Duty, Honor, Country, Family, Part 23

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“Bottom line, Rebecca is still my child and we’re very proud of her. As Tom, he served our country and as Rebecca is doing the same. My wife and I have talked it over, whatever choices she makes when her mission is over, we’ll support them one-hundred percent. It is Rebecca’s life, and we feel certain she will make the right choice for the future,” Stuart Slater said to Makoto Tanaka.

“Gabrielle has made choices and decisions her mother and I wish she hadn’t.”

“We can’t live our children’s lives for them. All we can do is give them advice.”

“That is true, Stuart.”

Duty, Honor, Country, Family - Part Twenty Three

by Danielle J

Synopsis- Hiromi Sato and Gabrielle Tanaka are very busy before they each leave Hong Kong for Australia.

Thank you to Puddin for all her help preparing this story chapter for publication. Also thank you to Kimmie for her assistance.
 

*****

Gabrielle’s heart ached as she sat alone in her hotel room after Hiromi left. She had never loved anyone as much as she did Tom, now Rebecca, and she kicked herself for her reluctance to tell him before it was too late. Their chances of having a future together now looked bleaker than ever.  Chuck McBride wasn’t bothered at all by Becky’s feelings for her. He was willing to share her with another woman. That was not just an incredible display of love but also a sign of how self confident the Australian was. She didn’t feel nearly as self-confident. She’d had a fantasy built up where she and Tom would go back to America and live happily ever after, as if Swan Song had never happened, but it didn't look like that would happen at all.

As Gabrielle saw it now, there was only a small chance Hiromi and Chuck’s marriage would not weather the storm that would occur after she revealed herself to her husband. Chuck McBride was one of a kind and Gabrielle didn’t see him turning his back on Hiromi for anything, much less if she was pregnant with his child.

Gabrielle got out of bed and used the bathroom. When she was through, she got herself dressed for bed. Even though Hiromi wasn’t there any more, Gabrielle could still smell the perfume she’d worn and smiled. She’d remembered the perfume she’d worn at their meeting over french fries, and had worn the same perfume to let her know that her scent was a memory she treasured. Whatever Rebecca was, or had been, she was thinking like a woman now.

‘I know what you are doing now, Becky. As soon as you get home, you’ll thank Chuck for allowing you this night with me by making love to him.’ Gabrielle thought to herself. She also knew if she was in Hiromi’s shoes, she would be doing the exact same thing, and it didn’t bother her as much as she thought it should. In fact, it made her feel warm inside, thinking about it.

It was almost midnight but Gabrielle didn’t feel like going to sleep yet. Hiromi was right, she should try asking her family for help.

As her laptop warmed up, Gabrielle got out the electronic organizer she carried in her purse at all times. She tried calling her parents in Fresno California. After getting no answer, she then called her sister, Roxanne Fujiyama.

Roxanne was married to Theodore ‘Ted’ Fujiyama and the couple had lived in Astoria Oregon ever since their 2004 wedding ceremony. Ted worked for his family’s business, Fujiyama Seafood. Roxanne was employed by the Astoria School District.

It was summer time, and the eldest Tanaka sister was home. “Hello?”

“Hi, Roxanne, it is me, Gabrielle.” The relations between the first two of the three Tanaka sisters had never been all that warm. In fact Gabrielle had told Tom Slater once that her sister Roxanne wouldn’t do shit for her as they both grew up.

“Gabrielle, it has been way too long since we last talked. How are you?”

“I am all right, Roxanne. How about yourself?” Gabrielle asked as she noted an unusual cheerfulness in her sister’s voice

Roxanne gave Gabrielle a long update with a surprise at the very end. “Gabrielle, you are going to be an Aunt again.”

Gabrielle was happy for her sister and the rest of her family. “That is wonderful; and congratulations. When is your due date?”

“It is March 3rd of next year. Now what have you been up to, sister?”

“I’m in Hong Kong right now working for the bureau. Other than that, not much is going on.”

“Candace said you had a new friend,” Roxanne replied.

Gabrielle laughed. “Yes, I do. It is complicated, Roxanne, and if you got about two hours to hear me out, you might understand.”

“That is all right, sister. It has to be the middle of the night in Hong Kong, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is just after midnight. Are Mom and Dad around?”

“They are supposed to be here later today. Right now Mom and Dad are down in Corvallis.”

Gabrielle was familiar with Corvallis, home to Oregon State University and just fifty miles from Newport on the coast, where she used to hang out in the summer sometimes. It was a good four hour drive from there to her sister’s house, the way her father drove anyway. She used to do it in three.

If Gabrielle was in a betting mood, she’d wager fifty dollars her father was playing golf right at that moment. Makoto Tanaka liked to spend his summers playing the sport with his friends. Gabrielle had learned to play the sport from her father.

“When will Mom and Dad get to Astoria?”

“They said they would be here for dinner at seven.”

“I need to talk to Mom.”

“You really do, sister. Other than Mother’s Day and Christmas, this will be like your first phone call in two or three years.”

“I know, Roxanne,” Gabrielle replied. She was only admitting to herself now that she was the primary reason for the strained relationship she had with her parents. Family should be more important than her job. “Can you tell Mom I will be calling tonight around eight your time.”

“I will do that for you. Gabrielle, can I ask why you need to talk to Mom and Dad?”

“Roxanne, I need a big favor from them or even possibly from you.”

“Like what? Roxanne asked and Gabrielle then explained the problem the Slaters had. “Gabrielle does this have anything to do with that friend Candy mentioned to us?”

“Yes, Roxanne, it does. Shannon is her nephew. He may even be your nephew one day.”

“Gabrielle, I can’t make any promises. I will have to talk to Ted about it.”

 “I understand, Roxanne.  It’s late here, can we talk more about this later?”

“Yes, Gabrielle, we can. Mom and Dad will be waiting for your call tonight. Bye.”

*****

As she drove home, Hiromi talked to Miriam about the night she just had with Gabrielle. “I love both Gabrielle and Chuck very much.”

“Have Charlie and Gabrielle ever met?”

“Just one time, but Chuck didn’t know then about the friendship Gabrielle and I have.”

“He knows now,” Miriam said with a grin. “Hiromi, you do realize you are married to a prince?”

“Yes, I do. I love Chuck so much and want to have his baby.”

Hiromi got home a few minutes later. She made her way quietly to the bedroom so not to disturb Chuck.

After removing all her clothes, Hiromi got into bed. She barely had time to settle when Chuck took his wife into his arms.

“Kimi-chan, did you have a good time tonight?”

“Yes, I did. Thank you for letting me see Gabrielle.”

“You’re welcome, Kimi-chan. I love you very much,” Chuck said as he hugged his wife gently.

“I love you too. Let me take you for a ride before I go to sleep.”

“That is not necessary, Kimi-chan. It is late and you must be very tired.”

Up till now Hiromi had been lying sideways in bed, with Chuck at her back. She rotated her body till she and her husband were face to face. “Chuck, I love coming home to you. From the second I walk out the door to go work for my family, I'm looking forward to the moment I can leave that family business behind me and be in your arms again. Before I had you, Ryuku was my dear friend, and helped keep me sane, helped heal me enough that I could be with you. Gabrielle is like Ryuku for me, a sweet refuge and a memory of the days before we met. She loved me tonight, but I want to show you I love you even more because you let me love her too.”

Chuck planted a big kiss on his wife’s lips. “All right, Kimi-chan. I will do anything to make you happy.”

*****

Bunrukuken Inukai began his exploration of the Nimura home and property at half past one in the morning. With the help of GPS, the cat burglar calculated he had thirty-six hundred meters to cover before arriving at his primary target.

For his personal safety, Bunrukuken did the journey in stop and go fashion. He would cover one hundred meters, stop and listen for a short time, then start moving again. Other than for the sounds of nature, the night was a quiet one.

At approximately twenty two hundred meters from the Nimura home, Bunrukuken got his first surprise. Other than for a few small dips in the terrain, the last two kilometers of his journey would be totally out in the open. He could see the Nimura home and anyone living there would be able to see him also.

‘I should have demanded a larger fee from Sudo-san,” Bunrukuken thought to himself as he lay close to the last hillock that provided any kind of cover.

After a short break, Bunrakeuken was again on his way to the Nimura house. This time he ran instead of walked. Every 100 meters or so, he would throw himself to the ground, check for movement with his night vision binoculars, and listen. Then Bunrakeuken would get up again.

As he got closer to the Nimura home, Bunrakeuken could see there were objects outside it. At a distance of 500 meters he began to make some of them out. They were crates like those he discovered by the drainage ditch. Alongside them was a forklift

Benrakuken also knew now that there were people in residence at the house. For lights were turned on inside it and he caught glimpses of movement via a window.

After a few minutes, Bunrukuken was almost ready to move out again, when he heard a new sound. It was human and coming from the home’s exterior.

Bunrukuken remained still on the ground. With the help of the binonculars, he kept a close eye on his target house. It was only a few minutes before the cause of the sound was discovered. A person was walking around the house.

At under a half kilometer away, Benrakuken could not tell with a certainty if the man was armed or not, but the cat burglar acted as if he was. A can of mace would be no match against a man with a loaded gun.

The guard, that’s how Benrakuken classified the man outside the Nimura house, soon disappeared around the corner. Still the cat burglar didn’t move.

A little over ten minutes later, the man was back. He walked around the house a second time before disappearing. Benrakuken now knew without a doubt that the Nimura house was being guarded.

Not till the guard appeared and disappeared a third time, did Benrakuken move in closer to the house. Running and diving, not one time, but three times, until he was behind some of the crates he had seen earlier. After the guard appeared and disappeared a fourth time, Benrakuken snapped nine photos of the crates with the portable camera he had brought with him, trying to capture as many of the shipping labels and stenciled lettering as he could.

Benrakuken planned to leave right after the guard made a fifth appearance and disappearance, but those plans were suddenly changed. A door to the Nimura house was open, and people were coming outside. Two voices, one male and one female, suddenly filled the air. They were getting seriously close to where Benrakuken was hiding.

As they approached, Benrakuken broke out in a cold sweat. Should he take off and run or wait? Every second he hesitated the risk of detection grew larger.

Luckily for Benrukuken, the man and woman were called back to the building. “Do either of you have a light?”

The guard wanted to smoke. So the man and woman went back the way they came. As they did, Benrukuken let out a deep breath.

Not till another half hour had passed did Benrakuken begin his way back to Keiji Watanabe’s property. As he ran through the darkness, the cat burglar beeped Simon Dawes.

The assistant head of security met Benrakuken after the cat burglar made it to the safe side of the drainage ditch. “What did you learn?”

“There are people working and living in the Nimura house. I think they plan to attack here very soon. I have pictures which should be studied.”

*****

Helen Bey buzzed FBI Robert Mueller a few minutes before 5 p.m. Washington D.C. time. “Director, General Alexander is on line two.”

Robert picked up his phone immediately. “Keith, it has been a long time since we last talked.”

“Yes, it has, Robert,” Said Army Lieutenant General Keith Alexander.  Keith was Director of the National Security Agency, also known as the NSA. “I’m very busy up here, so forgive me if I sound like I’m in a hurry.”

“No problem, Keith. Did you get my Pine Gap request?”

“Yes, Robert, I did. At this moment I’m having orders issued so that you may have use of the base for fourteen days beginning this Sunday, July 27th. Will that be sufficient for the FBI?”

“That will be more than enough, Keith. I appreciate your assistance in this matter.”

Robert got off the phone with General Alexander a few minutes later. Joint Defense Facility Pine Gap, located eighteen kilometers southwest of Alice Springs Australia, would be the site of Hiromi Sato’s Swan Song meeting.

The next thing Robert did was call Grant Williamson. “Grant, can you please come over to my office right away?”

*****

“You are never to come to the Rolls Royce again,” Leung Chin Yee said to the drunken Thai businessman sprawled on the ground of a Hong Kong alley. “This is your only warning.”

Chin then made his way back to the club. It was almost six in the morning but the sounds of a busy Hong Kong day were already filling the air.

Club Manager Wu Jun Hung was in the process of tallying the last receipts when Chin returned. “Did you take care of our friend as I asked?”

“Yes Mr. Wu, I did. Do you need me for anything else?”

Jun paused for a moment. “Could you get a couple of newspapers for me?”

Chin had done this favor for his boss in the past. “Yes Mr. Wu, I can. I will go right now.”

A newsstand owned by an elderly couple was just two blocks away from the Rolls Royce. Chin went to the newspaper racks and got copies of the International Herald Tribune and The South China Morning Post. Those were the newspapers Mr. Wu always asked for.

Chin was about to go to the counter, when a third newspaper caught his attention. It was the Hong Kong Economic Times. On its front page was a photo of Hiromi Sato under a headline that read- “Female Banker from Japan takes reins of Chinese Bank”

‘That’s the woman I saw at the McDonald’s on Tuesday,’ Chin thought as he decided to take a copy of the Hong Kong Economic Times to the counter also.

“Why did you get me this?” Jun asked Chin after he was given all three newspapers purchased at the newsstand. “Don’t you remember I get this newspaper at my home?”

