Principal The Sleeping Dragon

The Sleeping Dragon

, ,
WithThe Sleeping Dragon, Miyuki Miyabe, Japan's #1 best-selling mystery author, returns to the spare, hard-boiled style of her debut book in English, the cult classicAll She Was Worth. Add in a touch of the paranormal, and this noir tale of suspense is on track to garner reviews as glowing as those she's received in the past -- Land to win her a legion of new readers.

A fierce typhoon strikes Tokyo one night, flooding the city streets. Someone has unlawfully removed a manhole cover, and a little boy out searching for a lost pet goes missing, possibly drowned in the sewers. Is it murder or accidental? These events bring together a struggling journalist named Kosaka, who is grappling with the ghosts of his past, and two young men who may or may not have psychic powers. The three form an unwilling team not only to search for the lost boy, but also to solve a second mystery involving Kosaka's former fianc�e.

Kosaka's career and personal life have stagnated since his breakup with Saeko a few years earlier, and locked him in an emotional impasse. Each of his two reluctant comrades--Shinji and Naoya--is struggling to come to terms with his unique powers ("the dragon within"). While Shinji wants to use his abilities to help others, Naoya seeks to hide his. Kosaka, meanwhile, doubts the young men's ability, all-too-clearly aware that such claims of psychic knowledge of the crimes could in reality mask a criminal culpability. But then all three are forced into an unsteady alliance to try to save the life of someone close to Kosaka.
Año: 2010
Edición: Hardcover
Editorial: Kodansha USA(first published February 1991)
Idioma: english
Páginas: 301 / 312
ISBN 10: 4770031041
ISBN 13: 9784770031044
File: PDF, 12.90 MB
Descarga (pdf, 12.90 MB)
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JAPAN S #1 BESTSELLING MYSTERY WRITER

THE

SLEEPING DRAGON
Author of The Devil's Whisper and Crossfire
"Miyabe's forte is suspense."— New York Times Book Review

IN CANADA

TH!:

SLEEPING DRAGON
A fierce typhoon strikes Tokyo one night, flood¬
ing the city streets. Someone removes a manhole
cover, and a little boy out searching for his pet
goes missing and is believed drowned in the
sewers. Is it murder?
These events throw together a struggling jour¬
nalist named Kosaka with two young men who
may or may not have psychic powers. Forming
an unlikely alliance, the three dig into the boy’s
disappearance. However, as a series of inexpli¬
cable events unfold, Kosaka wonders if his new
young acquaintances haven’t snared him in
some kind of strange con game.
Then the journalist’s former fiancee disap¬
pears. Known to still be harboring strong feel¬
ings for his now-married old girlfriend, Kosaka
becomes the main suspect in the case.
With his reputation and personal life threat¬
ening to crumble altogether, Kosaka is forced to
wrestle not only with life-threatening events but
also his rising doubts about the two young men
who have so suddenly appeared in his life.
Author Miyabe is a household name in Japan,
and the author of over 40 titles to date in Japanese.
This is her fifth mystery to appear in English
translation. It combines the spare, hard-boiled
tone of her popular first novel in English, All She
Was Worth, with the paranormal themes of her
more recent Crossfire, weaving together a com¬
plex web of crime and an exploration of human
potential for greater power than we now know,
a.k.a. The Sleeping Dragon.

*

• r-i

'

"

SLEEPING DRAGON

Digitized by the Internet Archive
in 2019 with funding from
Kahle/Austin Foundation

https://archive.org/details/sleepingdragonOOOOmiya

THE

TRANSLATED BY

Deborah Stuhr Iwabuchi

KODANSHA INTERNATIONAL
Tokyo • New York • London

First published in Japanese in 1991 by Shuppan Geijutsusha as Ryu wa nemuru.
Distributed in the United States by Kodansha America, LLC, and in the United
Kingdom and continental Europe by Kodansha Europe Ltd. • Published by
Kodansha International Ltd., 17-140towa 1-chome, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 112-8652.
Copyright © 1991 by Miyuki Miyabe. English translation copyright © 2009 by
Deborah Stuhr Iwabuchi. All rights reserved. Printed in Japan.
ISBN 978-4-7700-3104-4
First edition, 2009
18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 09

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Miyabe, Miyuki
[Ryu wa nemuru. English]
The sleeping dragon / Miyuki Miyabe; translated by Deborah Stuhr
Iwabuchi. — lsted.
p. cm.
“First published in Japanese in 1991 by Shuppan Geijutsusha as Ryu wa
nemuru”—T.p. verso.
ISBN978-4-7700-3104-4
1. Journalists—Fiction. 2. Psychics-Fiction. 3. Missing persons—Fiction. 4.
Tokyo (Japan)—Fiction. I. Iwabuchi, Deborah Stuhr. II. Title.
PL856.I856R9813 2010
895.6’35—dc22
www.kodansha-intl.com

2009043241

CONTENTS

Prologue

11

PART 1

A Chance Encounter

PART 2

Ripples

PART 3

The Past

PART 4

An Omen

PART 5

A Turn for the Worse

PART 6

The Incident

Epilogue

297

13

69

115

163

251

193

The talent is well hidden indeed; how else could it
have remained submerged for centuries with only the
tip of the iceberg showing above a sea of quackery?
—Stephen King, Carrie

CAST OF CHARACTERS

Shogo Kosaka

Investigative reporter at Arrow magazine

Shinji Inamura

High school student and psychic

Naoya Oda

Young psychic

Daisuke Mochizuki

Boy with the umbrella

Goro Ikoma

Kosaka’s colleague at Arrow

Satoshi Miyanaga

Budding artist and friend of Shunpei Kakita

Shunpei Kakita

Budding artist

Asako Moriguchi

Friend of Naoya: worked together at gas station

Saeko Kawasaki

Kosaka’s former fiancee; wife to Akio Kawasaki

Akio Kawasaki

Saeko’s husband

Reiko Miyake

Akio Kawasaki’s secretary

Kaoru Murata

Retired policeman with experience working with psychics

Nanae Mimura

Mute friend of Naoya

Norio Inamura

Shinji’s father and coffee shop owner

Captain Ito

Police officer and Sergeant Nakagiris superior

Sergeant Nakagiri

Police officer

x

PROLOGUE

This is the record of a battle.
Right off the bat, though, I need to make it clear that I was never on the front
line. The heroes were two young men just past adolescence.
One I knew well, and the other I came to know well enough to be sure that
he wouldn’t mind me telling you what happened. If I had met him sooner, I
might have been able to do something to actually stop the chain of events that
occurred. But hindsight is always twenty-twenty.
One reason I’ve decided to speak out now is because leaving a written record
of the difficulties the young men faced and everything they did for me is the
only way I can think of to express my thanks.
This story is for them, first and foremost. It’s also for that rare reader who
may recognize, sleeping within, the same power they had.

ll

*

\

V

PARTI

A Chance Encounter

We first met on September 23, at about ten-thirty at night. He was crouched
next to his bicycle somewhere near Sakura Industrial Park in Chiba. The rea¬
son I remember it with all the detail of a criminal’s alibi was because a huge
typhoon was making its way to the Kanto area. I had my car radio on and was
listening to the storm updates every few minutes.
For once the typhoon arrived exactly as predicted. The weatherman said
that westerly winds would pick up at about seven, and they had, followed by
driving rain. I couldn’t see more than a yard in front of me, even with my head¬
lights on. The rain poured down and the road was full of puddles that sprayed
higher than park fountains each time I went through one. Every few minutes
one would splash over the windshield, blinding me.
I had started to think about parking somewhere and taking shelter until
the worst had passed. That was when I found him.
If I hadn’t been going so slowly, our meeting could have been a tragedy.
You don’t expect someone to be out on a bicycle in the middle of a typhoon.
When the human outline first appeared in my headlights, I thought maybe it
was one of those cutouts of cops they place along the road to scare people
into driving carefully.
But I knew it was a real person when he turned in my direction and began
to wave. He was wearing a thin plastic raincoat. The hood had blown off his
head, leaving his hair dripping wet and his features pinched against the rain
and wind. The only things I could glimpse that first moment was that he
wasn’t old and he seemed to be male.
He was on the left-hand side of the road, and when I stopped he quickly

15

came around to the driver’s side. I opened the window, only to have the rain
and wind come blasting in until 1 had to screw up my face like his.
What are you doing out here?” I didn’t mean to sound disapproving, but
I did have to shout to be heard.
“Flat tire!” he hollered back, pointing in the general direction of his bicycle.
“I can’t move it. Can you give me a lift to a repair shop?”
“All right, get in!” I yelled, and he hunched over and made his way back
over to his bike, doing his best to pull it up and drag it through the puddles
over to the car.
“Let me put my bike in the trunk!”
“Leave it here!”
“But I’ll lose it.”
“You can come back for it later!”
“But it might get blown away!”
I raised my voice as loudly as I could. “Leave it on the ground, on its side.
Hurry up or 111 leave you here too!” The water was beginning to rise, and if I
didn’t move it, my old car could easily get stuck. It had a bad habit of stalling
out at the least convenient moments. We had no love lost for each other, the
car and I, but we were staying together for convenience’s sake till something
better came along.
“Hurry!” I urged him. He finally found a spot for the bike, laid it down,
and ran back to the car. He struggled to get the passenger door open, with
the wind blowing against it. Once inside, he gave a loud sigh, and I hit the
accelerator. The tires spun a few times, and then it was my turn to exhale in
relief when the car finally began to inch forward through the water.
What a storm! ’ my hitchhiker said, dripping copiously onto the seat. He
wiped his face with one hand and turned to look at me. “Hey, thanks for giv¬
ing me a ride.”
It was only then that I realized I’d picked up a teenager.
“What are you doing out on a bicycle on a night like this? You must live
around here, right?” I asked.
“Yeah, Tokyo.”
This kid’s nonchalance was starting to irritate me. “You rode your bike
here from Tokyo?”
“Uh-huh.”

16

MIYUKI MIYABE

“Did you skip school?”
“We had the day off... tomorrow too. It’s a holiday.”
He was right. My work didn’t afford me the luxury of following the usual
calendar. I had forgotten about the holiday.
“Chiba’s not that tar,” the boy explained. “I’ve been farther lots of times. I
just sleep outside or find somewhere cheap to spend the night. If I hadn’t
gotten a flat tire, I would have found someplace to stay.”
He was calm enough, almost as if the storm wasn’t bothering him.
“You must have known the typhoon was coming,” I insisted.
“Speak for yourself, uncle,” he said.
Most Japanese over the age of twenty-five are liable to be called “uncle” or
“auntie” by kids. It’s a fact of life, but you’re allowed to look unhappy about it
until you’re about thirty-five.
“I’m sorry,” the boy said laughing. “I didn’t mean to be rude. What should
I call you?” He took another swipe at his dripping face and said, “Wait a sec¬
ond, it’d be better manners to introduce myself first. My name is . ..” He
turned around to look out the back window, almost as if he had left his name
back there with his bike.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “You’re not under arrest or anything. You don’t need
to identify yourself.”
“I’m Shinji Inamura.”
“You in high school?”
“That’s right. I just started. Which way are we going?”
“Unless I’m lost, we’re going toward the Higashi Kanto Expressway.” As
long as I followed the Sakura Highway, the on-ramp shouldn’t be far off. The
windshield wipers whipped back and forth, but they weren’t doing any good.
I kept going on blind faith, figuring that as long as I couldn’t see a pair of
lights ahead of me there were no other cars.
“So you’re going to Tokyo?” he asked.
“That’s right.”
“You must be in a hurry, to be out on a night like this.”
“Yeah, you could say that.” To tell the truth, though, I didn’t have an
excuse. I could have stayed at my parents’ house until the typhoon passed,
particularly since I couldn’t really count on my car. I had just wanted to leave.
I had said that I had work to do and driven off.

