He had already poured five cups of tea or yunomi ocha out of the kyûsu, the typical Japanese teapot. He always chooses the one he liked the most, the gyokuro. It was a sort of tea that needed water of about 55 degrees Celsius, much less hot than other types of tea. Five cups really weren’t a lot for him. Tea had been always again a new discovery. Somewhere in his head in a room he rarely could enter, there sounded another word. Something else than tea, southern and black, black as the souls of the sinners. His mind had read the word coffee in his thoughts, but it meant nothing to him, he would never taste it. Cha, the Japanese word for tea prolonged with the prefix ‘o’ literally and figuratively meant ‘your honorable tea’. He couldn’t get enough of it.
Without realizing where he had learned these facts, he obviously knew a lot about tea and its peculiarities. The fact popped up inside his memory. One of these facts was that many types of tea came from the same plant, namely the Camelia Sinensis and that the different varieties emanate from the hours of sun the plant had received. Even the harvest of these leaves in different seasons could result in a different taste for this reason. Also, after the harvest at the stage of the fermentation, an enzymatic oxidation process, the taste could change because of the amount of sap that was taken from the little leaves. The fermentation process could be halted by heating the kettle or by adding steam.
That was not even everything he knew. When that happened at an early stage, you got the ‘sencha’, a lightly fermented tea. You had also the ‘bancha’, for which the leaves were picked in the after summer. That’s why this tea was a less appreciated sort of tea. On the other hand, the gyokuro, a more expensive kind of tea of which the plant enjoys the best in the shadows or in a less lightened neighborhood and where the first leaves of the spring harvest were used to make tea, was his personal favorite.
For this kind of tea, you mostly used two spoons of leaves on a volume of 120 millimeters of water, but you could easily make tea several times from the same quantity. You also had ‘genmaicha’ a blend of tea leaves and roasted brown rice and ‘hôjicha’ a type of tea that existed of roasted tea leaves. For the Japanese tea ceremony, very well known, a sort of powder tea was used. They called it ‘matcha’. All kinds of droning names that didn’t have secrets for him anymore.
They were all little details that were grinding through his head while he listened to the conversations in the Oji Hotel on the other side. He had heard a lot in a short time. The little group of two had doubled and the voices had given him new instructions.
These people are our enemies. Our enemies are your enemies! They are dangerous and can jeopardize our safety. You’ll have to eliminate them one after the other. They are sticking their nose where it doesn’t belong, cases that are just for the initiated. Cases only intended for you, our Angel and for us. Listen well, try to know how far they are in their investigation and then finish them. You and you alone are our chosen one. We count on you. As ever.
He felt good and reassured when he heard the voices. That’s why he still ordered a kyûsu gyokuro. It would still take the time of a few cups of tea before he could intervene and if necessary, the toilet wasn’t far away.
Markus Moore, Clint Ellory, Walter Fallon and Jack Sterlington were together in the room of the Cellar. They were, one more than the other, frustrated because of the little group in the Oji Hotel. The fact the Security Service pursued leads in an investigation into the murders was not so much of a concern to Jack Sterlington, it was their job. But five ordinary civilians of which three persons from the New World was something new for him.
‘It’s not my choice, but the senator has given the orders to eliminate Stephen March. He has inherited a lot of his father’s genes, that’s the least you can say. Do you know what she said?’
The silence between them made him speak further. Obviously his companions saw that the senator’s decision didn’t make him happy.
‘That’s why he had to suffer the same fate. To which she added that a sudden death by accident would be a great loss for our diplomatic corps. People like Mister March with their nose where it didn’t belong were a threat to her plans. Not only a threat to herself, but also for the amount on our bank account.’ He stopped a while to look at the impact of his words. ‘Those were literally her own words. Has everybody understand this?’ Jack Sterlington looked around. ‘We’ll have to make the best of it, what else can we do?’ Even Clint who had the helmet on nodded after an initial hesitation.
Jack Sterlington looked worried at the screen. The senator was a woman and had a lot of influence in the political world. Somewhere, Jack had respect for the shrewdness of the senator. To put a project on his feet like ‘Michael’ without letting her colleagues and her surroundings know about it, it was not easy. The senator knew a lot about Jack and his team and about their past, but that didn’t bother him. The senator, after all, wasn’t immortal.
Jack Sterlington was used to be threatened by powerful men and women. It was his profession and without the constant boost of the danger, he wouldn’t feel alive. That’s also why he took every threat with the just amount of respect and he would react at the appropriate moment with the necessary actions. If it was required he would wipe all the traces of the team even if they would lead to an important senator of the United States of the Western Community.
