3. Akihabara

“Ahhh, Electric Town!” grinned Hyrax, taking a deep breath. “Nerdvana! The homeland of otaku the world over!”

Flick grumbled silently as Hyrax rhapsodized about the Akihabara district of Tokyo. While he had to admit that it was perhaps the ultimate destination for a technophiliac, he didn’t hold much hope of finding information regarding Tsukiko Kanzawa or her whereabouts in this bustling center of horny electronics geeks.

“OK, Mr. Computer Wizard, if you were a typical Japanese schoolgirl whose daddy was a big time politico, where would you shop in Akihabara?”

“Hmmm. From the dossier that the boss had the Home Office people put together, she’d probably go not only high tech, but high utility. Something that she could have plenty of use for aside from just texting to friends or calling her family.” Hyrax pulled a palmtop out and entered a few commands through a stylus as he continued to walk down the street. “God bless unsecured wireless access,” he murmured. “We’ll just keep moving. Long as we’re hitting a new access point every few minutes, we’ll throw the scent off anybody babysitting the computers.”

“What’re you doing?” hissed Flick.

“Mapping the local unsecured WAPs, entering coordinates into a database, and for an encore, hacking the nearest cell phone tower. The dossier has Tsukiko’s cell number, I’m trying to see the last time that it was used around here.”

“What makes you think it would be used around here? From what I heard, she was going to school in Sapporo, which is way north of here.”

“Doesn’t mean that she never came down here. Hell, some of the gadgets you get in a cell phone these days, you have to come into Akihabara for. Just keep your eyes peeled.” Hyrax refocused his attention on his palmtop. Flick growled again and kept pace with the hacker. He used his peripheral vision to watch the reflections in the glass windows of shops, seeing if anybody was following them, keeping an even pace with Hyrax, glancing around occasionally like any Amerikajin tourist visiting the brightly lit chaos of Electric Town.

“Warmer . . .warmer . . .disco!”

“Found something?” asked Flick, still scanning, his head turned, an unsettling sight grabbing the corner of his eye.

“Cell phone carrier ID tag attached to Tsukiko’s number. There are three different entries, dated about three months ago. I might be able correlate those times to public appearances by Kanzawa. Assuming, of course, that I’m not getting some clone phone that the bad guys used. I’m going to need time to get more information. But either she’s been here semi-recently, or the bad guys have been.”

“Right now, I’m guessing the bad guys. Two of them, six o’clock.”

Hyrax casually saved his work and slipped the palmtop into his pocket. “Do they stand out?”

“Not really. Shades and casual wear. Whoever they are, they’re good. They’re about twenty yards back.”

“Right.” Hyrax looked around briefly, then tugged Flick’s elbow. “In here, no questions.” The pair went inside a large plate glass-fronted store. As they passed through the doors, Flick caught a glimpse of their pursuers. If the goons were smart, they’d walk right past the store, then wait out of sight, probably across the street to resume the pursuit.

“Read this!” Hyrax hissed as he shoved a small thick book into Flick’s face. The thief was momentarily bemused, but even as he opened the book, he saw the tails walk into the store. The good news was that the store was well lit and filled with people. The bad news was that he and Hyrax were effectively trapped for the moment. Flick tried to act casual as he looked at the book, but the act disappeared quickly.

“This is a porn comic!” he hissed through clenched teeth.

Hentai manga,” corrected Hyrax gently. “I just grabbed the first ones that were handy.”

Flick was sorely tempted to argue the point, but he needed to keep his eye on the stooges who’d followed them into the store and were perusing their own manga. “So what now?”

Hyrax put his comic down and murmured, “Improvise,” then went over to one of the sales clerks and began to chat them up in what Flick was certain was deliberately broken Japanese. The hacker and the clerk soon dropped into a rough pidgin of Japanese and English. Flick continued to use available reflective surfaces to keep an eye on the goons. An excited squeal came from Hyrax’s direction, the hacker now surrounded by five different clerks, all of them babbling in Japanese. He could only catch a glimpse of Hyrax in the crowd of clerks, but what he saw heartened him. In showing off his palmtop’s features, Hyrax had surreptitiously sent a message out, probably to Nike or Dimes. Now all they had to do was sit tight and wait for the cavalry to arrive.

After a few minutes, Flick saw one of the goons get on his cell phone. No doubt telling his boss what was going on. Glancing out the window, Flick watched the nondescript minivan pull up outside the bookstore, turning mental cartwheels of joy. He went over to Hyrax, still jabbering with the clerks, to let him know their ride had arrived, the goons heading the door, acknowledging this round was lost.

Flick never felt the brush pass that put the slip of paper in his left jacket pocket.