Divine Typhoon

 

Provided below is an excerpt (two chapters) of the novel to whet the readers interest.

Synopsis

DIVINE TYPHOON explores the inhumane consequences of of the use of nuclear weapons against civilian populations.  Whereas civilians have always been deliberate victims of military strategy, the scope and brutality demonstrated during World War II remains unmatched in the annals of warfare.  Total military causalities during World War II are estimated at 20 million, including five million prisoners of war that died due to inhumane treatment.  However, civilian deaths are estimated to be in excess of 50 million, due largely to the characterization of civilian casualties as a strategy for hastening the end of conflict.  DIVINE TYPHOON touches on the morality and consequences of this brutality.  Specifically it deals with an act of revenge formulated and executed by a powerful Japanese industrialist as retribution for the personal loss he suffered from the bombing of Nagasaki.  Close to 100,000 civilians perished during that attack, including his wife and young son.  He plans to exact a like price from those he considers guilty, and he has the means and wherewithal to execute this most exacting revenge.

 EXCERPT

CHAPTER 1

Hacienda Heights, East LA

Wednesday, August 5, 1992

Day 1

Akai parked the rental car at the curb and turned off the lights and engine. “Sensei, the man we are interested in lives across the street and three houses down in the house with the gas lantern at the curb.”

His Master grunted in approval. It was a guttural sound that started deep in the abdomen and surfaced with commanding resonance. Akai smiled in the semi-darkness, his teeth flashing briefly in the glow of the fluorescent street lamps. That sound remained the most gracious verbal compliment the Sensei ever delivered.

It had been less than an hour since the Sensei’s private jet had landed at John Wayne Airport in Orange County. Akai had picked him up and they had driven straight here. Except for the initial greeting, they had made the drive in silence. Akai guessed that for the Sensei to ask many questions of him would imply that he doubted his own judgment in the choice he had made for undertaking this most delicate part of the operation. It was Akai’s responsibility to inform and update the Master, and the moment was appropriate to do so.

“The house does not appear to have an alarm system, even though the man has put up warning signs in the yard. We will know more when we are inside. Before we leave you must remember to ask for a glass of cold water.” Akai paused, expecting some curious inquiry, but got none. The Sensei seemed determined to give him complete control of the operation.

“The house has two floors,” he continued. “The living area is downstairs. There are three bedrooms, including the master, upstairs. The wife is usually in bed by nine, which means she has already been asleep for a little over an hour. The man stays up for another couple of hours watching TV in the downstairs study. He also drinks, usually scotch, during this time. We managed to get a man in the house to plant some bugs so we know roughly what his daily schedule looks like. Our man also reported that he keeps a sword case with a number of swords in it. However, I do not know whether the Kamitaifun is in the house or stored somewhere else, or what precautions he has taken to keep it safe in the house. We should know more after we have approached him.”

The Sensei grunted again. “You have done well,” he said, taking Akai by surprise.

The Sensei had good reason to be satisfied. His orders to Akai had been to keep everything as simple and unobtrusive as possible. Nothing Akai did was to attract suspicion or even curiosity. There was to be no trail that would even remotely connect the samurai to his sensei. He had then given Akai an unlimited budget, some very discreet but powerful contacts, and two weeks to accomplish his mission.

Given the utmost delicacy of the matter, they had parted with the tacit understanding that if the samurai in any way failed his Sensei, they would both suffer considerable loss of face, with the attendant painful consequences.

Consequently, had Akai greeted him at the airport wearing anything more expensive than a polyester suit bought at a discount store, or driving something more pretentious than the beat-up blue Dodge compact, their relationship would have been instantly terminated. Such ostentatious behavior would imply a fundamental failure on the part of the samurai to recognize the extremely grave and delicate nature of his assignment.

As it was, the Sensei was pleased, and nothing he had heard or seen since he landed gave him cause for concern. There seemed nothing left to do but for the Sensei to confront his nemesis and face his destiny. “How much money do you have?”

“Seventy-five thousand American dollars,” Akai replied. “From the untraceable numbered account in the Cayman Islands bank.”

“Why that sum of money?”

