The Medusa File

By James R. Stevenson All Rights Reserved ©

Thriller / Mystery

Central, Hong Kong Island

With her eyes closed, Emma was sitting in the lotus position. She made it a point to attend yoga classes regularly on the weekend. She had been practicing yoga for over two years and enjoyed the balance it brought to both mind and body. Every morning before breakfast she would go through a twenty minute routine of stretches and postures to limber up and start her day but it was the classes at the studio that she looked forward to. This was time just for herself. There were no demands on her, she could relax and become really focused on the asanas, the yoga postures they practiced. The most challenging aspect of yoga for her was meditation. The instructor would help them to clear their mind with soothing tones as they told them to relax their bodies and calm their mind and lead them along an inner spiritual journey. After a week of study at school, a clear mind felt like inner bliss but outside thoughts would usually creep back in.

She had arrived at the studio early to attend a class on Himalayan meditation taught by her favourite yoga instructor, Kamala. She was always impressed by the serene smile on his face when she saw him. He had told her that his name meant ‘Lotus’ in Hindi. They had started the class with a series of sun salutations and then moved on to pranayama, a method of breathing. Sitting in the lotus position, they closed their eyes with their hands resting on their knees. The index finger and thumb touched with the other three fingers extended straight out at the sides. With each intake of breath the abdomen ballooned out and while exhaling you imagined your belly button trying to touch the back of your spine. Next, they practiced alternate nostril breathing. The key was to exhale longer than the inhalations. They even practiced a technique where you stuck your tongue out like a panting dog. Emma was surprised at how her tongue would become dry doing this.

Kamala was able to create an intimate atmosphere in the studio by dimming the lights, playing ambient music and burning essential oils of lavender and ginger in the candle light diffuser. The yogi encouraged everyone to stay in full lotus or half lotus as he turned the lights and music off. They had already been sitting like this for fifteen minutes and Emma could feel her legs falling asleep.

The room was fairly soundproof so the relentless noise that was common on Hong Kong streets was far away. Their ears were filled with the soft voice of Kamala. In a soothing tone, he asked them to calm their minds and clear away any worries or thoughts they might be having.

“Imagine you are sitting alone on a high hill. The bright sun warms your body and the only sound you hear is the whispering of the wind. You feel yourself at total peace and relax your body and feel deep rooted into the earth. Now you hear the gentle flow of a stream nearby. The flow of water fills you with energy. You feel strong and alert and your mind is clear. I want you to continue to visualise this image and keep your mind free of any stray thoughts.”

Emma tried to stay on the hilltop but felt her mind slipping away. Now there was only silence, darkness and emptiness and she felt herself drifting. In her mind’s eye she could see something floating.

A ring, yes, a ring, she thought.

She knew she should clear her mind of all thoughts but she was suddenly intrigued and let her mind follow this thread .

I’ve been wondering about an old Japanese ring. Puzzling about it through the week and now I can see it. It has a delicate pattern woven through it consisting of various metals. But who made the ring? Who did it belong to? The samurai Okanabe? There was no account of any specialised ring-making in his time. Certainly not of the ring I can see now in my mind. That came later.

A spark lit up in Emma’s mind.

What if a special ring had been made but history has forgotten it?

As if through a dream Emma could hear a soft voice, inviting yet strong, telling them to return their mind to the room. She could hear the faint sound of tranquil music.

“Rub your hands together and then place them over your eyes,” Kamala told them. “Now open your eyes slowly.”

Emma unfolded her legs. They both felt completely numb but this feeling was soon replaced by the slight pain of pins and needles. She started to rub them briskly to return the circulation. This took a few minutes by which time half the class had already left the studio. She stood up and walked over to Kamala with a calm smile on her face.

“Thank you Master Kamala. I really enjoyed your class. It helped me to clear my mind.”

“It is so nice to see you, Ms. Emma. I am glad you enjoyed it. Meditation is an important branch on the tree of yoga. I hope you will return to this class as you develop your practice.”

“Oh, I’ll definitely be back. See you later.”

