The scent of smoke – Part 1

The party was in full swing, people chatting, drinking and dancing. The staff was busy refilling drinks and cleaning up the occasional spill and abandoned glasses. Thanks to the talented DJ the mood was like in a club, not like the usual company parties.

“Miss Mann, there’s a problem with the guest list. Could you come to the entrance really quick?”

Jazz tapped the button on her headset, covered her free ear. “On my way.” She smiled at the faces that turned her way while she threaded through the crowd, nodded here and there while accepting compliments for the successful party.

At the door she could already see the security staff politely talking to a man in company of a woman. He was middle aged, his suit expensive and custom-tailored, golden buttons and fine stitching at the hems. The young woman on his arm looked half his age, but dressed too maturely. Her cleavage showed that she wore no bra, not a problem with her built and age, but too daring for Jazz’s taste.

“Gentlemen, is there a problem here?”

The man frowned at her, gave her a once over.

“Obviously someone messed up with the guest list.”

The underlying accusation didn’t set well with her, after all it had been Jazz who put together the list.

“Is that so? Let me check what we can do about that.” She motioned towards the side so that the next guests could move past them and she could deal with the problem in a more private setting.

“Would you tell me your name, sir?”

His eyebrows shot up one just to drop into a frown again. “Don’t you know who I am?”

“Unfortunately not, sir, that’s why I asked.”

The girl looked around the entrance area, didn’t meet Jazz’s gaze once. Cheap and rude, exactly the kind of guests she didn’t want at this party.

“Thonsten, Richard Thonsten. From Thonston Inc.”

That was all she needed to hear.

“I’m sorry, sir, but this event is only for employees of CDG and Ultramax to celebrate the new union and get to know each other. The official launch of the new venture will take place in two weeks. Of course I will gladly send you an invitation to that party.”

“That’s bullshit! Get Lengfeld here, he will take care of it.”

“Sir, Mr. Lengfeld himself instructed me to only let employees of said companies in. If you have no company ID I can’t let you pass, I’m sorry.” And the night had started so well. No last minute emergencies, no unpleasant encounters yet. “Of course you can always call him yourself and see if he will make an exception for you, but I can’t go against a direct order.”

The girl whined, curled her lips into a pout, even emphasized by the several ounces of lip gloss.

“Let’s go somewhere else, baby. I’m bored.” She pressed herself closer against the man’s side, her bra-less breasts against his arm. He opened his mouth, scoffed and wrapped an arm around her.

“Yeah, this isn’t worth it.”

Jazz still smiled with the same polite service smile that made her face ache but worked wonders. The couple turned away and Jazz caught the wink the girl sent her way. Maybe she had underestimated her.

“Miss Mann? We’re running low on ice.”

The headset was blessing and curse at the same time, saved her time but kept her busy.

“Already on my way,” she replied, handed the guest list back to the security and rushed towards the storage areas.

 

Her heels weren’t made for nights like this. Being constantly on her feet for hours took its toll on her, she needed a good foot massage and a bath once she was back home.

“I take a short break, only call me when there’s a fire somewhere, got that?” she instructed her second in command, Liana, a mid 30s former personal assistant who had started working in the event agency after her divorce a couple of months ago.

“Sure thing.”

Jazz grabbed a bottle of water on her way towards an unused part of their location, still smiling and chatting here and there. She almost bumped into a guest, a tall man with ponytail who raised a hand apologetically.

“My bad,” she quickly pointed out. “Sorry.”

“Ah, nothing happened. I just hope you didn’t hurt yourself.”

“No, all good. If you excuse me now.” A last flashed smile and she headed farther down the room, towards a small passage into a more private bar that they had closed off for the night. Here she slipped out of her shoes, sighed in relief and refused to think about how she should get the shoes back on later. With her phone and her water she took a seat at the empty counter, idly scrolled through her social media feed before she decided to send her husband a quick text.

“Tonight’s hell, can’t wait to come back home to you.”

She wiggled her toes to get life back into them, smiled when an answer popped up on her screen.

“I’m waiting for you with tea and cookies. Love you!”

A short “Love you more” back and Jazz set her phone down to take a sip of her water. Two, maybe three more hours and she could wrap up for the night.

Loud noise from the entrance alarmed her, she sat up straighter only to see a man staggering into the dimly lit bar.

“Hey, gimme another drink.”

“Sir, you shouldn’t-” she began and rose to her feet only to get yelled at.

