A/N: I just watched the Great Pretender season 2, and though the first three cases were splendid (season 1, if you haven't watched it don't read fanfiction about it?), the fourth one seemed to have a lot of missing gaps to it. This is my response.
You will have to have watched season 2, and probably recently, to understand this. This basically goes back to around the most mysterious scenes of the show to explain why some things actually happened. This is my best guess for why things happened the way they did after wrenching my head side to side about it several times, so I hope it gives some other people more satisfaction with the ending of the case. It at least gives me a little more satisfaction, painting these holes into a bit more sensical of a story with my writing.
I'm also pretending that I know how everyone's names are spelled.
Case 4: Filling in the Gaps
The Wizard of the Far East, Behind the Scenes
Scene 1. The Bus
"Do you really think this will work?" Cynthia asked flatly, at the wheel, driving tensely forward, eyes cool and level on the road.
Makoto looked down the length of the bus, at the ten kids huddled there. He found himself clenching the cold gun in his grip tighter as he stared down at them – not because he felt any particular need for violence, but because he need the cold comfort of something real, something solid in his hands.
"Yeah," he said tightly. "If we took them to the police, we couldn't take down the Sakuza, could we?"
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his father look at him. It steadied him, having him here – it hadn't been necessary, maybe, inviting him, but when Makoto had seen the chance to give his father redemption, to put faith in him again –
"Careful, Edamura," Abbie muttered from across him, watching the gun on his lap, his clenched grip. "Don't get too ambitious."
He had had to take it. He had seen his wedding band still on his finger; he knew his father still cared about him, about his family. He had to. He had to regret what he did, all those years ago, trafficking children.
Makoto suddenly felt sick to his stomach. Here he had been, doing the same thing, hadn't he? But, no, it was different. They were going to make it different. Make it right, finally.
His eyes wandered down the bus to the children again. They were unusually quiet, muted. They probably believed that they were just being transported to another prison, too hopeless to do anything else.
"And it would keep happening again and again still," Makoto continued quietly, as much to himself as to Cynthia. It churned his guts, that he was going to let this happen. "So we'll follow the plan."
His father watched him.
When they turned off the interstate by his father's instructions, to avoid pursuit, however – everything started to go wrong. The Sakuza had found them too early. Cynthia, Abbie, his father, and Makoto walked out of the bus, hands raised. When his father was revealed to be the traitor, he felt his heart sink and everything inside him crash down to the ground.
No. It was too early. They had needed to go to a drop-off point, any drop-off point with some distance, get Cynthia and Abbie out of there. He had had a timed signal, carefully prepared, that would alert the Sakuza head boss and the Chinese branch emissary when they were ready, so that they could claim the Chinese branch was trying to take the kids, Makoto proving his loyalty by accusing his father and sending the signal –
His father would deny the claims, they would negociate and incite the Chinese branch member to help, and if worst came to worst he wore a kevlar vest and blood bag –
Makoto, in the arms of the main Sakuza branch, could arrange for Lorentz' auctioneers to arrive, gain trust, rise higher, gain evidence –
The children would have then been brought to safety via the auction –
He couldn't have anticipated this.
He stared hollowly forward as they were carried, their arms chained, weapons padded down, as they were marched into a yacht and into the sea. The entire time, his father remained unchained, stupid sunglasses on his face, looking down at him.
That bastard. He had been one of them. He had lied to Makoto.
It really, really burned. He had decided to put his trust in him – in even Abbie's words, that maybe Laurentz had brought him here so that his father could be saved – but now, it all –
He hadn't expected how events would turn out on the yacht, either. Told to shoot Abbie and Cynthia – even knowing they still had on their vests – he couldn't, he just couldn't. When his father took the gun from him and shot them, going over the side, the panic inside of him frazzled, grew bigger –
This wasn't like last time, with toy guns and accomplices. His father had knowingly killed them – even if they survived, they would be left out at sea, this hadn't been in the plan–
So when he was given the gun, in a wide-eyed turn of events, the old Sakuza boss coddling over him, he pulled the trigger, wild eyes, knowing that though the bullet hit the vest, it would push him overboard, at sea, to the same fate as Abbie and Cynthia and he hated him –
Scene 2. The Auction
Makoto had been cheered by the Suzaku's boss lady. Days had passed since the yacht incident. He had been dull and despondent, not sure what to think, not sure why he had been left to drift, alone, yet smothered by the darkness. He didn't know if this was part of the plan, or if he was really in it deep. He didn't know where the plan began and where it ended.
