Joe Wada

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Ruby sluggishly pulled open the apartment door. "The hell is it..."

"You're a difficult woman to get hold of today, 'Mrs. Tadashii,'" said a well-dressed voice in perfect English. "The least you could offer is a proper greeting."

"Wada. Fuck... Sorry about that. C'mon in." Ruby could barely open her eyes, let alone the door. "Have a seat. I'll...get you some tea or whatever."

Joseph Masakatsu Wada marched inwards, with the practiced resolve of a man who dared never lose face. "I didn't exactly plan on dropping in on you in person, but I can't seem to get through to your phone."

"You can't?" Ruby's eyes shot open as she snatched the flip-phone from the kitchen counter. "Damn it, they killed my service again. They know I'll pay them on time..."

"I suppose we'll have to get that handled too, then." Joe slipped his shoes off and took a seat at the tea table. "You probably already guessed I'm not here for a social visit."

"You? Nah, if you wanted to hang out, this is the last place a suit like you would wanna be seen." Having left the phone to its own devices, Ruby set about washing away the last remnants of sleep. "So what is it today? Guessing an expat needs help."

"Not today. That would make it somewhat simpler." He adjusted his thin-rimmed glasses. "No, today's problem has to do with you, Antonia."

Her hand froze above the tea kettle. "Don't tell me they still wanna deport me. I went through all their fucking red tape, and I know damn well I'm making enough money to stay."

"Well, no, it's not that. There's, how shall I put this, some concerns about people you associate with--"

"My friends are FINE," she shot, clearly and firmly.

"--I didn't finish. I guess I shouldn't tread on eggshells here. The US Embassy wants me to look into some yakuza, and you seem the type for it."

"How so?"

"What I was *indirectly* trying to get at, is the man you've married."

"Dunno what you're talking about."

"You shouldn't play at being coy, Antonia. Remember I'm the one who signed your marriage certificate, and I wouldn't have done so without all the facts at hand. I know your husband has ties to organized crime, and I know *you* know. But I still signed."

"Alright. So you want Hiroya, then. You have his number."

"I need your skills, not his. The United States Embassy is wanting to look into allegations that the Hasegawa Family, or somebody associated with them, is trafficking Americans through Osaka. And frankly, it's better that this be handled by someone who doesn't stand to lose face with their superiors in the process. Someone who... I suppose I could say, could willingly be targeted by them, and get us a better idea of how they do it."

"I am NOT setting myself up to get thrown in one of their sick fuck dungeons."

"We're not even certain that they have those."

"You don't know that they don't." Ruby dribbled hot water on the counter, her knuckles white against the kettle's handle. "You're probably gonna tell me I watch too many movies, but I got a friend that almost wound up there herself."

"I remember what you told me. That's not easy to forget, either way. But this is the Omi Alliance we're talking about. Criminals or no, they have higher standards to live up to than that."

"So you're thinking, what? Ransoms? Forced labor?"

"I don't exactly have a finger on that pulse, which is why I'm hoping you could help us find a lead, through those contacts that I'm told you have."

"And in return, you get the damn cell phone people to turn my service back on?" At long last, tea met tea table.

"More than that, I would hope," Wada chuckled. "Say, this tea has a fascinating scent to it. They don't sell this kind around here, do they?"

"It's just Earl Grey, Joe. Don't tell me you never shop at the duty-free stores."