PARTI

A CHANCE ENCOUNTER

17

Shinji Inamura looked uneasy. After a few minutes I realized it wasn’t just
because of the way the car was shaking. I felt sorry for him out in that weather,
and now having to depend on a complete stranger. I knew I should ease his fear.
I smiled as I continued to focus on the road. “There are no corpses in the
trunk; no stash of heroin either. I promise you I’m not dangerous. Check the
glove compartment. My driver’s license and my business card are in there.”
Shinji managed to find my card in the near-dark. “Shogo Kosaka,” he read
out. “Wow, you’re a magazine reporter.” I could sense the relief in his voice.
“Are you going back to Tokyo for work? Or have you been out here reporting
on something?”
“I came here on personal business, and there was really no need for me to
go back tonight. I just thought I’d see if I could make it.” It was the truth.
Shinji was still peering at my name card. “Arrow. I know that magazine.”
“You mean you see it on newsstands or in bookshops?” Arrow was a weekly
magazine that sold a decent number of copies. Including freelance reporters,
it had a staff of about forty. Arrow claimed to be an independent operation,
but the truth was that a major newspaper corporation owned it. In fact, it was
staffed by former newspaper reporters, most of whom had offended some¬
one important or proved themselves failures and been removed from an elite
career track in daily news to the backwaters of the weekly magazine.
I was no exception. Transferred from the newspaper to the magazine three
years earlier, I was painfully aware that my “assignment” to Arrow was essen¬
tially a demotion.
“No, I’ve read it. Really. Not often, but they’ve got it at the shop.”
“The shop?”
“My parents run a coffee shop. My dad buys Arrow every week.”
“Your father has my deepest appreciation.”
We were on the move. I made a few turns, and stopped once to check the
map. We needed to go further south.
“It’s not like were out in the middle of the rice fields,” Shinji commented,
“but it does get dark around here at night.”
“Probably has something to do with this storm.”
“Where are you from, Mr. Kosaka?”
“Funato City.”
“Isn’t that near Kasumigaura?”

18

MIYUKI MIYABE

“You sure know your geography.”
I’ve been there. If I were you, I would have taken the Narita Highway back
to Tokyo.”
“I would have too, but it’s closed because of an accident. Some truck spilled
its cargo all over the road, and several of the cars behind him apparently
weren’t able to stop.”
Shingo gave a high-pitched yelp and then began laughing. “Now it makes
sense. That’s why you were lost on the road where you picked me up.”
I had to laugh, too. “You got it!”
At just that instant, the car hit something, and we were jolted out of our
seats.
“Are you all right?” I asked.
“Did you run over something?” Shinji responded.
“I don’t think so. It was probably a tree branch.” I tried to sound positive,
but I was disturbed. I braked slowly and the car almost floated to a halt.
To be perfectly honest, I would have kept on going if I had been alone. But
with Shinji sitting next to me, I felt obligated to act like an adult. I flung open
the door and, as sheets of rain poured onto my face, tried to see behind me
without getting out of the car. Everything was pitch black except for the
blurry lights of some houses or streetlights off in the distance.
“Can you see anything?” asked Shinji.
“Nothing.” I didn’t have any other choice. I swung one leg out and was sur¬
prised to find I’d stepped into a rapid current of rainwater flowing down the
middle of the road.
I looked around. There was a narrow road off at an angle, and I could see
the unrelenting rain pounding the surface in the headlights. There wasn’t as
much water there.
“There’s something odd,” I said and leaned back into the car. “Open the
door on your side and look at the road. Don’t get out, just look at it.”
He did as I asked, and looked back at me, blinking the water out of his eyes.
“You’re right! There’s a river out here. Look!” Shinji pointed at something I
couldn’t see. “There’s a roaring sound coming from over there.”
I leaned out again, and then heard a new sound.
“There’s a flashlight over on your side. Hand it to me, will you?” I took off
my coat and shoes.

PART 1

A CHANCE ENCOUNTER

19

With the flashlight in one hand and latching onto the car door with the
other, I gingerly stepped out onto the road. The water was colder and deeper
than I had imagined. I rolled up my pant legs.
“Be careful,” Shinji said. He moved over to the driver’s seat and grabbed
onto my belt until he was sure I had secure footing.
“You can let go now,” I said. 1 moved forward, keeping one hand on the car.
I had never realized how dangerous it was to walk along the road in a flood.
Then I saw it, in the light of my flashlight. Something large, made of metal.
“You see anything?” Shinji called.
I was still trying to figure out what it was. I moved the flashlight around.
As I headed toward the rear of the car, the roaring sound grew louder. Still
holding onto the trunk, I yelled back, “I’ve got it!”
“What is it?”
“A manhole. The lid is off!” I felt queasy as I looked at the half-moonshaped hole that the lid only partially covered. The sound we were hearing
was rain gushing into the sewer. I had run over the cover, and that’s what
made the car jump.
It was too dangerous to get any closer, so, now sopping wet, I took a
moment to look up at the sky. The clouds were speeding overhead—the
typhoon wouldn’t pass for hours yet.
On the other hand, the manhole couldn’t be left uncovered. I used my
flashlight to look around and instinctively closed my eyes at a strong blast of
wind, but just before I did, I saw something white flit across the edge of my
peripheral vision.
I whipped around to see what it was, and I saw it fly by again. It was an
umbrella. Not white, but a yellow nylon umbrella—the kind they give out to
first graders. It was blowing along the roadside among the weeds.
My heart began to pound. A child’s umbrella and an open manhole. This
didn’t look good.
I walked around my car, searching the area with my flashlight and calling
out, “Is anybody there?” There was no response; just the taunting movement
of the umbrella caught in a bush.
“Mr. Kosaka!” Shinji had opened the door and leaned out to call me.
“Someone is coming from over that way.”
It was an adult, bent over against the rain. He was wearing a raincoat.

20

MIYUKI MIYABE

Unlike Shinji, his hood was tied around his head and he was wearing boots.
He carried a large flashlight.
It only took a minute or two tor him to come within hearing range, but it
seemed longer. His head still bent over, he called out.
“Have you seen a child around here? A boy about this tall.” The man held
his hand up to waist level. “He’s wearing a yellow raincoat and carrying a yel¬
low umbrella. Have you seen him?”
For a moment, I was unable to speak. The sound of the rain and the
groaning winds disappeared, and all I could hear was the pounding of my
heart. Shinji gave me a doubtful look, and the man looked back and forth at
us. I was dripping wet, but I felt my lips and throat go dry.
“Your son?” I finally forced myself to ask.
The man nodded, “Yes, and ...” He stopped mid-sentence, and I automat¬
ically turned around to follow his gaze. Hed seen the umbrella, now blowing
across the road. His mouth opened, and the hand holding his flashlight fell
limply to his side. He turned to run toward it, but I managed to stop him just
in time. “Wait! It’s dangerous!”
“What do you mean?”
“There’s a manhole, and the cover is off.”
It took a few seconds for the man to figure out what I meant, but when he
understood, he shook off my arm and ran toward the umbrella. I grabbed the
back of his raincoat, and pulled him back, yelling, “Is that your son’s umbrella?”
He couldn’t respond. He stood there and called out, “Daisuke? Daisuke?”
I shook his arm and repeated my question.
“Is that your son’s umbrella?” He turned and looked over at me and nod¬
ded several times.
“I think so.”
I left him there and went over to the umbrella, managing to grab it and
bring it over to him. Like the umbrellas of all schoolchildren, the name of the
owner had been inked onto the handle: Daisuke Mochizuki.
The two of us hurried over to the manhole. I held onto his raincoat as he
gripped the edge of the manhole cover and, with the stream of water washing
over him, shone his flashlight into the gaping hole. Then we carefully got
back on our feet and began calling the boys name. There were no replies, no
tiny shadows, no small figures in yellow raincoats.

PARTI

A CHANCE ENCOUNTER

21

“Do you live far from here?” I yelled.
“Over . .. that way.” The man pointed shakily in the direction he had
come. I saw a clump of lights in the distance.
I pulled the man back over to the car, where I shoved the yellow umbrella
and my flashlight into Shinji’s hands.
“Stay here,” I instructed. “If anybody comes by, shine the light to warn
them to stay away from the manhole. Do you understand?”
Shinji suddenly looked lost. He held the tiny umbrella in his hand and
appeared to be gazing far beyond me.
I spoke a little louder. “Look, I’m counting on you. Can you hear me?”
Shinji came to attention and looked into my face. He held the umbrella tight.
“Don’t you go near it either!” I ordered.
I left Shinji by the side of the road, shoved the man into my car, and
stepped on the gas. The man slumped in the seat.
“Pull yourself together,” I urged. “We don’t know what’s happened yet.
Let’s find a telephone and call your house. Any kid could lose his umbrella in
a storm and make his way home. It happens all the time. Are you listening to
me?
It was the first time in my life I had lied so loudly, but the man didn’t
answer.

22

MIYUKI MIYABE

2
The boy hadn’t returned home. Within half an hour, the manhole was sur¬
rounded by cars, lights, and people. There were three patrol cars and one
emergency truck from the water company, all with their red and yellow lights
flashing. The effect was almost festive—completely unsuited to the occasion.
The police had also set up a floodlight that produced a harsh white glare,
and they aimed it down into the manhole. The man from the water company
had a lifeline tied around his waist and was peering into the hole that dropped
straight down to the sewers below.
Shinji and I were sitting in my car answering a patrolman’s questions as
best we could. Shinji handed the yellow umbrella over to the patrolman and
looked down glumly while I explained how I had found it.
The wind was as strong as ever, and the raindrops looked like millions of
sewing needles in the white light. Every new gust of wind would drive a huge
sheet of needles sideways into the faces of the men at work.
“How does it look?” I asked. One raincoat-clad policeman shook his head.
He was probably old enough to be the missing boy’s grandfather.
“There’s not much that we can do at this point. We’ll send someone down
to search the main sewer, but I doubt we’ll find him. Our best bet is probably
to wait at the net of the sluice gate at the water processing plant.” He main¬
tained a perfunctory tone, although I wondered if he really felt as matter-offact as he sounded.
The boy who we now assumed had been swept into the manhole was
Daisuke Mochizuki, age seven. His parents were Yusuke and Akiko, and the
three of them lived in a housing development just a few blocks from the site.

