Two days later, Toshiro sat on the chair beside his bed, his leather jacket on his lap as he stared out the window into the cool morning. The small quaint town was surreal. He'd never lived in one place long enough to care about the people. Running organized crime left no time for home making.
He picked up his jacket and checked the pockets. Keira, the perky second-shift nurse, had told him they'd looked for his identification and found none. They wouldn't have, he thought as he opened a hidden zipper sewn into the inner seam of his jacket.
He took out a New York City license. It had his name and an address in New York City to a two-bedroom apartment he'd gotten for his cover. Anyone who checked it out would assume he was a college student.
Now for money.
He couldn't pay the hospital bill with his usual accounts. Kaito's financial manager would monitor his money for the next year or so. Any activity and his name would be on a hit list.
Toshiro reached for the clear bag they'd given him filled with his clothes. Removing his right boot from the bag, he turned it over so that he looked at the heavy sole. He pushed the heel to the side with his thumb to reveal a small flat space cut into the sole of his boot. He retrieved the prepaid credit card he'd gotten in case he got in trouble and snapped the heel of his boot back in place.
Dropping the boot to the floor, he studied the company name on the card. He was the sole shareholder of DongShin Co. He'd created the shell company to protect himself. The money in the card would get him to safety.
"Mr. Shindo?" a quiet masculine voice said and he looked up to find a man in a heavy brown sweater and green corduroy pants watching him.
Toshiro palmed the card, and forced his body to relax under the scrutiny of pale blue eyes.
"Yes," he said.
The man held up a badge.
"I'm Jeff Larock, Penn Yan PD. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?"
Toshiro shrugged and watched as the tall man perched on his hospital bed. Jeff Larock was probably in his late thirties. He was fit, definitely a man who'd seen his share of action. His eyes made Toshiro pause. Jeff had a quiet demeanor, but it was a ruse.
Jeff Larock was no pushover and he was very attentive to details.
"How is your wound?" Jeff asked.
"I'm fine," Toshiro said.
"I heard you didn't have anyone to call," Jeff said studying him intently.
"They are all in Tokyo," Toshiro said the lie coming easy. "It's better not to worry them when they can't come to see me."
"So, you're Japanese?" Jeff asked.
"Yes. I'm here on a student visa."
"Where do you go to school?" Jeff asked.
"What are you studying there?"
"Finance and Economics."
Jeff lifted an eyebrow in surprise.
"You look like an art student."
"Yeah," Toshiro said tugging the sleeves of the heavy sweater Jason had brought him yesterday. "I get that a lot."
"Why are you in Penn Yan?" Jeff asked.
"My boss has property along Lake Keuka. He asked me to check on it for him. On the way back to New York, I got carjacked on the state highway," Toshiro said.
He was certain Kaito would dump the Mercedes they'd driven last night in case someone found Toshiro's body.
"I did what the carjackers wanted, so when they drove the car into the woods I thought they'd dump me and drive off."
"So, you didn't know them?" Jeff asked.
Toshiro met his gaze and shook his head.
"What kind of car do you drive?"
"A black Mercedes," he answered. "I'll write you the plate number."
"Rich parents?" Jeff asked.
"I'm an orphan. The money is in my extended family," Toshiro said. "I've caused them enough trouble. I'd prefer to deal with this without calling them."
"What else did the carjackers take?"
Toshiro thought about the briefcase Kaito had taken from him and shuddered.
"My wallet which was in the glove compartment and my phone, I'm lucky my driver's license was in my pocket."
"Can I see it?" Jeff asked.
Toshiro handed over his driver's license.
Jeff scribbled the driver's license number on a small notebook, before he handed it back.
"Do you remember anything about your attackers? Something to identify them?"
Toshiro looked away from Jeff.
"Not much. They were rowdy, kept calling me names. They told me I was a rich boy who'd get another car tomorrow. They stabbed me to keep me from calling out."
"That must have been hard for you," Jeff said.
