Devil's Advocate

May
15th

Chapter Nine

by: Simon McDougall


I tracked down two of the Devil’s contacts, one in Marcus and one in Jameson and asked them what they knew about the Yamato Corporation. After talking to them, as well as a multitude of townsfolk, the evidence was pretty damning.

The company itself appeared about a year ago, and with it came a huge increase in local crime. Break-ins and petty theft nearly doubled overnight, but more importantly, people started going missing.

As the newest source of local employment, in a world where local was all you had, residents flocked to its doors. Rumors claimed that in this last year, about one in three job applicants had gone missing. One in ten employees had vanished as well. To anyone who valued their life, the Yamato Corporation was a place to stay away from. If you believed the rumors at least.

Supposedly, the head of the company had quickly amassed local gangs into a serious crime syndicate. They had been acting in ways far more organized than ever before. The streets of Jameson had formerly been a place where you feared entering the wrong gang’s territory. Now it was a place you should fear the streets altogether.

The Yamato building towered over me from my alleyway vantage point. The skyscraper was far taller than any of the structures around it. It seemed intentionally placed here as if to make its presence known.

It was a little past midnight, and while much of the building was dark, an office near the top floor glowed brightly like a beacon.

Having only a loosely defined plan, I crossed my fingers and hoped everything went smoothly. Emerging from my cover, I walked out to the side of the road. I reached down and grabbed a chunk of pavement from the edge of a pothole. It was a good sized chunk, and was comprised of several layers of older asphalt.

With a solid grip on its rough surface, I hurled the artificial rock toward the side of the Yamato building. On impact, the strength of my throw served to shatter both the chunk of tar and the large lobby window it struck.

Two security guards came running toward the sound of raining glass. This was my chance. Hugging the building, I made my approach. I concentrated intently on my stealth.

Though it was not something I’d had much luck with before, I had met a few masters of stealth in the afterlife. By focusing on their art, these individuals could render themselves unperceivable to lesser minds.

The guards split up, one staying inside by the broken window, and one coming out to investigate. I took a deep breath and waited beside the door. As the guard opened it, I tried to slip behind him into the building. With some quick footwork, and by sucking in my stomach, I managed to squeeze by without alerting him.

I continued forward and around the corner out of sight, stepping softly all the way. I breathed a sigh of relief that my trickery had worked. The halls of the building weren’t well guarded, and I was able to lessen my stealth.

This lightened ability I was much more comfortable with. It allowed me to easily fool security cameras and the peripheral vision of others. A direct confrontation would break my deception, but as long as I remained careful, I could navigate the building at my leisure.

I wandered the halls searching for a stairwell. There were an abundance of elevators, but it seemed like stairs had gone extinct. The building seemed rather boring, especially for a supposed criminal headquarters. I began to feel I was in the wrong place.

After what seemed like a hundred wrong doors, offices, training classrooms, and maintenance closets, I finally found a door labeled ‘Stairs’. Not a moment too soon either, as I was about to give up and ride the elevator. Probably to my death.

I looked up the stairwell and felt a wave of vertigo. The stairs seemed to continue forever toward the roof. With a sigh, I began my dizzying climb. There were thankfully no cameras or guards in this unused tower. I relaxed and continued at my own pace.

When I reached the top, I spied out the window for a glimpse of what I’d be walking in to. Every floor leading to this one resembled the first. This one however was significantly different.

It resembled the front lobby, but much classier. Marble flooring replaced the vinyl floor tiles of the lobby below. Large marble support columns also decorated the room. The stone motif continued behind the desk where, no surprise, there awaited even more stairs. A grand staircase of stone lead straight then up and out of sight to the left and right.

On either side of the desk, stood a guard. They both appeared to be rather bored and inattentive, but with the open floor providing little cover, I didn’t think I’d be able to sneak past them. Stealth or no stealth.

I watched the guards for several minutes, trying to learn anything I could from them. Unlike the guards at the front door, these two did not dress like security. Instead, they both wore casual street clothes.

They certainly didn’t seem like professionals. If I had to guess, these were just street punks looking to make a quick buck working for the infamous Yamato Corporation.

On the opposite wall from the desk and stairs were two elevators. One of them had a ‘down’ button and one had an ‘up’. Neither elevator went the opposite way. It was almost like a building within a building. This floor acted as a hub between the offices below and the crime syndicate above.

The ‘up’ elevator had an ‘Out of Order’ sign hanging on its door. Not that I would have taken it anyway, but with my options narrowed, it looked like I’d be going through the idiots at the stairs.

