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, studying the floor, running a hand over his chin. Tokyo suddenly understood that the man had something to say and it was troubling him.

—What can I help you with, sir?

—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 let himself smile. —If this were a bank I wouldn’t have stayed for nine years.

—What? Oh. The Old Man chuckled. —Yes. Difficult to imagine life as a civvy. Tell me, Mr. Tokyo. You’ve had to do things for us here which might seem … reprehensible in the eyes of society at large. Things which have challenged your personal codes of behaviour.

Tokyo frowned. —I suppose so. But—

—What’s the worst thing you’ve ever had to do for us? What has offended your morality the most?

Tokyo looked at him, and the Old Man finally met his eyes.