Book Review Wednesday – Stolen Gypsy

The book-a-week challenge continues with  Stolen Gypsy by Elizabeth Horton-Newton.

stolengypsyTerza Blackstone never lived in on place long enough to make friends. Her parents never gave a second thought to uprooting her whenever they felt the need. Alone and friendless is never good, especially when being called to the principal’s office to be told your parents died in a crash while eluding police.

The authorities have lots of questions for 17-year-old Terza, but she has more. So it begins in Stolen Gypsy by Elizabeth Horton-Newton. The cops want to know if Terza knows anything about her parents’ activities. She wants to know just who were these people who raised her and why were they running from the law. When the feds step in to try to take charge of what seems to be a local crime, Terza becomes even more suspicious of what is happening, and although she escapes their grasp, she is forced to rely on strangers to help her find her answers.

Horton-Newton weaves a compelling thriller: Terza’s strength is her determination to get answers about her past, to find out who she is, and to make sense of the traumatic events that litter her young life. Equally determined are the two men who risk everything to keep her from harm, a county sheriff’s detective and charming Irishman with a penchant for saving girls in trouble. Terza discovers their help just might be what she needs to get her answers and her revenge. Terza’s parents were involved with serious, dangerous men. High stakes action, life-and-death consequences — this book has it all.

I have read Horton-Newton’s short fiction in Twisted Tales and Crooked Tales, anthologies published by Readers Circle of Avenue Park, and I am a fan. She has the gift of telling a good story, compelling a reader to keep turning the page, and just when you think you have it figured out — well, you don’t.  So you keep turning the page.

What more can a reader ask?

Stolen Gypsy, by Elizabeth Horton-Newton.

4.5 stars out of 5.

Available at Amazon.

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Check in every week for Book Review Wednesday. I’m reading and reviewing a book a week throughout 2018. Join me. Authors, if you have a book you would like reviewed, send me an email at joe@josephmarkbrewer.com.

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Joseph Mark Brewer writes the Shig Sato mysteries. Mix up some Lieutenant Columbo and Kurt Wallander and you have an interesting character in Sato and a thrilling new series set in the heart of Tokyo. Click for your copy of The Gangster’s SonThe Thief’s MistakeTraitors & Lies, or Cat’s Meow. And check out Shig’s Readers Club to get a free copy of Tokyo Summer, the exciting Shig Sato prequel that tells the story of the events that led up to The Gangster’s Son.

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Get to know Shig Sato – Tokyo Metropolitan Police

The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department (Keishichoo) serves as the police force for the Tokyo metropolis. It is headed by a superintendent general, who is appointed by the National Public Safety Commission and approved by the Prime Minister. The

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One of hundreds of police kobans.

headquarters building, shaped like a wedge with cylindrical towers on top, is located in the Kasumigaseki district, near the Justice ministry and the Imperial Palace. There are 102 police stations in the metropolitan area, and 826 koban, a small neighborhood police station and a critical part of department’s community police efforts. There are 256 residential kobanAnywhere from one to ten officers can be assigned to a koban. The officers keep watch, respond to emergencies, and interact with the public.

Shig Sato joined the department in 1951, leaving his his studies at Waseda University to earn a living to support his family after the death of his maternal grandfather, who was his main paternal figure after his father was drafted when he was just eight years old. He met his future wife, Miki, while a student at Waseda. Shig’s training and initial assignments were no different than any other young police officer. His supervisors noticed his quiet determination and ability to put seemingly dissimilar actions and clues together to solve a crime. But like most young, single police officers, he lived in police housing and worked in several kobans before his true value was recognized and rewarded.

If you have read the prequel novel Tokyo Summer, you’ll learn about the circumstances that led to a move late in Shig’s career. He was assigned to the Security Police, a protection unit mandated to protect domestic and foreign VIPs on Japanese soil. The officers where suits, distinctive pins and ties, and the service is modeled after the U.S Secret Service. High ranking minsters of state, such as the Prime Minister, President of the House of Councilors, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and foreign ambassadors and visiting dignitaries all are protected by the Security Police. Shig was, for a time, assigned to the Imperial Household Agency, protecting the Emperor, Empress, and the royal family.

But Shig’s ability to solve crime enabled him to leave the security services as his retirement neared. It was during this return to criminal investigations that sets the stage for The Gangster’s Son. The events of the summer of 1991 continue through Book 2, The Thief’s Mistake, and Book 3, Traitors & Lies. Book 4, Cat’s Meow, takes place in the autumn of that year. But things have not gotten much better for Shig.

Or have they?

Cat’s Meow is available now for pre-order on Amazon. Just click for your copy – and find out!

See you tomorrow!

