Authors: Sujata Massey
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Women Sleuths
By Sujata Massey
Original copyright by Sujata Massey, 2008. Originally published by Severn House Publishers International in 2008, and reissued in 2011 as an e-book published by Sujata Massey. Thanks to Severn House for their kindness.
Designed and produced by
part-time antiques dealer and part-time spy, at a loose end once again
Toshiro Shimura and his wife Catherine—
Hiroshi Shimura and his son Tsutomu (Tom) Shimura—
Hiroshi’s only brother and nephew from Yokohama; Rei’s closest Japanese relatives
a spy who loves Rei but can’t quite come in from the cold
a first-generation American of Japanese ancestry born in Hawaii; the son of Keijin Watanabe Shimura and Harue Shimura, Toshiro and Hiroshi Shimura’s long-lost aunt
Yoshitsune’s son, who is married to Margaret, and father to the teenagers Braden and Courtney
owner of the Aloha Morning coffee shop
coffee shop barista
land manager and ‘luna’ of Pierce Holdings
Mitsuo Kikuchi and his son Jiro—
a Japanese developer and son
Josiah Pierce II—
the oldest living member of the Pierce land-owning family
Kurt Schaefer, Parker and Karen Drummond, and Eric and Jody Levine—
Michael’s old school friends from the Naval Academy, and their wives
Rei’s former Scottish lawyer boyfriend
IN THE SHIMURA
family, several variations of family titles are used to express relationships such as grandfather, grandmother and uncle. Respect to elders is shown by incorporating the prefix ‘o’ and the suffix ‘-san’ into most family titles. However, Japanese people who settled in Hawaii mostly spoke peasant dialects, and their descendents still carry on with more casual titles.
: Most typical way of addressing a grandfather. Variations are ojii-sama (super polite) and jii-chan (most informal)
(with a short ‘i’ sound): Uncle
: Grandmother. A variation used in this book is the more casual kaa-chan
(with a short ‘i’ sound): Aunt
First names are often followed by the suffix -chan, meaning “little one’, or “-kun’ (‘guy’). This affectionate suffix is widely used for children, teenagers, and now between friends in their twenties and thirties. Thus, Rei Shimura is called Rei-chan by all family members older than she is, and she sometimes addresses her male cousin Tsutomu as Tom-kun.
HEN MY FATHER
almost died, I made a deal with God. If he improved, so would I.
Deals are what I know. In the beginning, they were just for Japanese antiques. More recently I’ve dealt with international secrets, but I’m trying to keep that a part-time affair. This particular deal didn’t have a great chance of succeeding, given my father’s prognosis, and my own status as a lapsed Buddhist-Episcopalian-whatever. Still, I would give it my all. If my father lived, I would stop being such a run-around. I wouldn’t drink too much, overspend on clothes or pine after men who would never be mine. I already had a guy in my life: Otoosan, my very own Honorable Mister Father.
MY FATHER HAD
been out of San Francisco General Hospital for a few days, and I’d been granted leave to nurse him at home, when the letter came. Despite the circumstances, in a strange way it was good to be back at my childhood home on Octavia Street—the renovated Edwardian house that always seemed to smell of furniture polish and narcissi. The only kitchen smell missing was soy sauce. Because of its high sodium content, it was banned from my father forever.
We’d been talking about giving up things we loved, my psychiatrist father and I, during our daily constitutional—a mid-afternoon walk through Pacific Heights. It was slower for my father now, and we skipped the hills altogether. When we arrived home, a sheaf of mail lay on the Tibetan rug in the entry hall. My father started to stoop to pick it up.
“No sudden up and down movements!” I said as I dove down smoothly before him. My father had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, and the new precautions he would follow for the rest of his life were varied. My father grumbled lightly, then settled himself on a carved Chinese elm bench to switch his walking shoes for house slippers while I sorted the mail. A bill from Neiman Marcus: I wouldn’t let him see it. Less problematic was the bill from Pacific Gas and Electric, and the San Francisco Opera circular. As I was starting to discard junk mail, a slim letter fell out of the pages of the neighborhood’s advertising mailer.
The handwriting was unfamiliar, as were the foreign-sounding street, Laaloa, and town, Kapolei. Still, it bore a US stamp. When I scrutinized the postmark, though, it all made sense. Honolulu, HI.
I had been there once, for a study-abroad botany course at the end of my high school career. That summer spent traveling through parks and gardens, with a bit of Waikiki bar hopping, was one of my best ever, although my father had grumbled that after earning my certificate, I still couldn’t tell the difference between plumeria and the Tahitian gardenia.
“Otoosan, you have a letter from Hawaii.” I handed over the letter with a flourish. I was dying for him to rip it open on the spot.
“Honto?” Truly? my father asked, turning it over slowly. He’d been in the US for over thirty years, so of course he was fluent in English, but he persisted in speaking Japanese with me during the times we were alone together. I thought about answering in Japanese, but decided to stick with English because I was feeling distracted.
