Akiko woke as the jet began dropping altitude. The porthole window was dotted with raindrops. The jet tilted and she saw the big wing streaming white vapor. Clouds rolled past, a livid streak of lightning. Tokyo appeared. She stared at it. At the blinking neon, the glass skyscrapers, vast canyons of shadow.
She had bought two seats in First Class so that she could sleep, and she’d slept dully under the thin blanket for about two hours. The blinking red Fasten Seatbelts light now came on and a pretty blue skirted “crew member” strolled up and down the aisle glancing bemusedly from side to side. Akiko sat up and fastened her seatbelt, folding the blanket beside her. She’d been dreaming about Ogata and was dizzy from it. Ogata, standing in the kitchen of the tiny apartment they’d shared, humming and cutting vegetables for udon, while she sat over her schoolbooks at the kitchen table. She shut her eyes hard to rid herself of the image.
Is everything a dream? Mere illusion?
Akiko glanced up and her blue eyed gaze met the gaze of the “crew member” who was coming slowly back down the aisle, touching the leather backs of the seats as she passed. Akiko knew that her dark blue eyes sometimes startled people, but the pretty young crew member was so startled she actually missed a step. She fell like a doll into Akiko’s arms. Akiko raised the young woman to her feet. They both laughed, and a blush suffused the young woman’s ears. She bowed quickly in apology and thanks. At that instant the jet gave a sideways lurch; the woman swayed and almost fell again. Still bowing rapidly she hurried to the front of the jet, where she sat behind a curtain and buckled herself in. They were only a minute or two from landing. Akiko turned her head to watch the wing cutting through thin layers of cloud and mist, and raindrops sliding across the plexiglass. She yawned and shivered a little. She’d be spending the night in Tokyo. That idea suddenly depressed her. She didn’t want to go out to a restaurant alone. Tokyo felt vast and dreary. She’d have to avoid all the places she used to go. Earlier, waiting to board this flight from Okinawa, she’d daydreamed a little about calling up Jiro. But now this daydream struck her as outlandish. She hadn’t seen Jiro in five years. Perhaps he was not even still alive. He was a yakuza and she’d left that world. It would be insane to try seeing him. What would they even talk about? The last time she saw Jiro, they’d made love. She’d been a virgin then, so far as men were concerned. He’d been astonished by the sight of her blood. She’d wept a little with her face against his chest. He must have felt the heat of the tears but he didn’t speak. She felt his heart beating. She kissed the spot and they both became aroused and it happened again. That was in the little apartment, the one she’d shared with Ogata, and his ashes were on the family altar in the living room the whole time. With Jiro and Ichi she’d cut through the Kumida Clan and she’d beheaded old man Kumida. Jiro and Ichi had brought the head to their Boss, Old Man Nakamura, wrapped in a blood soaked square of white silk. So long ago.
The jet’s wheels touched down, screeching, the metal and plastic body of the plane shuddered, the brakes came on and flaps on the rear of the steel wing flipped up. Akiko watched them vibrating. The jet slowed to crawl and turned in a wide circle toward the big concrete terminal. Akiko shut her eyes. Her heart was beating in strong urgent beats. When she opened her eyes she saw the young woman crew member rising from her seat. Pretty and nicely coiffed, with wide friendly eyes and an agile smiling mouth, her smooth pale face had that dusky type of rice-paper whiteness so prized by the Japanese. Akiko rubbed her arms a little for warmth. Sleeping had made her body feel cold. She watched as the young woman put away some things in a tray into a compartment that she couldn’t see, standing high on tiptoe. She had a tight, slim waist but her breasts were big, even “lush.” A slim black belt clinched that waist, erotically.
In the big booming terminal lit by flashing signs and crackling with loudspeaker announcements of delayed and boarding blights, Akiko walked slowly, looking straight ahead. She felt she was remembering her arrival in Tokyo as a nine year old girl but she wasn’t thinking of any particular details. It was just the ambience flooding all her senses. She bowed her head and felt tears behind her eyelids. No. She blinked them away and walked a little faster. After a moment she slipped on her dark glasses.
She’d checked her luggage bag because it had Ogata’s kodachi in it. She stood staring at the empty conveyor belt for a long time, it seemed, without a single thought in her head until tumbled luggage began to flow past. There was the bag, glossy black calfskin. She hefted it easily by the straps and walked away carrying it over one shoulder.
As she approached the car rental desk she saw the young crew member who’d stumbled and fallen into her lap stroll by, wheeling a small piece of luggage. She was wearing a tightly belted stylish blood-red raincoat and her face looked young and white, and the silky hair heaped on her head was deep black with red ears showing under it. She was laughing at something the other crew member walking beside her had said. The other woman, in a black rainslicker, swung her hips boldly as she walked. They looked like casual friends, nothing more, but seeing them together and so carefree gave Akiko a stab of loneliness and an actual feeling of horror at her life. The life of a killer. It was an unpleasant feeling. She bit her bottom lip, hard, and impulsively swept off her dark glasses to watch the pair of handsome young women go out through the automatically sliding plexiglass doors. They were evidently about to share a cab into Tokyo. She watched their heads duck a little at the rain. Then a cab slid up and they got into it and they were gone. Akiko went slowly to the car rental desk for her key. When she reached it, she told the clerk she’d changed her mind, and to cancel her reservation. She’d take a cab instead.
