Duty, Honor, Country, Family, Part 22

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“Did you really want to see Gabrielle before we leave for Australia?”

Hiromi was shocked by Chuck’s question. It looked like Miriam Andrews understood her husband better than she did. “I’m your wife and I love you, Chuck. I don’t want you to be unhappy.”

“Kimi-chan, I know you do and I love you too. That is why I will not mind if you go see Gabrielle.”
 

Duty, Honor, Country, Family - Part Twenty Two
by Danielle J


Synopsis- Even in Hong Kong Hiromi finds it difficult to escape the intrigues of the Watanabe Yakuza.

Thank you to Puddin for all her help preparing this story chapter for publication.

Author’s note- Hong Kong is one hour behind Japan time. During the summer time, Oregon is fifteen hours behind Hong Kong, Washington D.C. twelve hours.

*****

Gabrielle listened almost without comment for some ten minutes as Cassie Myers described the political activism of her boss and his family. Ever since he’d married Shania Wrenn, Grant Williamson had been a regular contributor to Democratic candidates and causes.

Cassie also described to Gabrielle how the Williamsons used family members to get around the limits Federal law placed on campaign contributions. “Grant and his wife have four children. The oldest two are married, one is in medical school, the youngest is a senior at UVA. They all donate the maximum amount allowed by federal law, but it is really their parents who are giving the money.”

“That’s legal?”

“Not really, but it’s overlooked most of the time. The Republicans do it too.” Cassie Myers, who’d majored in political science at Cal Berkeley, had gone to work for the Democratic National Committee right out of college.

Gabrielle shook her head in disgust. Politics and prostitution were the two oldest professions. Both took money from people in return for personal favors. Someone more politically cynical than Gabrielle might say that politicians and prostitutes both like to screw people.

“My boss must be wealthy then?”

“Grant Williamson’s money mostly comes from the Wrenns. His brother-in-law is President and CEO of Wrenn furniture stores. Have you ever heard of them?”

“No, Cassie, I haven’t.”

“They’re big in the Mid-Atlantic states and parts of New England. You want to hear what my honest opinion is?”

“Cassie, that’s one of the reasons I called you.”

“Most of the furniture Wrenn furniture stores sells is shit.”

The obvious riposte to that comment was that, if their furniture was actually shit, Wrenn furniture stores wouldn’t be in business, so they must be doing something right. Gabrielle wasn’t interested in debating the quality of objects she had never seen with the opinionated ‘I know what’s best for you’ Cassie Myers.

“Cassie, does my boss give money to the Obama campaign?”



“You could say that. The Wrenns have been some of his biggest fundraisers for over a year.”

As Cassie described the political fundraising of her Grant Williamson, Gabrielle had second thoughts about her inquiry. So her boss was cozying up to a possible future President. How did that affect the future course of Swan Song?

Grant couldn’t possibly want Swan Song to fail. That wouldn’t help his ambition to be FBI Director when Robert Mueller’s term ended in 2011. On the other hand, Grant probably considered Tom Slater expendable. Gabrielle still couldn’t forget the conversation she’d overheard between her boss and Major Hollins, right after Swan Song’s operational phase began, in which they’d callously assessed his chances of surviving at only one in ten, but had agreed between themselves to go ahead anyway. It had shocked her then, and still upset her now, but she’d had to keep quiet about it, because it was her job.

What Cassie was telling her supported Gabrielle’s suspicions about Grant Williamson’s Swan Song motivations. She’d take them into consideration every time she was faced with Swan Song issues.

Gabrielle interrupted Cassie’s long speech. “When we had dinner together last February, my boss was at the same hotel for an Obama fundraiser.”

“I knew that, Gabby. As part of my work at the DNC, I learned who would be in attendance.”

The phone in Gabrielle’s room began to ring. She hastily asked her friend to hang on, and then picked up the other call before it had time to ring a second time. “Hello.”

“Gabrielle, you are awake already?”


“Yes, Maurice, I am. You’re calling early… again.”

Maurice let out a short laugh. “I have a better reason this time. There is a problem at the airport with Mrs. Sato’s belongings. The customs officers seem to have discovered a bomb in her belongings, or at least one of their bomb-sniffing dogs thinks so.”

Gabrielle listened as Maurice explained that her household goods had been inspected by a bomb sniffing dog and its handler, so they were waiting for confirmation now. She nodded, then said, “I’ll need to go to Hong Kong airport.”

“Yes, Gabrielle, I expected that you would want to do that. Can I pick you up in thirty minutes?”

“Yes, Maurice, please do that. I will meet you in the lobby.” Gabrielle immediately hung up the room phone and went back to her cell phone.

“Sorry, Cassie, a person I’m working with just called me.”

“That’s all right, Gabby. Was my gossip any help to you? It wasn’t much.”

“Yes, Cassie, you did help me. A lot of things are beginning to fall into place, and thank you for the information. We’re even now.”

Cassie laughed. “This was a freebie, Gabby. I owe you a lot more for saving my life at that NCAA golf tournament in Chicago six years ago. Not only did you take away the mugger’s gun like one of Charlie’s Angels, you gave him a free nose job when you planted his face into that brick wall and knocked him unconscious. One second, I was frightened half to death, and the next I was staring at an unconscious man laying on the ground with a nosebleed. I didn’t know a woman could move that fast. It was like watching Trinity in one of those Matrix movies.”

Gabrielle laughed and said, “I can only move that quickly when I need to find a bathroom, but he was right in my way. I’m almost sure they were able to straighten him out once he arrived at the hospital, though, and they say that all the highest class of criminals look their best in mugshots when they look like thugs. The real heroism came when I had to fill out all the paperwork they handed me when I report my civilian interaction.”

“See! I’ll have to work much harder to get out of debt, so dinner’s on me the next time we get together.”

Gabrielle laughed again. “Done, and then we’ll be square. It’s been good talking, Cassie, but I’ve got to go. Big emergency at work, so I’ll have to put on my spandex outfit and cape. Bye.”

As soon as she was off the phone with Cassie, Gabrielle checked her FBI email. Grant Williamson had sent her even more work, for all her spare time.

‘Oh, well, it looks like Tom will get that meeting in Australia after all,’ Gabrielle thought to herself as she let out a long sigh. The chances of Tom and her having a future together had just started to look less likely.

*****

The flight to Portland was a nightmare for Stuart and Midori Slater. Nothing they tried could make their grandson Shannon stop crying.

“I’d better call Debbie,” Stuart said to his wife as they walked towards baggage claim. Midori was again carrying her grandson.

Debbie was Tom Slater’s youngest sister. She was unmarried but had a live-in boyfriend. She and Donald, that was his name, lived in the Portland suburb of Tigard.

She answered on the second ring. “Hi, Dad. I recognized your number. Are you and Mom in Portland now?”

“Yes, we are, our flight just arrived.”

“Dad, I’m sorry to disappoint you and Mom, but my work has me too tied up to meet you at the airport.”

“That’s all right. Shannon is sick right now. Your mother and I are going to take him to an emergency room.”

“Dad, what’s wrong with Shannon?” a concerned Debbie Slater asked. “That’s terrible; I wish I could help you and Mom out.”

“It is all right, we understand. He has an ear infection, and I’m sure it’s very painful, but I’m sure it’s nothing dangerous.” Debbie was a social worker who took her job very seriously, but she worried about everything, not just her cases, so Stuart didn’t want to upset her needlessly.

“Dad, please keep me informed. All of you are welcome to stay with Donald and I tonight.”

“We’ll see what happens. We may still be able to make it home a a decent hour, which would save you a lot of trouble.” Stuart got off the phone a few moments later and hailed a skycap, offering twenty dollars to take their luggage to the curb on his cart, since he couldn’t carry it. Once the luggage arrived and was loaded, they headed to the taxi line, where the porter loaded the bags as they got in. When the porter gave the all clear, the driver headed off to Legacy Emanuel Children’s Hospital in hopes that a doctor there could diagnose what was making the boy so sick.

*****

A bomb disposal team was at the Hong Kong customs warehouse by the time Gabrielle arrived there. She and Maurice went to a building where customs had some administrative offices.

“This is what happens when my workers are hurried,” An angry Kam Wei Ning said. The Chief of Hong Kong customs was livid over what one of his people had found.

“Sir, this would have happened no matter how the goods in question were handled,” Maurice replied. “In fact, because the personal effects of a known relative of a Japanese Yakuza family currently at war with another Yakuza gang were selected for special handling, your careful enforcement of the rules may well have saved a warehouse worker from injury during normal warehouse operations.”

The Chief customs officer was startled at first, and then began to realize that this might look very good on his report, if he worded it correctly. He almost smiled, then nodded his head.

As Maurice cleverly worked his magic to calm down Wei, Gabrielle watched what was going on in the now off-limits warehouse. A closed circuit television gave her an excellent view of the pallet that was suspected of containing explosives.

“I need to know what items are on that pallet,” Gabrielle said to Maurice. Wei, who was already prepared for this, gave the FBI Agent a copy of the customs form.

Gabrielle examined it for a few minutes. “It says here that there are compact discs among the boxes.”

“That is troubling, Gabrielle,” Maurice replied circumspectly. To keep Swan Song secret, the two of them had to be cautious in what they said to customs.

“Those discs can’t be destroyed, Maurice. You do know why I say that?”

“Yes, I do, Gabrielle. Unfortunately that is likely to be out of our hands.”

“That box has been flown several thousand miles. I’m not a bomb expert, but it is my opinion that box would be unlikely to explode unless it is opened. What do you think, Maurice?”

“You’re probably right, Gabrielle, but ammunition technicians are cautious and understandably so. The bomb could still go off if moved.”

