Flash: Come Home Part Two

Okayama castle – Photo by Lucas Calloch on Unsplash


I followed Heir through the turns of the building. The centuries had shaped the ancestral fortress of the Watanabe clan into a warren mix of stone, wood, and paper; fire and earthquakes left scars, hopes and dreams built rooms. Thirteen years ago, I knew this crazy labyrinth better than my parents five-room rental. I inhaled deeply at different turns, sandalwood incense in one point, the musty moist and rotting wood in an area not in use, the smell of green, flowers, and life from the overgrown gardens I witnessed on the drive up. The flour and pastry sweet smells of the baking kitchen and the meaty, greasy scents of the roasting kitchen. Every now and again I caught Heir’s scent of clean and sweat, weapon oil and workout room sawdust. We avoided the one set of stairs that always creaked and shook, and ending up going down to go up again. Two switchbacks later and we arrived at what I always internally called the throne room though no throne was in the room.

It was where Hyuga held his court while I here, and evidently still did. The low table in front of him was covered in neat stacks of papers and journals. On one side sat Katei, his favorite aide, a few more scars and wrinkles, but good to see the old man survived the last decade. He slipped me many a dumpling growing up. On the other side Makiko, Heir’s mother and widow of Hyuga’s only legitimate son. The glare she sent as I entered behind her son let me know she still hated my existence.

The churning baby snake inside my belly gained friends. The first was for Heir, as soon as I came in the front door. Nothing like facing a trained killer. The new one wiggled oily beside and around it for Makiko. Hyuga had his own, but laid fully formed, raising its hooded head slowly.

The clan head was like me. Or I was like him. Fully formed.

My eyes rested once more on Heir’s back. Poor innocent murderer.

I slipped past the man-child and dropped to my knees in front of the table. Setting aside my jump bag, my only luggage brought from America, I bowed my head to the floor hoping my spine wouldn’t crack. “Grandfather.”

“Sammi, it is good to see you.”

I raised up slowly, and my twenty-seven-year-old body moved smoothly until I was properly situated on my ankles. Since receiving the letter, I been practicing that move. I kept up on many of the skills I learned while in this house as best I could, but day-job, marriage, hiding, and living in an entirely different culture didn’t leave a lot of time. “Thank you for inviting me to visit, Grandfather.”

“It wasn’t an invite.” The old man’s stone face did not give anything away.

I bowed my head slightly, not giving an inch, except what elder respect demanded.

“Just a reminder, this is your home.” He tilted his head to the side studying me. “Your family has missed you.”

“And I have missed them.” I said in unexpectedly good Japanese, before smiling and shallowly nodding at Katei, a member of a cadet branch of the clan and below my adoptive status. Then I stitched together a genuine smile and deeper nod for Makiko since I knew how much she hated my extreme deference to her. The politer I was, the more in the wrong she felt. The fact I ranked with her children, higher than her oldest two sons, raised her momma bear claws since I took the clan oath on my thirteenth birthday. But to feud with a child, the disconnect must eat at her honor.

My cell phone ringing sent a blush racing up from my neck to the top of my head, and down to mid-chest. I managed to suppress the natural American dive for the dratted device and remained motionless.

The old man face did not crinkle at the edges with anger, instead he smiled, with gentle lip and just a bit of teeth showing, “You will want to get that.”

What have you done, old man? I tried to keep my face from reacting, but I know some leaked through from lack of practice. In America, my face is unreadable, but here? I am an open book. I opened my bag and pulled out the phone.


After a moment’s pause, as the cell bounced off the satellite and back again across the ocean, a man’s voice came on the other end, “Hello, this is Detective McAllen, with the Fairfield Police am I speaking with a Samantha Pressley Nelson?”

Oops, I need to switch to English. “Yes.” The snakes in my stomach remained as the bottom dropped out. I glared at my adopted grandfather, knowing exactly what he had done. His lips turned completely up in satisfaction.

“I was wondering if you could come in.”

I glanced sideways where Heir stood at the ready. Well played, old man. “I’m sorry, but I am in Japan at the moment.”

“Oh.” I heard some clicks on the computer. “Could you tell me where you were at 9:28 am pacific time?”

“Somewhere over the Atlantic. Hang on a moment.” I pulled out my ticket and read off my flight and seat number. “May I ask what this is about?” I knew exactly what it was about. Hyuga removing obstacles.