“Yes Mr. Wu, I remember that,” Chin said as he pointed at the front page photo. “But I thought you may want to see her. I saw Hiromi Sato the other day when I was having lunch.”

“So?” Jun had seen a photo of Hiromi Sato before. He considered her very attractive for a non-Chinese woman.

“She was talking to the dancer look alike Three Finger told us about. The one he saw at Arsenal Street talking to the police.”

“Go home, Chin. I do not need you any longer.”

Jun read the news article when he got back to his apartment. Of course there was no mention of Hiromi Sato’s Yakuza connections in it but it still interested the club manager. Female bankers were pretty rare in Hong Kong.

As for what Chin said, Jun didn’t know what to make of it. So an acquaintance of Hiromi Sato was seen talking to a member of the Hong Kong police. Only if someone believed in guilt by association would they assume Hiromi Sato was working for the police.

Jun didn’t think this at all but he would have one of his associates pay a courtesy visit to Hong Kong’s newest banker.  Hiromi Sato might want to know who her friend was keeping company with.

*****

Gabrielle had multiple emails and messages waiting for her when she arrived at Arsenal Street. The most important of which were from Grant Williamson. He wanted to speak to Gabrielle at once.

“The meeting Ripley has requested to take place in Australia is set. She and Economist are to arrive in Melbourne no later than Saturday evening.”

“I will inform Ripley of this as soon as I get off the phone, Director.”

Grant had much more information for Gabrielle. The FBI Director filled her in on where the meeting would take place and what Ripley was to do on arrival in Melbourne.

“When were you planning to leave Hong Kong, Agent Tanaka?”

“I can get on a plane to Melbourne tomorrow morning, sir. There are a few matters I have to complete here.”

“Very well, Agent Tanaka. The Australians will be expecting you Friday night their time.” Grant was going to call Inspector Sylvia Chang personally to thank her for cooperating with the Swan Song committee.

Gabrielle was keeping notes as she listened to Grant. She had a busy day ahead of her. “I contacted the Slaters as you told me, Director.”

“The Slaters will be allowed to see their son. Make it clear to them that they will need to be at Travis Air Force Base no later than 8 p.m. Friday if they wish to make the trip.”

“I will let them know, sir,” Gabrielle replied. She would be speaking to her parents in less than three hours. Would her Mom and Dad or Roxanne really help out Rebecca’s parents? 

“Agent Tanaka, it has been brought to my attention that Ripley would like to speak to a JAG attorney. Is that true?”

“Yes, sir, it is.”

“Do you know why?”

It was Gabrielle, not Hiromi, who had made the request for a JAG attorney to be present. Even though it had been under duress, the killing of Agent Chrysanthemum could still have serious ramifications for Rebecca Slater. “No, sir, I do not.”

Grant paused for almost a minute. “Agent Tanaka, am I correct in the belief that Economist still knows nothing about his wife’s true identity.”

“Yes, sir, you are,” Gabrielle replied. She had been wondering when Grant would get around to talking about Chuck McBride.

“Did Ripley mention what reason she gave to Economist for their trip to Australia?”

“Ripley said she told her husband that they would be going there to visit family and friends.”

Grant was still unenthusiastic about Ripley’s revised Swan Song. If Economist reacted poorly to the revelation of his wife’s true identity, it might cause the operation to be terminated as originally planned. 

“The Director has told me that if the new Swan Song is approved, another undercover agent will have to be placed close to Ripley. Agent Tanaka I would like you to look into what options we have.”

Gabrielle remembered her earlier offer to go undercover. Would Grant take it up? Did Gabrielle want to take that assignment if it was offered to her?

‘I will do it if asked,’ Gabrielle confided to herself. She would do anything to ensure the safety of Rebecca Slater. 

“Sir, I will get to work on that. May I request assistance from Dr. Wagner and Inspector Yoshida?”

“Yes, Agent Tanaka, you may.”

Gabrielle was finished talking to Grant a few minutes later. The first thing she did after getting off the phone, was dash off an email to Rebecca.

*****

Becky,

The Swan Song meeting in Australia you requested is a go. Just fly to Melbourne as planned. I will be at the Langham Saturday night. On Sunday you and Chuck will be flown to where the meeting will take place.

I called my sister Roxanne last night. Later this morning I will be talking to my parents. One way or another I will arrange something that will enable Mom and Dad to come see you in Australia.

I still can’t forget last night. Take good care of yourself till Saturday.

Love,

Gabrielle

*****

Next up for Gabrielle was a phone call to Midori Slater. After greetings were over with, Mrs. Slater gave an update.

“Gabrielle, Stuart and I tried calling some people. Even Rebecca’s Uncle Phillip. We haven’t been able to find anyone who can help us.”

“That is all right, Mom. Rebecca gave me an idea last night.”

“What is that, Gabrielle?”

“Mom, I called my sister Roxanne last night. She lives in Astoria Oregon. Do you know where that is?”

“No, Gabrielle, but I think Stuart does.”

“It is about a two-hour drive from where you are now. My parents will be arriving there soon and I am going to talk to them and Roxanne about helping you, Dad, and Shannon out.”

“Thank you, Gabrielle, for all your help.”

Gabrielle noted how choked up Midori sounded. “Mom, I will do anything to enable you and Dad to see Rebecca.”

“I know, Gabrielle. Did you see Rebecca last night?”

“Yes, Mom, I did. Becky and I had a very good time together.”

“I am glad,” Midori replied in a happy tone of voice.

“Mom, I will be calling you back later today. Is it all right if I give my parents and Roxanne your cell phone number?”

“Yes, Gabrielle, it is.”

As soon as Gabrielle was done talking to Midori Slater, she went to the secure communications room. On the way there, she bumped into Maurice Gao.

“Is there anything I can help you with, Gabrielle?”

“I’m fine, Maurice. Thank you for asking.”

“You will be leaving tomorrow then, Gabrielle?”

“Yes, I will. Qantas has a 9 a.m. flight that will take me to Melbourne.”

“I will arrange airport transportation for you. The driver will be in plain clothes and have an unmarked car.”

“Thank you, Maurice. I appreciate all your help.”

“Have you heard anything new from Ripley?”

“No, Maurice, I haven’t.” Gabrielle hadn’t told the Probationary Inspector about her meeting with Hiromi at the South Pacific.

“I’ll let you go back to work then. If there is anything you need, Gabrielle, don’t hesitate to ask.”

The police sergeant in the secure communications placed two phone calls for Gabrielle. One was to Inspector Yoshida at his Yokohama Police station, the other to Dr. Wagner at her Virginia home. Both were available for a 3-way call with Gabrielle.

“I just got off the phone with Director Williamson. We will need to find another undercover agent for Swan Song.”

“Is this undercover agent to work in Japan?” Inspector Yoshida asked. He was leaving Japan the next day for the Swan Song meetings to take place at Pine Gap.

“Yes, Inspector, Swan Song may be continued.”

“What Director Williamson asks may not be possible. Dr. Wagner, do we have any Watanabe Yakuza DNA samples other than those from Roger Hyde and Suki Kobabyashi?” Inspector Yoshida asked as a police woman came into his office.

“It might be possible,” Dr. Wagner replied, without answering the Inspector’s direct question.

“These are for you,” The police woman said as she handed Inspector Yoshida some messages. One of which was marked urgent. “Can I get you anything?”

“No, please leave me for now. I am on an important call.”

When Ripley was suffering her nervous breakdown, the Swan Song committee had discussed a plan to switch someone for Suki or Roger. No action was taken due to several reasons, one of which was the difficulty of getting these people without tipping off the Watanabes.

“The war the Watanabes are having with the Inagawa-kai have put them on high alert. An unexplained absence even for a few days could raise red flags for them,” Inspector Yoshida said after the police woman was gone.

“I agree, Inspector.”

Dr. Wagner spoke, finally answering the pointed question put to him by Inspector Yoshida. “Other than Suki Kobayashi, I don’t have any Japanese DNA samples at this time.”

“If a DNA donor was found, how long before you would be ready to do your treatment, Dr. Wagner?” Gabrielle asked.

“I would only need four days, Agent Tanaka. If my team were to work overtime, we might be ready in three days or even a little less.”

Inspector Yoshida said a volunteer to give DNA, could be found from Japanese law enforcement without too much difficulty but there was another obstacle to what Grant Williamson was asking for. “A stranger is unlikely to be accepted into the world of Watanabe Yakuza at this time.”

“Yes, Inspector, I agree with what you say. We will have to find a way around that,” Gabrielle said.    

*****

Hiromi hadn’t gotten much sleep on Wednesday night but oddly enough felt re-invigorated. The talk with Gabrielle the previous night had eased many of the mental burdens she was carrying.

There still was the situation with Chuck and the natural concern a good daughter would feel for her aging parents, but overall Hiromi felt better on Thursday morning about herself than she did twenty four hours earlier. 

Chuck, ever the gentleman, didn’t ask his wife about what she and Gabrielle had done together. He did have some other questions as the couple ate breakfast together. “Gabrielle is from the United States?”

“Yes, she is. We met over a year ago. She comes to Asia frequently.”

“Will Gabrielle come back to Hong Kong?”

“Yes, but I don’t know when.”

Chuck took his wife’s hand. “I love you, Kimi-chan.”

“I love you too,” Hiromi replied.

Chuck then changed topics. “Should I tell Mum we’re coming this Sunday?”

“No, let us surprise her.” From her previous encounters with Mrs. McBride, Hiromi knew her mother-in-law didn’t care too much for her son’s gangster wife.

With all the uncertainty about her marriage, Hiromi preferred Mrs. McBride not knowing the couple was coming to Australia. In a best case scenario, where Chuck continues to love her after the big confession, Mrs. McBride may ask awkward questions about what her daughter-in-law was doing while Hiromi was meeting with Swan Song officials.

Teresa Wu came to see Hiromi and Chuck. “Mrs. Sato, can you give me a little of your time this morning?”

“Of course, Teresa. What is it you need me for?”

Teresa began to tell her employer of the household goods that had arrived the day before. “Roger has informed me that you wish to have your office set up. Is that correct?”

“Yes, it is, Teresa. I’d concentrate on that plus the living and dining rooms.” Hiromi already planned to look for the compact discs with Watanabe files that evening. She and Chuck would be leaving for Hong Kong Airport in less than forty-eight hours.

Teresa had come prepared. She laid a blueprint out on the table for Hiromi. “Mrs. Sato, I would like your….”

Hiromi halted Teresa in mid sentence. “Teresa, set up the rooms as you see fit. When I come home tonight, I will look them over.”

“All right Mrs. Sato, I will do that.” 

On the way to the office, Chuck was once again talking about the couple having a baby. This made Hiromi think a bit. A missed menses was usually the first sign a woman was pregnant. Was it possible to pregnancy test before then?

Chuck reminded his wife of something during her drive to the office. “Kimi-chan, do you want to get a new laptop before we leave on Saturday?”

It was a week earlier that Hiromi’s laptop had ‘crashed’ after getting a Swan Song email. Since then she had been using her husband’s laptop. “Yes, I would, but I don’t know when I will have time to go shopping for it.”

Hiromi and Chuck got to work at half past eight. There was so much bank work needing to be done, that it was past 10 a.m. before Hiromi got a chance to check her email.

‘I have a little over two days to go then,” Hiromi thought to herself as she first closed the email and then her yahoo account.

Hiromi buzzed her secretary. “Ging, can you please come in here for a minute?”

Ging was in Hiromi’s office a few seconds later. “What can I do for you Mrs. Sato?”

“This is an unusual request I have for you, Ging. I’d like to go to a doctor or clinic to have a pregnancy test done.”

A smile immediately formed on Ging’s face. “Have you missed your period, Mrs. Sato?”

“No, I am still three days from when it should come. Chuck and I have been trying real hard and we’re excited to find out. It would be great if I could get the news before I leave for Australia.”

“Mrs. Sato, I am single and have never tested for pregnancy. Let me check with one of the mothers in the office.”

“Thank you, Ging. I’d appreciate that. One more thing, do you know where the closest place I can buy a laptop at is?”

“Hong Kong Computers has a showroom in this building. It is on the fifth floor. They will even come to the office. Would you like me to call them for you?”

“Yes Ging, please do that for me.”

A minute after Ging left her office, one of East China Commerce Bank’s Vice-Presidents came to see Hiromi. The first thing Jeffrey Hu did was to place a large binder on Hiromi’s desk.

“Here are all of Macau Pacific’s financial records. I hope you have fun with them.”

Hiromi lashed out at her Vice-President before he got a chance to leave the office. “Jeffrey, I own this bank. If you can’t show me the respect I deserve, you can find yourself another job. This is your only warning. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Mrs. Sato, I do.”

“I will study the records you have given me. When I am through, a decision will be made on the loan Macau Pacific is asking for.”

“All right, Mrs. Sato. I will let Macau know this.”

