Books: Brrm! Brrm! — Chapter 13 |
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In West End Central police station no charge was brought against Suzuki. ‘You’re a very lucky Oriental chap,’ said the senior officer present. ‘The old man of one of them birds you was with owns the place.’

‘I am very grateful.’

‘Oh, don’t thank me, China. If it was down to me you’d be going home PDQ. Chop-chop in your language. Get me?’

‘Japan. I am from Japan, not China.’

‘Oh, I know that. You’re a very clever Jap chap. Velly crever, in your language. Just let me tell you I don’t like all these martial arts of yours one little bit. Never saw so much GBH. One of them blokes is breathing through a tube and the one you hit with the bottle needs his face sewn back on.’

‘I did not hit him with the bottle. He hit the bottle by himself.’

‘Yes, well I’ll be hitting the bottle by myself if I have to deal with much more of this. You stay away from our girls. And especially from that blonde nutter with all the ironmongery in her cars. You aren’t doing her a bit of good.’

Suzuki. knowing that the officer could not mean Lilian, thought of asking what had happened to her, but could not deal with the challenge of saying her name. A policewoman told him that Jane Austen had been taken to hospital. ‘Don’t worry too much about all that hard chat from the super,’ she said while looking through some documents. ‘It’s watching “The Bill” that does it. They feel they son of have to.’

Puzzled but grateful, Suzuki left. No police transport to the hospital having been on offer, Suzuki had to walk, and frequently got lost. It was almost dawn when he arrived, further frustrated to see the towers of the Barbican quite nearby. If he had known that the hospital was in this vicinity he could have steered a straighter course. Inside the casualty department he had to wait for almost an hour before being redirected to another hospital.

‘She’s in de-tox; said a woman who must have been a nurse. ‘Do you understand what that means?’

‘A man struck her very hard and I am trying to find out if she was badly hurt.’

‘Yes, well, she is in a pretty bad way, but not from that. She’s evidently been taking a lot of stuff and now she’s got to be stopped.’

‘Will it cost a great deal?’

‘No, love. In this country it’s all on the rates. We get them fixed up so they can go out and muck themselves up again, don’t we?’

The other hospital was in Hampstead, so at least it was near his home. He found her asleep, with a tube in her arm. Her skin, whiter even than usual, showed the veins within it like violets under snow. Drawing his chair close, he put his hand gently beside hers on the pillow and in his own language asked for forgiveness. He told her he wanted her to live. He did not tell her that he also wanted to be free of her, although it was true. Unobserved, he was able to give way to emotion. The unfamiliar feeling of tears occurred.

After half an hour someone came to tell him that he wasn’t allowed to sit there any more. By then he was composed. Bearing a cyclostyled schedule of visiting times, he walked the rest of the way home with comparatively little difficulty. On the underground he would have choked, and a cab would have cost more money than he had left in his pocket, or possibly in the world. He had lost track of his finances, as of life itself. All he knew was that his original idea of inviting just enough danger had been fundamentally flawed.

‘I’d love to know who called,’ said Lilian’s voice. ‘Leave a message after the beep.’ He thought of telling the machine that she still had his briefcase, but she must have already known that. The only bright spot on Suzuki’s horizon was that there was nothing left to go wrong. His whole world had caved in. He fell into his little bed and slept as if shot for the rest of the afternoon, the whole night, and far into the next morning.

Lionel woke him up. ‘Wotcher, Akira. How’s the endurance? Not that I need to ask. It’s all inner papers.’ Suzuki had been told by Lionel many times in the past that to keep abreast of all the national Sunday newspapers was the great secret for being able to read every level of the market. This was the first time, however, that Suzuki had seen Lionel and his research material together in one place. The papers were spread all over Mrs TheIwell’s bed, in which Mrs Thelwell, wearing a stridently floral dressing-gown over her nightdress, sat upright among pillows, keenly reading the quality broadsheet of which Rochester-san was now the deputy editor.

‘Look, you’re even in this posh one. Lovely photograph. And I didn’t know you wrote poetry. It’s a lovely poem, Akira. What a surprise you are.’

Lionel held up one of the tabloids. ‘This is my favourite. They caught you just when you was thumping this big spade, didn’t they? Can’t hardly see him, but Jesus you look dangerous.’

Suzuki surveyed with alarm a double page layout in which he could be seen variously embroiled with the security staff at the nightclub. JAP RAMBO GOES BANANAS said a headline so big it left little room for a story. It turned out that this was a strategic necessity, because there were few facts.

