His ribs were killing him. Sitting on the cold stone floor, bare feet braced against the wall, Savan wrapped his arms around the metal chain embedded into the stone wall and pulled at it with all his strength. Fighting through the pain coursing through his chest, he closed his eyes, teeth gritted, he pulled harder. Jerking the chain, trying to force it out of the wall, the exercise was futile, yet he kept trying.
Dropping down on his back, his hands slackened, his muscles tired. His eyes opened and he stared at the ceiling of his ten by six feet prison and wondered what the hell his captors wanted with him. He’d been here for approximately over a day. He had a window high up in his cell, and he could see that the night was going away now, it had to be around six or seven in the morning. They didn’t have Liang. He’d found that out the hard way. Fighting against the three guards who had brought him to this cell had gained him a few bruises on his jaw, his eye, as well as his sore ribs. When he’d demanded to talk to Liang, they had roughly told him he wasn’t in house.
That worried him. With each passing hour, the possibility that it wasn’t Jiro Nang holding him was becoming apparent. Jiro was a coward who preferred to escape confrontation. His men always did their best to chase them away, as opposed to capturing him. He thought about Cole, and the last he’d seen of him. Closing his eyes, he allowed the memories of their short vacation to Cole’s home to fill his thoughts.
Cole had been ecstatic when they arrived there on Thursday mid morning. He’d spent a few minutes introducing them to his brothers’ wives. Dianne had even hugged him with a wide smile, inviting him to her home. It had felt so surreal, almost as though the Dianne at work was non-existent, instead she was the pleasant doting mother at home. Lunch that first day had been animated, with Cole being teased by his family mercilessly, it had been nice to be part of that. After lunch, Cole had dragged him away for a swim in the pool.
He couldn't help remembering the feel of Cole lying under him on the wide lounge chairs as they dried off in the sun. It was something he would never forget. Cole’s fingers combing through his hair lazily, lulling him into a doze, he’d felt so relaxed. Letting go of the chain attached to the cuff on his left hand, he wished that he could go back to that moment. That moment at the pool, dozing on Cole’s chest like there was no tomorrow.
Lifting his hand, the chain rattled on the floor and he winced at the reminder that he might never get such a moment again. Sitting up, he gave up on the chain, and instead brought his attention back to the cuff on his wrist. If he could get the cuff off, he might be able to break through the windows.
He was busy poking at it with a short metal rod he’d gotten from the springs on the bed when the metallic door swung open abruptly. Jumping to his bare feet, he stuck the rod up his left sleeve and glared at the two men who walked in carrying a tray, the other a chair.
“I want to see your boss,” Savan demanded. “You can’t keep ignoring me. I demand to speak to your boss.”
“I’m right here. There is no need to get all riled up about it.”
A new voice said into the room, turning to look at his new visitor, he frowned at the older man standing at the entrance. The man sounded so much like his father. Focusing his gaze, he stared at the scarred face that was looking at him with a sneer. Hardly his father, he thought with strange fear filling him. The man was dressed in an impeccable black suit with shoes that seemed spit shined. His hair was cut close to his head, his left jaw scarred with a jagged line that disappeared into his hair line. Dark cruel eyes moved over him, and he felt sick at the sight. This man was not here to talk about the weather that much was obvious.
“Who are you?”
“That’s a good question,” the man answered walking in and taking the seat the two guards had brought in. He nodded to the tray they’d placed on the table and smiled. “Have some breakfast; you must be hungry by now.”
“I don’t want your food,” Savan replied. He didn’t want to be drugged as these kinds of people were prone to do. He’d rather drink toilet water than eat their food. “Where am I? Why did you bring me here?”
“So many questions, you’re a handful, just like they said. Sit down, you look like you could fall from exhaustion. I hope you haven’t been trying to escape. That window won’t get you anywhere; it’s sealed from the outside, and the drop will kill you. The cuffs were your own doing, you fought my guards.”
“Excuse me for fighting back, I’m being held here against my will. Who are you and what do you want? Where is Jiro Nang?”
