Bareword
Mr. Tokyo

The Old Man stood at the window looking out. His office was on the second top floor, overlooking the railway station and the distant river.

Tokyo had never been in this room, and he took the opportunity to scan it. A hatstand, a painting of Istanbul with worried brush strokes, and a desk inlaid with worn green leather. Around another man this “old world” appearance might have seemed affected, but around his chief it felt natural. He had met the Old Man before, of course, but always deep in an operation, receiving reports and snapping commands as some intrigue went wrong halfway around the world. He had always been frowning, frowning.

—Mr. Tokyo. Thank you for coming. He didn’t turn from the window. Tokyo watched the muscles behind his jaw shift as he talked, saw the horned hook of the spectacles slip back across the ear as the chief pushed them back up his nose.

—How were things in Mexico?

—There was some trouble at the border. It cost me a thousand dollars to get across. Otherwise, fine.

—Good, good. His boss turned around, eyes level, and Tokyo felt a sudden apprehension.

—You've worked with us for how long now, Mr. Tokyo?

—Nine years, sir.

—Nine years, mmmm. He rubbed his chin again. —A long time, a good long time. If this were a bank we’d have made you manager by now.

Tokyo should have smiled, but something stopped him.

—There is one blot on your record, however. The Old Man picked up a file in a brown cardboard folder and flipped through it. This was for show. Tokyo knew already what he would say.

—This … phobia of yours. This fear of flying. It restricts you. The drugs … it restricts your usefulness to us.

Tokyo felt a burst of anger, and fought to keep it off his face. —I've tried to eliminate it, sir.

The Old Man nodded. —Yes indeed. So I see. Hypnotherapy. Somnotherapy. Psychoanalysis. Simulations. You’ve made full use of our in-house facilities. And still it troubles you.

—Yes sir. No improvement.

The Old Man looked at him, and to Tokyo’s amazement his mouth slipped into a slow smile.

—I’ve been thinking we might use it for something…