Roppongi, Tokyo, on New Year's Eve

Roppongi, Tokyo, on New Year's Eve
Among other things, I am writing a detective series that takes place in Tokyo. The first novel, "Be Careful What You Ask For," centers on a much-admired Tokyo police inspector being forced to confront his ties to a crime family while investigating a murder in Roppongi.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Detective novel continued

Thanks everyone for reading the first few scenes of my detective novel. A few more scenes continue here


     Kato’s misgivings were on target: Endo was sent to Azabu station to spy on Inspector Shig Sato.
     The head of the department’s organized crime control bureau, Superintendent Tatsuo Tanaka, picked Endo from the new crop of detectives specifically for the job, telling Endo that the legendary Inspector Sato was a dirty cop who had many shading dealings with yakuza kingpins, like Ses Fujimori, head of the Black Diamond syndicate, and that Sato had obstructed justice many times in order to help his yakuza friends. Endo listened intently, sensible of the fact someone as senior as Tanaka had selected him for a special assignment.
     “So far, Sato has never been caught,” Tanaka said, sipping tea, as relaxed in his home as Endo was nervous, sitting before Tanaka, listening, barely moving.
     “I want to get Sato,” Tanaka said. “Before he retires.”
     Endo nodded. “Yes, sir.”
     “Just go about your duties as you normally would,” Tanaka said as he studied the young man’s face. “Be a member of the team. Do your job. Just keep a sharp eye out for anything that can link Sato to the criminals. Keep me posted.”
     Endo was honest enough to admit he was ambitious, and being on Tanaka’s good side could mean more plum assignments, resulting in a much more rewarding career with the department than his previous career path, one centered around a police box in a forgotten neighborhood. If his career meant secretly spying on Inspector Shig Sato, then that was all right with him.
     Once inside the Down Low jazz club, Sato and Abe followed Endo through a maze of corridors and into the main room. Endo walked at a steady clip, trying to submerge his excitement, working so close to his quarry while investigating his first murder. Sato could sense the young man’s excitement.
     Abe was in no hurry to go anywhere. He hated going into clubs: foul air, the stench of sochu, whiskey, beer, perfume, sweat. And they were all the same, once the customers left and were fully lit. The club’s gaudy wallpaper, mismatched tables, paper cups with red candles and tiny black chairs all seemed haphazard, quite the afterthought. The air was thick and stale and the policemen sweat through their summer uniforms as they stood guard among the tired, bored customers still seated, waiting to be excused. Near the bar two other officers kept an eye on the staff, a bartender and three waitresses, all of them silently weeping and consoling each other.
     As Sato watched Endo take up a spot near the bar, he wondered if the young man was thinking like a policeman, where maintaining order was important, or if he was keeping an eye out for clues. He listened carefully when he asked Endo what happened in the club that night.
     And like a student reciting an answer, Endo replied: “Upon arrival, the uniforms had the staff and customers separated. After surveying the room, Kato and I canvassed the customers as potential witnesses.”
     Sato grunted. “We have everything we need from the customers? Names, addresses, phone numbers?”
     “Yes. Kato and I interviewed them first. Not the staff.”
     “What about the GIs?”
     Endo pointed to two men sitting low in chairs behind the two dozen customers: two men, their hair was impossibly short, the larger one with skin the color of mocha, the other with skin the color what Sato thought of as beer bottle brown. He guessed from the haircuts that they were American Marines. He saw that they knew they were being watched, their eyes shifting left and right, then down at the table. It was hard for Sato to recall two men looking so miserable. “These two have names?”
     Endo looked at his notes. “Johnson and Ballard.”
     “Okay. We can leave them for now. Now what did the customers have to say?”
     ”Everyone said they were here by ten for the first set and the second set had already started when the waitress came in screaming that the victim was hurt.”
     “What about the musicians? There was music tonight, no?”
     “They were on the stage or in the club all evening. They didn’t leave the building. Several witnesses vouched for that. And we have their information, too. So Kato let them go.”
     “Anybody running the place still here? An owner? A manager?”
     Endo pointed to a small, twitchy man who seemed to appear out of nowhere, rhythmically drumming his fingers together as he rolled his shoulders and jerked his neck from left to right, stretching it from the confines of his blood red shirt; hair in a pony tail, a suit that could have been leather, the man had an unctuousness Sato associated with the worst type of street tout. Sato sensed he had seen the twitchy man before.
     “Nao Nakamura,” the man said with a bow. Sato noticed too that he didn’t look too bright, but had a dangerous, desperate air, and judging from his skeletal thinness and haggard features, was some type of drug addict.
     Sato asked him, “Where were you?”
     “When all this commotion was happening,” Sato said.
     Like a chameleon sensing danger, Nakamura shifted from startled surprise to unctuous smoothness. “Why, I was sitting with customers. We have guests I like to look after personally,” an insincere grin splitting his face.
