9. Let’s Make a Deal (6)

The sight that greeted Ryu when he entered the bath was as dramatic as a scene from any Kabuki play—a death scene shrouded in mist. The room into which he stepped was curtained in steam. Clouds of it rose from the floor and drifted up to the very high ceiling. On three sides of the room was a low band of sweating mirror with a granite ledge that ran around its base broken every six feet or so with silver spigots and low pine stools. In the center of the room was a bath of Olympic proportions. Steps led into its shallow heart and the water lapped up and over the steps, moving in a desultory way. Between Ryu and that pool was a huge expanse of slippery-looking granite-colored floor and standing in the middle of it, his arms outstretched, was Clément. He had a hand each on the chests of two fire-plug-shaped yakuza, both tattooed, in diaper-like mawashi, holding what looked like classic aragoto* poses, their mouths turned downward, their eyes almost crossed in frustration.

Clément had eyes for neither of them. His gaze was set on the steamy far wall, which was made entirely of glass. The naked men, armored in tattoos, looked like brightly colored demons. All of this smacked Ryu as a frieze, a still photo that would remain emblazoned in his mind like an ukiyoe, an old woodcut, and he thought it strange that the most extraordinary images in life are transient. Transient indeed, for the poses couldn’t hold. It was Clément who broke the spell.

“Dame-desuyo. Stop it,” he said in womanly, singsong Japanese. “They are waiting for me. Let’s get on with it.”

The yakuza relaxed. Turning quickly, they marched their visitors to the far wall, which was broken by large, glass sliding doors. They opened them. The cool night air gushed in. Ryu and Clément stepped out to meet it. The yakuza followed them out.

—DEAD LOVE/Chapter 9.6/Let’s Make a Deal


*Fierce, highly stylized masculine poses assumed by male characters in Kabuki drama.