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Authors: Mark M. DeRobertis

Tags: #murder, #japan, #drugs, #martial arts, #immortality

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BOOK: Killer of Killers
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Samantha frowned. “You know, I don’t like any
of this, either.”

“It’s gotta be tough,” Josh said, “but I know
you can do it. You’ve always come through, and you will this time,
too.”

“What if the prints turn up nothing? What if
he doesn’t call me? What will I do then?”

“Just do the things you can do.” Josh offered
a brotherly smile. “We need to know who this guy is and who he
works for. Don’t you realize how this changes everything? What will
we tell Manoukian?”

At the mention of the name, Samantha’s face
melted into an expression of trepidation. And while the limousine
carried them in silence across the Bay Bridge, Josh wondered how
he
would answer the query.

* * * *

Inside his Oakland condominium, Trent
reclined in an easy chair with a glass of water in one hand and his
TV’s remote control in the other. Changing channels with
indifference, he landed on the national news and decided to see if
anything might be mentioned of the recently deceased celebrity.

Presently, an archive photo of Benjamin
Stiles appeared on the screen, and the announcer verbalized the
breaking story: “Benjamin Stiles was found dead tonight in a public
restroom at the Los Angeles Airport. Although the cause of death is
not immediately known, authorities have not ruled out foul
play.”

The newsman went on to describe Stiles’
football career and the legal controversy that spread his name
across the world. Trent, however, was more interested in studying
the group of tall agents in the background as the on-scene reporter
took her turn in the limelight. He wondered why Samantha Jones
wasn’t involved in the investigation. Why did she have to catch a
flight home? She said she was supposed to meet Stiles and escort
him to the Bay Area. What was that all about, and what did it have
to do with Josh Jones? The scenario of
‘Samantha Jones, Police
Detective’
and her brother didn’t sit well with Trent. What
business did they really have with Benjamin Stiles? Was it
police-related as Samantha inferred?

Trent didn’t want to waste any more time with
it and was all but ready to forget the whole thing. Stiles was
dead, he deserved to be dead, and it was the first name crossed off
the list inside of his head.

The evening hours slipped away, and although
Trent’s eyes were trained on the television screen, his brain
stopped processing the electronic images. Instead, he recalled his
early training at Tokyo’s Academy of
Budo
Ju Jitsu, owned
and headed by the world famous shihan, Shoji Wada.

Twenty years ago, Trent stood in awe as the
legendary master welcomed his new trainees. And he still remembered
the shihan’s first words that day:
“Furuki o tazune atarshiki o
shiru.”

Trent’s Japanese was still in its infancy
then, but he understood the message as the revered shihan spoke in
the Japanese tongue:
“You have come to me brash and young, but
never forget, you must respect your elders, for they have earned
your respect, even before you breathed your first air. Never
disregard what they have achieved and what they have sacrificed. If
you accept their knowledge and analyze the information they offer,
each of you will develop the art in unique ways. For every
generation expands upon the old to create something new for
themselves...and for generations beyond.”

At first, the Japanese senseis didn’t hide
their skepticism, teaching Trent their finest arts. Trent knew that
to them he was a
gaijin
—a foreigner—but the aging shihan
took a liking to him. He recognized a rare combination of speed,
strength, and intelligence in Trent. More importantly, Shoji
admired Trent’s strength of character and mentored him
personally.

In time, Shoji entrusted Trent with all of
his
Budo
secrets. Renamed
Tora
, by Shoji himself,
Trent became a master in his own right. He was second only to Shoji
in technique and skill, but second to none in strength of will.

Twenty years passed, and the day arrived for
Trent’s decision to return stateside. The memory was a
self-inflicted wound. It was a pleasant morning in Tokyo, but
outside the Shoji Dojo the mood was somber despite the scent of
cherry blossoms in the eastern winds.


You don’t have to leave,”
Shoji said.
“We don’t want you to leave.”


I must leave,”
Trent replied. He
moved his gaze from Shoji’s aged face and scanned the Pacific that
lay full in view.


And what of Yoshiko? She loves
you.”


It is an honor of which I am not
worthy.”


