(Sato learns the victim’s ex-boyfriend is a U.S. Marine who is nowhere to be found. Sato knows it can take days to find someone in a city the size of Tokyo. He has a decision to make: go through official channels, or call a Navy investigator he has met in the past. – An excerpt from The Gangster’s Son).
Sato pulled a small leather business card holder from his coat pocket, opened it, and sighed.
His fingers knew almost by intuition which card to pull – Agent Michael Anderson, Navy
Investigative Service, Naval Forces Japan, Yokosuka Navy Base.
Mike Anderson had written his home phone number on the back of the card Sato now held.
At the time, Anderson said, “In case you ever need to call me. Any time, day or night.”
He had said those words four years earlier, when he met Sato on a case involving an
American sailor trying to buy marijuana on Roppongi’s main thoroughfare from another
foreigner the police happened to be tailing. Anderson seemed embarrassed for his countryman, and seemed to apologize for taking Sato away from more important duties.
“Call me if you need anything,” Anderson had repeated, “any time, day or night. This is my home number.”
Sato never did, not even the second time, when an American sailor was the cause of a
serious disturbance at a Roppongi nightclub that did not appreciate the presence of any
Westerners. That time, Anderson said he appreciated how Sato handled the case, keeping the sailor out of a Japanese jail cell, and repeated the offer: if there was ever anything he could do, just call.
Sato never understood the easy American attitude, “just call.” He preferred to keep police matters official. It was always much easier that way, in the long run. But that early Saturday morning, with a young woman dead and her GI boyfriend missing, Sato knew he had to do what Anderson said.
He stared at the number.
Official channels would undoubtedly take too long.
Sato sighed, and dialed the number.
The sharp double ring of his bedside telephone blasted Mike Anderson into the here and
now. Before his mind caught up with his reflexes, he was sitting up, placing the phone to his ear, and saying “Hello?” It was not that he was still asleep; it was that he had never once in his time in Japan had his home telephone ring at 2 a.m.
But years of waking up alert and ready did not prepare him for what he was about to hear.
“Agent Anderson, this is Inspector Sato of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police. I am sorry to
bother you at this hour. I am investigating a murder. And I am looking for a Marine.”
Sato? Murder? Marine?
Anderson could not have been more surprised if Jesus Christ himself was on the phone.
“What can I do for you, Inspector?” Mike Anderson’s image of Sato quickly came to mind: competent, commanding bearing, but at that moment, unable to recall the last time he had spoken him. Anderson, a former Marine, was solid and squat as a fire hydrant, with a blond brush cut, deep-set blue eyes, and a low rumble for a voice.
“I know this should go through official channels,” Sato said, “but I need to talk to a Marine, a Lance Corporal Charlie Jones. I interviewed two other Marines who came up here. I let them return to their rooms at the Sanno. I don’t think I’m going to need to talk to them again, but this Jones was the victim’s boyfriend. Or former boyfriend. I need to find him.”
“A murder?” Anderson’s mind was slowly catching up to reality. While he listened to Sato, he turned on the light by his bed, found pants thrown over a chair, and tugged them on.
“Do you know what unit he’s attached to?”
“The other Marines said the flagship.”
“Ah. Blue Ridge. And you said those Marines are on liberty? They aren’t AWOL or
Unsure of what Anderson meant, Sato said, “They are at the Sanno right now.”
“Okay.” Bending over a dresser drawer, fishing out socks and tugging them on, Anderson
said, “If they’re at the Sanno then they’re probably on liberty. I’m going to call the Officer of the Day and the Shore Patrol, get them looking for Jones, whoever he is. You think this Marine did it?”
Sato hesitated. “We have some clues to follow up on. But Jones left the scene. I’m not sure how it all fits together. I need to talk to him.”
“Damn little to go on there,” Anderson thought to himself as he tied his shoes. What would he tell the Marines? The base people? The admiral?
“Can you give me any idea what I’m dealing with here?” he asked.
“We’ve just begun the case,” Sato said. “We’re talking to everyone. Putting things together. It’s all preliminary. But I need to talk to that Marine.”
Feeling more confident now that he was dressed, Anderson said, “I’ll call you the minute we find Jones. Charlie Jones, right? Flagship, right?”
Sato only knew what he had been told by Johnson and Ballard, so he said, “The other GIs
are called Johnson and Ballard. Both … black Americans.”
“Got it. Give me your number.”
Sato recited the station’s main number with scant hope of hearing from Anderson anytime soon, but now he was hours ahead of anything headquarters could do. With so many GIs in Tokyo, Sato calculated finding one would take at least one day, maybe two.
“Thanks for calling, Shig,” Anderson said.
“Thank you. Good-bye.”
Anderson stared at the phone, then sat back on the bed, replaying the conversation in his head.
“A Japanese cop calls in the middle of the night, needs to talk to a Marine. Pronto.”
Anderson thought this over. He knew Sato. He knew this was no quid pro quo, no “you help me, I help you.” Anderson had been an agent for fifteen years. His dad was a cop. Anderson knew all about trading favors. Japanese cops did not trade favors.
Anderson believed that what had just happened was something called on — at least, that was what he had read in some books before he came over. He had to be told it was pronounced own, like owning something, and sometimes it was called gimu, or giri. But he knew it meant obligation. Or duty. All the Japanese had it, and the sense of doing right by it, of being in someone’s debt for a kindness or a service. He knew it pervaded the whole country.
Anderson recalled that from the time a Japanese person is old enough to make sense of the world, this obligation ruled his life. It affected everything. He knew no Japanese person willingly brought on any more obligation than they had to, because they knew at some point, it had to be repaid. No favor was too big. No request was too small. It had to be repaid.
And Sato calling him in the middle of the night? Looking for a Marine? That had to be some big giri.
For the hundredth time since arriving in Japan, Anderson realized he would never make
sense of the Japanese.
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