by Paul A
A conversation between two Japanese gangsters is interrupted by a loud American tourist.
|Tomu Shibushen leant his head back and unleashed a contented groan of pleasure as the warm spa water embraced his naked body. He allowed his eyes to momentarily close as he relaxed, sweating out the weeks tension. The water was hot, but in this hotel spa it was bearable - nothing like the steaming volcanic water from the hot springs. He opened his eyes at the sound of footsteps, looking up at his disrobing friend, his eyes lingering on the inked koi carp section of the full body tattoo.
"You're late Jiru. Get in, the waters lovely."
Jiru assented, letting out a small moan of pleasure of his own. The two sat contemplatively for a few moments. Both men placed a small damp towel over their eyes and allowed their legs to float out in front of them.
"Did you eat yet?" Tomu said, from under the towel.
"Some miso ramen about an hour ago." Jiru splashed water over his inked chest. "This feels good on old bones."
"That it does." Tomu sighed deeply. He shifted uncomfortably. "Suzuki's gone too far." He paused to let the effect of his words sink in on his old friend. "Its not just a case of cutting some fingers this time, either."
Jiru said sympathetically, "Hes young and a hothead. What he did was inexcusable, but the man is a money maker Tomu."
The reply came in a levelled and measured voice. "You are always sentimental Jiru. You've been my best friend since we were boys, and I've always valued your counsel, but on this one you are wrong. This is about honour."
"The man has close ties with Kobe, Tomu."
Tomu struggled to keep his voice calm. "To hell with Kobe! Suzuki is one of our own. Ours to deal with as we wish, and he will be dealt with. No matter what Kobayashi--"
The conversation stopped dead and both men opened their eyes at the sound of splashing water as a newcomer intruded into their pool and conversation.
The new man was heavyset, with a great bushy beard and long unkept brown hair under a cowboy style hat which he hadn't removed. He'd didn't enter the water naked, instead wore garish coloured swim shorts. And he definately wasn't a Japanese. This newcomer smiled widely at the two, who returned with stares laced with contempt and deep dislike.
"Well evening fellas!" The man looked excitedly around the spa. "Man, if this ain't something!"
The two men kept very still faces.
Tomu turned to Jiru, his voice low. "Why the hell is this idiot here?"
"I don't know. I told my men outside explicitly that no-one was to disturb us." Jiru stared at the man who reacted by grinning ever more stupidly and babbled on in what Jiru knew was English, but didn't understand. "He's must be a guest at the hotel. He's gaijin Tomu, he doesn't understand."
The newcomer seized upon the word with delight. "Gaijin! That's right!" He thrust a meaty finger into his chest. "American. YOU-ESS-AY!" He beamed again and Tomu could see his rows and rows of pearly white teeth.
Americans...the worst. Loud, obnoxious people who Tomu never cared for nor wished to encounter, this oaf was actually the first one he'd met and seemed to match up with his idea of how an American would be. He cursed at his recent luck. The arrests were a poor start to the week, they were only footsoldiers, low ranking peons but it had brung unwanted attention. Then came the added surveillance. Which meant all the usual clan meeting places were off limits. Now the Suzuki headache. Tomu actually liked the kid, but he hadn't risen to where he was in the family on sentiment.
The American, upon receiving no reply to his comment, hummed obnoxiously to himself, but at least he'd shut up. Tomu shifted in the water again as he turned to Jiru once more.
"Just ignore this ape." He saw that the American was looking around excitedly, but oblivious to their conversation. His face then grew serious. "Look, Suzuki can be replaced. If we allow this to carry on, it makes us look weak. Kobayashi is already looking for any excuse to move against us."
"Kobayashi wouldn't dare." Jiru shook his head dismissively. "Tokyo would never allow it. He would have to have reason first, and even then - the other families would have to authorize it. Nobody wants bloodshed."
"Times have changed. The old school doesn't count anymore. Can you not see we are being subverted?"
"Subverted!" The rise in tone made the American look at Jiru with curiousity, before the latter regained himself. "You've grown paranoid in your old age Tomu. It's drugs, quick, easy money. That's all."
