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The Change in Direction: Dark Shadows on City Streets

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Hideyuki Makimura considered himself to be a conscientious person.

His father had spent much of his childhood teaching him the value of careful thought and planning, and Makimura had been grateful for the lesson. It had kept him focused when his father died and he was given the responsibility of raising Kaori alone. It proved to be an asset as a cop when he needed to solve crimes and come up with strategies to deal with criminals.

And now it was proving to be an indispensible trait for his work in City Hunter…more specifically in dealing with the reality of having Ryo Saeba as his partner.

Makimura ambled over to the chalkboard in the Shinjuku station and adjusted his glasses as he scanned the messages for any job requests. He found one “XYZ” scrawled on the board and began to write down the information into his notebook.

As he wrote, Makimura contemplated the contrast between his straightforward, meticulous methods of searching for jobs and researching clients and Ryo’s seemingly spontaneous, haphazard way of carrying out those jobs. There were many times when Makimura worried that Ryo would be too distracted or too carefree to get things done, but after working with him for a little over two years now, he learned to trust Ryo’s commitment to whatever job he took on.

Makimura shoved the notebook back into his pocket and started to walk back toward his car. He already had a meeting with a potential client that afternoon and decided to head over a little early to the place mentioned in the request.

This work, the work in City Hunter with Ryo, was the other side of his conscientious nature.

Working in the police department, Makimura had quickly grown frustrated at how ineffective he was as a cop at providing real solutions to the problems that rampant crime caused. A burning desire for some measure of justice in an unjust world had propelled him to become a police detective, but it didn’t take long for disillusionment to set in. Instead of working for justice and acting as a true deterrent to crime, Makimura frequently felt like little more than a janitor, cleaning up whatever scraps remained of the victims while the perpetrators continued to hunt for their next prey. When he made the decision to quit, it had had almost as much to do with disillusionment as it did his need to take responsibility for the female officer who had been killed in one of his uncover operations.

Despite his initial worries over the arrangement, Makimura had found a great sense of relief and satisfaction when he managed to form this partnership with Ryo. Here, he could have a more immediate and long-lasting impact on the lives of those who asked for their help. He was no longer a custodian waiting for the next crime scene to examine. He was part of a team who swept the filth away, making it so that there wouldn’t be more victims in the future. It was this satisfaction, this need for justice that drove Makimura to work hard just about every day to find viable clients for Ryo.

 It was also the reason why he decided to wait on a bench in the park on a cloudy, blustery day in the hopes that someone would show up with a job request.     

He didn’t have long to wait. Minutes after sitting down and lighting up a cigarette, Makimura noticed a lone figure walking toward him.

Makimura took his glasses off and cleaned them. It turned out to be a girl who looked to be no more than sixteen or seventeen years old.

About the same age as Kaori,’ he noted to himself. ‘What would a girl like that need with a sweeper?’

The girl was wearing a short skirt with a low cut blouse and a flimsy jacket. Makimura frowned slightly; it didn’t seem like appropriate attire for a high school girl.

“Excuse me,” the girl said in a tiny voice. “I um…I….I….”

Makimura tossed aside his cigarette and waited. Time spent in this work had made it so that he was accustomed to potential clients being hesitant to make initial contact…if they ended up going through with it at all.

“I um, XYZ,” she finally stammered. Makimura smiled and leaned toward her.

“XYZ,” he nodded. “So, what is your request?”

The girl looked away again and stared at the sidewalk. Makimura noticed the haggard look on her face and thin wrists that led to nervous hands. This girl had clearly been living a hard life for a while now.

Despite his questions, Makimura leaned back and waited for her reply. Ryo had told him more than once in the past of the need for him to “turn off his cop persona” when dealing with clients, and while Makimura bristled at the idea at first, it didn’t take him long to realize that that demeanor had no place when working in the underground. Thus, one of the first things he had learned was to not start interrogating the client immediately after meeting them.

“I need you…to kill someone,” the girl whispered.

Makimura’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. The request itself wasn’t so unusual. There had been more than one case where the client wanted someone dead. Sometimes, these requests were borne out of pettier reasons like infidelity or financial gain, but just as often they were attempts at revenge against murderers or rapists or even against the men who didn’t get their own hands dirty, but who were responsible just the same for those types of crimes.

