Killing Time in Tokyo

By John Boyd

Thriller, Crime & mystery


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3 mins

Chapter 1

Time has turned thief on me. Waiting for Rash here in Shibuya with its riot of advertising, cluster of giant video screens, and the flood of people—especially the girls parading past in minis, micros and hot pants—I let time steal by me unnoticed.
I yank my phone out to ding him when he emerges from the crowds pouring across the Shibuya Scramble, ponytail swinging. He reaches the sidewalk and begins threading a path between the groups and singles thronging the area waiting for friends and lovers to arrive.
I throw him a wave, wishing it were a rock, and cop a swerve of direction in return.
“Tim-san! So sorry!” He calls as he hurries over to join me. “You won’t believe what held me up.”
“Not in the mood for one of your tales, Rash,” I snap. “We’re going to be late—even though I got here lark early.”
He’s lined up an interview for me with Taichi Kabuto—some mover-shaker overachieving businessman looking to hire an English teacher who can come running at short notice whenever an empty slot appears in his otherwise crammed schedule. According to Rash, he’ll pay yen galore for the convenience, so I don’t want to be late.
Rash, though, now he’s finally here, is not to be rushed. He steps back to eye me up and down. “You’re turned out to make a good impression,” he says, grinning, finding my buttoned-down appearance amusing, given his casual dress.
“Go ahead, laugh. I’m the one in for a grilling if Kabuto really is this super tough negotiator you’ve made him out to be. You’re just serving me up.”
“Ah! Nervous as well, perhaps?”
“Actually, there are a couple of things bothering me. You said Kabuto sometimes operates on the edge, yet you never spelled out what that meant. I tried Googling his name. Used hiragana as I didn’t know the kanji. Couldn’t find any Kabuto resembling your description.”
“Indeed so,” he says, nodding in understanding. “The Chinese characters making up his name are most unusual.”
Now you tell me? Anyway, let’s head for the metro. We can talk as we go.”
Edging our way through the crowds, I ask, “So what about his operating on the edge then?”
“Right…” He considers before answering. “Think of him as something of a cross between a corporate raider in America and an activist shareholder. Maybe buys a block of shares, shakes up failing management, steps on some toes. Naturally, he’s made enemies along the way, so he’s not well-liked in certain circles. But I respect him.”
He clamps a hand on my shoulder. “Anyhow, ask him yourself. If the job doesn’t feel right, walk away.”
This is more or less what I’d hoped to hear. “That shouldn’t be a problem—not for ten thousand yen an hour, anyway.”
He stops abruptly, his face crumpling in annoyance. From behind us, a couple in a hurry bumps into him. They apologize and move on past. “Wasn’t I clear?” he says, not hiding his irritation. “First, you didn’t get that figure from me. Second, it’s something you have to make a case for. He’s not going to suggest it, or accept it just like that.”
“Ah… ”
The bugger senses my doubts, something he’s good at. But then he was my boss for a time. Sort of.
Amused again, he says, “My dear Tim-san, can we get real for a moment? If you’re not prepared to fight for the fattest fish in the sea, you’re going to end up with the sardine. A simple truth of life you still have to grasp, I’m afraid.”
His patronizing gets to me. “You know, that’s pretty rich coming from a guy who likes to go by the name of Rash.” It’s a moniker given him by a Western friend after the Akira Kurosawa movie Rashomon, an ambiguous story that questions one’s sense of reality. Rash too can spin a plausible tale, only to head-fake you into believing he meant something else if things turn out different to expectation. He ought to be a politician.
“And one more thing Confucius here never bothered explaining,” I say, still irked. “Why did Kabuto ask for a large color photo and physical details along with my résumé? Odd request, don’t you think? Is he looking to hire a real teacher? Some kinda trophy tutor? Or what, exactly?”
Rash laughs. “Ask him that too. What I can tell you is he’s certainly not gay with an eye for good-looking, blue-eyed foreigners, if that’s a concern. He’s married to a beauty queen and has a daughter in high school he spoils to death.”
We reach the stairs leading down to the subway when he stops again and grabs my wrist, twisting it to check my watch. It’s uncool for a wheeler-dealer entrepreneur to wear one when he’s supposedly using his phone all day. No wonder he’s never on time.
“We’re late, chattering away like monkeys,” he exclaims in a tone that shunts the blame onto me. “Best take a taxi to the Okura.”



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