The scent of smoke – Part 4

In the middle of the night Subaru slipped into the bedroom, silently joined his sleeping wife in their bed. They had separate covers; Jazz tended to toss and turn a lot and with their irregular hours they decided early to minimize the risk of waking the other up. But tonight he didn’t stay on his side of the bed, instead he snuggled under her covers.

With a tired grunt she turned around, inched closer, directly into his embrace.

“You’re back…” she slurred, voice laden with sleep, eyes still closed.

“I am. I missed you.”

In the darkness his lips missed hers, but he found her cheek. Her forehead next. She hummed, snuggled even closer.

“You okay?”

“Yeah. Go back to sleep.”

They could talk in the morning, there was nothing left to say now. Subaru listened to the sound of her breathing until he fell asleep, too.

 

Miho stared at the screen, tried to predict the next moves of the organisation. It was impossible of course, they were all over the place. Drugs, guns, human trafficking – the worst kind of people. But professional, with an official front to cover up their illegal activities. A whole network of smaller and bigger businesses, more people than she could imagine in varying levels of involvement. No one they had gotten their hands on so far was high up enough to give them valuable information, most only knew their own small part and maybe their contact by name and that was all. Dead-ends wherever she looked.

“Dammit.” She pushed her chair back, away from the desk, rubbed her fingertips in circles over her temples.

“Stuck again?”

She didn’t even turn her head, although it was still strange to have Seiji at her department every now and then she gladly accepted the comfort he offered when his hands found her shoulders, kneaded the tense muscles.

“Yeah, they are – like ninjas. I hate it.”

“You hate that you can’t catch them?” After years of being together, working together occasionally Goto knew her better than anyone else. Better than Jazz even, although Jazz would deny it.

“I hate that I don’t even have a name! Not even a rumor, nothing. Someone has to lead this organisation, and it could be anyone. I could walk past them on the street and wouldn’t know. I hate not knowing things.”

She tipped her head back, rested it against his stomach. Closed her eyes and just breathed.

“How about we take a break? You’re sitting here for hours already.” He patted her shoulders, a sign he was done massaging.

“Coffee?”

“Whatever you want.”

Miho’s eyes snapped open, sparkled at the possibilities – to tease her husband.

“Whatever I want? Lieutenant, are you suggesting getting frisky here? At my desk?”

It was late in the evening, but there were still people around. This wasn’t a 9 to 5 job, crime never slept. And cops were supposed to be infused with coffee so they wouldn’t sleep either.

“You know very well that I’m not suggesting that.” His voice dropped to a low murmur. “At least not here, at your desk.”

Miho swiveled around in her chair, raised an eyebrow.

“But somewhere else?”

It was amazing how shy a man could stay despite being married to a woman like Miho. She was bold, loud, demanding – and he loved it, yet he was surprised by just how bold she could be sometimes.

Miho got ups, stretched a bit, kept her eyes on Goto.

“Meet me in the staircase in three minutes.” No kiss, just a promise sparkling in her gaze and she left, muttered something about more coffee to anyone who would listen.

Three minutes later the door to the staircase closed with a loud thud.

“Are you bolder here because it’s not your department?” Miho asked pushed Goto against the wall, kissed him before he could even answer.

“Cameras?” he managed to press out before Miho attacked again.

“Yeah, a few. Excited?” Her chuckle echoed through the concrete hoistway as she took his hand, pulled him with her, down the stairs, through another door and a hallway, dark and narrow.

“Where are we going?”

“Maintenance room. Not sexy, but pretty much private.”

“Pretty much?” His voice conveyed his doubts, she didn’t have to see his expression to know what he was thinking.

“Very private. I never met anyone else there during my short adventures.” Her cheekiness earned her a slap on the bum and a growl from her husband.

“Don’t even joke about it. You married me and now I’m the only one you have adventures with, got that?”

Miho turned around, cupped his face and pulled his lips against hers. “You’re cute when you’re jealous.” With a gasp her back hit the wall, pressed against it by her husband.

“I’m not cute… “

He swallowed up her giggles with his kiss, hands already tugging at her clothes.

“You are plenty cute… but also hot and handsome and very, very sexy.” Still, Miho put her hands on his chest, pushed him off her. “Not here. Come on, it’s just a few more steps.”

A simple door saying ‘Maintenance’ was their goal, Miho pushed it open with her hip, pulled Goto inside.

“It’s a – boiler room.” Goto took a moment to look around the room. Small, that was true, but dry and clean. Some heating installation, a locker, a table.

“You sound disappointed.” Miho grabbed a chair and blocked the door with it.

“More like the opposite. I expected a janitor’s closet, but this? Yeah, I can work with it.” That was all the warning she got before he was back, pressed against her.