You have not lost your honor. You know
that.”

Trent looked again into Shoji’s amber eyes.
“I have not lost my honor with you, Kaiso, and for that I am
grateful. One day I will return to the dojo. And this is something
I can promise.”


Then on that day, Soke, we will
celebrate.”

Shoji bowed, as did Trent, after which Shoji
returned to his dojo through the opened iron gate. And it was
within the gate’s sliding frame his only granddaughter appeared.
Her eyes were red and filled with tears, but they didn’t fall.
“I know you won’t talk about it,”
she said to Trent.


I must leave, Yoshiko.”


Don’t leave. Please, don’t
leave.”

They embraced for long moments until Trent
pulled himself free.
“I must leave,”
he said once again.


I’ll wait for you,”
Yoshiko sobbed.
Her tears were falling now.
“You know I’ll wait for
you.”

Trent turned and walked away, carrying only a
light bag, but with it a heavy heart. A final time he heard
Yoshiko’s words as she wept farther and farther behind him.
“I’ll wait for you, forever.”

* * * *

Trent closed his eyes and wondered if anyone
could really mean words like that. To remember them tore open his
heart, so he purged the scene from his head. Still, Yoshiko was a
woman he would never forget, and it was impossible to keep her gone
for very long.

* * * *

Technician Roger Shafer peered through the
observation window of the SFPD forensics lab. A tense Samantha
Jones was standing in the lobby, wearing a skirt suit of police
blue, hemmed just above the knees. Her arms were crossed, and she
was tapping the toe of her high-heeled shoe on the lobby’s linoleum
floor. He considered her anxiety. It didn’t become her, nor did it
lessen her beauty. Her nose was small and pug, her lips, full and
luscious, her face, a Barbie doll come to life.

In both hands, Roger held a stack of papers,
which contained the results of his research. He approached the
door, but halted to smooth what was left of his red-orange hair. He
harbored a deep crush for Samantha ever since they joined the
police force together nine years earlier. Honored with the
opportunity to perform a favor, he wanted to make the most of his
time in her company, so he adjusted his glasses, straightened his
white lab coat, and broke into the presence of the woman he
adored.

After a single step, he froze to take in the
perfect hourglass shape her outfit emphasized, especially in a view
from behind, as he was lucky enough to happen upon. Samantha had
entrusted him to examine the fingerprints and DNA from a plastic
cup she said she had procured on an airline. Now, he was ready to
report his findings to her, but he found himself delayed by his
admiration of her.

Samantha’s sudden pivot snapped Roger from
his daze, and the stack of papers slipped from his fingers and into
a pile at his feet. Cursing himself for being a klutz in front of
her, he bent over to pick them up, but in doing so, launched the
glasses off his nose. Hastening to catch them, he overextended
himself, and an instinctive kick forward scattered the pile over
the floor.

Meanwhile, the glasses and Roger’s hand were
engaged in a frantic juggling act, while his other hand windmilled
to maintain stability. The foot that shot forward had one of the
papers stuck under its shoe, causing him to slip about like a first
time roller skater. Nevertheless, he continued bobbling the
rascally glasses until he lost his balance altogether. On the way
down, his frenzied arm batted the elusive eyewear across the room.
He landed with a thud onto his backside, and the slippery
spectacles came to rest at the tips of Samantha’s polished
pumps.

A glance at Samantha revealed a woman making
her best effort to prevent herself from bursting into
uncontrollable laughter. The attempt to hide her amusement behind
her red fingernails was less than successful. Shortly, Roger began
gathering the strewn papers while admitting to himself he had just
experienced the single most humiliating moment of his entire
life.

Samantha said, “Are you—”

“Yes,” Roger snapped without looking up. He
couldn’t face her. He was thinking he might not be able to face her
ever again.

Samantha picked up his glasses and started to
help in the collection of the scattered sheets, but Roger wouldn’t
have it. “No, it’s all right,” he grumbled. “I’ll get them.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.” What Roger was sure of was that he
wanted to kill himself tonight. He scooped the papers into a mound.
As Samantha walked toward him, he pressed the rumpled heap against
his chest and climbed to his feet. She handed him the glasses.
“Thanks,” he said, sheepishly. He repositioned his eyewear only to
learn they were now nothing more than lens-less frames.

