Stepfather Step – Chapter 2

26 Feb

This was so long and descriptive. Please pardon any grammatical errors and I might have messed up the baseball analogy (never watched a baseball match in my life). >_>

2.

It was a mistake to even come to this area.

Business had been poor of late and I was short on cash, making my days pretty hard to bear so I had come with expectations of an income opportunity. This was a recently developed residential area which arose from an overly optimistic prediction: the locals had boldly assumed that the Shinkansen or maglev train would pass through this area as they entered the 21st century. Hence a large scale community with residences for sale suddenly appeared on this vacant hill top and it looked no different from a movie set, a dreamy community over-looking the small town at the bottom of the hill which housed the locals. The town on the hill top was name ‘Shin Imade-machi’ (1) while the town below with the locals was called ‘Imade-machi’. Geographically and analogically speaking, the new town can be said to be the unrestrained day dream of Imade-machi. The only thing both towns had in common was a privately ran railway station located at the centre of Imade-machi, which was as far away from Tokyo as the small blood vessels on your right foot’s little toe is from your central nervous system.
Yanase-san had emphasised that I was the only one he informed of this good deal and he would only take a 30 percent cut, after all one cannot be too greedy … I should have suspected something was up was he spoke so seriously.

“Your client is a women who lives alone and had just moved into the community. She doesn’t like socialising and so isn’t familiar with the neighbours. Plus it’s a new community – it wouldn’t arouse any suspicion even if you hung around the area. This should be an easy job. What do you say?”

Well, he was right, it was a good deal. “Why would you give up such a good opportunity to someone else?” I countered.
He laughed and replied, “Precisely because it’s a good opportunity, it would be a waste if I didn’t give it to someone who is up for the job! If it’s a game where you can score with a simple bat, it wouldn’t make sense to send someone who’s always getting sent off after three strikes right?”

Well, that made sense. Besides, Yanase-san had taken care of me similarly in the past and those occassions ended statisfactorily, which was why I took on this job readily.

But when I came to the actual place, it wasn’t what I had expected. The community was like how Yanase-san described but the target’s house not only had a complete infrared security system in place, the double story mansion’s large backyard was encircled by a five metre high wall made of cement blocks. To top it off, the walls had barbed wires on them. Sometimes Yanase-san would land me in such situations. Just like a magician who, after setting up the stage and making his appearance in his costume, realises he forgot to put the rabbit in the hat.
But I am a professional after all and wouldn’t be put off by a mere security system. For the past few years, apartments aimed at rich singles have all been using top notch security systems as their selling points. If I were so easily spooked, how could I accomplish anything great? In reality, occupants often let their guard down because of protection from these gadgets and it actually worked in favour of those in our line of work. Machines are machines, there were bound to be loopholes somewhere.

However when I dressed up as a salesman with my suit and empty briefcase to survey the area, I realised that the target’s security system was pretty advanced and I needed more planning. Judging from the security camera’s model, it’s the latest product from the manufacturer. Even if I cut off the electricity, the camera will still be able to connect to a backup source, making it hard to handle. The door used pin code door lock; I had thought of using machine against machine by deciphering the code with my laptop but this model only accepts direct insertion by a key. If I used any other method to gain entry, I would surely set off the alarm. Sigh, this is truly a headache. But if you think from the point of view of the occupant, you would also want to make sure your precautions are well done right? No matter how well you’ve planned, you’d still find some place lacking right?

This was a beautiful mansion with a slanted roof and octagonal windows and it was owned by Iguchi Masako, a single 34 year-old woman. She just moved in 10 days ago and prior to that, she had stayed in a small apartment in the outskirts of Tokyo, which was of course rented. Although this was in the suburbs, for her to be able to afford a mansion of this size still took some help from lady luck because she was the beneficiary of an almost two hundred million yen inheritance from a distant relative. That distant uncle of hers was also a single man and spent his life gambling; but he was a careful gambler. He did not bet on small items like horses or cars. Instead, he played with stocks and futures. After that uncle passed away in the hospital, the lawyer in charge of his estate searched far and wide for his relatives and finally found Masako who was also single. Speaking of which, laws are a funny thing and sometimes they toss out things which amaze us.

She seemed to be a strange person. Probably because she lost her parents to a car accident at a young age and went through much hardships, she seldom socialise with others. She did not have a lover or even friends. She worked as a – I think a sort of seamstress, making kimonos for others and her work was apparently quite good. She worked on a contract basis with a big kimono store in the heart of town and she seemed to earn a good living but of course now there was no longer any need for her to sew for others so she quit that job. After all with her current status she could make any kind of clothes she like for herself … what rubbish am I saying?

Anyway, her only interest was listening to music. She loved listening to her walkman. According to information from the kimono shop employee, she plugged into her walkman wherever she went, whether she was walking, taking the train or even taking a taxi.
As I was not able toget hold of her photo, I only saw her face one week after arriving in this area. She was a petite woman, average looking – the sort whom you would forget 5 minutes after seeing her. Or you could say that no matter how small a role she was playing, she would never appear in a man’s dream.

She was about to leave her house when I saw her. She closed the main gate carefully and walked down the slope towards the bus station. I followed closely behind and saw her get off the bus at the next town before driving off in a rented car from the car rental in front of the bus station. What take all the trouble when there was also a car rental at Imade-machi? Perhaps it didn’t have the model she liked.

