He complained, but I insisted Uncle Kentaro round up Emi and her chaperone Aunt Tanaka and go to the most crowded, and therefore safest, place—the queue for the pandas. Actually, I sent him off because his fussing was driving me mad.
If I wanted to make Blackmore confess, I needed a quiet place where we could talk alone, where he thought no one would hear him. Sunday at Tokyo’s cheapest zoo should have been insanely busy; but the earthquake had taken care of the crowds. Even so, it was still too cold to talk outside.
That left the monorail. Despite the cartoon lions and monkeys painted on the outside, the monorail was a glass and steel trap. Once it started up there was no way out. But that suited me perfectly.
I wanted Blackmore to think he had the advantage.
And there he was, carrying a backpack. Mr. Blackmore smiled at me, like we were old pals. But his talk was all business.
“I’ve brought the money, now where’s Emi? My flight leaves in three hours. Let’s get this done. Now.”
“We need someplace to talk,” I said. Blackmore looked around for a bench and then past me at the empty monorail carriage. He liked what he saw.
“Let’s go for a ride.”
“That thing scares me. Do I have a choice?”
He paid ¥300 for two tickets and we walked on to the monorail. The only other people on board were the driver, a husband and wife and their daughter bundled up in layers of clothes. The daughter was suffocating under a snake’s nest of scarves.
We sat at the rear of the monorail carriage, out of earshot from the rest. An automated female voice announced in polite, high-pitched Japanese and English “Mind the doors, doors now closing. Keep your hands away from the doors. Enjoy the trip.”
The monorail lurched forward.
“A question for you,” I said, “why did you kill your wife?”
“For a conversation starter, that’s a mighty bold gambit, Miss Walker.”
Not answering the question. So it was true.
“You weren’t late for our meeting at the bird museum, you knew beforehand what you were going to do. You waited for the right moment and smacked your wife in the head with the hammer. I was covered in her blood but it’s her blood on your hands.”
He could have interrupted me, but instead he was silent.
“You tried to make me think it was the yakuza by shouting out Konna namaiki na busu shinjae! Pretty good. Your accent is excellent, but there was something odd. A yakuza wouldn’t speak like that, not quite right, like something a foreigner would learn out of a book. Whatever. But the yakuza didn’t have anything to do with the killing, did they?”
He smiled at me: “If I’m a killer don’t you think it’s foolish of you to sit next to me?”
“I don’t think things through. I like to improvise. It’s my foreign side, you know. But then, you sitting next to me proves you did it.”
“If you weren’t the killer, you wouldn’t have come here, you would have assumed I was the killer, like the rest of the world. Or as you say, if I’m a killer don’t you think it’s foolish of you to sit next to me?”
Blackmore turned away from me, looking out the window. We were passing over a city street that cut the zoo grounds in half. The bags under his eyes told me he hadn’t slept in days. Yet he was calm. Too smart to be taken in by me. Too smart to confess.
I had to improvise.
“There’s just one thing I don’t get—why did you hire me to find Emi?”
He looked up and down the carriage. Assessing what the people ahead might overhear? He didn’t seem interested in me. Perhaps he never was. That was it. He never was.
“You never thought I would find Emi, did you? I was just bait for the police. You were always going to pay the money to Shachou. Not to find Emi, but to find your wife. So you could kill her. As long as she was alive, there was always the chance she would take Emi from you. I’m right, aren’t I?”
Blackmore didn’t agree. But he didn’t disagree. So it was left to me to work the rest out.
“So now you are going to kill me, perhaps plant another hammer on me identical to the one you used, and claim I was about to kill you. Will the cops believe that? Or do you care? Or have you and the yakuza bought them off?”
“Maybe it’s the will of God,” Blackmore said.
There was no humour in his eyes or irony in his tone of voice. He was serious. Deadly serious. Maybe he felt safe now that he had me trapped on a monorail. Now that he could tie up the last loose end. This was the moment to push him. Before he realised the trap he had laid for me was really a trap for himself.
“The will of God? Come on, cut the bullshit,” I said in his face. “God doesn’t waste his time on a hafu like me and an idiot like you. God? Screw God. But then, you must agree with me, or else you wouldn’t have broken his commandments and killed an innocent lady, would you? You’re no Christian, you’re a lunatic.”
Blackmore took the bait. He was in my face, speaking rapidly.
“You shouldn’t take His name in vain. I didn’t kill one of His chosen flock. I did the world a favour by ridding it of the unrighteous. Lady? She was no lady, she was apostate. She was unclean. She had taken what God had given her. I had a revelation. Her life had to end. I was the one who was supposed to end it. And if God wants something done, it will be. You don’t want to offend Him by refusing to do His will. And His will is that Emi is to be betrothed to another, a very important person.”
“That would be Uncle Whatshisname, the head of your church, the one with the dozen wives?”
Blackmore’s eyes bulged.
“Who told you that?”
“You can learn a lot from library books, you know. Have you read that exposé of the Mormons in Colorado City, your home? The ones that marry their cousins and screw their kids? And kill those who know too much? Have you read it? Under the Banner of Heaven? Emi has. And so have I, on the trip back from Ishinomaki. You are a true believer. You like to work to His plan, right? Well, I’m coming round to my own plan.”
Between my handcuffs was my phone.
“You put your faith in God, I put mine in my smart phone. And these things can record everything somebody sitting close to you says. So, even if you kill me, your confession is there and once it’s on the internet, It never dies. It’s there for eternity. Game over.”
But I’d pushed my luck too far.
Blackmore smacked the phone from my hands and it went flying down the aisle. “You think your toys are a match for God’s will?” he said, but there was tenderness and pity in his voice.
“Our Father, who art in Heaven…”
He stood and pulled his hand out of his pocket. In that hand was a shiny new hammer. He pulled it back past his head to strike me.
“…hallowed be thy name…”
The girl in the front of the carriage screamed out in English.
“DAD, IS THAT YOU?”
The hammer came down, but Blackmore was looking forward at the girl. Was it Emi? The distraction was enough for me to lean my body back and kick out against him. The hammer struck a monorail window. A crack spread out across the glass, like a map of radiation risk. I aimed a kick between his legs. It was enough to both push him backward and me out into the aisle on all fours. My phone was in the aisle in front of me, just out of reach.
Blackmore was towering over me now, and couldn’t possibly miss a second time. But he seemed unsure what to do. Should he finish me off or was that the wrong thing to do in front of his Emi?
What would Jesus do?
I knew what I needed to do. With my hands still cuffed, I scrambled on to my elbows and knees to try to get to the phone.
The carriage shuddered to a stop and swayed violently right and left. An aftershock. But Blackmore was steady. Emi was screaming. The old lady was trying to shield her. Aunt Tanaka? And that was no grandfather.
It was Shachou.
In front of me the president, behind me Blackmore. Stuck in the middle again.
“Game over,” said Blackmore and he leaned back to swing the hammer at my head.
There was an explosion.
Blackmore fell backwards, mouth open and eyes wide.
He smacked against the floor and the hammer slipped out of his hand under a seat.
The monorail carriage and everyone in it swayed. I could only hear the ringing in my ears of the gunshot.
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.