“Sensei, my research indicated that given the Kamitaifun’s history, 50,000 dollars was a very fair value based on the going price for recovering such a historical artifact. I expect that the haku-jin will be greedy and it may cost us 70 or 75,000 dollars. Beyond 75,000 dollars the man would be displaying uncommon greed, and our cooperation might give him reason to be suspicious.”

“Is it possible for a greedy man to reason?”

Akai kept his silence. Events would follow the Sensei’s pace. His place was in the shadows.

“It is time,” said the Sensei finally. “This is an auspicious day. I feel that the Kami is with us in our quest.”

Akai got out, removed the briefcase containing the money from the back seat, locked the door behind him, and came around to open the door for the Sensei. It was a simple and necessary gesture of respect. The Sensei was unquestionably old, though there seemed to be no accurate record of how old, and yet there was nothing frail or weak about him. To the small and select group of pupils he had trained, the Sensei was the most consummate samurai alive. In a time and place where the classical notion of a samurai seemed at best an anachronism, the Sensei had accepted his destiny to demonstrate once again that the samurai represented the ultimate embodiment of duty and honor. To a man, his pupils were willing to fight by his side. And die by his side. A fate they suspected awaited them.

The two men walked down the slight slope, only crossing the street when they were alongside the walkway of the house they were interested in. Akai kept his mind focused on every detail of his surroundings, acutely aware that if negotiations failed he would have to retrace his steps more surreptitiously. His past spying had been from a discreet distance, and he could not afford to waste this opportunity for firsthand information gathering.

When they reached the front door, Akai held back, letting his Sensei take the lead and set the pace. The Sensei paused a few moments in meditation to clear his mind and focus his energy, and then rang the front bell.

Commander Lewis Stanwick (retd), US Navy, heard the bell ring, which forced his attention away from the old World War II rerun he was watching and back to a present reality he found discomforting unless made opaque behind the veil of a drunken stupor. “Shit!” He muttered aloud, then got out of the recliner and walked unsteadily toward the front door. He confirmed that the safety chain was hooked and the dead bolt was locked before turning on the porch light and peering through the peephole. He saw two Oriental men standing on his porch staring back at him. The younger one was almost six feet tall, with attractive features that looked at least half Caucasian. The older one was almost six inches shorter and distinctly Oriental. They were both very poised in their bearing but not threatening.

“Damn!” He exclaimed. “It’s a pair of Nips.”

Stanwick was a racist. By his thinking all Orientals were automatically Nips, because the Japanese were the one species of Orientals he was most familiar with. But his bigotry didn’t stop there. He had no use for blacks, Hispanics, Jews, or any other species that deviated too far from the narrow mold of a good American-made Catholic male. And because his bigotry was driven by fear and insecurity, he was afraid of most of them, but not that he would ever admit it.

Except the Nips. He knew the Nips could be thrashed. He had been part of that victory, and the recollection emboldened him. But he kept the chain hooked when he opened the door. “What do you boys want?”

The two men bowed respectfully. “Stanwick san, may I talk to you please,” said the elderly man in perfect English. His bearing was noble, his voice very quiet but firm. Everything about him exuded power and confidence. None of which did anything to improve Stanwick’s disposition.

“About what?” Snapped Stanwick. “And how do you boys know my name? If it’s the house you’re after, it’s not for sale, so get lost.”

The once solidly white middle-class neighborhood of Hacienda Heights, due East of L.A., was being bought out of its racial in-homogeneity. The Hispanics had been filling in the Pomona Valley and pushing due south toward Orange County, while the Orientals, aided by money trying to escape Hong Kong, had been overrunning the once exclusively white neighborhoods like La Habra and La Habra Heights in their push north. Hacienda Heights was feeling the squeeze from both incursions. To make matters worse, a Buddhist temple had been built in the neighborhood, and suddenly there seemed to be Orientals everywhere trying to buy out the white folks. In spite of this demographic shift the neighborhoods had remained exclusive, except in the minds of people like Stanwick for whom exclusivity was dictated by skin coloration.

The old man smiled patiently. “No, Stanwick san, not your house. You have something else of mine that I am interested in.”

An old memory was jarred loose, Stanwick’s eyes widened. “Step back in the light. I want a better look at your face.”

The old man obliged. Slowly Stanwick’s mind tried to piece together the worn memory tape that had been repeatedly cut and distorted over almost fifty years of reuse, until the old images surfaced again, leaving him astonished.

