Chapter 1

Tokonosu City, Japan

0815 April 15, 20xx

The inflatable nudged gently against the dock at the Tokonosu Yacht Club, and the one man aboard reached out with a line and made fast to the dock. He then turned to the stern and took a chain and padlock from the floor plates, and used them to secure the outboard motor to a cleat on the dock. With that completed he stepped onto the dock and made his way to the Club building. He carried with him a small bag with a fresh change of clothes and his personal hygiene gear. As he went up the ramp to the shore he stopped for a moment and looked back at the boat he'd just arrived in.

Sabre Dance was a 38 foot long steel cutter, of 70's vintage. She rode easily at her mooring, and her owner smiled a bit as he looked upon her. After working on her for more years than he'd care to think about, he and she finally cut the lines to shore and headed out into the great wide world. It'd have been a blast so far, sailing from the Great Lakes in Canada, to England, then the North Sea and Baltic stopping at various places along the way. Once he reached St Petersburg, and had his fill of the sights, he'd turned around and headed back to the North Sea. From there he'd sailed along the French coast, Spain, and Portugal, finally tying up in Gibraltar.

It was there that he pondered his next move. He had two choices. He could either turn east and head into the Mediterranean, or he could turn west until he caught the North East Trade winds to the Caribbean. After due consideration (aided by a bottle of rum) and a look at his bank account, he'd decided to cross the Atlantic again and head for the Windward Islands. There weren't too many places a poor man could live cheap in the Med. So, choice made he'd replenished his stores of food, water and fuel, picked up a dozen new paperbacks and headed out to cross the ocean again. The passage was fairly smooth sailing, and he made landfall at Barbados and worked his way up the Windward Islands chain and on to Panama. That had taken a couple of years worth of sailing and just enjoying life as he moved from place to place.

He'd blown another year in crossing the Pacific, stopping at all the WWII places he'd read about as a kid. In due course he made his way to Japan, clearing in at Okinawa. Of course every time he left an area he had to register again with the Japanese Coast Guard, Immigration and/or the local Police. He also had firearms aboard, which was a sticky point with most countries. Some took them into custody and returned them on departure, others confiscated them and never returned them. At least the Japanese were decent about it, and they were now under seal in the compartment he'd built in for that purpose. As long as he reported them to the authorities he wouldn't have a problem anywhere in Japan.

Navigating in Japanese waters could be tricky and the approach to Tokonosu Port was no different. Then all that paperwork had pretty much blown yesterday once he'd arrived, and he'd conked out early for a good nights' sleep. He was pretty beat, so he was asleep before the sun set and slept like a log, lulled by the gentle rocking of SD. He was up by dawn, and had a cup of coffee, and a couple of biscuits. Later today, he was planning on visiting with an old girlfriend who'd taken a job teaching English at a well regarded school high up on one of the hills overlooking the city.

He and Katherine (Kat) had met in grade 9, ignored each other for the first two years, decided they sort of did like each other in 3rd year, and were thicker than thieves for the last year of High school after finally getting it together over the summer vacation. However, going to colleges on pretty near the opposite sides of the country, put paid to the relationship, but they had stayed in touch over the years.

Kat had written him of her new job in Tokonosu, and added that if he ever made it to Japan to look her up. Thus, an early morning shave, shower and decent shore going cloths saw him at the curb waiting on a taxi after the club had called one for him. It arrived in short order, and he gave the driver the address. As they made their way through the city the scenery changed from wharves, ships of various types, including a Japanese destroyer, shore side warehouses and assorted offices and bars, to higher office towers, the main shopping through fare coming alive as people started their day, a Hospital, police stations, and apartment buildings of various shapes and sizes, separated by clusters of private home, with neatly trimmed gardens. Gradually they climbed up over the city into the burbs.

As they drove up into the hills, he looked out the window and could see the general shape of the city, two halves, bisected by a river, with several bridges across it. Far off shore he could just make up Tokonosu International Airport, a man made island. As he watched, the first outgoing flights took wing and headed out over the Pacific, before turning to all points of the compass as they set course to destinations far and wide. In one of his early jobs, he'd been responsible for dispatching aircraft all over Canada, and while that was many years and several careers ago, he still got a thrill out of anything to do with aviation and flying.

It only took half an hour to get up the hill to Fujimi High School where Kat worked. Wolf climbed out after thanking the driver and paying him, then turned towards the high gate surrounding the school compound. There was a buzzer and microphone on one of the pillars, so he announced himself and a few seconds later he heard the click as the electric lock disengaged. Stepping through the gate, and closing it behind him, he walked up towards the front doors of the school. He made his way to the office, and introduced himself, and told them he was here to see Kat. One of the secretaries smiled at him, bowed and led him to the Guest lounge which was on the second floor. It had a nice view of the courtyard and out over the city.

