Actually, the little coincidences happen frequently in my line of work. They start automatically when you become a student of human behavior--when you start following the average person as he goes about his average day, listening to his conversations, learning his habits. The smooth shapes you take for granted from a distance can look unconnected and bizarre under close scrutiny, like the fibers of cloth observed under a microscope.
Some of the targets I take on are involved in subterranean dealings, and the coincidence factor is especially high. I've followed subjects who turned out to be under simultaneous police surveillance: one of the reasons that my countersurveillance skills have to be as dead subtle as they are. Mistresses are a frequent theme, and sometimes even second families. One subject I was preparing to take out as I followed him down the subway platform surprised the hell out of me by throwing himself in front of the train, saving me the trouble. The client was delighted, and mystified at how I was able to get it to look like a suicide on a crowded train platform.
It felt like Benny knew something, though, and that feeling made it hard to put this little coincidence aside. If I had some way of confirming that he'd broken one of my three rules by putting a B-team on Kawamura, I'd find him and he would pay the price. But there was no obvious way to acquire that confirmation. I'd have to put this one aside, maybe mentally label it "pending" to make myself feel better.
The money appeared the next day, as Benny had promised, and the next nine days were quiet.
On the tenth day, I got a call from Harry. He told me it was my friend Koichiro, he was going to be at Galerie Coupe Chou in Shinjuku on Tuesday at eight with some friends, I should come by if I had time. I told him that sounded great and would try to make it. I knew to count back five listings in the restaurants section of the Tokyo City Source yellow pages, making our meeting place Las Chicas, and to subtract five days from the date and five hours from the time.
I like Las Chicas for meetings because almost everyone approaches it from Aoyama-dori, making the people coming from the other direction the ones to watch, and because people have to show themselves coming across a little patio before reaching the entrance. The place is surrounded by twisting alleys that snake off in a dozen different directions, offering no choke points where someone could set up and wait. I know those alleys well, as I make it my business to know the layout of any area where I spend a lot of time. I was confident that anyone unwanted would have a hard time getting close to me there.
The food and the ambience are good, too. Both the menu and the people represent a fusion of East and West: Indian jeera rice and Belgian chocolate, a raven-haired beauty of high-cheeked Mongolian ancestry next to a blonde straight out of the fjords, a polyglot of languages and accents. Somehow Las Chicas manages to be eternally hip and entirely comfortable with itself, both at the same time.
I got to the restaurant two hours early and waited, sipping one of the chai lattes for which the restaurant is justifiably celebrated. You never want to be the last one to arrive at a meeting. It's impolite. And it decreases your chances of being the one to leave.
At a little before three I spotted Harry coming up the street. He didn't see me until he was inside.
"Always sitting with your back to the wall," he said, walking over.
"I like the view," I answered, deadpan. Most people pay zero attention to these things, but I'd taught him that it's something to be aware of when you walk into a place. The people with their backs to the door are the civilians; the ones in the strategic seats could be people with some street sense or some training, people who might deserve a little more attention.
Copyright © 2002 by Barry Eisler. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher, Putnam.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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