The moonlight shines hungrily over Yuriko Watanabe’s nude body, the window frames casting shadows over her as she saunters across the lavish hotel suite, passing her elegantly folded dress on the night stand. Behind her, her client for the evening is still lying in the gorgeous king-sized bed, obscured in darkness as she leaves him to a long, well-deserved slumber. She steps casually across the divinely woven purple tapestry that had been thrown off of the bed in a fit of passion, and then turns the corner into the spacious bathroom.
She flicks on the light, admiring how shiny and new everything looks… The polished marble counters, with their blend of dark grey, black and midnight blue are lorded over by what appears to be a solid ivory faucet. The flourished linoleum floor shines immaculately under the light, begging not to be stained. She would expect nothing less from an upper-floor suite in the ritzy East End Regal Hotel, a place where she’s proud to say she’s entertained many clients over the last year. She lays a towel down, stepping on it so she won’t have to feel the cold floor.
Unfortunately, the Regal has one constant downside… This suite, like any other in this particular hotel, contains shower curtains. It’s not that she hates them… If anything, she finds them perfectly serviceable, and these ones look rather nice… But they bring back annoying memories of the shower curtains her family had when she was a child, which were rarely cleaned and had collected far too much grime at the bottom. On top of that, there’s a vulnerability to them… A feeling that any person, with any intentions, could surprise her by barging through them. It’s not just paranoia, either… It’s a very real danger in her line of work.
Choosing to make due, she slides the curtain open, and turns the glass knob, bringing the nozzle to life. She allows the water to run for a few moments, testing the temperature with her hand until she finds one that pleases her… Warm, bordering on hot, as perfect as the medium bowl of porridge. She steps gingerly inside, drawing the curtain closed behind her, and allows her muscles to relax as the cascading sensation washes over her, rinsing the sins of the night from her skin.
She doesn’t wash herself, at first… She lingers there, slowly craning her head from side to side, enjoying the pressure of the water as it massages her tense shoulders and somewhat stiff neck. She tilts her head forward, soaking her shoulder-length black hair, gently moving her shampoo covered fingers through it. While she begins to rub it in harder, she stares at the floor of the tub as a fresh stream of blood begins to circle the drain. It reminds her of one of her favorite American movies, only in real color… not quite as beautiful as the classic black and white, in her opinion, but much more personal, and much more fulfilling. She finds a stray piece of tripe in her hair, and casually flicks it down to join her clients blood at the surface of the drain.
It’s nearly five minutes before she finally starts to wash herself, grabbing a seashell shaped bar of soap off of the shelf, and by that time, a proper shower door would have already fogged up like the mirror has. She scrubs, moving a little faster than she was moving before, and as soon as she’s covered every inch of her smooth, silky skin, she rinses and turns the handle, causing the stream of water to slow to a stop. She steps out into the mist, drying her body with a fresh towel off of the rack… As the one on the floor is useless now, and will probably wind up in the garbage after the hotel’s maid staff finds it. That, or burned in a furnace. She reaches for the hair blower, one thing she’s glad the hotel has provided for her. Her make-up can wait.
Leaving the bathroom behind, Yuriko pulls on her lacy lingerie, and then steps into the sexy red dress that got her into this suite in the first place, pulling the straps up over her shoulders, and taking an extra moment to make sure everything’s in place. She finally turns on the room’s light, which has been off since she entered it earlier in the evening, casting away the shadows and revealing her horror show in all it’s glory. Richard Carmichel, a journalist who’d been asking too many dangerous questions about her employer, and a notorious adulterer in his own right… And look where both of those poor choices have lead him. When she’d accepted his drink earlier, and returned his sultry gaze with her own, he probably hadn’t expected to be lying in the middle of their love nest with his own black sock duct-taped in his mouth, his wrists handcuffed to the bed posts, and his internal organs on full display around his cold, terrified-looking corpse. Her own bloody footprints lead all the way from the bed to the bathroom.
She’d slept with him, of course… After all, just because you’d been hired to make an example out of someone doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice a good fuck in the process. It hadn’t been unpleasurable, either. In fact, she’d have probably slept with him a second time before completing her task, if it wasn’t for the fact that she still has one job left after this one. His penis, which has apparently rolled off the bed and onto the floor by this point, had turned out to be quite larger than she’d expected. She still doesn’t understand why he’d insisted on cheating on his wife so often, but she knows one thing for damn sure… It want in the interest of over-compensation. His wife had been a lucky woman, infidelity aside. Hell, she’s slated to be lucky all over again once his life insurance money starts coming to her.
