Toyoda was about to turn down the narrow lane that ran along the railway track when he heard someone calling his name. He turned around and was surprised to see Koji Hara, a detective in the Organized Crime Control Section.
“What are you doing up here?” asked Hara. “I thought you were strictly central Tokyo these days.”
“I could ask you the same thing,” replied Toyoda. “In my case, I go where the action takes me. What about you?”
“Pretty much the same,” replied Hara. “What’s the action that brought you here today?”
Toyoda told him and said that he was heading back to Roppongi.
“Where’s your car parked?” asked Hara.
“Azabu police station,” replied Toyoda.
Hara’s facial expression asked the question.
“I was off duty and having a drink when I got a call to come up here. There was no way I could drive up after what happened last month, and I couldn’t get a car; so I came by subway. I tired to get a lift back but Watanabe wasn’t in the benevolent mood. So I’ll go back the way I came.”
“Come on,” said Hara. “My car is over there.”
When they were buckled up Toyoda asked Hara what case he was on.
“Stolen cars,” replied Hara. “You would hardly believe the number of cars stolen nowadays. The thieves are very well organized and they seem to be working to order. They are targeting Toyota Land Cruisers, Mitsubishi Pajeros and luxury sedans.”
“High-end stuff,” said Toyoda. “I wouldn’t have thought there would have been a big demand for such high-profile vehicles. They are so easy track down.”
“There is in Russia, the Middle East and Africa, places where the roads are rough.”
Toyoda nodded. “That means they have to be shipped out. Who is doing this?”
“The usual suspects—the yakuza in partnership with the Russian mafia.”
“What’s the connection with Senju?”
“It looks as if the cars are being stored up here somewhere. We’ve had a tip off, and we’ve now got a group under surveillance. That’s what I was looking into today. Whatever you think of the Senju cops, or at least some of them, you have to admit that they know their own turf. I’ll probably be coming up here on a regular basis until we crack the case.”
“Rather you than me,” said Toyoda.
Hara laughed. “Don’t speak too soon! If foreigners are involved in the car racket, and I think they are, you could end up working with me. The globalization of crime has finally reached Senju.”
“As far as I’m concerned,” said Toyoda, “Senju is Watanabe’s turf; so he can deal with any of the foreign crooks that are stupid enough to move in here.”
“I hear what you are saying,” said Hara, “but Watanabe is not in the Foreign Crimes Division; you are. Of course, if there are any crimes involving foreigners in Senju, Watanabe could easily be involved.”
“He already is,” said Toyoda, and he briefly explained the situation.
“That’s bad luck,” said Hara. “I hope you get it cleared up quickly or this could be just the start of a long tortuous relationship.”
Toyoda sighed. “That would be my worst nightmare.”
“Where do you want me to drop you off?” asked Hara.
“Anywhere in Roppongi,” replied Toyoda.
“If you are going drinking, I’ll join you,” said Hara. “It’s a bit hectic at home right now, so I could use a beer or two before heading back.”
Toyoda looked sideways. He knew that Setsuko, Hara’s wife, was heavily pregnant with their third child. He had seen her coming out of the police housing compound in Tamachi a week earlier with the two boys, when he had dropped off a colleague after an all-night stakeout of a Chinese gambling club. She was obviously taking the elder boy to kindergarten and looked more than a little stressed.
“How is the family,” Toyoda asked.
“Hara sighed. “If anyone else had asked that question, I would have said that everything is fine at home. But I know I can talk openly to you without it getting around headquarters. The thing is that Setsuko is pregnant again, and she is having a hard time with this one.”
Toyoda didn’t let on that he had seen her. Instead he asked what the problems were.
“The first two pregnancies were fine,” replied Hara. “But this one is really difficult. She is vomiting a lot and complaining of nausea and fatigue. The boys are a real handful and I am not much help. You know what it is like with this job, never enough time off.”
Toyoda nodded. “That’s the nature of this job. Practically every Friday I get called out. It’s starting to put a strain on my relationship with Yelena, that’s the Russian girl I live with. She wasn’t very happy when I left her in a pub this evening.
“A Russian girl?” Hara took his eyes of the road for a brief moment and had to swerve as he almost didn’t see the taxi shoot out from the side of the road in front of him. “I thought that you were living with an English girl.”
“I was,” said Toyoda, “but she gave me the red card.”
Hara again took his eyes off the road. “The red card?”
Toyoda laughed. “It’s a football term. If you commit a bad foul or get two yellow cards, which are warnings you get a red card and are sent off the field. You are obviously not a fan.”
