Orihime In Hiding 17

Orihime in Hiding 17- Happy Family

Renji wasn’t sure how baking brownies Sunday had morphed into a full-blown cookout, but it had. He was quite sure it had something to do with the stream of phone calls between Orihime and Meg Saturday, but he wasn’t certain who was more at fault. Orihime had seemed especially inspired since he’d said that tentative ‘yes’ to brownies on Friday.

By ten o’clock Sunday morning, he didn’t care about placing the blame anymore. He was more intent on the gas grill that was flaming in the backyard.

His attempts at making the grill operational had failed at first lighting, and he was left with the blazing thing shooting flames three feet into the air before he could close the cover and pull it onto the driveway. There it reduced to a thick smoke that rolled out the vents and from under the cover, smelling as bad as it looked.

Orihime poked her head out the back door as Renji glared at the burning metal contraption. “Everything okay, Renji?”

He nodded, and then turned to the house. She backed into the kitchen as he came in and headed for the basement door. “We’ll use the other one.”

She went to the kitchen counter that was stacked with peanut butter, garlic bulbs, a bottle of brown mustard, and the half filled jar of honey. She looked to him as he hauled the kettle-style charcoal grill up from the basement staircase.

“Does that work?” she asked as he carried it to the back door.

“It better,” he said, then paused, looking over the ingredients, cutting board, and knife she had on the counter. “I thought you were making shish kabobs.”

“Oh, yes, but I’m making a marinade for the fish and chicken.” She smiled, the knife in her hands posed flat side over a clove of garlic on the board. “Meg is bringing potato salad and melon. Leah’s bringing a cake and chips.”

“What happened to the brownies?” he asked, using his elbow to hit the latch on the back door.

“Oh, we’re doing that, too.” She set the flat side of the blade down on the garlic and brought her fist down on it forcefully, crushing it from its papery skin.

He shook his head and went outside with the grill, deciding her cooking had taken a turn for the aggressive since she’d come to America.


By noon Meg had arrived, and Renji had conquered a charcoal fire in the grill. The gas grill had stopped smoldering, the smell only lingering when the mild breeze shifted for a moment or two in the bright, sunny day.

He heard Meg arrive — actually, he heard Orihime’s delighted squeal about real classic American potato salad — as he found a few folding lawn chairs in the basement and took them out to the back yard. He’d already spent half an hour setting up the umbrella over the round picnic table, which was in sore need of a paint job, and took a broom to it.

Despite this, Orihime had saw fit to spread a yellow and white checkered plastic table cloth over it that they’d gotten from Happy Dollar that morning during an impromptu run into town for chicken and a package of frozen swordfish. She’d even cut it carefully to fit around the umbrella pole in the middle of the table and taped the seam to make it fit properly.

“A real American cookout,” Orihime had said over and over again with a giggle earlier as she marinated the thawing fish in lemon and ginger.

He’d only nodded, unsure why she was so excited about it if he was the one that was supposed to tend the flaming kettle.

“It’s tradition. All American men like to grill out,” she’d explained. “Mrs. Brooks told us we should invent new recipes for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend. It’s traditional to grill out, Renji.”

Tradition or not, he was not anticipating the ordeal. At least he’d picked up a six pack of beer when they were in town. Maybe it should’ve been more, he thought, hearing the girls’ laughter get louder from inside as they turned up the kitchen radio.

He looked to the garage, still unsure about the intruder buried there. He fingered the communicator in the back of his jean pocket. It was still malfunctioning. No outgoing calls. Nothing coming in.

He wasn’t sure if it was the chip he’d pulled out of Orihime’s neck, or something else. The metal band on the dead man’s wrist couldn’t be solely to blame; he’d had problems with the communicator before the break-in.

“Hi, Renji!” Meg said, startling him as she came out the back door and placed a pitcher of iced tea on the table. “Inoue said to bring this out.”

