Part the Eighth—
“You’ve been creeping round on me / While you’re calling me ‘baby’”
—“How Long,” Charlie Puth
Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido was Juliana Crain’s emergency contact. It was not necessarily standard procedure for ranking officials and their mistresses, but Kido insisted on providing for Juliana as much as he was able. He did not trust her parents. They were the white man, after all.
He was first aware of an explosion in the city when a file was placed on his desk. The officer looked at him and explained. “A race traitor, Chief Inspector. You might be particularly interested.”
Flipping it open, he saw the name of the building and his heart sped up as he turned the page to look at a layout and the placement of the bomb. Someone had gotten into the airshaft that led into Juliana’s apartment. It appeared they couldn’t open up the grate, but they had left the bomb two feet from the entrance and had given themselves enough time to escape.
Glancing out the window, he saw it was dark and then he looked at the clock. It was six thirty, about the time that Juliana would be making dinner. It was Tuesday. She would be making it for him and he had not telephoned to inform her he would be late. In fact, he had been planning on leaving within the next few minutes.
Without looking back at his subordinate, he turned back to the file and flipped through the pages. “There is no list of casualties,” he noted. “With the placement of the bomb, this is obviously a political attack.”
The officer bowed. “My thought exactly, Chief Inspector.”
Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido stood and went for his coat. “It appears we have work to do.” Just as he opened the door, his telephone rang and he turned to pick it up. He listened for less than half a minute. Juliana had been recovered. She was safe and only had minimal scrapes and bruises.
He would learn when he spoke to her briefly the next day that she had gone out for more duck sauce as she had run out and had been just entering the building when the bomb went off. By that time, the Security Services had been alerted that the Chief Inspector’s ‘niece’ had been the target, a building had been chosen, and all young women associated with government officials were being moved into it for their safety.
Not three hours later, Juliana stepped in holding her cat, Alexa, who had surprisingly survived the blast, and looked at the empty space. There was a mat on the floor for sleeping but nothing else.
“Well,” she commented, turning. “I can work with this.”
Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido looked at her with obvious affection, although his voice came out dispassionately. “I have faith in your capabilities, Juliana. You are a woman of many talents. Promise me that you will tell me what you may need.”
“I have a little saved by,” she promised. “I do indulge my parents. I try to give Trudy small gifts—”
“Your sister,” he answered coldly, knowing she had suspicious contacts, “is not worth your time, Juliana. I wish you would listen to me.”
“Takeshi-san,” she murmured, setting down her cat and coming up to him. She took his lapels and rested her forehead against his. “It’s not that I don’t believe you. It’s only that she is my sister. It’s a bond that is not easily broken.”
He closed his eyes and wrapped his arms around her waist. “She called you a ‘race traitor’ on the wire.”
“If that’s all,” she whispered. “I’ve been called worse, I’m sure.”
For a moment, Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido let his fears take over him. He was afraid of what would happen to Juliana when his tour was over in three and a half years. Sometimes three and a half years seemed like a long time in this horrible place. Then he would hold Juliana in his arms, and he would realize that anything less than an eternity with her was unacceptable.
“They are as bad as the Nazis,” he sneered, but still he held her close, “with their belief in a Master Race. The Germans look down upon us even though we were their allies during the war. You Americans look down on us. Our Emperor is descended from the sun itself, Misaki-chan. How is it only you can see this?”
“Hush,” she breathed, leaning forward and kissing his lips gently. “I understand. An ocean may have separated us once, but not anymore.”
Juliana pulled away and he held onto her for a long moment before he let her go. For a moment, she seemed undecided what to do, but then she entered the kitchen. Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido followed her there, and saw her leaning against a counter. “My father—” she began, her blue eyes flitting up to meet his, “my biological father, died during the war. I don’t think I ever told you that. The Japanese killed him. Pacific theater.”
Uncertain if he was meant to respond, Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido, however, chose to remain silent.
“I know you fought, Takeshi-san. I don’t blame you, anymore than I would blame you if you held the gun to my father’s head and pulled the trigger yourself.—I think there is a great deal wrong with the Pacific States. I imagine there was a great deal wrong with America before the war. I just want there to be harmony. And I think we are harmony, Takeshi-san. You and me. We may have a stolen moment in time, but for our stolen moment in time, we are harmony. I won’t let anything pull us apart. I want to be yours in every way that you’ll let me. I won’t let the people who call me a race traitor stop that. I won’t let Trudy stop that. I think she’s jealous that I smile all the time—and you’re the one who makes me smile.” She looked at him desperately and for a long moment he just stood there.