*****

Bunrukuken Inukai hadn’t left the Keiji Watanabe estate yet. Dai Hashimoto and Akira Sudo wanted to hear firsthand what the cat burglar had discovered. Also at the meeting were Simon Dawes and Radek Krejci. They were the men in charge of Keiji’s security.

“I came into contact with three people during my time at the Nimura house,” Bunrunkuken explained.

“Are you sure they did not see you?” Akira asked. Dai was busy examining the photographs Bunrukuken had taken.

“Yes, I am.”

“Were any of them carrying firearms?” Akira asked. Japan had very strict gun control laws. The use of firearms was also taboo in Japanese culture. Yakuzas only used these weapons on rare occasions.

“Yes, but just one of the three people I encountered.”

Simon and Radek had already formed an opinion as to who was on the Kimura property. They would both remain silent till Bunrunkuen was gone.

When Akira was satisfied Bunrunkuken had reported everything he had seen, the Watanabe shareigashira began to dismiss the cat burglar. “The fee that we promised plus a fifteen percent bonus will be into your bank account before business closes today.”

“Thank you, Sudo-san,” Bunrunkuken said before bowing to the people in the room.

Akira waited till the cat burglar was out of room before speaking to Dai. “We must move the Oyabun.”

Dai grunted. He knew Keiji Watanabe to be an excessively stubborn man when he was in good health. To make him make a change in his daily routines now that his health was failing would not be an easy matter.

“The people on the Nimura property have be to Japanese Self Defense forces,” Simon stated.

“I agree with Simon,” Radek added.  “Who will tell what we have found out to the Oyabun?”

Dai spoke up. “I will. Do not tell anyone what was discovered. Is that understood?”

“Yes Hashimoto-san, it is,” Radek replied at the same time Simon pledged his silence also.

Akira saw how Dai directed his last words to everyone present. The young shareigashira would also remain silent.

Dai and Akira had come to Keiji’s estate together.  They travelled back to Yokohama the same way.

“Will the Oyabun be moved to Goro’s old home?” Akira asked.

“Only if the Oyabun leaves us no other choice.”

“What is the plan then?”

“A home in Yokohama that once belonged to my wife’s Aunt is being prepared for the Oyabun. I will persuade him to stay there.”

Akira quickly saw the logic in Dai’s actions. One benefit of having Keiji live in Yokohama was it would be easier to monitor him there. It would also hasten the return of Hiromi Sato to Japan. “I think that is a wise move, Tiger-san.”

*****

A copy of Gabrielle Tanaka’s two Swan Song reports did not land in Yugoro Bunya’s email box till late on Wednesday night. The Japanese Justice Ministry Official only got around to reading them on Thursday morning.

Yugoro found the story of Reina Shimizu’s murder very troubling. It was his opinion that Agent Ripley might face criminal charges for what she had done.

A decision would have to made on that by someone higher than Yugoro Bunya, who was only a mid level Justice official. Yugoro Bunya forwarded the reports via email to Kunio Hatoyama.

Kunio Hatoyama was the current Justice Minister for all of Japan.

*****

For Gabrielle Tanaka the moment of truth, or eleven in the morning Hong Kong time, had finally come. It was time for her to call her mother.

Ted Fujiyama was the one to answer the phone. “Hello.”

“Hi Ted, it’s me Gabrielle. Is Mom there?”

“Hold on, Gabrielle.”

Chiyo Tanaka was on the phone in a matter of seconds. “Gabrielle,”

“Hi, Mom. How are you?”

“I could be doing better. You hardly ever call your father and me. It is over a year since we last saw you.”

“Yes, Mom, I know that.”

“You are in China now?”

Gabrielle already felt how difficult the phone conversation had become. Her mother had a great deal of built up frustration regarding her second oldest daughter. “Yes, Mom, I am.”

An awkward silence followed. Gabrielle was the first to break it. “Mom, I need a very big favor.”

“Gabrielle, you should come home.”

“Mom, I will come home, but I am working on something very important.”

“Is it more important than me, your father, and your sisters? We all feel hurt that you consider your job more important than your family.”

“Mom, I have made some big mistakes. My job with the FBI is perhaps the biggest.”

“Then why don’t you quit.”

“I can’t do that right this moment. There is a job I need to finish first. When it is over, I am quitting the FBI.”

“When will that be?”

Gabrielle could visualize her Mom shaking her head. Chiyo Tanaka had done it often enough in face to face encounters with her middle daughter. “It will be sometime next year.”

“I think you should come home now, Gabrielle.”

One of the biggest lessons Gabrielle had learned from Operation Swan Song was how family mattered in people’s lives. She and her mother had clashed for years. Gabrielle would end that and make amends to her family, but she needed to get the Slaters help first. “Mom, I haven’t been a good daughter. I admit now that you and Dad have been right and I’ve been wrong. Can we save that talk for later? I need your help.”

“What is this help you are asking, Gabrielle?”

“Mom, I have this friend. Her family needs help right now.”

“Candace told me you had a friend.”

“Yes, Mom, I spoke to Candy recently. My friend is named Rebecca. I call her Becky.” Gabrielle needed to be honest with her family, just like Rebecca did.

“Gabrielle…..” Chiyo began to say but got cut off by her daughter.

“Mom, I know what you are going to say.”

“No, Gabrielle, you do not, but I will let you finish speaking.”

“My friend Rebecca means a whole lot to me. I love her. I love her very much.”

“What does Rebecca do?”

Gabrielle had expected her Mom to be shocked or even angry at what she had just heard. Something was different about this mother-daughter conversation, but Gabrielle didn’t know yet if that was good or bad. “Mom, she is working undercover for the FBI. It is secret, I can’t say anything else.”

“The favor you are asking, does it concern Rebecca?”

“Yes, Mom, it does. Let me explain what has happened. Before I do that, it would be best if Dad and Roxanne got on the phone also.

“All right, Gabrielle. Can you hold on for a minute?”

“Yes, Mom, I can.” 

Gabrielle’s father and older sister were on the line in a very short time. After brief father-daughter greetings were exchanged, Makoto Tanaka got right down to business. “Cookie, your mother said there was something you wanted to talk to all of us about.”

“There is, Dad. If you and Mom could, I’d like to tell what is happening in my life and why I need a big favor now. It is a long story. I will answer your questions when I’m done explaining.”

“All right, Cookie. We will listen.”

Before Gabrielle got down to explaining about the Slaters, Roxanne had something to say. “Sister, you must get Skype. We can all do video calls and it is free. I have it, and so do Mom and Dad and Candy.”

“Thank you, Roxanne. I will look into it when I get time.”

Gabrielle then told her parents and Roxanne everything about her relationship with Tom/Rebecca, and that she was trying to arrange a visit for Rebecca's parents, but needed a babysitter for a few days. The only thing the FBI agent withheld from her parents was what exactly the undercover mission for her friend was.

Rebecca had taught her a lesson in honesty and inspired Gabrielle to be honest with her parents. The confession she was making was long overdue.

When he was through listening to Gabrielle, Makoto said. “Tom became Rebecca?”

“Yes, Dad, he did.”

“That is not possible, Cookie. I know of no science that can change a person’s DNA to the point they are whole other person.” Gabrielle’s mother then said something similar. Roxanne didn’t say anything.

Gabrielle knew where her father was coming from. He was a chemistry professor. For that reason, what his daughter had just told him sounded to him as if it came out of a science fiction movie or novel.

“Dad, Mom, Roxanne, it is. There is a German scientist on the east coast.  She perfected this formula over the last five years.

Chiyo and Makoto Tanaka still weren’t buying it. “Gabrielle, what you say is hard to believe.”

“Mom, I know that. Have I ever been one to make things up to you and Dad?”

After a few seconds of thought, Chiyo gave Gabrielle an answer. “You once told me you went to school when instead you skipped class to go to the mall.”

Gabrielle rolled her eyes. “Yes, Mom, I did that in the eleventh grade. Have I lied about anything important or made up crazy stories?

“No, Cookie, you haven’t,” Makoto admitted.

Roxanne spoke up. “I believe you, Gabrielle.”

“Mom, Dad, the Slaters can vouch for everything I told you. In the meantime, can you help this family out for me?”

“Your mother and I will have to talk about it, Cookie.”

“I understand that, Dad, but I also have to tell you that I need to know soon. The flight to Australia will be leaving Friday night your time.”

“Why can’t Shannon travel with his grandparents?” Makoto asked.

“Shannon has an inner ear problem. The doctors have advised Mrs. Slater not to take Shannon on an airplane.”

“We don’t know these people, Gabrielle,” Chiyo said.

“I know that, Mom.”

“Cookie, can you give your mother and I a little bit of time to discuss this?”

Before Gabrielle said a word, Roxanne butted in. “I’ll take care of Shannon for you, sister.”

“Thank you, Roxanne. You don’t know how much this means to me.”

Roxanne did know how much the favor she would be doing for Gabrielle meant to her sister. Both sisters were on the road to full parenthood. Ever since Roxanne and Ted got the news they were going to be parents, it had been a time of joy in Fujiyama house. The eldest Tanaka sister wanted her younger sister to feel the same way, even if their paths to becoming mothers were vastly different.

Right after speaking to Gabrielle earlier in the day, Roxanne had gone to her husband’s place of work. It was there she and Ted talked about Gabrielle’s unusual request for help.

After a lengthy conversation, Ted told his wife that it was fine with him if she wanted to care for Shannon Zebriskie. Roxanne wanted her parent’s involvement and that is why she delayed telling Gabrielle the decision that was already made.

“How old is Shannon?” Roxanne asked as her parents got off the phone and began talking in Japanese. Roxanne didn’t speak the language anywhere near as well as her Mom and Dad or Gabrielle.

“He is a little over two years old. I have to warn you Roxanne, Shannon is not potty trained.”

“That is all right, Gabrielle. You know this family pretty well then?”

“I know Shannon’s grandparents well but haven’t spent any time with him.”

“What happened to his parents again?

“Susan and Simon Zebriskie were killed in an auto accident last January.”

“That is terrible. How long will Shannon’s grandparents be gone for?”

“I’d estimate ten days. The most they will be gone is two weeks. Will that be a problem?

“No, Gabrielle, it won’t. I have three weeks to go before I start working at the school again.” The two sisters began to make small talk. It was like no other conversation they ever had prior to that day.

Chiyo and Mokoto Tanaka soon came back on the phone. “Cookie, are you still there?”

“Yes, Dad, I am.”

“Your mother and I have decided to go visit this family and talk to them.”

Gabrielle understood what her Father had just said to mean her parents were thinking about it. Roxanne had already said she would care for Shannon.

“Thank you, Mom. Thank you, Dad. I really appreciate you doing this.”

Roxanne spoke up. “We’ll go to Tigard tomorrow morning but I will need to call your friend’s parents. Do you have a phone number we can reach them at?”

“Here it is, Roxanne,” Gabrielle told her sister both the number for Midori Slater’s cell phone and the home number for Debbie Slater. “I have their address in Tigard too, and even got the directions from your house to theirs thanks to Mapquest. Would you like me to email them to you?”

“Yes, Gabrielle, please do that.”

Gabrielle had an email already prepared, so she sent it immediately. “It’s on its way.”

While Roxanne went to check if she got the email, Chiyo Tanaka began talking to her wayward daughter again. “Gabrielle, you love this person named Rebecca?”

“Yes, Mom, I do.”

“She is a woman.”

Gabrielle could tell her Mother wasn’t reconciled to having a gay daughter. The mother-daughter relationship had improved that day but still had a long ways to go yet.

“Yes, Mom, Rebecca is a woman.”

“Gabrielle, you should come home.”

“Mom, I will come home when I get vacation time. I promise to visit before the end of the year.”

“All right, Gabrielle.” Chiyo’s acceptance sounded luke warm at best to Gabrielle.

“Mom, I will stay in touch. I promise to call you and Dad regularly from now on. I haven’t been a good daughter but I will improve that.

Roxanne came back on the phone. “I got the email you sent me. You know, I think I already know the neighborhood where this family lives.”

“That’s good, Roxanne, and thank you for helping me and the Slaters out.”

“You’re welcome, Gabrielle. I think we better call these people now.”

“I’ll let you make those phone calls. Bye, Mom, bye, Dad, bye, Roxanne. Thank you all very much.” 

“Bye, Gabrielle, talk to you soon.” Roxanne said before hanging up the phone.

The next thing for Gabrielle to do was call Midori Slater. Rebecca’s mother picked her cell phone up on the third ring.

“Hi, Mom.”

“Hello, Gabrielle. How are you?”

“I’m fine, and thank you for asking. Mom, I’ve got some great news……..”

*****

Stuart Slater wasn’t standing too far away from his wife as she talked on her cell phone. He could tell from Midori’s side of the conversation that Gabrielle Tanaka had called and it looked like she had some good news.

Another phone began to ring in the house.  Since Stuart was too far away to fetch it, Debbie Slater was the one to answer it.

Debbie called out to her father a few seconds later. “Dad, there is a Makoto Tanaka on the phone. He is asking to talk to either you or Mom……”

*****

Hiromi had lunch in her office. As she ate her salad, she checked the internet for what might be the early signs of being pregnant.

