Toung walked down the street, his small gang of bodyguards looking cautiously around the neighborhood, two of them pulling the struggling Kasumi between them. She twisted and scratches and bit and kicked, but they wouldn't let her go. She knew they wouldn't.

"Dear one, do not struggle. You have brought this upon yourself," Toung said flatly, finally spying the building he was looking for. "Tat2U" the sign proclaimed, and the tall woman with dark blue hair and white leather was cleaning up a large tattooing gun. Toung motioned everyone inside.

"Can I help -" The woman got out before the very large men surrounded her. Her face was a mask of fear, her blue painted lips forming an "o". Toung motioned, and his first bodyguard clamped a hand over her mouth.

"I'm very sorry to disturb you, miss. You weren't doing anything, were you?" He asked gently, and she shook her head very very slowly. He smiled. "Good. My young companion here was interested in getting a tattoo. If you promise to be quiet, I'll have my friend here let go of your pretty little mouth. Do we have an understanding?"

The woman nodded once, and when the man's hand was away from her mouth, she took a long deep breath. "What kind of tattoo?"

Toung smiled. "It is nice to meet an American woman with a sense of place. Kasumi here wishes for a tattoo on her wrists. One that shows who owns her." Toung took a small piece of paper from his breast pocket, and unfolded it, laying it next to him on the counter. It was a design of a snake eating its tail, the thick body was made of Japanese lettering, and the scales were outline in dark gold. Otherwise, it was black.

"Why?" The deep voiced woman asked, and Toung shook his head. He motioned, and the bodyguard who'd held Garrote mouth slapped him, hard. Garrote slammed against the wall, falling to the floor, his dark eyes shrouded, tears falling down his cheeks. He was not prepared for this, not at all.

"Little girl, you were doing so well. Please, it is not your place to ask questions such as that. Take more care in the future. All I ask is that you perform this simple task, that is all. Surely you are able to do that? Or are you an assistant?" Toung asked, his voice having never risen from that congenial, condescending tone. Garrote shook his head, and Toung smiled. "Very good. There is hope for you yet. You shall be handsomely rewarded. Have you any restraints?"

Garrote nodded, and reached into his cabinets for the harness he and Timmy had used a few days ago, that he'd neglected to bring upstairs. The large men set the trembling young Asian girl down, almost gingerly, reverently. Toung slipped the harness on her, binding her to the chair, and stepped away to let Garrote bring his needles to her left wrist. She squealed as it penetrated her flesh, and began to thrash, yelps and screams erupting from her throat. One of the men reached under Garrote's counter and brought out a large ball gag, and slipped it into her mouth, shutting off her protests. Two others held her down against the bonds as she squirmed into the chair, her protests muffled by the gag.

Beads of sweat began to form on Garrote's forehead, marring his make up. Toung was leaning very close to the queen, hovering over his shoulder. "Do you mind?" Garrote asked, and Toung backed up, slowly, a smile on his lips. He whispered something in Cantonese to one of his guards, and they laughed. Garrote's face grew hot with a blush, and he sighed.

Nearly an hour later, it was done, in all its detail, the letters perfect. Toung looked over it, and nodded, and took a large roll of money out of his coat. He set it down on the counter, let the girl out of her bounds, and had one of the guards heft her still form over his shoulder. She had long since passed out from the pain and shock.

"Speak to no one of this night - consider what is over and above the cost to be your tip," The lean Japanese man said to the tall, deep voiced, blue haired woman. She nodded, and he left.

Garrote sunk to the floor, the wad of cash in his lacquered fingers, and took a deep shuddering breath. He debated briefly over telling Timmy or not, and then his conscience won out over the preservation of his skin. He locked the door, his hands trembling, grabbed the cash and the drawing, and ran up the stairs as fast as his legs could carry him.


 Keth pulled out the small dragon statue and turned it over in her hands, her fingers moving over the studded sapphire body, memorizing the details of it. "You're sure this is the thing we were looking for, Timmy?"

"The guy I took it off of said it was. Pity he's no longer with us," Timothy said as he picked up a few pieces of laundry off the floor. Keth took a deep breath, holding it up to the light. The black bulb barely illuminated it, but it showed the small gilded spider inside of the long sinuous body of the reptile, which whistled each time it moved along the blue scales. Keth had made the bid for it and its twin to the museum, but they'd refused her price. So she had taken steps. It was imperative for her to have these, simply for the power they held. Moreover, they belonged to her family.

She held it against her cheek, letting the cool gems warm at her touch, smiling. "Tim, you know what these mean to me. And I do thank you for this one. But where is the other?"

Tim set his hand on his chin, and tilted his head, a frown coming over his mouth. "The guy said that someone else had it. Toung something. He was the leader of the entire heist. He also took that weird glove that you were talking about the other night."

"So that was who broke into the museum. Ear to the ground, eh, Tim? Oh well. I'm sure that it can be bought from him. He's not a collector, surely. And even if he was, he hasn't any idea of the significance of the piece," Keth smiled to her herself, things coming into place around her. She gingerly set the dragon back down in its case, the foam conforming to its body again. She locked the clasps, and gave Tim a kiss on the cheek. "You're a peach, Tim. You and Garrote. Tell him I said goodbye."

She slipped from the room through the window onto the fire escape, then down to the street. Tim watched her go, rubbing his cheek, the make up and Keth's lipstick smudging together. He scowled at the mess, and took a washcloth to it.

Garrote opened the door silently, and slid over to Timmy, then slipped his arms around his lover. Tim looked at the tall queen's tears, kissed his cheeks, and held him. Later, once Garrote had finished the entire story, Timmy called Keth's answering machine.