And he –
He became a human auctioneer.
It burned, it bit, it went against everything inside him. But he took the step forward, because he trusted Lorentz. He knew – there had to be something, there, waiting. Even if the bastard had done a turn on him, to involve his father – he had always come through before –
And so it came as a sigh of relief that when he organized the auction, one of the auctioneers had tipped him the signal. To safety, it said. So when he prepped the kids the day of, he told them to smile wide and said that if they went to the best auctioneers, they'd be set for life.
He hoped they got the message that he meant freedom.
So he played his part, calling out the kid's names and listing prices for them even as it sickened him. But he never let it show, steadfast, confident, like this was a game – because he had trust, that the auction was going according to plan, that this was all a game of pretend that was going to end. When his profit had increased compared to the previous auctioneer, he had grown more confident of it, because it was just like Laurent to control the stage in and out to ensure the end result.
… it was only when his father appeared on his doorstep that he realized how badly he had been screwed.
He had been right about the auction. The kids were safe, bought to safety. It had cut into their funds, but it would be worth it.
But this story – of Dorothy, of Lorentz, of his father –
So that's what he had been doing all along!? Gallivanting off, as a con man? The entire time, his arrest, it was all part of a con?
And Lorentz had known.
Lorentz had put him in this shit hole, where he had to swindle human traffickers all alone, in the dark, going off blind faith that he would be able to live with himself when all was said and done.
Fuck Lorentz. All for revenge? A "final con", in the spirit of a dead woman? While human traffickers were walking? Did he think it was some stupid game he could now ignore?
But he didn't think he could live with himself, if he walked out now.
So he nodded, listening to the plan – to strand the two mafia branches on an island, bankrupt their business by playing up an interpreter's game – and decided he would listen to Lorentz's orders, even if his faith was all blasted apart from his father and that bastard and now he was smoking cigarettes.
But – he decided –
He would also get his own troops on the ground.
Watching his father leave his small shoddy apartment, Makoto pulled his phone to his ear and dialed the number of the first mafia boss he had met.
Scene 3. Makoto, in Deep Cover
"My son… Makoto," the elderly boss of the Suzaku said quietly, red painted eyeshadow accentuating her normally stern and cold look. Now her expression was anything but cold and stern, instead almost tender. She was looking out the window. Makoto watched her and felt his heart clutch, even as he fought to keep his face impassive. Much had changed in the past days. His world had gotten harder, even when he knew his friends finally had his back again and were alive.
She… was the only one who cared about him. Who was upfront about her feelings, even if they were twisted and all wrong and never were really intended for him. He found himself clutching his fist tight, unable to shake the tremor inside of him.
"He was my precious, beloved son," the woman continued, still looking out the window. She seemed almost carefully still, like a china glass. "I loved him with everything. Yet, he ran away from home – because of my own coldness. I forever regretted it, not showing him how I cared, instead turning to this cruel business."
She sighed, then turned to Makoto. Her eyes lingered on the tie he wore, a deep navy blue with a stylized white cat on it, cocking its head curiously. Her son's old tie, he knew.
"You remind me of him," she said softly, and the ensuing silence was like cold, broken, tender-hearted glass – sharp in the pains it could cause, frosted by the outside winter storm, yet tenderly patched together, all the shattered pieces glued together in an effort to mend together the past.
Makoto was only one of those broken pieces, put together to mend her shattered heart.
A reflection of a regret, come to life again.
Makoto was quiet for a long moment, mulling over his next words.
"If you could see him again," he said, finally, raising his gaze to meet hers. "What would you say to him?"