23

“What was the boy doing out in weather like this?” I asked.
“His lather isn’t saying much, so we don’t really know yet. He mentioned
that the boy was looking for a pet.”
Shinji lifted his head and said in a small voice. “Her name is Monica.”
“Monica?”
“A cat. He loved it. Monica went out in the storm and didn’t come back.
He went out looking for it.” When he saw the policeman and me exchange
glances, he quickly added, “I heard the other officers talking about it over
there.”
“I see,” the policeman said. He shook his head, and water dripped from
his silver hair. “Kids are so unpredictable; you never know what they’re going
to do.”
“Will you be able to catch whoever did it?” Shinji asked, lifting his head to
look into the policeman’s eyes.
“Did it?”
“You know, whoever took the lid off that manhole. There’s no way any¬
body from the water company would do something like that.”
“We’ll check into it,” the policeman said. “We need to find out why it was
open.”
“If somebody did it on purpose,” I added, “I’m sure the police will catch
him.”
Shinji looked down again. Over his head, the policeman and I looked at
each other, and I wondered if we were suspects. Chances were smalhthat
anyone would have seen anything, or that any clues had been left behind. If
someone had been stabbed or a woman molested, you could start by looking
for felons who had committed similar crimes in the past, or by studying the
history of similar cases in the area to determine any trends, but there couldn’t
be many criminals who specialized in “lifting manhole covers.”
I suddenly remembered when I was working for Nikkan News in a Tokyo
branch office. A flowerpot that had been dropped from a balcony had killed
someone in a nearby housing development.
There hadn’t been any intent to kill. Some guy living on the fifth floor of
an apartment building had gone out on the balcony and, while looking at the
plant his wife had bought that day, all of a sudden began to think about how
much fun it would be to push it over the edge. Nothing more. The only prob-

24

MIYUKI MIYABE

lem was that he hadn’t stopped to think about whether anyone might be
passing by on the street below.
I interviewed the guy later. He was normal, a hard-working husband and
father.
Thinking of that incident, I mumbled, “I sure hope whoever did it didn’t
have any malicious intent.”
“Huh?” Shinji lifted his head.
“Nothing.”
The policeman quietly scratched his nose, coughed, tried to move his
knees in the cramped space, then closed his notebook.
“You’re free to leave, both of you. Why don’t you give this young man’s
parents a call? They must be worried about him.”
Of course. I should have thought of that.
“This storm isn’t going to let up anytime soon. The two of you need to
check into a hotel somewhere close by and dry off.”
I myself planned to stay right here and see how this investigation played
out.
“Is there anyplace around here where we could stay?”
The policeman pointed a stubby finger toward the lights I’d seen when I
first ran into Yusuke Mochizuki.
“There’s an all-night restaurant and a business hotel that way. It’s kind of a
dump, but there’s sure to be a room available.”
We thanked the policeman as he got out of the car, and then backed away
and headed in the direction indicated. We found the hotel right away. It was
called “Pit”—no, make that “Pit Inn,” although the neon lights reading “Inn”
had given out. It wasn’t much, but as long as it had a roof and a phone, it
would do for our needs.
A sleepy-looking young man ran the front desk. With one eye on the TV
to his right, he told us we could have any room we liked. We chose a room
with two twin beds, and I paid. As Shinji and I stood there filling out our
paperwork, I saw that Shinji’s hands were shaking, so I stopped and asked if
he was all right.
He just nodded, and seemed to be preoccupied with something else
entirely.
“Is something the matter?” The clerk turned away from the TV for a few

PARTI

A CHANCE ENCOUNTER

25

moments to ask. He seemed to wonder what our relationship was. “I heard
police sirens going by a while ago ..
“They think a kid may have fallen into a manhole near here.”
The young man stood up straight. “Really? Someone from around here?”
“Probably.”
“That’s awful.” He frowned. “Is it someone you know?”
“No, that’s not it,” I said and pulled a damp name card from my pocket.
“You’re a reporter?” the clerk said, oddly impressed.
“That’s right. And this boy is a hitchhiker I picked up. We’re going to stay
here, but I’ve got to get back to the scene. Do you have any clothes I could
change into—any kind of rain gear?”
“Sure, I’ll find something. You’re both sopping wet. Bring your clothes down
to the desk and I’ll get them washed and dried in the coin laundry behind us.”
I looked at my gray jacket, now black with water. “Even my suit?”
Sure.
“I don’t know...”
The young man reached out, took my jacket, and looked at the label. “No
problem. This is sturdy enough to mop up the floor with, if you needed to.”
Even Shinji cracked a smile. Relieved, I smiled too as the clerk went to work.

Before changing my clothes, I called Shinji’s parents from the telephone in
our room. He spoke to them and explained what happened. Then I got on
the phone and told them who I was and promised to bring Shinji home- the
next day. I spoke to his father, who sounded polite and grateful, but not as
worried as I had expected.
“Your dad doesn’t rattle easily, does he?”
Shinji smiled weakly. “He likes cycling, too, so he’s had lots of unusual
experiences.”
With his shirt off and a towel draped over his head, Shinji looked smaller
than before. “I never get treated this well, though,” he added. “Thanks for
everything.”
If nothing else, the kid had good manners. I waved my hand vaguely and
said, “You’re welcome. Now take a bath and get into bed. I’ll probably be out
for the rest of the night, so don’t wait up.”
The man at the front desk lent me a pair of clean slacks and a sweatshirt,

26

MIYUKI MIYABE

along with the oilcloth jacket he’d worn to work that day. He also came out of
the back room with a pair of rubber boots that he said the cleaning staff
sometimes used. Thus prepared, I headed back to the scene.
I considered contacting Arrow and asking them to send out a photogra¬
pher, but a glance at the TV news showed that the typhoon was causing
widespread damage. Chances were that no one was available. I finally decided
to go alone and just see how it all played out. Weekly tabloids were not as des¬
perate for pictures or up-to-the-minute reports as newspapers. I’d get details
off the wires later when I was putting the article together.
Back at the site, there was still a large number of workmen standing around
trying to figure out what to do. There was always at least one person talking
on a two-way radio. Then I saw a patrol car parked off by itself, away from
the floodlight. I went over to it and saw a couple huddled in the back. I tapped
on the window.
It was the missing boy’s parents. Akiko clung to her husband, burying her
face in his chest. Yusuke turned in my direction and lowered the window.
His eyes were vacant.
“They haven’t found him yet,” he said.
I nodded, and his wife lifted her head to look at me.
“It’s possible he might not have fallen in there, right?” she asked, gripping
her husband’s arm so tightly that her fingertips were white. She was wearing
a sweat suit that looked like pajamas and had thrown a raincoat over it. Her
face was covered with tears and her eyes were bloodshot. “Nobody actually
saw it happen,” she ventured almost hopefully. “He might not have fallen in
at all. Am I wrong?”
I looked into her face and then at her husband, who had averted his gaze.
“Of course, ma’am. There’s always that possibility.”
“Of course,” she said and then went almost limp. “I... I only took my eyes
off him for a minute, and he was gone.”
“It’s not your fault,” her husband mumbled, rubbing her back.
I spoke again, as softly as I could. “I understand he was looking for his cat.”
Yusuke nodded vaguely. “Daisuke loves that creature. I told him animals
know how to take care of themselves in bad weather, but he’s a kid, and he
was worried, so he went outside to look for it.
“Children can become really attached to pets.” I remembered what Shinji

PART 1

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27

had said. “Was Daisuke the one who named it Monica?”
Yusuke tensed up. “Monica?” he asked.
“Isn’t that the name of his cat?”
“No,” he said, shaking his head. “The cat’s name is Shiro, you know, ‘white,’
it’s a white cat.”
Now Akiko spoke. “Daisuke wanted to call it Monica, but we told him no.
We told him it should have a name that would be easier to say.” Then she put
her hands over her face, and the tears welled up again. “We should never
have gotten a cat.”
I started to say how sorry I was, but I stopped. It would have sounded as if
I thought the boy was dead. As long as they still had some hope, they would
surely not want to be consoled.
“I’m sure they’ll find him,” I said instead. “It’ll be okay.” I turned away
from the car, feeling as if I’d been telling one lie after another all evening,
when what should pull up in a blast of headlights and muddy water but a
broadcasting truck from the local TV station.
They would be of no help in finding the boy, and nobody was happy to see
them. Yet the crew piled out of the truck looking as if they considered them¬
selves indispensable.
I sought the policeman I’d talked to earlier. He was standing by the ropedoff roadway. There were none of the usual curious spectators, but there were
a few other local reporters milling around, sopping wet.
The policeman was soaked too, and he looked even older than before. I
said hello, and he seemed surprised to see me.
“What are you doing back here—oh, that’s right, you’re a newspaper
reporter, too.”
“Magazine.”
“Same difference. Where’s that boy who was with you?”
“He should be asleep at the hotel.”
Thats good. I was afraid he’d gone into shock,” the policeman said. “It’s
hard for me, too. I’ve got a five-year-old grandson.” Then he sighed and added,
“Don’t know why something like this has to happen.”
Policemen never talk to the press unless they’re trying to put up a smoke¬
screen, they’ve reached a dead end in an investigation, or they’re too tired to
care.

28

MIYUKI MIYABE

“He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” I offered. In my mind
I could see a boy, both hands gripping the yellow umbrella as he walked in
the rain, calling his cat. He may have been on the verge of tears—afraid and
frightened by the storm.
He would have been completely unaware of the hole in the road. Probably
fell into the darkness without ever realizing what had happened.
“They ought to teach kids in school to be careful about this sort of thing,”
I muttered. “Never have faith in a green traffic light. Never have faith in the
fact that you’re in a crosswalk. Never have faith in the idea that a manhole is
going to be covered. You just never know.”
“I’ll tell that to my grandson,” the policeman said.
Work was at a standstill. The floodlight was on, but the wind and rain
continued unabated. We were all hoping for a miracle, but there were no
signs of one yet.

PART 1

A CHANCE ENCOUNTER

29

The rain finally let up at about seven the next morning. The typhoon swept
past the Kanto Plain, at the edge of its storm zone. There was no lull during the
night to indicate that the eye of the typhoon was passing over. There may have
been a few moments when the wind from the west felt like it was slowing, but
it was replaced by an easterly wind before the storm gradually began to let up.
Without the rain, the search for the boy became easier, but there were no
breaks. The level of the water rushing through the sewers had risen. Some¬
one from the water company said that the road had either been designed or
constructed poorly—the sides of the road were higher than the middle, and
if a manhole cover were removed, rainwater would funnel right in.
At 7:30, a few patrolmen remained on the scene while the rest went back
to the precinct to rethink their strategy. They wanted to widen the search.
Hearing that, I went back to the hotel, wet enough to start my own flood.
The soles of my boots squished noisily with every step I took.
The same man was still at the front desk, but he was now engrossed in a
conversation with a middle-aged woman. When I walked in, though, he
stood quickly.
“Did you find the boy?” he asked.
I shook my head. The man’s shoulders drooped, and the woman walked
back into the employee office, muttering angrily under her breath.
She cleans for us, the man said by way of explanation as he helped me
out ot my wet clothes, and she used to live in the same housing development
as the missing boy and his family. She said that some of the neighbors had
joined in the search, but all they found was the family cat.”

30

I looked at him. “A cat?”
“That’s right. The cleaning woman said it was named Shiro.”
“Was it still alive?”
“Sure, animals can take care of themselves.”
I was sure that hearing the cat was okay would be little comfort to Daisuke’s
mother and father.
“They’re not allowed to have pets in that building, but apparently nobody
pays any attention to that. The kid is pretty attached to the cat, I guess.” So
saying, he handed me the clothes he’d dried for me. As I was riding up in the
elevator I noticed how tired I was. Shinji was awake too—actually, he hadn’t
slept a wink all night.
“I guess you didn’t find him.”
“No,” I said, heading for the bathroom to take a shower. I had been so cold
that when the hot water hit my skin I broke out in goosebumps and started
to tremble. I was thinking about how cold little Daisuke must be wherever he
was and almost didn’t hear Shinji calling me from outside the bathroom door.
“What?”
“The guy at the front desk says that checkout is at ten, but we can stay into
the afternoon as long as the owner doesn’t find out. Shouldn’t you try to get
some sleep, Mr. Kosaka?”
“I’ll be fine once I’ve had a shower. I’ve got to get you home, and I need to
get back to Tokyo, too.” I’d found a reporter who worked for the newspaper
that owned Arrow and had asked him to let me know if there were any break¬
throughs in the investigation. “And don’t start telling me you’ll ride your
bike. I promised your dad I’d take you home.” Then I remembered and
added, “And we’ve got to go back for your bike.”
“I’m on my way out to get it now,” Shinji said.
“Do you know where it is?”
“Yeah, I had the guy downstairs draw me a map last night.”
“You’re not going to walk, are you?”
“It’s not that far. I can walk there and wheel it back. It shouldn’t take more
than twenty minutes.” It was no big deal, so I let him go. Little did I know
where the exchange would lead.

