changing course can be dangerous. In mere moments, she tumbles from the dizzying pinnacle of success into a bottomless abyss of murder and treachery. Yumiko will not live happily ever after—not this time—but can she at least find a way to stay alive?
Detective Robinson jumped at the thud of a bottle of Macallan hitting the bar top in front of him. He looked over at the woman holding it and said, “I’ll be damned.”
The whiskey-bearer, a Japanese woman in a business suit, mounted the stool next to him. “Get anything good out of the box?” She caught the stool’s crossbar under her heels and started swiveling her seat back and forth.
Robinson took the bottle’s neck between his fingers and turned the label toward him, scrutinizing it as if it would tell him what was happening to him and why. “Fourteen arrests awaiting trial,” he answered. “How’s the girl?” He never did get her name.
“Very much enjoying her new life, I expect. I’m sorry to say I’ve come to ask you for another favor.”
“Nuh-uh. No way, honey.” He still spoke forward, as if making his case to the liquor bottles. “Internal Affairs is still crawling up my ass from the last time. The Feds are super pissed I just let you skate, think you’re some kind of vigilante or assassin, say somebody in Japan went and shot up an entire gang.”
The woman’s sunny smile went well with the tempo of her rhythmic turns. “Of those two, I would prefer vigilante, and I assure you I have never shot anybody.”
“Sure thing.” Robinson nodded and took another sip of his scotch. “Guess I’ll just take your word for it then.”
The swivel—and the smile—stopped dead, facing forward, aimed at something on the far side of the wall behind the bar. “I used a sword. Local police did all the shooting.”
An echo in the highball glass he’d been consulting while she spoke drew out Robinson’s exclamation. “Ho- Ly- Shit.” He set his drink down and shook his head. “You’re bad news, Lady. I ought to take you in.”
“You can if you want.” Grinning and swiveling resumed. “Bet you five bucks I’m released in under an hour. Want me to take care of your internal affairs thing for you?”
He spun to face her and demanded, “Who do you think you are, exactly?”
“Sometimes I wonder.” Her eyes flared and rolled, coming to rest on Robinson’s pocket. “Mind if I use your phone?”
With one hand holding the detective’s ancient flip-phone and the other twirling a lock of hair, she said, “Hi, sweetie, it’s me. I feel like we haven’t talked in ages, but…” … “For a few days, yeah. Are you free?” … “Boo. You’re no fun. Hey, listen, I have a client who was at the human-trafficking thing in Long Beach a couple weeks ago.” … “Yeah. She says one of the detectives who helped her is getting investigated, and she wants us to fight the city for him. I told her it was just paperwork, nothing to worry about. It isn’t, is it?” … “He’s here in the conference room now. Want to talk to him?”
Her voice still playful as a songbird, she covered the phone and said, “The mayor wants to talk to you.”
That was the end of sugar and spice.
“I’m out on a limb here,” she hissed. “Don’t embarrass me.”
It was a close call for Robinson as to which he considered more dangerous, the woman or the phone. He took the latter gingerly between his thumb and forefinger, raising it toward his face but meeting it halfway.
“Hello?” … “Yes, sir.” … “She made the tip on condition of anonymity.” … “No, sir.” … “Yes, sir.”
She took back his phone from where he dangled it in front of her. “Thank you for taking my call, Your Honor. I’m glad the matter could be settled amicably. Goodnight.”
Robinson didn’t take the bait. Instead he asked nobody in particular, unless he was talking to the phone, “What the actual fuck was that?”
Sugar and spice resumed.
She set the phone on the bar and said, “That was a favor. How do you feel about Mexican drug cartels?”
Robinson put his phone away with a shrug and turned back to his drink. “Love ’em,” he quipped. “Can’t get enough. Pablo Escobar comes over to my house every Wednesday night to suck my dick.”
“Isn’t he Colombian?”
“He’s also dead. Are you looking to get introduced?”
“Yes but not to him. I’m planning a trip to Tijuana,” she said, “and I need a pimp.”
“A pimp? Planning on doing some sightseeing, maybe a little shopping?”
The swiveling stopped again, and they were both talking to the same empty space somewhere in front of them.
“Something like that.”
Robinson squinted and blinked, but it did nothing to clear up the situation’s absurdity. After all, the woman had, it seemed, exercised some sort of devious power on his behalf. The IAG investigation was looking like it’d be a whole lot of probing with not a lot of lube. He’d be glad to be rid of it if that—whatever that was—stuck. His tone descended into a serious conversation.
“Look, I’m grateful and all, and it’s none of my business, but honey, girls like you don’t come back from TJ.”
“Why not?” She feigned innocence. “Do all the gentlemen open doors and pull out chairs?”
“Yeah, that’s exactly what they do.”
The woman turned and stared him down. “I appreciate your concern, Detective, but you reason from a false premise. There are no other girls like me.”
Robinson downed the last of his drink to give himself time to think it over. To the empty glass, he said, “Well, that’s for damned sure.”
A mathematician by training and computer programmer by trade, J. Whitney Williams lives and works under the X in Texas, thinking too much and speaking too little.