The website Babycenter listed ten possible signs. They ran the gamut from heavy or sore breasts, to implantation bleeding, to the most obvious- missing your period.

Overall Hiromi wasn’t helped much by the information. She could be pregnant or might not be and there was no way of knowing before her flight without a test being done.

Ging buzzed Hiromi.

“Mrs, Sato I have someone who could help you with your request. Her name is Kam Wei Ning and she works in the audit department. Can I send her in?”

Hiromi had just finished eating. She cleared her desk of the last litter remaining from lunch before answering Ging’s question. “Yes Ging, please do that.”

Kam Wei Ning came in the office a few moments later. She was pregnant and if Hiromi had to make a guess, the mother was early in her third trimester. “Mrs. Sato, what can I help you with?”

“Please sit down, Ning.”

The mother sat down. Hiromi offered Ning a glass of water but the mother declined.

“How far along are you, Ning?” Hiromi asked as she looked at Ging. The expectant mother looked to be about Hiromi’s age, had medium length hair, and wore eyeglasses.

“I’m in my thirtieth week. This is my first child, Mrs. Sato.”

Hiromi envied Ning and wanted to be just like her in six months or so. With a big stomach and swollen breasts because a new human life she and Chuck had created from their love of one another was growing in her body. “Let me congratulate you, Ning. You and your husband must be very excited. Do you know whether you are having a boy or a girl?”

Ning immediately smiled. She had been very nervous when coming in to Hiromi’s office. Now she felt calm instead. “I’m having a boy, and yes, my husband and I are very happy.”

“The reason I wanted to speak to you, Ning, is personal. My husband and I want to have a baby also. We’ve been trying real hard in fact.”

“What can I help you with, Mrs. Sato?”

“Is there anywhere here in Central that does pregnancy blood testing? I’d like to get the results very quickly. You see, Chuck and I are leaving for Australia on Saturday.”

“Have you missed your period yet, Mrs. Sato?”

“No, Ning, not yet, but it should be very soon, and I’m very anxious to know before we leave, if possible.”

“There is a clinic on Pedder Street in the Center Building.”

Hiromi nodded her head. “I know where that is.”

“If you go in during the morning I think they have your blood test results by the late afternoon. I would call and ask, Mrs. Sato.”

“Do you know what the name of the clinic is?”

“It’s called the Women’s Health and Care Center,” Ning told Hiromi. “Sorry, Mrs. Sato, but I don’t know their phone number.”

“That is all right, Ning, and thank you. You have been a big help to me.” Hiromi made a mental note to herself to get Ning some baby gifts if Swan Song continued past the Australia meeting.

Ning asked if she was needed for anything else. Hiromi said no and after that Ning left the office.

*****

In Yokohama, police detectives Yeijiro Mazaki and Juri Hayakawa were giving the Chief of Detectives a progress report on the Reina Shimizu murder investigation.

“We are sorry to report, Morrisue-san, that we have no more leads,” Yeijiro explained.

Matsusuke Morrisue leaned back in his chair. If not for the political pressure being brought to bear on the Yokohama police by former Defense Minister Fukushiro Nukaga, the Reina Shimizu case would be closed and unlikely to ever be opened again. “Then you are to go back and re-examine the case again. Is that understood?”

“Yes, Morrisue-san, it is,” Both detectives replied in tandem.

“Why didn’t you tell Morrisue-san about Fumahiro Suzuki? Yeijiro asked Juri shortly after they left Matsusuke Morrisue’s office.

“It is not related to the Shimizu case, Yeijiro-san. Plus, we do not know for a certainty that Suzuki-san will produce the articles he claims to have.”

*****

Hiromi still had a great deal of bank work to do. It was a mid-afternoon before she could look into the information given to her by Ning.

She looked for the clinic on the internet. The clinic Ning told Hiromi about, had three different versions of its website. One of which was in English, and the other two in Chinese, both the traditional characters still used in Japan, and the official simplified characters used in the People’s Republic, so Hiromi was able to make out the calligraphy. The clinic was called Department of Compassionate Maternal Services For Women.

As the English website was a little easier for Hiromi to read, she went there to get the information she needed. Oddly enough the clinic was called The Women’s Clinic at its English language website.

Hiromi then called the number she got off the internet. After going through a series of automated questions, she got a live operator.

“Women’s Clinic.”

“Hello, my name is Hiromi Sato. I was calling to inquire if you do pregnancy testing.”

“Yes, we do. No appointment is necessary, just walk right in. We’re in the Center building on Pedder Street.” The operator at the clinic also told Hiromi that the pregnancy test came at no charge and that she would know her result before leaving.

“Can you do a blood test for pregnancy?”

“Yes, we can, but that takes longer.”

“How long?”

“If you come to the Center before noon time tomorrow, we will notify you of the result by no later than 6 p.m. We have a lab on site, the testing is done here.”

Hiromi wasn’t off the phone with the clinic for ten seconds, when Ging buzzed her. “Mrs. Sato, a Jean-Ernest Quenu is here to see you about a new laptop computer.”

“Send him in, Ging.”

*****

Before leaving Arsenal Street for the day, Gabrielle went to see Sylvia Chang. “Thank you, Inspector, for all your assistance.”

“You are welcome, Agent Tanaka. Our work together has proved to be a learning experience for me and that don’t happen very often.”

“I learned a great from you too, Inspector Chang. Probationary Inspector Gao was always very helpful to me.”

After her meeting with Inspector Chang was over, Gabrielle went to look for Maurice. “When will be going to Lily’s apartment?”

“We can leave now, Gabrielle, if you wish.”

“Yes, Maurice, I do wish that. Let me clean up my desk and get my things. As soon as I’m done, we can go.”

*****

Hiromi and Chuck got home at half past six. After they were through eating dinner, Hiromi excused herself.

“Is there anything I can help you with, Kimi-chan?”

“No, Chuck, I can do it on my own. I’m going to look in my office for some musical compact discs.”

Teresa had her employer’s office area totally set up. Even all the compact discs Hiromi owned had been put onto shelves’ next to the room’s stereo system.

When Hiromi saw this, she went to fetch the laptop she had purchased that afternoon. Jean-Ernest Quenu when he came to visit her, had brought three high end laptops with him.

Hiromi had chosen a top of the line MacBook Pro with a 17" screen, 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4 GB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM, and a 150GB hard drive. Total cost to her: 31,374 Hong Kong Dollars or a little over 4,000 American dollars.

To carry it, Hiromi had ordered a maroon-colored leather attaché case made by Hartmann, because she thought it looked very professional. A single brass slide with a combination lock in the center, under the handle, operated two hidden clasps at the edges that would keep the laptop safe inside it. Jean-Ernest Quenu assured his customer that the attaché case would arrive before the end of business Friday.

The total bill for the purchases, which included software, totaled almost 65,000 Hong Kong dollars. With a net worth of close to seven hundred million U.S. dollars, Hiromi would have no problems paying these bills

After she got the laptop bag she was temporarily using to store the MacBook, Hiromi came back to the room. While she looked for the discs, her thoughts turned to Chuck, whether she may be pregnant, and whether her husband would still love her after Saturday’s big confession.

Chuck was so excited to be a father, it seemed unlikely to her he could abandon any baby no matter how deceitful their mother was. Hiromi’s husband might also become too angered by her deception and prefer not to be married any longer, but then Chuck had never once become angry with Hiromi in all the time they had known one another.

Hiromi wanted to believe Chuck would still love her but couldn’t brush aside the doubts she had. In less than forty-eight hours everything would be out in the open, and the situation would be much clearer.

It took less than five minutes to find the Swan Song discs. Hiromi took them and four other musical compact discs, and placed them in the computer bag. Another disc with Kanagawa Bank files only, was still in the suitcase it was stored in for the trip from Japan to Hong Kong. It would stay there for the Australia trip.

On leaving the office, Hiromi went to find Chuck. He was in the living room. “Did you get what you were looking for, Kimi-chan?”

“Yes, I did.”

*****

Gabrielle had a very nice evening with Maurice and his fiancée. Lily Ng had prepared a dinner of ginger chicken stir fried in ginger oil. It was served with asparagus and the meal was very delicious.

While eating the meal, Gabrielle complimented Lily on her cooking. “Thank you, I am glad you like it.”

“I think Gabrielle has liked almost all her time in Hong Kong,” Maurice added.

Once again, Maurice had acted in a clairvoyant manner. Gabrielle was still feeling happiness from her time with Becky the night before. “Yes, I have had a wonderful time here.”

As Gabrielle had to get up early in the morning, She had advised Maurice that she couldn’t stay too late at Lily’s. Maurice said that was fine, and that he would have Gabrielle back to the South Pacific no later than 10 p.m.

“Gabrielle, I will be the one to take you to the airport tomorrow.”

“Thank you, Maurice. You have been a big help to me.”

*****

Roxanne, Chiyo, and Makoto Tanaka pulled into the driveway of Debbie Slater’s home shortly before 11 a.m. After getting out of the car, the family walked to the front door together.

On the way to Tigard, Gabrielle’s family discussed what she had told them about Rebecca Slater. Makoto and Chiyo Tanaka still had a hard time believing it.

“Dad, I understand where you are coming from,” Roxanne said. She was the one doing the driving. “I don’t think Gabrielle is crazy enough to make up a crazy story like this.”

“Cupcake, the science your sister described just does not exist,” Makoto said firmly.

That firm opinion hadn’t changed one bit when Makoto rang the door bell. Midori began greeting Gabrielle Tanaka’s family a minute later.

“Come in, come in. Did you find the house easily?”

“Yes, Mrs. Slater, I did,” Roxanne said as Stuart Slater walked over to the doorway. He immediately introduced himself to the Tanakas.

The Tanakas all took seats in the living room. While Stuart made small talk with them, Midori served tea to Chiyo and Roxanne. Makoto said he didn’t need anything to drink.

Shannon Zebriskie was playing with some toys in a nearby playpen. Midori noticed how Roxanne was paying attention to her grandson. “Go play with him if you like.”

“Maybe later, Mrs. Slater,” Roxanne replied. “I am pregnant. My due date is March 3rd.

“That is wonderful, Roxanne,” Midori replied. She then asked a question of Gabrielle’s parents. “How many grandchildren do you have now?”

Makoto answered the question. “We have just one. Our daughter Candace has a little boy.”

“Shannon is one of our three grandchildren,” Midori said in an emotional voice. “If Susan didn’t die I might have another grandchild on the way now.”

Stuart explained further. “Susan called us the day before her accident. She said she might be pregnant.”

“That’s terrible, Mr. Slater, and I’m so sorry.” Roxanne replied.

“Thank you. The last couple of years have been very tough. My son Stuart died in Iraq also. His wife Llsa moved back to Germany with our two other grandchildren. She just got re-married last weekend.”

“We only got back from Germany on Tuesday,” Midori added.

Makoto asked a question. “Where is your home?”

“It is just outside Darrington, Washington. Do you know where that is?” Stuart asked and Makoto said no. “It is a little over one hundred miles north of Seattle.”

A period of silence followed. Two families were trying to get to know each other but didn’t know what to say next.

Stuart spoke to Makoto again. “Would you like to go outside with me and talk?”

“Yes I would like that.” Makoto and Stuart got up out of their seats and left the room.

*****

“Can I get you anything?” Midori asked after the men left.

“No, I am fine,” Roxanne replied. Chiyo Tanaka also said she didn’t need anything either.

“Thank you for coming over today.”

“Mrs. Slater, do you have a picture of Rebecca?”

“Yes, let me get it.” Midori went to retrieve her purse. She was back in less than a minute.

“Gabrielle gave me this photo last May when Stuart was hospitalized for his heart,” Midori said as she gave the only picture she had of Rebecca to Roxanne and Chiyo.

“Rebecca was your son Tom?” Chiyo asked.

Midori went to a nearby shelf to retrieve another photo. She gave it to Chiyo. “That was my son before he got the treatment.”

Chiyo looked at the two photos. She could not believe they were of the same person. “Have you spoken to Rebecca?”

*****

“My wife and I last talked to her July of last year,” Stuart said to Makoto. “Rebecca called on her mother’s birthday.”

“You are sure she was your son?” Makoto asked before having a swig of beer. On their way out of the house, Makoto and Stuart had grabbed beers for themselves.

“I have not one single doubt in that regard. Before Tom started this assignment, your daughter and an Army officer came to see us. We were told what would be done to our son.”

“Mr. Slater…”

“Call me Stuart.”

“You may call me Makoto also. Stuart, I have a doctorate in chemistry. For the last thirty years I have taught in that field at universities in California. What you and my daughter have told me can’t be done.”

“Makoto, I think we need to move on from that particular issue. It isn’t really important right now. What matters is how we can help both our children.”

“What is the assignment Rebecca is doing?”

*****

“Rebecca began her assignment last May,” Midori told Chiyo and Roxanne. “She and Gabrielle work together.”

“None of us have seen Gabrielle since last May,” Roxanne admitted.

