Hard Boiled – Episode Three: The Long Road Home 1.3

It was early. It was not that Jotaro wasn’t an early riser. He typically conducted his exercise routine before dawn. He was, however, unaccustomed to conducting business at such an early hour. His gleaming black town car rolled to a smooth stop and after a moment, his driver opened the door to let him out. Jotaro stepped onto the curb, craning his neck up the many stories of the KenTech building he had been summoned to by his superior Keisuke Kanda. Kanda-san had been very abrupt on the phone, offering no details, only that he was to arrive as early as possible.

Jotaro found himself mildly impressed with the décor once inside the building. Modern lines and a mixture of steel, glass, and rich woods all complemented one another in a rather pleasing aesthetic style. Comfortable looking chairs and couches dotted several areas throughout the lobby, and together with large planters of greenery and trees that lent an organic touch to balance everything out. He was given a visitor’s access badge after passing through a metal detector and the security agent graciously directed him to the bank of elevators that ran the spine of the building. The doors were whisper quiet and he had the barest sense of movement as the elevator started up.

The only thing to alert Jotaro that he’d reached his destination was the soft ding of the floor bell and the doors sliding open. He stepped out into another lobby, as tastefully appointed as the main one, but with subtle differences key to the owner of the suite. A handsome middle-aged woman sat behind a reception desk that was angled away from a set of double doors. The nameplate on her desk read Rebecca Grey. She looked up from her computer monitor and flashed him a warm smile.

She stood and motioned to the door, “Go right on in, Mr. Ikhoma, Mr. Kanda and Mr. Matthews are expecting you.” She must have hit some sort of remote because the doors clicked and swung open even as he offered a polite thank you.

Inside, a man was rising from behind a desk – presumably Aaron Matthews. Kanda-san sat, stiff-backed and slightly pale in a comfortable looking chair across the desk from Matthews.

“Ah, Mr. Ikhoma,” Aaron began, bowing slightly, “I was just going over the details of our business today with Mr. Kanda. We do have one more on the way for the meeting, but he already knows the ins and outs, so I won’t have to repeat everything.” Aaron motioned for Jotaro to sit. He did so, catching Kanda’s eye. Jotaro found his superior’s expression to be a mixture of anger and surprise. Mostly the latter.

Aaron took his seat before continuing, “I’m not going to beat around the bush here, gents,” His expression quickly switched from cordial to deadly serious, “We’re all smart men here, so let’s not pretend that I don’t know exactly who you are and what you do.” Jotaro shot another glance to Kanda, who merely nodded.

“Good. At least we’re all clear on that matter.” Aaron leaned back, his chair squeaking with the shift of his weight. “I’ve managed to secure a deal – through a partnership – that essentially buys you and your organization out of all the property you hold here in Garrison City. That includes the Geisha Palace and your dock facilities.”

Jotaro now understood why Kanda looked as he did. The color slowly drained from his face as the shock of Matthew’s declaration settled in. The door clicked again, and Aaron looked past the two men, “Ah, Rex, glad you could make it.” he said, coming out from behind his desk to greet the new arrival. “I was just explaining to our – I hazard to call them friends at the moment – that… let’s see, how does that phrase go?”

Jotaro and Kanda turned in their seats to find quite possibly the largest westerner they had ever laid eyes on casually shaking hands with Aaron. His skin was tanned a deep bronze, with golden blonde hair combed stylishly. “That they don’t have to go home, but they have to get the hell out of town?”

Aaron snapped his fingers, “You know, I think that’s it!” He turned back to Jotaro and Kanda,”Gentlemen, my partner in our little venture, Rex Midas. Perhaps you’ve heard of him?”

They sat in the glow of the TV that neither of them was paying attention to. Television was mostly crap at this point in the evening, and they really only had the magic box on for background noise. They were both quiet for a while, relishing the time to relax in each other’s company, something that hadn’t been possible for a long time.

Aaron inhaled deeply, firmly fixing her smell in his memory – as if it needed any reinforcement. “So how long are you going to be gone?”

Kaye snuggled closer, “About a month. And yes, before you ask, Jenna has already detailed extra eyes.”

He smiled at her tone. “Hey, I of all people know you can take care of yourself. Just think of them as extra sherpas.”