I got out of the shower and changed. By the time Shinji got back, I was feeling

PART 1

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31

almost like myself again. It had taken him forty minutes, twice as long as he’d
promised. And he looked very pale.
“Couldn’t you find your bike?” I asked and received no response. I stood
there for a few moments watching him, trying to decide if I should try to
shake him and bring him around.
Suddenly, though, his eyes focused on me. “No, I found it,” he said softly.
“Are you all right?” He had me worried.
“Is what all right?” he asked.
“You. Are you all right?”
“Me? What’s wrong with me?” He was acting stranger all the time, but his
eyes were clear and he was standing up straight.
“You feeling okay?”
He shook his head as if to clear it, then nodded. “Yeah. The guy at the
front desk says we can get breakfast downstairs.”
“All right,” I said as I stood up. “Let’s go, then.”
But Shinji didn’t follow. He stood there lost in thought.
I waited for a few seconds, and, still facing in the opposite direction, he
suddenly called my name. “Mr. Kosaka!”
“Yes?”
His mouth closed again. I had one hand on the doorknob and one on my
hip, and I had begun to wonder if he was about to explode.
“Mr. Kosaka!”
“I’m listening.”
Shinji finally turned around to look at me but was finding it difficult to
speak.
“What is it?”
He swallowed hard, as if forcing down the words back down his throat,
and finally said, “Your tie’s crooked.”
“What?”
“Your tie. It’s not straight.”
He was right. The receptionist had apparently ironed it with a crease in it,
and it was lopsided. “Is that what you wanted to say?”
“Yes.”
I knew he was lying. Any fool could see it. There was something else on
his mind.

32

MIYUKI MIYABE

“Anything else? It my pants are on backwards, I hope you’ll mention it
before I go out into the hall.”
“That’s all,” he said and turned toward the door. His expression had soft¬
ened, but I felt that I’d tailed to grasp something important.
The restaurant the hotel used was next door. We went outside and crossed
an alley. If anything, the restaurant was in worse shape than the hotel. There
were four booths, a few counter seats, and a fourteen-inch TV. Two of the
booths faced the tiny TV, which was tuned to the news. One booth was occu¬
pied by a man and a woman sitting side by side, and the other by two men,
one on each side of the table.
Shinji and I took a seat in a booth next to the window and were greeted by
a waitress, surprisingly young and pretty, who notified us that there was only
one menu item, and that was what we would be getting for breakfast. I could
see that the other guests were all poking at identical-looking plates of food.
“You can get coffee refills, though,” she said by way of consolation, before
adding, “Your necktie is crooked.”
I decided that was enough, and I took off my tie and put it in my pocket.
Shinji, sitting across from me, didn’t laugh or even change his expression.
The waitress left and quickly returned with two cups of coffee. I was grate¬
ful for the hot liquid. Then she leaned over and said in a low voice, “You’re
from Arrow, aren’t you?”
I was surprised. “How did you know?”
“I heard from Hiba. Those two men at that other table are reporters, too.
They must be your rivals. Should I try to get information out of them for
you?
I peered over at the other two men. “What do you think they know that I
don’t?”
“You know, the manhole business. A scoop!”
For a few moments I took her seriously. “Have they found the boy?”
“Nope,” she replied blithely and then leaned in further. “But don’t report¬
ers want to know what other reporters are up to?”
Maybe newspaper reporters—which I wasn’t anymore.
“Sure.” It seemed a shame to waste her enthusiasm.
“Leave it to me!” Just then, someone called out to her from the kitchen,
and our adventurous waitress hurried off. Shinji watched her go.

PART 1

A CHANCE ENCOUNTER

33

“She watches too much TV,” I said. Shinji’s eyes lost their focus again.
“She wants to impress you so that you’ll get her some work as a pinup girl.”
“I doubt that!”
“It’s true. I know it.” He was serious as he spoke and then began rubbing
his temple with his fingers. “I think I’m slipping.”
This last sounded as though he was talking to himself, so I didn’t answer.
Then suddenly, almost as if he had just got the green light to go on, he began
to speak rapidly, almost as if he was reading from a manuscript.
“Hiba is the nickname of the guy at the front desk. They call him that
because he looks like Hibagon, a mythical beast. That waitress goes out with
him from time to time, and they use Room 102 of the hotel when they’re low
on entertainment funds.”
I had to laugh. “So you and that Hiba had a long chat last night, did you?”
Shinji shook his head. “All he did was show me the map. But I know all of
this.”
Now it was my turn to look disoriented. Shinji’s eyes opened wide, and he
stopped me from speaking just as I was about to open my mouth. “Let me
tell you what I have to say. I need your help because I don’t know what to do.”
His rubbed his hands and then his knees. I put my own hands on top of
the table and looked over at him.
“Okay, I understand. I’m not sure what you mean, but it’s all right. Try to
relax.”
Shinji nodded and then continued on in short spurts. “I—I feel like some¬
thing inside me just—opened.”
I was confused. The night before he had seemed like a mature young man,
and now he was showing signs of emotional trouble.
The waitress brought over our plates. She looked as pleased with herself
as if she were about to share some secrets with her best friend. She set down
the plates, leaned closer to me, and said, almost in a whisper, “They’re from
Tokyo Nippo.”
I could almost catch the scent of the gum she was chewing. I decided to
play along. “What do they say they’ve found out?”
“The boy who fell in the manhole was looking for his pet cat.”
“Really? Anything else?”
“The boy’s father works at city hall.”

34

MIYUKI MIYABE

“You don’t say?”
“His poor mother is so upset, they’ve taken her to a hospital.”
There was nothing there I didn’t know, but I tried to sound impressed.
“You did a good job!”
“Can you use it?”
“Of course, but you know you’d be better off helping them out. Nippo is
much bigger than Arrow.”
She looked down and blushed.
“I always go for the good-looking guys.”
“I’m honored,” I said with a laugh, “but just so you know, we don’t hire
amateur models.”
The waitress slowly straightened up. “Hmph!”
“Sorry.”
“How did you know? Busybody!” She turned right around and left the
table. I noticed her finger hooked on her apron pocket.
I called after her. “As long as I’m being rude, I’ve got another question for
you. Do you know if they know the name of the cat the boy was looking for?”
She turned around and gave me an irritated look. “How would I know?”
“Would you ask them for me?”
She said bluntly, “Is there a tip in it for me?” There was obviously no lon¬
ger any benefit in being a good-looking guy.
I nodded. Her shoulders settled and she moseyed off at a much lighter
pace, water pitcher in hand, toward the table of the Nippo reporters. I could
see them exchange a few words as she filled their glasses, and she succeeded
in making them laugh. Then she walked back over to the counter and set
down the pitcher. But instead of coming back over to our table, she merely
turned to us and mouthed the word, “Shi-ro.” I lifted my hand in response.
“The cat’s name is Shiro.”
Shinji wrapped his arms around himself and looked at me.
“You said it was called Monica, didn’t you?”
“That’s what he called it.”
The night before Shinji had told me he heard one of the policemen men¬
tion that name. I leaned forward. “Listen ...”
Shinji tried to stand up, but he did it clumsily.
“I don’t feel very well,” he said. His complexion had gone ashen. He held

PART 1

A CHANCE ENCOUNTER

35

his stomach with one hand and tried to maneuver around the chair with the
other. The waitress hurried over to him and put a hand on his back. I stood
up, too.
“You’re not feeling well?” She looked at his face and then stared over at me
as if it were entirely my fault.
“Which way is the restroom?” asked Shinji, now obviously in pain and
sweating profusely.
“Over there,” the waitress pointed over to the left of the counter. I offered
him a hand, but Shinji pulled back.
“Don’t touch me! I’ll be all right in a few minutes. Could you wait here for
me?
His voice had such a strong air of determination that both the waitress
and I pulled our hands back and let him go.
“Nobody’s ever told me not to touch them before,” she said.
“Really?”
“I’ve told a few lechers to keep their hands off me.”
“That’s a little different. Dirty old men on the street?”
“No, nightclubs.”
“So you didn’t like working there?”
“That’s why I switched to waitressing.” This was obviously not a topic she
wanted to discuss, and she walked off. I went back to my seat and sat down.
The Nippo reporters had taken an interest in the three of us, but now that the
fun was over, they went back to their food.
My eggs and toast were getting cold, and the salad was limp. I was feeling
too upset to eat anyway. What I really wanted was a cigarette, but I made do
with the coffee.
Shinji did not reappear.
The man and woman in the other booth got up and left. Another news
program was just getting started on the tiny TV. I suddenly realized the grave
error I had made, and I put down my cup and stood up so fast it startled the
waitress.
“Is there something wrong?” she asked, apparently fearing that I had sud¬
denly gone nuts on her. She took a few steps toward me, but I couldn’t say a
word.
Him? Did he do it?

36

MIYUKI MIYABE

I looked over at the door ot the restroom, still closed. The waitress came
over to me, her arms folded across her chest.
“It’s nothing,” I said. “Thanks.”
She shook her head and walked back into the kitchen, obviously deter¬
mined not to have anything more to do with us. I figured it was just as well.
Shinji must have been the one to open the manhole. I didn’t know why—
maybe it was just to be mischievous—or how, but he had opened it and then
gone on his way. By and by, the little boy had come down the road carrying
the yellow umbrella and calling, “Monica!” Shinji probably realized from his
tone of voice that the boy was looking for a pet and didn’t think anything of
it at the time.
Shinji had been lost when I found him. After he got in my car, the two of
us had accidentally ended back by the open manhole. After I was forced to
stop the car and we had seen the umbrella, Shinji must have realized what
had happened. I remembered how stricken he’d looked when I gave him the
umbrella to hold. He was almost in tears when he asked the policeman if
they would find the person who had done it.
Nor had he slept all night. He’d been white as a sheet when he came back
after insisting on going back to get his bike, and he hadn’t been right since
then. He must have gone back to the scene; he had been unable to stay away.
And now he was ill from the guilt.
At that moment, the restroom door opened, and Shinji came out. His
complexion was still poor, but his step was steady. I watched him walk back
over to the table and sit down. His eyes were clear.
For an instant I felt as though he had been probing inside my head. I felt
like an examinee who’d peeked at the answers of the guy in the next seat only
to find the proctor staring down at me. I wanted to say, I know what you’re
thinking, I know what you’re doing. Stop it!
But what I said was, “You did it, didn’t you?”
Shinji was silent, but I could see the tension leave his face.
Bingo!
“I just realized that that was what must have happened. I guess I’m just
slow. So I’m right?” I did my best to sound much nicer and more under¬
standing than I was, but Shinji shook his head.
“No.”

PART 1

A CHANCE ENCOUNTER

37

“What do you mean, no?”
Not only that, but now he was laughing at my surprise. His shoulders
dropped and he breathed a sigh of relief.
“No, I didn’t do it!”
“What’s so funny?”
Shinji continued to smile, and finally spoke. “Let’s go somewhere quiet.
I’ll tell you the whole story.”
I looked around at the empty restaurant.
“This is pretty quiet.”
“I’m ‘open’ right now, and all sorts of other stuff is flying in. It’s too tiring.
Let’s go somewhere where there isn’t anyone else around.”
Still confused, I agreed to leave. I completely forgot about the tip for the
waitress, and she watched us leave with a scowl on her face.