Staying out of sight, I gave the door a little nudge with my foot.

“Hey, did you see that?” one of the men asked.

“No, what was it?”

“I don’t know, I swear that door just budged.”

“Nah, you’re imagining it. I told you to get some sleep before today’s shift,” the second man chastised.

I gave the door another good kick.

“I just saw it again! I really think there’s something there.”

“You go check it out then,” his partner answered aggravated.

The first man began walking toward the door. I took a few steps down the stairs so I wouldn’t be immediately visible. The dimwitted guard entered the stairwell. As soon as the door closed I rushed him. Catching him off-guard, I threw him over the railing. He crashed into the stairs one level down. He was knocked unconscious, but he’d live.

Now to see if the other one would be so easy. I concentrated again, attempting to hide myself from his perception as I opened the lobby door. Taking soft steps, I entered the room.

“Stop right there! This floor is closed,” the man yelled. So much for that idea. I started walking more casually and put my hands up, playing innocent.

“Hi, I’m here to see Mr. Yamaguchi.” The guard pulled out his weapon.

“Where’s Frank?” he asked.

“Who? Your friend? He was in a hurry to get downstairs. Security was asking for him. I guess some punk kid broke the front window and they needed the extra help.”

“Oh. That’s funny, I haven’t heard anything on the radio.”

“Yeah, they said the radios are down right now too. Something about interference on the channel. I told them I’d pass the word along on my way up.”

“How stupid do you think I am?” asked the guard as he took aim at me.

“You’re making a mistake. Yamaguchi’s not going to be pleased if you shoot all his visitors.” I began to walk toward the man. He kept his gun pointed at me as I approached, but he was too hesitant to shoot.

“Last warning,” he said, casting me a dirty glare.

“But you haven’t given me a chance to answer your question,” I responded.

“What questi--”

WHAM!

I threw myself into him, knocking his gun aside and punching him in the face.

“Pretty stupid,” I answered smugly. I hit him one more time and knocked him out. After he hit the floor, I kicked his weapon across the room and continued on my way.

‘I... hate... stairs,’ I thought as I climbed the last flight. The rest of the building had been incredibly quiet. I was starting to get anxious. Was no one here tonight? Shouldn’t there be more guards?

I stopped at the second floor from the top. At every floor, there was a sign that listed its occupants. The sign above this door simply read “Yamaguchi”. Apparently he was the whole floor.

I opened the door and found myself before another pair of security guards. It would have been a problem had they not already been unconscious on the floor. I drew my weapon and carefully crept forward. Someone must have arrived before me. I expected an ambush, but everything remained still.

I approached the only real door on this level, the other doors being a locked bathroom, an elevator, and the door I came through.

The door had a large, frosted window, and through it I could see the silhouette of a man at a desk. With my weapon focused on the man, I threw the door open.

The office was huge. As I climbed through the building, the floors had tapered and were much smaller than the ground level. Even so, it still left an impressive amount of space for the executive office.

It was largely empty space, with some personal decorations on the far left and right walls. The entire back of the office was a window overlooking the city below. In front of that window was a large desk, offering at least three or four workspaces worth of room. There at the desk however, sat the man I desired to have a ‘chat’ with.

Hayato Yamaguchi was a slim Asian man in a blinding white suit. He had short jet black hair, which was spiked back. He had a devious smirk at almost all times, and never left the comfort of his office without wearing a pair of sleek sunglasses.

My heart raced when I saw his face. I clenched my teeth and walked toward him, weapon still pointed at his greasy head.

When I entered the room, he seemed calm. He was completely unaware of the fact that ninety percent of his staff had been incapacitated. Some by me and apparently some by another intruder. My blood was boiling though and my mind wouldn’t take the time to worry about that now.

I had seen Yamaguchi threatened before, and he’d always kept his cool, never looking bothered or in distress. The moment he saw my face however, brought a look of horror to his.

“It’s you!” he yelled, pinned backward to his leather chair. “Stay away from me you monster!”

I’m not sure what kind of welcome I was expecting, but it wasn’t that.

“Hi there,” I smirked. “About time we had a little chat, isn’t it?”

“Stay back!” the man cried. Any shred of his dignity had suddenly gone out the window. At his request, I stood still.

“I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say you aren’t running the show here, are you?” Yamaguchi might have his goons to do his dirty work, but I couldn’t imagine him being behind this ‘pentagram gang’.