“Jiro is sorting out his own issues at the moment. I’ve been trying to meet you for so long, SarEr Nan.”
He indicated the bed and raised a brow. “Have a seat, I hate looking up while I’m talking and this will be a long chat.”
Savan glanced at the guards at the door and sighed when they gave him sharp looks. It was either he sat on his own, or they would make him. His ribs were too sore for their rough treatment, so he shuffled to the bed. Sitting on it carefully, he pulled at the sleeves of his jersey hiding his hands.
Looking at the man seated calmly on a chair before him he wondered why he seemed so familiar. “What are we going to talk about?”
“You and the choice you have to make in one hour.” The man glanced at his watch and his lips twitched slightly. “Minus fifteen minutes give or take, are you going to be good and listen?”
“I don’t think I have a choice,” Savan replied.
“Your friend, Liang, he is being held in a Ginza police station as we speak. Your father has arrived in Tokyo and is hell bent on charging him for kidnapping you. Since you’re missing, his chances of getting away from such a charge are very unlikely. Your father is powerful, and bitter, he wants blood for your missing years.”
“No,” Savan said shaking his head. How could they, damn it, Liang should have been able to get a way. If Jiro knew that they were holding him, his eyes widened and the man across him nodded.
“Seems you’ve realized the other dilemma your friend faces. Jiro Nang won't let him live. Liang is going to implicate Jiro for your disappearance, as well as the murder of that woman.”
“What are you saying to me?” Savan demanded.
“I’m giving you a chance to help your friend. If you agree to cooperate with me, I will help him. If not, then you should make your peace with your friend’s death. Jiro has already arranged for someone to take him out.”
Savan lowered his head, his fingers clenched. “I have no guarantee that you’ll do as you say. For all I know, Liang is already dead.”
Waving to the two men at the door, Savan watched as one of them pulled out a cell phone and brought it over to him. He pressed a button and a video of Liang seated on a hard metal chair, leaning his arms on a generic table, the kind found in institutions, came up. Liang was talking to a bald headed man, earnestly explaining something. “That is a live feed, I’m sure you can see that. In thirty minutes, someone is going to bring your friend water to drink, that water will be laced with poison.”
“Save him,” Savan said abruptly. “I’ll do what you want.”
“Just like that,” the man said raising his brow.
“What other choices do I have?” Savan asked glancing up, anger brewing so deep inside him he could barely sit still. “I have nothing else to offer, you obviously planned the outcome of this situation, and I have no other choice but to accept your help.”
“You’re right. You don’t have a choice.”
“So, why are you even helping?” Savan asked.
“Because I need your cooperation, SarEr, I can’t have you fighting me every step of the way. We have a few hours to go together, and a compliant prisoner is better than a fighting one. You look terrible already.”
“Thanks to your guards, they roughed me up because I asked a simple question.”
“From what I hear, they are just as roughed up.”
Savan glared at the bastard and shook his head. “What do you want to do with me? And who the hell are you anyway? How do you know my name and Jiro?”
“Now, you’re asking the right questions.” The man opened the tray and shrugged when he revealed a plate full of bacon, eggs and bananas. “Are you sure you don’t want to eat this? It looks very good.”
Savan looked away from the food and closed his eyes. His stomach was empty, and as if to mock him, it growled at that moment, making the man laugh. He wished he could eat the darned food. The longer he starved, the weaker he would be. But, being drugged would mean his death, and he wasn't about to lose any chance he might get to escape.
“You’re so stubborn,” the man said. “The food is not drugged.” He picked up a piece of bacon, and chewed on it. “Quite good, I have a chef working for me, he’s very talented.”
Savan sighed and shook his head. Well, that changed things a bit, he could either play the fool, continue to starve or eat and keep up his strength. Hating the need for it, he held out his hand for the plate and started on the eggs hungrily.
“My name is Dao Ming Nang, I’m Jiro’s father. In another lifetime, your father was my half brother.”