Gabrielle was thinking of the box with the bomb on the pallet. Who had put it there? Was it the Inagawa-kai or was it the Watanabes? Gabrielle recalled what Tom said about Keiji Watanabe. Was the elderly Oyabun the one responsible?

Was there even a real bomb on the pallet? Bomb sniffing dogs do make mistakes. The highly trained animals were sometimes fooled by ordinary products like shoe polish, nitroglycerin pills, and VHS tapes. All of which have elements in them that are explosives related.

Gabrielle decided to study the customs paperwork some more. While she did this, Maurice left the office.

Maurice came back about five minutes later. “An RCV will be going in shortly to take some x-rays. Gabrielle, would you prefer a return to Arsenal Street? You mentioned all the work that needed to be done by you while we drove over here. I can monitor what takes place here and keep you informed.”

RCV stands for Remote Control Vehicle. Most non-military related explosives ordinance disposal, or EOD, is now done by RCVs, not by ammunition technicians.

Gabrielle thought it over for a few moments. The customs forms for the pallet were ambiguous. Videos were among the goods on it. Were they VHS in format or the more modern, DVD? Or were they some combination of the two? “All right, Maurice, but please update me regularly as to what is happening here.”

*****

Hiromi Sato was totally unaware of the drama involving her personal goods. She was thinking of what lay ahead of her that day at East China Commerce Bank as she drove herself and Chuck to work.

“Kimi-chan, I have been doing some thinking,” Chuck said to his wife not too long after they got on the road.

“What about?”

“Did you really want to see Gabrielle before we leave for Australia?”

Hiromi was shocked by Chuck’s question. It looked like Miriam Andrews understood her husband better than she did. “I’m your wife and I love you, Chuck. I don’t want you to be unhappy.”

“Kimi-chan, I know you do and I love you too. That is why I will not mind if you go see Gabrielle.”

What Chuck had just said to her had Hiromi almost ready to cry. “I don’t deserve you.”

“Don’t be silly, Kimi-chan. You are the best thing that ever happened to me. I know you work hard, both at work and at home. For that you deserve time to enjoy yourself.”

Chuck was neither a selfish or jealous husband. Hiromi had needs, one of which was evidently to be physically loved by another woman. There had to be something special about it, Chuck surmised. Maybe there was some emotional aspect that men could never comprehend, let alone do for their wives.

Hiromi needed Gabrielle, and he wouldn’t stand between the two women. His wife loved him, and he knew she would be back. Maybe even more loving and special than she already was to him.

“Gabrielle asked if I could come over tomorrow afternoon.”

“That is fine with me, Kimi-chan. I’d suggest tonight even if that was more convenient to both of you.”

Chuck went on to say he’d keep himself busy. He would even have taken the time to go to the horse races at Happy Valley, which featured Wednesday night and weekend afternoon racing. Except that the track was closed for the summer as was its norm.

The Jaguar was very close to Kanagawa Bank by then. Hiromi would be working all day at East China. “I’ll call or email Gabrielle sometime today and see what we can set up. Is it all right if Miriam helps me with the arrangements?”

Chuck‘s eyes widened slightly. There was obviously a lot about this lesbian/bisexual stuff he didn’t understand at all. Well, he didn’t know all that much about nuclear physics either, but he was pretty sure that there were people who did. He nodded. “Yes, that’s all right with me, Kimi-chan. I want you to have a very good time with Gabrielle. She must be tastier than those McDonald’s French fries you like to eat.”

Hiromi laughed as she pulled the Jaguar up in front of Kanagawa. “Yes, Gabrielle is very tasty, but I like it more when you take me for a ride.”

“I know you do, Kimi-chan,” Chuck said before giving his wife a kiss. “Will we have lunch together today?”

“If there isn’t too much work for me to do, we will.”

“All right then. Bye, Kimi-chan. I love you so much.”

“I love you too, Chuck. More than anything,” she said as she watched Chuck climb out of the Jaguar. ‘My husband is so incredibly loving to me,’ she thought.

Hiromi got to East China soon afterwards. On the way upstairs, she asked Miriam to come to the office with her.

Miriam spoke as soon as her employer’s office door was closed. “What do you need, Hiromi?”

“Do you know if there is anywhere in Hong Kong that sells the perfume Flower Red?”

“There’s a shop near JJ’s work that sells it, but that’s Kowloon side. I can check if there is a place here on the island for you.” JJ was the nickname Miriam used for her life partner. She was Chinese, a divorced mother of two grown children, and a licensed pharmacist.

“Please do that for me, Miriam. I’d like to have it before going home today if possible.”

“Got a big date planned?” Miriam asked with a slight grin.

“You could say that. I’m going to email Gabrielle and see if we can set a time to get together.”

Miriam’s grin grew even bigger. “You must have spoken to Charlie then. Am I right?”

“Yes, you are. He’s fine with my seeing Gabrielle, although I don’t completely understand why.”

“Trust me, Hiromi, he’s intrigued, and obviously a prince among men, because he didn’t ask if he could come along and watch. I’d better get to work on that perfume then.” She was already heading towards the door.

“Miriam, there is one more thing. Will you be available if I see Gabrielle tonight? I won’t be staying out too late.”

“Of course I will, Hiromi, and just enjoy yourself. Whatever time you’re ready to come home, it won’t bother me. Sisters have to stick together.” She grinned.

“Thanks, Miriam,” Hiromi said as she watched her bodyguard leave the room. Now it was time for some bank work.

Hiromi’s secretary, Chiu Ging Lin, came into room with phone messages and tea for her boss. “Good morning, Mrs. Sato.”

“Heya, Ging. Neh hoh Mah?”

Hiromi had just said hello to Ging and ‘how are you’ in Cantonese. Over breakfast that morning, Chuck taught his wife a tiny bit of that language. It was a bit similar to the official language, which she was somewhat familiar with, because Japanese uses a lot of Chinese characters in writing, so her teachers had explained their origins and Chinese usage, even as she explained how Japanese often used them slightly differently, and had to add special Japanese characters because Japanese was inflected, unlike Chinese.

Ging smiled at her employer as she poured her some tea. “Ho ho.” Very good. “Is there anything else I can get you now?”

“No, Ging, I’m fine.”

*****

Hoshiko Kitano came to see Dai Hashimoto on Wednesday morning. “What can I do for you, Hashimoto-san?”

“There is a house in which I want to have a recording of everything said there. Can you do that for me?”

“Will it include the bugging of telephones? A mobile device is almost impossible to tap, although we would obviously hear one side of any conversation if it took place inside the house.”

“No, I am talking about the land lines, and anything said inside the rooms.”

“That can be done, Hashimoto-san. How large is the home we’re talking about and how many phones are in it.”

“It is a little over twenty three hundred square feet in size and has two or three phones in it.”

“I can do the work you ask, but I must see the house first.”

Dai handed Hoshiko a set of keys. “Can you complete the work I ask by no later than Friday at lunch time?”

“I could, Hashimoto-san, but it would be best if I and my assistants have time to test the equipment we place.”

“How long will that take?”

“We can have the work completed by Saturday morning.”

Dai nodded his head. “That is acceptable.”

*****

Gabrielle got right to work the moment she arrived at Arsenal Street. She was hungry but food would have to wait.

The first job for her was begin writing a separate report that FBI Director Robert Mueller had requested. This wasn’t too difficult. All she had to do was copy the parts from her original report to Grant Williamson that referred to Agent Chrysanthemum’s murder.

In view of who would be viewing the report, Gabrielle was very meticulous in how it was written. Her personal feelings for Tom aside, she wanted him to get approval for the mission he had proposed.

In order to do the second job given to her by Grant, Gabrielle stopped working on the report for a short time. It was time to call the Slaters.

The first number Gabrielle tried was for the Slater home in Darrington Washington. After getting no answer there, she tried calling Midori’s cell phone.

Stuart Slater answered Gabrielle’s call. “Hello, Gabrielle.”

“Hi, Dad, how are you?”

“I am well, thank you for asking. Gabrielle, we received your message. Tom is doing well?”

“Yes, Dad, he is. I wanted to talk to you and Mom about that. Where is Mom right now?”

“She and Shannon are with a doctor right now.”

“Why, is something wrong?”

Stuart told Gabrielle about Shannon Zebriskie’s recent medical ailments. “Shannon cried the whole time we were flying from Chicago to Portland.”

“Dad, that’s just terrible and I’m so sorry to hear about it. You’re in Portland Oregon now?”

“Yes, Gabrielle, we are. Our daughter Debbie lives here and the flights to Seattle were all full.”

Gabrielle was familiar with Oregon, a state she had visited about a dozen times, some of which were as a member of the Cal Lady Bears golf team when they played against either Oregon or Oregon State.

“Dad, there is another reason I’m calling besides to give you an update on Tom. His mission may be extended. He is asking for you and Mom to come to Australia where you can both meet him.”

Stuart Slater listened as Gabrielle gave him a lengthy explanation of what was happening with Tom and what the purpose of Australia was. “Gabrielle, we do want to see our son but you do understand we have a problem now.”

“Couldn’t Debbie care for Shannon?”

“Debbie could, but she and her boyfriend have been struggling of late,” Stuart explained.

Gabrielle understood the fix the Slaters were in. They were trying desperately to hold together what was left of their family. “Dad, can you have Mom call me before you go to bed?”

“Yes, Gabrielle, I can have her do that.”

Gabrielle and Stuart talked for only a little bit longer. After the phone call was complete, Gabrielle had another problem to deal with. What could she do to make it possible for Tom Slater’s parents to travel to Australia?

