Duty, Honor, Country, Family, Part 28

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FBI Director Robert Mueller began the call to Attorney General Michael Mukasey by summarizing the current status of Swan Song and where it may still be heading. “Swan Song has been bungled in almost every imaginable way.”

“Then you should relieve Grant Williamson from his duties at once.”

“I am going to relieve him but not till I have his replacement ready to step in.”

“Do you already have someone in mind?”

Duty, Honor, Country, Family - Part Twenty Eight

by Danielle J


Synopsis- Hiromi tries to remain strong after being rejected by Chuck’s mother.

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


~*~


 
Hiromi just stared at her cell phone after Chuck’s mother hung up on her. Tears began pouring down her face as the impact of Chuck’s mother’s words sank in. All her former fears came rushing back, that the McBrides secretly hated her because she was Japanese – ‘colored,’ in the old attitudes – that Chuck himself didn’t think that she was ‘good enough,’ that the ‘real Hiromi’ was more exciting than she was, because of the gangster connection.

“Chuck! Chuck! Couldn’t you have at least told me yourself?” she cried aloud. Was he so callous that he left it to his mother to relay these hateful words? Did he truly despise her so much?

After a few minute’s spent crying, Hiromi pulled herself together. She had Swan Song work to do. She owed it to Reina, to the others who’d already lost their lives in the Swan Song operation, to those poor women at the ‘Your Way’ club, and everyone else the Watanabe Yakuza had hurt. Her own grief was beside the point. ‘You have Gabrielle and the best parents in the world, Hiromi. We will be fine, and our baby will be loved, even if Chuck is gone for good.’ He’s not the first man to abandon his wife and child, and won’t be the last.

Hiromi still planned to write Chuck a letter that night. Maybe that would bring her husband back. It wasn’t time to give up hope.

The lab technician was waiting patiently in the hallway. He was guiding her down the hall when they saw Gabrielle coming the other way.

Hiromi asked, “Gabrielle! What are you doing here?”

“I came to see Doctor Wagner. What’s wrong, Becky?” Gabrielle could tell Becky had been crying.

“It’s Chuck. Can we talk later?”

“Of course,” Gabrielle replied. Then she spoke to Becky in Japanese, “Daisuki yo, Hiromi-chan.” ‘I love you very much, dear Hiromi.’

“I love you too, Gabby.”

Gabrielle and Hiromi weren’t the only persons who wanted to see Dr. Wagner. Maurice Gao was waiting in a screening room for the German scientist.

Maurice stood up when Hiromi and Gabrielle came into the room. “I am honored to meet you, Agent Ripley. Gabrielle has told me so much about you.”

Gabrielle and Maurice Gao had been told at dinner time that they would need to see Dr. Wagner that evening. In addition, a phlebotomist was going to draw blood from both of them.

Before another word was said, Dr. Wagner and an Australian Air Force doctor came into the room.

“I am not used to having so many patients at once,” Dr. Wagner said as a young woman in a lab coat came into the room. “Agent Tanaka, Inspector Gao, let me see to Ripley first. While I am doing that, the phlebotomist here will take samples from both of you.”

As they left the room, Dr. Wagner introduced Hiromi to her latest doctor. “This is Dr. Captain Cynthia Fuller, a gynecologist, and she will examine you next.”

“Hello, Doctor, thank you for seeing me,” Hiromi replied.

“It is nice to meet you, Captain,” Captain Fuller said while Dr. Wagner took a moment to look at Hiromi’s chart.

“Most of these tests can’t be done now, in any case,” the German scientist said out loud. “You have a baby on the way and radiation would not be good for him or her.”

“Honestly, Doctor, I’m feeling great physically and have no complaints.”

“Dr. Fuller still has to examine you, Captain. This is the Government, after all, and I’m not Board Certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology, just a humble GP and experimental scientist. If you will excuse me now, I have other patients to see,” Dr. Wagner said before walking off.
 


~*~


 
“Hello, Doctor,” Gabrielle said to Dr. Wagner just before the phlebotomist stuck a needle into her left arm. “I brought some of Chuck McBride’s clothing for you. They are in a bag over there.

The bag Gabrielle was referring to was draped over a corner chair in the room. Dr. Wagner had already noticed it. “Thank you for bringing those to me, Agent Tanaka.

“Will I have to undergo any other tests?” Gabrielle asked.

“No, Agent Tanaka, you do not. Do you have questions for me concerning my work?”

“No, I don’t, Doctor.” She smiled. “After seeing the results, I’ve got a pretty good idea of the stock in trade, and I’m sure you’re very busy.” After the phlebotomist was through with her, Gabrielle excused herself and walked out the door.
 


~*~


 
It took Chuck ten minutes to drive from his mother’s home to the offices of Smith, Dobbins, and Smith. In the darkness, Chuck couldn’t see if he was still being followed, but his sixth sense told him he was.

McKenzie Smith Jr. and his secretary got to the office at the same time Chuck did. “You are right on time, Mr. McBride.”

Chuck was brought straight into his solicitor’s inner office. The first thing McKenzie Jr. did was to introduce her secretary. “Her name is Jessica Bozell. She will be keeping a record of our meeting tonight. Is that all right?”

“Yes, Mr. Smith, it is.”

McKenzie Jr. didn’t get down to business till Jessica said she was all set. “Mr. McBride, this afternoon you began telling me of how your girlfriend was replaced approximately one year ago by another person. I would like you to tell me everything that has happened between you and the woman you married since that time…..”
 


~*~


 
After finishing with Dr. Wagner, Gabrielle went to see FBI Director Robert Mueller in his office. Grant Williamson was also there. “Agent Ripley tried talking to her husband, I don’t think it went too well.”

”Thank you for informing us of this, Agent Tanaka,” Robert replied.

“Ripley also told me that one of the Watanabe shareigashiras wanted to speak to her. It sounded urgent. A phone call has been scheduled for ten tonight when Ripley is through being examined.”

The FBI Director thought for a few moments. “Agent Tanaka, I would like to have a word with you and Ripley right after that phone call is finished.”

Grant didn’t say a word till Gabrielle was out of the office. “We won’t be leaving for the hotel till late, then.”

“Grant, we won’t be going to the hotel at all tonight. We’ll be sleeping here. I have a feeling we don’t have as much time as we thought we had to get Ripley ready for Japan.”

“What about our clothes and belongings?”

“They’re being brought here as we speak.”
 


~*~


 
“Do you have any questions for me, Inspector Gao?” Dr. Wagner asked after the phlebotomist left the room.

Maurice had a hundred of them. “Where will I be treated?”

“At Fort Detrick Army Base in Maryland. Have you been to the United States before?”

“No, Doctor, I haven’t. How long does the procedure take?”

“It takes about twenty-four hours. You are asleep the whole time.”

“When I wake up, is it painful?”

“No, there is no pain at all. My patients feel nauseous because of the new hormones they have. Some suffer from headaches or have slight balance problems at first. That is why we keep them in bed for a day.”

Dr. Wagner pursed her lips for a moment, considering what to say. She was trying to avoid a repeat of what had taken place over five years earlier. “The day I woke up, I almost immediately began to dry retch when I got out of bed, because I not know then about the importance of bed rest, so that the patient could get accustomed to the new sensations of their body, and be introduced to movement gradually. In situations where the size of the body, and the arrangement of the bones, is drastically changed, it’s almost like you step off a boat after a long cruise; everything seem wrong at first, and you feel like the ground is shift underfoot, even though it’s you who feel strange, not the Earth. But we adapt very quickly. Within a day or two, everything feel natural, although you should probably be careful not to bump your head getting in cars for a week or two, if you become taller, or miss the handrail on stairs, if you become smaller.”

“Doctor, you were given your own formula?” Maurice made note of the gold wedding band Dr. Wagner was wearing.

“Ya, I was. I was Dr. Hans Svenson back then. I do experiment on myself, and I discover I like myself better as woman than I did as man, and then I fell in love, so I stay the way I am now. What other questions do you have?”

Only moments ago, Maurice had tons of questions. Now he struggled to come up with one. What Dr. Wagner’s formula did to people had him completely awestruck. “How long is my recovery?”

“I keep all my patients for at least three days observation. Do not worry, Inspector, when Swan Song is over I can change you back.”

After being changed into a woman, Maurice would prefer to remain that way. The Probationary Inspector cautioned himself against getting too carried away by the dreams he was having now. His fiancée Lily and Hong Kong authorities were likely to have a say in what would be his post-Swan Song life.
 


~*~


 
In Charlottesville Virginia, two of Dr. Wagner’s patients were starting their post DNA treatment lives.

“They are absolutely precious,” Paris Zink said to her partner Judy Hudson as they gazed at the identical twin girls standing about ten feet away from them. Also present was Judy’s mother, a Virginia social worker, and two of Dr. Wagner’s colleagues- Doctors Harvey Cain and Heather Nagata.

Judy crouched down and at the same time began to spread her arms very wide. “Come to Mama.”

Olivia and Sophia Hudson-Zink were both feeling a little scared of their foster parents. A lot had happened to them over the last six days.

The social worker, whose name was Zoey Amalfitano, gave both girls a slight push. “Go, say hello to your mothers.”

Heather and Harvey watched as both girls walked towards their new parents. First taking slow steps, but eventually moving as fast as their little feet would carry them.

“A real Kodak moment,” Harvey said to Heather as Judy Hudson’s mother snapped digital photos of her new granddaughters embracing their new mothers for the first time.

“Yes it is, Dr. Cain,” Heather said as she shed a couple of tears.

“Olivia and I are best friends,” Sophia told Judy.

“We can go now? Paris asked Zoey as she held Olivia’s hand.

“Yes, you may, unless you have any last questions to ask,” Zoey answered. She was the only social worker assisting the Double Helix project. After Sophia and Olivia were happily on their way, she had eleven more boys and girls to unite with their new parents.

Each and every one of whom had been elderly men and women till six or seven days earlier. Before being changed into forty-seven-month-old girls, Sophia and Olivia had been a married couple named Stanley and Edith Kramer.