Samantha asked, “Well?”

“Huh?”

“Did you find something?”

“Find?” Roger removed the useless specs,
dangling them in one hand while holding the papers with the other.
“No, it’s that kind of day for me. I suppose they’re on the floor
somewhere.”

“The fingerprints?” Samantha clarified. “The
DNA?”

Roger shook his head. “Oh, um, no. There’s
nothing. As far as we know, this guy could have beamed down from
outer space. There’s no match in the database, not even a driver’s
license.”

“What about teaching credentials?”

“I cross-referenced every school in America.
Colleges, high schools, elementary schools, even private schools.
These prints are simply not on record, much less his DNA. There’s
nothing.”

Samantha spiked her heel to the floor. “But
don’t teachers have to submit their fingerprints when they become
teachers?”

“Well, yes, but that’s only if he really is a
teacher.” Roger believed the man in question had lied to her, but
he refrained from saying it.

When Samantha plopped into a chair, Roger put
his brain to work. He returned the glasses to his face by force of
habit and eyed the blond detective through the empty frames. He
needed to say something,
anything
, to make himself useful,
especially now, since he felt so useless. He said, “You know, not
all teachers get printed.”

Samantha raised her head and arched her
eyebrows. “Yeah?”

“Yeah. Maybe he gives private lessons. Like
piano lessons or something.”

It was a casual comment, but just as Roger
said it, Samantha jumped from the chair, right out of her shoes,
and into his arms. She squeezed him hard and kissed him square on
his lips. It was the first time she had
ever
kissed him.

“Roger, I love you, I love you!”

“Why?”

“Because you’re a genius.” She scooped up her
shoes and ran off, leaving Roger without a clue.

Before he could recover, Roger’s senior
coworker emerged from the forensics lab and joined him in the
lobby. Calvin Maxwell was shorter and chubbier than Roger, but he
was also bespectacled and equally nerd-like. He wore an identical
white lab coat, and had apparently witnessed Samantha’s reaction
the moment before. He asked, “What the hell did you say to
her?”

“Something about piano lessons,” was Roger’s
listless reply.

As they watched Samantha round the corner,
Calvin muttered, “Tell her
I
took piano lessons, will
ya?”

* * * *

When Samantha reached for the doorknob to her
office, she heard a gruff and familiar voice. “Hey, Sammy, wait a
minute.”

It was Captain Silvio Gutto. With his sleeves
rolled up to his elbows, the middle-aged department head was
waddling up the hall. A five o’clock shadow seemed permanently
fixed on his face, and the afternoon hours, as always, resulted in
a blue tie loosened from his neck. He too held a stack of papers,
and he was still reading them as he neared. “Here’s a fax of the
L.A. Coroner’s report you wanted,” he said. “It seems your hunch
was wrong.”

Samantha frowned. “Why?”

“Because according to your old buddy,
Harpreet Singh, Stiles died of natural causes. Some kind of
cardiovascular somethin’ or other.”

Samantha tensed her mouth. “No, that can’t be
right.” She snatched the pages from her boss and ransacked them as
he watched, scratching the salt and pepper hair on top of his head.
She knew Harpreet Singh very well since he was the San Francisco
County Coroner during her first eight years on the force. This past
year he took the higher paying job down in L.A.

Samantha started to formulate a plan to pay
him a visit. She knew he would appreciate seeing his old San
Franciscan friend again. “Sil, I need to see Dr. Singh as soon as
possible. Can I fly down there tomorrow?”

“Can’t you just call him on the phone?”

“No, Sil, no phone. This is something I have
to do in person.”

“Go on, then, Sammy.” He was the only one who
called her that. “You know what you’re doing.”

Samantha knew he meant what he said. She also
knew that word from the top made it clear to allow her the space
she needed to pursue her investigations. Captain Gutto was a man
who followed orders—and Samantha was well aware that when those
orders involved her, he didn’t ask questions.

BOOK: Killer of Killers
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ads

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