*****

Maurice was still busy at the Customs warehouse. The X-ray had been taken and developed. It showed a small bomb located in one of the boxes on the suspect pallet.

The ammunition technician who spoke to Maurice afterwards said the bomb appeared to be of the pressure release variety. “That is why the bomb was able to safely travel here from Japan without a premature detonation taking place.”

“What is the next step?”

“That will be up to Captain Huang.”

“Where can I find Captain Huang?”

*****

At one of the other warehouses holding Hiromi’s personal belongings, a phone call was being made to her Victoria Peak home. “May I speak to Mrs. Sato?”

“She is not home now. My name is Teresa Wu, I am her household manager. How can I help you?”

“Mrs. Sato’s personal goods are being released now. It is her responsibility to pick them up. We are open here till eight daily.”

Teresa listened for a few moments more. “Someone will be leaving shortly to pick them up. Thank you for calling.”

As soon as she got off the phone with customs, Teresa called her cousin, Herbert Wu. “Herb, Mrs. Sato’s belongings are ready now.”

*****

Maurice found it easy to locate Captain Huang. What wouldn’t be easy for him to do was to convince the OED team leader not to destroy the entire pallet containing the bomb.

“Our standard procedure in a case like this is to destroy everything.”

“I understand that. Can’t an exception be made?”

“We do not normally do that.”

“Captain Huang, I am asking you to do that in this case. A RCV can sort out the box with the bomb from the rest of what is on the pallet. No person will be put at risk.”

“That is true but our machine may become damaged or even destroyed.”

Maurice decided he would have to call in some heavy artillery to get his way. The Hong Kong police were interested in the files Agent Ripley was bringing to Hong Kong, not just the Swan Song committee.

While Maurice waited for someone with more authority to arrive at the warehouse, he called Gabrielle to give her an update. “Gabrielle, I’m afraid there is an actual bomb among Ripley’s belongings.”

Gabrielle was greatly disturbed by the news. Tom Slater was still in danger even after moving to Hong Kong.

*****

Hideichi Ishimoto arrived at Keiji Watanabe’s home a few minutes before eleven. The shareigashira was shown straight to the Oyabun’s study.

“Thank you for coming, Hideichi-san,” Keiji said. He was feeling better than he had the last few days. “Can Rika get you anything?”

“Just some water please.” Rika who had standing behind her employer the whole time, then exited the room.

“My family is changing, Hideichi-san. The time has come for me to step aside again.”

“We will not be the same without your wise leadership, Oyabun-san.”

“Perhaps, but it is time to move on.”

“Does that mean Dai-san will be our next Oyabun?”

“Yes, it is. I will announce it next week. On September first he will officially take over.”

“I heard Hiromi-san has left us.”

Rika came back into the room and gave Hideichi his water. “Oyabun-san, do you want lunch at the usual time?”

“Yes, I want my food! Now leave us alone,” Keiji roared at his cook/housekeeper. Rika sheepishly made her way out of the room.

Keiji again addressed Hideichi. “Don’t forget, Hideichi-san, women are of no use to strong men except to give us pleasure.”

“I agree, Oyabun-san,” Hideichi replied as Rika began closing the door to the room.

“My granddaughter will not be returning to Japan, ever. She has no future here.”

*****

Rika shuddered at the last words said by Keiji. What kind of monster plans to kill his own granddaughter?

The answer was obvious to Rika. A monster who thinks that abuse of women is an acceptable form of behavior. Rika knew this first hand, for she had to satisfy Keiji’s sexual demands or be punished. Or worse see her husband or children killed.

Keiji was dying, or so Rika heard. Death could not come too soon for that monster and she only wished it was an agonizing one.

*****

To the passing observer, Bunrakuken Inukai would appear to be some form of kook. How else would you describe a backpack wearing man or woman who sits motionless under the mid day sun in an isolated location with no one else around him?

Bunrakeuken was odd but not a kook. As strange as it would seem, he was preparing for the job given to him by Akira Sudo. Later that evening he would cross into the property belonging to the late Takemune Nimura in order to find out exactly what type of work was being done there.

Before that took place, Bunrakeuken needed to become one with the surroundings he would be doing the assignment given to him. A skillful cat burglar — which was what Bunrakeuken was — meticulously cases the joint they plan on breaking into.

Bunrakeuken was used to working with homes or apartments but the same rules applied to the Nimura job. He had to know the ground he would cover that night. He was doing this by learning each and every sound, so he would know what was or wasn’t out of place later.

For his own safety, and to get a proper feel for the area, Bunrakeuken had to remain motionless. Almost twenty years of job experience made it easy for him to achieve that state. He would only come out of it when he judged the time was right, or when another sixty minutes had passed. Bunrakeuken didn’t like one aspect of the job he was currently working; Akira Sudo had demanded that he check in every sixty minutes, and reminded him with an annoying three beep signal on a transmitter Bunrakeuken had to carry.

Bunrakeuken knew what the purpose of the signals were. They were to inform the Watanabes he was still working and had not been captured or had something worse befall him. The transmission was simple enough, but the irritating repetition interfered with his concentration, and forced him to move, which added small noises of his own to the natural sounds of the place. He did not like this. It was unprofessional. If someone else was listening, it would give the game away. If it happened during his approach to the house, it might well alert someone Bunrakeuken didn’t want to disturb. He resolved to leave it behind when he crossed onto the other property.

Nothing was moving around him and Bunrakeuken liked that. There were sounds, most of which could be attributed to his surroundings but not all. Bunrakeuken made a mental catalog of them all.

The sound of birds flying overhead or nesting nearby.

The sound of other wildlife or nature at work, like the rustling noise a tree makes when wind blows through its branches, or the softer sounds of the grasses and low-lying shrubs as the breeze moved them.

The sound of boat motors from nearby Lake Yanagawa, interspersed with fragments of speech, human voices shouting, as the people in those boats went about whatever business they were engaged in, whether fishing or simply having fun.

The very occasional sound of planes overhead as they flew in or out of Tokyo Haneda Airport or Shizouka Airport. Ever since 1966, when air turbulence around the summit of Mt. Fuji caused a commercial plane to break up in mid-air, large aircraft were careful not to fly too close to the majestic mountain. Quite a few people had been upset by the disturbance on the sacred mountain, so regulations had been put in place to prevent any reoccurrence, but private aircraft sometimes flew in a bit closer, for the view, or to impress guests.

Bunrakeuken made note of all these natural sounds and more so he would not be confused by them later. The other noises, especially the sound of metal on metal, were much more important. Some form of work was being done and if Bunrakeuken was right, it was coming from the area of the Nimura home.

After hearing these sounds for over an hour, Bunrakeuken formed an opinion. Some form of work was taking place at the Nimura home, but it wasn’t decorating.

At present Bunrakeuken was on the Watanabe side of the drainage ditch. Later on he would cross it by a running leap at one of its narrower points. He’d already planned his path, mentally rehearsed the movements he would have to make on the other side to avoid treading on gravel or crash through bushes.

For now Bunrakeuken sat, listened, and studied. If all went well, in twenty-four hours he would begin enjoying the two and a half million yen the Watanabes were paying him in part for sitting around looking like he was doing nothing at all.

*****

Hiromi was very busy with bank work all morning long. It wasn’t till a few minutes before noon that she found time to write an email to Gabrielle.

-----

Gabby,

I’m still all right. The talk we had yesterday made me feel much better but I feel what I said hurt you. Please forgive me, I had to be honest with you because all the lies I’ve been telling have become overwhelming. I don’t want to lie to anyone I don’t have to ever again.

Is the offer you made to get naked with me still good? I want us to do that before Australia. Chuck knows what is going on between us, and has made it clear that he approves, so don’t worry on that front. I’ll tell you more when we meet.

Would tonight, Wednesday, around eight or eight-thirty, be good at your place? Tomorrow at lunch is all right too. Please let me know.

Love,

Tom

-----

As soon as Hiromi was through composing her email, she picked up the phone and called Chuck. “Hi.”

“Kimi-chan, it is good to hear your voice. Are you coming over for lunch now?”

“Yes, I am. I’ll see you soon. I love you.” Hiromi hung up the phone a few seconds later and was heading out of her office a couple of minutes after that.

Hiromi went to find her bodyguards. Roger was in a cramped room close to the fire stairs. “What can I do for you, Boss?”

“I’m going to have lunch with Chuck. Is Miriam around?”

“No, Boss, she went out to do that errand you asked of her,” Roger said as he came out from behind his desk. “I’ll ride with you to Kanagawa, if that’s all right with you.”

“That’s fine,” Hiromi replied.

While they were on the way over to see Chuck, Roger had some news for Hiromi. “Hong Kong customs has started to release your belongings.”

“Have they started arriving at the house yet?”

“No, Boss, they haven’t, but some will be there by the time you get home tonight.”

“That is good then. Please set up my office area first, then the bedroom, if possible.”

Roger nodded. He’d been about to ask Hiromi what the priorities were. “I’ll let Teresa know that, Boss, and have her look out for those pallets especially.”

“Is the Fairlady free yet?”

“I don’t know, Boss.”

“When it is, we can let Miriam drive it to the Bank every day I have to work. She’ll like that; she likes to drive fast too.”

Hiromi was too busy watching Hong Kong traffic to glance over at Roger. Her Miriam remark made the British bodyguard cringe.

“Boss, did I hear you right this morning that you and Chuck are going to Australia this weekend?” Roger asked as Hiromi pulled the Jaguar into the Kanagawa parking garage.

“Yes, we are. Chuck and I are going alone.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to take at least one of us with you. Miriam, perhaps?”

Hiromi didn’t answer Roger till she climbed out of the Jaguar. “No, Chuck and I are going alone.”

