Lies: Chapter 3: An Hour in the Life of Karai Saki
7 January 2010 Leave a comment
The next few weeks were uneventful. Karai continued attending Keio University, training with The Foot, and hanging out with her friends. Twice a week, she would go out on dates with Joshua, which ranged from the merely tolerable to the very fun. Particularly memorable was the night when they both went to a concert by an a cappella group connected to one of Joshua’s favorite childhood shows. While the music wasn’t to Karai’s taste, the energy of the venue proved infectious; for an hour or so, she was able to forget all about crime syndicates, college degrees, missions, and boys she wasn’t supposed to like.
But that was then. Now, she rushed to answer the door in her true apartment. At the other side was a familiar white-haired middle aged man.
“Hello lass,” said Macbeth Mac Findlaech. “It’s been an age, hasn’t it?”
A king in 10th century Scotland, Macbeth had met Karai’s father two centuries ago, as Japan was dragged kicking and screaming out of its isolationist stance. Despite their myriad differences, their shared longevity made it easy for the two to establish a rapport that had persisted through the decades. After Karai’s adoption, he had seamlessly slipped into the role of “uncle”, becoming a second father figure to her. As she grew up, she would listen, enthralled, to the stories of his adventures over the world featuring dragons and gargoyles and princesses. As she entered adolescence and began discovering lust, her thoughts would turn to him as she explore her body with trepidation. Now, as The Foot began consuming increasingly large amounts of her time, his position as someone aware of the syndicate without being part of it had made him a confidant of sorts, able to give her advice no one else could.
“So what brings you here?” Karai said, in perfectly enunciated, if stilted, English, as she handed him his customary cup of tea.
“I’ve some business in Ishimura tomorrow, and thought I’d visit your father beforehand and give him a surprise. However, he doesn’t seem to be around.”
“He has been in Paris all month, supervising some of our operations there.”
Macbeth raised an eyebrow. “Paris, eh? I missed him, then; I was there just last week. Oh well.” He sipped from his cup with obvious pleasure—Karai always made exceptionally good tea. “So how are you doing lass? Still working on that business degree?”
“I will be finished next semester, if all goes well,” Karai said. “Uncle, I am glad to see you, but I am afraid I have no food prepared and was just heading out. Would you mind joining me for dinner?”
“For you, lass? Always.”
So the two warriors moved to a nearby Indian restaurant, where one of Karai’s college friends was employed as a cook. Karai was dismayed for his sake to see that the place was half empty on what should have been one of its busiest hours, although personally, she preferred the privacy.
“Good stuff,” Macbeth complimented. “Have I ever told you of my time working for the British army in India?”
Before the older man could begin the tale, he was interrupted by the ringing of Karai Himeru’s cell phone. “Hey, Joshua,” Karai greeted, in a tone completely unlike the one she had been using seconds before. “Yes, it’s still on—I’ll meet you at your apartment. Looking forward to it—but really, I need to hang up; I’m with a friend. See ya.”
Macbeth smiled. “So, a new love, eh? I’m glad.”
Karai’s face went red. She returned his smile with a nervous one of her own. “You misunderstand. I am only seeing him in order to complete a mission.”
Macbeth’s smile evaporated. He laid down his fork. “I see.”
“You do not approve.” Karai said. It was not a question. For a moment, she thought of challenging him—how dare he judge her? She opened her mouth, but no words came out. Her face got redder. Try as she might, she never could go up against her adopted uncle.
“Does this fellow like you?” Macbeth asked.
“How should I know?”
“Lass. Please. You’re smarter than that.”
“Yes. He is absolutely smitten.”
“And do you have feelings for him?”
“I…I do,” Karai stammered. “Not romantically, but I do like him—he is a good man. I could see him as a friend.”
“And do you enjoy what you’re doing, this ruse?”
Silence. “No, I do not,” she finally said. “But I have no choice. The mission—”
“Aye, there’s the rub.”
For a minute, neither said anything. The waitress removed the dinner plates and replaced their drinks.
“Karai, listen. Perhaps I’ve overreacted; I’ve been on the receiving end of those types of schemes, and it’s not something I wish on other people. I also understand that you have certain obligations. But this line of work of yours will damage your soul if you’re not careful, and I’d hate to see you lose yourself in order to satisfy some task masters.”
“Even if this ‘task master’ is my father?”
“Yes. I’d never say this to his face, but I think your father can often be a very cruel man. It’s a trait you don’t possess, and I’m very glad for that.”
Karai’s wanted to defend her father, but couldn’t: Macbeth was right, something she’d known since she was a young girl.
After Karai became fourteen, the elder Saki would occasionally have her remain in his office after school, in preparation for the day when she would replace him. On one such day, Saki interviewed Foot Ninja Squad Leader Tetsuo Ichimoji, who had led a disastrous mission a week prior and was now being taken to task. While the man was clearly responsible for the mission’s failure and clearly unfit for his position, the offence merited, in Karai’s eyes, nothing more than a demotion. Her father disagreed: after hearing his report on the matter, he made sure it was the last thing Tetsuo ever said.