38

MIYUKI MIYABE

4
After we left the restaurant, we walked for a while until we came to a large
piece of land apparently designated for development. There were no people
in the vicinity, just an earth remover with a half-raised shovel. The air was
filled with the smell of rain and mud.
Shinji walked ahead of me, picked out a spot on a plastic sheet covering a
pile of construction materials, and sat down.
“This’ll do,” he said. “Give me a hand.”
“Of course,” I said. “I’ll do whatever I’m capable of.” I put both of my hands
in my pockets and stood looking down at him.
He smiled. “That’s not exactly what I mean. I want your help, that’s for
sure, but I literally need you to ‘give me a hand.’ Maybe ‘put out your hand’ is
a better way of saying it.”
I didn’t understand what he was trying to say, and after a moment’s pause,
Shinji went on.
“Let me put it this way: Let me hold your hand.”
Now I was really confused. Shinji was smiling, but it didn’t sound like he
was trying to joke with me.
“Hold my hand?”
“Yes.”
I took my hand out of my pocket, took a quick look at it, then stretched it
out toward the boy. “If you’re ever interested in a girl,” I added, “you’d better
come up with a better line than that.”
Shinji slowly gripped my hand, just as if he were shaking it in greeting.
His own hand was small, like a girl’s, warm and smooth.

39

He shifted his gaze from me to the large piece of land and looked out over
it. His shoulders went up and down as he breathed, and then it was as if—he
was no longer there.
He was still sitting right there in front of me, but it was if his presence, his
temperature, his breath had all vanished.
At the same time, I began to feel smaller. I could no longer distinctly feel
the hardness of the ground beneath my feet or the post-typhoon breeze on
my cheeks. It all seemed to be far away and receding further. It was as if the
only thing left was the nerve endings beneath my skin, and the rest of me
was getting sucked inside.
“When I was younger,” Shinji began in a singsong voice. “A child ... ten
years old ... maybe eleven ... with a white schoolbag over one shoulder ...
he was probably in an accident about then ..
My eyes flew open, and I could feel the dirt under my feet. Shinji’s voice,
the sound of traffic—everything returned to normal.
Shinji, though, was still sitting there, half sunk in some dream world, still
gripping my hand. His bangs had blown across his forehead, making him
look even younger.
“A truck, dark green. Two-ton, full of lumber. Logs ... logs cut into quar¬
ters, the bark is still on them. Resin dripping from the cut parts. There’s a
narrow road ... a road with three forks. With a friend, red T-shirt. Never
thought we’d get hit. Standing off the road ... just standing and watching.
But...”

^

I could feel goosebumps on my neck. Shinji had the expression of a junkie
who had just entered that stage of soft, silver hallucinations. I tried to pull
my hand from his, but he simply gripped it harder. His voice rose in pitch
and sounded as if he was cautioning someone.
“What did I tell you? Stay away from big trucks! You can get hit. The back
tire cut the corner a lot closer than the front one. How many times have I
told you?”
I was startled to realize that he sounded like a memory I had of my
mother, something I hadn’t recalled in years.
“You’re lucky you weren’t hurt worse.” Shinji had gone back to his regular
voice. “You’ll be out of the hospital in no time. They told us children’s bones
are soft. Soft, almost like cheese. Then he clucked. Someone I knew talked

40

MIYUKI MIYABE

just like that. It was as it Shinji was mimicking an acquaintance we had in
common and trying to make me laugh. He didn’t even have to work at it.
“But I still don’t like trucks. I avoid roads where I see them lined up. The
one that hit me, that broke my left shin, was green. I still want to run away
when I see a green truck ... 1 remember telling somebody that. Who was
that... Saeko ..

Shinji dropped my hand. It was almost as if he flung it

away. He almost tumbled from his perch.
Both of us were out of breath even though neither of us had moved an
inch.
“What the heck was that? Some kind of magic trick?” I demanded.
Shinji stood up next to the pile of construction materials, swallowed, and
coughed a few times in evident distress.
“It surprised me, too,” he said, gripping his right hand, the one that had
held mine. “My hand feels like it’s been burned.”
“Burned?”
“Some kind of overload, maybe. I went too far.”
I took a step forward. If it had been anyone but this earnest boy, I’d have
grabbed him by the collar. “What were you talking about?”
Shinji, much calmer now, looked up at me without a hint of mischievous¬
ness. “Wasn’t it all true?”
His question left no room for a vague response. It was all true. “I was hit
by a truck as a child, struck by the back tires as they swung around a corner. I
was on my way home, at a road with three forks in it. I didn’t remember
myself, but afterward someone told me it had been loaded with lumber.”
“You must have seen the lumber when it happened. It was in there.”
“In where?”
“In your memory.”
I was speechless. “Mine?”
“Yeah, I read it. Like reading something off a computer disc.”
“Impossible!”
“I can do that.” Shinji stood up, and I unconsciously took a step back. He
put both hands behind his back.
“I won’t do it again. Don’t worry.”
“Do what?”
“I call it ‘scanning.’ Like a CT scan.” He let out a sigh. “I almost never do it

PART 1

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41

because its too tiring, and it’s rude. But I had to do it to make you believe me.”
“Believe you about what?”
Shinji took a few unsteady steps back. “Mr. Kosaka, you’ve heard the word
‘psychic,’ haven’t you?”
I just stood there dumbly as he continued.
“Well, I am one.”

The thing that was most startling was hearing the name Saeko. It was a name
I had tried hard to forget, and now I was hearing it from the mouth of a boy
who couldn’t possibly have known her or who she was. The shock of hearing
him say that he was psychic paled in comparison to hearing her name in a
context where it had no business being.
“You want to sit down?” Shinji asked.
“No,” I said, shaking my head. “I’m fine.”
“Well then, I’ll sit down,” he said and eased himself down on the plastic
sheet covering the building materials.
He sat there looking up at me. Neither of us was sure what to say next. I
was an adult trying to figure out how to act like one, and Shinji sat there and
watched me do it.
After a while, he began to look distressed. “I’m sorry,” he said putting his
hands over his eyes. “I must have hit a nerve—it must have hurt you.”
“What?”
“The name Saeko. Isn’t that what got you so upset?”
I sighed. “You probably don’t have to be a psychic to understand that. All
you have to do is look at my face.” I tried to smile. I needed to look calm. He
was just a boy.
“It’s the name of a girl I knew a long time ago,” I explained. “It was a shock
to hear it after so many years.”
“A girl you knew?” Shinji repeated my words as if knowing there was
more to it, but he considerately decided to stop there.
If I didn’t tip my hand, I wasn’t going to be able to prove he was a fraud.
That was what I thought at the time. I decided I’d have to let my guard down
and be honest with him. The result, however, was the opposite of what I had
intended.
“Saeko was the name of a girl I was engaged to. But we eventually broke

42

MIYUKI MIYABE

up. She married someone else and probably has children by now. I don’t even
know where she is.”
“I see,” Shinji said, his head in his hands. “I’m sorry. I won’t ask about her
again, I promise.”
I was taken aback by how seriously he was taking this whole business.
Had I really been so deeply affected by the loss of my old lover? Hadn’t I been
able to forget her? What inside me had evoked such great regret in this boy
who had so innocently come out with her name?
I telt bad, but my words must have sounded harsh. “How did you know
her name? If she’s some relation to you, you’d better come out with it now.”
Shinji looked up at me with bloodshot eyes. “How could you think that?”
“It’s not so hard to imagine. If you knew her it wouldn’t be impossible for
you to come up with something that had happened to me as a child. I talked
to her about lots of things.”
A single bad memory came back to me. It was so clear that I almost came
out with it. The first time I slept with her, she had asked me about the scar on
my left shin and I had told her about the accident.
“Tell me how you know!” I growled in a low voice. I was starting to get
angry. “What are you trying to pull? Why are you still hanging around?”
For an instant, Shinji’s face went blank. “What am I trying to pull?”
“That’s right.”
“Why would I do such a thing?”
“That’s what I’m asking you!” I let him know I was angry, but he didn’t
come back at me. He just sat there and spoke in a flat tone.
“I’m not some kind of scam artist. I never asked to be like this, just like
you never asked to be such a hardheaded idiot.”
“What?” The blood rose to my head, and I almost grabbed him by the front
of his shirt. The only reason I was able to exert some self-control was because
of the grin I saw working its way across his face.
“You’re better off not touching me,” he said, “unless you want me to scan
you again.”
I still remember the look on his face. He was doing his best, but he knew
he had the upper hand, and it showed in his face.
“I don’t believe a word,” I said and turned my back on him.
“Well, listen to me first,” he said. “After that you can decide whether or not

PART 1

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43

you believe me. You’re a journalist. You shouldn’t dismiss me as a crackpot
without hearing me out.”
“You’re a real brat.”
“I may be a brat, but I’m not a liar!” It was the first time I’d heard him raise
his voice. I clenched my teeth and looked back at him. “Listen to me!” he
begged.
He seemed to grow small again and looked even younger than his sixteen
years. “I don’t know why I was born with this power. I first realized I could
read people’s minds when I was about eleven. I always knew who the teacher
was going to call on next.”
I laughed. “All kids know that. It’s because they’re nervous; kind of a sixth
sense. Everyone has that.”
“While she was teaching us math, she was actually thinking about how, if
her salary was just a little higher, she might be able to buy the house she had
seen a few days before. If only she had three million yen, she’d have enough
for a down payment. Do you think anybody else knew that?”
We fell into a silence. From far away, I could hear an impatient car horn
blasting.
“It’s true,” Shinji said. “I knew that. I saw it, and other things, too. Then I
learned that not everybody knows these things. That’s when I got scared.
When I was younger, I often peed in my pants. I always had to leave to go to
the bathroom, and my friends thought it was hilarious. It was because I was
so scared. It’s scary to feel like people are constantly telling you what they are
thinking.”
I said, “And then?”
“Then,” Shinji said, licking his lips and closing his eyes as if trying to con¬
centrate, “it got so scary that I finally told my father about it. I was sure he’d
scold me. It just wasn’t normal. Anything that wasn’t normal was bound to
be bad. But my dad didn’t get angry. He listened to everything I told him, and
then the next day he let me stay home from school. He took me to see a rela¬
tive I’d never met before.”
They went to the home of an aunt of his father’s. At the time, she was sev¬
enty-two and lived alone. “I’ll never forget what my father said to her the
moment we arrived. Without even saying hello, he said, Aunt Akiko, it looks
like our Shinji is just like you.’ ”

44

MIYUKI MIYABE

Shinji looked up at me. “My aunt let me into the house and looked me over
tor a while. That’s when I learned I wasn’t the only one. 1 knew it because she
began talking without having to ask me any questions. ‘You poor thing,’ she
said. ‘When did it start?’ She felt sorry for me. 1 can’t tell you how relieved I
was. I’d never have made it this far without her sympathy.”
“Have made it?”
“That’s right,” he said. “There have got to be more kids like me around. We
just don’t know about each other. The problem is we don’t live very long—I
think it’s too easy to be overwhelmed with the power.”
“Now there’s a theory I’ve never heard before.” I laughed, but Shinji
remained completely serious.
“It’s not quite accurate to say I was born with a special power. Everyone
has it, or at least some degree of potential for it. And it turns out that the
power starts revving up at age eleven or twelve, just like it did with me. It’s
kind of like a secondary sexual characteristic. It’s the same with any sort of
talent, artistic, athletic, anything. When a child reaches puberty he can
understand it himself. ‘Yeah, I’m just good at drawing,’ or ‘I can run faster
than anyone—without practicing.’ That’s talent, right? Even parents recog¬
nize it and tell people their child is a born artist or a born athlete—he takes
after this or that relative who can do the same thing. I guess it’s all genetic.”
“Hold on a second!”
Shinji cut me off. “Psychic power is the same as any other talent. Some
people have more of it, and some less. Even if you have it, you’ve got to use it.
If you practice, you become very good at it. Usually.
“If your power is limited, or if people around you react badly, the power
will just go back to sleep, and then it won’t be any trouble at all. Someone
might have the talent to paint beautiful pictures but still live a happy life
without ever painting one. You know? The problem is when your psychic
power is so great that you can’t ignore it, and it won’t just go back to sleep.
Unless you work to control that power, it’ll finish you off.”
“How do you control it?” I thought I’d try to get this conversation going
in a narrower direction. “Some kind of switch on your back?”
“Do you always make jokes about things you find it difficult to believe?”
Sorry...
“Aunt Akiko took me to the headquarters of the phone company once.

