Read The Devil's Footprint Online

Authors: Victor O'Reilly

The Devil's Footprint

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Devil's
Footprint

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hugo Fitzduane 03

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by

V
i
c t o r
 
 
O ' R e
i
l
l
y

 

 

Prolog

 

Tokyo Bay
,
Japan

 

She had looked
like a bundle of rags bobbing in the sea.

They would
have passed her by without further thought.
 
But they saw for a brief moment an arm had come out of the water that
had seemed to wave.
 
It must have been an
illusion, because her eyes were closed and she was quite limp when they
approached her.

They had
hoisted her into the old fishing boat and taken her down to the small cabin
below.
 
Her face was cut from forehead to
chin and her clothing seemed to have been scorched and burned.

They bandaged
her face as best they could.
 
Then they
stripped her and wrapped her in a quilt and laid her on a futon.
 
The space was cramped and smelled of rotting
fish, but it was the best they could do.

The old man
had gone back to the steering wheel and Hiro to the bow to look for more
survivors.

Yoshi was left
alone with the woman.
 
He stared at the
bandaged face, seeing not that but the lithe body and firm breasts and the V
between her legs.
 
Her face would be
permanently scarred, he was sure, but she had been a beautiful woman.

More than beautiful.
 
Sexual.
 
Strong.
 
Well
muscled.
 
Long lean thighs.
 
Unusually prominent
nipples.
 
A
woman to dream about.

The quilt
slipped from her shoulder and he leaned over to pull it up.
 
She was still unconscious.
 
He was sorely tempted to look again, but then
his upbringing interrupted him.
 
He had a
duty toward this survivor.
 
One day it
could be the other way around.
 
You never
knew with the sea.

The woman's
clothing lay in a heap by the corner of the cabin.
 
Bored, he knelt beside the wet pile and
started to examine the items.
 
They
seemed to comprise some sort of uniform.
 
There was a shirt with buttoned pockets like the military wear, and the
trousers had side pockets and large external bellows pockets that extended to
just above the knees.
 
They were used for
maps and other equipment, he supposed.

The helicopter
must have been military, he guessed.
 
He
picked through the pockets.
 
There was a
laminated photograph in one of them.
 
It
was slightly blurred, as if it had been taken with a telephoto lens.
 
The subject was a
gaijin
, a man in his midforties, he guessed.
 
There was a military look about him.

Yoshi turned
the photograph.
 
There was a description
on the back in kanji and a name in English:
 
Hugo Fitzduane.

A friend, an exotic foreign lover, a suspect?
 
This was the kind of conjecture the police
used.
 
He shrugged and tossed the photograph
to one side.

He had half
expected to find identity papers in the shirt, but there was nothing.
 
That was odd if she was military, he
thought.
 
But then again, he didn't
really know how the military worked.
 
The
closest he had come to that world was through television.

There was a
bulge in one of the bellows pockets.
 
He
remembered that they had seemed heavy when they were being removed, but he had
paid no attention at the time, thinking it was just the weight of water in the
clothing.

He reached
into the pocket.
 
The object inside was
hard and round.
 
He removed it and stared
in disbelief.

The object
fell from his frightened fingers and thudded onto the floor.
 
The fishing boat heaved in the swell and the
hand grenade rolled across the cabin floor and thudded into the bulkhead.

Yoshi's eyes
bulged.
 
He knew he should move, but he
stayed there petrified, waiting for the terrible explosion.
 
His heart thumped and sweat beaded on his forehead.

The boat
plunged down into a trough and the hand grenade rolled back toward him.
 
He grabbed it and held it with both
hands.
 
The pin was still in place.

Shaking, he
put the grenade back into the pocket so it would not roll around.
 
Then he checked the other pockets.
 
There was a length of some thick elasticized
cord and a long pocketknife with a button on the side.

He pressed the
button and a stiletto blade sprang from the handle and locked into place.

What kind of
person would carry such things
? he
thought.
 
What kind of devil have we dragged from the
sea?

Yoshi felt a
hand on his shoulder.
 
The touch was
gentle, utterly unlike the callused hand of his father grabbing him to do this
or that.
 
Always work.
 
More work.

The hand was
reassuring.
 
It promised only
pleasure.
 
Instantly he thought again of
the woman's body, of how she would feel under him.

He turned
awkwardly, shuffling on his knees.
 
He
was afraid, yet compelled to move.

The woman
stood there, her face obscured by the bloodstained bandages, her body golden
and perfect in contrast.

She must be in
such pain.
 
How could she stand there
without showing some sign of her agony?
 
No matter how strong her will, she had to feel weak.

The dressings
covered not just her entire face but also her mouth.
 
