pop round about one-ish? I'll make sure my table is ready."
"Ken, can we meet somewhere outside today? Anywhere but at the bank."
"Pleasure not business, Michael? But that's how business works in this
town, remember? It masquerades as pleasure. We 'new boys' have to have
our perks these days, just like the 'old boys.'" He laughed. "Well
then, how about that ghastly pub full of public-school jobbers down by
the new Leadenhall Market. Know it? We could pop in for a pint. Nobody
you or I know would be caught dead drinking there."
"Across from that brokers club, right?"
"That's the one. It's bloody loud at lunch, but we can still talk."
Another laugh. "Matter of fact, I might even be asking a trifling favor
of you, old man. So you'd best be warned."
"What's a small favor between enemies. See you at one."
"On the dot."
As he cradled the receiver and poured the last dregs of caffeine into
his cup, he listened to the blare of horns on the Strand and wondered
what was wrong with the conversation that had just ended. Simple: Kenji
Nogami was too quick and chipper. Which meant he was worried. Why?
These days he should be on top of the world. He'd just acquired a
controlling interest in the Westminster Union Bank, one of the top ten
merchant banks in the City, after an unprecedented hostile takeover.
Was the new venture suddenly in trouble?
Not likely. Nogami had brought in a crackerjack Japanese team and
dragged the bank kicking and screaming into the lucrative Eurobond
business, the issuing of corporate debentures in currencies other than
that of a company's home country. Eurocurrencies and Eurobonds now
moved in wholesale amounts between governments, central banks, and
large multinational firms. The trading of Eurobonds was centered in
London, global leader in foreign exchange dealing, and they represented
the world's largest debt market. In addition, Nogami had aggressively
stepped up Westminster Union's traditional merchant bank operations by
financing foreign trade, structuring corporate finance deals, and
underwriting new issues of shares and bonds. He also excelled in the
new game of corporate takeovers. None of the major London merchant
bankers - the Rothschilds, Schroders, Hambros, Barings - had originally
been British, so maybe Kenji was merely following in the footsteps of
the greats. Vance did know he was a first-class manager, a paragon of
Japanese prudence here in the new booming, go-go London financial
This town used to be one of Michael Vance's sentimental favorites, a
living monument to British dignity, reserve, fair play. But today it
was changing fast. After the Big Bang, London had become a prisoner of
the paper prosperity of its money changers, who'd been loosed in the
Temple. Thanks to them the City, that square mile comprising London's
old financial center, would never again be the same. After the Big
Bang, the City had become a bustling beehive of brash, ambitious young
men and women whose emblem, fittingly, seemed to be the outrageous new
headquarters Lloyds had built for itself, a monstrous spaceship dropped
remorselessly into the middle of Greek Revival facades and Victorian
respectability. It was, to his mind, like watching the new money give
the finger to the old. The staid headquarters of the Bank of England up
the way, that grand Old Lady of Threadneedle Street, now seemed a
doddering dowager at a rock concert.
All the same, he liked to stay near the City, close to the action. The
Savoy, a brisk ten-minute walk from the financial district, was his
usual spot, but since that was out of the question this time, he'd
checked into the refurbished Strand Palace, just across the street.
Today he had work to do. He had to get word to the _Mino-gumi _to back
off. And he was tired of dealing with lieutenants and enforcers,
_kobun_. The time had come to go to the top, the Tokyo _oyabun_. The
game of cat and mouse had to stop. Tokyo knew how to make deals. It was
time to make one.
Kenji Nogami, he figured, was just the man. Nogami, a wiry executive
with appropriately graying hair and a smile of granite, was a
consummate tactician who'd survived in the global financial jungle for
almost three decades. When the Japanese finally got tired of the
British financial club playing school tie and bowler hats and "old boy"
with them, shutting them out, they'd picked Nogami to handle the
hostile takeover of one of the pillars of London's merchant banking
community. Japan might still be afraid to go that route with the
Americans, who loved to rattle protectionist sabers, but England didn't
scare them a whit.