41BihmTO1ILCat’s MeowCat’s Meow is Book 4 in the Shig Sato Mystery Series. In a race against time to find a killer before a strikes again, a case from Shig’s past propels him to get to the bottom of the crime spree. Don miss it! Just click. And don’t forget: if you’re reading this on your cell phone or tablet, keep scrolling down. You’ll find all of the Shig Sato Mysteries down there. If you’re reading this on your home computer, you’ll find them on the right. And if you haven’t signed up for the Shig Sato newsletter, you can do that here. Once in a while I share what’s happening with Shig, offer great deals in mysteries and thrillers from my author friends, and announce when the next special will come along. Don’t miss out. Just click here to enter the World of Shig Sato.

 

The Hunt is On

An unexpected phone call and the suspicions of Mrs. Abe’s ramen delivery boy put Sato and Abe on the trail of a killer

from The Gangster’s Son – A Shig Sato Mystery

Sato sat at his desk, fanning himself with a thin white and red paper fan that looked like a heart on a small handle, and waited for the dull buzz in his head to die down. Ses Fujimori, Kazuo Takahashi, Mai Sakamoto, the superintendent general, Michiko Hayashi: voices roiling in his head, and all he saw was Kimi Yamada’s beaten face, and Miki’s weak smile beneath her oxygen mask. He stared at his desk, fanned himself, and kept thinking of everything, and nothing.

Then Abe’s phone rang.

“Damn,” he thought. “Will this never end?”

After a deep breath and long exhale, he walked to Abe’s desk, wondering what else could interfere with the investigation.

“This is Sato.”

“Oh, Inspector!”

okinawa-646182_1920Mrs. Abe seemed startled to hear a voice other than her son’s. But she recovered quickly, and her words fell like a waterfall. Before he was aware of it, Sato was settling in to listen to whatever Abe’s mother had to say, trying to ease into a state where he could endure the harmless diversion.

But he heard anxiety in the old woman’s voice as she hoarsely whispered that since she was talking to Inspector Sato himself, she had to share something she heard from one of the delivery boys. She explained how Taki made deliveries for old Kamiya’s brasserie, Mr. Edano’s sobu shop, Mrs. Fukuyama’s tempura shop, and of course, Abe’s ramen shop. The delivery “boys” were, as Sato well knew, old men. Taki, for example, was gray as a dirty raincloud, with yellowed teeth and milky eyes, and was stubborn beyond reason. But they delivered the food and collected the dishes, and the system worked. One of the side benefits of using the delivery boys was learning the latest gossip.

Sato sighed, not wanting to interrupt Mrs. Abe.

“And Taki is a one-man neighborhood watch. One place he doesn’t like is an ugly old place two streets over. It’s filled with the worst sort of people. Like today,” she said.

“Taki says a ‘young punk up to no good’ is there off and on, with one of those noisy motorbikes, you know the kind, and sometimes he’s there with women, and sometimes with girls not even high school age, and the most loathsome creatures stopping by day and night, not staying long. I wonder why Ken never told you about it. Well, sometimes this person orders food and sometimes beer or something even stronger, and sometimes there’s an odor. Taki thinks it smells like one of those opium dens. Not that I would know. But Taki says there has to be something illegal going on.”

Continue reading

Death in the Night

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:

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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.

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Suicide or murder? A Shig Sato bonus novella just for you!

ssnovella1Of all the summer projects I chose to tackle after relocating to Austin, Texas, the most challenging – and most fun! – was writing my first Shig Sato novella, Tokyo Summer. But it is available only to my email list subscribers. So don’t miss out. Click here to sign up for all the Shig Sato news and this Shig prequel, Tokyo Summer, available Sept. 28.

Here’s a sneak peek:

Junichi Ohto was a 30-year veteran of the Tokyo Metropolitan police. Thin and bald and with a smoker’s hack, he would never admit that being a detective at such a small outfit like Tsukishima Police Station was as good as his spotty career would get.

There had been days when he still had his hopes. At first, catching the Usami case that late June evening had given him hope that a good murder would put him right with his boss. But within minutes of taking in all the details he knew it was suicide. Typical domestic turmoil, husband some sort of mid-level big shot at the Bank of Japan. Wife a typical “education mama” who lived for her kids passing their college entrance exams. Why she swallowed a vial of valium was anyone’s guess.

“If she wanted to kill herself she could have jumped into the Sumida River and saved us all a lot of trouble,” he said to his partner, a detective so young and green he barely spoke a word other than “yes” and “excuse me.”

It didn’t take long for them to wrap up their interviews and file that case away.

“All we need are the toxicology reports,” Ohto told his station chief. “Not gonna get anything from them, either, I bet.”

Then, a few weeks later, Ohto’s boss said, “That Usami case? Murder.”

It hadn’t been a pleasant morning. Admonished like a rookie, scorned for being old and useless, Ohto knew the toxicology report made everyone in the station look bad.

