Early this morning, several hours before my arrest, I was awakened by an earth tremor. I mention the incident not to suggest that there was a connection -- that somehow the fault lines in my life came crashing together in the form of a couple of policemen -- for in Tokyo we have a quake like this every month or so, sometimes more, and this morning's was nothing special. I am simply relating the sequence of events as they happened. It has been an unusual day, and I would hate to forget anything.
I was between the covers on my futon, in a deep sleep. I awoke to hear my coat hangers hitting the sides of the wardrobe. Plates in the kitchen rattled and the floor creaked. The rocking made me nauseous but despite that, I hadn't realized why I was moving. It was only when, from outside, the familiar sound reached my ears that I understood. A tinny voice croaked in the wind from far away. I sat up in the dark, shivering.
Since Lily's death and Teiji's disappearance, I have become nervous about many things. I pulled open the wardrobe door and crept beneath the clattering coat hangers. I put on my cycling helmet, reached for the flashlight that I keep taped to the wall, and crouched in the corner. I shone the light around to check that my whistle and bottle of earthquake water were with me. They were. A cockroach ran across my bare leg and settled on the floor beside me.
"Go away," I whispered. "Get out. Do you hear me? I don't want you here."
The cockroach's black feelers shifted slightly in my direction. Then it shimmered away and disappeared through an invisible crack in the wall.
It was some moments before I realized that the wardrobe was still. The earthquake had stopped. The night was quiet. I crawled back into the warmth of my futon but couldn't sleep. I knew now I was not alone in my flat. I pulled my pillow under my face and curled up on my side. I have many tricks to deal with the problems of ghosts and insomnia. One of them is to test my Japanese. I took then word for earthquake, jishin, and tried to think of words with the same pronunciation but different characters. Putting together ji, meaning "self," and shin, which means "trust," produces "confidence." With other written characters an earthquake can become an hour hand, a magnetic needle, or be simply oneself, myself. Here I ran out of ideas. There must be more words but I could think of none. I would normally be able to count seven or eight words before dropping off, but this morning my game wasn't working.
I tried another strategy. I imagined Teiji was behind me, circling me with his twiggish arms, rocking me to sleep, as he had done in the happy days when we slept together like spoons. We both loved earthquakes then, as much as we loved thunderstorms and typhoons. I felt comforted by the memory and I may have dozed off for half an hour or so. When I awoke again, the room was light. I folded my futon and kicked it into the wardrobe. I grabbed a package of instant noodles for my lunch and drank a quick cup of tea. At seven o'clock, I set off for work feeling no more tired, no worse than I have felt for the last few weeks. I expected a normal day at my office.
The police came for me in the afternoon. I was at my desk working on the translation of a new design of bicycle pump. I was concentrating hard and didn't notice the arrival of my visitors. The work was not particularly difficult -- my job is to translate tedious technical documents, and I do it very well -- but it took my mind off recent, disastrous events. I became aware that my colleagues had stopped working and were looking in the direction of the door. I raised my head. Two policemen stood in the entrance. I wasn't surprised. I'm sure no one was. My co-workers looked from the police to me and back again.
To be arrested in the middle of the office, in front of an unsupportive audience, was a degradation I didn't want. I leaped from my seat hoping to preempt the police officers' strike.
"It's for me," I muttered. "I think they just want to ask some more questions. No big deal."
And before I could cross the room: "Ms. Fly? We're taking you to the police station for questioning in connection with the disappearance of Lily Bridges. Bring your alien registration card."
I stood before the two dark blue uniforms and tried to edge them toward the door.
"It's in my pocket. I never go anywhere without it. But I've already answered a lot of questions. I can't imagine I have anything else to tell you."
"There are new developments. We'd like you to come with us down to the car."
I was nervous. There was only one potential development that I could think of, but I didn't dare ask my question. Had they found the missing parts of Lily's body? By now the disparate pieces may have been washed ashore with the tide, or caught in nets by the night fishermen. Perhaps the police had been able to put her back together again and make an official identification. That would be a formality. According to the newspapers, the police knew they'd found Lily.
Nothing has been the same in the office since that morning a couple of weeks ago when someone brought in the Daily Yomiuri and passed it quietly from desk to desk until, by the afternoon, it had reached mine. The headline announced: "Woman's torso recovered from Tokyo Bay. Believed to be missing British bartender Lily Bridges."
