Fox & Wolf

Chapter 2

Gang of Two

Yuki brushed herself off, changed out of her gym clothes, and got ready for the rest of her afternoon classes.

She honestly didn’t think anything more would come of the incident. She figured Jirô would slink away with his tail between his legs (boring). Or challenge her to a rematch (less boring but still predicable). Or recruit his equally witless friends to ambush her on the way home (tons of fun).

The answer was: none of the above.

She made it all the way to last period before the intercom crackled to life and ordered Yuki Yamakawa to march herself down to the first floor.

Once she did end up in the principal’s office, Uncle Hiroki being there wasn’t a big surprise. But she certainly didn’t expect to end up sitting there with Jirô’s mom. What was the deal with this kid? A few bumps and scrapes and he runs bawling straight to his mama. Though to give him a little credit, he didn’t look happy about being there either.

She leaned toward Uncle Hiroki and said under her breath, “I didn’t even hurt him. Much.”

He answered in a courtroom whisper, not looking at her, knowing she could hear him no matter how softly he spoke. “Sure, you didn’t hurt him. You only assassinated his pride. In public.”

“He chose the venue.”

“Every fight is negotiable. Look around. Where did all this crap come from? Not out of the tuition.”

Yuki stopped stewing long enough to take in her surroundings. They were sitting on one of two black patent leather couches that gleamed beneath the almost-chandelier hanging from the ceiling. She guessed the tea set sitting on the glass-inlay coffee table cost as much as Uncle Hiroki’s Mercedes.

Not that she had an appraiser’s eye for such things. She remembered the first (and last) time she visited her grandfather’s summer villa in Kamakura. She knew what rich stuff smelled like. That visit was also when she learned that money bought a whole lot more than a high-priced interior decorator.

Principal Teruya bustled into the room. He was a stout, balding man perpetually in a hurry. Yuki never could figure out what it was he did besides get on her case over every piddling misdemeanor. More worrisome, this was the first time she’d seen him in a good mood. The man was beaming, actually rubbing his hands together with glee.

“A happy prosecutor is never a good sign,” Uncle Hiroki sighed as they got to their feet. “How deep in the hole are you with this guy?”

Yuki shrugged. “So I don’t kowtow to the powers that be.”

“It wouldn’t hurt to try.”

Until this moment, Jirô’s mom hadn’t acknowledged their existence. As if on cue, she jabbed her finger at Yuki and shrieked, “This is what happens when gangsters are allowed into our schools! It’s against the rules to dye your hair!”

“I don’t—”

Now Uncle Hiroki bristled. “Gangsters? I’ll walk down the hall and get you a hundred eyewitnesses who will tell you it was a fair fight and one of the fighters was a girl. Isn’t that right, Jirô-chan?”

The diminutive must have stung but Jirô didn’t stop studying his shoes the whole time.

“You leave my boy alone.”

“Your boy should try acting like a man. Maybe you should try treating him like one.”

Principal Teruya feigned shock. “There are no fights in this school, fair or not!”

“Yeah, right,” said Yuki. “Kids right and left tripping over their own two feet, getting beat up by ghosts.”

“You admit it? Ha!” He clapped his hands and pointed toward the door. “Miss Yamakawa, you are expelled!”

“What?” Yuki gaped at him. She’d expected him to at least pretend to hear both sides.

Uncle Hiroki had already started walking. “Let’s go,” he said, not looking back.

Yuki had no choice but to follow. This principal knew what to do in order to get what he wanted. He wanted her gone. So she left.

Yuki sat in the passenger’s seat of the Mercedes, crossed her arms, and pouted. “You’re supposed to have my back. Isn’t that what defense lawyers do? Defend?”

“I’m not one for pyrrhic victories.”

She didn’t know the adjective but got what it meant. Uncle Hiroki explained, “However well-mannered they appear, you know from personal experience that old money plays professional wrestling when it comes to me and mine. They write the script in advance. The Yamakawa name you carry is enough. Trust guilt by association to take care of the rest.”

That was one fact of life she couldn’t argue with him about. “So what about my dad’s name?”

Yuki had never dived too deep into the nitty-gritty details, except that she’d been born before her parents got married and her father’s family refused to allow her birth record to be registered under the renowned Matsudaira name. So a Yamakawa she was.

Uncle Hiroki smirked. “Good luck with that strategy. At any rate, the whole point of this arrangement is to keep his side of the family out of stuff like this. Hold up our end and we don’t have to worry about putting a roof over your head. Unless you want to move back to your grandma’s place in Hokkaido.”

She never dismissed the possibility outright. She liked the relatives on her mother’s side. But she was a city wolf, not eager to move back to the sticks.

Uncle Hiroki drove her home so she could drop off her backpack and change out of her uniform. And then to her part-time job in Tennoji.

Kosugi Sensei, who ran the Osaka Dog Doctor veterinarian clinic, was surprised to see her. Yuki put on a nonchalant face. “I got out of school early. Thought I’d put in an extra hour.”

“Oh, that’s fine,” Kosugi Sensei said. “Go ahead and get the dogs out on the run.”

Yuki jogged back to the kennels, her mood lifting. It was nice being around creatures who always appreciated her presence, who often understood her better than she did herself.

She leashed up Sergeant first. A retired Search and Rescue (SAR) German Shepherd, Sergeant was her right-hand man in the kennels. He did a good job keeping the yippy youngsters in line. Today he gazed up at her with doleful eyes.

“Oh, things aren’t that bad,” she reassured him. “Uncle Hiroki will figure something out. He always does.”

Though today she couldn’t be certain. Sergeant knew it too.

previous Copyright by Eugene Woodbury. All rights reserved. next