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The morning birds were at work, not chirping as much as usual for they sensed the coming rain and therefore searched twice as fast in their hunt for worms and twigs. Josephine and Maria watching this scavenging through a window seated at a kitchen table of one of the maternity housing units while eating fresh fruit. Feet away, a pregnant woman whose stomach was bigger than the both of theirs combined stood at the counter serving herself breakfast. A few feet beyond her Rumiko came out of a walk-in pantry with a handful of medication. As she turned to close its door and put the padlock into place the pregnant woman screamed, ‘MY WATER BROKE!’ Holding her stomach, she almost fell to the floor.
Rumiko yelled out in Japanese, ‘Someone! Someone get in here!’ as she rushed over to help her along with Josephine. A maid came running in, took the side of the pregnant woman Josephine was holding and together with Rumiko helped the woman out of the kitchen.
Josephine noticed that the padlock on the pantry was unlocked.
‘Maria,’ she whispered, ‘you got your cell?’
Maria quickly took her cellphone from the pocket of her maternity dress, handed it off to Josephine and headed to the kitchen door to keep a lookout.
Josephine hurriedly removed the open padlock from the pantry’s hasp, opened the door and walked inside, where she found hundreds if not thousands of prescription medications. She started taking pictures.
From the kitchen door Maria could see Rumiko coming back, and in a loud whisper called out to her co-conspirator. ‘Josephine! Josephine!’
Josephine rushed out of the pantry, closed the door and fumbled with its padlock.
Rumiko entered the kitchen just as Josephine hurried away from the pantry, slipping and falling on the pregnant woman’s mess in her haste not to get caught.
One dramatic incident after another Rumiko flustered in Japanese, ‘My God!’ She and Maria cautiously ran over to help. As they got her to her feet Josephine dropped the cellphone, Rumiko picked it up to find the last photo taken on it. That of many medicine bottles shelved inside the pantry.
On the other side of the estate Elsa sat alone on Fujimoto’s computer preparing for yet another project the two were working on together.
She looked to the closed office door then inserted a USB into Fujimoto’s CPU. It was starting to rain outside, worrying Elsa that it might hinder her ability to hear any footsteps on the marble outside the door if someone were to approach.
Anxiously staring at the monitor she watched as the hidden file containing Fujimoto’s scheme copied onto her USB.
With no warning the office door opened, her eyes snapping up to catch sight of Fujimoto.
‘I thought you were going golfing this morning,’ she said with as much calm in her voice as she can manage.
‘I thought so too. But the weather had other plans.’
He walked over to the desk. With the monitor facing Elsa she looked at it.
Fifty percent copied.
‘Have a look in that center drawer,’ he told her. She opened it.
‘Do you see that deposit slip?’
Elsa took it out. ‘This one?’
‘How much is it for?’
‘Two hundred thousand. U.S.’
‘And what is the name on the account it was deposited into?’
Elsa’s eyes searched for the word Payee. ‘Elsa Velas…’
She looked up to Fujimoto.
‘You earned it,’ he said.
He turned and left the office, shutting the door behind him. Elsa’s eyes went back to the slip in her hand, staring at it until she remembered the file being copied.
It was complete. With a few more quick clicks of the mouse she erased her tracks, snatched up her USB from the CPU and shoved it into her pocket.
Back at maternity housing Dr. Takamatsu had Josephine’s legs wide open atop an examination table. Withdrawing, he removed his gloves and commented to Rumiko in Japanese, ‘She lost it.’ Josephine didn’t need to understand to know what had been said. Half of her felt relief, the other half saddened for the death of her first child.
The rain outside was getting worse, the pounding against Vicki’s window along with the occasional flicker of the lights causing her concern as she looked over at the outlet her laptop was plugged into. She had just been handed off Elsa’s USB minutes earlier, now looking over the sensitive details of Fujimoto’s dark secret.
Vicki feared that if the electricity were to go out it might affect the file Elsa had risked so much to get ahold of, and so she went for a nearby drawer for a battery.
Ignoring her instinct to bring her laptop with her Vicki headed for Rhani’s bedroom and found her engrossed in a book.
‘Rhan, can I use your laptop battery? Mine’s dead, and I think the lights might go out.’
‘Sure,’ Rhani said, pointing but not looking up from her book. ‘It’s in the second drawer over there.’
Vicki had no problem finding it. ‘Good book?’ she asked as she left.
‘Uh-huh. I think things are about to get steamy between Gerard and Annabelle!’
Vicki smiled. Rhani and her erotic lit. Maybe she’d ask to borrow the sensual read later.