In years gone by, such attempts to violate British class privilege were
squelched by a few of the Eton grads of the City chipping in to
undermine the hostile bid. These days, however, nobody had the money to
scare off Japan. The game was up. And after the deregulation of Big
Bang, wholesale pursuit of profit had become the City's guiding
principle. Unfortunately, that turned out to be a game Kenji Nogami and
his Shokin Gaigoku Bank could play better than anybody in the world.
Nogami saw himself as an advance man for the eventual Japanese
domination of the globe's financial landscape. Maybe he was.
Michael Vance knew him from a wholly different direction, now almost
another life. In years gone by, Nogami had traveled with equal ease in
two worlds - that of straight money and that of "hot" money. He'd always
maintained the cover of a legitimate banker, but insiders knew he'd
made his real fortune laundering Yakuza amphetamine receipts and
importing small-caliber weapons. It was that second career that now
made him the perfect pipeline for a message that needed to be delivered
Vance finished off the last of the coffee in his cup, then rose and
strolled to the window to gaze down on the bustling Strand. The weather
looked murky, typical for London.
Where was Eva now? he wondered. What was she doing? Maybe she'd managed
to lose Novosty and get back to thinking about the protocol.
Well, he had some pressing business of his own, but the first thing was
to try and find her.
Maybe she was wondering right now how to get in touch with him. What
places here had they been together, back in the old days? Maybe there
was some location . . . the V&A? St. Pauls? or how about a restaurant?
What was that one she'd loved so much? The place the IRA shot up a few
At that moment the white phone beside his bed interrupted his thoughts
with its insistent British double chirp. He whirled around, startled.
Who knew he was here? If it was the KGB, or the Japanese mob, they
wouldn't bother ringing for an appointment.
Finally, after the fifth burst, he decided to reach for it. Probably
just the desk, calling about the breakfast things.
The voice was the last one he expected.
"Eva!" He almost shouted. "Where the hell are you?"
"You really must stop shooting people, you know," she lectured. "You're
getting to be a horrible menace to society."
"What - ?"
"Michael." The voice hardened. "Christ, what a mess."
"Are you okay?"
"Yes, I think so." She paused to inhale. "But I'm literally afraid to
move. I think KGB got Alex, there in Terminal Four at Heathrow. He was
trying to bluff them, though, so maybe he pulled it off. Anyway, they
were so tied up I just slipped past."
"The hell with him. Where are - ?"
"I don't dare take a step outside this room now. Let's meet tonight.
Besides, I want to work on translating . . . you know. I rang a
scholarly bookshop I used to order from and they're delivering one of
Ventris's books. Maybe I can make some headway."
"I already did a bit of it."
"I saw that in the files. A whole page." She laughed.
"Give me a break. It's been ten years."
"Well, it looks like you're still able to fake the scholar bit. But
"Thanks. What do you think of it so far?"
"Scary. Very scary. But we have to do more. Enough so we can go
"Exactly. Look, I've got to do a couple of things today. Can you - ?"
"That's fine, because I want to work on this." She sounded businesslike
again, her old self. "Something to while away the empty hours. The saga
inside my little Zenith has got to be the ticket out of this madness."
"Maybe, but we need to put some more spin on the scenario. Just to be
"Not on the phone. Can you just sit tight? Play your game and let me
take a shot at mine?"
"It better be good."
"That remains to be seen." Who knew how it would go? But if it
proceeded as planned, the whole thing could be turned around. "Now
where the hell are you?"
"The place we always stayed, of course. Figuring you'd come here. But
you stood me up, naturally. Same old Michael. So this morning I started
"You mean you're - ?"
"At the Savoy, sweetie, our love nest of happy times past. Right across
_Monday 6:32 P.M.
_Tanzan Mino was dressed in a black three-quarter sleeved kimono,
staring straight ahead as he knelt before the sword resting in front of
him. His hands were settled lightly on his thighs, his face
expressionless. Then he reached out and touched the scabbard, bowing
low to it. Inside was a twelfth-century katana, a five-foot-long razor
created by swordsmiths of the Mino School, from the town of Seki, near
Gifu in the heart of old Honshu. It was, he believed, a perfect
metaphor for Japanese excellence and discipline.