“I’m sorry to say, but your husband died this morning. We would like you to come in and identify the body.”

“It’s a bit of a jump to do that.”

“I understand.” The man paused. “May I say you are taking this very well.”

Right, I need to be the distraught widow or be guilty. And the information I was about to provide put me high on any list the detective had. I was very fortunate to have an iron-clad alibi, almost like I had a fairy godfather with a global criminal organization who could time a murder down to the minute. “We were divorcing, in fact I signed the final papers just before leaving the country and they were to be filed with the courts tomorrow. If you need someone to identify the body, you might want to ask Babs or it might be Hazel now. I lost track of the people he is sleeping with now that one of them isn’t me.”

“Actually, it is Jess and she found the body.” There was a grumble and clearing of the throat. “He was shot in the back of the head multiple times and the face is missing. She is under sedation and cannot identify the body, but the fingerprints match.”

“Oh, Jess. Right. I met her. One of the data entry people at Linus’ workplace.” Oh, that child is going to need therapy. Babs could have handled the body, but not Jess. “If you want, I can identify the body over the phone.”

“What do you mean, take pictures and send them?” The detective sounded affronted.

Grandfather looked pleased, as close to laughing as he gets. Makiko leaned forward, interested at my suppressed squirming. Katei was typing texts to someone on his phone. Meanwhile, my soon-to-be-husband, now that I am a poor widow instead of a sparkling divorcee with a mess in her past, rocked a little. I wish I could see his face better. I wonder if he had any idea what was happening.

“No. I was married to the guy nearly ten years, right out of high school.” I needed the camouflage from the normal. I should have chosen better. “I know his body pretty well. We can start with the brown mole on the inside of his left elbow. On his left shoulder on the back, about a hand’s width in and two fingers down is a red mole, looks a little like a car.”

“Wait a second, I’m calling up the autopsy photos now.” The clicks happened again. “Got it. Red mole, yep.”

“Okay, right foot this time, his two middle toes next to the big toe is webbed to the first joint.” And now the kicker, because with me around these just don’t happen.  “And he doesn’t have any noticeable scars. And if he has any tattoos, they would be very, very new.”

“I must say, this is a very likely your husband.” The detective cleared his throat. “I am sorry for your loss.”

“Oh, trust me,” May as well, since I would be on the suspect list long after this became a cold case. I trusted Grandfather to use one of his better assassins for family. No one would be solving this one. “It isn’t a loss at all.”


“My host is telling me he will be sending a lawyer to help answer any questions and start processing the estate.”

Hyuga raised an eyebrow at that, but Katei nodded and held up two fingers. “Sorry, two lawyers.”

“Who is your host?”

Now we see if the Detective spent anytime in the organized crime division. “Hyuga Watanabe.”

“Oh.” I swear the man squeaked. That would be a yes to organized crime. “How.” The detective coughed. “How do you know him?”

“Friend of the family from when I used to live in Japan as a child.”

“Ah.” The detective sounded like he moved somewhere else, and after a beep, he came back clearer. “Did your husband abuse you?”

I sighed. “Nothing for which there are medical records.” Because, damn my life. I would have gotten the divorce four years ago if I could have gotten medical records.

“Would Mr. Watanabe know about this?”

“As I said, he is a close friend of the family.”

I never told him, but I knew he kept tabs on me. He knew.

“I see.” Is that a head bang I just heard? “I look forward to hearing from your lawyers.”

“For what it’s worth, I’m sorry this hit your desk, Detective.”

“I hope you enjoy your trip, and when you are back in the states, please come by the precinct, Mrs. Nelson.”

“Of course.” Not anytime soon. I not sure when the clan head will let me out of the fortress, let alone near an airport now he finally got me back. “Goodbye.” I disconnected.



My ex-babysitter swiped the phone off before looking up at my grandfather with a mildly disappointed look on her face. “Really, Grandfather?”

“It was necessary.” My grandfather’s face remained unemotional.

“I understand, but I did have it under control.”

Child-of-our-soul’s voice held a tenor of steel in the alto of velvet. I remember it bringing me to heel when I was five and she was fourteen. Her leaving with her parents to go back to America may have been the last time I cried.

“We are pushing tradition enough.”