Ohto lit a Seven Star cigarette and coughed for a minute after inhaling the delicious smoke. He wondered how quickly he was going to get demoted behind once Division took over the case. His boss had said that Sato asked for Ohto. By name.

He heard that the detectives picking up the case at Division were Ken Abe and Mo Kato, two officers he knew and resented for being the types the higher-ups liked. Kato could wait out a glacier for one key clue. And Abe. Ohto had seen for himself how Abe’s strange sense of smell had led to the arrest of a cross-dresser simply by identifying perfumes, lotions and body secretions no self-respecting man would know the first thing about.

But Inspector Shig Sato. He knew then that he was in trouble. Sato left no stone unturned. Ohto knew he was bound to be grilled like a tuna.

He smoked the cigarette down to the paper filter in 27 seconds then lit another before hitching a ride to Chuo. Ohto made it into the station with what little dignity he could muster, his eyes focused on what was in front of him as he quickly walked to Criminal Investigations.

After the usual greetings Ohto took a seat by Sato’s desk. He wasn’t prepared for Sato’s tactics. A junior police officer brought tea Ohto didn’t want, but recognized the gesture for what it was, nodded his thanks, and resisted the urge to light up a cigarette.

“Ohto, I’m sure you did your best with the information you had when you were handed this Usami case.”

Ohto tilted his head to one side, admitting nothing.

“Here’s how it is. I don’t care what happened then. I care about now. Now it’s a murder investigation. Now we have to start as if it’s hour one.”

“I see.”

Sato saw that Ohto did not see.

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To get your copy of Tokyo Summer, just click and you’ll be reading in no time.

 

The World of Shig Sato

Do you remember where you were in 1991? Some of you do, of course, and some of you don’t. And one of the great thrills of reading is being taken to a time and place you may never have been: Paris, 1870; Dublin, 1904; Rome, 30 A.D.; A galaxy far far away — stories take us to memorable places with people and creatures that entertain us for hours.

View_of_Tokyo_Roppongi_Hills_downtown_from_Mori_TowerThe world of Shig Sato is unique: a long-serving, highly respected police inspector, Sato returns to Azabu Police Station after two years of diplomatic security detail and security assignments for the Imperial Household Agency. Sato’s world is heart of Tokyo – the Imperial Palace, Roppongi, the embassy districts, and Sato knows every inch of it.

Roppongi: served by Sato’s beloved Azabu Police Station, isn’t so different now than it was in 1991. And Sato knew that among many of the foreigners out for a good time in that nightclub district were American servicemen, including some stationed with the U.S. Navy and Marine forces in Yokosuka, 37 miles down the coast. In the Shig Sato mystery The Gangster’s Son, Kimi Yamada’s beloved Cpl. Charlie Parker Jones is a Marine stationed on a American ship at the Navy base.

Sato’s return to Azabu Police station, the murder of Kimi Yamada, and his journey to finding the truth about her killer and himself make The Gangster’s Son

“A highly readable murder novel with authentic Japanese flavor and a fresh, intelligent plot,”

“Unique”

“Gritty”

Enter the World of Shig Sato – to download your ebook version of  The Gangster’s Son click here. To get  Shig Sato Book 2 the Thief’s Mistake click here. And you’re invited to visit my website www.josephmarkbrewer.com  and sign up for my newsletter to get more Shig Sato news, prequels, and learn what goes into writing a series set in Japan. 

A crime, a culprit, a worried man

Alley(A sneak peek at  The Thief’s Mistake, a Shig Sato Mystery)

Chapter 3

Motionless, unsure of anything, remembering nothing, no matter how hard he focused, Nara slowly felt his hands and face for blood, but the damp, slightly stinging sensation must had come from lying down in the alley’s gritty pavement. He felt pebbles in his ribs and breathed dirt and dust into his nose as he regained a sense of time and place. Then came a vague awareness of the darkness, stillness, and the ambient light, then blinked.

The job.

The door.

The cabinet.

The rage.

He lifted his head once his eyes adjusted to the dark, and breathed deeply, exhaled, calmed himself, and read the darkness for the cover he needed for his return home. The few minutes he had spent on the ground seemed like hours. He looked up into the sky. Ambient light, strange shadows. He was sure it was still the middle of the night.

He breathed a little easier.

But his mind raced beyond itself. After prison, after the promise from Oshiro, after taking so much care – he had nothing.

He would not allow himself to think about that now.

“I have to get back to the flat,” he told himself. “Unseen. Undetected.”

He had to escape,

He had to think.

Nara breathed deeply and exhaled again, wrestled the rage inside him, cursed himself for being so weak, for giving into rage, and suppressed the rage renewing inside him, the fury that made him kill a man.

He had had to get back to the flat.

He had to think.