The sword had now been reverenced; next he would use it to test his own
centering. At this moment his mind was empty, knowing nothing, feeling
As his torso drew erect, he grasped the upper portion of the scabbard
with his right hand, its tip with his left, and pulled it around to
insert it into the black sash at his waist. He sat rigid for a moment,
poised, then thrust his right foot forward as he simultaneously grasped
the hilt of the sword with his right hand, the upper portion of the
scabbard with his left. In a lightning move he twisted the hilt a half-
turn and drew the blade out and across, his right foot moving into the
attack stance. The whip of steel fairly sang through the empty air as
the sword and his body moved together. It was the _chudan no kamae
_stroke, the tip of the blade thrust directly at an opponent's face, an
exercise in precision, balance.
Rising to a half kneel, he next lifted the sword above his head, his
left hand moving up to seize the hilt in a powerful two-handed grip. An
instant later he slashed downward with fierce yet controlled intensity,
still holding the hilt at arm's length. It was the powerful _jodan no
kamae_ stroke, known to sever iron.
Finally, holding the hilt straight in front of him, he rotated the
blade ninety degrees, then pulled his left hand back and grasped the
mouth of the scabbard. As he rose to both feet, he raised the sword
with his right hand and touched its _tsuba _handguard to his forehead
in silent reverence, even as he shifted the scabbard forward. Then in a
single motion he brought the blade around and caught it with his left
hand just in front of the guard, still holding the scabbard. With
ritual precision he guided the blade up its full length, until the tip
met the opening of the sheath, and then he slowly slipped it in.
This weapon, he reflected with pride, was crafted of the finest steel
the world had ever seen, created by folding and hammering heated layers
again and again until it consisted of hundreds of thousands of paper-
thin sheets. The metallurgy of Japan had been unsurpassed for eight
hundred years, and now the _Daedalus _spaceplane had once again
reaffirmed that superiority. Building on centuries of expertise, he had
succeeded in fashioning the heretofore-un known materials necessary to
withstand the intense heat of scramjet operation.
The remaining problems now lay in another direction entirely. The
difficulty was not technology; it was human blundering. Lack of
Discipline. The news he had just received had only served to assure him
once again that discipline was essential in all of life.
As he turned and stationed the sword across his desk, he surveyed his
penthouse domain and understood why heads of state must feel such
isolation, such impotence. You could have the best planning, the best
organization, the tightest coordination, and yet your fate still rode
on luck and chance. And on others.
Overall, however, the scenario possessed an inescapable inevitability.
A lifetime of experience told him he was right. He glanced at the sword
one last time, again inspired by it, and settled himself at the desk.
Tanzan Mino was known throughout Japan as a _kuromaku_, a man who made
things happen. Named after the unseen stagehand who pulled the wires in
Japanese theater, manipulating the stage and those on it from behind a
black curtain, the _kuromaku_ had been a fixture in Japanese politics
since the late nineteenth century. He fit the classic profile
perfectly: He was an ultranationalist who coordinated the interests of
the right-wing underworld with the on-stage players in industry and
politics. In this role, he had risen from the ruins of World War II to
become the most powerful man in Asia.
It had been a long and difficult road. He'd begun as an Osaka street
operator in the late thirties, a fervent nationalist and open admirer
of Mussolini who made his followers wear black shirts in imitation of
the Italian fascists. When the Pacific War began, he had followed the
Japanese army into Shanghai where, under the guise of procuring
"strategic materials" for the imperial Navy, he trafficked in booty
looted from Chinese warehouses and operated an intelligence network for
the Kempei Tai, the Japanese secret police. After Japan lost China, and
the war, the occupying supreme commander for the allied powers (SCAP)
labeled him a Class A war criminal and handed him a three-year term in
The stone floors and hunger and rats gave him the incentive to plan for
better things. The ruins of Japan, he concluded, offered enormous
opportunity for men of determination. The country would be rebuilt, and
those builders would rule.
Thus it was that while still in Sugamo he set about devising the
realization of his foremost ambition: to make himself oyabun of the
Tokyo Yakuza. His first step, he had decided, would be to become
Japan's gambling czar, and upon his release - he was thirty years old at
the time - he had made a deal with various local governments to organize
speedboat races and split the take on the accompanying wagering. It was
an offer none chose to refuse, and over the next forty years he and his
_Mino-gumi _Yakuza amassed a fortune from the receipts.
