Here’s the first preview of the sixth book of the Adventure Chronicles. I’m hoping to release it by the end of August, to coincide with my appearance at the Burg Comic Convention in Harrisburg, IL.-Jeff
August 9, 1993
Monday, 9:32 PM
Below a small, long-closed convenience store on the outskirts of Jameston, Missouri, the basement had been converted into a casino. Craps tables, roulette, cards . . . any game of chance could be found here. Wealthy individuals from all over the state—as well as the surrounding states—would come here and gamble away small fortunes. To these people, a hundred thousand dollars was petty . . . mere pocket change. But in large numbers, these people were quickly making this casino the biggest income generator for the gang that ruled the small town.
As the people who came here were so diverse, it was with wonder that two Japanese individuals . . . one man and one woman . . . garnered so much attention when they walked in the door on this warm summer evening. The man looked around the room, his eyes settling upon the door at the opposite side of the casino. He walked purposely toward it, the woman following a respectable distance behind.
As they reached the door, the woman blurted out in their native language, “Are you sure that you don’t wish for me to accompany you?”
He shook his head with a smile. “Wait here.”
“I don’t trust this Benjamin Shalley,” she returned.
“Nor do I,” was the man’s response. “Your hearing is excellent. If I need you, then I trust that you will come at the correct time.”
She bowed to him and he returned the act of respect. Then the man turned and opened the door, stepping inside.
As his eyes adjusted to the dim light, he realized that he was in a room with four American adolescents. He closed the door, as the one who his aide had mentioned outside said, in perfect Japanese, “Greetings Hiroshi-san. Please, take a seat.”
Hiroshi walked to the center of the room and sat at the circular table that occupied it. He looked casually at the four gang members who now towered over him. “To what do I owe the pleasure of your invitation, Shalley?” His words were in English.
Ben also converted his speech to his native tongue. “Since your family’s arrival in Southern Missouri a couple of months back, our partnership has been one of mutual benefit. At first, I was concerned that you would decrease our profits, but we’ve actually been doubling them based on our records from this time last year. I really wanted to trust that you respected us as much as we respected you.”
Hiroshi cocked an eyebrow. “Then I do not see a problem.”
Ben turned and grabbed a vinyl bag from a smaller table and tossed it to the Japanese man. “What do you make of this?”
Hiroshi examined the bag. It had a strong zipper on top for closing it. The zipper had been broken off at this point, however. On the side of the bag were written the words PROPERTY OF THE FEDERAL RESERVE. Hiroshi shrugged and dropped the bag on the table. “It would appear to be a bag for carrying money. What is your point, Shalley?”
“This armored car was robbed on the outskirts of the Bluff yesterday morning,” was Ben’s response. “The drivers said that they were attacked by Asian men.” Ben glared at Hiroshi and folded his arms across his chest. “Our agreement was that the Renegades would get a cut of any of your activity in Missouri or Northern Arkansas. Where’s our twenty percent of this heist?”
Hiroshi looked down at the bag, at a loss for words. Had some of his people robbed this truck without his knowledge? “I have no indication that my family had anything to do with this.”
The largest teen—a Hispanic youth by the name of Mike Noddingham—swore. “We’re not playin’ games with you anymore!”
Hiroshi sighed in mild annoyance. “I am not playing games.”
Mike reached into his pocket and pulled out a gun, aiming at Hiroshi’s head.
Just then a four-pointed shuriken embedded itself into his right hand.
The large adolescent yelped and dropped the gun just as a Japanese woman charged into the room. Before Hiroshi even had a chance to register what was happening, Maori had kicked one of the boys who was still seated, sending his chair falling backward. She had used another well-placed kick to break the leg out of the chair of the other boy who was still sitting, dumping him to the floor. And she now had Mike on his knees, twisting the small finger of his left hand.
“They say that this is the weakest part of the human anatomy,” she told the Renegades’ enforcer as she moved his finger, forcing his entire upper torso to follow. “I believe you Americans call it a pinkie?” Her voice held not the slightest accent.
Mike glared at her through pain-filled eyes. “I’m gonna kill you!”
She smiled at him. Her smile was actually quite striking. “I don’t think so.” She then gave a sharp twist of her wrist, snapping his finger. The big teen cried out in pain as she let him go, dropping him to the floor where he grasped his left hand with his right, which still had her throwing star embedded in it.
Hiroshi smiled and climbed to his feet. “Impeccable timing, Ms. Kabayashi.” He turned to look at Ben. “If any of my men were responsible for the robbery, then I will learn of it and they will be punished. I am a man of honor, Mr. Shalley. That is something that I had thought of you. But a katana does not make someone a samurai.” He walked over to stand at the door, waiting for Maori to follow. “Our arrangement is now changing. Do not expect any tribute from us any longer.” Then the two turned to leave, leaving Ben to glare after them as Mike’s cries of pain filled the room.