I leaned over to check Blackmore was dead. I thought better of touching him. His chest wasn’t moving and a pool of blood was forming under his head. I grabbed his backpack and opened it. He had cashed his traveller’s checks.
I stood and turned away from Blackmore to the president. He was on his knees, with his head bowed to the floor. He straightened up as I approached, but stayed on his knees.
“I didn’t mean to do it.”
“You didn’t mean to kill Blackmore?”
“No. I meant that. I didn’t mean to kill your father.”
I fell to my knees.
Shachou bowed his head and continued in a monotone: “It was an accident. The worst thing is when you have no fear. People with fear are like sheep, and the lone wolf can pick them off, one by one. But when people lose fear, they can do anything. Your father was not afraid. He was snooping around and was about to blow the lid on the dumping of nuclear waste in Teganuma. His questioning was making everyone else braver. Well, almost everyone. My boss was getting frightened. He didn’t exactly give the order to kill your father, but he didn’t exactly say not to either.”
Here was the man who had caused my life to spiral out of control, who had taken the last of my family, my father. I should have been furious with him, but I wasn’t.
I was relieved.
Relieved to know the truth. Relieved to know that Papa hadn’t taken the coward’s way out.
“Tell me more.”
“What was I to do? I had to do what my boss expected, but I respected your father. I mean, he had a job to do, a code to follow, and so did I. I decided to just give him a scare, to show him that we were serious and that it wasn’t worth it, that he should pick his fights more wisely.
“So you killed him?”
“So I followed him that morning to Abiko Station. Platform 4. He was waiting for the 7:55 rapid train to Ueno. I thought I’d just give him a little scare. It was getting crowded, everyone in their lines ready to get on the train. But I was right behind him. He had a briefcase with him and was fumbling with his earphones. I leaned against his shoulder and just said ‘Drop your story, or we’ll drop you’.
“Then I yanked his briefcase out of his hands and threw it on the tracks. He had heard me. He understood me. But he looked straight over my shoulder at the train signboard. It said three minutes until the next train.
“He jumped down to the tracks to get his briefcase back. It was a brave thing to do. But foolish. He hadn’t done his homework. He didn’t know that right before the rapid train the Hitachi Express comes through. But he didn’t know, he didn’t take the train every day. The train came flying into the station, didn’t even stop.
“There was nothing anyone could do. The police ruled it a suicide. What else could it have been? But your father saved your life.”
“He would never have backed down from the truth because of threats to his own life. If he wasn’t scared to lose his life, I had to threaten someone he would do anything to protect, the only person he loved more than truth itself. You. His death meant you could live.”
I needed a moment to think this through. There was something I didn’t get.
“Why did you kill Blackmore?”
“There are many things I’ve done that I’m not proud of, and I know I’m coming back as a stray dog or worse. It’s far too late for me. But I promised myself on the platform three years ago that I would atone for some of the evil I have done in this world. I vowed that one day I would begin to repay my debts to you.”
He nodded at the body lying behind me. “That’s my first down payment.”
“And this…” he said, pulling Blackmore’s backpack from my hands, “…this $100,000 belongs to Emi.”
He straightened up, turned to the girl cowering with Aunt Tanaka and bowed again. And kept bowing until we pulled into the monorail station at the other end of the zoo.
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.