"It's a shame. He would have loved this."
"Touta, it's his funeral."
"Yeah, but look at all the people. Hey, do you think they'll have an open bar?"
Jeevas rolls up to catch the tail-end of our conversation. He looks like he hasn't slept and is running purely on cocaine fumes. He's wearing the same suit as he did yesterday, and it's blue, which compliments his yellow tongue. A blue suit is unacceptable at a funeral, in my opinion, even when it doesn't look like it's been teflon-coated, like his does. I can't stand cheap suits. I can't stand Jeevas. The two were born for each other if only to increase my hatred.
"They better have an open bar," he says, barging in. "Then again, he always was a tight bastard. Why change in death?"
"Don't you think that this is a bit disrespectful?" I ask. It's the right thing to say and it's always left to me to say it. Jeevas shrugs lazily.
"I don't know what that word means. Hey, has anyone got any... y'know?"
"Jeevas, you're taking the piss now."
"That means that you do, you just don't want to give it to me. Aizawa wasn't the only tight bastard in the House then. Oooh, hello! Is that his daughter? She's grown, hasn't she? Won't be a sec." And off he wanders again like an malnourished orangutan on a day out.
"Is he really going to make moves on Aizawa's daughter at her father's funeral?" Touta asks me. I check my watch and sigh at the time before answering.
"You'd think not, but since it's Jeevas and he has no sense of shame or decency, he probably is."
"Meeting. Some guys have all the luck. That's why I'm here. Someone had to represent our department."
"You didn't know Aizawa then?"
"No, so I feel right at home here." I look around at the people standing in groups. There are a lot from the Health Department, which isn't particularly shocking. Some of them flit from group to group, electioneering even at the funeral of their ex-Head. Touta scratches his scalp suddenly and I take a step away from him.
"I didn't know him either," he says. I'm shocked. I thought that by working in the same building Touta would at least have ingratiated himself enough to have met his boss.
"I thought that you must have known him."
"Nah. Someone told me that there was a buffet."
"What? Obviously I'm paying my respects too. Second death of a Head this month, eh? If you count Higuichi and Penber, that's four in... how many months?"
"Yeah. Rotten luck."
Touta and I look as ridiculous as everyone else as we stand side by side, both staring at the scene from a slight distance like we're waiting for a train. Everyone is waiting for something to happen even though the funeral service itself is over. I haven't been to that many Christian funerals, but I make it my business to know what to expect. You would think that it would run more smoothly but people seems content enough to hover around, mocking the dead with our beating hearts. You can tell the relatives and the genuinely upset from the crowd as they look dazed with grief among the packs of the not really bothered off-duty politicians and policemen who stay in their respective little groups. The law and the law makers never mix, not in public anyway. There's a sudden bark of laughter which is followed by an ineffective attempt to cover it up with a fake cough. It comes from Jeevas, who is now in the marquee in the centre of the fray. He's talking to Aizawa's daughter, who's clutching a handkerchief which she dabs intermittently at her nose as a bored looking quartet play 'Adagio for Strings' from the side. Her father's coffin is less than a foot away. It wouldn't surprise me if Jeevas actually started leaning on it.
"You wouldn't think the Health Department would be that stressful. He'd only been in the job for a couple of months," Touta wonders aloud. He seems to be scouting the area for the food table. "Do you think that I should be worried?"
"He ate a load of shit apparently." Yes, high cholesterol has seen off many a politician in their forties. A death in the cabinet keeps everything moving. No one wants stagnation. It just makes the press work harder for stories to cover, and no one wants them digging around.
"I know that he used to go to that restaurant opposite the office every day for lunch."
"Genki's Diner? God, no wonder. I'm surprised that he didn't die sooner."
"So, does this mean that there'll be a shift around again then? We just had one for Higuchi."
"Of course there'll be another one." I check my phone. No new messages apart from one from Misa which I can't be bothered with right now. "How long do you think this will take?"
"No idea. What are we waiting for? The service is over, isn't it? Do funerals have intermissions?"
"They're waiting for the hearse to take him to the crematorium."
"Do we have to go to that?"
"No, that's just for the family. It'd be quicker if we just picked him up and carried him over there. It's like, what, a hundred yards away?" Fuck's sake, I've had enough. I haven't even been noticed. We might as well light a bonfire here for Aizawa and call it a day. No one has approached me from the Health Department, which has only made me more pissed off. What a waste of time. "Every funeral I've ever been to seems to involve a lot of standing around. I might just go. There's a bill vote at one and I could make it if I go now."
Touta looks at me. One of his eyes is a bit red and inflamed. "What about the buffet?" he asks.
"You and your buffets. It looks homemade," I tell him. "I'm not sure if I want to stay and eat the same food that probably gave the man in the coffin a massive coronary. You shouldn't either. If you died, how would I explain that to Sayu?"
"She'd probably thank you for encouraging me," he says sadly and rubs his swollen cheek.
"You two have to stop fighting."
"I'm not, she is."
"She can't fight solo."
"Look, I love your sister, Light. I really do. But she's hard work," he declares with feeling. Poor Touta wasn't prepared for my sister. The sweet girl turned into a piranha after their wedding day and she's eating him alive. I look to the ground so I can smile.
"It's a family trait, what can I say?"
"She's angry at me now because I go to work. I said: 'So what? You want me to be unemployed?' and she was like: 'You have no ambition! If you work harder and faster then maybe we'll get somewhere.' She hates the house. The house she chose! Remember?'"
"It's probably more to do with your hours than the house. Women just tend to have one issue which expands and suddenly everything is shit to them. It'll pass. Just buy her a facial or something." Touta didn't know yet that this would be a recurring problem which he'd have to live with for at least twelve hours a day for the rest of his life. Having grown up with my sister, I knew that sometimes she turns into a harpy of dissatisfaction over the slightest thing. With a weaker personality like Touta as her sounding board, he was destined for a life of misery. "Misa's the same," I offer in consolation.
"Does Misa scream and throw vases?"
"No. Well, she doesn't throw anything. She screams occasionally but that's just my cue to leave." Speaking of, I reach in my pocket for my car keys as Touta kicks a piece of turf.
"She wants a baby," he says.
"Sayu? Wow. I'm sorry, Touta."
"I told her that we can't afford one at the moment but that just made her more angry and started chopping carrots with a huge cleaver. Then she cried."
"That's not good, is it? Light, what if she asks for a divorce?"
"I don't think that's going to happen. I mean, when Misa started doing all that stuff, I just bought her dresses and she shut up after a while. You have to learn how to switch off. You know what you need? A home office with a lock on the door."
"Is that what happens? You live with someone and you end up locked in a room to get away from them?"
"Not necessarily. It's just for emergencies, like a bomb shelter."
"What about a kitten? Does Sayu like kittens?" he says, hopefully, like he's stumbled upon the answer to an age old problem.
"All women like kittens. I'm just not sure if she likes cats, and the kitten will become a cat at some point unless you just keep replacing it with other kittens. It's not really a baby though, is it. You could try, I suppose."
"I don't know what happened," he sighs. His face has fallen at my words and I realise that I'll never get away if I don't encourage him.
"They get comfortable and pull that card. It must be a good sign; it's called 'nesting' or something. I'm all for equality, but women are unreasonable. What's she thinking? She's too young for babies and she can't even look after herself. The least she could do is learn to cook first. I'll have a word with her."
"No! If she knows that I told you, she'll kill me!"
"Touta, please. I'm not an idiot. She needs a job and you're too nice to her. Women don't like nice all the time, so try to be nice in small doses. She's rattling around in that house and there are only so many exercise dvds she can do."
"I don't think that my wife should work."
"It'll do her good, but that's just my opinion. The thing with Sayu is that she'll run all over you if you let her, which you are. The alternative is that you could just do what she asks, but then you'll have her and a baby screaming at you. Your choice. Anyway, I've got to go."