“Oh. Good.” Inwardly he groaned. Being host to Orihime’s friends wasn’t what he had in mind when he’d accepted — not that he’d had any choice in the matter — his captain’s order to accommodate Tenth Division’s requests, whatever they may be. “Is Leah here yet?”

She nodded, arranging tall blue glasses on the table. “She just walked in the door. Do you want some tea?”

“Uh, no. Not now, thanks.”

She nodded again and went back into the house, but not before she looked to his arm where an ace bandage was wrapped.

Happy Dollar had plenty of cheap first-aid supplies, and he’d found gauze and the elastic bandage to hide Leah’s needlework on his arm from Friday. Not too uncomfortable, too, he’d decided over the last few hours. More importantly, Orihime’s neck was healing fine, and she claimed to be free of the headaches.

“Hey! Where’s your sister, Smith?”

Renji looked to where Raider was hanging over the fence above the hedges between their yards. “What do you want?”

“Just asking about your sister, man.” Raider looked around the yard, his substance-laced grin topped by nearly shut eyes.

“She’s not my sister.” Renji took the lid off the grill to see the charcoal that was settling into a low flame.

Raider hung one arm over the fence, his finger stuck in the neck of a glass beer bottle. “The chick with the Jeep? Thought she was your sister, man.”

Renji’s jaw tightened as he nodded. “She’s my sister. Leave her alone.”

“She got a boyfriend?”

“Yup.”

“A serious one?”

Renji looked to the long handled tongs and barbeque fork on the picnic table, tempted to give the last item a quick fling into Raider’s ridiculous face. “Yeah. Serious. Now get lost.”

The beer bottle slipped off Raider’s finger and onto Renji’s side of the yard.

“Shit.” Raider disappeared over the hedges.

Renji mumbled a curse as he crossed the drive and threw the bottle over the hedge. A muted “Ow!” came from the other side, followed by a “Thanks!”

A moment later Raider had popped up over the hedges again. “Hey, does your basement leak, man?”

Renji was back at the grill, willing himself not to hurt the guy. “No.”

“Mine does, after all that rain. Standing water in a couple of spots, and, shit, does it smell bad. Like something died.”

Renji looked to him.


Orihime nodded as Meg unveiled the potato salad in the kitchen. She leaned closer to the pale whitish lumps of potatoes and sauce.

“No, I’ve never had it.”

Meg smiled wide. “I love it. My Mom’s recipe.”

Leah was on the other side of Orihime, frosting her gelatin cake that was covered by vanilla pudding with another layer of whipped cream topping. “What kind of melon did you bring?”

“All kinds. Honeydew, cantaloupe, and watermelon.”

Orihime nodded as Meg opened the lid of the large plastic bowl to show her the balled melon. She looked to Leah. “What does yellow cake taste like?”

“Uh, well, it’s a butter cake, with strawberry gelatin dripped through it.” She finished smoothing on the white cream topping. “So, strawberry, I guess.”

Orihime nodded. “Renji said the grill is about ready.”

Leah looked out the kitchen window to see him standing at the grill, looking rather angrily at the neighbor’s yard north. She glanced to Orihime as Meg made room for the bowl of melon in the refrigerator. Her tone lowered. “How’re your headaches?”

“All gone.”

“How’s Renji’s arm?”

Orihime nodded, her tone hushed. “Good. We wrapped it up, like you said.”

“Good.”

The back door opened suddenly and Renji looked in at them. “Hi,” he said to Leah, and then turned to Orihime. “I’m going over to Raider’s for a minute. I’ll be right back. Don’t go anywhere.”

“Hai. Yes,” she said.

He disappeared back out the door. Meg raised an eyebrow at Orihime. “What’s all that about, hmm?”

“Our neighbor, I guess.” Orihime went to the refrigerator and brought out the vegetables from the crisper.

“Everyone knows Raider is a druggie. Sells, too,” Meg said, nodding.

Leah made a skeptical face. “Does he do that kind of stuff?”

“Who?” Orihime frowned.

“Renji.”

Orihime giggled. “Of course not.”

