In fact, my recent appearance at the yakuza's gym had nothing to do with a company transfer--it was more like a business trip. After all, I was in Tokyo just to do a job. When the job was finished, I would leave. I'd done some things to generate animosity when I'd been living here, and the relevant parties might still be looking for me, even after I'd been away for a year, so a short stay was all I could sensibly afford.
Tatsu had given me a dossier on the yakuza a month earlier, when he'd found me and persuaded me to take the job. From the contents, I would have concluded that the target was just mob muscle, but I knew he must be more than that if Tatsu wanted him eliminated. I hadn't asked. I only wanted the particulars that would help me get close. The rest was irrelevant.
The dossier had included the yakuza's cell phone number. I had fed it to Harry, who, compulsive hacker that he was, had long since penetrated the cellular network control centers of Japan's three telco providers. Harry's computers were monitoring the movements of the yakuza's cell phone within the network. Any time the phone got picked up by the tower that covered the area around the yakuza's health club, Harry paged me.
Tonight, the page had come at just after eight o'clock, while I was reading in my room at the New Otani hotel in Akasaka-Mitsuke. The club closed at eight, I knew, so if the yakuza was working out there after hours there was a good possibility he'd be alone. What I'd been waiting for.
My workout gear was already in a bag, and I was out the door within minutes. I caught a cab a slight distance from the hotel, not wanting a doorman to hear or remember where I might be going, and five minutes later I exited at the corner of Roppongi-dori and Gaienhigashi-dori in Roppongi. I hated to use such a direct route because doing so afforded me limited opportunity to ensure that I wasn't being followed, but I had only a little time to pull this off the way I'd planned, and I decided it was worth the risk.
I had been watching the yakuza for over a month now, and knew his routines. I'd learned that he liked to vary the times of his workouts, sometimes arriving at the gym early in the morning, sometimes at night. Probably he assumed the resulting unpredictability would make him hard to get to.
He was half right. Unpredictability is the key to being a hard target, but the concept applies to both time and place. Half-measures like this guy's will protect you from some of the people some of the time, but they won't save you for long from someone like me.
Strange, how people can take adequate, even strong security measures in some respects, while leaving themselves vulnerable in others. Like double-locking the front door and leaving the windows wide open.
Sometimes the phenomenon is caused by fear. Fear not so much of the requirements, but rather of the consequences of life as a hard target. Seriously protecting yourself calls for the annihilation of ties with society, ties that most people need the way they need oxygen. You give up friends, family, romance. You walk through the world like a ghost, detached from the living around you. If you were to die in, say, a bus accident, you'd wind up buried in an obscure municipal graveyard, just another John Doe, no flowers, no mourners, hell, no mourning. It's natural, probably even desirable, to be afraid of all this.
Other times there's a form of denial at work. Circuitous routes, extensive security checks, an ongoing internal dialogue consisting of If I were trying to get to me, how would I do it? all require a deep acceptance of the notion that there are people out there who have both the motive and the means to cut short your time on Earth. This notion is innately uncomfortable for the human psyche, so much so that it produces enormous stress even for soldiers in battle. A lot of guys, the first time they come under close-range fire, they're shocked. "Why's he trying to kill me?" they're asking themselves. "What did I ever do to him?"
From Hard Rain: A John Rain Novel by Barry Eisler, copyright © 2003 Barry Eisler, published by G.P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher.
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