"I'll hang around a bit longer I think," he grumbles, having accepted defeat and willing to be a prisoner of war who'll be beaten constantly until death. I clap him on the back as I walk behind him and impart some words of wisdom.
"Get her a bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It's her favourite."
"Thanks, Light!" he says, brightening up considerably. "Hey, are you going to Haruki's later?"
"Yeah. You shouldn't though," I warn him. "If your house is a war zone then you shouldn't leave it to fester. Seriously, it doesn't go away. I know that you think that she might just forget about it, but they don't work like that, they just get worse. They bring up old arguments months later."
"It's ok. I'll drop the wine off after this and meet you there."
"Nothing to do with me. See you."
"You've got my back, haven't you?"
"I have both your backs, but I know my sister and she's a bitch sometimes."
"Not all the time," he says with a stupid, soft smile on his face. The idiot. There's no saving him.
Haruki's is particularly empty on our polo mint of a floor. The tables are arranged around a cavernous hole in which we can view the people in the cheap seats eating from 'buy two courses get one free' menus on the ground floor. It's an amphitheatre for us on the upper circle and occasionally you can drop cigarette ash on them. Jeevas is holding court and we let him because he's an arsehole. He directs a question at me about my stance on the prison reform bill, which he thinks is wrong, but he's a prick. I catch every other word of what he says and he's lucky that I grant him that much attention. My response is succinct.
"I really wish that I cared what you think but my complete indifference prevents it."
"Yagami, I love you. You're such a bastard!" Mikami laughs as he strikes a glancing blow off my shoulder.
"He's just pissed off because he's got the inquiry tomorrow. What fun," Jeevas snorts. It's at this point that I realise that a few people from the Culture and Environment departments are a few tables away and keep glancing over. I also notice that Touta has fallen asleep.
Part of the reason we like Haruki's is because they turn a blind eye to any kind of drug use. The only unwritten rule is that the hard stuff stays in the bathrooms. Culture and Environment are smoking. I see that Mishima, who took over the void I left in Culture, is still smoking Marlboro lights. That's just pathetic. I hated Culture; it was full of the most uncultured people I've ever met and most of them are there for life. I light up a Turkish tobacco cigarette which is manufactured in Belgium. It's expensive enough to impress and necessary for placing a punctuation mark of respect in a possibly unruly crowd. I make a big deal of lighting it quite slowly, taking a deep breath with closed eyes, leaning back and blowing the smoke above my companions, because I'm nothing if not considerate. I take care to expose my neck and generally remind everyone of what their dicks are for. I must have done this well because everyone stops talking to watch me. Fuck you, Environment and Culture. And you, Jeevas. I demand attention and I take it.
Let me be clear, I do not smoke. It is dangerous both to yourself and others. A leading cause of cancer, heart and respiratory disease, cot death, infertility, puts immense pressure on the health service, is a public nuisance, is economically unsound (although the government approve of it due to the healthy injection the taxes bring to the treasury, but we don't talk about that), is a littering problem, the cause for many house fires, and affects your skin, teeth, hair and clothes. But everyone smokes occasionally for that whisper of hedonism. It's always been this way. It was one of the first subtleties I learned in the secret language of politicians. It says that I am a wild card. My loyalty and morals are for sale, so approach me with an offer, if you have one. All this may or may not be true; I appear to do one thing when I'm actually doing the opposite. My heart is the purest gold and no one can touch it, but I have to be seen to give out invitations. You should always make yourself as accessible as possible to the benefits which can come from it. There are many hidden meanings in everything we do. The choices we make must be made with consideration and care. My doctor assures me that he doesn't even think of me as a smoker.
"So what about the inquiry?" I say. "It's only for show."
Jeevas laughs again. His throat is completely shot. "You do know that Lawliet is heading it?" He leans across the table towards me. I lower my head and blow the tail-end of smoke into his gormless face.
"He's a rottweiler. He interviewed me for a job with his law firm once and he tore me apart. Since my résumé is pretty damn perfect, what do you think he's going to do to you? Well, I'll tell you. He will twist your testicles off and make earrings out of them. In public. So, are you looking forward to that? I am. I might even try to turn up just to see it happen."
"I've seen your résumé and it's anything but perfect. I know that you're very impressed by the master's degree your daddy bought for you, and it might look ok on paper, but obviously he met you and saw right through it. You have to make an impression in person, otherwise you're fucked if you want a real job."
"So you think that you'll do so much better?" he asks.
"Of course I will." I can't help but laugh at the idea that I won't. It's an impossibility. "I was head of the national debate team and we won the championship three years in a row. I graduated and they've lost every year since. What does that tell you?"
"It tells me that you're good at bitching but not much else. But he's as gay as a handbag full of rainbows, so he'll probably like you, Light, since you're so pretty!" He reaches forward and I dodge his pincer-like fingers which are trying to pinch at my face.
"Piss off, Jeevas," I tell him, but this only seems to calm him into an insufferable smugness as he settles back against his chair.
Misa and Jeevas are having an affair. I know this because I saw him run out of my apartment and into one of the lifts with his trousers around his ankles one night when I arrived home. I'd bring it up, but the railway contract is at a critical point of negotiations and I don't need to be involved in any scandal, no matter how minor, unless I can control it. I've also fucked Jeevas' fiancee, Naomi, a few times, so to dredge up my supposed injured pride would probably bring that up as well. Everyone, including Jeevas, knows about it, since Naomi blurted it out in a drink induced wave of lunacy during a party dinner and cannot keep her fucking mouth shut. Political incest of this nature is acceptable as long as it's not blatant and no one talks about it. In politics, you can't be accused of hypocrisy, because that's tantamount to death. While no crime is certain to count you out of the benches, it could hold you up.
Jeevas has lost his interest in me and is now directing it towards some girls at the next table. One of them is from the Italian embassy across the street and is a permanent fixture here. He speaks loudly and falls forward heavily on his elbows as he curses.
"Fuck me but those Italians are good-looking. It's the clothes, man. You wouldn't look at her twice in a tracksuit. It's the clothes."
He strings out the word 'clothes' out like it's a religion, which of course it is. The Italians have had their day, apart from with cunts like Jeevas. Personally, I prefer American and Japanese designers. They're both forward-thinking, with innovative combinations of fabric and cut, while remaining traditional. Wearing their clothes communicates personal loyalty, patriotism, and support for Capitalism. Some brands are not popular enough yet to make them common. It says that I'm in favour of trade between these two countries. It means that I am supportive of my own country's industry. The press don't notice men's clothes, but I was featured in the 'Best Dressed Under Thirty' article in the MetrosexualityNovember issue, page fifty-four. It was nearly picked up for one of the broadsheets but the Muramatsu scandal took all the press, which fucked me right off.
"That one slept with Ide last month," Mikami points the offending girl out helpfully. Jeevas scowls at the thought that he had considered taking Ide's seconds. Ide is not respected in any way by anyone.
"I want to ask her why but judging by that plonk they're drinking, I'm not surprised," Jeevas mumbles, dropping some cigarette ash on his untouched taiyaki. "So, how did the proposal go down?"
"Not well," Mikami answers. I feel like he's stabbed me with a compass. He hadn't informed me of this very important fact. "The Lady shot it down."
There follows a moment of silent reverence for The Lady.
"What about Akutagawa?"
Mikami simply shakes his head. Akutagawa is the Education minister who has been in the centre of a scandal involving a man in drag in a public toilet. His wife left him and he tried to commit suicide in the immediate aftermath, but as he is useless in all things, he failed. He recently returned to government and attempted to reassert himself with a tame education amendment proposal which obviously went down like a whore on a rich man. If The Lady is forced to publicly state to the press that she's 'fully in support of' one of her ministers, then it's the kiss of death. He'll be eased out. A graceful resignation will be expected imminently.
"He's on his way out then," Jeevas says needlessly. He refills his glass and moans. "Where is that bitch waitress? She's paid to do this. Anyway, if The Lady cancelled a meeting with him yesterday and didn't give him the go ahead to present to the House... we all know what that means."
