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Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Tokyo Twins – Chapters 6 and 7

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Tokyo Twins A serialized online story


Tokyo Twins looks at two issues –

what the roots of terrorism are, and what the end of terrorism might be.
One new chapter, in both text and audio, will be posted each week to Pakistan Times.

Tokyo Twins – Chapters 6 & 7 – mp3 audio

Chapter 6 – Full moon rising and the girls set a trap.


Katie and Susan O’Brien left for school with quiet hugs for Obá-chan and fewer words for each other, and they continued to have little or nothing to say going to school, during school, taking the train after school to the gym.

They saw Inga Godotnova, their Shintaiso coach, stepping onto the platform from the train car behind them at Wakabayashi Station and walked quickly to her.

“We are sorry to have to tell you this…” Katie started.

“There is bad news about our parents.”

Susan filled in with what little was known, and added “the news may drift in during practice. We wanted you to know and hope it does not disrupt things too much.”

“Even under these terrible circumstances, I am not surprised you are here for practice.” Inga Godotnova hugged the girls closely. “Thank you for telling me.” she said with a smile touching and honest and sad, and this smile left a deep and centering impression on Katie and Susan O’Brien.

The three continued walking to the gym.

“I’m not sure practice will go so well today,” Katie said half muttering.

“If you want your amazing progress in this sport to change right now, in any direction whatsoever, for better or for worse – it is, right now, your choice to do so.”

And Katie and Susan paused walking and at once looked up into their coaches eyes.

? ? ? ? ?

During break the girls took towels from their gym bags.

“Look at this,” Susan said eyeing the other girls, “the news must have hit.”

Katie sat and wiped her face and rubbed the back of her neck with the towel and looked at her team mates nearly all looking at their cell phones and then nearly all the girls in quick and off-beat bobbing glanced up and around at Katie and Susan, the spreading awareness of horrifying news coming in flashes of lightening out of some uninvited presence that rolled thick and fog-like across the gymnasium floor.

“I’m not looking at my cell phone.” said Katie.

“Me neither,” said Susan, yet allowing a sideways stare at the instant messages flooding in across the cell phone screen: “I’m so sorry,” “We’re with you.” “What can I do to help?” and so on.

Katie lifted her face buried in her towel. And she and Susan looked calmly around the room, Susan standing; Katie sitting; the others doing their best not to look as they already were – suddenly frozen in self-conscience.

“Let’s get back to work!” said Inga Godotnova, a set of words not normally acted upon by her young Shintaiso athletes with such welcome as now.

Toward the end of practice the girls warmed down in slower motion than usual, then dressed, loaded their equipment, swung the straps of gym bags and gear over there shoulders and headed for Wakabayashi Station with more presence of mind than usual.

They got off at Shimotakaido Station, the terminal for the Setagaya Line, and walked toward the Keio Line tracks and approached a choice of two sets of stairs to climb – one for the local, one for the express.

They looked each other in the eyes and traded nods that no one on the planet but the other was supposed to ever understand.

And climbing the right-side set of stairs, and looking straight ahead, with monotone and purpose: “Chofu,” the one said. “Chofu,” said the other. “Hebiyama,” the one said. “Hebiyama,” said the other. “We won’t be late getting home,” the one said. “We won’t be late,” said the other.

“We’ll just walk by.”

“Just walk-on by.”

“And we’ll look,” the one said.

“And maybe find!” said the other.

Both thought about Inga Godotnova and both smiled their coach’s sad and knowing smile, catching brief glances of eye contact with each other, backing and squeezing their bodies and gear onto the express train for Chofu Station.

? ? ? ? ?

They walked along the black wall to their left of the bamboo forest of Hebiyama and watched a full moon come up over tall and distant apartment-complex buildings, the big moon orange and dim through clouds then bright then orange and dim again.

“Mom and Dad are missing . . .” said Susan with both wonder and worry.

“It’s just impossible. I can’t believe it.” said Katie.

“. . . and on the very same day. . .” continued Susan.

“…might not be anything.” said Katie.

“. . . appears a mysterious neighbor in Hebiyama?”

“Maybe we are getting a bit carried away here.” said Katie.

“. . . and a flautist! That is just too weird . . .” said Susan.

“Life is weird.” said Katie.

“. . . and apparently a composer of beautiful melody.”

Susan said.

“Who appears – well – not intending to appear at all.” said Katie.

“Yeah. Maybe you’re right. We’re almost home.”

said Susan.

“I’m seeing no candle lights or anything at all in Hebiyama.” said Katie slowly, “and hearing – wait a sec –” Katie continued… they stop for several seconds. “…just checking” she said, “…no foot steps either.”

