III: Headhunter


Light glinted off the ostentatiously gilded trim in Takatori's office, and Schuldich raised his good arm to his eyes. Too soon to be back, he thought dimly. There was residual anger in this place, like the hint of copper that remained on his tongue. Crawford seemed on edge as they arrived, anticipating more confrontation no doubt.

Schuldich almost laughed at the thought. He was far too tired, his arm a muted ache at his side and his mind a roaring mess, thanks to the painkillers he'd been put on. What had possessed him in that elevator even Schuldich was uncertain of. Only vague notions of Crawford's rage, mixed with something whose flavor was so elusive he could only hope he had not imagined it. The man's aura was as tightly-wound and taut as a harpstring. Schuldich never could resist strumming it with bard-light fingertips, coaxing forth sharp music.

Takatori looked more composed than he had at their last meeting, the contents of the file Crawford had given him spread across the polished marble of the desktop. Gesturing Crawford forward, he tapped a photo of Matsura dining across from a dark-haired woman with avian features. "What is this?"

"It's a surveillance photo, sir." Professionalism firmly in place. "Matsura with his mistress."

Takatori grinned, his self-satisfaction sparking the faintest aftershock of violent impulse in Schuldich's mind. "Indeed? I was under the impression that she was Miho Shirahane, president of Genzoudan." He smiled at the spark of recognition in Crawford's face. Genzoudan was one of the largest companies gathered under the mantle of Takatori Industries. Steadfast, old, and beyond suspicion. No wonder it had slipped past even the old man's notice, and certainly theirs.

Takatori studied the photograph a moment longer, before he shook his head slowly, in a mockery of sadness. "It's a shame. I've been on good terms with Genzoudan ever since it was under the care of her father." Looking up, his face was cold, with the usual hint of slow cruelty. "Truly a shame. I trust you will have no trouble wrapping this up now?"

Crawford flashed a thin smile, now on fondly familiar territory. "Certainly, sir."

"Perfect." Nagi uttered, allowing himself a proud grin. "It all checks out. I found the anonymous account she's been laundering the money through."

"And retrieved the contents?" Crawford attached the silencer of the MP-5 with clipped precision, setting it down to double-check the auxiliary Desert Eagle 50.

Nagi shot him a nasty look. As if they had not been through this procedure before. "Done. Wanna know something interesting?" Crawford evinced no curiosity, but he didn't wait for a reply. "The codes to the account had been recently changed by the time I got to them. Incidentally, Matsura has also recently bought plane tickets for himself and his family to Gallivare, Sweden."

Schuldich's smile bespoke volumes of malicious amusement. "The thieving bastard. I'm sure Shirahane-san will appreciate this."

IV   |   Fanfiction