One Man's Justice

One Man's Justice by Akira Yoshimura

Book: One Man's Justice by Akira Yoshimura Read Free Book Online
Authors: Akira Yoshimura
Tags: General Fiction
the rear entrance, accompanied by two enlisted men. They joined Takuya watching the bonfire while the soldiers ran over to the garage. Moments later, there was an engine’s roar as a lorry rounded the corner of the building and stopped in front ofthem. The major and the lieutenant jumped up into the cab while Takuya and his sergeant-major clambered into the back. A number of soldiers were already sitting in the back holding shovels, picks and coils of rope.
    The lorry moved off. Takuya sat down on a coil of rope and looked at the charred ruins of the city from under the rolled-up canvas hood. Reports released in the days that followed would state that nine hundred and fifty-three people had been killed in raids on Fukuoka, and over fourteen thousand homes had been destroyed. Over two thousand people had been killed in both Kagoshima and Yawata and more than twenty thousand in Nagasaki, with the estimated death toll from air raids on all eighteen cities in Kyushu close to forty thousand. The execution of a mere seventeen prisoners, he thought, would hardly temper the outrage caused by the deaths of so many defenceless civilians in the fire raids.
    The truck moved past piles of rubble and burnt roofing-iron which seemed almost to quiver in the hot haze. Takuya stared at the clouds of dust billowing behind the lorry as it rumbled forward. The engine raced as the vehicle began to climb the winding road up the hill. Before long the grassy slopes on either side of the road gave way to forest, with branches of trees brushing noisily against the sides of the canvas hood.
    Moments after the lorry came out on to a flat stretch of road, it pulled over to one side, close against the face of the hill. Takuya jumped out of the back and saw that another two lorries and a smaller, khaki-painted vehicle had arrived before them. A sergeant standing on the roadsaluted Takuya and pointed to the left, in the direction of a bamboo grove.
    Takuya and the others stepped off the road and down on to the raised walkway between two paddy fields. A battery of frogs launched themselves into the still water as the men thudded down onto the path. Within seconds Takuya and his comrades had left the track and were walking through the dense thicket of bamboo beyond the paddy fields. Mosquitoes buzzed everywhere, and Takuya waved his hand busily from side to side to keep them away from his face.
    When they emerged into a small clearing he saw some officers and enlisted men from headquarters. The prisoners, blindfolded by strips of black cloth tied round their heads, were sitting huddled on the grass. Takuya went over to them.
    To a man, the prisoners sat dejectedly with their heads hung forward. One was mumbling what might have been a prayer, and another, a very large man, was straining so hard against the rope round his wrists that he was almost toppling over.
    Takuya noticed a group of officers from headquarters standing off to one side, a purplish-grey plume of cigarette smoke drifting straight up in the still air. When Takuya pulled out one of his cigarettes and lit it with a match, a few other officers stepped over to him and lit theirs from the flame. Puffing on his cigarette, Takuya stood gazing at the prisoners. The shrill chirring of what seemed like thousands of cicadas in the undergrowth around the small clearing had reached a crescendo, intense as a summer cloudburst. Thesickly-sweet smell of wet grass hung in the air and the whirring of insect wings could be heard close by.
    â€˜Shall we get it over with?’ said the major, throwing his cigarette into the grass and turning to Takuya.
    Almost as if they had been waiting for him to issue the order, two enlisted men stepped forward and pulled a young blond prisoner to his feet. The American dwarfed the soldiers on each side of him.
    They pulled him forward, but he moved uncertainly over the grass, his legs obviously weakened from his time in captivity. The major followed, and the four men soon

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