Read an Excerpt
Black Samurai (Book One)
By Marc Olden
MysteriousPress.comCopyright © 1974 Marc Olden
All rights reserved.
On a chilled March night at the edge of a small Japanese village twenty miles north of Tokyo, twenty-four men—faces darkened by black shoe polish and mud, each man carrying an automatic rifle, one handgun, two grenades—crouched behind trees, bushes and cars, watching six killer dogs trot gracefully toward three wooden two-story houses painted blue and yellow.
Silently, the lean Dobermans glided toward the three houses, moving across the grass like quiet black shadows, their shiny black coats reflecting handfuls of yellow moonlight. With their small heads and open mouths, jagged teeth wet with spit, the dogs looked like four-legged reptiles, vicious giant lizards slithering closer for the kill.
They knew only killing. Since they were becoming more and more high-strung and therefore dangerous to handle, the man in charge of the raid had ordered his dogs to be killed tonight as well. Either during the slaughter or after.
Leaning against a tree, hidden by the darkness, Colonel Leo Dimitri Tolstoy, United States Army, watched his dogs scamper up the stairs and sniff around the front porch and door of each house, lizardlike heads darting left and right, then back and forth. Despite the chill the battle-hardened Colonel Tolstoy wore a short-sleeved, faded green fatigue shirt, his sun-browned arms bare to their hard biceps. Two grenades were clipped to the left front pocket of the green shirt, dangling like obscene black fruits.
The United States was not at war with Japan. The raid was Colonel Tolstoy's idea, a shrewd move, as he saw it, because the men he was about to kill would most certainly kill him as soon as they found out what he had done. He had no intention of giving them the opportunity for revenge, because the men sleeping inside the three houses were men to be feared.
They were Samurai.
Warriors tied to the highest martial-arts discipline Japan could provide, a dying tradition kept alive by these twenty men, true experts in the twenty-six martial arts, masters of judo, karate, archery, aikido, horsemanship, kendo or sword fighting, bojitsu or stick fighting, the sai, or knife used in Okinawa and Japan. And more.
Men who read the ancient Japanese scrolls, who painfully, persistently, practiced these arts seven days a week under the watchful eye of "The Soft Tiger," Master Konuma. Sensei. The eighty-year-old teacher.
These men were dangerous and deadly. And Colonel Tolstoy could not afford to have them searching for him, because he had learned enough about them to know that they would follow him to the ends of the earth and claim his life, if he let them live after tonight. Forty-five minutes ago, he had kidnapped Toki Jakata Bi, the twenty-two-year-old granddaughter of Master Konuma. Colonel Tolstoy planned to take her to America and kill her in ten days.
Tomorrow morning, the Samurai would know she had been taken. And they would come for her. Unless they died tonight.
Stepping from behind the tree, showing his blade-thin, six foot four inch body, Colonel Tolstoy cradled his M-16 rifle in the crook of his left arm, lifted his right hand high and overhead, then pointed toward the houses. The men understood and moved forward. They had been told what to do.
It was to be eight men to a house. Five inside, three outside. First the colonel's dogs inside, slashing, slicing, ripping flesh with their teeth. Then grenades, and quickly the M-16 rifles, a full clip of eighteen rounds to be emptied regardless of what damage was done by the grenades. Fifteen minutes ago all telephone lines had been cut; both the ones belonging to the village and to the Samurai.
There were to be no survivors. Not men, nor animals. No survivors.
At two o'clock in the morning, the village was silent. And so was the Samurai compound. Quickly the raiders crossed the grass, two men taking up positions in front and back of each house. Three raiders crouched on each porch, the leader of each party silently counting to ten.
Slowly, Colonel Tolstoy turned the knob, pushed open the door to the first house, took one step to the side as two Dobermans sped past him like lean black streaks, then followed them inside. He knew they would find warm, breathing flesh, find it quickly, then attack it.
Behind him and off to his right, Colonel Tolstoy heard an exploding grenade followed quickly by automatic-rifle fire. He smiled, only the corners of his mouth moving.
Two small, dim lights in the ceiling overhead lit the downstairs. The raiders had stepped into the dining area, two large tables and chairs. Along the corridor were photographs framed in wood, past and present members of Master Konuma's Samurai.
Hard combat boots tore at the faded yellow matting along the corridor as the five armed men quickly followed the killer dogs. At the end of the corridor a stairway on the left led to the second floor. Again, two small bulbs burned dimly in the ceiling.
In a fraction of a second the dogs had scampered up the stairs and were at the top of the landing. Both stopped, then walked slowly over to the first door on the left, stopped in front of it and began to make low guttural noises in their throats, anxious to taste blood.