In her hotel room's bathroom, Akiko stood bare breasted before the big mirror. By moving her eyes she could see herself, from near to infinitely remote, dwindling away in the mirrors to either side of the ornate sink. She lifted the pair of scissors she held in her right hand and cut her hair at one side just below the ear. She let the clump of black hair fall from her fist onto the marble counter. Then she slowly cut the other side. She cut her hair all the way around and tossed the hair onto the growing pile of hair on the counter. Then she put down the scissors and stared at herself. At her face, the lips parted. The white bandage on her cheek. The cut above her breasts from Tommy Ko’s katana, a vivid purple color at the edges stitched up with black thread. At the smooth navel sloping down to the dark tuft of thicker hair. Blue eyes. Dark blue like a sea in the evening, Takagi had said. She bent and turned on the cold water and splashed her face with it then she splashed cold water into her short hair and rubbed the hanging hair wet between her hands. Shutting her eyes, she was aware of the roar of the faucet and the smell of hotel soap. Molly Vance, she thought. I’m not Akiko. I’m Molly Hello. Call me Molly. What’s your name? She saw herself holding out her hand to the pretty young woman in the tight blue skirted airline steward uniform. Then for some reason they were laughing together. Laughing until tears flowed into their eyes. That slender, plump waist cinched by a serpentine black belt. Akiko kissed the young woman’s breasts, which in this fleeting vision she had just bared in a majestic gesture, opening the white silk blouse wide with both hands, as if to show her body to a man for the first time. The breasts were splendid and round, pale, flushed with youth, beauty and awe. The nipples were purplish in the pink halos and stood out stiff as pencil erasers. Ah. Ah. Akiko bit them tenderly. The young woman trembled like a flower. Everything was cold and empty tonight in Tokyo but for this shuddering soft woman.
She left the hotel in the late evening and hailed a taxi on the street. Why not? She wanted to eat something and also to get a drink. Maybe she’d even get a little drunk. She was wearing her black rain slicker over a dark suit and carrying a clear plastic umbrella with a red handle. She’d put on lipstick so dark it looked black in the rear view mirror. The cab driver glanced at her several times but said nothing. He was chewing gum, which he snapped in a lewd way. Akiko felt his interest but there was nothing in her right now but a cool languor and the yearning to suffuse her body with alcohol. So she ignored him. Her hair was cut to just below the ears and hung loose. Everything you do is life and it’s staggering or dazzling. As the cab lurched through the hooting streets smeared with neon shimmers Molly watched the signs passing, kanji mingled with incomprehensible bursts of English and French.
Nobody knows her. She opens the window and feels the cold air on her neck. There is the stink of exhaust and the fresh smell of ozone. Life is going on everywhere. Senseless. Radiant. Orgasmic.
She gazed out the rain soaked window of the cab. The drops of rain shimmered with neon. Blindingly. She told the cab driver to let her out in the Ginza. She paid him the unfamiliar yen and walked click clacking in her high heels along the rain drenched street in the evening crowds. Raindrops showered from her clear plastic umbrella. When she looked up she saw soaring towers and office buildings and above it all the orange tinged night sky. And above that, what? Blackness. She went into a little bar and ordered sake. Some Japanese businessmen tried to catch her eye but she kept it on the screen of a television showing a samurai movie. She drank her cold sake in long gulps. She was aware of her hand picking up and setting down the sake glass. The bottles on shelves behind the bar were backlit by red and blue lights and glimmered coldly. She looked at her fingers. They were well manicured, smooth, and elegant -- yet this was a hand that had killed human beings, and would no doubt kill human beings again. How can we look at Akiko's hand using Akiko's mind? These are words on a page. I am writing. You are reading. Does it mean anything? She drank an entire small bottle of sake. It was cold and tasted of steel. There was nothing in her head. She realized that she wasn't thinking at all. It was strange to be in Tokyo again. She let the strangeness of it overwhelm all her sensations. Someone is sitting here drinking sake, that's all. Is it you, Akiko? You cannot tell anyone the story of your life. What does it mean to be alive? Obviously, to have impressions from the senses, to live in the midst of sensual information. Who? Who is it? I don't know.
She left the bar and walked quickly along the brilliantly lit street, her face spattered by windblown rain. As she raised her arm for a taxi, she saw the pretty young woman crew member from the Okinawa-Tokyo flight coming out of a red lit doorway. She stopped short, wiping wet hair from her face. Fascinated. The young woman was laughing hard, almost bent over from laughter. Maybe she was drunk. She was leaning on the arm of an fortyish man in a dark suit. He held up an umbrella over them. They walked quickly down the Ginza street in the shattering rain. Akiko opened her own clear plastic umbrella and followed, dodging bodies. She'd glimpsed the man's luxurious watch and band. But it was the self-composed look on the man's rather handsome face that said: yakuza. They went into a dance club. Akiko could hear the music throbbing inside. She paid for a ticket at the booth and followed them.