She traces her fingers in a walking motion up the clean parts of his leg, and wraps her fingers around the handle of her knife, only to find that her favorite toy is stuck between two of Mr. Carmichel’s ribs. She wiggles it until she hears a very loud crack, and just like that, the weapon that the news is calling her ‘stinger’ is freed. She wipes it off on a clean part of the bed-sheets, which is scarcer than you might think, and bends over, planting a soft, tender kiss on the duct tape covering his mouth, leaving what’s left of her lipstick on it. His heart, which had once fluttered at the sight of her, is resting on the bloody stump between his legs; A dark, clever little joke from the Red Hornet herself.
And with that, her fun is over. She finds his discarded pants on the floor, retrieves his wallet, and digs out all of his paper money for her own pocket. She then slides her high-heels back on, stuffs her personal belongings in her purse(including Stinger), and pulls on her trenchcoat and sunglasses after inspecting both for any stray blood drops. Satisfied, she leaves the suite, locking the door behind her. As she heads to the elevator, she notices… With a smirk… That the plastic ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign is still hanging from the door knob.
Her take from Richie’s wallet had been exactly 422 dollars, which is more than she’d expected, and it’s a nice little surprise that’s going to pay for her next few fancy meals. She hadn’t come to this mark as a prostitute… Though she’s posed as one before… But in the end, she’s earned more than twice what an actual working girl would have made off of a single night of partly-drunk, consensual missionary sex. She suppresses a chuckle as she thinks about just how little opportunities there were for single women back in the country she’d left behind, even when it came to bright, college educated women like her. How many of them can honestly say that they’re getting this well paid for doing exactly what they want to do in life?
She’d counted the money on her long trip down in the elevator, as it was the only safe portion of her journey. She was no hooker, but Gotham city was no Vegas… A woman leaving her hotel room this late at night, and so soon after checking in, would arouse anyone’s suspicions if she were waving a big wad of twenties and fifties around. That’s not to say the trip out of the hotel is any safer… She never walks faster than she does after dark on the East End. This city is crawling with individuals far more psychotic and dangerous than she is, and while she’s no saint, she knows they won’t judge her by her deeds when deciding whether or not she reminds them of their next victim. Taking out her money where any thug could see it would only make her chances of surviving the night even more dire.
There are plenty of people in Gotham she would never want to run into in a dark alley, which is the exact reason why she passes several alleys that, were she a lot more reckless and a lot more naive, would get her to her destination so much faster. Nobody that stupid would have made it through Tokyo University, only to decide that the good jobs she deserved weren’t worth the compulsory bondage of marriage. It’s true that having a steady paycheck would have paid for her living expenses nicely, but having a husband to deal with would have put an immediate damper on her favorite past time.
Ever since middle school, Yuriko’s had a passion for biology, the study of living organisms and the complex machinery that make them work. Dissecting dead pig fetuses and live frogs under the structured, controlled environment of the classroom had only sated her curiosity for so long before several cats in her neighborhood had found their own graves in an abandoned warehouse near her family’s apartment. Even that wore thin eventually, before one of her best girlfriends, Naoko Ishitaka, met her grisly end there as well. Of course, with the investigation into Naoko’s disappearance hitting way too close to home, Yuriko had decided not to shit where she lived… An American idiom that she wouldn’t actually learn for a few more years.
By the age of fifteen, She’d worked out a much more efficient… And safe… Method for exploring her desires. About twice a month, always on Saturday nights, she would hang out in the seedier areas downtown, targeting any grown man who was out looking for a tasty underaged treat, taking the first one to approach her somewhere private in order to seduce them, sleep with them, and take complete control of them when they were at their most vulnerable… Just like she’d done tonight with Mr. Carmichel. By being careful and meticulously clean, she’d managed to escape detection all the way through the rest of her educational years, but due to her unwillingness to marry, she’d hit a very thick wall after graduation.