Unlike many other Double Helix volunteers, Neither Kramer had any serious medical issues. The couple, through their family physician, had put in a call to Dr. Wagner with another problem. They knew that they were approaching the end of their lives together, and they wanted to live another lifetime together, so they’d asked to be as young as possible, and siblings.

As they’d hoped, Edith and Stanley were given the chance of starting life over with parents who wanted to adopt two older children. The couple agreed, as long as they weren’t separated after they got Dr. Wagner’s treatment.

The Kramers had expected to become brother and sister. It came as a great surprise to both when they woke up as sisters.

The brains in their new bodies were still being formed, so Sophia and Olivia weren’t capable of the same level of long-term memory, coherence and planning as they’d been before. Nevertheless both girls were soon realizing their friendship was as strong as ever. If anything, being sisters would keep them closer than if they had become brother and sister.

Stanley and Edith had gotten their wish, and now Sophia and Olivia would always have each other.

Paris and Judy were Olivia and Sophia’s foster parents for now. Over the next six months Zoey Amalifatano would pay a series of visits to the new family. In six months the lesbian couple would bring their daughters in for a health screening. Unless something unexpected took place, Paris and Judy would be allowed to adopt Sophia and Olivia. Because Virginia made joint gay and lesbian adoption very difficult, the new parents were highly motivated to keep the process secret and refrain from making waves.

“We’re finished and thank you again.” The new family began walking down the hallway.

Just before she turned a corner, Olivia looked back towards Dr. Cain and Dr. Nagata. Heather waved to the girl till she disappeared from sight.
 


~*~


 
“We’re done now,” Dr. Fuller said to Hiromi after a much more thorough examination than she’d had before. “I’m not sure what is scheduled next for you. If you want, I will go and check.”

“That isn’t necessary, Doctor. I will try locating Dr. Wagner myself. Thank you for taking care of me.” In truth, she didn’t quite have Dr. Wagner’s delicate touch and bedside manner, but you win some and you lose some. No point picking a fight with her if they were going to have to live with each other later.

Hiromi located Dr. Wagner very quickly. She was doing some paperwork. “What do I do now?”

“Would you like us to have that chat you asked of me?”

“Yes, I would, Doctor,” Hiromi said before sitting down. “How many of your past patients that are like me, a woman who had been born a man, have become pregnant?”

“There have been at least six that I know about,” Dr. Wagner replied. She knew very little about her former patients that were now living in the Gilbert and Phoenix Islands after being dumped there by the Double Helix project.

“How have they done?”

“Five have given birth, two are pregnant now including one of my patients who already gave birth once. You are worried about being pregnant?”

“I just wanted to know, Doctor, if there was any reason to be concerned.”

Dr. Wagner smiled. “No, there isn’t. You will have a healthy pregnancy like any other mother, perhaps better than most, because most new mothers haven’t undergone genetic screening like you have, and have been exposed to a lifetime of chemicals, pesticides, and accidents over the years. You are perfect example of best your genetic heritage could make. Many women have to worry about breastfeeding, for example, because DDT and other chemicals can accumulate in the breasts, but you have essentially none.”

“Thank you, Doctor. I hope that you too have a chance to be a mother soon. Congratulations on your marriage.”

“Thank you. Henry and I are very happy. Was there anything else you wanted to talk about?”

“Yes, Doctor, there is. While doing my Swan Song assignment, I came across these transgendered people. It was my hope you could possibly help them.”

Dr. Wagner listened as Hiromi told her about the women who worked at the Yokosuka club, ‘My Way’. “Many of the women are pre-op transsexuals who are prostituting themselves in order to pay for gender reassignment surgery.”

“How many of them are they?”

“I’m not sure. The Watnabes own two clubs but not all of the women work at them. Some walk the streets. The total could be anywhere from thirty to one hundred.”

“You would like us to help them?”

Hiromi smiled slightly. “Yes, I would. I’d like them to have the same opportunities that you and I have now. To be complete women and experience the many joys that come with that. Hiromi Sato is worth almost half a billion dollars and most of it was earned from other people’s misery. I’d like to use it to help make some people happy instead. Can you and I come up with a way to help our sisters?”

“Yes, Agent Ripley, I think we can do that. In fact, many of our patients are transgendered now, or have serious diseases. We no longer depend upon prisoners for ‘volunteers,’ or any other form of coercion, and we’re making steady advances in the science involved. With a source of funds without government strings attached, I’m sure we can do better.”
 


~*~


 
Robert Mueller was on the phone with his secretary, when Audrey Grasso appeared at his office door. “Come in, Major. I won’t be on the phone much longer.”

While Audrey was sitting herself down, Robert got back to what he was discussing with Helen Bey. “Do you understand the nature of the letter I’ll need?”

“Yes, Director, I do. I’ll have it drawn up and ready for your signature by tomorrow morning, Australia time.”

“That’s perfect, Helen. What would I do without you?”

“What every executive would do without his secretary, Sir, sink into a swamp of chaos and despair, but thank you very much for your kind words, Director. I do enjoy working with you. Is there anything else I can do?”

“Yes, Helen, there is. Can you check on the availability of Hector Rodriguez and Ralph Horton for me?”

Helen didn’t have to ask Robert why he was interested in two of the FBI’s roving Inspectors. The reason was obvious – Grant Williamson had bungled Swan Song for too long and was about to be replaced.

“I’ll do that, Director, and I’ll get back to you very shortly.”

“Thank you, Helen.” Robert hung up the phone a few moments later. “Major Grasso, am I correct in believing you are here to discuss Agent Ripley’s legal defense?”

“Yes, Sir, I am.”

“Major, I do not know if you’re aware of everything that has taken place the last few days, so let me fill you in. The position of the FBI towards any crimes Agent Ripley committed while performing her Swan Song duties is they are not prosecutable, period, and we will not allow her to be subjected to arrest or examination by Japanese authorities. I will use all my powers of persuasion to get the Justice Department in Washington to back up this stance.”

“Have you spoken to the Attorney General?”

“Not yet, Major, but I will soon. The Japanese, led by Justice Minister Hatoyama, are the only Swan Song people who favor the prosecution of Ripley.”

“Director, I think I may know why that is taking place. Agent Ripley has informed me that Agent Chrysanthemum was the son-in-law of a former Japanese Defense Minister. I think it is possible he is playing a part in this.”

“Thank you for bringing that to my attention, Major, and you might be right. It seems there are factors working behind the scenes in Japan that neither of us know anything about.”

“I agree, Sir.”

“The Japanese Justice Minister you met at Sunday night’s meeting, has taken ill. He is resting in Alice Springs right now. I spoke to one of his aides a short time ago. He said if the Minister’s health permitted it, he will come back to Pine Gap tomorrow. It is my intention to have a meeting with him soon afterwards in regards to Ripley and the future of Swan Song.”

Robert told Audrey about the arguments he’d use to persuade Japanese officials to change course on both Ripley and Swan Song’s future. “What I have to make the Minister realize is that a prosecution of Ripley will cause immense damage to law enforcement and future prosecutions if the Double Helix project becomes known prematurely.”

“The use of DNA evidence in criminal trials might be forever damaged, because prosecuting attorneys would have to disclose that it’s essentially meaningless, and even eyewitness, physical, and photographic evidence could be compromised, because it would be immediately clear that anyone in the world can have an exact double, right down to their fingerprints and blood type.”

Robert gently nodded his head. “You are absolutely right, Major. But let’s put aside all the legal arguments for a moment. The prosecution of Ripley would set a very bad and dangerous precedent in terms of national security. Undercover agents are in enough danger as they conduct their work. If they are made to think they can later be held criminally liable for their acts while acting under the orders of their legitimate superiors, they may not be as aggressive in pursuing enemies of the United States as they would otherwise be. Men and women will die, law enforcement will suffer, and the security of our homeland may be compromised, and every agent would have to hire a lawyer to second guess every order more complex than going down to the corner to pick up the daily paper.”

Audrey agreed with Robert. “Can I come to the meeting with Minister Hatoyama?”

“Yes, Major, you may. I would just ask you to let me try talking to the Minister first.”

Audrey began to stand up. “Thank you, Sir, for taking the time to talk to me.”

“Major, the Swan Song committee needs to speak to Ripley. All of us have busy schedules, so I was planning to have a working breakfast. You are invited to come of course.”

“I will be there, Sir.

Audrey left the office shortly afterwards. Before talking with Robert Mueller, she could have sworn that Operation Operation Swan Song was dead, no matter what decision were made in the matter of her client’s possible prosecution. The Air Force Major could only conclude she knew far less than others at Pine Gap.
 


~*~


 
“Mr. Smith, she always acted like the real Hiromi. She knew me, my habits, our friends and acquaintances. There is not one time I recall her being wrong about some detail.”

“You say this is due to the treatment she was given.”

“That is what Hiromi told me on Saturday night and Sunday morning.”

“Have you spoken to your wife today?”

“No, I haven’t.” Chuck wondered for a moment what Hiromi was doing then. Was she pregnant? If she was, shouldn’t he be with her now? “The last time we spoke was yesterday afternoon at the airport.”

Gerald ‘Max’ Maxwell, the Manager of Alice Springs Airport, had called McKenzie Jr. back late on Monday afternoon as promised. A private plane carrying two passengers fitting the description of Charles McBride and his wife had indeed arrived at Alice Springs Airport on Sunday afternoon.

McKenzie Jr. was also told by Max that the plane had been met by some of the same people who were also present when a 747 had landed at Alice earlier in the day. At least some pieces of Charles McBride’s story were beginning to sound true to the solicitor.

Still and all, McKenzie Jr. had a hard time swallowing Chuck’s story of woman switching and body changes. It all sounded like something out of a science fiction novel.

“Mr. McBride, let me be frank. I don’t really know what to make of you. The story you tell me of two identical women is just impossible for me to believe.”

“Sir, I know it sounds crazy,” Chuck admitted.

McKenzie leaned back in his chair. “Mr. McBride, could the story you been told all be a way for your wife to protect both you and her?”

“I suppose it could. Why not tell me the truth? How about her leg with the missing scar?”

