From the top of Japan to the bottom, trains packed with POWs snaked toward Yokohama.
Men pressed their faces to the windows to catch their first glimpse of what all of those B-29s had done.
Once-grand cities were now flat, black stains, their only recognizable feature a gridwork of burned roads, passing nothing, leading nowhere.
At the first sight of the destruction of their enemy, the POWs cheered. But after the first city there was another, then another, city after city razed, the survivors drifting about like specters, picking through the rubble. The cheering died away.
On Louie’s train, the silence came as they passed through Tokyo. A week after Louie had left Omori, sixteen square miles of Tokyo, and tens of thousands of souls, had been immolated by B-29s.
A few of the trains slipped past Hiroshima. Virtually every POW believed that the destruction of this city had saved them from execution.
John Falconer, a survivor of the Bataan Death March, looked out as Hiroshima neared. “First there were trees,” he told historian Donald Knox. “Then the leaves were missing. As you got closer, branches were missing. Closer still, the trunks were gone and then, as you got in the middle, there was nothing.
It was beautiful.
I realized this was what had ended the war.
It meant we didn’t have to go hungry any longer, or go without medical treatment.
I was so insensitive to anyone else’s human needs and suffering.
I know it’s not right to say it was beautiful, because it really wasn’t.
But I believed the end probably justified the means.”
Flavio’s sense of fashion and choice of lifestyle did not come cheap. That was a fact of life. He was also smarter than most gave him credit for, and not above playing dirty.
Possibly not the best of reasons to turn to a life of crime, but there you go.
And it wasn’t like he wasn’t good at it, especially after Santiago, a grumpy Spaniard who grew up with lawlessness, was somehow persuaded to join him.
(Yes. That persuasion was sex, and lots of it.)
It just so happened that the National Museum had some wonderful jewels on loan from another country.
Nice, sparkly jewels that would fetch a pretty price on the market.
Only one problem: the security.
Due to the value of these jewels, security was pretty tight. Not, Flavio mused to himself, that that was necessarily a bad thing.
“I had no idea you could move like that, Santi.” His eyes shamelessly roved over his lover’s body. “Your ass looks fantastic from this angle.”
Santiago turned his head and glared at him.
“No, no. Keep going~” He smirked, letting a slow lascivious smile stretch across his lips.
The Spaniard growled, deep in his throat, and carefully lifted his leg over one of the laser beams.
“Why didn’t I already know you were this strong? And flexible. You know you can’t get out of using this next time we fuck, right?” The blond’s voice sounded far too chipper, and entirely too pleased with himself. Like he knew something his partner in crime didn’t.
“Ooh, can you stand like that when we do it? Maybe up against a wall.”
Santiago had to tell himself exactly how counterproductive and childish it would be to throw something at Flavio. The last thing he wanted was to trip one of these lasers, especially as they weren’t sure what all of them did.
He finally set his feet down with a relieved puff of breath on the other side of the grid. Now he could pay back the irritating commentary in full.
Then again, maybe not. Knowing Flavio, that little shit would only enjoy it.
At the very least, he could watch him strain to follow the same path.
With a wide, self-satisfied from the Italian, there was a click and the narrow beams crossing between them flickered out.
“Are you fucking kidding?”
Flavio sauntered over, that smirk still shamelessly in place. “Can you blame me~? I’m such a naughty boy after all~”