"Katherine will be free in about 10 minutes and has two periods off. I sent a messenger to her class, so she will meet you shortly. Please help yourself to refreshments", she said as she bowed again and turned back towards the office. He turned towards the counter and fixed himself a coffee and a pastry, and went to sit down to wait for Kat to appear. A few minutes later, he heard her exclaim, "Wolf, damn it's good to see you again!" as she walked in the door, and over to grab him in a hug.

Kat hadn't changed much in the last 20 years. A tall willowy brunette, shoulder length hair, she stood about 5'8. She was dressed in a black skirt with a white blouse, and a nicely cut jacket, also black. No high heels, she'd always been that way, and was wearing dress shoes, with no heels. Even after being apart for more than 20 years, she still took his breath away when she broke into that dazzling smile of hers. He hugged her back, and was somewhat surprised when she planted one on his lips.

"Come on, let's have something to drink and catch up a bit. I've got two periods off, so we have a couple of hours before I have to get back to it and I'll take you for a nickel tour before I head back to class." She said, while pouring some tea for herself. The two turned to a couch that faced the windows, and settled in. "So when did you get in, and when do you have to leave?"

Wolf took a sip of his coffee, and started talking.

"I just got into Tokonosu yesterday. Took me most of the day to sort out the paperwork with the local customs and police office, and then I just crashed. Getting into this place is a bit of a trial. Lots of traffic in and out, and it was a bit hard finding my mooring so I was beat. But here I am. 4 S's, and best bib n tucker. I've been looking forward to seeing you again for a long time now. I've missed ya Kat. The occasional letters just didn't cut it, so when I got your email when I hit Manila, and you said to come visit, I set sail for Japan a few days later."

"So you finally did get Sabre Dance finished huh? I wasn't sure if you were just jet setting around or if you were sailing. I never even thought to ask. You sure have done a bit of travelling in the last couple of years. I envy you.

"Yeah, it just didn't make sense to play the game anymore. The whole 9-5 rigmarole, the constant bullshit and backstabbing by assholes tryin' to get ahead, bosses who couldn't find their own asses with both hands, and busting my butt to get the job done while half my coworkers screamed discrimination if someone asked them to do the same. I had almost 20 years in with that last place, and they finally downsized me out of a job. So I got a package, and took a month off to think. I even got started on the job hunt, put out resumes, playin' the goddamn game again."

"Then I got a phone call from Neil. You remember him right? Best buddy all through school and later?

"Yes I remember him and Annette, we had some pretty good times together." said Kat as she smiled at the recollection.

"Well, he told me to sit down and then told me he was dyin' from cancer."

"Oh that sucks. Sorry Wolf."

I hopped a plane to Edmonton, and spent a few days with him. He was still in good shape then, and we had a good time. One night we were out on the patio drinking and he started talking about the game. Said he'd spent his entire working life getting ahead, costing him his wife, ended up with a great job, in charge of million dollar projects, and then he looked at me and asked me what had he gained? Hadn't seem much of the world, hadn't travelled worth a damn, and was gonna die with lots of money and not much else. Finally asked me why the fuck do we bother? What for? He who dies with the most toys still dies, and hadn't really lived. Or seen a damn thing. He decided right then to pack up his home, and head out into the world. Planned on dying under a palm tree with a bottle of Jack Daniels and watching the sun go down."

I got to thinking about that when I got home. SD was in the water by then, pretty much fixed up, so I closed the apartment, sold off a bunch of crap I'd spent money on and never used, shit canned the rest, and moved aboard. I spent that winter in the water, at the yacht club, and headed down the St Lawrence the next spring as soon as the river was open to traffic." He chuckled. "Yeah, sailed off into the sunset and abject poverty, more or less. But it's been worth it. I got an email from Neil about a year or so ago, when he said his final goodbye. He was sitting on a beach in Phuket, Thailand, with a pretty little local girl to hold his hand."

He took another sip of his coffee, then asked her what she'd been doing for the last while. She started telling him about the school, her job, and some of the students she had.

"I've been here for about 8 months now, and have a small apartment down in the core. I could have had one closer to the school but I decided that being in town put me closer to the big library, a couple of really good concert venues, and... really great shopping." Kat said with a grin.

"The pay here is pretty good, and I'm able to live well, and bank a good bit. I can't complain, I'm really enjoying teaching English to the students, especially the young ones. Most of the older students speak English very well, and I've made friends with some of their families, so I always have something to do. "

'You want another coffee Wolf?" she asked as she rose from the couch to make another one for herself.

As she put the makings in the machine, they both heard a shrill scream come through the open window.