“I know how much I can drink! Gimme vodka!”

She flinched, the stench of alcohol wafted around the man.

“I’m sorry, I can’t give you anything.” She braced herself for another outburst. Dealing with drunk people was the part of her job she enjoyed the least.

“Listen, Missie, you better get me some vodka or I get you fired.”

He was close enough for her to see that his shirt wasn’t tucked into his pants properly and that his tie was loosened.

“I don’t think that will happen.” Like usual when she was working she wore black, a simple blouse and pants combination. Not exactly like the uniform of the serving staff, but close enough for a drunk eye to mistake her for a waitress or a bartender.

She slipped back into her heels, the additional height welcome when dealing with aggressive clients and guests.

“Ya better not test me on that.”

“And you better not bother her any longer.”

The drunk turned around to the new voice in their conversation, almost fell over but caught himself just in time. Jazz blinked, it was hard to tell who it was in the dark, but the voice wasn’t familiar. She used the distraction to call the security, whispered instructions for them to come and take the drunk man out before he got violent.

“That’s none of your business. If she just gives me another drink all’s cool.”

“Sir, I say it again, I can’t give you another drink, I’m not even-”

“I think you got that wrong, buddy. First of all, you clearly got enough already. Too much if you ask me.” The figure came closer, Jazz recognized the ponytail as belonging to the man she bumped in earlier. “And second, you shouldn’t be yelling at the nice lady.”

“Or what?” The drunk man straightened up as good as possible, squared his shoulders.

“Or,” the wannabe hero to the rescue began, met the challenge with a roll of his shoulders.

“Or I will have to ask you to leave the party, sir,” Jazz piped up. With backup on the way she couldn’t let another guest get involved in this. It would reflect badly on her company and despite being a foreigner in Japan she tried to follow the rules, blend in rather than being the boisterous person people often mistook her for at a first glance. Besides, her husband was the son of an important man, his way up to the top of Japan’s elites already predetermined. She couldn’t ruin all his hard work by misbehaving. At least not at work.

“I’m not leaving before I get a drink, goddammit!”

The drunk swiveled around as good as he could, pointed at her.

“In that case you won’t be leaving at all because I’m not giving you another drop.” Chin raised, shoulders squared. Jazz took a firm stance, the time for being servile and polite was over now.

He yelled something rude and unflattering, charged at her but Jazz ducked away, used her agility to trip him. The man flailed, stumbled over her leg and fell on his face, still yelling obscenities.

“Are you alright?” Mr. Ponytail came over, helped Jazz up from her crouch

and away from the now wailing man on the ground.

“More or less. I’m sorry you had to see that.” Back on her feet she waved towards the security, told them to take the man out and get him checked by a doctor before they kicked him out.

“I hope he learned something from this and won’t get that wasted again anytime soon,” she murmured when the two security men dragged the drunk away.

“Looks as if he’s going to have some bruises tomorrow to remind him of his antics tonight.” Mr. Ponytail stayed with Jazz, had put himself between her and the troublemaker until security had detained him.

“His own fault.” She faced him, smiled and bowed her head. “Thank you for your help.”

“Nah, I didn’t do anything. That was impressive, by the way. That leg sweep.”

“Thank you, I will tell my trainer you appreciate my technique.” The polite smile was back in place, a convenient mask for her real thoughts and emotions. “But you shouldn’t stay here. Go back to the party, sir, and have a good time. This area is off limits anyway.”

“Huh?” He looked around, the empty and dark bar obviously not part of the party. “Oh. Well, I’m not that much of a party person. And they don’t even serve beer there. Only wine and cocktails. Honestly, a party without beer?” He shrugged, drew Jazz’s attention to his broad shoulders in the well fitted jacket.

“If that’s your only problem, I can help with that.” The bar was closed but stocked nonetheless. Jazz pulled two bottles of beer out of a fridge under the counter, opened them and handed one to Mr. Ponytail.

“Cheers.”

He waited until she took a sip before he did the same, gulped down a big swig and finished it with a hearty “Ahhh”.

“Better?” The bottle hid her smirk, but her raised eyebrow was visible.

“Yes, very much. Those fancy parties are not exactly my favorites.” The bottles made a soft sound when he touched his against hers. “So thanks for this.”

“You are more the burger and beer type than canapes and cocktails?” She held his gaze, took another sip.

“I’m okay with something more sophisticated, too, but a beer after a long day of work? Sounds good to me.”

