Part the Seventh—
“With my feelings on fire / Guess I’m a bad liar”
—“Bad Liar,” Selena Gomez
Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido was sitting at his desk, looking over a file on a new film that had surfaced. It seemed a Lemuel Washington was of interest. He had been living in the Neutral Zone for several years but had relocated to the Pacific States. Lemuel Washington was a man of color. This was enough to bring him in for questioning.
He signed the order.
Now the kempeitai just had to find that rat.
The telephone rang.
On the second ring, Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido picked up and answered shortly. A familiar voice came over the line. “The first to a bomb,” the junior ambassador told him plainly. “The second to a doctor. The third to a Nazi pill.”
A pain seared through Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido’s chest. There had been a third child from the night spent together when he had gone to the Greater Nazi Reich. He had been careless in their passion, and Juliana had suffered for it. “I understand,” he stated.
“Misaki-san,” his comrade-in-arms continued, “is coming in for employment today. If you can avoid the man who wishes to marry her, I’m certain I can arrange what you desire on Japanese soil.”
Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido looked down at the small photograph he had of Juliana. “You cannot deny that it would not be dangerous, excellency.”
“There would be risk,” he agreed. “She would continue to live under the Obergruppenfuhrer’s protection until a time when I would have to take her under mine and she would live under my roof. She would become more suspect than she already is and would be unable to leave the embassy, you understand, until you leave for Japan in over a year.—Are you certain this is what you want?” The junior ambassador was now speaking as a friend, not as a comrade or a diplomat. He genuinely wanted to know.
Taking a deep breath, Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido explained, “Misaki-san is eminently suitable for the position. Do we not always strive to be as Western as possible? She strikes the perfect harmony of both the East and the West.”
“Indeed,” the junior ambassador agreed. “I observed that when I took her to dinner for her birthday last night. I am afraid Nazi informants recorded us, but she was pleasant company. I even had the pleasure of having an excellent teacher in the art of Western dance.”
Pinched eyes behind his glasses stemmed tears at his own memories. “Yes,” Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido admitted. “Misaki-san is an exemplary teacher in the art.” Changing the subject, Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido asked, “You have the package?”
“I did not want to give it to her in public in case it was observed,” the junior ambassador admitted. “It will be given into her possession when she comes in today. Of course, she may have to remove it when she leaves the Embassy, but it is a symbol—albeit Western—of your intent.”
“Thank you, excellency,” he stated, glancing at his door and seeing that someone was coming. “I fear I must end our conversation.”
“I will put in a request for your presence at our embassy,” the junior ambassador promised before hanging up.
Putting down the telephone, Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido now knew he had only to wait. He would soon be a married man, his wife a continent away. Still, Juliana would lie in his arms when he could reach her and in a year and a half he would take her to Japan, to a larger world which he could give her.
They only had to wait. Just a little longer.
Juliana walked up to the Embassy and was directed to the third floor. Men in suits looked at her in curiosity as she walked past them, her head held high. When she came to the appropriate office, she knocked and slid the two doors open, coming through and bowing.
“Alexa Smith,” the man behind the desk guessed, indicating a seat. “We have been expecting you.”
“I am gratified,” she responded, turning and sliding the doors closed. “I should inform you that I speak fluent Japanese.”
“Yes,” he agreed, switching into that language. “I was made aware by the junior ambassador. You have impressed him along with his contacts in the Pacific States. You also are the ward of an Obergruppenfuhrer.”
“I know little of his work,” she apologized. “The Greater Nazi Reich still baffles me although I passed my ACT.”
“Indeed,” he agreed. “It confuses many of us.—Still, we want you to study the laws of the Reich. Then we want you to sit in on interrogations of defectors and traitors, Miss Smith. We are hoping that you can give us a white man’s insight as well as have the finesse of one who grew up under the Japanese.”
She inclined her head.
“This is confidential.”
“Of course, sensei,” she agreed immediately. “I know how to keep my counsel.”
He looked at her for a long moment. “As I am told.” He opened up a drawer. “I understand the official who made you his mistress now wishes to marry you. This is a token of his intent.”