She nodded her head forward in just the perfect deference, the curls of her brown mid-length hair falling forward over her shoulder. They looked soft.


When Grandfather took that tone with me, I spent extra hours studying and training.

She raised her head. “I’m tired.”

“Of course, you have had a long journey. Heir will escort you to your room, but please join use for dinner.”

“Thank you.” The woman rocked up on her feet and stood up smoothly, lifting her one-shoulder backpack while doing so. She smiled at those at the table, giving a wink to the aide, “For everything.”

She started walking out of the room, but I had no idea where we were going. I bowed to the clan head. “May I ask what quarters we are going to?”

“She has been given the Nozomi rooms,” my mother bit out. Why was she angry? I know preparing those rooms must have been difficult since they are never given to guests and hadn’t been used in years. But that is her duty, being in charge of the house. I thanked her, gave deference to the clan head, and followed the visitor out of the room.

I actually had to work on catching up since she clearly knew the way, not bothering to stay in the business room once she had been given permission to leave. Only when she paused by one window overlooking the gardens right before the final hallway did I get a chance to slow down. She inhaled as a cool breeze carried a few petals in from the trees. She leaned back to look down the stonework path of one of the oldest parts of the house. “I thought I remembered two suites. Let me guess, the other one is yours?”

“Yes,” I was pleased at how well she spoke Japanese, although the American accent was noticeable after the phone call. “I am surprised. These are not the normal guest quarters.”

“Of course not,” she smiled, her face more animated away from the business room. “They are my quarters.”

“What do you mean?”

“Oh,” she looked at me eye-to-eye, being of the same height. There seemed to be pity buried in there. “They haven’t told you anything. At all. Have they?”

“What do you mean?”

“About you … and me … us.” The woman pushed the curls back over her shoulder after a breeze came through the window.

I tilted my head sideways, studying her, a move I learned from Grandfather. Better to listen than talk.

She closed her eyes, then reopened them while sighing. “When you did get assigned your rooms?”

“When I was named Heir at age thirteen.”

“Even then,” she muttered. Speaking more clearly, she continued, “Look, these have been my rooms since I got sucked into the clan at eight. You got assigned to this wing because they want us to get married. This is going to be our hall.” She touched my arm.

“What, no.” I shook my head. “That makes no sense.”

“Let’s go to my rooms.” Her hand encircled my wrist and she dragged me to the door suite on the left. After laying her hand on the security sensor panel, the door slid open.

Inside the room smelled fresh, everything had been dusted, and clothes could be seen hanging up in the closet.

“When did you turn eighteen?”

“Six weeks ago.” I responded without thinking. Why did we provide her clothes?

“I got a letter hand delivered to me that day, likely within an hour of you officially reaching marriageable age.”

“A letter?”

“Yeah, basically said, come home and get married. Lots of blah, blah polite in between, but it boiled down to that.” She patted her blue jacket near her breast. “I have it right here if you want to see it.”

“But why?” I sputtered, “You’re,” I stumbled over the first three terms which carry several layers of insult that I don’t want to use if this really was to be my wife, “foreign.”

“Thank you for not saying old.” She moved away, tossing her bag to one side, before rocking her hand back and forth. “Yes-and-no on the foreign end of things. More yes in appearances, more no for what matters to Watanabe-San.”

All Grandfather cared about was ancestors and keeping the family history alive.

“And the genetic country of origin really doesn’t matter because of what else comes with the genetic package.” She sat on a low sofa, then patted the space beside her.

I took off my swords and laid them beside me on the floor before sitting down.

“You look like you are getting more and more lost.”

“I believe you said they have told me nothing.” And I am really questioning why the American knows more about my clan than me, the clan heir for half a decade.

She touched my arm, dragging it to her space, and peeling the sleeve. She lightly stroked the inside, down the raised blood vessels over my muscles. “Are you aware the Powered?”

“Of course,” her touch was soft and relaxing, “Phoenix of the Royal Family, Metal Pig, Superflag in America, Captain Britain, Nile of Egypt.”

“Are you aware your Grandfather is a Powered?”

I sat up straighter. “What?”

“Not the spectacular of the big powers – fire, invulnerability, flying, superstrength, earth movement – something subtle, hidden. Unbreakable fealty.”

“Unbreakable what now?”

