An interview with John Nagoya, excerpted from Keiretsu, an explosive political thriller ripped from the headlines.
The reporter for The United States Legal Journal looked a bit stunned when he entered John Nagoya’s office, as if he had been escorted to the wrong place. The offices of other lawyers of Mr. Nagoya’s stature that he had interviewed were opulently decorated with a lot of brass, chrome and plush furniture.
The décor of John Nagoya’s office seemed more fit for an junior associate—commercial carpet, nicked and scratched wooden desk that looked like it came from a second hand store, black lacquered sideboard, two visitor’s chairs and a couple of Japanese wood block prints hanging on rice paper covered walls. No bar, no leather couch, no elaborate bookcase with trophies and awards.
John Nagoya: Come in. Please have a seat.
Reporter: Mr. Nagoya, thank you for this interview. Your story about how you were able to overcome your childhood hardships and rise to such prominence as a lawyer will certainly be an inspiration to our new subscribers who are just beginning their practice.
John responded with a nod.
Reporter: When did your family come to America?
John: My grandfather immigrated in the mid 1890s.
Reporter: Why did your grandfather leave Japan?
John: Everyone knows how chaotic it was in Japan in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Many were starving. My grandfather wanted a better life for his children. My father said he was glad his father had died before he could see how his dream for that better life had turned into a nightmare.
Reporter: You’re referring to the incarceration of Japanese-Americans in the camps during World War II. How old were you when you were released?
Reporter: Do you remember anything about the camps?
John: You keep calling them camps as if they were some kind of place to go to have fun. We were American citizens and we were thrown into prison. It was cold and degrading. Families were crammed together with no privacy, and we never had enough to eat.
The reporter broke eye contact and looked down at his notes when he asked: How did you manage not to be forever embittered when that mob murdered your parents after you were released?
John: I was angry for a long time. I wanted justice for my parents.
Reporter: How did you get past your anger?
John: I grew up. I realized the best way to honor my parents was to do something with my life that would make them proud.
Reporter: Why the law?
John: My father’s partner in a landscaping business before the war took me into his house. He managed to re-establish their business and I worked for him after school and on weekends, but didn’t want it for a career so I went to college and law school at night.
Reporter: Who was Mr. Ito, the other name on your law firm’s letterhead?
John: The man who gave me my first job after I passed the bar.
Reporter: And you eventually became a partner in his firm?
Reporter: And he had Japanese clients?
John: From before the war.
Reporter: And Mr. Ito was able to re-establish relationships with them?
John: Actually, no. Mr. Ito had passed by the time one of those clients wrote him a letter asking to represent his company again.
Reporter: When was that?
John: 1973 I believe.
Reporter: And that’s how you met your cousin in Japan you didn’t know you had.
John: He had taken over a company after the owner died. Finding him was quite a shock. I found out our grandfathers were twins.
Reporter: Your father never mentioned that?
Reporter: It was through your new found relationship with your extended family that you were able to take on your cousin’s conglomerate and many others Japanese businesses as clients?
John: I’m Japanese. It was a natural connection. Let’s move on.
Reporter: Your daughter is married to Senator Morrison’s son.
John: That’s not a secret. What’s your point?
Reporter: Senator Morrison is in a contentious committee hearing, accusing one of your client’s companies of illegal labor practices. Your son-in-law runs a large conglomerate here in the United States that does a lot of business with your clients. Have you asked him to intervene with his father on your client’s behalf?
John stood: This interview is over.
Reporter: Is helping Japanese clients circumvent American rules and regulations your way of getting justice for your parents’ murders?
John hit the intercom button: Sugita, please come and escort my visitor out.
Roger knocked on the connecting door to his father’s office.
“Come in, son.”
“I saw the reporter leave. He seemed to be in a huff. What happened?”
“He became intrusive, and I asked him to leave.”
“Our clients and Danny.”
“I’m sorry. When I talked you into it giving that interview, Senator Morrison had not yet begun his hearings. We should have cancelled.”
“As someone told me a long time ago, you can’t change what’s been done. So how’d it go?”
Roger handed his father the signed contracts. “It’s done, but I still don’t think it’s fair. Nine months ago just before the accident, Danny offered thirty-five million for the Hanson company. Now when the executors are ready to settle the estate he drops his offer to twenty-five million.”
“A deal doesn’t stay on the table forever. Once it’s turned down, it’s considered over.”