Still, Makimura was always hesitant to bring a proposal like that to Ryo. He knew that Ryo did not have an issue with eliminating the absolute worst types of criminals from the face of the earth, but Makimura found that he still occasionally had some qualms about accepting a contract for a hit.

Especially when it came from a teenage girl.

“That is a serious request,” Makimura said, his tone grave. The girl looked up at him with wide, frightened eyes.

“Are you saying that you won’t do it?” she said. “But you have to. That’s why I wrote that on the board. This is my only chance. Please, you have to believe me.”

Makimura stood up and took off his long overcoat, draping it over the girls shaking shoulders and guiding her to sit down next to him. His work as a policeman had helped him to develop a calming presence that he was able to muster up when necessary. It had proven particularly useful these days when a female client became excessively upset with Ryo’s usual antics around beautiful women.

“I am not saying that we can’t help you,” he responded as he sat down next to her. “I am saying that it is not a request that we can take lightly. I will need to know why you want this person killed before I can give you a definite answer one way or the other.” He then patted her shoulder, causing her to look over at him. She pulled the coat closer around her, and Makimura was pleased to see her calm down slightly.

“So please, tell me about yourself and why you need to have someone killed,” he added. The girl abruptly turned her face away.

“I…I can’t tell you why,” she said. “But I promise you that it’s someone really bad. He…he’s the reason why my sister is dead.”

“He killed your sister?” Makimura asked. “Why not go to the police?”

“That won’t work,” she said, shaking her head. “He’s got too many friends who protect him from the police. Besides, they wouldn’t arrest him anyway because he didn’t actually murder her himself. Not technically. But…he is responsible just the same. My sister would still be alive if it weren’t for him. If we hadn’t trusted him….”

Her voice trailed off, and Makimura watched her scrub her eyes with the back of her hand.

“I know that he’s after me too,” she continued. I know that he’d like for me to disappear. He won’t do it himself, of course, but there are others, so many others, who are loyal to him.”

“Give me some details,” Makimura said. “If this guy is as bad as you say, chances are there are people who know plenty about him. I can do some asking around….”

Suddenly the girl jumped up from the bench, letting the overcoat drop to the ground.

“No! No one can know what I am doing,” she said.

“Don’t worry, I will be discreet,” Makimura assured her. “Just tell me his name, and I promise that I will….”

“No!” she repeated, nearly jumping away. “This…this was a mistake. Forget it.” She started to run off, but Makimura rose to his feet and held out a hand to her.

“Wait,” he said. “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to help. You can trust me.”

The girl looked back at him for a moment, her eyes shining with tears.

“I believe you,” she said. “I’m sure that I could trust you. But I…”

Without another word, she turned and ran away. Makimura watched her leave for several minutes before finally reaching down and picking his coat up off the ground.

This wasn’t the first time that negotiations had fallen through for a job. He was also certain that wouldn’t be the last time either. Still, Makimura always felt a twinge of guilt when it happened with a client who clearly needed some kind of help. He thought again of Kaori and felt an involuntary shudder go through him at the idea of her ever being in a desperate situation like the one this girl was living.

He ended up sitting back down and smoking a couple of cigarettes, hoping in vain that the girl would change her mind and come back. He didn’t move until it finally started to rain.

Makimura sighed and stood up, drawing his overcoat closer to his body. He knew that there was no point in dwelling on things like this. The only rational thing he could do was hope that the girl changed her mind eventually about going to the police while the best thing to do now was focus on other possible jobs and clients. After all, there were always other people who needed their help.

Makimura lowered his head and adjusted the glasses on his face again. He knew that he could tell himself all of that and it wouldn’t make a difference. The fact remained that he wasn’t going to be able to forget about that girl.

So he decided to go with the next best alternative: he hoped that there would be a happier ending to her story. It wasn’t much of an alternative, but Makimura knew that it would have to do.

The rain continued to drizzle as he made it to his car. He decided to stop and pick something up for Kaori on the way home.

He wasn’t always entirely sure why, but in situations like this, the thought of doing something for her always made him feel a little better.


 

Two days later, Makimura was back at the Shinjuku station again, checking the blackboard. None of the people who had contacted them recently had legitimate job requests, and thus, he frowned when he saw no messages at all today.

Hopefully something will come up soon,’ he said as he pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. ‘Especially since I’m pretty sure that Ryo is running out of money again.’