She rolled my arm and started stroking a bruise. “Fealty. Normals promise him something and it is nearly impossible for them not to deliver. And if they do break faith, he knows. He can even know if the person is breaking it based on the letter of the promise or the spirit of the oath. He is charismatic so no one questions why they don’t want to disappoint him.”

“That…” I though about it for a few minutes, “explains so much.”

“Doesn’t it?” A secret smile crossed her face. My heart jumped a moment. I liked that smile a lot. “Other arm.” I gave her my other arm, turning to face her fully. She rolled up the sleeve there and raise her eyebrows at the purple and blue marks.

I ducked my head down. “Working on my off-hand.”

“Ah.” Sammi started tracing the patchwork of bruises. “The reason why you were chosen over older brothers and one older sister is you are powered too.”

“No, I’m not.”

She rocked her head side to side like she did her hand earlier. “Well, not yet. You haven’t gone through the trauma yet. But you got potential, like your mom does.”

“My mom?” One finger stroke hit a painful area and I jerked my arm a little.

“Yes, it’s why you haven’t gone through the trauma yet.” The woman raised her brown eyes to my black ones, looking sad. “You aren’t like your Grandfather, otherwise he would have arranged it. He wouldn’t want another screw-up like I rescued your father from. But he knows you take after your mother, and you and her have a physical-based power instead of a brain-based power and doesn’t have a clue how to,” she air quoted with her hands a moment before going back to stroking my arm, “activate you.”

She stood. “Okay, shirt off. I bet your back isn’t any better.”

I stood with her, rolling down the sleeves before I thought to question. “Why?”

“Why what? I would think training gets your bruised on the back, especially with quarterstaff exercises.”

“My shirt.”

“Oh, I’m healing you.” The brunette waved her hand, “It’s not immediate, but I can cut down weeks of bruising to a few days. You are going to be very hungry at dinner tonight to make up for the calories I tapping into now.”

“Healing?” I felt like I was ten steps behind her again, going through the house I grew up in, but she knew better than me. “You are powered too?”

“Of course. Look at your arms.”

I looked at them and turned them over to examine both sides. The one arm had no discoloration and the other’s swelling was completely gone, and the bruising much paler. “Oh, wow.”


I took off my shirt, folded it, and placed it beside the swords.

“Now sit.”

I sat.

“Any more questions?” Sammi asked as she stepped behind the sofa and started massaging my shoulders.

“So many questions. I don’t know where to start.” I shook my head, leaning forward a little as she hit the multiple hit site from today’s training. I had a huge hole in my defense there and I just couldn’t figure out the block. “Grandfather knows you’re powered of course.”

“Since I saved your father. It was about a year before you were born.”

“And he adopted you.”

“A little more complicated than that, but that was when he added me to the clan … interests.”

“And he makes everyone totally loyal to him.”

She came around the sofa and started dancing those warm hands over my ribs. Quarterstaff training get a lot of rib hits. “Not quite. Powered are partially immune from each other. You, your mother, will throw off the effect in time. I can ignore it. For my powers, put me with a normal and, well, I am very effective – and not always in a good way.”

I felt a rib shift and suddenly I breathed easier. “Why?”

“My powers match to the underlying genetics. Have a heart-valve problem that was surgically healed, I’m fixing it back to original genetic specifications. Appendixes grow back, etc. Cancer a complete no go. And my power is touch activated. I avoid touching people a lot because I don’t know if I am about to help or hurt. You, I know are fine, since I fixed a lot of your boo-boos growing up. Plus you are a potential, so a lot harder to get started and slower to heal. But being married to me, no scars, no broken bones—”

“I’ve had several.”

“Not for much longer.”

“Oh.” That doesn’t sound too bad.

“Full-on powered, well, the only one I have touched is your father and grandfather. Once the power is fully activated, its tough. Real tough. Still possible – but basically for normal I heal about 100 times faster than normal, potentials drop to 10 times faster, and powered maybe double. It still could keep a powered from bleeding out, but nothing to be dragged into being a superhero.”

I smiled at the floor, since she had me bent over. “Or villain.”

She laughed behind me. “Yeah, in this house, villain.”

(words 3,557 – first published 10/30/2022 – from a picture prompt for a Facebook writing group. Aim is about 50 words. … I went a little over)

Come Home Series

  1. Come Home (9/25/22)
  2. Come Home Part Two (10/30/22)

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