"Yes. So, gentlemen, I suppose that we're all due for a upgrade."
Mikami lights a cigarette after speaking; a Russian brand using Balkan tobacco. Bastard. He has shares with a European football team owned by a Russian business man who has links with the mafia. I was going to punt for it but Mikami got there first by meeting him for dinner while he sent me to a community art exhibition for mouth and toe painters. I got no press.
The bastard coughs into his manicured hand and excuses himself, leaving a trail of smoke behind him, and Jeevas turns sideways to watch him leave.
"His definition is like a bag of spanners," he says. "Get thee to a gym, Mikami."
"His suit is badly tailored," I explain, and follow Mikami. No doubt, Jeevas is staring at my arse as I leave.
"Yagami?" Mikami greets me in the empty bathroom like he hasn't seen me before. "There's no fucking room in here. I'll have to use the sink. Have you got a card?"
I hand him my Amex as he pulls out a bag of incentive. "I didn't know about Akutagawa and The Lady," I say, annoyed, and it shows. He glances up at me briefly.
"No? Well it's been coming for a while. Stupid fuck fiddling with ladyboys in a fucking park toilet like we're in the fucking 60s."
"Hey, too much. I'll just have a bump," I tell him as he forms two long lines with my card. He cuts mine in half with a laugh at my restraint.
He takes first blow, bracing himself on the sink before gesturing for me to take the other line. Mikami has developed a raging habit but consoles himself by only using with others. The fact that he does this very often is of no concern to him and I encourage him while upholding a concerned gentleness. He's booked in at a discreet hospital outside Kyoto to have his septum repaired.
"Don't worry about it," he tells me. "Where I go, you come with me." I don't believe him. He's breathing rapidly now. It hits him quickly and he's like a different person. He's going to get shit done. I take his rolled up note and bend over. Within a second the line is gone and so has the feeling in the back of my throat.
"I'll support you, whatever you do," I say as I brush snow off my nose with my thumb. "We should talk campaigns soon." Akutagawa is considered as good as dead, so we must make plans. If Mikami wins his seat, I will take Mikami's in Transport. Obviously he wants to take me over to Education with him, since I do most of his job for him, but it'll be a lower position and, after all these months, it's time to branch out.
"How are you fixed tomorrow?" he asks.
"Clear after two."
"Good. Club job, I think. Three o'clock ok? I like their leather chairs. They remind me of my father's library."
I mourn the loss of the old club; the one in the House which was cut for budgets. As it turned out, the closure didn't cut the budget at all. Everyone just added club membership elsewhere to their expenses and the ill-feeling probably made them add other things on besides. Since the club closed, everyone has become a little more conceited. There may be some correlation between the two. No one was too good for the club; it was a great leveller. I also don't need Mikami blubbing with nostalgia about fucking chairs and his father's library.
"Fine," I say.
"How did the funeral go? Who was it this time? Mogi?"
"Oh yeah, Aizawa in Health? Maybe I should go for Health instead? Or both. I remember him now. He hadn't been in office long, had he? This is what happens when they bring someone in from outside. What's an ex-police chief going to know about health? No offence," he smiles. I return it.
"No, I agree with you. My dad was surprised too. Aizawa was the one who took over from him when he retired. He says that he was kicked out of there pretty quickly."
"Well look where it's got him. Dead. They always think that politics is easy. I know we harbour a lot of incompetent fucks, but at least they're incompetent fucks who work up the ladder. Which school did he go to?"
"State, I think. Then NPA."
"Ah," Mikami nodded enthusiastically, as if that fact validated how this was all doomed from the start. "I hate this bringing in of token blue collars. Just what we need, some fucking commoners - roll them in. This party is losing its edge. It's getting far too compliant to the opposition."
One of the tabloids - a popular, scummy little paper - announced its support of the opposition in the next election because apparently we don't care about the lower classes. This was quite shit for our side, because the majority of the population are of a lower class. Panic set in and attempts to rectify the situation involved bringing in working class heroes to work in prominent positions. The animosity within ranks was tangible.
"Hey, ladies," Jeevas flounces in. "What are we doing here? Am I too late?" he says, happily spying the tell-tale signs like a sniffer dog.
"We were just discussing the funeral," Mikami sighs, then he goes off to take a piss with intent.
"Oh! You should have been there, Miki, it was epic fucking shit. And golden boy here wasn't very impressed with my conduct, were you, darling."
"I'll never know what it's like to be impressed by you, Jeevas," I tell him. The coke is telling me to hit him. It would make my entire life to smash his teeth until I'm just slapping bloody matter against the marble tiles, but I fight against it.
"Now, now," he says, wagging one finger while he straightens out another rail from Mikami's bag of tricks, rubbing a healthy dose on his gums. He keeps his little fingernail long for this very purpose so that it acts as a scoop. "Did you tell him?"
"No. We weren't talking about you."
"And why not? I should be the topic of conversation at all times or I'll simply fade away, and you wouldn't want that, would you, Yagami?"
"Jeevas made a play for Aizawa's daughter," I mumble, just to shut him up.
"At the funeral?" Mikami laughs and nearly falls into the urinal. Since he married the rich daughter of an ex-politician who helped him get the position he has now, he's lived vicariously through Jeevas. Mikami hates his wife and it's mutual. He calls her 'Ratface' in an affectionate tone and hasn't yet summed up the courage to conduct affairs. Jeevas, on the other hand, is blessed with the ability to be in government without actually working, sleeps with anything with a pulse and even that's probably not a requirement, and generally behaves badly while remaining under the radar of the press and The Lady. He is actually The Lady's and the press' favourite due to his rogueish ways and revolting flattery, which The Lady responds well to. She recently took him and a few others as part of her entourage on a trip to China. Apparently his (dyed) red hair reminded her of a skiing holiday in Scotland as a teenager, so she took him under her wing and he took to Tokyo, having spent every summer in the north from the day he was born. Not long after, he used his dual-citizenship and became firmly ensconced as being one of 'The Court Ladies', as they're known. Their purpose is to remain favourites of The Lady and they aren't expected to do very much apart from to be on hand to tell her how nice she's looking. Ostensibly, his official job is something to do with foreign relations - the same 'job' his father held until ten years ago, when he lost his looks.
"You have to snatch the opportunity when one presents itself," Jeevas says snidely, tapping his nose until a puff of dust rises up. "That's how I live life. Anyone got a spliff? What is that stuff, Miki? Is it dandruff? It's doing nothing for me."
"You wouldn't know if it did. You've been wired all day."
"Ha. Yeah, that I have. It's been a good day. So, what other gossip were you bitching about in here apart from the dead guy? Has Yagami been taken up the arse by another teaboy?"
"Jeevas, I wish that you'd just come out with it instead of dancing around me. If you want to fuck me, you should just ask. And then I can say no."
"Yeah, Jeevas, cut it out. Like Yagami would have you," Mikami laughs. He does a sort of athletic lap around the bathroom until he comes back to us.
"I would sooner be assaulted by a spaniel," I add emphatically. I feel myself getting more talkative and drifting off. I want to drive a car. I want to wrap myself around a fucking lamp post. "Or a donkey. I would choose death. Death by donkey dick."
Jeevas starts droning on and all I can visualise is his face, red and twisted, plunging at Misa like he's drilling a road. The thought that he's been in my flat and in Misa within sight of my Jeff Koons and Barbara Hepworth sculptures tortures me at night. I'd chosen Misa specifically for her virginal public persona, promising career and fame. It looked like she was on her way, but that's proving not to be the case. The media interest has tailed off and she became addicted to my sedatives, which I keep on hand for moments just like this, when Mikami gets me high and I have to stay focused. I reach for a tablet from my pocket and my hands shake with the sheer rush of energy. It is very hard to stay still. So, there's not really much reason to keep Misa around now. She's just cluttering up the place and sleeping with Jeevas of all people is possibly the most despicable thing she could have done, if I'd actually given a shit. A few months ago, she attempted suicide in my apartment while I was at seminar out of town, but it was half-hearted. All she managed was to make a slight cut on her wrist and throw up on my cashmere blanket. It appeared that she'd put more effort into arranging herself artfully on the bed for my return; with rose petals, tablets (some of which were vitamins), and one of my razor blades surrounding her like some crap, grungy, Pre-Raphaelite painting based on Valley of the Dolls. The reason, apparently, is that her years of bulimia have finally taken their toll and she was told that there was a low chance of her ever conceiving. She's always hated children, but when given this news she went into a spiral of indulgent self-destruction, crying for the children she'd never have and never wanted anyway. When she told me, it sealed the deal. That, and the press weren't interested. Her discharge from hospital, which I'd gone to great trouble to attend and push her wheelchair (which she didn't need, by the way), only got page ten and one column in The Japan Times.