Makimura shook his head as he scanned the board one last time. He knew that some of the reasons why Ryo was often broke were valid ones. Maintaining the apartment building he lived in along with keeping a fully stocked arsenal and keeping certain underground connections was not cheap, and Makimura knew that Ryo made sure to pour sufficient money back into his own business. That did not change the fact, however, that Ryo was also a little too free and easy with money…especially when girls and alcohol were involved.

“Do you think you can squeeze me into your client list?”

Makimura whirled around to see Saeko Nogami standing behind him, her arms crossed over her chest.  

“Saeko,” he murmured. It had been almost a year since he had seen his former partner, but that time had done nothing to dull the feelings he felt upon seeing her.

“I never thought I’d hear myself saying this,” Saeko sighed. “But the truth is, I need your help. More accurately, I need City Hunter’s help.”


 

Ryo yawned for the fourth time in ten minutes while driving his Mini-Cooper, Makimura sitting beside him in the passenger seat.

“Hey, Makimura, why exactly am I going with you?” he grumbled. “It’s your job to set things up with the clients, even if it is Saeko.”

“Saeko said that she wanted to explain things to both of us at the same time,” Makimura replied. “She wouldn’t give me any other details.”

“Oh, is that how it is?” Ryo grinned at him. “And you just immediately agreed to this meeting without knowing anything about what’s going on? I take it she’s still as hot as ever then?”

“It’s got nothing to do with that,” Makimura insisted. “It’s just…I know her. She wouldn’t come to us unless it’s something serious.”

“Sure, Makimura, sure,” Ryo said, the same smirk plastered on his face. “Oh well, at least I know that I’ll get to see one vision during this job. And by the way, how is she paying us? She does know that there will be some…compensation, right?”

“Of course,” Makimura said, flustered. “She’ll probably just use the fund the department has for informants and consultants. Don’t get any ideas, Ryo.”

Ryo giggled and watched as Makimura sank in his seat while fiddling again with his glasses. He had been irritated with Makimura for getting him up early and was enjoying the chance to extract some revenge with his needling.

Makimura is such a klutz around women,’ Ryo laughed to himself. ‘Can’t really blame him though for feeling that way about Saeko. She is definitely grade-A mokkori material.’

Ryo laughed to himself again before rubbing his head. He was still nursing a hangover and was eager to find anything to distract him from it.

Still, even if it’s job with the police department, I’ll probably have to take it because I need the money.’

Ryo did his best to suppress a sigh. He dared not mention his money concerns around Makimura. All that would get him is yet another lecture about financial responsibility.

Makimura never gets tired of lecturing,’ Ryo thought while letting out a huff. ‘”Ryo, don’t drink so much. Ryo, don’t gamble away your share of the payment from this job. Ryo, don’t lift that woman’s skirt too”…There is no end to it.’

Soon, Ryo pulled into the parking lot where the two of them were supposed to meet Saeko. She was sitting in her Ferrari, tapping the steering wheel with her fingertips impatiently.

“Hey Saeko,” Ryo grinned at her, poking his head out the window. “How about we head over to a hotel after going over this job?”

“Not a chance,” Saeko smirked at him. “Now, how about we….” Before she could go any further she was interrupted by the ringing of the phone in her car.

“Detective Nogami,” she said after picking it up. As she listened, Ryo watched agitation creep into her features.

“I understand,” she said. “I will be there as soon as possible.” She then hung up and looked over at Ryo and Makimura, sighing.

“I need you to go with me to a crime scene,” she said. “There’s something there you need to see.”


 

A short drive later, Ryo parked down the street from where he had seen Saeko park her car. He and Makimura walked over toward the police, who were milling around a sheet on the ground.

“There’s a new drug syndicate in town from Osaka,” Saeko said as they met up with her. “They refer to themselves as Oracle. Apparently, the money they get from the drug trade has not been enough for them, so recently they have gotten involved with prostitution as well. In particular, prostitution with minors.”

Ryo let out a deep sigh. This case was sounding more and more depressing by the minute, and he hoped that Makimura wasn’t thinking about taking it on. Truthfully, Ryo never understood men who found pleasure in taking advantage of young girls, and he didn’t really want to deal with anyone who had that kind of loathsome hobby.

“We haven’t been able to make any real progress as far as catching this group,” Saeko said.

“So, you want us to investigate Oracle?” Makimura asked. “And I take it that this crime scene has something to do with it?”  Saeko nodded, her expression grave.

