I like the Bob Lee Swagger character pretty well. This however is not the eye roll factor. Many if not most of you will probably catch the reference made in the title. Again details under a spoiler warning later. So the book has some flaws
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But they were looking for something big, something that would make a splash. They turn up now and then as more and more swords are returned, as people look at the things they have in their trunks, as collectors and foreign buyers become more aggressive and pay more and more.
Samurai is bigger than Japan. Samurai is international now. A fellow was typing up the license. I knew in a second it had historicity to it. I made a fuss and demanded to take charge. I told them it resembled a certain stolen sword and I had to make some phone calls. Once I had it in my office, I had some trouble getting the hilt off. Fortunately, I had my kit. I was able to knock the pin out with the brass hammer. But I was too excited about the sword.
But I picked up the crest, looked at it through my loupe, and realized at once it was the Asano mon. I recognized the koto shape, which put it in the proper time period. It was a thrill. It was all I could do to keep from jumping up and down.
I did that quickly. Then I made the call. He heard me describe it and left the line for a second or so. He called someone. Another voice came on the line. He asked me to describe it. He was very knowledgeable. He even knew that the Asano family crest had changed over the years and had me recheck it to make certain that the one I had was right for the time. He got very quiet.
Confiscate it? Take an hour or two. Let the gaijin wait. Walk by him several times and note his height, his weight, his demeanor. Do you understand? We need to know what he looks like. I actually walked by you two or three times, and once sat near you. I could tell you were angry. Then I went and called them and gave a detailed description. He had me wait another few minutes and then finally okayed the next move. I reassembled the sword and went to my supervisor and told him I had been mistaken and that the license was fine and to tell you how moved we were that you were returning it.
I never heard from them again. Two weeks later a package arrived. I opened it and found three million yen. Not a fortune but enough to pay my debts, buy a shin-shinto that had caught my eye. I still had half of it left, so I bought the bike. I had to spend all the cash. I destroyed them too, after the murders. When the young man went to call his master, he left the phone. But I heard the name.
Kondo Isami, a great killer from the bloody past. Many duels and murders, many bodies. A pseudonym of a fellow with a high opinion of himself. Also bespeaking a high opinion: sama. It connotes high rank or special talent, as viewed from below. The man doing the talking considers this Kondo Isami highly accomplished and is trying to ingratiate himself.
He picked it up, punched the cartridges out of the magazine, then slammed the magazine home and handed the gun back to Kishida. You may be brave and resolute, but you will tell him. Then I am a dead man. You better get some practice on a closed course. I am already dead. But she was fast. And she had guts. He watched her from the second row.
The light was harsh and the competitors dashed through it, blades blurred in stress and skill. Most were younger. Some were older. The fans were just as intense as stateside b-ball parents. She won her first bout easily, had some trouble in the second, and finally, in the semifinals, went down hard to some seventeen-year-old genius who moved so fast she made a blur seem lazy.
But Susan Okada had poise and dignity. She countered the cuts and tried to get her own in, she gave ground, then advanced, she ducked, she thrust, she did everything but win. She also took two or three hard claps on the side of the mask; the sword, called a shinai, was only sliced bamboo staves held together by twine for presence but not strength, but at that speed when it hit, it had to feel like someone had pronged a huge rubber band against her head.
When it was over, she bowed to her opponent, bowed to the referee, bowed to some kind of altar or something of kendo godhood off to one side beneath a dramatic kanji and a couple of framed photos of old Japanese guys, and finally found her way to a front-row seat, where she crashed. He watched: Boyfriend? Gals from the office? She was by herself. She sat somewhat dully during a break in the ceremony, a towel around her neck. Her feet were still bare. He squirmed down and sat one seat away from her.
I thought that was you. They got me some real good papers. Off you go. The embassy will just walk away. Anyhow, you seem to have picked up kendo fast. You looked good out there. You look as if you could use one, just having been clocked by a seventeen-year-old. Damn, I hate it when that happens. Tell me how it turns out. I want to see how far that little bitch who whacked me gets. It was a working-class bar a few blocks away, and so dark and quiet no one seemed to notice the tall white guy.
Most everyone sat stupefied in front of a TV showing sumo while downing mighty tin kegs of Sapporo. They found a table in the rear, thanked god there was no karaoke tonight. Finally a waiter came by and they ordered a Sapporo for the little lady and a Coke for the tall white guy. So it runs in the family, I guess. This is a good way.
I have a career. Swagger, what are you up to? My official responsibility is to turn you in, cut a deal with the Japanese, get you out of here before you do some real harm or get yourself in real trouble. I have to do that. You seem like a decent enough guy. But there is such a thing as duty. I looked carefully at your record. You left everything in Vietnam. I get it, I respect it, it moves me.
The 47th Samurai
But they were looking for something big, something that would make a splash. They turn up now and then as more and more swords are returned, as people look at the things they have in their trunks, as collectors and foreign buyers become more aggressive and pay more and more. Samurai is bigger than Japan. Samurai is international now. A fellow was typing up the license. I knew in a second it had historicity to it. I made a fuss and demanded to take charge.