I’ve had sex in silence for years. Certainly not literally. I’m a bit of a screamer in truth, but only if it’s truly good. And if it’s with another person. Lately, all of my activities have been of the self-service variety and have not elicited much noise. Maybe it’s because it holds no expectation, no surprise.
Unlike this trip. I get a phone call from my boss, Philomena, that an important client needs my skills with utmost haste and discretion. She called the right person.
When I provide research for a company, it is not only correct, but it is in vivid almost lurid detail. That’s one good thing about being non-descript. Brown hair, brown eyes, average height and build. Few people truly remember me. If others are questioned later, they usually don’t remember me, but I remember them.
“Okay,” I tell my boss and make my way into the office.
Philomena is at the reception desk, almost six feet in heels and looking severely competent with her graying chignon. “Good morning, Calliope.” She places a warm cup into my hand. The scent of fresh brewing coffee ensures I respond graciously. This assignment was going to be a doozy.
“Morning,” I reply and sip my coffee. It’s been years since I’ve tried to correct Philomena and get her to use the shortened version of my name. Maybe if I called her “Philly” or “Cream Cheese” she’d get the message.
“I have an assignment for you.”
“Thought as much.”
I’d traveled before, so I wasn’t sure why she was doling this info at me piecemeal. Before I could ask, however, she turned and walked down the hallway, toward her office. I followed after another few swigs of coffee.
The chair in her office made me feel shorter than my usual five feet five. My feet barely touched the floor. So I folded my legs under me, pow wow style.
“So Japan. Never been there, but what’s the big deal?”
“It’s a government contract. Top secret.”
“Again I ask, so?”
Cream Cheese looked down at me, even though we were both sitting. “It’s of the highest importance.”
Until she said anything interesting, I focused my gaze on my coffee. “Is this Sumatra? It has a hint of citrus.”
“I had a face to face meeting about it.”
That got my attention. Most of my assignments were emailed or called in and none of us ever saw the requester. I smelled a game-changer.
She shifted in her seat and rolled a pen between her palms. “How much do you keep up with world politics?”
“As much as I have to in order to hold a decent conversation. Why? What’s happened in Japan recently?” I couldn’t think of anything major since the earthquakes that had rocked the land of the Rising Sun eight years ago.
“Economic problems. Japan and Sweden have come back from economic ruin almost overnight. Sweden because their banks took fewer risks and they held a monetary surplus instead of a deficit.”
“Yes. And Japan recovered because they—. Oh no.” Realization dawned and I pushed my chair back from the desk.
“A full write up. Spare no detail.” She pushed a silver slip of metal the size of hairpin toward me. A ticket. “You leave tonight.”
I nearly froze on the plane. Oblivious, the flight attendants flitted around like tiny butterflies, colorful and delicate in their beauty. How I was going to complete this assignment with them around? I plugged my blanket into the usb port on my handheld and waited for warmth to carry me into slumber.
A black car waited for me at the airport. The driver bowed deeply when I approached and held the door. He must have been a frequent flier as well, because he had the temperature in the vehicle adjusted to defrost me. In my best Japanese, I said, “I’m going to—“
“Akiko-san has informed me, Miss. You are going to her offices in the Mushipai building.”
My fingers flew over the keys of my handheld’s translation app. “Moo-shee-pie? Without worry?”
I pulled one of the bottles out of the miniature fridge. It would take us about forty minutes to get to the building in Tokyo, so I may as well enjoy the ride.
If Paris is called the city of lights and New York is the city that never sleeps, you’d have to put both of the nicknames together to describe Tokyo. Neon signs and throngs of people everywhere. I expected us to pull up in front the building, but we entered an underground parking area that made me remember how top secret this was.
The driver escorted me to the entrance and pressed a button for the elevator. When I went to thank him, he was already on his way back to the car. I never got his name, which was unlike me. I blamed it on the jet lag, but worry nibbled at me.
A china doll of a woman met me in the lobby. Could one use the term “china doll” in Japan? She approached me and bowed, her hands folded in front of her at the juncture of her thighs. “Welcome, Calliope-san. I am Akiko Sanamura.”
Japanese doesn’t have an “l” sound, so she’d substituted an “r”. I covered my wince with a return bow. “Please, call me Callie.”
She smiled and asked me to follow her.
So the owner greets me. While impressive, it made me wary. “I thought you would have had one of your assistants handle this tour.”
We walked across an atrium similar to those found in exclusive resorts. Exotic flowers, original artwork, lots of glass.
“Oh, no. I am very accessible. I know your government believes this to be a sensitive mission for you and I respect that. But it appears your sensitivities exceed mine.” She smiled at me and I was reminded of a geisha assassin I’d seen in a movie once. “But if the United States wishes to legalize prostitution, it must move past such ideas.”