“No interest in team sports. You know me, the dojo is my preference. Anyway, what did you get the red card for?”
“The usual things,” answered Toyoda, “irregular work hours and heavy drinking.”
“It’s the same for us all,” said Hara. “I suppose the family is the only thing keeping Setsuko and I together. We’ve had a hell of a lot of fights over the past year. And it’s getting worse.”
Toyoda looked at his watch. It was almost ten-thirty. “Just a minute,” he said. “I’d better make a quick call or I’ll be getting into another row.”
He dialed and waited: no answer. “Out of range,” he said.
“I’ll park the car behind the station,” said Hara, turning into the narrow lane next to Azabu police station. “There’s a great izakaya just down the road, do you know the place I mean?”
“I know the place, but I’ve never been inside.”
Hara laughed. “It’s not just another tavern: it’s dirt cheap and the food is as good as you’ll get anywhere in Tokyo, including any of the fancy places you frequent.”
Toyoda dialed Yelena’s number once again. She did not respond. He fleetingly thought about leaving the photos of the victim at the station, but decided against it. If he went inside, he might get lumbered with something else to do, and he figured he had already given up too much of his free time for one night.
“OK,” said Toyoda. “I’ll join you for thirty minutes, then I’ll have to track Yelena down and make up for letting her down again. I can’t afford another red card.”
The door opened automatically as they approached the izakaya and they went in. The place was crowded, noisy and smoky, but they managed to squeeze in among some red-faced salarymen who were aggressively putting down their boss. One of the flushed fellows turned to look menacingly at the newcomers, but quickly changed his manner when Toyoda made eye contact with him.
Hara ordered two large Sapporo draft beers and half the items on the menu. Then he said, “I heard a little about that incident at the back of Azabu police station last month. What really happened?”
“Stupidity!” replied Toyoda. “I’d been drinking with a couple guys from Kyushu who were following up on a Chinese gang that is smuggling people in through Fukuoka. You know what it is like: I volunteered to show them the night life in Roppongi. The next thing I knew it was three o’ clock in the morning. I don’t know what got into me, but instead of walking home—as you know I live right on the edge of Roppongi—I went back to the station and got into my car. Just as I was pulling away a squad car came in and I had to swerve to miss it. Unfortunately, the squad car also swerved and smacked into a wall. There was a bit of a scene, and I was up in front of the chief inspector the next day. Old man Tanaka came to my rescue and I got off with just a warning.”
“You’re lucky Tanaka likes you,” said Hara. “I bet he wouldn’t have stepped in if it had been Watanabe instead of you.”
The beers came. Hara raised his glass and proposed a toast to Superintendent Tanaka. Then he took a long thirsty swig that practically emptied the glass. The speed at which Hara attacked his drink took Toyoda by surprise, but he didn’t say anything. Instead, he raised his own glass and took a moderate mouthful of the chilled draft beer.
“So it looks like you’ve got a rape and murder on your hands,” said Hara. The others at the table suddenly fell silent and tuned in to the conversation. “Do you have any idea who the victim is, where she’s from or what she’s doing in Japan?”
“We don’t know much right now, but I have the feeling that we will find that she worked in the mizushobai,” said Toyoda.
Hara took another swig and emptied his glass. He took a quick look at Toyoda’s glass and shouted for one more large draft. “What makes you think that she is working in the night trade?”
“As you know,” said Toyoda, “most of the eastern European women in Tokyo, and many of the western Europeans, too, are working as hostesses, strippers or hookers.”
“Of course I know that, but what makes you think that this particular woman was working in the night trade? I saw a program on TV a few weeks ago that featured foreign women who worked in the financial sector. I didn’t realize there were so many.”
“Well, to begin with,” replied Toyoda, “the victim was young and very attractive, and nobody has reported her missing yet. I bet she’s not registered anywhere, so there’ll be no fingerprints on record. Work it out! If she had been dead for at least twelve hours before she was found, as Amakawa estimates, she must have been killed some time between six and seven o’ clock this morning. Surely any woman working in the financial sector would have been reported missing by now.”
Toyoda picked up a piece of marinated octopus and chewed it slowly, before adding “But I don’t go along with Amakawa’s estimate.”
Hara’s beer arrived and he took a quick swig before asking Toyoda why he disagreed with Amakawa’s estimate of the time of death.
“It was already daylight at six o’clock and the construction site opposite the waste ground where the body was dumped was crawling with people. We know she wasn’t killed there; so that means the killer must have brought the body in from somewhere else. That alone means that she was killed much earlier.”
