Busy Making Other Plans
Tokyo - 1967
The man was a little too handsome. His hazel eyes, even here as he sprinted across the tennis court, crinkled with amusement, his light-brown hair parted on the left and waving in the breeze, his nose long and straight and decisive over a mouth that even as he returned the volley with a savage backhand flirted with an ironic smirk. He was striking, charismatic, memorable. This was entirely in keeping with his life as a tennis bum, wandering from millionaire to billionaire across the globe, teaching this son how to serve and volley, indulging that daughter by playing just hard enough to beat her without embarrassing her, letting her think that she might actually beat this well-known athlete at his own game if her father kept him over for one more night, one more match. As a tennis bum, Gregory Ketsch thought, Kelly Robinson was just about perfect. But he was far too famous, too noticeable, and, God dammit, too pretty to be a spy.
His partner, however... Ketsch glanced over at the sidelines, where the tall, slender Negro stood, with Robinson's rackets and balls in a white canvas case at his feet, holding a fresh white towel easily at his side as his dark eyes tracked Robinson's movements. He was certainly more than handsome enough, with his strong cheekbones and slender jaw. Ketsch thought wryly that the only way he knew to describe the man's features were in stereotypically racial terms, that trying to describe Alexander Scott to a sketch artist would result in a generic “Negro” that would come nowhere close to capturing him. 'They all look alike,' Greg? Ketsch smirked at himself. No, they did not, and Scott, with his close-cropped hair showing a part-line on the left and his intelligent, watchful eyes, with the happy crinkles at the corners, was one of a kind. He watched Robinson carefully and critically, every inch the dedicated trainer making sure his charge was playing well and taking care of himself. He had the solemn stillness of scholar – which he was, a Rhodes Scholar who spoke six languages fluently – and the rangy athleticism of his partner. But he wasn't flamboyant, and even when he spent time in parts of the world where the color of his skin made him a rarity, he was able to keep quietly to the background. Even with his good looks, he fit Ketsch's profile of a secret agent.
Ketsch waited for the match to end, waited for the moment to make his approach. He liked Scott a great deal. The first time the Pentagon had used him as a contact for these two, his role was to play a racist, insulting Scott and provoking a scuffle that would let him surreptitiously slip the coded documents into his pocket. When he'd called the man “Boy,” Scott had looked him up and down, and muttered Pathetic! and pulled him by his elbow into the hotel gift shop. Listen, he'd told Ketsch, I know you don't write the scripts, and you've got your job to do, but there's more than enough of that in the world without our own guys adding to it. You tell General Throckmorton that if they ever again send me a contact with that stuff, I'm going to walk right past him like he's not even there. Scott had looked hard at him. You understand me? Ketsch had nodded, and Scott had smiled, offering his hand. Great. Call me Scotty. Now, what's the assignment?
Robinson swung again, a mighty overhand drive that rocketed past Onizuka's racket, left a one-inch skid mark just inside the line, and was gone, and Onizuka stumbled at the end of his swing, taken off-balance by the absence of impact. He looked back at the ball, lying spent in the grass outside the court, and turned back, shaking his head with a rueful grin at Robinson. “Okay, Kelly, that's match. You got me. Let's call it a day, I'm going to be two martinis and four hours in the bath to recover as it is.”
“All right, my man, yes indeed,” chuckled Kelly, reaching across the net to take his hand. “It's been a rare privilege indeed beating your trousers off, and I hope to do it again next week!”
“All right,” said Onizuka. “You know I'm a glutton for punishment.”
“A diet that will help you keep your slim, trim, athletic figure, good sir, mark my words!”
Ketsch stepped forward as the two parted, and moved smoothly up to stand by Scott. As the tennis bum approached, he took another step, placing himself in his path, and held the package out in front of him. “Mr. Robinson? Fred Skinnersworth, from the Spaulding company. I wanted to talk to you about our new line of rackets.”
Robinson smiled his toothy, movie-star smile, and reached a friendly hand. “Certainly, sir, certainly!” His voice held a sort of singsong merriment. “Please accompany us into the secret world of glamor that is the men's locker room, and you may regale me with the virtues and hidden wonders of your magnificent new racket while my trainer here rubs the kinks out!”