“Namaste,” Kamala said with a slight bow and his hands pressed together as in prayer before his chest.

“Namaste,” Emma said returning the gesture.

She went to the change room and quickly slipped out of her yoga clothes and into the shower. She stood for a full ten minutes under the sun splash shower-head enjoying the feel of the water flowing down over her body. After changing into her street clothes she was feeling quite ravenous. It was almost nine-thirty in the morning and she hadn’t had a bite to eat as she knew it was best to practice yoga on an empty stomach.

The yoga studio was large and had a small café attached offering healthy options for hungry customers. She ordered a mango smoothie and a bagel with cream cheese, capers and smoked salmon. She continued to feel completely relaxed and happy as she ate her food. She started to think about the ring again. She was itching to discover more about the mystery.

She looked at her watch, a Tag Heuer which she treasured, and noticed she needed to get back to school. Today was the day of the big football match at school but she had no intention of watching it.

Emma walked down the steps to Wyndham Street and started to walk towards a mini bus stop that would take her back to Stanley. It was one of her favourite streets in the city and she was looking around at the cafes, restaurants and bars, some of which were starting to open for brunch. She heard the polite tap of a car horn beside her. It was a silver Maserati and the window was rolling down.

“Hey Emma, what’s up?” asked the driver of the car in a silky voice.

Emma peered into the car to see Skye Lars behind the wheel. He was grinning at her which made his face more handsome.

“Oh hey Skye, I just finished a yoga class. How about you?”

“I had breakfast with a friend and am heading back to Stanley. Do you want a ride?”

Emma was pleased at the offer and got into the car.

St. Stephens College

The air still felt damp as Harvey walked down to the field at ten in the morning. He had been up since before seven to go for a jog around the oval track that encompassed the football pitch and do some training in preparation for the football match. His mind had been preoccupied with one thought as he ran. Why did his father have a file labeled Medusa and what was the significance of the names written on it? Two of which he had never heard of before but the third he knew quite well.

It looked as though there was no chance of the sun poking through the cloud cover. He felt his stomach growl and thought maybe he should have had something more substantial to eat. He walked across the grass towards Briggs and a few of his other teammates.

“Hey Ash, ready to demolish St. Marks?” asked Kevin Leung, the team captain who had a flat nose and kept his hair short on top and completely shaved just above the ears.

“You know it, Kev.”

“I didn’t see you when I got up,” Briggs said to Harvey.

“When was that, ten minutes ago?” teased Harvey. “I went for an early run. I was going to ask if you wanted to come but you were completely dead to the world.”

Briggs broke into a smile. “I just hope you’ve kept something in the tank for the game.”

“Hey guys, stop yakking and hit the field before the game. Grab a ball from the bag and take some penalty shots on Edmund,” said Kevin.

Harvey pulled his team jersey on over the black long sleeve he was wearing. Ashton and the number eight were sewn on the back. The team’s nickname, the Gee Gees, was on the front. It came from their team colours, garnet and grey. He stood and watched as the keeper made a diving save from a powerful shot from Briggs. It was now his turn. He ran up to the ball, planted his left foot beside it and drove the side of his right foot into the ball in a fluid movement. The ball hit the crossbar and bounced high into the air.

People were making their way down to the field. One side was lined with supporters of the Gee Gee’s with many wearing the house colours. The other side had the fans for the St. Marks Mavericks in their colours of blue and gold. The game was to start at 10:30 and both teams had been practicing for nearly half an hour but the captain of the Mavericks, Skye Lars, hadn’t arrived yet. Harvey thought it was strange for Skye to be late.

There had been a lot of talk about the match on campus and that drew a big crowd. Of the four school houses, the rivalry between St. Andrews and St. Marks was the biggest. The last time the two teams met, it had been a close game but St. Andrews had scored the winning goal in the final minutes. Harvey knew it wasn’t going to be easy to follow that up.

Skye appeared and ran across the pitch to his teammates. The referee called the captains over for the coin toss. The Gee Gee’s captain, Kevin, won the coin toss and chose the Mavericks to start the kick-off. The referee placed the ball on the centre mark and blew the whistle. Harvey looked at Skye who was standing across from him.

