We see Akiko. She's drinking the rain,
head upturned, the Tokyo rain
neon-streaked and shattering on her.

Then she walks down the alley
and out onto another street,
barefoot, staggering a little.

People stare at her
as she walks along the night street,
her hair plastered to her head,
or dangling in long strands.

She squints against the rain
dripping into her eyes.

She walks quickly,
with clear energy and purpose.
All her training in Zen
and in the karate dojo.

It's all evident
in her subtle, intense bearing
and the calm way she moves.
For those with eyes to see --
but are there any?

She sees the subway entrance
and darts down into it.
She buys a ticket
from a machine.
She walks through tiled,
brilliantly lit tunnels. Then
she stands on a platform
in the echoing station --

there is a rumbling,
growing to thunder
then the train screeches into veiw.

It brakes, and windows
stop flowing past.
Akiko goes in and takes a seat,
holding the luggage bag on her knees.
Shuts her eyes.

There are echoing announcements,
a clanging bell,
then the train shudders
and lurches to life.

When she opens her eyes,
a girl in a school uniform
is gazing at her.
Akiko smiles.
The girl drops her eyes
and begins thumb-tapping
a gaudy cell phone --

She shuts her eyes again,
feeling the train jolt
and stammer on the tracks
in the deep tunnel.

What's beyond all this?
What's behind your eyelids?
Is it great light, or great darkness?

Nobody knows anything,
Hemingway said.

All the Zen masters
of the old days are dead.

They can't wake you up
with a shout, with a stick,
with a shattering ko-an
or a piece of wall calligraphy.

It's up to you to make something of This.
But you don't know how,
or what to do with your infinite horror, undying grief.


She waits through three booming stations with her eyes shut, breathing so calmly there's no sensation of breathing at all, then at the fourth stop -- it's Asakusa -- she gets up without undue haste and makes her way down the slowing, shuddering train to the exit doors. The schoolgirl does not even raise her eyes under the fine dark brows. At the doors a young couple are clinging and kissing each other, feverishly yet oddly without passion. Akiko stops a few paces from them but they do not move even as the doors hiss apart. Then Akiko steps forward -- and the man and woman separate smoothly, the man stabbing at her with a combat knife and the woman pulling from her raincoat a black object that Akiko recognizes as a taser. She swings her bag at the woman, knocking her to her knees, the taser skidding away across the train's floor. She blocks the knife thrusts with quick movements of her forearms as the man jabs at her throat and chest twice, three times, the knife slitting the sleeves of her black rainslicker and of the leather jacket she's wearing beneath it, then she strikes him hard with an elbow to the temple and his head clunks against a pole. She knees him in the chest and he coughs blood. She brings a fist down hard on the back of his neck, feeling it crack. He falls. The woman, wide eyed and feral, is scrambling for the taser and she has it in her fist again as Akiko's knife-hand strike sends her to the floor, her body twitching and jolting, the dark blood already streaming from her nostrils. Akiko snatches away the taser and slips through the doors just before they hiss shut. As the train screeches away, her eyes meet the eyes of the schoolgirl, who, expressionless -- the true shiran kao, face of stone -- raises her gaudy pink glitter sprayed cell phone and snaps Akiko's picture standing alone on the platform, her hair wild. Akiko slips the taser into a side pocket of her raincoat as she dashes barefoot to the escalators. She runs to the top and emerges into the crazy rain soaked neon maze of Asakusa.



Night. Asakusa
Akiko, running and walking barefoot in the neon crazed rain through streets and alleys around the Kannon shrine.
Glancing to the sides with tight, quick glances then ducking into a doorway to survey the street behind her.
Empty streets. Rain. Rain. Neon signs in all colors.
She keeps moving, the rain slicker keeping all of her dry but her head and soaked dripping hair and her chilled hands.
The machine guns and their extra clips clunk together in the luggage bag she wears slung across her shoulder. The strap bites into her chest, hurting the thread-sutured cut Tommy Ko gave her in Okinawa. All this movement has broken some of the sutures and it is bleeding; she can feel the blood caking in the weave of her sweater.
Ogata's kodachi is thrust into the waitband of her blue jeans with the sweater pulled out over it, the grip warmed by her belly. She touches it with her fingertips: it's as if Ogata is with her. Eiji Ogata, karate master and yakuza hit man -- he was the most quietly, nobly loving human being she has ever known.
On impulse, Akiko ducks into an all night pachinko parlor and sits at a machine, facing the door at an angle.
She plays some pachinko, inserting coins with her dripping fingers. The parlor is filled with buzzing, clanging, clattering, beeping noises and the brightness makes her eyes ache.
After about twenty minutes she gets up, leaves the pachinko parlor and crosses the street to a bar with a small illuminated sign and a metal door.
It's dim in the bar. She takes off her rain slicker, shakes it out, hangs it on a hook by the door. Then she sits in a small vinyl booth, ideal for two people or three at the most, and orders a bottle of sake.
There are a few intoxicated businessmen in the back and a single smiling hostess. No yakuza. Jazz is playing -- it's Miles Davis' Kind of Blue. The music sounds chilly and drugged.
Akiko drinks two glasses of the sake. It seems to calm her twanging nerves. The Japanese name of this sake, she notes, translates into English as "Demon Slayer." This makes her laugh.
She asks the hostess to save the rest of the large bottle for her next visit and pays the check. It's exorbitant. She bows slightlyto the hostess who bows even lower, smiles and says Arigato, then puts on her still dripping rainslicker and walks out into the rain. She heads toward the great shrine.
After walking for another half hour around the dark, rain-dripping grounds of the Kannon shrine, she's sure no additional Organization-hired killers are tailing her. She walks slowly, like a bunraku puppet-doll in a dream, back to the subway station and down the concrete steps onto the bare platform strewn with paper candy wrappers. It seems to take a long time for a train to arrive. She sits, jolting, for fourteen stops and disembarks near Jiro's neighborhood.
She walks to Jiro's house. The one she remembers from her teenaged years. She went there sometimes with her adopted father, Ogata. It's not a yakuza type mansion, just a quiet and well built house surrounded by a high wall with a large wooden front gate. There is, she recalls, a formal garden behind the wall and the house is shaded by a big cedar.
She stands at the gate. Her hair is dripping rain. A slight mist and a scent of frost. She feels her heart lurching. She wipes her nostrils with the back of her hand. They're ice cold. She's shuddering a little. She shuts her eyes, lifts her killer's hand -- and knocks.