Authors: Kazuhiro Kiuchi
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Hard-Boiled, #Urban, #Crime
© 2010 Kazuhiro Kiuchi. All rights reserved.
First published in Japan in 2010 by Kodansha Ltd., Tokyo.
This English edition rights arranged
through Kodansha Ltd.
Published by Vertical, Inc., New York
Translation provided by Vertical, Inc., 2013
Originally published in Japanese as
Mizu no Naka no Inu
by Kodansha, 2007 and reissued in paperback by Kodansha, 2010.
451 Park Avenue South, 7th Floor
New York, NY 10016
The interior of the bar was too dark to be called dim.
On the table were two forties of beer, three half-finished glasses, a dish with a small sampling of crackers and nuts, an ashtray piled high with cigarette butts, and nothing more. The place was less than two hundred square feet in size and was devoid of any other customers. The two girls who had been sitting on either side of me had long since vanished.
Any moment now
Just as the thought entered my mind, the man the girls had called the manager approached me. He looked to be in his mid-thirties, wore an ill-suited butterfly patterned necktie wrapped haphazardly about his neck and was bald with an unkempt beard. Wordlessly, he thrust a small black tray towards me.
“Pretty damn cheap,” I said after glancing at the bill. The total: 2,520 yen.
“That’s ’cause we’re a respectable establishment,” the manager said with a boorish grin.
“Funny, I came here because I heard this place was classy.”
“Please stop joking. Who ever complains about a bill being too cheap?”
“Well, before I settle up, call back the girl tout who was here earlier. The tall one.”
“What’re you implying? We don’t use any girls who are minors.”
“Then what’s the problem?” I asked in a slightly more forceful tone.
With clear reluctance, the manager walked to the back of the bar, disappeared behind a curtain and retrieved the girl in a miniskirt and sandal-shod feet.
“I haven’t done anything!” she said. Without her makeup she would probably look like she belonged in junior high.
I stood up and leaned in close. “Sayaka Iino? Your parents are worried about you.”
“Wh-Who the hell are you?!” Her face was stiff.
“I’m a detective. Your parents are my clients. I came here to pick you up.”
As soon as I said this, the manager muscled in. “You’re a spook? You bastard, go fuck yourself!” He grabbed me by my lapels, trying to seem as threatening as possible. “If you don’t wanna end up in a hospital, leave a hundred grand on the table and scram.”
“Pretty damn pricey.”
“Yes we fucking are! You got a complaint?!”
In response to the manager’s yelling, a man appeared from behind the curtain. With one look, I could tell he was an ex-boxer. While probably just a featherweight when he was in action, he seemed to have taken on needless fat. A smirk was plastered beneath his crooked nose, and he pulled on leather gloves as he approached me.
I’m not so stupid as to stand there and wait to take a beating from a pro.
“Ow, ow, ow, ow!” the manager let loose a cry as I twisted his arm backwards.
I shoved him towards the ex-boxer, who stepped back lightly to parry, but he didn’t clear the table that came hurtling at him next.
The strobes flooded the narrow alley with red light. A sizable throng had gathered around the three cop cars. It wasn’t an unusual sight on the streets of Roppongi late at night.
Two uniformed officers on either side of the ex-boxer supported his weight as they loaded him into the back of a cruiser. When I’d kicked his feet out from under him, he’d struck his hip on a corner of the table.
“Hey, asshole detective! Don’t you forget this!” the manager screamed at me, blood running from his nose. He was shoved into a cop car before he could finish his threats.
For some reason, guys like him always want me to remember it. You’d think their remembering it themselves would be enough.
Once all the girls employed by the bar were bundled into the cruisers, the police sped away. All that was left was for me to call my clients and tell them they’d find their daughter at the Azabu Police Station, and my work would be finished. Well, I had to write up an invoice, but I consider that to be a modest pleasure rather than a part of the job.
“Boss, you’re bleeding,” said Kijima of the Azabu Precinct, pointing near his left eyebrow.
Indeed I was bleeding, but the wound seemed to be very light. I recalled how Sayaka Iino had grazed me with a broken beer bottle.
“Do you want to press charges for assault?”
“No, we’re even on that count. I’ll just tack extra onto my invoice.”
“You really are too reckless, boss. Even like that, if you’re struck hard enough you could get killed.” I was pleased to note that Kijima, who’d always seemed unsure of himself when we worked together, now talked like he was his own man.
I looked up towards the mixed-use building that housed the bar. “Kabukicho used to be where you found places like this. Roppongi’s stock has fallen.”
“It’s painful how vulgar Roppongi’s gotten since the Bubble burst.” Kijima sounded like the chairman of Roppongi’s Chamber of Commerce. I laughed quietly.
“Well then, nothing stopping me from heading home?”
“Yeah, I’ll figure out how to settle things up.”
“When I get paid I’ll treat you to dinner,” I said and turned away
from Kijima. I had to be thankful that the call I’d placed him beforehand permitted a swift resolution of the case.
“Nothing against the ’tec business, but you’re not that young anymore, boss. Take better care of yourself.”
