SHADOW SISTERS OF SHINJUKU
By Tony Amtrak
(discovered by Garnett Elliott)
Very little is known about the elusive Tony Amtrak—mostly rumors and conjecture and rumored conjecture. Some say he was a former Italian mafioso, now in witness protection. Others claim he was yakuza, now in witness protection. The only detail the rumors share is that he was a criminal of some kind, which may account for the lags between publishing dates for his most famous series, featuring Viper. Luckily he got time off for good behavior. Or he escaped. Or witness protection.
GARNETT ELLIOTT found this 1980 martial arts adventure under the passenger seat of a rental Toyota Corolla in Yuma, Arizona. He also found three .38 shell casings, a catcher’s mask, a Ping-Pong ball, and a woman’s pump, size 6.
Forty stories up, the Big Ginza discotheque cast a glitzy eye over smog-laden Shinjuku skyline. Getting there required a short trip on a private elevator. It also required the doorman’s approval.
He was a former sumotori, squeezed into a white dinner jacket. Thick arms folded, face impassive as an executioner’s, he pronounced judgment on every gaudily dressed, would-be clubber who approached the elevator’s mirrored interior. Those who got the nod stepped inside. Those he declined slunk away, to seek the district’s easier pleasures.
Viper Ogata watched from the lobby as a trio of burly Australians tried their luck. He in the lead had at least six inches on the doorman. Grinning, he attempted to brush past like no one was there. A hand the span of a dinner plate shot out and pressed against his chest.
“Hey now,” the Aussie said in passable Japanese, “that’s not—”
The doorman grunted. Viper stepped aside as two hundred pounds of blond gaijin went hurtling past, to strike a chrome table face first. The foreigner’s buddies hurried to help him up. They shot backward looks at the doorman, who waited with arms crossed like before. Calm as stone.
“Let’s go,” one of the Aussies said. “I know a brothel where they want our business.”
It was Viper’s turn.
He sauntered to the elevator, fishing in his blazer’s pocket for a cigarette. The sumotori shifted a little to the left and blocked him.
“What?” Viper put extra incredulity into his voice. “Who do you think runs this place?”
“The Okajima family, under Boss Tsutomo. And you’re not with them.”
Viper popped the cigarette in his mouth but didn’t light it. “Look, I’m in a hurry. My friend called and said she needs my help. She works up there.” He pointed at the ceiling.
The doorman blinked at him.
“Big trees hate the wind, you know,” Viper said.
“What the hell does that mean?”
He answered with a punch, hands moving so fast the Rolex on his wrist made a golden blur. Two knuckles seemed to brush the fabric just above the doorman’s gut. The big man let out a breath. A look crossed his face like he was pondering some formidable problem. After several seconds of not breathing, his cheeks began to purple.
Viper leaned close. “The Gichin Fist,” he whispered, “first of the Seven Techniques of Ancient Ryukyuan.” He patted the doorman’s shoulder. His hand flashed out to stab the elevator button, and he stepped inside.
The doors shut with a chime. Viper paused to admire the multiple reflections of himself. Slender as a bamboo shoot, but tough like steel wire. He smoothed his tie. Music vibrated from somewhere above; it became deafening when the doors slid open and Donna Summer hit him with a wave of syncopated noise.
Bodies jerked atop the flashing red and yellow squares of Ginza’s dance floor. A spinning mirror-ball cast a thousand diamond fragments. People moved aside for Viper as he headed towards the bar, his eyes wary behind mirrored sunglasses. He refused to take them off, even at night. A young salaryman hurried by holding two beers in tall paper cups. Viper snatched one without resistance. He drained half the contents in a single swallow, nose wrinkling at the malty taste.
“Viper! Over here!”
Mikki waved to him from behind the crowded bar. He threaded his way over. The fat executive on the stool Viper wanted suddenly remembered an urgent appointment. Mikki leaned across the counter to light his cigarette, her western-sized breasts straining against a red sequined top.