Based on my plan, I have six years left, maximum, before I must get married, and ten years before I have my first child. I must have at least two children before I'm forty, no more, as the third must be born while I'm in office. I simply must have children, otherwise what message does that give out to the public? That I don't like children and that no one should breed? Of course, if I could speed this up then it would be better. I am making progress, but not with Misa, so I'm waiting for the appropriate moment to cut her off. If chosen correctly, the time could be highly beneficial to me in more ways than one, since some public sympathy would give my profile a well-deserved boost. But then there's the problem of finding another 'possible'. Naomi was always an option before she shacked up with Jeevas. God, I fucking hate Jeevas.
I think that he's finished speaking now, but it's hard to tell. Occasionally he makes a clicking noise with his throat and then says a few meaningless words, or coughs, or laughs, and all for no apparent reason. Then I realise something. I groan loudly and rub my head wearily with all the pain of my life.
"I'll be staying late at the office tonight," I tell them. Jeevas looks particularly interested. Opportunity flashes through his mind as it does mine, only mine is at warp speed and his is of a clapped out three-wheeled car with a rusty bumper.
"Why?" Mikami asks, his eyes glazing over already. He looks depressed. The hit is passing and he's left with the dregs. That didn't last long.
"I just remembered the speech I have to write."
He looks incredibly confused by this. "That's not until next week, is it? What's it for again?" he asks as he scratches his nose. I frown. I didn't actually want to say what for in front of Jeevas, but Mikami's brain is so curdled that he probably can't remember his own name most of the time.
"The bus lane official opening," I say grumpily. There's no point disguising my embarrassment. Jeevas roars and his face becoming a platter of victory.
"Hahahaha! Bus lanes? Wow, Yagami. Wow. You're really going up in the world, aren't you."
"It's in the redevelopment area," I explain. Like that makes any difference.
"Well I never."
"I wouldn't worry about that," Mikami tells me. He's swaying now like an old tree in a lumberyard. "Bang something out on the day and cut the ribbon. The press won't be there; just a couple of plebs."
"No, I need to be prepared. I have the inquiry hearing tomorrow, railways the day after, and you never know what'll come up after that. I don't want to leave it until the last minute."
"Yeah, some other old dude might kick the bucket and you'll be required for the funeral again," Jeevas says. I ignore him with my trademark grace as I pull back my shirt cuff to look at my watch. I like how the lighting in this room makes the hairs on my arms look golden. I wonder what bulbs they use in here. I should get some for my office.
"I'll be too late to make it worth going home. I'll just end up waking Misa and... urgh. Might as well head to the office and sleep there. What do you two have planned for tomorrow?"
"Fuck all," Jeevas says eloquently. "The Lady is visiting a hospital ward for dying children or rabbits or something. I don't know, it's all the same. If I wake up in time, I'll come and see your performance at the inquiry."
"I don't know," Mikami wonders aloud. "What's on tomorrow, Yagami?"
"You have to see Himura at eleven and me at three."
"Himura? Shit. I forgot about him. Oh, it's that railway contract, isn't it? I hate trains."
"That's not very good for a Transport minister," Jeevas points out.
"Your notes are on your desk," I tell Mikami, like I've just written him a sick note for P.E. I've done his homework for him. "It shouldn't be too difficult." He actually leans forwards, unadvisedly, and looks like he's going to kiss me.
"Yagami, you're a shining star in the heavens," he says, thankfully deciding that a pat on my shoulder is the best option. "What would I do without you? Never leave me."
"Aaaaand that tells me that it's time for me to leave, I think," Jeevas says. "You sleep easy now. Do you want me to get Naomi to call Misa for you?"
"No, she'll be asleep," I reply. "It's not worth waking her. I'll call her in the morning." Which is bollocks. I know it, Jeevas knows it. My whole apartment block probably knows it. Misa is stir-crazy this time of night. She doesn't start popping pills until 3am so she can miss out daylight hours.
"Cool, cool. Ok then, boys, see you tomorrow, maybe. Good luck with Lawliet, Yagami."
Mikami and I say nothing as Jeevas scurries out the bathroom.
"What a prick," Mikami comments as the door shuts. I agree.
We make our way back to the table where Touta is still unconscious, with the crown of his head propping up a half-full wine glass. Mikami wakes him and demands that he help me drag him to the taxi rank, and then we go our separate ways. Near the office, I stop at a payphone and make an anonymous call to a gossip rag. Government aide is having an affair with his brother-in-arms' girlfriend, Misa Amane, at this very moment. She of such hits as 'Whisper Me a Butterfly' and 'My Heart is a Dungeon (For Your Love)'. Then I walk to my office and settle down on my lounger for the night.
Jeevas decided to come out of the rathole at just the right time for the story to hit the morning papers. I woke up to the sad news that I'd been cuckolded. Of course I am devastated and had a large breakfast.
"I'm sorry to hear about Misa, Light," Touta says sadly. He does look upset, poor guy. He has a CD of hers in his car which Sayu doesn't approve of or want in the house.
"Thanks." I lower my head slowly with a tired smile, a well-practiced action which inspires even the affection of strangers.
"With Jeevas too."
"Yeah," I say. Jeevas' name brings out a stricken expression on my face, just to confirm my complete and utter betrayal. "You think that you can trust your friends."
"So what's going on? Sayu's been trying to phone you."
"Misa's moving out," I explain, and we start walking through the softly-lit gallery where everyone gathers, until I find an appropriate place to stop, apparently overcome. Misa is hysterical with despair, since the pitch of her crying is more emphatic than usual. After much begging came the accusations that I'd brought it on myself by 'not being there', though I'm not sure where she thought I'd been, considering that she was living in my apartment. After a lot of wailing on her end, during which I'd set the phone on my desk while I made myself some coffee, I must have played the deceived and sad card so well that even she understood it, and she agreed to move out today. I'll send my PA round later to make sure that she hasn't done something whimsy and gothically desperate on my bed again.
"If you need anywhere to stay for a few days, you know there's always a place for you at ours," Touta says. I could get quite fond of him. He's one of the most selfless, kindest people I know. They're a rare thing anywhere, but especially in this building. It's just a shame that these attributes aren't normally accompanied with intelligence.
"Thanks, but I'll be fine. I..." I catch sight of a downtrodden-looking Jeevas. He sees me and wonders what to do. Deciding that it's a little late to hide behind a pillar, he trundles over towards me.
"Er... Hi, Yagami. Matsuda," he says, rubbing the back of his neck. He's expecting a punch in the face and I'd very much like to oblige, but unfortunately that would not suit the image I wish to project.
"Jeevas," I answer coldly. He starts up his speech which increases with speed until the lie overtakes him and connects all the words into one long mess.
"Look, it's been blown out of proportion. Misa and I were just talking. I thought that I'd drop around to let her know what you were doing and she was a wreck, y'know? I was only staying to make sure that she wouldn't do something stupid again, but I should have told you. I should have called..."
