A sadist haunts the back alleys and sex clubs of Tokyo, picking up women, horrifically mutilating them, and leaving behind a calling card written in blood: This could be your wife. He kills fearlessly, certain the police will never catch him.
The only man who might stop this fiend is Nicholas Linnear, a martial arts expert whose childhood education in the dojos of Japan has made him one of the country’s leading practitioners of ninjutsu. But Linnear fears that his illness may have left him Shiro Ninja—stripped of his power and discipline. With the killer growing increasingly brazen, Linnear must summon all his strength and training before his own family becomes the next target.
“Compelling [and] highly charged with action,” this is a chilling tale of menace, crime, and corruption featuring the half-British, half-Chinese hero of The Ninja and The Miko, by the #1 New York Times–bestselling author of the Jason Bourne series (Publishers Weekly).
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A Nicholas Linnear Novel
By Eric Van Lustbader
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1990 Eric Van Lustbader
All rights reserved.
TOKYO/EAST BAY BRIDGE SUMMER, PRESENT
Tanzan Nagi, Chairman of Sato International, could pinpoint the onset of the attack almost to the second.
In his offices at the summit of the striking, triangular Shinjuku Suiryu Building, fifty-two stories above the thrumming hive of downtown Tokyo, Nangi stared out at the concrete and glass skyrises. His gaze also took in the potted plant on his windowsill, with its deep green leaves and its tiny purple buds: a dwarf purple-gem rhododendron. The first blooms of summer. He had noticed their budding this morning just at the moment of attack.
As it happened, Nangi had been accessing data from his computer terminal when the virus began to unspool. Somehow it had been injected into his company's mainframe, entwining itself throughout the software systems until a prearranged trigger released it and it began to eat Sato's core data.
Even as he dialed his computer technicians on the intercom, Nangi watched in horror as the data that had been coming up on his screen began to unravel, turning into some alien gibberish that was useless to him or, as it turned out, anyone else in the company.
The technicians were at a loss as to how to combat the virus. "It's a nondiscriminatory borer," they told him, "which means that it constantly mutates. Even if we pinpointed its weakness at any one moment in time, by the time we could implement a formulaic antidote, the virus would already have mutated into something else."
"How did it get into the system?" Nangi asked. "I thought we had a foolproof, state-of-the-art antivirus security lock on the system."
"We do," the technicians informed him. They shrugged. "But hackers have an infinite amount of time and a seemingly inexhaustible hunger to crack security locks."
Nangi was about to make a caustic remark concerning the technicians' hunger, when the data he had been accessing began creeping back onto his screen. Quickly he scrolled through it, verifying that it was intact. Then he began accessing other data at random.
After that, he let the technicians take over. To everyone's relief, it was soon determined that the software programs were back on line. The virus had disintegrated. Nangi counted them lucky on that score. On the other hand, their core data had been penetrated. Nothing had been accessed, so a professional data raid was discounted; the hacker theory was probably the right one. Still, Nangi had been disquieted. Even now the computer security system was being overhauled. Nangi could not risk the network being compromised again.
The virus attack had occurred first thing this morning. The day had gone downhill after that.
Now Nangi curled his gnarled hands around the jade dragon head of his walking stick until the flesh went white. Blue veins like ropes filled with sailor's knots pushed the tissue-thin skin outward.
Behind him the weekly meeting of Sato International's senior management continued with its agenda. Suggested by Nicholas, this meeting was concerned first with synopsizing the division-heads meeting that had taken place the day before, and second, with aligning the division successes, failures, and needs in with the keiretsu's—the conglomerate's—overall goals, which had changed drastically ever since they had won the right to manufacture key components for the production model of Hyrotech-inc's so-called Hive computer, which was now only in prototype. The prospect of burgeoning profits was not the only benefit of this deal; it was the enormous face Sato International gained—the only Japanese company to be involved in the Hive Project.
Nicholas, Nangi thought. It had been Nicholas who had negotiated the deal with the American firm, Hyrotech-inc, designated by the federal government to manufacture the revolutionary new computer.
But Nicholas's contributions went far beyond the Hyrotech-inc deal. Before Nicholas's involvement in Sato International, Nangi had been aware of the need to integrate all of Sato's konzern— that is, the conglomerate's individual companies—into a smoothly working whole. But it had been Nicholas who had pointed out that this could and should be taken a step further, integrating division schedules at the home office in Tokyo.
In a way, Nangi had realized, this had been a very Japanese idea, because it gave each division a heightened sense of being integral to the whole. Within three months of inaugurating the new meetings, Nangi had been gratified to see a twenty-percent increase in productivity among his division heads. He had been well pleased, and in an extraordinary gesture, had shared this pleasure with Nicholas.
He had taken Nicholas out to his favorite restaurant, a place so expensive that it was virtually a private club for the highest echelons of the industrial sector—no minister of Japan's omnipresent bureaucracy could afford its prices. But food was not the reason one went to this restaurant—it was the atmosphere: discreet, exclusive, confidential, perfect for long, drunken evenings.