He regarded her for a moment, the flush of her cheeks, the pulse at her neck, and then he moved forward in three quick strides, captured her jaw in his hand, and kissed her passionately. She opened her mouth in a moan and he drank it in. There was something so hauntingly delicate about Juliana despite her innate strength that drew him in, and he wanted to possess her very soul.
Careful not to rip her dress as she only had one other after the explosion, he lifted up the hem and quickly freed himself. It was rough and it was animalistic and up against the counter and unlike anything he had ever experienced before. Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido wanted Juliana desperately in that moment, craved that harmony she spoke about, that distant dream that he feared would never come to pass.
She smoothed the hair away from his forehead when he spilled into her and they panted out the same air. In that moment, he didn’t know he had created their second child, a child that would have to be lost to them. When Juliana told him two months later, she whispered, “I named her Aiko. Love—child—I thought it was appropriate.” The blood of their love was soon spilt in the clinical room of a doctor’s office, Juliana crying for a loss that could never be replaced.
At the time he thought he could never offer her anything better.
As he now thought of the first, the second, and now the third— Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido wondered if that could possibly change.
Juliana had not removed her engagement ring from Takeshi all week while studying in the Greater Reich Library in New York City. She had received a few comments on it, even from Thomas, and she said her boss from the Pacific States had given it to her for years of loyal service. She thought it was the sort of gesture Trade Minister Tagomi might make.
On Saturday she dressed in red and pinned the Swastika on her coat and placed it in her hair before she allowed John to escort her to the family car. Thomas would be spending the day at a friend’s. They had not spoken of the engagement at all, of love, but Juliana was just going to pick out a ring to keep the peace and would delay the wedding as much as possible so that her own marriage to Takeshi could take place and render the other impossible. She would wear the ring around the house and whenever John was about—and then take it off—especially at the Imperial Embassy.
Her first order of business would be to request a meeting with the junior ambassador and inform him of the problem.
Then again, she half thought John had deluded himself that she had given up any idea of going back to the embassy. He would be sorely disappointed. One thing she had always appreciated about Takeshi is that he respected her independence and her ability to make decisions. Yes, he got her a job, but she was not forced to take it or remain in it. He provided for her, but she could make her home as she wanted it. He did not stop her from seeing her family even when he so clearly disapproved of Trudy. While Takeshi purchased her Japanese lipstick and dresses, he did not insist that she wear them. She was always given a choice.
John, it seemed, did not.
When Juliana first entered the large jewelry store, her coat was taken from her and she looked around. John was in his military uniform and he led her up to an assistant who was obviously waiting for them.
“Darling,” John stated, startling her.
She had never been called that before.
Looking at him, she let him indicate a case, which showcased several rings that held diamonds in them. They were larger and more—well, more—than the ring her mother wore. Juliana’s eyes went wide and she glanced at John. “This is too much,” she stated. “I—can’t possibly.”
“Don’t be modest, Alexa. You wear that horrible ring that was given to you for exemplary service in your government post, though why you chose to find it just this week baffles me. These are far less ostentatious.”
She swallowed and turned back to the case.
It was then that a familiar man across the way with a woman a good twenty years older than her caught her eye. He smiled and then immediately led the woman over. Shaking John’s hand, he greeted them. “Obergruppenfuhrer. I thought I recognized this young woman. You worked for the Imperial Trade Minister, did you not? I remember you personally went and got me coffee at a morning meeting when I know those Japs don’t drink the stuff.” He offered her his hand.
“It’s good to see you again, sir,” she greeted, only partially remembering him. “I hope the coffee wasn’t too terrible.”
His eyes went wide comically. “Dreadful, but I don’t hold that against you. There’s nothing like good German coffee, eh, Smith?”
“Quite,” he agreed. “Alexa has defected to the Reich so I doubt you’ll be seeing her again with the Trade Minister.”
The unnamed man looked at her for a long moment. “That must be a story. Dorothy? Perhaps you can help Alexa with her purchase while I speak with the Obergruppenfuhrer for a moment.”
He looked at Juliana again for a long moment and then turned to John, leading him away for a moment.
John hadn’t paid attention to Alexa’s choice once he had finished speaking with Michaels. It seemed pretty. Small, but pretty. She appeared hesitant to put it on, but he had slipped it on her finger.
“So,” he said when they were a few miles out of the city. “Are we going to talk about it?”
She took a deep sigh. “Trade Minister Tagomi? He really was the kindest man.”
“No,” he wheedled, “the fact the stone in your ring from Trade Minister Tagomi symbolizes harmony and sometimes is used to promote marriage.”
Alexa stilled beside him, but only for the briefest of moments. “Does it?” Her voice was just a tad higher than usual.