I wonder whether to show pity or continue to be affronted. Pity at this point might look lofty and inspirational to others. Outrage is for lesser beings. He continues babbling as I stare at him and watch how his rubber face stretches over his bones. Touta stares at him also, looking furious. The whole lobby stares at him in his dropped from a great height state. He's obviously been chased all over Tokyo since the story broke. Nothing catches the press' imagination like old-fashioned adultery. People are drifting over slowly, sideways, as if blown by a slight breeze. I speak loudly and firmly enough so that they can hear well. I have to remind myself that I'm the injured party here, and deliberately interrupt him with a risky move which could bring up Naomi.
"It's ok, Jeevas. If this is what you and Misa want then I'm not going to stand in your way. I just want her to be happy. But I hate lies. Surely we're old enough not to go behind each other's backs? It's not fair on the party, because we really don't need this kind of press right now. I don't know, I feel like you've taken advantage of me. I considered you a friend and a colleague who I respected. How long has this been going on? Misa told me that you've been seeing each other for a while."
The thing that's different about our situations, and which keeps me on higher ground, is that he was in my apartment, which is an invasion of my privacy. If Jeevas believed that I had slept with his girlfriend and confronted me on it, then I could explain it by too much drugs and drink at parties, or deny it altogether. I never could resist someone who cries on their own, and Naomi does that a lot since Penber died. But yeah, Jeevas. I'd never been to his apartment. What Jeevas has done is considered to be theft in our job. The sex isn't the issue exactly, it's the combination of breaking into my house and entering my girlfriend which is the problem. It also suggests an element of seriousness to their affair which is unacceptable. Promiscuity is all over this place like a plague, but if any vaguely serious feelings are hinted at by conducting it in a certain place, or if the affair goes on for a prolonged period, then you will receive no sympathy from anyone in the House. Jeevas knows this. Bringing up Naomi at this point would make him despicable, desperately clinging to standard responses and a 'you slept with mine so I'll sleep with yours' argument, which is so low that I can't even imagine him stooping to that level.
"It really wasn't serious," he says instead.
"Yeah, you tell Misa that. I knew things for Misa and I were rough, but I was trying to support her and make it work. But... I can be the bigger man in this."
This smacks him right in the balls so hard I can almost hear them retreat back into their pre-pubescent station. I'm quite proud of some of the ad-hoc additions to my speech.
"Right," Jeevas chokes. "That's good of you, Yagami. But really, it was nothing."
"I disagree. To say it's nothing only goes further in showing what little respect you have for me. I'm sure that Naomi doesn't think that this is nothing. And Misa... God, Jeevas. You know how ill she's been. She's very vulnerable. Are you telling me that you've been treating her like some kind of prostitute?"
"What? No. Of course not. Not really."
"So, not only have you been having an affair behind my back, but you've taken advantage of an emotionally fragile woman? You do realise that this could end her career?"
"You've got it all wrong. The papers are running with this like it's a fucking marathon."
"If I didn't know you so well then I might believe you. I can't talk to you right now. Not here. This is work and whatever issues we have must be kept strictly outside of these walls. While we're here we must work together with some air of professionalism, no matter how difficult that is for me right now. If I'm willing to do that then I think you can make the effort too. You could at least have the decency to apologise. I hope that you've already apologised to Naomi, because she deserves better than this." I'm really getting to him and am effectively kicking him repeatedly in the stomach. He looks sick with rage. Naturally he should be able to point out the hypocrisy, but he can't, because he was caught first.
"Ok, ok. I'm sorry, Yagami," he whispers.
"For all your superiority, you're just an idiot, aren't you?" I say. He doesn't reply. "Well?"
"I've done a stupid thing"
"Can't you sort things out with Misa?"
"Are you joking?"
"Oh. Well, as long as we're ok. Hey, do you need help preparing for Lawliet? Let me know. I have some stuff on him which might make him be easy on you if you get to him before the inquiry."
"I don't think I need any more of your 'help,' Jeevas. You're the same person who offered to help me by letting my girlfriend know that I'd be late, and it involved you doing I don't even want to know what to her in my apartment. I'm going to have to get the place sterilised. New bed, carpets, everything. I pray that you kept off the work surfaces. God, my Wegner table!"
"I'm not sure how else I can apologise. And you'd be grateful for my help with Lawliet. You'll find out."
"I think I can handle one little lawyer. I've been to law school too," I say with pride, because Jeevas hasn't. "I know how they operate."
"If you say so. Well, let me know. I'd like to be able to put this behind us."
"You mean that you want me to be seen to publicly forgive you? Oh yeah, I'm sure that The Lady isn't too pleased with you."
"She won't take my calls," he admits.
"Not surprising, really."
"I fucked up."
"Yeah, you did. But I hope that you can learn from this. I'm willing to put this behind us for the good of the party, because we don't need another split. Besides, this is embarrassing enough for me."
"Right. So, erm... Haruki's later? I'll get the bill."
"Not tonight. Maybe tomorrow."
"Yagami, I need your help. Please."
"Tomorrow. I don't have time for you now."
My inquiry is me in front of a wall of lawyers and a few select politicians. Wicked Games is on a loop in my head from the taxi radio. I hate it when that happens. After the meeting is officially opened, a man stands up - a bit of a mess with slicked back black hair. He has the easy arrogance of a lawyer who is actually good at his job and doesn't need to put too much effort into his appearance for his abilities to be known, because he's more than aware of them. He's legendary, according to Wikipedia, but I got bored half-way through the article. He must be Lawliet then.
"Thank you for your time in helping us with our questions this morning," he starts politely. Oh, this'll be piss easy. I nod in reply and he continues with the standard introductions to the board while I pour myself a glass of water. 'I never dreamed that I'd love somebody like you. I never dreamed that I'd know somebody like you. No, I don't want to fall in love. No, I -' Oh shut the fuck up, Issak. Get a grip.
"Yagami-san, do you know Italian?" Lawliet asks me.
"No. Unless seeing The Godfather counts."
I wanted to start on a humorous note. Both to see how seriously the panel are taking this inquest by their response, and to gain the unconscious support of the people behind me. Lawliet's face is as blank as a piece of paper.
"I'm afraid that your DVD collection won't help you," he says. "There is a phrase: Cu è surdu, orbu e taci, campa cent'anni 'mpaci. He who is deaf, blind, and silent will live a hundred years in peace. Would it be fair to say that the plot in which you are accused of being involved in could be described as a corrupt coalition held together by secrecy to pursue financial gain and political power with no regard for the law by intimidating, manipulating and using criminal tactics to further your ambitions?"
God. I don't think he took a breath during that whole thing.
"I wasn't involved in any plot with Higuichi," I sigh. "I hardly knew the man. He was in a different department and we didn't socialise."
"Really? It's amazing to me how you were apparently unaware that you were involved in a criminal operation."
The audience laughs. He got a bigger laugh than I did. So that's how it is.
"I repeat, I didn't know Higuichi and whatever schemes that he may or may not have been involved in. I don't need to remind you that the police investigation is ongoing, so what you're saying is slanderous."
"I'm well aware of that, but we're conducting this inquiry on the presumption that he was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."
"You can't do that."
"I am doing it. The evidence that he was disreputable is overwhelming, but, lucky for him, he's dead, so he won't be indicted. Let's not be silly about this, shall we? Now, let's go back to your knowledge of mafia-centric film culture. There is also a code of conduct that it is considered contemptible for an injured party to betray the name of his assailant, because if he recovers, he is expected to take revenge himself. Are you an injured party, Yagami-san? Did you make the anonymous phone call which exposed the syndicate? Is this your vengeance?"
"No. Absolutely not. If you'd allow it, I can relate all that I know of Higuichi." I reach into my folder.
"You have a prepared statement?" Lawliet asks, turning towards the rest of the panel. "First one this week," he says, at which they all nod, as surprised as he is. Why? Does that make me look guilty because I'm prepared? He waves his hand towards a blond man who rushes forward to take my papers. "You may submit it for review, but as it looks quite lengthy and I plan to take my lunch in an hour, I respectfully request that you give a brief summary at this moment in time."
"I knew nothing of Higuichi until it was on the news. Then all I can tell you is that emergency discussions took place in the House directly after, but I'm sure that you have the transcript."