Juliana stared at this man whose name she did not even know. This was even more peculiar than the proposal she received that morning over the breakfast table. Taking a deep breath, she reached out and opened the envelope. In it was a large ring with a blue opal in it. The gold of the band swirled from the top and the bottom to hold it in place before coming to the middle on either side for the band.
“You wear it,” the man informed her, “on the middle finger of your right hand to disguise its true intent, Miss Smith.—I must see you put it on your finger to report to my superiors that you accept the proposal of marriage.”
Smiling, she placed it on her trembling finger and admired it for a moment. “I fear it may still be noticed.”
The man didn’t comment, instead he took her in. “You wear a Japanese dress. How many do you have?”
“Five,” she answered. “You must understand, I was smuggled out of the Pacific States without any warning. I also fear the Obergruppenfuhrer will grow tired of indulging me and will confiscate the dresses at any time.”
He just looked at her. “You will present yourself in these dresses while they are in your possession with your hair appropriately bound. You have a Japanese name, I understand?”
“Misaki,” she answered, looking down at her ring, which was gleaming on her hand, which itself was resting in her lap.
There was a moment of silence while he took her in. “You will be issued a pass with both names on it before you leave. You are now Japanese, Misaki-san, you must understand. I expect your marriage will occur shortly, although you will be remaining in the American Reich. I have not been told the particulars.” The man looked down and began to write something down, most likely instructions for her pass. Juliana wasn’t entirely certain.
“Take this to the fourth floor,” he informed her. “Go to the library for the rest of the week and report back to me on Monday. Welcome to the Embassy, Misaki-san.”
Juliana stood and bowed to him respectfully. “Thank you for this opportunity.”
“Prove yourself, Misaki-san. You are in a unique position.”
She bowed again and then left the room. Juliana had studying to do. A smile tugged at her lips. She was engaged to be married. Twirling as she walked down the hall, she realized that all of her dreams were finally coming true.
Joe was just leaving for an afternoon shift at work when there was a knock on the door. He opened it, Rita was fortunately in the kitchen, and he was surprised to see a smiling Alexa in an Asian style dress, her hair unbound and around her shoulders.
“I can’t tell you why,” she told him quickly, “but I’m so happy that I just had to share it with someone.”
He blinked at her and let her in. “Okay. I’m assuming it’s not your guardian.”
She was twirling, her coat flying around her, but she suddenly stopped. “No,” Alexa stated. “John stated at the breakfast table that we were getting married. He didn’t even ask. He’s a bit angry that I went out last night and had dinner with the Junior Ambassador of the Imperial Embassy. I might have gotten a bit drunk on sake.”
“Sake?” Rita asked as she came in.
“Rice wine,” she replied, smiling again. “John had us recorded and kept on dropping jibes at the breakfast table. Then he announces we’re getting married, like I said. But I don’t want to think about it. I want to think about how happy I am.”
Joe laughed when she spun herself around, arms held wide, and sat down on the sofa.
“I need to sufficiently express my happiness by dinnertime tonight so no one can tell.”
“Well,” Joe stated slyly, coming around to her. “Let me take you for a good old milkshake in the city where you can gush about nothing at all. We should arrive for an early lunch, and I can guess what it is.”
Rita pursed her lips in annoyance and went back into the kitchen. Joe suspected she’d be making yet another telephone call once they were gone. He really had to move out.
He quickly went and grabbed his jacket and a couple of dollars, though he suspected that Alexa had much more on her and wouldn’t begrudge him a few quarters if he didn’t quite have enough, and they left. When they were sitting on the subway, her coat buttoned up because of the cold and probably to hide her Japanese style dress which was completely out of place in the American Reich, he put an arm around her and just smiled to himself.
For a moment he could pretend that Alexa was his. He was aware that she was out of his league, that men greater and better than him were pursuing her and now had even proposed marriage, that she was desperately in love with a government official back in the Pacific States—and then it clicked. Something had happened with this faceless Japanese man. Of course, she couldn’t tell anyone. In a place that prized the purity of Aryan blood, her affair with a Jap was completely unacceptable and could have her severely punished. She was expected to marry an Aryan man. She was expected to bear his children.