Colonel Tolstoy stepped to the door, turned the handle, pushed it open and the dogs sped by him, leaping on two men sleeping on straw mats on the floor. Both men rolled over quickly, their hands pushing at the dogs, desperately trying to ward off the animals' razor-sharp teeth.
Shina, a twenty-four-year-old son of a Japanese fisherman, was the Samurai nearest the door. He had been training for three years. His Samurai training would end tonight. Bringing both knees up, he pushed the Doberman back and away. Both of the young Samurai's bare forearms were bleeding, shredded flesh, but he blocked the pain from his mind and concentrated on the dog.
The Doberman had tasted blood and wanted more. It leaped in the air, all four legs off the ground, and that's how it died. Rolling over on his left side and facing the animal, Shina lifted his right knee to his own chest and screaming "Aaiii!" shot his right leg up at the dog in a vicious, strong karate side-thrust kick, breaking the dog's neck and killing it.
Ito, his roommate, was dead. The other dog had torn his throat apart, slashing the soft flesh as though it were tissue paper. Quickly rolling to his right, Shina saw the dog turn from Ito's throat and move toward his genitals. As Shina stood up to move toward the killer dog, Colonel Tolstoy shot the Samurai in the head and back.
Quickly backing away two steps, Colonel Tolstoy motioned the men with him to move farther down the hall. Then, unclipping a grenade from his shirt front, he laid his M-16 on the straw matting, pulled the pin from the grenade and rolled it into the room with two men and two dogs. Then in one quick motion he picked up his rifle and ran down the hall toward his men.
Four seconds later the explosion rocked the house, sending plaster and wood flying through the open door and down the stairs. A man's bloody head flew through the air, hit the wall in front of the bedroom door, then bounced on the floor and rolled down the hall toward Colonel Tolstoy, white plaster dust sticking to the blood-covered face.
The colonel and his four raiders continued their slaughter of the Samurai.
The Second House. St. Paul Braeden, six feet five inches, two hundred fifty pounds, and a black American GI deserter who had fought with the Viet Cong for three years, led the raid.
He began his slaughter on the first floor as three Samurai, awakened by grenade explosions and gunshots, came downstairs. The dogs met them first, growling and yelping as they leaped at the three Samurai. Nishi, the eighteen-year-old Samurai who had come downstairs first, showed why he had been picked to train under Master Konuma.
As the two dogs left their feet in a death leap, Nishi went down on both his knees, his fists tensed, then, quickly crossing both wrists in front of his stomach, shoved his crossed wrists high and at the throat of one of the dogs.
The two-handed block stopped the animal in mid-air, but the other dog came down on Nishi's left, his razor teeth tearing flesh from the round face of the young Samurai.
"Now's the time," muttered St. Paul Braeden, leveling his M-16 at the three Samurai and the two dogs, then pulling the trigger, the bullets tearing into the men and dogs, making them jerk and spin around in a bloody dance of horror.
Chunks of wood and plaster ripped loose from the walls behind the Samurai and the noise shattered any remaining silence.
Up on the second floor, two Japanese Samurai stood in the hall under the dim light and looked at Robert Sand, standing bare-chested and barefoot, wearing only blue jeans. Sand was also a Samurai, but he was different. He was American and he was black, the only outsider ever to be accepted for Samurai training by Master Konuma.
Maka said to him, "Go, quickly. To the Sensei."
"You will be killed," said Sand.
"That is what we trained for all our lives," said Maka. "To die. Without fear, and with honor. You are the best of us. Get to the Master. We will fight and hold them back as long as we can and we shall die here because it is meant to be that way. Go to our Master. Save him if you can. If you cannot, then die there with him."
Sand looked at Maka's long sad face, then at Kuri, the short stocky Japanese who loved Playboy magazine and who would have been the best judo player of them all. "I will not disgrace my brothers or my Master," said the Black Samurai, clutching his prize in both hands.
His prize. Master Konuma had given Robert Sand an almost sacred relic, a two-hundred-year-old Tanto, a short twenty-seven-inch Japanese sword, his prize for physical and mental excellence, his award for being the best Samurai in a group of men who knew only excellence.
"Go," said Maka as he heard the slow, cautious sound of footsteps on the stairs. Sadly, Sand looked at his brother Samurai once more, then turned and ran down the hall to the last room on the right, into the room and over to the window. Behind him, he heard the kiai, the loud yelling from Maka and Kuri as they charged into the raiders.
Looking out the window, Sand saw him. The raider had his back to the window, staring over at the first house, now on fire. Softly, Sand opened the window, then pulled the sword from its sheath, the steel blade catching the moonlight, a bright lean diamond in the night.