“Well, I’ll be damned. It’s the Nip from Yale.”

“Harvard,” the old man corrected him.

“No matter,” snapped Stanwick. “You’re still fifty years too late getting here.”

The old man bowed contritely. “Please accept my apologies, Stanwick san, but I was not ready.”

Akai wondered in silent amazement what the two men were talking about, and why his Sensei would allow this pitiful haku-jin to treat him so disrespectfully. What he didn’t know was that the Sensei had made it extremely difficult for Stanwick to unload the Kamitaifun. During the ‘fifties and ‘sixties, after the Japanese families had rebuilt their fortunes decimated by war, they had sent their couriers out to buy back the heirlooms and other spoils carried off by the Americans. Many katanas of far less significance had been bought for twenty and thirty thousand dollars – this much Akai had gathered from his own research. But nobody had inquired about the Kamitaifun, and Stanwick, who read all the pulp magazines that catered to the military types, wondered why his spoil was being ignored. Unless the family in question had never recovered its fortunes and couldn’t afford to buy its heirloom back. Which was a distinct possibility.

Determined not to lose out on the buying boom, he had taken the katana to many of the biggest dealers, but they would take one look at it, inspect the markings, bow in reverence, and refuse to unload it for him. The word was out that a price had been put on the head of whoever touched the Kamitaifun, and none of the reputable dealers wanted to get involved.

The Sensei had done so deliberately. It was a matter of his duty to his ancestors that the Kamitaifun not be treated as some ordinary piece of commerce in the hands of strangers. It was also a question of his family’s honor that he be the one to retrieve it from the man who had taken it. Stanwick could have gone into the less reputable secondary market, but there he would have been lucky to get a tenth of what that katana was worth. Its inflated price would only be paid by the family that originally owned it. Rather than be short-changed, a piqued Stanwick rigged it so that the katana would never leave him. At least not without him putting up a fight. And now, years after he had given up on unloading the blade, the Japanese owner was knocking at his door wanting it back.

“Well, sorry Mr. Nip, but this time I’m not ready.”

“Stanwick san, I am prepared to pay you 60 thousand American dollars, in cash, immediately, for it. But this will be my only offer,” countered the Sensei.

“Read my lips, asshole. It’s not for sale.” Stanwick had made elaborate plans for the money he had hoped to collect from selling the katana. He had even taken early retirement in anticipation, and when his expectations fell through, it had left him embittered and angry. This was his moment of triumph. He would make the little Nip squirm and grovel before he sold the katana back.

The Sensei never lost control, never let his emotions show. “Very well, Mr. Stanwick, you may keep it. But I have come a long way. I will give you ten thousand dollars to touch it and pay my respects.”

Stanwick’s eyes widened. Akai’s concentration became intense. The instant the Sensei switched from the traditional Japanese honorific usage to the European style in addressing Stanwick, Akai knew Stanwick was a dead man, and that he would be the executioner. Unfortunately for Stanwick, the prospect of a quick ten thousand dollars was so distracting that he didn’t even realize the switch had been made.

“Show me the color of your money.”

“Will you let us in please?”

Stanwick hesitated. “Okay. But don’t try anything stupid or you’ll be sorry.”

The Sensei smiled wryly. When they were both inside he nodded to Akai, who set the briefcase down and discreetly removed two wrapped bundles, which he passed over to the grasping Stanwick.

“You can see, but no touch,” insisted Stanwick. “It will set off the alarm.”

The Sensei nodded in agreement. Holding the money close to him, Stanwick led the way to the study and turned off the TV. He set the money down on the recliner and walked over to the trophy case hanging on the wall. With a flourish he threw open the swinging doors to display his collection of Japanese swords.

The Sensei reached out desperately and grabbed Akai by the forearm. Akai could feel slight tremors shake the Sensei’s body as long-buried emotions suddenly surfaced to ricochet wildly off the walls he had erected to save his sanity. The Sensei took three hesitant steps forward and Akai stayed with him.

“The moon sprinkles wind-dew on the rose petal. The anguished heart feeds the Divine Typhoon.” The Sensei said it quietly in Japanese.

“Keep it clean boys,” said Stanwick nervously. “No Nip talk around me.”