“We better be quick about this. Don’t want anyone come looking for us.” Miho walked backwards until she met the table, hopped on it and pulled Seiji closer. He hummed, fingers busy tugging her shirt out of her pants to get access to her naked skin.

Miho was already a step further, her hands undoing his belt and opening his pants. In a fluid motion she slid off the table, pushed his pants down and opened her own. Wiggling her hips she got them as far down as necessary, turned around and braced her hands on the table.

No prompt needed. Goto cupped her butt the second he had a chance to, squeezed it with a satisfied hum.

“For a cop you really enjoy walking the fine line,” he pointed out, fingers finding their way between her thighs.

“For a cop you’re easily convinced to follow me on that line,” Miho shot back, hissed when he dipped a finger into her.

“I’m your husband. I’ll follow you anywhere.”

“Even into a boiler room?” She looked over her shoulder with a smirk, gasped when he pulled her hips back.

“For this? Anytime.”

 

Back in the office a familiar, scowling face awaited them.

“Captain Ishigami, sir. Any news?”

Goto stood straight, his clothes back to their impeccable state minus some wrinkles here and there.

“I was looking for you and Fujiwara. We caught another gang member.”

“High ranking?” Miho’s eyes sparkled, but her face fell when the captain shook his head.

“Unfortunately not. But not on the lowest rank, either. He’s still getting interrogated, I thought you might want to listen.”

“You bet I do!” She grabbed a notepad and her bag, nodded towards the men. “Ready when you are.”

“Good. Let’s leave right away.”

The elevator was quick for a change and they all piled in, accompanied by some other members of the special assault team.

“You’re looking a bit out of breath. Are you okay, Sergeant?”

Ishigami was perceptive, his rank as captain well earned.

“I’m perfectly fine, sir.”

The captain nodded, stared at Goto next. “Lieutenant, you’re not looking any better. I hope you didn’t catch anything.”

Goto coughed lightly, but shook his head. “No sir, not sick. Just-”

“We were working out earlier. Cardio.” An elevator full of cops and Miho lied without batting an eye.

“Keeping yourself fit. Good. Good job, officers.” Ishigami pushed his glasses up his nose, nodded once.

Someone in the back coughed again, it sounded more like covered up laughter. Miho’s pokerface was impeccable, but her elbow found the ribs of the meddlesome coworker.

 

The cherry blossoms had wilted already, left a carpet of dirty pink in the parks and some streets. Despite his efforts Subaru hadn’t been able to take Jazz on a date, but she had gone with Miho instead. The fragile, short-lived beauty of early spring was a spectacle many people in Tokyo didn’t want to miss and although she wasn’t exactly and outdoorsy person Jazz enjoyed the burst of pale pink after the grey winter.

But the hanami, the annual cherry blossom festival, was also an important date for the event season. It kicked off not only sakura themed parties, it was also the beginning for the wedding season.

Jazz was swamped with work. The little time Subaru had at home often didn’t match up with her schedule, they stayed in touch with calls and texts. A weak comfort after a hard day, but something she had gotten used to.

On the other hand she wasn’t willing to cut her hours, not that close to another promotion. Especially not when another job landed on her desk, this time not a wedding.

“Liana! We got the Graphics and Art award job!” With a wild grin Jazz found her assistant brooding over some calculations, papers strewn all over the desk.

“Wait, the big one? Good grief…”

The company had several teams, not strictly divided by field or theme. Performance was what resulted in better jobs and awards were highly coveted.

“The one and only. Four weeks, the basics are already done. Looks like Yamamoto couldn’t convince with his concept.”

Liana’s eyes widened, but quickly her expression fell. “That’s going to get ugly. Last time he lost a job within the company, he made a huge scene.”

“And almost got fired. I hope he learned from that experience. Anyway, we got it now and I’m going to start drafting right away. Can you take care of the Osmond/Nomura wedding on your own?”

Most of the planning was already done, and with the groom being a cop Jazz knew exactly what she had to do. Thanks to Miho and Goto she had arranged a handful of cop weddings, a cop ball and even – much to her dismay – a funeral or two. Cops were easy to please, a fact Miho liked to remind her every now and then.

“I’m confident that I can deal with it,” Liana assured her and Jazz suppressed the urge for a victory dance.

“Great. I need a location and I need a good idea. Call me if you need anything, until then I’m off to find inspiration.” No art gallery of the city would be safe, no museum off limits. This job could be her break though and she wanted it to be perfect.

Every day it was a little bit warmer now. Her jacket was unbuttoned and with a spring in her step Jazz walked towards the train station, smiled at the people around her.

She had already a few possible venues in mind; it paid off to be prepared after all. After the first two art galleries she went to a small museum for modern art and photography. The outside was already promising, brick walls and huge windows. Modern, with an industrial touch. Hopefully spacious on the inside. They needed a stage, tables and some free spots for people to mingle.