“All right, Boss.”

“You and Teresa won’t have any problem keeping busy while I’m gone,” Hiromi said to Roger as they got on an elevator.

Chuck was waiting for his wife when she arrived upstairs. “Kimi-chan, I’m glad you came.”

“Did you get me lunch? Hiromi asked Chuck as they walked back to his office.

 “Of course I did, Kimi-chan.”

Lunch for Hiromi consisted of a salad. Chuck got one of those down under hamburgers popularly known as a kiwi burger. A beef patty served with egg, cheese, onions, tomato, and more. Hiromi’s mouth watered just looking at it.

Chuck soon saw how Hiromi was looking at his food. “Kimi-chan, did you want some of this?”

“No, thank you. I have to watch my weight, and what I eat.” She smiled at him, conscious of her whole body, and that she was perched on the edge of something wonderful.

He smiled back, obviously unaware of everything she was feeling, but wide open before her eyes. “Did you talk to Gabrielle yet?”

“I sent her an email. She hasn’t replied yet.”

“Kimi-chan, I really hope you two can arrange something.”

Chuck began their lunch together by talking with Hiromi about how their respective days. Now he returned to what she thought was a familiar topic. “I’m excited about what we’ll be doing next week.”

“You mean our trip to Australia?” Hiromi was still pondering Chuck’s attitude toward Gabrielle. Her husband was incredibly sweet and thoughtful to let her have so many areas of personal privacy, without any prurient interest that she could see, and without the invasive demands so many men would make. She well knew what most men were like, from her conversations with the women in her office, and observations of their interactions with women they thought they had a right to control. She’d seen it even in that horrible Your Way club, although those men were particularly callous and cruel. She’d seen it in her supposed grandfather, whose evil nature seemed especially odious when he was in a position to torment women. But Chuck, her beautiful husband, had never once asked what Gabrielle and Hiromi would do should they meet.

From what she knew, and from her conversations with Miriam, most men would probably want a detailed play by play of their wife’s sexual interlude with another woman, if they tolerated it at all, or demand to be present in the room. Chuck was too much the gentleman to ask those intrusive questions. He made her feel completely at ease, obviously far more concerned with her needs than worrying about what Hiromi was up to. Miriam was right, he was a prince among men, and incredibly masculine, so secure in himself and in their relationship that he didn’t feel at all threatened by her own complex reality, even though he didn’t understand the reasons yet. She promised herself that she’d tell him everything soon, and explain exactly how much she loved him, despite her strange beginnings and history.

Chuck McBride was a one-of-a-kind man and husband, just as she was a one-of-a-kind woman and wife. It was little wonder that the formerly heterosexual Tom Slater, reincarnated in a woman’s body as his live-in girlfriend, had fallen head over heels in love with the tall handsome Australian man. He was exactly what she’d needed to fully come to terms with her complicated history, and integrate the many pieces of her fragmented soul into a mature woman, able to love with a whole heart now, able to acknowledge that she longed for him when they were apart, that they were soulmates, and that her whole life had been spent in preparing herself to be worthy of him.

“Yes, Kimi-chan, but that wasn’t what I was thinking of. I was mostly thinking that we might learn then if we’re going to be parents soon.”

There was nothing Hiromi wanted more than to have Charles McBride’s baby. Despite her fears about their future together, she was excited to think that she might be pregnant already, and that Chuck would have his child, no matter what. in spite of how uncertain the future looked. She wished that their lunch hour together was longer, or that they neither of them had to work for the rest of the afternoon, because she wanted to be with him right now. “Yes,” she said, reaching out to touch him as she smiled, as she gazed directly into his eyes. “I want us both to have good news next week.”

*****

After Gabrielle finished her new and revised Swan Song reports, she went and got some lunch for herself. As soon as she got back to Arsenal Street, she tried calling Midori Slater.

Midori answered her cell phone this time. “Gabrielle, I am glad you called.”

“Hello, Mom. How are you and Shannon?”

“I’m all right, but Shannon has an inner ear problem.”

Midori gave Gabrielle a brief synopsis of her grandson’s diagnosis. Shannon had both a small blockage and infection in his Eustachian tube. The changes in air pressure while flying had caused great pain for the boy.

“How is Shannon now?”

“He is a little better. Stuart is getting him ready for bed.”

“I better not keep you too long then, Mom.”

“It’s all right, Gabrielle. You spoke to Tom I hear.”

“Yes, Mom, I was talking to Tom at this exact time yesterday.” When Daylight Savings time is being observed, Hong Kong is fifteen hours ahead of Portland Oregon time.

“Did Tom look good?”

“Yes, Mom, Tom did. She asked about you and Dad. I told her about Susan and Simon too.”

“I don’t want Tom distracted while he does dangerous mission.”

“Mom, I’m sorry,” Gabrielle replied. The last words from Midori were the closest the mother ever been to sounding angry when talking to the FBI agent.

“It’s all right, Gabrielle. Tom wants to meet me and his father in Australia?”

“Yes, Mom, she does,” Gabrielle said as she signed onto her personal email account. “Mom, before we go any further I have to tell you something. Tom has changed.”

“Tom has a woman’s body now.” Midori spoke simply, as if that explained everything.

“Yes, Mom, but it’s more than that. Tom is a woman in his heart or hearts now. It’s a permanent change I’m afraid.”

Midori’s reply was instantaneous. “Stuart and I will love our daughter Rebecca the same as we loved our son Tom.”

“I know, Mom. When I spoke to Tom….I mean Rebecca, I made it clear that was how you and Dad felt about her.”

Gabrielle had just made a decision. Even after the meeting at the McDonald’s, she’d continued to think of her friend as Tom. She wouldn’t do that anymore. The person she loved most in the whole world was Rebecca or Becky to her from this point forward. Gabrielle had to accept it, and it would also help put Rebecca at ease by knowing the people who mattered most to her had accepted her as a woman.

“Will the change affect how Rebecca does her mission?”

“No, Mom, it won’t. Mom, Rebecca is asking that her mission be extended. She feels this is necessary so she can make it a complete success.”

“What do you think of this, Gabrielle?”

“Mom, I think Rebecca is right. She wants to talk to you and Dad about it when she comes to Australia to meet with some people.”

“Stuart and I have a problem now. We can not come to Australia at this time,” Midori said in a voice full of emotion. She was almost in the position of having to choose what family member mattered most to her, knowing the decision could cause harm or hurt to the one she did not select.

Gabrielle felt Mrs. Slater’s pain. No mother should be put in the place she was in now. “Isn’t there someone who can care for Shannon right now?”

“Our daughter Debbie says she can but it will cause her problems with Donald if it happens.”

Gabrielle was so wrapped up in her talk with Mrs. Slater that she didn’t notice yet the email Hiromi had sent her. “Wasn’t there a couple who cared for Shannon when Dad was in the hospital?”

“Yes, the Marshalls. They are away right now.”

Finally Gabrielle looked at her computer screen. She paused for a moment from her phone conversation with Midori to open Rebecca’s email.

‘Oh yes Rebecca, I have all night for you tonight,’ Gabrielle thought as her heart filled with joy. So much so, she had to tell Mrs. Slater. “Mom, I just got another email from Rebecca.”

“Gabrielle, can I ask you a question?”

“Yes Mom, of course you can.”

“Will I get you in trouble by talking to you today?”

Gabrielle was deeply touched by this display of love from Midori Slater. “No, Mom, that won’t happen. I was even asked by my FBI superiors to contact you in order for you to come to Australia.”

“What did Rebecca say in her email?”

“Mom, the letter is personal and I don’t mind sharing it with you, but it is graphic too. I just wanted to let you know.”

Gabrielle had a decision to make and fast. Should she tell Midori Slater the Chuck part of the email or leave it out? It was a tough decision either way.

“That is all right, Gabrielle, please read it to me.” Gabrielle read Midori her daughter’s email word for word.

“Can I ask you a question, Gabrielle? Who is Chuck?”

“Mom, when Rebecca started her mission we didn’t know all the details about the person she was becoming.”

“I think I understand.”

“One of those details was a live-in boyfriend. Chuck, his name is really Charles McBride, was that boyfriend. Rebecca and Chuck got married at the end of last May.”

Midori became very quiet. Almost as if she had stopped breathing. Gabrielle understood the reaction of Rebecca Slater’s mother. She had just been given a shocking bit of information.

“At this time Chuck is married to Rebecca. He doesn’t know anything about his wife’s mission or real identity.” Gabrielle was beginning to regret what she had told Midori.

“I see,” Midori said before pausing for a few moments. “Rebecca had to do it for her mission.”

Gabrielle began to feel a little bit better. Midori had her heart set on Rebecca and her being together once Swan Song was over. It may still happen, and Gabrielle wouldn’t say anything more to Midori about Rebecca’s future. For she honestly didn’t know what lay ahead for any of them.

“Yes, Mom, Rebecca did.”

“Is Chuck kind to Rebecca?”

“Yes, Mom, he is. He loves her very much.”

“That is good. Are you going to see Rebecca tonight like she asked?”

“Yes, Mom, I’m going to.”

“Tell her that Stuart and I love her with all our hearts.”

“I will, Mom. Right after we’re done talking, I’ll send her an email.”

Gabrielle and Midori went back to talking about the problem Rebecca’s parents faced. How could they go to Australia when Shannon was so sick?

“Mom, I’m not going to stop trying to find a way for you to see Rebecca.” Gabrielle still had no idea how she would resolve the situation.

“Maybe we can just talk to Rebecca on the phone.”

“No, Mom. I think it will be best if you and Dad get to talk to her in person. Chuck will probably be there too.”