Nara knew he had been a fool to believe anything like a plan so simple as open a door, open a drawer. Greed, desperation, everything he hated in weak, selfish people – now he was as bad as the vermin he despised.

“Easy job. Easy money,” he whispered as he raised himself, and clung to the dirty wall beside him.

“Fool.”

Continue reading

The World of Shig Sato: Ses Fujimori and the yakuza

Yakuza.

In some countries it’s called tong, triad, mafia, la cosa nostra — in Japan it’s yakuza. Organized crime. As an institution, it is a part of the fabric of Japanese life. For an individual, yakuza means many things: outcast, criminal, brother, compatriot.

But what is yakuza? Our hero Shig Sato’s closest childhood friend is Ses Fujimori, boss of a powerful yakuza clan, a position not just inherited from his father, Key Fujimori, but earned by Ses’s ruthlessness and business acumen. The Japanese police, and media by request of the police, call yakuza “bōryokudan” – violence groups – degenerate, violent gangsters with no sense of tradition or honor. Yakuza consider this an insult. They refer to themselves as “ninkyō dantai” – chivalrous organizations. Members often have elaborate tattoos, sometimes covering most of their body.yak

These organizations – often called clans, or families – in the Tokyo of 1991 view themselves much as Ses Fujimori does in the fictitious Shig Sato mysteries: legitimate businesses and charitable organizations, motivated by nothing but concern for the public good. The yakuza response to the 2011 tsunami and the 1995 Kobe earthquake are well documented. But so are the criminal aspects: Extortion, loan-sharking, day-labor contracting, drug-trafficking and blackmail all fall under the various clans’ control. It is gambling that is at the root of yakuza – the name comes from the worst hand possible in a card game (a reflection of the low opinion society views the men and the organizations).

Some say yakuza dates back to the 17th century and ronin – masterless samurai. Authorities knew roving bands of the “kabuki-mono” – crazy ones – were troublesome and were intensely loyal to one another. Some say the men viewed themselves as honorable, Robin Hood-like characters who protected towns and citizens. These gangs of men, among them some gamblers and some peddlers, gradually organized into clans, or families, adopting roles of  leader/father and follower/child. Gambling, prostitution – legal and sometimes encouraged from time to time by the government of the day – were businesses the yakuza controlled. In the Shig Sato series, gambling is the activity that built the Fujimori empire, from its humble beginnings in Kawasaki in the late 1800s to its nearly untouchable status as a quasi-legitimate business empire 100 years later.

Shig Sato’s  sense of giri – obligation – is central to who he is. This includes honoring his relationship with yakuza kingpins Key and Ses Fujimori. And Sato must reckon with this situation as he begins his new life as a reluctant P.I.

 

The World of Shig Sato

Do you remember where you were in 1991? Some of you do, of course, and some of you don’t. And one of the great thrills of reading is being taken to a time and place you may never have been: Paris, 1870; Dublin, 1904; Rome, 30 A.D.; A galaxy far far away — stories take us to memorable places with people and creatures that entertain us for hours.

View_of_Tokyo_Roppongi_Hills_downtown_from_Mori_TowerIn the Shig Sato Mystery series, the reader enters the world of Tokyo, 1991. A world capital, a center for government, entertainment, industry, diplomacy, a cavalcade of characters from the world over stepped onto the shores of the Land of the Rising Sun. It was a time of Japan Inc., riding an economic boom, the nation making its mark as an industrial leader. A city and a nation with a new emperor, a new vision for the future.

japan_imperial_palace_217304The world of Shig Sato was unique: a long-serving, highly respected police inspector, Sato returned to Azabu Police Station after two years of diplomatic security detail and security assignments for the Imperial Household Agency. Sato’s world was heart of Tokyo – the Imperial Palace, Roppongi, the embassy districts, and Sato knows every inch of it.

Roppongi: served by Sato’s beloved Azabu Police Station, isn’t so different now than it was in 1991. And Sato knew that among many of the foreigners out for a good time in that nightclub district were American servicemen, including some stationed with the U.S. Navy and Marine forces in Yokosuka, 37 miles down the coast. In the Shig Sato mystery The Gangster’s Son, Kimi Yamada’s beloved Cpl. Charlie Parker Jones is a Marine stationed on a American ship at the Navy base.

Sato’s return to Azabu Police station, the murder of Kimi Yamada, and his journey to finding the truth about her killer and himself make The Gangster’s Son “A highly readable murder novel with authentic Japanese flavor and a fresh, intelligent plot,” “Unique,” “Gritty. ”

Next time: Tokyo Inc.

To get a copy of my ebook mystery The Gangster’s Son click here . To get the latest news on Shig Sato Book 2 visit my website  www.josephmarkbrewer.com — and sign up for my monthly newsletter.  See you soon!