Even as a teen, Karai had been familiar with violence; until then, she had though her father had chased her squeamishness away. This was different, however: violence for violence’s sake—and worse, her father reveled in it. For a week, she couldn’t speak to him. Even now the memory made her flinch.
“Lass? Are you alright?” Macbeth asked, bringing Karai back to the present.
“I am fine,” Karai lied.
Their dinner finished, Karai and Macbeth walked back to her apartment without a word. Halfway through, Karai received another phone call, this time on her “business” cell phone: a call girl working for the Foot had just been killed, and the apparent killer, her John, was on the run. As the Foot operative nearest to the hotel where the fatal tryst had taken place, Karai agreed to catch him. “Will you help me?” She asked Macbeth.
“For you, lass, anything.”
The killer, the message reported, had taken his car and was on the run. While that gave him a few minutes’ head start, Karai had several advantages over him: greater mobility, extensive knowledge of the city, and rush hour. Suddenly grateful that she was wearing comfortable jeans and sneakers, Karai raced through the Shibuya streets, trying to get ahead of the escapees’ car. Macbeth would follow it from behind. As she ran across sidewalks, leaping, somersaulting, vaulting in order to gain every possible second, the uncertainty she’d felt minutes early fell away. This is what she had been born to do—no ambiguity or mixed feeling, just a wrong that needed to be righted.
Macbeth called Karai; the killer’s car had just entered an underground parking lot. They had him.
In retrospect, Miyuki Asakura would not have killed a prostitute that day. But some things you don’t forgive, and attempted blackmail was one of them. Still, no use crying over that, at this point remorse would only muddle his thinking, and that would be the end of it.
No, Miyuki was still ahead of the game. He’d left the hotel post-haste, and would ditch his car in a few moments. A quick trip to the bank, and he’d have enough money to go off the grid for a few weeks while he sorted things out. Sure, taking 3,000,000 yen from his bank account would draw some suspicions, but the tax people weren’t likely to slit his throat for it.
As left the car, Miyuki allowed himself to feel a measure of confidence—bad choice. He made if ten feet from the vehicle when a sharp pain in his right leg made him lose his footing. He looked down, and found that a throwing star had just become lodged in his leg, just below the knee. It was almost enough to make him believe in karma. From the shadows, he saw a woman emerge from the parking lot’s shadows. “Listen can’t we talk this over?” Miyuki asked, his confidence now somewhere in Okinawa.
“Of course. Did you kill Midori Green?”
“The prostitute?” Miyuki asked—immediately cursing at himself for giving the game away. Still, there was a chance. The woman had no weapons on hand, and was still several feet away. If he could get to his gun from his briefcase before she could close the space between them…
“Whatever you are trying, boy, don’t,” said a new voice, speaking in Japanese too formal to be entirely natural. “She may not be armed, but I am, and I have a clear shot at you.”
The woman approached Miyuki, swatted his briefcase away and, with strength and ease that seemed incommensurate with her size, lifted him up by his neck. “Get back in the car,” she ordered. “In the back.”
Wincing as he placed pressure on his injured leg, Miyuki obeyed. He felt as hot, sticky blood from his injury seeped through his socks and into his foot. The female Foot agent—and given the circumstances, that’s what she had to be—stood beside him, while the male—a foreigner, Miyuki now noticed—took the driver’s seat.
“Drive us away,” the woman commanded. She produced a tanto knife from her purse and pressed it against Miyuki’s. One bump in the road, and it was bye-bye femoral artery.
“Where are you taking me?” Miyuki asked, as the car exited the parking lot. Snot fell freely through his face, mixing with his profuse sweat.
“Away,” the woman answered.
For several minutes, nobody said anything. Miyuki noticed that they were driving nowhere in particular and were, in fact, going in circles. “Wha-what are you going to do with me?” He asked. A stone gargoyle would have been more responsive.
Eventually, the car made its way to an empty warehouse. The woman kicked Miyuki out of the car, adding scraped hands to the kidnapped man’s list of injuries.
“Please, I’ve got a wife… Please don’t kill me,” Miyuki pleaded. He could feel the contents of his stomach swirling; he hoped they remained there.
“Well, lad, you should have thought of that beforehand,” said the foreigner. “She’ll just have to adjust to being a widow.”
“Is it money? I have money.”
“Oh, we will get your money—do you know how much you have cost us? But that is not enough. I think a more permanent reminder is needed.”
Miyuki closed his eyes, bracing for the inevitable slice. Once he opened them, it did not take long to note his right hand now standing limply on the floor, or the blood quickly spewing from the stump it was once attached to.