Somehow Joe knew Alexa would fight with her very being before she let that happen.
And a part of him was falling in love with her, this strong girl who was holding on to everything she believed in and had only come into his life because her very life was threatened.
“What’s his name?” he asked as they walked through the streets. “It’s him, isn’t it? The father of your child?”
“They took away my baby,” she told him sadly. “John gave me a pill that he told me was a vitamin for the child and an hour later I had lost it. He called it a bad reaction, but I know what it was.”
He hooked an arm around her shoulder and pulled her close. “I’m sorry, Alexa. I know you never could have brought a child—with such ancestry—into the Reich, but it was your child. My mother always said the bond between a mother and child was the strongest on earth.—So, what’s his name?”
“I’m not certain it’s safe,” she admitted. “He gave me the name ‘Alexa’ in a way. For my birthday he gave me a cat, and in a roundabout way the cat was named ‘Alexa’ and when I suddenly needed a name—”
“You chose ‘Alexa’,” he laughed. “Where’s Alexa the cat, now?”
“With him,” she told him with a smile. “Alexa had a habit of trying to sleep on him. She was quite the bane of his existence. Naturally, he claimed he wasn’t remotely sentimental, but it was the little things that proved differently—such as taking Alexa for me.”
“Maybe he’ll send Alexa the cat,” Joe mused. “He’s obviously done something to make you happy.”
“Do you see John allowing a cat in his perfectly ordered house?” she asked incredulously, turning to him. “Joe, I can’t imagine anything more ridiculous.”
He laughed. “Then poor Mr. Government is stuck with your cat, pining for you. Your ‘John’ is pining for you and you’re right under his roof, presiding over his table—”
“I don’t preside over John Smith’s table,” she stated dismissively, though Joe knew that the reality was quite different, “no more than I presided over—” Alexa paused. “Well, that just wasn’t an option.”
Something gleamed in her eyes and Joe stopped in the middle of the street. “But you will!” he stated in shock. “You’ll be—” He came close to her and whispered, “Alexa, how is that possible? Important men don’t just marry their mistresses no matter how much they love them.”
“The Fuhrer married his mistress,” she stated dismissively, as she continued walking, a skip in her step.
When he came up to her, she continued:
“There was Edward VIII of Great Britain. He married his mistress.”
“And he abdicated the throne!” Joe pointed out. “Is this—man,” he whispered, “abdicating his position? Is he going to take you back to—well, is he?”
Alexa frowned. “Questions, questions. You’re not even supposed to know. Do you want to see the ring?” She held up her right hand of all things and showed him this gaudy stone that wasn’t even remotely Western. He supposed that was the point.
He didn’t say anything and they kept walking until they came to the diner. After they ordered at the counter he finally asked, “True love?”
“True love,” she agreed. “I never expected to find it—where I found it. I never expected to find it at all.”
“No,” he agreed. “I imagine it would have been strange to—well. Don’t they keep the American populace in poverty and in check?”
“It’s different there. Here, everyone became a Nazi. The vast majority of people had some form of Aryan blood and those who didn’t were kept as foot soldiers. They were placed in service of the Reich but not allowed to breed. For us, we were an entirely different race of people. We couldn’t even pretend to be Japanese. Our cultures were so different that no one could integrate. The Japanese became our overlords. The Germans aren’t your overlords. John is the highest ranking official in New York City—in the greater northeast—and he’s American. An American would never be given any form of power in the Pacific States. We’re not Japanese.”
“Then what are you, Alexa?” he asked honestly. “How do you fit in?”
“I’m sympathetic to their culture. I found a peace and harmony in their philosophy that I couldn’t in the American way of life. It was one step further to become friends with my aikido classmates. Another step to start eating primarily Japanese foods. Another step to befriend a government official, then to accept his admiration and gifts. To go further… to fall in love.”
“To marry,” he concluded. Joe took in a deep breath. “You wanted his children.”
“Desperately,” she agreed. “Have you ever wanted children, Joe?”
