Part the Tenth—
“I guess I overcomplicate / People tell me to medicate”
—“Breathin,” Ariana Grande
There was an odd silence between Alexa and his dad at the breakfast table. For some reason, Alexa hadn’t come down for dinner (Dad said she was unwell), and now they all ate in silence.
“Mother,” Thomas began and his dad looked at him sharply for some reason, “I was thinking. It might be educational if you came and spoke to my class about life in the Pacific States.”
She seemed genuinely shocked. “I think your father was a little over anxious for you to call me ‘mother’,” she replied, not answering his question, “and I don’t think I’m the best authority.”
Thomas, however, wouldn’t be gainsaid. “You worked for the Imperial government—did you ever meet a member of the Imperial family?”
Dad looked up, clearly interested.
Alexa took a deep breath and centered herself. “I met the Crown Princess after the assassination attempt on the Crown Prince. She is a close friend of the Trade Minister and I was able to offer assistance while she and her retinue were waiting for news on the health of his imperial highness. She is a gracious woman.”
Taking a sip from his glass of orange juice, Dad added, “Alexa also has a position at the Embassy, which I’m certain is one of great importance. What is it you do, exactly, Alexa?”
Her blue eyes flashed as she looked at him. “I’m afraid I can’t speak about it, John. You can rest assured that it isn’t remotely subversive to the Greater Nazi Reich.”
He laughed to himself, looking out the window. “Why do I doubt that?”
“I don’t know, John. Why do you doubt that?”
It was clear, to Thomas, that they had clearly forgotten about him.
She took a deliberate sip of her coffee. At least it wasn’t black this morning. Alexa usually liked it with a generous amount of cream and sugar, though he had heard her once ask Rose about tea.
Their eyes held for a long moment before Dad turned to Thomas as if suddenly remembering he was present. “It doesn’t matter anyway, Thomas. Alexa is moving out this morning. Her suitcases are in the hall.”
“I’ll be sure to return the actual suitcases to you, John. I’m sure you don’t want a race traitor like me stealing from you.” Her tone was pure acid and he merely looked at her as if he were indulging a small child.
Dad shrugged. “Keep the cases. I’m sure you’ll need them if you ever make it to Japan, Madam Kido.”
This certainly shocked Thomas and he looked at Alexa in confusion. Her eyes cut to him and she smiled at him reassuringly. “There’s nothing to worry about, Thomas. It’s only your father and I have ended our engagement and will be seeing less of each other.”
“I imagine I will be seeing something of your husband before you leave us for Asia,” John replied, ignoring Thomas again.
“Given his line of work, I imagine you will,” she stated. “He is, after all, Chief Inspector of the kempeitai. Takeshi came to you when he needed to entrust my safety to someone. Little did either of us know exactly the repercussions of that decision would be.”
Dad’s mouth tightened, but he merely continued his breakfast.
There was a knock on the door.
Rose went to open it and came back and whispered in Dad’s ear. He grimaced and then glanced at Alexa. “It seems the Embassy sent a car for you. I didn’t realize you telephoned, Alexa.”
“I had to arrange for accommodations, John. Did you expect me to turn up with suitcases like a vagrant?” Alexa was clearly irritated now. “I had hoped, before all this talk of marriage really began, that we would be able to part as friends—despite—despite the incident. Clearly I was mistaken.”
“Clearly,” he answered. “You will not be speaking at Thomas’s school.”
“If you wish,” she responded as she stood. “Forgive me, I do not want to keep my escort waiting.” Then she swept from the room without so much as a goodbye.
It was evening and Juliana was excited. She had specifically called him at work to ask if he was coming over for dinner and said that she had a surprise for him. Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido had been quite startled, but had promised to be at her apartment at the arranged time.
She was dressed immaculately as always but this time she was wearing Western heels and was even wearing color on her cheeks and her eyes were rimmed with black. Juliana picked at her food, barely touching it, and watched him anxiously.
“Misa-chan,” he murmured, setting down his own bowl of rice. “Is all well?”
Giving him a small smile, she nodded. “I have news—and I want to take you somewhere. It’s different from where you’re used to, but I thought… perhaps…” She shook her head and her beautiful hair with its red tints fell around her face.
Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido nodded his head. “I look forward to any news you wish to tell me, Misaki-chan,” he told her formally.
Reassured, she picked up her chopsticks and began to eat, catching glances at him every few moments.
He was surprised when she brought him to a part of San Francisco he was only familiar with in a professional capacity. There was a nondescript door next to what appeared to be a used bookshop and she rapped on the door which opened for her. She smiled at the man behind it who then let her through. As soon as Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido emerged from the shadows, a large hand rested on his shoulder, halting him from entering, but Juliana grabbed the offending wrist.
