It is rookie Chiba detective Kaori doing the heavy lifting in this episode. Going out of the parameters set for her at HQ to do some real solo work. Now more than ever committed (convinced by the depths of Yuki's bonds and obvious befuddlement) to find out what lies behind the disappearance of GEON teacher Steve Loewe.
The patrol radio crackled to life as Kaori pulled onto the expressway, three blocks from GEON. Incident reported in Yukarigaoka involving Japanese and foreign nationals. Requesting officer to the scene. Recognizing Aki’s voice on the other end, Kaori’s pulse quickened. Might just-–hesitating for a moment, she spoke into the receiver, “I can take it, I’m in the area.” Static and a long silence. Responding officer Inoue proceed. Not quite a miracle, but earth-shattering in its own right––permission to handle a routine incident on her own. She would certainly catch a earful from Yamahito back at the station but… whatever. This was exactly the type of incident she needed to handle beyond fill-in-the-blank ride alongs if she was to grow as a detective. If matters involving foreigners were afforded low priority at headquarters, it was only because they required a level of finesse beyond most of her colleagues.
Reaching the apartment building in five minutes flat, Kaori had no difficulty locating the source of the altercation. Letting her ears guide her, she raced up the stairs and into the line of fire. An old man stood on one side of the third-floor landing, veins tightened in a purple latticework across balding crown. On the other side two Indian men spoke in a halting rush of Japanese and English.
Within this flurry of accusation and denial, there was no awareness of an officer in their midst. Kaori inserted herself into their line of vision, determined to pry out an explanation––for a moment uncertainty reigned and then a shaky detente seemed to take hold as the old man’s wife came out of the shadows. Clasping her husband’s arm tightly to chest with both hands, she broadcast restraint.
As the bachelors explained their side of the story, Mr. Isehara grew increasingly red in the face, borderline apoplectic. Breaking free from his wife he shouted, “We are in Japan, not in a land of monkey dung….” The end of the sentence was drowned out by a flurry of Hindi expletives. Then through the noise, another declamation, “You need to send a strong message to these gaijin.”
Gaijin––outside person, foreigner. Demeaning and derogatory, it constituted the strongest possible insult. Accusations went flying as the last vestiges of restraint evaporated. Physical escalation imminent, Kaori took a deep breath and placed herself between warring factions––raw hatred blasting her eardrums, half-expecting to taste concrete.
There was a slight hitch as the combatants tried to make sense of an officer directly in their path. She stared down the warring parties, willing calm. I understand, you understand––let’s make this go away. Not taking any chances, she held the gaze of the Indian men, while moving her shoulder into a set position facing Mr. Isehara, a buttress against possible attack. For a moment she thought she had achieved separation. Then the old man broke truce and dodged behind her, glancing a blow off on the most forward-facing bachelor’s temple and making strategic retreat. Pride hurt more than anything, the Indian man moved forward with a dark scowl, on the attack.
Instead, a heavy thud of shoe into something, a grunt of pain. Turning in semi-blindness, she felt the Indian man’s arms go limp, a roseate gash appearing on his forehead. Just behind, the old man cocked his leg back for another vicious kick. Kaori latched onto his foot as it began its forceful path toward the head. The old man’s body was surprisingly frail and his knees buckled Sacrificing herself to the concrete, she took hold of his ears, not much more than cauliflower flowers from years of judo, and pulled him in her direction, cushioning his brittle descent in a desperate bid to avoid ambulance visits.
As quickly as it had begun, it was over. Ms. Isehara latched onto her husband with surprising force, dragging him bodily towards the apartment. Putting up an initial show of resistance, something shifted in Mr. Isehara’s eyes and he gave in, profanities flowing unabated. His wife blinked at Kaori as the door shut, conveying awareness that her husband should be in the hospital with multiple fractures for what he had instigated.
The injured IT engineer was slowly helped up by his friend––the first kick had been less harmful than the dark splotching suggested. Flow of blood staunched, there was not much more than a swelling over the eye. “I should press charges for that,” he muttered, firmly declining Kaori’s offer to draw up the documents to do so. He also declined her offer to take him to a clinic, get his wound cleaned and looked after. “I don’t have time for this––I have a major system going live in four days. After I finish my contract, I get the hell out of this country.”
Kaori found herself on the landing alone, back bruised and aching, tears welling from jabbed eye. She ran through her options––even with the combatants in their respective domiciles, she could knock on the apartments, issue an official warning, call in officers with the authority to take punitive action. Which was not likely to solve anything. Better to let things be, allow frayed tempers to mend.
Kaori walked unsteadily down the apartment stairs toward the patrol car. Could I have done anything differently? She decided that she could not have. Despite her failure to bring about resolution, her presence had at least prevented serious injury from occurring. To have attempted anything more with emotions unstable, relying on the heavy authority of her badge, would have brought the situation past boiling point to the irremediable. One thing was certain, what promised to be a long-running feud had been kindled––and once started these fires were nearly impossible to extinguish.
Kaori drove slowly, reluctant to reach the station. She was sure Yamahito would be waiting for the chance to reprimand her in the most unpleasant way possible for… well, for everything. Kaori wondered in a flash if Yamahito had given Aki the green light to let her handle the incident, rope with which to hang herself. She shook her head, clearing the cobwebs––what will be, will be. She could not tiptoe her way to being a police detective, whatever obstacles were laid in her path.