“Sachiko’s looking for you,” she said.
“Uh-huh. Where’s she at?”
Mikki gestured towards a far booth, almost lost in the shadows. The angle afforded a nice view of her cleavage. “She’s worried about something.”
“So I gathered.”
“What’s so great about her, anyway? How does she rate a personal visit from Viper Ogata?”
“Sachiko’s an old friend.”
Mikki’s eyelashes lowered. “You making any new friends?”
“Perhaps. Be patient.”
He left his beer on the bar. Sachiko had been working the Shinjuku district for three years, a hardened pro at twenty-two. It took a lot to rattle her. But something had. She sat hunched in the dark booth, hands gripped around a tumbler of amber fluid. The sweep of her long bangs concealed her face.
“Relax,” Viper said, sliding into the cushions across from her. “I’m here. What’s all this nonsense about someone trying to kill you?”
Sachiko didn’t look up. Didn’t speak.
Viper watched the dancers making fools of themselves. “C’mon, Satch. My time’s valuable. What’s going on?”
“Satch—” He reached over to brush her hair back. Sachiko grinned out at him in an empty-eyed rictus. A feathered dart, about three inches long, jutted from her neck. Her hair had been covering it.
Viper glanced sidelong at the dance floor. Could her assassin still be here? All he saw were drunken, gyrating idiots. A professional would do the job and leave.
Stray flashes of light from the disco-ball wandered across the table. One passed over Sachiko’s hands, where something gleamed. He lowered his sunglasses. Yes, she was holding a piece of plastic, pressed against the tumbler. He pried her index finger away and removed a white rectangle, the size of a domino. A stylized egret was stamped in gold paint on one side. The number ‘102’ on the other.
Frowning, he slipped the plastic into his blazer pocket.
“Back so soon?” Mikki’s smile drained away when she saw the look on his face.
“Wait twenty minutes and call the cops,” he said. “I was never here.”
Boss Gomyo sat with his gut wedged up against the pachinko machine. One hand worked the lever, sending tiny steel balls through the lighted pins at a steady pace. The other shoved rice crackers into his mouth. Every now and then his new flunky, Shigeda, held a cigarette to Gomyo’s lips for a quick puff.
He played, snacked, and smoked this way for a solid fifteen minutes before making a slight nod in Viper’s direction, indicating he was ready to listen.
Viper cleared his throat. “Boss, I was wondering if you could tell me what this was.” He slid the rectangle from his pocket and presented one side, then the other.
Gomyo’s eyes flicked away from the machine exactly twice. “‘Resplendent Egret Joyous Massage.’ It’s a parlor run by the Okajima clan. That’s a guest pass.”
Viper put the plastic away. “Thanks.”
“You gonna tell me where you got it?”
“Off a dead prostitute in Shinjuku. She was a friend of mine.”
Gomyo pushed himself back from the machine with a grunt. “Observe,” he told Shigeda, and turned to slap Viper so hard his sunglasses flew off and struck an old woman playing three machines down. The woman pretended not to notice. A school of bright stars swam across Viper’s vision.
“That,” Gomyo said, “is what happens to people who trifle with my time. And I like brother Viper, here. He’s my number one enforcer.”
Shigeda sneered. He looked all of eighteen years, wearing an open-collared dress shirt and gold chains. “I don’t see what’s so special about him.”
“Viper spent some time in Okinawa, on the lam. He met an old man there. Didn’t you, Viper?”
“The old man taught him a few tricks.”
“I was a poor student, boss.”
“Ah. Modesty.” Gomyo returned to his game. “Shigeda, pick up the man’s sunglasses. He gets anxious without them on.”
Shigeda scurried to obey, though his face burned red. Viper grabbed the mirrored shades from his hands.
“Go find your whore’s killer, you soft-hearted moron.” Gomyo’s attention stayed fixed on the cascade of shiny beads. “If you start a war with the Okajima people, I’ll want a whole pinky. Not just the tip.”
Viper bowed and got the hell out of there.
