‘… Is about a woman, forty years old, white and the only case we think cannot be classified under the Akai murders.’
I was in Gerekko Dai’s sanctuary together with Ji Lang and Eagle Eye. After a call with my experiences in the Swift, we had come at his request to his apartment to do some brainstorming.
‘Why not…?’ Ji Lang asked while he was investigating the high-tech hardware of our host. Eagle Eye, whit his tall figure had put himself down on a long couch so that I set myself down on one of the intelligent seats of Gekko.
‘The MO was similar, she was found in the proximity of the Catacombs, sliced into pieces, and there were also traces of anesthetic in her body, just like the other cases. But there was no conclusive evidence she was Akai. There also was no identification, a corpse without a name. They hadn’t a lot to puzzle to put… well, there were fewer pieces. That’s why they instantly saw there was an important piece missing with this woman.’
‘Oh, yes,’ Eagle Eye mingled himself in the conversation, ‘her eye, maybe!’ Not everyone thought this was amusing. ‘Sorry, the force of habit because of a traumatic experience,’ he apologized with a witty remark.
‘Actually you are very close with to presumption, Jérome.’ Gekko resolutely didn’t use his nickname Eagle Eye, even if we had adopted it. ‘The whole caboodle around the eye was missing, I mean, after putting the pieces together, they discovered the head was missing. It’s only after the next few cases because they were all Akai and murdered with the same weapon as our victim without a name, that they regarded the file of the woman with the missing head in the same way. I must add that this is the info from the databanks of the Security Service.’
Gerekko jostled a bit with his touchscreens and was fetching a new report. ‘I have got a recent record here about the weapon that supposed to be used in the killings. Every weapon has his own inculcation or cut pattern in the flesh and leaves specific grooves in the bones that can be compared. One could suppose it was a samurai sword or a Katana. To be more specific a Katana of Japanese mintage. There it’s called a Nihonto because it is forged in a special way and of a very rare kind of metal, the Tamahagane.’
Everyone was listening with open mouth at the technical explanation from Gekko, present company included. He had hacked the site of the Security Service, again and with success and made a copy of a recent version of their data on his hard disks and was straightening a few things out about the most important points in the Akai-files.
‘Did you know the Tamahagane is made of iron sand that is heated in a melting oven and where they add some carbon to it? A lengthy process and a work of precision, especially if you want a Nihonto that is pure. That’s why you have to prepare the raw material Tamahagane as good as possible and with the right rituals. First of all, such a log of metal is cut in pieces and then there’s some work to do for the swordsmith. There only a few who can make the real and original Nihonto. All these murders have been committed with such specific weapon.'
Gekko smiled at our interest and added still a little detail, ‘they haven’t,’ and he meant the Security Service, ‘told this to the press. It’s a common use to hold back some details. During an eventual interrogation of suspects, some tell certain things they couldn’t know and bingo! Before they know it, the suspect is sitting behind a wall of steel for the rest of their miserable little life.
‘Are there still some similarities in all these cases or are there substantial differences that could shine some light on our affair? Why, except that first case maybe, do they kidnap and murder Akai? There has to be a trace somewhere, something we can use to work on,’ I sounded somewhat discouraged.
With his magic hands, Gekko brought some other images and data to the forefront of his screens. There was a moment of silence while he was studying some things. I didn’t dare to interrupt him because I knew Gekko was a genius in his area and if there was something, he would find it. Next to me in the couch, I heard the bionic eye of Eagle Eye now and then during this silence zooming in on the information we got to see.
‘Good question, Yu,’ Gekko answered after a while, ‘there are also some differences. There is everything to indicate that he has become more and more audacious. The first woman was found at the border of the Deeplands, nearby the Catacombs. So were the two next cases that followed. Gekko drew with his finger over a map of Sanctuary and neighborhood and a red line appeared on the virtually projected map. From his fourth victim, he approached more and more the borders of the city. The last victim, they found in the parking lot of the Megaskoop, was the nearest location till now, actually just inside the city of Sanctuary. There was also a victim in Tokyo, a certain Suzy Chang. I suspect when we hear again of him he will enter the city furthermore. The length of time between the murders becomes smaller and smaller.’ Gekko looked up and waited for us to join in.