Ketsch sat by the massage table while Robinson showered, making small-talk with Scotty about Mark Lane's Rush to Judgment.
“Mark my words,” Scotty was telling him, “we'll be hearing conspiracy theories well into the next century. By the time they're done, everybody will have killed Kennedy from the Cubans to the Man in the Moon.”
Ketsch smiled. “Hard to believe one bullet could have–”
“My son, my son” came Kelly Robinson's voice from behind him, “if you'd been working in the field instead of behind a series of wonderful, wonderful desks, you'd know that a bullet can do just about anything in the whole damned world, including tap-dance with a straw hat and a cane while singing Clementine.” He crossed around in front of Ketsch, a towel wrapped around his waist, and hopped up onto the table, stretching out prone, to cock an eye at Ketsch. “Okay, Jack, this room's clean and private. What have you got?”
Ketsch sat up a little straighter, drawing in a breath. The change in Kelly Robinson had been like the switching of a light switch, and, while the humor wasn't gone from his eyes or his mouth, there was a real seriousness there that reminded Ketsch again how wrong his initial impression was. He might not think Kelly Robinson was cut out to be a spy, but his record had said otherwise, again and again and again. Robinson and Scott were probably the most successful operational team the Pentagon had.
“You've heard of Tetsuo Takasawa?”
Kelly nodded, grunting slightly as Scott began massaging his shoulders. “Japanese Ministry of Defense, Office of International Liaison, in charge of agreements on allied bases located on Japanese soil.”
Ketsch nodded. “Yes, exactly. We're trying to open a new Naval Air Station on Hokkaido, near Kushiro. Takasawa's obviously very important to us at this point.”
“Hard to argue with that,” said Scott.
“Well, apparently, Peking figured that out as well,” said Ketsch. “They've paid the Yakuza a hundred thousand dollars to kidnap Takasawa's nine year old daughter Yukio.”
“Ah, yes!” Kelly's words were merry again, but there was real steel in his voice. “The Reds get hold of little Yukio, and they can make Takasawa turn down the naval base. So our job is to keep them from getting hold of her?”
Ketsch shook his head. “No, Kelly. It's too late for that. We had no information until after the Yakuza had snatched the girl. We don't know where they're holding her. We do know that the Yakuza still has her. The Reds have a hard time operating here.”
Kelly made a surprised sound, and Scott chuckled at him. “You only say that because you're an overly-scrutable Westerner!”
“Hey, Jack,” objected Kelly, “I didn't even say anything!”
“And you were still wrong, man!” said Scott. “Chinese and Japanese are racially very different, you see, and any Japanese would know a Chinese at a glance. It would be like sending you into Oakland to infiltrate the Black Panthers.”
“Scotty, Scotty,” said Kelly. “I do begin to see the error of the words I did not, in fact, utter, indeed I do.”
“Sure, sure,” said Scotty, his attention returning to Ketsch. “So the Yakuza are the ones holding Yukio, then. That's bad.”
“I'll say, man,” said Kelly. “The Yakuza are just in it for the money. If the Reds had her, they'd hold onto her as long as she was useful to them, but the Yakuza will just kill her as soon as they start to think she's more trouble than she's worth.”
“Exactly.” Ketsch leaned forward. “They're on a real hair-trigger, as well. The general's pretty sure that they'll kill her if they get even a hint of a rescue attempt.”
“So what are we doing, then, baby?” Kelly asked.
“A rescue attempt,” Scotty replied in a chorus with Ketsch, but where Ketsch's tone was matter of fact and confident, Scott's was cynical and sharp, and he continued, “Man, Greg, I like you, I really do, but you keep opening your mouth and letting the most terrible stuff come out of it. I mean it, man, you need to start turning down some of these assignments, or we're just not going to talk to you at all.”
Kelly's eyes narrowed and he pushed himself up on his elbows to spear Ketsch with a disgusted look. “Now, man, as much as the general wants us to just get a nine-year-old girl killed so the Reds have no more hold on Takasawa, would there be any objection to us actually, you know, bringing her back to her father alive?”