Savan almost chocked on the eggs. Coughing, he dropped the spoon and his hand slapped over his mouth, as he stared at the man claiming to be his uncle with disbelieving eyes. Swallowing his food, he put his plate aside on the bed before he dropped it. This ridiculous situations in his life were endless. How the hell was this supposed to be valid? His father had never mentioned any family, and once his mother died, no one had come to visit them other than their friends.
“Your grandfather had two wives, one legitimate, the other illegitimate. Obviously, your father was the son of the legitimate wife. While I was the one that was born on the other side of the tracks. It wasn't a secret, although father tried to keep us separate if he could. Choi Yang and I ended up in the same schools and we had to deal with each other. It was a delicate balance loving your father. He was a good brother, through our youthful years, and we could have been considered friends. But, things changed when Ariel Lin came into the picture.”
“My mother,” Savan frowned. Why the hell hadn't his father told him about this?
“I loved her very much, your mother. She was so beautiful.”
“How did you know my mother?” Savan shook his head refusing to contemplate where this was going.
“We grew up in the same place; we were neighbors, then friends, then more. I always thought she would end up with me until your father came along.”
“Are you telling me you’re holding me here because you were scorned?” Savan laughed at the thought. “That’s really childish.”
“Oh, laugh away; you don’t understand what it felt like to watch her walk down the aisle toward him with a blinding smile. I wanted to murder them both that day, but I restrained myself. In the end, they chose each other; I made my peace with it.” Dao Ming looked at him with an unreadable expression. “You have her face, more masculine, but really hers. It pains me to look at you.”
“Is that why you have me locked up in a room like an animal,” Savan asked picking up his plate.
“No, that has to do with your father, and my revenge against him. You see, this scar I wear now, he caused that, and the death of Jiro’s mother. He refused to fund a deal we had made together when you were very young. As a result, my new wife died. It almost cost me my life and as a result your mother's. I made it a point to make sure that your father pays for all that death.”
“What?” Savan exclaimed, his plate clattering into pieces on the floor, he stood up, fingers clenched. This bastard had caused his mother's death. His mother, who'd been innocent, all she'd ever done in her life was love him. He took that love away. “Did you have my mother killed?”
“It was a mistake,” Dao Ming said quietly. “She wouldn’t listen to me.”
“Oh, no,” Savan shook his head. “No.”
He was standing in the same room as his mother’s murderer!
All reason evaporated and he was on top of Dao Ming in the blink of an eye. Punching him on the jaw, he sent him sprawling to the ground. Following him there, he locked his arm around the man’s neck and held him in a choke hold that he wasn’t going to release until the man was dead. The two guards pulled at him, Dao Ming was chocking for air, he held on in a death grip like a feral animal.
This bastard was the reason why his life was the mess it was. If his mother had lived, things would be so much better, he would still be in Hong Kong, a happy man, living a quiet life. Pain burst behind his eyes and he groaned, looking up, he saw one of the guards holding the chair up. He barely had time to push it off as it came down again on the top of his head and he dropped to the ground unconscious.
The next time he woke up, his head felt like it was splitting open. He was in the back of a van, sprawled on the floor, his hands and legs tied together, and tape over his mouth. Two men sat on the benches on either side of the van holding guns. He sighed and closed his eyes. He didn’t know where they were going but the first chance he got; he was going to murder that bastard Dao Ming before they got him. If he was to die, he was taking his mother’s murderer with him.
Cole sat in his kitchen staring at the note that Savan and Liang had left a day ago. He wasn’t sure what it was about the note that was so unsettling, but he couldn’t seem to let it go. Picking up his cell phone, he went through his call log again. He’d been dialing Savan’s number all day, and getting no answer. It was almost five in the evening and still Savan hadn't called back, not even a text message. Going through his contacts, he dialed Liang’s number and listened as it called.
“Who is this?” a foreign voice said.
Frowning, he looked at his phone for a moment before he returned it to his ear. “Hello, Liang?”
“Cole,” Liang’s voice filled his ear and he sighed.
“Where the hell is Savan? I’ve been trying to call him for two days now. Why isn’t he answering his phone?”
“Now’s not a good time to talk,” Liang said. He sounded incredibly tired, strained, Cole’s frown deepened.
