Authors: Barry Eisler
Tags: #Fiction, #Thrillers, #Espionage, #General
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Electronic edition: June, 2005
is for three people who are not here to read it.
For my father, Edgar, who gave me strength.
For my mother, Barbara, who gave me insight.
For my brother, Ian, who helped me climb the mountain, whose memory keeps me climbing still.
In the changing of the times, they were like autumn lightning, a thing out of season, an empty promise of rain that would fall unheeded on fields already bare.
on the Meiji-era
Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman
—But who is that on the other side of you?
—T. S. E
The Waste Land
ARRY CUT THROUGH
the morning rush-hour crowd like a shark fin through water. I was following from twenty meters back on the opposite side of the street, sweating with everyone else in the unseasonable October Tokyo heat, and I couldn’t help admiring how well the kid had learned what I’d taught him. He was like liquid the way he slipped through a space just before it closed, or drifted to the left to avoid an emerging bottleneck. The changes in Harry’s cadence were accomplished so smoothly that no one would recognize he had altered his pace to narrow the gap on our target, who was now moving almost conspicuously quickly down Dogenzaka toward Shibuya Station.
The target’s name was Yasuhiro Kawamura. He was a career bureaucrat connected with the Liberal Democratic Party, or LDP, the political coalition that has been running Japan almost without a break since the war. His current position was vice minister of land and infrastructure at the Kokudokotsusho, the successor to the old Construction Ministry and Transport Ministry, where he had obviously done something to seriously
offend someone because serious offense is the only reason I ever get a call from a client.
I heard Harry’s voice in my ear: “He’s going into the Higashimura fruit store. I’ll set up ahead.” We were each sporting a Danish-made, microprocessor-controlled receiver small enough to nestle in the ear canal, where you’d need a flashlight to find it. A voice transmitter about the same size goes under the jacket lapel. The transmissions are burst UHF, which makes them very hard to pick up if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, and they’re scrambled in case you do. The equipment freed us from having to maintain constant visual contact, and allowed us to keep moving for a while if the target stopped or changed direction. So even though I was too far back to see it, I knew where Kawamura had exited, and I could continue walking for some time before having to stop to keep my position behind him. Solo surveillance is difficult, and I was glad I had Harry with me.
About twenty meters from the Higashimura, I turned off into a drugstore, one of the dozens of open-façade structures that line Dogenzaka, catering to the Japanese obsession with health nostrums and germ fighting. Shibuya is home to many different
or tribes, and members of several were represented here this morning, united by a common need for one of the popular bottled energy tonics in which the drugstores specialize, tonics claiming to be bolstered with ginseng and other exotic ingredients but delivering instead with a more prosaic jolt of ordinary caffeine. Waiting in front of the register were several gray-suited
—“salary man,” corporate rank and file—their
faces set, cheap briefcases dangling from tired hands, fortifying themselves for another interchangeable day in the maw of the corporate machine. Behind them, two empty-faced teenage girls, their hair reduced to steel-wool brittleness by the dyes they used to turn it orange, noses pierced with oversized rings, their costumes meant to proclaim rejection of the traditional route chosen by the
in front of them but offering no understanding of what they had chosen instead. And a gray-haired retiree, his skin sagging but his face oddly bright, probably in Shibuya to avail himself of one of the area’s well-known sexual services, which he would pay for out of a pension account that he kept hidden from his wife, not realizing that she knew what he was up to and simply didn’t care.
I wanted to give Kawamura about three minutes to get his fruit before I came out, so I examined a selection of bandages that gave me a view of the street. The way he had ducked into the store looked like a move calculated to flush surveillance, and I didn’t like it. If we hadn’t been hooked up the way we were, Harry would have had to stop abruptly to maintain his position behind the target. He might have had to do something ridiculous, like tie his shoe or stop to read a street sign, and Kawamura, probably peering out of the entranceway of the store, could have made him. Instead, I knew Harry would continue past the fruit store; he would stop about twenty meters ahead, give me his location, and fall in behind when I told him the parade was moving again.
The fruit store was a good spot to turn off, all right—too good for someone who knew the route to have
chosen it by accident. But Harry and I weren’t going to be flushed out by amateur moves out of some government antiterrorist primer. I’ve had that training, so I know how useful it is.
