Keystone Trigger

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Chapter 18

Waggling the stack of cash, Yoshio found himself drawn to the Fanny Hill Club near Kokusai-dori. Sukebe—a word for men helplessly, humorously guided by their dicks. A nicer and more accepted term than the West’s prudish “lecher.”

They offered a discount for students; Yoshio produced an ID from Waseda University, only slightly dog-eared, and the short-haired young yakuza who welcomed him scratched his chin as he asked, “Now, you’re sure you’re not a little old, now?”

“Continuing education,” said Yoshio. “I like to learn.”

The strip club reeked of cigarettes and flat beer and the acetous sweat of men. Awful J-pop swelled in pummeling waves. Low benches before the stage were sparsely occupied: a few lonely souls of indiscriminate age, a small knot of young friends, probably actual students, and in the far corner, a white man with a ballcap shielding his face, who clutched a magazine between his hands as though he’d been crucified to the pages.

In the dim light, in silent distress, Dana huddled in her seat. Robbed at an ATM for her life, then dragged to a peep show on impulse. Yoshio and she sat in the back for an ample view of the walkway and stage. Vending machines, brooding in their sickly glow, lined the stucco walls. An old man coughed into his fist.

“First up, we have Queen Marilyn!” said a voice over a microphone.

A woman in a tulle dress hustled onstage to the brazen reception of the audience. Miss Marilyn promptly bent over and slapped her ass; people cheered. When she presented her genitals to the room, Dana wasted the last shred of her will in maintaining a neutral expression. The sight of vaginas did not phase her, of course, but this caustic and businesslike display made her painfully conscious of gender, pressure, and the inventively endless ways they intersect.

Yoshio clicked his heel against the floor. He swung his head to the tinny snare, eyes thin like the chink in a snail shell. The girl’s twirling stupefied him. She rubbed herself as if she had learned it out of a book: spread her labia harshly, ground her palms along her curveless body. But beauty is foolish, so the proper way for a crook to move is toward it. Yoshio channeled his drives into the idol onstage; he tossed Dana to the rear of his mind; he spat at Wasayama, granted her a brief reprieve.

Marilyn flounced off in a sheen of sweat, only for the announcer to holler, “Open stage!” and call her right back on. The Eurythmics’ earnest, fuzzy pop gem “The Walk” thundered over the speakers. The men on the benches bellowed, Yoshio chief among them, like a shill drumming up business for lust. Dana knew the practice, knew what was to follow. She felt only a grim vertigo.

“Who would like to step onstage with our beautiful Queen?”

Yoshio’s hand was first. Trembling, he mounted the stage and stood in the hot glare of the lights, in the cigarette fog and old men’s stares. Annie Lenox crooned for the sake of authentic love. Yoshio observed nothing but Queen Marilyn’s thighs.

The woman swabbed his genitals with an antiseptic wipe, oddly graceful in her movements. More experience with this part? The hitman bobbed and writhed in place for the signal. Sweat and drying rain clung to his skin, to his battered clothes.

At Marilyn’s command he thrust in with his head flopped back, eyes wide and boring into the ceiling. The pain in his leg vanished.

“Cheer him on, boys!” said the announcer.

The men clapped and brayed. They screamed their approval while Yoshio busied himself in his dancer. Dana seized the opportunity to slip outside, sparing no glances for the murderer, yet grateful and aghast at the logic by which this man organized his life. She stepped into the sopping day.

After a few minutes of wandering she came upon a koban—a little kiosk for a guard or two to watch the populace.

“Ah, sumimasen, ah, I have a crime to report. Hanzai, hanzai.”

The cop kept his face impassive, mouth turned down and eyes empty of interest. “What seems to be the problem?” he said in Japanese.

“Criminal, in the club, the nudo gekijo—yakuza.”

The officer shook his head slowly, preserving the straightness of his broad back. The yakuza ran all the dance halls and gambling parlors. “Go home, ma’am,” he said.

“I don’t understand you, are you coming or not? There’s a yakuza there trying to kill me. Fucking kill me, you know?” She mimed stabbing and shooting.

“A fight? Where is this?”

Dana knew this word, doko, where. “The club back down the road. Massugu. Nudo gekijo.”

“I am sure they will calm down,” said the police officer, again unintelligible to the woman. “No one uses guns in Naha.”

“Nihon-jin, pistoru. Massugu. Ima!” She pointed to the bandage on her arm, the bloodspot, and started to unwrap the dressing.

“No, no, keep it on.”

“This is from a gun—pistoru. He fucking shot me.”

The cop just stared at her. In a frustration at once supplanted by relief, Dana said, “Denwa o shimasu, onegaishimasu.”

Haruki picked up.

“It’s me, Jesus Christ it’s me, please say something.”

“Dana, I love you, what’s wrong?”

“Some fucking asshole yakuza abducted me, he shot me—

“He shot you? Where are you? Are you bleeding? We’re going to a hospital.”

“I’m at a koban somewhere on the north end of Naha. Near some sex club. This cop didn’t do shit, he just left me, he—”

“Calm down, let me speak to the officer.”

Dana shook the phone at the policeman. She followed his lips as they warped in response to her husband’s questions. She wanted Haruki’s block chin, his eyes, the way he diced a radish so smoothly you couldn’t follow the blade. Her numbness after the miscarriage, burying her kids with Haruki’s steady hand against her, accepting her, child-bearing or no. Haruki’s crinkle-eyed parents, loving her before they knew her name, as though bigotry had never been drilled into their skin. The warmth of a family embrace from father, mother, and loving son threatened to crack her open in the koban, send her tearing through the storm to find her apartment on foot.

