Freed from a life of addiction, sin, and crime by an encounter with the Blessed Mother
The morning of our capture Tommy and I were dressed in our typical garb, which instantly pegged us as your stereo- typical mid-1980s, heavy-metal fans. I was about to give Nathan the equivalent of 10 thousand U.S. dollars, but even that large a sum of money didn’t mean much to me. As was often the case, I had so much cash on my person that I could barely carry it around. The pockets of my pants — which had an almost absurd number of zippered pockets — were bulging with cash.
When Tommy and I arrived at the station, morning rush hour was over, but the station was still bustling with businessmen making their way to work. I was hoping there would be fewer people inside the station when Tommy and I arrived, and everything did look normal as we made our way into the main lobby.
I scanned the lobby, looking for Nathan’s distinctive American features — frizzy, long hair and casual dress, which would stand out amidst the buttoned-down, close-shorn Japanese businessmen. It wasn’t long before Tommy and I made visual contact with Nathan. I was just about to raise my arm and give Nathan a wave when a group of men who had been sitting nearby — with open newspapers obscuring their faces — suddenly jumped up, dropped their papers on the floor, and converged on me. I didn’t know it at the time, but they were undercover Japanese police officers disguised as businessmen.
Before I could make a move, a group of a half-dozen officers piled on top of me in haphazard fashion. A short distance away, another group of a half-dozen men pinned Tommy to the floor. As this was happening, I caught a glimpse of Nathan running towards us, screaming, “Sorry, dude! Sorry! Oh, man, I’m sorry!”
I couldn’t believe that Nathan had allowed the police to use him as bait to catch me. I wondered why he was helping the Japanese police. Nathan didn’t even speak Japanese. How did he get hooked up with them?
I felt like an idiot for having been duped. And it wasn’t often that I felt this way. I was vaguely aware that the U.S. military and Japanese government might have an interest in trying to hunt me down. I even considered the possibility that the U.S. Navy might begin listening in on any phone calls I made to my friends — military dependents who lived on Navy property. But I was pretty confident that none of my buddies would cooperate with the authorities. I wanted to beat the daylights out of Nathan for betraying me.
Two months earlier, Tommy and I had been living with our parents at Atsugi Naval Air Station — an airfield and supply center for U.S. military operations in Atsugi, Japan, about 20 miles from downtown Tokyo — where our fathers were both employed. As the son of a naval officer, I had lived a comfortable existence on the base, yet parental authority and military culture were decidedly at odds with my nature. As for Tommy, his father was a SEABEE, a handyman for the Naval Construction Force. Tommy wasn’t quite as rebellious as I, but he had a terrible relationship with his parents, especially his father.
One night Tommy and I were totally wasted on Shochu (Japanese vodka), and we started railing against our parents. Typical teenage stuff: We were sick of going to school. We were sick of obeying everybody else’s rules. We were sick of getting yelled at. All we really wanted to do was get drunk or high, listen to music, go surfing, and hang out with our girlfriends. What else was there to life, anyway?
Being very impetuous and off-the-cuff, Tommy suggested that we run away from home. He wasn’t suggesting that we run away for a few days. He thought we should make a clean and permanent break with our families, and it didn’t take much for Tommy to sell me on the idea. Always very smooth with the ladies, Tommy said he knew a Japanese girl who could put us up at her house for a few days. Once we were there, we could figure out our next move. That turned out to be the extent of our advance planning. We didn’t even consider how we would get ourselves to this girl’s house, much less what we were going to do for money or how we were going to support ourselves. We walked off the military base expecting to make our own way on the island of Honshu, the largest of the more than 3,000 islands that make up the country of Japan.