Looking at his hands, Joe then glanced up into Alexa’s bluer than blue eyes. “I’m fond of Buddy. He’s the best thing in my life. It’s why I can’t leave Rita. I won’t lose the only son I’ve ever had. My father abandoned me and I won’t do that to him.”
She looked at him sadly and took his hand. “I wouldn’t wish that for you, Joe,” she commiserated. “I wish you light and happiness and a family all your own.”
Later he would say that madness came over him. He was looking into her beautiful blue eyes, so full of emotion. Joe knew that she belonged to another man, that she was the fiancée of a yellow-skinned monkey, that Obergruppenfuhrer Smith wanted her and had warned him away, but he leaned in and kissed her.
For a moment it was sweet and present, but then she slapped him and pushed him away and onto the floor.
“Joe!” she admonished. “What are you thinking? I’m engaged! You’re with another woman!”
He looked around and saw that almost the entire diner was looking at him, including several low ranking officers. This would certainly get back to Obergruppenfuhrer Smith. “I’m sorry, Alexa. I quite lost my head.”
“You lost your head?” she asked. “The last time someone lost their head around me, the Chief Inspector of the kempeitai had them investigated and he was executed!”
He grinned. “I know you have always had friends in high places, but I don’t think that is going to happen in the American Reich.”
This at least brought a smile to her face. “Well, the person in question was a Semite,” she admitted. “It was only a matter of time.”
He got up and slid back in next to her. “I don’t have that problem.”
“I suppose not,” she laughed. “I think this entire diner knows I’m getting married. We should celebrate!”
Joe looked at her suspiciously. “I thought you celebrated with the junior ambassador last night.”
“I celebrated my birthday last night. I wasn’t engaged until this morning.”
Two strawberry milkshakes appeared before them and Alexa smiled.
Lowering his voice, Joe asked. “So, how’d it happen?”
“I was handed an envelope and told to put the ring on my finger as a sign of my acceptance so that a positive message could be relayed back to the Pacific States,” she told him just as lowly.
His eyebrows rose. “That may be the worst proposal I’ve ever heard of. Seriously, you think there would be—more.” Such as a note. Or a telephone call. Something.
“The last time someone tried to be romantic,” she then explained, “there was an assassination attempt, Joe. I’d rather not have a repeat performance.”
Obergruppenfuhrer John Smith was in a rather good mood. Erich had come in from lunch at a quaint diner he favored and said that Alexa had been there with Joe Blake of all people. They had been discussing something quietly when he had kissed her and she had pushed him out of their booth, declaring that the last time someone had tried to make an advance on her, they had been executed. John, frankly, didn’t doubt it considering her position as Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido’s mistress.
However, she had then declared, in outrage, that she was engaged. And, when all had been forgiven between the two, they had gone on to celebrate with milkshakes and talk of the worst of proposals.
It had been the worst way to propose, he admitted to himself. He hadn’t even thought in the moment that he had yet to propose, only that he had planned for so many months to marry her that he was already taking it as rote.
Thomas had been devastated, and he had to talk to him briefly before he left for school, promising that they would continue their conversation when they were both home that night.
John had been afraid he had set back the progress he had made with Alexa with his comment—but clearly he had said exactly what she had needed to hear. Perhaps she had just needed an hour or two to process it.
Now he needed to pick out a ring, but perhaps he would take her out on Saturday and she could choose what she wanted.
Juliana had changed into a yellow dress, her hair still down, when Thomas arrived home. He looked at her for a moment and immediately ran up to his room. Confused for a moment, she then realized why he was upset.
“Thomas!” she called. When he didn’t respond, she took the stairs two at a time. When she glanced down, she saw Rose looking up at her, but she just continued.
Knocking on his door, she called, “Thomas! Please let me in. Don’t shut me out over a misunderstanding. Please. I am, and will always be, your friend.”
There was a long moment and then the door opened. She saw Thomas on the other side and she sighed.
She went in and hugged him. It took him a moment to hug her back and then she led him to the bed where they sat down. “Tell me exactly what’s worrying you,” she asked him. “Let’s work this out. I know things have been—different for the past month and a half since I was ill that morning.”
“Since you lost the baby,” he murmured.