She went to the bar in the flashing lights. It was a crowded place, industrial sized. Naked women in pink and silver wigs were dancing on two small stages and a DJ with a wildly spiked haircut was nodding to his beats in a glass booth. Akiko sat on a stool toward the end of the bar and searched the place for the pair she'd followed in. She saw them -- sitting together. The young woman was leaning in to hear something the handsome man in the suit was shouting to her over the noise. Akiko ordered a beer. It felt shockingly cold to her hand when it came. The young bartender appraised as much as he could see of her and arched an eyebrow to express his ironic approval. Akiko drank. As always her hand was firm. It held everything with the same relaxed rock-like firmness, a sweating bottle or a knife or a gun. The beer was tasteless. The DJ's music pounded in her temples -- it seemed to bypass her eardrums completely, so amid the chaos there was an odd impression of silence. After swigging about half the beer she put down crumpled yen for it and stood up taking her umbrella and made her way toward the restrooms, or where she thought the restrooms might be. She passed close by the table. The couple were still learning together. They were both sweaty. Sweat glistened on the young woman's neck. She was even prettier here than at the airport. An erotic thrill ran coldly up Akiko's arms and made her hair tingle at the roots. The handsome man was stroking the young woman's bare arm as she writhed a little and laughed; soundlessly. As Akiko passed them the man glanced up at her. At her eyes. Akiko saw. Saw that he was yakuza. It was all in his gaze. He saw, too, that she was someone to be feared. This took him by surprise and he sat back to get a better look at Akiko even as she quickened her steps. She sensed the young woman looking directly at her now. At her shoulders. She made her shoulders relax. Then she was through the hanging red curtain and heading down a black painted hallway to the toilets. Clack clack clack clack. She went into the women's toilet and after glancing at herself in the grimy mirror went into a stall and shut and locked it, hanging her umbrella by its handle on the latch.. She stood there for a long moment with her head bowed and her eyes shut. Why a yakuza? What was this young woman doing with a Tokyo gangster? Why was he with her exactly in this place and without his yakuza friends? Yakuza usually came in groups. They didn't like being apart from other yakuza. Strange. She picked up her umbrella and unlocked the stall and went out and placing the umbrella on the marble counter bent over the sink and splashed cold water on her face. Then she dried her face with a paper towel. The door opened and two giggling girls came in. Akiko took her umbrella and left. She walked up the hallway to the red curtain. As she pushed through it she saw that the handsome man was gone. Maybe he'd gone to the men's room or to the bar or stepped outside to make a call. The young woman was sitting alone at the table, bent over her drink. Some type of martini in a broad blue-tinged glass. She was sipping it with her eyes shut, writhing her hips a little. Akiko went to the table and hung her umbrella over the back of the empty chair and sat in it. The young woman glanced up, startled. When she recognized Akiko her eyes and mouth both went wide. Akiko laughed. She stood up and the young woman stood up. Akiko motioned with her chin to the young woman's rainslicker. The young woman picked it up and walked swaying ahead of Akiko out of the club. Outside, they stood near the entranceway in the rain, Akiko holding the clear plastic umbrella over both their heads. How did you find me? the young woman asked in English. Akiko said, I saw you. In the rain. When I came out of a bar back there. Tell me, however, she said, switching to Japanese, Who is your friend? The young woman laughed and answered also in Japanese. A man I see sometimes. Where did he go? She shrugged one shoulder. Got a call, had to leave, that's all he said. Probably back in a half hour but if not, he'd see me another time. That man is a yakuza, Akiko said. The young woman opened her wide red lipsticked mouth wider and laughed hard, as if coughing or vomiting. No! Then, in English again: Are you kidding? No, Akiko said. Wow, said the young woman. Ha ha. That's really crazy. You're sure about this? Akiko bowed a little. Said: Would you like to join me for a drink? At my hotel? She named the hotel, a luxurious one. The young woman was clearly impressed. Okay, she said, with a girlish twist of her hips. Akiko took her lightly by the elbow and they walked, leaning together, to the curb, where Akiko waved for a passing taxi. The taxi slowed and stopped. They got in. Akiko gave the address. When she glanced to the side, she saw the young woman's face -- watching her, with alert eyes and slightly arched dark brows. She couldn't help the thrill she felt. Is it desire again? For this girl? She'd never made love to any woman except for Omitsu. And that had been part of her training. Omitsu had killed her then brought her back to life after an orgasm, an orgasm that had ended for Akiko in death. She didn't know she was dead, she had just disappeared. Everything was gone. Then Omitsu brought her back and she saw Omitsu's white face hovering and she licked her dry lips, her body still jumping from the pleasure, her sex still frothing. This was the so called Tantric kill and Omitsu had taught it to Akiko first by doing it to her and then by forcing Akiko to do it to Omitsu.