The officer handed her the phone.

“Ruki?”

“I’m coming right now, I’ll be there in twenty minutes.”

“Be careful, it’s shit outside, I don’t want you to hurt yourself trying to get me. I’m going to stay here, it’ll be fine, I’m with the cop.”

“I love you.”

She hated to hang up her only real connection with humanity. Sure, there were friends, plus Ruki’s beneficent brood, but first and foremost the man in the car coming to retrieve her was what saved her on those days when it seemed better to take a flying leap off a cliff.

The right confluence of mercies, however small, can open up the world to show a life that’s not so tragic after all. Goodness and equality aren’t always crushed under another’s heel. There is improvement and useful chance. Happiness outside the defiled cave.

The policeman stood on, unperturbed by Dana’s presence. He watched out the window as the rain bent and shifted with the wind.

When Haruki’s car appeared, she ripped open the koban without so much as a glance at the cop and hauled on the passenger door until her husband unlocked it. She fled inside, seizing his arm, kissing the sturdy chin, the rounded cheek.

Haruki said, “I cannot explain how much I missed you, but do we need to file a report with this man right now?”

“We do, I know we do, but for the love of Christ let’s go right now.”

Haruki did not need to be told twice. Justice can be paused; it is left in this state often enough. He sped away, waving to the policeman, who did not wave back. They coasted slowly over the wet roads, passing the yellow glow of burrowers in their homes.

“Do you need a hospital? You were shot, you said you were shot?”

“It barely hit me. For real, the fucker was making a statement. Lots of help from that officer, by the way—he didn’t do shit.”

“He told me to file a report. We’ll do it later. If I could write it myself, I would, but I’m sure you need to give your account of what happened.”

“We are not talking about this, baby, yet. Sorry. I love you, I just want to focus on this, just hold your hand. Do you mind? I don’t know why I’m asking, it’s dangerous on the road, who knows? I can’t think right now, seriously. No sleep. Ready to pass out and I’m just realizing how fast my heart’s been pounding for the last twenty-four hours. He has my phone, by the way, my fucking phone, so we can’t go home. Or we can pick up some stuff, and Muscles, and just go.”

“Already taken care of. I brought the emergency packs, and Muscles is in the back seat, being surprisingly tame. You have a calming effect on him.”

“The hell I do. He’s just scared of the storm.”

“Some Okinawan cat.”

“I figured this was some serious shit, I better prepare. Stuffed as much of your good clothes in the trunk as possible. I don’t have your briefcase, though, you had that, and Jesus you have bruises on your neck, too. Didn’t this guy notice anything?”

“I was in a fucking car accident, on top of this.”

“I don’t even know what to say.”

“You don’t have to say a thing. Or talk, about anything you want. I’m just happy to be back. I never thought I’d see the inside of this car again. Or you. I made my peace with not seeing you, I—” She welcomed the tears for once. “I thought I was going to die and you weren’t going to see me or look at me until I was a fucking corpse, and I didn’t know what to do about that.”

“But you ran away? From the yakuza?”

Life is a constant reversal; the worst is fated to happen: Haruki meant a rebuttal to these damning concerns. She leaned into him and choked on the breath she was so eager to savor, that sweet, pickled flavor hanging around his head. Somehow he never smelled unpleasant, no matter how many chilies he ate—or she knew this was exaggeration, but didn’t care. She wanted the lie of the golden partnership, she knew it wasn’t destructive to buy into the thought, now and again, that her husband was better than other people. She was his, and he held on with the right grip for her to flourish.

“Did you bring a blanket?”

“Sure, I forgot, you’re soaking wet, Muscles is on it. Get off Muscles, come on.”

“I’ll do it, you drive. Are we picking up your parents?”

Haruki steered around an uprooted fern, passed a van with its hazards on and one headlight missing.

“Pick up parents, get out of Naha until this thing is figured out. Not sure what’s up with the typhoon, but we have a crazy guy with a gun, then this missing girl, Kumiko-chan. If she’s out in this storm.” He left the sentence unfinished, wisely. Too soon to dig back into the usual routine. Dana needed silence and affirmations; food, bed, a stop to thunder. Haruki savored the warmth of his wife in the car, tried to probe the anxiety behind her loss. Tears pearled under his eyes, without resistance, with relief.

“I love you,” said Dana. She settled Muscles on her lap, and the cat, disturbed but still antsy for attention, sank his claws through the fabric into Dana’s thigh. “Ow, not you, Skully. Jesus.”

“I can’t tell you how many times he’s done that to me today. I have these little patches of red holes up and down my leg. I was ready to lock him in the closet.”

Dana smiled. Haruki would never, his heart was far too tender.

“Are we going to your cousin’s? Oda’s just up the road.”

“I don’t know if I want to drag him into this. I’ll call him just to give a heads-up, but it’s probably safest to stay on base.”

“Not supposed to be driving under TCCOR1, though. Only Gate 2’s going to be open, and it’s essential personnel only.”

“Well, we’re allowed there, right? We’ll say it was dangerous at our place. A fire broke out, or something.”

“At least there’s no way this guy can get into Heiwa.”

“If there’s one thing the American military knows how to do, it’s protect.”

Haruki nodded, smiling at the windshield, though he wanted to turn and smile at his wife. Muscles yawned and tucked his head into his belly. The rain splashed over the roof and hood and trunk and failed to penetrate the space in which they breathed. Mobile enclosure of safety: this is what Dana thought as she leaned her face against the cool windowglass and slept.

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