“It is May of last year that I last saw Tom. Right afterwards he see the doctor who change him into Rebecca. One Sunday I talk to Tom in person. The next Sunday I talk to Rebecca on the phone. It was Mother’s day.”

“That was the time Gabrielle began working with Rebecca? Roxanne asked.

“Yes, it is. Since then Rebecca and Gabrielle have been very busy.”

“But too busy for her family?” Chiyo asked.

Midori could see the pain Mrs. Tanaka felt because of Gabrielle’s actions. Gabrielle was such a nice young lady and was like a daughter to her. What was keeping Mrs. Tanaka divided from her daughter?

“I don’t know what is causing that. Gabrielle has been very kind to Stuart and I and she loves Rebecca very much.”

Shannon Zebriskie began to cry out. Seeing this, Midori got up and went over to her grandson. The boy stopped crying the moment his grandmother picked him up.

“I think he just wants attention,” Roxanne said to Midori as the Grandmother brought the boy back to where she had been sitting.

“Shannon has an inner ear problem. I was told by the doctor he can’t fly now. Rebecca is coming to Australia to meet people. She asked to see her father and I also but Stuart and I have no one to care for Shannon.”

“Couldn’t your daughter do it?” Chiyo asked.

“Debbie’s boyfriend is named Donald. He is not always a nice man and Debbie and he fight last time they had to care for Shannon. I have said things to Debbie but they still live together. What can I do?”

*****

“I love my daughter very much but she has always been a difficult child. Gabrielle has caused my wife and I pain but we still love her.”

“We’re a little confused about Rebecca right now,” Stuart admitted. “Gabrielle told us that she got married two months ago. My son became a woman for this undercover assignment. I understand she will have to do certain things…..”

Makoto still didn’t believe in the gender change done to Tom Slater, but was beginning to accept the story told to him by the Slaters and his daughter Gabrielle. These were not crazy people he was talking to.

“Rebecca loves this guy and is married to him. My wife seems to think there may be more. Gabrielle says Rebecca loves her too. Gabrielle loved Tom but now loves Rebecca It sounds confusing, doesn’t it?”

“Yes, Stuart, I agree with you on that.”

*****

Roxanne gave Midori the big news. “Mrs. Slater, I talked it over with my husband Ted. We can take care of Shannon for you.”

Midori got all choked up. “That will mean so much to me and Stuart. Rebecca is doing a very dangerous mission. We don’t know if we will ever see her again.”

“I understand, Mrs. Slater. Can I hold Shannon for a little while?”

“Yes, Roxanne, I would like you to do that.”

Roxanne came over and took the two-year-old boy from his grandmother. She then went back to sitting next to her mother.

“Gabrielle loved your son Tom?” Chiyo asked.

“Yes, she has told me this.”

“My daughter never tell me about Tom or Rebecca till yesterday.”

“Children don’t always tell their parents what is happening in their lives or how they feel. I think they do it sometimes because they feel ashamed, not because they don’t love us.

“Yes, I agree with that, Midori.”

“Gabrielle has never been ashamed that she loved Tom after she became Rebecca.”

Chiyo nodded her head. “My daughter is gay. She thinks I don’t know, but I do. Her sisters have known it.”

“Gabrielle and her roommate at Cal were a lot more than friends,” Roxanne said. She knew this only because she caught a glimpse of a private email of her sister that was left open on a Tanaka family computer.

Shannon spoke up. “Pop. Pop!”

“I think Shannon would like to see his grandfather now. He calls Stuart, Pop,” Midori explained.

Roxanne offered to take Shannon outside if it was all right with his Grandmother. Midori said it was.

“I want Gabrielle to come home.”

“Mom, I think Gabrielle is doing that already,” Roxanne said as she hadn’t left the living room yet. “She’s like the prodigal sister.”

“My husband and I will care for Shannon till you come home,” Chiyo said after Roxanne and Shannon had left the living room.

“Thank you. It is my hope when Rebecca’s mission ends, that she and Gabrielle be Shannon’s co-Moms.”

Chiyo wasn’t ready to accept a gay daughter yet. She and her husband would help Gabrielle for now, and have a serious talk with their daughter at a later date.

*****

“Bottom line, Rebecca is still my child and we’re very proud of her. As Tom, he served our country and as Rebecca is doing the same. My wife and I have talked it over, whatever choices she makes when her mission is over, we’ll support them one-hundred percent. It is Rebecca’s life, and we feel certain she will make the right choice for the future.”

“Gabrielle has made choices and decisions her mother and I wish she hadn’t.”

“We can’t live our children’s lives for them. All we can do is give them advice.”

“That is true, Stuart.”

“Are you getting hungry?” Stuart asked as Roxanne and Shannon came out doors.

“Yes, Stuart, a little bit.”

“Let’s go talk to the wives and see what they want to do next.”

*****

“How long have you and Stuart been married?” Chiyo asked Midori.

“Our next wedding anniversary is our thirty-sixth. Stuart and I met at the Sapporo Olympics in 1972. I first came to the United States in 1973.”

“Makoto and I have been married thirty-four years.” Gabrielle’s Dad and Mom were born in 1949 and 1951 respectively. Makoto and Chiyo’s parents had all been put in internment camps during World War Two.

Stuart and Makoto re-entered the living room. “What is the plan for lunch?”

*****

What to do for lunch was decided by Roxanne Tanaka. Ever since she got pregnant, the expectant mother craved pepperoni pizza. So the Slaters and Tanakas each drove in separate cars to a nearby Pizza Hut.

After lunch, the families returned to Debbie Slater’s home. Midori immediately began gathering Shannon’s things. She would miss her grandson.

Roxanne was given all the diapers the Slaters had plus their grandson’s medications. “These are his ear drops. You will need to place them twice a day.”

“I will, Mrs. Slater,” Roxanne said. “I will take good care of Shannon.”

Midori also gave Roxanne not just instructions, but some advice for Shannon’s care. Chiyo Tanaka also listened to this.

While that was going on, Stuart offered money to Makoto. “No, we do not need it. My wife and I are doing this for Gabrielle.”

“Makoto, I insist you take this.”

Gabrielle’s father remained firm. “No Stuart, I will not take it.”

The details of when the Slaters would be travelling and how the Tanakas could contact them were gone over. Midori said she would call the Tanakas on Sunday or Monday.

“Call as often as you like, Mrs. Slater,” Roxanne said.

Lastly, the portable playpen and Shannon’s car seat were placed in Roxanne Tanaka’s SUV.  Then Shannon’s grandparents began saying goodbye to the boy.

A few minutes later, the Tanakas drove off with Shannon. After the SUV passed out of sight, Midori and Stuart went back into their daughter’s home.

*****

Gabrielle got up at half past four on Friday morning. She had ninety minutes to prepare herself before Maurice would pick her up for the trip to Hong Kong airport.


The first things Gabrielle did was take a shower and get dressed. While she was doing the later, she packed the last of her belongings and double checked that all the drawers in her hotel room were empty of her things.

Once she was satisfactory with her appearance, Gabrielle called the hotel’s front desk. “Can you please have a porter come to 309 to pick up my belongings?”

“Of course, Miss Tanaka. I will have someone up there in a few minutes.” Gabrielle then put the phone down but just for a second.

She had a second call to make. It was to Midori Slater. “Hi, Mom.”

“Hello, Gabrielle. Are you still in Hong Kong?”

“Yes, Mom I am. I will be leaving for the airport very soon. Did my Mom and Dad come visit you?”

“Yes, Gabrielle, they did. Your sister Roxanne came also. We had a very good chat.”

“I am glad to hear that. Shannon?”

“Your mother took Shannon. She and Roxanne will care for him till Stuart and I come back from Australia.”

Gabrielle felt an immediate sense of relief. Her family had come through for her. “I will call Mom and Dad before I get on the plane.”

“Yes, Gabrielle, I think you should do that,” Midori said. She went on to say she knew Shannon would be well cared for. “Thank you, Gabrielle, for helping us.”

“You’re welcome, Mom,” Gabrielle said as she went to open the door to her room. The porter had arrived to pick up her luggage.

“Gabrielle, I emailed you our flight itinerary to Sacramento.”

“Thanks, Mom.”

“I better let you go, Gabrielle. We will talk more in Australia.”

“Yes, we will, and Becky will be there too. Bye, Mom.” Gabrielle then hung up the phone. A minute later she was out of her room and headed to the South Pacific’s coffee shop.

Gabrielle ate just a light breakfast but had two cups of coffee to drink. She was about to ask the waitress for the bill, when Maurice Gao showed up. “Good morning, Gabrielle. Did you sleep well?”

“Yes, Maurice, I did. Give me a few minutes. I’m almost done here.”

When Gabrielle was through in the coffee shop, she went straight to the hotel desk to check out. She was just a little surprised when she saw Lily Ng had also come for her trip to the airport.

“Hi, Gabrielle.”

“Hello, Lily.”

Gabrielle was soon on the way to the airport. The car was driven by Maurice with Lily riding in the back.

“Do you mind if I call my parents?”

“Not at all, Gabrielle. Please call whomever you have to,” Maurice replied.

Gabrielle spent almost fifteen minutes talking to her parents and Roxanne. They had just gotten back to Astoria.

“Thank you, Mom, for doing this for me and the Slaters.”

“You are welcome, Gabrielle. Shannon is a nice boy.”

“Mom, I will stay in touch. I’m travelling today but I will call you and Dad again no later than next Monday.”

“All right, Gabrielle. Your father and I will be going back home sometime next week.”

“I will come and visit the first chance I get.” The example of the Slaters and how close that family was had drawn the Tanakas together.

Chiyo Tanaka was still more than a little confused by everything she had learned in the last few days, butut she and Gabrielle were talking again, and that was more important. “Come when you can. Please bring Rebecca with you.”

“I will, Mom, but after her mission is over. Say hello to Dad for me. Bye.”

Maurice got Gabrielle to the airport fifteen minutes later. The Probationary Inspector dropped Gabrielle and Lily at the terminal for Qantas before going to park the car.  

After Gabrielle was checked in, she, Maurice, and Lily went right to the immigration checkpoint. “Thank you for all your help, Maurice.”

“It has been a pleasure, Gabrielle. In my whole life I have never experienced a week like the one we had together.”

Gabrielle began to say goodbye to Lily. As she did, Maurice’s cell phone began to ring. “Excuse me Gabrielle, I must answer this call.”

As Maurice wandered off, Lily and Gabrielle also walked away. The area in front of the immigration checkpoint wasn’t a good place to loiter.

Or to have a private conversation either, which was what Lily started next “Gabrielle, don’t let Maurice get in trouble for what I’m about to say to you.”

“What’s that, Lily?”

“He told me a little about the work you were here for. And that German doctor in the United States.”        

Gabrielle listened to Lily as she described her fiancée who liked to crossdress but more importantly always felt he was a woman in a man’s body. “Lily, I figured that out about Maurice a few days ago when he commented on my makeup.”

Lily laughed. “He’s really two people. The one everyone sees, and the one on the inside, and I’m the only who knows about her.”

“She’s very lucky to have you.”

Lily smiled “Thank you. I’m engaged to Maurice and love him or her very much. If that doctor can help him become Molly, I would be just as happy.”

Gabrielle got the messages Lily was conveying. Both the said and unsaid. “I’ll say something to Dr. Wagner but I can’t promise anything.”

“That is all right, Gabrielle. I won’t say anything about what I know,” Lily said as Maurice came walking up.

Maurice gave his fiancée a kiss. “Lily, can I speak to Gabrielle alone for a minute? It is about our work.”

“Bye, Gabrielle, it has been nice knowing you. “ Lily then excused herself.

“What’s up, Maurice?”

“Gabrielle I just got a call from Arsenal Street. I’m being given the job of asking some questions of Ripley at her debriefing in Australia.”

“We’ll be working together some more.”

Maurice grinned slightly. “Yes, Gabrielle, we will. I am already looking forward to meeting Ripley.”

Gabrielle said goodbye to Maurice soon afterwards.  Her flight to Melbourne was supposed to begin boarding in another thirty minutes.

While she waited, Gabrielle used her cell phone to make one last check for voice messages or email. She had received Midori Slater’s email.

As Gabrielle studied Stuart and Midori’s travel itinerary, an idea popped into her head. An airport gift shop was nearby and she went straight to it. She had one more task to do for Midori and Stuart Slater before leaving for Australia.

*****

Hiromi tried not to dwell on what would be her last ‘normal day as Agent Ripley and Chuck McBride’s wife. Instead she was daydreaming as she drove into the office. She was thinking of herself riding a horse or a pony under the bright blue sky. Like happy thoughts might drive away the personal disaster that loomed large in her life right then.

Chuck was unusually quiet but only because he had a migraine headache. Hiromi tried to talk her husband into staying home, but he refused. She couldn’t help think her husband’s migraine would be ten times worse in a little over a day’s time.

“I love you Kimi-chan,” Chuck said as he gave Hiromi a goodbye kiss. “Talk to you later.”