Back in her room her heart jumped at the sight of Meg reading from her laptop.
Meg looked up to her with a look so scornful that Vicki instantly knew things would never be the same again, which is probably why she didn’t hold back in going for the laptop as Meg went for the USB.
The two struggled with the computer, each pulling to free it from the other until youth won out, Meg losing hold and falling to the floor.
She got up and rushed out of the room. ‘Uijo! Uijo!’
Vicki quickly removed the USB from her laptop.
Downstairs on Fujimoto’s computer Elsa heard Meg screaming from a distance.
Her heart began to race. Hoping it has nothing to do with the USB she got up to see what was going on, the closer she got to the office door the more nervous she became.
Elsa reached the staircase in time to see Uijo sprinting up to Meg, who just kept screaming. She followed.
Rhani was now with Vicki in her bedroom. Meg and Uijo running in, the two young ladies stepping away from the laptop. Meg searched it. No USB. ‘Where is it?!’ she demanded. ‘Where is the USB?!’
Elsa made it to the doorway. Meg looked at her, then back to Vicki. ‘Give me the USB now!’
She and Uijo walked toward Vicki, who in turn took the USB from her pocket and tossed it over to Elsa, who caught it. Rhani used the moment of distraction to throw the laptop to Uijo’s face. Vicki pushing Meg to the side.
The three young ladies made a run for it, Uijo and Meg at their back.
Noboo stood outside her bedroom door as they ran down the hall towards her. Confused, she could only say, ‘What’s the matter?’
‘Get in your room and lock the door!’ Vicki shouted.
She just stood there.
‘NOW!’ they all screamed at her.
The three charged for the stairs, but Elsa, who trailed the other two, was caught by Meg. ‘Give me the USB right now, Elsa!’
WHAM! Elsa slapped Meg, sending her to the floor.
Waiting for Elsa to catch up the three now flew down the stairs, through the living room and dining room and to the back door.
They ran into Ken, who was on his way in. He looked at them, they looked at him.
‘Stop them!’ Uijo yelled in Japanese from the other side of the dining room.
‘Don’t let them out!’
Ken didn’t move, therefore blocking their path of escape. ‘What’s going on?’ he asked Elsa. Before she could answer Uijo grabbed her by the back of the neck.
‘Hey, that’s not necessary,’ Ken snapped. He pushed Uijo off Elsa.
‘Hey!’ Uijo yelled back. He went to hit Ken but the bigger man deflected the punch with a strike of his own and the two started to fight.
Vicki, Rhani and Elsa ran out into the pouring rain and towards the farthest garden, as it was the only one dense enough to possibly make an escape.
Meg, still upstairs on the floor of the hallway was a crying mess, her ego hurt a lot more than the red mark across her cheek as she yelled into her cellphone in Japanese, ‘YES NOW!’
Back down in the dining room Ken and Uijo were going at it. Uijo kicked at Ken but hit a chair instead. Ken hitting Uijo in the face which sent him falling onto the table.
As his back fell onto the table top Uijo used one of his up-swinging feet to kick Ken in the face.
Vicki, Rhani and Elsa made it to the furthest garden, now soaking wet, security closing in on them.
While Uijo threw a punch at Ken Ken stepped off the line of attack, grabbing Uijo’s extended arm and POPPING the elbow out of socket. He immediately followed that up with a heel stomp to Uijo’s knee, causing it to SNAP in the opposite direction.
Ken, now holding Uijo by his hair, looked down at his exposed throat. He raised his fist.
BAM! Just as Ken made contact with Uijo’s throat, a gunshot.
Ken looked down at his chest. The part of his white dress shirt that was above his heart fast becoming red.
Uijo’s lifeless body fell from Ken’s grasp. Ken looked to the other side of the dining room. Fujimoto there with a gun in hand.
The two looked at each other.
Ken fell to his knees, then over to his side. Meg entering the dining room. She saw what Fujimoto had done.
‘NO!’ she screamed in Japanese, running over to Ken and falling down to his side. His face had the blank stare of death. Meg placed his head in her lap and cradled it, wailing out to Fujimoto, ‘YOU KILLED OUR SON!’
He just stood there, watching her in her anguish.
Vicki, Rhani and Elsa ran through the last garden this side of the estate, trying to make it to the far end, to the thick patch of trees and whatever lay beyond when Rhani slipped and fell in the mud. The other two tried to help her up but they too slipped and fell.
Security surrounded them.
There on the ground in front of Elsa’s face, that single camellia weathering the storm.
