Authors: Andrew Warren
Tags: #Espionage, #Fiction, #Mystery, #Politics, #Spies, #Suspense, #Thriller
Copyright © 2016 by Andrew Warren. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, businesses, events or locales is purely coincidental. Reproduction in whole or part of this publication without express written consent is strictly prohibited.
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The pulsing neon lights of Shinjuku made the darkness of the alley seem even more black and desolate, like the cold, empty space between stars. A lone figure crept down the narrow passage. He stopped just before the edge of the shadows, peering out cautiously at the lights and commotion ahead. Like many streets in the East Mouth shopping district, this one was for pedestrians only. The throng of people passing before him was like a river of bodies. They pushed, jostled, and raged forward, a relentless force of nature in pursuit of the city’s pleasures.
Tatsui Kentaro was dressed in a rumpled grey suit, the typical uniform of a Tokyo sarariman. Legions of these low-status, middle-income office workers filled the office buildings of Japan like drones in a beehive. Thick, black glasses pinched the bridge of his nose. Their lenses magnified his sunken brown eyes.
Tatsui brought a lit cigarette to his lips. He took a long, slow drag, then held it in front of him for a second, staring at the twin gold bands of the Mevius label. He shook his head, dropped the cigarette, and ground it beneath his heel. Running a hand through his salt-and-pepper hair, he looked left and right, checking the alley exit. No one in the massive crowd outside was paying any attention to him.
He laughed to himself. After twenty-five years of marriage, his wife was hardly concerned with his coming and goings anymore. The kids were grown adults now. Tatsui and his wife had reached the stage where infidelity was a tacit compromise, rather than a painful betrayal. Still, old habits die hard, and he couldn’t help but be wary as he pushed his way into the throng before him.
Tatsui sniffed at the crisp night air. Grilled meats, garlic, fried noodles … the enticing scents of yakitori reached out to him, comforting and seductive at the same time. For a moment, he considered stopping; it had been hours since he’d finished the small bento box lunch his wife had packed for him.
Instead, he stuck his hands in the pockets of his beige raincoat, hunched his shoulders, and pulled the coat tighter against the cold. He had other appetites to fulfill. And after hours of overtime in a cramped office, the illicit promises of Kabukicho’s many temptations filled his gut with tingling excitement.
His anticipation grew as he passed the massive TV screen of Studio Alta. The giant display towered above the street, blasting the night sky with colorful images of anime and Japanese soap opera stars. The landmark provided a popular meeting spot for the area. As he ambled on, Tatsui watched couples embrace, teenagers laugh and roughhouse, and girls trade cellphone charms and gossip.
But for Tatsui, Studio Alta was something else … a signpost. He was close now.
The pedestrian street crossed over Yasukuni-dori and led the sarariman to a large archway of flashing red lights. This was the gateway to Kabukicho, the most infamous neighborhood in Shinjuku and, indeed, all of Japan.
Here, the neon lights and signs continued to defy the darkness, but the services they advertised were of a different nature. The streets were lined with hostess clubs, massage parlors, pachinko halls… Tatsui lit another cigarette and resumed his journey into the night.
An attractive Japanese woman dressed as a maid stood at the corner near Bunka-Senta dori, passing out flyers. “Massagee, massagee?” she asked, her voice high-pitched and giggly.
Tatsui bowed and took a flyer, but he did not stop walking. His appetite led him elsewhere.
He continued past a group of what he assumed to be yakuza thugs camped outside a pachinko parlor. Clad in expensive suits, their wide-collared shirts exposed the ink of tattoos around their necks. They watched him with cold eyes and humorless smiles. Tatsui knew they would not harass him unless he owed them money, but they made him nervous nonetheless.
He hurried on, past the karaoke bars and the host club with the young, bleached blond men on the sign. Past the love hotels with their flashing pink hearts and teddy bears signs. Past the strip clubs, where the girls were Filipino, Chinese, even Russian, but almost never Japanese. Then, past the old, rundown batting cages, where you could work out your tension swinging at balls, or playing the old pornographic mahjong videogame in the back room.