The Sensei turned abruptly and walked away. There was an expression of such utter fury and contempt on his face that it intimidated even Akai, who had no reason to be afraid. For the old man, fifty-odd years of waiting were finally ended, and suddenly there seemed no good reason to contain this hatred that had almost consumed him once. Akai sensed that the only thing separating his Sensei from this haku-jin fool was the need to safeguard the larger plan. Otherwise Stanwick wouldn’t even have the few hours that were left to him.

From the determined fashion in which the old man was leaving it dawned on Stanwick that at least for the time being all negotiations were ended. That realization made him quite anxious. As greedy as he had once been to grab the spoils of war, he was now equally eager to reap the fat profit he felt he could make by selling the katana back to the owner. He was determined to be difficult about it­­ – the Nip had that much coming – but not impossible. “Come back any time for another look-see boys. You can never tell; I might even change my mind about selling it.”

The Sensei stopped in his tracks and turned to face Stanwick. Akai watched him take in a deep cleansing breath to shed the anger and hate that was distracting him. “Thank you for your cooperation, Mr. Stanwick. Your offer is very gracious and we will meet again in a few days.”

Stanwick giggled nervously with relief. The sensei smiled disarmingly. “Could I please approach you for a glass of cold water before I leave?”

Stanwick hesitated before deciding that it might be appropriate to offer a friendly gesture. “Sure.” He left the two men standing in the foyer, but when Akai heard the ice dispenser activate he hurried into the kitchen behind Stanwick.

His sudden appearance startled Stanwick. “Wait out there boy, I’ll get the water.”

Akai nodded obediently but took his time, much to Stanwick’s discomfort. He took the water back to the older man. The Sensei drank the water and the two visitors left.

They drove back to the airport in silence. The Sensei’s jet had already been refueled and was ready for departure. He boarded immediately and invited Akai to join him for a few minutes in the main cabin. Drinking sake served in the traditional style by geishas, the Sensei shared his thoughts. “There is no time for further negotiations. He had only this one opportunity to do it with honor. He has picked his path and he must now pay the price.”

“Yes Sensei.” The Kamitaifun would be recovered and Stanwick would die. They couldn’t take a chance on letting him live. If they took the Kamitaifun but let him live, he would know exactly who had stolen it. That knowledge could jeopardize the plan.

“We have no quarrel with the wife. But if she learns of our visit or interferes, she must be silenced. You will do whatever is necessary.”

“Yes, Sensei,” confirmed Akai. “The house is being watched even as we speak. We also have listening devices in place. If he decides to wait until morning to talk to her, she will live. Otherwise he will have company on his journey.”

“One last question; why did you need to visit the kitchen?”

Akai smiled and bowed his head lest his smile be construed as disrespectful of his master. “It’s because of the design of the houses in the neighborhood. They all have a direct door between the kitchen and the garage. If Stanwick’s house had an alarm system, then the probability is very high that the control module would be located in the kitchen by the connecting door so it could be set just as the owner was leaving or entering. I did not see one.”

The Sensei grunted and nodded. “You have done well.”

Akai took a last delicate sip and stood up to leave. His Sensei stood up with him. “We shall meet again the day after tomorrow as planned.”

“Hai,” said Akai and bowed in farewell. The Sensei bowed back.

 

 

CHAPTER 2

Hacienda Heights, East LA

Thursday, August 6, 1992

Day 2

 

The jet was already moving toward the runway before Akai got back to the car. He still had quite a few hours to kill, and decided to go back to his motel room to relax. Everything that needed to be done was already in place. The charter jet that would fly him to Hawaii was reserved, the rental car in the false name would be returned by his contacts, and the motel bill had been paid in cash. The geisha had also been paid for, and she was waiting obediently to service him when he got back.

He had been intrigued at the thought of getting a buxom blonde – his contacts had already arranged one, but had rejected the idea out of concern that American women didn’t know their place. They had an unhealthy curiosity that caused them to ask too many questions and snoop through other people’s belongings looking for secrets that would give them control. He couldn’t afford to take that chance and be forced to kill a patsukin…dumb blonde. The less attention he drew to himself, the less was the likelihood that some inadvertent error on his part would undermine the Sensei’s plan.

