The scent of smoke – Part 8

A week after Subaru left for his latest assignment Jazz only got the occasional text message, didn’t get hold of him via phone calls at all. Leaving messages on his mailbox felt strangely intrusive so she kept up her steady stream of short texts so he knew she was okay. Early in their relationship they had established a pattern, after one time when Jazz had forgotten her phone at home and couldn’t reply to Subaru’s texts for several hours. He had been furious, worried out of his mind although Jazz was safe and sound in her office all the time. Where he could have called her, as she had pointed out.

Ever since she sent him a text in the morning, one for lunch and one wishing him a good night after dinner. Sometimes he replied, sometimes he didn’t, but she kept her side of the bargain. It was enough if one of them worried about the other.

The approval of her superior marked the begin of the busy phase for her preparations; long days for Jazz and Liana turned more often than not into late nights.

Over a delivery of Chinese food they studied the museum’s blueprints and the pictures Jazz had taken at her first visit, discussed where to put the stage and bar.

“Most of the walls should be visible, there are a lot of stunning pictures after all,” Jazz pointed out and marked several spots on the blueprint.

“How about putting the stage over there? We don’t need windows at night anyway,” Liana suggested and Jazz took a marker in a different color, drew a rectangle in one corner.

“The bar should be on the opposite wall. Between bar and stage there’s enough space for chairs and bar tables.” Jazz let the marker drop onto the desk, ran her hands over her face.

“Okay, I think that’s it for today. I will go back there tomorrow and take some measurements, but my brain is mush and I’m so tired, I could fall asleep on the spot. Let’s finish our food and call it a day.”

“Thank goodness.” Liana breathed a sigh of relief, plopped down on a chair. “Is there fried rice left?”

They passed takeout boxes back and forth until they were full, chatted about this and that.

“Someone told me a certain captain was actually caught smiling lately,” Jazz remarked over  a sip of her tea.

“Is that so?” Liana managed a poker face for whole three seconds before a smile spread on her face.

“Ah, young love. I remember the thrill of it, the excitement,” Jazz said with a nod, acting wise and regal before she erupted in giggles. “I was scared to death the first time I met Ishigami. He’s got this air of authority and questioned my presence at the PD when I was there to pick Miho up one time. Thought he’d kick me out on the spot.”

“He’s not that scary,” Liana objected, a pout on her lips now instead of the soft smile. “He’s – dedicated to his job.”

“I know, I know. He’s one of the best cops in the PD, doesn’t play around, is really straight forward. He’s a great guy. Why do you think we introduced you to him?” Jazz batted her lashes, grinned into her cup.

“I hope you don’t expect me to be grateful. I didn’t ask you to set me up with anyone.” Liana was smiling again, snatched the last fried shrimp.

“Nope. I just expect you to be happy.” The waste bin filled with empty food boxes and Jazz wiped her hands with a napkin, turned off her computer and stretched her arms above her head.

“Okay, time to go home now. You wanna share a cab?”

“Yes, please. Let me grab my purse real quick.” Liana threw the last box into the trash, rushed out to get her belongings while Jazz turned off the lights in her office.

“Great. You can give me some details of your dates on the way home. I got some bets running and I’m eager to know if I won.”

 

After a quick text good night Jazz went to bed around midnight, without a reply from her husband all day.

 

“What if the logbook is fake?” Miho rubbed her eyes, staring at the screen and the tiny handwriting in the official documents of the SS Serendipity took its toll on her. Especially since this was already the second day.

“There is always a possibility,” Goto conceded, a map with several colored routes in front of him. “But it’s all we have right now. We just have to match the information with confirmed data we got from the authorities and other sources.”

“Fine.” Her eyes focused on her screen again, the transcripts of the relevant phone calls and conversations processed to handy snippets. “Hey, what about the tour to Colombia last April?”

One finger on the map Goto grunted.

“Was that a direct trip?”

“Looks like it. Why?”

