4. Tokyo Hospitality

“Did that meeting seem a little funny to you?” Okami asked quietly as he walked down the street with Dimes and Carillon.

“No funnier than any meeting with a representative of another intelligence service.” Tenner shrugged noticeably. “The usual circumspection of word choice, trying not to give away more than you should. Besides, I know Ashihara. He’s reliable. And if we’re offering our assistance, even covertly, he stands to gain face with the police force and the Koancho if we can crack whoever’s pulling Kanzawa’s strings. That’s more important now than it ever was. Too many people have been RIF’d out of the Koancho in the last several years. Keeping somebody with his stature and experience is good for Japan and good for us.”

“I wish I could agree, boss. But he seemed a little cagey, even for a spook.”

“I have to agree with St. John on this one,” chimed in Carillon, her soft resonant soprano not stumbling over Okami’s given name in the slightest. “He’s holding out. Something beyond what he normally ought not be telling us. He started about the time he got that second phone call.”

“You think there was something shady going on?” Dimes asked as Shimikura pulled her compact out to check her makeup.

“Indeed I do. If there wasn’t, why are three plainclothes agents trying for a loose tail on us?” she asked as she touched up her lipstick.

Tenner smiled thinly. “Could be professional paranoia, I suppose. Still, does us no good if they’re insisting on keeping tabs on our movements. Suggestions?”

“I’d go for a ‘purse snatcher’ routine, but the cops around here are pretty good,” murmured Merriweather. “And this close to the Ministry, there’s too much opportunity for the goons to flash a badge.”

“Same goes for a ‘fainting lady’ play,” Carillon echoed. “And not to put too fine a point on it, but you two stick out.”

Okami chuckled softly. “Not my fault I’m so pretty.”

“I hate to scatter, but that may be our best option. Marlena, we’re coming up on a subway station. Plan A, try and lose the goon in the station, double back out here, see if you can catch a cab or bus. Plan B, ride the subway a bit. Find a clothing store. Pick up something loud and touristy. Play the ‘Ugly Asian-American’ to the hilt.”

“Got it.”

“St. John, we’ll see how long we can string these guys along. If necessary, we’ll find another subway station, follow plan A. Plan B for us, we’ll try and find a bar, kill some time, maybe play ‘drunk gaijin’ if the circumstances look good. Plan C, if that fails or doesn’t look like B is viable, is try to set up an ambush somewhere, clobber them, leave them tucked away somewhere.”

“Right.”

“All right. Roll with it.”

Carillon peeled away as casually as possible, heading for the subway station. Dimes and Okami turned a corner, glancing in windshields to check behind them. Two goons. One of them had gone on Carillon’s trail. Now to shake their own pursuers.

The two spies walked casually down the street, keeping their tails in sight with whatever reflective objects they could come across. Subway stations came and went, but Tenner subtly indicated that they were to be avoided for the moment. The goons were keeping their distance, a sure sign that their orders were notionally limited to observation. Clearly, they couldn’t just keep walking forever, and they couldn’t risk losing the goons. The duo pretended to look in a shop window, Okami observing their tails carefully. One of the goons walked right past them as if nothing was happening. The other stopped to buy a small bowl of yaki soba from a street vendor.

“The guys are fucking pros,” Okami whispered in admiration.

“Indeed they are. But so are we. You have your guy made?”

“Could ID him in a dark alley with my fingertips if I had to. So what’s the plan?”

Looking around briefly, Tenner saw what looked to be the beginning of a plan. “We’re going to check out the local club scene.” Tugging on Okami’s shoulder, Dimes led them down the street again and crossed at the nearest intersection, leading them to a very stylishly decorated façade.

Inside, the music was a little loud and the lighting was semi-dramatic. Okami took only a few moments to adjust to the dimmer conditions, but was still a bit surprised. Dimes had dragged him into a strip club. A very high end, very pricey kind of strip club. The current dancer moved with feline grace to a bass-loaded beat with twittering synth-shamisen melodies overlaid on it, eyes flashing as she looked out on the crowd of Japanese businessmen relaxing and smoking at the neon-lit tables. He saw Tenner talking with one of the waitresses. As Merriweather moved closer, he saw Dimes glance over at him with a shit-eating grin.

“Describe our friends to this lovely lady!” Dimes said in Japanese.

Taking the hint, Okami described the two goons to the waitress. Dimes took over the conversation, spinning an elaborate story about a business deal that went well and this was a surprise he wanted to give to them. To make his point, Dimes slapped a thin stack of five thousand yen notes down on the waitress’ tray and asked her to repeat back Okami’s description. The waitress did so with remarkable accuracy and promised that there would be a very pleasant surprise for the two gentlemen.

Ten minutes later, the tails stepped into the strip club. They were immediately set upon by a pair of strippers dressed up in highly stylized schoolgirl outfits and herded into a VIP room, protesting loudly. The door closed and a small little neon sign that read “naughty girls dancing” in Japanese lit up next to it. Tenner and Merriweather slipped out and trotted down the street to the nearest subway station.

“Best 50,000 yen I ever spent,” grinned Dimes as the train sped away.