PART 1

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45

She wanted to show me the huge satellite dish on its roof. ‘Shinji,’ she told me,
you’ve got one of these inside your head.’” He tapped his temple. “It’s like I’m
a signal receiver. So, actually, learning to control it means learning to make a
kind of switch that I can turn on and off when I need to. Do you understand
what I’m saying?”
“So is it like you just did with me? You don’t hear anything unless you
touch the other person?”
Shinji shook his head. “Not necessarily. It works better that way, but some¬
times I can read someone’s mind just standing next to them.”
“Sounds like fun.”
“Once in a while it can be.” Shinji laughed. “Like that waitress in the res¬
taurant just now. I was starting to open up, so I went ahead and caught her
thoughts: I wish they’d use me as a pin-up girl.”
“What do you mean, ‘open up’?” I remembered what had just happened at
the restaurant. “It affects you physically?”
“Yeah. Especially my heart.”
“So, even if you’re not ‘open,’ if you turn on your switch too often—”
Shinji laughed. “I suppose that’s what I would do if I were suicidal.”
I couldn’t say his tone of voice was completely unpretentious, but I
couldn’t get rid of a nagging feeling that he was just putting me on. But why
would he do that?
“Let me ask you a question. You told me that you could read people like
they were a computer disc, right?”
“That’s right,” Shinji said, sitting down again.
“Do you read people’s memories rather than their emotions or thoughts?”
“Yes.”
“So, then it’s more like telepathy.”
“Mr. Kosaka, what are you thinking about right now?”
“Eh?”
“What are you thinking about?”
“What do you mean? I was thinking about the question I just asked you.
Otherwise why would I ask it?”
Shinji shook his head. “That’s not what I mean. A brain is not that limited
in its capacity. You were thinking about the question you asked me, but you
were thinking about lots of other things, too. You may have wondered

46

MIYUKI MIYABE

whether or not the chills you were feeling were a cold coming on, noticed the
sky clearing up, wondered whether or not Daisuke Mochizuki had been
found. And you were probably wishing you’d never picked up this Shinji Inamura. You weren’t even aware of it, but there is quite a bit of traffic in your
head. And at the same time, you were pulling out all sorts of memories from
your past. You wouldn’t be able to ‘think’ about something unless you had
something to compare it to. There’s really no such thing as the present in
your brain.”
“Where did you learn all that?”
“I didn’t learn it anywhere. Nobody has made a real study of any of this.
It’s what I’ve got from my experiences. Reading someone’s mind means read¬
ing his or her memories. When I was scanning you, I found out that it has
been two months since the fourth time you quit smoking, about that acci¬
dent you had as a child, a big fight you had last night at someone’s house and
how angry it made you. It was all mashed up together. I just grabbed onto the
parts that were easiest to pull out. That’s why your memory of the accident
and your memory of showing the scars to your girlfriend came out together.
It’s like you’ve got them both on the same shelf in your brain. Even though
they happened more than twenty years apart.”
I was speechless. I was getting a lecture on cerebral physiology right here
on the side of the road. And from a kid who was half my age.
“That’s what I mean when I say what I do is different from telepathy.
Although I probably have some of that too. I’m sure I could do mental com¬
munication if I tried.” Then he was quiet for a few moments. It was as if he
was trying to remember someone’s face. His attention was somewhere else.
“Do you know any other people like you?” I asked.
“No,” he said a little too hurriedly. “There’s no one.” Then he continued.
“That’s why I call it scanning. There are some researchers who call it psycho¬
metrics.” He shrugged his shoulders. “I can scan things, too. Not just people,
but inanimate objects—and substances.”
“Do things have memories?”
“Sure. The emotions and memories of the person who owned it or
touched it. Memories are visual; they’re very clear.”
Memories are visual—that much made sense.
“When I touch an object, it’s like—sort of like being able to feel the warmth

PARTI

A CHANCE ENCOUNTER

47

of the person who sat in a seat right before you. I can see the memories it
holds. It’s hard to make distinctions, though.”
“What do you mean?”
“There are memories of the person who made the thing, the person who
owned it, and the person who just touched it for a minute. It’s hard to sort
them out. But the memory that’s the strongest jumps out.”
Shinji looked up at me as if asking if I had any more questions for him.
Like a teacher might ask a slow student.
“I see.” I folded my arms across my chest and looked down at him. “So
does that complete the case for the defense? Or are you the prosecutor?
Whatever. What is it you want me to do? Why are you showing me your
tricks and lecturing me?”
“So you still don’t believe me?”
“Why should I? I’m not some TV producer.”
Shinji’s expression changed to one of determination.
“A red Porsche,” he said with confidence.
“What?”
“A red Porsche 911. With a Kawasaki license plate. I can’t see it all, but the
driver is wearing sneakers with a blue line down the side. A young man.
There were two of them. One is wearing a red sweatshirt with a hood, and
they’re both in a hurry.”
I looked at him in astonishment, but he didn’t blink or wince.
“They’re the ones who took the manhole cover off. The ones who killed
that boy. You’re a reporter, so you know how to find people. I want you to
help me.”

48

MIYUKI MIYABE

As a child, I read a story about a vampire. It wasn’t Dracula, but the Sherlock
Holmes mystery “The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire.” I forget the details,
but it was about a woman who was supposedly drinking the blood of her
baby night after night. At any rate, Holmes solved the puzzle in a logical man¬
ner and said something to Watson about not being taken in by Bram Stoker.
When I read it, though, I thought that perhaps the woman could have been
a vampire after all, and I was disappointed that none of the characters in the
book voiced a doubt over Holmes’s sleuthing.
Reality and unreality, logic and illogic live side by side in similar forms—
two parallel rails that never cross. We mentally drive with a wheel on each. A
politician who is supposedly as solid as a rock relies on the revelations of a
spiritualistic medium. A religious figure who tells us he has transcended this
world spends his evenings figuring out ways to avoid taxes. A construction
company wouldn’t think of beginning to build a building with the latest in
high-tech features without conducting a Shinto groundbreaking ceremony
to purify the site. Completely avoid the illogical rail, and you’ll end up with a
cold heart, but lean too far toward it and people will think you’re crazy.
Either way you’re likely to crash.
On that particular day, I was trying to choose between believing every¬
thing Shinji Inamura told me and not believing any of it. In the end I chose
to make an escape.
“You’re overestimating me,” I said. “Or maybe you’re overestimating Arrow.
Even if everything you say is true and I believe it, how are we supposed to
find the red Porsche you’re talking about? It’s impossible.”

49

Shinji wasn’t convinced. “It’s not like we’re looking for a Toyota Corolla.
Only a few places import those things. If we check out the dealers, we should
he able to get a list of people who’ve bought them. I know it was a Kawasaki
license. That narrows it down even more. Don’t try to talk me out of this.”
He was stubborn—and smart to boot.
“But even if we did ...” I was desperately trying to think of another way
out. “Even if we did find the car, and the creep with the sneakers with the
blue line—then what would we do? We don’t have any physical evidence. Do
you think all you have to do is give him a demonstration like the one you just
gave me, say, ‘And you’re the one who did it,’ and wait for him and his friend
to confess?”
“Well,” Shinji said, at a loss now, “I guess we can work out the details after
we find them. He might understand if we just explain it.”
“Not likely. Real life doesn’t work that way.”
“So you’re saying we should just let them get away?” Shinji stood up.
“Doesn’t it make you angry that a seven-year-old boy is dead?”
“Of course it does, and of course I don’t want to let whoever did this get
away with it. But it’s a job for the police. It’s not something either of us is pre¬
pared to do. Pay attention here! Listen, no one single person can take respon¬
sibility for everything that happens in society. We all have our own role to
play, and we don’t want to get in the way of other people playing theirs. I’m
sure you can understand that.”
“So you’re going to pretend none of this happened?”
It was like a slap in the face.
Shinji continued to prod. “How are the police going to find anyone with¬
out evidence? This is even worse than random attacks on the street. You
know they’ll never make an arrest.”
Yeah, I knew that.
“I may be a pain in the neck, but face it, Mr. Kosaka, you found me, and you
know that little boy is dead. I’ve got the clues to find the culprits. And you’re
still trying to avoid doing anything. You should be ashamed of yourself!”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m full of shame and deeply apologetic,” I said. “And on
top of that, I’m leaving you here. Find your own way home. You don’t
need me. You’ve got your big, bad psychic power, so you might as well just
take it on over to the police and let them in on it. Give them your clues.

50

MIYUKI MIYABE

They might take you more seriously than I can.”
The instant I was ready to turn right around and walk away, or rather run
away, the perfect parting shot occurred to me. Here 1 was with a sixteenyear-old boy, dealing with him on his level and still determined to win.
“Don’t forget,” I began, “we don’t know that the child is dead. He might
just be lost and without an umbrella. There is still that possibility. I’ll be pray¬
ing that when you are at the police station giving them this ridiculous story
of yours, they don’t get a report that the boy has been found, safe and sound.
See you, kid."
I walked away, taking large strides, and had got as far as the street before
Shinji yelled after me.
“I touched the umbrella! Don’t you remember?”
I stopped in my tracks. I did remember. I had put Yusuke Mochizuki in
my car and left Shinji near the manhole. I remembered Shinji’s expression
when I handed him the umbrella.
“When I touch an object, it’s like—sort of like being able to feel the warmth
of the person who sat in a seat right before you. I can see the memories it holds.
It’s hard to make distinctions, though. ”
I looked over my shoulder to see Shinji standing there, his arms dangling,
as if he had used up every last ounce of energy he had.
“I saw it when I held his yellow umbrella. I saw him fall in the manhole. He
slipped ... and then everything went black. I experience the whole thing over
again when I see memories. When he fell in, he hit his head on the edge of the
manhole—right about here.” Shinji touched the spot just behind his left ear.
“He didn’t suffer much, but he felt the cold. It was cold and scary, and then
it was over. Mr. Kosaka, he’s dead!”
Shinji went on. “That’s why I wanted to go get my bicycle this morning. I
went back to the scene. I slipped through the police guard and touched the
manhole cover. It was terrifying. I saw the red Porsche and the two guys
laughing as they pulled off the manhole cover. They were laughing! And
that’s why I’ve got to find them.
“Please.” Shinji was begging me. “You don’t have to believe me. And you
know the police won’ do anything. One or two may listen out of curiosity,
but then they’ll either kick me out or send me to a doctor. I’m asking you
because I thought you might believe me.”

