey went back to the office.
“What do we do now Jerimiah San?”
“I think I would like some rice wine. Would you like something Grey?”
“A bourbon, neat would be nice.
“That was not business as usual. Were you expecting this development?”
“In fact, my friend, I have been expecting this sort of thing since I came here to take over the organization’s concerns three years ago. It was inevitable that other parties would take interest in the possible earning potential of the WSFZ.”
It was midmorning the next day when Sally buzzed Jermiah’s intercom. “A call for you sir. It would seem to be our intermediary with the Soviet organization. He seems to be very serious today.”
“Put Alexi through please, and Sally…”
“Record everything and listen in. I want your opinion on the conversation afterward.”
“Yes sir! Here he is.”
“Alexi! How are you this morning?” said Jeremiah into the microphone in his desk.
“Jeremiah, I am afraid there is a bit of business we need to conduct. We have a diplomatic situation with a customer of yours…”
“I do seem to recall a troublesome individual who was refused service last night. There were damages and he will be getting a bill this afternoon.”
“Are you sure that is a wise course of action? I was thinking that we could arrange a compromise.”
“And, what would be the terms of your proposed compromise?” asked Jeremiah with a knowing grin.
“Nothing too extreme. He is willing to pay double the fee from last night, and the girl becomes his.”
“Alexi, have you ever asked about my tattoos?”
“I am not sure I get what you are driving at…”
“If you had, you would have heard that I am known by a couple of names in my organization, The Frog Samurai. I am also known as the Bullfrog King.”
“And, what has that got to do with the situation?”
“A tattoo of a samurai indicates that I am honorable. A frog indicates my power. A crown is an obvious symbol of rulership. I have a frog on each side of my chest. The one on the right has a crown, and the one on the left is a samurai. I earned these decorations.
“Jeremiah, we are talking about a ruling family of the organization. They are willing to go to war over the treatment of one of their members.”
“Alexi, I am going to honor my contract with the young lady. She has worked for me for a year and done a good job. A man dishonored himself and his family in my domain. Would the family prefer that I had killed him and disposed of him quietly?”
“Maybe it would have been better to dispose of him. At least that would not make them look weak. A small penalty payment would probably have smoothed things over then.”
“Would you rather I correct my oversight in letting him live?”
“Are you crazy?! These people want to wipe you out! Either they get what they want, or you get dead.”
“It would seem that diplomacy has failed. Please convey my apologies for altering their schedule. Goodbye Alexi! Take care of yourself.” Jeremiah pressed the hidden button on his office chair and the call ended abruptly.
“Sally, are you still on the line?”
Please send a copy of the call recording to Grey. He will know what steps to take.”
“Sir, would you like my analysis of the call now?”
“Yes, please speak freely…”
“He’s scared. He knows they have been planning to move in on you for a while and he has sold you out. He thinks you have no idea and are unready and bluffing.”
“Thank you, Sally. I would agree. Has there been any word from the Home Office?”
“I have been advised that your takeout order is being filled and you may need to snack until it arrives.”
“Thank you, Sally. Take the rest of the day off. I will call you privately if I need you.”
Activating the communications from his chair controls, Jeremiah commanded the system, “Call Grey.”
After the second ring, Grey’s voice came on the line, “Yes Jeremiah San, or should I say ‘Frog King’?”
“Very funny Grey. Start preparations to visit the ‘Country House’. We will be getting some takeout soon, but we may have to make do with a snack until it’s delivered. Do you have any ‘Vending Machines’ you would suggest?”
“I have an idea for something exotic but traditional. I can see if I can find a machine that has something to satisfy the cravings.”
“Don’t worry, we will have some home cooking soon. The family is sending as soon as they can.”
“Please implement the relocation protocol Jeremiah San. I will take care of the ‘bill collection’ and meet you at the country house.” replied Grey.
“Only add interest to the debt if it is warranted.”
As Igor awaited his evening surprise, Jeremiah slipped behind the wheel of a large SUV. Complex systems checked biometric data on his body and adjusted the seat and temperature to his liking while activating tactical computers and displays. Weapons armed in response to the heightened security status set by Grey.
Igor was drinking an unhealthy amount of vodka while waiting for his lavish meal to be prepared by one of the serving women. He planned to talk to his uncles about the staff. All of them were old, ugly or male. Too bad his uncles knew what kind of man he was and had staffed the place with people who, while reliable and talented at their jobs, did not fit Igor’s idea of attractiveness. They had already lost many staff members when he seduced and victimized them.
Helga opened the ornate double doors so that Olga could wheel the cart in. Helga had a face like a fist, closed and angry. Olga, in contrast, had a bovine look of pleasant stupidity plastered on her moonlike face. Its pale roundness is pocked with acne scars that a good dermatologist could have healed using the technology available.
Her simpleton’s appearance belied the keen and devious intellect of a trained assassin. She, and not Helga was the primary bodyguard in the room. Not even Igor suspected as much.
Helga scanned the room as Olga brought the cart to the table by the window. It’s bulletproof glass distorted images from the park across the street. Olga kept her eyes down as she scanned the readouts of her electronic scan of the room and any signals that made it past the shielding.
Olga placed the platter with the domed lid on it on the table carefully. Igor always liked his food nice and hot, so the lid would stay until he removed it. She had kept the chemical sniffers running the whole time. Nothing but bad breath and vodka fumes were all she detected.
Making her way docilely out of the room with the cart, Olga noted the placement of the furniture. The oaf has moved the furnishings around and created an easy path for a killer to take him out. He relies too much on the bulletproof glass for his safety. Grey tended to agree. Not that he was planning to use a firearm right now. It was important to make an impression, but not kill his target just yet…
When the two servants left, Igor was attacking the steak he had ordered. Olga was offended by his demand that the steak is cooked well done. Such a waste of a fine cut of beef.
He had scoffed at her inclusion of vegetables and slathered the potato with butter and sour cream. When he discovered his tumbler was empty, he poured more vodka. Casually waving off the gnat that buzzed byhis head, he did not notice the one that dropped into the clear liquid and dissolved instantly.
Helga was the first to respond to the alarm. Bursting into the room, closely followed by Olga, they saw the bloated Igor laying on the floor. They could see that he was breathing slowly by the rise and fall of his chest. A long, slender piece of paper was taped to his forehead. Helga pulled it from his head and inspected it. It was an itemized bill for his visit to that Japanese place “White Jasmine”. How dare they?! There will be payment coming alright! To invade the sanctum of their organization and leave such an offensive demand for money! Damned Yakuza need to learn their place!