The Resplendent Egret parlor was sandwiched between a ramen shop and a record store the size of a bedroom closet. Viper stepped into a shabby, yet clean front room. Gilt-framed prints of birds hung on the walls.
“Good afternoon, sir.”
The old Korean woman behind the desk nodded when he showed her his pass. She led him down a hallway to a room marked 102.
“An attendant will be with you shortly, sir.”
The room smelled of disinfectant. There was a bench with a slim beige mattress on top, a folding table, and a paper robe hanging off the door. Traditional biwa music strained from overhead speakers.
A depressing place. Viper sat on the edge of the mattress and closed his eyes. He tried to imagine Sachiko working this very room, but the vision wouldn’t come. He recalled instead the first time they screwed, standing up in an alley behind the Amada Club. The alley had smelled like piss, and a family of stray cats kept brushing against his ankles during the act.
The door creaked. His eyes snapped open. A young woman in a cheap pink kimono entered. Her long hair was hennaed brown in the current fashion.
“Please remove your clothing.”
He shrugged off his blazer. “Easy money for you,” he said, pulling a roll of yen from his pocket.
She slipped the front of her robe open without hesitation. A pale nipple peeked out.
“No, no,” he said. “I just want to ask you about someone.”
“You are … police?”
“The furthest thing. Sit down.” He patted a spot next to him on the mattress.
She sat. Her hands, he noticed, glistened with massage oil. “There was a girl working here not long ago. Sachiko. Part Chinese. You remember her?”
The woman shook her head. “I’m very new.”
“What about the other girls? You think they might know?”
“I can ask. You’re the only customer for the moment. The rest of the girls are out back, having a smoke.”
He peeled off several thousand-yen notes. “Show them that.”
She took the money, bowed, and left.
He waited less than three minutes. The door slammed back open and a pair of broad-shouldered, dead-eyed men wearing loud Polynesian shirts burst in. Viper, half-expecting such a welcome, shot off the mattress and kicked the first one in the throat. He bent double, and his partner threw a reverse punch Viper could’ve seen coming through miles of fog. He sidestepped, looped a hand under the man’s armpit. Twisted at the waist. The heavy flew six feet and crashed into the folding table.
Viper ducked out into the hallway. A slender man barreled towards him, tugging an automatic from his linen suit. The sight of the gun caused time to slow. Between heartbeats, Viper flicked the six-inch tanto from his belt and hurled it overhand. The blade seemed to tumble lazily, taking an eternity to bury itself deep in the gunman’s wrist. A jet of bright red sprayed from his ulnar artery and doused the prints along the walls.
Now a second man was coming down the hallway; tall, with a shaved head and a golden earring dragging at one lobe. Behind him, the old Korean woman and Viper’s would-be masseuse watched with terrified eyes.
“Viper Ogata,” the man said, “I’m Kanbei Kana. Do you recognize me?”
Viper nodded. “Underboss to the Okajima clan.”
Kanbei drew a handkerchief from his pocket and clamped it around the gunman’s spurting wrist. “I suggest we call a truce.”
“Agreed.” Viper glanced into room 102. The thug he had hip-thrown swayed to his feet. Beside him, the first heavy clutched at his neck and breathed with gurgling noises.
“I see you live up to your reputation,” Kanbei said, a note of approval slipping into his voice. “You went through these three like they were bean cakes.”
Viper shrugged. “I doubt if you would’ve been so easy.”
“Who can say? But I’m assuming you didn’t come here to start a brawl.”
“Someone killed my friend. A working girl named Sachiko.”
“Sachiko. Yes.” Kanbei yanked the knife from his underling’s wrist. The man groaned, and pressed the blood-soaked handkerchief tighter. “She was a top earner here at the Egret. A good girl. You and I should speak in private.”
Ignoring the scowls of Kanbei’s men, Viper followed the underboss into a back room. Several chairs were arranged around a battered table, with a teapot in the center. Kanbei poured two cups of pale emerald liquid. He sipped and watched Viper for several moments before speaking.