The Jap mystery man they are calling the Sushi Rambo bounced the bouncers in the wee small hours of Friday night at a Mayfair exclusive club. Called the Tempest, nobody knew how he got in. ‘Suddenly he was tearing our £350 suits to pieces,’ said top security operative Rod Koenig. ‘It was totally unprovoked.’

‘I personally have never seen anything like it, frankly,’ said another security operative who refused to give his name. ‘Now I know how they felt at Pearl Harbour.’ Rumours that the Nip Nemesis may be the unacknowledged son of the Emperor were discounted next morning by officials at the Japanese Embassy. When shown our exclusive photograph, we were told: ‘Very sorry, no comment.’ All we can say is: ‘Remember Hiroshima!’ Britain has enough soccer hooligans of her own. We don’t need to import any, least of all from the Land of the Rising Yen. Got it, Tokyo?

Suzuki reflected that in different circumstances his pleasure in having had his poem so prominently published would have been intense. Now he felt that it only helped to focus on him a beam of attention that would mean his doom. Undoubtedly the embassy staff would react by withdrawing his invitation to act as translator for the Kabuki evening. They might well impound his passport. For the first time in his life, Suzuki thought seriously of not turning up at work next day. He thought of doing what the British did, and pretending to be sick. It was too irresponsible a step. Not even the Americans did it. As if to confirm the rightness of his decision, a despatch rider delivered his briefcase. There was no accompanying message.

Suzuki arrived at the bookshop to be greeted by transparently satisfied smiles from the junior male members of the staff and looks of startled concern from the women, as if he had been struck by lightning and was standing there with smoke coming out of his shoes. The manager was nowhere to be seen, so it was Suzuki who had to deal with the telephone call from Val Butcher.

‘Is your Mr Suzuki there, by any chance?’

‘This is he. Speaking.’

‘Oh, hello darling. Congratulations on the coverage, but I think we can do a bit better than that. I’m putting a little thing together myself and I need some follow-up.’

‘Please ...’

‘Glad you’re taking it that way. Listen love, would you mind telling me how many white women you’ve had?’

‘“Had” in what way?’

‘Christ, you really are a goer, aren’t you? How do you feel after you’ve just poked one of our girls?’

‘I can’t talk.’

‘No kidding? And then what do you do?’

‘I’m afraid I have to say goodbye.’

Suzuki put the telephone down just as the manager came in from the street and headed towards his office at the back of the shop, beckoning for Suzuki to follow. The ensuing conversation was the most awkward Suzuki had ever endured. The manager, though speaking as indirectly as possible, clearly felt the same. Apparently he had spent most of the morning at the embassy, waiting to see the Cultural attaché, the de facto overseer of Suzuki’s activities in London. Since Suzuki would one day outrank the manager, effectively the manager was delivering a message of admonition from one of his superiors to another. This put him in a desperately embarrassing position. He hinted that the Cultural attaché had been aware of this but so angry that he was determined to make others suffer too. The invitation to act as interpreter was not withdrawn. Indeed it was to be taken as an obligation. There must be no further anomalies. On the other hand, an early return to Japan was considered advisable, perhaps even before the New Year. Suzuki’s position could be considered more carefully when he was out of the limelight. That Suzuki had ever got into the limelight — the Cultural attaché had made this brutally plain — must be at least partly the manager’s responsibility. To send a prospective high-flyer abroad in order to learn smoothness, and then to find his face gazing out of the sort of newspaper which dedicated itself to fomenting international tension — well, perhaps the whole system would have to come under review. The manager had apparently not been offered tea. Suzuki had already noted that he himself had been denied the same courtesy. His web of supporting relationships was coming apart. That evening Jane still wasn’t talking to him, but at least it was because she wasn’t talking to anyone. For his professional acquaintances to deny him common courtesy, however, was a cumulative death sentence.

Next morning there were two more hammer blows. Having woken to the bleak prospect of the Kabuki lecture that evening, he packed his good suit, his new shoes and a spare shirt in his suit bag, along with his Tōdai tie, which presumably he would retain the right to wear even if he ended his life in gaol. Why did he presume that? They would probably hang him with it. As he left the house on tip-toe he was met by the postman, breaking all precedent by arriving early enough actually to deliver a letter to someone who had not already left for work. There was a special delivery letter from Shimura-san. The tube train, although half empty by Tokyo standards, was too crowded to allow for comfortable reading, but when it broke down between stations Suzuki, after the first half hour of immobility, found a way of retaining a grip on his briefcase and suit-bag while still managing to open the letter. If he had been sitting down it would have been easier. It would also have been easier to absorb the contents.

