For four days, I did not do anything much that could be called work. No, in fact, as I did not meet Fujiki Ichikei until I was phoned by the investigation department it was not ‘anything much’ but rather ‘anything at all.’
During those four days, I wandered around inner city CD shops, enjoying music in front of the listening posts until the shop attendants gave me suspicious glances, I wandered around parks at midnight, I watched youths attacking groups of salary-men, and I read all the music magazines in the bookshops.
In the magazines, an interview was published with the producer my colleague had feverishly described as a ‘genius’ the other day. I did not know his name, but I had listened to several of the CDs that he was introduced as having produced. I remembered all of them as masterpieces, so I admitted; I see, he is a genius. When it is a matter of music, I am generously inclined towards humans.
Amongst his words was the character for ‘death’, and my eyes were drawn to it. “Before I die, I am waiting to come across a truly new talent” was written. Whether it was firm self-belief, or steady faith, I envied his vitality. I had no intention at all of quitting my job but, even so, I had none of the passion that oozed from this producer. Is that it? I thought. What I lack is passion for my work.
The phone rang with a call from the inspection office just as I pushed a button on the listening booth, so panicking, I left the shop.
“How is it?” came the question. They appeared to be doing a spot check, where they would contact us without warning, and check how work was going.
“I am doing it.” I answered ambiguously. It was a reply without excitement or enthusiasm.
“If you can give your report, then do so as soon as possible.” Came the inevitable reply.
“It might take up to the last minute.” This was also the same answer as always. Of course, it was a lie. I could have presented the report at that moment. Not just with Fujiki Ichikei, but in any situation, I could get by writing ‘satisfactory’ and having done with it. But usually those of us in the investigation department do not do so. Up until the last minute we walk about town in human form. Why? It is to enjoy lots of music.
“Approximately, how does it feel?” they asked finally.
“Probably ‘satisfactory’, I think.”
This kind of conversation, whether it was a customary occurrence, or a courtesy, was becoming a mere procedure.
Without change, she left the office at the usual time. Perhaps I imagined it, but her shoulders seemed to be more hunched than last time, and she gave off an appropriate air for someone approaching death.
She held an umbrella in the drizzling rain, and scurried forward. I followed her thinking she would head for the tube station, but contrary to my expectation she passed the entrance to the tube. She crossed at the intersection.
She proceeded along a colonnade lined with famous brand-name shops, and continued more and more into a sordid area. In a roofed pedestrian-only walkway, it was busy. Game arcades and fast food restaurants stood in a row, and piercing noises polluted the air.
Here, she stopped and stood. She sat on a bench near to a fountain that had been placed in the middle of the street.
Her head was lowered, and she held a woman’s fashion magazine at her chest, but she gave no sign of reading it. Perhaps she is waiting for someone, the thought struck me. The magazine seemed like a mark for a counterpart she had never met.
I had not expected that Fujiki Ichikei would have someone to wait for. Who could it be? If it was a friend or a acquaintance, there was no need to be so nervous. At that point, a possibility occurred to me. Perhaps it was that claimant. Perhaps, objecting to the complete lack of improvement in her daily life, she had thought that if there was even a small chance of a saviour, she would take the gamble. No, perhaps she had decided that, for example, even if there was no improvement, any event at all was better than her completely unchanging daily life. And so, she has decided to meet a claimant who can only be thought of as a pervert. It was very possible.
As I thought this, a middle-aged man strode towards the bench she was sitting at. He appeared to be in his early forties. He had shoulder-length permed hair, and wore coloured glasses. He wore all-black, medium-sized clothes, I imagined that this was not a person from an honest trade. In order to not obstruct passers by I moved close to a wall, and watched the situation.
The man spoke out to Fujiki Ichikei. She looked at the man with a fearful face, but for an instant, an expression of disappointment clearly floated across that face.
No matter how favourable the eye that looked on the middle-aged man, he could not be classified as a handsome man. On top of that, he did not look equipped to make a woman happy. In other words, he did not have enough charm to make up for his nonsensical claims. She must have sensed that in the instant she saw him.
I thought that he might also be disappointed when he saw her, but I was mistaken. When he met her eyes, the man gave a mood as if he had said ‘I see’, but gave no open indication of disillusionment.
The man spoke to her, and went to lead her towards the back of the town. She hesitated for a considerable time, but finally walked with the man.
However this unfolds, it can not have a happy result; I had already started to give up on her.
I have often witnessed unworldly women taken from their daily lives by unexpectedly appearing men. There are women who enter the entertainment industry and break their bodies with harsh work, there are those who make nothing but debt, losing their fortunes. I am not very interested in human tragedy, so I do not feel sympathy or compassion, but for the moment I imagined; so Fujiki Ichikei is going to be dragged down that path.
Following behind them, I entered a side street. When I did so I saw the man twenty meters ahead dragging Fujiki Ichikei against her will. In front of the man was a karaoke shop. On a gaudily illuminated building, the word ‘karaoke’ was set.
I do not really like karaoke. Even though I adore listening to music. I have entered a karaoke shop as part of my work, but it was so unpleasant that I wanted to flee. I do not really understand why, but in my reasoning, there is a deep gap that is hard to traverse between music and karaoke. It is not a question of which side is better, it is merely that I can only enjoy one side, and can not cross to the other side; I think it is something like that.
I was able to guess why the man was trying to get her to go into the shop with him. If they enter the shop, private rooms are prepared, so that songs can be sung just as they have written; ‘In a natural voice; it would be suitable for closing the distance between them. Of course, once they had entered the room, he might intend to pounce on her, or he might simply want to let off some steam; neither case would be strange.
She was very reluctant. She was on the verge of squatting on the floor. She also looked likely to drop her umbrella. After this, it was no longer my concern, I thought. It is not my job to solve troubles between men and women. I went to turn my back, but just at that moment a voice flew forth.
“Mr Chiba! Please save me!”
It was a clear-cut, loud voice. Like a trumpet sounding deeply, Fujiki Ichikei called a name. My name; even as I realised this, time passed.