A yakuza boss, a police captain, and a judge have an unususal relationship.
The blue haze of gunpowder and cigarette smoke curled lazily above the pools of blood. Okubo took a deep breath, for he loved the smell of gun smoke ever since he’d been a kid and used a stone to blast those pimples on red strips. As for his love of the smell of blood, sweat, and tears? That had come later.
He watched the pair of blindfolded men shuffle into the elevator with two of his gang. They would be taken wherever they wanted to go. He knew he’d never see them again, for no survivor of The Wink had ever returned to their bad habits. The lessons he gave were literally unforgettable.
He stood up and rubbed his calloused hand over his black, stubbled head. Looking at the man lying on the floor still sitting in his toppled chair with oozing blood framing his head, he whispered in a raspy voice, “Get moving. Clean up the place.” His remaining men bowed, then following his orders, put the bloody mess and the other two dead players into body bags and lugged them away. Soon, they returned to mop the blood away. He waited till they were finished, then he ordered them to leave him alone to ponder, for the game hadn’t turned out the way he wanted. Perhaps, he could avoid it in the future.
Sitting down into his red leather chair, he lit a cigarette, and looked at the table in the center of the room. Half an hour ago, five men who had missed their deadlines on their debts had played a unique card game. He had shot three of them dead. The first had probably expected the bullet. The second, given the look on his face, had been confident to survive at least another round. The last one had forfeited and given his life so the remaining two would live. Though the irony was interesting, the ending was in his view disappointing. He preferred to watch men struggle for their lives. As for women, they were too valuable to kill. A new face was always welcome in his porn business.
Near the eastern rim of the Yamanote Railway Loop, District Court Senior Judge Tanabe was meeting with Police Captain Kondo, head of the Investigation into Violent Organized Crimes. Putting on his reading glasses, Tanabe read the evidence and request for a search warrant. He lifted his eyes to look at the police chief and asked, “Okubo, again? For the same charges? If I correctly recall: kidnapping, human trafficking, selling child pornography. Last time you didn’t find a thing. What makes you think this time it’ll be any different?”
Kondo went into a coughing fit. He cleared his throat and spat into a wad of tissue. “Sorry. We think someone tipped him off last time. This time security will be much tighter. There’s something else. I didn’t put it in the report cause it’s not definite. There’s a rumor he has two kids he’s getting ready to auction. I’ve heard they’re twins form Southeast Asia, a boy and a girl, under ten years old.”
“I’m afraid the new evidence you’ve found plus this rumor is not good enough. I have to see something better than this. And, maybe, you don’t have a rat. Don’t you think Okubo is clever enough to hide the evidence? Show me something we can nail him for. I’d love to issue an arrest warrant for that bastard.”
Kondo was furious. The coward, he thought, couldn’t risk sticking his neck out. Keeping his face impassive, he bowed. “I’m sorry to have wasted your time, Judge Tanabe. I’ll renew my efforts and get strong evidence.”
“I hope luck shines on you, Captain. And, you’d better see a doctor for that cough.”
As the echoes of Kondo’s shoes on linoleum faded away, Tanabe took a key out of his pocket and opened a drawer. Taking the cell phone inside, he scrolled, selected a number, and sent a message. He was finished for the day. Replacing the phone and locking the drawer, he prepared to leave.
Across the street, Kondo sat next to a window in the second floor Renoir cafe. He had just lit a cigarette and was sipping his coffee when he saw Tanabe stride out of his building. Raising the cigarette to his lips, he took a deep hit and dug his phone out of his jacket.
He finished the e-mail, put the phone next to his pack of Mild Sevens, and thought about the kids he’d mentioned to Tanabe. He hated to think what was happening around the world to unlucky kids.
Twenty years ago, Tsutomu Miyazaki had been on the rampage, killing four girls aged between 4 and 7. His five-year old sister had suffered hell cubed: raped, tortured, and murdered. He’d been thirteen, and he had vowed to join the police force to bring monsters to justice. He knew he was doing his best to avenge her death, yet in the deepest of nights he would hear the screams of his mother, the same as the ones twenty years ago; spine chilling screams of grief and madness followed by deep lung emptying sobs. When he had stepped outside their home that day, he had seen the cause; an open cardboard box and inside were the jumbled burnt and chopped up remains of his sister.