Ketsch smiled grimly. “The general knows better than to overly constrain your operational latitude. He is concerned that, if it is apparent to Takasawa that his daughter was killed as a result of an American rescue attempt, he would blame us, and that would sour him on Hokkaido and other U.S. priorities. The general feels that, although a successful rescue of the girl would place on him a vast On in regards to the United States, which he would be unable to repay, the consequences of being seen to have failed require serious consideration on your part before any operational plan is put into effect.”
“In other words....” said Kelly.
“In other words,” Ketsch supplied, “if you can rescue the kid, that's great. But failure is an option as long as you don't get caught doing it. Our concern is getting Takasawa out from under the Reds, not the girl's life.”
“Man,” asked Scotty, “Do you ever get so disgusted with your job that you seriously consider just opening a fruit stand somewhere?”
Ketsch looked down at the floor. “All the damned time,” he said quietly, then looked back up at Scotty and then Kelly. “For God's sake, ignore the damned General. Get her back. She's nine years old!”
Kelly and Scott both smiled at him.
“Scotty's right, my man,” said Kelly, settling back down again. “You need to either start turning down assignments or find a new line of work all together. You still have a soul, Jack, and this job is going to kill you.” He closed his eyes as Ketsch stood and started to leave, and didn't open them when he spoke again. “Leave the racket. We all still have covers to protect.”
Ketsch stopped short, turned, placed the package containing the new Spaulding racket on the chair he'd been occupying. “Good luck.”
“You too, Greg,” said Scotty, as he turned back to massaging Kelly's back and shoulders, “you too.”
“Man, I'm telling you, it's good,” said Scotty, gesturing at his plate of sushi.
“Man, I'm telling you, it's raw fish!” Kelly responded.
“This from the man who put mayo on his peanut butter, jelly and bacon sandwiches.”
“You're never going to let me live that down, are you? You're just going to keep throwing that in my face forever. I tried to share something, something truly unique and wonderful, and you've got nothing but contempt, man, it's really sad.”
“For peanut butter, jelly, bacon and mayo? You've got that right, Jack, nothing but contempt.” Scotty took a sip of ginger ale. “But the real question is, where do we start looking for Yukio Takasawa? You know, there are over twelve million people in Tokyo, man, the place has lost that whole small-town, everybody-knows-everybody charm it had back when we first came here and there were only eleven million, seven-hundred thousand.”
“Ah, my fine young man, I do believe I have an answer for you, as I know a respected member of the Fourth Estate who's been working the Tokyo beat for almost fifteen years now, came in when the population was probably only about six million. This is a man with his finger on the pulse, you might say, a man who knows what's happening, a man who has some contacts.”
“Excellent, excellent, my fine man,” replied Scott. “And who, pray tell, is this journalistic paragon of whom you speak?”
“You don't know?” asked Kelly.
“I do not.”
“Shall I tell you, then?”
“I wish you would.”
“Steve Martin,” said Kelly, with no small pride.
“Isn't he the guy from the—?”
“The very one,” Kelly replied. “Stopped into Tokyo for a brief layover to visit a college friend in 1954, and landed in the story of the century.”
“Man, that guy is a legend,” said Scotty. “He won every award in the world for that report from the hospital! Still gives me chills, man, really!” He looked back at Kelly. “And you know him?”
“I do,” said Kelly. “And he owes me a favor, too!”
“Well, go for yourself, Stanley, that's marvelous. What say you pick up the telephone instrument over on that table over there, and give good Mr. Martin a call, and see if he's got time to talk to us!”
“My very idea, Doctor Livingston! The way you plucked that right from my thoughts, it's positively uncanny!”
Martin was a heavyset man, with dark hair and dark, intense eyes set deep beneath prominent brows. There was a stillness in those eyes that was somehow, paradoxically, both serene and haunted; what he'd seen in the holocaust of 1954 had marked him indelibly.
His home was modest in comparison with his wealth, simple, comfortable furnishings, balsa-and-rice-paper walls. The one visible indulgence was a large, overstuffed easy chair with an ottoman, in which he sat back after offering Kelly and Scotty drinks and showing them to his sofa.
