Harry turned away to deal with Willie and DeGeorge. Al DeGeorge was the correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor and as stir-crazy as a zoo bear. Willie Staub was a young German businessman headed home from China via Japan and looked like an innocent among thieves.
DeGeorge was saying, "Harry runs a pool on when war will start between America and Japan, Tokyo time. Say there's even military action. The Philippines are on our side of the dateline, Hawaii's a day behind, doesn't matter, has to be Tokyo time. There's got to be at least ten thousand yen in there now. Of course, the house -- that's Harry -- takes five percent. Harry would take five percent on the apocalypse. Today's the fifth. Hell, Willie, you've still got most of December. I got Christmas Day."
"You're a sentimentalist," said Harry.
"The only problem," DeGeorge said, "is that if we're still here when the war begins, we're fucked. No way out." He directed a baleful gaze at Harry. "Rumor is, they're going to get Nippon Air flying again. Put on a show with champagne, cute air hostesses and photographers, and fly some foreign bigwigs to Hong Kong as if everything is absolutely normal. My question is, who gets on that plane?" He turned to Willie. "The embassy sent special-delivery letters telling all Americans to leave. But no, we waited to see what Harry would do. We figured the boat Harry takes, that's the last boat out. Now all the boats are gone and we're down to a single plane."
"I don't know anything about this," Willie said. "I just got here."
"The Nazis must have told you to stay away from Harry."
"I am a Nazi."
"Willie thinks he's a Nazi," Harry told DeGeorge. "Anyway, don't you have a job to do? Didn't you tell me that the first man who calls the war can pick up a Pulitzer?"
"There's no point in staying if I can't do my job. No one will be interviewed by an American. I can't even get them on the telephone because the Japs say all calls have to be in Japanese. Who speaks Japanese?"
Willie told Harry, "My embassy said you were engaged in sharp practices and I should stay away from you."
"Good advice," said Harry.
"But they don't want me, either. I told them about my China report."
"What report?" DeGeorge asked.
Harry said, "Willie was factory manager for Deutsche-Fon in China. He saw a lot."
DeGeorge lowered his voice. "Jap atrocities? Rape of Nanking?"
"Exactly," Willie said.
"Not in Berlin. Germans should know these things."
"It was just one of those things..." Michiko hugged herself as if holding someone tight, her face conveying a private reverie that men in the Happy Paris yearned to join. The noise level was high because the Japanese loved to drink and got drunk fast and flirted with the waitresses even as they craved Michiko. Kimi batted her eyes at Willie, who had the golden looks of Gary Cooper and displayed a wounded Cooperish look when people disappointed him.
"I don't think the German people are interested in atrocities," Harry said. "There's been a lot going on there that you haven't heard about in the hinterlands of Asia."
"But Germany is winning the war."
"Maybe. You should probably keep your nose clean and stay away from me."
"You're the only person I know in Tokyo. Also I had to show you something." Willie pulled a folded newspaper from his jacket, but Harry was distracted by a customer who grabbed Haruko and planted her on his lap while she squirmed like a satin worm. This wasn't a rare occurrence; she had many admirers.
Harry joined them. "Haruko, go wait on tables. Matsu, let her go."
"He's just playful," Haruko said.
Copyright © 2002 by Titanic Productions
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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