“You guys left without explaining, is there something I should know?”
“Everything’s fine, Cole, I promise, I will call when I can.”
“I’m coming over.”
“No need, I’m not at the loft,” Liang said quickly. A bit too quickly, Cole noted, his suspicions growing. There was some thing wrong, and they didn’t want him to know.
“Liang, if you needed my help, either of you, you know you can call me right?”
“I’m well aware, Cole. Nothing is wrong, please; I’ll call you when I get to the loft.”
The line went dead and Cole felt a wave of uneasiness sweep through him. Getting off the stool, he grabbed his car keys from the kitchen counter and hurried out. He had waited too long to check. He should have gone over this morning when he’d first called Savan and gotten no answer.
On the drive to Harajuku, his thoughts returned to their last day at his family estate. He hadn’t wanted to leave their room that morning. Savan had been so agreeable, so relaxed that they’d ended up having breakfast in bed. Lying on the bed afterwards simply talking, and then making love, it had felt like they were in a world of their own. He was missing holding Savan. He hoped Savan was feeling the same, which would mean that there was no way he would refuse to answer his calls.
Pulling up at Bovian Image, he found the salon closed, ignoring the front door, he opted for the side door. Pulling it open, he ignored the elevator and went up the stairs to the loft. Pushing the stairwell door open, he stopped cold when he saw the double doors that were always closed half open. They never left the door open ever.
Cautiously approaching the doors, he peeped in carefully and was stunned to find the place trashed. He walked in slowly. Books from the shelves on the wall littered the floor, paintings off the wall, some torn, others the glass broken, couches in disarray, he gaped when he saw blood drops around a chair in the middle of the room. Looking around, he grabbed at his phone ready to call the police.
“How can I help you?”
He looked up to find Ahmon standing in the dining room holding magazines.
“Ahmon, what the hell happened here?” he said in surprise. What was he doing here? “Where is Savan? Were they robbed, what’s with all the blood? Is he in the hospital? Why didn’t you people call me?”
“Ah, Lucianne. You’re not supposed to be here.” Ahmon gave him a hard look before he turned back to the dining table placing the magazines on it. “I completely forgot about you. Will you close the door, just in case someone else decides to come in.”
“Where is Savan?” Cole demanded ignoring the order and rushing in to Savan’s room. The uneasy feeling inside him grew when he found it equally trashed and all Savan’s belongings on the floor. The bed was overturned like someone was trying to find something. Fear that something had happened to Savan, had him rushing back to the living room where Ahmon was systematically going through the magazines he’d been holding on the dining table. “Am I missing something?”
“More like we’re missing Savan,” Ahmon said dropping the magazines he’d been going through into a box at his feet. “Liang is at the police station, and you should return back to your life and wait for us to sort this out.”
“What! Hell no,” Cole said fiercely. “I want to know what’s happened to Savan, what do you mean he’s missing? I can’t believe Liang, why wouldn’t he call me?”
“This isn’t something you should get involved in. Lucianne, I’m warning you right now, walk away.” Ahmon kicked at the magazines in frustration and looked around the dining room. “I have things I need to sort out right now. Liang is depending on me and I can’t help him if you’re distracting me.”
Savan was missing. He should have checked yesterday, why hadn’t he? That stupid note on his kitchen counter hadn’t felt right. He should have come straight here, but he’d needed to show up at work since he’d woken up so late. Shaking his head, he watched Ahmon move as though looking for something.
“What do you need? I’ve been staying here some nights. I can help look for it.” If he could prove useful, they would have no choice but to include him. If he hadn’t come here, they would have ignored him, and he would never have known. “What do you need, Ahmon?”
“I need you to leave,” Ahmon said digging in to another bunch of magazines.
Cole glared at the man. There was no way he was leaving. Stepping out of the dining room, he looked down the corridor and studied it. All the doors were open, even the common bathroom, Liang’s room, Savan’s, but they seemed to have missed one. Leaving Ahmon rummaging in the dining room, he headed for the office he’d once seen Savan come out of that first day he’d been in here. Someone had pushed a flower pot before it, the plant hiding the door handle. Moving it aside, he turned the lock and it opened freely.