“He just wants to enjoy some Americana music, okay? I’m a friend of Trudy’s. She knows we’re coming.”
“She said you were bringing a Semite,” the man drawled, and Juliana didn’t look remotely surprised.
Smiling, she just looked up at him. “She must have misunderstood. I said ‘big romantic date’. Are you going to let my ‘big romantic date’ through or are you going to insult him so much that he’s going to report you to the kempeitai for playing suspect music?”
Immediately, Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido was released and he looked over the man once before adjusting his tie. Juliana looked behind her and gave him a large smile before beckoning him forward and, a little hesitantly, he followed.
“I am the kempeitai,” he murmured as they continued down the hallway.
She tilted her head toward him, her hair swishing and releasing the scent of cherry blossoms. “He doesn’t know that. While you have a formidable reputation, Takeshi-san, it was obvious he did not recognize you based on his behavior.”
They continued into the establishment, down a dark hallway which was punctuated every few steps with lights that barely illuminated the way. Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido kept close behind Juliana and was surprised when he heard unfamiliar music waft toward them. Juliana turned toward him, smiling, and hurried her step.
A moment later they entered a room which head several small tables and a stage where there appeared to be several of the white man playing antiquated Americana instruments made of metal. A woman in Western trousers and some sort of blouse sauntered up to them and took them in.
“Ah,” she guessed. “Trudy. She was wrong about you—said something about having finally saved your soul.” The woman waggled her fingers and walked off and with a quick look at him, Juliana followed her to a table which had a candle flickering on it. “We don’t have sake,” the woman stated in a disapproving tone.
Juliana glanced at Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido. “Do you have tea? I’ll take wine, thank you.”
After the woman had gone, Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido looked at her. “Your sister proves herself to be of interest once again.”
She sighed. “I honestly don’t know what she was thinking. I brought that new blend of tea to Mom when I asked her for a recommendation. I just wanted something—special.” She shrugged. “It’s not all bad.”
A negro came over with their tea and red wine. Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido looked down at the fortunately herbal blend. “No,” he agreed. “It is not completely unsatisfactory.”
A brilliant smile split Juliana’s face, which pleased Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido. He secretly took pleasure in her smiles, in her small nuances and displays of emotion which were so muted among the Japanese people here in the Pacific States. He remembered the last time he smiled. It was the day his son was born.
The words were said so suddenly that Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido almost upset his tea. He looked up in shock to see a blushing Juliana. It was clear she was pleased with the news but a deep dread settled in his stomach.
“I will take care of the necessary arrangements,” he told her succinctly, taking a sip of his tea, not looking at her.
She looked at him and smiled again. “I thought we could name her ‘Aiko,’” she continued, completely baffling him. “I have this innate feeling that the child is a girl. I didn’t know—with our last one. I didn’t have a name picked out. Do you like ‘Aiko’?”
Taking a deep breath, Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido paused. “Misaki-chan,” he stated carefully. “There is only dishonor in this child.” His dark eyes met hers, plain and harsh, and he begged her to understand with his single gaze.
She was leaning over the table, her beautiful hair falling to the side. Her head was tilted to the side, her eyes an impossible blue, her dark red lips painted into a slight smile at the thought of their unborn child. Then he could see her brow crinkle and her mouth turn down slightly. She drew herself up, looked up toward her wine, and then finished it in a single swallow. He had never seen her behave so and when she coughed, he was genuinely worried. She waved him off, however, and simply set the glass down, signaling the waiter to bring another.
The music played on, a loud cacophony of strange sounds Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido neither recognized nor understood.
“She could take my name,” Juliana whispered. “We could give her an American name—I know I can think of one in a day or two. She never has to know you’re her—” She swallowed. “Father.”
“The child will be mixed-race,” he argued, “and all will know she is the product of this liaison. It is unacceptable. It is not your place to bear my sons.”
“Daughter,” she muttered, but she turned to him and looked at him with a nonchalance he doubted she felt. Her eyes held a hurt that dulled them ever so slightly. “Aiko would never know who you were. You’ll be—gone—before she probably speaks her first word,” Juliana whispered brokenly.
“I would not leave a child of mine in the Japanese Pacific States,” he stated harshly. “Yet I would not take a child of yours away from you, Juliana.” (She looked up when he tore her American name from his throat with an emotion he rarely showed.) “I dishonor my ancestors, the ones who walked before, by creating a child that is not born to my name. You must have a similar situation in the former United States, Misa-chan.”
Juliana did not directly answer the question. Instead, she whispered, “I thought it might be different if the child was Japanese.”
“It would not be different,” he told her. “You know we live by duty, honor—You know you are permitted to hold the position of my ‘niece’ because it is your duty to—”
She closed her eyes in pain. “Yes, I know. You need to be satisfied and comforted so you will be able to be fierce in battle. However, it is not like that. Not for us. You may not say it, Takeshi-san, but it is not like that for us.” Her gaze flashed open, slitted, and he took in the dark lines around the lids that was so strange to him.