 

Time to Return – an excerpt from The Thief’s Mistake

JBBookCoverRShig Sato was lost, and nearly ready to admit it. He had followed Ken Abe’s directions to his new office – three blocks south from the Akasaka-mitsuke subway station, right, and walk another block, where he would approach an intersection with a coffee shop at the bottom of a white office building five stories high. At another corner, a bank; another, an electronics equipment sales outlet with garish signs shouting bargains too good to be believed, and at the fourth, a real estate agent’s office with dozens of photos of properties of every type, size and price. He was in the right place. But what now?

The crossing light music brought Sato into the present. He became part of the hustling mob crossing the street, and before he knew it, he was standing in front of the coffee shop.

“Inspector?”

Sato turned toward the voice, feminine but low and tinged – too many cigarettes, too much sake. It was a middle-aged bar hostess’ voice, but the person attached to that rumble was plump, fair, pretty, and dressed in a subdued plum business jacket and skirt and matching pumps.

“I saw you from the coffee shop,” Mariko Suzuki said as she studied Sato with a look of apprehensive curiosity, then mild amusement, not trusting the beard or such casual clothing on so handsome a man. She saw the faded yellow sport shirt, rumpled khaki pants, and a round blue canvas hat – so unlike what she had remembered, a tall man with a commanding presence. Now what she noticed was a man with the saddest eyes.

“Good thing I was here this morning,” she chirped. “I seldom stop in. But I saw Abe just now and he’s in his office. I think you’ll like it.”

Sato could only nod.

“ He’s been there every day that I know of since starting the business, but you know he insisted your name should be on the door. I haven’t gotten a proper sign for outside yet but –”

Sato’s disadvantage produced a weak “Do I …?”

Then she realized Sato did not remember her. “I’m Mariko Suzuki. Abe’s friend.”

“Ah, Mrs. Suzuki,” and Sato then recalled meeting her several years before, the first time at a coffee shop in the Ginza. He was there with his wife, Miki, stealing precious moments all to themselves before a police function he had no way of avoiding. Back then, he was an Inspector in the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, and was summoned to the event by the department’s superintendent general. Saying “No, thank you,” was not an option.

But Ken Abe – at that time, he was a mere detective, and his lowly status enabled him to skip such boring soirees. When Abe spotted Sato that evening, he introduced Suzuki, and reminded him he had tickets to a prizefight, knowing it would make Sato envious.

Standing on that street corner in the nascent morning heat, Sato gave Suzuki a faint smile and said, “I remember the first time we met.”

“Oh, that awful boxing contest Abe wanted to go to,” Suzuki blurted out. “I don’t know about Abe sometimes. But I’m glad I saw you. I’m so sorry about your wife.”

Sato managed a nod while Suzuki forged ahead: “I bet you were looking for your office. Abe told me about the detective agency. I think it’s wonderful. You can count on me to send business your way. Well, you need to go to that door over there,” and Sato watched as she pointed to a glass door just behind him to his right. “Just inside is a small lobby. It has two other offices, and a stairwell. You’re one floor up. I’m sorry I don’t have a sign on the outside of the building yet.”

Just as Sato’s hearing caught up to the woman’s verbal torrent, the intersection’s crossing light music caught her attention. “I have to go but please make yourself at home and good luck! Abe’s already up there.”

Sato watched Suzuki dash across the street as the last strains of the music blared from speakers above the intersection.

For much longer than he was aware, Sato stared at the door Suzuki had pointed at, as if memorizing its appearance. But he knew he was allowing his memory to capture the moment when one life ended, and another began.

All he felt was dread.

“What a reluctant P.I. I am,” he muttered as he opened the heavy glass door. The white tile floor was buffed to a dull matte finish, and he noticed grime along the baseboard in the corners. But the stairwell seemed clean, and Sato caught himself inspecting the tile for cracks as he slowly walked up the stairs, step by step. He opened the stairwell door and off to his right, across the hall, he saw a door, its top half in-set with opaque glass, with words declaring “Sato Private Investigation Service.”

Sato sighed. What had started as a somewhat truthful answer to a seemingly benign question asked by the TMPD superintendent general was now a fact – he was Shig Sato, private investigator.

Sato shook his head.

“Reluctant indeed.”

~

Ken Abe had not been so sure his friend would show up that morning. The day before, he skipped his search for an air-conditioned drinking establishment once he finished for the day. Instead, he took his ten-year-old Toyota Carina out of the towering parking garage near his home in Mita and drove the forty minutes it took to get to Shig Sato’s family home in Takatsu to bring his best friend and business partner back to Tokyo.

Abe was not fond of driving, and did not know what he was going to say to Sato. He was not sure if he would want anyone bothering him if his wife had died so recently. But Abe had a problem: after Miki Sato’s funeral, Shig left for his family home in Takatsu, leaving Abe to established the agency and put in the hours needed to get it off the ground. Not that he minded. He was glad to leave the department after Sato’s retirement. They had been partners off and on for nearly 20 years. Abe did not relish the idea of having another partner, and was eager to face the challenge of a new venture.

