Lies, Epilogue 2 (of 2)

December 2002

He’d noticed her sitting on the bar the minute he’d come in; with a waist like that, it had been impossible not to. Her first thought at seeing her was the instant belief that she was yet another perfect, unattainable woman. That he had been able to get her attention, and better yet keep it, seemed nothing short of miraculous. Of course, as it turned out, that was all a lie. Everything had been a carefully orchestrated drama directed specifically for his benefit. And for what? He still wasn’t sure.

To his surprise, he was no longer mad—any anger that he’d felt had apparently exhausted itself during that last conversation. Now he merely felt numb.

“How may I help you?” The waitress asked, bringing Joshua back to the present. She spoke in a too-cute tone that Joshua found insufferably artificial. Another orchestrated drama—at least this one wore that fact on its sleeve.

“One black tea, and one peach tea.”

“Black and peach tea? Okay!” she said cheerfully. As she left, Joshua noticed a man come inside the restaurant. He looked like any salaryman, except for his tiny (even for Japan) stature, and the fact that no salaryman would be seen outside of the workplace at this hour. He scouted the room several times, looking over Joshua several times before realizing that it was he whom he was actually looking for, and sat down behind him.

“You know, I really wish you’d wear a name tag or something—just so I don’t have to waste time finding you every time we meet,” said the not-a-salaryman, in English, as way of introduction.

“And I really wish you’d choose a different place for these meetings. This one makes me feel like a total pervert,” Joshua responded, in kind.

“It has its benefits: people really don’t pay attention to other costumers when they’re too busy trying to see the waitresses’ underthings. In any case, let’s talk business, shall we?”

“Let’s. Thirty-four.”

“Thirty-two.”

“So I heard the raid at your workplace went south in a hurry,” asked the salaryman, who, as far as Joshua knew, was known only as Miyamoto.

“That’s an understatement. I’m sure the Society wasn’t expecting to lose five out of their six mercs—heck, no one was.”

“Yes, life’s funny that way. I’d say this one was one of God’s better jokes. In any case, do you have your report?”

Joshua opened his messenger bag and took out a file folder, which he handed over to Miyamoto.

“That’s my report on that whole mission, plus everything Karai ever told me about herself—although I don’t know how useful that will be. I looked at some of the information afterwards, and none of it checks out.”

“Did you ever suspect anything?” Miyamoto asked, as he went over the file.

“Not really. My fault—if a woman finds me attractive, I’m not going to jinx it by looking at her too hard.”

“I guess that’s understandable,” Miyamoto said skeptically. “Did she suspect anything?”

“No—certainly not. She never found any of my ‘special’ files, and when last we talked, she definitively believed I was who I said I was. I’m pretty sure me being her target was just coincidence.”

“Good. I’ll get my men on her. Whoever she really is, you’ll know by the end of the week.”

The waitress arrived with the two cups of tea. “Peach,” said Miyamoto, with a smile that chilled Joshua to the bone. “You remembered.” He dunked his teabag into the water until it became fully opaque and began drinking. “By the way, you’ll be glad to know that the mission was a complete success. We’ve obtained the specs for the cloaking technology, and our man on the police force tells us that the only suspects are the mercenaries. Nobody connects you to any of it.”

“Good to hear. I wouldn’t want to have spent all those months for nothing.”

“Really,” Miyamoto said, as he looked over the various pictures of Karai Joshua had included in the file. “I’d hardly consider spending time with this beauty ‘nothing’. In any case, you’ll receive a call with your next set of orders in a month or so—along with the info on this Karai person. You have until then to get your affairs in order.”

“Understood.”

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