“Probably it’s a time-share offer or something. These marketers have gotten quite skilled at making their envelopes look personal.”
“But the name on the envelope is Shimura. What a coincidence.”
“Why don’t you sit down at the table to properly examine everything?” I suggested. “I’ll make you a cup of green tea.”
While I waited for the water to boil, I heated the teapot and thought about how slow my life had become. I’d never thought the arrival of a handwritten letter could be the most intriguing part of my day. A few months earlier I’d fought for my boss’s life and my own in a dank Tokyo garage, as part of my occasional work as an informant for the Organization for Cultural Intelligence, a secret American government group. The woman I’d been, dressed in a winter-white Yves Saint Laurent trench coat and patent-leather boots, was a far cry from the current me slouching around in a Japan-America Society T-shirt and yoga pants. Now I had plenty of exercise, and time to sleep and read. I was only slightly bored.
I set a tray with the tea, a strainer, and my favorite cha-wan, a rough teacup made by a famous Japanese potter. When I went out to the dining room, my father had clearly finished the letter, and had set it in my place.
“This letter…it’s remarkable. It’s made me feel better than anything since my surgery.” My father looked at me eagerly. “Please, take a look.”
“Thanks, Otoosan.” When I read the first line in the letter, I suddenly recognized why the envelope had looked so alien. My father’s name, Toshiro, was spelled with a short line over the first ‘o’ in my father’s name, a symbol sometimes used to signify a long, double vowel. My father didn’t write his name this way, because there wasn’t a double ‘o’ sound in Toshiro.
Let me introduce myself. I am the son of Yoshitsune Shimura, who was born 88 years ago and is blessed to be celebrating beiju on July 6 of this year. Our families are linked because my father’s mother was the late Harue Shimura, who arrived in Oahu in 1918 to marry.
After almost a century apart, it’s time for our families to get acquainted. And most folks are happy to learn they have kin in Hawaii! If you like, I will help you find suitable accommodations. I recommend you stay at least a month for the birthday celebration, because there will be lots of family events to fill up your time. Please bring your eldest son, if he can make it too, and call me as soon as you get this letter so we can make arrangements.
I raised my eyebrows at my father when I’d finished reading. “This is a big surprise.”
“What wonderful news that we have more family. Thank goodness I lived for this news.”
“Yes, but…” I paused, not knowing how to express what had dogged me when I’d tried to fall asleep a few hours earlier. “When I traced our family history a couple of years ago, I didn’t recall your grandfather having any siblings other than his brother Koizumi—the one who moved to Kyoto and entered a monastery.”
“Actually, there always were some whisperings about a younger sister in my grandfather’s family, who was no longer part of the family, when my father was a child.”
“Whisperings?” Now this was something I was interested in.
“I once asked my grandfather, but he became upset with me, so I never dared speak of it again.”
“So if this lost great-aunt of yours existed, why would she go to Hawaii?” I thought my father was too quickly jumping to conclusions.
“I imagine she was a picture bride. Thousands of Japanese women were exported to marry Japanese expatriates working on sugar plantations. It was a social phenomenon in the first quarter of the twentieth century. I believe there were Korean picture brides as well…”
“Oh, right. I saw a movie about that years ago.”
“Harue Shimura—my great aunt, now deceased.” My father’s voice was sober. “And now we have learned that another branch of our small family exists, in Hawaii.”
“But then, why—if Harue Shimura married and had a son—why would their name still be Shimura?”
“As you know, Japanese men do take women’s names in marriage, if it’s the only way to keep a clan name alive.”
“But there were two brothers to carry on the family name—your grandfather and your great-uncle Koizumi, although he of course had no children. Maybe Harue remained a Shimura because she didn’t actually get married. Did you think of that?”
“Why be so negative? I’ll find out the facts when we arrive there, I’m certain.”
“You can’t seriously be planning to go.” I caught my breath. “This is the first we’ve ever heard of these people, and you’re still in recovery.” I didn’t add that his chances of suffering a stroke within the month were about thirty per cent.
“But it’s for beiju. A very important birthday. Do you know its meaning?”
“Double luck,” I said dully. “If one turns the kanji character for the number eight upside down, it looks just like the kanji for luck. So if two eights are rotated, it’s twice as lucky.”
My father nodded. “Eighty-eight is a marvelous birthday—I can’t wait to celebrate mine—and Hawaii is a lovely destination. I see you shaking your head, but please remember how Dr Chin told you I needed time to relax.”
The neurologist had spoken about relaxation when we were reviewing my father’s release. But as I’d understood it, relaxation meant eating right, walking, and mild weight-bearing exercise. “It’s a six-hour flight. What if you have medical trouble on the plane?”
“Usually there’s a physician on the plane who can help with those matters.”
“You’re the one who always helps. Remember?” Even though my father’s medical specialty was psychiatry, he was often the only physician aboard when the occasional in-flight emergency occurred. At least, the only one who volunteered.
“Very well. I shall ask Dr Chin his advice before deciding when to go.”