“The scar can be easily explained. They fade away with time. I sliced my thumb open as a child. It took two stitches to sew it up. The scar was obvious 40 years ago but today it is almost invisible.”

“As for your wife’s story, you have just spent the best part of ninety minutes telling me of her Yakuza family and the dangerous life she was living. There have been incidents in the last three weeks where the two of you came under assault together and on another occasion someone tried to kill your wife as she drove home late at night.”

“From all this a reasonable person could conclude, that your wife might be sensing more danger ahead and wanted you to be somewhere safe. Since you were Australian and this was where your mother lived, Alice seemed a natural selection for your wife to take you.”

“How about Gabrielle Tanaka? Or the people Hiromi went to see at Pine Gap?”

“What about them? Ms. Tanaka is most likely an actual member of the FBI and, as she told you in what seems to be perfect frankness and accuracy, your wife is working with her, the FBI, and other law enforcement agencies to bring the Yakuza run by her Grandfather to justice. As I understand it, law enforcement credentials all around the world are very difficult to duplicate or forge, so the fact that she presented it openly seems to me presumptive evidence that she’s telling the truth. Further, it stretches even the most sceptical appraisal to imagine that this putative ‘fake’ was going to waltz into one of the most secure military installations in Australia, since we all know how paranoid the Americans are.”

“You even told me of your wife’s hostile relationship with her Grandfather. That seems like a very reasonable motive for her actions. If she really wanted to ‘get even’ with her grandfather, helping the FBI to put him in jail might seem reasonable. Doesn’t all that sound logical to you?”

Chuck didn’t think his wife was lying to him the day before. Why would she want to make him so upset? “Yes, Sir, it does sort of. Why would she make up such a fantastic lie?”

“Perhaps she thought it was the only way you would separate from her even temporarily. It is temporary?”

“Sir, I don’t know what to do. I came here to ask for advice as much as anything else.”

“Mr. McBride, I can make suggestions, but you will have to decide what will be your next course of action. My tentative theory is that she doesn’t want you going back to Japan with her whilst she undertakes some dangerous operation, and that she wanted you ‘safe at home’ in Australia. By the way, I’ve done some checking. Something big is happening at Pine Gap. Two large jets from overseas arrived at Alice Springs Airport at almost the same time the plane you and your wife came in on.”

“I did believe that part of what Hiromi was telling me. That she was going to Pine Gap.”

“It is my considered opinion, Mr. McBride, that your wife is working with American law enforcement, that she had to meet with her superiors, and that because of recent events felt you may be in danger even here in Alice.”

“Sir, I didn’t tell you this, but I have people following me.”

“Are they Japanese?”

“No, they’re white like you and I, two blokes that I’ve seen, although there may be others.”

“That would also seem to support my theory about your wife, Mr. McBride. The people she works for would want to know if any of her Yakuza contacts or enemies show up here in Alice. Why don’t you step out of the office and take a few minutes to try calling your wife? Jessica and I will still be waiting here when you’re finished.”

Chuck thought for a few moments before standing up. “I’ll do that,” he said, as he walked out into the anteroom to make the call.

Hiromi had her cell phone turned off when Chuck tried calling her. Still torn by indecision about how he felt, and unsure about what he could say, Chuck left no voice mail message, although he knew that the fact that he’d called would show up in her call history. She’d know how he felt, he was sure, and then felt ashamed of himself for thinking that. She would know, it was him who was floundering right now.

Before going back into McKenzie Jr’s office, Chuck checked who the last person was to dial his cell phone. He wasn’t at all surprised to learn it was Hiromi.

The longer Chuck had to think, the more indecisive he seemed to become. He still wasn’t sure if he was ready to talk to his wife. He compromised by leaving his cell phone on, so he’d know if she returned his call, and could decide then whether to answer. Then he chided himself for a gutless woos and called back to leave a message. “Hiromi, please call me when you can. We should talk some more. I’m worried about you, because there are some blokes following me about.” Then he went back into the office.

“My wife has her cell phone turned off,” Chuck said to McKenzie Jr. once he was back in his solicitor’s inner office.

“What do you want to do next, Mr. McBride? I could make inquiries for you, but I have to warn you, there seems to be at least a small chance it could compromise your wife’s safety.”

“I don’t want any harm to come to Hiromi, or any woman,” Chuck replied. He still believed there were two Hiromis, the one he fell in love with and the one he married. Who does he turn away from and who does he try to forget? She’d told him they were one and the same, and the solicitor had mostly convinced him that she had been telling the truth about the rest.

An old song suddenly popped into Chuck’s head, ‘Torn Between Two Lovers,’ by a woman named Mary MacGregor back in the late Seventies. He’d heard it on an American Oldies show on the Japanese wireless once, several years ago, but the singer’s voice had been so beautiful that it stayed stuck in his head for weeks. There weren’t four better words to describe how Chuck felt right then.

If the real Hiromi was in Japan, Chuck had to come to her aid. But what if the woman he’d married was really pregnant? Who was he to abandon, the woman he evidently hadn’t seen in a year or more, or the woman he’d married and might be the mother of his child? Could he abandon either one? Chuck, who still felt angered by his own father’s abandonment of his mother, couldn’t make himself do the same, but it looked like he might have no other choice.

Chuck felt another one of his migraine headaches coming on. He would drive straight home after he was through talking to his solicitor.

“I need time to think everything over some more.”

“That seems a wise move, Mr. McBride.” Chuck settled his bill with McKenzie Smith Jr. and was out on the street five minutes later.

Chuck didn’t see anyone following him, but knew someone was out there. When he got to his car, he calmly got inside it and drove off.
 


~*~


 
Patricia McBride was awake and watching television when her son arrived home. “How did it go?”

“All right I guess, Mum. Did anyone call?” Chuck asked after giving his mother a kiss.

“No, it has been quiet tonight,” Patricia McBride lied. “It is still early, why don’t you go out and see some of your friends?”

“I might do that tomorrow, Mum. Right now I got a headache coming on. I’m going to take a shower and then go to bed early.”

“All right, son. I am glad you came home.”
 


~*~


 
“We’re through for the evening, Captain.,” Dr. Irving Ellner said to Hiromi. He was the psychiatrist hired by the Swan Song committee to examine Agent Ripley. “We will talk again tomorrow night at seven.”

Gabrielle was waiting for Hiromi when she came out of the room. “How did it go?”

She made a wry face. “I’m just your normal everyday pregnant woman who was born a man and whose husband has taken off for parts unknown. What could possibly be wrong?”

Gabrielle laughed but only slightly. She could hear the sadness in Hiromi’s voice, even when she was making jokes. “That is good then.”

Hiromi looked at her watch. The time was ten minutes to ten. “I’m going to get a ice cream sandwich from the cafeteria before Ryuku calls. Want to join me?”

“Sure.”

On the way to the cafeteria, Hiromi thought of her parents. “Maybe I should say good night to them instead.”

“Don’t worry, Becky. Mom told me she and Dad would be going to bed early. They still feel jet lagged from all their travelling.”

Hiromi was just finishing her dessert, when her cell phone began to ring. She answered it at once. “Ryuku-san?”

“Yes, Hiromi-san, it is me. I trust you are enjoying your time in Australia. I’ve had some trouble getting in touch, because your phone has been off.”

“Really? I must have been in some sort of signal shadow, because it’s been on all this time. I had it on vibrate for a while, but I’m sure I would have noticed it. Chuck and I are having a very good time, Ryuku-san.”

While Ryuku made small talk with her for a few minutes, Hiromi walked back to her living quarters. On the room’s door was an order form. Somebody wanted to know what Hiromi wished to eat for breakfast the next day.

“Can you take care of this for me,” Hiromi said as she handed the form to Gabrielle.

“Am I interrupting anything, Hiromi-san?” Ryuku asked.

“No, Ryuku, I was just giving something to Chuck. Chuck has given me something also.”

“What is that?”

“I’m having his baby. My due date is early April next year.”

Ryuku became very excited. “That is wonderful news, Hiromi-san. I am very happy for you and Chuck. Can I or anyone here in Yokohama send you a gift now?”

“No, Ryuku-san, it is not necessary. Besides Chuck and I will be leaving Alice on Thursday to go to other places in Australia.”

“Can I at least tell Tiger-san your news?”

“Yes, Ryuku, you may. The family should know.”

Would Dai change his plans for Hiromi when he learned she was pregnant? Hiromi didn’t think so. The new Oyabun of the Watanabe Yakuza would just step up all his security precautions.

Ryuku got down to the purpose of her phone call. “Hiromi-san, did you hear of the fire last night?”

“Yes, I did. Do we know what happened?” Ryuku proceeded to give Hiromi a rundown.

“Katsuaki-san was one of those who died. He went back in to help the ones who got trapped.”

“The death of Katsuaki is a great loss to the family.”

“I agree with you completely, Hiromi-san. Tiger is still hoping you have some advice for him on how to stop the war.”

“Right now I have none to give but I will continue trying. Is there anything else I should know about?”

“Yes, Hiromi-san, there is much more. Thanks to Akira-san it was learned Japanese Self Defense Forces were planning an attack on your grandfather’s home.”

Hiromi listened to the long explanation. “That is incredible.”

“I agree, Hiromi-san. Do not worry, Tiger and Akira devised a clever plan to move your Grandfather. He is now at a home in Yokohama and I don’t believe anyone but we know about the move.”

“Grandfather is not living at Negishi Bay?”

“No, Hiromi-san, he is not. The home I believe was once owned by an Aunt of Tiger’s.”

Gabrielle had told Hiromi about the planned assault on Keiji’s Mt Fuji area home. Now that the elderly Oyabun was moved, would the attack still take place at Keiji’s new place of dwelling or would Swan Song be allowed to continue?

“The meeting that was to be held on Saturday, is it canceled?”

“No, it was postponed to Wednesday of next week. It will take place at Negishi Bay.”

“Ryuku-san, how much do you know of Tiger’s plans?”

“I know a great deal. Tiger and I are talking every day. He wants me to speak to you every other day now till you come back to Japan.”

“Tiger is making plans for my return?”

