There was a knock at the door, something I wasn’t expecting at this hour- or any hour really. My simple apartment was not the sort of place people visited. It was nothing special, nothing more than a kitchen/hallway, a bathroom, and the one main room which fulfilled all other functions, if only sort of. I’d always felt it weird to invite people over to a place that only had a bed as furniture. Luckily most of my friends had similar apartments, efficient, but spartan. Luckily Tokyo has more than enough bars for our megre social gatherings.
The knock took me totally off guard, a guard significantly down due to the five now empty cans of beer in the recycling. Something awoke in me, a pure fear from my youth in one of the American neighborhoods the tour books overhear specifically recommend you avoid. I tiptoed to the peep hole as quietly as possible, not wanting to alert whoever was outside that I was looking.
“I can see you’re looking through the peephole, its two way, you should probably get that replaced.” came a deep voice in English from the otherside of the door. I couldn’t hear any specific accent, other than broadly North American.
“Who the fuck is it?”
“You don’t know me, but I know you and you need to let me in to discuss an important matter.”
“Yeah, na, not opening my door to a fucking stranger, so unless you have something else you can go ahead a fuck off.”
“Listen pal, I don’t want to talk to you any more than you want to talk to me, but open the fucking door its about our mutual friend John Murphy, he needs us to cooperate, but that can’t happen talking through a fucking door.“
I did know a John Murphy, though I wouldn’t be surprised if there was more than one John Murphy in Tokyo, hell they’re probably a couple. I wouldn’t say we were friends, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he chose me to help him out in a jam. I had a bit of a reputation in our general group of acquaintances for a certain degree of experience in getting people out of trouble. Knowing a lot of reckless people with substance abuse problems will do that to you.
I opened the door but kept the chain secure. I peered out and saw a man in a nice suit with matching overcoat. He had a nice briefcase and what looked like an expensive watch. He was white and middle aged, clean cut to the t. He even had one of those metal bars connecting the sides of his collar under his tie. He saw me looking. “So are you going to let me in?”
I guess it seemed worth the gamble. I looked over at the kitchen and saw a wok I could use if push came to shove. I think there was a fish deboning knife in one of the drawers too, though that’s some gnarly shit to contemplate.
I closed the door, pulled off the chain, and let him in. He took off his shoes and I realized I didn’t have any slippers to offer him. He shrugged and walked straight to the main room in his socks.
I offered him a beer so I could drink one too. He demurred with a shake of his hand. “So, I bet you’re wondering who the fuck I am. I’m a lawyer for your buddy Johnny. Seems he’s fucked up and he needs your help. “
“What’d he do?”
“Oh nothing serious, there was a disagreement with the proprietor of a bar over a bill. Seems he got confused in a, shall we call it, seedier establishment. One of those places you drink with pretty girls, blah blah blah not important. Seems he underestimated what his bill would be, got a bit of sticker shock, had words with the bartender, threw fists with the boss, and now, well.”
“In the slammer?”
“Oh fuck no, the bar is owned by the Yakuza. He fucking wishes he was in the slammer, fuck, na, I’m the English speaking representative of this collection of Japanese businessmen here to see if you are willing to help him.”
“I thought you were his lawyer.”
“I am, in a way. I’m a lawyer, and I’m trying to help him so, roundabout, ipso facto, I’m his lawyer. Let’s not split hairs.”
“What sort of help does he need, and why me?”
“Well that second part I don’t know, but the first part is simple, Ten million yen and he’s free.”
“Ten million yen? Are you fucking kidding me? Where the fuck am I going to get that much money? Does he think I have that kind of scratch?”
“Yeah, not sure, he gave a few names, when I pulled up to this apartment complex I knew you probably didn’t have that kind of money, but fuck I was already here, though I’d ask.” He shrugged.
“I mean I’d like to help, but man, I don’t have anywhere near that kind of money, no one I know does, even collectively.“
“That’s the pickle, right? They’d probably negotiate a bit, but not down to what you can pay. Sorry to put this sort of burden on you, the fact you’d even consider it makes you a good friend in my book. I wouldn’t pay either, hell I wouldn’t have let me in and offered me beer, I think you’re morally excused.” He made the sign of the cross like a priest and stood up.
“Is he,” I paused, “is he going to be ok?”
“What do you mean by ok?”
“Are they gonna,” I looked around for some reason and whispered, “kill him?”
“Oh fuck no! Seriously, this is Japan mother fucker, there aren’t murders here. What the fuck, no, they’ll rough him up and make him make back the money, they’ll give him a humiliating job, might even pimp him out, but kill, fuck no. Honestly, he’ll be fine, or well, maybe fucked up a little but he’ll live, might even have a good story to tell out of it, who knows.“
He started walking to leave, returning his socked feet to his leather dress shoes. He opened the door, then turned to me. “A bit of advice, in exchange for your hospitality. Always have enough money to pay your bar bill.”
He smiled then left, leaving me alone again in my small apartment. The silence washed the room clean of his presence. Numb I turned to grab another beer. Fuck hitting the bars tonight, I said to the white humm of the fridge.