Chapter 1 Prologue: BLOOD FOR BLOOD

Tokyo Japan, March 1st, 9:00 p.m. local time.

Hideki Hideyoshi, in spite of being happily married, spent nearly four nights a week at this particular house of ill repute in Japan’s famous red light district in Shinjuko Tokyo. The district, now a popular tourist destination, had originally been named after a kabuki theater called the Kabukichō, but, as luck would have it, the funding ran out, and the name stuck. Now, the area was home to over three thousand bars, nightclubs, love hotels, and massage parlors, and with those kinds of enterprises came a lot of organized criminal gangs. In Japan, they were called yakuza, and, even after a government crackdown in 2004, they continued to thrive, especially when they were the source of the very sought-after commodity of young girls. Many of them came from China, where people, like housewares, were cheap, and desperate families sold their offspring into virtual slavery. This was also the origin of the very beautiful young girl in Hideki’s private room, and, while no one even knew her real name, the yakuza who ran the club called her Maru, which meant purity.

     Hideki liked them young and helpless, and his anticipation grew as he connected the girl’s leg cuffs to rings in the floor. She was now forced to stand spread legged as he slipped hand cuffs on her wrists and attached them to a metal shackle which was in turn connected to the end of a rope that ran through a pulley system on the ceiling. He smiled and started pulling, stopping only when her arms were stretched well over her head. Maru started to cry, but her tears only made Hideki more excited, as he liked it when they were afraid of him. He tied off the rope on the nearby wall cleat then stepped forward and peeled back her kimono to reveal her tender young flesh. Management really had outdone themselves this time, Hideki thought to himself. Maru was beautiful, her skin like porcelain, and there wasn’t a single blemish to mar her youthful perfection. He ran his hands over her breasts then gave her nipples a little pinch before venturing down to her erogenous zone. She stared at him with her eyes wide in fear, and, as he gazed back at her with his maniacally lascivious expression, he had to wipe a tiny swath of drool from his lower lip. He stepped away from Maru and went to the accessory wall to grab a small riding crop before returning and running the tip gently over her body. She tried to slink away, but her confinement only allowed her the ability to twist and squirm—though neither would hinder Hideki’s assault.

     “Stay still,” he said, using the riding crop to strike her thigh.

     She called out in pain, but her cry fell on deaf ears, for this room was completely sound proof and reserved for only the most esteemed customers such as Hideki, who was a senior vice president of Hiroto Industries. Hiroto was also one of Japan’s three largest corporations, and Hideki was one of only four potential people in line to eventually become president and CEO. He had worked hard, though also ruthlessly, to achieve his esteemed position, and tonight was particularly special, and he was here to celebrate that he had managed a major windfall at his company that would very likely give him the prestige he needed to move ahead of his colleagues.

     So, now, he couldn’t help but feel exhilarated, and he was already hard as he unzipped his pants and began pleasuring himself—all the while gazing at the struggling young girl. Her misery was an aphrodisiac, and he smiled appreciatively at the sight of her bound and helpless body as he moved forward and began rubbing the tip of his penis up and down over the opening of her vagina. Maru let loose a whimper, but it only served to increase Hideki’s desire.

     “Go ahead and scream. No one can hear you but me,” he said, watching as the girl’s reactions became more desperate.

     Hideki was wrong, however, for there was someone else who could hear, and she just happened to be in the observation room behind the one-way mirror only a few steps away. The room had been created so that management could keep track of certain clients, and sometimes they even filmed their escapades in the event they wanted to make a little extra money through bribery and extortion. At the moment it was occupied by a woman known only as Sakura, or the cherry blossom. She was astonishingly beautiful, with smooth skin and the delicate asian features of her Japanese ancestry, and tonight she had chosen to wear a tight red silk dress that clung to her body like a second skin and showed off every inch of her curvaceous figure. She was also wearing her long, dark hair down, and it was hanging over her shoulders like a black silken curtain.

She left the viewing area and walked around to the entrance of Hideki’s room but paused for a moment to look at herself in a mirror in the hallway. She had arranged a special treat for Hideki and wanted to make sure her makeup was absolutely perfect. Her last task was to slide on a pair of red matching gloves, then she opened the door and stepped inside. Hideki immediately turned, looking angry that someone would dare disturb him before he had finished.