He knew Sato was going to the Takatsu house to mourn, and believed that was only right. He knew Miki Sato had been like a sister to him, and could not imagine what Shig had gone through, watching Miki slowly waste away for two years.

But no tender feelings for Miki’s memory, and no long-established friendship with Shig, changed the fact Abe’s advertisement for Sato’s fledgling detective agency was bringing in more business than he could handle. With a month gone since Miki’s passing, Abe knew it was time for Shig to get busy with this crazy P.I. business he started.

~

As dusk began its short life in earnest, Sato, tanned and dirty and unshaven and wearing dingy shorts, wooden sandals and a frayed cotton shirt, was drinking his sake cold while sitting on the back steps of his family’s small house. What remained of his rice and edamame dinner sat next to him. He squinted at the sun dipping towards the mountains and breathed in the scent of jasmine and pine. Footsteps along the side of the house and the clink of bottles invaded his silent meditation. When he heard the deep rumble of a fake cough, he knew his visitor was Ken Abe. When the shuffling and clinking stopped, he glanced down and saw the familiar scuffed brown loafers.

He did not turn around.

He heard Abe’s unmistakable sniff, once and then once again, and Sato thought about his friends’ unusual sense of smell. A childhood injury left him with the olfactory senses of a bloodhound. He had stopped being amazed at this peculiar prowess long ago. He knew Abe was instantly taking inventory of whatever odor he could detect: the sweat on his back, the Tama River dirt on his sandals. The stale rice in the pot, the soybeans wilting.

“I guess you’re going to tell me do something about the rice, eventually,” Sato said.

“No.”

“You brought your own refreshments. Thoughtful.”

Abe was watching the late evening sun’s progress from a sliver to nearly nothing. “I wanted to make sure I could pour you into the Toyota if I had to.”

“Am I going somewhere?”

“Yes,” Abe said, flat and low.

“Where?”

“Work.”

“Why?”
“Because it was your idea to start this business. And I’m stupid to let you do whatever you’re doing here while I do all the dirty work.”

“What dirty work?”

“Taking calls from angry wives, suspicious husbands, marriage-minded grandmothers. It’s time for you to get going.”

“You’re kidding. You came out here because of that?”

“Would I be here if I was kidding?”

Sato glanced up at Abe, the beer, and he recognized a package. He knew it was pickled eel. There were never any gifts between him and Abe, never any small tokens of appreciation, kindnesses given and received. He knew Abe could have shown up empty-handed. But the eel was what he brought with him whenever he came by to visit him and Miki at their home in Tokyo, all those hundreds of times over the years.

“Want to come on in?” Sato asked, eyes still on the eel.

“Sure.” And without missing a beat: “I hate the beard.”

“I know.”

Sato rose and walked into the house. Dusk and an ancient electric fan, its burring distinct among the sounds of the summer evening, helped cool the room somewhat. Abe took his spot next to the table as Sato tasted the eel. It was pleasant on his tongue. He found beans and peas and the two friends sipped beer, munched food, and said all they needed in saying nothing.

But Abe knew his friend. Sato was mourning. And he may deep into his sorrowful contemplation, and may even be fishing every morning to sooth his sleepless nights, but he also knew Sato could count. Abe was not the least bit religious, but knew Sato was. And seven days after Miki’s death, after the Buddhist priest’s chants ended the shonanoka prayers, Sato slipped out of Tokyo, to Takatsu, to escape and to mourn the only way he knew how. Abe did not have to be present at the fourteenth day remembrance or any other occasion to offer prayers to the spirit of Miki Sato. But he knew the 49th day was approaching, the day a Buddhist believed the spirit of the deceased passed from its state of chuin to wherever it was going to go, and Abe knew his friend, who loved his wife more than he loved himself, would be thinking of nothing but that.

Abe did not envy his friend.

Having finished his eel and his beer, Abe had enough of Sato’s contemplative loitering. He freed a Mild Seven cigarette from its pack, raised it to his lips, found his lighter, lit his cigarette, inhaled, and exhaled.

“Ready to go?”

Sato stabbed at some beans, and looked at his glass of beer still half-full. “Now?”

Abe lifted his cigarette. “When I finish this.”

Sato nodded. He quietly rose and began wandering around the house, and Abe heard the random sounds of shutters sliding into place and boxes shuffled about. Sato reappeared and wordlessly gathered the dishes and placed them in the sink. Abe turned his attention to his cigarette, and after a few puffs, snuffed it out and got to his feet.

By this time Sato had disappeared again, but a minute later reappeared, wearing clean, comfortable, presentable clothes for his return to the city. “Let’s go.”