To this day he couldn’t eat meat.
His phone danced next to the pack of Mild Sevens. Kondo picked it up and snapped it open. He read the text. It confirmed his hunch of where the judge was going. Snubbing out his cigarette, he drained the coffee down his throat, and stood up to follow the judge.
In the room with blue haze, Okubo let out a long breath to calm himself, for he had just read a short message on his cell phone, one that he’d been waiting a long time for. He selected a number and made a call.
In the center of Tokyo, in Roppongi, in a deluxe high rise, a phone rang. It was answered immediately. “Yes.”
The commanding voice left no doubt who was speaking. “Bring them here.”
Without a pause, a man spoke, “Right away, sir.” He thumbed the phone off, and turned to the boy and girl putting together a jigsaw puzzle on the floor. “Tommy! Kay! Put on the clothes Uncle Okubo bought for you last week. We’re going for a visit.”
Tossing a piece aside, Kay frowned and asked, “Can we keep the puzzle like this, here?”
“Sure, at least till tomorrow.”
Though nine years old, they looked two years younger due to their small size. Coming from an impoverished village in Thailand nearly a year ago, they’d been purchased and brought to Japan. Adding to all these changes were their English names though they were in Japan, and everyone around them was Japanese.
Tommy took the hand of his twin sister and led her to their room to change into their new clothes. Closing the door, he whispered near her ear, “I can’t believe Uncle really wants us to wear those sailor uniforms.”
Kay whispered back, “I guess he wants us to look cute.”
Having heard tales from the older boys in his village, Tommy thought out loud, “Yeah, but what for?”
They walked to the window, and looked down and away to the city stretching as far as they could see. Wondering if they would ever see their village again, Tommy took his sister’s hand and gripped it in silence.
Half an hour later, on the other side of the Yamanote Railroad Loop, an immaculate black Mercedes slowly turned off a narrow street and into a narrow building. It pushed aside the broad leather strips that blocked anyone’s view into the first floor parking lot. Guiding the car to a stop, the driver pushed a button with a white gloved hand. The left back door opened. A man in a tailored suit stepped out and faced the entrance of the garage. In a moment, he gestured with his hand, and two children dressed in blue and white sailor outfits jumped out. The man followed them to a door as their shiny shoes clicked-clacked on the cold cement floor.
A few minutes later, the twins entered a child’s playroom decorated in pastels and filled with toys. They’d never seen anything like it before. Kay squealed delightedly, rushed to Okubo, and hugged him. Looking around, Tommy wondered why the room had such a large mirror on one wall, somehow, it made him feel uncomfortable. He approached Okubo and extended his hand in greeting. Taking his short thick arms off Kay to accept the boy’s hand, Okubo said, “Good. I see you’re learning your lessons and forgetting your Thai habits.”
Kay, eager to please Okubo, said, “The lessons are real fun. We want to learn everything.”
“I’m glad to hear that, Kay. You two play here. Later, you’ll go out to dinner.”
Tommy looked intently at Okubo and asked, “Are you coming with us?”
“Maybe. We’ll see how things turn out. Okay?”
Tommy answered, “Yes, sir”, for both of them, for his sister was already playing with a cuddly bear as big as she.
At J.R. Tokyo station, Judge Tanabe slid his ticket through the gate, and, retrieving it, placed it in his pocket. In half an hour he’d be at Okubo’s Shinjuku office. The trains were packed at they always were early in the evening even though they were only two minutes apart. Fortunately, Tokyo station was the terminal of the Chuo line. He went into a waiting train. Every seat was taken, but he wasn’t tired and didn’t mind standing.
The Chuo line, going through central Tokyo, was notorious for people jumping in front of its trains. He wondered why they seemed to come in clusters. There hadn’t been one yet today. He hoped his luck would hold out another fifteen minutes.
