When I came to, I was leaning heavily on Uncle Kentaro. To anyone watching, we must have made an odd couple. But as we entered Ueno Zoo, dozens of families with small kids were far too engrossed watching a famous cable network reporter doing an ‘on-the-scene’ report. Nobody noticed a beat-up hafu girl with a scarf over her hands, and a scruffy old man shuffle past. The reporter, Hikaru Hayashi, was deep in TV journalism mode. She was questioning Koji Tachibana on camera. Uncle Kentaro and I were close enough to hear her interview as we passed by.
“… so what is the truth?”
“The truth is, the disaster facing Japan is not due to an act of Nature but the folly of men.”
“I don’t think anyone could have predicted the size of the earthquake or the devastation from the tsunami.”
“Maybe not, but if you choose to build a nuclear reactor on an earthquake-prone island, on a tsunami-prone coast, then put the emergency back-up generators on the ground floor, whose fault is that?”
“There’s no such thing as absolute safety, people are doing the best they can…”
“If you staff your nuclear safety agency with industry retirees, which motive is stronger: to do the best you can to ensure safety, or the best you can to keep your amakudari golden handshake?”
“That argument may be for later, right now we have to stick together…”
“Right now, we have to know the truth. We cannot know the truth if the rot is everywhere. The nuclear industry is a cartel propped up by corruption and yakuza, they are everywhere! How high do you think the corruption goes? Why do you think the prime minister can’t stop the nukes?”
“You are paranoid. We can’t use this interview. You promised me the girl, Hana. Where is she?”
“She’ll be here.”
I cowered behind Uncle Kentaro. “Please, I’m not ready for prime-time.” He looked in my eyes and nodded.
“But we’ve got to get you ready.”
We limped away from the crowd. I struggled to breathe. We made it to a bench outside the monorail station before I had to sit. Uncle Kentaro thrust a Royal Milk Tea can in my face.
“Uncle Kentaro, I can’t go any further. I need answers. How did I get here? And what do we do now?”
He sucked air through his teeth.
“OK princess, it’s like this. Tachibana-san pedalled you across the lake to the far shore of Teganuma and bundled you into his Lexus before anyone could get to the shore. Then he drove you to the Park Exit of Ueno Station where I picked you up. He knew Hikaru Hayashi wouldn’t be able to resist an exclusive and so he tweeted her. Seems you do know people in high places.”
“OK. But, er, why? What’s the plan?”
“We’re going to tell the whole world the truth.”
“But what is the truth Uncle Kentaro? Why is Tachibana-san helping us?”
“He owes me. He’s my kohai junior. Back in the day, I got him his first job in PR, with the bankers. Then when the bubble burst, I gave him his first exclusive—the inside scoop on inari and how high up the scandal went.”
“And he exposed the crooks and made his name?”
“No, don’t be silly Hana, he’s in PR. Truth is just a commodity for him. He used what he knew to warn the politicians before the shit hit the fan. They were grateful, his rise to the top was secure. Anyway, don’t worry about him.”
“Don’t worry about them either. I met with Shachou. They had nothing to do with the death of Emi’s mother. We came to an agreement. What you have to worry about is Blackmore. He’s the nail that sticks out.”
Then I knew. Something I had learned on the way back from Ishinomaki had to make it true. Mr. Blackmore was the killer. Had to be. And I knew something else.
“I know I can get him,” I said.
Uncle Kentaro looked at his shoes. Sucked air between his teeth, then looked back at me.
“No, Hana, let’s not cross him. Think of Emi. She’s been through so much. And she’s in the zoo now. Our best chance is to tell the world that you didn’t do it. You explain everything that you know and point the finger at Blackmore and…”
“…and convince no one because we don’t have any evidence, and they don’t want to hear the truth right now.”
“Hana, your best chance is to get the public on your side. That’s what Tachibana-san can do, he’s a whiz at PR. The police don’t use evidence, they can’t solve anything without a confession. They don’t care about the truth, they just care about their clearance rates. They’d be as happy to force your confession as have the killer’s. The truth doesn’t matter as long as they have a solution.”
“Then,” I said, and waggled my phone in the air, “let’s give them a confession. Blackmore’s.”
Uncle Kentaro sucked air between his teeth and tilted his head. “I don’t know what you have in mind but that’s not part of the plan, I really don’t think…”
But I’d already dialled the number.
“Mr. Blackmore? It’s Hana. You got my message to meet at the zoo? Come to the monorail. Yes, Emi is here. And Mr. Blackmore? Bring the $100,000.”
Uncle Kentaro’s face looked white.
Start the novel from Chapter 1 here or use the next/previous arrow keys to flip through the book.
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.