Juliana startled. She hadn’t realized he knew. “Yes,” she agreed.
He looked up at her. “Dad said a filthy Jap forced himself on you but that women get attached to their young no matter who fathers them. Is that true?”
“I—” She was floored. “I don’t know if the second half of that is true. I have certainly been attached to my children when they were in the womb. As to the father, your father had no right to pass judgment on what was a private matter.”
“Dad said he couldn’t be prosecuted because he has diplomatic immunity.”
Once again, Juliana just stared at him. “This is not an appropriate topic of conversation, Thomas. It’s not that I don’t trust you, it’s just that—that—is a matter between me and the father of my child.”
Thomas’s face was full of righteous indignation, but he nodded. “Dad still wants to marry you.”
“Yes,” she agreed quietly.
“Even though your Aryan womb has been violated.”
Juliana looked up at the ceiling in desperation and took a deep breath. “That is a matter between your father and his conscience, I imagine. I really haven’t discussed it at length with him.” That isn’t to say that he hadn’t berated her, but she had known when she stepped out of that hotel that night that John had still wanted her. It was a terrible mess.
“He should be prosecuted, this Jap,” Thomas was saying.
Hoping to get him to be quiet, she told him, “In the Pacific States, Semites and Negros are shot for such offences. I don’t know if it’s the same here. I really don’t want to know.”
“What happens to Aryans and Japs?” Thomas asked, his eyes big and curious.
She looked at him and smiled slightly. “The white man is put in prison for two years if it’s a woman of the white man. If it’s a Japanese woman he is executed. A Japanese man is reprimanded if it is anyone other than a Japanese woman. Then it’s a case by case basis.”
“They’re savages,” he concluded.
“It’s a different society,” she told him, “and they are our allies. It is best to understand them, Thomas, if you are to be an officer, so that you can have more fruitful negotiations and relations with them. Remember that. One of the reasons why your father is so successful is because he is able to understand the nuances of Japanese culture, or so I imagine.”
The open door creaked open a bit farther, and Juliana looked up to see John leaning against it. “Listen to Alexa, Thomas. She is a very wise woman.”
Thomas looked up and smiled.
“Has she informed you that she has accepted my proposal—in front of several witnesses in a diner, no less?” John’s eyes twinkled.
The bottom of Juliana’s stomach dropped out. She knew exactly what he was speaking about: the moment she pushed Joe onto the ground and declared herself engaged. She meant Takeshi. Juliana could shoot herself. There had been several low-ranking officers there and they must have heard.
“I was in shock,” she stated quickly. “He had just kissed me.”
Thomas’s head swiveled to her.
John’s eyes, however, never left her. “I think it was more than just shock,” he reasoned. “You went on to describe my proposal as ‘the worst.’”
“Those were his words,” she defended. “I can’t help it if he rates proposals.”
“Well, I know there was that one in the Pacific States you refused just before you were pushed in front of a bus in retaliation,” he stated casually. “I’ve seen photographs of the scars.”
Juliana remembered that story. Taking a deep breath, she admitted, “You do realize that that particular explanation is fabricated? It was much worse.”
John Smith didn’t look remotely surprised. “What could possibly be worse? Was it an assassination attempt?”
She just hummed in response.
Thomas took her hand in support and John looked down at their joined hands. “Good. Perhaps you can start calling Alexa ‘Mother’, Thomas. I’m sure she would appreciate it, especially given the fact that she has lost children of her own. We’ll get the ring on Saturday, Alexa.”
“Oh,” she said, surging forward and releasing Thomas’s hand. “I don’t want a ring. We—we don’t have them in the Pacific States.”
“This is the American Reich,” he argued. “Of course, you will have a ring.”
She grabbed his arm. “I couldn’t,” she begged. “It would seem like bragging and—I—well—perhaps this is ill-advised. I don’t want to marry without love.” She bit her lip and looked up at him.
“Nonsense,” he argued. “You’re supposed to brag. It’s your right.” He kissed her forehead and walked away.
Juliana turned around and looked at Thomas desperately.
It was only later when she was coming down to dinner that she realized John had never said anything about love at all.