“You went to the Imperial Embassy on Wednesday,” he laid out for her, “and you came back with that peculiar ring. You wear a bracelet, which has some significance in Japanese culture. Alexa, I don’t think you understand. You are a citizen of the American Reich. You are going to marry an Obergruppenfuhrer within the next few months. I have a position to maintain.”
Her blue eyes turned to him. “I can see that, among other things, I am culturally a disappointment to you. Perhaps this marriage is ill advised.”
John had to fight not to grind his teeth. He wanted this woman desperately. Every morning in the shower, he imagined her sinking on her knees in front of him. The Japanese were kinky little bastards. She probably was used to someone coming all over her face and hair. Helen certainly wouldn’t have let him.
“Stop trying to change me,” she demanded. “All you do is try to change me. You’re a very controlling man, John. It was little things at first so that I didn’t even notice, but now it’s everything.”
“I’m trying to protect you, Alexa. I am trying to build a home. I am trying to give you a family.”
“You killed my family!” she suddenly screamed. “I know that wasn’t a vitamin pill. You killed my baby.” Alexa took in several deep breaths and he gripped the steering wheel, trying to cool his anger.
“The child was racially defective, Alexa,” he attempted to explain. “I will give you children—Aryan children who you can be proud of. It will be enough, Alexa. You will be content. Happy, even. I know you don’t believe me now, but I promise you this.”
For a long while she was silent. Finally, she whispered, “Just take me home, John.”
He noticed that while the ring was on her finger at dinner, that night when she passed him coming out of the bathroom, it was conspicuously absent.
Childan was a man of taste and refinement. He always wore a European-style suit, a tie that was muted and respectful, and a pressed shirt. He spoke Japanese fluently and was nothing less than deferent to his Japanese clientele.
When Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido first walked in, Childan was surprised. He knew the man by reputation, of course. He did not know that he was a collector of Historic Americana Paraphernalia. A man of such distinction, however, was more than welcome. His spectacles were round and gave his face a severity along with the harsh set of his jaw. He did not remove his hat as he moved around the display cases, occasionally pausing at a particular display.
Childan had a small book and he knew the exact placement of his merchandise. In shorthand, he made careful note of what the Chief Inspector took note of. It might be useful in future. A shrewd businessman knew his esteemed clients, their moods, their desires. The man who ran the kempeitai was accustomed to never giving any hint away. He would be particularly difficult.
Finally, Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido approached Childan. “This place has been recommended to me,” he stated carefully. “A woman of great taste spoke well of your,” (he paused significantly making Childan nervous) “operation.”
“I am much gratified, Chief Inspector,” he replied, bowing at the waist, his hands at his side. “Is there anything specifically you are searching for today or do you care to browse?”
Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido looked around him for a long moment. “I do not have the luxury of time,” he admitted. “I require two wedding bands, one for a woman, one for a man. I think the woman I speak of would be much gratified by the gesture if the items were from America’s historic past.”
Childan was so surprised that at first he did not speak. When he found his voice, he quickly bowed again. “I do not usually show such items of specific worth. If you would give me but a moment. I have two sets in the back.”
The Chief Inspector made a sign and he carefully turned and blew out a long breath, trying not to hurry. This was a potentially significant sale. Wedding bands were hard to come by because people were buried with them on their fingers and they were no longer made in the Pacific States since the Axis Powers won the war.
He went to his private safe, turning the dial with the combination and then sorted through the items until he found the two jewelry boxes he was looking for. When he returned to his store, he found Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido still waiting. He had half expected his customer to have left.
“The traditional gold is more common,” Childan told him, “more preferred.” He took the first box and opened it. “The wedding ring is worn on the left hand, on the fourth finger. I do not know who the intended recipients are or if they are for your private collection, but you are, of course, welcome to try either on or inspect them. I have certificates of authenticity for your perusal if you are satisfied with the merchandise.” The bands were gold, thin, basic.
Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido bent down and inspected them before reaching forward and taking the larger of the two bands. “This is for the man?” he questioned.
“Indeed, Chief Inspector. As I said, it is traditionally worn on the fourth finger of the left hand. In America before the war it was called the ‘ring finger’.”
“Why?” he asked, looking up.
“I believe,” he answered knowledgably, “it is because of the Romans. The Roman Empire spanned most of Europe as you may know. The Romans believed that a vein in the ring fingers connected directly to the heart. They were incorrect, of course, but in Europe and, by extension, American culture, the superstition continued.”
Kido stared at the ring which was pinched between his thumb and index finger and then, surprisingly, he slid it onto his left ring finger. Looking down at it for a moment, he admitted, “It is not comfortable.”