With her parents breathing down her neck about growing up and moving out of their house, and all potential employers looking at her like a child asking them for a bottle of whiskey, and her hunger to see what sort of viscera was hiding under the skin and muscles of every man she met, she was heading for a massive breakdown in her life. It was at this point that she’d begun to slip up, and make mistakes that she’d never have made before… After she’d been spotted and identified following a routine excursion, she knew it was all over for her. She could never show her face in public again, nor could she ever see her parents again, or she had no doubt that a cold jail cell was waiting for her. Or, worse case scenario, the death penalty.
Hiding alone hadn’t been an issue. She’d been in the top ten of her grade for nearly her entire life, and navigating the social minefield of Japanese schooling had taught her more than a few tricks. The problem was her inhuman thirst for blood, and her very human hunger for food. As luck would have it, she wasn’t on the run for long before meeting the man who would turn her life around. The very same man she’s about to meet again.
She turns down the Bowery, feeling more on guard than ever, trying to blend into the background as much as possible while ignoring the dominating stares that she may or may not be imagining. Innocent people are scarce down here at this time of night, while the only people still hanging around are congregating in groups that are no doubt gang-related. She doesn’t know who any of them work for, and frankly, she doesn’t care. Whether they’re Penguin’s men, Maroni’s men, or her own bosses men, she never loses focus of the fact that her purse… And the Stinger inside of it… Are just a short reach away. If only it could be wielded by a competent fighter.
She finally reaches a section of the bowery where a very interesting, passive-aggressive little power struggle is taking place. The Maroni Italian Restaurant is sitting on one side, looking like a brick wall with a door in the middle… The wet dream of any hipster stupid enough to live in the East End. And on the other side, a recently opened and far more attractive location called Cafe Sofia stands, its wall of bright windows staring defiantly at the Maroni Establishment. He’s got Maroni beat in terms of appeal and atmosphere, Yuriko thinks, but if the bad blood between these two ever starts to seriously heat up again, she knows which one she wants to be in when the bullets start flying.
She opens the door, the bell above which rings to announce her entry into the relatively small cafe. It’s not very spacious, at only 12 feet wide from wall to wall, and only about five tables set out on the opposite side from the counter, but it’s comfortable, and from what she’s seen, most of it’s clientele are only interested in picking up their orders and leaving anyway. Italian renaissance art… Replications, of course, not the real thing… Line the walls, and the radio’s cycle of Martin and Sinatra has landed on When You’re Smiling, which a young black couple seems to be nuzzling each other to in the corner. They look to be about twenty-one… A few years younger than Yuriko.
The man she’s here to see, however, is the only other customer currently seated, a few tables away from them. He’s also the owner of the establishment, along with several livelier bars and night clubs in the city. Carmine Falcone looks up at the sound of the bell, and smiles at the sight of her. “Otou-saaaaaan!” She calls to him, raising the pitch of her voice and exaggerating her accent. She speaks perfect English, but mimicking the moe clichés can be so much fun sometimes. She walks over and sits down across from him, and no sooner does she do so than a cup of cafe mocha is placed in front of her. She’s never able to figure out how he’s able to time her favorite treat so well. She blows on it, and then takes a sip, finding it already cooled just to her liking. Oh, that sweet old man.
“I take it the job went well?” He asks her, expectantly.
“Without a hitch,” she replies, knowing full well he would never accept anything less from her. She had met Falcone after five months of scraping by on the lamb, sleeping in homeless shelters and living off of the money she was stealing from her victims. She had fallen asleep next to her most recent one… A risky move, but one she’d been making a lot ever since losing her home… And she’d woken up in the back of a scary foreign man’s car, with her wrists bound and her mouth gagged. She’d feared the worst from him, but at the same time accepted it, knowing that with her parents disowning her on the news, and the ground under her warehouse being dug up, she was living on borrowed time anyway.
That scary man… Who she now knows as Alberto… Had been taking her to see his father, Carmine Falcone, who was in Japan with him on a ‘business’ trip. And he’d been very interested in knowing why she’d murdered a man who he’d been planning to eliminate that night. Having nothing left to lose, she’d told him her story, leaving nothing out. How she’d been a straight-A student all her life, how everyone at school had loved her, how she’d never suffered any abuse or hardships in her life… And yet, how she just couldn’t get over the satisfaction of cutting people up and seeing what made them work. After hearing all that, and looking at some pictures that Alberto took of the crime scene, Falcone immediately made her an offer she couldn’t refuse… “Come home with me, kill who I tell you to kill, and I’ll make damn sure the law doesn’t come anywhere near you.”
