8:25

“You’ve cornered the killer?” “Yes, officer. She tried to kill Mishima-kun, the 19th incarnation.”
“Ah. Right. Really. You know if you go waving that rusty sword around, you might hurt someone. I’ve warned you about that, haven’t I? What if you fall in the lake like you did last year? And the year before? Have you been on the home brew again? That’s deadly stuff. Not fit for you or your mangy cats.”
“Yes, officer. But there is someone out there.”
The policeman came to the edge of the lake. He had been at the water museum earlier in the day. If he had reached his hands out he would have touched a clump of my hair. But he just messed with some dirt under his fingernails and never looked up.
“Couldn’t possibly be anyone here. If there was anyone in that water, God help them. Between the pollution, the cold and your cats, they’d be dead by the morning.”
The two disappeared from view, but they were still talking. A numbness was rising through my legs to my waist. I had to get out of here. Further down the lake was the four-lane highway bridge over the lake. The bridge meant street lights and traffic and maybe more policemen. Or I could go back the way I had come.
I shuffled toward the bridge.
With each step, I put the voices further behind me until all I could hear were the throbbing croaks of the bull frogs and the drone of traffic.
Then I was wading beside concrete. I stumbled on, stepping though slime and filth until the traffic noise was a roar above me. I was under the bridge in the dark. The neon lights of the main road were in the distance. I saw a Coco’s family-friendly hamburg shop. Next to it was a ¥100-a-pop sushi place.
But I didn’t have ¥100.
I heard footsteps and talking from the shore. A light danced along the path. The swamp water was down to my ankles. I didn’t know if I was lifting my feet or mashing my toes into meat, but I was out of the water onto concrete. Now under the steel girders that stretched the 200 meters across the lake.
Voices and footsteps were coming nearer.
I pushed myself into the hollow of a girder horizontal to the bridge and lay shivering trying not to think about being found. The footsteps got louder. Two men with boots, coming from different directions. They walked along the path and met in a concrete pedestrian tunnel directly behind me. I strained to concentrate on their voices as they echoed through my head.
“…she’s not here. You’d have to be pretty stupid…”
The steel girder was cold against my back. I felt I was lying in the giant jaw bones of a beached whale.
“…Sato’s on the north side of the bridge and Kobayashi has the south side…”
What would a whale be doing here, upstream from Tokyo Bay?
“… we’ll be here all night. If she’s here, we’ll catch her…”
They are intelligent creatures after all, whales.
“Sgt. Watanabe, can I get a smoke from you, sir?
“I thought you’d quit, Nonaka.”
“I had sir, but what with all that’s happened, I… well, it helps with the nerves. Aren’t you worried, boss?”
“Me, Nonaka? No. We’ll catch the bitch all right.”
“No, boss, I meant everything. The radiation. Fukushima. You know. The readings they’re getting in Abiko. We’re a hotspot. City hall did a reading in my son’s school-yard this afternoon. 0.9 millisieverts.”
“I wouldn’t worry about that Nonaka. We’re only a hotspot because some busybodies wanted to be on TV Asahi. It’s harmless.”
“That’s what I told my wife, sir. But it’s nine times the background radiation. Every time it even looks like rain, Mimi slams the windows shut and brings the kid in from the street. Wants to go back to her mother’s in Osaka. Take Daisuke. Hard for me to say no.”
The boots weren’t moving.
Neither was I.
“Nonaka, the way I see it, it’s like smoking this cigarette. This one isn’t going to kill you. That’s normal. Only, these days, we’re all smoking nine. It’s not good for you, but even nine isn’t going to kill you, is it?”
“I guess not. Not today. But how long until it does? What about the food? Until yesterday Mimi never bought American beef. Mad cow disease, you know? Now, the shelves are sold out. The only stuff left is Japanese. And what about the water?”
“I wouldn’t know, Nonaka, I only drink green tea.”
“But…”
“Nonaka, that’s enough. If it was truly dangerous, the authorities would ban it.”
“Yes, sir. But, sir…?
“What?”
“We are the authorities.”
I typed a tweet before I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer.

***

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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