‘I feel bound to say it was depressing’, one part of the letter said, ‘to telephone you at the number you gave, at a time of day less than convenient to myself, and be greeted by the words “Piss off, you bitch”. I presume I have transcribed them correctly. Luckily I have only a vague idea of what they mean. Doubtless there is some explanation. But nothing can detract from the fact that your circumstances are not in your control. Was that the same woman as the one you told me about? Are there more? Not even the great Admiral Yamamoto, who had several emotional interests, would have been ...’

The rest of the letter was in the same vein. Luckily it had been written before the night-club incident occurred, so at least there was no mention of that. Suzuki did not look forward to what Shimura-san would make of that. Shimura-san’s idea of spontaneous behaviour in public was the deportment of the Emperor Hirohito at his own funeral. Suzuki was shocked to find himself having such an idea. Was he becoming Westernised?

‘Do you mind not poking me with that bloody bag?’

‘I’m sorry.’

‘Ear! You that Rambo feller what was inner paper?’

‘Please ...’

‘Ear! Lorna! It’s Rambo! The mad Jap!’

An hour late for work, Suzuki was beckoned straight into the manager’s office and shown one of that morning’s tabloid newspapers. It was the upmarket tabloid, the one with headlines less than half the size of the page and a few items of cultural interest within. One of these articles featured a cropped version of the photograph of him hitting the black man. The black man was missing, leaving only Suzuki’s contorted face and extended fist. There were also smaller portrait photographs of Jane Austen, Lilian Pflimmlin and Sir Ernest Papadakis. The manager left Suzuki alone to read the article. This time, Suzuki noted in passing, he had been offered a drink — a large straight Scotch whisky. Perhaps the manager was becoming Westernised too. BRRM! BRRM! KARATE POET PACKS DOUBLE PUNCH, said the headline. THE VAL BUTCHER PROFILE. A small photograph of the author appeared under her byline. All in all, when the photographs were added together, there was not a great deal of room left on the page for prose. Suzuki soon wished there had been even less. After a brief introduction in which the few existing facts were garbled still further, the author brought to bear her powers of analysis.

At the Japanese Embassy in Piccadilly tout Londres will be there tonight. To see the sensational Mr Suzuki in yet another role. That of actor. In some extracts from the famed Japanese play, Kabuki. Ordinarily a big yawn, you might think. Yet suddenly the sinecure of all eyes — and for one reason.

So who is he, this talented, violent, violently attractive young man? That some of London’s most hard-bitten reporters have so misleadingly called the Japanese Rambo? Because make no mistake: Rambo goes there to deal with them, whereas young Mr Suzuki comes here to deal with us. And by ’us’ I don’t just mean those oh-so-tough guys in the nightclubs of London’s famed Soho, the Mecca for many a bus-load of Tokyo touristi.

Because there are also our women. And in Mr Suzuki’s case they are the cream of the crop. The hardest to meet, the most expensive to entertain. Is it because he is the unacknowledged son of ex-Emperor Mishima, as sonic have rumoured?

Be that as it may, at least part of the Suzuki motor-cycle fortune seems to have found its way into the ready wallet of this wandering scion with the roving slant eye. If that’s not a racist slur. And I wouldn’t want to be around when Mr Suzuki was being sensitive to one of those. Noh-way!

Suzuki bit off an inch of Scotch and swallowed it whole. He was having a great deal of trouble following the thread of the article. Many of the sentences were without verbs, which made the syntax hard to unscramble. On top of that, the line of thought was so difficult to determine that he wondered whether the author herself would be able to paraphrase it.

Sorry fellows, but the sad fact is this. Mr Suzuki has got everything our girls want. He is a poet with the traditional Japanese sense of delicately balanced refinement which has been refined through thousands of years of their literary history where the emphasis has always been on balance and delicacy. And he can do it in English, too.

Which makes you wonder, will the English poem, like the English motor-cycle, go the way of all flesh? Will it once again be ‘Oh yes, velly solly prease, our turn now?’ That much is in the lap of the ancestors, as they say in Japan.