Abe pulled a piece of paper from his pocket. “Here are the directions to the office, in case you plan on coming in the morning.”

Sato ignored the sarcasm. “I’ll be there,” he said, pocketing the instructions.

“Really?”

“Yes.”

“You riding with me?” Abe thought Sato looked tired beyond measure.

“No, I’m driving in. I don’t want to leave the Pajero here.” Abe watched his friend close the back of the house, disappear, reappear with two bundles wrapped in a furoshiki cloth. Abe saw his friend seemed up to making the drive back to the city. “Follow me?”

Sato looked up at Abe. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“You have the directions to the office?”

“In my pocket.”

“Don’t get lost.”

As Abe started his Toyota, he glanced into his mirrors and in the dark of the August evening. He saw Sato sitting behind the wheel, the look of concentration Abe knew well. He watched Sato start the engine, check the gauges, adjust the mirrors, buckle himself to his seat, turn on the low beams. Then he saw Sato nod his goodbye and pull away toward the road, to his future.

~

Sato stood at the door to his office long enough for him to realize he had no idea how long he had been standing there. Then he heard “It’s open.”

He did so, and Sato took a sight he had seen a thousand times – Ken Abe smoking a cigarette and reading the morning’s sports pages, all tussled hair, rumpled jacket and scuffed loafers in pose of careless nonchalance.

“Perhaps things aren’t as new as I think they are,” he muttered, immensely please, and he walked to the center of the office and saw an empty chair behind a small gray desk. It held a telephone, calendar, pen, and notebook. On a side table along one wall he saw a bucket of ice, highball glasses, and a pitcher of iced coffee.

Abe peered above the top of the newspaper. “You’re here, I see.”

“Yes, I’m here.”

What Abe saw was Sato in a yellow sport shirt, worn khakis, and green socks above scuffed white sneakers, but it was the round blue cotton twill hat with the canvas rim, soft and faded by years in the sun, that made him stare. He recovered quickly enough to notice Sato fixing a look at everything in the office, one item at a time. He watched Sato wander around the small office, peer into corners where there was nothing to see, and open the blinds of the three large windows. The bottom pane opened outward from the bottom. The one by Abe’s desk offered an escape for Abe’s cigarette smoke. It also allowed the cacophony known as a busy Tokyo intersection to fill the room.

Abe lit another cigarette to keep his iced coffee company and kept his eyes on his friend. As Sato settled into his chair, Abe asked, “Have you seen the papers? Watched the news?”

“No, I wasn’t really paying attention to anything when I walked to the station,” he said, settling his body into the chair, testing it for strength and comfort. “I was people watching, quite frankly. Wondering if I would see anyone I knew. I didn’t.”

“You took the train?”

Sato tested his chair, turning right, then left. “Yes. Why?”

“No reason.”

Abe knew Sato’s power of concentration could block out the world around him. Ignoring the morning news was not surprising. But the thought of Shig Sato a morning commuter seemed amusing. He watched Sato for another moment before casually saying, “Well, I got a call this morning.”

“Oh?”

“Osaki Police Station. From Saburo Matsuda himself.”

“Matsuda? What does the station chief at Osaki Police Station want?”

“He wants you.”

This got Sato’s attention.

“At Osaki? Why –”

“Matsuda wanted to know if you were in town. I was happy to tell him that yes, you were.”

“Thanks a lot.”

Abe put down his paper and snuffed out his cigarette. “Remember how we picked up the Kobayashi twins at the end of the Down Low case?”

Sato nodded. It was only two months before, and it was his last case with the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. He was at Azabu Police Station for his last month on the force. He had looked forward to returning to regular investigative work. He had spent two years working security details for the Imperial Household Agency and for English-speaking foreign diplomats who visited the city, since he was fluent in that language.

At the time, all Sato wanted was to get a good case to work on for his last month with the department. But what he got was the Down Low murder – girl dead, GI boyfriend nowhere to be found, but for Sato, worst of all, was the fact Jun Fujimori had become a prime suspect in the case. Sato had to solve the murder without exposing his ties to Jun’s father, Ses Fujimori, leader of one of Tokyo’s powerful crime syndicates. Ses Fujimori was Sato’s childhood friend, and their two families were linked in ways that would have been hard to explain to a police commission.

Abe saw a faint look of dread cross Sato’s face. He said, “Those two were arrested early this morning in Gotanda, trying to steal something that wasn’t there, so they say. What was there was a man with his throat slit. The Kobayashis were picked up for murder. And the people at Osaki don’t believe the twins’ story. But what’s really strange, those two idiots demanded to talk to you.”

Sato let slip a shocked “Why?”

“I don’t know. But Matsuda said something about anti-organized crime deciding ‘OK, call Sato.’”

“That’s absurd!”

