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12:45 PM

"Oh good Lord!" I bolted out the door, pulling Lucy along, then shifted so she was in front of me. "Run," I commanded her, "RUN!" Nick caught up and almost slammed into my back, his shrieks louder than ever as a thundering footfall came up behind us.


Our angry Japanese friend's voice echoed through the cement and metal of the warehouse as we catapulted ourselves towards the door. My hands were shaking. One hand pushed Lucy forward, the other clutched the gun I'd pulled from my holster. Nick's cries echoed even louder than the mafioso's...


We reached the front door and Lucy shoved it open, still clutching her robe as she rushed into the Tokyo sunlight. Nick stumbled and I heard his body hit the cement floor. The wind woofed out of him. I screched to a halt. Lucy stood in the sunlight, traumatized-looking, eyes wide. "GO!" I yelled. She bolted.

I turned around. Our buddy was slashing a sword through the air, face red with rage. I raced back and grabbed Nick by the neck of his shirt. "Get up!"

"Go on without me," he groaned dramatically.

"Unless you want to be like the tomato on those knife infomercials I suggest you move your ASS," I shouted at him.


I turned and, without thinking, aimed the gun. "FREEZE," I screamed.

He froze.

Nick looked over his shoulder. "Hey, he didn't stop when I pulled my gun!"

I stood over Nick, gun leveled, hands shaking. "Drop your sword." With a clatter it fell to the floor.

"How many of these girls are here on their own will?" I demanded, nodding to the rooms. "And how many of them were trafficked?"

Mafioso looked confused.

"Don't pretend you don't know what I'm saying. I want the girls. All of them. Now." He didn't move. "NOW," I yelled. My voice must've been fierce enough to scare the bejesus out of him because he bolted down the hall and started opening the doors and shouting in Japanese at the ladies inside. A tall black woman in a kimono and Nick's purple couch woman came out of the rooms, teary-eyed.

I nodded over my shoulder, "Get behind me," I commanded them. They scrambled behind me as Nick got to his feet.

"Now," I said slowly, "You're going to sit down on the floor, right there... and we're going to leave... and if you come after us, I promise you that the fifty guys we got in the alley way out there will make sure your blood's on the street. Do you understand me?"

"Wakaru," he nodded vigorously, "Wakarimashita.

I nudged Nick backwards, not taking my eyes off him. Slowly, we stumbled out the door and onto the street, the two girls being herded by Nick. I pulled the door closed and, keeping my gun level, just in case, we backed down the street.

Lucy was crouched behind a dumpster around the corner. "C'mon," Nick beckoned her. I was still backing away from the doors. "C'mon... Let's go. Officer Sheppard just saved all our asses."



"Okay, this isn't Disney World. We can't bring along souvenirs. What are we going to do with--" I made a motion to the huddled girls.

Bri put the gun back into his belt. He was calm. We had run for what seemed like three miles. How the hell was he calm? "We put them in cabs and let them take it from there."

"I'm not going anywhere near another Japanese person."

That lovely, non-racist remark flew from the red couch girl. She clutched at the kimono, her bottom lip trembling, but her eyes all shiny as they didn't move from Brian.

"Then take your cab to the airport, toots," I said.


"Preston," I hissed.

The other girls in the ground obviously didn't speak very much English. But Miss Observant glanced between the two of us.,br>
"What's going on?" she asked. "And is he always such an asshole?"



Bri and I glared at each other. Then Bri's eyes flicked to my shoulder.

"You're hurt." Now he sounded concerned.

"I took a hit," I said, puffing out my chest. "In the line of duty."

"Is he even a real officer?" Toots asked.

Of all things to get nervous about, Brian paled at that. I turned my attention towards her."Officer Preston Gustov."

Bri had stepped away from us. He had gone about a half a block and was talking to a cabbie. He pointed to the group of girls and headed back.

"Go. You'll be safe. Go."

The Japanese chick that I had seemed to understand English the best. She grabbed the arm of a pretty black girl and nodded. They all stepped forward together."

"Damnit," I whispered. "I feel bad."

"You should," Bri said. He folded his arms. "These girls were all trafficked."


When she was in high school, she was probably a cheerleader, I determined. She was pale, but she had that nature American feist in her eyes.

"Lucy, you go with them. Your father's probably worried sick," Bri said softly.

"No, he wouldn't pay the ransom."


I looked around. Even though Brian's "freeze!" trick had worked on the sword guy, I still didn't feel safe lounging around in the middle of downtown. I tapped Brian on the shoulder. He ignored me.

"My dad's a rich oil man," she said. "I was kidnapped and held for ransom at first. When he didn't pay up, I was given over to the traffickers." Her bravado failed. "If you hadn't been the first guy they sent in, I could have been...been..."

"Shh, it's going to be okay."

Bri wrapped her up in a hug. He patted the top of her head like she was one of those little white yippy dogs he and Leighanne had. "You're okay now."


I turned around. The sword guy had rounded the corner. I don't think he had seen Bri, but he had seen me. He obviously wasn't afraid to go after the 'chicken man' again. I ran forward and smacked right into the huggy-pair.

"Dude, we best cut this trip to Japan short. Find another fucking cab and let's GO!"


Bri grabbed Lucy's hand and the three of us took off down the street. Obviously the scene wasn't out of the ordinary, because pedestrian's just kept walking. Bri honed in on another cab and, without even leaning forward and talking to the driver, threw the girl and himself in. I dove in beside him. The door slammed shut and we took off.

"I'm dizzy," I whined.

I felt fingers on my arm. "The shot only nicked you. You've stopped bleeding."

"I'm dying."

"You can't die. You're the only with the plan."

My plan was crap.

"I need to regroup. Just get us to the airport and on a flight. To anywhere."

"I've always wanted to go to South America."

"You're not going," I growled.

"Officer Sheppard said I could," she gloated.

My eyes flew open. I stared up at Brian. He looked guiltily away.

Damn him.