"We have it. Would you say that this hastily arranged meeting was an attempt for some members to cover their backs?"
"Of course not.'
"I thought that you'd say that. So, you say that you had no connection with Higuichi, save for being a fellow representative?"
"And your accounts don't suggest otherwise?"
"No." I have a bank account in Switzerland and drip-feed money in small amounts through Misa's accounts, thankfully. They can't be traced back to me. "My expenses claim was considerably less than average. I could have my secretary send you the figures."
"That won't be necessary. I happen to have them here." Bastard.
"Well, then you can see for yourself.
"Yes, quite restrained in comparison to your superior, Mikami-san, but only just within the accepted limit for someone of your standing. Yagami-san, would you consider yourself a reliable, useful idiot, and that is the only reason that you're tolerated within the government?"
"You expect me to answer that?"
"I would find it very entertaining to hear you try to deny it, but no, I'll withdraw that redundant question. What is clear, is that there is a vicious political coup which has been discovered and may not have been at all if it were not for the death of Higuichi and the anonymous phone call which betrayed everyone involved. When looking at the facts and you search for the culprit, you look for those who had the most to gain, which is Mikami-san and yourself. When was the last time that you saw Higuichi?"
"The New Year celebrations. The night he died."
"You were at a same party which Higuichi attended at Mikami-san's house, is that correct?"
I feel paralysed. I sip the water, and the ice clinks, my hand slips from the condensation on the side of the glass. I was with Naomi at that party. The place descended into a bit of a communal orgy in separate rooms after the fireworks. Jeevas was with Mikami's secretary. I wasn't the only one, but someone might have blabbed. "Yes."
"That was the last known sighting. What time did you see him?"
"I left sometime around two in the morning."
"Who were you with?"
"No significant other?"
"You're in a relationship with Misa Amane, are you not?"
"I was at the time, but I don't know what that has to do with the investigation. Unless you're more interested in my private life than you are in your case."
"Ha! I'm sure that your private life is very interesting to you, but unfortunately I don't share that fascination. I only wish to know if there is anyone who could corroborate the story in your statement to the committee."
"If you read my police statement, you'll know that I included a list of people who can attest to events."
"Oh, I read that statement. It's very flowery and with excellent grammar. At times I felt like I was reading an early Edgar Allan Poe story. Did you see Higuichi leave?"
"No. I had no dealings with him, so I wasn't keeping an eye on what he did."
"So, what you're saying is that you have nothing to say? You know nothing, heard nothing, saw nothing."
"I can't tell you things that I don't know for certain. There were rumours in the House, but it's not my job to try and validate them; it's yours."
"That much of what you say is true. As you're aware, Higuichi was involved in a car accident after leaving that party. His death was very beneficial to you, would you agree?"
"I'm offended at the insinuation that I purposefully gained from the tragic death of one of my colleagues."
"Come now, this is informal. We're not in court, Yagami-san. I'm only pointing out how your superior, Mikami-san, took over Higuichi's position as Head of Transport after his death, and that you, by association, became his second in command. Quite a leap from your previous position."
"I was voted in."
"Indeed. Is it true that you always aspired for Transport? Do you strive for great things?"
"I aspire for nothing apart from to do the best for my country. I'm grateful for the opportunity to work in the position I hold now, but I did not actively seek it, nor do I revel in the circumstances which allowed it to come to pass."
I try to look hurt and insulted, and his reaction is to tilt his head to one side as he stares at me, which makes me want to mirror the action to keep up proper eye contact.
"Why do you think that you've been called to give evidence, Yagami-san?" he asks after a few moments.
"For the committee to get the broadest view of events surrounding Higuichi and his death."
"And you don't consider yourself in danger of being implicated in any way?"
"When you have done nothing wrong, you should fear nothing. I would suggest that it's cheap to attempt to make me a scapecoat. The facts are that I had no relationship with Higuichi, no involvement in corruption and no reason to benefit from his death, unless you want to accuse everyone whose position changed in the unavoidable reshuffle. It's disgusting of you to imply that I was in any way pleased about his death or had any involvement in it. The police investigation found that it was an accident and that he had been drinking. I don't see how I fit into any of this."
"It's for the committee to decide how you fit in, Yagami-san, not you. Do you believe that we should take your statements as facts without question?"
"No, but I resent your tone, your manner of questioning, your implications, and find your behaviour today to be revolting and unprofessional."
I draw gasps from the crowd. It's a good moment.
"I apologise if I've offended you," Lawliet replies with a smile. "I can see that you're very sensitive."
"Anyone would find your manner to be offensive."
"Oh dear. Well, Yagami-san, I propose that we end my revolting, unprofessional questioning for the day so the board can review your statement. If we require your assistance again, would you be willing to appear?"
"Of course. I only want to help the investigation in any way I can."
"That's very generous of you."
I'm furious and feel like I have a parasite under my skin moving, itching. I walk briskly to my office and attempt to calm myself. I watch the Japan News Network. This makes me valid.
Just as I'm about call Mikami and tell him what happened and warn him of what to expect, my secretary calls me.
"Lawliet-san is here. He wants to see you."
I consider my options quickly and take a gulp of water. What could he want? "I'm busy," I say. That should do it.
"He said that he's willing to wait."
"Fine, send him in." My jacket is on the back of the chair. Perhaps it would be better if I was wearing it, but this is my office and I should be casual. I jump up from the lounger and rush to my desk just as the door opens. I make a point of not standing when he comes in. He's wearing a long black mohair coat which I hate him for owning. Double-breasted, classic fit. I think it's Burberry. Prorsum line.
"Yagami-san," he greets me with cheerful suspicion and a slight bow, closing the door behind him. "Thank you for finding yourself to be not as busy as you'd originally thought."
"Mr Lawliet. Please, take a seat." He's half way there as I say it and has taken this room on as his own. Suddenly I feel like I'm the one in front of the desk in his office, not the other way around.
"I'm sure you're wondering why I'm here," he says. "I wish to apologise if you found my questioning today to be particularly harsh. It wasn't, it's simply my style. If anything, I was kind to you."
"I haven't thought about it since," I mutter impassively. He looks at me briefly as he stands again to remove his coat, which he drapes over his lap after sitting back down like a lounge lizard, one leg bobbing slowly, crossed over the other.
"I've read through your statement. I don't see any reason why you should be called back."
"Right. It's very considerate of you to tell me so quickly, but there was no need to come to my office."
"No. That's true." He's looking around the room and lazily points to my large Ogata Gekko print behind me. Number one of the Sino-Japanese War triptychs. "Nice picture," he says blandly. Of course it fucking is.
"Is there anything I can help you with?" I sigh.
"Just some of your time is enough at present."
"I'm not sure what else I can tell you to help with the investigation. I've told you everything I know, you have my statement to the police as well as my statement for the inquiry, and nothing has changed since then."
"No more of the inquiry," he breathes out and strokes some dirt from his coat onto my carpet. "The conclusion was decided upon a long time ago. I wanted to see you for other reasons."
"If it's not particularly important, could we arrange a meeting for another time? I have work to do this afternoon."
"I won't keep you long. I'm very sorry for bringing up your relationship with Misa Amane this morning. I hadn't had time to read the tabloids and wasn't aware of your break up. I presume that you have ended it. I wanted to pass on my sincerest condolences and apologise for bringing up a difficult subject in the inquiry. It must have been very painful to you. Humiliating, even."
I lean back to put some distance between us because the desk isn't doing a good enough job. "What was difficult is that it had absolutely no relevance to the case," I tell him. He grins and further relaxes into his chair.
"Oh, but it did. I wanted to establish that you went to that party alone. If you had gone with Misa Amane then I could have called her in for her testimony. I'm surprised that you spent New Year apart. It must have been awful to find your girlfriend in bed with one of your party brothers. Who was it again who did the wicked deed?"