Lying next to her in the mud, an arm. Rhani, Vicki and Elsa’s eyes scanning up the arm to find…
Mimi’s decomposed face.
In shock, they all started to cry.
Vicki, Rhani, Josephine and Maria were all seated around the dining room table, laptops and cellphones with all they had collected displayed atop it.
Security stood there surrounding them, along with Fujimoto and Meg. ‘Keep them here,’ he said in their native tongue, then walked out of the dining room and to his office.
As he approached a member of his security team bowed to him before taking his leave, Fujimoto entering his office.
Elsa stood at a window looking out, her back facing the room. Fujimoto closed the door behind him and walked over to his desk.
‘I trusted you,’ he said in disappointment. ‘I allowed you into a level of my corporation that no other woman has ever before been allowed near, and this is how you repay me?!’
He tossed the USB containing the stolen file onto his desk. He looked to her but she didn’t turn around, so he walked over to his mantle.
‘I don’t expect you to understand,’ he continued. ‘In your country, families do not strive for excellence. They are content with their dirt roads and non- prosperous ways. They rather have more children and ignore the fact of repeating the cycle of poverty than focusing on a better solution. Granted, you are an exception, but when opportunity presented itself your true nature took over.’
Fujimoto realized his katana above the mantle was missing and turned around to…
The sharp steel blade of the sword SLICING through the air and through his throat.
Shocked and unable to yell he grabbed his throat as his blood began to pour forth.
He stumbled forward until he found his desk then fell atop it, looking up to Elsa from his side who was still mud-covered and damp, their eyes not having been so intimately locked since the night of her rape, both now having taken something irreplaceable from one another. He, her innocence. She, his life.
She walked over to the chair behind his desk and sat down, letting the katana fall to the floor.
Before picking up the nearby phone.
Minutes later and all in the dining room; the young women seated at the table, the security watching over them, Meg. All looked up towards the surrounding windows when they heard the unmistakable sound of an approaching helicopter.
The repetitive chopping began to multiply, signifying two, three, four. How many were out there making all the glass in the windows vibrate with such intensity? Meg rushed over to one of the windows and looked out.
With an expression so defeated, so broken Meg looked back at the young women she had hand-picked.
The Fujimoto Corporation was no more.
By mid-afternoon the bad weather had dissipated, the sun having battled through the dark clouds and now shining bright above the estate as Japanese law enforcement agents came and went.
This was a scandal that in the coming days would become one of Japan’s largest ever, with the government eager to prosecute all those knowingly involved.
From the incriminating evidence the young women had gathered to new discoveries the authorities had made. Everyone from the maids and servants to Meg, and even Mrs. Fujimoto would now reap the seeds they had sown.
As for the five recruits who had brought an end to The Fujimoto Corporation all looked out from the government vehicle they had been placed into. One last look at the enormous power that had brought them here. All would move on with their lives. Rhani, back to her roots in India. Josephine to Russia. Maria to Mexico. And Vicki, back to China. Not only going back to be the big sister of Coco but also bringing home a new little sister to her family. Noboo.
From the mansion to each other they looked, all changed women who together had overcome overwhelming obstacles.
And in the end had prevailed.
Elsa had not notified her family that she would be returning. They would soon learn of the whole ordeal on the news, and all she wanted to do was have some alone time with her dear Tatay.
If her father still kept the schedule she had always known him to follow he’d be up preparing a warm drink in the cool of midnight.
The buzzing sidecar motorcycles of their small province town was a twenty- four hour soundtrack of their culture, and so no one woke when the one she had taken from the bus station pulled up to drop her off.
She walked through her family’s darkened work area and into the simple kitchen where sure enough she found her father with his drink. He turned around.
‘Elsa! My baby girl’s back!’
She dropped her luggage and ran into his arms.
At the kitchen table with their warm drinks Elsa handed her father a piece of paper. It was a bank slip, stating her current balance. Not only one sixth of the amount she had earned a few days previous, (insisting on sharing the two hundred thousand with the other girls) but an additional two million dollars on top of that.
Before they had been caught Elsa had managed to secure a little compensation for each of them for all they had endured. Two million each from the mysterious maternity account that didn’t appear to exist.
Elsa’s father was speechless. He looked up to his daughter, who took his hands into hers.
‘It’s time for these hands to rest now, Tatay.’
It was a beautiful sunny day as Elsa and her father stood before a waterfront, looking out at a view each had only ever imagined.
They turned and looked to one another, bright wonderful smiles across their faces as they held each other then looked back, taking in the magnificence of The Golden Gate Bridge.