PART 1

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51

I felt something move inside me, but I ignored it. I refused to pay attention.
Shinji put one hand on his forehead, stooped slightly and dragged the
words out. “They laughed. They said they would ... just let the water flow in
so they could clear it all up. The engine of their brand-new car got wet
because the water was so high, and they were in a hurry. They were going to
'jai alai,’ that’s what it sounded like. They had promised someone, and they
had taken that road as a shortcut.”
“Jai alai? Did you say jai alai?” I asked.
Shinji nodded. “Do you know what it is?” he asked.
“Are you sure that’s what it was? Not something else?”
“Yeah, that’s what I heard. That’s what the one in the red coat said.” Shini
looked at me questioningly. “Do you know what it is? What is jai alai?”
I had to take several deep breaths before I could answer, but Shinji waited
for me to speak.
“There’s a pub by that name near my parents’ house—Jai Alai. The owner
lives in the area, but he doesn’t own just the one place, he’s got a chain. There
might be another one around here somewhere.”
I relented. “Look, I’ll just do this one thing. And that’ll be the end of it. I’ll
go look for this Jai Alai place. We can check out all of them. If we don’t find a
red Porsche in the parking lot of any of them, or if we can’t find anyone who
remembers seeing one, that’ll be the end. Do you understand?”
“Thank you,” said Shinji with relief. “That’s all I can ask.”
s’*

52

MIYUKI MIYABE

There were three pubs in the Jai Alai chain, we were told by a man with a grav¬
elly voice when we called the number for the main shop. He said that one of
them was on the northern side of the Narita Highway.
“Is it close by?” Shinji asked as soon as I hung up.
“What, you need me to tell you everything? Why don’t you just read my
mind again?”
“Come on, don’t get mad.”
“I’m not. Let’s go.” For once, my car started as soon as I turned the key.

The site of the accident had been cleaned up, and cars were being let through.
The flow of traffic was smooth. The only leftovers from the typhoon were
bits of trash scattered about.
A deep blue sky spread out from the west. Clouds rolled across it. All signs
of the flood of the night before had disappeared. I wondered how things
would have turned out if we’d had this weather yesterday.
“If only the cat had run away on a day like today,” mumbled Shinji. I was
confused now. Had he just happened to be thinking that, or was he respond¬
ing to what I had been thinking?
What a mass of contradictions! I didn’t think he could really see inside my
head, yet I felt like I was standing naked in front of him. If he really had the
power he claimed to, I’d appreciate some visible sign when he was using it.
“I’ve got a question,” I began.
“What is it?”

53

“When you touch someone, do you wind up reading their minds even if
you don’t mean to?”
He thought a moment and seemed to be searching for the right words.
“That’s a hard one. Sometimes I do, but usually I don’t. Maybe I unconsciously
put a lock on my power, so I don’t get exhausted. I’m all right unless I’m over¬
come by an emotion strong enough to break the lock.” He laughed. “So if your
car goes over a rough spot and we bump into each other, don’t worry. You’ll
be safe.”
“Thank God for small blessings.” As we drove along, looking for the pub,
we frequently stopped to take a look at the addresses. My heart pounded
every time we rounded a corner or checked an address. I wasn’t sure we’d ever
find it, but we did.
It was on the second floor of a building, above a coffee shop. The signs for
both were dilapidated, and the two establishments seemed to be in competi¬
tion to see which could lower the value of the building faster.
“What a dump!” said Shinji as he got out of the car. “Do customers actu¬
ally come here to drink?”
We drove around the building, but there didn’t seem to be any parking.
Nearby was a large restaurant that looked like a truck stop, so I pulled in and
parked there.
“I’ll take a look inside. You wait here,” I ordered Shinji.
“Why? I’m going in too.”
“You’ll just make things worse.”
“Try and stop me.” Shinji took off ahead of me and began to climb the steep
staircase. I caught up with him and grabbed his arm.
“Promise you’ll let me do the talking. Don’t say a thing, all right?”
Shinji didn’t look pleased, but he nodded.
We climbed the stairs to a narrow landing. On our left was a door with an
inlaid wooden design and the words “Jai Alai” written in a script that was
almost illegible. Another sign said “Closed,” but I turned the doorknob and
found it unlocked.
The place was small inside, with a counter made out of a single board that
ended right at the door. It was lined with several oddly shaped stools that
looked like a row of space aliens. As I leaned in for a closer look, I saw a booth

54

MIYUKI MIYABE

that could seat six; both the table and the lamp standing next to it were as
odd as the stools.
“This looks like the sort of place youd like,” I said to Shinji.
“Why’s that?”
“It looks more like an occult meetinghouse than a watering hole.”
Shinji was unfazed. “So you’ve seen lots of occult meetinghouses?”
The curtains were open, and the inside was sunny. To the far left was a
gaudy beaded curtain, beyond which there appeared to be a tiny kitchen of
sorts. A speaker was playing a schmaltzy, old-style song I didn’t recognize,
but there was no one in sight.
“Hello!” Shinji called out in a loud voice. “Is anybody here?”
We heard footsteps, the beads parted, and a man with a beard stuck his
head out.
“Yes?” he said pleasantly. “We’re not open for business yet.”
“We’re not customers,” Shinji said almost apologetically.
The man blinked his round eyes and looked at the two of us. I looked at a
small placard hung on the wall; it announced the name of the person in
charge of fire prevention on the premises.
“Are you Mr. Imaichi?” I asked.
“That’s me,” the man said.
“Are you the owner?”
“Yes, is there something I can do for you?” Imaichi finally came through
the screen and toward us. He was enormous, a head taller than me, and prob¬
ably weighed more than Shinji and me put together. The T-shirt he wore was
pulled tight across his chest.
“We’d like to ask you about last night. Did you have two customers, young
men, come in during the typhoon? We think they may have been driving a
red Porsche.”
Imaichi pulled at his beard and cocked his head to one side. “And who are
you?
I really didn’t want to give him my name card, and I had a story prepared
just in case I had to come up with something, but Shinji piped up from behind
me.
“He’s a reporter from the magazine Arrow.”

PART 1

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55

I wanted to give him a swift kick, but instead I addressed him out of the
side of my mouth. “You were supposed to stay quiet.”
“I know that.”
Imaichi was suitably impressed. “Arrow, huh? So what are you looking for?”
“I’m not at liberty...”
“Are you checking my place out? What do you think? Not bad, huh?” he
said, indicating the interior with his substantial arm.
“What is all this?”
The man smiled with pleasure. “It’s art! Each piece of furniture is also a
piece of art.”
“Did you make it?”
“Of course not. I don’t have that kind of talent.”
Lucky for him.
“I love this stuff. So when the owner of the building told me I could change
the interior, it was the first thing I thought of. A friend of mine made all the
furniture. He’ll be famous someday!”
“Did you have any customers last night?” Shinji was obviously trying to
get the conversation back on track. “Two young men. One was wearing
sneakers. The other wore a red jacket with a hood.”
Imaichi appeared startled by what Shinji had said. “Are you two really
reporters?”
I patted Shinji’s head. “This one’s still in training,” I said. “Actually, he’s
just a part-timer.”

T

“I thought he seemed awfully young.” Imaichi was finally satisfied. “Sure,
I had customers last night. Not just two, there were quite a number. It was a
hurricane party.”
“Were they all just ordinary customers? Did any of them make an appoint¬
ment to see you?”
“Actually, yeah. Funny you should ask. A couple of them called ahead of
time to say they were bringing in some pictures.”
He looked at the yellowing walls. “I let artists hang pictures here, as long
as they fits in with the overall atmosphere. These were friends of a friend of a
friend, something like that—they said they had just what I was looking for.
They were thrilled to have a place to display their work. Especially a place
like this, where artists hang out.”

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“Two young men?”
“Yeah, that’s right. They said they’d bring one picture each. What with the
storm, I told them they shouldn’t risk ruining their paintings. But they
wanted to get here while the party was still going on. A famous pop art critic
was supposed to come. You probably know him.”
He mentioned a name I’d never heard before, adding, “He’s a personal
friend of mine.”
“So? What were the two guys wearing?” Shinji piped up again.
“What do you mean?”
“Did one of them have on sneakers?”
“They were baretoot by the time they got here. They were wearing sweat¬
shirts. The pictures were all wrapped up, and their heads were even covered
with a plastic sheet. I can’t remember if one of them had a hood.”
They must have got soaking wet and taken off their shoes and jackets.
“Did you see their car?”
“No, not in that weather. I didn’t go out at all.” Then Imaichi laughed. “I’m
expecting them back any time now. You can talk to them yourselves.”
“They’re coming back here?” Shinji’s voice went up about an octave.
“Yeah, the hooks they brought with them to hang the pictures were too
small, so they’ve gone out to look for something larger. They should be back
any minute.”
“Do you mind if we wait?”
“Of course not. How about a cup of coffee? I’m sure they’ll be delighted to
know you’re thinking of writing them up.”
I felt a pain in my left arm. Shinji was pinching me. His eyes were wide
open, and he didn’t let go until I jabbed him with my elbow.
“Sorry,” he hastily apologized. “I wasn’t trying to do anything.”
Imaichi went into the back and in a minute or two we heard the sound of
a coffee mill grinding beans. Shinji and I waited in the shop as nervously as if
we were in court waiting for a verdict to come down. Shinji stood against the
wall, a balled-up fist pressed against his mouth. I went over to the window,
looked out, and waited for the sound of an engine.
“Like to take a look at their work?” A smiling Imaichi poked his head out
of the kitchen. “I’m sure you’ll like them.” He brought out two frames, each
the size of a windowpane, one under each arm. As if he’d already considered

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the way the light would hit them, he put them up against the wall and then
adjusted their positions. Twisting his beard, he turned to ask us, “So, what do
you think?”
The one to my left looked like nothing more than a checkered pattern.
Maybe a fancy raceway flag.
“The one on the left looks like a Mondrian,” said Shinji.
“Oh no, you’ve got it wrong,” Imaichi started in. “This is a symbol of the
city. People are being crushed between the lines. Everything has been forced
into straight lines.”
The painting on the right had a monotone blue background with a traffic
signal drawn on it. The light was red. When Imaichi saw me looking at it, he
enthusiastically began to explain it.
“Isn’t this great? The title is Warning.”
There was no way of ignoring the enormous red light. Where did the
painter pick up this image? Could there possibly been a traffic accident that
inspired it? Was there a residue of emotions scattered over the site that
evoked the piece?
It reminded me of the way Shinji had explained his power to me.
Psychic power is the same as any other talent. If you practice, you become
very good at it.
A warning, a red light.
I shook my head; what was the matter with me? I turned to the window
and gasped. There on the road below us was a bright red Porsche.

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7
The two young men who walked in could have been brothers. They had dif¬
ferent body types, and after a good look, it was clear that their noses were
different, but they gave off a similar impression. It figured, since their paint¬
ings were similarly incomprehensible.
Even their clothes were the same: blue jeans, polo shirts, white sneakers.
There was no red jacket anywhere to be seen. As Imaichi came forward to
introduce us, I leaned up against the window frame and put my hands in my
pockets and balled up my fists. I needed to stay in control and prevent myself
from saying something I’d regret later. Shinji stayed rooted to the same spot,
one hand resting on an oddly shaped stool.
Imaichi told the men that we’d come because of our interest in their work.
The two looked doubtfully at me, and then Imaichi, and then at each other.
They didn’t look convinced.
“Where did you hear about us?” the taller one asked.
“From a contact I have,” I responded. “The thing is, we’re not just here
about the pictures.”
“Figured as much. Sounded too good to be true!” he said, and they both
laughed.
“What was your name again?” asked the shorter of the two—although he
wasn’t much shorter than me.
I gave him my name, and the taller man said, “I’m Shunpei Kakita, and
this is Satoshi Miyanaga.”
“Which one of you painted the picture of the traffic signal?”
“I did,” said Miyanaga. “Do you like it?”

59

“Yeah.”
“That’s great. It’s one of my favorites, too.”
“You like all your own pieces,” teased Kakita.
“Otherwise painting wouldn’t be any fun, now would it?” Miyanaga
responded.
I could see Shinji off to the side staring at me. I pretended not to notice.
“Are you two in college?” I asked.
“That’s right.”
“Art school?”
“No,” they laughed, obviously embarrassed.
“No way we’d ever get in.”
“We tried, but it was too hard.”
“Never even got a nibble.”
“We’re both in general studies at a school you’ve probably never heard of.”
“Have you been friends for a long time?”
“Yes, we met when we started painting .. ”, Kakita’s voice trailed off as he
began to get suspicious. “Do you mind telling us why you’re here? I get this
feeling we’re being interrogated.”
“Come on, cut it out,” said Miyanaga.
“No, he’s right,” I said. “I do have some questions to ask you.”
The two glanced at each other.
I pointed toward the window. “Is that Porsche down there yours?”
After a pause, Miyanaga responded. “Yes, it’s mine ...”