While still in Sugamo prison he had yet another insight: That to
succeed in the New Japan it would be necessary to align himself
temporarily with the globe's powerful new player, America. Accordingly
he began cultivating connections with American intelligence, and upon
his release, he landed a job as an undercover agent for the occupa-
tion's G-2 section, Intelligence. He'd specialized in black- bag
operations for the Kempei Tai in Shanghai during the war, so he had the
When SCAP's era of reconstruction wound down, he thoughtfully offered
his services to the CIA, volunteering to help them crush any new
Japanese political movements that smacked of leftism. It was love at
first sight, and soon Tanzan Mino was fronting for the Company, putting
to good use his _Mino-gumi _Yakuza as strikebreakers. With Tanzan Mino
as _kuromaku_, the Yakuza and the American CIA had run postwar Japan
during the early years, keeping it safe for capitalism.
Then as prosperity returned, new areas of expansion beckoned. When
goods could again be bought openly, the black market, long a Yakuza
mainstay, began to wither away. But he had converted this into an
opportunity, stepping in to fill the new Japanese consumer's need for
cash by opening storefront loan services known as _sarakin_. Although
his Yakuza charged interest rates as high as 70 percent, the average
Japanese could walk into a side-street office and minutes later walk
out with several thousand dollars, no questions asked.
Unlike banks, he didn't bother with credit checks - he had well-proven
collection techniques - and before long his _sarakin _were handling more
consumer loans than all Japan's banks combined. His success was such
that foreign bankers wanting to gain a foothold in Japan soon started
coming to him. Bank of America, Bankers Trust, Chase Manhattan,
American Express Bank - all began placing capital wholesale through the
When the CIA bankrolled the Corsican mob as strikebreakers in
Marseilles in the fifties, they were merely financing heroin labs for
the French Connection, but when they and America's leading banks hired
on with Tanzan Mino's Yakuza, they were furthering the career of the
man destined to become the world's richest right-winger. The CIA
arrangement had lasted until a midlevel field consultant blew the
The score for that had yet to be settled.
He shrugged away the thought with a glimmer of anger and turned to
study the column of green figures on the computer screen atop his desk,
mentally running a total. The numbers, at least, pleased him.
Capitalization for the first year was ready to be issued; the dummy
corporations were in place, their paperwork impeccable. None of the
financing packages was likely to raise eyebrows. The plan was as
flawless as human ability could make it.
As the pale light of dusk crept through the blinds, laying faint
shadows across his silver hair, he reached over with a smile and
touched the white stingray-skin binding on the sword's hilt. Yes, the
plan was brilliant. A third world war, one of economics, had begun, but
none of the other combatants fully realized it.
The European trading nations of 1992 were banding together, also
bringing in the new capitalists of Eastern Europe, to create a trade
monolith. At the same time Japan had, through strategic planning,
achieved its own Pacific trade bloc, finally realizing its aim during
the war, a Greater East Asia Coprosperity Sphere. Now only one final
target remained: the new consumers of the Soviet Union, who represented
the world's largest untapped market for goods, technology, investment.
The Europeans, the Americans, all the capitalists, were fighting for
that prize, but Tanzan Mino was within a whisker of seizing it for
Japan and Mino Industries. The Soviets would have no choice.
He reached down to stroke Neko, the snow leopard who slept beside his
desk, and reflected on the scenario. The Soviets had bought into it
with eyes open. The plan was turning out to be absurdly easy.
At the moment all he needed was the cleanly laundered payoff money. The
political risks, the financial risks, everything had to be covered. The
powers in the Liberal Democratic Party feared going out on a limb for
such a risky strategic objective. They required encouragement. And
certain prominent Japanese bankers, who would have to assist in the
scenario, also needed inducement. But the money had to be cash and
totally untraceable. No more Recruit-style fiascos.
Where was it?
He pushed that worry aside momentarily as he studied the gleaming model
of the _Daedalus_, poised like a Greek statue in the center of his
office. To think that the Soviets would agree not only to the hard
financial and territorial terms he had demanded, but actually were
willing to help Mino Industries develop the most advanced airplane the
world had ever seen. Their plight was fully as desperate as he'd
assumed. It was a game where he won everything.