Quickly, Childan offered, “Perhaps you would prefer the second set, Chief Inspector, if the first does not meet your approval. While more expensive, it is made of platinum, and the bands are wider. This makes them more conspicuous to the eye, announcing to others the definite status that the wearer is married. The metal is more exclusive, rarer, as I am certain you are aware.” He opened the second box and showed the two rings.
The Chief Inspector had removed the gold band and placed it down on the counter and was now inspecting the wider platinum bands. They were unusual. In fact, they had belonged to a wealthy mob family in Chicago, which the authentication showed. When the Chief Inspector picked up the larger band, Childan carefully scooped up the gold band and placed it back in its slot in the jewelry box. He would polish it later.
Looking at it in the light, Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido then slipped it onto the appropriate finger, swiveled it a few times, then slid it up to his knuckle.
“Men,” Childan carefully suggested, “sometimes shake their hands down to see if the ring slides past their knuckle, Chief Inspector.”
For a long moment, Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido regarded him before doing as he suggested. The band remained where it was. Then, without removing the wedding band, he picked up the women’s band which, while still wider than the average band, was thinner than the one he was wearing. “What is the probability,” he asked in his precise accent, “that this would fit the finger of a woman of the white man?”
“Well,” Childan stated, clearly flustered. “I cannot answer for certain as the woman is not here, but it was made for the woman of the white man. For your esteemed personage, I can, of course, make an exception and give you thirty days to return the rings if they do not meet your exact specifications. I understand how—personal—a purchase this must be.”
Cold, Japanese eyes met his. “Yes, this is a personal purchase. The woman who recommended this establishment was Miss Juliana Crain. She bought several vases from you, I believe, along with a tea set after her apartment was bombed.”
Surprise filled Childan. He remembered Juliana Crain. She was an elegant young woman who wore Japanese fashion and had an eye for Americana antiques. There were rumors that she was a race traitor, but Childan had no idea that she was involved with the Chief Inspector of the kempeitai or that he had planned to marry her.
Wetting his lips, Childan took a deep breath. “Miss Crain is a woman of refinement. I am certain you agree with me. I did not have occasion to study her hands at length, but I believe that the band would fit her hand or the approximate size of hers. Again, Chief Inspector, I would, of course, reimburse you up to thirty days—”
“Quite,” Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido interrupted him. “I will purchase these items and I expect your silence.”
“Of course, Chief Inspector,” Childan agreed as he accepted the larger bands back and took a clean rag to polish them. “My discretion is always part of the service. I only record the names and addresses of my customers, not their purchases. Only the kempeitai have ever requested such records.” He then brought out the certificate of authenticity, which Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido perused and, once he was satisfied, thirty-five thousand yen passed hands. Fifteen thousand for the woman’s band. Twenty for the man’s.
When his customer left, Childan sighed in relief and wonder. He had never heard of a Prawn marrying the woman of a white man. It was—there wasn’t a word to describe it. He wondered if he would see Juliana Crain again. Perhaps she would want to furnish her new home with touches of Americana. It was entirely possible. He closed up his shop for the day and went back into his personal rooms for a much needed drink, thinking of the possible future.
The weekend was one of politeness and silence. Juliana was certain to smile and to play the perfect ward. She did not seek out John’s company. When John kissed her hand, she let it slip from his fingers as soon as possible without seeming rude.
When they were sitting down for dinner, Thomas looked between them and asked, “When’s the wedding?”
“Soon,” John answered immediately.
“Six months,” Juliana responded at the same time.
John and Juliana looked at each other.
He blotted his mouth and put down his napkin. “Six months, Alexa? Is this a tradition I am unaware of?”
She carefully took a sip of her wine. “Engagements always last six to twelve months,” she lied. In truth they lasted only a matter of weeks. The bride only needed a pretty dress, then the couple went to city hall and got a license, and when it was granted they were married among friends. “Anyway, I’d prefer to wait a year since entering the American Reich. I still feel slightly uncomfortable, as if I’m going to say the wrong thing, make the wrong step. I’d like to feel more at home.”
“You are at home,” John stated dangerously. “We will marry soon, Thomas.”
“Six months,” she argued. “I’ve only been here four months, John. You didn’t even ask me. You told me over breakfast.”
“By all accounts you seemed thrilled in that diner with Joe. You were drinking milkshakes and laughing and making toasts, though those apparently didn’t make much sense,” he added to himself.
Of course, they didn’t make sense. She was cheering to cats given her name and he was suggesting they toast to the ocean to be silly.
A dread settled into her stomach. Takeshi better find her soon, otherwise she would be refusing to say her vows in front of witnesses—and she doubted John would be conciliatory if she humiliated him like that.
Then again, what would he do if she came back from the Imperial Embassy married?
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