“No,” he agreed. “It is not like that for us. I will ensure, Misa-chan, that you have a good and honorable husband by the time I leave, one of important standing although he is the white man, and he will give you children although I cannot.” The words tore at him, his heart bleeding within his chest, but he breathed in deeply to calm himself. Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido hated the idea of any man having Juliana’s smiles, holding her in his arms, kissing her dark red lips. It was torturous to him—but he knew the reality of the situation.
Juliana looked away, her elbow on the table, her fingers tapping against her bottom lip. “And Aiko?”
“I will make the necessary arrangements.”
She looked down. “You’ll be there?” she asked in a small voice.
“I will be present, if it is your wish.”
Juliana took a deep, rattling breath. “It is my wish, Takeshi-san.” She picked up her glass of wine and sipped at it. “And then we will say a prayer for her in the temple. Both gone. Both of our children, gone.”
“We will ensure there is not another,” he promised.
She smiled at him sadly, as if she thought he were lying.
“You have a delivery.” The voice was precise and Japanese and Juliana paused. She was about to go to an interrogation. She looked at the Embassy worker who had approached her and noticed that he was bowing. It was strange to receive such deference.
“I am afraid that I am needed on the seventh floor,” she responded. “Is it possible that my delivery could be brought to my room?”
The man straightened. He was so young. This must be his first post, she thought to herself. He held out a folder to her and she looked at the Japanese characters quickly and noticed that it came from the Pacific States. It must be from Takeshi. She quickly printed out her name in Japanese before handing it back. “Thank you,” she responded before she moved on.
She took the stairs to the seventh floor, liking the exercise, and then went to the appropriate room, using her set of keys to unlock the three doors between the hallway and the interrogation room. When she came to the last door, she looked through the window to take in the detainee and paused.
Juliana knew him.
It was Joe Blake.
Hayato-san was sitting opposite him in his blue business suit, tie clipped perfectly, his shirt a crisp white. He was a capable man with a thick torso, broad shoulders, large hands, in his sixties, or so she supposed.
Juliana knocked on the window three times, and he looked up before coming to the door with the file.
She bowed when he came through. “Hayato-san,” she murmured although they were alone. “I know that man.”
Hayato glanced through the window and then opened the file. “Joe Blake. He is a construction worker who runs suspect trucks to the Neutral Zone. He was found with a suspicious film.”
“He is an agent of Obergruppenfuhrer John Smith,” she explained carefully. “He was his guest at the Smith residence for V-A Day,” she pronounced the letters precisely in English. Taking the folder, she glanced through it. Then she pointed to a short paragraph. “This was me. When he was toasting the ocean then the Atlantic and the Pacific, I was the woman he was with. We were celebrating my engagement to Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido.”
Clearly surprised, Hayato looked down at the paragraph and reread it. “You were so bold to do so in a diner filled with Nazi personnel?”
Shrugging, she looked at him with her blue Aryan eyes. “He chose the location. Do you think that a member of the Resistance would make such assertions in public if they were subversive?” She sighed. “What does the film show?”
He motioned to her and they moved to a separate room where there was a projector. Juliana nearly vomited at what it showed. Turning to Hayato, she asked, “This is one of his films?”
“From what we can tell, Misaki-san. It is clearly impossible unless Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido dies.”
“He’s not going to die,” she answered harshly, turning to her partner. “You must understand, Hayato-san, that I would never—this is disgusting—I—” She was lost for words. “My hair is cut short,” she noted.
Hayato turned to her in obvious question.
“My hair. It’s cut to my shoulders. I just—It seems strange to me. I know you’ve never seen my hair in anything other than a Japanese style, but it’s quite long. It is—admired—for its length and its unusual color.”
“Yes,” Hayato agreed. “Many have remarked that Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido of the kempeitai is most fortunate in his choice of wife after we have observed you and your respect for our culture.”
Juliana was surprised by his praise and bowed her head in thanks. “What will happen to the film?”
“It will be held here until the next diplomatic shipment, then it will be returned to San Francisco to the Chief Inspector who will view it if he desires to”—they would, of course, be writing a full report on the film, so he would not necessarily have to—“and then it will be destroyed.”
Taking a deep breath, she admitted, “I wish we could destroy it now if it were not a breach of protocol.”
Agent Hayato looked at her for a long moment. “Perhaps I could arrange it, depending on the interview.”
She turned her gaze on him. “I would be most gratified,” she answered, standing.
They returned the film to the cannister and placed it on the shelf in its designated spot. Only the two of them and the Director of Subversive Behavior had access to the room.