But the amazing Mr Suzuki isn’t just a poet, he’s a man. One who isn’t afraid to be physical. Physical in both sentences of the word. His favourite colour, I am able to reveal, is red. Blood red: the red that flowed from the injured lips of those oh-so-tough guys in that hard-bitten nightclub.

And also, I can exclusively disclose, from another gang of local boys who resented his success with rising pop star Jane Austen, now in hospital. The same rising pop star who later had to be stopped from a suicide jump by Mr Suzuki himself at a wild yuppie party in a Docklands penthouse. That ended only when the stock market crashed around their ears. And who walked away smiling? Take another bow, Mr Suzuki!

Suzuki took another drink, leaving one more in the glass. He wondered if it would be enough.

But now the story takes off like a meteor. Because who should next fall for the poetic, whirlwind charms of our oriental enigma but stockbroker and beauty-about-town Lilian Pflimmlin, until then the only apple in the shrewd eye of pathologically publicity-shy international mega-mogul Sir Ernest ‘Grecian Ern’ Papadakis? Whose Australian passport comes by way of Athens, his untold millions by routes too devious to unravel?

Yet not even all the awesome power of the man they used to call the Adonis from Adelaide could hold Mr Suzuki back when he took one look at the delicious Lilian. I was there and I heard what he said: ‘I’m sorry’. As if fate ruled the roost.

After the night-club wrecking incident that was called Hiroshima all over again by those who survived the sudden unprovoked wrath of her definitely not inscrutable admirer, la Pflimmlin has been unavailable for comment. But her close friend and fellow yuppie-ette Francine Beckenbauer told me exclusively: ‘It was the blowfish lying down with the lamb. Something was bound to explode.’

Suzuki drained the last of the Scotch. He would have to go through the rest of this operation without anaesthetic. How had it come to this? When did it begin?

Getting an interview from Mr Suzuki himself is practically impossible. Not because he doesn’t speak English as well as you or I — he does. But because he clearly believes that a good strong dose of Oriental mystery is the strongest and in that well-cut suit of his. So he says: ‘Noh!’ Every reporter on the cultural beat has tried and failed.

Luckily I knew the ropes. Above all I knew the people. Following a web of contacts, I tracked him down in an exclusive Mayfair eating-club for the Jet Set where if they don’t know you on the door, it’s goodbye. But for me it was ‘Hello, Val.’

And there he was, ready to reveal all. The lovely Fräulein Pflimmlin, in close attendance, discreetly absented herself while I asked her fascinating escort the 64,000 yen question: How many of our London ladies had he made love to? And he gave me an answer worthy of my old friend Warren Beatty.

ln what way?’ he said. And there was a twinkle in his eye that I think he hoped was loveable. Perhaps it was. Perhaps I, too, was falling for the magic of this karate poet who is at least no wimp. Then I asked him: And how do you feel afterwards?

I can’t talk,’ he said. And suddenly I saw his tenderness. But then I asked him how he brought his evenings of love to an end. And he told me.

I’m afraid I have to say goodbye.’

And then I saw his ruthlessness. I’m afraid I felt sick, Mr Suzuki. And I had to say goodbye, too. But I can’t deny that I did it with regret. Perhaps yet another moth had come too close to the flame.

Apparently they’ve called him home. There’s going to be some harsh words from the old man at the motorbike factory. But I predict there will be women hanging from the wheels of his plane like one of those helicopters leaving Vietnam, remember? So with singed wings I can only ask this. Will there be more like him, this T.S. Eliot from Tokyo?

Suzuki wondered if these last lines were quite in the right order. He stopped wondering when the manager rejoined him to say that a couple of journalists had already called that morning and been made to go away only after having been given the false information that he, Suzuki, would not be reporting for work. Suzuki got the idea that it would be better all round if this false information could be made true. Using the back door of the shop and the route through the restaurant, Suzuki was outside on Ludgate Hill before he realised that he had brought his briefcase and suit-bag with him. To go home to his room was no more advisable than to stay where he was. The gymnasium would be another bad idea. It was hours too early to go to the embassy, which would no doubt also be a target of press attention. Where could he conceal himself? He remembered a useful English expression Rochester-san had taught him: the best place to hide a book is in a library. Out of St Paul’s Cathedral came a large party of Japanese tourists. They all climbed into a London Sightseeing Bus. Suzuki climbed in with them. Having found a spare seat on the open upper deck, he put his briefcase between his calves, draped his suit-bag over his lap, and explained to his companion — a man with prominently filled teeth in the old style — that there had been a mix-up. There was no untruth in that.