Leah nodded, fingers taping the cutting board before her, taking the zucchini Orihime handed her. “How do you want these cut?”

“Oh, for skewering.” Orihime looked to Meg as the blonde girl pulled a cutting board closer and handed Leah a large knife. “Do you want to do the peppers?”

Meg nodded. Orihime pushed two green peppers to her and looked through the silverware drawer for a can opener. Leah looked to the window to see Renji and Raider standing in the latter’s back yard past the tallest of the hedges near the lower spots of the fence, both gesturing to his house, and then the yard.

She looked back down to the squash. “You know that guy you thought you saw at the farmers market, Inoue?”

Orihime fit the opener over the can lid and nodded. “But I was mistaken.” She didn’t believe it, even as she said it. There was too much in the air, too dense of a feeling lately for her to completely dismiss it, despite what Renji told her.

“I think I saw him in town. Friday.”

Orihime paused turning the can opener. “Where? Here?”

Leah stopped slicing the green vegetable. “He said his name was Uryû Ishida.”

Orihime’s hand slipped off the opener, and she fumbled with it. “You saw Ishida?”

“Who’s Ishida?” Meg wondered as she cut the top off the peppers and removed the seeds and pith from inside.

Leah looked to Orihime, letting her answer.

Orihime carefully took the metal lid off the can of pineapple. “He was a friend from the exchange student program,” she said lowly, “but I don’t see how he could be here. Are you sure, Leah?”

She saw the hopeful look in Orihime’s eyes and immediately regretted lying to the quiet Japanese teen who’d stopped her the few days before — and for sending Danielle out to the Manic Groove’s dining room Saturday to say she wasn’t working when she saw him sitting at a small table, alone.

Orihime listened over the next few minutes as Leah told her of the meeting, the brunette girl hesitant to tell much, recalling Renji’s reaction to the news story on the radio that Friday, and Meg’s growing curiosity as she listened in.

Orihime nodded, staring at the pineapple chunks in the tin can. “So you think he’ll be back? I do want to see him, Leah.”

She nodded. “He was very persistent. He told Danielle he’d be in Tuesday, when I work next.”

Meg smiled. “Inoue, you’re blushing! You do know him.”

Orihime put a hand to her warm cheek. “Hai. What time do you work, Leah? I’ll have Renji take me there.”

They looked to the back door as Renji stepped in, returning their assorted looks of conspiratorial agreement. He grinned. “Raider’s got septic problems. In his basement.”

Meg frowned. Leah wrinkled her face in disgust. He looked over the preparations. “How long until that’s ready to go out?”

Orihime couldn’t hide her smile at thoughts of a certain shy classmate she knew was indeed in Brooklyn. “Ten minutes.”

He nodded and grabbed a beer out of the refrigerator before going back outside.

Meg turned to Orihime. “He’s happy about Raider’s septic tank problem?”

“Hmm?” Orihime pulled her thoughts back to her friends. “Oh. I think he’s just glad it isn’t ours.” She glanced to the garage and smiled quickly. “That’s all.”

Renji noticed the change in Orihime’s demeanor as soon as the girls brought the platter of shish kabobs out to the back yard. Her usual smile was replaced by a brighter one that lit her eyes, and he knew there was more to it than the absence of headaches.

He stood at the grill as they put foam plates and condiments on the picnic table, chatting blithely between them. When she met him with the platter, she leaned closer.

“Leah saw Ishida,” she said softly, her eyes large. She nodded. “Friday, Renji. He’s really here.”

So that was it, he thought, his movements halting. He remembered to take the platter from her. “Are you sure, Orihime?”

She nodded vigorously. “He told her his name. I think we can tell her everything, Renji.”

He knew she couldn’t mean everything. Not everything. He looked back to the picnic table where Leah and Meg stood, talking. “What have you told Meg?”

She shook her head. “Not much.”

“Keep it that way, just until we can figure this out.”

She smiled. “Okay.”