Toshiro turned to find Jeff watching him with a narrowed gaze. He didn't care what Jeff believed. He planned to leave the moment the night shift started. Now that he'd survived Kaito's murder attempt, he wanted to know why he'd deserved to die in the woods.
"I thought I was dead."
Toshiro decided to throw the detective a little emotion.
"Do you know what that is like? I didn't expect to wake up in this bed the way I did. All I remember is walking for hours and when I couldn't anymore, I passed out. Then I woke up here, so forgive me if I haven't sorted it all out yet in my head."
"Relax," Jeff said with a sigh. "I'm on your side."
Jeff held out his notebook to him.
"Why don't you write your license plate number for me? We can start there."
Toshiro nodded and took the notebook. Taking the pen Jeff held out to him, he wrote out the number and handed it back. He didn't miss the fact that Jeff held the pen with his thumb and forefinger careful not to hold where he had.
Meeting Jeff's gaze, he smiled.
"Thank you, Mr. Larock. I hope you find my car soon."
"Me too," Jeff said standing up. "Okay, that's all I need for now. I'll come visit you tomorrow and see how you're doing. I'm assuming you're not leaving town just yet."
"Obviously," Toshiro said touching his left side.
Jeff gave him a nod and Toshiro watched him walk out of his hospital room.
Placing his jacket on the bed, Toshiro decided the best thing to do now was get out of this town as soon as possible.
"Have you found out who did this to Toshiro?" Jason asked Jeff when he met him leaving Toshiro's room.
"There's not much to go on," Jeff said stopping at the door to watch Toshiro staring out the window. "He's keeping something from me. I'm not sure he wants us to find out what happened out there."
"Why would you say that?"
"When I asked him if he knew his attackers he lied to me," Jeff said. "He's also a student at Columbia. The question is what he's doing four hours away from the big city in our sleepy little town."
"Someone tried to murder him," Jason pointed out in irritation not liking Jeff's thought process.
"Well, that is true too." Jeff shrugged and gave him a slight smile. "Don't listen to me, I'm thinking out loud. I'll leave you now. I have a car to find."
Jason watched Jeff walk away with quick strides. A soft curse brought back his attention to Toshiro who was standing, his left hand pressed into his stomach.
"Toshiro, wait," he said rushing into Toshiro's room. "You should call for help when you want to move. Jeez, you've barely started healing."
Those honeyed eyes scowled at him and set his heart on a wild dance. His heart had taken to Toshiro in the past two days, one glance from the younger man tugged at every empathic cell he had in his body.
He'd barely spent time at the Watson house other than to shower and get a change of clothes. He hadn't liked the thought of leaving Toshiro alone in hospital with no one to visit or worry about him. Keira had told him that there was no family coming to help Toshiro.
Jason pulled the covers back and helped Toshiro slide into the hospital bed. He was glad to see Toshiro was wearing the red pajama pants he'd brought and his sweater over the hospital gown. Pulling the blankets over Toshiro, he placed the bag he'd brought on the chair.
"How are you doing today?" Jason asked happy to see he'd been right about Toshiro's hair.
It was long to his shoulders. Soft and straight, it made him look vulnerable although there was something tough about the expression on Toshiro's face.
"Better," Toshiro answered his fingers playing with his blankets. "You didn't have to come in, you know. I'm sure you have a busy life out there."
Jason smiled Toshiro had told him the same thing yesterday.
"I don't mind coming in. Keira says you wanted to check out of the hospital today. Why?"
"I'm tired of the hospital. I can heal at home."
Jason felt a stab of disappointment flash through his stomach.
"Where is home?"
"Is there anyone at home to look after you?" Jason asked. "You're going to need help."
"I'll be fine," Toshiro said dismissively. "This is not the first time I've been hurt."
"No way," Jason said sitting on the bed. "I won't send you away to fend for yourself."
"You're a strange man."
"Why am I strange?" Jason asked, staring at Toshiro unable to imagine him alone and hurting.
He had no idea why he cared so much, but the thought of Toshiro suffering alone didn't settle well with him.
"You have to stay," Jason insisted.