“Sachiko’s is only one of several recent deaths here in Shinjuku,” he said, his broad face hardening. “All prostitutes. Three of them were with the Okajima clan, but there have been independents killed as well. It’s affecting the girls’ morale.”
Viper tasted his tea. Gyokuro, the finest quality. “Some kind of sex-killer?”
“I understand that’s the usual motive in these cases. But I was able to examine two of the bodies myself, before police arrived. Let me show you what I found.”
He excused himself and returned to the room moments later holding a square of folded cloth. Inside, the wicked shapes of shuriken gleamed.
“Lodged in the girls’ throats,” he said. “Both had been smeared with poison.”
Viper recalled the dart jutting from Sachiko’s neck. “A professional assassin.”
Kanbei nodded. “I thought maybe another yakuza family had been behind the killings, to disrupt business. But your presence here seems to contradict that.”
“Boss Gomyo has no interest in prostitution. He sticks to gambling and loans.”
“Gomyo.” Kanbei made a face. “That fat old carp. Listen, Viper, why don’t you ditch him and work for me? Boss Tsutomo values skilled fighters. Gomyo’s old-fashioned and treats his men like dirt.”
“That may be true, but he’s still my boss.”
“Screw that ‘jingi’ crap. I’ll pay double what he’s giving you.”
Viper set his cup down, hard. “I shared sake with him. What kind of man would I be, if I went back on my oath?”
Kanbei’s eyes narrowed, like he was sizing Viper for a punch. He ran his finger along the bridge of his crooked nose. Gradually, some of the tension left his jaw. “You’re right. Honor has its place. But perhaps in this case we can still work together. Avenge Sachiko’s death and put a stop to these killings.”
“There’s one establishment in Shinjuku seemingly unscathed by the murders. The Red Pagoda, a love hotel run by a madam named Pinku Serizawa. She’s quite the mystery woman. None of her in-house girls have been touched.”
Pinku Serizawa. The name struck Viper as familiar, but he couldn’t recall details. “What are you proposing?”
“An investigation. You could enter the Pagoda the same way you entered here, posing as a client. Mari could go with you.”
“The girl you were questioning.”
Viper mused over the idea. “What about the cops? You’ve got a couple on your payroll, surely.”
“They claim to be following all leads. But you know the police. We yakuza are not bound by crippling restrictions.”
“I could have several cars full of men surrounding the hotel. At a signal from you, they would come swarming inside.”
Viper drained his tea. “A mixture of deception and overwhelming force. I like this plan. I like your spirit, Kanbei Kana. My only stipulation is this: we act at once.”
They took a taxi from the Resplendent Egret parlor. Mari had changed into a tight-fitting denim skirt, white satin blouse, and knee-high black leather boots. She crouched in the cab’s cramped space next to Viper. The driver had given him a knowing leer when he named his destination.
Traffic slid by, swimming through a haze of rain and smog. Mari leaned her head against the passenger window. “You must’ve really loved this girl,” she said.
“Love?” Viper frowned. “We screwed a lot, in the beginning.”
“But you’re risking your life to avenge her.”
“I considered her a friend.”
“Just a friend?”
He had to think about it. “When we met, we were young and had a sense the world was using us. As time went by there was less physical contact but more … intimacy. It was a strange relationship.”
“You’re a strange man, Viper Ogata.”
“Yes. And now you risk your life for Sachiko’s death, too.”
“I’m not afraid.” She wedged herself tight beside him, nuzzling her soft lips against his neck. “I feel like the safest woman in the world.”
Twenty minutes later they pulled up to the Red Pagoda. Four stories of curving eaves, each smaller than the one below it. Fuchsia neon blurred the raindrops clinging to the cab window. Viper paid the driver and helped Mari out. The rain had stopped, but the air still felt slick, like warm grease. There were several discrete entrances along the ground floor. No windows, he noticed, except at the top. That could make signaling someone outside a problem. He scanned the street, wondering when Kanbei’s backup would arrive.