Returning to the interrogation room, they entered. Joe was clearly surprised to see Juliana. She smiled at him. “Hello, Joe. How are you?”
“Alexa—I—How are you here?”
She smiled to herself as she sat next to Hayato. “It’s a long story.”
“I asked Obergruppenfuhrer Smith about you before my last mission, and he told me that you were none of my concern. He—well—there’s been no news of a wedding date—Are you okay? First you were engaged to that Japanese guy and then your engagement to Smith was announced—”
“Agent Kido,” Hayato stated harshly, “is not here for a social visit. We have found you in possession of contraband. You are not an official of the Greater Nazi Reich and therefore have no standing to possess such contraband that is both subversive and a direct threat to the Japanese Empire.”
Juliana took a deep breath. “Joe, have you watched the film?”
He looked at her for a long moment. “Yes. I thought it wasn’t one of his films at first except for the atomic bomb at the beginning—I thought it was just your marriage to Obergruppenfuhrer Smith and that I’d missed it.”
She exchanged a long look with Hayato.
Her partner cleared his throat. “Agent Kido is married to Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido of the Pacific States division of the kempeitai. She brings great honor with her presence here at the Imperial Embassy.”
Joe looked between them in confusion. “Oh,” he stated after a moment. Then, as if realizing what he’d just said, he repeated, “Oh.—I guess I did miss the wedding. Just a different wedding than the one I had thought.”
Being unable to hold in a small smile, Juliana looked at him warmly. “You’re the only one who has seen this film,” she checked.
He opened up his hand and leaned back. “As far as I know.”
Hayato was looking at him appraisingly. She knew that look. Her partner thought Joe was hiding something, and he very well could be. This would only end with Joe in a cell being tortured.
As she was a woman she was spared the exact details of such proceedings, but she knew they happened. She saw detainees after they were placed in the cells. The dead look in their eyes, the spatters of blood across their wrists and clothes.
Juliana was not ignorant. She was certain her husband was just as ruthless. She had never asked. Juliana had never wanted to ask. It was not that she was too afraid—it was just that she needed to keep herself separate. She was both the mistress of a powerful Japanese official and the woman of the white man. She could not get involved in disputes between the two differing races.
“Joe,” she stated quietly, “what aren’t you telling us?”
“Alexa—” he warned.
“Agent Hayato will ensure that you talk,” she told him quite firmly. “I prefer you tell me now. You will probably end up in a cell either way, but it will be better this way. Please, Joe. You were my closest friend when I lived with the Smiths. You took me in—when—” She had to hold back a sudden swell of emotion and Hayato looked over at her “You took me in, and I know it was Rita who called John.”
Swallowing, Joe looked at her. “I know what must have happened,” he told her, pointedly looking at her stomach. “It’s unfortunately obvious.”
“Yes,” she agreed. “And I don’t blame you.—But, please, tell us what you know. Perhaps there is some way we can help you. We’re not asking you to turn traitor, Joe. We just need to know about the film.”
Hayato was regarding Joe coolly. Usually he took the lead in interviews, Juliana coming in and taking the gentle approach only when it was needed, but he seemed to realize that Juliana had a rapport with Joe and that she would be better suited to extracting information from him.
It took several minutes of Joe looking between them and fidgeting a bit before he leaned forward, his forearms on the table, and he murmured, “Okay. He’s obsessed with you, Alexa. He heard about a film about you—that the Pacific Resistance was smuggling it into the Neutral Zone and I was sent to take out the agent and retrieve the film. That’s why I watched it. I wanted to see what was so goddamn important that I had to smother a girl, who must have been only sixteen, in her sleep!”
Juliana breathed out and nodded. She turned to Hayato and murmured in Japanese, “Let’s not give him our special brand of hospitality. He’s cooperated.”
He nodded in agreement and Juliana turned to go. It had been a long day and she just wanted to go back to her room and have some rice and rice milk. Today she couldn’t quite face the cafeteria.
When she entered her small set of rooms, which were sparsely furnished but really all she needed, she heard a familiar sound. She paused and quickly closed the door behind her.
Then it was there again. A smile spread across her face and she kicked off her shoes and looked toward the kitchen. As she rushed in there she saw two of her bowls were out, one filled with what seemed like tuna and another with water. Then her eyes fell to the floor where a blanket had been curled up in a corner. Lying in them happily was an orange ball of fur—her cat, Alexa.
“Baby!” she cried, picking up the cat, running her hand down the cat’s back and burying her face in her fur. “How I’ve missed you! Did you have fun bothering Takeshi-san? I bet he couldn’t wait to get rid of you!” She carried the cat over to the fridge and then set her down as she made her dinner, tears in her eyes.
When she made her way to her small table for two, she saw a small envelope with her name written out in English. She recognized the handwriting.
It was Takeshi’s.
In it was written one word.