“Yes, Hiromi-san, he is. It will be for sometime next week.”

“I have Kanagawa Bank business in Sydney on Monday,” Hiromi explained to Ryuku. In addition to its Japanese locations, Kanagawa Bank had offices in Sydney, Seoul, Hong Kong, Singapore, Zurich, and London.

“Thank you for telling me that, Hiromi-san. I will pass the information on to Tiger.”

After talking to Ryuku for a few more minutes, Hiromi hung up the phone. “Gabby, I think we’d better have a word with your boss. Can you arrange something?”

“Becky,” Gabrielle replied. “Director Mueller is waiting for you. He asked to see you as soon as you were done talking to Ryuku.”

“We better get a move on then.”
 


~*~


 
Japan’s Prime Minister, Yasuo Fukoda, was just learning of the DNA evidence obtained in the Tonichi Ogawa murder case. A political rally had taken place that night in Tokyo, and the PM and his wife had just gotten back to their residence.

Yasuo spoke to the Yokohama Chief of Police directly. “Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention.”

“A copy of the report has been faxed to you, Prime Minister.”

“It has been received. Thank you.”

When Yasuo was finally off the phone, he spoke to his closest aide. “I need to speak to Kunio-san at once.”

Yasuo had known for over a year that a major operation was being conducted against one of Japan’s Yakuzas. He had only learned over the last weekend that the Watanabes of Yokohama were the criminals being targeted.

Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama did have a heart condition but that wasn’t the real reason for his avoiding Pine Gap on Monday. The Japanese had been taken aback by American resistance to their plans for Swan Song and Agent Ripley.

Robert Mueller was right, Japanese politicians don’t like confrontations and Kunio Hatoyama was no different. After consultations with Tokyo, Kunio had deliberately made himself unavailable on Monday. He was however available to talk to his country’s Prime Minister.

“We now have evidence, Kunio-san,” Japan’s Prime Minister said. “Tell that to the FBI Director and state that we still request Agent Ripley be extradited to Japan to face prosecution.”

“Prime Minister-san, a difficult matter has just been brought to my attention. Can I have some of your time to tell you about it?’

“Of course, Kunio-san, please speak freely to me.” The Prime Minister was then told of how a Japanese citizen had been murdered in the course of Operation Swan Song.

Fasuo became deeply troubled by what Kunio was saying to him and became highly upset and deeply concerned. The emotions the Prime Minister felt didn’t arise from disgust caused by the murder of Emiko Takagi, but the damage and embarrassment that it would cause Japan’s government, and especially himself.

“The Americans will raise this tomorrow when I see them, Prime Minister-san. What are we to do?”
 


~*~


 
“Captain, how reliable is this information?” Robert Mueller asked Hiromi after she finished giving a verbal report of her phone conversation with Ryuku to the FBI Director.

“It is very reliable, Sir. Ryuku Kinjoh is both trusted by Dai Hashimoto and a close friend of myself as she was to the Beancounter also.”

Robert mulled what Hiromi had just told him for almost a minute. “Captain, we’re going to discuss this and more tomorrow morning at breakfast. Can you please come to the main meeting at half past seven?”

“Yes, Sir, I will be there. There is one last thing I should mention. I tried calling my husband tonight. His mother answered the phone and told me Charles doesn’t want to speak to me anymore.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Sir, I am still going to write Charles a letter before I go to sleep tonight. Maybe that will persuade my errant husband to announce what his future plans are.”

“That sounds like a good plan, Captain. We’re done for tonight.”

“Thank you, Sir. I hope so.” Hiromi immediately left the room.

“Do you need me for anything, Director?” Gabrielle asked

“No, Agent Tanaka, we’re finished also.”

As he walked to his living quarters, Robert thought about who he would put in charge of Swan Song after Grant Williamson was relieved of his duties. The best person for the job was looking more and more like one person.

It was FBI Special Agent Gabrielle Tanaka.
 


~*~


 
When Gabrielle got to Hiromi’s room, she found her friend crying.

“I miss Chuck so much,” Hiromi said as she held Chuck’s tie.

Gabrielle began to cry too as she went over to give Becky a hug. She’d accidentally left out Chuck’s tie after sorting out the DNA samples Dr. Wagner had requested, so this was partly her fault. “I’m so sorry, Becky. Please…”

“Chuck doesn’t want to talk to me anymore.”

“I love you, Becky,” Gabrielle said as she hugged Hiromi even tighter. “Tell me exactly what happened.”

Hiromi needed a couple of minutes to gather herself but before she did that, she took a deep sniff of Chuck’s tie. The smell of her loving manly husband filled her nostrils. Would she ever experience that smell again in person?

Gabrielle remained patient with Becky. Her friend had been through so much personally and had her Swan Song burdens on top of that. It amazed Gabrielle that Becky was able to hold herself together as well as she did.

Hiromi began explaining what was making her so upset. “After my prenatal exam was finished, I called Chuck’s cell phone. It was turned off, so I called him at his Mom’s house.”

Gabrielle listened quietly as Hiromi in between sobs, told her the rest of what happened.

“His mum called me a tramp. I have always given all my heart to Chuck.”

“It’s all right, Becky.”

“I tried telling her I was sorry and wanted to say that to Chuck. She said that neither she nor Chuck ever want to speak to me again. Then she hung up the phone on me.”

Hiromi began crying very hard again. Gabrielle comforted her and said everything would be all right.

“What do I do, Gabby?”

“Becky, write that letter to Chuck. I will make sure it gets delivered to his mother’s home tomorrow.”

“What if Chuck doesn’t reply?”

“I’m here for you, Becky, no matter what. I will always love you. Why don’t we take a shower now? When we’re done, you write that letter to Chuck. I still think he will come back to you.”
 


~*~


 
In Japan, Monday evening television programs across the country were almost entirely dedicated to Raku Minobe. Her life, her songs, and the almost universal love the people of Japan had for her.

While these programs aired, television producers were already working on the next batch of Raku Minobe programming. Television viewers would eventually tire of the tributes that were being broadcast but their appetite for news about the singer wasn’t likely to die soon. That was what Japanese media consultants kept telling their clients.

Fuji Network System Producer Isoshi Neomoto hadn’t stopped working since getting to his office around five o’clock Monday morning. He had no idea when his next sleep would come.

Isoshi had begun working in the Fuji Network’s News Division in 1988. His first job was to be a gopher, doing the jobs no one else wanted. At the same time Isoshi watched and learned and stored up knowledge for the day he would start writing and covering the news. In 1991, Isoshi began to write the news for late night newscasts. Two years after that, he began work as an Assistant Producer.

By 2008 Isoshi had produced almost one-hundred news documentaries. These broadcasts are normally the accumulation of two to three months of work by teams consisting of at least ten men and women.

Since early Monday afternoon, Isoshi had been analyzing police reports plus the reports of print and television reporters out of Yokohama. A picture of what had happened on Sunday night was forming in his mind and it wasn’t pretty. His job was now to tell it to the public.

Isoshi assembled his best production teams on Monday night. Everyone had a good guess what particular aspect of the Raku Minobe story would be the topic of their next documentary.

“I want the Japanese people to know Raku Minobe died because two gangs of criminals could not control their violence and let it spill into everyday Japan life.”

Isoshi told everyone how he came to his conclusions. A few questions were asked, some clarifications made, but ultimately everyone agreed with Isoshi.

“We begin work tonight.”

“But when are we supposed to sleep, Isoshi-san?”

“Our sleep begins when our work is finished.”

Someone in the back of the room quipped that he should have grabbed his toothbrush and pajamas before heading out of his home that night. Everyone, Isoshi included, had a good laugh, and then someone else added, “Real reporters keep a spare toothbrush and pajamas in their bottom drawer, right next to the whiskey bottle.” Everyone laughed again.

“Isoshi-san, when will our broadcast air?”

“Our goal is tomorrow evening at 10 p.m. Now we go to work.”
 


~*~


 
“Good night, Gabby.”

“See you in the morning and good luck.”

Hiromi went to the desk located in the outer room of her living quarters. Before going to dinner, she had put stationary and a pen out for her later use. They were still there.

“Wait, Becky, let me do something for you,” Gabrielle called out.

“What’s that?” Hiromi asked as she turned around.

Gabrielle was walking towards her. She had Chuck’s tie with her. “Let me put this on you.”

Hiromi watched silently as Gabrielle placed Chuck’s tie around her neck and gently knotted it. Even before Gabrielle was finished, Hiromi was able to smell her husband again.

“Thank you, Gabby,” Hiromi said as tears formed in her eyes.

“You’re welcome, Becky. I want Chuck to come back to you almost as much as you do, and I want you to know that I’m not jealous, just as he wasn’t jealous of the time you spent with me. I know he loves you, and that you love him, and I think he’ll come back. He’s just confused right now, but he’d have to be crazy to stay away for much longer. You just wait; he’ll be lost without you.” Gabrielle then kissed Hiromi once on each check before going to bed.

Hiromi sat down. The letter she was going to write would come from her heart. It would be one draft without corrections. She fervently hoped its genuineness would convince Chuck what she had written him was totally sincere.
 


~*~


 
Dear Chuck,

Only a day has passed since we parted, but I feel empty without your love, a love I don’t fully deserve.

If you will let me, I want to better explain my actions of the last year. I admit some were selfish in nature, but most if not all were meant to protect you.
 


~*~


 
Hiromi took a moment to study her penmanship. It was readable but could be a little better defined. It was many years since the person born as Tom Slater had hand written anything more than some Army reports while he was stationed in Iraq.

Of course Hiromi could have typed a letter on some computer and then printed it. She chose not to do that. A hand written letter was a better means for the very personal communication she was drafting.
 


~*~


 
When I got my Swan Song assignment and as I trained for it, I did wonder if there was anyone in Hiromi’s life. I even asked Gabrielle about it during a reconnaissance trip to Yokohama. She only said that the Swan Song committee knew that Hiromi that had never been married.

That was inadequate and I should have known it. I should have insisted that Hiromi’s personal life be investigated further.

I was surprised that first night you climbed in bed alongside me. Again I should have known better.

