Tokyo

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.”

(more…)

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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.

(more…)

Shig Sato Prequel – Coming April 21

Was it suicide – or murder?

A sick and desperate housewife. Her career bureaucrat husband has a big promotion in his grasp. All she wants is her migraines to stop.

ssnovella1One night, they stop for good.

And the Tokyo police turn Inspector Shig Sato to get to the truth.

But who’s truth? The Bank of Japan wanting to keep a scandal quiet, or following the clues wherever they may lead?

Toky Summer, a Shig Sato novella, is available for pre-order now before its April 21 launch.

Here’s Chapter One

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“It feels like knives behind my eyes.”

Setsuko Usami said it so often her husband seemed deaf to it. She knew that their years together taught her that Taro would not understand it, not even try. Taro Usami’s indifference had become almost as painful as the migraines themselves.

(more…)

Many Thanks!

The Gangster’s Son was published over three years ago as book one in the Shig Sato Mystery series. Set in Tokyo in the 1990s, it features a police inspector, Shig Sato, who is at a crossroads: mandatory retirement and a wife who is terminally ill. Upon his return to Azabu Police Station in the Roppongi Hills district, his old ‘home turf’ – he gets a case that could prove to be his last. The murder of a jazz club waitress forces him to confront a secret he’s held tightly onto for years: he is indebted to a yakuza boss, a man who was once his best childhood friend.

The Gangster’s Son has been downloaded over 4,000 times and has sold in dozen countries. It’s success encouraged me to continue writing the Shig Sato saga – book 2 and book 3 is available at most ebook vendors. But it’s The Gangster’s Son that’s closest to my heart.

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I just want to say thanks for all the support, and that another Shig Sato Mystery will be coming your way later this year.  I’ll keep you posted on all the Shig news coming soon.

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: The Streets and Locales of Shig Sato’s Japan

In the world of our hero, Shig Sato is a denizen of the streets and neighborhoods of Tokyo. From his home in Hyakunincho to Azabu Police Station to the American navy base in Yokosuka, Shig lives by his dictum “follow the clues.”

Some say New York is comprised of neighborhoods. This describes Tokyo. A prefecture in its own right, the city has been the center of culture and politics for four hundred years. Once known as Edo, the city had over a million people by the middle of the 18th century. The Meiji restoration brought the imperial family from Kyoto to Tokyo in 1868, Tokyo became the capital, and Western ideas and customs slowly came to the island nation.

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The greater Tokyo region is made up of Tokyo and the prefectures of Chiba, Saitama and Kanagawa. The Kanto region include the prefectures shaded in light green. Sato’s family is from a neighborhood in Kawasaki, Kanagawa. It and other parts of the broad flat area around Tokyo Bay is known as the Kanto Plain. A devestating earthquake struck the area in 1923. In Shig’s lifetime, he witnessed the bombing of Kawasaki during World War II, and the rebuilding that came afterward.

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Shinjuku, famous for its skyscrapers as well as its entertainment district,  is one of the 23 wards of Tokyo. Many visitors to Tokyo know some of the wards by name without realizing it. For example, Shinagawa, Shibuya and Shinjuku are major train stations on the Yamanote commuter loop line encircling inner Tokyo as well as wards, or districts, in the city. And talk about densely populated – Shinjuku has 11,000 residents per square kilometer!

Shig and Miki’s home is in the Hyakunincho neighborhood, north of Okubo-dori, in Shinjuku. Sato’s beloved Azabu Police Station is on Roppongi-dori in the heart of the fashionable Roppongi district of Minato ward, the government, business, entertainment and fashion hub of the city south of the Imperial Palace.

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In the book one of the Shig Sato mysteries, The Gangster’s Son, yakuza boss Ses Fujimori likes to escape his worries by visiting the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. The city has many parks and gardens, some a part of shrines, some previously estates of the wealthy and powerful.