It was one in the morning when he abruptly snapped out of a deep sleep and sat up. Within twenty minutes he had taken a cold shower and was suited up again. He had packed earlier, with most of his clothing fitting snugly around his equipment in a small duffle bag. When he left, the geisha’s clothes were scattered across the floor, but there was no trace of his ever having been in the room. He had already arranged for the room to be sanitized and thoroughly wiped clean of any fingerprints in the morning.

At that hour the traffic was quite light, and the drive back to Stanwick’s neighborhood took only twenty-five minutes. He exited the Pomona Freeway at Hacienda Boulevard and headed south through the city and up into the Puente Hills, making a sharp left at the little cutoff he had scoped out earlier. Almost immediately he found himself alongside the chain-link fence that limited access to the extensive acreage on both sides of the Puente Hills owned by the utility and oil companies. Within a few hundred yards he was at the locked horizontal barrier in the fence where he planned to cross over. Beyond the barrier was a dirt road, one of many that meandered throughout the hillside serving as utility trails and providing access to the oil wells and support towers for the electric power lines that crossed over the Puente Hills.

He stopped the car and waited fifteen minutes to make sure he was alone. Stripping down, he changed into his black hakama, which he wore tucked-in following the old samurai fashion. He tied his utility belt around his waist, inserted the short blade into the belt, and draped the long blade across his left shoulder. Finally, he removed the night goggles from the duffle, popped the lid to the trunk, and locked the car. Every step was deliberate, flawless, and without haste, reflecting the innumerable rehearsals he had undertaken. In the trunk was a collapsing bicycle, which he passed over the gate. With a nimble leap he followed it over, and within minutes was riding down the trail he needed to take back toward Stanwick’s house.

The combination of the night goggles and the familiarity he had gained by making the same journey five times during the past week in daylight and twice at night made it a relatively easy passage. He encountered the occasional barking dog and a pair of distantly curious coyotes, but otherwise the journey proved uneventful. Twenty minutes of hard peddling brought him to the wide swath cut straight down the hillside by the utility company to run its power lines across the hills. He parked the bike off the trail and proceeded the last hundred yards on foot, keeping to the edge of the path. He knew precisely where he needed to jump the chain-link fence, and a few minutes later he was in Stanwick’s backyard crouched in the shadows under the kitchen window. He noticed that there was a low wattage light bulb on in a wall socket just above the sink, and used the light to his advantage.

Complacency, the Sensei insisted, was the opium of the intellect. Akai’s training had been too thorough for him to ever take anything for granted. Even though his earlier visit to Stanwick’s kitchen had indicated the absence of an alarm system, he took the few minutes needed to check again. Only when a thorough investigation of the windows and ceiling indicated no presence of alarms or motion sensors did Akai turn his attention to the locks on the back door.

The two deadbolts looked impressive but proved ineffective. Cautiously Akai opened the door just wide enough to reach the hinges from the outside. From a sash pocket he removed a tiny vial of oil with which he lubricated the hinges, waiting patiently while the oil, sucked along by capillary action, penetrated and filled the crevices. Finally, ready to enter the house, he paused briefly to meditate. He knew he had been entrusted with his Sensei’s honor, a sign of respect and confidence which he considered a remarkable honor in itself, and not something to be taken for granted or treated frivolously. He could not afford to fail. Deliberately he focused on activating the inner strength that came from a detached mind.

He had a perfect recollection of the layout of the lower floor, and once inside the house he moved swiftly toward his objective. Yet each step was flawless, without haste. He left only the slightest undulation of air in his wake as he made his way straight to the trophy case in the study. Even though Stanwick’s actions had indicated that the case itself was unprotected, he refused to take that for granted. Stanwick could have made adjustments after their visit. Using the focused light of a pencil beam flashlight, he studiously explored the outside of the case with its two hinged swinging doors, looking for any indications of an alarm system.

The trophy case was of Oriental design, made of teak, and firmly mounted to the wall. Thailand, he placed it, though it could as easily have been of Indian origin. It didn’t matter; there appeared to be no alarm system on the outside, and that alone concerned him. There was bound to be a trap inside the case; even Stanwick had indicated as much. He forced back the impatience and gingerly opened the swinging doors.

