Disciple of the Wind - Steve Bein


Mariko would never forget where she was when she heard the news.

She wasn’t all that likely to forget that afternoon anyway. It wasn’t every day that she met with the top brass. She saw her commanding officer, Lieutenant Sakakibara, almost daily, but this was her first meeting with his superior, Captain Kusama. And since Sakakibara was also in attendance, things were about to get either very good or very, very bad.

There were only so many reasons a captain called one of his sergeants into his office, especially with a lieutenant in tow. She might be promoted to head up a special detail. On the other hand, they might advise her to seek a legal counsel in advance of an IAD investigation. Her partner, Han, had recently endured such an investigation, and come out the other side stripped of his detective’s rank. He and Mariko worked closely together, and he’d strayed outside the lines; was she implicated too?

Maybe, but the captain was smiling when he opened the door. Kusama Shuichi was one of those men who only grew more handsome with age. His hair wasn’t thinning, he paid a lot of money for his haircuts, and he kept his office and his uniform as immaculately as he kept his hair. He’d earned an office on the top floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department headquarters, with a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the heart of the city. His desk was polished teak, twice as big as it needed to be, and empty but for his phone and a sleek black laptop. Others might have arranged the desk to face the windows, but Kusama’s desk was perpendicular to them, so that both he and his visitors could admire the view. Mariko didn’t miss this detail, and neither did she miss the subtext: either Kusama was unusually considerate of his visitors or else he wanted to make sure they knew how important he was. Mariko couldn’t say which.

“Detective Sergeant Oshiro,” Kusama said, “Lieutenant Sakakibara, so very good of you to come. Would you like something to drink?”

“Coffee for me, nothing for her,” Sakakibara said, his tone characteristically gruff. “She won’t be staying long enough to get thirsty.”

Mariko swallowed. Was that good or bad? With Sakakibara it was so hard to tell. A line of vertical furrows creased his bushy black eyebrows, but he always looked like that. On this particular afternoon he was especially enigmatic, because even he couldn’t help but take in the view. He crossed the room in three long strides and looked out across the city he’d sworn to protect. Mariko wished she could see his reflection in the window. She was more interested in reading his face than enjoying the Tokyo skyline.

“Captain Kusama,” she said, “thank you so much for putting us into your schedule at such short notice. I know you must be a busy man.”

“Think nothing of it,” Kusama said. “It’s my duty to be available to those under my command. To be honest, I had already planned on calling you in to my office. Imagine my surprise when I came in this morning and my secretary told me you’d requested a meeting! I suppose you want to speak to me about the Joko Daishi case, neh?”

Mariko gulped. “I wasn’t aware you were following my work, sir.”

“You? Of course. You were our media darling for a time. Oh, do relax, Sergeant. This isn’t a military tribunal.”

Mariko breathed a sigh of relief. “I’m glad you said that, sir.” He waved toward a chair in front of his sprawling desk and Mariko sat. “Begging your pardon, sir, but it’s not easy for me to relax when it comes to Joko Daishi. He’s dangerous.”

“And due for release today. I assume that’s why you asked to meet with me.”

“Yes, sir.”

Kusama nodded. “I’m afraid what’s done is done.”

“Sir, you’ve got to do something. This guy isn’t just an ordinary perp. Better to think of him as a cult leader.”

Captain Kusama sat forward in his seat. “I think you’ll want to watch your tone with me, Sergeant. I don’t take orders from my subordinates.” His smile soured. “I’ve read your reports, and frankly, I think ‘cult leader’ underestimates how dangerous this man is. ‘Terrorist mastermind’ is the description I’d have chosen—but perhaps you’re aware that I was the one who orchestrated the public relations campaign that kept any mention of terrorism out of the press.”

Mariko winced. She hadn’t known of Kusama’s involvement, but she supposed she understood the logic behind his decision. It was