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On the map of Tokyo it is due west of the Imperial Palace and south of Shinjuku Station. Shig and Miki’s home is less than a mile north of the park. The map also makes note of Akasaka, where Sato and Ken Abe set up their private investigator office after they leave the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department.

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But as reader’s of The Gangster’s Son know, Sato will leave the city to track down suspects. For example, Sato and Detective Hisoka Endo travel to the American navy base in Yokosuka, in Kanagawa Prefecture. The military presence there and in Yokohama, about halfway in between Tokyo and Yokosuka, date back to the American occupation that began after the war and lasted until the early 1950s.

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Sato’s respite from the city is his return to his family’s home in Takatsu, a ward in the city of Kawasaki along the Tama River. In the Takatsu of 1991, his neighborhood remains populated by families who fondly remember his mother, grandmother, and the family bakery that remained in operation through the 1960s. Several of the homes in that neighborhood, including Sato’s, remain. For Sato it is home, as much as his modest house in Hyakunincho. It is there he spends the summer of 1991, at a loss with what to do with himself as the events of his life unfold in ways he dreaded but must face. It’s there that, in the beginning of book two, The Thief’s Mistake, Ken Abe fetches Sato from his private sorrows.

Join Sato and Abe as  they follow the clues to places unlike another other – the streets, mansions, slums, suburbs, estates, highways and neighborhoods of Tokyo.

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Some locales in The Gangster’s Son and the distances

Hyakunincho to Azabu police station on Roppongi-dori – 7.6k, about 4.7 miles, a 25-minute drive, about 30 minutes by public transportation

Azabu Police Station to Yokosuka American navy base – 68k, about 42 miles, about 1 hour 45 minute drive

Hyakunincho to Takatsu, Sato’s family home, – 20k, about 12.5 miles, about 40-45 minute drive

(maps courtesy Tokyo Municipal Government, Lonely Planet, BBC, photodiary.org, Google)

Sato goes looking for a Marine

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(Sato learns the victim’s ex-boyfriend is a U.S. Marine who is nowhere to be found. Sato knows it can take days to find someone in a city the size of Tokyo. He has a decision to make: go through official channels, or call a Navy investigator he has met in the past. – An excerpt from The Gangster’s Son).