“I didn't know,” he said, smiling, “that the Yakuza were big tennis fans.” His voice was deep and penetrating as his eyes were, and held both warning and promise. You can't expect me to be straight with you if you won't return the favor.
“Well, Steve, they aren't,” said Kelly. “I don't have to tell you that tennis isn't all I do.”
“And you can't tell me...?”
“You know I can't.”
Martin sat back for a moment, closing his eyes. Scotty leaned forward, opened his mouth, but Kelly stilled him with a raised palm. He shrugged and sat back.
Finally, Martin straightened, looking Kelly in the eye. “I hope you're as good as I think you are. I hope you're as good as you think you are. What do you want to know?”
Scotty leaned in again. “If the Yakuza needed to keep someone safe and controlled, where would they keep them?”
“Safe and controlled,” said Martin. “As in, a prisoner.”
Steve Martin thought for a moment then his eyes widened. “Good lord! Takasawa's daughter? They've got her?”
Kelly nodded. “It looks that way, Steve.”
“That doesn't make sense. They're not political–” He interrupted himself. “Oh. Oh, yes, of course. Work for hire. Red China, I assume.”
“Don't assume, man,” said Scotty. “Nothing good comes of it, really.”
“Fair enough. I'm sorry, it's the instincts of a reporter. There's no shutting them off.” Martin took a contemplative sip of his brandy. After a few seconds, he spoke. “There are three possibilities,” he said. “There's a nightclub on the Ginza, Bassho's Repose. It's not as dignified as the name suggests, believe me. There's a suite of offices on the eleventh floor of the Fujimori building. An import/export firm, Tokyo International Trading. The business is a front for smuggling, but those offices are clean. They're only manned about five days a month, it's an auxiliary office. Then there's a warehouse on the waterfront, Takigato, Phelps and Company. Another smuggling front.”
Scotty and Kelly exchanged a look, and Kelly nodded. He turned back to the reporter. “Listen, Steve, indications are, they're really jumpy. If they hear somebody's looking...”
“I understand,” said Martin. He stood. “Still, I am a newsman. Can you give me something when it's safe?”
Kelly smiled. “You know, we just might, Steve. We just might at that.”
As they made their way down the front walk, Scotty angled his eyes over at Kelly. “We just might? What's that all about?”
Kelly shrugged. “I figured, if we pull this off, and once little Yukio is safe, there's a news story from an anonymous source about the good old USA having rescued her, then her daddy might be properly grateful, man, that's all.”
Bassho's Repose should, by its name, have been a quiet, elegant club, a room of stillnesses to be contemplated in seventeen-syllable verses. What it was, was a noisy, down-at-heels bar, full of hard-faced prostitutes and hard-drinking stevedores. The bar itself was ill-maintained and dirty, ringed from countless glasses of hard liquor sloshed carelessly onto its surface.
Scotty slipped into a seat at a table near the back wall.
“Man,” said Kelly, “that's not fair! Why is it, whenever we get into one of these dives, you make me schlep off to the bar for the drinks?”
“'Cause when I order a glass of milk, people want to make fun of me, and it hurts my feelings, man. You know how sensitive I am.”
Kelly shrugged, “Well, that's true, Jack, I do hate it when you get all teary-eyed.”
“You see? I do this all for you, Kel, all for you!”
“All right, all right!” Kelly waded up to the bar and returned shortly with glass of Sake and one of Milk, and sat opposite his partner.
Scotty took a sip of his milk. “I'm not liking it, man.”
Kelly nodded. “Way too seedy, way to crowded, and there's an active market in dope in the back room. Even if they're paying off the cops, it's too risky. A fight, a dope raid, trouble from the girls? Too many chances of getting rumbled.” He tossed back his drink. “Still, we might find somebody here who knows something.”
“Get into the back room, find the peddler, work up from there?” Scotty's tone was noncommittal.
“Won't work,” Kelly agreed. “Anybody who knows anything we can use will be too scared of their bosses to share it.”
“What I was thinking,” said Scotty, setting down the half-full glass of milk.