“Not sure I like the looks of this,” he said.
“C’mon.” Mari tugged his wrist towards an entrance, her expression mischievous.
A wall of colorful lit panels dominated the lobby. Each one depicted a room, decorated in a particular fetishistic theme. There were rooms made up like Osaka bars, rooms done in blue with polyurethane waves crashing above the bed, rooms crammed with pinball machines …
“I want this one. It’s got a horse.” Mari stabbed a button beneath a panel. The panel went dark.
A frosted glass window lit in the adjacent wall. It slid up several inches and a pair of elderly hands reached out, to gesture at a placard hanging alongside. The placard gave hourly and overnight rates.
Viper counted out enough yen for a night’s stay. The hands whisked the money away, to return moments later with a key. Their room was on the second floor.
“Do you have anything with a view?” Viper asked.
The window clicked shut.
Mari hummed a pop song as she nudged him to the elevator. The doors opened before she could hit the button, spilling out a balding executive-type with a slim black woman on either side. The girls were doing their best to hold him upright. He grinned at Viper through a sake haze. “You’ve got to try the Savannah Room,” he said. “Real grass. It sways in the breeze and everything.”
He wobbled off.
The second floor had thick carpeting, lit by ankle-high strips of purple neon. Viper found their room easy enough.
The first thing he noticed was the horse, impaled on a candy cane–striped pole jutting from a round bed with fuzzy pink sheets. Mari clapped her hands together. The horse looked like it had been salvaged from a children’s carousel. A black leather saddle covered with chrome studs hugged its back.
He turned to lock the door. When he turned around again, Mari had shucked out of her blouse, denim skirt, and panties. She still wore the boots, though. She’d found a riding crop from somewhere and smacked the weighted end against her palm.
“What’re you doing?”
“We’re in a love hotel, aren’t we? Don’t tell me we’re just going to watch TV.”
“This is an investigation.”
“Sure it is. Come over here and investigate, already.”
“What the hell.” Viper took off his blazer and unbuttoned the silk shirt underneath. Mari cooed when she saw the rainbow of irezumi tattoos circling his shoulders. He slid the tanto out of his pants. “Can I get a drink, first?”
“You’re going to need it.”
Midway during the performance, she reached up and tried to tug the sunglasses off his face. He pushed her hand back down against the sheets. Gently.
“I’ve never known pleasure on such a scale before.” Perspiration beaded Mari’s pale skin and soaked the bed.
“It was … creative.”
“Where did you acquire such stamina?”
“Martial arts training.” He propped himself up on one elbow to check the time. Two hours had passed. “Tell me what you know about Pinku Serizawa.”
She pouted. “Back to business?”
“I’m afraid so.”
“I’ve only heard a couple things. She’s strict with her girls, but they’re very loyal. And she wears a veil. Some client cut her face when she was first starting out. That’s the rumor, anyway.”
“Do you think she could be the killer?”
Viper massaged his lower back. “I’m not sure how to go about this. Sneak around the building? See if I can get one of Pinku’s girls sent up here?”
Feminine laughter echoed through the room. Startled, Viper whipped his head around. The laughter hadn’t come from Mari.
“Let me save you the trouble, Viper Ogata,” said a woman’s voice. It sounded tinny. “Interesting pillow talk. Good thing I decided to listen in.”
The door to the room made a thudding sound, just before ear-splitting psychedelic rock came crashing in from hidden speakers. Viper felt the bed moving underneath him. It was revolving, and the carousel horse started to bob up and down on its striped pole.
He caught a glimpse of movement in his peripheral vision. A bamboo shaft poked from between the vents of an air duct, set near the ceiling. The shaft angled down towards Mari.
He snatched up his tanto and threw it. The blade traveled straight, like an arrow, slipping between the vents. The bamboo sagged, convulsed. A purple-feathered dart struck the horse’s rump and stuck there.