Jazz nodded, hummed lowly. If her husband wasn’t so against beer she would have it more often, back in her home country it was common to have a beer or two every now and then. Subaru was more into wine, though. It was more posh.

“Well, my day of work isn’t done yet. Don’t tell my boss.”

He chuckled, drained his bottle and took hers. “Don’t worry, I will keep it between you and I.” A last nod and he wandered off, left Jazz to put the empty bottle away.

 

In the early morning hours Jazz unlocked her apartment door, silently made her way into the bathroom to get ready for bed. There was a teapot on a warmer, some cookies on a plate for her but Subaru had already gone to bed. He had his own very busy schedule, it was normal for them to only meet up once a day and not go to bed and wake up together.

She slipped under the covers, feet hurting and legs heavy, filled with the good kind of exhaustion a successful day of work brought her.

“Hey babe, you okay?”

His sleepy voice made her smile, she turned to face him, snuggled close. One arm around his waist, her face in the crock of his neck she inhaled, enjoyed his warmth.

“Yeah. Long night. But it’s getting better already.”

His hum indicated that he was still listening, the kiss he pressed on her hair missed her forehead entirely.

“Sleep now. Talking later.”

There was nothing to add to this.

 

The office was busy as always, Miho just filed away the report about the arrest of their suspect and sighed. 5:45pm. Almost time to call it a day and get something to eat. A quick text to her husband confirmed her suspicion that she wouldn’t be eating with him, so the next possible choice was her best friend.

“Jazz? You up to dinner tonight? Don’t feel like ramen again.”

“How about some home cooked meal then? Subaru is making Italian tonight. Or at least he will try :D”

“He’s cooking? In that case, yes.”

“Hey, what does that mean? You wouldn’t come if I was the one cooking?”

“You know I love you, but after that strange dish the other day I rather play it safe.” Miho added a smiley that stuck out its tongue.

“You just agreed on bringing the wine as apology for insulting my awesome cooking skills.”

She could live with that. Miho sent a thumbs up and packed her bag, clocked out and rushed off before something new could end on her desk. Being a cop was hard enough, being in a special unit was taxing at best, eating up her whole time at worst.

“Hey, Fujiwara, sneaking out already?” A colleague caught up with her on the way to the elevator.

“Some of us get their cases closed and deserve to go home. Some of us have to stay behind and do their work,” she deadpanned, got a laugh out of her colleague.

“You better help out with our cases, then.”

“Maybe some other day. I got a dinner invitation.” Ichiyanagi could be a real pain in the ass sometimes, but he could cook. Being in a similar field and the son of some bigshot up the hierarchy Miho knew him even before he married her best friend, although she sometimes wondered just how Jazz could put up with him. He was smart and did a good job, but he was also conceited and harsh in his judgement while Jazz was kind, always looked for the good in people and situations.

After a glass of wine he was funny, though. And they often had a glass of wine when they all were together, Jazz and Subaru, Miho and Seiji. On the way to the train station Miho made a stop and picked up a bottle of the red wine they all could agree on and some of the ice cream Jazz liked so much.

 

“Get out of my kitchen already before you ruin the food!”

Jazz laughed, snatched a piece of mozzarella from the chopping board and evaded the hand of her husband who just tried to smack her bum.

“It’s my kitchen, too,” she reminded him and danced through the door, towards the hallway to buzz Miho in.

“You can try your experiments at some other time, but not when I’m making saltimbocca!”

Calling the dishes of her childhood ‘experiments’ just because they weren’t haute cuisine didn’t bother her, taste was a fickle thing after all, subjective and bound to what one grew up with.

So she only mimicked him silently, a grotesque imitation that made Miho laugh when Jazz opened the door.

“What’s he jabbering about this time?”

Jazz took the bottle and the ice cream, shrugged. “My cooking. Or better, that my mere presence in the kitchen spoils the food. Beware, soon I will make all crops wither by walking by.”

“So the same old.” Miho exchanged her shoes for slippers, took off her coat.

“Yep. You want a glass right away or do you want face him sober?”

The banter between Subaru and Miho was often far from friendly, biting comments and some low jabs, especially when neither Goto nor Jazz were around to deflect and de-escalate. Two very headstrong, confident people in one room – an explosive combination. They went way back and sometimes Jazz wondered if there had ever been more between them. The answer to it wouldn’t do her any good so she never asked. Besides, she trusted her husband, he was clever enough to see that he would never find a woman like her again if he messed this up.