There was a moment of silence before Midori replied. “I will try talking to other friends we have.”

“All right, Mom, I will keep you informed. I will be calling back for sure sometime tomorrow. Here are my hotel and police telephone numbers for your information…”

Midori jotted down both telephone numbers. “I will let you go, Gabrielle. You are very busy.”

“Mom, I always have time for you and Dad. If you have any news about Shannon, don’t hesitate to call me and don’t worry about the time.”

“I will, Gabrielle. Good bye for now.”

“Bye, Mom.” As soon as Gabrielle hung up the phone, she began composing a email response to Rebecca.

-----

Rebecca,

I so very much want to get naked with you tonight. Come to the South Pacific hotel tonight any time you like after seven. My room number is 309. I will be waiting for you.

Talk to you later.

Love,

Gabrielle

-----


Only seconds after clicking the send button, Gabrielle went back to work on Operation Swan Song. If she were to meet Tom as planned, Gabrielle had to be done at Arsenal Street no later than half past six.

*****

As soon as Midori was done talking to Gabrielle, she went to seek out her husband. Stuart had Shannon ready for bed.

Midori kissed the young boy and sang him a Japanese lullaby. Shannon fell asleep before his grandmother sang her final note.

Stuart and Midori then went to their room to talk in private. “I had a good talk with Gabrielle.”

“That is good.”

“Gabrielle tell me important things. Our son isn’t the same any more.”

“What do you mean?”

“Gabrielle says the change to Tom is permanent.”

“You mean she is a woman?”

“Yes, Tom is a woman now. It is my feeling we should treat her as if she was always Rebecca to us. I want us to love Rebecca just the same.”

“Rebecca will be the name for our daughter?”

“Yes, Stuart. It was the name I chose long ago before I gave birth to Tom.”

“Nothing has changed for me, Midori. I’ll love Rebecca just the same,” Stuart replied without reservation. It was his rock hard opinion that the unusual mission his son had to conduct was what had caused a mental gender transformation. What happened to his son was unavoidable, like a combat injury. He’d accept and love his son, or daughter, however she returned, as long as she returned alive.

“Rebecca has asked her mission be extended,” Midori saw how tired her husband looked. There was so much to tell him and much to talk about. Some of it would wait for another day.

“So she can get all those gangsters arrested?”

Midori shrugged. “Gabrielle did not say, but I think you are right.”

“It will be worth it in my opinion. What will we do about Rebecca wanting to see us in Australia?”

“Frankly, Stuart, I do not know.”

“Debbie said she could take Shannon.”

Midori shook her head. “I do not want her to do that. It will cause trouble with Donald.”

“What can we do?” Stuart had a brother Phil who was also retired. The trouble with Phil was he lived with his wife Dorothy in Key West Florida. As for Midori’s family, they were all in Japan.

“Tomorrow I will try calling some of our friends in Darrington. We will find someone to help us.”

“I’ll call Phil and Dorothy. We’ll figure something out.”

*****

Hiromi finished having lunch with Chuck at about the same time Gabrielle sent her a email. With Roger accompanying, her, she made the short drive back to East China Commerce Bank.

“Boss, there is one thing I need to tell you. Yuri learned his mother has fallen ill.”

“Where does his mother live?”

“She lives in a town outside of St. Petersburg, Russia.”

“Tell Yuri to go visit his mother. We will be fine here, right?”

“Yes, Boss, we will.”

Hiromi was well aware that Yuri’s actions may have saved her life less than a week earlier, when a Inagawa-kai killer mistakenly gunned down Ana Ramirez instead. As a result, Hiromi was willing to show Yuri a boatload worth of consideration.

The drive to East China was uneventful. When Hiromi got to her second floor office, she found Miriam waiting outside it. She was holding a small bag in one hand.

“Good afternoon, Mrs. Sato.”

As Hiromi walked into her office, she motioned for Miriam to follow her. The Australian bodyguard closed the door as soon as both were inside.

 “I got the Flower Red perfume you were asking for, Hiromi,” Miriam said as she handed the bag to Hiromi.

“Thank you, Miriam, let me reimburse you.”

After Hiromi was through paying her back, Miriam had a question for her employer. “Did you write or call Gabrielle?”

“I emailed her. Miriam, wait here a minute while I check my email.”

Hiromi had only put her office computer into hibernation mode. This enabled her to open her email quickly.

“Gabrielle emailed me back. We’re on for tonight.”

“That is great, Hiromi. What time will we be leaving?”

Hiromi had her bank work to do. “About seven-thrity. Will that be a problem?”

“Not at all,” Miriam replied. She was very excited for Hiromi.

“Miriam, since we’re going out tonight, why don’t you go home.”



“That is not necessary, Hiromi.”

“It is, Miriam. You need a break and I think you need to change clothes. We’re going to have a ladies night out later, right?”

Miriam got Hiromi’s message. Only they and Charlie were to know what was really going on. “I got you now, Hiromi. See you later.”

Miriam wasn’t out of the office two minutes, when a dozen red roses were delivered to Hiromi. A card came with the flowers.

-----

My little sports car,

For everything you do for me.

Love,

Chuck

-----

Hiromi called Chuck at once. “Thank you for the roses.”

“You’re welcome, Kimi-chan. I am so glad you like them.”

Hiromi didn’t feel worthy of the wonderful man she was married to. “I love you.”

“I love you too, Kimi-chan. Did Gabrielle write you back?”

“Yes, she did,” Hiromi said a little reluctantly. ‘Your husband sends you flowers, expresses his love for you, but you’re going to see someone else. What is wrong with me?’

“And?” Chuck asked.

“Miriam and I will leave at seven-thirty. Is that all right?”

“Of course it is, Kimi-chan, I want you to have a good time. You work so hard for me every day and I want to show my appreciation.”

Chuck’s last words made Hiromi feel more at ease. “I’ll pick you up at half past five.”

“I’ll be expecting you, Kimi-chan. Bye for now.”

*****

Mamoru Goto was on duty again when a Cherry Tree Home Décor truck came driving up the service road leading to the homes of Keiji Watanabe and the late Takemune Nimura. The vehicle came to a rolling stop.

“Want to see my paperwork again?” The man behind the wheel of the truck asked Mamoru.

“No, I know you already.”

“Domo arigato,” The truck driver said before driving off. As he did, Mamoru made note of the truck’s license plate number.

Once the truck was out of view, Mamoru placed a call to Radek Krejci. “Another of those decorator trucks has arrived and I recorded their license plate number. Here it is….”

*****

It was Maurice Gao who won the battle over what would be done with the bomb. A RCV was sent into the warehouse and was able to pick up the box safely after moving nine others. After that the bomb was removed for disposal.

Maurice called Gabrielle to tell her the news. “All but the one box of Ripley’s goods has been saved.”

“What about the rest of Ripley’s belongings?”

“All but the pallets in the warehouse with the bomb are released already. Customs is being extra careful with the rest but it will be available to Ripley no later than tomorrow.”

“Thank you, Maurice. I appreciate everything you have done.”

“It is nothing, Gabrielle. I’m just happy I was of some small assistance to Swan Song and Agent Ripley.”

*****

The sound of an engine caused Bunrakuken Inukai to suddenly jump to his feet. Someone was approaching him from the Nimura property.

Some trees were a short distance away. Bunrakuken hid among these as he waited for the vehicle to pass by.

A hillock kept him from getting a good view, but Bunrakuken did see what was making the noise. A heavy duty truck was passing close by. Its back gate was open, and there were men and equipment inside it.

It soon passed out of view. When it did, Bunrakuken checked his watch. In approximately ninety minutes he would stop his study and report in to Radek Krejci. He would tell the Chief of Security that there were most definitely people trespassing on the property owned by Keiji Watanabe and that it was no accident.

*****

In Northern Japan, Major Senichi Hoshino continued to train his men very hard for Operation Rain Drop. It was just days earlier that the construction of buildings similar to those found on the property of Keiji was finally completed. As a result, the rehearsals by Sakusen Gun forces became more intense.

Major Hoshino was still missing one vital thing. A date for Operation Raindrop when all the Watanabe leadership would be in place. It was during a break between rehearsals that the information was finally given to the Major.

“How sure are we of this date, Captain?”

Captain Nichiren Saromi was an intelligence officer assigned to Operation Raindrop. “Colonel Ichinose rates it a nine on a scale of one to ten. All those we are to arrest will be in place the night of August second.”

“Thank you, Captain. We will begin moving to Lake Yanagawa this Saturday. Please tell the Colonel that for me.”

“Yes, sir, I will do as you order.”

*****

Hiromi picked Chuck up like she said at half past five. When the couple arrived home they discovered parts of their house now resembled a large storage room. Boxes were everywhere.

“There are still more to come, Boss,” Roger said to Hiromi. “The Fairlady should be here tomorrow.”

Hiromi was only interested in the boxes marked office. In those were compact discs with Swan Song files saved to them.

Chuck and Hiromi had dinner outdoors on the verandah. It was such a nice summer Hong Kong evening.

“I’m going to get ready now,” Hiromi told Chuck as soon as she was finished eating.

Hiromi took a shower first. After drying herself off, she started getting dressed again. She was going to wear very casual clothes for her meeting with Gabrielle.

Chuck checked in on his wife while she was fixing her hair and makeup. “Kimi-chan, when was the last time I told you how beautiful you are?”

“I think it was three days ago. When we were flying here from Japan, I think.”

Chuck bent down and kissed Hiromi. “That is much too long ago. You’re the most beautiful woman I know, Kimi-chan.”

Hiromi got all warm and tingly from Chuck’s kind words. “Thank you.”