     “How dare you intrude!” he said.

     “So sorry, Mr. Hideyoshi, but tonight we have arranged a special treat for our honored guest,” she said.

     Hideki took a moment to look at her and realized she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, and suddenly Maru was looking a little less enticing.

     “And just what would that be?” he asked.

     “You’ll see,” she said, running her fingers teasingly up the shaft of his hard member.

     She went to the wall and released the rope, allowing Maru’s arms to drop back down. At that point, Sakura undid the young girl’s hands and feet then whispered something in her ear that left her looking oddly surprised. Maru wiped her tears with the sleeve of her kimono and left, and Sakura then turned her attention to Hideki, who was all but about to ejaculate as he stared at her. She reached back and undid the zipper on her dress then let the entire thing slide off and onto the floor. Now she was wearing nothing but the red gloves, thigh high fishnet stockings, and matching red silk thong underwear, and Hideki stared at her, realizing she was perfect in all ways. Her face was exquisite, her body equally so, and best of all were her breasts, which were full and pert and sporting some rather deliciously dark, hard and particularly prominent nipples. He all but leapt upon her and placed his mouth on one of her nipples, but she reached down and grabbed him by the hair and roughly pulled his head free.

     “All in good time, but first, I must pleasure you,” she said.

     She led him over to the center of the room, stripped off his clothes, and cuffed his feet. Next, she placed the cuffs on his wrists then connected them to the ceiling line and went to the wall and began pulling his arms up over his head. He glowed with anticipation, and his member was hard as hell as she came over and picked up the riding crop and dragged the tip up his leg before giving him a little snap on the thigh. She continued running it farther up his body then back down and over his penis, where she gave the tip a gentle nudge.

     “I don’t normally allow a woman to dominate me like this,” he said.

     “I know, which is why this is going to be so special,” she said, as she dropped the crop.

     She knelt before him and took his penis in her hand as she stroked him ever so gently and tauntingly, with her lips hovering only a breath away from the tip. He was all but begging for her to cross the void and deliver the divine pleasure of her ruby red lips, but, just as it looked as though she was finally going to acquiesce, she stood and walked over and opened a drawer in a cabinet that he knew housed various sexual toys. He was curious what devilish treat she had in mind until she pulled one out he had never seen. It was a Wakizashi, a Japanese short sword, and in antiquity it was usually worn in conjunction with the Katana—the long curved sword of the samurai. She stepped closer and drew the blade, and Hideki’s eyes instantly went wide in anticipation and perhaps even a little fear. Japanese bladed weapons were as sharp as razor blades, and Hideki looked unsure as to where this was going. As though she could read his mind, she gently ran the mune, or back of the blade, down his body until reaching his penis which was still hard and now had a tiny droplet of lubrication seeping from the tip. Hideki had never wanted a woman as badly as he wantred Sakura, for she was beautiful and dangerous, and his desire only got worse when she began gently moving the mune back and forth beneath the tip of this penis.

     “Please! I can’t take any more! I must have you!” he said.

     She moved the blade above his belly button and applied just enough pressure to make a tiny cut. He tried to twist his body away but quickly realized, as Maru had only minutes earlier, it was pointless. He was trapped, and this fact began to make him feel anxious.

     “I’m not comfortable anymore. You must release me.”

     Her looked turned serious as she leaned forward and whispered something in his ear. He looked confused for a second, but, as realization sunk in, he started to panic and yell for help.

     “Go ahead and scream. No one can hear you but me,” she said, repeating the same words he had said to Maru.

     Fukushū wa watashi no monodesu, Koguma za,” she said, which translated as revenge is mine, little bear.

     Tears formed in her eyes then she plunged the blade into his abdomen, slicing from right to left before pulling it out and watching as Hideki bled to death. It took him one minute and forty-two seconds to die before she proceeded to wipe off the blade and re-sheath it in its scabbard. She took one final look at the man, wiped her tears, then put on her dress and disappeared from the room.