I hesitatingly tried, ‘we have to conclude he feels safe. Or he wants to challenge the Security Service and the police, or maybe it’s just the opposite that he can’t restrain himself anymore and searches after his victims where he can easily find them. In the city.’
Ji nodded. ‘Maybe in this way he’ll make a mistake and will walk into a trap. What’s intriguing is the why question. Why is he picking on the Akai? Yu, you’re Akai, do you have an idea?’
How hard I was thinking and forcing my brain I couldn’t find a reason. ‘Akai represents pacifism and altruism. We don’t make enemies and it will never be our intention. If we are aware of a misunderstanding, or a budding quarrel between Akai, we search for a decision before the High Council of the Akai. We obey unconditionally their verdict.’ I was thinking of my blood oath in front of the grave of my parents. ‘There’s one exception…!’ I could better tell them now than later.
Everybody looked surprised and waited for further explanation.
‘How can I formulate this?’ I thought for a moment and continued, ‘if a family member in the first order is killed the surviving survivor has the blood-right to revenge himself. He has to be a hundred percent sure that there will be no innocent person being punished. After the act, he has to give an account of what he has done for the High Council of the Akai who will clear him or… in the case they decide it wasn’t his or her blood right or that something wrong has happened in the action of this blood right, find a proper punishment. I can assure you that as an Akai you better be genuine.’
Everyone was looking at me. I felt one bionic eye and five other eyes directed at me. I was Akai and my parents were butchered. ‘Yes, you have the right to know it, I’ve called for my blood right before their grave. When I’ll kill the culprit, I’ll give an accounting of my deeds. If one of you would kill the perpetrator and since you’re not Akai, you’ll have to take responsibility before the Security Service. I would, if I was one of you,’ I looked in turn at Ji and Eagle Eye, ‘… be very sure before you do something you’ll regret your whole life. I’ve asked your help, help to find the person who has done this, but I don’t ask you to kill in my name. It would stand straight against my life long tuition and an insult to my dead parents.’ I swallowed and noticed I was out of breath.
‘We’ll see, my dear Yu,’ Eagle Eye spoke in a heartwarming and cordial manner he was used to. ‘At this moment we are not yet speaking of revenge. Let’s concentrate on finding the guilty one.’
He awoke on a plank bed. His head hurt and his sight was blurred. Much of what had happened, he didn’t remember. On his way home, after his Keiko in the fighting school, he had been approached by two men in a black suit. He hardly noticed that there was a black autobot floating in the air beside him. As usual on his way home, he recited some extractions out of ‘The Book of Five Rings’. It was the book of the Master of Kenjutsu, Miyamoto Musashhi, the book he had read so many times he had memorized it.
He especially remembered the men in black and their eyes. They were cold and sly. Those were the eyes, he always saw when in the morning he looked in the mirror. Without evidence, he knew they were dangerous. Those men blew something in his face and suddenly all became black. Voices… now and then he heard voices, which forced themselves from the outside into his head. Compelling voices!
Slowly his sight became better and he saw they had chained him. How much he pried or pulled at his chains, they didn’t come loose, on the contrary, they cut deeper into his wrists and ankles. Around his neck, a broad leather was attached so that he couldn’t reach the drip with his teeth. The infuse he was on was attached to his left arm. Drop after drop, an unknown fluid disappeared in his veins. Near him, there were some monitors, which were connected to his body with wireless electrodes upon his body that registered his bodily functions in lines and flickering numbers. Tired and confused, he closed his eyes and waited. In the meanwhile, he heard music, a somber melody with voices that pulled him deeper into their song, more and more till he didn’t know if he was sleeping or awake.
After a while, an hour, maybe or a bit more – he had no situational awareness – a man entered in a white coat and a sterile mask before his mouth upon the bottom side of his face. He didn’t answer his questions but removed the almost empty infusion and electrodes. Out of his pocket, he drew an injection needle and a little flask from which he pulled a yellowish fluid and inserted it via the catheter into his veins.
It became black again around him and he only heard the words the man with the sterile mask was saying.
‘He’s ready for transportation.’
Obviously someone had heard the doctor because the door swayed open and the two men in their black suit came into the room and opened the chains around the neck, hands, and feet of the unconscious man. Both of them carried him outside and deposited him softly on a stretcher in the passenger place of the autobot that after closing the doors disappeared into the night.