Looking confident, Skye gave a sneering grin at Harvey and said, “Hey Ashton, try not to fall flat on your face today.”

“Isn’t that your job, Skye? Fake falls like an Italian player, to try and draw a yellow card from the ref?” replied Harvey.

The smile faded from Skye’s face.

One of the Mavericks kicked the ball to Skye who started forward with the ball. Skye was an excellent footballer, particularly with his footwork. He broke into a run and passed the ball over to one of his wingers who raced down the sideline with it. Briggs, playing mid-field, ran up to meet the Maverick player and did a sliding block to get the ball away. One of the Gee Gees recovered the ball and passed it over to Kevin, their captain. He started to run up the centre field with it and kicked it up to Harvey but Alan Mok, a short but real powerhouse who played in the mid-field for the Mavericks, intercepted the ball.

Alan Mok was a playmaker reminiscent of Roberto Carlos, the great Brazilian mid-fielder, and could fly up and down the field both attacking and defending. Alan ran full out towards Pranab Singh, a tall Gee Gee’s defender with a prominent hooked nose, and at the moment Alan approached Pranab he protected the ball with his left leg and body, drawing the Gee Gee’s player to his right side, then he used the back of his right foot to tap the ball out behind his left leg and pivoted away from Pranab. It was a beautiful display of his skills. Alan flew through the penalty box towards the goal drawing out the last Gee Gee’s defender between him and the goalkeeper, he planted his left foot and looked to make a strike but instead deftly passed the ball across the box to Skye who was speeding towards the opposite side of the goal. Skilfully, Skye kicked the ball as it rolled towards him hurling it towards the net. The Gee Gee’s keeper dived to make the save but his timing was thrown off by Alan’s fake and the ball grazed off his fingertips and into the goal.

When Skye had asked her if she wanted to walk with him down to the field for the game, Emma had politely declined, saying she had some work to do. Even if she had been going to the game there was no way she would have shown up with Skye. She belonged to St. James’ house and so wasn’t too concerned with the football match rivalry but Harvey was her best friend all the same. She knew Harvey would notice if she came to the football pitch with Skye and would become sulky. She knew Harvey and Skye didn’t like each other and was pretty sure she knew why. She actually liked Skye and they sat beside each other in maths and English, lately Skye had been innocently flirting with her.

Oh well, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it, she thought.

A group of students walked past her as they headed in the opposite direction to watch the football game. Emma had other things on her mind beside football. She had been thinking about the ring ever since her revelation during yoga and wanted to try and unravel more of the mystery. Emma felt inspired and was determined to unravel the secret of the ring and its potential link to feudal Japan. She was happy to find the library nearly empty as she set up her computer and began working.

The second half of the match was set to begin and the score was still one nothing for the Mavericks. Kevin, the captain for the Gee Gees, decided they needed to put on more attacking pressure. He decided he would play up with Harvey and Tom, the other striker, when they were on the attack and sprint back to the mid-field when they were on the defensive.

The referee placed the ball and blew the whistle. Harvey took the kick-off and passed it over to Tom, a younger player who showed promising talent, and then Harvey broke into a run to the outside to shake off Skye who was shadowing him. Tom passed the ball back to Kevin and broke out to the other side. The Maverick player covering Tom had to decide whether to go after the ball or stay with him. He decided to cover Tom and Kevin started running down the mid-field. The Maverick mid-fielders closed in on him. Harvey could see a flash of blue and gold to his right. He sprinted full out towards centre field just as Kevin kicked the ball in front of him. A Maverick defender was closing the gap as he raced to the ball but Harvey was able to get off a powerful strike from just inside the penalty box. Tom came rushing in to head the airborne ball towards the net but the keeper was able to grab it first. The goal keeper kicked the ball into the mid-field.