I take exception at his upbeat humour at my expense, but can't show that he has any effect on me apart from boring me stupid. "Jeevas. He's -"
"One of The Lady's boys, I know him. Friend of yours?"
"Not particularly. I only know him through work."
"Strange. I thought that I saw you with him at Haruki's yesterday."
I can't help but feel that there's something of the night about his reasons for being here now, I just don't know what it is. It's obvious that he still suspects me and thinks that everything I say is false, although his manner is one of someone who is entertained by knowing something that no one else does. I decide to confront him with an accusation from his own book, matching his humour.
"You saw me at Haruki's? Were you spying on me?" I laugh.
"Of course not, you self-obsessed imbecile," he says slowly with a lazy smile and half-lidded eyes. "I went there for their chocolate fondant, just like everyone else. I noticed you, there's a difference. Like I noticed you at Aizawa's funeral."
"You were there too?"
"Again, I wasn't following you around, but if it makes you feel special, then you think that. I was attending the funeral. You know how we on this professional peninsula move in such small but sprawling circles. Aizawa-san provided me with some off the record information for a case I was working on a few years ago when he was in the NPA, that's all. I knew your father before him, by the way. He was very unhelpful. Please pass on my regards."
"You know a lot of people."
"I hate to socialise, but sometimes it's unavoidable since the world is so crowded. What were you doing in the bathroom with two men for such a long time?"
"We were just talking."
"Oh, what a shame. My imagination ran away with me. Don't be shy, you were talking about Akutagawa's impending ejection from the world of politics without a parachute, weren't you?"
"Mikami's going to run for his seat. Would you like a glass of water?" I stand and walk to the drinks cabinet without waiting for an answer and choose Perrier for him. It's the best. Formal. I pour myself a glass and wish that it was saki. While I'm doing that, I put a brief call in to my secretary to check on my apartment. Hopefully there won't be any dead girls there. As I walk back to my seat, Lawliet's eyes follow me. I hand him his water, which he takes, but doesn't drink it.
"You drink a lot of water," he comments. "I noticed at the hearing. Normally that's a sign of nervousness. Or a bladder infection."
"Good, because I would hate to be the cause of either of those things. So, yes. Poor Akutagawa. Along with the recent deaths in the cabinet, there should be quite a reshuffle."
"Yes. It's unfortunate," I nod. "It's not like we need more instability right now."
"You're suffering a lot of personal instability too. You look good on it though. Stress must suit you." He looks at me like a dog staring at his owner's steak. Oh, I get it. I brush my hand through my hair as I exhale.
"I'm surprised. I feel like death," I offer with a self-conscious tone.
"You don't look like it."
"That's something at least. But I suppose that appearances can be deceiving."
"I've often found that to be the case with interesting things. If you scratch the surface, you find something completely different and surprising. Sometimes you have to do more than scratch," he says. I had no idea that this would turn a little philosophical, but it's also quite nice to have someone to speak to who isn't completely transparent. Everything is layered. His expressions go against his words and I find several interpretations for what he says, and most of them are pure filth.
"Everyone and everything hold some secrets," I say with the wisdom of kings. "I suppose if they're worth investigating then there must be something interesting on the surface, otherwise you wouldn't pay any attention to them in the first place."
"I find you quite interesting, Yagami-kun. If everyone and everything holds secrets, then that goes completely against what you said at the hearing. You said definitively that you had no secrets. Are you a set apart from the rest of us mere mortals?"
"At the hearing, I was referring to Higuichi. I wasn't involved in some web of secrecy."
"But you know who was," he says, leaning forward. I smile at the expectation he has for me to just cave in and tell him everything I know. I like his face. I can't call it yet on whether he's a complete dickhead or not.
"How should I know? I thought you said that I'm just a useful idiot."
"Yes, I did say that, didn't I. I was obviously mistaken."
"I know no more than any hack journalist. Of course people in the House have suspicions, but it's coloured by personal vendettas and dislikes. I try to keep an open mind and not be influenced by those factors. So no, I have no time for speculation. I just want this whole thing over with."
"It will be soon. Thankfully, the media are being kept out of this; in no small part because of the news moguls' involvement with Higuichi."
"You say that like you accept corruption as a fact of life."
"It is. Only a fool would think otherwise," he states and picks up my letter opener, pressing the tip against his finger to test the sharpness. "Don't disappoint me and tell me that you're a naïve innocent with dreams of a better world?"
"That kind of cynicism is something I'd expect from someone twice your age."
"If you think you can clean up this corrupt little powerhouse then I'm afraid that you're not very well suited to a life in politics. Others have tried and failed before you. Oddly, most of them end up killing themselves."
"It's my hope that one day it can eradicated. If you start with politics, the rest will follow. There is always the power to change what is rotten. It just needs a pure person to..."
"Sacrifice themself?" he finishes for me, putting the knife back down on the desk. "So you are ambitious. I did wonder. You don't seem as depressed by the breakdown of your relationship as I would expect. Didn't you just find out this morning?"
"Yes. Maybe it hasn't really hit me yet. I've been very busy lately, and then there was the inquiry this morning. But yeah, it wasn't working out, anyway. To be honest, she wasn't really my type," I drop the bombshell as delicately as I can before I drain my glass. Yes, I can be bought and sold. When I look back at him, he's smiling, and what I took for suspicion looks like he just had a yen for me after all. When will I ever give my gut instinct the trust it deserves? I'm not saying I will or I won't, but it's good to keep my options open, and he seems interesting enough to have around and ease the boredom on rainy days. I cough into my closed fist before I continue. "The press have been bothering me all morning." It all weighs heavy on me, kind of. And I never asked for any of it. Not officially, anyway.
"Press is never a bad thing if you play it properly," he tells me.
"You speak from experience?"
"I do. Not for myself, but for the people I've represented. The last thing I need is public attention. Maybe I should have used this as my opening line of attack in seducing you when I came in - because, yes, that's why I'm here. I know how much you politicians love influence with the press. You see, I own the press. You've scored big time, Yagami-kun. I've helped most of the editors out of some potentially damaging infringement accusations, and they owe me privacy and favours in return." He must have seen the realisation on my face as he stands and walks around the desk to get to me. I must be more careful with him. He kneels before me as I turn in my chair to face him. "Ah, do you like me just that little bit more? Are we friends now?" he asks. I try not to bite my bottom lip.
"My name is Light."
"I know that you know. I'm giving you permission to use my first name."
"I'm honoured. So, Light, will you give me permission to take your mind off your heartbreak?"
"Maybe." Yes, I'll fuck him here. I have to meet Mikami at three, but I could postpone. I might not have to.
"I'll be in the Arcadia Room at eight. I'll take one of your business cards, if that's ok?" he says, standing unexpectedly, taking a card from my card holder on the desk and starts entering my number into his phone contacts as he leaves. He didn't look like the wine and dine type, but whatever. He puts on his coat. I'm not disappointed, I just realise how unused I am to people not taking up opportunities.
Mikami swirls the whisky around the ice in his glass as he relaxes in his beloved leather chair. We're sitting opposite each other and there's a fire burning in the grate even though it's not cold. It's like being on an Edwardian cruise liner in first class.
"Health or Education..." he muses as he watches the amber liquid roll around.
"Put yourself forward for both," I say. "I know a few people in Education who'll support you. Some will probably do it for free."
"Hmmm. I'm not sure if I'm ready for Education."
"That's not the kind of mentality you should have."
"I don't mean that I'm not ready ready, I mean that there's a lot of visiting schools and talking to teachers and children involved, isn't there? I hate all those things."
"You hate Transport too but you've done ok. You don't like hospitals and sick people either, so Health will bring the same problems."
"Urgh, they're so similar. Didn't Aizawa get eggs thrown at him when he visited a hospital once? People get so angry about these things."
"Yes, but he was useless. At least it's not Work and Pensions with people moaning about how foreigners are taking all the jobs."
"Well, I'd agree with that, you see. Unofficially, of course."
