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Tokyo Demons Book 3: Chapter 3, Part 2

A downloadable package of this chapter (.pdf, .epub, and .mobi) is available in the Sparkler Monthly Issue #020 back issue.

Jo took the final drag on his cigarette. It was already a tiny stub, barely more than the filter and ash…but he’d sworn himself to one stick only and he needed every last shred of tobacco. He pulled hopelessly at it, his tongue flicking the overheating end in his mouth.

He coughed on the foul smoke. Feeling a little pathetic, he tossed the scorched filter into the outdoor ashtray.

His usual corner under the hospital overhang felt more ominous than usual. Despite Mitsuko’s reassurances, he still felt the specter of Core in every shadow, lurking beyond the reach of the hospital’s lights. He didn’t know if it was his usual paranoia, or the promise of the impending raid on Zero’s “house,” but doom weighed on his shoulders like a wet cloak. He shivered in the warm evening.

So what else is new? He grimaced and played with the loose emergency cigarette in his pocket.

“I don’t think Core’s shit list means much these days.”

He wished he could believe that. It was so easy to agree with Mitsuko when she was standing right in front of him; her words were like a magic spell when they tumbled over her lips. But when she was gone, the spell slowly faded, and Jo fell into his usual cycle of defensive second-guessing. The added threat of Nakajima deepened the worry in his heart.

I’m overthinking it, he lied to himself. I should let the others plan this raid.

He deliberated over that extra cigarette for a moment, then sighed. He slid his hand from his pocket and left the poisonous stick where it was.

He gingerly walked back into the hospital, although the pain in his ankle was just a distant twinge now. The electronic doors closed behind him with a quiet whoosh.

A few heated voices caught his attention; he looked up to see a man at the check-in desk. A nurse behind the counter shook her head.

“Visiting hours are over, sir.”

“I can’t come tomorrow,” he insisted sourly. “I have to see her tonight.

“I’m sorry, but–”

“Then can I just leave the letter with you?” he interrupted, waving an envelope in front of her face. “Make sure she gets it. Mitsuko Hoshino.”

Jo froze.

The man wasn’t familiar; he looked at least forty, with deep bags under his eyes and heavy jowls. An off-the-rack suit hung poorly off his frame, too long in the legs and too tight around the gut.

He looked too heavy to be a Pitch junkie, but that wasn’t much comfort. After a second of deliberation, Jo marched up to the counter.

“Excuse me,” he said thinly. “Who are you trying to see?”

The man turned to him, his heavy mouth curled in irritation. “My son’s girlfriend.”

Jo tensed. His eyes dropped to the letter half-crumped in the man’s hand, but he could still make out the kanji scrawled on the front.

Miki.

Realization hit Jo like a battering ram, shattering his aggression into shards of discomfort. He suddenly wished he hadn’t stepped into this.

This is Miki’s dad.

The man, clearly irritated, latched onto Jo’s attention. “Do you know her? Mitsuko Hoshino.” His eyes trailed to Jo’s hospital slippers. “Are you a patient? She’s about your age… I think she’s blond now, long legs, great tits.”

The nurse on the other side of the counter sighed angrily. “Morikawa-san, I have to ask you to leave.”

He scowled at her. “Then give her the damn letter! I have to–”

“You know what?” Jo interjected, immediately regretting his involvement. “I, uh, can give her that. It’s probably…private.”

The man shoved the letter into Jo’s hands. “I don’t care about that. It’s just information for my son and he’s usually hanging around her–kissing her perfect ass.”

Jo grimaced and slid the letter into his back pocket. Please stop describing Mitsuko.

The man turned and marched off, leaving before Jo could say anything. The electronic doors whooshed open and he disappeared into the night.

Jo stared after him for a moment, then nodded a confirmation to the nurse. He headed down the familiar hall toward the elevator.

A thousand conflicting thoughts slowed his shuffling footsteps. He remembered what Miki had told Mitsuko back in her room…and what reasons his father could have for looking for him.

Should I give the letter to Mitsuko at all? It was clearly meant for Miki, and Jo wasn’t sure if the guy would want it in Mitsuko’s hands. But Miki had already left the hospital, so Jo needed to call him to find out where he was. The thought of that phone conversation made Jo’s stomach shrivel into a ball.

He slowed to a stop in the middle of that hallway. He pulled his mobile out of his pocket, flipped it open, and scrolled down to Miki’s name in his contacts.

He stared at the kanji for a long time.

A whistle cut through the air above Jo’s head. “Poor Miki.”

Jo jerked around. Takeshi stood right behind him, an oversized knit cap masking his spikes, pushing a pair of yellow-tinted sunglasses down his nose to read a crumpled paper.