Sitting on a comfortable couch in the library with her laptop open, Emma had been reading about the famous samurai Okanabe from sixteenth century Japan. She learned that he was known for his ambition to become shogun and also his fine skill with a sword. His sword, or katana, was quite famous itself as it was made by the most brilliant swordsmith in Japanese history, a master named Masamune. She thought about this and decided to do some research on this master maker of Japanese swords.

She read that Masamune’s ability to create exceptional katanas was legendary. He was considered to have perfected the art of creating a sword using a seven layer method. The leading edge of the blade would beautifully undulate where it had been quenched in water to rapidly cool the red hot steel. His most famous swords were given names and were coveted by shoguns and emperors. There were no exact dates for his life but his swords were made in the late thirteenth to early fourteenth centuries.

That’s almost three hundred years before the time of Okanabe, she thought.

Emma mulled over what she had learned.

Probably Masamune didn’t create the ring, the time-line just doesn’t fit, and if it had been made by him why was it inscribed with the name of Okanabe? A famous ring made by Masamune would have found its way into the history books just like his swords had. All the same Okanabe had one exceptional sword.

She learned something else about Masamune, his swords were extremely rare and only a few were still in existence. This gave Emma pause to think.

Maybe I shouldn’t be looking for a rare and ancient ring but for someone who owns an extremely rare Masamune sword. Such a masterpiece would be extremely precious to the family that owned it and they wouldn’t part with it easily. It would probably be passed down from generation to generation.

Emma stared blankly at her computer screen as she puzzled about the ring. She wanted to learn where any existing Masamune swords were and who owned them. The mystery of the ring was proving elusive but perhaps this new tack of looking into rare swords would bear fruit. With fresh energy, she started a new search on her computer.

Neither side had scored a goal yet in the second half. The damp grass was starting to get torn up in places and the players were showing signs of fatigue with twenty minutes to go in the game. Edmund, the goal keeper for the Gee Gees, had just made a fantastic save, catching the ball from a blast by Alan Mok.

With a huge kick, Edmund sent the ball into the mid-field. Briggs received it and crossed over the centre line on the offensive. A Maverick winger made a stab to get control of the ball but Briggs dribbled by him and kicked it to Kevin who was deep into Maverick territory. St. Marks had made a mistake, their defenders were playing too far back. The Gee Gees had a scoring opportunity with Kevin, Tom and Harvey closing in on two defenders. A defender charged at Kevin to get the ball and made a sliding tackle to block it but Kevin was able to kick it up into the air to Harvey. The other defender ran in to pressure him with the ball. Harvey could see a short gap to the right of the keeper. He wondered if he could make the shot but decided not to risk it and made a quick pass over to Tom, who instantly smashed the ball into the lower left corner of the net for a goal and tied the game.

Tom tore off his shirt and started waving it in the air as Kevin and Harvey came up to congratulate him. The crowd let up a roar as they got what they had been waiting for, an exciting game.

Emma hadn’t left her seat since she had arrived at the library. She found the history of the Masamune swords fascinating. She had learned that many of the Masamune swords were Japanese national treasures. The most famous of which was the Honjo Masamune sword which represented the shogunate during the Edo period. It was used by none other than shogun Tokugawa and was said to be the finest sword ever created in Japan.

She took her eyes off her computer screen and began to visualise Tokugawa and Okanabe having a sword fight.

Wow, it must have been something to see the two samurai warriors go at it in battle using two of the finest swords ever made.

She continued to read and learned the Honjo sword went missing in 1946 when it was given to a US soldier by the police in Tokyo and was never seen again.

Emma was feeling frustrated. As fascinating as the history of Japanese samurai was, she was no closer to solving the mystery of Harvey’s ring. She continued working away and started a search for any existing famous samurai swords. She came across a reference to a famous Masamune sword on display at Himeji Castle in Japan. It was on permanent loan from the Yamaguchi Foundation. Emma felt she had reached another dead end.

With only five minutes left, the game was still tied at one goal each. The battered and muddy players had been giving the crowd a great show but were feeling the effects of playing flat out for nearly ninety minutes. Fatigue had set in and it seemed both sides were playing for a draw.