He turned back to the grill as she joined her friends, then glanced at them out of the corner of his eye, wondering for a moment if they had an agreed upon dress code or if it was standard issue for girls their age to wear the capris and frilly t-shirts on any given day. He carefully set a dozen skewers of meat, vegetables, and pineapple chunks across the hot grill surface. He was more relieved than he’d cared to admit that Raider’s problems were his own, and not a result of the moldering corpse in the garage. He’d only taken a few steps into the neighbor’s stairwell entry before knowing the smell leaching up from the depths was not human rot. It was feces.

With all the other questionable smells coming from Raider’s house, he could see how the guy could confuse one more. The whole place had smelled of off-color contraband, and had been none too clean.

“Hi,” Leah said from his side as he positioned one of the skewers better over the hot gray coals.

“Hi.”

“How’s the arm?”

“Good.” He saw her eyes go to the black point of a tattoo that showed below his t-shirt sleeve.

“Your folks gone again?”

He watched her eyes, but she seemed only to be asking. “Yeah. Mom’s picking Dad up from the airport.”

She nodded. “Is Gwen coming by?”

“No.” He glanced to Orihime and Meg as they went back into the house. He took a drink of the beer resting on the grill’s slat board side tray. “What did you bring today?”

“Strawberry Jello cake.”

Dammit, strawberry, he thought. He was about to say something more, but their attention went to the driveway as a car was heard pulling in.

“Tell Orihime to…” He stopped as the long older model, champagne colored Cadillac rolled into the drive, halting behind the truck by the garage. It took Renji a moment to recognize Shunsui Kyouraku behind the steering wheel.

“Who’s that?” Leah asked.

Shunsui opened the wide door and got out, slamming it shut and looking to Renji with a large, lazy smile on his half-shaven face. In place of his usual straw hat was a canvas one of fly-fishing style — minus the lures — and on his feet were brown leather sandals. In between, a loose fitting red half unbuttoned shirt that was printed with white and yellow hibiscus over his khaki Bermuda shorts.

“Renji! Son!” he said with a wave.

“My Dad,” Renji said with disbelief. He hadn’t been called son by anyone since he and Rukia had been starving together, living in the alleys of Rukongai, but that wasn’t what jolted him now.

“Oh, your mother,” Shunsui said, hurriedly rounding the long hood of the Cadillac to open the passenger side door.

“That’s your dad?” Leah’s voice was nearly as dumbstruck as Renji’s.

“Yeah…” A hissing sound came from the grill, and he looked back to it, turning a skewer that’s pineapple was charring. “They’re home early.”

He turned to see Shunsui open the car door and smile at the small figure inside, speaking mutedly, lovingly, as Nanao stepped out. Shunsui closed the door and put an arm lock around his vice-captain’s shoulders that nearly lifted her from the ground. She pushed an elbow into his side and he eased off a bit.

Undeterred, Shunsui surveyed the yard quickly. “A hibachi-que. We’re just in time.”

Nanao said something in correction, but Shunsui just nodded, waving it aside. He walked them to where Renji stood at the grill with Leah. Nanao’s girlish figure was at home in her denim skirt and peach-colored tank top, her glasses a less severe design in gold rims. Shunsui stuck a hand out to Renji and shook his a few exaggerated times, then reached for Leah’s.

“And you are …?” he said, leaning over, smiling at her.

“This is Leah, uh …” Renji looked to her.

“Porter,” she said as Shunsui’s hands clasped over hers in a gentle movement, a ring matching Renji’s on his left hand.

“Leah?” He lifted an eyebrow at Renji.

“Inoue’s friend from school,” the younger man clarified. He glanced at Leah, unable to look at the captain as he said the words. “This is my Dad.”

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Smith,” Leah said, looking to Nanao as Shunsui’s hand dropped hers.

“And my mother,” Renji said. “She picked him up from the airport early. I guess.”

“Yes, yes.” Nanao shook Leah’s hand, smiling at the bewildered girl, her two-carat ring flashing in the sunlight. “Pleased to meet you, Leah.”

