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Chapter Seventy-Four

Jack became the pitching coach for the Yomiuri Giants. He didn’t talk to the press and stayed in the bullpen before the game. He taught his pitchers some new tricks, and the team began to win.

He was enjoying Japan. Whenever the team played at home, at least, he now had someone. Whether it was after a night game or on an off day all he needed to do was call and Aiko, the girl from the restaurant, would appear. He should have questioned it, but that is what sex does. He had heaven whenever he wanted and she was heaven. Jimmy was right. She thought him a god. Besides he assured himself, he was thousands of miles from L.A.

The Giants were fighting for a play-off spot. They were a game behind and if they won their next one the team would have a slot. Aiko came to his hotel room that night. They laid in bed spent. Jack grabbed a cigarette. She curled up in his arms.

“Tomorrow is big game,” she said.

“Yeah, it is. We should win. We’ll have Egara pitching. He’s been our best.”

She nuzzled her face against his arm. “You sure? Egara has pitched a lot. Maybe Gotomara should start. He is just as good.”

He pulled her to him. “Really? Since when do you follow this?”

She kissed him and reached between his legs. “I follow a lot.”

There was no more conversation.

Gotomara got the nod after Jack discussed it with the manager who didn’t argue. He watched his pitcher throw. By the fourth inning Gotomara’s fastball didn’t seem as fast and his curve didn’t break. The opposing team hit him hard and the Giants lost the game. When he returned to his hotel room, the door was not locked. Thank God, Aiko must be waiting to cheer him up.

“Aiko? You there?” He stepped in. Was she in the bedroom … bathroom? The bathroom door was open but no Aiko. He went to the bedroom. On the bed was a pile of money. He felt his heart race. He checked the room then flung the closet door open. No one was hiding behind his clothes. What is going on? After a few seconds, he moved closer to the bed. There were two thick stacks of hundred dollar bills. Oh Jesus. He grabbed the phone and called Aiko. The line was disconnected. He searched the room again. A piece of paper peeked out from under the money. He snatched it. “You very good coach. Ha Ha.” He’d call Jimmy, but then put the phone down. He got the picture. It was a set-up from the beginning. He slumped into a chair. Jimmy must have known. During the time he was here, he had convinced himself he couldn’t be found and didn’t concern himself with shadows. But now... That stink’n money was all “they” needed to force him to do whatever “they” wanted. Japan was no longer safe. He packed his clothes and left. The cash remained untouched.

He flew from Japan to Bangkok. He was still young enough to enjoy its pleasures, but wise enough to know “the pleasures” wouldn’t last. He became baseball’s General MacArthur, island hopping across the Pacific until he came to Hawaii and settled in Maui in 2008. The sunsets were stunning, and everyday was perfect. This could be the place he’d call home.

He had learned over the years to be meticulous with his belongings. Shirts were stacked in a color scheme. Underwear went into the third drawer, T-shirts in front. A picture of his parents sat on the night -stand near the bed. And he left a small piece of paper between the outside edge of the door before leaving. He trained himself to notice detail. Shadows only gave him one chance.

He loosened up. He’d get the L.A. Times in the morning and read Fred’s column. He became a hell of a tennis player and water-skied a few days a week. At night he managed a bar. He even sent Fred a post-card to say hello and congratulate him on thirty years with the Times. Three months later, he returned to his apartment and noticed the little paper in the door was gone. He didn’t try the knob. He stood there for a few seconds starring at the spot where the paper had been. Then he took a breath and turned around. He walked a few blocks, looking over his shoulder.

He was done with island hopping but what was next? Germany and Eastern Europe were out even though the War ended sixty years ago. The stories of his parents’ survival in those countries haunted him. London might be logical but the bastards would also look there. Screw them. He went to Paris. He became a physical trainer and soon had his own gym.

For all the beauty of the city, ghosts of the Second World War were present. Any street in Paris still had the scars of Nazi occupation. The Hotel Lutetia, was the headquarters of German military intelligence. The Gestapo occupied 84 Avenue Foch. Despite the gaieties and bustle of the cafés shadows of a different kind were all around.

Jack grew tired of all of it, the wine, the petite baguette, and even French women. There were no baseball games to listen to. The sports pages never had any news he cared about. He liked picking up the L.A. Times when he could get it and read Fred’s column. It was his connection to home.

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