“Have a good time with Gabrielle, and don’t think at all about me. I’ll find something to do. Either watch the telly or finish that spy novel I’m reading.”

Hiromi and Chuck shared a long kiss. After a few more minutes of preparation, Hiromi was ready to go.

Miriam was waiting in the main living room for Hiromi. “I’m set if you are.”

“Yes Miriam, let’s go.” For her night out, Hiromi was wearing a pink polo shirt with white pants.

Bodyguard Dimitri was by the front door. “Going somewhere, Boss?”

“Yes I am. Miriam and I are going to have a night out on the town,” Hiromi replied. “No men are invited.”

Dimitri voiced no protest. “Have a good time, Boss.” Hiromi was driving down Peak Road just a few minutes later.

“Are you excited, Hiromi?” Miriam asked.

“Yes, and I’m a little nervous too.”

“That is all right, it’s been a long time hasn’t it?”

Miriam Andrews was a mind reader. “Not since before I met Chuck.”

The drive to the South Pacific was a short one. Hiromi and Miriam parked the Jaguar and entered the hotel. Nobody paid them much attention.

Hiromi felt pretty calm when the elevator stopped at the third floor. Room 309 was to the right.

Miriam sat down in a chair close to the elevator. “I’ll be here when you’re done.”

Hiromi walked to room 309. A food tray was against the wall. Hiromi took a deep breath, and knocked on the door. The time was less than ten minutes to eight.

*****

Gabrielle had gotten back to the South Pacific an hour earlier. Other than eating some room service she ordered, Gabrielle had used every second of her time preparing for Rebecca.

For her evening with Rebecca, Gabrielle had on a pink colored silk nightie which had two-inch straps and featured a ruched scoop neck. It was one of the two nighties the FBI agent bought the day Ripley made her first Swan Song communication in over four months.

The sound of Hiromi’s knocks caused Gabrielle to run to the door. Before she opened it, she took a moment to compose herself.

“Gabby,” Hiromi said the moment the door was cracked open enough that she could see Gabrielle. “You look great.”

Gabrielle outstretched her right arm to her friend.

Hiromi was very glad to take it, and in doing so, entered room 309.

*****

Miriam watched as Hiromi went into the room. The bodyguard was smiling, glad to be of assistance to her boss, and hopeful that she and her husband could work out some kind of accommodation to her dual natures. Some women had all the luck.

*****

With a backwards thrust of her right foot, Hiromi kicked the door closed. Before she was back on her two feet, Gabrielle had cupped her face with her hands and had begun to kiss her very passionately.

Hiromi almost felt that her tongue was going to be sucked from her mouth, Gabrielle was so hungry for her, almost desperate. Hiromi drew back a little as she ran her hands down Gabrielle’s body to let her know that she was loved. “We have all the time in the world, Gaby. There’s no rush.”

“Rebecca, I love you,” Gabrielle said before starting a series of shorter kisses.

“I love you too, Gabby,” Hiromi said as she kissed back, and nuzzled the side of her neck. She was being pulled towards the bed.

Events were moving at the speed of a freight train, a little too fast. Hiromi wanted to slow down a little. “Can I get undressed?”

“Of course you can, Rebecca. There’s a nightie for you in the bathroom if you want.”

Hiromi smiled as Gabrielle loosened her grip on her. “I was thinking of something more like nothing. Whatever you would you prefer, Gabby.”

“I think I would like that too,” Gabby decided she would let Hiromi set the pace. She wanted to win the heart and soul of her friend and that required flexibility not selfishness.

Gabrielle sat down on the bed as Hiromi began to undress. She put her purse on the night stand first. Next came the removal of her shoes and socks as she bent down to take them off, as flexible and graceful as a ballerina.

Hiromi unbuttoned her pants and began to slip out of them.

Gabrielle watched her undressing with something like awe. Tom, the awkward, reedy, little man, had been reincarnated as a sensuous woman who moved like a dancer, unhurried, every motion perfect, every gesture graceful, spare, and lean, without dainty posturing or shame, but exquisitely womanly, as if she’d been born into that body. First Hiromi’s left leg sliding out of her pants, then the right, and all immaculate, nothing tangled, no tripping over a pant leg, as perfectly alluring and peaceful as a rainbow, as fluid as the movements of a swan across a still pond.

Lastly, Hiromi removed her polo shirt. She did this with her back to Gabrielle, crossing her hands in front of her, then raising them with the garment following along like the miraculous unveiling of the magician’s assistant and the end of the magic, as if she were a present slowly being unwrapped.

“Would you like to unfasten my bra?” Hiromi said as she began removing her jewelry and watch. Only her wedding rings would be staying on.

“I’d love to,” Gabrielle replied as she rose to stand behind her. With Hiromi still standing with her back to her, Gabrielle unfastened her friend’s bra.

Hiromi twisted herself around so she was now facing Gabrielle. Her bra was loose, but still on. She then let it slip off her shoulders and way from her body like a leaf falling to the ground.

‘You’re such a tease, Rebecca,’ Gabrielle thought, feeling a flush of heat across her own breasts, conscious of her heartbeat, of the increasing heaviness in her womb. Hiromi was nothing short of magnificent. She remembered Tom’s hesitant attempt to proposition her, just before he’d undergone the process which had turned him into the beautiful woman she saw before her now, and didn’t know whether she regretted turning him down or not. On the one hand, it would be a memory they could share now, but on the other, it could just as easily have been a reminder of what could never be again, or a bad start to what was yet to come. ‘Best to move forward,’ she thought. ‘Tomorrow is another day.’

Before she’d seen them unadorned, she hadn’t fully appreciated the size of Hiromi’s breasts. They seemed to jut out even more than would be expected once they were out of her bra. Perhaps surprisingly, they seemed perfectly proportionate, since Hiromi had relatively broad shoulders, and her chest was broad as well. She was obviously very strong and lithe, so her breasts made her look powerful and womanly, like a Goddess, Aphrodite rising from the sea. Before, petite, as many Japanese women are, she’d seemed almost like a girl, but there was no mistaking her womanhood now. She had a presence about her that she hadn’t had before, and finally Gabrielle could see how easily she could cow a roomful of men, and how intimidated they might be if they displeased her.

Gabrielle laid back in bed and Hiromi slid down beside her. “You’re wearing Flower Red too now.

“Yes, Gabby, I am,” Hiromi said as she and Gabrielle began to kiss again, but for the first time ever.

If Tom had been that self-assured, so comfortable with who he was back then, so long ago, he might have had her on his last night as a man, but some things are better left to ripen.

*****

Grant Williamson wasn’t even at the Hoover Building yet when he received a message. FBI Director Robert Mueller wanted to see him in his office the moment he got into work.

Helen Bey was working behind the desk alongside the door to Robert Mueller’s office. “Go right in, sir. The Director is expecting you.”

“Grant,” Robert said even before the Deputy Director had a chance to close the door. “Please take a seat.”

Robert got down to business the moment after Grant sat down. “I just got off the phone with the Japanese; the meeting in Australia is a go.”

“Does that mean Ripley’s new plan has been approved?”

“No, Grant, that will be decided upon later. How are the arrangements proceeding?”

Grant gave Robert a run down. So far the doctors, debriefers, Debra Dudley, Scott Avery, and Dr. Wagner had been notified and all were getting ready for the trip that would start sometime Friday at Andrews Air Force Base outside of Washington D.C.

The Air Force was arranging the transportation. A Boeing VC25, a military version of the 747, would be the aircraft used for the international trip.

Canberra had jumped at the opportunity to host the meeting with Ripley. Where it would take place was still up in the air but had been narrowed down to either Joint Defense Facility Pine Gap or Royal Australian Air Force Base Darwin.

Authorities in both South Korea and Hong Kong said they would send a representative to the meeting. Swan Song committee member Inspector Yoshida would also be in attendance.

A representative from both Japan and United States Special Forces would also be coming. So far nothing had been heard from Major Senichi Hoshino.

“Did Agent Tanaka send her new reports?” Grant asked at the end of his update.

“Yes, Grant, she did.”

“Will Agent Ripley’s parents be invited to make the trip also?”

“Yes, the Slaters are to be invited. They will have to arrange their own transport to whatever base the plane will refuel at before crossing the Pacific. I guess that will be Travis but you better check on that, Grant.”

Travis Air Force Base was located in Fairfield California almost equally close to both Sacramento and San Francisco. Travis, Hickam in Hawaii, or Elmendorf in Alaska were the bases Robert Mueller’s aircraft refueled at on his previous FBI trips to either Asia or Australia.

“Yes, Sir, I will do that and have Agent Tanaka notify the Slaters.”

“Grant, there is one more item to add to your ‘to do’ list. If Operation Swan Song is go forward, we’ll need to put another undercover agent in close to Ripley. What are our options?”

“Sir, I don’t know.”

“You’re going to have to work on that, Grant. We can’t expect Ripley to operate on her own and having her send us emails every other day.”

This new job handed off to Grant, might prove to be the hardest part of Swan Song for the FBI Deputy Director. Where was the committee going to find a person familiar with Swan Song and willing to go undercover? An even more difficult question—what will be that person’s cover?

*****

Hiromi and Gabrielle just kissed and hugged for the longest time, exploring each other’s sensitivities and feelings. They weren’t in any hurry, and felt no particular urgency, content to let things happen at the proper moment as their hands touched each other’s bodies, and responded to the sounds and movements they evoked, an intimate pas de deux in slow motion.

Not too long after they’d started their embrace, the little clothing they still had on felt stifling, in the way, so they moved to take off what remained almost simultaneously, smiling at each other as they saw their synchronization. Hiromi wriggled out of her panties while Gabrielle did the same, first with her panties and then the nightie she’d come to the door in. She flung the latter across the hotel room without aiming, without even looking, and landed it on a chair.