For a Japanese to allow a Westerner to get drunk with him was a rare privilege indeed. For a people so studiously rigid in their social behavior, going on drunks was almost the sole source of release. It was felt that when drunk, a Japanese could say anything—express feelings normally taboo, become maudlin, sentimental, even cry—it was the liquor, after all. Everything was acceptable, and all lapses were forgiven.
It had been in the middle of his drunk with Nicholas that Nangi had begun to understand the qualities that men older than he had seen in Colonel Denis Linnear, why Nicholas's father had not been considered an iteki—a barbarian—like all the other men in the American occupation forces. Colonel Linnear had been special—and this quality of being attuned to the Japanese psyche, while still being Western, was present in Nicholas as well, never mind that he was half Oriental, half English.
Tanzan Nangi, hero of the war, until ten years ago vice-minister of the all-powerful MITI, Ministry of International Trade and Industry, then founder and chairman of the Daimyo Development Bank, which ultimately owned Sato, and now head of Sato International, never thought that he would love a Westerner. Frankly, he had not thought such a thing was possible. But he saw during that long night that, without quite knowing it, he had come to love Nicholas as one normally only loves a son.
Nangi, one of a handful of the most powerful men in Japan, felt no shame in this love. Nicholas possessed great hara—the centralized force so prized by Japanese. He also was an honorable man—Nicholas had proved this to Nangi three years ago, when he had done all in his power to protect Seiichi Sato, Nangi's longtime friend, and when he had refused under torture to reveal the secrets of Tenchi to the Russians. Tanzan Nangi knew that Nicholas's heart was pure. This was the highest honor a Japanese could accord another human being.
Nangi had, as was proper, showed little outward concern when Nicholas had gone into the hospital. But it had been a great blow to Nangi, both personally and professionally, to have Nicholas so rudely taken from him. Justine had not understood his actions, of course, believing that, like hers, his place was at Nicholas's side. This misapprehension on her part had put quite a strain on their already fragile relationship. It saddened Nangi that she could not see that the way he could serve his friendship with Nicholas best was by managing Sato International to the best of his abilities. With Nicholas incapacitated, it was Nangi's duty to the company to shoulder both men's jobs to keep the konzern running smoothly.
It saddened Nangi, too, that Nicholas should be married to someone like Justine, who was clearly unable to comprehend the subtle nuances of life in Japan. It did not occur to him to examine his responsibility in Justine's education.
Now, as Nangi stared out his office window, unmindful of the meeting's babble going on behind him, he felt a terrible foreboding, as if the computer attack had been an omen, a change in the wind. Because now he could feel a typhoon on its way, dark and malevolent and intent on his destruction.
In fact the analogy was quite literal, because the typhoon was specific; the force had a name: Kusunda Ikusa.
The call had come just an hour ago. An hour and a lifetime, Nangi thought. Now everything had changed. Because of Kusunda Ikusa.
"Mr. Nangi? This is Kusunda Ikusa." The voice had come down the telephone line, hollow and impersonal. "I bear greetings from the new Emperor."
Nangi had gripped the phone tightly. "I trust his Imperial majesty is well."
"Well enough, thank you." There was the slightest pause to indicate that the pleasantries were at an end. "There is a matter we wish to discuss with you."
By "we" Nangi was unsure whether Ikusa meant the Emperor himself or the group called Nami. But then again it was said that Nami—the Wave—carried out the new Emperor's will. Its members had certainly done so with the old Emperor, up until the moment he went to his final, glorious reward. Nami, it was said, was the true heart of Japan. It knew the will of the Japanese people far better than did any prime minister or any bureaucratic ministry. Nami defined power in Japan, but that did not mean that Nangi had to accept its ideals.
Nami was composed of a group of seven men—all of whom had ancestral ties to those families that had been most influential in Japan before and during the war in the Pacific. They were neither businessmen nor politicians. Rather, they saw themselves as above such mundane concerns.
Nami was interested only in the overriding directive of makoto—ensuring that the moral and ethical purity of heart of Japan was kept intact. But Nami's rise to power was itself an example of how purity could be compromised. During the early eighties Japan's roaring economy was based to an overwhelming extent on the worldwide success of its exports—cars and high-tech hardware and software. Four years ago, however, the yen began to strengthen to such a degree that Nami became alarmed. They saw—quite correctly—that a stronger yen would make exports more costly, and therefore the breakneck rate of exports necessarily had to fall.
In order to avoid any resulting precipitous drop in the Japanese economy, Nami had recommended the creation of an artificially induced land boom inside Japan. Nami reasoned that switching the base of the country's economy from an external source to an internal one would insulate Japan from the coming export shock.
And while they were proven right in the short term, the danger was now increased that the boom could go bust overnight. Nangi distrusted artificial means to any end. What could turn an economy on its ear overnight could itself be displaced just as quickly. Japan was now sitting on the economic equivalent of a sword blade.
If Nami's climb to almost unimpeachable power had come with the unqualified success of the land boom, it was consolidated earlier last year with the death of the old Emperor. No one trusted a successor to be able to keep the Emperor's image as the son of heaven alive.