"I just don't care about hospitals or schools and I'll have to look like I do. That's exhausting on a daily basis. I wish that Defence was an option. That would be a piece of piss and probably involves looking at tanks and things. Yeah, I'd like to review the troops. All that saluting."
"Health is a good one to get under your belt," I suggest. I don't really care where he goes, I just want Transport for myself. I've kept some ideas in reserve so that I can make an impression as soon as I get in.
"Oh, Yagami, I don't know. I think I'll just go for both, like you say. Leave it in the hands of Fate. Yeah, I'll make it known that I'm open to both and make sure that The Lady hears about it."
"Fine. I'll start drafting up some plans and tell the Chief Whip."
"You're stellar. You'd make someone a wonderful wife."
"Er... thanks. I think."
"No, really. I thought so the first time we met when you sewed that button back onto my jacket before my first speech. Always prepared. I thought then, he's the one. It was like love at first sight, really, but for a deputy. Every great man needs a sidekick, you know what I mean. Remember Culture? Those were the good old days. No one gave a shit about Culture because it looks after itself."
As he talks, I check my phone. There are practically thousands of missed calls from my entire family, Misa, and what I suspect to be journalists, since I don't recognise the numbers. They can all fuck off. Oooh, Lawliet has sent me text message with a photo attached. I laugh unexpectedly when I see it. It catches me off guard, otherwise I wouldn't have allowed myself to laugh.
"What's funny?" Mikami asks me, leaning forwards.
"Nothing. How's Shiori, by the way?" Mentioning his wife makes him screw up his face but at least it distracts him.
"Disgusting," he says, flinging himself back into his chair like he's just been shot by a sniper. "But it's ok. We've split the house into two halves. Sometimes we can go for days without seeing each other. Actually, that's something. Could you look into how divorce factors in for politicians in regards to the top job? Opinion polls and stuff like that."
"You've only just married her," I point out.
"In theory, I suppose that I could get it annulled," he considers, staring up at the ceiling. "Look into that too. What do you think the opinion on annulment is these days?"
"I think that people will presume that you can't get it up or that you're homosexual."
"Oh, shit. Well, neither of those things are true, obviously."
"I'd only do it if people won't think that I'm... you know... incapable or a fag. I'm just holding out until her father dies. His liver's fucked. The bitch will get half the house but since her father paid for it, it doesn't matter much. I'll go out with more than I came in with, it's just the ramifications it might have; public opinions and so on."
"You mean that you haven't consummated the marriage? And you didn't even sleep with her before?"
"No. God, no. I know it goes against all my beliefs of trying before you buy, but really I was buying her father's influence, so it wasn't a major concern at the time. I thought about just manning up and going primal but there wasn't enough whisky in the world when it came down to it. Well, there was, but it just made me pass out, and we've stayed away from each other since then. In a way, it's a good thing. Can you imagine the alimony if we had children? Urgh, imagine the children! They'd be such ugly little bastards."
"She's not unattractive."
"You think that, but it's all makeup and good lighting. I could get past that, it's when she talks that's the problem. She collects these figurine things too; the house is full of them. The place looks like a gnome garden. I'm sorry, Yagami. I haven't asked how you are about the Misa and Jeevas thing. We are in a bad way, aren't we? I can't get rid of my horrible wife and your girlfriend jumps Jeevas. Hey, do you think Jeevas might sleep with Shiori? I'd have grounds for adultery then! No, that's too much to hope for. Have you punched him yet?"
"Actually, we're kind of ok about it. He spoke to me this morning."
"You mean you don't mind?"
"Not enough to make an enemy of him. He's buying me dinner at Haruki's tomorrow."
"You could see him out if you played it right."
"Yeah, but he has his uses. He did me a favour, really."
"I suppose. Misa did seem... temperamental. And she did that talking about herself in the third person thing. I never understood that. How did you stand it?"
"She was pretty."
"Yes, she was now you come to mention it. Jeevas. Are you going to have a blood test? He's probably crawling with STDs."
"I don't need to worry about that. Apparently they've only be at it for a month or so and I haven't been near Misa since just before her trip to A&E."
"Really? God, Yagami, how do you cope? I'm dying here. I feel like my dick is going to drop off from boredom. Your will power is an awesome thing."
"I wouldn't say that."
"Oh, just not with Misa... I get you. Clever boy. You must tell me all about it sometime. So, you're back on the singles market. Don't worry. I'm sure there's a lovely girl out there for you."
"I'm not bothered about it right now. I'm just looking forward to getting my apartment back."
"So she's moving out, eh?"
"By tonight, hopefully."
"You have to get married in a few years though. Bearing in mind the finding, dating, and engagement, that doesn't leave you that much time. You can't really get away with a mailorder bride, I looked into it. The people expect a bona fide love affair and old-fashioned courtship shit."
"I don't want a mailorder bride."
"I know," Mikami says, downing a shot of whisky. "We all want love, Yagami, but it's as rare as a unicorn. Hey, cheer up. It could be worse. What about the inquiry?"
"It was interesting."
"I have it all to look forward to. Is this Lawliet bastard really so bad? Fucking foreigners."
"He's tricky, but as long as your story's straight, he's fine."
The Arcadia Room is a shithole. I've decided. I give them another six months before they close. Lawliet is opposite me, my view of his face partially obscured by a candle which I blow out and put on another table. I wish that we could skip the formalities and getting to know you bollocks.
"What's it like being in politics, Light-kun?" he asks, moving his food around the plate like it's on a racetrack.
"I wish you'd stop calling me that."
"Too childish and patronising. And in answer to your question, politics is a worthwhile occupation. I feel honoured to be given the responsibility, as voted for by my constituents, to represent them in the political arena. To be able to improve things for the population."
"Very admirable statement. And what is it really like?"
I stab a salad leaf with my fork. "What is it like being an interfering bastard?" I ask in return.
"Much the same to how you must find politics, Light."
I want to say: 'Are you bored by it all too? Let's go back to your place and have sex on the kitchen table.' But I don't. I imagine that it will be like jumping between planets. It wouldn't be my first time, but I have to gauge this one correctly. It's more important.
"When does the inquiry end again?" I ask, changing the conversation. The sooner this is done with, the better. They don't even have a decent white wine here, never mind my I-Block Fumé Blanc.
"Early next week," he answers. "I'm spreading myself too thin at the moment. The Lady has given me work which deserves more of my attention than I'm willing to give."
"You've met The Lady?"
"Don't tell me that you haven't?"
"Once." It was at one of Takada's charity fundraising dinners. The Lady was in a little draped, enclosed area in the garden surrounded by fairy lights, making her look like a one-woman Nativity. The pearls of her necklace were as large a ping pong balls and you could suffocate on them. I kissed her hand and she smiled.
"I'm surprised that she didn't make you one of her boys," he laughs momentarily before frowning at his plate and pushing it aside. He doesn't eat his bourguignon. I am judging him on this.
"That wouldn't really be very good for my career," I explain. "I want to make my way in politics, not be eyecandy for The Lady. Look at Jeevas. Not that he has any hopes of bettering himself or making a difference, thank God, but he'd never get anywhere from the position he's in now. Everyone knows that he's just there for decoration and there's no respect for him."
"When I first saw you at the funeral, I thought you'd be the same. Yet another of The Lady's beautiful court jesters. It surprises me when I'm wrong."
"I'm glad that I obliged."
"You haven't obliged me with anything yet. This dinner doesn't count."
"You're a fast worker but I'm faster. We could have skipped this shit, you know? There's no need for dinner and candlelight at our age. And, y'know, neither of us is wearing a dress."
"I wanted to speak with you," he says thoughtfully, following it up with a more cheerful: "And get you out of your clothes, but that goes without saying."
"We could have done both of those things at your place."
"No, I'd like to understand you."
Something about his personality has changed. He's much more softly spoken and pure sounding, which worries me. The dreamy quality of his voice makes me feel pensive and angry, so I reach forward suddenly and pour myself another glass of wine.
"I don't want to be understood. To be understood would make me dead."