"Okay," he said, breaking the silence. "You know to reach out to me if you need anything. Anything at all, okay?"
Benny tries to run me like an intelligence asset. Once he even suggested a face-to-face meeting. I told him if we met face-to-face I'd be there to kill him, so maybe we should skip it. He laughed, but we never did have that meeting.
"There's only one thing I need," I said, reminding him of the money.
"By tomorrow, like always."
"Good enough." I hung up, automatically wiping down the receiver and keys on the remote possibility that they had traced the call and would send someone to try for prints. If they had access to Vietnam-era military records, and I assumed they did, they would get a match for John Rain, and I didn't want them to know that the same guy they had known over twenty years ago when I first came back to Japan was now their mystery freelancer.
I was working with the CIA at the time, a legacy of my Vietnam contacts, making sure the agency's "support funds" were reaching the right recipients in the governing party, which even back then was the LDP. The agency was running a secret program to support conservative political elements, part of the U.S. government's anti-Communist policies and a natural extension of relationships that had developed during the postwar occupation, and the LDP was more than happy to play the role in exchange for the cash.
I was really just a bagman, but I had a nice rapport with one of the recipients of Uncle Sam's largesse, a fellow named Miyamoto. One of Miyamoto's associates, miffed at what he felt was a too-small share of the money, threatened to blow the whistle if he didn't receive more. Miyamoto was exasperated; the associate had used this tactic before and had gotten a bump-up as a result. Now he was just being greedy. Miyamoto asked me if I could do anything about this guy, for $50,000, "no questions asked."
The offer interested me, but I wanted to make sure I was protected. I told Miyamoto I couldn't do anything myself, but I could put him in touch with someone who might be able to help.
That someone became my alter ego, and over time, I took steps to erase the footprints of the real John Rain. Among other things, I no longer use my birth name or anything connected with it, and I've had surgery to give my somewhat stunted epicanthic folds a more complete Japanese appearance. I wear my hair longer now, as well, in contrast to the brush cut I favored back then. And wire-rim glasses, a concession to age and its consequences, give me a bookish air that is entirely unlike the intense soldier's countenance of my past. Today I look more like a Japanese academic than the half-breed warrior I once was. I haven't seen any of my contacts from my bagman days in over twenty years, and I steer scrupulously clear of the agency. After the number they did on me and Crazy Jake in Bu Dop, I was more than happy to shake them out of my life.
Miyamoto had put me in touch with Benny, who worked with people in the LDP who had problems like Miyamoto's, problems that I could solve. For a while I worked for both of them, but Miyamoto retired about ten years ago and died peacefully in his bed not long thereafter. Since then Benny's been my best client. I do three or four jobs a year for him and whoever in the LDP he fronts for, charging the yen equivalent of about $100k per. Sounds like a lot, I know, but there's overhead: equipment, multiple residences, a real but perpetually money-losing consulting operation that provides me with tax records and other means of legitimacy.
Benny. I wondered whether he knew anything about what had happened on the train. The image of the stranger rifling through the slumped Kawamura's pockets was as distracting as a small seed caught in my teeth, and I returned to it again and again, hoping for some insight. A coincidence? Maybe the guy had been looking for identification. Not the most productive treatment for someone who is going blue from lack of oxygen, but people without training don't always act rationally under stress, and the first time you see someone dying right in front of you it is stressful. Or he could have been Kawamura's contact, on the train for some kind of exchange. Maybe that was their arrangement, a moving exchange on a crowded train. Kawamura calls the contact from Shibuya just before boarding the train, says, "I'm in the third-to-last car, leaving the station now," and the contact knows where to board as the train pulls into Yoyogi Station. Sure, maybe.
Copyright © 2002 by Barry Eisler. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher, Putnam.
Blood at the Root
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