And trust she needed, he often worked late, overnight and abroad, with famous people and beautiful women.

“Is Goto on a business trip?”

“No, but he’s working late.”

“No problem, I think I can take care of his share of lasagna.”

Jazz braved Subaru’s glare and wandered into the kitchen, put the ice cream into the fridge rather than the freezer. She liked it soft and not deep frozen anymore. On her way out she grabbed two wine glasses, joined Miho on the couch.

“I always said men belong into the kitchen,” Miho loudly announced, grinned when he huffed and puffed, muttered under his breath.

“Can’t take much longer now,” Jazz assured her and handed her a glass. “He always gets grumpy when he’s close to finishing.”

“I hope that only applies to cooking.” Miho grinned as Jazz poked her tongue out at her, slightly red from the wine.

“You can just go and get some pizza if you keep this attitude up.” The tempting fragrance of bacon and cheese made the threat serious.

Miho sat up straighter, batted her lashes. “No, I will be good, I promise.”

“You better,” Jazz reminded her, took another sip.

They chatted until Subaru announced dinner was ready and Jazz rushed over to help him set the table.

There was just one rule that Jazz had set on early. No police stories at the table. After an especially gruesome tale of jealousy, too much alcohol and a beheaded love rival she had established it and so far all three of them had honored Jazz’s delicate constitution when it came to bloody murder.

Still their conversations were far from boring, between their jobs was a lot to talk about. Subaru was bound by confidentiality but Jazz freely shared gossip and anecdotes, her job as event planner provided her with stories for days.

The wine helped keeping the mood light and upbeat, and Jazz told them about the drunk guest on that party earlier that week.

“He attacked you?” Subaru put his cutlery down, eyes dark and brows knitted together.

“Not really. He tried, but he was too drunk and someone trained me well for occasions like this.” Early in their relationship Subaru had offered Jazz some easy self defense lessons and she had accepted, back then it was a means to get closer with a nice side effect. She hardly ever used what he had taught her but was glad to know how to get out of tricky situations nonetheless.

“Do we have to take care of him?” Between two bites of saltimbocca Miho looked up, offered it as if she was offering to get some milk next time she was at a shop.

“No, it’s all good. My security guys took him outside, and his superior ripped him a new one next day. The guy came and apologized, I made sure he wasn’t in too much trouble and the client gave me a bonus for handling the situation like I did. Everyone is happy in the end.”

Only that Subaru didn’t look happy.

“Why haven’t you told me sooner?”

“Nothing really happened, why should I worry you?”

He pushed his plate away, rested his elbows on the table. “We have talked about this, over and over again. If your job turns out to get too dangerous-”

“Ha! You are one to talk,” Jazz interrupted him. “Your job is literally to throw yourself into harm’s way for a client!

“Ohhh, dinner and a show,” Miho rejoiced, sipped some more wine.

“We are not having this argument again.” Subaru readjusted his plate, cut his meat with more force than necessary.

“You were the one who started it,” Jazz pointed out. She had lost her appetite, got up and cleared her plate away.

“Hey, won’t you eat your saltimbocca? Give it to me then, it would be a shame to waste it.” Bereft of her entertainment Miho focused her attention on the food again.

“Here, enjoy it. I’m going to put some of the lasagne in a container, you can take it home for Goto later.” She vanished into the kitchen, left Miho and Subaru alone.

“You know she doesn’t like it when you do that.” With a quick thrust of her fork Miho impaled a cherry tomato, waved it in front of Subaru.

“That’s none of your business.” He kept eating, ignored the moving vegetable.

“She won’t quit her job just to be your pretty homemaker.”

“How the hell does Goto manage to live with you? You are bossy and nosy and your table manners are horrible.”

“He loves me because I fuck his brains out. And you better stop pestering her about working. As long as she enjoys it, just leave her be. She can look after herself just fine.”

A loud curse from the kitchen made Miho sigh. “Except for around kitchenware.”

2 comments

  1. That isn’t the ONLY reason he loves her! (but she would say the same about why she loves him he he he he he)

    Like

  2. Nice start to an engaging story so far, with interesting characters (that include minor ones!). 😀 (I like how this might an AU to an AU? 😉 And the cameo is much appreciated, thanks so much! ❤ ) I look forward to seeing how this develops! (And if any of the [seemingly?] minor chars from here return later for a bigger role in the plot!)

    Like

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