In Bad Blood, the second book in the Gibbons and Tozzi thriller series, FBI agents Mike Tozzi and Cuthbert Gibbons get into deep trouble when they investigate a deadly partnership between the Mafia and the Japanese yakuza. Gibbons takes a severe beating from a deranged assassin who believes he's the reincarnation of an ancient samurai, and Tozzi vows revenge. But the sword-wielding madman is itching to turn Tozzi into sushi. The Godfather meets The Seven Samurai spiced with wasabi-strength humor.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.58(d)|
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The orange Volkswagen Beetle emerged from the dawn mist and thumped over the old, uneven planks of the weathered pier followed closely by a black 1960 Cadillac De Ville, which in turn was followed by an executive-gray Mercedes SEL limousine — little fish, big fish, bigger fish. The Beetle stopped a few feet from the end of the pier, the Cadillac about twenty feet behind the Beetle, the limo nosing up under the Caddy's lethal-looking tailfins. They stood there in check, the Volkswagen's air-cooled motor wheezing and twittering, the Cadillac rumbling low, the Mercedes issuing a barely audible but insistent hiss.
The man behind the wheel of the Caddy, Katsumi Nagai, turned off the engine, wearily ran a hand through his hair, and draped his arms over the steering wheel. It was too fucking early for this shit. He looked across the cracked, black leather seats at Mashiro's broad back as he bent over to take off his shoes and socks. Mashiro folded his socks neatly and placed them inside the black lace-up shoes which he then tucked under the seat. Nagai stared at him. After all these years, Mashiro still made him stop and wonder. The squat, expressionless man then reached for the sheathed sword lying on the backseat and placed it in his lap. He looked at Nagai, waiting for the go-ahead from his boss. Nagai stared at the long, curved katana, the samurai's primary weapon, then looked Mashiro in the eye and nodded wearily. The man bowed his head curtly but respectfully, then got out of the car. As Mashiro walked around the front of the car, Nagai wondered what he was thinking, or if he thought at all.
Nagai watched him unsheathe the sword and set the black leather scabbard on the hood. Mashiro then marched over to the Volkswagen, back straight, sword at his side, and ordered the two inside to shut off the engine and get out.
The couple didn't move. Nagai reached over to the glove compartment and took out the small automatic he kept there. He pressed the button to open the power window on his side, then stuck his arm out and fired a shot left-handed over the VW. The sound of the shot rolled over the river, a sharp crack on the dull cold air. The girl started sobbing again. He could see her head bobbing up and down. He rested his elbow on the door, the gun leveled on them out the window so they could see it.
"Hurry," Mashiro shouted in his harsh Osaka-accented Japanese. The young Japanese couple started to come out, reluctantly, like small animals forced to abandon a temporary shelter. They stood before Mashiro who eyed them with neither hate nor compassion. The girl held her hand over her mouth. Mashiro abruptly raised his sword like a spear and thrust its point into the rotting head of the nearest timber. It stood there glinting in the gloom of the gray dawn, swaying slightly, as staunch and deadly as its owner.
My faithful monster, Nagai thought.
Nagai glanced into the rearview mirror, feeling slow and heavy, then got out of his car and walked over to the back door of the limo. He stared at himself in the dark-tinted window, waiting for it to open. His face looked too sad and drawn, he thought, and his hair was streaked with gray now. He wished he looked more like his man Mashiro, robust and stone-faced, dangerous. And Mashiro was even two years older than him. When the rear power window started to glide down, he changed his expression and attempted to look properly grim for his boss.
"Good morning, Nagai," the old man in the backseat said, not looking up. He was carefully prying the lid off a paper coffee cup, holding it away from his dark, Hong Kong-made silk suit.
"Good morning, Mr. Hamabuchi," Nagai said with a respectful bow of the head. Nagai was suddenly hit with a memory of serving breakfast tea to Hamabuchi when he lived at the boss's Tokyo house as part of the apprenticeship that was supposed to teach him how to obey his boss like a father. That was a long time ago. A dull ache started to throb at the back of his head as he thought about the course his life had taken and the fact that if he hadn't been so bull-headed back in Japan, he probably would've been sitting pretty now, running his own night club in the Ginza. But that's not how it worked out. You have to pay for your mistakes.
The old man blew over the surface of the steaming coffee as he squinted through the tinted windshield at the trembling couple standing before Mashiro. His brow was furrowed, his expression quizzical. He seemed to be studying them. Nagai recognized this look. It was the prelude to a Hamabuchi homily. The old man took a slow, careful sip.
Sometime today please, Nagai thought.
Hamabuchi suddenly looked Nagai in the eye.
Here it comes.
"Does the girl weep for their lost honor, Nagai, or for their unfortunate fate?" Hamabuchi asked with that inscrutable grin of his. It was a well-practiced gesture, one he cultivated years ago. Americans expect this kind of Oriental bullshit, he once confided.
Nagai glanced back at the couple, the girl sobbing softly into her boyfriend's shoulder as the boy tried unsuccessfully to look Mashiro in the face. He had no sympathy for them. They signed a contract and they broke it. You have to pay for your mistakes.