After dropping Chuck off, Hiromi went straight to Kanagawa Bank instead of stopping by the women’s clinic as she’d planned. She tried to tell herself that she was only worried about Chuck’s migraine, and it wasn’t a good time to get him excited, or disappoint him, since he was ill. She knew that wasn't all of it, though; in truth, she was frightened. The thought of knowing that she was pregnant when she finally told him the truth about everything terrified her. What if he didn't understand? What if he didn't forgive her?

Would it be fair to Chuck if she announced her pregnancy and then followed it up with the admission that she'd lied about everything? If she confessed that she wasn't even who Chuck thought she was, how could he love her, except that wasn't true either. She was who he thought she was, the Hiromi he'd first met and been captivated by, and she remembered his courtly attentions, his frank admiration, and how much it had thrilled her. From the very first day he walked into her room, she'd known him, knew who he was, where he hung his clothes, and that she loved him, even if she'd had trouble admitting it to herself at the time. She'd wanted him then, as a woman wants a man, and knew his body like she knew her own hand, even there in the dark. The musky male scent of his body had intoxicated her, as familiar and dear as the hills behind her childhood home, as cherished as the beloved rag doll her mother had given her before she died. She'd remembered making love to him, many times, and it had excited her, even though she hadn't understood how it was possible.

Since then she'd had it brought forcefully home to her that Hiromi had always been there inside her, that her memories, her weaknesses, and her fears were all part of her now, as well as her strength. She'd tried to kill Hiromi, to force her out of her brain, just as Hiromi had tried to kill Tom, but they were two halves of a better whole, each incomplete without the other. Tom had the loving childhood that Hiromi had longed for, the lack of which had twisted and distorted her soul, and Hiromi had the fiery passion that Tom had always lacked. Tom knew that he'd been hollow before Hiromi had filled him with longing and love, and Hiromi knew that her hatred and pain had eventually poisoned all her relationships. Together, they made a better human being, and a better woman, than either could possibly have managed alone, and that woman loved Chuck.

That realization made her stop and consider what really mattered. ‘I have to get Chuck checked out by a doctor. These so-called migraines are self-diagnosed  — just like a man — and he doesn't take any sort of medication for them. As far as I know, he's never seen a doctor and they seem to be happening more often lately. I don’t want anything to happen to him, even if he dumps me,’ Hiromi thought to herself as she pulled into the East China’s parking garage.

Hiromi had work to do at East China, and to properly focus on it, she had to put her personal life on a shelf. The ever efficient Ging providing her employer with five phone messages at the outset was just the right kick start Hiromi needed.

The Macau Pacific financial reports provided to Hiromi by Jeffrey Wu on Thursday, were proving to be very interesting.  Hiromi was studying some footnotes when Ging buzzed her.

“Mrs. Sato, there is a Ryuku Kinjoh on line two.”

“Thank you, Ging,” Hiromi replied. She quickly glanced at her watch before picking up the phone. It was a few minutes past ten. “Ryuku-san, how is Japan today?”

“It is rainy, Hiromi-san. I hope it is nicer in Hong Kong.”

Hiromi, put her feet up on her desk, as she gazed out her office window. “It is mostly sunny here, but hotter than I would like it.”

“Yes, it is warm here also, Hiromi-san. Tiger has asked that I stay in touch with you regularly. I am calling you on a disposable cell phone.”

Hiromi inwardly nodded to herself. While she had no proof, Hiromi strongly believed the bomb in her personal belongings had been a parting gift from her not so dear grandfather. “That is a wise move, Ryuku-san. Is there anything specific you wanted to speak to me about?

Ryuku talked to Hiromi about Watanabe Trucking. The shareigashira was still learning her way around the company.

“Have you heard anything in regards to Suki?”

“Yes, Hiromi-san, I did. Suki says she will be back next Tuesday. Aki reported in for work today.” A week earlier the wife of Suki’s brother had died in childbirth along with the baby she was having. Hiromi had given her two secretaries time off as a result.

“They worked very hard for me, Ryuku-san, and they will do the same for you. Please treat them well.”

“I will, Hiromi-san.” Ryuku did not mention what was taking place at Keiji Watanabe’s home. Akira Sudo had kept the vow of silence Dai Hashimoto had sworn him to.

Another thing Ryuku mentioned to Hiromi was the recent passing away of Watanabe shareigashira Zenji Horita. “He was found dead on Monday morning. They say Zenji-san’s heart failed.”

Zenji had taken Hiromi and Chuck out on his yacht less than two weeks earlier. He was also the person who betrayed Hiromi to the Inagawa-kai though she did not know that. “Did Zenji-san have any family?”

“No, Hiromi-san, he did not.”

“How are matters with the Inagawa-kai?” Hiromi wondered if she should mention the bomb in her belongings but she kept quiet. Officially, it had been discovered by Hong Kong customs not her.

“It is not good, Hiromi-san. They attack us, we attack back. I do not know how it will end. Tiger did ask me if you have any suggestions.”

“We must impress on the Inagawas that the Watanabes are not their enemy, but their partner in business.”

“How will we do that?”

“I do not know, Ryuku-san. Let me think about it. There is something I have not mentioned. Charles and I are going to visit Australia for a week to ten days beginning tomorrow.”

“Will it be a second honeymoon?” Ryuku asked playfully.

“Yes, we are going to Australia for pleasure. LOTS of pleasure,” Hiromi replied back with a giggle.

Ryuku giggled along with her friend. “Do not wear out Chuck too much, but have a good time, Hiromi-san. Can I still call you next week?”

“Yes, you can. Let me give you my new cell phone number….”

*****

Dai got his audience with Keiji Watanabe shortly after eleven in the morning. The elderly Oyabun looked more frail than the last time the two men met.

“Oyabun-san, we made a disturbing discovery. Strangers are at present working at the Nimura house. I think they plan to attack here.”

Keiji hid his shock well. “What proof do you have for this, Dai-san?”

Among the items Dai brought to his meeting with Keiji, was a manila envelope containing the nine photos taken by Bunrukuken Inukai. Dai took them out and gave them to the Oyabun.

Keiji took the first photo and held it only inches from his face. “These boxes, what are they?”

Dai had come to the meeting prepared. He had a large magnifying glass on him and he offered it to the elderly Oyabun. “On more than one of the boxes are the words, Bailey Bridge.”

Keiji studied the photos several times over. “What is a Bailey Bridge?”

“It is a pre-fabricated bridge,” Dai explained. “There is a drainage ditch between this house and Nimura property. I strongly believe they will be used in an attack here.”

Keiji stared at Dai. His hands were visibly shaking. “It has to be the Inagawa-kai. They want to destroy us.”

Dai didn’t argue with the elderly Oyabun. He still believed it was Japanese military or law enforcement at the Nimura home. “Oyabun-san, we need to move you to somewhere safer.”

“I do not want to leave my home.”

“Oyabun-san, the family still needs your wise counsel,” Dai said even though he increasingly believed Keiji to be out of touch with reality. “To ensure the success of the family, we need to guarantee your safety. I request Oyabun-san that you let me move you to another location.”

Keiji quickly regained his composure. “I would like to be moved to Goro’s home.”

“Oyabun-san, that may not be wise. The same people who prepare to attack you here, could just as easily do the same there.”

“Dai-san, where do you suggest I go to live?”

“I know of a comfortable home in Yokohama, Oyabun-san,” Dai said before describing the house that once belonged to his wife’s Aunt.

“Will I be safe there?”

“Yes, Oyabun-san, you will. If you order me, I will begin getting ready for you.”

“Yes, do that for me, Dai-san.”

“Oyabun-san, as you are moving now, I think it would be wisest if next week’s meeting took place at Negishi Bay rather than here or at Goro’s home.”

“The meeting is postponed for now, Dai-san. Make no further plans for it.”

Dai’s meeting with Keiji ended less than a half hour later. Before he left for Yokohama, Dai went to see Radek Krejci.

“We will move the Oyabun to his new home tomorrow. It must be done discreetly. We do not want the neighbors to learn the Oyabun is no longer living here.”

Radek nodded his head. “Simon and I have already devised a plan for just that.”

On the drive back to Yokohama, Dai called Hoshiko Kitano. “Can you give me a progress report on your work, Kitano-san?”

“The surveilance system you ordered is installed, Hashimoto-san. We will begin testing in a few minutes.”

“If it is all right, I would like to see what you have done.”

“Of course, Hashimoto-san, you may visit here at any time you wish.”

*****

Not too long after getting off the phone with Ryuku Kinjoh, Hiromi began to type herself some Swan Song notes. She would use them at the Australia meeting.

Hiromi had a lot to say there. She also expected to be grilled not just on Swan Song’s future, but its’ past also.

Chuck called his wife just a few minutes after eleven. He wanted to know if Hiromi would be having lunch with him.

“No, I can’t. There is just too much work for me to do.”

“All right, Kimi-chan, but don’t work too hard. I love you.”

“I love you too.”

Just a few seconds after Hiromi hung up on Chuck, Roger Hyde buzzed her. “Boss, there is a Yuan Po Sang here to see you. Can I come in to speak to you about him?”

Hiromi grew a little concerned. She didn’t know a Yuan Po Sang. “Yes Roger, you may.”

Roger was in Hiromi’s office a half minute later. “Boss, this person who came to see you is a Golden Dragon triad.”

Roger handed Hiromi a business card given to him by Yuan Po Sang. She examined it carefully. “Is he clean?”

The British bodyguard nodded his head. “Both Dimitri and I frisked him if that is what you mean.”

“Send him in, but please stick around.” There had been two attempts on Hiromi’s life in the last eight days. She had good reason to be cautious with her visitor.

“All right, Boss,” Roger then left the room.

Roger was back with Yuan Po Sang a minute later.  He was a well built man in his late twenties. Po offered to shake Hiromi’s hand but she waved for him to sit down.

Po took the chair across the desk from Hiromi. Roger, who was watching the Golden Dragon triad with a wary eye, took a position between but to the side of his boss and Po.

“Mrs. Sato, I am just here to welcome you to Hong Kong.”

“Thank you. I like your city.”

“I am glad to hear that, Mrs. Sato.”

“What brings you here today, Mister Yun…Whan?

“It is all right, Mrs. Sato. You may call me Po,” The messenger sent by Wu Jun Hung explained. “All my friends call me by that name.”

Hiromi smiled for just a moment. “Then I am to be your friend. I am glad to hear that. My Grandfather values his relationship with the Golden Dragons.”

“Yes, I know that. Mrs. Sato, I am just here to greet you. Have you had any difficulties since your arrival?”

“There is none that I can think of. All of my personal goods have been released by customs already.”

Po nodded his head. “That is good then.”

Hiromi took a moment to speak to Roger. “You can leave now.”

“All right, Boss,” Roger said before leaving the office.

Hiromi didn’t say another word till the door was closed. “Please excuse my cautiousness. There were two attempts on my life recently.”

“It is understandable, Mrs. Sato. I would be cautious too when meeting an unexpected visitor for the first time.”

Suddenly Hiromi remembered something. “There is one small matter you may be able to help me with?”

“What is that, Mrs. Sato?”

“My Kanagawa Bank office is located on the 39th floor of the Queen’s Road Towers.”

“Yes, I know that building.”

“There is a problem with the building. It seems some of the tenants use the stair wells as storage areas. In fact some parts of the fire escapes are totally blocked. This is a very unsafe practice and the landlord does nothing to stop it.”

Po listened quietly to Hiromi’s complaint. A fire at the Queen’s Road Towers during business hours would be calamitous if what Mrs. Sato was saying was true and the Golden Dragons had interests with at least one company there. “I will have a word with him, Mrs. Sato.”

“Thank you, Po.”

Po and Hiromi made small talk for a little bit. Hiromi offered to help any of the triad’s associates with their personal investments.

“I will let my friends know,” Po replied. Triad members were wary of placing their money with people who weren’t Chinese. “Mrs. Sato I was told to raise one matter with you before I leave.”

“What is that?”

“A friend of mine saw you having lunch the other day. This person you ate with has been seen talking to a member of the Hong Kong police. It was probably nothing but I was told to bring this to your attention.”

“Thank you, I appreciate that,” Hiromi replied calmly. ‘Could Gabrielle be in danger now?’

Yuan Po Sang left the office soon afterwards. Hiromi went straight back to work. She would tell Gabrielle what Po told her when the two women met in Australia the next day.

*****

Hoshiko Kitano was already testing the surveilance system he had installed when Dai Hashimoto showed up. The future Oyabun of the Watanabe Yakuza quickly became impressed with his work.

“Thank you, Hashimoto-san. I am glad our work satisfies you.”

“A person will be coming to live here tomorrow.”

“We will be ready, Hashimoto-san. May I ask how many other people will be in the house daily?”

Dai gave Kitano a run down. Rika Watanabe, Joji Sato, and Radek Krejci were three of the names on a very short list. Keiji valued his privacy and strictly limited the people who could come into his home.

“Hashimoto-san, can I make a recommendation?”

“Yes I would like to hear it.”

“Would you like the house monitored twenty-four hours a day?  All conversations will be taped, but if this is being done for security purposes, it is my recommendation that someone be listening at all times.”