Briggs lost control of the ball in the mid-field and an attacker passed the ball over to Skye. With fresh legs, Skye made a charge and kicked the ball high towards the goal. Edmund got a piece of it and knocked it away from the goal with his hands but sent the ball out of play. It was a corner kick for the Mavericks.

Alan Mok ran over to the corner to take the kick. The Gee Gees and Mavericks were tightly spread out in front of the goal. As Harvey watched Alan take the kick he got a sinking feeling in his stomach. The ball arced beautifully towards the net. Harvey jumped up to head it away. He saw a blur of blue and gold as a Maverick player jumped up in front of him and headed the ball into the net. He looked to see who had scored the winning goal. It was Skye Lars.

After the game, Harvey walked back to the dorm by himself. He felt he could have done more to keep his side alive during the game. His play had slackened in the last few minutes as he began to tire. If only he could have gotten to the ball before Skye had and knocked it away.

His mobile phone vibrated in his pocket. He looked to see who it was. It was a message from Emma. She was in the library and wanted to see him.

Harvey hadn’t told anyone about the mysterious Medusa file that he had found but he now had made up his mind. He texted Emma and told her he would be right there.

Harvey climbed the stairs in the library to the first floor and saw Emma sitting on a couch with her laptop open. She saw him coming and waved to him with a cheery look on her face. Emma took a close look at Harvey’s face and her expression changed.

“That bad?” she asked.

“Alan Mok kicked a perfect corner and Skye headed it in for the winning goal.”

Emma lowered her head and looked at her computer on hearing Skye mentioned not wanting to betray any expression on her face.

“What was the final score?”

“It was two to one. We actually played well through most of the second half. Listen Emma, that’s not what’s bothering me.”

She looked up, Harvey had her immediate attention.

“What’s wrong?”

Harvey told Emma about finding the file with the single sheet of paper in his dad’s wooden box.

“What was on the paper?” she asked.

“There were names on it. People I’ve never heard of before.”

“Who are they?” she asked.

“Jon Malak and Hiro Yamaguchi,” Harvey replied, well aware that he had omitted the third name on the paper.

When Emma heard the name ‘Yamaguchi’ her brain began to whirl and a connection clicked into place.

“Take a seat, Harvey. Things are starting to get interesting.”

Emma did a search on Hiro Yamaguchi. They learned that he was CEO of a company called the Yamaguchi Group, a large corporation working in shipping, mining and energy.

Emma’s eyes lit up as she read the next sentence. Hiro Yamaguchi was also the chairman of the Yamaguchi Foundation.

“Wow, I think I’ve just made a connection,” said Emma.

“What’s so important about a foundation that supports Japanese art and culture around the world?” asked Harvey, who was reading the computer beside her.

“What is interesting about the Yamaguchi Foundation is that they have a famous Masamune sword on display at Himeji Castle.”

Harvey arched his eyebrows in question.

“I need to get you up to speed. This morning during yoga class I had an epiphany about your ring.”

“An epiphany?” Harvey said echoing Emma.

“Yes, I think your stolen ring is unique and was created a long time ago by a master swordsmith. I can’t find any historical reference to it but that doesn’t mean it didn’t exist. It was either forgotten or few people knew of its existence.”

Enthusiastically, Emma told Harvey about Masamune and his rare gift for crafting masterpiece Japanese swords.

“I get that you think the ring is special and made by some Japanese master craftsman, but how is any of this related to the secret file I found that belonged to my dad?” Harvey asked with notable stress in his voice.

“Are they connected? I don’t know, and it didn’t click until you told me the names on the paper you found, but it’s strange that one of the names, Yamaguchi, is the CEO of a company that owns one of the rarest Japanese swords in existence, a sword made by the same maker as Okanabe’s sword,” replied Emma.

“That is weird, I think it’s something we need to explore. The paper I found has to be at least three years old,” said Harvey thinking how long it had been since his parents had disappeared.

“Why did he write down the names Jon Malak and Hiro Yamaguchi and hide them?” Emma asked.