"She weeps for their lost honor, I would think." Nagai knew all the expected responses.
Hamabuchi lowered the cup to his lap, shaking his head almost imperceptively. "No. I don't think so. Only old people concern themselves with honor these days. Old ones like me and Mr. Antonelli."
Here we go again with the old stories about the Occupation and the black market in Kobe and the clever American corporal who knew how to play ball. The great Antonelli.
"I'm concerned about my honor," Nagai said pointedly, hoping to cut him off. "I want it restored."
"I know, I know you do." Hamabuchi took another sip. "My promise still holds. If you succeed here in America, everything will be all right."
Nagai nodded tactfully, trying to hold onto the fading mental picture of the faces of his three children back in Japan. Sweet Hatsu is eleven now; next year she'll like boys. Kenji is eight; he must be a real hellion. And the baby will be going to school this year. Incredible.
"Tell me, Nagai, how are you getting along with D'Urso?"
"D'Urso. How are you getting along with him? I ask because he impresses me as a man of convenient loyalties, a man who thinks his own thoughts, if you know what I mean. I didn't think our Mafia friends tolerated such individuality within their ranks."
Nagai wondered whether this was some kind of backhanded reference to himself. Probably. "D'Urso's an arrogant prick, but he's holding up his end. So far we've had no trouble with the law here, and his demand happily exceeds our supply."
The old man looked up at him from under his brows. "And you are keeping up your end?"
He nodded. "Every delivery has been on time and to their satisfaction. The number of uncooperatives and runaways is minimal now, thanks to Mashiro and the extra men you've sent us. Only four in the last month, including these two." He smiled at his man who was standing motionless before the scared couple at the end of the dock. "They fear him worse than death."
"Ah, yes ... the samurai. Gozo Mashiro, isn't it?" Hamabuchi muttered, scratching his eyebrow. "A very loyal man, I'm told."
"May he never disappoint you." Hamabuchi stared up at him.
Nagai put the hand with the gun on the roof of the limo and stared at the stump where the last joint of his pinky had been. Yes, yes, tell me again.
Hamabuchi blew his nose into a paper napkin, balled it up, and put it in the bag. "Well, let's get this over with," he said. "You seem to be handling things adequately here. Very good, Nagai."
"Thank you, Mr. Hamabuchi." But when the fuck can I go back to Japan, old man?
Nagai watched the old man's face disappear as the dark window closed and the limo started to move backward, gliding back toward the fog on shore. Hamabuchi, man of the black mists. He comes and goes without warning, never letting anyone know what continent he'll be on next. Nagai had learned long ago that it was useless to try to keep tabs on his boss's movements. "I want you to always act as though I am three steps behind you," the old man often told his people, "for you never know. I just may be there."
Nagai stepped away from the limo and saw in the Mercedes's dark windshield the reflection of the rising sun peeking through the skyscrapers of Wall Street on the other side of the river. He turned away from the glare and looked at Mashiro who was looking at him. Nagai gave him the nod and waved with the gun as he went back to his own car. He felt very tired. It was time to get this over with.
Mashiro bowed to his boss, then faced the couple again and separated them. They both stared at the glinting sword out of the corners of their eyes as Mashiro took a step back and positioned himself in front of the young man. Nagai could hear the departing limousine whining backward in reverse.
The sudden force of the blow — Mashiro pivoting on one foot, swinging his other leg up high, his heel crashing into the side of the boy's neck — made no sound of its own as far as Nagai could tell. The involuntary grunt emitted through flaccid lips and the thud of the already lifeless body hitting the wooden planks came a half-second later. Only the victim can hear the quick crunch of shattering vertebrae, Mashiro once told him. Almost totally painless. Nagai shook his head. What did that matter? When you're gonna die, you're gonna die.
Nagai watched the girl absorbing the hard truth of the moment as she hovered over her lover's body, leaning toward him but not touching him, petrified on her feet, terror painted on her face, fingers spread, mouth open but voiceless. She looked like someone poised to catch a cannonball. Nagai thought of his daughter and sighed. He shielded his eyes from the sun and took in the magnificent Manhattan skyline. Contracts must be honored, my dear.
The girl's body falling to the pier made a hollow thud. Mashiro immediately rolled the boy's body over onto the girl's, stacking them face to face. His head was buried in her neck; she was looking up at the sky, her mouth open. She looked like she was about to have an orgasm. Mashiro reached for the gleaming katana then. Nagai looked away. He didn't think he could stomach this.
He stared instead at the silvery swells of the Hudson and let his mind drift. He heard the sudden swoosh of the blade then, felt the referred impact on the boards under his feet, but he didn't look. He concentrated on the gentle, lulling lapping of the river against the timbers below and longed for home again.
A moment later, he started to hear the blood. A steady dripping that quickly turned into a heavy, uneven splatter, blood hitting water. He looked down. A dark tide gradually seeped out from under the shadow of the dock, a drifting stain on the quiet brown-green waters. He looked up at Mashiro who was carefully wiping his blade. The samurai bowed to him. Nagai thought he saw the hint of a grin. Maybe ... maybe not.