Dai listened as Kitano explained how this would be done. A van would be parked close to the home. Two to three people would sit inside it all hours of the day and listen to all sounds coming from the house.

“Would everything still be recorded?”

“Yes, Hashimoto-san, it would. This job would be more expensive because of the man hours needed.”

Dai almost instantly nodded his head. “I accept your recommendation. Can I have one of my people here to help listen?”

“Of course, Hashimoto-san. This will be most helpful.”

*****

Hiromi called Chuck back at lunch time. “How are you feeling?”

“I still have that headache, Kimi-chan.”

“Will you please go home then? I don’t want anything to happen to the father of my baby.”

“All right Kimi-chan, I will go home. You love me very much?”

“I love you with all my heart.” Hiromi went on to tell Chuck she may not get home till 7:00 or 7:30.

Hiromi stayed very busy with bank work, preparations for the Operation Swan Song meeting, and further study of the Macau Pacific financial reports. She was only able to call it a day at a few minutes after seven.

Chuck welcomed Hiromi with a big kiss when she arrived home. “I missed you, Kimi-chan.”

“I missed you too. Are you feeling better?”

“Yes, I am. Dinner will be served soon.”

“That is good. When we are finished eating, I have to start packing for our trip.”

*****

Melbourne Australia is served by four airports but only one handles international flights. Its name is Melbourne Tullamarine or Tullamarine for short.

Gabrielle’s flight to Tullamarine touched down a few minutes after eight in the evening. While the 747 taxied to the gate, she reset her watch to the local time.

Customs and Immigration were a breeze for Gabrielle. When she emerged from the former, she began looking for her Australian Swan Song contact.

A smart looking man in his early fifties soon approached her. “Are you Agent Tanaka?”

“Yes, that’s me. Are you Superintendant Carey?”

“Yours truly, Agent Tanaka,” Australian Federal Police Superintendant Vincent Carey said in reply as he took his wallet out and opened it for Gabrielle so she could see his identification.

“I appreciate you picking me up, Superintendant.”

After putting away his wallet, Vincent escorted Gabrielle to a waiting car. “Is it correct you are staying at the Mantra Southbank?”

“Yes, Superintendant, it is,” Gabrielle said as the car door was opened for her and she stepped inside. A police sergeant was busy seeing to her luggage and laptop.

On the way to the hotel, Vincent made small talk with Gabrielle. She told the police superintendant this was her first ever trip to Australia.

It was almost 10:00 p.m. by the time Gabrielle got to her hotel. After she was finished checking in, Superintendant Carey informed her of their plans for the next day.

“I will have someone here to pick you up at nine in the morning or do you need more time, Agent Tanaka?”

“Nine o’clock will be fine, Superintendant. Thank you for bringing me here.”

*****

Before going to bed on Friday night, Hiromi called Keiji Watanabe. “Why do you call, Granddaughter?”

“I was just calling to see how you are.”

“There is nothing wrong with me,” Keiji lied. Other than when he had to meet with Dai Hashimoto, the elderly Oyabun had spent almost the entire day in bed. “Did you call for anything else?”

“Charles and I will be going to Australia tomorrow. We expect to be gone about ten days.”

“Thank you for telling me this. Do not call me.” Keiji hung up the phone a second later.

Hiromi had barely put the phone back in the receiver, when Chuck emerged from the bathroom. “How is your Grandfather?

“Grandfather tells me he is well, but I know he is growing sicker.”

Chuck came over and gave his wife a big hug and kiss. “I’m so sorry, Kimi-chan. Is there anything I can do?”

She laid her cheek against his broad chest and wrapped her arms around his waist, listening to his beating heart, relishing the warmth of his embrace. “Just let me take you for a ride tonight. I will always love you with all my heart.”

*****

Midori and Stuart Slater got a pleasant surprise when they arrived in Sacramento California on Friday morning. A cousin of Gabrielle’s named Antonio Gonzaga was at the airport to meet the couple.

“Thank you, Antonio. Gabrielle did not say anything about you,” Midori said as they and Stuart walked together to baggage claim.

Stuart had been cautious when making plane reservations for him and Midori. The couple arrived in Sacramento over twelve hours before they would be taking off for Australia.

“I think it was a last minute idea of my cousin. Candy only called me early this morning to ask me to meet you.”

After the Slaters got their baggage, Antonio took them from the airport to the home of Candy and Robert Ishii. The youngest Tanaka sister and her husband lived in Rosemont.

“It is nice to meet you Mr. and Mrs. Slater,” Candy said to Midori and Stuart at the front door of her home. “Please come in.”

After getting to know Candace Ishii over lunch, Stuart went to a spare bedroom to take a nap. “Stuart had heart surgery in May. He still gets tired easily.” Midori explained to Candy.

“That is very understandable, Mrs. Slater. I am glad to be of assistance to you and your husband.”

Midori thanked Candy once again for everything the Tanakas were doing for her family. “My Rebecca loves Gabrielle very much.”

“Mrs. Slater, from the little chatting I’ve done with my sister, I know it goes both ways.”

“Yes, I know that. Can I use your phone to call your mother? My cell phone battery is dead and I want to see how my grandson Shannon is.”

“Mrs. Slater, have you ever heard of Skype?”

“No, I have not. What is it?”

“It is a free form of communicating by voice and even video. All you need is a computer and a internet connection. Would you like me to show you?”

“Yes, Candy, I would like that. I have children and grandchildren all over the world.” The Slaters and Tanakas, by helping the other, were allowing both families to get closer no matter the differences or distances between them.

*****

Hiromi began what she feared would be her last day as a married woman at 4:45 in the morning. By a little after six she and Chuck had showered, eaten breakfast, and were finished packing. Outside the house there was a limousine waiting for the couple.

“We’re all set,” Hiromi told Roger and Teresa.

“Boss, if we need to get a hold of you, what number should I call?” Roger asked as he held the limo door open for Hiromi.

“My cellphone. Chuck and I haven’t set a plan for who will visit and when.” Hiromi knew there was a risk in her going to Australia. What if Keiji sent someone and they couldn’t find her? The old man was so paranoid, he may think his granddaughter was preparing to blow the whistle on the Watanabes when in fact that was just what she was doing.

The trip to Hong Kong Airport and check-in for their flight was all very routine for Chuck and Hiromi. They were flying on the exact same flight as Gabrielle Tanaka but their seats were in first class instead of coach.

Qantas Flight 30 took off on time. It was estimated to arrive in Melbourne Australia at 7:56 p.m. local time.

*****

Even on Saturdays, Kiminobu Sumitimo was busy with his duties as receiving manager at the Neigishi Bay apartment towers. Very few deliveries were made on particular day of the week but Kiminobu used the down time to supervise cleanup work done by the men he managed. Monday would be the beginning of another busy week.

Work had barely begun when Fumahiro Suzuki approached Kiminobu. “I must go out.”

“May I ask what for, Suzuki-san?”

Fumahiro was carrying a bag with his right hand. He pulled something out of it. “I need a new cord. My stove don’t work now.”

Kiminobu examined the cord. It was old and frayed. “Can’t you do this later or tomorrow?”

“The store is not open on Sundays,” Fumahiro said with a bowed head. “Please let me go there. I can’t eat without a new cord.”

“You may go, Fumahiro-san, but come right back. Also don’t get into any trouble again.”

“I will be good, I will be good, ” Fumahiro said before wandering off.

A small hardware and appliance store was located five blocks from the apartment building. Fumahiro went straight to the sales counter.

“Can I get help to buy a new cord?” Fumahiro asked the two employees, a man and woman, who were working in the store.

“Yes, I can help you,” replied the male employee.

Fumahiro had his cord a few minutes later and took it to the front register.  The female employee rang up his purchase.

“Can you throw this out for me?” Fumahiro asked.

“Yes, I can do that for you,” The female employee replied. Fumahiro then handed the bag to her with the old cord inside it.

Fumahiro was back out on the street a minute later. He felt as if a great burden had just been lifted from him as he walked back to Negishi Bay.

*****

Yokohama police detective Juri Hayakawa remained silent till Fumahiro was out of the store. She had been the one to ring up the janitor’s purchase.

“Thank you Ki-san for letting me handle the transaction.”

The store owner, Baiko Ki, bowed to the police detective. “I am always happy to cooperate with the police. The back room is available for your use.”

“Thank you Kai-san, I will only need it for a minute or two.”

Juri was in the back room a few moments later. The first thing she did was put on a pair of gloves. After that she emptied out the contents of the bag given to her by Fumahiro.

A well worn electrical cord and two female stockings came out. Juri put the stockings in a evidence bag she had brought with her and then sealed it. She then wrote on the outside of the bag what the time and date were.

Juri let herself out of the store by its back door. Her partner, police detective Yeijiro Mazaki, was waiting nearby in an unmarked police car.

“Did Fumahiro-san bring what he promised?” Yeijiro asked as he drove away.

“Yes, he did. We will bring it straight to the crime lab.”

*****

The operation put together by Radek Krejci to move Keiji Watanabe, went into motion at 9 a.m. If it went off properly, the people at the Nimura house would still believe the elderly Oyabun was residing at his lakeside home

Every Saturday Rika Watanabe was driven into the nearby town of Fuji-Yoshida to buy groceries for the house. The departure of Keiji Watanabe’s housekeeper was step one of the Radek’s plan.

While she was in Fuji-Yoshida, Rika traded places with Kimiko Aizawa. After this was finished, Rika was taken to the home once belonging to the late Aunt of Dai Hashimoto. Kimiko was taken to Keiji Watanabe’s home with the purchased groceries. Steps two and three were now completed.

A delivery truck with three men inside it arrived at the Keiji Watanabe estate at half past ten. To protect the Oyabun, supplies and food had to be delivered two to three times a week. Anyone keeping surveillance on the the Oyabun and his home would not find this at all suspicious.

Each of the men was dressed in overalls and had a baseball style cap on their head. With the help of Radek Kreji’s men, the supplies were unloaded and stored in the appropriate building or storage area. A few boxes were taken into Keiji Watanabe’s home.

This was done by one of the men who came riding in on the truck. His name was Shiko Aizawa, the the husband of Kimiko who had taken Rika’s place.  Both husband and wife were long time Watanabe Yakuza retainers and each bore a physical resemblance to the person they were trading places with.

It was Shiko’s job to take Keiji Watanabe’s place. The elderly Oyabun was ready and waiting when Shiko arrived. Joji Sato was also present. He would help Keiji put his new clothes on.

The exchange of clothing with Shiko and redressing of Keiji took less than five minutes. After it was done, Keiji summoned all his strength to complete the next step of Radek Krejci’s operation.

Keiji walked out of his home and went straight to the truck. With much effort, he climbed inside it.

The truck drove away ten minutes later. It left by the same service road that was used by the Nimura home. No one paid it more attention than was the norm.

Keiji arrived at his temporary Yokohama home forty-five minutes later. Dai Hashimoto and Simon Dawes were there to welcome the elderly Oyabun and help him into the house.

*****

A solid gray colored van without windows was parked two blocks from the house. Inside it were three men. Their job was to listen to every conversation and phone call made by Keiji Watanabe.

Two of the men were employees of Hoshiko Kitano. The third was Sadao Koba. He was chosen by Dai Hashimoto both because of his high level of competence, he had conducted the hit on Hideki Inagawa, and because he was totally loyal to the future Oyabun of the Watanabe Yakuza.

Sadao was also an admirer and supporter of Hiromi Sato. He had seen her in action when she was attacked on the highway by gaijin three weeks earlier and had come away suitably impressed. Like Dai Hashimoto and others, Sadao strongly believed the Watanabe Yakuza’s future was best ensured by having Hiromi Sato near at hand rather than her being exiled to Hong Kong.

Before starting his new assignment, Sadao had been fully briefed by Watanabe Yakuza shareigashira Akira Sudo as to what to listen for. “If a suspect conversation takes place, you are to notify Tiger-san or I at once.”

More than three people would be required to listen in on Keiji Watanabe at all hours of the day. For this purpose, two more teams of listeners were assembled similar to the first one. They also consisted of two employees of Hosiko Kitano and a Yakuza loyal to Dai Hashimoto. The teams would work twelve-hour shifts, with one team off on any given day.

On the second team of listeners was Tsuki Tono. She had worked with Sadao on the Hideki Inagawa hit and helped Ryuku Kinjoh move Hiromi Sato’s clothing to Hong Kong.

Dai Hashimoto went to check on the listeners after he got Keiji settled in. The elderly Oyabun liked his new home, so far.

“We are hearing everything spoken inside the home, Tiger-san,” Sadao said.

“Good work and keep me informed.”

*****

Gabrielle spent Saturday morning giving Superintendant Vincent Carey a Swan Song briefing. The senior Federal Police Officer was told just enough for him to help the FBI agent.

“That is very impressive, Agent Tanaka. I now know why my superiors said our cooperation with you was high priority.”

“Mrs. Sato and her husband come to Melbourne tonight on the same plane that I arrived on.”