And no one would look at me after that, not properly. I don't know whether they thought I was a murderer or whether the whole horror of Lily's death had left them too embarrassed to talk to me.
The police led me out of the room -- as if I didn't know the way -- and down to the car on the street. I didn't look up. I knew my colleagues were watching from the window but there was no need to wave them goodbye. I shouldn't think we'll meet again. I shall miss one of them, my friend Natsuko. She wanted to believe in me, but the headline was too much even for her and she had deserted me.
My own reaction to the news story was that Lily wouldn't have approved of the wording, brief though it was. She was a bartender only in Japan. At home in Hull she had been a nurse. She was a fine nurse, as I discovered on our hike in Yamanashi-ken, when I slipped and fell on the mountainside. She led me down and bandaged my ankle with such efficient compassion that I almost cried. But in the bar she was clumsy and meek. Her voice was so high and whiny it made people want to jump behind the bar and get their own drinks. The bar job was only intended to be temporary.
But now Lily's dead and I'm in a police station. It is my first brush with the Japanese legal system, apart from a few avuncular questions when Lily first disappeared. I'm not sure what they want from me this time, but it seems serious. I am sitting on a bench in a corridor. The men who brought me here have gone away and there are two policemen fussing around nearby. An old fat one and a young thin one. The fat one is persuading the thin one to speak English to me to find out whether or not I can speak Japanese. I have not bothered to tell them that my Japanese is fluent, that indeed I am a professional translator. It is a fact they should know, if they know anything at all. They have reached an agreement. The thin one faces me.
"Hello. I'm going to be the interpreter." His English is slow, hesitant.
"Could you please tell me your full name?"
"It's on my alien registration card. I gave it to someone before."
This information is imparted to the other officer, in Japanese. The reply comes back in Japanese, then English.
"It's not my job to know what happened to your alien registration card. Your full name."
The fat one knits his brow.
"Rooshy Furai," I say, making an effort to be cooperative. When the police questioned me before, my friend Bob warned that I should try to act normal, although it goes against my nature, and I will be as obliging as I can.
"I'm thirty-four years old."
He doesn't respond.
"I was born in the year of the snake, in fact."
"And you work in Tokyo, in Shibuya," the old, fat policeman says in Japanese. When it's relayed into English, I reply, "That's right."
Again, I wait for the translation before I answer, "Sasagawa."
"You're an editor there?"
My young, thin friend obediently conveys this to me.
"A translator. Japanese to English." I expect the coin to drop but it doesn't.
"How long have you worked there?"
"About four years."
"So you speak Japanese." The interpreter says, "So you speak Japanese."
"Yes," I say. Wake up, I think.
"Yes, she does."
The policeman looks at me. It is a suspicious, unfriendly look that I feel I have not deserved. Not yet.
"Pera pera," I say. Fluently.
"You didn't say so."
"I wasn't asked."
The interpreter leaves, in something of a huff. I am glad to be rid of him. I didn't think much of his accent. I'm left with the old fat man.
My captor shows me to a chair in a small room. He sits opposite me and looks everywhere but at my face. I'm not complaining. Why should he have to look at my face? Lucy is not an oil painting, as everyone who has seen her knows. When I am comfortably seated, though, he forces his eyes upon my face only to find that now he can't let go. There's something about my eyes, I know this.
"I want you to tell me about the night Lily Bridges-san disappeared."
"Do we know which night she disappeared?"
"The night after which she was never seen again. As far as we know, you were the last person she spoke to."
"I've already told you about that."
"I'd like you to tell me again."
"I was in my apartment. The doorbell rang. I answered it. It was Lily. We spoke for a minute or so and she left."
"I went back inside."
"Nothing. I don't remember. I was bringing my washing in when Lily called. I probably returned to doing that."
"One of your neighbors saw you on the walkway outside your front door, speaking to Bridges-san."
I rolled my eyes. "Then presumably he or she saw what I just told you."
He stares at me. Like a teacher waiting patiently for a child's confession, knowing it will come.
"OK. I went after her about five minutes later. There was something I'd forgotten to tell her."
"So you spoke to her again?"
"No, I didn't find her."
"You assumed she was going to the station?"
"Yes. I don't know where else she could have gone. I don't believe she knew my area of Tokyo well."