And so it had been. He smuggled her into the states undocumented, hired her as a live-in-maid at his luxurious home, and set her to work seducing and slicing open his enemies. She doesn’t even have to wear gloves now, as Gotham has so many local super-criminals that law enforcement would never even think about doing an international fingerprint search. Before her slip-up, she’d always thought her life was perfect… But Carmine Falcone had done the unthinkable, by actually making her situation better. He’s earned her loyalty, and while it may be a rare occurrence, she’ll gladly do two jobs in one night for him.
Falcone points to her coffee. “You’re gonna wanna drink that fast, kid. There’s a window of time on your next job, and you’ll want as much time as possible to pull it off successfully.” At his urging, she downs about half the cup, while he fishes out a photograph and slides it to her across the table.
She peers down at it, surprised by the face she sees on it. This man needs no introduction… He’s the prince of this city, so famous that even Yuriko, who’d only been in the states for a year, could pick him out o af a crowd. A man with some of the deepest and most generous pockets she’d ever heard of. He’s tall, muscular and handsome, with a chiseled jaw and a pair of piercing blue eyes that add an air of mystery to a man who’s otherwise known for being an irresponsible playboy. “Mama likes,” she catches herself muttering, as she pictures just how much she wants to be inside of him.
Falcone snaps his fingers. “You okay over there?”
Yuriko breaks her gaze from the photograph, and regains eye contact with her bemused employer. It’s just a photo. The real thing is yet to come. “So where can I find this thorn in your paw?”
“He’s at the Gotham City Museum, out in Chinatown, for a new exhibit they’re opening. None of my guys can get anywhere near the place, but a gal like you shouldn’t have any problem blending into the crowd. Get him away from there, get him alone, and do what you do best. You’ve got two hours before he goes back to his lonely little mansion, so if you’re gonna make his night a little less lonely, you’re gonna have to book it. Can I count on you for this?”
Yuriko processes this request, wondering just how much of their current situation The Roman has taken into account with this plan of his. It can’t hurt to poke him a little and find out. “With all due respect, you know I don’t have a car. And there aren’t any taxis on the East End at this time of night. How am I supposed to get there?”
Falcone shakes his head, dismissively. “Don’t worry about that, I got a guy waiting up top. He’ll drop you off at Vincefinkel Bridge, and it’ll only be about a fifteen minute walk from there.”
Before she can follow his answer up with a question about her safety, he cuts her off, and motions with his eyes to her purse. “And don’t worry about thugs. You’ve got that dagger I gave you, you’ll be fine. All you need to worry about is lowering this asshole’s guard, getting him isolated, and doing what you gotta do. Get it done, and I’ll buy you dinner tomorrow. Got any more questions?”
She does have questions, chief among them being why he’s so desperate to get this guy under a tombstone, but she can tell by the tone in Falcone’s voice that he’s not in the mood to explain himself. Taking his hint, she downs the last of her coffee… More for the caffeine than for the flavor, at this point… And gives him a playful little salute. “You’ve got yourself a deal.”
Falcone’s guy turned out to be a cab driver from the Diamond district, making a special trip out to the East End just for her. He wouldn’t say whether it was the promise of a huge paycheck or an overdue favor from The Roman that brought him out there, but whatever it was, it spoke to just how desperate Falcone was to get this job done. He’d initially tried to drop her off on the bridge, as their mutual employer had ordered, but all it had taken from Yuriko was a fifty dollar tip and a few sweet nothings in his ear to change his mind. He instead dropped her off a few buildings away from the museum, and is now watching her curiously as she uses his side mirror to give herself a reverse french braid.
“Does this look right?” She asks him, not really expecting him to know the difference between a good braid and a sloppy braid.
As she’d expected, he hesitates, and stammers a bit while answering. “Y…Yes. It looks beautiful. You… you look very nice.” She grins. If it has that effect, then it’s good enough. Of course, she did flirt with him a bit to get this far into town, and with the added bonus of a giant tip, he’s probably taking her behavior the wrong way… But whatever. He’s going to survive to see the morning, and that’s the only way anybody could ever ‘get lucky’ around her.