“I will have someone watching for them at the airport. He will be told to observe Agent Ripley but not make contact. They will also be instructed to phone ahead in order to tell us Ripley and her husband are on the way.”


Gabrielle approved of Superintendant Carey’s cautiousness “Ripley told me she has hotel reservations for the Langham.”

Superintendant Carey shook his head. “The Langham is the stuffiest hotel in all of Victoria.”

Victoria is the southernmost Australian state. While it is the smallest area wise, Victoria was second overall in population.

“Will that be a problem?”

“No, but we can expect the hotel to help us begrudgingly,” Superintendant Carey said before taking a glance at his watch. “Agent Tanaka, I need to place a phone call or two. After that we will go visit the Langham and have a word with its manager. Is that all right with you?”

“Yes, Superintendant, it is.”

*****

After a pleasant dinner with Gabrielle’s sister and brother-in-law, Midori and Stuart Slater were driven to Travis Air Force Base by Antonio Gonzaga. A light rain was falling as their car pulled up to the military installation’s main gate.

An African-American Air Force Sergeant wearing a rain coat was on duty. “Welcome to Travis. May I ask what your business is here today?”

Stuart Slater answered the question. “My name is Stuart Slater and this is my wife Midori. We are supposed to be getting on a flight here tonight.”

The Air Force Sergeant checked a computer terminal. He was done in less than a minute. “Yes, Mr. Slater. I have both you and wife’s names down for Annex Flight 51B. Can I please see some identification?”

Midori and Stuart were allowed on the base soon afterwards but the checks for them weren’t over. Before they were allowed to get on Annex Flight 51B, the husband and wife had to pass multiple security screenings plus have their baggage x-rayed and searched.

By that time Antonio Gonzaga was already on his way back to Sacramento. After Midori mentioned her husband’s recent heart surgery, an airman volunteered to help the couple with their belongings.

At a few minutes before 10 p.m, a VC25 touched down at Travis. As the plane neared the building she and Stuart were waiting in, Midori commented. “It looks almost like Air Force One.”

“I think the Vice-President might fly on this aircraft,” Stuart replied.

Besides picking up the Slaters, the other purposes of Annex Flight 51’s stopover at Travis was to refuel and to change flight crews. Midori and Stuart weren’t allowed on board till both these tasks were accomplished.

“Welcome aboard Mr. and Mrs. Slater,” said a female Air Force enlisted person to the Slaters when they were finally allowed to enter the VC25. “I’m Corporal Louise Harrison. Let me show you where you’ll be sitting for the flight.”

The VC25 was divided into multiple sections. At the front were the VIP quarters. At the back was the area Midori and Stuart Slater would be staying. In between there was the galley and several meeting rooms.

Seated in one of the open meeting areas were Robert Mueller and Grant Williamson. Stuart Slater, who had spent much of his hospital stay watching either C-Span or sports programming, recognized the FBI Director.

“That was the head of the FBI back there,” Stuart whispered to his wife. Midori made no comment.

Two luxurious seats with tons of leg room were waiting for Midori and Stuart. The couple sat down and put their seat belts on.

In a seat one row behind the Slaters , was FBI computer expert Scott Avery. In the row behind him was Dr. Heidi Wagner, the scientist responsible for transforming Tom Slater into Hiromi Sato. Neither Midori nor Stuart was aware of either person’s role in their daughter Rebecca’s work.

Corporal Louise Harrison wasn’t through with the couple yet. “Mr. and Mrs. Slater let me tell you a few things about tonight’s flight….”

Midori and Stuart listened as they were told about the length of the flight, estimated time of arrival, food and drink available in air, and what other amenities were available. The couple wasn’t used to flying in such style.

For the flight, Midori had brought a portable DVD player and some videos. Corporal Harrison asked the grandmother to use a player the Air Force would issue her shortly after takeoff.

“I will do that. Thank you for your help.”

As the plane started to taxi, Stuart told Midori what he planned to do next. “I’m going to try getting some sleep.”

“All right Stuart,” Midori replied. She was very impressed by the plane she was on and people she would be travelling to Australia with. Her daughter Rebecca was doing a very important mission and Midori felt even more proud of her child. She would tell Rebecca how she felt about her when the two women met for the first time in almost a year. 

*****

While she waited for Superintendant Carey, Gabrielle called her parents. “Hi, Mom.”

“Hello, Gabrielle. Are you in Australia yet?”

“Yes, Mom, I am. How is Shannon?

“Shannon is well. I took him to the pediatrician this morning.”

Gabrielle spoke to her mother for five minutes. They talked about a few things besides Shannon, the Slaters and Rebecca.

“Mom, I may not call for a few days. I will be real busy after Rebecca arrives.”

“That is all right, Gabrielle. Call me and your father when you have time. Say hello to Rebecca for us.”

Gabrielle and Superintendant Carey left for the Langham just before noon time. As he drove to the hotel, the Australia policeman asked a few questions of his passenger. “Ripley has not told her husband about her undercover status?”

“No, she hasn’t.”

“Frankly, Agent Tanaka, I find it incredible that Charles McBride has no clue in regards to what his wife is doing.”

“Charles may suspect something, but for some unknown reason, he isn’t saying anything.”

“Yes, that is a possibility. Ripley will be telling him the truth tonight, correct?”

“Yes, Superintendant, she will.”

“What reaction should we expect? Do you think he will get angry after being told what his wife is doing?”

“Ripley doesn’t think so and she knows him best. Charles McBride is a very laid-back person. At least that is my impression of him the one time we spoke.”

“Maybe so, but caution may be advisable,” Superintendant Carey said as he pulled into the Langham’s parking lot.

The management of the Langham was every bit as snobbish as Superintendant Carey had warned Gabrielle. “Allow a stranger into a guest’s room before they arrive? That is not the Langham.”

“I assure you, Mr. Hathaway, Mrs. Sato has personally asked for this.”

Horace Hathaway puffed out his chest like he was planning to stand his ground. Gabrielle thought the prissy acting hotel manager looked absurd when he did this.

“I only have your word, Superintendant. Besides the Langham does not permit this type of thing.”

“Sir, we need you and your hotel’s cooperation. This is a very important law enforcement matter. Would you like to speak to the Commissioner?”

After much huffing and puffing, Horace Hathaway relented. “Hiromi Sato will be staying in room 414. I can give you Room 411. That is the best we can do.”

“That will be more than sufficient.”

*****

After bringing the stockings to crime lab, Juri Hayakawa went back to work on the Reina Shimizu case. The dead ends of the week prior still had no life in them.

Before leaving for home, Juri called the lab technician she had given the stockings to.  Her name was Sachiko Isozaki. “Sachiko-san, have you worked on that evidence I gave you?”

“No, Juri-san, I have not. I am sorry to say other work was given to me and I could not conduct any tests for you.”

“When will you be able to work on the stockings?”

“Tomorrow is my off day. On Monday morning I should have the time, Juri-san.”

*****

In northern Japan, the men who were to conduct Operation Rain Drop had just finished packing their gear and were about to leave the training area they had worked at for over a week. Over the next thirty-six hours they would travel to Kanagawa prefecture and re-assemble at a staging area close to Keiji Watanabe’s home.

Their commander, Major Hoshi Toshino, would not be going straight to the staging area. Instead he had been ordered to report to the Defense Ministry in Tokyo. During his absence, Raindrop’s executive officer would be temporarily in command.

Before he left for Tokyo, Major Toshino had a question for his intelligence officer, Captain Nichiren Saromi. “Is there anything new to report on the Watanabes?”

“No, sir, there is not.”

*****

Chuck kissed Hiromi as their Qantas flight came to a stop at one of Melbourne Tellamarine Airport’s gates. “We’re here, Kimi-chan.”

Hiromi bravely smiled at her husband. “I love you so much.”

All the first class passengers got out of their seats and began to gather their things. Chuck and Hiromi were no different and a few minutes later they were disembarking the 747 together.

Hiromi and Chuck were married but still retained their original citizenship. So they had to go through different lines at passport control. Unknown eyes watched them both as they waited their turn to have their passport scanned. 

*****

“They have arrived,” Superintendant Carey said to Gabrielle and the rest of the small federal police team gathered in Room 411 for Hiromi Sato. The watcher at Melbourne airport had just rung the room to say Hiromi Sato and her husband Charles McBride had been seen at passport control.

Gabrielle looked at her watch. Based on her own experience the night before, she didn’t expect Chuck and Hiromi to reach their hotel room till around ninety minutes had passed.

Superintendant Carey was making the same calculations as Gabrielle. “Agent Tanaka I think we have an hour before you should take your position in Room 414.”

“Yes, Superintendant, that sounds about right to me also.”

“There is one other thing, Agent Tanaka. Did Ripley ever tell you how she and her husband would get from the Airport to the Langham?”

“No, Superintendant, she did not.”

*****

“Hiromi, it is so good to see you again.” A tall bearded man about the same age as Chuck said before he gave Hiromi a kiss and hug. She and Chuck had already gone through passport control and customs and had collected their luggage.

“It is good to see you too… Gordon?”

The man laughed. “So you forgot my name already, Hiromi. Yes, my first name is Gordon. Gordon Heales.”

Gordon Heales was one of Chuck’s favorite mates in Melbourne. Hiromi had a vague memory of meeting him two previous times, but not since 2006.

“Hi, Gordon.”

“Are you and Chuck all set?” Gordon asked after he and Chuck shared a greeting.

“I’d just like to use the ladies room first. Is there one nearby?”

Gordon pointed to a door way less than ten yards away. “Right over there, Hiromi.” Hiromi immediately excused herself.

Hiromi went in the bathroom’s second stall and urinated a few moments later. When through, she went through the process of wiping herself. As she prepared to throw the bath tissue in the toilet, Hiromi noticed something.

There were a couple of tiny red spots on the tissue paper. Could it be implantation bleeding? Was she pregnant? If it was, the blood test wouldn't have shown anything, since the hormones measured by the tests were produced by the placenta, which didn't begin forming until a fertilized egg implanted in the lining of her uterus, so at least she didn't have to feel guilty about that. She was almost due, so she assumed that implantation had been a little later than average, pushing twelve days after she'd ovulated.

Hiromi’s was both happy and nervous about the potential news she had received but quickly settled herself down. What's done is done, and she threw herself upon the mercy of fate. She could schedule a blood test tomorrow, or the next day, and receive a definitive answer. She flushed the toilet and finished getting herself dressed.

After exiting the stall, Hiromi went to a wash basin and washed her hands. As she did this, she thought about her discovery, Chuck, the confession she was minutes away from making, and whether a pregnancy could save her marriage. Chuck was such a sweet loving man and wanted desperately to be a father. Would the news of his being a father be strong enough to overcome his hearing about his wife’s deceitfulness and lies?

Hiromi acted like nothing happened when she came out of the bathroom. “I’m ready now.”

Besides being a friend of Chuck, Gordon Heales co-managed an airport pickup service originally founded by his grandfather. He had a car nearby to take Hiromi and Chuck plus their luggage to the Langham.

*****

“They are on their way,” Superintendant Carey announced after getting off the phone a second time with his airport spotter.

“I think I will go over to the room now,” Gabrielle said.

“Good luck, Agent Tanaka.”

*****

The trip from Melbourne Tellamarine Airport to the Langham took a little over twenty minutes. On arrival, Hiromi checked in at the desk while Gordon helped Chuck with the couple’s luggage.

Hiromi remained surprisingly strong outwardly as she rode an elevator upstairs with Chuck and a hotel porter. On the inside Hiromi was a bundle of nerves and her heart was full of anguish at what lay ahead.

‘Should I tell Chuck about the bleeding I saw?’ Hiromi asked herself as the hotel porter placed the couple’s luggage in the master bedroom part of Room 414.  414 was a four-room suite and had two bedrooms each of which had its own bathroom.

After letting the porter out of the room and locking the door, Chuck had a question for his wife. “Would you like a late snack?”

Hiromi didn't answer immediately, then steadied herself before calling out. “Gabrielle, come out wherever you are.”

Chuck stared at his wife. “Kimi-chan, what’s going on?”

Gabrielle came out of the second bedroom. She had been waiting in its bathroom till Hiromi signaled for her to come out.

Hiromi saw her first, then Chuck. He stared at Gabrielle, quickly shot a look at his wife, and went back to looking at his wife’s female lover.

“Gabrielle, what are you doing here? Kimi-chan, what is going on?”

Hiromi continued to look at Chuck rather than Gabrielle. Her husband didn’t look angry but perplexed or confused instead.

“Chuck, I’m going to tell you everything tonight, both the good and the bad.” Hiromi said. “First, Gabrielle is a little more than just a loving friend. Gabrielle, please introduce yourself.”

Gabrielle took a photo identification out of her blazer pocket and handed it to Chuck. “Chuck, as you know, my name is Gabrielle Tanaka. What you don’t know is I work for the American Federal Bureau of Investigation, or what most people call the FBI. Your wife here is an undercover agent working in collaboration with the FBI and law enforcement in three countries…..”

*****

To be continued in Part Twenty Four