*

“Wow, it must have cost a bundle.”
“Actually, it’s my brother’s. He doesn’t know we have it. We needed it to
bring our paintings here.”
“We couldn’t get a taxi,” added Kakita.
I see. What time would you say you arrived here last night?”
Imaichi, who had been standing there watching the exchange, spoke up
first. It was late. Past twelve.” He seemed uneasy. “Is there some problem?”
Shinji leaned forward and I glared at him, hoping he’d stay still.
“You came by way of the Narita Highway, didn’t you? It’s the most direct
route.”
No, we came on the Higashi Kanto Expressway. It’s faster that way from
home.”

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“You got off at the Yotsukaido Exit, and went straight north?”
If they said yes, that would mean they hadn’t gone through the intersection
where the manhole was, and we were barking up the wrong tree.
“No,” Miyanaga said, “we went to Sakura and got off there. We thought it
would be a shorter trip north that way, but we got lost. We didn’t know our
way around.”
“I should have given them better instructions,” Imaichi said.
My throat went tight. I reached up as if to loosen the tie I wasn’t even
wearing.
“You got lost?”
“Yes,” they both nodded.
“Do you remember if you were anywhere near Sakura Industrial Park?”
“Not really,” Kakita shook his head and looked over at his friend.
“I was driving,” said Miyanaga. “We couldn’t see anything in the storm—
that’s how we got lost in the first place.”
They began to look uncomfortable and confused. I had to think fast. If
they’d removed the manhole cover and done it with malicious intent, they
would never have been forthcoming about the route they’d taken. If they
were guilty, they would have been suspicious the minute Imaichi let them
know we were interested in them. They might even have said, “Sakura Indus¬
trial Park? Sure, we passed right by it. Wasn’t there a bad accident there last
night?” I was sure that they had no idea a child had gone missing.
Things were getting sticky. I had to choose my words carefully. I needed
to get them to volunteer the information about the manhole. After they
admitted it, then I could deliver the shocking news. Their crime was obvi¬
ously one of stupidity, not criminal intent.
Just then, Shinji spoke up and cut me off.
“Last night, right around there, a little boy fell into an open manhole. He’s
dead.”
In one fell swoop, Shinji had destroyed the house of cards I’d been care¬
fully trying to assemble. I was speechless.
As were the two aspiring artists. They looked at Shinji with their mouths
open.
“Is that true?” Imaichi was stunned, too. “I didn’t know. Was it on the news?
I haven’t seen any TV since last night.” He shut up when he realized the

PARTI

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surprise on Kakita and Miyanaga’s faces was of a completely different variety.
There was no mistaking their guilty astonishment. At the same time, we
had lost any chance of getting them to confess.
“You were the ones who took the cover off the manhole, weren’t you?”
Shinji glared at them. “You were the ones!”
The air in the shop grew heavy with silence. Miyanaga moved his hand as
if he was about to say something, but Kakita spoke first. “We don’t know
what you’re talking about.”
His words were toneless and his face devoid of expression.
“Liar! You two did it! You opened it up to let the water in and protect the
engine in your car! Then you left it open. Last night,” Shinji pointed to one,
“you were wearing a red jacket, and you,” he pointed to the other, “were wear¬
ing sneakers with a blue line in them. You laughed as you took off the cover!”
Shinji was passionate in his accusations, but Kakita responded just as I
imagined he would. “What makes you think we did it?”
Shinji looked over at me, and so did the other three. This impetuous boy
had rushed headlong into the situation and I was the adult in charge of him.
I was silent as I stared at Kakita. It was all I could do, and it was the most
effective tool I had.
“We ...,” muttered Miyanaga.
“Shut up!” Kakita didn’t even look at his friend, nor did he take his eyes
off me.
We were in a precarious position, and I knew that we had to give thesotwo
young men a path of retreat. Now that they knew there’d been an accident,
we had to convince them somehow things weren’t as bad as they seemed.
“We don’t know for sure that the boy fell in,” I began slowly, “but he’s been
missing since last night, and he was last seen near there.”
“Mr. Kosaka?” Shinji said in a squeaky voice. “Stop talking like a zombie.”
“Be quiet.”
“How can I? You—!”
Did you hear me? I told you to keep quiet!” I knew I shouldn’t have
brought him along. I tried once again, but I was growing desperate.
“The boy might still be alive. We don’t know where he is. He might not
have fallen in at all.”
Kakita’s expression was unchanged. He continued to stare at me, while

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Miyanaga’s face drained of color. He was going to be the easier of the two to
break. I decided to address him.
“Did you open the manhole? If you did, you ought to speak up now. We
know what time the boy lett home. If we know what time you opened the
manhole, we can compare the two and rule you out without even involving
the police. Or maybe you saw something, and we can let them know they can
stop poking around in the sewers and start dragging riverbeds or look for a
pervert who likes little boys. You might even help us find him.” I knew that
the young men knew nothing, but I thought it was worth a try.
Miyanaga shifted uneasily. His Adam’s apple went up and down as he
swallowed. You could see he felt he was drowning, and I had just thrown him
a lifeline. I almost had him.
“Come on, tell us. The police are stuck at the manhole, and that boy might
be close to death somewhere else.” I concentrated so hard on Miyanaga that
I completely forgot about Kakita until he grabbed his friend’s shoulder.
Kakita was no longer looking at me. His eyes were on Shinji, whose eyes
were telling a completely different story. Kakita’s hand on Miyanaga’s shoul¬
der was warning him not to believe me.
“Come on, talk to me,” I tried again. But it was too late. Miyanaga shook
his head.
“We didn’t do anything.”
“Nothing,” Kakita added for emphasis.
His patience gone, Shinji came flying out at Kakita, knocking him over
and taking a couple of the bar stools with him. Kakita was bigger, and while
he’d been taken by surprise, he quickly managed to get on top of Shinji and
pin him down. Imaichi and I leaped forward and managed to pull them
apart. Shinji, though, grabbed onto Kakita’s arm and stubbornly refused to
let go.
Shinji sat on the floor, with Imaichi holding him from behind, still cling¬
ing onto Kakita with every ounce of strength he possessed. His eyes were
fixed, and I could see veins popping out on his temples. One of his lips had
been cut in the scrape, and his clenched teeth were already covered in blood.
“What the—!” Kakita muttered. He couldn’t take his eyes off Shinji, nor
could he shake him loose. It looked as if some kind of electricity were run¬
ning through his body and had rendered him motionless.

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I must have looked like that when Shinji did the same thing to me earlier
in the day, I thought. I had felt robbed of my free will and had been nailed to
the spot. Even now, I could tell him to stop, but I was too frightened to try to
pull him away from Kakita.
I didn’t want to touch Shinji. He was chanting something. “Engine,
engine ..He began to mumble. “I’m worried about the engine. If it gets
wet, I’ll need a new one. Come on, we can do it... If we take the lid off and
let the water run down into it, the street will empty. Think about the other
people in the neighborhood. With all this water building up, they’ll thank us
for it.”
I felt the strength going out of my knees. For a few moments, Shinji’s voice
even sounded like Kakita’s.
“We didn’t do it!” screamed Kakita, pulling himself back with a burst of
energy that finally shook off Shinji’s hand.
“We didn’t do it! We didn’t do anything like that! It’s all a lie!” He was furious.
He ran into me now, and we both fell against the wall under the counter. I hit
my head on it and saw stars. Before I knew it, I was sitting on the floor hold¬
ing Kakita down.
Shinji’s arms dangled at his sides, and he seemed to be having trouble
breathing. Imaichi had let go of him and was backing away cautiously.
“Are you all right?” I asked, but Kakita was too stunned to speak.
“Who, who is he?” he finally managed to get out, and crawled away from
me and over toward Miyanaga, where he finally pulled himself up. They stood
huddled together like children who had been scolded. Their faces were dark
as they stood there panting. The sun poured in from the window behind them.
“There’s something wrong with that boy,” said Imaichi. I stood up too,
and, although I felt nauseous, managed to grab Shinji’s arm and pull him to
his feet. He was shaky, but he was able to stand.
“Please leave!” We didn’t need Imaichi’s urging. I was already heading for
the door. I pushed Shinji on ahead of me and apologized to the three of them
as we left. None of them said a word.
As we made our way down the steep stairway, I could hear someone giv¬
ing the door an extra shove to make sure it was shut tightly.

Neither of us spoke for a while after we got into the car. There was stop-and-

64

MIYUKI MIYABE

go traffic all the way back to Tokyo. As the weather cleared, the temperature
rose. I took off my coat and tossed it in the back seat. Even then, I was careful
not to look Shinji in the eye.
As we entered the city, he finally spoke, leaning his head against the win¬
dow. “I’m sorry.”
His voice was soft, and I didn’t reply. At the next traffic signal, he tried
again. “I know I messed up.”
I sighed. “Why couldn’t you just keep your mouth shut?”
“I couldn’t stand it anymore.”
“We were okay until you piped up.” I banged both hands against the steer¬
ing wheel and looked over at him. The light turned green, and the car behind
me honked impatiently. “They didn’t know about the accident with the boy.
If you hadn’t opened your mouth, they might have admitted to opening the
manhole cover. They might have told us how they didn’t want the car engine
to get wet, and then bragged to us about how they’d kept the streets from
flooding, and what a good deed it was for the whole neighborhood. How
they didn’t mean any harm.”
“Didn’t mean any harm?” Shinji said, looking over in my direction. “How
can that be? Any idiot knows it’s dangerous to take off a manhole lid in the
middle of a storm and just leave it that way. What sort of adult—let alone a
college student—doesn’t know that?”
“Believe me, there are lots,” I said. I was certain that anyone was capable
of acting stupidly on the spur of the moment.
“I just don’t understand. I thought they were pretending not to know any¬
thing. That’s why I got so angry.”
I was upset. Shinji had frightened me so many times that day, and I was
embarrassed at my own reaction. I was no longer able to choose my words
with any care.
“Don’t you realize what you’ve done? They didn’t know about the chain of
events. They’re not bad people. If they had heard on the news that a child
had drowned after falling into an open manhole, they might have gone to the
police themselves. They were careless and dangerously foolish, but that
doesn’t make them vicious criminals.”
Shinji’s head dropped, and I went on. “You backed them into a corner
until they felt they had no choice but to he. We made them lie. I’d do the

PART 1

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65

same thing in their place. They were scared, but I’m sure they regret what
they did. They’ll probably go to the police. But if they don’t, I can’t say I blame
them. And I certainly wouldn’t go to the police to inform on them either.”
“Why?” Shinji looked up. “You saw their expressions when I told them a
child was missing. You don’t need to be a psychic to be able to read what was
on their minds. They did it.”
“Have you been listening at all?” I said. “All we needed to do was get them
to admit that they took the cover off the manhole. The rest would have come
naturally.”
The next light turned red when I wasn’t expecting it, and I jammed on the
brakes. I continued my lecture.
“You saw how scared they were. Now they know exactly what happened,
and they’re afraid no one will believe that they didn’t mean any harm. Now
they might not go to the police. It’s not like adults can just say ‘I’m sorry’
when they realize they’ve done something wrong. It’s not that simple. First of
all, they have to protect themselves. It would be cruel to turn them in just
because they were