I left the drugstore and continued down Dogenzaka, more slowly than before because I had to give Kawamura time to come out of the store. Shorthand thoughts shot through my mind: Are there enough people between us to obscure his vision if he turns when he comes out? What shops am I passing if I need to duck off suddenly? Is anyone looking up the street at the people heading toward the station, maybe helping Kawamura spot surveillance? If I had already drawn any countersurveillance attention, they might notice me now, because before I was hurrying to keep up with the target and now I was taking my time, and people on their way to work don’t change their pace that way. But Harry had been the one walking point, the more conspicuous position, and I hadn’t done anything to arouse attention before stopping in the drugstore.
I heard Harry again: “I’m at one-oh-nine.” Meaning he had turned into the landmark 109 Department Store, famous for its collection of 109 restaurants and trendy boutiques.
“No good,” I told him. “The first floor is lingerie. You going to blend in with fifty teenage girls in blue sailor school uniforms picking out padded bras?”
“I was planning to wait outside,” he replied, and I could imagine him blushing.
The front of 109 is a popular meeting place, typically crowded with a polyglot collection of pedestrians.
“Sorry, I thought you were going for the lingerie,” I said, suppressing the urge to smile. “Just hang back and wait for my signal as we go past.”
The fruit store was only ten meters ahead, and still no sign of Kawamura. I was going to have to slow down. I was on the opposite side of the street, outside Kawamura’s probable range of concern, so I could take a chance on just stopping, maybe to fiddle with a cell phone. Still, if he looked, he would spot me standing there, even though, with my father’s Japanese features, I don’t have a problem blending into the crowds. Harry, a pet name for Haruyoshi, being born of two Japanese parents, has never had to worry about sticking out.
When I returned to Tokyo in the early eighties, my brown hair, a legacy from my mother, worked for me the way a fluorescent vest does for a hunter, and I had to dye it black to develop the anonymity that protects me now. But in the last few years the country has gone mad for
or tea-color dyed hair, and I don’t have to be so vigilant about the dye anymore. I like to tell Harry he’s going to have to go
if he wants to fit in, but Harry’s too much of an
a geek, to give much thought to issues like personal appearance. I guess he doesn’t have that much to work with, anyway: an awkward smile that always looks like it’s offered in anticipation of a blow, a tendency to blink rapidly when he’s excited, a face that’s never lost its baby fat, its pudginess accentuated by a shock of thick black hair that on bad days seems almost to float above it. But the same qualities that keep him off
magazine covers confer the unobtrusiveness that makes for effective surveillance.
I had reached the point where I was sure I was going to have to stop when Kawamura popped out of the fruit store and reentered the flow. I hung back as much as possible to increase the space between us, watching his head bobbing as he moved down the street. He was tall for a Japanese and that helped, but he was wearing a dark suit like ninety percent of the other people in this crowd—including Harry and me, naturally, so I couldn’t drop back too far.
Just as I’d redeveloped the right distance, he stopped and turned to light a cigarette. I continued moving slowly behind and to the right of the group of people that separated us, knowing he wouldn’t be able to make me moving with the crowd. I kept my attention focused on the backs of the suits in front of me, just a bored morning commuter. After a moment he turned and started moving again.
I allowed myself the trace of a satisfied smile. Japanese don’t stop to light cigarettes; if they did, they’d lose weeks over the course of their adult lives. Nor was there any reason, such as a strong headwind threatening to blow out a match, for him to turn and face the crowd behind him. Kawamura’s obvious attempt at countersurveillance simply confirmed his guilt.
Guilt of what I don’t know, and in fact I never ask. I insist on only a few questions. Is the target a man? I don’t work against women or children. Have you retained anyone else to solve this problem? I don’t want my operation getting tripped up by someone’s idea of
a B-team, and if you retain me, it’s an exclusive. Is the target a principal? I solve problems directly, like the soldier I once was, not by sending messages through uninvolved third parties like a terrorist. The concerns behind the last question are why I like to see independent evidence of guilt: It confirms that the target is indeed the principal and not a clueless innocent.
Twice in eighteen years the absence of that evidence has stayed my hand. Once I was sent against the brother of a newspaper editor who was publishing stories on corruption in a certain politician’s home district. The other time it was against the father of a bank reformer who showed excessive zeal in investigating the size and nature of his institution’s bad debts. I would have been willing to act directly against the editor and the reformer, had I been retained to do so, but apparently the clients in question had reason to pursue a more circuitous route that involved misleading me. They are no longer clients, of course. Not at all.