Chapter 2: A BUSHI IS BORN

Sausalito California, June 1st 9:07 a.m., (three months later).

I was on my second cup of coffee and had just finished breakfast when I felt the unmistakeable pang of a morning movement. I was thinking about grabbing my book, but my doctor had been giving me shit about my shits—namely spending too much time on the pot, which could eventually lead to hemorrhoids. It was kind of like the day my parents told me Santa Claus wasn’t real, except this was far more traumatic, as it affected my cherished daily routine and not just some once yearly holiday. I’d always known there was a sweet spot in terms of the proper timing of a dump, but now I was facing the fact that I had lived too close to the edge and was therefore now going to err on the side of caution. That meant keeping my dump all business.

     Three minutes passed, and it was over. Merry fucking Christmas—not. At least R2-Pee-Poo, my Japanese Toto toilet, wasn’t too emotional about spending less time together. I stepped into the shower, shaved, shampooed, and lathered myself in soap before rinsing and drying off. I realized I hadn’t picked out undergarments for the day and wrapped a towel around my waist before venturing out to my bedroom to grab some boxer briefs and a T-shirt. I heard talking outside and moved to the window and saw a group of asian people coming down the main dock. Lovely—another fucking houseboat tour.

     I slipped back into the bathroom to finish my post shower preparations. I was trying a new feel good deodorant from Tom’s of Maine that the girl at Whole Foods had recommended. It didn’t contain aluminum and had the particularly fresh scent of lemongrass, though only time would tell if it really worked. I applied some to each armpit then moved on to sunblock and cologne. Smelling nice and properly protected from the sun, I headed out to my bedroom to pick out my outfit, and, on a whim, I went to the window to take a quick look outside. The group of Asian tourists were still there, only now they were all looking at my houseboat. Weird. It wasn’t architecturally all that different from the others so why the interest? Oh well, living in a beautiful place meant dealing with people coming to see it.

     I went back and picked out clothes. It was June in Sausalito, and that meant I needed to dress warmly. The mostly fog-less Spring was over and Summer, which was more like Winter, had officially begun. Of course, I could literally drive five miles and the temperature would climb ten degrees—and ten more if I drove another five miles. Marin was a conglomeration of microclimates, and the temperature was dependent upon your proximity to the coast, or, more specifically, the fog. It was, in fact, the combination of unusual weather and certain geographic features that made the nearby wine country in Sonoma and Napa so perfect for growing grapes. Basically, it never got too hot or too cold.

     To combat the chill of summer, I therefore went with pants and a button up shirt that I preferred to wear untucked, as I liked the freedom of movement it allowed as well as the fact that it supported my anti-nine-to-five work and dress ethic. I brushed my teeth and ventured downstairs, feeling a wee bit curious how my day was going to unfold. I was currently in between clients and filling my hours with mundane chores, with todays being to meet with one of the new tenants of my building to discuss putting in a shower. I had no problem with it, but the question was whether to do it on the up and up or the down-low. Going through the city would entail getting permits and approval from the city planner—a feat that required more luck than it took to win the lottery.

     As I headed into the kitchen, I looked out the window and saw the same group of tourists still standing outside. Now this was getting ridiculous. I generally put up with the various houseboat tours because I didn’t like the idea of becoming one of Sausalito’s endlessly whiney residents, but people camping on my doorstep was crossing the line. I therefore went to the front door, stepped outside, and strode over to the crowd and realized only now that they didn’t exactly look like typical tourists. They weren’t wearing the obligatory khaki pants and nylon jackets, and not a single one of them was taking a picture. Instead, they were dressed rather formally in dress slacks and sport coats, and they all seemed to be standing quietly around the man in the middle of the group. He was probably in his sixties, fit, and only had a speckle of grey tarnishing his otherwise jet black hair.

     “Good morning. Can I help you all with something?” I asked.

     The older man smiled and stepped forward.

     “Mr. Finn, I presume?” he said, holding out his hand.

     He had a definite Japanese accent but spoke excellent English. His handshake was good—not too hard, not too soft, and thus far my mysterious visitor seemed like a decent guy.