Toyoda stopped to take a swig of beer. Hara did the same and Toyoda realized that he was almost a liter of beer behind his friend. The last time they had been drinking together the roles had been reversed, with Toyoda guzzling at the rate of a seasoned Geordie drinker and Hara sipping his beer like the average Japanese.
Hara called for more beers and Toyoda continued. “There is only one way into the dump site, so nobody could get in without being seen. Anybody dumping a body at that time would have been taking a hell of a chance. I’ll bet my balls to a large beer that it was dumped much earlier. Even though some old guy walking his dog claims it wasn’t there at seven this morning, I think he is mistaken.”
“Sound logic,” said Hara, “I’ll not bet against you. What does Watanabe think about your theory?”
“I didn’t mention it to him. Amakawa is his brother-in-law, so I thought it best to keep my mouth shut until he has done the autopsy. If he still maintains that she was killed between six and seven o’clock after the autopsy, I’ll bring the subject up.”
Hara called for more beers, again taking Toyoda by surprise at the speed he was drinking.
“I’m struggling to keep up with you,” said Toyoda. “It used to be the other way round; you were always one or two drinks behind me. What have you been doing? Practicing?”
Hara laughed but did not answer the question.
Toyoda continued, “I reckon the body must have been dumped between midnight and four o’clock. There is hardly any chance of being seen then.” He picked up a skewer of grilled chicken and popped it into his mouth. “If we take that as a starting point, add the fact that she was murdered somewhere else after being raped, we can safely say that she must have been missing since yesterday evening. Anyone living a normal nine-to-five life would surely have been reported missing by now.”
Hara nodded as he reached for a piece of broiled squid, dipped it in mayonnaise and started chewing. “Good logic! Where do you think she is from?”
“She’s a blonde Caucasian so it’s got to be North America, Europe or Australia,” said Toyoda. “Right now, Tokyo is packed with Europeans, with East Europeans and Russians topping the list. They are working as dancers, hostesses and prostitutes.”
“What’s your girl doing here?” asked Hara.
“Yelena is working as a hostess in The Golden Slipper. Do you know the place?”
Hara shook his head and put another piece of squid into his mouth.
“It’s one of the most expensive clubs in Roppongi. The thing is, she has a degree in computer science. Back in Russia she was earning thirty dollars a month. Now she earns that an hour. You can see the attraction for these girls, can’t you?”
“You bet,” said Hara without looking up from the fish he was now carefully dissecting. “How did you meet her? Surely you can’t afford to drink in a place like that?”
“I met her in one of the bars that was showing a Premiership football game. She came in after work one night and we hit it off. She told me later that I stood out because I was the only Japanese man in the place.”
“I’ve never been to one of those bars where all the foreigners drink. It would be pointless because I can’t speak English,” said Hara.
“Some of the foreigners can speak Japanese.”
Hara took another hasty swig and then continued. “But back to this case, how are you going to start trying to identify the victim?”
“I may as well start in here in Roppongi. I know most of the clubs and it is practically on my own doorstep. There are about a hundred; so that should take me a few days. If nobody reports her missing by then, I will turn to Shinjuku. Somebody should recognize her, but whether they will cooperate or not is a different matter. Most of the girls are working illegally so they don’t want anything to do with the police. As a rule, they don’t trust us, but I get on all right with most of them. I’m a cop not an immigration officer; so as long as the girls are not committing a crime, I don’t care about their visas.”
Hara nodded as he ate a piece of chicken. “Have you got the photos with you?”
Toyoda opened the A4-sized envelope. “Here they are; have a look at them.”
Hara looked at the photos and whistled. “What a waste,” he said, “just get that photo on the evening news and someone is certain to recognize her. Nobody could forget a face like that.”
“I agree,” said Toyoda, “but let’s be honest; in the eyes of the media she is just another foreigner, and probably an illegal working in the mizushobai, so who really cares? This story will never hit the evening news.”
Hara threw the photos on the table and stood up. The others at the table, flushed but all ears, suddenly became all eyes. Simultaneously, they leant forward for a closer look at the photos. But they drew back quickly when Toyoda banged the table, picked the photos up and put them back in the envelope.
While Hara was in the toilet, Toyoda looked at his watch; it was already past two o’clock. He called Yelena’s cell phone. It was switched off. He called his home number; it was engaged.
Hara suggested one for the road when Toyoda told him that it was time for home. Nevertheless, they drank two more before Hara called for the bill. Then they stumbled out into the muggy and still vibrant streets of Roppongi. Hara jumped into a taxi and Toyoda staggered home.
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