A few hours later the numbed person from the stretcher of the autobot had been shifted onto a special wagon of the long-distance train from Amtrak which departed super-fast to his destination.
Now and then he came somewhat awake and he heard the voices.
Everything will be fine. You have to rest now. We’ll take care of you. You’ll take care of us. Everything going to be fine. Listen well and all will be okay.
The destination of this train was La Guardia, the most important air and heliport of New York, where they shifted him again, together with another person, into his next means of transportation. The special jet vertically ascended a few meters on the spot, deployed his wings and since the pilot had authorization from the flight control, left the heliport at a dazzling speed. The pilot programmed his destination in the automatic pilot. One of the men in black had passed this destination to him just before embarking their cargo. The pilot knew those men because a while ago, he had done some flights for them. He didn’t ask questions, the price was good and calmly he pushed some additional data into the board computer. The plane flew in a wide curve above the skyline of the city of New York and began his long voyage direction the New World.
Ichirou Kato had been adjunct director of the Lucky Child Relocation when the half-sister of Suzy Chang was moved to her new family by his organization. Stephen had gotten this information from the virtual image of Suzy. Afterward, she had disappeared from the screen and he suspected that was the last message she had left for him before she was killed. No further explanation about the two other keys and their purpose.
He immediately had called upon his diplomatic sources to find this man what had been rather easy. Meanwhile, he had informed the home base about the situation with regard to the deceased Suzy Chang. Presumably he would stay a little longer to take care of this family business, he had told his colleague Reginald Holt. They had to fly back to New York without him. While he was speaking to them, he asked to extend his visa. Considering his status, this had been arranged in no time. Stephen got three additional weeks to find answers to all his questions around the mysterious death of Suzy.
He now had the name of Ichirou Kata, but he discovered it was hard to get an appointment. Even for Stephen March with all his diplomatic influence and his many years of experience with the highest representatives of the New World. Ichirou had exchanged LCR for a position of director with the Fijutso Building Company.
Several phone calls from the embassy to the firm had been treated very chilly and after much insisting he had arranged a meeting with the secretary of Ichirou Kato. They let him wait for a little quarter of an hour in a comfortable lounge where a graceful eastern lady had left him with a soft drink.
A little man, Ayako Sato, the stereotype of the prewar Japanese politely greeted him and asked Stephen to follow him to his office. Stephen went after him through a maze of corridors which were one great billboard for the Fijutso Building Company. It was a leading company in the building world that closed up billion dollar projects in the New World with a considerable ‘Return on Investment’. Everything pointed to the lucrative business of this firm and was luxurious and as far as concerning the interior design everything was set up with the last novelties. This was also the case with this floor of the skyscraper where the head office of the FBC resided.
Behind the big desktop where little Ayaka Sato looked minuscule images were projected from the stock exchange and news flashes. The same system as in Suzy’s apartment, but just a bit more sophisticated and on a much larger scale. Ayaka took a remote control in his hand and those screens made a place for some exotic beach with rolling waves. The sound was muffled to a silent rustle in the background.
‘First of all, Mister March, in the name of the FBC I would like to offer my condolences concerning your loss. A person’s life is only a grain of sand on the beach, but each one is unique and irreplaceable. I hope the waves of the sea can temper your sorrow and your loss and heal your feelings just like the water of the sea clears the beach again and again.’
Stephen just nodded shortly as a sign he appreciated the words the secretary had spoken to him with an indifferent face. ‘Doomo Arigato Gozaimasu,’ Stephen answered him in his own language. He would like to begin the conversation in a positive tone. An answer in the secretary’s language would possibly flatter his ego. He didn’t speak fluently Japanese, but those words he had used a lot during these last days. ‘Thank you very much.’ The eyes of Ayako Sato indeed reacted on his thanks.
‘Doo Itashimashite. Welcome! What can I do for you, Mister March? Like I told you on the telephone Director Ichirou Kato was unable to attend and offers his sincere excuses for his absence. I have the authority and also the availability of all the information Kato-sama can supply to you,’ Ayaka Sato told Stephen, who looked with his one meter ninety-two upon this little man. Sato was definitely a subordinate of Ichirou Kato otherwise he wouldn’t have used the Japanese suffix ‘sama’ to address someone who is higher in rank.