     “Oh, nothing like that,” the manager smiled through his lie.
     The customers’ shuffling restlessness was becoming a distraction, so Sato asked Nakamura, “Is there another way out of here besides the front and the alley?”
     The little man looked down as if he was deciding between a truth and a lie; he rolled his shoulders and jerked his chin, and without looking up again said, “The very back, behind the kitchen. Kinda out of the way,” as if revealing a prized secret.
     Sato saw Nakamura was the kind of man who knew all the exits. He gestured to Abe, who had been in a room behind the bar nosing around. “Take the customers, except for the GIs, and follow Nakamura. Make sure there are no reporters, no cameramen, no one lurking about. I don’t know why we haven’t seen any reporters yet but I don’t want to deal with them at this point. I don’t want anyone doing any talking. And make sure Nakamura comes back. Take Endo with you. Make sure those GIs stay where they are.”
     For a moment, Abe was uncharacteristically thoughtful. “Funny, I didn’t see any reporters out back.”
     Sato grunted. “Those alleys are hard to find, I guess.” Sato had no respect for any reporter’s ability to find anything not close enough to bump into.
     “I don’t like this.” Abe’s typical nonchalance was not suited for disharmony.
     Sato only said, “I just want to get those people out of here before they find this dive. I don’t want them saying anything to the press to foul things up.”
     While the customers gathered their things, relieved to make their escape, they made their out of the club with Nakamura leading the way and Abe needlessly making sure no stragglers were left behind.
     Sato turned his attention to the staff. “What happened here tonight?”
    The bartender, Michiko Hayashi, was the oldest of the four and a mother hen of sorts, prodding the young waitresses to keep their mind on their work. She sighed as if exhaling her whole life before saying, “Kimi broke up with her GI boyfriend tonight. Her parents hated him, and hated her seeing him. Her seeing a black foreigner, I mean. She told me he was coming tonight, and she was going to tell him she was breaking up with him.”
      “Was she serious about this GI?”
     “Yes. She really loved him.”
     “What was his name?”
     “Charlie … Feathersomething … an odd name.
     “So what happened tonight? Did they talk? Did they fight?” 
     Hayashi shrugged. “She went on break … ” but said nothing more. 
     “What happened?”
      “She came back from her break all upset. She looked miserable. I felt so bad for her.”
     “Did she look like she was hurt in any way? Smacked around?”
     “No,” Hayashi shook her head, thoughtfully. “She looked sad.”
     Sato grunted, silently jotting his notes.
     A tiny waitress, Yoko Mori, piped up. “I heard something.”
     “What?” Sato asked, kindly.
     She swallowed hard, then proclaimed, “I was in the back for a moment,” before a final sob slipped out, and when she raised her face, a geyser of words burst: “I heard Kimi and her boyfriend in the back. Kimi was saying ‘No, Charlie, no … I don’t want to … I don’t want to …’” and then the tiny woman cringed, feeling all the eyes on her. She barely whispered, “That’s what happened,” her voice inaudible as she sank into a nearby chair.
    Sato walked over to her, and very gently asked, “What else did she say?
    “No, Charlie …” she managed to get out.
    “Was she assaulted by this man?”
    “I don’t know!” she wailed before dashing to the dark hallways, the sound of a door slamming punctuating the still air. The two waitresses chased after her. Hayashi answered Sato’s quizzical glance: “Restroom.”
     Sato saw that none of them wanted to believe their friend had been assaulted by her boyfriend, but what else could ‘No, Charlie, no,’ mean? “Did anyone see Kimi after this?”
     “Yes, I did,” Hayashi said, vacantly. “Kimi looked miserable after her break. She seemed quiet. Then at midnight she disappeared. Again.”
     Sato could tell staff was just on the verge of becoming worthless as witnesses. He decided he would have to wait until later to get anything else that would be useful. Besides, he had to find this missing GI, and fast.
     Sato told Hayashi to tell the waitresses it was all right to leave, but to be ready in case he needed some more information. Hayashi nodded, and went to find the others.
     As Abe, Endo and Nakamura made their way back into the main room, Sato asked Abe, “Any reporters?”
     “None that I saw.”
     Endo shook his head no.
     As Sato began to turn his attention to the Americans, Nakamura approached him. “Inspector? I am sure that GI had something to do with this,” he whispered, low and conspiratorial. “He was here only to go after that poor girl. I know the others will stick up for him, but that GI was trouble. I’ve seen him get violent many times, and I’ve had to throw him out.”
     Sato’s dismissed the idea of Nakamura passing as a bouncer with an amused grunt. “What’s your address and phone number again, in case I have to talk to you some more?” Nakamura wisely repeated what he had told Endo. It was an address Sato recognized; an alley teeming with the worst kind of petty criminals.
     “This better not be a lie.”
     Nakamura didn’t blink. “You can find me there, or here, anytime, inspector,” he said, bowing.
     “Okay then. Make sure I can find you.”
     Sato watched Nakamura bow, then head for the back exit. Distrustful of the little man, deep inside he knew somehow the case could rest on what Nakamura knew. He did not like it. 

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