He nodded again, pleased at my astute assessment of the important social service he had provided in pulverizing some harmless idiot, and I knew that he would be comfortable calling on me, his new friend, from time to time when he needed a spot.
Like tonight, I hoped. I moved quickly down Gaienhigashi-dori, easing past pedestrians on the crowded sidewalk, ignoring the cacophony of traffic and sound trucks and touts, using the chrome and glass around me to gauge whether there was anyone to my rear trying to keep up. I turned right just before the Roi Roppongi Building, then right again onto the club's street, where I paused behind a thicket of parked bicycles, my back to the incongruous pink exterior of a Starbucks coffee shop, waiting to see who might be trailing in my wake. A few groups of young partygoers drifted by, caught up in the urgent business of entertaining themselves and failing to notice the man standing quietly in the shadows. No one set off my radar. After a few minutes, I made my way to the club.
The facility occupied the ground floor of a gray commercial building hemmed in by rusting fire escapes and choked with high-tension wires that clung to the structure's facade like rotting vegetation. Across from it was a parking lot crowded by Mercedes with darkened windows and high-performance tires, the status symbols of the country's elite and of its criminals, each aping the other, comfortably sharing the pleasures of the night in Roppongi's tawdry demimonde. The street itself was illuminated only by the indifferent glow of a single arched lamplight, its base festooned with flyers advertising the area's innumerable sexual services, in the shadows of its own luminescence looking like the elongated neck of some antediluvian bird shedding diseased and curling feathers.
The shades were drawn behind the club's plate-glass windows, but I spotted the yakuza's anodized aluminum Harley-Davidson V-Rod parked in front, surrounded by commuter bicycles like a shark amidst pilot fish. Just past the windows was the entrance to the building. I tried the door, but it was locked.
I backed up a few steps to the club windows and tapped on the glass. A moment later the lights went off inside. Nice, I thought. He had cut the lights so he could peek through the shades without being seen from outside. I waited, knowing he was watching me and checking the street.
The lights went back on, and a moment later the yakuza appeared in the entranceway to the building. He was wearing gray sweatpants and a black cut-away A-shirt, along with the obligatory weightlifting gloves. Obviously in the middle of a workout.
He opened the door, his eyes searching the street for danger, failing to spot it right there in front of him.
"Shimatterun da yo," he told me. Club's closed.
"I know," I said in Japanese, my hands up, palms forward in a placating gesture. "I was hoping someone might be here. I was going to come by earlier but got held up. You think I could squeeze in a quick one? Just while you're here, no longer than that."
He hesitated, then shrugged and turned to go back inside. I followed him in.
"How much longer have you got to go?" I asked, dropping my gear bag and changing out of my unobtrusive khakis, blue oxford-cloth shirt, and navy blazer. I had already slipped on the gloves, as I always did before coming to the club, but the yakuza hadn't noticed this detail. "So I can time my workout."
He walked over to the squat station. "Forty-five minutes, maybe an hour," he said, getting into position under the weight.
Squats. What he usually did when he was finished benchpressing. Shit.
I slipped into shorts and a sweatshirt, then warmed up with some push-ups and other calisthenics while he did his sets of squats. The warm-up might actually be useful, I realized, depending on the extent of his struggles. A small advantage, but I don't give anything away for free.
From Hard Rain: A John Rain Novel by Barry Eisler, copyright © 2003 Barry Eisler, published by G.P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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