No longer needing to keep both of her hands free, she takes her own compact mirror, and fixes her make-up while walking away from him, giving a strong signal to just drive away and go about his life. He lingers a bit before she finally hears the sounds of his tires behind her, leaving her to enjoy a shorter, safer walk.
It’s not that Falcone had been entirely wrong before… Ever since he’d given her Stinger as a twenty-fifth birthday present the previous fall, it’s been extremely useful… Her favorite out of all the tools she’s used. But she’s only ever used it on people who were already tied down and helpless. She’s never used it in a real fight, and she’s just barely confident in her ability to hold off one attacker… Let alone a potential gang of them. If he hears about this deviation from his orders before she gets back home, she’ll just have to explain this and hope he forgives her.
By the time she reaches the steps leading to the museum door, with two stone gargoyles looming just overhead, she’s finished prettying herself up. Judging by her faded reflection in the glass doors, she looks like someone who’s just left the house for a night out on the town. A paper sign taped just below eye level is advertising the museum’s newest exhibit, all of which is based on greek mythology. It’s a weird subject for a rich party animal like her target to be interested in, but then again, she’s not here to judge his tastes. She pushes her way through the door, and passes her trenchcoat off to young chinese man in a dorky looking uniform. She can’t help thinking that the University must be whipping his wallet hard if he’s working a dead end job like this one, but offers a polite smile to hide this criticism.
Yuriko’s been to this museum before, on her days off, and while it’s not her favorite one… The Natural History Museum is much more interesting for her… She still knows her way around well enough to find the new exhibit without having to ask anybody for help. She weaves her way through the relatively dense crowds, and up a few flights of stairs, taking her to the art wing… Where, off in the distance, she spots a familiar looking white man studying a painting of the goddess Hera. Narrowing her eyes, ready to assume the hunt, she takes a glass of champagne off of a nearby cart and stalks over to him.
“You have good taste,” she offers, getting his attention. He turns around, looking genuinely surprised to be approached. “Hera was a strong woman. She was powerful, influential… A bit of a tyrant, maybe, but with someone like Zeus to deal with, who can blame her?”
As she speaks, the surprise fades from his eyes, soon replaced by a look of… Recognition? No, it can’t be. She’s imagining that. “It is impressive,” he replies, while leading her to the display on an adjacent wall, where she sees a painting of a half-naked man braving the harsh storms on his ship. “But I prefer this one. The story of Odysseus always appealed to me. The concept of a man who had way too much pride, became arrogant… And was punished by the gods with a long, painful trip back home. It really puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?”
She nods, not sure she really understands what he’s saying. She has heard that he disappeared from Gotham for several years, only to come home and take control of his company away from the shareholders. “I’m sorry… You must have gone through some difficult times if you’re relating to him.”
He takes a sip of his own champagne. “Well, who hasn’t? But that’s kind of a depressing topic. I’d prefer to talk about something happier… Like how the artwork around here just keeps getting lovelier and lovelier,” he remarks, holding out his glass.
Taking his cue, she taps her glass with his, smiling in spite of his pick up line. It was corny, but it was still better than most guys might do under pressure. “I’m surprised you’re not walking around with a few statues,” she replies, going along with his metaphor.
He chuckles sheepishly. “My reputation precedes me. I guess you have me at a disadvantage, Miss…” She had a fake name prepared, but a quick glance behind her gives her a better idea. “It’s hard to pronounce… Just call me Hera.” She holds out her hand to him, looking playfully into his piercing blues.
He takes her hand in his and, as she’d expected, raises it up for a kiss. “Well, Hera, I have some paintings at home if you’re interested in enjoying a more private exhibition,” he offers, suggestively.
Yuriko can’t help but smile at this, and does her best to make it look like a warm, trustful one. “I think I’ll have to take you up on that. Lead the way.”
He winks to her, grinning his billion dollar grin, and turns to lead her to the stairs. She follows in tow, barely containing the excitement from her face. She’s actually, genuinely blushing. As he begins to tap away on his cell phone, she pictures a limo waiting for them in front of the building, and a long, affectionate ride back to his legendary estate. She ‘ll be all alone with him, hidden from the eyes of the driver… If she’s not careful, they might not even make it back to their love nest.
She wonders, silently to herself, as they’re leaving the museum together… What kind of showers does Wayne Manor have?