Another failure was that I never thought to ask what would be done to the original Hiromi once I took her place. Looking back, I think I didn’t want to know and that was very wrong of me. I’d thought of her as a simple criminal, the way she’d been explained to me, and didn’t trouble myself to consider that she was a human being, one who had a life of her own, and had a right to be left in peace.
 


~*~


 
Hiromi took a short pause from writing the letter. She wanted to gather her thoughts before continuing. She also took time to sniff Chuck’s tie again.

“I love you so much, Chuck.”

The scent of him distracted her so much, remembering how she’d nuzzle his neck, his scratchy whiskers a delightful contrast to her own smooth skin, that it took her a few moments to start writing again.
 


~*~


 
Chuck, from the moment we first met you made me feel many deep emotions and they have almost always been good ones. I admit that at first that you made me feel a little scared, because you were so much bigger than I was, and so much stronger. But your easy going demeanor quickly put me at ease, combined with my memories of you, and of our life together, the life I’d stolen from Hiromi. You filled me with joy many times over and you did it daily in both small and large things you did for me.

I worked hard to give you joy back, but I know my love was far from perfect and not equal to your own. You are such a kind, loving, generous man and you deserve nothing less than total love and commitment. To this date I have come up short. While I loved you, I also refused to abandon Swan Song, which put me in conflict with the goals you had for the two of us. I was trying to have everything instead of embracing the one true thing that mattered above all else, you, the man who still remains the only man I love, and my loving husband.

Right now you are divided between me and the original Hiromi. You don’t know what to do or who to choose. And I put you in this impossible situation. I apologize and ask for your forgiveness.

Since I arrived at Pine Gap, I have been inquiring about Hiromi. The FBI Director is going to look into Hiromi’s present condition and ask if she can be put into witness protection in a safe location. If she leaves the Yakuza, she will need protection for the rest of her life, because they will target her as a matter of principle, and as an example to others. I promise to continue fighting for her.

There’s one more lie I told you, my darling, that I didn’t want to say, and don’t want to say it even now, because it may hurt you, and because it may seem petty and small. Your love for the original Hiromi, the woman whose life I stole, was pure and good, and I honor you for it, because you’re a good man, Chuck, better than I deserve, but also perhaps better than the original Hiromi deserved.

That’s hard for me to say, because I deeply sympathize with her, because she’s a part of me, and in my own way I love her, because she gave me you, and because I understand what she went through, and how she became the woman she was. But I was deeply wounded as a young girl, Chuck, and abused, and my heart was broken. My heart didn’t mend until I got Tom’s memories of a happy childhood to fill in the gaps in my own. But before that, I wasn’t well enough to truly love, because my soul had been crushed. I didn’t love you then as much as i love you now, and I don’t think the original Hiromi can either, or not without some sort of psychotherapy or breakthrough medical treatment.

I think she can be helped, my darling, because I was helped by Dr. Wagner, but I don’t think you can do it on your own. I don’t think she can do it on her own either, the damage is too extensive and too deeply-rooted, a black stain on her heart and soul, her raw hatred for her grandfather, and her deep need for revenge.

It had poisoned her life, my darling, and will blight her ability to truly love until she can be helped. Please let me help you to help her. I know now that she deserves happiness, and I think you could help her, I think both of us could help her, but only with the sort of help that Dr Wagner can provide.

Without that help, I fear she will destroy herself in fighting my grandfather, and in so doing may well destroy you, and me, because I’d find it very difficult to live in a world without you in it, even if I can’t hold you close, as I did so recently.

I have news for both of us. On Sunday night blood was drawn from me and I got the test results back today and have enclosed a copy. I am pregnant with your child. An obstetrician examined me tonight and everything appears normal. My due date is April 7th.

Chuck, I am very happy to be pregnant. I feel honored to be having your baby. Whether I see you again or not, I will take care of our son or daughter to the best of my ability. When our child is old enough to understand, I will tell them of the wonderful man who is their father.

I would like you to come back, Chuck. You don’t know much I miss you. As I write this I have one of your ties around my neck. I love your manly odor. I can smell you on it and it reminds me of the ways you touched me and made love to me. My favorite place in all the world is simply to be underneath you, with your strong arms around my body, and your hardness cradled inside the deepest part of me. I always loved you calling me your little sports car. Please let me continue to take you for rides for the rest of your life.

Have you seen a doctor about your headaches? Please do that for me. I worry you may have a serious medical problem.

I worry for you, Chuck, because I love you with all my heart. That can’t ever be changed but at the same time I fear I have hurt you far too harshly for you to be with me again.

Chuck for the sake of me and the original Hiromi, make whatever your decision is quickly. I can’t be making all the decisions for you, I have my own burdens which includes our child inside me and my work. Hiromi did work you didn’t like either, you didn’t hold it against either of us, and don’t do it now.

Take good care of Hiromi and love her like you loved me. Contact Dr. Wagner, because she has the key to it all, because she cured me once already. I’m sure that she can do it again. The healing power of love is what she needs most, but before that she needs the memory of a happy childhood. She’s welcome to mine.

Always yours,
 


~*~


 
Hiromi read the letter. It wasn’t perfect, but it conveyed the message that was in her heart. So Hiromi went ahead and signed her name.

The next step for Hiromi was to place the letter and her test results in an envelope. She then wrote Patricia McBride’s address on the outside.

By now Hiromi felt drained emotionally and physically. She went straight to bed.

Gabrielle woke up before Hiromi was even settled. “Are you done?”

“Yes, I am. Thank you for being here with me, Gabby.” Hiromi still had Chuck’s tie on. She planned to wear it till the next morning.

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

Hiromi gave Gabrielle a slight kiss. “I love you too, Gabby. Good night.”
 


~*~


 
Robert Mueller wasn’t asleep yet. He had two phone calls to make. The first of which was to United States Attorney General, Michael Mukasey.

Robert began the call by summarizing the current status of Swan Song and where it may still be heading. “Swan Song has been bungled in almost every imaginable way.”

“Then you should relieve Williamson from his duties at once.”

“I am going to relieve him but not till I have his replacement ready to step in.”

“Do you already have someone in mind?”

“I was thinking of Gabrielle Tanaka.”

“That is a bold move, Robert.”

“She is the only person we have who seems to grasp the entire operation as it’s been allowed to proceed, and has done a lot to keep it on track.”

“From what you just told me about Swan Song, I would have to agree with you Robert. You do know the Japanese may not react well to her appointment.”

Robert would have to promote Gabrielle first before putting her in charge of Swan Song. Within the FBI there was a small group of roving Inspectors who only reported straight to the Director. Gabrielle would be promoted to the position ‘Special FBI Bureau Inspector’ so she would have clout when working with the Japanese and South Koreans.

“Yes, that’s why I have not ruled out Hector Rodriguez or Ralph Norton yet,” Robert said. Hector and Ralph were FBI roving Inspectors. “It will also depend on the status of Charles McBride.”

“Can you get me Tanaka’s memo on Witness Protection for Sato ASAP?” Michael Mukasey was in tentative agreement with Robert as to what should be done to Beancounter. The Attorney General wanted to think it over some more before making a final decision.

“I’ll send you a copy the moment she is finished,” Robert replied.

“Robert, could you also send Tanaka to Washington or New York the first moment she has time. I’d like to hear her proposal in person.” Michael Mukasey had grown up in Manhattan and had lived there most of his adult life. When he could get away from his Attorney General duties, Michael almost always went to his New York City condo.

“I will do that, Michael. Tomorrow I will speak to the Minister Hatoyama again. My first order of business will be to dissuade him from prosecuting Ripley. I’ll have to explain to him that, if they insist upon prosecution, Swan Song will be finished, because we can’t send Ripley back to Japan, and without Ripley’s testimony, none of the Swan Song data we already have will be useful in a prosecution, because she’s the only one who can authenticate it.”

“If worst comes to worst, Robert, I won’t approve any extradition requests the Japanese make to us in Washington.”

“Will 1600 back us up?” 1600 was Washington DC shorthand for the White House and the President of the United States.

“They’re pretty disengaged over there right now because it is less than six months till the next President is sworn in. I don’t see it as likely anyone will interfere in our decision, and it’s obviously a matter of national security, so the next President would have a difficult time justifying any other action.”

“All right, Michael. I will keep you in the loop on what happens next down here.”

“Thank you, Robert, and good luck.”

Robert Mueller’s second phone call was to United States Army Major Ed Hollins. The disgraced former member of the Swan Song committee was still confined to Yokata Air Base outside of Yokohama.

“How can I help you, Sir?”

“Major, I am sorry about your present difficulties. Rest assured, you haven’t been forgotten.”

“Thank you, Sir,” Major Hollins replied. Ed still wondered if he would be able to leave Yokata sometime before he was eligible to collect Social Security.

“I have a question for you, Major. Of the men in your former command, who are the most familiar with Swan Song?”

“Captain Higgins knows almost as much about Swan Song as I do, Sir. But he is not being allowed out of Japan at this time.”

“Is there anyone else?”

“There is Sir, but only partly. First Lieutenant DeWayne Walters or DW as we call him, knows about Agent Ripley and who she was targeting. DW doesn’t know anything about Dr. Wagner or many of the other details pertaining to Swan Song.”

“Where is First Lieutenant Walters now?”

“He is still at Camp Zama so far as I know.”

“Thank you for your time and assistance, Major.”
 


~*~


 
As dawn broke on Tuesday morning, the citizens of Japan got their first newspaper reports of Raku Minobe’s death. There were few readers who didn’t know of the tragedy already.

Some newspapers had their entire front pages dedicated to the story. Others, a majority in fact, had only small ‘teasers’ for other news, with the stories themselves buried in the interior pages.

The Kanagawa Shimbun’s front page had a large photo of Raku Minobe in its center. Flanking the photo were two news articles. The one on the left was headlined ‘Lovely Raku Minobe Dead at 28’.

The headline on the right side of the photo was headlined, “Crime gang suspect in Minobe Death’. Many Shimbun readers chose to read the second article first.

