Hayao stopped his hands drumming the desk. His veins, slightly raised, showed the effects of age. So this is how it is to be, patrol-based techniques requiring patience and an ability to pursue leads replaced by––Hayao caught himself. These thoughts were symptoms of age. There were many good officers at headquarters, not a few of whom he had trained himself. But something in the winds had changed and most police officers these days had neither the patience or desire to take on the kinds of cases that mattered…. As his thoughts circled, going nowhere fast, Emi Hirose passed with a swish of the skirt. Spring was almost here––he should ask her out to lunch at the park. Hayao edged forward in his seat, pulse rising. Then the moment passed. He sighed and turned to papers that vied for attention as always on the worn formica desk. Time to punch in the clock and pack it in. No one seemed to mind if he left early these days. He took his jacket from the back of the chair and nodded to a few colleagues. Might as well head home, have lunch and listen to some jazz, which would lead directly to an afternoon nap. Another day closer to retirement. It was a good thing, Hayao kept reminding himself.
Passing the break room, he took in the rare invitation of an empty room and what looked like a relatively fresh pot of coffee. The midday NHK news was running on the TV, volume just above inaudible. Hayao poured himself a full cup of black coffee and sat back, taking in the daily happenings––more saber rattling by North Korea, threats of imminent nuclear tests. Turning to the domestic events of the day, “This morning the body of an unidentified man was found in a hotel in Roppongi, the victim of a fatal knife attack.” A typically narrow, five-story beige building was shown cordoned off. The sign indicated a Roppongi love hotel he recognized––Sweet Petal. Two police officers stood guard at the front and another emerged from the door carrying an evidence box. “The victim was stabbed several times in the chest and is thought to have died of his wounds at the scene of the crime. He was discovered by a cleaning woman at 11:00 am, some hours after the time of death. Police are following up on leads concerning the crime and the whereabouts of a foreign female companion who entered the hotel with him.”
The announcer read through the report with minimal interest, as the topic changed to the Crown Prince and Princess’s visit to a museum exhibition of late Edo-era prints. Still, the report set him on edge––Roppongi love hotel, a homicide involving a foreigner. Echoes of the kind of case that had once been his metier and might still bring contact.When the call did come from his former protégé Jiro, now a lieutenant at headquarters, Hayao spoke through a second cup of coffee. “Yes, I have a gap in my schedule this afternoon. You’ll fill me in on the details?”