00:14

I was in the back seat of an old, black car that smelled like sofas and burnt coffee. Weak street lights and the glow leaking from high-rise walkways lit the empty streets. On the radio AKB48 was singing “I want you, I need you.”
Ono didn’t stop at the red traffic lights.
“Where are we going?”
“You’ll see.” All I could see were the folds on the back of his neck ripple as he spoke.
Outside were rows and rows of concrete manshon apartments along Route 6. Two rooms and a kitchen, four units per floor, 12 floors per building. Forty-eight units. Yellow Hat car repairs. Joyful Honda DIY. Bikkuri Donkey family restaurant. Jumbo Pachinko. Yoshinoya Beef Bowl. Then they repeated. Yellow Hat. Joyful Honda. Another Bikkuri Donkey. Yoshinoya.
Lights on the left, but then, on the right, past the fly-overs, the square-cut hedges and white, knee-high steel fences was a big nothing, just black until specks of light far, far away.
A street sign: 2 km to the Abiko Municipal Bird Museum and the Teganuma Museum of Water.
Teganuma used to be Japan’s dirtiest lake, Papa said so. It doesn’t really smell that bad now. But once you’ve smelled it, you never forget. Now Teganuma is the seventh dirtiest lake in Japan. I know that because there’s a three-meter-tall sign in lights outside the Abiko library.
We turned off the main road between a dark wooden apartment building and a steel container park. We slowed to a stop at the end of a narrow road on top of a grassy slope that dropped away to the lake.
Ono put the car in park, engine running, with the heat on full blast. He loosened his tie and faced me.
“It’s a wonderful place, don’t you think?”
“Yes.”
“It’s the best view in Abiko. And nobody ever comes here.”
“Maybe because there’s no-one here?”
“Maybe. It’s kind of romantic, you know, the dark and the water and, um, the moonlight, don’t you think?”
“It’s not moonlight, it’s neon. I’m really sorry about what happened in the restaurant, I’m so clumsy.”
“No, you weren’t clumsy, you dropped that bowl deliberately. But that’s cool, I deserved it. I’m the one who should apologise to you.”
“I’m confused.”
He laughed. But not at anything funny.
“What are we doing here? Are we meeting Tachibana-san?”
“You don’t remember me, do you?”
“I get forgetful, sorry.”
“From Abiko Junior High School?”
“Oh.”
“It’s not surprising you don’t remember, you were hardly ever at school. But I knew you. You were the strange foreign girl. Remember what the girls used to call you…?”
“No?”
“…Little Shitpants.”
“I don’t remember.”
“Oh, you must.”
“I don’t.”
“But I remember all about you. The girls were jealous of you, and the boys were scared of you. You stopped coming to school when your Mama…you know, but I often thought about what became of Little Shitpants, and I see that you’ve really grown. And you’re even more beautiful. I’m sure the girls are even more jealous, but you know what? I’m not scared now. I’m not a little boy anymore. I can do what I want.”
He was staring at me now. I toyed with the door handle. Child-locked.
“Are we going to see your boss now?”
“My boss? Tachibana? Hah. In his dreams. I do odd jobs for him, but he’s not my boss. I answer to the real boss around here: Shachou the president. He’s my Dad. This Mercedes is his car. And, you know what? One day soon, I’ll be the president.”
“President of what?”
“President of the family business.”
“Do you sell second-hand cars?”
“We could be on the same side here. Me and you could make a great couple. Quit playing the dumb, innocent kid.”
“I don’t understand you.”
“I don’t understand you. How about you drop the act a little and give me what’s mine? I’ve been waiting a long time for this.
The phone in my hip pocket rang.
“I’ve got to answer this. I can’t miss this…”
“Sure you can.”
“No you don’t understand, I really can’t miss this…”
“I know all about your phone call. It can wait. I can’t.”
I reached into my hip bag, but before I could grab the phone, he had my right hand. He grunted as he squeezed himself through the gap between the front seats. I backed up against the passenger door. I yanked the door handle. It flapped about helplessly. He was next to me now, sweat dripping down his chin onto my arm.
“I’m going to sample the merchandise before the boss.”
“You are scaring me. Please don’t talk to me like that.”
I pulled my legs up to my chest and put my hands around my knees.
“Why do you act all willing for Tachibana but not for me, huh? What’s the difference? Open up and this won’t hurt a bit. Lie back and think of England, bitch.”
He grabbed my bare ankles and yanked them apart.
“Come on you hafu, I’ll show you how it feels to be whole.”
My arms flew out. I tried to scratch his eyes. I tried to kick, but he rammed himself onto me. Then he had my hands and was on top of me. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t breathe. He had me pinned to the back seat. He was on top, my head was jammed against the door. He loosened his tie and held it in his right hand, a cowboy with a lasso. Or a noose.
Then he knelt on my chest, one hand around my neck, the other unzipping himself.
“Stop,” I spluttered. “Stop hurting me…”
“Beg.”
“What?”
“Beg.”
“Please. Stop hurting me.”
“Again.”
“Please, please, please!”
He took his hand from around my neck. I tried to remember what Aunt Tanaka had told me.
“I’ll give you what you want.”
I tried to smile and pushed myself up on my elbows.
“Let me move to the middle of the seat. Drop your trousers.”
He did what I said and threw his necktie over the automatic gear stick. He fiddled with his belt.
“Let me take my top off,” I said, and he got off me. I had just enough room to sit up and reach round for my bra strap. His eyes were on me. If I could just slip my left hand through the gap between the front seats… my fingers felt a piece of polyester… his necktie.
I grabbed hold of it and pulled down with every last piece of strength. It was all I could do. The gear stick slipped down and then back up.
The car lurched forward.
I collapsed back to the seat and looked into Ono’s eyes. He looked around, and then his mouth opened wide. The car was building up speed. In a few moments we’d be out of grassy slope.
“Can you swim?” I said.
“The car is locked! We’ll both drown!” he squealed.
“I don’t think so.”
“But this is Shachou’s car!”
“Do you want me to call him?”
“Stop the car! I can’t reach the keys.”
“Get off me then.”
“No way!”
“Then we’re stuck.”

***

Start the novel from Chapter 1 here or use the next/previous arrow keys to flip through the book.

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That was a chapter of Half Life: A Hana Walker Mystery. I’m publishing a chapter a day in sequence on this blog to promote the book. You can buy HALF LIFE as a paperback from Create Space here or as a Kindle download from any Amazon site including links to the book here at Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.co.jp.

The sequel, Prime Life, is coming out in the New Year.

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