Facing him was a vertical rack of five samurai swords, each precisely horizontal and precisely equidistant from its neighbors. The swords were supported at either end by thin metallic pegs attached to the back of the case. A quick glance and he recognized the katana he was after. It was the third one down, a twenty-four-inch blade with the family crest on the scabbard just below the throat. He directed the beam of the flashlight at the sword’s hilt. Under the binding he could just make out the hilt ornaments and parts of the family crest. They matched his instructions. On the scabbard was the message his Sensei had scrawled with some dull implement. He had no trouble recognizing it.

 

The moon sprinkles wind-dew on the rose petal.

The anguished heart feeds the Divine Typhoon.

 

This was it, the most revered Kamitaifun, but everything to that point had been easy. He still had the killing to take care of, and he wondered if that would go as smoothly. It would if he set it up right. Very methodically he followed the outline of the katana with the beam from his flashlight, settling finally on one of the two pegs holding it up. His caution was rewarded. The pegs were not attached to the back of the case, but extended beyond the back wall through narrow vertical slots. By directing the light beam into one of the slots he could even see the pins that each peg pivoted on, and the fine springs in the background. He stepped back and concentrated on visualizing the arrangement.

Clearly, the weight of the katana kept the front of the pegs depressed. However, if the katana were to be lifted at either end, the force of the spring would pull the back of the peg down and activate an alarm. Quite simple, but adequate against the noisy, blundering neophytes who seemed to have achieved a considerable majority in the trade.

Finally, it was killing time. He needed his response to be instantaneous and ruthlessly efficient, for which reason he had deliberately limited his contemplation of the act. His training demanded as much. But it was also his first kill, and he took a moment now to contemplate the death he would inflict. The Sensei insisted that only consciousness mattered. Death was the doorway that allowed the transition from a consciousness rooted in worldly pleasures to the true consciousness of the Kami. He was about to send a spirit on that journey. Two – if the wife interfered.

The morality of his decision was not an issue. Given the choice he would avoid the killing, but the possessor of the sword had forced the outcome. In contrast to the happiness that a more detached life had to offer, the katana could offer only pleasure to the present owner. Yet the man had displayed so uncompromising an attachment to it as to risk life itself to retain his possession.

There was a guest bathroom at the bottom of the steps where he decided to hide and let Stanwick by so that he could attack from behind. He removed his short blade from its scabbard and deliberately lifted one end of the Kamitaifun off its peg, noticing with some satisfaction that the peg moved up to trip the alarm just as he had anticipated. Within seconds he was back behind the bathroom door, waiting patiently to see how his victim reacted. Stanwick was a dead man, but would he go alone?

In the upstairs bedroom a very quiet tone sounded. Not much louder than the alarm on a wrist watch, the noise was still sufficient to wake Stanwick. “Damn!” He exclaimed, awaking with a start and struggling out of bed. Then he remembered his late evening visitors and immediately guessed the reason for the alarm sounding. “It’s the fucking Nip after his sword,” he cursed, pressing the button by the side of the bed to turn off the alarm. “Well, I’ll just have to teach that bastard a lesson again.”

Mary, his wife of forty years, who had been steadily losing her hearing, moaned softly, rolled over, and resumed her gentle snoring. Stanwick reasoned that she would just get in the way and let her sleep. He always kept a loaded pistol in his nightstand drawer, and moving quietly he removed the pistol, chambered a bullet, released the safety, and cautiously started down the steps in his bare feet.

Determined to catch the culprits in the act if possible, he was surprised to find no trace of intruders and nothing out of place. He walked through the study and the adjoining rooms, noticing along the way that the trophy case was closed. When his cursory exploration turned up empty rooms, he returned to the trophy cabinet and opened the doors, grunting with approval at the sight of the Missouri sword exactly where it was supposed to be.

It seemed extremely coincidental, but apparently a false alarm had sounded. With a sigh of relief Stanwick activated the safety on the gun and lowered his arm from a ready stance. Suddenly there was a faint rustling sound behind him. Instinctively he realized that there was an intruder present and that he was in mortal danger.

