Chapter 9

Written by: Gabrielle Burt

 

Even in the middle of the night, in a dingy interrogation room, Mr Okada is immaculate. His suit looks freshly pressed, his shirt snow-white. He drops his head, characteristically steepled fingers in front of his forehead.  Only the deep frown lines betray his inner torment.  Finally, he sucks in a loud gulp of air and looks up.  His face is devoid of expression. 

 “You’re looking at me!  In the picture. I’m who’s missing.  And that, my unreliable, alcoholic friend, is why I must reluctantly place my trust in you.” Abruptly Okada gets to his feet and begins pacing the shabby room as he speaks rapidly into his phone.

 Max doesn’t understand Japanese, but understands enough to know that whatever the agent is discussing is serious.  He tries to lick his lips to moisten them, but his tongue is dry and rough inside his mouth.  He needs a drink.

 “Any chance of a drink around here?”  He sounds pathetic, but doesn’t care.  A drink will restore his pride.

 “Shut up! “ Okada’s eyes are flinty.  “Pull yourself together.  We have work to do and I need you sober!”  He opens the graffiti covered door to their room and calls “Burakkukōhī.”  

 Thirty seconds later, a light tap announces the arrival of two black coffees in badly chipped and stained mugs. Then, leaning his elbows on the back of a chair, Okada faces Max across the table.

 “Drink your coffee my friend. I am about to disclose one of my country’s best kept secrets.” He pauses for a moment, then continues in a deceptively conversational tone. “Under normal circumstances, what I am about to divulge would be an offence punishable by death so pay careful attention because your life depends on what happens next.  Have you ever heard the name General Yamashita?”

 Max shakes his head in denial.

 “Have you ever heard anyone – Stephenson perhaps, mention Tiger’s Gold?”

 Again Max shakes his head. “What’s this got to do with the key and a ripped up photo?  …and tiger’s treasure?”

 “Gold.” Okada corrects absently.  “Tiger’s Gold. If we’re not very careful, I believe we three have been carefully set up to be disposable scapegoats for an international ring of criminal treasure hunters. Japan has had them under loose surveillance for many years.” He strides about the room “Initially my government didn’t take them seriously, but recently their activities have been increasingly more sinister, with the result that Japanese and now USA Homeland Security have increased their risk category to ‘RED’.  It all fits; the picture fragments, the boat shed, the silver key, the funds – and the three of us, Mia, you and I.  What we need to know now is, why us?”

 As Okada’s meaning sank in it was like a punch in his unprotected guts – and suddenly Max was the nearest to cold sober he’d been for the last ten years.  In fact, ever since Sean had run off with the love of his life.