“And no flute.” said Susan.

“And no daijoubu’s from the darkness!” Katie added.

And they giggled. Slightly. Nervously.

“Ah, it’s probably just a coincidence.” Katie said.

“He’s probably gone.” said Susan.

“Wish we were too.” said Katie, “hey, who’s car is that?”

“Yeah!” said Susan, “different from last night.”

“I hope it’s not somebody we don’t want to be nice to right now,” Katie said.

“Like who?” said Susan.

“Like you,” and Katie pushed her shoulder into her sister’s.

“I do believe you’re stuck with me for a while.” said Susan slightly joking.

And Katie nudging Susan’s shoulder again said, “Yeah. Thank heaven for that.”

They saw the front door swing open and ran the last several steps to hug Obá-chan together.

They walked with arms still around each other to the living room, and two men in dark blue suits and white shirts, Kaneko-san and Taya-san, stood up on the tatami mats in their stocking feet, and the girls politely exchanged their introductions.

At once and together, the five sat down on the floor on dark red mats scattered around the small square dining table in the room.

“These are representatives from the Japan Foreign Ministry. Obá-chan said.

“The ones from last night?”

“Different ones, Katie.” Taya-san said. “We’ll be your contact with the government as news about your parents progresses…” he added.

“What’s the latest.” said Susan in almost a whisper.

“Your brother, Jack, is also missing.” said Obá-chan.

“Huh? What? He’s in Arizona. In Sedona. Living at school.” the girls said together.

Obá-chan shook her head.

Kaneko-san began explaining, “The headmaster of the school reported him missing yesterday from class, and then missing from meals and homeroom, and bed check as well.”

“Oh come on. This is so dumb.” said Katie.

Susan just shook her head.

Obá-chan talked now, “He might not have been kidnapped… or taken. You know your brother, Jack,” she continued.

“…friends all over the world,” said Katie.

“…even in his own dorm room,” Susan said.

“Jack attends a boarding high school in Arizona.” Obá-chan explained to the government officials. “There are students from over 25 countries attending.” she continued. “He might have heard somehow… caught wind of something.”

“and split for Kashmir.” said Susan.

“Jack would do that.” said Katie.

“Jack would do that.” Susan said.

“Crazy brother. Now Jack to worry about too.” said Katie.

“Jack once ran away …” Obá-chan began explaining to the men.

“Oh?” the men said.

“To the north shore of Oahu. Good place to surf, so he claimed.” said Katie.

“How could he travel on his…” Taya-san started asking…

“Oh, he’s a rather resourceful young man, I’m afraid,” Obá-chan interrupted. “He brings letters, documents, seals, stamps, signatures. Whatever he needs.” she continued.

“Jack brings his silver-tongued self is what he does,” said Susan.

“We have his photo at every airport immigration office all over the world.” Kaneko-san explained.

“No.” said Katie. He’s probably there already.”

“Where?” the men asked.

Kashmir. Like we said.” Katie added.

The men paused a moment. “I guess he’s had time to get there.” Kaneko-san admitted.

“But there is no record of his passport crossing . . .” Taya-san started to say.

“You don’t know Jack” said Obá-chan.

“He’s sixteen years old . . . well, seventeen at the end of the month,” Obá-chan explained.

“He’d do anything.” said Susan.

“And does.” Katie said.

“For precaution we’ll have a car outside to keep an eye on things.”

“And who’s going to be in it?” asked Katie.

“We are.” said the men.

“Hmmm.” the girls and Obá-chan nodded their heads.

“Last night we saw a . . .” Susan started saying and Katie interrupted, “Last night we saw your people pulling away in a car. . .”

“Well, thank you, gentlemen.” said Obá-chan, anticipating a possible end to the meeting.

“Yeah,” said Katie, thank you for caring.

Susan, just frowned and nodded her head in agreement.

The girls headed for their room.

“Are you crazy, we don’t know yet who that is in Hebiyama!” Katie said.

“Are you crazy, we could have been kidnapped already!” Susan countered.

“I don’t think so.” Katie said. “If that man wanted us, he could’ve gotten us last night.”

“We were running too fast.” said Susan.

“Don’t be naïve.” Katie said.

“Uh… how’d you suddenly get so smart.” Susan said.

“I just don’t think he is our enemy.” Katie said.

Susan threw her arms up in the air. “What are we talking about! He’s just some bum hanging out! Who’s now moved on.”

Katie and Susan dropped their bags on their bedroom floor.