“I know, but—”
“Obviously if the trustees had gotten a better offer they wouldn’t have accepted Danny’s. How old is the child?”
“I think two by now.”
“Twenty-five million will give him a hell of a start in life.”
“I think he’d rather have his parents back.”
John shrugged. “Wouldn’t we all.”
Continuing to think about the Hanson child, Roger mused, Will the boy still be dwelling on his parent’s deaths sixty-seven years from now like my father continues to do about his own parents? Of course there are a couple of huge differences between that child and my father. Where a mob beat Dad’s parents, my grandparents, to death, this child’s parents died in an accident. Where my father was an orphan with no relatives and not a cent in his pocket, the Hanson boy has $25 million and loving grandparents to raise him.
When Roger didn’t get up to leave, John asked, “Is there something else, son?”
“Danny’s business, is doing very well.”
“Is that a question? You’re not begrudging his success?”
“No, of course not.”
“Good, because you should be happy for your sister. Danny has provided well for her and your niece and nephew.”
“I know, but I mean, it just seems so strange. He went from one electronics store you had to talk him into starting to becoming the CEO of a huge conglomerate.”
“Look, Roger, after Danny got his feet wet running a business, he really liked it. He came to me and said he wanted to expand. I told him electronics retailing is a cutthroat business, and I’m not going to live forever. After I’m gone his connections with the Japanese suppliers may fade. I suggested he diversify into other businesses. I set him up with a couple of hedge funds for capital and he proved himself. That’s all there is to it.”
Except, it’s quite a coincidence that the owners of four of the last six companies Danny acquired died in accidents leaving no partners to take over, forcing the trustees into quick sales. There was no way he would verbalize that thought to his father without further investigation.
“Dad, I don’t mean to be contrary, but Danny’s never been to Japan. He never met our clients. He delegates each of his company’s presidents to handle their own business.”
“What are you trying to say, son?”
“I mean, the companies in Danny’s United Industries of America do a lot of business with our Japanese clients because of your connections. Wouldn’t Danny be in the same situation as he would have been with the retail store?”
“No. First of all Danny’s companies have become important to our clients. By purchasing products from the United Industries of America’s group, a lot of politicians’ demands that Japan import more from American companies has been blunted. Danny’s companies sell so much to our clients that the balance of trade argument has been turned away from Japan and toward China.”
“True, but our clients could buy the same goods from Danny’s competitors. What if they decide to do that once you retire?”
“That’s where you come in. Japanese businessmen don’t make new affiliations easily. You have gone with me to Japan and met all our clients. Your association with them will assure their continued business dealings with Danny’s companies.”
“It’s been a couple of years since I’ve gone with you. Maybe I should take this trip instead of you to reinforce my relationships?”
“Not this time. I have some complicated issues to discuss with cousin Toshio.”
What was he hiding from me? Why does he only give me some insignificant work when it comes to cousin Toshio? “Don’t you think it’s time you briefed me on those issues? You do expect me to take over the firm when you retire?”
“Of course, son. You’re practically running the firm now―”
Except for any dealings with Toshio.
“When I get back, I’ll fill you in.”
I’ll look forward to it. “Good. I’ll hold down the fort.”
“I know you will, son.”
And maybe I’ll do a little digging into the Danny’s company files.
While the United States is focused on diffusing Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear programs the ultra-nationalist CEOs of Japan’s eight largest Keiretsus plot to build nuclear weapons to protect their country from a menacing China, and a large political action committee within the U.S. to thwart the expected U.S. cease and desist demands.
Conspiracy, Lust, Infidelity, Treachery, Betrayal and Murder. Marriages are destroyed; A son abandons his father; A sister chastises her brother for disloyalty; A cousin distrusts his cousin, questioning his fidelity; A mother-in-law openly professes her dislike for her daughter-in-law; forbidden love becomes obsessive lust.
Read more about Keiretsu at my website: www.silklegacy.com
Link to the Amazon page for Keiretsu. It is available in trade paperback and for Kindle.
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Richard Brawer's Bio:
After graduating the University of Florida and a stint in the National Guard, Richard worked 35 years in the textile industry. Always an avid reader, Richard began writing mystery, suspense and historical fiction novels in 1994. When not writing, he spends his time sailing and growing roses. He has two married daughters and lives in New Jersey with his wife. Keiretsu is his seventh novel.