Miho exhaled, leaned back in her chair. “So as I see it a trip like that should take around 30 days. This one took 40. And no word in the logbook of any complications. No repairs or anything.”

“A trip to South America with ten extra days that don’t appear in any documentation? Sounds suspicious.” He joined her, one hand on her shoulder while he compared the dates on screen with the copies of the logbook. “We better keep looking into this. See if there are more cases of extended tours.”

Her whine made him grin. “Not today anymore. Let’s call it a day, get some dinner and go home.”

His suggestion was met with a cheer. “Chicken nuggets?”

“If that’s what you want, sure.” A quick kiss on the top of her head and he went back to his desk, rolled up the map again.

Miho shut down her computer, locked the copies away and threw some documents into her bag.

“I’m good to go.”

Together they left the PD, stopped only to get food and headed back for their apartment to celebrate the new lead.

 

“Jazz! We got a problem!” Liana rushed into the office, found Jazz buried in paperwork, samples of napkins and tablecloths strewn all over the desk.

“What’s wrong?”

“It’s the Osmond/Nomura wedding. The florist just called me to confirm the changes in our order.”

Jazz took the folder Liana handed her, browsed through the pages to check the color scheme and sketches.

“We didn’t order any changes.”

“No, we didn’t. Apparently the groom’s mother called every florist in Tokyo until she found the right one and canceled our order, replaced it with some ridiculous bouquets.”

Mothers, no matter if of grooms or brides, caused more troubles for wedding planners than any other force of nature.

“Did you revoke her changes?”

“Of course. But the point is, mommy dearest is meddling and it ruins my plans!” Tired lines rimmed Liana’s eyes, she took off her reading glasses and rubbed the bridge of her nose where red imprints served as proof of the long day.

“Okay, here’s what you do. Check our other supplies. Call the baker, the photographer, musicians, everyone on our list. Agree on a codeword with them. Any changes in the plan require the codeword. Tell them it’s a new safety feature you have to follow, yada yada yada. Ask the bride if there is something the MIL can do. Something to involve her in the whole planning. Like – I don’t know, designing the menus or the place cards. Small enough so it won’t matter, big enough to make her feel important. If she messed it up, we got backup. If it shuts her up, good.”

The folder wandered back over the table to Liana.

“Okay. Yeah, yeah that could work. Thanks.”

“Don’t sweat it. It’s not the first time this happened. I had a mother of a groom once who showed up to the wedding in a bright white wedding dress.” Not having a mother in law also had its perks sometimes.

“Wow. That’s low. At least this one just caused a bit chaos and confusion.” Shaking her head Liana turned towards the door.

“You better get used to it. There will always be some problem. I never had a job without someone causing trouble. You are clever, you can figure out a solution that works for everyone.” All Jazz could offer was an encouraging smile and a nod before the ping of her phone informed her of breaking news.

“Oh look, someone fucked up on nationwide so the news are covering it.”

A flick of her thumb and she read the headlines. Froze and stared at her phone.

“Jazz? What is it?”

Liana came closer again, peeked over Jazz’s shoulder.

“Oh shit…”

“Attempted assassination on Fukuhara Jun.” 

With a whisper of the name of her husband Jazz dialed his number, trembled while the call connected. She dared not to breathe until the click told her he had picked up.

“Hi, this is Ichiyanagi. Leave a message after the beep.”

 

Miho picked up her phone after the third ring.

“Hey Jazz, what’s up?”

“You have to do me favor.” The words came rushed, clipped.

“Okay… what kind of favor?” Still at her desk Miho grabbed a pen to jot some details down.

“Use your contacts to find out if my husband is still alive.”

A shiver ran through Miho, forced her into an upright position. She motioned towards Goto, put her phone on speaker.

“What happened?”

“Not sure. Check the news, that’s all I know. Someone attacked Fukuhara, in the melee one person got shot. I can’t get Subaru on the phone. Miho, I can’t reach my husband!” Jazz’s voice reached a panicked pitch.