"I don't know anyone in this town." Toshiro lay back on his pillows. "There's no reason to stay. And you are strange because most people stay away from strangers found on the road with daggers in their stomach."
"Is that what it's been like for you?" Jason asked. "People didn't help you when they found you in trouble?"
Toshiro narrowed his gaze.
"I think the question I should ask is what it has been like for you that you want to help someone like me."
"I thought I hit you." Jason confessed with a sigh. "You came out of the woods stumbling and I swerved but when I looked in the rear mirror, you were on the ground. I thought I hit you."
"Well, you didn't. You're absolved of any blame," Toshiro said. "I owe you a debt of life. I'll repay it when I can."
"Repay it now by staying here," Jason bargained. "If you go running off to New York City, you might get into more trouble. Why don't you stay?"
Toshiro shook his head. "I can't stay."
"But I want you to," Jason said reaching to lift Toshiro's chin when he looked away. "I—
Toshiro met his gaze with a closed expression.
"Jason, stop. I'm not good. I'm not good for you or this place. The best thing I can do is disappear."
Jason wished Toshiro would stop wanting to run away. The more Toshiro protested, the more he wanted to figure him out.
"Enough about this," Jason said getting off the bed.
He opened the bag he'd brought and took out newspapers. He handed them to Toshiro.
"Yesterday, you asked if you could get newspapers. I stopped by the supermarket and got the ones you'd missed and the one for today. I thought you might like to read them."
Toshiro took them with a grateful smile.
Jason nodded and took a drawing pad from his bag. He sat down on the chair and put the bag on the heater. He sat back watching Toshiro sit cross-legged on the bed and start reading the newspapers as if he was attacking homework. He had three more days to convince Toshiro to stay.
Three more days to get Toshiro to stay with him for a few days, he thought with a smile.
Kaito had sent Toshiro to Columbia University to study finance when he turned eighteen. Toshiro had spent four years there accumulating knowledge and contacts in the business world that Kaito would later exploit.
At the time, he hadn't thought much of it. He'd worked with diligence, following orders, trusting in Kaito, until last year when he'd realized Kaito's endgame.
Toshiro read business news, searching, hoping not to find, and then there it was.
Caribea Corporation's C.E.O. admitted into a private hospital in Newark. Mr. Brett Carrey in critical condition.
The Caribea Corporation was a private company owned by the Carrey family. Toshiro had met them two years ago in a meeting engineered by Kaito in Tokyo. Caribea owned prime real estate in New York City and other major cities around the world as well as various casinos and resorts.
Thanks to Toshiro, the Takumi family now owned forty-nine percent of Caribea Corporation.
Walden Carrey, Brett's cousin, had signed over his ten percent share the night Kaito stabbed him. Those documents had been in the briefcase Kaito took from him that night. With Brett Carrey in the hospital, Toshiro had no doubt that Kaito would gain controlling shares, probably by manipulating Brett's wife.
The Takumi Family would officially own a legitimate business in New York City. It would be a stepping-stone to buy into other legitimate companies.
So, if the deal was that easy, why had Kaito cut him down?
Toshiro folded the newspaper fear creeping in.
Unless he was blood, he thought.
Toshiro shook his head.
That was unlikely. He'd watched his mother die. Kaito's father had killed her. Blow by blow, Toshiro had watched it all that day, his first lesson in the hands of the Takumi family. It was a perfect lesson that there was no mercy in this world, not for the weak, or the strong, no mercy at all.
Toshiro had never dared find his father. Considering his mother's reputation, he'd figured his father wouldn't want to meet him.
However, if Kaito had thought him a traitor, he'd have taken him into that torturous room he used for murder. Kaito would have beat Toshiro to death with the whole clan looking on, not stabbed him in the woods, in a foreign country, with a personal blade.
Glancing at the blond man seated by the window, he narrowed his gaze.
He didn't know men like Jason. In his world, suspicion was healthy, kindness a prerequisite to a hateful action. Jason's offer to stay was the purest kindest gesture he'd ever received.