Tomu shook his head dismissively. "Think about it. When did our problems start?"
"When have we ever not had any?" Said Jiru, smiling.
Tomu continued unperturbed. "The drugs, the arrests. All began six months ago. Just weeks after Kobayashi takes over Kobe from the old man. Before that, you could count the arrests we had in the past ten years on one hand, now, just this week, eight arrested, who knows how many more before the months up." He paused for breath, shaking his head, "And now Suzuki, dealing with the Koreans of all people. You think he possesses the brains to carve out a deal with the Koreans? This is Kobayashi's hand."
The American watched the two men curiously and in his head he played a game. Guess who. From their faces and smart haircuts, he imagined them as typical middle aged businessmen, stuffy suited salary slaves who work a sixty hour week. But they had tattoos. Their bodies almost covered in ink, it was quite beautiful actually. He thought that a lot of Asians were spiritual, so maybe the markings meant these guys were some sort of monks. The idea seemed right. The older man who had just been talking sure looked stressed, like he had a lot on his mind. The American just sat quietly, he had had a busy afternoon, and it felt good now to soak in the water.
"You think Kobayashi put him up to it?" said Jiru.
"It has to be him."
"We have other enemies, even here in Osaka, why would Kobayashi..?"
"Jiru, with us out of the way, nothing stops him from controlling all of Kansai region. I'm certain now that this is his plan all along. Weaken us with the arrests, which he knows leads to surveillance. We can't operate and we're forced out into the open. He's just waiting for an opportunity to pick us off."
"It can't be...you really think?"
"I do." Tomu nodded sagely. "But i don't intend to wait around and find out. Earlier today i had Kenji setup a meeting with Kobayashi for tommorow. I told him that as the heads of our families we need to come up with a ruling on this low level drug dealing and how we handle it."
"And at this meeting..."
"The meeting won't happen. Kenji and a select few men are going to ambush him outside his building."
"That's madness Tomu!" Jiru said disbelievingly. "We have nothing concrete against him. This will lead to war...We'd be cast out. Every man in our organization would have to run for cover!"
Their animated conversation seemed to interest the American, but without knowledge of their language, it didn't bother them. The American and Jiru made eye contact, the former tried a weak smile which wasn't returned.
"They will never know it was us."
"How could they not?"
"Kenji followed Suzuki to the Korean meet. Turns out Kobe is getting a percentage of that deal."
"We picked up three of the Koreans early this morning. Three Koreans who will be executed tommorow morning after we finish with Kobayashi. Do you see now, old friend?"
"Kobayashi's men will find the bodies of the Koreans at the scene. They will assume Kobayashi was hit over the drugs. Kobe will respond in kind. There will be a turf war...The idea is brilliant Tomu."
"We'll suggest to Tokyo that they appoint someone to replace Kobayashi, someone that we trust. We'll also demand a piece of their porn racket". He allowed himself a smile. "For good measure. But Suzuki goes. I want you to take care of that tommorow."
Jiru nodded. "This is still a shock to me Tomu. But the more i think about it, the more plausible it sounds. I'll take care of Suzuki. Still, it doesn't seem real. I guess times are changing on us, Kobayashi... the man always was smart."
"Well this time we're smarter." Tomu lowered himself deeper into the water. His head felt a lot clearer, less cluttered. He eyed the American, who yawning rudely, stretched his hands up into the air, before rubbing the back of his neck. Tomu shut his eyes and his mind went blank.
The American exited the pool, leaving Tomu and Jiru both soaking. He put on his dress robe and as he walked out of the spa area, past the seated, card playing guards, he brought his face towel up and wiped at the side of his cheeks and neck. Two minutes later he was changed. In five minutes he was in a car which lay waiting for him outside the hotel. After thirty minutes, in his hotel room, a small mobile phone rang.
"Yes. Speaking....Yes both of them." He spoke in perfect Japanese. "Yes sir........Tommorow, before the meeting........Proof?.....I have their conversation recorded, it should satisfy your bosses in Tokyo, its on its way to you now....Where? Under my hat.....Yes next to the gun......Thank you sir....No, this can't be traced back to you....Thank you, Mr Kobayashi."