Viper ripped the cover from the air duct, reached up and pulled. A woman’s limp form tumbled out and hit the carpet. She wore dark clothes and a partial face mask. The tanto’s hilt protruded from her left eye socket.
“Kunoichi,” he said, his words lost in the rock music’s din. Mari screamed some more. He cast the blowgun aside and searched the body for further weapons. The shadow warrior had a wakizashi thrust through her sash. Instead of shark hide, the hilt had been wrapped with pink suede. He grimaced, but took the sword anyway.
Mari shouted questions. He motioned her for silence as he pulled on his slacks. The door wouldn’t open; the thudding sound must’ve been magnetic bolts being thrown. He stepped back, spun, and kicked with all his strength. The door flew off its splintered hinges.
He checked the hallway. Empty, for now. He ducked back inside, grabbed Mari’s naked form, and dragged her from the wailing guitars.
“We’ve got to get out of here,” she said, eyes wide.
He padded down the hall to the elevator. Trying to escape by the ground floor was too obvious. Likely, there’d be an ambush waiting. Going up seemed the best option. If he could reach the topmost tier, he could try to signal Kanbei’s men through the windows. Provided they were actually outside.
Mari reached for the elevator buttons. He slapped her hand away. “Too easily trapped.” He led her to the stairs. A glance through the fire window showed the stairwell empty. He shouldered the door. His brain whispered an urgent warning and he looked up, in time to see a second kunoichi braced spider-like near the ceiling. She hurled an egg-shaped object at his feet.
He shut his eyes. A searing flash burned red through his lids, and he smelled acrid smoke. Eyes still closed, he activated technique five of the ancient Ryukyuan school: the Ghost and Body Spirit Emulsion. Like a bat navigating darkness, his mind reached out and pinpointed the woman’s ki energy as she leapt down. He thrust up with the wakizashi. There was the sensation of wet resistance, and then a groan. A weight slumped to the floor.
“Come on,” he said, snatching for Mari’s hand. He pulled her through the cloud of yellow smoke and bounded up the steps, two at a time.
They reached the last flight. Viper threw the door open and rolled out into a high-ceilinged chamber with wooden flooring and tatami mats. Plate glass windows let in the last of the evening’s graying light. He sensed subtle shifts in the air before him and whipped his sword up. A shuriken clanged off the blade. He parried three more, swatting them aside with lightning-quick swipes.
“Come out and face me,” he shouted, while motioning with his left hand for Mari to stay put in the stairwell.
A half dozen shapes melted out of the shadows, like phantoms made real. All women. All wearing the same dark clothing and head masks of their assassin caste. As one, they drew blades and closed on Viper from every direction.
His mind drifted back to his training in Okinawa. How the old man would spar with him while they were both knee deep in the freezing ocean. Viper used only his hands, while the master wielded a bo staff of ancient oak. For hours they would weave and feint and block, until Viper’s lips turned a chattering blue and his forearms ached with bruises.
He recalled that training now, his body moving on impulse to the rhythms of a lethal dance, sword flicking out like an extension of his warrior’s soul.
Seconds passed. When it was over, six dead kunoichi lay sprawled at his feet. The wakizashi’s blade felt heavy with gore.
A woman floated down from the ceiling. She wore a skin-tight pink bodysuit and pink satin veil. Rhinestones glimmered in a butterfly pattern across her chest. Viper knew this seemingly magical descent was another ninja trick; a coil of fine wire looped over a crossbeam, let out slowly. Still, the effect was uncanny.
Her small feet touched the floor. “I suppose it was only a matter of time before the yakuza showed up.” The veil muffled her voice, but Viper recognized it as the same one that had spoken to him and Mari.
“Pinku Serizawa.” He raised the wakizashi like an accusing finger. “You’re the one behind all the killings.”
She bowed. “Fine deductive work, Viper-san.”
“But why? And why have you trained these women in the Way of the Shadow?”