It was 10:30 when they arrived at the Fujimori building. For one of the great metropolitan capitals of the world, Tokyo always amazed them with its early-to-bed ethos. By ten PM, the streets were all but empty, and the two security guards on duty in the building's lobby watched them with careful eyes as they walked past on the sidewalk.
Kelly shook his head. “Now, that's not cool, Scotty,” he said. “They were watching us like hawks, man!”
“That's because we're the only people in town besides them still awake.”
“Well, we've gotta get up to that suite.”
“Yeah, and we can't let Hawkeye and Eagle-eye know we're doing it,” answered Scotty. “Because they'll call the owners, and then it's just this whole mess, you see.”
“Yes, indeed,” replied Kelly, as they reached the corner of the block and turned, walking down the side of the building. “And messes, as we all know, have to be cleaned up, don't they?”
“You know, they do,” said Scotty. “Somebody has to pick up all the trash, and throw it away, and, you know, when I was a kid, I used to do that, I had to take the garbage right out to the street for the Garbage Truck to pick up. Man, those barrels weighed a ton, Jack, I'm telling you!”
“How'd you like to have to carry them down from high up in an excellent sky-scraping structure such as this amazing tower to our left? I bet your arms would get tired then, wouldn't they?” They'd reached another corner and turned again, into the service-way behind the building.
“Well, no,” Scott said. “They wouldn't, because, you see, I wouldn't have to carry them all the way downstairs. Because these big buildings have what you call garbage chutes on most floors, like big slides that go from little hatches right inside each and every floor, and dump out into these big containers you see back here, called dumpsters! Isn't that marvelous?”
Kelly looked at the dumpsters, and the open chutes above them, and scowled. “No,” he said, “No, it's not, in so many ways, because we're gonna have to climb in there, with all that trash and garbage, and then make it up into the chute, and then try and climb up as far as a hatch. Even if we only go to the second floor, that's going to be a real pain in the neck, Jack, not to mention the shoulders and knees and lower back. Not to mention, man, that knowing our luck, we'll be half-way up the chute, and some honorable, hardworking Japanese janitor will throw a bag of day-old sushi on us!”
“Well, Kel, that's the glamor of the Spy biz for you, what can I say, man? It's what we do!”
“Man, it'd be one thing if we were in Mexico, and I could charm Shelby Clavell into letting me put my outfit on my expense account...”
Scotty eyed the black-and-white striped jacket his partner was wearing. “Kelly, I'm telling you, man, if somebody manages to destroy that jacket for you, you should pay them!” They'd reached the first dumpster, and Scotty jumped up and grabbed hold of the edge. “Hell, I'd pay them!”
“I like this jacket, man!” complained Kelly as he jumped up to grab the edge of the dumpster beside his partner.
“I know.” Scott heaved himself to stand balanced on the rim, then reached down to give Kelly a hand up. “That's the truly sad part, I'm telling you.”
They made their way carefully over to the edge nearest the building, and looked up into the shaft of the garbage chute. It was rusty and streaked with grime, and a shred of something nasty-looking hung from the edge of a protruding bolt maybe six inches up, barely visible as the chute disappeared into darkness.
“Oh, the wonderfulness of this idea,” Kelly muttered. “I like it better and better with every passing moment.”
Scotty crouched down, keeping his center of gravity carefully balanced over his lined-up feet on the narrow rim, and offered Kelly his clasped hands as a step. “Quit complaining, man, tempus fugit and all that stuff.”
Kelly shrugged and stepped into the saddle of Scotty's clasped hands, and boosted himself up to grab onto the edge of the chute. He heaved himself up and managed to wedge himself in, shoulders against one side, shoes against the other, and began inching himself painfully up the shaft.
Scott balanced on the rim of the dumpster, staring up at his partner as he jerked his way up. There was a flash of light, somewhere off to east, like summer lightning, and then a distant boom, perhaps a rumble of thunder. The bay? Beyond? “Well, I hope the kid's upstairs,” he grumbled, jumping up and squeezing himself in after his partner. “Because looking for her in the rain will be no fun at all, man, I'm telling you that right now.”
