Man with No Name: A Nanashi Novella

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Authors: Laird Barron
rise roof knowing she was pregnant. And worse. Worse, always worse. He said, “Long time coming.”
    She straightened and regarded him. “You gangster boys are in a shooting war. The shit is going to hit the fan in a major way when news breaks of what happened to my beloved husband.”
    “We can’t hang around.” He snapped his fingers. “Gather what you need and come on. Two minutes. I won’t wait longer.”
    “Just bring the car around, rabbit.” She mockingly snapped her fingers behind her head as she turned away.
    He walked through the main door, keeping his stride brisk yet unhurried. The night air tasted of pine and mineral dampness. As he’d presumed, Kada lied--there were two compact cars parked at the foot of the broad flagstone steps. Two men in the lead car, a driver in the second. The two in front allowed him to approach within spitting distance before the passenger side door flew wide and raucous techno music blasted forth. Stupid kids.
    Nanashi gave the emerging gangster a friendly wave and put two rounds into his chest, then ducked low and shot the driver through the open door. The other driver had the presence of mind to throw his car into reverse. Unfortunately for him, he banged into an ornate retaining wall and by the time he’d changed gears and hit the accelerator Nanashi tapped the window with the barrel of his revolver. The man shouted an obscenity or a prayer and then he died with a smoking hole in his cheek. Nanashi toppled the corpse into the driveway, swept aside the frosting of shattered glass and climbed behind the wheel and waited.
    *   *   *
    Smoke billowed from the house. Red fire twinkled and capered. She’d smashed a few bottles of alcohol and struck a match on her way through the door. “Watch that bitch burn,” she said and buckled in. She’d put on a silver kimono and slippers. Her purse was some sort of designer plastic; bulky and glossy black. She chain-smoked gourmet cigarettes from an enamel case. He couldn’t place them from their odor.
    She gave clipped directions that sent them along secondary roads. It surprised him that the route carried them away from the city instead of closer. He drove at risky speeds, trying to keep his thoughts in sight. The slick, narrow blacktop entered mountainous forest--white trees, white flashes of rock, white mist. The oni and the yokai were awake and traveling in parallel. Ghosts of hunger and vengeance cried the cry of night birds.
    “There’s a book about a woman whose husband randomly travels through time,” she said. “It’s a tearjerker. Sold a bajillion copies. That’s what tearjerkers do.”
    “I haven’t read it,” he said.
    “Are gangsters allowed to read chick lit?”
    “Who’s going to stop us?”
    “Well, this situation with me and Wes is like that sci-fi scenario. Except not really. Also, the romance is dead. Everything is about death with Wes.”
    “Okay.” As soon as the yakuza tracked her down, and soon it would likely be, she was definitely dead, although that wouldn’t happen until she’d suffered enough to welcome annihilation.
    “He did the paper trick, right? He always does the paper trick. I’m not sure whether that part is bullshit or not. I mean, the loony stuff about government mind control experiments is a red herring, but the pattern itself does pickle your brain all right. Doesn’t require paper, though. He could draw it in the sand or wave his hands in the air. I kinda suspect he could even just use his voice to conjure the effect. What else did he say?”
    Nanashi shrugged.
    “There was a bit about time and mazes and blah, blah, blah.”
    “Blah, blah, blah,” he said.
    “Wes doesn’t time travel. Time travel goes against Einstein, thus it’s impossible. Something else very fucked up is going on. Not time travel, though. Did you kill him? Was it you personally?”
    He shook his head. The engine purred. Wind snickered through the hole he’d made in the window.

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