"Janaìcek," Aomame said half-consciously, though after the word emerged from her lips, she wanted to take it back.
"What's that, ma'am?"
"Janaìcek. The man who wrote this music."
"Never heard of him."
"Well-well," the driver said, seemingly impressed.
"Do you own this cab?" Aomame asked, hoping to change the subject.
"I do," the driver answered. After a brief pause, he added, "It's all mine. My second one."
"Very comfortable seats."
"Thank you, ma'am." Turning his head slightly in her direction, he asked, "By the way, are you in a hurry?"
"I have to meet someone in Shibuya. That's why I asked you to take the expressway."
"What time is your meeting?"
"Four thirty," Aomame said.
"Well, it's already three forty-five. You'll never make it."
"Is the backup that bad?"
"Looks like a major accident up ahead. This is no ordinary traffic jam. We've hardly moved for quite a while."
She wondered why the driver was not listening to traffic reports. The expressway had been brought to a standstill. He should be listening to updates on the taxi drivers' special radio station.
"You can tell it's an accident without hearing a traffic report?" Aomame asked.
"You can't trust them," he said with a hollow ring to his voice. "They're half lies. The Expressway Corporation only releases reports that suit its agenda. If you really want to know what's happening here and now, you've got to use your own eyes and your own judgment."
"And your judgment tells you that we'll be stuck here?"
"For quite a while," the driver said with a nod. "I can guarantee you that. When it backs up solid like this, the expressway is sheer hell. Is your meeting an important one?"
Aomame gave it some thought. "Yes, very. I have to see a client."
"That's a shame. You're probably not going to make it." The driver shook his head a few times as if trying to ease a stiff neck. The wrinkles on the back of his neck moved like some kind of ancient creature. Half-consciously watching the movement, Aomame found herself thinking of the sharp object in the bottom of her shoulder bag. A touch of sweat came to her palms.
"What do you think I should do?" she asked.
"There's nothing you can do up here on the expressway - not until we get to the next exit. If we were down on the city streets, you could just step out of the cab and take the subway."
"What is the next exit?"
"Ikejiri. We might not get there before the sun goes down, though." Before the sun goes down? Aomame imagined herself locked in this cab until sunset. The Janaìcek was still playing. Muted strings came to the foreground as if to soothe her heightened anxiety. That earlier wrenching sensation had largely subsided. What could that have been?
Aomame had caught the cab near Kinuta and told the driver to take the elevated expressway from Yohga. The flow of traffic had been smooth at first, but suddenly backed up just before Sangenjaya, after which they had hardly moved. The outbound lanes were moving fine. Only the side headed toward downtown Tokyo was tragically jammed. Inbound Expressway Number 3 would not normally back up at three in the afternoon, which was why Aomame had directed the driver to take it.
"Time charges don't add up on the expressway," the driver said, speaking toward his rearview mirror. "So don't let the fare worry you. I suppose you need to get to your meeting, though?"
"Yes, of course. But there's nothing I can do about it, is there?"
He glanced at her in the mirror. He was wearing pale sunglasses. The way the light was shining in, Aomame could not make out his expression.
"Well, in fact, there might be a way. You could take the subway to Shibuya from here, but you'd have to do something a little... extreme."
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