In The Gangster’s Son, Kimi Yamada is found dead in a Tokyo back alley. The investigation begins – but what about her next of kin? What happens when proud, loving parents find out their child has been murdered? In this chapter, the Yamadas hear the tragic news:
MYSTERIOUS KNOCKING ENDED Yosh and Miyako Yamada’s summer slumber. Even as they tightened their robes as if to protect themselves from what the two policemen were saying, a slow ballet of shock and grief stirred in their hearts as they tried to comprehend words like “dead” and “Kimi” and “Roppongi” and “a short time ago” and “can you identify the body right away?” Time shifted to a meaningless state, and they took no notice of their actions or their surroundings. The gates of hell had opened beneath them.
Before they realized what they were doing, Kimi Yamada’s parents found themselves driving from their home in the western suburbs through dimly lit, unfamiliar streets, looking for the place where the police said they could find their daughter. Searching kept their minds occupied as an incomprehensible torment squeezed their souls without mercy.
Eventually they found the building they were directed to go to, the building caped in the dark of night, surrounded by harsh streetlights. They parked their modest sedan as close to the shiny glass doors as possible, and it took some time before the couple was aware that a tall man chewing a toothpick was standing by the large glass doors.
As they approached the doors the man opened one and held it open for them as he said, “My name is Kato. I’m a police officer. Please follow me.”
Without saying anything, the Yamadas meekly followed Kato to where the unthinkable would become real.
Kato watched Kimi Yamada’s parents arrive to identify the body of their daughter in the small hours of that Saturday morning in June. He saw life extinguished from their eyes, their bodies bent, hands shaking, the mother clinging to the father.
They dutifully followed Kato down a hallway no different from any other building in Tokyo, but in their minds the Yamadas were now capturing each step they took, like a frame of a motion picture, slow-motion and torturous. They tried to will time to stand still long enough for them to flee their fate, but no matter how hard they tried, they found themselves in that horrible place, following the tall man.
“Is she here?” Mrs. Yamada whispered as they walked down a corridor.
“Did she –”
“Come with me,” was all Kato said.
The silence became unbearable.
“She’s such a good girl,” Mr. Yamada whispered. “She’s such a good student. She plays the piano.”
“Yes,” Kato said.
“She is our only child,” the father whispered. “She never gives us any trouble.”
“Until she took that job…” the mother began, but fell silent.
“Yes, she speaks English. She wants to …” but words failed the father.
Kato said nothing as his solid footsteps pounded a beat on the linoleum under the Yamada’s hesitant shuffle, a miserable rhythm filling the corridor, punctuating the stillness sad government buildings inhabit.
The inevitable turned out to be quite simple: Kato pulled back the sheet covering Kimi Yamada’s face. Her parents took one horrible look and their mournful tears affirmed her identification.
Kato asked his question anyway.
“Is this Kimi Yamada?”
“Yes,” the father croaked, fighting a new wave of grief, but resolved not to look away.
“Her face,” her mother screamed in a hollow voice with no volume, no depth. “Did that man do that?”
“Which man?” Kato asked as he gently covered Kimi and led the pair to standard, hard plastic chairs meant for anything but comfort.
“The black foreigner,” the mother said, ashamed that she had to say the words out loud.
“We’re looking at everything, checking every fact,” Kato replied, wondering how the inspector was getting along with that.
The mother brushed back a strand of her hair, but kept her eyes on the floor, shame and anger in her words. “We insisted she break things off with that, that soldier. We insisted! I wouldn’t be surprised if he had something to do with this!”
“We’re looking into it.”
“He’s an American, just a common soldier,” she said, giving way to fresh anger. “She deserved better than him! She deserved better than …” But her grief swallowed her whole, and she dissolved into her husband’s arms.
The man looked at Kato.
“Do you have someplace you can go, other than your home?”
“Do you have someplace you can stay for a few days? Other than your home?”
“Sometime soon, reporters and photographers will find out who you are and where you live, and you don’t need that kind of bother right now. Do you have a relative or friend you can stay with for a few days?”
“I don’t know …”
“Mr. Yamada, your daughter was killed by someone. We’re working the case. Eventually people will find out that it was your daughter who was killed, and then they will come looking for you for a comment. Do you want that?”
“No!” Mrs. Yamada sat up, fierce and determined. “The jackals. Why can’t they leave us alone?”
“I have a sister …” Mr. Yamada began.
Kato said, “I suggest you go there, straight from here, and stay there for a day or two. Let things play out.”
“Why are you telling us this?” Mr. Yamada asked.
Kato knew if the GI did have something to do with the murder, pandemonium would fall on everyone, but especially the Yamadas. Kato wanted them one step ahead of the television crews and newspaper photographers.
But all he said was, “Sometimes, things can only be made worse for you two at a time like this. Please don’t say anything to the press or anyone else until we have a chance to check our facts and find a suspect. I promise to call you when we have made an arrest. Okay?”
“Yes, yes,” the father said wearily. “We’ll go to my sister’s place. In Chiba.” As he wiped his tears, he said, “We have to make arrangements …”
Kato wrote down the several phone numbers the Yamadas recited. Then he escorted them out of the morgue and watched as they walked the way people do when leaving a terrible place. The woman’s last words to him rested uneasily on his mind.
“Find that man. He killed my Kimi.”
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