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.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Read a bit of "Be Careful What You Ask For"

Here's the first few scenes of my detective novel "Be Careful What You Ask For." All comments welcome!

Chapter One

        The police inspector knelt over the dead waitress’s body, gently tilting her young, battered face as her hair, dusty with debris, fell at odd angles. Sticky crimson blood had oozed out of her nose, ears and mouth and one eye stared into the night while the other was a swollen bloody mass. Her legs were oddly twisted beneath her, but the sleeveless black silk blouse and short black skirt she wore didn’t look disturbed. Nothing lay beside her.
        He spent several minutes probing a purple cheek, split open, bruised and disfigured, finding very little bone still intact.
        The inspector turned his head toward the voice and was blinded by the crime scene lights that made the body seem like a broken mannequin. Shading his eyes, he peered at his partner, Detective Ken Abe, and stepped out of the light, careful not to disturb anything.
         Abe had been watching Sato for a full five minutes, puffing on a cigarette, watching his old friend at work.
        “She was surprised, then frightened, then beaten, left for dead,” Sato said, giving voice to this thoughts as he crossed over to Abe, wiping his hands on a handkerchief.
        Abe nodded. He had known Sato for over 20 years. He knew how his friend’s mind worked, unhurried, always direct and to the point. And most times, he did not disagree, like now. 
        Sato said, "I think she came out here expecting something or someone."
        Abe nodded. It seemed that way to him, too.
        "I don’t think she’s been dead for very long, perhaps less than an hour,” Sato continued. “Wasn’t she discovered shortly after midnight?"
        Abe nodded.
        “Do we know who placed the call?”
        “Another waitress,” Abe said, crushing out the cigarette. He took the call, but knew few details. “She’s inside with Kato and Endo.”
        Sato’s guttural “huh” sounded like a dismissive grunt, but it was nothing of the sort. Abe knew Sato was envisioning the crime, assimilating the facts into some sense of order.
        Sato then walked over to the medical examiner, who took the cue and rapidly launched into his assessment: “It looks like somebody struck her across the face, so hard it snapped her head back against that concrete wall. Caused internal brain hemorrhaging.” The doctor hated making a definite statement at a crime scene, but he knew Sato needed to hear something. “She slumped to the ground, and that was it.”
     “No one moved her, touched her in any way?”
     “No!” If it had been anyone other than Sato, the doctor would have been insulted.
     “Any signs of rape?”
    “I don’t know.” The doctor hesitated, scratching his ear. “Maybe. Her panties don’t look like they’ve been disturbed, but there’s nothing strange about the thighs or buttocks. No strange marks or bruises. I don’t know for sure. Like I said, it looks like she just dropped. Some kind of smack in the face, her head hits the wall, probably got a fractured skull. Probably burst something in her brain. We’ll know more later.”
        Abe watched his old partner closely. He knew Sato always performed his duty well, but this time he saw none of the steely resolve he had always admired when the case was fresh, when there were clues to uncover. Abe thought he saw pain. He wondered if it had to do with Sato’s wife, Miki, bedridden all these months. Maybe it had something to do with his retirement, only weeks away.
        But Abe decided he must have been seeing things when Sato’s expression seemed to harden before his eyes. He watched him turn to look at the young woman once more.
        “She was pretty,” Abe said.
        Sato nodded. “What was she doing in a dark alley so late at night?” Sato asked. “What could have happened that would lead to this?
        Abe thought for a moment. “This club has a lot of foreigners come to listen to music. College girl looking to meet foreigners, have an adventure.”
        Sato rubbed his chin. “Adventure.”
     “And she probably liked the excitement of Roppongi.”
     “Huh,” Sato grunted. “Lots of people. Lots of different types of people.”
     Abe considered that. “Waitress work isn’t easy. It had to be something.”
     “Maybe she had a boyfriend. Maybe a jealous boyfriend.
        “Maybe a secret admirer.”
        “Yes, maybe.”
        As far as the uniform police at the scene were concerned, the best thing the poor girl could have hoped for was that Inspector Shig Sato would lead the investigation. Everyone was pleased that the inspector returned to Azabu station for his last month on the force, even the chief, old Wada, and he hated everything.
    A cheerful gray sergeant noticed the rookie next to him watching Sato so he whispered, “Lucky girl. She got Sato.”
     The rookie could only manage an awestruck “Sato.”
     The sergeant whispered, “I’d want him hunting down my killer.”
     The rookie could only nod.
     “Sato can talk a confession out of anyone,” the sergeant said. “And watch this, kid. Abe can smell dog shit at fifty yards and tell you the breed and what the dog had to eat that day. If there are any clues here, they’ll find them.”
     “His sense of smell?” The rookie had never heard of such a thing.
     The sergeant nodded: “People say Abe was hit in the head with a baseball when he was a kid. Hit some nerve. I don’t know. But he’s got a nose on him.”
     The rookie couldn’t help noticing Sato looked cool and commanding in a dark suit, white shirt, plain tie, his face fixed in intense concentration. But Detective Abe: he saw a rotund, affable middle-aged man who looked more like a cheerful bum than a detective, a bum who slept in his clothes and didn’t care if he had broken shoe laces haphazardly knotted together and mismatched socks.
        “This man was Sato’s partner?” The rookie tried to take it all in as he watched Abe bend over and then crouch down, the palm of his hand lightly caressing the pavement like a mother stroking her baby.