Finally, almost suddenly, Tatsui stopped. The crowd seemed to part around him as he smiled at a pink neon sign on the balcony of the building before him.
Shiro Kumo Tengoku
,” it read. White Cloud Heaven. Images of beautiful Japanese women surrounded the Kanji characters. Their naked bodies were strategically covered in sparkling white soapsuds. Tatsui gazed into their unseeing eyes and took a deep drag of his cigarette. He looked around again, making sure no one was paying any attention to his activities. He knew no one was, but he enjoyed the little intrigue, the imagined risk. It made the excitement of what was to come even sweeter.
Satisfied that he was just another anonymous pleasure-seeker in the night, Tatsui dropped his cigarette to the ground. Then he pushed through the front door, and stepped into heaven.
Twenty minutes later, Tatsui lay on his back while a beautiful girl moved her hands across his body with slow, firm motions. She was naked, as was he. She said her name was Yuki, and she was a twenty-year-old college student. He knew none of this was true, of course. But he didn’t care. Her body was warm and taut, her hair was thick and dark, and her face reminded him of an angel.
After he’d chosen her from a wall of pictures in the lobby below, she’d led him hand in hand to this warm but clinical room, where they had both stripped naked. After a warm bath in the Roman tub and a vigorous body scrub, they had moved to an air mattress on the floor. Then the evening’s real entertainment had begun.
Tatsui smiled as Yuki ceased her massage, satisfied that he was aroused and ready for the next step. She dipped her hands into a bowl full of clear, liquid gel. With soft, circular motions, she began spread the warm, slippery substance across his body.
She gave Tatsui a sexy grin as she lowered herself onto him, and began to slide her body up and down and across his own. The gel, known as Nuru, acted like a lubricant. It turned every movement of her body into a long, slow massage stroke.
Her small, perfect body glided down the length of his limbs as her pert breasts pressed into his flesh. Tatsui made a sound that was part moan, part joyous laughter. He was in heaven. The pleasure of the Nuru massage was like nectar, feeding him, making him feel alive. His body—old, tired, worn down and battered—felt sleek and new.
Yuki giggled. He felt her intense heat as she clamped her legs around his and continued her gliding dance of pleasure. He was close now, and the girl was an expert. She intensified her movements, concentrating her warmth and friction on the focal point of his pleasure.
A loud crash echoed from the hall outside the room. Tatsui, lost in a sea of bliss, barely heard the noise. Yuki gasped and froze in place.
Jolted from his dreamlike trance, Tatsui propped himself up on the air mattress. He could hear muted shouting and footsteps coming from the other side of the door. He looked up at Yuki with alarm.
“What the hell is going on? Cops?”
Yuki shook her head. “Can’t be. We pay the yakuza for protection. Hurry, get dressed!” She slid off him and threw on a pink silk robe.
Tatsui scrambled off the mattress and grabbed his clothes. Ignoring his underwear, he struggled to pull on his suit pants. His legs were sticky from the massage gel, and the fabric tangled around his ankles.
Tatsui looked up when he heard the sound of doors breaking, followed by a high-pitched scream. The noises were close now, and the commotion outside grew louder. He heard girls shrieking, men shouting, and customers complaining.
Yuki hid behind him as he finally buttoned his pants. The door flew open, showering wood splinters through the air. Yuki wailed as men in black suits poured into the room, their faces cold but determined.
One of the men grabbed the struggling Yuki and dragged her from the room. Tatsui realized with a start that they were all carrying guns.
Tatsui had never seen a firearm before, at least not in person. The police didn’t carry them, and even yakuza gangsters rarely displayed them in public. Before, he had worried that police or federal agents were cracking down on the soaplands brothel. He had feared that he might be arrested, and have to explain his activities to his wife. Now a cold, sickening fear filled his gut as he realized things were worse.
