9. Let’s Make a Deal (4)

Ryu squeezed his eyes closed, trying to shut out the babble and the image of the clerk’s smooth, thin, lightly tanned face, trying to squelch the frustration that he felt rising up inside him. Mostly he tried to shut out the unpleasant and all-too-familiar smell that had begun to wreathe itself around Clément. By the time they reached Narita, after a layover and another long flight, he knew he was going to be sick.

Ryu’s colleagues had set things up at arrival. He had no trouble getting Clément through passport control, though by this time the desk clerk’s smell was more than unpleasant. There was a large black Daimler waiting for them at the curb. Clément’s light-hearted attitude evaporated the minute they stepped from the airport. A completely different personality seemed to take over. This one was silent, almost brooding. Ryu felt off balance and perplexed. It was like watching an actor move from one role to the next.

Clément said not a word on the long ride from the airport to the Uguisu Ryokan. And Ryu also said nothing. Sitting, side by side in the back seat, behind bullet-proof, sound-proof glass, in the sedan’s plush, dove-gray interior, they temporarily holstered their hostilities and withdrew into the profound centers of their very private worlds.

They were headed for Ishikawa-ken, the prefecture southeast of Tokyo at the base of the beautiful Noto Peninsula that was once the power center of the influential Maeda clan, their destination a 1,200-year-old inn steeped in tradition and Old World elegance. Uguisu Ryokan—Ryu loved the place. He felt soothed by its tatami-matted suites, its graceful dimensions, its beautiful gardens. Uguisu Ryokan was constructed like a great walled castle, the lobby level laid out like a village.

Beyond the front desk and the jasper-floored entrance were curving halls floored in pebble-framed flagstones that wound past slatted walls of white pine. Little lanterns lit the way and, here and there, a doorway would signal the entrance to a fine sushi restaurant or nightclub. There were five restaurants in Uguisu Ryokan—five restaurants; three nightclubs; six little shops at which guests could buy clothing or sundries or gifts or jewelry or china; three swimming pools; innumerable private whirlpools; four viewing gardens; and two spas.

It was a favorite yakuza meeting place, one for celebrations and settlements. To some it was the last stop, a place of unpleasant reckoning. Ryu had known it in the past as a perk, the reward for a job well done. And now, here he was, headed to Uguisu again, but this time he was no hero. He was arriving with this disgusting baggage and a hoped-for, but not guaranteed, answer as to the whereabouts of the microchip, the one he had lost. He was hung over, unshaven, sick to his stomach and surely in for the worst form of reproach.

—DEAD LOVE/Chapter 9.4/Let’s Make a Deal

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Art courtesy of Bart Frescura, copyright Bart Frescura

  • boldlow

    I felt I was there – great writing and could feel the suspense build. Love these snippets…want more! Good thing the book's available now…but still love the excerpts. Keep 'em coming!!

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