Haruka reclined in her seat before the screen of the computer. This new base of operations was in the back of a large van Haruka had bought and Ami had outfitted. Ami had been relieved of caring for her mother when Haruka hired Makoto to care for the older Mizuno, freeing up a great deal of Ami's time and energy. Between Wise's experience, Ami's intelligence, and her own youth, Haruka felt fairly confident about their chances of success. But still, the X factors non-withstanding, they still needed an inside informant if they were to succeed.
With colored hair and contacts, a disguised Ami was working as a mechanic to bug several cars used by some of Yugisho's associates with small microphones. Haruka was monitoring her progress, ready to intercede if her cover was blown and things got out of hand.
"That's the last one," Ami radioed, "How's the reception?"
"Clear as a bell, Ames. Come on back in." With that, Haruka set down her radio and began recording anything each of the microphones might pick up. The bugs had a range of only a few kilometers so they would have to chase each of the cars if something interesting came up.
The back door opened. Haruka's instincts got ahead of her sense and she had her pistol drawn, cocked, and centered between Ami's eyes before she realized who it was. She, slowly, released the hammer and set the gun down, "Sorry."
Ami, however, was unfazed. Tugging a blue bandana from her hair, she breezed past Haruka to check the recordings, "Looks good."
"Not bad for a first time." Haruka agreed. She tugged Ami into a chair, "Listen, I know I've asked this before but, are you certain you want to go through this? You realize that, if we get caught, we could be looking at spending the rest of our lives in prison. And that's if the cops catch us. If the Yakuza do, prison will look lovely compared to what they'll put us through."
"My answer is the same as it was the first time, and the second, and the third. I loved Michiru as much as you did. Maybe not in the same way but just as much as you did. I would love nothing more to help you destroy the ones who killed her."
Haruka sat back, somewhat surprised at what the petite woman had just said. She had always considered Ami to be...well...a nerd. Not your average, run-of-the-mill nerd but a nerd nonetheless. The woman had always, in one way or another, had her nose pressed to a computer screen. She had thought Ami was one of those turn-the-other-cheek types. The fact that the woman was more than willing to seek vengeance, to kill in cold blood and rage, was surprising.
Haruka also realized something about Ami. It was something in her voice. She had heard it before but never fully realized it. Ami had a lot of repressed rage. Haruka could hear it clearly now, like a thick coating in the back of Ami's throat, like she was holding something back. All of the years of abuse from her classmates and society coupled with the fact that the woman rarely showed emotion had created a sort of powder keg within her. All it would take was the proper spark and Ami would fly into a blood rage. Haruka had caught a glimpse of what one of Ami's rages would look like the morning that Ami had broken her nose.
This was a problem. To do the kind of work Haruka required, Ami needed to be detached. She couldn't see her enemies as being human. If she did, she would have difficulty taking lives, not that Haruka wanted to put her in such a position. If Ami found herself unable to control her emotions in extremely high stress situations, she would prove to be a liability and Haruka would be forced to pull her from the mission.
To kill the time while they monitored the bugs, both Ami and Haruka began to tend to their weapons. Ami had, until recently, never held a gun. She was still, understandably, skittish around firearms and tended to startle at any sudden movements from the inanimate objects. Haruka heard her yelp at the metallic snap of the slide on her forty-five and smiled. Ami may be filled with rage and completely unpredictable, but she was still just a nerd.
Wise was away for the moment, having a meeting with a few of his old arms-dealing contacts. He and Haruka, and Ami, agreed that they would possibly need some specialty weapons that neither he nor Haruka possessed in their arsenals. For nearly three million yen, he was seeking out a pair of fifty caliber sniper rifles for them and an MP-5 assault rifle for Ami. The compact, recoil-less, and fairly accurate rifle was a perfect match for the petite and inexperienced marksman.
"I've got something." Ami announced.
"No idea." She pulled the headphone jack from it's port, "Take a listen."
A man's voice emanated from speakers, "This is so humiliating."
"Turn it up a bit," Haruka commanded.
"I'm educated and well-read, I'm not a mechanic. I have my pride. Go to university, mother said, so you can get a high-paying job. No, I decided to work for these pricks, detailing cars for a slave's wages."
"Sounds like we have a disgruntled employee." Ami observed.
"We may have our informant. Now, who is he?"
There was a second voice in the background.
"What did he say?" Haruka asked.
"'Komatsu, I think."
"Eighty-five percent certain."
"Find somebody named Komatsu that claims employment at this address."
"Already ahead of you." Ami had turned to a second computer and was puttering about in the prefecture employment records. "Here he is, Komatsu Mamoru. Doesn't live far."
Haruka grunted, "Maybe we should go pay him a friendly little visit."
