Books: Brrm! Brrm! — Chapter 16 |
[Invisible line of text as temporary way to expand content column justified text width to hit margins on most viewports, simply for improved display stability in the interval between column creation and loading]


Rochester-san’s new office was on the top floor of a post-modern building on the other side of the river. His old office, apparently, had been a broom-cupboard with a view of the incinerator. This one was so vast that his newly promoted personal effects looked lost in it. Outside, cold daylight sparkled on the long sweep of spires and blocks, domes and cubes, bulbs and stacks. Suzuki had come to say goodbye.

‘Wonderful view, isn’t it?’ asked Rochester-san with satisfaction, waving his drink expansively. ‘You can see everything. Jeffrey Archer lives just over there.’

‘Mind that you continue with your studies.’

‘You can just say “mind you continue”. That “that” sounds intrusive. Tricky one, isn’t it? Tricky language, ours.’

‘Yes. It certainly is.’

‘I’m terribly sorry I couldn’t be at your lecture thing. Big dinner at the BBC. I was sitting next to Lady Susan Hussey herself. She’s the Queen’s lady-in-waiting, you know, as well as being Duke’s wife.’

‘How interesting.’

‘Watch out for that one. People say it when they’re bored.’

‘Are you really allowed to say just “Duke” instead of “the Duke”?’

‘It’s his nickname. Like Duke Ellington. You’ll never get that stuff right. The Americans can’t either. Forget it. I should just forge on. You’ve done very well.’

‘Oh, I don’t know.’

‘Boy, you’re famous. That new piece by Val Butcher: she’s in love. And the stuff on television when you passed out! They’ve been running it on CNN.’

‘I must go. Alas.’

‘Good time to go if you have to,’ said Rochester-san. ‘I never see those lights go on in Oxford Street without wanting to get out of London in a hurry. What is it you say: I go and I return?’

Itte mairimasu.’

‘Return, Akira.’

‘I will. One day.’

‘Chin chin,’ Rochester-san gulped. ‘Pity to waste this stuff. I’ll see you down.’ As he rose from his huge swivel chair, his new, or restored, authority was evident, but Suzuki was pleased to see that he had not lost a certain permanent boyishness, an air of receptivity that Suzuki had come to value in others, having begun to accept it within himself. It was the unfinished look. Rochester-san’s gaze, even as he took Suzuki’s arm, had wandered beyond the window.

‘He’s probably working on a new thriller over there,’ said Rochester-san abstractedly. ‘I started one myself once. Perhaps I should look at it again.’


Lionel moved more of his stuff into Suzuki’s room as Suzuki moved out. It was a neat transition. Lionel’s path back to prosperity, he explained, would be through rented property, and in that field the Japanese tenant was a key factor.

‘Ethel’s the one who knows all about that, aintcher?’ Lionel slapped her on the bottom.

‘You Japs are the tenants to have,’ she told Suzuki, kissing him fondly on the cheek. ‘You were the only wild one, and look how easy you were. Mind how you go. Don’t choke on a chop-stick.’

‘You been an inspiration, Akira,‘ said Lionel over their last long hand-shake. ‘I‘ll be working on your language just as hard as you done on ours.‘ Lionel added a carefully enunciated phrase of Japanese which, unless he actually meant to be starting a discussion about naval architecture in the Edo period, conveyed nothing except his good intentions.

‘You will soon have it mastered,‘ said Suzuki. The big black Mercedes would have waited for ever, but it was time to go.


They stopped at the clinic on the way to the airport. The driver did not need directions. A Pakistani who insisted on being called by his first name, he had, he said, been driving for Sir Ernest since the earliest days.

‘Your English is excellent,‘ said Suzuki.‘Well, in my country we speak it, of course.’

‘Of course.’

‘And then we spoke it again in Kenya.’


‘But you need a long time before you are beginning to get the hang of it. To cotton on, as they say.’



Jane, though awake, was vague at first.


‘Suzuki. Akira. Sue.’

‘Oh, hello. I’ve been sick.’

‘I know. I’m sorry I couldn’t be more help.’

‘It wasn’t your fault. I’ve always been funny. It goes back to when I was little. I couldn’t keep anything together.’

‘You have been very important to me.’

‘Have I? Are you going home now?’


‘Will you be back?’

‘Yes. And I’ll be in touch.’

‘Touch me now.’

‘Like this?’ He stroked her cheek, so clear he could see through it.

‘You’ve got lovely hands, Sue. First thing I loved about you.’

‘Was that in the bookshop?’

‘No. When you thumped that bloke. I loved you after that. Oo, you were masterful.’

‘I have to go.’

‘I showed the article and the interview to a journalist friend of mine and they paid me (or using some bits of it. Did it come out?’

‘It was fine. But you must finish the next one by yourself.’

‘I’m going to be a film director.’

‘Are you? That’s good.’

‘Tired now.’


The Mercedes climbed onto the flyover leading to the M4 with such a surge of power that Suzuki felt it could have flown to Japan all by itself. The telephone rang.

‘For you, I think,’ said the driver. ‘I will put up the partition.’

In vast privacy, a tumbler of Scotch in his hand, Suzuki listened to the unmistakably sensual voice of the girl with the unpronounceably mellifluous name.

‘I hope you’ve poured yourself a drink.’

‘Yes. I have. Where are you?’

‘Klosters. Can you see a little box in there with the drinks? All wrapped up like a present, with a ribbon round it?’


‘Undo the ribbon.’

‘I’ve undone it’

‘Unwrap the box.’

‘I’ve unwrapped it.’

‘Have you looked inside?’

‘I’m looking.’

‘Do you see the watch?’

‘I can see it.’

‘I thought you should have a nice thin one. That one you’ve got sticks up in the air a bit. Japanese are supposed to be subtle. Have you put it on?’

‘I’ve put it on.’

‘Do you like it?’

‘It’s perfect. Perfectly chosen. Everything around you is perfectly chosen.’

‘Yes. And I chose you, too, didn’t I? But you liked someone else better, didn’t you?’

‘Just differently. Will I see you again?’

‘One day in Tokyo I’ll come up and ask you the time.’

‘I look forward to it.’