     Sato saw the sergeant and came over. “We have a name for this poor kid?”
     “Yamada, Kimi. Waseda student, 22 years old, works here three or four nights a week,” the cheerful old sergeant said. “The other detectives are with the staff inside.”
      Sato turned his attention to Abe, now on his hands and knees, inspecting the cracked asphalt, the gravel, the rubbish laid out before him, his nose inches from the ground. Finding the minutest detail was Abe’s forte and Sato knew Abe could be relied on to discover something no one else would spot. It was a pleasure to watch him work.
        The crime scene team, the medical staff, the police officers, all were transfixed on Abe’s search for some unseen object, mesmerized by his darting glances, his studying one thing, then another. A sigh punctuated the silence. Then a cough. Then Sato absentmindedly began whistling softly to himself.
     Finally Abe stood. “This is no good. Someone’s been walking all over the tracks.”
     “What tracks?” the crime scene leader cried, horrified the scene was tainted.
     Abe ignored him. “Two men, pretty average, I’d say; one wearing leather-soled shoes and the other in sneakers, both on motorbikes. Stand off to the side, I want to see where the bike tracks go.”
     Abe then leaned over and stared at the pavement for a long minute.
     “Ah-ha. Two different directions. Odd.”
     Like Sato, the crime scene crew had seen this time after time with Abe. It was always something amazing. Sato only grunted, pleased for his friend, and scribbled in his notebook.
     “Watch out for the vomit,” Abe told the crime scene leader.
        “Oh …” the man moaned, quickly stepping away. But there was Abe, on his hands and knees, nose inches away from the splatter. He sniffed. He sniffed again.
     The sergeant whispered, “I heard he can tell which brand of beer is in a pool of vomit.”
     The youngster stifled a laugh.
     “It’s a useful trick,” Sato said glancing at the young officer, a small smile on his face. “I depend on Abe knowing the difference between Kirin and Asahi.”
     “Yes, sir,” was all the kid could say.
     Abe slowly got back on his feet and said, “Hamburgers. French fries. Recently consumed. Mos burgers, I’m sure. I think what happened is one of the guys had something to eat, a little later were here, them and the girl, and he was surprised and shocked maybe, but anyhow, one of them threw up on the spot. A reaction of some sort. Like he saw the violence and it made him sick.”
     “Inspector?” an unseen voice called out.
    Sato turned and watched Detective Hisoka Endo emerge from a door ten feet from where Kimi Yamada lay dead. Sato had met Endo only a few hours before, when their shift began, and so far saw Endo for what he seemed to be: a small, handsome, polite young police officer with the kind of bearing and self-assuredness most young up-and-comers would kill for. He dressed well, too well for a young detective, but compared to his contemporaries, his appearance was downright conservative.
        “The customers are getting restless,” Detective Mo Kato said as he appeared from behind Endo and
walked out into the alley. “How long are we going to hold them? We’re finished with them. Most of them said they didn’t see anything.”
        “Got anything?”
        Kato pulled out his notes: “Well, there are two American GIs in there. There were three, but one of them left around 10 or 10:30. He was the dead girl’s boyfriend.”
        Kato stopped chewing in his toothpick, his only reaction to Sato asking, “One of them is missing? He’s not here?”
        “That’s what they said,” came Kato’s casual reply. “No one really noticed. The band was playing. The waitresses were busy. The two other GIs watched the show. Nobody had anything to say until that girl was found.”    
        Sato grunted. “No one says they know anything, and this GI is on the loose,” and the words burned into Sato’s mind. No matter what clues Abe saw in the alley, Sato knew he had to find that GI.
        “Who is still in there?”
        Kato stopped chewing again: “Everyone. The customers. The staff. The GIs.” Kato knew Sato wasn’t going to skip interrogating the people in the club. Sato knew it too and what helped him decide what was next was the fact he had known Kato for years and trusted him. The man’s easy nonchalance his an intense, almost predatory instinct to hunt down criminals, and the man was friends with most of the medical people. This helped Sato decide to take the time necessary to gather clues while the crime scene is fresh; interview witnesses before they start forgetting things.
        “Kato, go with the medical people,” Sato decided. “And keep in touch with headquarters. When they want to start issuing press releases, make sure they don’t screw up. I don’t want the media to start jumping to conclusions and ruining this case.”
        Kato nodded and kept chewing on his toothpick. So he had to wait for the medical people and crime scene team to finish their tasks. His was a benign kind of patience. He believed waiting was a part of investigating. Asking someone to hurry only caused mistakes, as far as Kato was concerned. He leaned his tall, heavy body against a long, dirty concrete wall, unconcerned about any dust and soot, and chewed on his toothpick as he silently watched the crime scene people finish their tasks. He watched the medical team prepare the body of the young woman for removal. He watched Sato and Abe go into the club. Then he watched as the girl was taken away. Only then did Kato stir, to follow the teams to their vehicles.
        His mind wasn’t on the girl anymore, but on Endo. It wasn’t that he was unhappy that there was a rookie on the team, but that it was the inspector’s first night back at Azabu, and Endo just shows up. Kato did not believe in coincidences. He could not put a name to his misgivings, but then, he was happy Sato was back. Kato decided to focus on that.

No comments:

Post a Comment