“Probably not a bad idea. How long are you and Ryu going to be on your man-date?”

“It’s not a man-date,” Aaron replied, reaching around to tickle her ribcage. “He needs to get away for awhile and recharge. Want’s to head back to the ashram where he grew up. Things have quieted down here enough, and there’s more than enough capes to go around if anything breaks loose again.”

“So,” she said it slowly, her mouth now very close to his ear, “If we’re both going to be out of town for some time, why exactly are we sitting here watching nothing when we could be upstairs?”

Aaron turned his face to hers, her emerald eyes sparkled with mischief, “That is a very good question.” He punctuated his reply with a deep kiss.

He pulled away and flipped off the TV, then tossed the remote on the coffee table. When he looked back to her, his own eyes were filled with mischief. He pulled her to him, “A better question is, why waste time going upstairs?”

“So how long are you two going to be gone on your man-date?”

“Oh for chrissake, It’s not a man-date!

Kardiac shrugged, “Whatever.”

The breeze coming in off the bay was warm and damp even in the early dawn hours. It had been a quiet night, only three drug busts and one small-time fence operation. Things had definitely quieted down in Garrison. It was really the only reason Bluewolf felt slightly comfortable about the sabbatical he and Capin would be undertaking. “Besides, I figure you’d be jumping at the idea of not having me around for a while.”

Again, Kardiac’s shoulders rolled up in a shrug, but there was no accompanying sarcasm.

“Anyway, Sil says that the kid is almost ready for release. I know you have at least a working relationship with his uncle, so before he gets out and winds up back on the street I wanted you to pass this along.” Bluewolf pulled a folded envelope from one of his belt pouches and handed it to Kardiac.

“What’s this?”

“It’s a ticket to the school of his choice, all expenses covered. Tuition, books, even rent and food money.”

Kardiac smirked, “And you think this is going to keep him out of costume?”

“The way I see it, if the beating he took wasn’t enough to convince him he’s not ready for this life yet, then I at least want to give him the opportunity to expand his horizons. He’s a good kid, he just needs some… direction.” Kardiac looked dubious. “And the fact that there’s a rider attached…”

“Let me guess: If he puts on a costume while he’s in school, the deal is done. Right?”


Kardiac tucked the envelope into one of the pouches on his gloves. The two men fell silent as the sun peeked up in the east. The orange ball was nearly half exposed before either of them broke the silence.

“You know, that wouldn’t keep me out of the game if I were in his shoes.”

“Yeah, I know.” Bluewolf let out a sigh, “Me neither. But it’s worth a try.” The chrono inside his visor flashed. “Time to get ready for the day.” Wolf stepped away from the building ledge, he crossed to the far side, preparing to leap the intervening gap between buildings.

“Blue. Thanks. I’ll make sure Bill gets it.” Another pause, “Be careful out there.”

Wolf smiled, “We’ll be back before you know it. Probably too soon for you anyway.” It was Wolf’s turn to pause. “Just don’t get dead while we’re gone.” With that he leapt to the next rooftop.

Aaron stood outside a private hangar tucked away at the far end of Lakeview International Airport. The small jet that he’d chartered sat not too far away, its cabin door still open and the flightline worker impatiently waiting with the mobile stairway parked against the plane. He checked his watch one last time and then scanned the doors to the terminal, hoping for any sign of their passenger. He let out a sigh and turned toward the jet, motioning to the pilot to spin up the engines for departure.

Ryu’s head poked around the door, “No sign yet?”

Aaron shook his head as he made his way up the steps. “Ah well…” Ryu’s look of disappointment matched Aaron’s.

The flightline attendant had already begun to drive away with the boarding stairs, and Aaron started to swing the door closed when the staccato sound of running heels reached his ears. He looked out the small porthole in the door to see a figure running across the flightline toward the jet, waving their arms frantically. He opened the door and dropped down the short distance just as the figure made it to the plane.

“Glad you decided to join us.” Aaron smiled as he looked into the flushed face of Vivian Green.

“Sorry,” she puffed, I had a little trouble with my bags at the security checkpoint.”

Ryu’s head poked from around the door again, “About time, lady.” He extended her a hand while Aaron gave her a boost. “You have got to see the bar on this joint…”

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