“Hi,” Leah said, looking to the back door as Orihime and Meg appeared on the porch there. Both girls looked to the newcomers with surprise, dishes in their hands.

Shunsui’s arm went back around Nanao in a tight hold, at which the slight woman accepted it, moving with him toward the house. “Inoue, I see you’ve made friends!”

Orihime bowed deeply when Shunsui and Nanao reached the back door, introducing Meg — in rapid Japanese — to each and detailing how she really really liked living with them in America.

Leah looked to Renji. “Your folks seem nice.”

He watched Orihime, hoping all his careful, precariously built lies wouldn’t unravel in a burst of honesty. He looked to Leah, recalling her comment, wondering why she was more accepting of the situation than he was.

“Think so?”

She nodded.

“Renji!” Shunsui turned with a sway, making the ponytail that was loosely gathered at his back in sections tied with colorfully embroidered strands swing out, nearly brushing Nanao. “Our bags are in the back seat!”

Orihime and Meg were still recovering from the brisk handshake from Mr. Smith, and moved off to the table with their dishes. Orihime looked to Renji, then back to Shunsui following Nanao as they disappeared into the house.

Renji handed the grill tongs to Leah. “Don’t let anything catch fire.”

She looked after the couple who’d gone into the house, then looked to Renji at the long car as he jerked open the passenger side rear door. For a moment she stood stunned by the genetic grab-bag that was the Smith family, then she turned back to the grill.

Renji pulled the two overnight bags from the Cadillac to find them inordinately light, a dozen thoughts racing through his head. He shut the door and looked to Leah, who had her back to him at the grill. Orihime and Meg were still looking at the back door, Meg’s face in shell-shocked soldier mode. Orihime was speaking, giggling nervously. Probably in Japanese, he thought. Meg just nodded.

Renji entered the kitchen to find the Eighth Division captain and vice-captain in a stand-off at the sink, her speaking in animated Japanese, her politeness level dipping. Renji cleared his throat and Shunsui looked to him, Nanao’s small hands on her hips as she glared at the taller man posing as her husband.

“Captain Kyouraku –”

“Cut the formalities, Renji. This is supposed to look familial,” the man said, smiling widely, looking to his lieutenant. “Isn’t it, Nanao, my lovely?”

One eye twitched behind her glasses as she stared up at him. She looked to Renji holding the bags. “Those can go …go…” She looked horrified at the next words that came to mind.

“Don’t worry. Son. We’re not moving in.” Shunsui looked out the window at the three girls in the backyard. “You haven’t returned any calls from Soul Society, and we’ve tried six times since the airport and you’ve not answered.”

Renji shook his head. “Nothing gets through out here.”

“You’re keeping up your reports?”

“Yes, sir.”

“We would have let you know we were on our way, if your communications were open.” He looked around the room. “Everything under control here?”

“Everything is fine. The situation is working with Orihime being an exchange student for school.”

“Good to hear.” Shunsui nodded, scratching the day’s growth of beard at his neck, looking to the bags Renji held. “Where can we put those? For appearances.”

Renji led them through the small house to the ground floor’s unoccupied back bedroom, rolling his eyes at the room’s sparse furnishings. A futon and a coffee table. He set the bags down and turned to see Nanao standing in the doorway until Shunsui gently nudged her inside.

The captain leaned one hand on the doorframe and glanced around, nodding, a pleased smile on his face. His attention went to Nanao. “This’ll do.”

She ignored the leer that settled on her. She looked to Renji. “Is Orihime adapting well?”

“Very well.”

“She has friends in school?”

He nodded, only minutely aware Nanao had taken over the conversation he thought her captain should be having. Nothing new there, he thought. “Everyone likes her here.”

“Grades,” Shunsui said, as if he’d remembered something significant. “She does well?”

“Yes, sir.”

Shunsui nodded, eyes resting on the futon. “Nanao, my sweet little bride, would –”

“You don’t have to say that now,” she hissed lowly, her small hands clenching in absence of her book.