He turned, bringing up his gun hand, desperately trying to release the safety again. He began a shout to warn his wife. “Ma…” he managed before the dagger blade pierced his throat and blood gurgled out. The pain of the wound stunned him. There was a warm wetness on his chest. He staggered back, wanting to look down at this strange dampness that was annoying, but a piece of the night seemed to be coming straight at him. There was a sudden flash of silver, a long blade. He tried to use his hands as a shield but it proved futile against Akai’s perfectly executed batto-giri attack. In a single fluid motion Akai had drawn his katana from its saya and delivered a fatal kesa cut, the downward diagonal strike, followed immediately by the suihei horizontal cut. The katana sliced through Stanwick’s raised right hand, went effortlessly through his collar bone, sliced his heart in half and exited just above the left hip. Before the two halves could fall apart the horizontal cut split the torso again. For the briefest instant of time Stanwick felt the strangest sensation of separation but was helpless to defend against the feeling. He felt the initial downward surge of the blade, tried desperately to drop to his knees to ease the pressure, and an instant later his consciousness fluttered through a strange transition and then dissipated into utter and complete nothingness.

Akai waited patiently for the disturbance to subside. These transitions offered extremely momentary windows of opportunity for remarkable coincidences to take place, and he didn’t want to be taken by surprise. When five minutes had passed without anything happening, he quietly made his way up the steps to reassure himself that the wife was still asleep. He heard her snoring and retraced his steps to finish what he had started.

This time he attached two weights to the pegs to hold them down and prevent the alarm from sounding again. Then he removed the katana from the cabinet and exposed a portion of the blade. The original katana could have been substituted with a cheap imitation, as he was about to do, and his Sensei would not appreciate such a glaring blunder. If the blade was the original, then the age and the master’s hand that had crafted it were fixed, and he knew precisely what the hardness of the test piece needed to be. He had come prepared, and when the blade scratched a deep groove into his metal test piece, he finally allowed himself a moment of quite celebration. He was done, the rest was simple.

He used a towel to wipe his two blades clean and re-sheathed them. Working with pictures and the Sensei’s memory, his long blade had been crafted to look identical to the Kamitaifun. He filled the empty slot in the row where the Kamitaifun had rested with his long sword so the gap would not be noticeable and smiled at how complete the deception was. Only an expert would be able to tell that the blade was not the original, and by then it wouldn’t matter. The two weights came off the pegs and went back into his sash pocket. He used a black strap to hold the Kamitaifun against his back, and felt a tingling surge of energy ripple through him at the realization of the awesome strength and glory he had released from bondage and obscurity to be a part of history again.

This was a sacrosanct blade he had taken responsibility for. Its ancestry covered many generations of great samurai warriors. It had left its traditional home for some brief years in a moment of great disgrace, but now it was to be returned to its honorable position. And more important yet, the samurai whose honor and heritage were intimately tied to this blade was ready to carry it by his side into battle again. This katana was the last key that would unleash the Divine Typhoon. The anguished heart would finally be avenged.

Within moments Akai was out of the house and hiding in the shrubbery. The world seemed indifferent to the mayhem he had left behind, and let him retrace his steps back to the car without interfering. He changed back into the Western-style suit, put all his equipment together with the Kamitaifun back into the duffle bag, and was at John Wayne Airport with time to spare for the eight o’clock chartered flight to Hawaii. He left the keys and parking ticket for the rental car in the glove compartment. Next he made a quick call to let his contacts know where the car was parked. The car, the soiled cloth he had used to wipe his blades and everything he had worn would be taken care of.

*                                               *                                               *

Mary Stanwick, slightly deaf, but of strong heart and reasonable constitution, got up at six in the morning as was her daily habit. She noticed that her husband was already up – which happened occasionally – and wondered if coffee would be ready. It took her a few minutes to complete her morning ablutions, after which she put on a robe over her nightgown and headed downstairs toward the kitchen. It was still dark but she recognized his crumpled form on the floor. “Oh no,” she exclaimed and turned on the light. Utterly unprepared for what had transpired, the carnage overwhelmed her.

His body lay crumpled on the floor in the study, while his blood was spilled and splattered across the room. She wanted to call his name, but choked on the bile that surfaced. She wanted to berate him for leaving her alone just when she needed him the most, but it seemed a foolish thought. Then she noticed that his torso had been cut in three pieces. She screamed, screamed again, and collapsed to her knees. Lying next to him, surrounded by the metallic aroma of his congealed blood, her mind finally went blank.

 

 

 

 

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