Her eyes were wide as she looked at him. For such a hardened woman, the cruelties she had enacted, orchestrated, that made her so hard, were the same that made her soft, tender, and bone-weary deep now when confronted with her shame. Makoto wondered if his f– his own bastard would have felt the same.
But no, he didn't have to wonder, he thought bitterly. His own father had ratted him out, to the Shakuza no less.
But as he stared at this woman, this hardened yet full of bone-aching deep pains woman, knowing he was going to con her, he couldn't help but see his kind, beautiful mother in her rather than his faithless father.
"Oh," she said finally, turning away. A smile played on her lips suddenly, her eyes creased regretfully and sadly. "Only that I wished he would come home."
"I see," Makoto said quietly. He found himself glancing away, and –
He swore it. He swore it, to himself, that this mother's message would be passed on.
Damn Lorentz. He'd find his own plan to make it work.
That night, he called Eddie Cassano again.
"There's been an update in plans," he said. "Can you get on the ground? I'll send you the coordinates."
Scene 4. The Plane
The scene was set. Makoto sighed, watching out the window of the helicopter. In the back, the elderly boss of the Sakuza and her swindly assistant snored loudly. The sleeping drug had been effective.
They were headed to the island where the main branch and the Chinese branch would enact their deal. So far, it seemed that everything lined up.
Abbie's initial clean escape had confirmed it; the Chinese branch hadn't shared the plot from years ago, when Dorothy and Laurentz had made their plan. Otherwise, the princess ploy would have been obvious. No contact between the branches had been confirmed. Step 1.
Then, in the test call, they had staged the ground for 20 billion at their doorstep and confirmed the hostilities of the Chinese and main branch, and their reliance on the interpreters. Step 2.
Now, the plan would come to culmination. Both major parties would find themselves trapped, without defenses or backup, in a stage of Laurentz' making. 20 billion would be put on the table and easily collected, then the bosses would be stranded on the island until the rest of their corporation could be systematically dismantled and the mafia bosses would have nothing to return to. It was an almost ridiculous, excessive plan – Makoto had wondered why Laurentz couldn't have just arranged for the sleeping bosses to be laid on the island without their money or any understanding of the situation – but he figured that it just needed some suitable drama for their finale as con men. So he had decided to go along with it.
But – there was still one more thing Makoto had to do.
"His name is Makoto."
Had it just been his name that had caught her eye? Was it just their name and age that was similar? A 'gloomy personality'? Whatever it was, Makoto still found himself grateful to the Suzaku boss and his apparent likeness to her son. In the past weeks, she had… been the only one there.
He was grateful for that. He really was. That was why – even though her corporation would go bankrupt now – he would still do her this one last favor.
He wondered if Laurentz knew this would happen.
Scene 5. The Island
Fuck you too, he mentally whispered at Cynthia as he held up his middle finger, a gesture he was only returning, then closed the door behind the Chinese delegation. Laurentz, the Chinese boss, and his right-hand man, Ken. He had immediately cleared his expression, then returned to Suzaku's side, where he could interpret and play his role.
Things were coming to a head. It wasn't long before the bosses' confusion was revealed as they both put forward their money, the fake police rushed forward, and Lorentz outed him as an accomplice as soon as the game seemed finished.
Makoto's game wasn't done there, yet, however. He still had another role to play.
His face was serious as he met Suzaku's accusation and concern. She had – earlier – asked him if he'd live with her in a peaceful life, after she retired. Had she asked it earlier, maybe it would have changed everything.
Maybe it would have changed nothing.
Either way, when his old con friend came to fake-arrest Suzaku, he played up his anger. Eddie Cassano arrived, fake full of bitterness to capture those that had swindled him earlier – but secretly Lorentz had long since eased that relation through the power of money and greed. Makoto himself was so into his role, calling on his earlier anger, bitterness, that when he put the tip of the sword into his father's vest, it felt real.
Still, he thought –
Please. Please catch on.
He had prepared a blood bag and vest. It was a small thing he needed. The situation had been tamed by now, everyone was on the same side. He just needed this one, last, thing –
Lorentz caught on first. Then, finally, his dad did too, grabbing onto the sword, and swinging it through Makoto's chest as he limply fell backwards, imitating sudden death –
"Makoto!" the boss of the Suzaku cried. "Majoto!"