The entrance fee was moderate, Jazz could file it as business expense and get reimbursed by the company. Her shoes clacked on the concrete floor, her tap tap the only sounds on this lazy Tuesday morning.

Art installations and posters, photos and even some concept art she didn’t understand filled the first floor and Jazz took her time, paid more attention to the location than the exhibition. She wasn’t an expert when it came to art but she knew what she liked. For example some of the photos, black and white, shots of nature, landscapes and the urban jungle alike.

She just stared at a picture of what looked like the African Savanna when she heard the voices, turned towards the entrance area to see two men approaching.

“We could free some space over there, at the northern wall. That way you could also separate your work, arrange it by topic.” The smaller man, with salt and pepper hair and deep wrinkles, smiled politely when he spotted Jazz. But her gaze was fixed to his companion, tall, broad-shouldered, with a familiar face and ponytail.

“Now that’s a rare sight. It’s still light outside and you are already up and about?” His smile matched hers and for a second Jazz had no witty retort.

“I am. Unfortunately I don’t have a beer in my purse for the off chance to meet you somewhere.”

“Yushima-san, you know this young lady?” The older man followed their short exchange, confusion creeping into his expression at the casual tone.

“Yushima-san, huh?” Now he had a name and Jazz savored the fact that she knew something about him while he had still no clue about her. Like a game and she was leading.

“’Know’ is too much, but we met.” Yushima-san tilted his head in an almost bow without taking his eyes off her.

“Oh. And here I thought you would be here for Yushima-san’s new exhibition.”

That got Jazz’s attention, she looked from Yushima to the other man, smiled widely.

“No, but this seems to be a lucky coincidence.”

“Ah yes, serendipity it’s called, isn’t it? Well, I have to discuss some exhibition related questions with Yushima-san, but maybe afterwards he can show you around?” The excited glimmer in his eyes made him appear starstruck and Jazz smile.

“Sounds perfect to me. If Yushima-san is okay with it, that is.”

“Yushima-san would appreciate if you don’t talk about him as if he’s not here,” Yushima grumbled, scratched the back of his neck.

“Awww, are you embarrassed? Don’t be, I’m just here, looking upon your photos, complete enthralled and deeply impressed.” She winked, but the exaggeration wasn’t enough to register with the fanboy next to Yushima.

“That is the usual reaction, yes. Now if you would excuse us.” Again the smaller man bowed and Jazz mirrored the gesture, her amused grin unwavering.

The photos were indeed impressive and very diverse. Animals, plants, landscapes. With half an ear Jazz listened to the conversation, about lighting, frame size and format. Every now and then she risked a glance, caught Yushima-san’s gaze, shared a smile and looked away again.

Like a giggling school girl she played this game, slowly walked around the exhibition room, casually checked if he was still watching her. His steps echoed through the empty space, stopped short behind her.

“You like it?”

The picture in front of her was impressive, a huge tree, just the wood, no leaves, almost completely white in an otherwise green forest.

“It’s beautiful. Not my favorite here, but yes, I like it.” She turned, flashed him a smile.

“Which one is your favorite?” He brought with him a smell almost as earthy as the forest in the picture, wood and leaves, some notes of soap.

“Over there.” She motioned towards the other end of the wall, went the picture without waiting for him. “Here. This is – incredible.”

One of the few colored photos, a blue sky and vivid green fields. Bushes and trees. And at the right side a huge mountain. Smoke rose into the clear sky from its peak.

He hummed, caught up with her in front of it.

“What is it that you like about it?”

Jazz tilted her head, picked the right words from with care. It didn’t happen often anymore that she got reminded of her status as foreigner, but poetry was fickle.

“The contrast and the balance. Peace and danger. It’s like – look how lush the vegetation is. Probably because of the volcanic ashes, it’s great fertilizer. But at the same time there is this constant threat that the volcano could erupt and destroy it all. Isn’t it fascinating how life can thrive even under the direst circumstances?”

“So you like danger, is that what you are telling me?” His voice had dropped, sent a tingle through her spine. Her light chuckle was the contrast, just like in the photo.

“Controlled danger, maybe. But actually I like to play it safe.”

“But you still like to play,” he concluded to which she couldn’t object, just shrugged and spun around.

“So, some of these photos are yours? Which ones?” Hands behind her back she wandered along the walls, pointed at different pictures.

“Those over there. The whole wall. And these here,” he explained, waited at his spot for her to finish her rounds. “Your favorite is actually one of mine, too. And one of my faves.”

“Good taste.” No need to clarify which one of them she was talking about. A glance at her watch and she sighed, squared her shoulders. “As nice as it has been, I have to go back to work now. Maybe we’ll run into each other again, Yushima-san.”