Sato pulled a small leather business card holder from his coat pocket, opened it, and sighed.
His fingers knew almost by intuition which card to pull – Agent Michael Anderson, Navy
Investigative Service, Naval Forces Japan, Yokosuka Navy Base.
Mike Anderson had written his home phone number on the back of the card Sato now held.
At the time, Anderson said, “In case you ever need to call me. Any time, day or night.”
He had said those words four years earlier, when he met Sato on a case involving an
American sailor trying to buy marijuana on Roppongi’s main thoroughfare from another
foreigner the police happened to be tailing. Anderson seemed embarrassed for his countryman, and seemed to apologize for taking Sato away from more important duties.
“Call me if you need anything,” Anderson had repeated, “any time, day or night. This is my home number.”
Sato never did, not even the second time, when an American sailor was the cause of a
serious disturbance at a Roppongi nightclub that did not appreciate the presence of any
Westerners. That time, Anderson said he appreciated how Sato handled the case, keeping the sailor out of a Japanese jail cell, and repeated the offer: if there was ever anything he could do, just call.
Sato never understood the easy American attitude, “just call.” He preferred to keep police matters official. It was always much easier that way, in the long run. But that early Saturday morning, with a young woman dead and her GI boyfriend missing, Sato knew he had to do what Anderson said.
Just call.
He stared at the number.
Official channels would undoubtedly take too long.
Sato sighed, and dialed the number.
The sharp double ring of his bedside telephone blasted Mike Anderson into the here and
now. Before his mind caught up with his reflexes, he was sitting up, placing the phone to his ear, and saying “Hello?” It was not that he was still asleep; it was that he had never once in his time in Japan had his home telephone ring at 2 a.m.
But years of waking up alert and ready did not prepare him for what he was about to hear.
“Agent Anderson, this is Inspector Sato of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police. I am sorry to
bother you at this hour. I am investigating a murder. And I am looking for a Marine.”
Sato? Murder? Marine?
Anderson could not have been more surprised if Jesus Christ himself was on the phone.
“What can I do for you, Inspector?” Mike Anderson’s image of Sato quickly came to mind: competent, commanding bearing, but at that moment, unable to recall the last time he had spoken him. Anderson, a former Marine, was solid and squat as a fire hydrant, with a blond brush cut, deep-set blue eyes, and a low rumble for a voice.
“I know this should go through official channels,” Sato said, “but I need to talk to a Marine, a Lance Corporal Charlie Jones. I interviewed two other Marines who came up here. I let them return to their rooms at the Sanno. I don’t think I’m going to need to talk to them again, but this Jones was the victim’s boyfriend. Or former boyfriend. I need to find him.”
“A murder?” Anderson’s mind was slowly catching up to reality. While he listened to Sato, he turned on the light by his bed, found pants thrown over a chair, and tugged them on.
“Yes.”
“Do you know what unit he’s attached to?”
“The other Marines said the flagship.”
“Ah. Blue Ridge. And you said those Marines are on liberty? They aren’t AWOL or
something?”
Unsure of what Anderson meant, Sato said, “They are at the Sanno right now.”
“Okay.” Bending over a dresser drawer, fishing out socks and tugging them on, Anderson
said, “If they’re at the Sanno then they’re probably on liberty. I’m going to call the Officer of the Day and the Shore Patrol, get them looking for Jones, whoever he is. You think this Marine did it?”
Sato hesitated. “We have some clues to follow up on. But Jones left the scene. I’m not sure how it all fits together. I need to talk to him.”
“Damn little to go on there,” Anderson thought to himself as he tied his shoes. What would he tell the Marines? The base people? The admiral?
“Can you give me any idea what I’m dealing with here?” he asked.
“We’ve just begun the case,” Sato said. “We’re talking to everyone. Putting things together. It’s all preliminary. But I need to talk to that Marine.”
“Understood.”
Feeling more confident now that he was dressed, Anderson said, “I’ll call you the minute we find Jones. Charlie Jones, right? Flagship, right?”
Sato only knew what he had been told by Johnson and Ballard, so he said, “The other GIs
are called Johnson and Ballard. Both … black Americans.”
“Got it. Give me your number.”
Sato recited the station’s main number with scant hope of hearing from Anderson anytime soon, but now he was hours ahead of anything headquarters could do. With so many GIs in Tokyo, Sato calculated finding one would take at least one day, maybe two.
“Thanks for calling, Shig,” Anderson said.
“Thank you. Good-bye.”
Anderson stared at the phone, then sat back on the bed, replaying the conversation in his head.
“A Japanese cop calls in the middle of the night, needs to talk to a Marine. Pronto.”
Anderson thought this over. He knew Sato. He knew this was no quid pro quo, no “you help me, I help you.” Anderson had been an agent for fifteen years. His dad was a cop. Anderson knew all about trading favors. Japanese cops did not trade favors.
Anderson believed that what had just happened was something called on — at least, that was what he had read in some books before he came over. He had to be told it was pronounced own, like owning something, and sometimes it was called gimu, or giri. But he knew it meant obligation. Or duty. All the Japanese had it, and the sense of doing right by it, of being in someone’s debt for a kindness or a service. He knew it pervaded the whole country.
Anderson recalled that from the time a Japanese person is old enough to make sense of the world, this obligation ruled his life. It affected everything. He knew no Japanese person willingly brought on any more obligation than they had to, because they knew at some point, it had to be repaid. No favor was too big. No request was too small. It had to be repaid.
And Sato calling him in the middle of the night? Looking for a Marine? That had to be some big giri.
For the hundredth time since arriving in Japan, Anderson realized he would never make
sense of the Japanese.

To download a copy of my ebook mystery The Gangster’s Son click here,  and for a bonus novella, just click here.