He couldn't help looking now. Dark pink guts spilled out of their sides. The girl's face was speckled with blood. Nagai turned away and reached for the car door. "Get rid of them, Mashiro. Hurry up."
The cop in the wet suit tugged hard on the cable a couple of times, then swam over to the police boat. He hung onto the gunwale with one hand as he gave the crane operator the high sign with the other. The crane drums started to turn slowly, tightening up the slack cable. Then the engine growled and a second later a chrome bumper emerged from the oily water. Even though they pulled it out slowly, the water rushing out of the little car created enough of a wake to rock the police boat. The crane operator — a red-faced, gray-haired guy wearing a kelly green cap with a shamrock on the peak — left the orange Volkswagen hanging a few feet over the water, still dripping. The Transit guys milled around, looking antsy. Ferries had been stacked up in the harbor all afternoon, forced to operate short one berth space, and now the Staten Island natives were getting restless.
Gibbons looked over at the mob of people hanging over the rail of the ferry in the next berth, all rubbernecking to get a look at the VW, all of them mad because they'd been delayed. Gibbons tipped his hat back and squinted up at them, showing his teeth. He took his hat off and smoothed down what hair he had left. What the hell did they expect for a quarter ride, for chrissake?
Gibbons stood off to the side and squinted at the sun glinting off what was left of the Beetle's windshield. He put his sunglasses back on. Indian summer had come back with a vengeance, but Gibbons didn't pay much attention to the heat. He always kept his jacket on, his collar buttoned, his tie up. That was an old FBI rule from J. Edgar's day, and Gibbons had followed it for so long it just became a habit with him. The Bureau dress code had been relaxed a little since then, and there was nothing that said a special agent couldn't unbutton his collar if he was uncomfortable; it was just something that never occurred to Gibbons.
"Lieutenant Elam? Lieutenant?" The ranking member of the antsy Transit officials was trying to get the officer-in-charge's attention from behind the yellow tape police barrier, and Elam was doing the sensible thing under the circumstances. Ignoring the asshole.
"Lieutenant! The mayor's office assured me that we would regain use of this slip as soon as possible." The guy was getting testy with Elam, which was pretty ballsy for a guy who looked like a maitre d'. Tyrone Elam was six-eight and once played basketball for Michigan. Or Michigan State, Gibbons wasn't sure. Might've played pro for a season, too. He always reminded Gibbons of Willis Reed, the guy who played center for the Knicks back when New York knew how to win. No one could slam the boards as hard as Reed. No one has since. Two hundred and forty pounds of unadulterated intimidation. Elam had that same look. Not the kind of guy most white people want to argue with.
Elam had his foot up on the bumper of a patrol car, tapping a pen on the messy-looking clipboard on his knee as he talked to a uniformed sergeant. It looked like he was doing police business, but what he was really doing was wishing the little Transit frog would get lost before he picked him up and heaved him into the water.
The maitre d' wouldn't give up, though. He unbuttoned his suit jacket, stepped under the yellow tape, and crossed the police line. This guy did have balls.
"Lieutenant, I'm getting a little tired of your rude —"
Elam turned his head and shot the guy a look that shut him up toute de suite. It was one of those slow, sharp-eyed looks that komodo dragons have when they smell meat. Gibbons remembered it from a documentary he saw on Channel 13 about the giant carnivorous lizards of Malaysia. That's exactly what Elam looked like right now. Gibbons smiled like a crocodile.
Elam stood up and looked straight down at the hair-transplant scars in the maitre d's very thin scalp. "Mr. Shapiro," he said with dangerous tranquility, "it has been explained to you that this is out of the police's jurisdiction and that we cannot do a thing until federal authorities arrive."
"No buts, Mr. Shapiro. A federal crime has been committed here, and my duty is to keep the crime scene sealed until the FBI gets here. That's the way it is. Capisce, Mr. Shapiro?"
Gibbons figured this was his cue to get involved. "Gibbons, FBI," he said, walking up to them and flashing his ID. "Who's in charge here?"
"Me," Elam said.
"And who're you?" Gibbons said, thrusting his mean Aztec deity face into Shapiro's.
"Addison Shapiro, deputy transit commissioner in charge of Waterway —"
"You authorize him to be here?" Gibbons said to Elam.
"Crossing police lines and violating a federal crime scene is a federal offense. Please leave." Gibbons jerked his thumb at the yellow tape.
Shapiro scuttled back under it immediately. He tried to plead his case to Gibbons from over there, but Gibbons turned his back and ignored him.
"That true about violating a federal crime scene being a federal crime?" Elam said as he propped his big foot back up on the fender.
"Probably," Gibbons said, then turned his attention to the dripping VW. "So what's this? The catch of the day?"
Elam smiled and showed the gap between his front teeth. "Whatever it is, Gib, it's yours."
Gibbons crossed his arms and shook his head. "You guys don't handle homicides anymore? What was it they used to say back in the bad ole days about 'lazy and shiftless'?"(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Bad Blood"
Copyright © 2008 Anthony Bruno.
Excerpted by permission of Diversion Publishing Corp..
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