The Yamaguchi I knew years ago might have been able to orchestrate something bigger, but this hysterical, horrified mess of a man couldn’t hope to stand in his shadow. I cast him an angry look and extended my weapon arm toward him.

He flinched. He was pathetic. What had him so terrified of me? A man who I had never seen fear death, now practically begging for his life.

“I should kill you here, for what you did to Eddie. Unfortunately, I’ve got a hunch that you won’t come back from that either.” I lowered my gun and pointed it at the floor. Motioning my left hand toward him, I said, “Answer my questions, and I’ll let you live.”

“There’s nothing I’m going to tell you!” he answered. His voice was fearful, despite trying to sound confident. I took another step toward him. My gun was still pointed down, but I was ready to shoot him at a moment’s notice if he tried to attack me.

“Stay away I said!” I stopped again. Yamaguchi pulled a handgun out from under his desk and pointed it at me. I raised mine to match. “I’ve seen the crime scene photos. I know what you did to Vinny!”

I stood in a bit of a daze. “I didn’t do anything to the boss,” I blurted out, almost as a reflex.

“I’ve never seen so much gore! It was inhuman!” I was dumbfounded at his words.

“What the hell are you talking about? I don’t know who killed him, but it sure wasn’t me. He made sure of that. He killed me before I ever got the pleasure!”

“Lie all you want, but I’m not going to give you the chance to do the same to me.” He raised his weapon and placed the barrel against his temple. “I leave this world in a way of my own choice. Not at the hands of a psycho like you.”

“Wait--” BANG!

The sound echoed through the room. Yamaguchi fell limp in his chair, his white suit stained crimson. I stood, staring blankly at his body. I felt guilty, but I wasn’t sure why. I had came here to either get answers or put a bullet in him myself. Why should this outcome be any different. Maybe it was the fear in his eyes.

The room filled with the smell of burning leather as the flames took his body. All that remained was a melted chair and charred silhouette on the desk.

“Don’t feel bad for him. He wasn’t a good person.” A voice spoke out from behind me.

I turned to find a cloaked individual leaning against the back wall of the room. I hadn’t heard them come in.

They wore a long, hooded overcoat. Despite the office’s bright florescent lighting, I couldn’t see their face. All light seemed to stop at the edge of their hood, leaving a void of darkness underneath.

“You’d better get going,” the man said. He spoke in a soft, but masculine voice. I was almost certain this was the mysterious benefactor who had helped me escape the alleyway brawl a few weeks earlier.

“What’s your deal? Why are you helping me?” I questioned them.

“I never liked him much,” the man gestured at the singed chair. “Thanks for taking out the trash.”

“How long have you been there?”

“I’ve been standing here the whole time. Guess you two weren’t very perceptive.”

“So you’re the one that took out all the guards?”

“Not very perceptive at all it seems.” The man sounded amused with himself.

“So what do you want with me. You’ve helped me twice now, you must have some agenda.”

“These guys are using you Axel. You don’t even realize you’re a pawn in their game.”

“And you don’t want that? So what am I to you?” I asked, trying to make sense of the man.

“Isn’t it obvious? You’re my knight!” he laughed. “You rush headlong past their defenses hoping to check the king. Whether I’m ready for you to make your move or not.”

“So you’re using me too then?”

“Well, if you really feel you have to label it. I suppose so.” I felt like I could almost see a smirk on his face through the darkness.

“Now it’s time for you to leave,” he continued. “The alarms should be sounding right about... now.” Right on cue, a loud, fire alarm type sound started ringing through the building.

“I wouldn’t take the stairs if I were you. Maybe the elevator though.” He pointed his black leather glove toward the hall. “Unless you plan to jump out the window that is. But I doubt even you could survive that fall.”

“I thought the elevator was out of order.”

“Oh, right,” the man struck his hooded forehead with his palm. “No, it works fine, I put that sign up. See, that’s the problem with these guys, no one questions the little stuff like that. They’re hopeless, really. Unlike you.”

I shook my head at this wildcard of a person. I didn’t know whether or not to trust them. With the alarms ringing though, I didn’t have much choice in the matter. I turned and headed toward the door.

“Now go do your disappearing act. They’ll never check the elevator anyway. I’m sure I’ll see you again soon.” I turned back to question the man, but he was already gone.

When I reached the elevator doors, they opened with a ‘ding’ before I even pushed the button. My guardian angel again I presumed. From around the corner, I could hear the stairwell door open and footsteps approaching. I quickly closed the elevator door.

As the elevator descended through the building, I concentrated on home. By the time it arrived in the lobby, I was already gone.