Harvey shook his head and then he looked at Emma.

“Let’s go over what we have learned,” he said.

“You had a ring stolen from you that had the Japanese name Okanabe inscribed on it. There was a famous Lord Okanabe who had ambitions to rule Japan but lost in battle. He was one of the few samurai who had a Masamune sword. Yamaguchi is in possession of a rare Masamune sword… ”

Emma was about to continue speaking but Harvey interrupted her.

“What happened to Okanabe’s sword when he lost in battle?” he asked.

“I had been wondering that too. Usually in battle, the victor would collect a prized sword from his victim but there is no mention of that in the history. Perhaps one of Okanabe’s men was able to grab the sword when his lord fell in battle,” Emma suggested.

“Don’t samurai fight to the death? I thought if you fled the battlefield in defeat a huge shame would follow you,” said Harvey.

“If that were the case then there would have been some mention of Tokugawa collecting the sword after the battle,” replied Emma.

“Not if Okanabe never had the sword to begin with when he went into battle,” suggested Harvey.

Surprised at Harvey’s comment, Emma’s eyes widened as this new idea struck her.

“Interesting, but why face your greatest enemy without your strongest weapon? I wonder…” Emma looked away as she thought about it.

“What?” asked Harvey impatient for Emma to finish her sentence.

“I wonder if Okanabe had some reason to believe he wouldn’t win the battle and gave his valuable sword to his family to protect,” Emma replied.

“That would explain why there is no mention of the famous sword in the history of the battle. His family still had it. What happened to the Okanabe family after his defeat in battle?” asked Harvey.

“I couldn’t find any mention of Ota Okanabe’s family after his defeat. The castle at Himeji went to Tokugawa but that was all I could find. It is like the Okanabe family was stamped out.”

“Another mystery,” said Harvey.

“Mystery seems to be following you lately,” Emma commented.

Harvey looked at Emma sharply before speaking.

“I’d like to know who this Hiro Yamaguchi is. It’s a strange coincidence that the foundation he runs has a famous Masamune sword on display at Himeji Castle. The same castle the Okanabe family ruled from.”

“Let me see if I can find an image of him,” Emma said and then started working on her computer.

“I’m not having much luck. I thought there would have been dozens of photos of a CEO for a large company,” said Emma.

“Wait a minute. I’ve found something,” Emma said as she clicked on a photo.

“Here’s a photo of Hiro Yamaguchi,” Emma said reading the caption and pointing to a man standing in the middle of a group photo. “Do you recognise him as someone your dad knew…”

Emma stopped mid-sentence and her mouth dropped open.

“What is it?” Harvey asked.

“Take a look at who is standing beside Yamaguchi.”

Harvey took a close look at the photo.

“It’s the man who stole the ring in Alex’s shop!” Harvey exclaimed. “It’s that brute Sato.”

“Harvey, this is amazing. We’ve just made a link between the stolen ring and the mystery of your dad’s list of names.”

Harvey stared at Emma for what seemed an eternity before speaking.

“How is it that this guy Sato knows Yamaguchi and why is Yamaguchi on a hidden list my dad made over three years ago?”

“What else can you tell me about the paper you found?” asked Emma.

Harvey took a while before responding. “The name on the file was ‘Medusa.’”

“Medusa! That’s an odd name to label a file,” said Emma.

“That’s what I thought,” replied Harvey. “Emma, I’m beginning to feel uneasy about the connection between Sato and Yamaguchi and wonder why Sato was in Hong Kong.”

Worry spread across Emma’s face. “Harvey, the night at Dragon-i when I eavesdropped on the conversation Sato was having with the Chinese guy, Sato mentioned he had come to Hong Kong on important business. The meeting with the Chinese guy was just secondary.”

“Emma, I need to know more about Hiro Yamaguchi and this guy Sato. What’s the connection between them? Sato struck me as a hard case and that ugly scar on his face indicates he’s had a rough past. He doesn’t strike me as a legitimate business man. Do me a favour, dig deep and then tell me everything you can find out about them.”

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