Gracefully swinging both legs onto the window sill, Sand leaped into the air, as far out as he could, coming down hard on the raider's shoulder blades. Both men fell to the covered grass, Sand on the bottom, the raider's back on top of the Black Samurai's chest. In one quick motion Sand sliced the man's throat almost completely around, the warm blood pouring from the dead man onto the Samurai's bare chest.
Pushing the dead man away, Sand scooped up the M-16 and, heart pounding, his chest smeared with blood, ran toward the third house, the house where his Master Sensei Konuma lived.
The Third House. Rashid OmarCid led the raid here. He was a twenty-five-year-old member of the Black September terrorists, specializing in sabotage and in painful interrogation of Jewish prisoners. He was having the most trouble, for the explosions and gunshots had alerted the four Samurai living in the house with the Master. They were the elite, the finest of all the Samurai, and had earned the privilege of being his personal attendants.
So had the Black Samurai, but in winning the prized sword, he had been allowed to go into the village and celebrate, provided he showed up at training at six A.M. the next morning.
Rather than enter the Master's house, perhaps with too much rice wine in his stomach, Sand had decided to sleep in the second house.
Four of the Samurai had rushed downstairs, quickly killing the two dogs, then they had met Rashid and his raiders and charged them before the grenades could be used. But the guns were a different matter. They were used quickly.
As he quickly ran toward the house, Sand heard the gunfire, the loud noise cutting through the chilly Japanese night. The nearness of the gunfire had drawn the first raider-guard out of position. He walked closer to the front of the house, anxious to see what was going on so near him.
Over the gunfire and screams of the killers and the dying, he never heard the barefoot Black Samurai closing in on him. Moving almost close enough to touch the man, Sand dropped his own rifle on the grass, then reached for the raider, his left hand going over the man's mouth, the sword, still red with blood, passing swiftly around the man's neck, ear to ear. There would be no warning given by this killer, ever.
Sand let the man's bloody body sink quickly to the grass. As he looked behind him over his own shoulder, he saw blacked faces staring out of the window from which he had just leaped, and a man pointing at him and shouting.
They were too far away to shoot him, but when their faces disappeared he knew that they were coming for him.
Quickly stepping over the man he had just killed, Sand ran to the third house, across the porch, the rifle in one hand, his short sword in the other.
Inside, he saw the bodies. One raider, a white man in U.S. Army fatigues, his head at a crazy angle. It had been broken with a kick to the face. Near him, bleeding bodies still as though resting, were four Samurai. Sand's heart fell and his stomach grew weak. They were the only family he had known, they were his brothers, as much as if they had all been pulled from the same womb. Seven years of Samurai training together and now this. This nightmare of sudden, unprovoked attack, except that Sand knew something that the other Samurai didn't.
Sand knew who was attacking. He didn't know why, but he knew who.
And he had never discussed this with the Samurai because he had not known for sure that the attack would ever come. He had been warned to be aware, to be alert, to always remember the existence of Colonel Leo Dimitri Tolstoy. But this—!!
Sand never expected this!
He felt the warm blood under his bare feet as he stepped over the bodies and moved down the hallway. Other raiders would be here soon. But it didn't matter. He was a Samurai, he would die fighting as a Samurai, as a warrior, as he had been trained to do. He would kill as many of Colonel Tolstoy's men as he could and if he were fortunate, he might kill Tolstoy himself. That would be a blessing, that would be a nice way to die.
Sensei Konuma lived alone in the room at the back of the top floor. His wife had died and his children had left home. "You are now my children," he often said to his Samurai. "I need no other; I want no other."
In front of Sand, the long hallway was empty. He ran quickly along it, reaching the stairs in the back, then rushing up two steps at a time. At the top he saw them. Two men with their backs to him, about to step into the Master's room.
Dropping the small sword to the straw matting on the floor, Sand lifted the M-16 and pulled the trigger. Damn! One man had stepped out of range and through the doorway at the very second that Sand pulled the trigger, but the Black Samurai hit the other, the shots driving the raider back into the wall, ripping chunks of delicate deep brown wood from the wall behind him.
In that small space, the roar of the rifle sounded like a cannon, for Sand, in his rage, emptied the entire clip of eighteen rounds into the raider, almost severing his body in two. When the gun clicked empty several times, the other raider, Rashid, stuck his head out of the door and lobbed a grenade at the Black Samurai.
With all the quickness of his seven years of Samurai training. Sand, seeing the grenade flying at him, turned and leaped back down the staircase, landing hard, but breaking his fall as best he could, as he had done so many thousands of times in judo practice.
The roar behind him momentarily deafened him and sent flying wood chips digging into his body. A sharp pain creased his side and when he touched it with his left hand, his fingers gripped something else—the blade of his short sword. The explosion had hurled it through the air at the Black Samurai's back.
Excerpted from Black Samurai by Marc Olden. Copyright © 1974 Marc Olden. Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com.
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