“The only leads we tend to get are from homicides perpetrated by Oracle,” she continued, walking toward the sheet. “Usually, the victims are rival gang members. But recently, a new kind of victim has started to surface: young girls who try to escape their prostitution ring. This girl here is the fifth one we’ve found here of late.”

Saeko pulled back the sheet and exposed the body of a young girl underneath. Upon seeing the body, Makimura gasped, his face becoming pale.

“This…this is…,” he croaked out.

“Hideyuki?” Saeko said, her voice a whisper. “What is it?”

Ryo also watched Makimura carefully as he crouched down beside the body. Putting aside anything to do with his sister, Makimura was usually levelheaded and reserved to the point of seeming dispassionate about life in general. Ryo could think of very few times when he had seen Makimura respond so intensely to anything crime-related in the course of their work.

“Did you know the victim?” Saeko asked. Makimura did not answer right away. He continued to stare at the girl on the ground, his eyes fixated on her face.

“Not really, no,” Makimura finally muttered. He eventually stood back up and Saeko put the sheet back over the girl.

“This is why I need your help,” Saeko said. “We’ve had five girls murdered and nothing solid to go on.”

“And you know for a fact that Oracle is behind this?” Makimura said, still staring at the sheet.

“We can’t prove it, but I am certain of it,” Saeko said bitterly. “Each of these girls was found with a blue silk handkerchief in their pocket which is known to be a sort of code within the organization. But sadly, even with that there is no way to tie them directly to these murders.”  Saeko crossed her arms over her chest again and leaned against a nearby wall.

“I need people on the inside who can get us some hard information that will help us put these people away,” she continued. “We’ve already tried getting other police officers into the group by going undercover, but we’ve had no luck so far. That’s where you come in. I’m hoping you can succeed where we have failed so far. I’m asking you to help me take this group down before they destroy even more lives.”

Makimura continued to say nothing while staring at the ground. Ryo, uneasy with tension radiating from his partner, grabbed Makimura’s arm and started to guide him away.

“We’ll let you know tomorrow, Saeko, ok?” he smiled. “In the meantime, are you sure you don’t want to go out drinking with me?”

“Sorry,” she smirked at him. “But I am swamped with work right now. And with what happened today… Well I think you understand.”

“That doesn’t mean I have to like it,” Ryo said, sticking his tongue out at her. “We’ll call you tomorrow with our answer.”


 

A couple minutes later, Ryo was driving down the streets of Tokyo again with Makimura sitting beside him. He now could feel the tension in the car and only waited a couple more minutes before finally clearing his throat.

“That girl, you said that you didn’t know her,” he said. “But you did recognize her, didn’t you?” Makimura did not respond, but the way he ground his jaw told Ryo that he was on the right track. Suddenly, Ryo was hit with a flash of inspiration.

“A couple of days ago, you told me about a girl who tried to contact us,” he added. “A girl who wanted someone killed and who ran off before you could learn anything. That was her, wasn’t it?”

“Ryo,” Makimura said. “If you don’t want to take this job, I’ll understand. But you should know that I plan on working with Saeko on this one, so I won’t be available to set up clients for you for a while.”

Ryo glanced over at Makimura. He recognized that look on his partner’s face, that look Makimura got when his sense of justice had been violated in some way. It was then that Ryo knew that there was no chance of Makimura backing off of this case.

“All right then,” Ryo said, leaning back in his seat. “Then I guess I’m in on this one too.” Makimura’s mouth dropped open and he turned to look at Ryo.

“Ryo? Are you sure you….?”

“The girl should have been our client, right?” Ryo said, a grim smile on his face. “So it’s time for City Hunter to get to work. And that means both of us.”

Makimura smiled in return and removed his glasses so he could clean them.

“Ryo….thank you.” Ryo coughed and a lecherous grin soon lit up his face.

“But just so you’ll know now, I’m not giving up on the idea of an ippatsu as part of the compensation from Saeko,” he smirked.

“Wait, wait a minute Ryo. You can’t do that.”

“Oh, so you do have feelings for your old partner after all, don’t you? Admit it.”

“Ryo, don’t goof around like that while you’re driving. Keep your eyes on the road.”

“Ah ha ha, I’m going to tell Saeko what you said.”

Ryo laughed as he watched Makimura squirm in his seat. He figured that it wouldn’t be long before Makimura launched into a lecture over safe driving skills, but this time, Ryo was surprised to discover that he wasn’t dreading it for a change.