"The route from your apartment to the station is fairly straightforward, is it not? And the streets are well lit at night."
"That's true, but I didn't find her. I don't know where she went."
"Would you tell me the nature of the conversation you had at your front door?"
I shake my head.
"You don't remember it?"
"I remember it."
"Then please share it with me."
"Your neighbor reported that you were angry. You shouted at Bridges-san."
"I don't shout."
"You weren't angry?"
"I was angry."
"Your neighbor said that you appeared to be carrying something, a bundle of some kind."
I snort. "Who is this neighbor? Miss Marple?"
I know very well that it was my vacuuming neighbor from next door. She has always struck me as having a fertile imagination. She vacuums aggressively for hours every day and sometimes in the middle of the night. There must be some wild ideas inside her head. Besides, she is my only immediate neighbor. There are just two apartments above the gas station and one is mine. I suppose it's a pity we never became friends, but it's too late now.
His face is blank.
"I was carrying nothing. Nothing at all."
He stares at me. "Think carefully. Please."
I think hard, to be polite, but I am feeling tired.
"As I told you, I was bringing my washing in. It's possible that when I answered the door, I was holding some item of clothing. But still, I am not so absentminded that I could have gone after Lily with something in my hands. And if I had found myself running down the street with a pair of knickers in my grasp, I would remember."
"I wonder what it could be that your neighbor saw."
"My hands were empty."
"Bridges-san was a close friend of yours."
I pause. "Yes."
"Tell me about your friendship."
"Lily was your best friend, wasn't she?"
"She became a close friend. I didn't know her very long."
"Mine or hers?"
I am not going to tell him of Teiji, my friend above all friends.
"Natsuko. She's my colleague. Bob. He's American. I met him in the dentist's waiting room. I taught him how to say 'a dull nagging pain' in Japanese. He's an English teacher so he can't really speak Japanese. And Mrs. Yamamoto. She ran the string quartet I used to play in. Mrs. Ide and Mrs. Katoh too. Second violin and viola."
"Did Lily Bridges know these people?"
"Only Natsuko and Bob. Mrs. Yamamoto died before Lily came to Japan. She never met Mrs. Ide and Mrs. Katoh."
"Why did Lily Bridges come to Japan? What is your understanding of her intentions?"
"She liked Hello Kitty."
He looks up, suspicious.
"I don't know why she came."
I do know. I'm not going to tell him about Andy, her boyfriend, and how he followed her and planted bugging devices in her handbag and beat up a window cleaner for climbing up his ladder to the bedroom window while Lily was changing her top, as if he could have known she was there. I will not tell him that she came to Japan secretly, giving up a job she loved, to escape from that boyfriend. I won't tell him because he already knows. I told the police before. So did Bob.
He stands and opens the door to let another one in. Now there are two. I squint and read the kanji on their name badges. The old one is called Kameyama ("turtle mountain") and the new one is Oguchi ("small mouth"). Oguchi is young, with soft, hairless arms and the stoop of a teenager who has grown too quickly. He sits a little farther back than Kameyama and looks worried. Kameyama leaves the room saying that he will be back soon. Oguchi plays with the left knee of his trousers. His fingers are long and bony, like his nose which he reaches to scratch. His eyes dart all around the room but he knows I'm watching him and he doesn't look at me. He bats a mosquito from his neck. It dances up before his eyes and moves closer and closer to his face. He bravely attempts to ignore it but it is starting to make a fool of him. Then, with more violence than is necessary, he smashes his hands together, wipes the squelch nonchalantly on a white handkerchief. He turns his eyes to the door, waiting hopefully for Kameyama's return. I notice he is blushing slightly. I think he fancies me.
Kameyama is very busy wherever he is and does not reappear for a while. Oguchi bows his head and scribbles something on a notepad. I am left to wonder at my future, and what control I now have. I think of Teiji and how, if he were here with me, I would not care what happened next. But it's nicer to reflect on the past, and more useful. If I think of what has already happened, I can start to make out how the past became the present, how my friendships turned to nothing, and why I'm here.
I picture Teiji sitting opposite me in Oguchi's chair, taking my hand and stroking the tips of my fingers, caressing them like soft cool water. I shiver at the imagined sensation and that is enough to take me back to Shinjuku, the place where I first saw him. That night I believed he was made of rain and nothing else.