At a certain moment, the murderer in the white with blood stained clothing came very close to the camera. Dark eyes looked daring and arrogant in the lens. It came to my mind as it were like the eyes of a lunatic. I supposed he was adjusting the recording device because now we definitely heard a moaning and groaning. It was Suzy Chang, who in her manhandled condition tried to talk incomprehensible words through her gag. Tears were running over her cheeks.
Her whole body was cut with incisions from where the blood flowed in little streams down on her body. When the man went away from the camera we clearly saw the weapon in his hand. He moved it with a sort of stylish grace. Nobody of us doubted he could handle this weapon with a deadly accuracy. Unfortunately, we saw the result of his mastership on the screen.
‘Nihonto,’ Ji Lang whispered, impressed by the man with the weapon. Ji Lang knew the drill. He was beside a Red Circle in the Kami Akai also a gifted master in handling the Nihonto. I never had the preference for the fight with a weapon. My body was as a weapon enough. We all heard at the same time the background music.
Hostias et precis tibi, Domini
Tu suscipe pro animabus illis,
quarum hodie memoriam facimus.
Fac eas, Domine,
de morte transire ad vitam,
quam olim Abrahae promisisti et
I heard Gekko translating in my earpiece. Words fully pulled out of their context. An unmistakable death sentence pronounced on the woman in the background.
Sacrifices and prayers of praise, Lord,
We offer to You.
Receive them on behalf of those souls
We commemorate today.
And let them, Lord,
Passing from death to life,
Which was promised to Abraham
And his descendants.
A shivering walked along my spine, it was one the favorite music pieces of my parents, Mozart’s Requiem. My God, what an asshole this man was to use such a masterpiece as background for a murder. I would never be able to listen to this music anymore without thinking of these images. He danced to the rhythm of the music and waved with his weapon in front of the camera. A moment he disappeared from the screen and suddenly he was there again and stopped in the midst of his graceful movements. Automatically we were holding our breath. He came to stand before the camera so that we would hear his words very clearly, blocking the view on the dying Suzy.
‘Stephen March, I curse you! Fear my anger, because I’m the judge and the executioner who will bring all the promised sacrifices to the Lord. Listen to my prayer, to the Lord will go all the flesh. You are as many, a he-goat between the sheep, just like all the other sinners who were remorseful and that’s why I’ve pardoned them in death. So I’ll give you the same possibility. Only and alone at the moment, I’ll put my sword on your throat and you’ll scream for mercy. Then I’ll lead you to the light. I’m his Angel Michael and will lead everyone who deserves it into the death to the light or otherwise… into hell! When all the cursed ones will be expelled and gone up in flames, He’ll call me to sit with the blessed ones. That is promised by the White Angel.’
He disappeared from the screen and for a few moments there was a black screen. An anticlimax during which we all looked at each other. Then the images returned, and that Michael as he called himself, came from the left in sight again. Waving and dancing in a sinister death dance. My guts were telling me, something wasn’t right, but how close I looked, I couldn’t name it. I was too shocked and my mind was petrified because of the horrible images.
Nonetheless, the awareness of the inevitable, all three of us were startled when he gave the final stroke at Suzy Chang and separated her head from her body. Merciless, the camera shot all the pictures till the bitter end while the murderer disappeared again from the scene and finally the camera zoomed in on Suzy Chang’s lifeless head. The massacred face distorted in the last cry, a cry we all had witnessed, accusatory stared at us. The gag in front of her mouth had fallen off during the death stroke. The eyes, broken, veined with blood. The picture zoomed out and the screen became black.
Nobody said a word. Eagle Eye had his hands before his eyes and Ji Lang sat like a statue with his fists clenched so that his knuckles of his hand were white. I silently cried. Such a cruelty!
Did we have to show these images to Stephen? Would the hypnotic suggestion from Eagle Eye be enough to prevent any trauma happening to him? We all were intensely startled that we also needed time to cope with this. Still, there was a voice in my head, nagging that something wasn’t right. Suzy Chang was dead and murdered, no doubt about that. I concentrated on that feeling, it was my lifeline, my connection with the normal world, a world where such madness didn’t take place. Or did it? It was Ji who was the first to break the silence.
‘I’ll murder this son of a bitch. If that monster gets in my hands, then…,’ his mouth couldn’t say the words because of his anger and his state of shock. Eagle Eye took his hands away from his face. I saw his cheeks were wet. This was not the place, nor the moment for macho behavior. We had witnessed such an inhuman conduct, we couldn’t instantly push it away in some corner or room in our head.
When a silent voice behind us spoke, it scared the hell out of us. ‘Have I slept a long time? How long did I sleep? Has the hypnotic trance worked, Eagle Eye?’ Stephen stood in the doorway of his bedroom and rubbed the last sleep out of his eyes.
© Rudi J.P. Lejaeghere