The Thief

Episode 2: A Confrontation

Jen entered the room slowly, with each step measured carefully. Her father sat across from the door at a heavy wooden desk. He was an old man and he looked older than he was. His thin skin was stretched over his bones and looked to be cracking with age. His eyes widened when he saw his daughter, but he showed no other sign of emotion at her presence.

"I told you that project would be trouble," he said as he tented his fingers. "Time has proven me right."

Jen began to say something, but stopped short. Collecting her thoughts, she said "It has, father."

"Is there something you wish to discuss?" he asked. Jen knew the tone in his voice well. He was telling her to leave and he expected her obedience. She had no intention of conceding to him.

"This wasn't an ordinary robbery," she said. "The thieves only took one thing."

"And why should I care?" asked her father. "Do I look like I have an interest in Tibetan artefacts? Like I might have some insight into the thieves' characters?"

"And yet you knew enough to be concerned about my safety. You knew someone was going to try to rob the museum."

"It doesn't take any kind of arcane knowledge to figure out that when several museums have been robbed that other museums soon will be. Do you think me a fool?"

Jen glared at her father. He was being coy. She had seen him do this with politicians, generals and other businessmen. He had rarely done it with her.

"I'm your daughter," Jen said. "How stupid do you think I am? I have yet to see you spend a single penny without being absolutely certain of the outcome. I know that you hired someone to protect me from some threat. Now, tell me what that threat was."

Her father stroked his chin for a moment and a soft humming sound escaped his lips. "Interesting," he said. "My man was found dead yesterday. He had been dead for at least a week. And yet, I have spoke to him every day since I hired him. Without fail, I might add." He smiled. "So, tell me, why are you so convinced that I hired someone."

"There was a man there," Jen said honestly, "he came in after the robbers. He was the one who hurt them. I assumed you had hired him to protect me, until he knocked me out and stole the tablet."

"And what was the value of this tablet?"

"I don't know. I hadn't had time to finish my translation. It was a folk tale, something about a monster called He-Who-Sleeps."

Her father nodded solemnly. "You will tell me all that you have learned of this man. I will look into it."

"You'll do no such thing," Jen declared. Her voice remained steady. "This is my life's work we're talking about. I will be the one to retrieve it."

"Need I remind you that you are an archaeologist? How do you intend to find this man? Will you dig him up from some forgotten tomb."

"I have my methods," said Jen with steel in her voice. "Besides, I have the man's name."

"And it is?" Her father's eyes widened as he asked her.

Jen kept her face still, but was smiling on the inside. She had him right where she wanted him. She could have simply asked him for aid, but he would have lied and used the information to get to the man without her. Now, she had piqued his interest and frustrated his sense of control. He might make a mistake and give her some sort of sign.

"He gave the name Raiza Kuwabara."

Her father laughed aloud. It was a dry sound, like sandpaper scrapping on wood. "You might as well be chasing ghosts, Jennifer." he said. "Raiza Kuwabara died many years ago."

"Who was he?"

"He was an assassin. Young, but very skilled. His father was a legendary member of the Japanese Yakuza and he is said to have been their most deadly murderer. He trained his son to take his place one day. But, the young Kuwabara rebelled against his father. He escaped the Yakuza and made his way to America. He was active there for some time, working as a hired gun for anyone with wealth. Then he disappeared. Vanished off the face of the earth. It is likely, given the life he lived that his body will never be found."

"But, you don't know if he is dead?"

"The body may not have been found, but men like Kuwabara do not simply disappear. He is dead."

Jen nodded. He must be alive. If not, then someone was impersonating him. Regardless, the name Kuwabara was her only lead.

Thinking of the mysterious power that Kuwabara had displayed that night, Jen asked her father one more question. "Is that all you know about him?"

Her father nodded. The phone on his desk started to ring and he picked it up. He waved his hand at Jen, indicating that it was time for her to leave. He began speaking in short, clipped Chinese.

Jen left, but turned and pressed her ear against the door. Her father was telling someone everything she had just told him. The name Raiza Kuwabara, the stolen tablet, and He-Who-Sleeps. Someone now knew all of it.

As she left, she absentmindedly slipped a hand into her pocket. It brushed up against a piece of paper. She pulled it out an unfolded it. It had not been there earlier and she had not put it there. Scribbled on it in a messy hand was a message.

I know who you are looking for. Go to the intersection of Marlee and Eglinton and take Marlee north a block. You will see a small bar called Dante's. Do not ask anyone about it before hand, they will not have any information for you. Tell the man at the door you are looking for the Fox in the Desert. Do not take anything he offers you.

Jen folded the paper, and slipped it back into her pocket. Later, when she sought to examine it again, the paper had vanished.