He had my attention. "How can you be so sure the Triads are targeting you after all this time?"
"Because I know what was not in the papers."
"Two of my men are dead all of a sudden."
My men. "And you told this to the police?"
"Uma no mimi ni nembutsu," he said with undisguised disdain. Might as well read sutras to horses. Meaning the Japanese police were too dense to understand.
"But you did tell them?"
He shrugged. "They insisted the killings couldn't possibly be motivated by 'ancient history.'"
During the war years, the Japanese police became an organ of terror at home almost as much as the armed forces did abroad. After the surrender, the police were emasculated. A heavy-handed bureaucracy filled the vacuum, and to this day a cautious mind-set colors their every action, which leaves a lot of territory for the likes of Brodie Security.
"And you think otherwise because?"
His son smiled apologetically.
I ignored Miura the Younger but could no longer dismiss his earlier comments about his father's instability. "And what is your gut telling you?" "That two of my men killed so close together is no coincidence."
I said, "Even assuming that what you say is true, how would Brodie Security be able to help?"
"Guard my house."
His son wanted me to humor him, so I said, "That we can do. But security takes men, in teams, and doesn't come cheap. Are you sure?"
I looked at his son, who nodded reluctantly.
"Okay," I said, "we'll put some men on you for a few days."
"I also want you to find out who butchered my friends."
"The murders landed on the front page. You can bet the police have made them a top priority."
He shook his head. "The police are idiots. I gave them a connection and they didn't even bother to check it. Both men served together because they grew up in the same neighborhood. The same place they were killed. It is not a gang of thieves targeting the neighborhood, as the police think, but Anli-dong Triads targeting my men."
There was a knock, then Noda barreled in without waiting for a reply. The chief detective was short and stout and built like a bulldog-broad shoulders, a thick chest, and a flat humorless face. His most distinctive feature was a slash across his eyebrow where a yakuza blade had left its mark. Noda's return swipe left a deeper mark.
I made introductions and brought Noda up-to-date. He grunted when I mentioned the Triads.
"What? You think Triads are a possibility?" I said, pushing the habitually laconic detective for a more revealing response.
Chinese gangs had been in Japan for decades. They could trace their roots back to the end of the Ming Dynasty in China, where they started as a political group aiding the government against the invading Manchus, and were hailed as heroes. Over time the glory faded. But the beast needed feeding. Triad leaders looked elsewhere to buttress their dwindling support and found the easy money—protection, extortion, loan sharking, prostitution, and drugs. First at home and, inevitably, overseas. In Tokyo, gangs inhabited the darker corners of Shinjuku, Ueno, and other enclaves. Yokohama Chinatown, thirty minutes by train, was a major operational base.
Noda shrugged. "Could be." "And?"
Frustratingly curt as usual.
Miura looked from Noda to me. "So you'll take the case?" "Noda?"
He shrugged. "It's what we do."
Meaning Brodie Security had handled Triad cases before. That was the question I'd really been asking. I was still new to my father's outfit, having inherited half of the firm just eleven months ago. But showing my ignorance in front of a client was not an option.
"Okay," I said. "We can look into it. My father's people are very good at what they do."
"They'll need to be," Miura said, his eyes lingering on Noda with vague apprehension.
"How many men from your old squad are left?"
"Twenty-eight of us survived the war but most died long ago. Only seven showed up at our last get-together. Then Mitsumoto died of a brain aneurysm, and Yanaguchi caught the bird flu on a visit back to Anli last year. Before the home invasions there were five of us."
So only three remained.
"Where are the other two?"
"One left for a friend's vacation home in Kyushu. He won't tell me where. The other went to stay with his son in the countryside."
Noda and I exchanged a look. That the remaining members of Miura's troop had fled Tokyo—and one to the farthest western island of mainland Japan—bolstered the old soldier's claim.
I had a last question:
"If you ruled Anli-dong with an even hand, then why would someone want you and your men dead after all this time?"
He sighed. "It's the dirt. Whenever higher-ups came through they expected to be entertained. They invariably ordered us to 'weed out traitors' and 'set up inspections.' The first consisted of lining up any villagers in jail for target practice. The second involved examining local beauties in private. These were orders we couldn't refuse or they'd—"
"—put a bullet in your head."
Miura's shoulders sagged under an old guilt. "Without a second thought."
"After the first VIP visit, the Triads threatened me. I told them I could only control those under my command, not above. They were unconvinced. 'If you wear the master's uniform, you can bleed for him too.' They didn't act then because they knew more villagers would suffer if any soldiers were attacked. But they told me they would come one day.
"Years later, when China finally allowed Japanese tourists into the country, a handful of us went back. We looked up the families we knew. We were shocked to see how poor they were, and still are today. We've returned many times, bringing them money and modern appliances like Japanese rice cookers. We ate together and drank together. We did what we could to make amends. But we couldn't help everyone. I think our trips triggered an old resentment. We gave out our addresses freely. That may have been a mistake."
Noda grunted. "Revenge slayings."
Miura concurred with a nod. "My future killer is in Tokyo, Brodie-san. I can feel it."
A team of six men escorted Akira Miura home.
Once they arrived, two would canvass the neighborhood, then the local shops. Two others would secure the residence. Windows, doors, and other exterior access points would be sealed, then house, garage, and yard scanned for listening, tracking, and incendiary devices. The last pair would work with Miura on safety protocol, including an emergency evacuation plan, after which they would spend the next twelve hours with their charge until two rested operatives replaced them.
However, before the team left Brodie Security, they gathered in the conference room with the Miuras to discuss procedure. Sometime during the proceedings, the son slipped away and cornered Noda and me in my office.
"Thank you for indulging the old man," he said. "The murders have rattled him, but to be frank, we are seeing signs of senility lately, and mild paranoia."
"Has he gone overboard before?" I asked.
"No, but the doctors told us to expect a slow degeneration."
Noda and I traded a glance.
"Noted," I said. "But we'll want to treat the threat seriously until we can prove otherwise."
Yoji Miura remained skeptical. "Your presence will comfort my father, so what could it hurt? But between us, you'll be babysitting."
Noda scowled. "Two men murdered is beyond babysitting."
The head detective's voice was low and menacing. Yoji looked startled until he noticed that Noda's rage was not directed at him but at what might or might not be out there, lying in wait. Even so, when the younger Miura left my office, he gave Noda a wide berth. The detective himself followed a minute later, mumbling about clueless offspring.
Alone, I leaned back in my chair and stared at the ceiling. Deep down, something primal stirred, disturbed by the undertow of Miura Senior's fears. I liked the old veteran a lot. Pulling out his musty suit for the visit. Habitually shaving three years off his age so he could still attract "the ladies."
What I didn't like was his fellow veterans abandoning Tokyo for safer grounds. Nor the triple threat—home invasions, Triads, and old war atrocities. I'd been through a lot in my life. Seen a lot. Had learned the hard way to give any early sign of danger its due.
This could be the world's wildest goose chase, or the beginning of something very nasty.
© Barry Lancet
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