Miko Tanaka was a Tokyo chambermaid who liked to spy on hotel guests making love. She'd hide in the coat closet and peer through the slats.
One morning they found Miko hanging from a shower rod, the vacuum cleaner cord wrapped around her neck. The vacuum was still going.
Miko's brother Jiro came home from military service in the Japanese Navy. He studied Miko's bruised face. Then he went to the hotel.
It was the Grand Imperial Hotel. Jiro talked with the head of hotel security, who was extremely polite. Jiro showed no emotion.
He walked around the empty room, studying objects. He spent a long time alone in the bathroom. Then he asked to see the guest register.
There had been an American staying at the hotel. He'd checked out on the morning Miko was beaten, raped and killed.
The American was named Victor Rams. He had stayed at the Grand Imperial Hotel for a week. One night he'd had the company of a woman.
Was the woman Japanese? The security man permitted Jiro to look at the videotapes from that night.
She looked Indian. Very stylish in those black leather boots. A prostitute? If so, a very expensive one.
The head of hotel security secretly gave Jiro the man's American Express card number. Jiro went that day to see his friend Kenzo.
Kenzo was an avid computer hobbyist. He downloaded information about Victor Rams from various so-called secure sites on the Internet.
Victor Rams lived in San Francisco. He was wealthy. He had never been linked to a crime. But he travelled often, all over the globe.
With Kenzo's help, Jiro tracked his recent movements and checked newspaper and police reports.
Women who'd been killed at those times, in those places: unsolved murders. Stranglings, drownings, knifings --
There was some overlap with the unsolved killings of: a schoolgirl in Bangkok, a prostitute in Rome, a backpacker in Calcutta.
And a chambermaid in Venice.
Hanged from a shower rod. Strangled with an extension cord.
Jiro's hair prickled when he saw that. His mouth went dry. He began to sweat.
Kenzo brought him a glass of whisky. He drank it down in one swallow.
Then he felt even worse.
Kenzo printed out a sheaf of documents from the Internet and put them in Jiro's hands. Jiro bowed. Arigato.
He went out and walked around Shinjuku. It was raining. Girls were out laughing under transparent umbrellas.
He went into a temple. It was eerily silent there but for rawk-rawking crows and wind blowing in the pine trees.
That night he caught a red-eye flight to San Francisco. It was foggy when the jet landed. He took a cab to a downtown hotel.
His eyes were burning. He stood under the shower, blinking, as the cold water pounded him.
He squatted in the shower and did deep breathing exercizes until his head felt clearer. Then he turned the water off.
He dried himself quickly and dressed. Then he went out onto Grant Street. At a kiosk he bought a map of the city.
Seeing that he could walk to Victor Rams' mansion, he set out. Detouring into Chinatown, he bought a 6 inch kitchen knife.
He slipped the sheathed knife into the breast pocket of his leather jacket. As he walked, he felt it tap against his heart.
Meantime, a weary Detective Hoga of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police was watching more video footage in the hotel basement.
He'd already cleared the guest who'd stayed in that hotel room overnight -- a sake salesman from Nagano.
The video feed from both hall cams showed Miko Tanaka pushing her cart into the room 10 minutes after the businessman left.
No one else had entered the room that morning, no one entered after Miko, and no one else exited.
She'd been beaten but there was no blood DNA from anyone else. She'd been raped, but the rapist had used a condom.
And taken it with him.
Lab: Ultrathin latex, mass produced, a bestselling item. You could get them in the hotel pharmacy.
Detective Hoga was now speeding through video footage of the night before. Nothing. Empty hallway.
Maids. Room service to other rooms. A few guests drifting past. Some running children.
Detective Hoga had been chain smoking since eight o'clock and his throat burned. He rubbed his eyes.
He asked to see the room again. Hotel security took him up in the elevator. Detective Hoga went to the windows.
Pulled the drapes. There was a small French-style balcony, barely wide enough to stand outside on.
He opened the glass doors and went out, looking up at the balcony above. Then below. Then to both sides.
He gripped the railing and seemed to be trying to shake it. The steel stayed firm.
He rubbed his eyes. The security man was waiting.
He looked down at Tokyo, blurred in a pall of brown fog.
This was his city. His.
Jiro walked back and forth in front of the villa-like house near the top of Pacific Heights.
He couldn’t see much through the windows. There was a high iron gate. In the driveway, a Jaguar, older model.
It was pristine white, as if washed down every day. The tires looked new.
Jiro took a thumb sized notebook and a felt tip pen out of his jacket and wrote down the license plate number.
He stepped back behind a tree when he thought he saw movement in one of the top windows.
He was hardly breathing. Sweat on his forehead, he waited. His heart beating against the wood-sheathed knife.
He stuck his head out and glanced up. Nothing. It wouldn’t do any good to be seen.
He started walking away from the house. He had a strange “looked at” feeling in the back of his neck but he didn’t slow or turn.
It had to happen. It would happen. He remembered Miko laughing in sunlight. How he’d pushed her on a swing.
That evening the fog came in. Jiro walked through North Beach and went into a strip club.
He didn’t know what he was doing there. He felt dizzy. He chewed a stick of mint gum watching the action onstage.
Two mostly naked girls danced together, kissing. It was very lewd, the way they ground their hips.
There were some other Japanese men in the club. In dark suits, quite drunk, they were waving ten dollar bills at the girls.
A girl in a G-string sauntered over to the edge of the stage, sat on it, and spread her legs wide, pulling aside the G-string. She arched her back and, tensing her legs and arms, rose up that way, like a pornographic crab.
Jiro looked away. The Japanese were howling with joy. Ah! Ah!
A woman with bare breasts, not very attractive, approached the table. She sat next to Jiro and put her hand on his knee. She was wearing crazy glitter and eye-shadow.
Buy me a drink? she asked.
Jiro shook his head, still chewing the gum.
She looked at him then got up.
Jiro watched as she went to the bar and spoke into the ear of a man with bulging biceps and a shaved head. He looked down at his whisky when the man stared over at him. He picked it up and drank the last sip. Suntory diluted in a lot of ice chips.
The table jolted. He glanced up to see the big man holding the edge. The dark eyes glared into his.
Jiro smiled and chewed his gum. He didn’t look away. They stared into each other.
Hard guy are you? said the man.
Jiro kept his face empty.
I’ll take you out and wreck you good, the man said.
It was the first word Jiro had said in San Francisco.
The man let go of the table. As he straightened up, Jiro brought up his knee and the table smashed into the man’s chest.
He came up fast and hit the man in the throat. It was a perfect chop. The man staggered choking and fell to the concrete floor.
Jiro stepped around the table and kicked the bouncer hard in the side of the head. With a moan, he went limp.
The Japanese men had gone quiet and were looking at the scene, frozen and horrified. The music still blared.
He stepped over the bouncer, straightened his jacket, and walked to the red curtains that hid the black painted door. He opened the door and went through. As soon as it shut behind him, the throbbing dance beats seemed mystically far off.
Nobody troubled him. He was out on the street, tasting the cold fog from the Bay. He walked across a park in front of a stone cathedral.