Hiromi noticed. “Nice shot,” she said as she and Gabrielle were finally naked together and moved back into each other’s arms, their bodies molding to fit against each other automatically, as if through long familiarity, but also strangely new and exciting. “I love you, Gabrielle.”

“I love you too, Rebecca.”

After a few kisses, Hiromi said. “I always wanted to see your breasts.”

“Do you like them?” Gabrielle asked as Hiromi slid her body down in bed a little.

“Yes, they’re heavenly,” Hiromi said as she began kissing Gabrielle’s breasts, little kisses first, staying carefully away from her areolae and nipples, then little licks just at the edge, teasing her slowly, just as she liked to be teased, until Gabrielle pulled her head tight to her bosom, and she began to pay more attention. Eventually, Gabrielle took hold of her own breast and offered it, without words, and Hiromi gently took her friend’s left nipple into her mouth and began to suck, slowly, still holding back.

Gabrielle loved her suckling at her nipple, almost like a baby, but not with a baby’s single-minded greed. Rebecca was giving much more than she was taking. “I love you, Rebecca, and with all my heart. Let me be yours forever.”

Hiromi loved it too, and another piece of her soul clicked into place. The sight and touch and taste of Gabrielle, in all her natural beauty, the mirror of her own, had finally unleashed the desires she’d only imagined before then, even when she’d been with her former fiancée as a man. She loved Gabrielle so much and wanted to show it any way she could. She stopped suckling and buried her head in between Gabrielle’s breasts. “I love you,” she said, her voice muffled slightly, trapped between Gabrielle’s breastbone and Hiromi’s mouth, which made them both laugh.

“I love you too, Rebecca.” She kissed the top of her head, as she raised herself slightly to look up into her eyes.

“Gabby….can we talk?” she said.

“Yes, Rebecca, I’m here to listen too.” Gabrielle was using her feet to play with Hiromi’s ankles. A woman has many erogenous zones

“I like the name Rebecca.”

“Can I call you Becky?”

“Yes, as long as you don’t get mad at me for calling you Gabby.”

 “It’s a deal, Becky.” Gabrielle began to rub the inside of Hiromi’s right elbow with her right hand.

“Mom and you are friends now?”

“Yes, I call her Mom and Dad is Dad too.”

“You became like a daughter to them?” Hiromi’s breathing had become a little faster. Gabrielle, who was still rubbing her ankles and elbow, had found at least one of those erogenous zones.

“Yes, I have.”

“That’s good. How are they?”

“All right. Mom said for me to pass on their love to you.” Gabrielle was already making love to Hiromi, probably in a way Mom had never expected.

“They know about how I feel now?”

“Yes, Becky, I told them you were a woman now, and married, and that Chuck loves you very much. Mom said she loves you no matter what,” Gabrielle said as Hiromi pulled herself up in bed till the two women were again face to face. They began to exchange kisses. “Dad is fine with it too. Your family loves and misses you very much.”

“I want to talk to Mom and Dad. Will I see them in Australia? What’s the deal with my trip?”

“The trip looks almost certain. I will know for sure tomorrow. Mom and Dad have a problem right now.”

Hiromi stopped her kisses. “What’s wrong?”

“Shannon is sick with an inner ear infection.”

“That is terrible. Shannon lost his Mom and Dad this year. He must be in agony,” Hiromi said with a pained look on her face.

Gabrielle hugged Hiromi extra tight. Her friend needed someone to talk to and to get emotional support from more than any physical love.

“If Mom and Dad can’t come, I understand.”

“Becky, they want to see you. Mom, Dad, and I are trying to find a solution.”

“Where are Mom and Dad now?”

“At your sister Debbie’s in Oregon.”

Hiromi thought about asking Gabrielle if she could talk to her parents then. The time difference of fifteen hours between Oregon and Hong Kong was the primary reason Hiromi didn’t say anything.

“Why can’t Debbie care for Shannon?” Hiromi asked as she began kissing Gabrielle again, little teasing kisses, in case she’d missed anything.

“Mom says she and Donald are having problems.”

“Donald always was a jerk.”

“I love you, Becky.”

“I love you too. When Swan Song is over, I would like to be Shannon’s Mom. It would be very hard on Mom and Dad, to take on the burden of a child.”

“Mom would like that too. She even said she would like us to be Shannon’s Co-Moms.”

“My Mom is incredible.”

“She sure is,” Gabrielle said as she hugged Hiromi very tightly. Then she laughed. “I think Mom and Dad are gunning to be National chairpersons of PFLAG.”

“PFLAG?”

“Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. It is an organization.” Most gays and lesbians don’t have the support of their family. If Hiromi chose Gabrielle over Chuck, or rather, to be honest with herself, if Chuck rejected her, once he knew the truth, she would be one of the lucky ones.

Hiromi stopped her kissing again and looked intently into Gabrielle’s eyes. “I have a problem, Gabby.”

“Yes, Hiromi, I know. You love both Chuck and me.”

“Are you angry?”

“No, Becky, I am not,” Gabrielle said as she looked Hiromi equally intensely into her eyes. “I understand the predicament you are in and I don’t feel hurt.”

She paused and looked at her. “Chuck loves me so much.”

“I know Becky, he is a very handsome man. He sounds like a wonderful man. You’re very lucky to have found him.”

“Chuck is always considerate of my feelings and is so kind. He sent me flowers today.”

“He let you come to see me too.”

“He’s a lot like you. He doesn’t feel hurt because I want you, and says that he understands.” Hiromi told Gabrielle of the talks she had with Chuck since coming back from lunch at McDonald’s. “He knows that I — or Hiromi, the real Hiromi — had female lovers before we met, and sometimes I remember them, but it’s all a little vague. I get confused sometimes, because she’s still there, inside my head, and I remember sometimes growing up as her, in misery, and I feel so sorry for her, or me — I told you it’s confusing. She used to be angry all the time, and I was frightened of her, but now… She’s not so angry any more, and I know that she loves Chuck too. Chuck is always so generous and loving. He calls me his little sports car because I give him such good rides.” She grinned and wriggled her hips with a saucy toss of her head. “I like it when he rides me. I like it a lot.” 

Gabrielle gave Hiromi a warm smile as she hugged her tight. “Chuck sounds like a wonderful man. I am very glad you have him. You needed him, and he was there for you. I hope he’s always there for you, Becky, even if it means we can’t be together.”

“My work makes me feel sick, Gabrielle. The narcotics, the murder, the trafficking in women, women just like me, and I help them do it. I shuffle the dirty money taken from desperate prostitutes, taken from pathetic drug addicts, extorted from hundreds, thousands of innocent shopkeepers, into my bank, and then transfer it here and there, making money all the time, until all that dirty money looks clean, but I feel so filthy and evil from being associated with it.”

“That’s all right, Becky. You have been through an ordeal.” Tom Slater had been much too pure for the hideous Swan Song assignment he had been given.

“When my day is over, Chuck is always there for me, always kind, always loving. He makes me feel so good and I want to please him in return. When he looks at me, he sees no evil in me, and for a little while I feel pure again, and untouched by all the wickedness that I help to inflict upon the world. I want to be what he sees in me. I want to be his woman forever.”

“Your marriage vows are very important.”

“Yes, Gabby, like my oath as an Army officer. Do you understand what I am saying, Gabby?”

“Yes, Becky, I do. You love both Chuck and me and you are afraid to hurt either one of us. I’m betting it is tearing you apart right now.”

“It is,” Hiromi said sadly.

Hiromi told her about their trip to Australia to meet Chuck’s family, and said that the real turning point for her was when she was introduced to Chuck’s uncle Harold, who was a farmer. Harold McBride and his second wife Zeny had five children and a sixth was on the way.


“I went for a ride on a horse. It was the most fun I’d had since Swan Song began. I felt like a little girl again, but this time I had everything I’d always wanted, my pony, my own home, my husband. The only thing missing was my baby, the baby I would love as fiercely as I’d wanted to be loved.”

Gabrielle nodded before giving Becky another kiss. Her friend needed to talk and Gabrielle was listening. It wasn’t lost on her that the distinction between Tom’s memories and Hiromi’s was blurring slightly.

“Other than tonight that is. I didn’t want this as a girl, but I didn’t know any better back then,” Hiromi added, grinning happily.

Gabrielle had to laugh. “The night is still young, and we’re still working on the soup,” Gabrielle joked back and Hiromi laughed. “The fun we are going to have is just beginning.”

“Zeny has five children, and is about to give birth to another. Does she feel overwhelmed? Not at all, she’s very happy. She has everything she ever dreamed of having, and the children are part of that dream.”

Hiromi spent some time telling Gabrielle about the talk she’d had with Zeny just before she and Chuck left. That conversation, and the visit to their farm, given her a whole new attitude and outlook.

“After that I really began to fall in love with Chuck. He’s my knight in shining armor. I dreamt of him rescuing me from everything, from the Watanabes, from their Yakuza, from Swan Song. I still do.”

“And having his children too?”

“Yes, Gabby. If Chuck said to me right now he would love me the rest of my life, I’d gladly bear him five or six children instead of the two or three we’ve been talking about. I thought about it, even before he asked me to marry him, and I dumped my birth control pills down the toilet before we left on our honeymoon. Oh, Gabby, have I gone nuts?”

From their talk that night and the day before at the McDonald’s, Gabrielle knew how strong her friend’s female urges had become. They were not limited to childbearing only. “No, Becky, you haven’t. You’re simply a woman deeply in love with a man.”

“But I used to be a man.”

