Tokyo Ghosts Book 1: Prologue
A downloadable package of this chapter (.pdf, .epub, and .mobi) is available in the Sparkler Monthly Issue #067 back issue.
Touya obediently stood in the lineup in the prison work yard, his eyes down, and cracked the knuckles of his right hand in anticipation.
Forbidden from making eye contact with guards or other prisoners in lineup, he had to rely on the future he’d seen while at his workstation. The guard who passed him would be looking in another direction in six more steps. While Touya silently counted out the remaining taps of the guard’s shoes on concrete, he rolled his careful plan around inside his head.
Touya glanced up. With the guard’s head turned away, Touya let his eyes dart over to the prisoner standing two men away. The lumbering, muscular new addition to their cell block was scowling at the ground, twitching slightly with the pent-up energy the guards hadn’t beaten out of him yet.
Eiichi Otsuka, age 20, no yakuza affiliation. Transferred in from Yokohama. The man was doing time for armed robbery and attacking a police officer with a knife, but from what Touya had heard, he hadn’t landed a stab, which meant he was inept while armed–so he either relied on his fists, or he relied on his size and mouth to scare people into submission.
None of it would matter, but Touya liked to be prepared.
A movement farther down the line of prisoners caught Touya’s eye. Surprised, he saw his cellmate Nobu looking up from the ground a full ten seconds before Touya had ordered, flashing Touya a devilish grin right behind the back of a passing guard. In a truly reckless move, Nobu cupped his hand around an invisible shaft and bobbed it up and down in front of his mouth, the sleeve of his prisoner’s uniform swishing over his delicate wrist while he cocked an eyebrow.
Touya’s jaw twitched. Nobu’s sex addiction, usually easy to manipulate, was starting to prove inconvenient.
Later, Touya mouthed. He tilted his head at the passed guard.
Nobu beamed, flashing that bizarre playfulness he never seemed to lose. The slight man closed his eyes, took a breath, and threw his head back, all the mischief melting from his face as he feigned sudden pain.
A new future was triggered. Touya unfocused his gaze and let it pierce through time.
Nobu bolted from the line, running back to the work tables.
“I can’t take this place anymore!” he wailed in fake agony, drawing the attention and warning shouts of the patrolling guards. He threw himself against the workstation for repairing engines, fumbled through the box of carefully monitored equipment, and ignored all the tools that could be used as weapons. He lugged up an old, mostly empty jug of antifreeze as guards rushed him from all sides.
He snapped open the jug and poured the poison down his throat.
The guards shouted and tackled him, knocking the jug out of his hands to spill on the concrete. As antifreeze dripped down Nobu’s chin, he laughed uproariously, even as policemen forced him to the floor and handcuffed his wiggling hands.
“The fucking mule is trying to kill himself again!” a guard shouted. “Get him to med to pump his stomach!”
In the precious seconds of chaos, Touya made his move. He slid back a step, sidestepped behind the line of prisoners, and grabbed Eiichi Otsuka by the back of his uniform.
The hulking prisoner blurted in surprise, but not loud enough to attract the preoccupied guards. Touya dragged the man backward and out of the lineup before throwing him to the ground to skid against concrete.
Blocked from view by the line of standing prisoners in front of them–all of whom pointedly ignored whatever Touya did–Touya dropped a knee onto the back of the scrambling man and crammed his chest into the ground, simultaneously grabbing the short tufts of his prison-chopped hair and yanking his head back. The man choked out a grunt, his diaphragm crushed into the ground under Touya’s weight as his windpipe strained in his taut neck.
Touya lowered his face closer to the wheezing prisoner. “Eiichi Otsuka,” Touya murmured. “I know you’ve been harassing the young man who’s under my protection.”
Eiichi gasped. “The fuck?” he breathed.
“You were warned to back off.”
Eiichi’s eyes finally rolled back, meeting Touya’s gaze. “Kamishita,” he wheezed in recognition. “You…shit…!”
Seconds ticked off in Touya’s brain as he adjusted his kneeling position. He grabbed one of Eiichi’s scrabbling arms and twisted it up and behind his back, making the man tense beneath him in new pain.
“Stay away from him,” Touya said quietly, his voice a razor’s edge. “You won’t be warned again.”
Eiichi snarled. “You don’t scare me,” he gasped. “And your little bitch doesn’t know when to shut his fucking mouth!”
“He’s not my bitch. He’s my colleague.” Touya tightened his grip on the man’s hair. “And anyone who tries to hurt him answers to me.”
Eiichi sneered. “Big words from a guy who’s in here for raping an underage boy.”
A cold, unexpected rage flooded through Touya’s veins. His chest tightening on its own, he released Eiichi’s head to slam down against the concrete. Touya’s other hand dragged from the man’s pinned-back arm to his wrist, then clamped down over his fingers. As Eiichi rasped in a breath and struggled to free himself from under Touya, Touya clapped his black-nailed hand over Eiichi’s mouth.
And snapped two of Eiichi’s fingers.
Eiichi’s muffled scream pierced the red haze over Touya’s eyes, cut through the crowding clouds of time. It was too loud, too present. Touya refocused his concentration and reminded himself he was nearly out of seconds before the guards came.
Touya released the man’s spasming arm. With softer, menacing precision, he leaned down to push his lips into Eiichi’s ear.
“I know every whispered word, every careful footstep in the halls of this prison,” Touya hissed. His fingers flexed over Eiichi’s spluttering lips. “You can’t get ahead of me–no one can. And no one will interfere if I choose to kill you during the blink of a guard’s eyes.”
Eiichi wheezed under Touya’s hand but gave no muffled reply. Touya sneered.
“Stay in line,” Touya warned. “And don’t touch a hair on the head of Miki Morikawa ever again.”
Continue to Chapter 1–>