Yes, the _Daedalus _was as important as all the rest combined. It would
leapfrog Japan to the undisputed ranks of the major powers, erasing
forever the distinction between civilian and military technology.
Still, though, there were problems. Always problems. First, the news he
had just received: The laundered funds still had not been delivered.
Then there was the matter of the NSA cryptographer who had been given
an intercepted copy of the protocol. Three men had been lost attempting
to retrieve it, but she remained at large. That was unacceptable. It
had to be reclaimed, no matter the cost, lest there be a premature
exposure of the plan. Timing was everything.
Added to that was the puzzling matter of the Soviet test pilot, on whom
the fate of the entire project hinged. He'd begun making outrageous
demands, insisting on moving up the first hypersonic flight to Friday.
Why? He'd once spent time in the United States as an exchange pilot.
Could he be fully trusted?
Tanzan Mino had finally, reluctantly, approved the schedule change,
though his instincts told him to beware. His instincts rarely failed,
but it was better not to appear too inflexible too soon. At this stage
the test pilot had become the crucial component of the project.
Sometimes you had to bend to get what you wanted, and instincts be
As if all that were not enough, he'd just heard an unsettling rumble
out of London concerning Kenji Nogami, a _Mino-gumi kobun _for thirty
years, a man he'd made rich.
He turned his attention back to the computer screen and studied the
numbers once more. However, he could not concentrate.
The problems. He felt his anger rise, unbidden. He was too old for
problems. Surmounting human incompetence was a young man's game. He
had, he told himself, struggled enough for a dozen men. And now, having
dedicated himself to fashioning Japan's twenty-first century ascen-
dancy, he no longer really cared about money. No, what mattered now was
the triumph of the Japanese people, the emperor, the Yamato spirit.
His countrymen, he had always believed, shared a noble heritage with
another race, one distant in time and place but brothers still. Both
the modern Japanese and the ancient Greeks had pursued a mission to
refine the civilizations around them, offering a powerful vision of
human possibilities. They both were unique peoples chosen by the gods.
He wanted, more than anything, for the entire world to at last
With a sigh he turned and gave Neko a loving pat on her spotted muzzle,
then touched the buzzer on his desk. Time to start solving the
Monday 1:03 P.M.
"Michael, I'm terribly glad you could make it." Kenji Nogami smiled and
reached for his pint of amber-colored lager. His tailoring was Savile
Row via Bond Street, his accent Cambridge, his background well
concealed. In a business where appearances counted for much, he had all
the careful touches that separated the players from the pretenders -
cheeks sleek from a daily workout at his club, eyes penetrating and
always alert, hair graying at the temples. Today he stood out like a
beacon in the mob of chatting brokers and jobbers in the paneled gloom
of the pub, his aloof bearing and dark pinstripe suit proclaiming
INSIDER as clearly as neon. A Japanese to the core, he still looked as
though he had belonged there for a hundred years.
"By the way, congratulations on the takeover." Vance caught the pint of
ale sliding across the beer-soaked mahogany, then lifted it. "I hear
you scared hell out of the big players here in the City. Here's to
going straight. Hope it doesn't take all the fun out of life."
"It had to happen eventually, Michael." He nodded with innocent guile
and raised his glass tankard in return. "Cheers."
"To your health and wealth." Vance joined him in a sip. It was warm and
bitter, the way he liked it. "No more intrigue."
"Well . . . He winked and drank again, blowing back the foam. "We
bankers still thrive on intrigue, old man. And secrecy. Otherwise
somebody else would start making the money."
The young brokers laughing, smoking, and drinking in the pub all looked
as though they made buckets of money. Outside, the ocher-trimmed Doric
columns of the refurbished Leadenhall Market looked down on the
lunchtime crowds of the financial district, almost all men in white
shirts and dark suits, the modern uniform of the money changer.
"Trouble with secrets, though" - Vance settled his mug onto the wet bar
and looked up - "is that eventually the word gets out."
Nogami studied him. "Are you hinting at something? Something I should
"Maybe I'm just thinking out loud. But what if a guy like me came
across some proprietary information, sort of by accident, and
consequently an old friend of ours back home in Tokyo was very