     “Yes indeed. What brings you to my humble abode?”

     “My name is Isamu Hiroto. I was given your name by a mutual friend—Douglass Matheson.”

     He was referring to Senator Douglass Matheson, and only very good friends didn’t bother to put the word senator in front of his name. Whoever this guy was, he was obviously very important.

     “So, how can I help you?” I asked.

     “I have an unusual situation that requires a very special kind of person.”

     “Well, unusual and special are my middles names.”

     He chuckled, but then his look turned serious.

     “In this case, it’s a matter of life and death,” he said.

     A woman, who had been standing in the front and center of the group, stepped forward. She was probably in her late twenties and very attractive, though there was a hardness in her demeanor that took away from her beauty. It also didn’t help that she wore her hair up in a very tight bun that seemed to pull her face into a taught grimace.

     “This is Suki Katana, my personal assistant and most trusted employee,” he said, referring to the woman.

     She didn’t smile, offer her hand, or do much more than stare menacingly.

     “Nice to meet you, Suki,” I said.

     Her stance changed ever so sightly, and her weight shifted to her back left leg, and if I didn’t know any better, I would swear she was about to throw a punch. Without warning, she suddenly did exactly as I feared, and her left fist came flying straight at my face. I shifted to my right and was barely quick enough to redirect the punch with my right hand before grabbing it with my left. At that point, I rotated my body clockwise and simultaneously pulled her arm and performed an ulna press that forced her down to her knees. I then threw my right leg up and over her arm and wedged her elbow into a fairly uncomfortable hold between my knees then applied just enough force on her joint to get her to tap me twice—the universal Jujitsu signal for ow, that fucking hurts! I released her arm, and she stood and bowed to me, with the hint of a smile on her full, pouty lips.

     “I take it that was a test?” I asked.

     “Yes, I’m sorry, Mr. Finn, but Suki insisted, and, as you may have already gathered, she is an excellent martial artist, having been the national champion in both sparring and kata during all four years of college. This little test was her way of making sure that you were as proficient as we were led to believe.”

     “It’s not the friendliest interview technique, but I suppose it has its purpose, and please call me Tag or Finn.”

     “Well Tag-san, may we come inside and speak?”


     He told the others to stay outside, and they took up residence at the nearby railing, where they remained patiently vigil in deference to their boss. Isamu and Suki then followed me into my houseboat, and we took a seat in my living room, where the two of them sat on the couch while I took the seat directly across from them.

     “Alrighty then, what say you tell me a little about your problem,” I said.

     “Someone has ritualistically killed three of my senior vice presidents, and I am fairly certain my son is likely to be the next target.”

     Japan, unlike the United States had a fairly low incidence of violent crime, but it was oddly subject to its fair share of assassination attempts—many of which were directed at politicians and business rivals. However, in a country with strict gun control, the weapons of choice were fairly creative and made for some rather gruesome murders, and I was therefore intrigued to hear the rest of Isamu’s story.

     “Why do you think your son is the next target?” I asked.

     “Because he is the only remaining senior vice president.”

     “And you haven’t received any kind of threats accompanying the murders?”


     “Interesting, now what do you mean by ritualistic?”

“The police say the forensic evidence shows that all three were killed by a bladed weapon, presumably a katana or wakizashi. I assume you know what those are.”

“I do.”

     The katana was the Samurai’s traditional long sword while the wakizashi was the accompanying short sword. Both were razor sharp and capable of doing a lot of damage to the human body, so whatever happened to his people, it couldn’t have been too pretty.

     “Well, this is where it gets unusual. Each of the victims had been disemboweled by a cut across their abdomens. Usually this kind of wound is self-inflicted—similar to the way a samurai would have committed seppuku in the old days.”

     “That is definitely unusual and ritualistic, but how do you know the wounds weren’t self-inflicted?”

     “Each of the men were found in a state of particular vulnerability.”

     “Meaning they were drunk or drugged?”

     “No, they were bound and utterly helpless.”

     “That’s certainly an interesting twist, but, with all due respect, I’m not sure why you would seek me out for this. Protection is a very specific skill set, and I’m sure you have people back in Japan more suited to the task than I.”