It took them a half hour of inching their way up the shaft to get to the third-floor hatchway – they'd decided that the Second Floor would be too close to the lobby and guards, and risk being heard as they clambered out – and managed to wiggle through and out into what turned out to be a maintenance room about twice the size of a closet, with a big sink and a drain in the floor, a mop in a rolling bucket in the corner.
“Well,” muttered Kelly, twisting the valve and starting warm water running in the big sink, “here's the first break we've had all night!” He rinsed his hands in the water, then put his head under the flow, letting it wash through his hair until what went down the drain lost its more interesting colors. He pulled off the black-and-white striped jacket, looked at the back, and sighed, deeply. Scotty was already crumpling the light blue windbreaker he'd been wearing, and opening the garbage chute to throw it back down. Kelly grabbed his cigarette case from the jacket pocket, and sent it to follow.
Scotty took his place at the sink, washing his hands and head in the water, and they both pulled paper towels from a rack, and did what they could with their hair.
The corridor was dark, and only emergency lighting was on in the fire stairs as they moved quietly up through the empty building.
“Man, you know, I know this town is in bed by nine,” said Kelly, “but I would've thought they'd keep the stairways lit, you know?”
“Electricity costs money, man,” said Scotty, philosophically. But he shrugged his shoulders under his red polo shirt, as if something was making him uncomfortable.
They were rounding the landing between the ninth and tenth floors when they felt a vibration in the building, a distinct shake that subsided as quickly as it had begun.
“Woah.” Kelly and Scott exchanged glances in the dim light of the stairwell. “My man,” Kelly continued, “is Tokyo earthquake territory?”
“Well,” replied Scotty, quietly, “There was the 1923 quake in the plains of Kanto, just outside of town, killed a hundred thousand people.”
They stared at one another for a moment.
“Well, lets hope for another one of those, man,” said Kelly, before turning to bound up steps, two at a time.
“You got that, Jack!” said Scotty, following close behind him. “Because, I'm telling you, I don't like the alternative at all!”
They burst out onto the Eleventh Floor, and ran full-tilt down to the window at one end. The city was dark, but for the probing fingers of large searchlights, criss-crossing buildings and the sky.
“This doesn't give me a good feeling,” said Scotty, quietly. “Not a good feeling at all.”
“Me either,” replied Kelly. “But there's still that little girl, and should could be right on this floor.”
There was another percussive tremor while they were checking doors, and then Scotty was signaling with his hand, and the two men pressed their ears to the door marked, in English and Japanese, Tokyo International Trading. The only sound either of them heard was a distant cry of sirens.
Scott looked a question at his partner, and Kelly shrugged, and pulled a lock-pick from his hip pocket. It was thirty silent seconds to open it, and they were inside.
They did their best to ignore the criss-crossing fingers of light probing the skyline and the skies above as they combed quietly and efficiently through the offices. There were desks and chairs and filing cabinets, phones and typewriters and a fairly large safe. But no Yakuza gangsters, no terrified nine-year-old hostage, no human presence of any kind.
“Well,” said Kelly, “That's two down. Next stop, Takigato, Phelps and Company, am I right?”
There was no answer from Scott, and he turned to glance at his partner. Alexander Scott was stock-still, staring wide-eyed out the window.
Robinson started to turn, to follow his gaze, and suddenly heard the nearby thunder of artillery fire, and then a sound he'd heard only in news reports, a terrifying roar that was metal on metal, was a foghorn, was storm and woe, was hell upon the earth, and outside the window, he saw a mountain move, a vast reptilian head, easily thrice the size of a military transport jet. There was a ridge of jaggedly spiked plates standing out along the spine that disappeared from view far below, and the eyes glowed with a hellish, fiery light, which the criss-crossing ovals of searchlights failed to dim as they probed the massive, runnelled face.
The head turned, and for a long a moment, the gigantic beast seemed to be staring directly at him, directly into his eyes, before it turned again. To face back in the direction of the searchlights. He could actually see the energy crackling and beginning to glow in the spines and plates down it back as it reared, dropping its vast maw open.
“Well, Stanley,” he breathed, his voice sounding almost like a prayer as the behemoth called Godzilla blew a vast and awful plume of nuclear fire back at the source of the probing lights, “this is another fine mess you've gotten me into!”