Haruka contemplated the next phase of her plan while she waited for Komatsu to leave work. She would need to make him her ally against the Yakuza. She had to scare him and, then, be his friend. He wouldn't have to do anything for her, other than feed her information.
She would be taking Komatsu to Wise's cabin. It was secluded enough that there wouldn't be any unwanted visitors while she was working on him. And here he was.
She watched him pull off his coat and hat and toss them into the back of his car, a cheap Volkswagen. He seemed a little upset. Haruka hit her lights, bathing him and his crap-mobile in a bright white glow.
His eyes were as wide as dinner plates as she approached him, tire iron in hand, "What do you want?"
She smiled, "You." And she swung, only grazing his chin but with enough force to knock him unconscious. She gathered him up and dragged him back to her car, depositing him in the trunk.
Haruka and Ami sat on opposite sides of the cabin's main room, their attention was drawn by the cabin's third occupant. Komatsu hung upside down from the ceiling, shirtless, bound and blindfolded, quietly praying in fear. A single lamp, the only light in the room, illuminated only him and the immediate area around him, leaving the rest of the room in dark shadow.
"Good evening, Komatsu-san." Haruka greeted, her voice low and dark.
He started at her voice, "Who are you? What do you want? I warn you, I've got powerful friends."
"Let's talk about your friends."
"Get your own friends, bitch. I ain't talking."
"Oh, I think you'll change your mind in a moment."
"What do you mean?"
Haruka stepped closer, revealing herself in the light. She smiled and turned to a table laden with tools. She selected an Oxyacetylene torch, "I have a way of making people talk, Komatsu-san, and you'll talk, believe me. Now, you can talk or," She ignited the torch, "I can burn. Now, the interesting thing about this is that it doesn't actually feel like burning," she spoke as she wandered around behind him, "It's too hot, you see. It sears the nerve endings then, all you feel is cold. Isn't science fun, Komatsu-san?"
Behind Komatsu was a steak on a pan. Haruka ran the extremely hot flame over the meat and it's scent began to waft through the room and she jabbed him in the back with a Popsicle. He cried out and bucked in his restraints. Haruka laughed as she drew over his bare back with the icy treat, "Smell that, Komatsu-san? I'm burning away some of your fat."
He began to cry, pitifully, "Fine, fine. I'll tell you anything you want. Anything. Just st-"
His words were cut off as Haruka jammed the Popsicle in his mouth and released the ropes that held him, allowing him to fall to the floor. Komatsu immediately struggled out of the ropes and to his feet, pulling off the blindfold and removing the Popsicle, "You're not a very nice person."
Haruka shut off her torch and picked up a camera, "What was your first clue, the beating, the kidnapping, or the faux torture session?"
He snorted, "What can I do for you?"
"I'm going to take down the Yakuza and, guess what, you get to help. Unless, of course, you want to be their bitch for the rest of your life."
"I hate the Yakuza, every last god-damn one of them."
Haruka took a seat and gestured for him to do the same, "Tell me about them."
Komatsu lit a cigarette, "The head of my branch of the Yakuza is a man named Matsumoto Kenji. He's a man of strict habits. He takes first tee-time at nine-thirty exactly at Murasaki Greens. From there, he goes straight for his offices on the twelfth floor of the Murasaki building. Yes, the same company that owns the country club he golfs at, he owns them both."
"What about security?"
"The typical paid thugs but they aren't the real threat."
"What do you mean?"
"He has an assassin that works almost exclusively for him. Never met her but I've heard plenty. She's young but experienced. She never leaves his side unless he has a specific task for her. I tell you, I'd hate to cross paths with her on a bad day."
"How young is she?"
"No idea. Like I said, I never met her. All I know is that she's really young. I don't even think she's legal yet."
"Matsumoto's using kids to do his dirty work. That's just like him. You got a name for this half-pint?"
"The name I keep hearing is 'Firefly'. I don't know if that's her real name or not. It sounds like you know Matsumoto personally."
"I do. I used to work with him under Yugisho."
"You worked for the Godfather, himself?"
"He wasn't the Godfather at the time."
"What do you want with Matsumoto?"
"Anything else you need?"
"I'll need to stay in contact with you." She gave him her cell number, "Put me in as 'Baby'. I might need you to keep feeding me information."
"Done. But I want something in return."
"Which would be?"
"Protection. For myself and my family."
Haruka nodded. Komatsu wanted protection and she wanted Ami as far away from the action as possible. This was the perfect match. She beckoned Ami forward, "This is my associate. She'll be keeping you company for the time being. She reports directly to me so you are to be on your best behavior. If she tells me about anything inappropriate, I will char you for real."
"That's fine. Do we have a deal? Information for protection?"
Haruka shook his hand, "Deal."