“I got a little more homework to do.” said Katie.

“Me too and I don’t feel like doing it, and besides I’m hungry.” Susan said.

“I hope they stick around a while longer.” Susan continued.

“You know they’re not leaving,” Katie countered.

“I mean, you know, in the house.” Susan said.

“Why?” Katie asked.

“Katie? Let’s try something.” said Susan.

And Katie watched Susan walk over to the oil lamp and light it and turn off the fluorescent light above.

“Katie…” she whispered.

“Um, why are you whispering?”

“We have to try this.” Susan said.

“What?” asked Katie.

“Sit down at the piano… start playing Grandfather’s lullaby like I was doing. . .” Susan explained.

“That’s not going to work like last night.” Katie interrupted.

“So what if it doesn’t. We play it a lot anyway.” Susan paused. “Hey, we need to find out something about something, huh?… Let’s clear-up the curiosity, about the man in the woods.”

“And what are you going to …. ?” Katie started saying.

“Shhh,” Susan said. “Just start playing, Katie.”

“I don’t like this, Susan,” Katie said trying to stay quiet and trying to make a point. “What are you planning?”

Susan sat by the lamp glow where Katie sat last night.

And Katie began slowly, and with the sparest of chords, to play their dear lullaby.

And they both got lost in the sweet serenity, the sweet sadness of the melody that re-attached them now to their own pain and longing.

And after Katie played for a minute or two, they almost forgot they were listening for the sound of a flute.

“Oh my god.” they said at once. And the sound of the flute began playing along, the companion melody they heard last night.

“He’s there!” Katie said, her eyes huge in the glow, her throat muffling a squeal.

“Keep playing. Listen to what I have to say.” said Susan.

“I’m playing, Susan, but I’m not listening to you on this!”

“After thirteen years of living next door to this jungle,” Susan explained still whispering, “I think I know my way around a whole lot better than whoever it is hiding in there . . .” Susan went on, her own eyes growing bigger now, excitement spreading across the muscles of her mouth and forehead. “I can sneak above where the flute is coming from, maybe get an idea of who is there.”

And she paused and tugged with the fingers of both hands on the ends of her hair.

“No way.” Katie said. “You don’t do that. I don’t do that. That’s not going to happen.”

“Just keep playing,” Susan whispered again. “It’ll be a reconnaissance walk in park,” said Susan. And she began to pull a black turtle neck over her head.

“You stop right now, Susan.” Katie could hardly contain her voice.

“You keep him occupied with the lullaby,” Susan countered with a voice irritated and determined. “And I’ll check him out. Take me five, ten minutes.”

The girls continued to hear conversation in the living room.

Katie snapped her head and hair back and stared at the ceiling, her fingers still on the lullaby.

“Don’t just sit there. We have to do something, Katie. We don’t have much time!” Susan said.

Katie stopped playing.

Susan’s face grew furious at her sister.

“Give me that turtleneck!” Katie said.

“Keep playing!” said Susan.

“Give me that turtleneck, Susan. If you want to do this, Susan, fine. But I’m not playing any more. Now gimme that turtleneck!”

Susan took over at the piano still furious.

“What if you’re not back?!” Susan whispered almost aloud.

And Katie just stared at her sister, her anger flipping into fear.

Susan deliberately looked away now and Katie sneaked out the bedroom window like a ninja, without beacon and without sound.

Chapter 7 – Windows, songs, voices and hands.


Katie crouched and kept her head and shoulders under the spill of light. The jungle, Hebiyama was right there. Its blackness was not something you carefully approach:

Slip out the bedroom window, and you’re there.

Katie continued hearing the piano, the flute, her grandmother in polite and high octave voice still chattering away. She felt her socks and ankles grow cold and wet from dew, felt a single drop of sweat running down the ridges of her ribs, heard the drone of ten thousand bull frogs, and could smell the jungle in a new way.

If her eyes were opened any more they’d be falling right out of her head.

The chance of the flautist not being alone, with a small group maybe, produced a flash of fear: she could be snatched if he had somebody, some goon waiting just inside the wall of bamboo black.

She stayed crouched and moved along, knees bent, head up, ankles feeling strained, heart pounding and eyes focused out there, at nothing.

“Great.” she snickered, but on a lower level she hated it when she allowed this sort of sarcasm to vouch for feeling afraid.

“Right now fear is fear,” she thought. Right now there’s nothing much funny about it. You’re out here,” she thought, “Don’t screw up. Don’t get caught.”

“Yea right,” she interrupted herself..

“Dang. I gotta pee.” she thought.