It wasn’t long before staffers at the Kanagawa Shimbun got a sniff of how their readers were reacting to the news. Night City Editor Junko Teshima noticed how emails were piling into the newspaper’s ‘letters to the editor’ mailbox at a much quicker rate.

Junko read some of the email. Before leaving for home, she spoke to Iwao Endo. “Our readers are very angry and are demanding action.”

In addition to the Shimbun, two other Japanese newspapers had picked up on the Yakuza connection to Raku Minobe’s death. Their readers were also outraged enough to write letters to the editor and some even called the offices of their local newspaper.

“I assure you the Tokyo Herald is also angry at what happened,” A receptionist told one caller. “We advise you to call your elected officials and local police. Tell them how you feel on this matter.”
 


~*~


 
Hiromi woke up a little past six on Tuesday morning to find Gabrielle gently snoring in bed beside her. Rather than wake her up, Hiromi went to Pine Gap’s fitness room and worked out for forty-five minutes.

While she jogged on a treadmill, Hiromi thought of her parents. When she was done at Pine Gap, it would be a long time before she would see them again. Hiromi worried for her Mom and Dad. Her father was getting old and he and her mother had Shannon to care for too.

‘What about Shannon? Don’t you want to be his mother? If Swan Song continues for a very long time, that won’t ever happen.’

It also occurred to Hiromi that she might have to modify her exercise routines due to her being pregnant. Dr. Maloney was right, she should keep a note pad on her at all times. Hiromi may already be suffering from pregnancy brain.

Hiromi did have her cell phone on her. It began to ring so she glanced at the display. It wasn’t Chuck. “I’m down at the fitness room, Gabby.”

“I was wondering where you went.”

“I’m sorry, Gabby, for not leaving you a note, but I’ve had a lot on my mind,” Hiromi said sincerely.

“That’s all right, Becky. I love you.”

“I love you too, Gabby. Can you do me a favor?”

“Just name it, Becky.”

“Can you please mail the letter to Chuck for me? It’s on my desk.”

Gabrielle had already seen the sealed envelope addressed to Charles McBride. “Yes, I will do that as soon as I’m free.”

“Thank you, Gabby. When you’re finished, why don’t you come down to the fitness room and join me?”

“Maybe another time, Becky. I have to finish polishing a report for Director Mueller. See you at breakfast.”

On a personal level, Hiromi wished Swan Song came to an end. She, her baby’s life, and that of her parents would be a whole lot simpler. Who knows, Chuck might even come back to her, but as every minute passed she had increasing doubts about that ever happening.

Hiromi stopped by her parent’s room when her workout was over. “Hi Mom, Hi Dad, did you sleep well?”

“Yes, we did, Rebecca,” Midori replied. “Did you and Gabrielle get a good night’s sleep also?”

Hiromi immediately concluded that her mother knew that she and Gabrielle had been sleeping together the last two nights. Midori wasn’t bothered at all by what most people would call ‘lesbian behavior’. Two adult women who weren’t related to one another except under unusual circumstances, weren’t supposed to sleep together.

Since her daughter arrived at Pine Gap, Midori had been gently pushing Hiromi toward Gabrielle. Whenever the two women showed the slightest affection to one another, the mother smiled in approval. Stuart Slater also looked pleased when this happened.

The Slaters clearly believed Gabrielle Tanaka was the right person for their daughter and if Hiromi chose a lesbian relationship, it wouldn’t bother her parents in the least. Hiromi saw this, knew just how much Gabrielle loved her and she was slowly starting to think that maybe Chuck was not the right person for her. She was beginning to see how much of the load in their relationship was being shouldered on her own, and with the baby coming, she needed a full partnership, not a corporation in which she held the controlling interest.

If not for the baby in her womb, Hiromi would have most likely chosen Gabrielle already. The wedding vows she and Chuck had made worked both ways. He wasn’t taking them seriously.

“Yes, Mom, we did. My morning sickness isn’t so bad this morning.”

“It will come and go, Rebecca. That is what happened with me each time I was pregnant.”

Stuart Slater came out of the bathroom. He had been in the middle of shaving when Hiromi arrived. “A slip of paper was left on our door last night asking what we wanted for breakfast. Do you know anything about that?”

“I’m having breakfast with the FBI Director and the Swan Song committee,” Hiromi explained to her parents. “I guess you and Mom are being invited to be there with me. It looks like Swan Song is going forward, Dad, which means I won’t be able to help with Shannon as soon as I’d wanted to, but I think Gabrielle’s sister may be able to help from time to time. Gabby’s going to be working with me on Swan Song, so we’ll be able to communicate from time to time, but probably indirectly.”

“We had that impression already, dear.” Her mother took her hand. “They didn’t haul us all the way out here for your retirement party. We’re both proud of your sacrifice for our country, and know we’ll have to soldier on as well.”

“Don’t worry about us, Becky. I’ve still got quite a few miles left on the odometer, and we’ll muddle through, just as your mother and you did when I was away.”

“You’re the best, both of you. Don’t worry about either of us. I’ve got a good feeling about this operation now. I love it when a plan comes together.”
 


~*~


 
Robert was drinking coffee in his living quarters, when Grant Williamson came in. “Director, did you invite Mr. and Mrs. Slater to this morning’s breakfast?”

“Yes, Grant, I did. I wanted to save Ripley time. She won’t be able to stay here at Pine Gap as long as we liked.”

“The Slaters will know most everything about Swan Song then.”

“Grant,” Robert said as he put down his coffee cup. “The Slaters know a lot more about the Operation than you’re giving them credit for. They have been here at Pine Gap for two days and been talking with their daughter the whole time.”

“Agent Tanaka, I think, has been keeping them informed the whole time Ripley has been in Japan.”

“Maybe, Grant, but can you explain something to me. Before Swan Song began, someone had Gabrielle Tanaka talk to the Slaters in order to gain their support so that Ripley would volunteer for Swan Song. Can you tell me who authorized her to do that?”

An embarrassing period of silence followed Robert’s question.

“The Slaters knew what their son was doing from the get go. He’s former Army and his wife is no dummy. They understand Operational Security and that their silence is needed for their daughter to survive her mission. When the Slaters entered Pine Gap, they were required to sign forms. They can be prosecuted if they were to ever reveal any classified information they learn about Swan Song,” Robert said to Grant. “By letting the Slaters attend today’s meeting, they remain informed about their daughter’s future. It saves her valuable time by not having to tell them everything. From what Ripley told me last night, we have a handful of days left with her. Do you understand why I invited the Slaters now?”

“Yes, Director, I do.”
 


~*~


 
Chuck woke up on Tuesday morning headache free. After taking a shower, he went downstairs to have breakfast.

Patricia McBride made her son two eggs, toast, and three strips of bacon. “Do you have plans for today?”

“Yes and no, Mum. I’m thinking of going into town and seeing what some of old mates are up to. Is that all right with you?”

“Yes, son, it is. I was going to get some groceries soon, if you want I can drop you off then. Can you wait for me?

Chuck didn’t answer till he swallowed some toast he was eating. “Yes, Mum, of course I can wait, but first I have a little task to do that I’ve been letting slide.” He’d wait until he was outside before he called again, because he didn’t want his mother mooning around telling him how much better he was without her.

Tuesday was a little bit warmer day than Monday had been in Alice Springs. The temperature was hovering around ten degrees Celsius but more important, there was next to no wind.

Chuck still got bundled up anytime he wanted to go outdoors. A few minutes after finishing breakfast, he stepped out of the McBride home.

Chuck was sick of being watched and had grown angry as a result. The reason he went outside was to find his watchers. They weren’t hard to find. A blue sedan with two men seated up front was parked right across the street from the McBride home.

Chuck tapped on the car’s driver side window. It soon began to lower.

“What can I do for you, Mr. McBride?”

“Can you tell me who you are?”

The person Chuck was speaking to promptly got out of the car. On the passenger side of the sedan, the second occupant also climbed out. He was muscular and had a puffy face. He reminded Chuck of a boxer.

“My name is Angus Jones,” The driver said, pleasantly enough, to Chuck as he took out his identification wallet and showed his warrant card. “I’m an officer of Australia’s Federal Police.”

Chuck took time to study the identification belonging to Angus. He then handed it back to the AFP Officer. “Now will you both please bugger off.”

“I can’t do that, Mr. McBride.”

Chuck got right up in Angus face. He even took hold of the jacket the AFP officer was wearing.

“Mr. McBride, you will kindly take your hands off of me now unless you want to be charged with assaulting a police officer,” Angus said in an authoritative tone of voice.

Louis began to edge his way around to the driver’s side of the car. The muscular man was indeed most likely a former boxer. He appeared totally out of sorts wearing a tie and jacket and his moving about was so awkward he made toddlers taking their first steps look like ballet dancers in comparison.

Chuck let go of Angus. “Hiromi isn’t here, so there is nothing to watch!”

“I have to disagree, Mr. McBride. Your wife has many dangerous enemies. Louis and I are here to make sure none of them come looking for her at your Mother’s home.”

“They have never come to Australia before.”

“Mr. McBride, there is always a first time.”

“Is Hiromi still at Pine Gap?” As hard as Chuck tried, he couldn’t stop thinking of his wife. He had his cell phone on in case she tried calling again.

Chuck was still full of anger because of how the first Hiromi was being treated and the deception that been put over on him for almost a year, but he’d already called her once, and knew that he had to call again. The men had told him that she was in danger; maybe she was hurt already, and that’s why she hadn’t returned his call.

Without Hiromi around, Chuck was growing increasingly indecisive. Four years of living with a woman who made most of the decisions the couple faced, made him rudderless and without much purpose on his own. He was just starting to realize how much time he spent every day thinking about and even interacting with her, from calling to arrange lunch sometimes, or sending little presents, to looking forward to the end of the day when they’d be together again. Chuck had always treated women well, unlike some of his mates. All he’d had in the way of parents for many years was his Mum. He had let Hiromi Sato direct his life since the first day he moved in with her.

“I have no information about that, Mr. McBride. Louis and I prefer to keep our surveillance low key. Can we all now go back to our work?”

“All right, I will do that.” Chuck then turned his back to Angus and walked off in a huff.

