“It seems to me,” said Rosenthal, “that now might not be a bad time for some negotiations. My arms are getting tired.”

Leigh, his arm beginning to wobble under the weight of three pounds of gun, looked at Yamaguchi. “Maybe the man’s got a point,” he said.

Yamaguchi was visibly shaking under the weight of his six-shooter. “While I will not hesitate to respond to your aggression,” he said, “I cannot say that I want a war.”

“So where’s that leave us, then?” said Davis. “Our rules say that we can’t go without Jones.”

“And our rules say we cannot let you have him,” replied Yamaguchi, “not after he behaved that way.”

“We’d just as soon he was left to dangle for being such an idiot, if it makes any difference,” Rosenthal offered.

Another of the Japanese troops, an officer with a bandaged throat and shoulder, whispered to Yamaguchi. “Are you sure our earlier offer of his dead body is not satisfactory?” Yamaguchi said. “It is still on the table, as it were.”

“Is that the man Jones stabbed?” said Leigh.

“Yes, this is Captain Takara. It may not matter to you, but he comes from a fine lineage of samurai loyal to the Emperor.”

“And Jones comes from the hillbilly muck of Kentuck, which is a lineage that’s disloyal to just about everybody.” Leigh thought a moment. “Would you mind asking Captain Takara if he’d accept another sort of apology. Other than Jones’ death.”

Yamaguchi spoke over his shoulder, and Takara responded. “He says that the lack of respect was shameful, far worse than the stabbing.”

“Well, what if we offer him some respect?” Leigh said.

“What kind of respect?”

“If you’ll order your men to stand down, I’ll order mine to do the same. Then we will shoulder arms and give you a salute, same as we’d do for the president of the USA.”

The Japanese major thought about this, visibly rolling around the idea and trying it on for size. “Your…proposal is acceptable,” he said. “Under one condition.”

“What’s that?”

“You put your arms down first.”

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