He looked at the passengers and imagined secrets they kept in their hearts. Did they spend each day fearful of discovery? Would any of them someday be humiliated and humbled? Thrill, fear, and self-loathing, seethed in his breast, yet his face remained impassive. Eyes were windows into the soul? He nearly laughed aloud. Reflected in glass, his image blended into its gray world as the train sped unwavering along the rails.
Ten minutes later, the train rushed into the huge cave that was Shinjuku station like a dragon coming home. It rattled to a stop and opened its guts. Tanabe was spewed out with the flow. The train rose in relief, then sagged again as another five hundred rushed in.
Tanabe turned and marched up the stairs to the east exit. It took ten minutes to navigate out into the gasoline fumes of Shinjuku. He hated coming here. Hated exposing himself, however slightly, to the risk of scandal. He knew if you explored the slime, eventually it would suck you back to slither around in whatever you wished. His solution was to keep it home.
The main streets were packed with shoppers and workers going home or to a drinking hole. Tanabe turned into a side street and turned again into a slim building. Next to the elevator was an intercom with a camera and video screen. Pushing the round white button, he waited for an answer, instead the elevator opened. A man in a tailored black suit bowed and gestured for him to enter. Tanabe did so. The doors closed. The man asked, “I apologize, but I must ask you to allow me to search you for weapons.”
“I didn’t know Okubo was so cautious.”
“The boss says it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Sighing, Tanabe said, “All right, let’s get it over with.”
“Excuse me for this offence.” Frisking quickly, the man finding nothing, bowed and pressed the button for the top floor.
Tanabe entered the room. He saw a stocky man in dark glasses above a pockmarked face. The man motioned to an armchair. “Judge Tanabe, I’m crime boss, Okubo. At last we meet. I’m happy to say welcome instead of protesting my innocence.”
“I hope that scenario never sees the light of reality.”
“Thank you and I also truly appreciate your warning me of the raid. I hope our token of appreciation satisfied you.”
“Your gift was very gracious, however, I’m afraid I overdid the, ahh, training and the gibbon has died. So, I’m here to offer you more of my services. Why, less than an hour ago, Capt. Kondo was at my office with another request for a search of these premises. Of course, I didn’t sign it. I told him he needed more solid evidence.”
“I admire your quick thinking. I’d like to consider deepening our ties. What do you offer and how may I repay?”
“I’m sure you’re aware of the services I could render on your behalf. As for my payment, I heard from Kondo that you’ve got two kids, twins from South East Asia. Are they for sale?”
“How did he know that?”
“I haven’t the faintest idea.”
“I’ll have to look into that. To get back to your question, yes, they are for sale. But, the price is very high. Let me show them to you. You’ll see what I mean.”
Okubo, moved his hand under the table, and a large panel slid apart to reveal a window into an adjoining room. Tanabe’s eyes widened in delight as he saw two beautiful children, obviously siblings, in cute sailor outfits playing. The judge turned to the crime boss, “I see your point. They are very desirable. Perhaps, I may open a line of credit for favors in the future.”
Okubo’s voice hardened, “I was thinking along the lines of payment for sins in the past.”
“What are you talking about?”
Okubo took off his shades. “Take a good look at me. A good long look.”
The judge remained silent, his body rigid.
“Still don’t recognize me? I’m not someone you sent to the can. This goes farther back, before you reached your position of power. Way, way back.”
Tanabe's eyes squinted in concentration. His heart was rattling his ribs.
Okubo continued. “Imagine me twenty years younger, scrawny, bruised, my ankles and wrists scrubbed raw from the manacles.”
“Finally you see.”
“It’s impossible, you’re, you’re supposed to be dead. I buried you.”
“You made a big mistake not getting a medical opinion. I guess you planned the body to decompose faster with the leaves on top of the thin soil. But, it wouldn’t have mattered, I would have crawled out even if I’d been dead.”
“Don’t do anything stupid. You won’t get away with it. If I don’t walk out of this building soon, one of my staff will call the police.”
There was a heavy cough and a thick gargle as Capt. Kondo spat into some tissue.
Tanabe whirled to the sound, and watched dizzily as Kondo wiped his mouth and put the tissue into his pocket. Every muscle in Kondo’s face tightened in hatred. “He’s bluffing. I watched him leave the building five minutes after I did and I followed him all the way here. He’s all by himself.”