Renji wished he was in the kitchen, the yard, anywhere but in the bedroom at the moment. They both looked to him, and then Shunsui entered the room fully, smiling dotingly at her.

“Nanao, my precious, go see if you can hunt up some sake.”

“We have beer in the refrigerator, and brandy in the cupboard by the sink,” Renji told her. “No sake. Sorry, Captain.”

Shunsui sighed. “How do you get by? Very well. Whatever you can find, sweet Nanao.”

She slipped past him and he turned to watch her go down the hall before looking back to Renji. “Long ride here.”

“Yes, sir.”

“These girls, Orihime’s friends, how much do they know?”

“Nothing.”

Shunsui’s eyes dropped to Renji’s bandaged arm. “Oh?”

“We haven’t told them anything.”

He nodded. “There’s some concern about your lack of contact. Rangiku reported she couldn’t reach you, even a few kilometers away,” he said as Renji began to speak. “She didn’t have any problems communicating when she surveyed the place before Soul Society moved you in here. Any thoughts on that?”

Renji nodded. “Yes, sir.”

Shunsui glanced down the hall, then back to him. “Where are your reports?”


The next few hours went as well as any of them could have hoped. They ate at the picnic table in the sunny afternoon, blending lumpily into the other families on Brooklyn-Pierport Road.

The shish kabobs, potato salad, melon, and cake were consumed over that time, with Shunsui making no apologies for monopolizing the peanut satay Orihime had made for the kabobs, or his newfound passion for the tall glass of brandy and diet Cherry Coke Nanao had made for him. Leah and Meg were a bit on the quiet side, intimidated by Mr. Smith’s sometimes overreaching presence. Nanao kept him in line, admonishing him a few times in a hushed tone, which only led to him leaning possessively over her, in an attempt to hear what she said.

When the meal was finished and Orihime announced they had brownies to bake, Nanao’s face lit up as visions of a spontaneous women’s-anything that didn’t involve that pink-haired tot-in-charge warmed her mind.

“Sounds delicious,” she said as she cleared the dishes from the picnic table with the younger girls.

As she left with Orihime, Leah, and Meg into the house with their hands-full of empty dishes, Shunsui turned to Renji.

“I have some questions about your reports.”

Renji had seen this coming. “Which part?”

The captain looked to the building in front of the truck. “Is that the garage?”


Orihime ducked into the bathroom upstairs with Nanao, having made her excuses to Leah and Meg in the kitchen downstairs. She’d only seen the Eighth Division’s vice-captain once before, briefly, at Soul Society, and hadn’t known who she was at the time. All she really knew of the small dark-haired woman was what Chad had told her, and that wasn’t helping any today.

“No, call me Mrs. Smith,” Nanao said again, smiling, as they stood in the bathroom. “It’s more natural.”

“Hai.” Orihime found herself holding her breath. Speaking alone to Matsumoto was one thing, but Ise Nanao was quite another. “Am I in trouble?”

Nanao’s expression softened. “No. You’re in no trouble. After Matsumoto’s report, Captain Hitsugaya decided parental figures would be expected. So here we are,” she added dryly.

“Oh, okay.”

Nanao decided not to tell her that Captain Kyouraku had volunteered — volunteered them — wholeheartedly when he’d heard the assignment proposed. “Shunsui tells me Renji removed something from the back of your neck.”

Orihime nodded, her smile dimming. “I don’t know how it got there.”

Nanao gestured to the closed toilet. “Sit down. I’ll take a look.”

Orihime obeyed, and bent her head forward as Nanao brushed her hair up from the back of her head. She carefully peeled back the small bandage, nodding at the half-healed incision measuring less than a centimeter.

“It’s healing well. Why didn’t Renji contact Fourth Division before attempting something like this?” She gently pressed the bandage back over the wound.

“Oh, he did. Several times.” Orihime related the incidents from the rainy night to the older woman.

Nanao nodded, watching her.

“I don’t remember much, but I’m trying to recall my time there. In Las Noches.” Orihime pulled her hair to one side as Nanao stepped back. “We got a blank book from Happy Dollar for me to write things down in. What I can remember. Kind of like a journal.”