     “Perhaps, but I don’t know who I can trust. I need someone from outside Japan. At the moment, my only trusted confidants are my immediate family and Suki, and, as I said before, you came highly recommended. Douglass told me how you saved his son back in Afghanistan, and, right now, the man I want guarding my son is the man who was able to carry his friend across seven kilometers of enemy territory.”

     “That story has been exaggerated over time.”

     “I read the official after-action report.”

     “Even those can be a little overly glorified if it brings prestige to the unit.”

     “I appreciate your humility, Tag-san, but my son’s life hangs in the balance. I need your help, and time is of the essence.”

     “To be honest, I’m primarily an investigator, and what you need is a professional bodyguard.”

     “No, I need both. I’m not the type of man who sits around and waits for fate to strike. I want to be proactive and find the killer before he or she strikes again.”

     I gazed at Isama and saw in his eyes the look of a man desperately in need of help.

     “How soon do you need me to decide?” I asked.

     “Today. My jet leaves SFO at five this afternoon, and I really hope you will be on it.”

     “I’ll give you my answer by two.”

     Isamu and Suki rose, and I walked them to my front door, and we exchanged a handshake and bid farewell. Once they were gone, I pulled out my iPhone and dialed a very old and very dear friend. His name was Miyamoto Takahashi, but he preferred the anglicized version, Mick. He had been my karate teacher and ethical rudder since the ripe old age of nine, and now he was not only my mentor, but a wise friend, and, being of Japanese ancestry, he was the perfect person to get advice about my latest potential job. After two rings, he answered with his usual cheerful greeting.

     “Ah, hello Grasshopper,” he said, with an exaggerated Asian accent.

     He was Japanese by birth, but he was good with languages and had been here for at least twenty years, so he had practically no trace of an accent. In this instance, however, he was doing it to mimic the character Master Po from the nineteen seventies television show Kung Fu. This also explained the origin of the name Grasshopper, which was the nickname Master Po had for the show’s main character.

     “Hello, Master Po,” I said.

     “What wisdom do you seek from your wise master? Do you have a question about the opposite sex? Perhaps the same sex? You know you can ask me anything.”

     He was also a world class wise-ass with a keen sense of humor and distinct charm with the ladies—something I’d seen on many occasions. Oddly, he was still unmarried in spite of the fact he was a youthful fifty-five years old and maintained a very active dating life.

     “This time I have a question about your home country. Any chance you’re free for lunch and a little chitchat?”

     “Of course I’ll make time for my number one student. Where do you want to meet?”

     “I’ll pick you up and we can eat at Fuken Yu Sushi in San Anselmo.”

     “Sounds good, but drive the Porsche. The last time you showed up in the STi, the neighbors thought you were a gang member and called the police.”

     “Probably the most exciting call the Ross cops have had in quite a while.”

     Ross was amongst Marin County’s oldest and wealthiest cities and didn’t like too much riffraff on their fair streets.

     “Not probably. More like absolutely. I’ll see you in a few, Grasshopper.”

     I hung up and grabbed the keys for the Porsche before heading outside for the short walk to my warehouse space. I hit the control for the electric roll up door and gazed at the fine lines of my silver Porsche 911 Turbo S. It was a sweet machine and one I still had a hard time believing I owned. I spent most of life living paycheck to paycheck, stretching every dollar for all it was worth, so, now, having acquired a great deal of wealth, I was still having a hard time adapting. Emotionally and intellectually, I knew becoming financially stable didn’t make me happy, but it sure as hell made my time behind the wheel a lot more fun. I eased out of the garage, hit the door button on the remote, and was soon accelerating onto Highway 101 and heading north for the beautiful town of Ross.

     Exiting on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, I headed west for a couple miles before turning right onto Laurel Grove Avenue. Mick’s house was about three quarters of a mile in and sat on a massive piece of property right off the main road. I reached the entrance, hit the intercom button, and heard Mick utter the word enter just as the large iron gate started to slide open. I drove through and parked in front of the house and took a moment to smile to myself as I remembered back to the first time I had come here.

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