Stephen approached a bit closer to the desktop and with his elbows on the table and his hand into each other, pointing with his both indexes at Sato he resolutely posed his first question. ‘Mister Ichirou Kato once was Director of the LCR, the Lucky Child Relocation. He was intermediary in the adoption of a family member of my deceased sister Suzy Chang. This is about her half-sister, child of Kathy Chang. I like to come in touch with the adopted girl, in the meantime, of course already an adult woman. Considering the death of her biological mother and the fact that I have certain documents that could interest her, I would like to have her current address.’ He couldn’t come up with a better excuse in such short time. He hoped for the compassion of the Japanese man but feared the worst when he already saw the man shake his head with his last words.
‘Mister March, you have to understand that this information is extremely confidential. Mister Ichirou Kato has at that time handled according to the prescriptions of the LCR and it’s not because this organization has been dissolved that we haven’t to keep ourselves to the letter of the laws of adoption. It can be very negative for the adopted person to be in contact again with his biological parents or family members after a life in a new family.’
Of course, Stephen had anticipated this in a certain way. Without a fight, he wouldn’t get this info so he tried to ask further. ‘If you, for the sake of the good relations between the Old and the New World, would approach cautiously the woman we speak of, trying to discover if she knows she’s adopted. Maybe it’s even her wish to know who her mother really was. Of course, it’s difficult to put yourself in her place, but at a certain moment in everybody’s life we search after our source of our existence. We all have our roots where we come from. When we look in the morning at ourselves in the mirror, we discover the eyes of our mother, the smile of our father. But what if we are looking in this same mirror, seeing an unknown man or woman and ask ourselves: Who am I, where do I come from?’ Stephen knew the drill, he often had spoken with delegations of the Old World, knew their strength but also their weaker points.
Ayaka Sato was thinking, moved his hands before his face in an almost religious gesture. ‘I do understand. But the law…,’ he began to show signs that Stephen’s request had touched him somehow. He took a mobile phone from under the desktop and after he had pushed a number, he talked fast into it in fluent Japanese and told some things. Stephen heard his name and those of Suzy and Katy now and then. Ayaka Sato stayed on the phone and after an elaborate explanation of his part it stayed silent. He nodded a few times as if the person on the other side stood before him. ‘Hai, Doomo Arigato Gozaimasu, Kato-sama.’
Stephen was holding his breath. This had been a direct connection with the director in question. Now he would hear it. Now it would depend on that answer if he could proceed with his quest. ‘Hai’ was ‘yes’, but yes for what? To give or not to give further information?
‘Mister Ichirou Kata will make an exception, only for this time. There also a condition. Only in the case if you, as an heir of Suzy Chang, possess a safety key with an RFID-tag that fits a locker from the safe of the ‘Sutimoto Bank & Insurance Company. Then and only then I can offer you further information.’
Stephen took the key ring and triumphantly showed the key with the RFID-tag. Ayaka Sato nodded affirmatively. So Suzy had obtained this key in a certain way, maybe from her mother. It was the evidence and also the prerogative that allowed Suzy and now himself to discover the locker.
The little Japanese smiled for the first time. ‘Yes, Mister March, your sister has asked us the same questions. She had, considering her direct relation with Kathy Chang, a bit more persuasion to obtain the access to the safe. We indeed have asked the parents of the adopted child if she was aware that she was adopted. This had been the case. According to Mister Ichirou Kato, he has handed over the key of the safety locker where there was more information about the adopted girl. We haven’t heard about it anymore, what has happened afterward, if she eventually has found her. You can’t forget this is information from the beginning period of the adoption. Considering LCR has been dissolved, the situation didn’t require the attention of Mister Ichirou Kato and it is possible the family has moved. It’s not my intention to discourage you, but I don’t want to give you false hope either.’
Stephen stood up and greeted Ayaka Sato with his hand on his heart. Now Ayako stretched his arm with his little hand. ‘I hope your search may be rewarded. Sayonara.’ The goodbye from Mister Ayaka Sato meant he wouldn’t get further information. That was it and he would have to be enough. Stephen was curious what he would find in the locker and if it would help him find the sister of Suzy.
© Rudi J.P. Lejaeghere
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