As he turned the corner behind the garage, he pulled out his cell phone and tried calling again. ‘Damn! Her phone was off again!’ “Hello, Hiromi, please give me a call as soon as you hear this. I’ve just talked to some policemen and they think you’re in danger. Please call.”
 


~*~


 
Midori and Stuart Slater went to the breakfast Hiromi was having with FBI Director Robert Mueller. An Australian enlisted man, after checking their name tags, instructed the couple where they would sit in the meeting room.

Including the Slaters, fifteen people would be present for the Swan Song meeting/breakfast. There was sufficient room for everyone to sit at the meeting table.

Hiromi came in shortly after her parents did. Audrey Grasso would be seated next to her throughout the meeting.

A couple of stewards came in and put food on the table for everyone. Napkins, utensils, placemats plus cream and sugar had been put out earlier.

“Are you sure that is enough for you, Rebecca?” Midori asked her daughter. Hiromi was having one poached egg on a English muffin plus some sausage to eat.

“I think so, Mom. If not I’ll grab some of those croissants.” The stewards had placed a tray of croissants and Danish in the middle of the meeting table.

Robert and Grant Williamson were the last to arrive. “I believe everyone is now here.”

For the first part of breakfast, no official talking took place. Robert Mueller did speak for a few moments. “Welcome to the Swan Song committee, Mr. and Mrs. Slater.”

Stuart replied back for both himself and his wife. “It is an honor for us to meet you, Sir, and thank you for allowing us to be here.”

“Your daughter is very brave.”

“I know,” Midori said. “My husband and I are very proud of Rebecca. She’s a good soldier, and loves her country.”

Hiromi was indeed still hungry after eating every scrap of food on her breakfast plate. To satisfy her stomach, she grabbed one of the croissants.

She was still eating it when Robert Mueller decided to change the group breakfast into a meeting. “Agent Ripley, when you’re finished eating that croissant, could you please tell everyone in the room about the call you got from Japan next night.”

Hiromi began by telling everyone about Ryuku Kinjoh’s status within the Watanabe Yakuza. “She was a very close friend of Beancounter and I too had a good relationship with her. I would consider anything Ryuku told me as being very reliable.”

“What did you discuss last night?”

“As many of us know, a fire took place in Yokohama on Sunday night. The club was Watanabe owned and over thirty people died.”

Inspector Yoshida spoke up. “A colleague of mine in Yokohama confirms what Agent Ripley just said.”

“I was told the fire was started by a bomb thrown by a member of the Inagawa-kai. The Inagawas are a rival Yakuza who is currently fighting a war with the Watanabes.”

“One of those killed in the fire was a Watanabe shareigashira named Katsuaki Koike. He was a very wise Yakuza who was heavily depended on by the Watanabe leadership. His death at this time can be considered very damaging. Particularly to Dai Hashimoto who is in the process of becoming the next Oyabun of the Watanabe Yakuza.”

Grant Williamson had a question. “Isn’t Keiji Watanabe still leading the family?”

“He is supposed to still be Oyabun till September 1st, but Dai has assumed almost total command now. If you allow me, Sir, I will get back to why Keiji’s power is diminishing in a little bit.”

“Dai Hashimoto has become heavily burdened with responsibilities in recent days. He has normally been the family’s enforcer but now has to make management and financial decisions. A series of events have left him with few people he can turn to for either advice or help.”

“The Watanabe shareigashiras are a productive group as a whole, but most are young and don’t possess a broad spectrum of knowledge in anything other than the narrow scope of their own responsibilities. Ryuku Kinjoh, is now running Watanabe Trucking one of the family’s most productive business ventures. She has no prior experience at this level of management. Ryuku, who herself needs help to run a trucking company, is not able to advise Dai Hashimoto on business matters either.”

“Two people who in normal circumstances would be able to advise Dai Hashimoto are Keiji Watanabe and senior shareigashira Hideichi Ishimoto. It came to my attention less than two weeks ago that Keiji has prostate cancer and he is refusing to undergo treatment for it. Under those circumstances, his doctor predicts he has less than a year to live.”

Dr. Wagner spoke up. “Why doesn’t Keiji Watanabe follow his doctor’s recommendations?”

“Keiji Watanabe is a stubborn man. He adheres to a series of strict routines that he only rarely allows to be changed. Also he fears the weakness that will come if he were to undergo chemo and radiation treatments.”

“As a result of Keiji’s illness, his actions have become less rational and more unpredictable. I have reason to suspect he was behind the bomb that Hong Kong Customs found among my belongings last week. Keiji is very old school Yakuza and traditional in his thinking. He believes women should have little Yakuza power and I’m a threat to that belief.”

Greg Pritchard of the United States Justice Department had a question. “Wasn’t Keiji the person who gave his granddaughter all her power within his Yakuza?”

“Yes and no, Sir. It…”

Robert Mueller interrupted Hiromi. “Mr. Pritchard, exactly why certain past decisions were made by the Watanabes while interesting, isn’t what we’re here to talk about at today’s meeting. Agent Ripley has just a short amount of time left here at Pine Gap. We need to put every minute of it to productive use. Captain, you may continue telling us why Keiji Watanabe sees you as a threat at this time.”

“Thank you, Director. I’m a threat to the elderly Oyabun because I don’t mesh with his future plans for the Watanabes.”

“Watanabe-san must think he will live forever,” Maurice Gao remarked.

“Yes, Inspector, Keiji thinks he can still control the family even after he is put six feet under, and even his recent decisions have been erratic at the best of times, and often disruptive. That should tells everyone here all they need to know about the present state of his mental faculties. I’m not a psychiatrist, but I think in layman’s terms we might describe him as ‘nutty as a bedbug,’ although that may reflect unfavorably on bedbugs.”

“Dai Hashimoto can’t turn to Keiji for advice. Hideichi Ishimoto isn’t of much use to him either because that shareigashira is very closely allied to Keiji.”

“The message I received from Ryuku last night is that Dai is in desperate need of help. He is working at this moment for my safe return to Yokohama no later than Wednesday of next week.”

Debriefer Fred Wenz spoke up. “When will you have to leave Pine Gap?”

“Before I answer your question Mr. Wenz, I have to tell why Wednesday of next week is so important. Some of the committee may recall how Keiji Watanabe had a big meeting planned for next Saturday at his Mt. Fuji home. Ryuku Kinjoh has informed me that the meeting has been postponed to a week from this Wednesday.”

“That isn’t all that Ryuku-san told me. The Watanabes, after learning Japanese Defense Forces were preparing an attack on Keiji Watanabe’s home, have moved the elderly Oyabun to a safer location.

“How did they find out about the JSDF’s plans?” Grant asked.

“I don’t really know, and frankly, Sir, it really doesn’t matter. Keiji Watanabe has flown the coop.”

“Justice Minister Hatoyama and that Colonel in Japan are going to love hearing about this,” Grant said in a sarcastic tone of voice.

“I think this news actually improves our chances of getting a continuation of Swan Song approved,” Gabrielle remarked.

Robert Mueller nodded his head. “I think the committee has a strong chance of getting Agent Ripley’s legal issues resolved very quickly but that still leaves us with the matter of Charles McBride.”

“I tried calling my husband last night. His cell phone was turned off and when I attempted calling Chuck at his mother’s home, Mrs. McBride said neither she nor her son ever wanted to speak to me again.”

Midori Slater sensed the pain in her daughter’s last words. Her heart was already weeping for Rebecca.

“Last night I drafted a letter to Chuck. It is my hope he will reply to it. I gave it to Gabrielle Tanaka for mailing.

“The letter will be delivered to the McBride home this morning,” Gabrielle explained. “I have it with me, and planned to send it out by special courier at the end of this meeting.”

“If McBride doesn’t attempt to make contact with Ripley by the end of tomorrow, I think we can safely assume he is now uninterested in his wife,” Grant said.

Hiromi agreed with Grant but the Deputy Director’s statement made her come close to tears. It was a reminder that Chuck might be gone for good.

Superintendant Vincent Carey of the Australia Federal Police spoke. “Mr. McBride is still at his mother’s home. Yesterday he made two visits to a law office in Alice. I think we shall be hearing from him or his solicitor very soon.”

Director Mueller added, “And he’ll be hearing from us. I want that letter handed to him personally, and I want a reply, because we have to start work immediately on his possible replacement if he’s taken himself outside the picture. I’d be just as happy to have a trained agent in his place in any case, but realize that Ripley will be happier if he returns to the marital bed.”

Despite the Director’s comment, Hiromi remained composed as she switched back to talking about Ryuku Kinjoh’s phone call. “I think Dai Hashimoto will use the meeting next week not just to re-install me as part of the Watanabe leadership but also to squash any people who oppose either him or me.”

“Are you totally sure of that, Captain?” Robert asked.

“Director, I’d be a fool if I said there was no danger in me going back to Japan. Dai Hashimoto could be plotting a double cross, but everything I have heard from him and others tell me otherwise.”

“The danger the Inagawas pose to Agent Ripley cannot be forgotten,” Inspector Yoshida said. “They may make another attempt on her life.”

“You are right, Inspector. That risk needs to be lessened, but I have no idea how it can be done.”

“Could Dai step aside and let you assume the position of Oyabun?” Maurice Gao asked.

“It is remotely possible, Inspector, but I think it goes too strongly against Yakuza and Japanese tradition. If it were made so, I believe I would be a target for assassination, either by disaffected members of the Watanabes or by rival gangs, who might also be offended by a woman in charge of ‘men’s business,’ since the Yakuza in general are very conservative.”

Maurice gently nodded his head. He then recalled the recent discussions of allowing female members of Japan’s Imperial House to become Empress. Until just recently, the Yamato Dynasty lacked a young male heir.

Many Japanese favored changes to the line of succession, but at the same time nobody was rushing to take action. The culture of Japan can change at a very slow pace.

“What I think will occur is that Dai will set up me in up in a position where I will have essentially unlimited power within the Watanabe organization but will be his ‘advisor’ while he holds the nominal title of Oyabun. This will allow everyone to save face, and Dai is an obviously powerful and masculine man. There will, I think, be no objection. He will be the front man for me, while I work behind the scenes, as women are still expected to do among the older generation in Japan, at least.”