It was the only room that was still neat. He entered the room and looked around the neat study room. The desk was neat, a few papers and a book were on top, other than that it was clean. Walking around it, he sat on the chair and shuffled through the papers. They were shipping orders for some products for the salon, pushing them away, he looked through the book. It was one of those notebooks with dates on them. The notations were in Chinese, he didn’t know how to read it, so he put it on the left. Why would Savan be missing? He paused, shaking his head, staring at the book. Why hadn't they called him?
Pulling at the drawers, he found two of them locked except the bottom one. There wasn't much in it, he moved a bunch of pens.
“You are useful,” Ahmon said from the doorway. “We missed this in the search. How did you know it was here?”
“It’s Savan’s office,” Cole said. Holding up the note book, he stood up, meeting Ahmon’s gaze. “I’m in this, Ahmon. I don’t care what you say, you can’t keep me out of it.”
“You don’t know what you’re saying. This isn’t-
“I love him.” Cole declared abruptly, shocked by the declaration himself. He hadn't meant to say it, but now that it was out, he was certain. He did love Savan. He couldn't lose him. “I don’t care what you say; I’m in this to the end. None of you, not Liang or you, Ahmon, is going to keep me from helping to find him.”
“Well, that is-,” Ahmon shook his head and walked into the room. “I suppose you’ll fit right in then. Come on, let’s see the notebook.”
“You won’t leave me out of this,” Cole asked as he kept holding on to the book.
“Apparently not, I’ll even take you to see Liang. You might be the one that persuades him to talk.”
“Why are the police holding him? Is it the blood in the living room? Is-Is it Savan’s?”
“No, it’s not. Give me the book first, Cole.”
He handed over the book, although he moved to stand over Ahmon’s shoulder looking at the same notes he’d read. It should make sense, but it didn’t. The characters were all wrong. Ahmon seemed to be reading them without a problem.
“You might be handy to keep around. This is good stuff. Savan has marked dates here, places to make drop offs, I don’t know for what. It could be for the business.”
“You can read Chinese? Why is Savan writing in Chinese?” Cole frowned.
“That’s some thing I’ll leave for Liang to explain. I wouldn’t know where to start.” Ahmon walked around the desk, keeping a death grip on the notebook. He pushed the chair away and gave the floor an intense look. The drawers didn’t interest him, Cole watched in fascination as Ahmon stepped on the wood on the floor, pushing it in, testing it with his weight. He stopped when there was a squeaky sound on the wood and dropped down to his knees.
From his boot, he pulled out a knife, one of those daggers used by army people. Cole suddenly realized that he didn’t really know much about these people. Savan hadn’t even wanted to talk about his family, or where he grew up. Only that his parents were dead, and he’d grown up an orphan. Thinking about that dinner they'd had with Liang the week before, Savan had acted pretty strange at the mention of his family.
Ahmon undid the wooden planks on the floor to reveal a large metal box with a padlock. The sight of it had Cole gasping in shock, and Ahmon smiling like he had hit the jackpot. Things got scarier when Ahmon pulled out a gun from his waist band and ordered.
“Cover your ears.” Too surprised to think about what the man was saying, he jumped in shock when Ahmon shot off the lock with precision. The sound so loud, it echoed through the room, his ears ringing from it, he went deaf. He could only stare as Ahmon opened the box, undoing more wooden planks, revealing a gaping hole on the floor. The cover on the box was wide, and removable. Putting it on top of the desk, Ahmon sat back on his haunches and Cole moved closer to see what had Ahmon so happy.
Savan was definitely holding out on him, he thought in shock, his gaze fixated on the amount of weapons in the box, money, travel documents, he either was some sort of gang banger or a criminal in hiding. He wasn’t sure what to feel about something like this. The man he claimed to love was keeping secrets that required he hide guns in his office floor.
“Cole,” Ahmon called waving his gun at him. His voice sounded so far away, his ears were ringing again, and he shook his head and focused. “There is no turning back now, you’re in.”