the whole structure began to shake rhythmically.
“Oh good. An earthquake,” I said, without looking round.
There was a deep, reluctant chuckle, then the footsteps paused. “Think this thing’ll hold me?”
“No. The supports are rotten. You’ll send the whole thing into the lake.”
“And we’ll all drown, right?”
“Probably.” I stared forward as he lowered himself onto the creaky but sound boards.
After a moment, he sighed. “You going to sit here all day?”
“Screw you, you fat miserable bastard.” I savoured the silence behind me for a second, then added, “Sorry, I thought you wanted me to be honest.”
“Yup, I did,” he said with a touch of grimness, and something else in his tone that I couldn’t quite read. “I was out of line back there.”
“Yeah. You were.”
“Don’t get carried away. I stand by it—”
“Well, you shouldn’t,” I spat, swinging round to glare at him. “Because I don’t care if you believe me or not, but it was Yoshi I was trying to make feel better, not you. He’s lost his job because of this, and he’s blaming himself about Noriko. He thinks he’s let everyone down. I was trying to make him believe he’s done right by me, and I don’t care if you think that was manipulative, because he didn’t need to hear me say Taka’s an obnoxious psycho who’s sent me some washed-up lump.” I turned back to stare across the water, not wanting to look at him any more. “And if you think I should have told the yakuza where to get off like I’m some kind of action hero, you’re a moron. You think I’m going to piss them off when they know exactly where to find Noriko? Oh, and incidentally, if you don’t like people making a big effort to be friendly to you, maybe you shouldn’t make it so difficult, you miserable misanthropic grouchy foul-tempered son of a bitch!”
My voice cracked on the last part. I bit the inside of my cheek and fixed my eyes, wide open, on the lake.
There was a long pause, then a sigh that ruffled the hairs on the back of my neck.
“Ah, crap,” he said. “My damn temper.”
“I thought big fat men were supposed to be jolly and cheerful.”
“That’s because if we hit snitty little people, they break. Hell. Listen, whatever, you don’t need a hard time right now. It just…when you’re my size, people make a lot of assumptions. Whether you can even read and write, you know? And I don’t appreciate being played for a fool.”
“It must be awful for you. Much worse than people assuming you’re a callous manipulative hooker.”
“Alright, I take back the hooker bit,” he said, with less apology than I felt it warranted. “You telling me you aren’t manipulative?”
“Do you think I have a choice?” I demanded, and my voice broke properly this time. I pressed my lips together hard, sure if I did start to cry he’d accuse me of turning on the tears.
I was looking through a crack in the planks at the dark waters shifting below. The lake looked thick and viscous from this angle, gently swelling and sinking as though with a giant heartbeat. “Maybe you didn’t get me wrong,” I heard myself say. “Maybe I’m calculating and manipulative, and everything you said. But Yoshi needed to hear what I told him. He’s lonely and he’s desperate, and he feels like a failure. I had to make him feel better.”
“Thought you said he wasn’t your boyfriend.”
“It’s not compulsory,” I snapped, twisting round again. “Actually, it’s not even optional. And while we’re on the subject, seeing as apparently you’ve got some ideas about tonight, let me remind you all this started with a murder in a love hotel, and I have very little imagination.”
Chanko threw back his head and laughed like summer thunder. A duck took panicked flight.
“Goddamn, how do you ever get away with that girly act? Ah, hell. Okay, I’m sorry I bawled you out. You want to start over, Butterfly?”