“No I don’t. I just peed. Stop this nonsense.”

The moonlight scattered at random the thinnest of fingers of itself, eerie and pale blue beams, in apparition among the bamboo and never touching ground.

Heavy wings were flapping, arranging themselves seven, ten meters above, in nests: Jungle crow not accustomed to having human company, not even during daylight in these trees. “At least they can’t swoop down here in this thick mess…” she thought.

“The bullfrogs are so loud.” She tried remembering Obá-chan telling her about how the bull frogs were imported from America decades ago, Alabama bullfrogs.

Japan‘s rice crop had failed and bullfrogs were food, bull frogs were protein, bullfrogs were breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Now… just a pain in the butt.

“We got them back, I guess, with kutsu.” She recalled reading about the invasion of kutsu, or kudzoo perhaps they call it there, in the southern states of America.

“Sorry, didn’t mean that,” she thought again . . . still swatting down thoughts. “What am I thinking about? Kutsu? Pay attention, Katie!”

The flute was thirty or forty meters due west of the house wall.

“I’ll crawl along the edge of black here, past the back of the house, then over the retaining wall, four feet high, piece a cake, up the hill about twenty meters, then west into the jungle. And I will go really slow. As quiet as a snake.”

She felt her heart pound now, “Oh god. Snakes! I forgot. Do snakes sleep? Snakes sleep like sheep, don’t they? like kittens?”

“Great.” said Katie again.

Katie crouched lower and slipped sideways into the jungle, holding herself up with her right hand, her right forearm sometimes.

“Oops, no room… Do right elbow, Katie!” She was silently coaching herself: “Left leg push, right arm pull, left hand grab, oh god, make sure its vegetable or mineral or anything at all but snake.”

Her body shivered at the thought.

“Right arm slide.” she continued. “Right foot drag and stop.” She shivered again – that gross feeling of yuck and fear – and moved again and shivered.

? ? ? ? ?

This government land had been sectioned off forever, as far as Katie knew, even during the Edo Period, when the Emperor lived in Kyoto, the old capital of Japan, when a handful of Daimyo – land barons – ruled the world.

“Perhaps one of the Tokugawa Shoguns made this a park,” Katie and Susan would speculate from time to time.

In this solitary seven acres of bamboo forest, in the thick of suburban Tokyo here was a habitat unique to the greater part of Tokyo, and the Kanto Plain.

There were birds and snakes and insects in Hebiyama that you would never see for a good 70 kilometers in all directions.

? ? ? ? ?

“Keep on playing that pipe,” Katie whispered to herself. “He’s gotta be down there about twenty yards, if I could only see.” She tried to imagine the depth and distance inside her mind.

The piano stopped playing. And in a single measure stopped the flute.

“What are you doing, Susan!” Katie said with her eyes.


“Susan-Katie!” Obá-chan was yelling.

“Oh my god, Obá-chan is calling us.”

And again, “Katie-Susan. Susan-Katie!”

“Say something Susan!” Katie whispered harshly.

“Yes Obá-chan? Did you want something?” Susan responded.

“Would you girls come here a moment… the men from the Japan Foreign Ministry would like to ask you a few more questions.”

Katie’s jaw dropped and she suddenly exhaled.

“Just a minute Obá-chan! I’m helping Katie with her math! We almost got it.”

“Do finish … but hurry girls! We are keeping these men waiting!”

Katie’s moved her neck in a “no” and looked around, trying to remember exactly where she heard the flute.

“Not there. Not there. Not there. Oh great. Must be right down there. Not one finger of pale blue moonbeam in those five square meters just down there.”

Katie crawled in that direction. And she felt someone grab her hand.

“Don’t scream.” spoke a soft voice.

Katie made a quick motion with her arm and body to get away.

“Don’t move. Don’t worry. Your sister is on her way.”

? ? ? ? ?

Minutes passed inside while Obá-chan waited with the two men from the Japan Foreign Ministry. “I’ll go check on them.” Obá-chan said.

She returned to the living room, her hands covering her face.

“They’re both gone.” she shook her head.

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Tommy Schmitz is a writer in Des Moines, Iowa. He Grew up in Cincinnati's west side, spent nine years in the corporate world, then seventeen years running his own consultancy, mostly to automobile machinery makers in Japan, China and the US. He lived in Tokyo from 1992 to 1999. Besides serving auto industry clients (Toyota, Honda, Denso, Robert Bosch, Mitsubishi) he was the first non-Japanese accepted by the government as a paid advisor to Japanese small and medium sized companies. (Chushokigyochou, Division of JETRO and MITI).
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