“I’ll keep it in mind.”
I pressed a handkerchief hard against the cut on my forehead as I walked. My peripheral vision took in a woman breaking away from the thinned ranks of rubberneckers and heading towards me. She looked to be a hostess on her way home from work. At a very exclusive club.
“Excuse me, are you a detective?” she asked in a voice that was hesitant yet tinged with urgency.
She smelled heavenly.
Customers were scarce in the chain restaurant at 2 a.m. At least, no one was sitting at any table close enough to overhear our conversation.
The woman introduced herself as Junko Tajima. She worked as a hostess at Zion, a club near the Roi Building in Roppongi. She looked to be in her mid-twenties. As soon as she sat down, she took a band-aid out of her bag and patched up my forehead. I was more than happy to accept the favor.
I was thrilled yet a little sad to have my next client—a young, beautiful, female client at that—show up just as soon as my last case was closed. No happy woman would approach a detective.
I waited for the waitress to move away after serving us coffee before taking out my IC digital voice recorder, placing it on the table and pressing “record.”
“Now, please tell me how I can help you.”
“I, uhm. I don’t really know what to say …”
“There’s no need to rush. Just calmly tell me whatever comes to mind.”
Junko nodded and took a sip of coffee. She began speaking slowly. “I’ve been seeing a man for four years. He’s married.”
“So it’s an affair?”
“It is to him. For me, it’s a romance. I’m not a kept woman and he’s
not supporting me financially.”
“But surely this romance has far more troubles than you’d have if you’d dated a single man.”
“In my sphere, the most appealing men tend to come with wives.”
“Indeed. Most of the bachelors I know are good-for-nothings.”
“It’s too lonely to live life alone. But would you be able to date someone whose only appeal is that they’re single?”
“In that case I’d probably choose to be alone.”
“Are you married, Mr. Detective?”
“I was, once upon a time.”
“So just because a man is married doesn’t mean he’ll be married forever?”
“I have no reason to think otherwise.”
“Yet I never wanted to marry him. I never wanted him to split up with his wife. But …”
“But I was happy when he told me last month that he’d separated from her. I was surprised by how happy that made me.”
“Your relationship with him took a better turn than you had anticipated.”
“But something bad happened after that. Is that right?”
Junko kept her mouth shut and lowered her gaze. We seemed to have arrived at the crux of the matter, but I had every intention of letting her take her time.
“Mind if I smoke?”
She nodded with her head still down. She took out a pack of menthol cigarettes from her bag as if she’d been waiting for me to light up.
We fell into silence, time flowing by. I’m never bothered by such quiet moments. Sipping coffee and smoking face to face with a beautiful young woman was the kind of happy moment, you could even say, that so rarely makes an appearance in my day-to-day existence.
She finally opened her mouth again as my second cigarette burned down to the filter.
“His younger brother raped me.” She sighed heavily as if she’d completed an arduous task.
Her carefully worded answers to each of my questions can be summed up thusly:
Her lover is Koichi Yamamoto, age 38. He manages a small event planning company headquartered in Shibuya. Business is going well and his finances are healthy. He owns a single-family dwelling in Setagaya. They met five years prior when he patronized her club and entered into a relationship six months later. He continues to visit her at work two or three times a week and stays overnight at her apartment once or twice weekly.
Koichi Yamamoto has a younger half-brother, Katsuya Yamamoto, age 30. Occupation unknown to her. Koichi was born out of wedlock, and Katsuya the product of their mother’s marriage to a man who wasn’t Koichi’s father.
Approximately three weeks ago, Koichi brought Katsuya to Junko’s club for the first time. Junko was happy that Koichi was willing to introduce her to a relative. That night, the three of them went to grab a bite after the club closed. After dropping her off at her apartment via taxi, the brothers announced they were going to “stay out drinking until dawn” and left. Junko stated it was a very enjoyable night.
After that, Katsuya started patronizing her club by himself. He was neither particularly pleasant nor disagreeable as a customer. He would drink, chat and leave just like any regular patron. If Katsuya happened to run into Koichi at the club, the three of them sometimes went out for a late meal afterwards, but more often than not Katsuya would excuse himself early. Junko never sensed anything unnatural about his behavior.
Five days ago, however, at noon, Katsuya suddenly showed up at her apartment. “I have something important to discuss with you about my brother,” he said. Junko had plenty of time before she had to get ready for work so she let him into her apartment. Katsuya pulled out a knife and punched her. He handcuffed and gagged her. “Be my
woman. A single guy has got to be better for you than my married brother,” he said. Katsuya made her call in sick to work and stayed in her apartment for two whole days.
“At first, I tried to kill myself … But I couldn’t …”
“You made the right decision.”
“I’m not sure yet. I might die tomorrow.”
“Have you heard from Katsuya Yamamoto since the incident?”
“He calls my cell phone several times a day. I haven’t ever picked up, though.”
“You don’t plan on filing a report with the police?”
“Of course not! Why should I go public with such a thing? Even if the press doesn’t print my name, if the cops come around to the club my employers and customers will figure it out right away. Let alone him …”