No one at the table disagreed with what Hiromi said.

“Ryuku Kinjoh said she would call me back on Wednesday at the same time we talked yesterday. She will be giving me regular updates.”

“Did Kinjoh ask where you were in Australia?” Superintendant Carey asked.

“Yes, Superintendant, she did. I said I was in Alice. I also told Ryuku-san that I would visit other places in Australia beginning tomorrow, but I didn’t say specifically where. I also mentioned I had bank business to attend to in Sydney on Monday. Ryuku-san seemed satisfied with those answers.”

Fred Wenz took a moment to comment. “We will have to finish the Captain’s debriefing no later than Sunday then,”

“Yes, Mr. Wenz, that is correct,” Robert replied.

Gabrielle spoke up. “The Captain saw three doctors last night. Doctors Maloney and Fuller are almost prepared to sign off on her being physically fit to continue Swan Song. Before doing so, they wanted to see Captain Slater’s bloodwork results.”

Dr. Wagner spoke up. “We will have the results no later than tomorrow.”

Hiromi turned to Gabrielle. “What did my psychiatrist say?”

“Dr. Ellner still wants to see you tonight.”

“Captain, did you inform Ryuku Kinjoh that you were pregnant?” Robert asked.

“Yes, I did, Sir. Ryuku-san congratulated me and said she would share my news with Dai Hashimoto. I don’t think it will change his plans for me but I should know more tomorrow night.” She thought for a few seconds. “In fact, my pregnancy would be a perfect excuse for him to tell me to stay in Australia, if all he wanted was to silence me, since I would ordinarily be expected to assume the role of a housewife and mother, especially since the birth rate in Japan is so low. I had one Japanese doctor berate me for even thinking about taking birth control pills during an annual examination. The fact that he still wants me to come is, I think, proof positive that he needs me, and knows that he needs me.”

“The committee will have to begin preparing at once for Ripley’s departure for Sydney next Sunday and her return to Japan sometime early next week. Does anyone disagree?” Robert asked.

Nobody in the room voiced a dissenting opinion.

By this time everyone was through eating breakfast. The stewards were summoned back to the room to take away all the food trays.

“Mr. and Mrs Slater,” Robert said. “The committee will be meeting in private session from this point on. It was nice meeting both of you.”

“Thank you, Sir.” Stuart Slater said as he and Midori got up out of their seats.

Hiromi spoke to her parents as they walked by her. “Mom, Dad, I will talk to you at lunch time.”

Superintendant Carey, Grant Williamson, Gabrielle, and Fred Wenz also left the room. Before Fred left, Robert told the debriefer that Ripley would be available for more questions in approximately one hour’s time.

“Am I being allowed to stay, Sir?” Air Force Major Audrey Grasso asked Robert Mueller

“Yes, Major, you can remain behind if you wish.”

Grant Williamson came back in the room seconds after the Stewards departed “Justice Minister Hatoyama is on his way to Pine Gap as we speak.”

“Will I be meeting with him, Sir?” Hiromi asked. Gabrielle came back into the room right at that moment.

“No, Captain. Your JAG lawyer and I will be meeting with the Minister. You will see the debriefers as soon as we’re done here.”

“I will do as you order, Sir.”

Gabrielle spoke up. “Director, Ripley’s letter to Chuck McBride has been given to a courier. He or she will be leaving for Alice shortly.”

“Thank you, Agent Tanaka.” Gabrielle then went back to her seat.

“Director if it’s all right, I am going to turn my cell phone on.”

“Go ahead, Captain.” Hiromi turned her cell phone on and placed it on the table in front of her.

“Captain, a new Swan Song plan is being drawn up. I’m going to begin outlining it in just a little bit but I wanted to get a few matters out of the way first. The United States Government will not allow you to be prosecuted for the murder of Agent Chrysanthemum.”

“Thank you, Sir.”

In addition, we’ll have to have a reply from Mr. McBride very soon. Agent Tanaka has volunteered to undergo Dr. Wagner’s process if it becomes necessary to replace him, but we’ll need sufficient lead time for her to undergo the process safely, become acclimated to her new body, and rejoin you here for the flight to Sydney.”

Dr. Wagner spoke up. “Director, I can’t have Agent Tanaka ready by that time. The earliest I will able to treat her is next Sunday and as you know a patient of mine don’t wake till about thirty hours later.”

“I most likely wouldn’t be available to leave Detrick till Wednesday of next week. That is the same day the Watanabe meeting is scheduled,” Gabrielle said

Hiromi spoke up. “Director I can go to Japan on my own and Chuck follow a few days behind me. I think that would even work better, Dai and the Watanabes will have a lot of Yakuza business to discuss with me upon my arrival in Yokohama. As we all know it is tense time up there right now. The Watanabes may be more comfortable if Chuck isn’t around for the first few days.”

“I concur with what Ripley just said. She might be better off if she is unaccompanied when first arriving Yokohama,” Inspector Yoshida added.

“All right then,” Robert said. He was also thinking of using Lt. DW Walters to replace Chuck and Gabrielle to take over from Grant. “Dr. Wagner, Inspector Yoshida, Agent Tanaka, Inspector Gao, I will need to speak to the all of you together this afternoon.”

“I am available anytime you need me, Director,” Dr. Wagner replied.

Robert got the meeting back on track. “Captain, when Dr. Wagner is finished, a replacement Chuck will be back at your side.”

Hiromi glanced over to Gabby and nodded. “I understand that, Sir, but I hope Chuck will come through for us. I trust Agent Tanaka to watch my back, but I’d prefer that she was a little ways behind me when she does.” She smiled, and there was a general stir of amusement, which passed quickly when the Director cleared his throat.

“Scott Avery and Debra Dudley say they made some interesting discoveries in your computer files. When Minister Hatoyama is shown what was found, I think the Japanese will abandon all thought of prosecuting you. Ms. Dudley, you may now tell the committee about those financial documents.”

After much consideration, FBI Director Robert Mueller had decided to throw the full weight of the FBI behind Hiromi’s defense. Robert hadn’t taken this unusual step just because Agent Ripley was facing an unfair prosecution, but because he believed a continued Swan Song group had unlimited potential for causing immense damage to organized crime along the Pacific Rim, which included the United States.

At the same time Robert had given Scott Avery instructions to access Gabrielle Tanaka’s email account, he also ordered the FBI computer expert to study certain Watanabe Yakuza financial records. Scott, working with Debra Dudley, had discovered just the type of information Robert Mueller had been looking for.

Debra Dudley stood up before speaking. “Captain, with the help of Mr. Avery I have been studying the Watanabe financial records you gave to the committee. One of the FBI’s first areas of interest was what elected officials and government employees were on the Watanabe payroll.”

“I am familiar with those files, Ms. Dudley. Do you or Mr. Avery have questions for me?

The meeting room had a large wall monitor and it had recently been turned on. Up to this time the screen had been blank.

Debra Dudley walked over to the monitor and picked up a remote control from the tray below the screen. As she worked the controls, some Watanabe financial records appeared. “Are you familiar with these, Captain?”

“Yes, I am. That is a list of Japanese Officials who used to be paid bribes from a money pool set up by seven of Japan’s Yakuzas. One of pool members is the Watanabe Yakuza.”

Grant had a question. “Why were the bribe payments stopped?”

“The reasons vary, Sir,” Hiromi explained. “Sometimes the people taking the bribes asked that they be stopped. Sometimes the Yakuzas stop the payments. That usually happens if the people taking the bribes aren’t living up to their promises. In other cases people retire or Politicians get rejected at the polls by voters.”

“Aren’t those people outed to the police or have drastic actions taken against them?”

“Not necessarily, Sir, but those things do happen sometimes. In my time with the Watanabes I think there were four officials that were cut off. Nothing was done to any of them.”

Debra Dudley spoke up again. “Mr. Avery matched the names against a Japanese database we have. Two interesting names came up.”

A computerized ledger appeared on the meeting room monitor. It contained information about a Cayman Islands Bank account in which over 300,000 U.S. Dollars had been paid into it since 2001. The owner of the account was Kimochi Uetake.

“Is that name familiar to you, Captain?” Grant Williamson asked.

“No, Sir, it isn’t.”

“Don’t worry Captain, there aren’t a great many people who know who Mr. Uetake is,” Robert said.

Inspector Yoshida spoke up next. In his off time the Yokohama policeman followed his country’s politics more than was the norm for most Japanese Citizens. “I know who Uetake-san is, Director.”

“Be patient, Inspector, we have another ledger to show Captain Slater.”

The second ledger then appeared on the monitor. It told about a Swiss bank account which had seen over 1.8 million US Dollars paid into it over a seven year period beginning in 1999. Its owner was named Fukushiro Nukaga.

“I do know who Fukushiro Nukaga is,” Hiromi admitted to the Swan Song committee.

Gabrielle rose from her chair. “Director, if you will excuse me, I have a task to do.”

“Go ahead, Agent Tanaka,” Robert replied.
 


~*~


 
Australian Air Force Sergeant Jennifer Leighton was given the task of bringing Hiromi’s letter to Chuck to the home of Patricia McBride by Agent Gabrielle Tanaka. The envelope it was in had postage with an Alice Springs postal direction already applied to it, so evidently it had been rescued from the mailbag.

Jennifer had very little difficulty finding the McBride home. While Alice was the second largest town in the Northern Territory, that didn’t mean it was huge by any means. In fact, the entire population wouldn’t half fill Yankee Stadium back in the States. She parked her car directly across the street from the address. As soon as the road was clear, Jennifer crossed the street, walked up to the door, and knocked on it.

After a decent interval, she knocked again. There didn’t seem to be anyone home. She looked over to the driveway and didn’t see a car, so she walked back to her pool car and settled in for a wait. She wished to hell she’d stopped at a store and bought a few magazines to read, maybe a liter or two of water as well. Thank God it wasn’t hot.
 


~*~


 
To be continued in Part Twenty Nine