“Not well enough, it seems.” She glanced at the corpses strewn around Viper. “The murders are strictly business. I want to establish a monopoly on prostitution in Shinjuku, draw all the working girls away from their stupid pimps. The training is for their protection. And mine. I knew filthy men like you would eventually invade my temple, looking for their cut. That is why you’re here, isn’t it?”
Viper shook his head. “You owe me a debt. Of vengeance.”
Pinku’s bitter laughter rang through the chamber. “How ironic. It was my disfigurement, at the hands of yakuza scum, that led me on my personal path of vengeance. I suppose things have turned full circle.”
“For the death of my friend, Sachiko, I claim your life.”
She beckoned. “Come and take it.”
He rushed towards her, blade held low. She met him halfway, turning cartwheels gracefully as a pinwheel. He slashed. She vaulted without effort, up over the sword, her body tucking into a somersault. Viper felt a sudden pressure on the back of his neck. He sprawled forward, dropping the wakizashi but managing to keep his balance. She’d kicked him in mid-air.
“Slippery bitch,” he said. “I’ll—”
But she was on the offensive, her limbs blurring towards him in a series of palm and wrist strikes. He blocked two frenzied blows, only to have a third find his groin. Reeling, he tried the Gichin Fist. She dodged aside. Her fingers raked across his chest, tearing skin.
“You’ve met your match, Viper Ogata.” He sensed she was smiling beneath the veil. Steel climbing-claws jutted from the fingertips of her right hand. “I’m fast as you. Faster.”
As if to prove it, she feinted with her claws. Viper’s hands tracked upwards to block, and her left came out of nowhere trailing something shiny. There was a metallic click. Two chrome, fur-lined handcuffs encircled his wrists.
Pinku chuckled. “Who knew bondage gear made such good weapons? I doubt if you’ll be able to fight as well without your hands.”
“Oh, I will.” Still chuckling, she drew a huge purple dildo from behind her back. Her fingers closed around the shaft, twisted. Out slid an eight-inch blade of gleaming steel.
A war-whoop echoed from the stairwell.
Mari came bolting past, shrieking, one of the downed kunoichi’s daggers in her clumsy grip. She aimed a blow at Pinku, but before it could connect the ninja master ran her through with the dildo-sword. Mari drooped to her knees, muttering Viper’s name.
He took two running steps forward. His legs leapt in the intricate movements of ancient Ryukyuan technique number three: the Yoko Tobi Geri, or Flying Side Kick. Distracted by Mari, Pinku had no time to dodge. Viper’s heel made a satisfying crack as it connected with her chin. She shot backwards. Her lithe form struck a window and sailed through in a shower of broken glass.
Viper landed close enough to see her slide down the eaves, shattering neon tubes as she went. She dropped out of sight. There were two distinct thuds moments apart, then the sickening wet sound of flesh striking concrete.
That should be enough to signal Kanbei.
Mari crawled to him, trailing slick blood across the varnished floor. He knelt and grasped her hand. Pinku’s thrust had opened her gut from hip to sternum.
“You did it,” she whispered. “You avenged Sachiko’s death.”
“We did it.”
“Viper, I’ve only known you a short time, but I …”
Her chest heaved. The rest of her words were lost in the death rattle.
Outside, through the shattered pane, he heard multiple clunks of car doors opening and slamming shut. Soon, gunfire would echo through the building as Kanbei’s men battled the remaining kunoichi. Pinku Serizawa’s reign was over. But what did that leave him with, exactly?
He contemplated the price of vengeance as the sky darkened, and Shinjuku skyline glowed in the distance.
Garnett Elliott lives and works in Tucson, Arizona. Recent stories have appeared or are slated to appear in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Beat to a Pulp: Round Two, Needle Magazine, Pulp Modern, and Battling Boxing Stories. Look for his novellas “Vin of Venus” from Beat to a Pulp publishing, and “The Shunned Highway” in Alec Cizak’s anthology Uncle B’s Drive-In, due out later this summer. You can follow Garnett on Twitter @TonyAmtrak.