The following is an excerpt from John Donohue's latest martial arts thriller, Enzan The Far Mountain. Chie Miyazaki is a wild, spoiled, pampered child of a cadet line of the Imperial House of Japan. When she disappears in the United States accompanied by a slick Korean boyfriend who may be taking orders from Pyongyang, it sets alarms off in Japan's security apparatus as well in the U.S. intelligence. The Japanese seek out Connor Burke, prize student of martial arts sensei Yamashita, who left the service of the Imperial House years ago for reasons still buried in the past. Compelled by the need to protect his master, Burke is swept along in a covert search and rescue operation that turns deadly, and uproots the power of past decades, and reveals the secret that drove Yamashita from Japan that now pulls him back into the service of the Imperial family.
Life is a path: a thing of direction and purpose. Yamashita taught me that we forge ourselves in the Do, the Way that we pursue. My relationship with my teacher is deep and complicated and reverent. Yet there are doubts ghosting around in my bones. On good days I hope we were formed for a purpose, but there is also a deep throbbing, a grim Celtic warning that life can be either full or futile. And there is no sense to how that will be revealed; we graft meaning on our lives as best we can.
My teacher has led me on a disciplined quest to find that meaning, although I didn't know that for a long time. I was focused instead on the surface aspects of his art. We worked together on technique, perception, and reaction time. It was a craft that insisted on minute attention to the vivid present. There was little room for doubts or distractions. And if you're fully immersed in the here and now, how could you be wondering about anything else? It was a mystery. In fact, Yamashita, my teacher, was a contradiction himself: a master of the moment who lived with memory swirling around him like some bitter fog. Maybe he hoped his blade would ultimately cut through it. Despite all his activity, his mastery, the rock-solid self-confidence he projected in the martial arts training hall called a dojo, I've come to learn that in the quiet times even he had doubts.
But I never doubted him. Not really. The secret manuscript his old friend Mori left to us, the tale it told, helped me understand Yamashita better. And appreciate him more fully.
"There is more, Dr. Burke. Chie has a troubled psychological profile…issues with behavior. Issues with authority." (Said Ito, a messenger from the Imperial House of Japan.)
Don't we all. He rustled through some papers, dense with text. "And sex." He paused for a moment, clearly uncomfortable. This was curious. Japanese attitudes regarding sexual matters are considerable different than traditional Western ones. The same culture that has elevated tea making to an art form is also the largest producer of pornographic comics in the world. So I waited for Ito to say more. He sat there, arranging and rearranging the order of the folders in front of him. Finally, he simply slipped one folder across the table in front of me. He shrugged. "There. Please take a look."
There were a great many photos of Miyazaki Chie with a variety of men. The pictures seemed to have been carefully posed to be both sexually graphic and to ensure she could be clearly identified. Many times, she was looking right at the camera, her eyes slightly unfocused, and I assumed that was from the drugs. But you clearly got the sense that she knew she was being photographed. That she knew someone was going to be looking at her in these photos. And she liked it. I shuffled through the collection quickly and wondered once more at the human capacity for making something potentially good so deeply creepy.
Ito watched me, waiting for a comment.
"I see she's gotten some tattoos as well," I offered.
"She is a nymphomaniac," he said curtly. "And a drug user." His voice took on heat and speed as he continued. "She is the daughter of one of the most respected families in Japan and she is being exploited by this Korean thug."
There are lots of ways you could exploit someone, so I pressed for more information. "Has he turned her out?" I said. Ito cocked his head, taking a moment to make a mental translation of the phrase. "Ah, has he made her a prostitute?"
"No, Dr. Burke." He reached over and took possession of the photos, sliding the folder beneath the others.
I nodded. "At least there's that." But Ito didn't seem comforted.
"She is with him, we believe. But we do not know where. We want her back, Dr. Burke."
"I can understand that, Ito-san, but I don't see why you need me to help."
Ito rubbed his hands together as if he were thinking about using them to mangle Chie's boyfriend. It seemed to calm him. He peered up at me. "You have resources that could help us find him."
"True." My brother had been a cop for twenty years before he retired to set up a security- consulting firm. He's widely connected, deeply cranky, and very busy. But he could probably find Chie in about twenty-four hours if I asked for his help. "But there are many people in New York who could help you do this," I told him.
Ito nodded. "Just so. But as we have stated there are complicating factors. The drugs. The prominence of the family. We would insist on the utmost discretion."
I thought of the pictures I had just seen. "That would be refreshing."
"We know of your past service to the Kunaicho," he told me. The Kunaicho, the Imperial Household Agency, was deeply involved in matters relating to the Japanese royal family. At one time, in another life, Yamashita had been instrumental in training its security personnel. It was a complicated history, filled with good things and bad. Some of them had almost gotten us both killed.
I didn't respond to his comment and Ito took a sipping breath. "We would be honored if you would help us, Dr. Burke."
"I think," I said as I stood up, "that you are not telling me everything, Ito-san. I think you're looking for someone to find her, sure, but you also know she's not going to want to come home, and whoever finds her is going to have to knock some heads together." He started to respond, but I held up a hand to silence him. "And it wouldn't look good to have some Japanese government agents involved in what would essentially be a kidnapping. So you figured I could do the work for you and take the heat. You know, for old times' sake. Am I right?"
His eyes never wavered. "We will pay you generously." "Great. I can buy extra cigarettes in prison," I told him.
I headed toward the door.
"Wait," Ito called. His partner, who had remained in the background during our discussion, moved to block my way out of the suite.
"Get out of my way," I told him. But he didn't move. "Please, Dr. Burke," Ito continued. "It is an extremely delicate situation. And extremely complicated."
I turned my head back toward Ito. "Not half as complicated as your friend's life is going to be if he doesn't get out of my way." I felt the early tremble of an adrenalin dump start to work its way through my muscles. Ito must have sensed it as well. He made a quick motion and the man by the door stood aside. "Did I tell you how we got those pictures?" Ito called as I headed out into the hall. I kept moving, but his voice followed me.
"Chie sends them to her father."