The two thugs who manhandled him from the room were dressed from head to toe in black. Black suits, black shirts, black shoes, black socks. One had left the top buttons of his shirt open, exposing hideous burn-like scars across his chest.
“Please, there’s no need for this! I’ll give you whatever you want, whatever I have,” Tatsui babbled. They ignored him as they dragged him to the lounge at the end of the hall. There, a group of naked clients and petrified girls huddled together. Yuki and two other girls lay on the floor, staring up at another black-suited man. His back was to Tatsui, but the terrified sarariman could tell he was huge. His broad shoulders looked like a wall of black granite.
“That’s everyone,” said one of the suits.
The monster nodded, but did not turn around. He was showing a cellphone to the girls.
Yuki shook her head. “No, please sir, we have not seen her. I swear! Please just leave us alone!”
“Do not lie to me, little one.” His voice was like the echo of thunder in a canyon—powerful and booming, but strangely muted.
Yuki closed her eyes and turned away. Tatsui saw the tears streaming down her cheek, now smeared with makeup. Her interrogator raised his giant slab of a hand.
Before the big man struck Yuki, Tatsui spoke. His voice was a dry croak, and the sound of it surprised even himself.
“Please, sir. There is no need for violence. What is it you want?”
The big man lowered his hand, and turned around to eye Tatsui. The other thugs immediately trained their guns on him, as if the sound of his voice had caused them to take notice of him for the first time. One clubbed him on the back of his neck with the butt of a rifle, and he collapsed on the floor.
The big man gave Tatsui’s attacker a disdainful frown, but he did not offer the injured sarariman any assistance. He looked down impassively. It was the stare of a cold-blooded reptile … motionless, unfeeling, waiting for prey to move that fraction of an inch too close.
Tatsui picked himself up and stood before the hulking, dark figure. The man’s face was a nightmare of strange burns. Twisted scar tissue drew deep jagged lines through his primitive features. In place of a left eye was a milky, unseeing orb.
Tatsui took a deep breath. “Please, just tell us what you want. If I can help you, I will, then you can let us go.”
The working girls ceased their panicked sobbing. The room grew silent, save for the dim noise of traffic outside.
The big man spoke. “What is your name?”
The awful, scarred face gave a small nod, an almost imperceptible tilting of the chin. Still, the motion was at least somewhat human. That comforted Tatsui somewhat. Perhaps there was a chance after all.
“I am called Bobu. I apologize for our rude behavior, but we are on a mission of grave importance. Please, do not be afraid.”
Tatsui was dumbfounded by the sharp contrast between the man’s smooth, calm words and his horrific face.
Bobu tilted his head, as if focusing the gaze of his injured eye on the man who cowered before him. “Forgive me, I know my scars can be frightening. But know this … they are marks of purity. The heat and fire that made me this way also burned away the shame of my past. Do you understand?”
Bobu smiled. Tatsui watched the mangled, pink flesh twist and move; smiling was the most terrifying thing the man had done yet.
“We are looking for someone. It is important that we find her as soon as possible. She is lost.” Bobu held out the phone to Tatsui.
It showed a picture of a girl in her early twenties. She was sexy and beautiful, like Yuki. But, unlike his masseuse, her beauty was not angelic and carefree. She looked cold, like a porcelain doll. Her dark eyes seemed worried. Haunted.
Color rushed back into the sarariman’s features. His eyes lit up with hope. “Yes, yes! I have seen this girl!”
Bobu leaned in, his mutilated face inches away from Tatsui.
“Ah, wait, let me think.”
Bobu’s cold gaze never wavered as the flustered man racked his brain for details.
Tatsui looked up, a smile on his face. “Yes, I remember! It was in Roppongi, at Tiger Velvet! A hostess club. We were there after work, to celebrate closing a deal. Perhaps … two weeks ago!”