“Oh,” Nanao said slowly, nodding. “That’s a good idea.”

They both looked to the door as Leah and Meg’s voices drifted to them.

“We should probably go back down now,” Nanao said.

Orihime nodded.


Renji had dug three feet down in the darkened garage’s clay floor by the time Shunsui finished reading the first two reports in full. He sat in a lawn chair, his feet propped on the wall to one side, shining the flashlight on the floor between the chair and the newly forming hole.

It did neither him nor Renji much good, but opening the garage door was out of the question.

Shunsui sat back, placing the paperwork on his lap and stretching, leaving Renji in the dark, in the hole, for a few seconds.

The light beam jerked back to the hole quickly.

“How certain are you that this metal band has anything to do with the problems transmitting out?” he asked, leaning back in the chair.

Renji grunted over the shovel, dreading the moment the smell would become intolerable. Already the putrid stench of rot was getting strong. He’d tried to recall how the intruder had landed in the hole, so he only had to dig up one area rather than the hole grave, but he hadn’t been paying that much attention to those details that night.

“Not much, but I think it should be ruled out. If not this, then it must be that chip Orihime had.”

“Yes, that,” the Captain said, pulling the hat over his forehead. “Might be, Renji. You still have that?”

“Yes, sir.”

Shunsui thought for a moment, and then sighed and sat up straighter, flipping through the reports. “Have you anything else to link these school encounters mentioned here to this intruder and the female crossing-guard — now that’s just wrong — besides the intended targets being Asian?”

Renji dumped a shovelful of soggy clay beside the hole’s surface. “No. Just suspicion.”

“I’m not convinced they’re related.”

The shovel gave easier, bringing up a smell rivaling — and winning against — Raider’s basement. Renji turned his head, fighting a gag reflex, and stood back from the stench. “I think we’re there, sir.”

Shunsui got to his feet, downing the last of the third of the tall mixed brandy drinks Nanao had fixed for him, and looked into the four-to-six foot deep hole, blinding Renji momentarily with the flashlight.

“Ugh. He’s an old kill.”

Beneath the light’s beam was a soggy, slick mass of human tissue in later stages of decomposition. The slimy sponge that had once been human lent a fetid, air-sucking smell to the garage, making both men nearly gasp.

Shunsui held his hibiscus print shirt hem over his nose, peering into the hole. “Is that the hand?”

“I think so.” Renji wiped his face with the bottom of his t-shirt, hoping no one from the house would venture out to the garage. Egad, the guy stunk.

“Do you see the band anywhere?”

Renji coughed and used the shovel to push some of the dirt around, finally finding a dull gray edge of metal in the slippery tissue. It was still attached the parts of rot hanging from the bone white mess. He felt the cookout rise in his throat but refused to act on it.

“Bring it up.”

Renji groaned, but obliged the Eighth Division Captain. He drove the shovel behind where he thought the band encircled the wrist, severing it beneath the hand. It took a few moments to work the metal loose, and another minute to scoop it up with the shovel. He deposited the band to the side of the hole surface.

Shunsui looked to the metal band still stuck with bits of greasy black, brown, and bile green. “Is that it?”

“Yes, sir. I’m sure of it.”

“Is there anything else of value on him?”

Renji leaned on the shovel, trying to see the higher ranking man in the light that centered on the sloppy band of metal. “No.”

“All-righty then. You can cover him up.” Shunsui rattled the small, nearly melted ice cubes in his glass, taking a few steps back from the hole. “Do you think there’s any brandy left?”

Next Chapter

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~ by Miranda on February 9, 2010.

5 Responses to “Orihime In Hiding 17”

  1. 1st?

  2. 2nd?
    I was waiting for this new chapter!

  3. 3rd! Finally caught up again! Great story and I was lol at Shunsui and Nanoe being the parents! XD

  4. @SCHY and Super: Are we the only ones that read this?

  5. I think you are the only ones that comment on it.

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