However, he couldn't take it.
Placing the newspapers on the bedside table, he shifted on the bed so that he faced Jason.
"You're staring," Jason said, his attention on the drawing pad on his lap.
The strokes of Jason's pencil on paper were fluid, elegant. Jason looked up and met his gaze.
"Did you change your mind about staying?"
"I have a question."
"What would I do here if I stayed?" Toshiro asked.
Jason studied him for a minute before he answered.
"Well, first, I'd get you to stay with me. I'm watching a family friend's house for the next month or so. It's a quiet place by the lake, no one to bother you. I'd spoil you silly—,"
"Spoil me?" Toshiro asked with a laugh. "How do you know I'm not spoiled already?"
"Have you had breakfast in bed lately?"
Toshiro made a show of thinking. The truth was he'd never gotten such courtesies in his life. Not even from Kaito whose bed he'd slept in for the last three years. Their relationship was strictly sexual, no emotional entanglements.
He shrugged at Jason.
"Well, then I can get you pancakes for breakfast with maple syrup. Tastiest thing you ever ate," Joshua grinned. "We can go swimming in the lake, or fishing."
"I don't know how to fish," Toshiro lied, loving Jason's enthusiasm.
There was such sincerity in Jason's words; he could almost imagine those scenes.
"I can teach you," Jason said, placing his drawing pad on the heater beside his bag. "When I was a kid, my parents used to take us camping in the woods by the lake. We'd compete to see who got the most fish."
"Did you win?" Toshiro asked picturing a ten-year-old version of Jason.
He imagined the blond handsome man had enjoyed the all-American life: two parents, nice house, maybe a dog.
"Sometimes, but I suspect my dad used to add fish in my bucket so that I won."
"Are you an only child?" Toshiro asked.
"Yep. It's just my mum and me now. My dad died when I was twelve." Jason shrugged. "We never went fishing after that."
Toshiro knew death, and the emptiness it brought. Jason was lucky for his happy memories. There were those who got only bad memories, and then death.
"What do you do for a living?" he asked to change the subject.
Toshiro didn't want to lie to Jason about his own parents.
Jason unclasped a chain from his left wrist and held it out to him. Toshiro took the delicate silver chain.
"I make jewelry," Jason said. "I like molding metals into different designs."
Toshiro studied the chain, the silver metal thin and woven into a delicate braid that flowed with fluid motion. It was intricate work. Jason had talented hands.
"Can I keep it?" he asked studying the simple hook and eye clasp.
"Sure," Jason said with a nod. "What about you? What do you do?"
Toshiro wore the chain and smiled when it fit his wrist.
"I'm an MBA student at Columbia," he answered. The information was harmless. "I do odd jobs for money; you know how it is when you're a student."
"Jobs like what?" Jason persisted.
Toshiro shrugged. "Like sorting out boring financial problems for people and their businesses."
He frowned as he realized how good he'd gotten at sorting out Kaito's problems. So good, he'd neglected to look out for himself.
He met Jason's watchful gaze and smiled.
"My jobs are not as exciting as yours," he said touching the chain on his wrist. "This is very handsome."
"I can make you one if you like. That one wasn't as good when I made it. It has a few flaws."
"Then I'll keep it," Toshiro said. "My flaws out weigh my good side too. Birds of a feather and all that."
"What flaws?" Jason asked softly. "You're…perfect."
"Well, that's new. Are you coming on to me?"
"Are you offended?"
"Flattered," Toshiro answered shaking his head. "I'm not perfect, Jason."
Jason shifted in his seat, his blush disappearing as he studied Toshiro.
"Do you notice you do that?"
"Put yourself down," Jason said. "You talk as though you don't matter. Earlier you said you're not good, as though you deserved what happened to you, but I beg to differ. As far as I'm concerned, you're an innocent victim, Toshiro: a very handsome innocent victim."
Toshiro looked away from Jason's keen gaze.
"I don't know what to say to you. I'm not handsome. I think you're wearing blinders in your eyes. I hate scissors so that's how my hair gets this long, and I have so many scars on my body, my skin looks like patchwork."