“You aren’t any more, Becky, whatever you were then, and I’m not even sure that this wasn’t part of your destiny all along. You’re no more a man than I am. There is nothing wrong with the dreams, hopes, and desires you have. In fact, I share some of your feelings, maybe most of them.”

She smiled. “We have many things in common now, don’t we Gabby?”

“Yes we do, Becky. I would like to share some of me with you right now, if you would like?”

Hiromi grinned before giving Gabrielle a big kiss. “I think it’s time we start the main course.”

Gabrielle playfully caressed Hiromi’s slim buttocks. “Becky Slater, if I didn’t know you better, I’d think you had been with a woman before.”

“Not in this lifetime, but maybe in the one before. Hiromi liked women, because they didn’t frighten her, until she met Chuck, who couldn’t frighten a woman if he tried.” She leaned over to kiss her, and began nibbling down her side, reaching down to stroke the side of her knee, then the back, encouraging her legs to spread themselves, which they did as Gabby sighed. She reached between them, now stroking the inside of her thighs, but without focus or destination, taking as much pleasure from her kneecap as from her breast, every inch of her as precious as the next. 

During all this, they somehow got turned around, probably when Hiromi began to nibble her toes. Hiromi was on her back, her feet inches from the headboard. Gabrielle, the opposite way around with her feet hooked over the foot of the bed and lying on top of her, but she wasn’t at all heavy.

Then they shifted slightly, and everything was better than good.

“I love you, Gabby,” Hiromi whispered, just before she began kissing and licking the fragrant area between her lover’s thighs.

*****

The transition between July twenty-second and July twenty-third was just at the full moon. It would make Bunrakeuken’s job easier and more dangerous at the same time. More light worked both ways. Whoever was using the property of Takemune Nimura might see the cat burglar long before he saw them.

Bunrakeuken was dressed totally in black, including his socks and shoes. He had on him a small bag of tricks. Some of its contents were a miniature camera, a portable GPS unit, a flashlight, and a can of pepper spray. Around his neck were a set of night vision goggles.

It was about nine when Bunraeuken returned to the Northeastern part of the Keiji Watanabe estate. He spent nearly an hour sitting near the drainage ditch getting himself reacclimated to his surroundings.

When this was done Bunrakeuken began walking alongside the ditch. Stopping every twenty yards or so to make sure no one else was in his vicinity. The night was quiet but that didn’t mean Bunrakeuken was alone.

By using his GPS, Bunrakeuken knew he was still within the property owned by Keiji Watanabe. The cat burglar planned to cross into the Nimura property after midnight.

Bunrakeuken had walked alongside the ditch for almost an hour when he saw objects ahead of him. He ducked behind some brush and observed what lay ahead of him. According to Akira Sudo, there should not be any activity in this area.

When he felt safe, Bunrakeuken got up and began walking towards the unknown objects. As he got closer, the magnitude of what was going on became evident. Persons unknown were preparing to build something on land owned by Keiji Watanabe.

Bunrakeuken took his flashlight out and began to examine the objects. The cat builder recognized most as either tools or building equipment.

Two words on one box told Bunrakeuken everything he needed to know. As if he thought his eyes were tricking him, the cat burglar checked the large lettering again.

Bailey Bridge. There were a lot of numbers, and unexplicable combinations of letters and numbers as well, but those two words told him everything.

A Bailey Bridge is a portable pre-fabricated truss bridge. They are usually built by military engineers.

Someone planned to cross men and heavy equipment onto the Watanabe estate. Bunrakuken wasn’t Yakuza, but he still knew there was only one possible purpose for such an operation.

*****

When Hiromi saw the time was shortly after 10:30, she told Gabrielle it was time for her to leave. After some coaxing from her friend, she stayed another hour.

“You are supposed to be on a ladies night out with Miriam. Even on a weeknight, somebody doing that doesn’t call it quits at 10:30.”

Hiromi laughed. “You’re right, Gabby, I love you.”

“I love you too.”

“I have to tell you what I’ve done.”

Most of the last hour they spent together saw Gabrielle trying to console Hiromi. The subject of Reina Shimizu’s death had finally arisen, and she was relentless in her honesty, revealing her fear, her cowardice, and her guilty relief that she’d survived, even as she snuffed out the life of her friend, and how Hiromi, the angry, hateful Hiromi, had risen like a vampire from the grave to drain the life from her.

“You were not a coward, Becky. She was caught and going to die.”

“I failed Reina. It was my job to protect both of us. I made a promise to her.”

Gabrielle spent about thirty minutes just hugging Hiromi. She was going to need a lot of love and healing when Swan Song was over with.

Hiromi, almost as if she had an internal clock, got out of bed at half past eleven. She first used the bathroom. When that was done, Hiromi began to dress herself.

Gabrielle watched as Hiromi’s nakedness again became covered with clothing. ‘Tonight was too damn short.’ She had to ask, even though she knew the answer before she spoke. “You won’t re-consider and stay for dessert?”

“Gabby, I would like to, but I can’t. Chuck is waiting for me, and I want to go to him. I want to tell him how much you love me, and how much I love him for letting me love you. I’m letting go of all my secrets, Gabby. Soon, there will be nothing left but who I really am, and I can only hope that he still loves me, and that he’ll understand why I’ve kept a part of myself hidden from him.”

“Becky, there is something that happened today you need to know about.”

“What’s that, Gabby?”

“Someone planted a bomb among your personal belongings. It was found by Hong Kong customs.” Gabrielle was still naked as she reclined on the bed, one leg partially raised and bent at her knee.

“It doesn’t surprise me, Gabby.”

Gabrielle was surprised by Hiromi’s answer. Had her friend become fatalistic? She didn’t say anything.

“Do we know who is trying to blow me up?”

“No, Becky, we don’t. Please be careful. I love you, your parents love you. We all want you back safe and unharmed.”

“I know. Don’t worry too much about me. I have nine lives,” Hiromi said jokingly.

“Becky, I think you’re working on life number three now.”

“More like number four, there’s a long list of people who want me dead, including my grandfather, I think, but also the Inagawa-kai, who blame me for their current troubles, and even rival Yakuzas, who think to profit from the war between us by eliminating me. Not all the Yakuza leadership are as stupid as my grandfather, so they know that taking me down would benefit them.” Hiromi then bent down and kissed Gabrielle. “I love you. Thank you for tonight.”

“You’re welcome, Becky, and I love you too.”

As Hiromi began to put her socks and shoes back on, she had a sudden brainstorm. “Gabby, don’t you have a sister in Oregon somewhere?”

“Yes, Roxanne lives in Astoria.” Astoria Oregon was less than one hundred miles from Tigard where the Slaters were presently staying.

“Could you maybe ask her to watch Shannon or maybe even your mother?”

Gabrielle had never thought of this, because of the strained relationship she had with most of her family. “I’ll check on that, Becky.”

Before leaving, Hiromi sat back down on the bed. “I love you Gabby, I love Chuck too. If…” She paused for a moment. “I want you to meet him.”

Gabrielle knew Hiromi was being serious, but she still laughed, to cover her own nervousness. “If I’m not wrong, I think you have both of us now, but are you sure that’s wise?”

Hiromi laughed too. “Chuck is so loving to me, and so kind, I think you’d like him, and I don’t want any secrets any more, ever again, not between you and me; not between Chuck and either of us. Who knows? If my husband can accept who I really am after all the lies are behind me, and if he still loves me… If we…” Her voice almost broke as her eyes teared up, almost overflowing before she looked up toward the ceiling and managed to blink them back. When she regained her composure, she said, “If we remain married, I might be able to persuade him to let you stay with us, if you want to, or live somewhere nearby.”

Once again Gabrielle laughed. “That would be interesting.”

“My life has been complicated enough, Gabrielle. I’m looking forward to simplicity, or at least as much of it as I can manage. When are you leaving for Australia?”

“Friday morning.”

“Chuck and I will be leaving Saturday morning for Melbourne. Can I expect to see you at The Langham on Saturday night?”

The Langham was a five-star hotel in Melbourne. “Yes, and with bells on.”

Hiromi racked her mind to check if there was anything else she needed to ask Gabrielle. “You will email me about Swan Song tomorrow?”

“Yes, as soon as I know anything firm.”

Hiromi bent down and kissed Gabrielle. “I had a great time tonight and I love you so much. Bye, Gabby.” She walked over to the door opened it, and walked out, letting it close behind her.

Gabrielle saw how straight she stood, how unwavering her actions had been as she went back to meet her husband, and finally realized that her Becky had become the soldier that Tom had always wanted to be, courageous under fire, and a warrior on a battlefield where she could make a real difference.

*****

Miriam stood up the moment Hiromi walked out of room 309. “If I’m not mistaken, Hiromi, you had a very good time tonight.”

Hiromi smiled. “Yes, Miriam, I did. Let’s talk when we get to the car, all right?” Hiromi asked as she pushed the down button for the hotel elevator.

*****

Bunrakeuken didn’t linger too long in the area near the bridging material. Its owners could be highly protective of it. Instead Bunarkeuken continued to walk along side the drainage ditch.


Not till Bunarkeuken was less than fifty yards from where the ditch crossed into the Nimura property did he temporarily stop his journey. By lying close to the base of a hillock, the cat burglar would minimize his chances of being detected.

When Bunrakuken Inukai next checked his watch, he discovered it was almost one in the morning, Japan time. When his watch told him it was half past one, the cat burglar would begin the last phase of the assignment given to him by Akira Sudo.

*****

To be continued in Part Twenty Three

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Danielle J, I just want you

Danielle J,

I just want you to know that I think you're a very prolific and talented writer. Thanks for keeping the story going - can't wait to read how it ends.

Again, many thanks.