She could not speak.
 
She put her hand behind his head as he knelt
before her, and drew him toward her.

Yoshi could
smell her sex, feel her skin.
 
He pulled
her toward him, paying no attention as the stiletto was removed from his
uncaring fingers.

He felt her
hand behind his head and he pressed his face into her loins.
 
He sighed with pleasure.

He bent his
head still farther toward her.
 
She held
him with her thighs for the brief time it was necessary to plunge the stiletto
into the back of his neck.

 

*
         
*
         
*
         
*
         
*

 

Shiro came to
spell his father at the wheel.
 
They were
heading back to
Tokyo
.
 
Others were better equipped to carry out a
search, and the injured woman needed medical attention.
 
It would have been better still to radio for
help, but the batteries were flat.
 
The
old man really had no time for the newer ways, and quietly frustrated his son's
best efforts.
 
The boat was powered by a
fine Yamaha marine diesel, but he still used oil lamps for illumination.

Hori smiled to
himself.
 
What could you do with such a
father but respect him?

The old man
selected some fish and his
kogatana
and took them downstairs to prepare.
 
He'd gut and clean them and then they would eat after they had
docked.
 
It was easier to cook when the
boat was tied up.
 
Meanwhile, he whiled
away the time as they chugged in with a little sake.
 
Or maybe quite a lot of
sake.

Shiro expected
Yoshi to appear shortly after the old man went below, but then reflected that
the pair of them might be discussing their unusual catch and probably sharing
the sake flask.
 
Well, tempted though he
was to shout down for his share, docking the boat demanded that he wait for
now.

"Yoshi!
 
Get up
here, you lazy sod," Shiro called as he brought the boat alongside the
dock.
 
You did not have to be too sober
to tie a boat up.

Yoshi did not
appear, and Shiro felt some frustration.
 
He moored the boat fore and aft and went below.

The cabin was
dark and there was a thick smell stronger even than that of rotting fish.
 
The oil lamp must have gone out.

But why were
both the old man and Yoshi silent?
 
Drunk and out cold.
 
Well, it had happened before.
 
And
there was the woman to attend to.
 
Someone would have to get help.
 
The catch had to be unloaded.
 
There was work to be done.

He fumbled for
a match.

In the flare
of the flame he saw his father hanging from a hook, his entrails hanging out of
his body.
 
He had been gutted.

Then Shiro saw
that the hook was not a hook but his father's favorite
kogatana
, rammed through the old man's throat into the bulkhead.

Yoshi lay at
his feet, his clothing and the floor around them crimson with blood.

The match
burned down to his fingers and Shiro dropped it.

He was quaking
with fear, unable to make sense of anything he saw when the stiletto punched
under his chin, through his tongue, and into his brain.

 

*
         
*
         
*
         
*
         
*

 

Reiko Oshima
lit the oil lamp and surveyed her handiwork.

She was
believed to be dead and she would stay that way for the time being.
 
Certainly these fishermen were in no position
to argue.

She donned her
still-wet clothing but supplemented it with various loose garments belonging to
the crew.
 
She was now
unrecognizable.
 
Her bandages obscured
her features and the additional clothing made it impossible to determine her
sex.

An old man, an old boat, and two drunken sons.
 
All the elements of an
accident.

The hibachi
grill was fired with propane.
 
She opened
the valve and set the oil lamp at the far end of the cabin.

She had
vanished into the backstreets of
Tokyo
when the fishing boat blew.

She had drunk
some sake before she left to assuage her pain.
 
All she took with her was the stolen clothing and the laminated
photograph of Hugo Fitzduane.

This was the
man who had killed her.

This was the
man she would kill.

 

 

Book One

 

Terror

 

1

 

Washington
,
D.C.

 

The coded fax
arrived as the three were having their breakfast.

The leader's
room contained basic cooking facilities, so the group had prepared the Japanese
breakfast they were used to.
 
It was a
relief not to have to endure coffee with white powder and foods like croissants
saturated in fat.
 
How one could function
on such an unhealthy diet was a mystery, Wakami-
san
considered.

The fax was
decoded by Jin Endo, the most junior member of the group.
 
His face turned gray as he read it, checking
for spelling errors before presenting it to the group leader.

He had sworn
to die in the service of Yaibo and had meant every word, but to face the fact
that this was the day his life would almost certainly end was hard indeed.
 
He was young and good-looking and the juices
flowed.
 
He remembered the young blond
intern whom he had tried to talk to the evening before.
 
Her skirt had been swept back above her
knees, and her thigh in the crowded bar, had pressed against his.
 
He was Asian and spoke little English, but
she found him attractive, he knew.

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