Jason got up from his chair and came to sit next to him on the bed. Toshiro closed his eyes when Jason touched his hair.
"I love your long hair," Jason said, letting the soft strands sift through his fingers. "The tattoo on your left arm fascinates me. I found myself drawing it last night, thinking of a way to make you a chain that matched it. Your eyes set my heart dancing."
"Stop." Toshiro lifted his head to meet Jason's gaze. "Obviously your brain works different. You're a hopeless romantic."
"My ex-boyfriend would disagree with you."
Toshiro reached for Jason's wandering hand and held it on his lap.
Jason shrugged. "I guess I wasn't what he was looking for."
"He must be blind then."
"Now you're flattering me."
Toshiro stared at Jason's smile and warmth spread through him. He liked Jason's smile.
A knock came on the door and they both looked to find Keira walking in.
"Hi guys," she said, holding a thermometer and a blood pressure machine. "I see a smile that makes me happy. How's it going?"
"Good," Jason said. "I'm trying to get Toshiro to stay at my place until he heals."
"That's a great idea," Keira said as she took Toshiro's temperature.
"See, Toshiro, just give in," Jason urged him.
Looking into Jason's green eyes, Toshiro was tempted to agree. Really tempted, but his life was a mess. He had no right to stay here. He listened to Keira and Jason banter about local happenings. They talked about people they'd grown up with; their lives so neatly weaved into the town. They included him in their conversation as though he belonged.
They passed the afternoon that way. Keira was lenient with Jason, letting him stay even when visiting hours ended. That Tuesday afternoon turned into the best hours of his life, just sitting with Jason talking and laughing without a care.
Toshiro walked out of the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hospital at three in the morning, his right arm across his stomach. Each step agonizing as he walked through the parking lot as though he'd left a car there. No one paid him any mind. He walked around a green Toyota Camry, tried the driver's door and wasn't surprised to find it unlocked.
Small towns, he thought as he slid into the driver's seat with a quiet groan.
Closing the door, he opened the glove compartment, and when he didn't find the keys there, he turned down the visor. A bundle of keys fell on his lap and he smiled.
Starting the car, he gave the hospital one last glance before he drove out of the parking lot, heading to New York City.
As he drove out of Penn Yan, his one regret was that he'd never see Jason and his kind green eyes again.
"What do you mean he's gone?" Jason demanded on Wednesday morning. He stood in Toshiro's hospital room staring at the empty bed in shock. "Did he—, I mean—,"
"Oh goodness, no," the nurse in charge said. "He walked out of here. I came in for my four o'clock rounds and found the bed empty. At first, I thought he'd gone for a walk or something, but we've checked the whole building. He's gone. Jeff is out there searching."
"Left," Jason said quietly.
He walked to the stripped bed and sat on the edge. He held two cups of coffee on a tray, together with a bag of fresh bagels from his favorite bakery. Staring at the breakfast he'd thought to share with Toshiro, he tried to fight off disappointment.
"I'm sure he's alright," the nurse said. "Listen, I'll give you a few minutes alone, Jason."
When he just stared at her, she gave him a small uncertain smile before she left the room, her orthopedic shoes squeaking on the tiles.
Damn, why did things work out this way for him?
Jason got up from the bed and shook his head. Walking around the bed to the chair by the window, he placed the coffee tray and bagels on the heater with a sigh. He frowned when he noticed a butterfly origami made out of newspaper on the windowsill. He picked it up and stared at it for a moment.
Turning it over, he smiled when he found a paper wedged in the butterfly. Looking around the room, he unfolded the small paper and found Toshiro had written him a note.
'You're probably disappointed with me right now. I'm sorry for leaving without saying goodbye. Thank you for saving me, Jason. If the fates allow it, I'll repay this debt one day. T.'
Just like that, Toshiro was gone, as fast as he'd entered his life.
Jason prayed the fates were kind. He wanted a chance to see Toshiro again in this lifetime.
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