Jo’s hands automatically reached for his now-empty back pocket. He tried to grab the letter out of Takeshi’s hand, but the taller man whisked the letter high up in the air, out of the reach of Jo’s fingers.

“What the fuck are you doing?” Jo hissed, humiliation flooding his face. “That’s private…! And what are you even doing here?!” he added hoarsely. “You’re still technically in hiding!”

Takeshi ignored him, his eyes darting down the letter. “Well, Mama’s not dead,” he said coolly. “So that’s good news.”

An offended rage bubbled up in Jo. He jumped and ripped the letter from Takeshi’s hand.

Takeshi chuckled as Jo jammed the paper back in his pocket. “Aw,” he cooed.

“Don’t do this to Miki,” Jo snapped.

Takeshi’s pierced eyebrows rose behind his sunglasses. But after a moment, the expression melted, and a wide grin stretched across Takeshi’s face.

“His dad got a job,” he relayed. “A real one. He’s leaving Tokyo and wanted to tell Miki he doesn’t need money anymore.”

Jo stopped. His mind trailed back to Miki’s description of his father.

“I don’t know what more that dickless deadbeat wants from me.”

“Is that…a good thing?” Jo asked despite himself. “I mean…”

Takeshi chuckled, but it sounded flat. “Have you met Miki, cupcake? This is terrible fucking news.”

Jo furrowed his brow. He opened his mouth, but Takeshi cut him off with a scarred hand.

“Don’t get me wrong–Miki’s dad is a complete ass-drip. He never did shit for Miki, and Miki’s been carrying his drunk carcass for years. But it doesn’t matter.” Takeshi slipped his thumbs into his denim pockets. “Miki’s the most loyal little shit on the face of the earth. Or didn’t you notice him wiping Ban’s ass when I ditched the entire gang for two years? He never cuts the cord–not if you burn him, not if you kill him. And believe me.” He clicked his forked tongue. “This’ll kill him.”

Jo stared at him for a long moment. His eyes drifted back down to his open mobile.

Takeshi snapped the phone shut for him. “I’ll handle it,” he said, deftly swiping the letter from Jo’s pocket with his other hand. “And I’ll deliver this to him, don’t you worry your pretty little head. He’s at Blue Light and I’m heading there when I’m done here, anyway.”

Jo slowly pushed his phone back into his pocket. “What are you doing here?” he insisted. “You’re supposed to be laying low.”

“I came for my dad.” Takeshi grinned. “Finally time to talk to the Old Man.”

Jo blinked. “You can’t–”

“Watch me.”

“But–”

“Jo,” Takeshi cut off, a new edge to his voice. “Storming Zero’s house is gonna be the big one. We’ll either shut Core’s shit down for good, or things are gonna go completely to hell. Big win or big loss–nothing in-between.” He shrugged. “So now’s the time to kiss the people you love, right? I’m tired of sneaking behind my dad’s back to talk to a brother that can’t answer me.”

Jo swallowed bile. Slowly, he rubbed his face with his hands.

“Whatever.”

Takeshi laughed at that. “You are one repressed motherfucker,” he cooed. “Go hug someone, you stone-cold shit.”

He clapped Jo on the back and ducked into a stairwell. The door closed just as a nurse passed Jo in the hallway, flashing a confused look.

“Are you a patient?” she called. “Do you need something? It’s late to be wandering the halls.”

Jo tried to collect his thoughts, but they kept tangling up in his head. And the need for a fragrant, burning cigarette overwhelmed everything else.

He murmured something vague to the nurse and obediently walked to the elevator. He pressed a button for the floor above his own.

By the time he reached Mitsuko’s room, she was already in bed, sitting up and wearing the silk pajamas someone had brought her from home. She looked up from rapidly texting into her phone.

“Oh. Hi.” She smiled, although there was a strange tilt to her eyebrows. “Everything okay, Jo?”

Jo swallowed again. “Huh?”

“You…look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

The emergency cigarette weighed in his pocket like a hot coal. He wanted it. He needed it.

“Can I…join you?” he asked quietly.

Mitsuko grinned and lifted her sheets. Jo kicked off his slippers and crawled in, pointedly ignoring how dirty he felt in his street clothes.

Mitsuko didn’t seem to care. She pulled Jo’s arm around her shoulders and snuggled in close.

“I still have to text, like, eighty more people,” she warned, her hands returning to her phone. “So I might ignore you a little.”

“Do you what you have to do,” he murmured back. “I’m fine here.”

“Mmm.” She chuckled as her thumbs rapped out a new message. “This is why you’re a keeper.”

Jo rested his face in her hair. He closed his eyes to the tiny tap tap tap of the keys.

Proceed to Chapter 3, Part 2, page 2–>