But Nami's direct involvement in the affairs of the country was ominous. In Nangi's opinion, its rise hid a cabal of grasping, power-hungry individuals who had allowed their power to warp the true meaning of makoto; namely, purity of purpose. On the contrary, makoto had made the members of Nami arrogant, blinding them to national problems and the flaws of the Japanese as a whole. Overbearing arrogance and self-delusion were very much American traits; the fact that they had rooted themselves so firmly in the center of Japan was of great concern to Nangi.
And now that the new Emperor needed guidance, Nami's power had at last come to the fore. The Imperial succession, though it had been a media event of unprecedented proportions in Japan, was of little concern to Nami, as was the new Emperor, Hirohito's son. After the old Emperor had died, it had been Nami that, in the shadows behind the Imperial throne, had really succeeded the son of heaven.
And while Westerners saw the Emperor as a mere figurehead, wielding only ceremonial power, as did the Queen of England, Nangi knew differently. He knew that the Emperor's will defined the word power.
"Of course, it will be my privilege to serve the Emperor's will in any way I can," Nangi said, almost by rote. "Would you care to meet me at my office? I have a free hour tomorrow, if it would be convenient. Say, at five in the after—"
"This conference is of the utmost urgency," Ikusa broke in.
As an ex-vice-minister of MITI, Nangi knew the ministry code words; he had used them once or twice himself, in an emergency. Now he knew two things of vital importance: this was not a social call, and it presaged some dire crisis. But for whom? For Nami or for himself?
"I will neither come to your office nor will I suggest that you come to mine," Ikusa said. "Rather, I can offer a relaxing hour at the Shakushi furo. Are you familiar with this bathhouse, Mr. Nangi?"
"I have heard of it."
"Have you been there?" Suddenly, like a gap opening in an opponent's armor, the strain in Ikusa's voice was evident to Nangi.
"Good," Kusunda Ikusa said. "I myself have never visited it, but I will meet you there at five tomorrow, since that is also a convenient time for me." In the interval Ikusa created, Nangi noted the other man's insistence at dominance. At this early stage it was an ominous sign. Ikusa broke the silence. "I wish to underscore the need for absolute discretion in this matter."
Nangi was offended, but kept his tone of voice clean of emotion. There were other ways to make the affront known and, at the same time, to begin to test the mettle of this man. "I appreciate your obvious anxiety," Nangi said, knowing that Ikusa would hate himself for having betrayed even a glimmer of tenseness. "Rest assured I will take all required precautions."
"Then, at this time, there is nothing more to say. Until five." Ikusa broke the connection, and Nangi was left wondering whether his choice of rendezvous venues was deliberate. Shakushi meant a dipper or a ladle, a typical name for a bathhouse where one was soaped and rinsed with ladled water. But Shakushi had another meaning: to go strictly by the rules.
Cotton Branding, walking down the wide, scimitar-shaped beach, dug his toes into the wet sand each time the chill surf lapped over his ankles.
A salty wind was blowing. With a spiderlike hand he wiped an unruly lock of thin, sandy hair out of his eyes. Somewhere behind him he heard the thwop-thwop-thwop of the helicopter rotors, that most familiar harbinger of summer on the East End of Long Island.
Branding was a tall, stoop-shouldered man in his late fifties with pale blue eyes dominating a face whose obvious lineage more or less paralleled that of the Kennedys. He possessed the open, almost innocent look—much like an actor on a billboard in the heartland—of the American politician. He wore his authority openly, like a soldier's medal, so that anyone seeing him pass would say: there goes a power broker, a deal maker.
He was perhaps less handsome than he was attractive. One could picture him commanding a fast sloop out of Newport, head into the rising wind, knowing eyes squinting against the sun. But he exuded a unique kind of scent, a precious attar, which was a product wholly of power. Lesser men wanted to be near him, if only to stand in his shadow, or, like Douglas Howe, to bring him down to their level. Women, on the other hand, wanted only to be a good deal nearer to Branding, snuggling into his warm skin, the better to inhale the intoxicating aroma of supremacy.
But as must be the case in the modern world, to a great degree Branding owed his power to his friends. While he had many acquaintances among his political brethren, his true friends resided in the media. Branding cultivated them with precisely the same fervor that they pursued him. He was, perhaps, aware of the symbiotic nature of the relationship, but he was a politician, after all, and had willingly dived into a sea of symbiosis when he had entered his first election campaign.
Excerpted from White Ninja by Eric Van Lustbader. Copyright © 1990 Eric Van Lustbader. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Book One: Twilight (Usuakari),
Tokyo/East Bay Bridge: Summer, Present,
Singapore/Peninsula Malaysia: Summer, 1889,
Book Two: Midnight (Shin-Ya),
Asama Highlands/Washington/East Bay Bridge/Tokyo/The Hodaka: Summer, Present,
Asama, Japan/Zhuji, China/Tokyo, Japan: Summer 1970–Winter 1980,
Book Three: Before Dawn (Akegata),
Tokyo/Washington/West Bay Bridge/New York: Summer, Present,
Marco Island/Tokyo/Washington: Summer-Autumn, Present,
About the Author,