“Okay, calm down. If anything had happened to him his superior had called you already. I’m going to ask around, though.” Miho’s eyes flitted up to her own husband, a short nod and he took his phone, dialed and turned away. “Hey, take a deep breath. Getting all worked up now won’t do you any good.”

“Is this it? The moment I regret marrying a cop?” Sobs cut off Jazz’s words.

“Bullshit. You can regret marrying him because he’s a smug smartass. And you can tell him I said that because he’s going to come back home to you, you hear me?”

Goto was still talking on the phone, his back turned towards Miho. As a couple of cops they knew the risks, but awareness didn’t fend off the fear. The panic at night when the bed besides her was empty and cold when she woke up.

“Is there anyone with you? You’re not alone, are you?”

Between Jazz’s sobs and gulps of air Miho heard the name ‘Liana’.

“Good, let me talk to her.” Miho already packed her bag, turned off her computer with one hand, her phone in the other.

“Hey, Miho.” The cries grew softer when Liana took over the phone.

“Oh good, one not sobbing person. Okay, listen. Keep an eye on Jazz, tell her this isn’t unusual, that’s how things are during a mission and all. No need to worry. I’m coming over now. You are in the office?”

“Yes, and people start asking what’s wrong.” There was the sound of a closing door and Liana moving around.

“I’m there in ten minutes. Make her drink some water, don’t let her spiral into a full blown panic attack. Distract her somehow. Play 20 questions, I don’t care.”

Goto caught Miho’s attention, gesturing towards his phone and shaking his head. No news yet.

Miho ended the call, threw her phone into her bag.

“Take the car.” Goto offered her the keys, still on the phone.

“Thanks. Keep me up to date, will ya? Love you.” She snatched the keys and rushed off.

Just a normal day in the office.

 

 

The chatter in the event agency droned out Jazz’s thoughts. She clutched her phone tightly in both hands, knuckles white and the screen smeared with sweat.

“Miho says there’s no need to worry.” A glass of water in her hand Liana sat down next to Jazz on the couch, bumped her shoulder lightly. Would that be her one day if she kept seeing Ishigami? The constant worry, always in the back of her mind? And once something happened, the total meltdown? What a scary idea.

“I tried calling Katsuragi,” Jazz croaked, her voice hoarse and eyes red. “He doesn’t respond to my calls or texts either. No one I know is telling me what happened.”

“They are probably all busy dealing with the situation.” Again Liana offered the water to Jazz who took a sip and made a face.

“My mother warned me before the wedding. And I said: ‘Mom, Japan is one of the safest countries ever. They hardly have gun violence here, cops are still pretty respected.’ And he is a cop, somehow.” It had been a lie Jazz kept telling herself to not go crazy.

“Ignorance really is bliss sometimes.” She downed the rest of the water, stood up and paced the floor.

“A minute ago you still complained that you didn’t get any information and now you miss ignorance?”

“Hey, I’m Schrodinger’s widow right now, I don’t have to make sense.” With a sniffle she plopped back down on the couch.

“You shouldn’t say that,” Liana softly chided her. “Ichiyanagi sure is fine.”

“If he is and comes back and has no good explanation for putting me through this hell he won’t be fine any longer. Honestly, is it too much to send a stupid text to your wife to let her know you didn’t die in a stupid shooting?”

The door flew open, made both women flinch, but it Miho storming in.

“Hey, how are things over here?” Breathless she took two strides, opened her arms for Jazz to throw herself in.

“We are at stage rage,” Liana informed Miho, leaned back on the couch.

“That was quick.”

“You know I’m not a woman of patience.” Jazz voice was muffled, her face pressed against Miho’s shoulder. “So don’t make me wait. Did you find something out?” She took a step back and crossed her arms in front of her chest, stared at Miho.

“Yeah, Seiji managed to get hold of someone who could at least tell us it’s not Ichiyanagi who got shot.”