“How about we meet on purpose next time?” he suggested, one hand in his pocket, reaching for his phone.

“Hmm… nah. That would ruin the thrill. No, I like it the way it is. I start wondering where you will pop up next time.” She waved briefly, left with the same tap tap she had arrived with, but more sway in her hips.

 

“What do you mean, you met him again?” Liana frowned, some florist offers in her hand.

“Like I said, I ran into him in that museum. Great location, by the way. I got the number of the owner on my way out, hopefully he will agree to such an event in his rooms.” Jazz hummed lowly, jotted some notes down into her planner.

“Yes, great, but back to the ponytail guy. Don’t you think it’s getting suspicious that he shows up wherever you go?” Several sheets of paper slapped on the surface of Jazz’s desk as Liana let go of them and plopped into a chair.

“Turns out he has a name and he actually is some kind of artist, so no, it’s not suspicious at all. He’s showing his work in art galleries and museums, so he has every right to be there. Planning a new exhibition if I’m not mistaken.” Jazz signed some of the papers, boldly crossed out some of the offers. “If they can’t guarantee us lilac I don’t even want to deal with them.”

“Jazz!” Liana’s voice rarely reached much volume, as assistant she wasn’t supposed to yell at her superior anyway.

“What?” Still her pen in her hand Jazz looked up, met Liana’s angry gaze.

“You don’t even take this seriously! He could be a stalker!”

“Oh come on.” The swivel chair creaked when Jazz leaned backwards, head tipped back, eyes to the ceiling. Her deep exhale made the papers tremble, but she met Liana’s eyes again. “He’s not a stalker. He’s a photographer, and actually a pretty successful one. Jetsets all over the world, had covers in the most big magazines. Won some awards. He’s not the stalker type.”

“That’s what everyone says and then it’s too late. ‘Oh, he didn’t seem to be the stalker type.” Liana snorted, her furrowed brow unfurled only when her eyes went wide. “Wait, how do you know that all about him? Did you look him up on the internet?”

“Maybe.” Acting casually with a constantly growing grin was impossible, Jazz quickly gave it up.

“Oh my god, you’re not – you’re not stalking him are you?”

“What? No! Of course not! I just happened to catch his name and was curious, so I checked his wiki bio. And yes, he has a wiki bio.” She picked up the strewn papers, arranged them into a clean stack.

“Do I have to remind you that you’re married?” Her arms crossed Liana raised her eyebrow, refused to take the papers.

“No, you don’t. God dammit, I’m just flirting a bit with him, it’s completely innocent. I could tell Subaru and he wouldn’t even say anything. There’s nothing to it after all.”

“But you haven’t told Subaru yet,” Liana pointed out.

“Why should I? He’s not telling me about every time he smiles at a woman either. That’s not how our marriage works.” Trust was the base, not strict rules and secretiveness. “I wouldn’t do anything I couldn’t tell him.” In a sugarcoated way maybe, but she did tell him that she met this man the first time. At least that someone helped her with that drunk guest. If Subaru forgot about it after a few weeks…

“But you haven’t.”

“Would you stop it already? Fine, I’ll tell him tonight. You feel better now?”

The stack of papers wandered from Jazz’s hands to Liana’s.

“I just don’t want you to risk your marriage over some crush.”

“I know,” Jazz softly admitted. Liana was divorced after all, although Jazz didn’t know all the details. A failed marriage wasn’t easy to stomach, no matter whose fault it was.

“And I’m not crushing on him. He’s just one of the few men I met here who didn’t directly ask for my name and number just because I smiled at him. Just a chat, nothing more.”

2 comments

  1. 1) Ishigami *knows*. As does probably most, if not all, of the other people in the elevator. ;P
    2) Does the transience of sakura blooming portend something(s)?
    3) I wonder what Yamamoto’s unconvincing concept was…
    4) The G&A awards are gonna be at ponytail’s exhibit, and so he’s gonna have a free admission ticket, right? 😉
    5) I’m curious to see more of the Osmond/Nomura wedding. 🙂 😉
    6) Liana certainly got her hackles up in a hurry… makes me wonder what’s behind that…

    Looking forward to more! 😀

    Like

  2. 1. Not sure about that… everyone else probably knows, though 😅
    2. Since I’m vague with the timeline, I will drop hints about season and passage of time. It’s spring now. Go figure 😘😄
    3.Don’t know, don’t care. Probably something in a stuffy ballroom…
    4. Almost, but not completely right. You will see 😉
    5. Not sure how much of that will actually make it into the story…
    6. Well, Liana is divorced. Do we know why yet? Or maybe she’s just completely against anything that could lead to unfaithfulness…

    Thanks for reading and commenting! 😘

    Like

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