Okubo laughed. “Too bad for you, Father, sir. Empty your pockets on that table.”
Tanabe slowly laid a wallet, a cell phone, a bunch of keys on a chain, a coin purse, and a handkerchief on the table then stepped back.
Okubo grabbed the phone and opened it. “This isn’t the one. You must have used another one. Where’s the phone you sent the message from?”
“Find it yourself.”
“Captain Kondo, could you wait in another room?”
“Sure. I don’t see it, it doesn’t happen.”
As soon as the captain took the elevator down, Okubo said, “Alright, strip him.”
After a brief protest, Tanabe’s clothes were taken off and searched. A small key bounced on the floor. One of Okubo’s men picked it up. Okubo pointed to the elevator. “Give it to Captain Kondo and tell him to look for the phone in Tanabe’s office after the judge goes missing. You others, move all the furniture to the walls and leave.”
When Okubo was alone with Tanabe, he sat down. Taking off his shoes and socks, he mimicked a younger voice. “Father, sir, I’m not going to kill you. I’m just going to hurt you a lot.”
As Okubo continued taking off his clothes, Tanabe said, “Kazu, I did those things to make you strong.”
“Well, you succeeded.” Okubo stood naked. His chest, thighs, and back were covered in old scars. Long and thin from slicing steel, short and thick from searing steel, they formed an intricate criss-cross pattern of pale ridges, a history of pain.
He dug into a pocket of his discarded jacket, and extracted a gleaming curved knife. Grinning, he swished it through the air. Tanabe in a wide crouching stance slowly backed away and to the left, all the while breathing deeply, getting ready to jump aside.
But, a desk samurai is no match for one from the battle grounds.
The knife slashed down and short. Tanabe jumped back. His feet landed flat on the floor. The blade flashed up and right. A thin red line formed from below Tanabe’s right nipple to above his left one. He winced and moved his hand across the wound. Metal flashed down hard and fast. Most of Tanabe’s ear plopped onto the floor. Tanabe screamed long and loud as the curved edge move at incredible speed up and down, left and right. Blood flew in a thin spray in every direction. His legs finally buckled and he fell, his head banging hard on the floor and knocking him unconscious.
Okubo’s sweat and Tanabe’s blood mingled and merged to cover his body in red beads. They stung his pores and blinded him. His chest heaving, he stood over Tanabe. His voice was hoarse. “We’ll never be even. Cuts and burns I can give, but tell me, how can I torture your heart?”
Wiping the blood and sweat off himself, he got dressed, then took the elevator down a floor. After telling his men to tend to Tanabe’s wounds and to get their doctor, he turned to Kondo. “Sorry to keep you waiting.”
“No problem. I have a question. You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”
“You called Tanabe father.”
“I was his adopted son.”
“One more question.”
“What’s your plans for the kids?”
“I found a nice couple in California to adopt them.”
“Adoption? After what you went through?”
“I told the parents what I was. And, I’ll pop in occasionally.”
Kondo grinned and stood to leave.
“Captain, just before you arrived, I heard that Miyazaki was executed at the Tokyo Detention House. Congratulations.”
Kondo stood stunned. He had tried to imagine it so often, yet he hadn’t been prepared to hear it. Emotions were flowing against each other. Time was needed for them to settle. The world was a little different now. It was waiting for him. He walked to the door. “Thanks. I’ll see you around.”
“Stay, we’ll celebrate.”
Kondo felt it would be awkward. “Maybe another day.”
“Where are you going?”
“To my mother’s grave. I’ve got to tell her the good news.” As the door closed behind him, he somehow knew he wouldn’t hear her screams again. He wondered how Okubo felt.
Note:Here, in Japan, capital punishment, by hanging, is publicly announced after the fact. The prisoners on death row live everyday not knowing if tomorrow will be their last.
Tsutomu Miyazaki, mentioned in this story, actually committed the crimes and did send remains of one girl to her parents. He was executed though he was diagnosed as having extreme schizophrenia .