Makoto had already known, but he had to fight his smile away as gunfire suddenly rattled above him, and the elderly woman was dragged away.
She really did care.
And he thought that maybe, just maybe, he had done the right thing.
Then the Suzaku branch leaders were out the door and it was just them, pandemonium, and chaos. Makoto got to his feet, smiling when Lorentz explained his act. They didn't understand, likely wouldn't, but they would shrug it off as one of his peculiarities, to mix things up. They wouldn't understand why he acted crazy and suddenly yelled and acted like he wanted to stab Oz, his father.
But Makoto had recorded the scene, particularly of Suzaku crying out his name in worry. Two weeks ago, he had done his research, and located Suzaku's son. He had contacted him, with a soft inquiry about his mother. The response had been short, and blunt: "she doesn't care."
Later, Makoto would send him the video, along with a note:
"She asked you to come home."
And Makoto hoped by the boy's stammered response, when Suzaku finally escaped the island, she would retire and find a home and peaceful life with her son.
Scene 6. Clean Up
While the Suzaku bosses were all stuck on an island in the middle of nowhere, Makoto and the rest of Laurentz' con men had all the time in the world to clean up the Suzaku Association.
First, they took the kidnapped children to the police. Anonymously, largely, and got them registered in the system. Then, they worked to find foster parents, find the children homes and conditions they could live with, while the rest of Laurentz' associates working on dropping off evidence to the police of the Suzaku Association's wrongdoings. The corporation itself slowly died to a lack of central management and mysteriously missing funds. When Suzaku herself was weeks later mysteriously rescued from a desolate island, rather than helping the corporation re-establish itself, she headed to an early retirement with her son, the other Makoto.
Meanwhile, Laurentz' associates tracked the lives of the freed children after they were introduced into the foster system. Most of the children were rather dazzled at the fate they had found themselves in, and were unsure what to do with their sudden freedom. Makoto was confident they would figure it out.
Cynthia had even adopted one of them – appearing as a sort of mentor figure. Kuwai, Makoto thought, the girl's name was. They were almost cute, when they went on art tours together and Makoto could see the shy smile on the freed girl's face. It was moments like those when he could find it in himself to forgive himself the looks on the children's faces when they had stared at him through the windows of their cell.
He had done… some awful things. Even if he had done it to help them – they had come in for the money first, and he had never been able to offer them comfort. Even when any of the children from back then saw him, they shied away, his face a stark reminder of their captivity.
But he was glad for it. It was better than the dullness and hopelessness they had held before, he thought. He couldn't pretend to be a hero, but at least it was something.
It was over now.
After all that had happened, the group of conmen and friends had all parted ways, only the occasional meetup to catch up like they were all just casual friends that hadn't gone on four heists together. Abbie and him kept in contact the most; now she was back in America mountain climbing and doing extreme sports. She had recently sent him a photo of her latest climb with a fuck-you expression and her middle finger raised, and Makoto had thought it couldn't be more Abbie.
Makoto and his father had stayed closer in touch. Makoto still couldn't fully forgive him for the break in faith he had experienced on the bus and in the yacht – or maybe he forgave, but a yawning and unbridged gap of trust remained between them. Still, they were able to laugh and smile and clumsily cook dinner together and reminisce on old days. It was a quiet conversation in the kitchen that got them breaking their greatest wall, when Makoto talked about his mother and the gapcha toys she loved seeing him collect and tell stories about, and ended up crying in his father's arms. It was like years of grief poured out.
And finally, as a pastime, Makoto found himself traveling and exploring coffee. It was a dream Lorentz had brought up – starting a coffee place. It sounded like a good and honest life, and Makoto sincerely hoped that he could make it. So he spent his exorbitant and well-stolen funds to research for his future coffee shop.
And so the case of the Wizard of Far East came to a close, and so did Makoto Edamura's life as a con man.
And finally, finally, his new, peaceful life could begin.