“Well, forensics don’t have anything yet, obviously. Way too soon. But a dead man rankles a lot of people. Matsuda said he can’t help it if the press get their hands on the story, but they want to shut the case before it’s open.”

“The twins go to do a job and a guy winds up dead? And then they want to talk to me?”

Abe shrugged. “That’s what they say.”

“The only throats the twins ever cut are their own while shaving,” Sato said. “Whose bright idea was it to charge those two?”

“I don’t know. But Matsuda said the anti-organized crime supervisor wants you to come in.”

“Who is that?”

“Kamioka.”

Sato sighed. Koichi Kamioka was young, ambitious, not particularly bright, and part of a gang of yakuza cops loyal to Tatsuo Tanaka, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department’s top anti-organized crime supervisor. Tanaka was handsome, vain, and hated Sato. They were partners once on a counterfeiting case. When Sato found out it was all Fat Katsuhara’s idea, he busted the fat man – with Ses Fujimori’s permission. This put Sato into Fujimori’s debt, a secret he kept his entire career. The case made Sato’s reputation, but Tanaka had always been suspicious, and Tanaka never forgave, or forgot.

Tanaka.

His eyes close, Sato said, “The reason they want to talk to me is because of Fujimori,” and he shook his head, believing and disbelieving it all.

Abe lit a cigarette, and tried to think of what it would be like to have a childhood friend like Ses Fujimori, one of the most powerful crime bosses in Tokyo. The Fujimori clan – ruthless, efficient, powerful, and at least for Key and Ses, impossible to arrest. Abe was certain this new mess with the anti-organized crime boys and the Fujimoris was probably starting up again, all because the Kobayashi twins got caught burglarizing a copier repair shop.

“I can see Kamioka thinking the twins are part of some gang,” Sato said. “But Matsuda. He has more sense than that. He should be able to see that no one would take the twins seriously.”

“I don’t know,” Abe said. “It’s not like he’s never dealt with a case like this.”

“You really think they want to talk to me because the twins asked for me by name, and they know about me and Ses?”

“Well, a lot of people are going to think that,” Abe said.

“I know. But it’s just idiotic that those guys take one look at the twins and make them for killers.”

“Stranger things have happened,” Abe said. “The twins show up and say there’s nothing to be stolen. So why is there a dead guy? And where is the loot?”

Sato leaned back in his chair, his arms folded across his chest, and tapped his chin with his finger. “Was there another guy there for the loot and did he get surprised? Did he kill the guy on purpose? I can think of a lot of questions Matsuda might have. But it makes no sense.”

Abe stretched. “So what are you going to do? We’ve got a lot of things to decide.”

“Like what?”

“We’ve been getting calls from the ad I put out.”

“What ad?” Sato asked, as if the idea had been invented just then.

“The one advertising our business, Shig.” Abe walked to the side table and poured more iced coffee. “You think we can just sit here and wait for business to come to us? We need to make money. Pay rent.”

“Oh …”

“And we’re getting inquiries.”

“Like what?”

“Marriage proposal investigations, suspicious wives wanting dirt on wayward husbands, things like that. There’s a shop owner wanting to investigate a vendor because he thinks he’s being cheated. And I have to say ‘I’ll call you as soon as my partner returns from a big case.’ That seems to placate them, but that won’t last forever.”

Sato grunted. Lying. Cheating. Suspicions. It filled him with dread.

Abe knew Sato’s dejected look. “This was your idea.”

“I know. It’s just that –”

“This is it, Shig.”

“I know. I just need to let my mind catch up with all this.”

“It will. So what are you going to do about the Kobayashis?”

“Go over,” Sato sighed. “See what’s going on.”

Abe was not surprised – he knew his friend could not say no to a fellow police officer. But he could not help saying, “Shig, you’re not a cop any more. You don’t have to jump every time a station chief tells you.”

“I’ll head over. But how did they know to call here?”

“I saw Hiro the other day,” Abe said. “You remember him? The sergeant at Azabu? He was transferred to Osaki. When your name came up, he knew where to find you.”

“I see. What you are doing today?”

“Gotta go to Ikebukuro to see this woman. Wants to investigate her husband. It’s probably nothing. After that, a woman with a daughter who has a prospective groom. The mother wants the boy checked out.”

“Okay,” Sato said.

“I’ll probably be back here in the afternoon,” Abe said as he pocketed his cigarettes and lighter and checked his jacket pocket for his car keys. “Don’t forget, your pager is in your top desk drawer. So are the business cards.”

“Okay.”

Sato watched Abe depart. Returning to his desk, he spread his fingers out like a fan and lightly glided his hands across the top of his desk. He opened the lap drawer and pocketed the pager and the cards. He shut the windows and then turned off the lights, and when he reached the door, he cast a rueful glance back at the darkened office and shut the door behind him.