“Oh, thank god.” Relief made her knees weak, forced Jazz on the floor.

“Fukuhara is also unharmed. But – someone else from the squad caught a bullet.” Taking a seat next to Jazz on the floor Miho sighed. “It’s looking bad.”

“Wow… my first thought just was: ‘at least it’s not Subaru’. I’m an awful person.” Jazz took the tissue Miho offered her, wiped her nose and sniffled. “How bad?”

“Not sure. Next 24 hours will show.”

A round of fresh tears welled up in Jazz’s eyes.

“Fuck. Do you know who it is?”

“Not yet. All I know it’s not your husband.”

Wordlessly they stayed huddled together on the floor, with Liana observing them from the couch, supplying them with fresh tissues from time to time.

 

Jazz left work early that day, restless to the point of bouncing around. No word from Subaru yet, but Katsuragi called back, confirming what Miho had already found out. He also apologized for not informing Jazz sooner but with the first rush of panic subsided she was generous, told him not to worry about it.

Now that night had come Jazz couldn’t sleep. Not the absence of Subaru kept her from finding peace of mind, she was used to that by now. But he still hadn’t called and until she had talked to him she wouldn’t be fully convinced he was unharmed.

Miho had offered for Jazz to stay the night with her and Goto but Jazz missed the comfort of her own home, where she still had shirts with Subaru’s scent.

Wrapped up in one of those she lay in their bed, stared at the ceiling above. It needed a paintjob. Maybe not white this time. Some cream color perhaps.

The ringing of her phone made her jump.

“Subaru?!”

“Hey, Jazz, I’m so sorry…”

“God, babe, I was worried sick! Are you okay?” She was wide awake again, sat up in the dark.

“Yeah, I’m – Jazz, things were crazy and I – whoa.” He chuckled, mumbled something.

“Are you drunk?” In their whole relationship she had only seen him drunk twice.

“Maybe a bit. Saw that you called.”

26 times. Plus around 50 text messages.

Bed springs creaked, the rustling of fabric was audible.

“You had a hard day, go to sleep, babe. I’m glad you didn’t get harmed. But next time, call me as soon as possible, okay? I never want to feel like this again.”

He hummed, groaned when the bed creaked again.

“Okay, I see that talking to you is not working right now. Hang up, drink some water and sleep it off. I love you.”

He mumbled something she couldn’t understand, probably a ‘love you, too’ before the line went dead.

That night Jazz didn’t sleep at all. But at least she didn’t cry anymore.

3 comments

  1. Ah, the plot continues to thicken, and takes a turn (or few), besides… 🙂
    1) Is Nomura’s mother known to be meddlesome (just curious if that’s canon)?
    2) Wow, so Jun not only has one bodyguard, but a whole group of them? Is there more to this dude than meets the eye…?
    3) If I haven’t already mentioned this before, I’m really enjoying reading the developing relationships all around here. 🙂
    4) Please don’t tell me that Subaru is in bed with (or in the process of getting into bed with) someone in that last scene?! 😛
    I really like the fleshing out of the characters (and their relationships!) here (and in your last original fic too). I think this is something you do quite well. 😀 I look forward to seeing how things further develop! ❤

    Like

    1. 1) Nomura’s mother never appeared in any story I read with him. But I needed some drama that’s serious enough for Liana to ask Jazz for help, yet still not as serious as the drama that follows… plus, mother of grooms can be really vicious 😅
      2) We get to Jun’s role/status in tje next chapter.
      3) 😘
      4) No, Subaru isn’t just in bed with someone else nor planning to do so… but he just lost a team member. Can’t blame him for being occupied with other stuff, can we?
      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Like

  2. So the person who took the bullet bought it? And „isn’t just“?! Y’know the wording of my question was metaphorical, not (just) literal, right? Are you saying that due to the stress and trauma of seeing a teammate gunned down in front of him, Subaru and (a different) teammate are finding solace in the physical intimacy of one another?! :0

    Like

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