“Why didn’t he just kill himself?”
They raised a knowing eyebrow, concentrating on the ‘road’ as the headlights shot the dark until it bled halogen.
That one word killed the noise of the car as they flew away from Osaka into the mountains, a myriad of searching lights behind them spat from the outskirts. A humid night, a hot pursuit.
Thinking it over as we tilted and veered within ten feet of dark green tree tops, I tapped my fingers on the arm rest in agitation.
“Wait! That’s the exact opposite of Japanese custom.”
I didn’t like his tone, the delivery was like iced steel, condescending. In fact he’d scarcely looked me in the face since we high tailed it from the shipping district.
“Well, he changed his name from Michael to Takumi, married a Japanese angel and speaks…spoke…Japanese better than most of us. That song was written about him, that cheesy one, from way back, I mean waayyy back.” I clicked my fingers trying to remember as Soshi guided the craft deeper into the beyond, a lake of mercury to the left absorbing the downdraft. “I think I’m turning Japanese! That’s the lyrics. Remember it?”
They raised their top lip, a minimal no.
“Michael aka Takumi thought he was Japan. What I’m getting at really is, he knew they were going to get him before us. The Takumi I knew and studied would have ended it all by his own hand.” I paused as we jerked upwards following the leafy tarmac.
Glancing back the lights had disappeared. We’d lost them. For now.
“Knowing their methods we’ll never get him. Not alive. It would be unreasonable to think he can make it. What a sobering thought: the gangs had better leads than us.” I looked at Soshi, eyes only for the ahead, his long face tight with tension. “Why so silent? You’re never silent.”
Without looking at me, he talked from the corner of his mouth, begrudgingly, rapid fire. “Forget about Takumi!”
We flew in silence, rising with the hills and rolling off their backs into misty valleys, over waters before Soshi slowed down above a sprawling mass of woods until we hovered directly above a deciduous canopy flailing underneath us.
“I need a cigarette.”
A day ago I would have assumed he was joking. Dipping into his breast pocket he pulled out a slender metal stick, about three inches long. Taking the cap off revealed a glowing length of dazzling green like a miniature uranium rod. He took a toke, relaxing in his seat. The vapour smelt like artificial citrus.
I thought on the previous few days, of the dashes through shipping containers, down streets and over boats, across warehouses, down alleys and through the labyrinthine monorail stations: I’d been on my feet so long I needed a new pair of shoes already. The mystical Takumi had eluded us once more. All I knew of him was from grainy footage, rough cut audio and files so numerous they were like phone books, if phone books still existed, enough for every citizen in Osaka, maybe even Kobe. Soshi had been trying to track him down for the past decade, leading every investigative effort. I’d been drafted in under a year ago. It never quite made sense due to my inexperience, but opportunities were to be gripped with unrelenting pressure especially since the economy tanked.
Pondering the case I watched as the headlights blazed a quarter mile ahead, noticing a bird flicker through the beams. I looked across at Soshi absent mindedly wondering why he was aiming his gun at me.
My passenger door opened vertically, the wind pulling on anything loose, the electric whine mingled with the rustling of trees as I clung to the arm rest, fear and confusion turned on full bore, the sluice gates opened as my body cooled in half a beat.
“Shhtt! Shut the fuck up for once,” he said, his eyes like dead laser beams. “Do you recognise the forest? Aokigahara…the suicide forest. You might think back, to when you opened your incessant mouth and think of the irony. Maybe the trees will save you.” He swung over and kicked me hard in the chest, the wind now lacking in it, all around me as I was falling, as the pieces of the puzzle fell with me, into place, as the upper branches embraced me pulling me into the darkness. Who else but me could fall to my death while simultaneously solving the case. I laughed as I plummeted back first, the longest fall, knowing Soshi had concocted Takumi, perhaps one of the greatest illusions never known.
Originally posted 2016