She wasn’t listening to her walkman at that time. Maybe it’s because her environment had changed. Once she left the city, she was able to isolate herself even without help from such modern contraptions.

Her windows were almost always closed and the heavy curtains were always down. She must really want to separate herself from the outside world huh? I managed to get the mansion’s blueprint with Yanase-san’s help. Didn’t look like it would be a problemetic job for me, though she did look like a stubborn person.

The second time I saw her face was on the day I decided to make my move. I parked my car near her house and was pretending to study a map in the car when I saw a newspaper salesman walk over. After the salesman pressed the doorbell, I saw a flashing light from behind her white curtains. It’s probably the light from the intercom machine somewhere in her house I guess? The light was so bright it would even wake a sleeping person and I couldn’t help feeling puzzled.

Iguchi Masako came to the door and spoke to the salesman. After a brief conversation, it appeared that they have reached an agreement and she disappeared behind the door with two boxes of free detergent. Just then, something behind the door flashed again. This time it wasn’t a light but a reflection of something. Could be a glass decoration or something.
What a luxury it was to build a house you like and decorate it according to your tastes but of course she could afford to now. However she herself was rather lowkey. She seemed to know her looks were unremarkable but she did not have the urge to change her appearance. Instead she indulged in loneliness and liked to shut herself in the house. It was not a bad thing and this house with its tight security system became her protective shell.

I looked up at the sky and thought, ‘looks like I have to enter from the top.’

The target’s house was located at the northern end of Shin Imade-machi. It was on the tip of the entire hill and the only building taller than it was the house behind. These two houses were a distance from the rest of the community, like a new couple who has just left a gokon.(2)

I should be able to avoid the security system if I were to move between the two houses using a rope. The house behind did not install a security system nor did it have a big walled-up backyard, making it easy to get close to. For some reason I couldn’t see the occupants but the people inside will switch off the lights after midnight and presumably turn in for the night, making it the ideal springboard into Masako’s house.

And so, at 2am last night I climbed onto the roof of the house behind.

But things don’t always happen as planned, especially when it came to unpredictable elements like the weather …

No, not exactly, to be honest I should have been able to anticipate the situation. Last night’s weather was very unstable with a dark cloud floating westward from the east. I wonder which god decided to play Hideo Nomo (3) and practice pitching while the other gods used a flashlight camera to take pictures of this practice session. It looked like strong winds and heavy rain were coming. But it was 2am! Even though there had been many strange weather ocurrances over the past few years, isn’t it too much to have a thunderstorm at 2am??
I knew things were looking bad but I had already spent too much time surveying the area and didn’t want to drag this on any longer. No matter how hard I try to play a salesman, I had already spent a few days here and it would not be long before suspicion was aroused.
As I scaled the walls, two strong bursts of light flashed behind me. When I got a foot up on the roof, the first drop of rain fell on my cheek. I quickened my movement and when I finally secured the rope on Iguchi’s roof, the rain started pouring.

Let me state that it wasn’t that I was slow, the rain simply came too quickly.

If I were one to hate being in the rain or be afraid of lighting behind me, I would not be able to take on this outdoor job, so I actually didn’t mind the rain all that much. Even amidst the rain and wind, I was able to do my job with ease. I silently prayed that lightning would strike some place and cut off the power in this area.

But …

I prayed for lightning to strike some place, not strike me!

This was what I hadn’t plan on happening.

How long had it been since then? It might be rude to ask, but where on earth is this?

The twins in front of me gave a smile like the smiley face badge on their shirt. They looked like they were 13 or 14.

“Is this the police station?” I asked them.

They replied in unison, “No.”

“Is this the hospital?”

Again they replied, “No.”

“Seeing two members of the boys detective club, I guess it means this is the Akechi Detective Bearu?”(4)

Boy S smiled and said, “Then you must be the Fiend with Twenty Faces.”

“If you ask me, I’m actually more interested in Black Lizard.”

“Oh, the one you are referring to …” Boy S said.

“Is a woman.” Boy T said.

“Who was pretty,”

“And very rich.”

“Didn’t she like,”

“To make specimens out of animals?”

“Whatever. Can you two stop speaking that way?” I groused.

“Sorry.” They spoke in unison again.

This room didn’t look like the set of a play and the sunshine streaming in looked very real indeed. The bed was also very comfortable, probably the room of a middle-upper class person.

At this moment …

“Why did you climb onto our roof?” S asked rather happily.

I closed my eyes and thought, ah, this is the house behind.

“Why did you climb onto the roof?”

“Because it’s a roof.”

Both of them laughed at the joke and suddenly said, “You’re a thief aren’t you?”

Quite smart eh, you two.

“Did you two save me after I fell?”

“That’s right.”

“Why?”

“Because we don’t want to pollute our country’s land.”

Little twerps!

“Why didn’t you call the cops?”

They looked at each other and S replied, “Because this is beneficial to us.”

Beneficial? What did it mean to be ‘beneficial’ under such circumstances?

The ominous feeling I got when I looked at the roof of this house was turning out to be right. I felt that something was off and raised my head worriedly to take a look only to see the twins smilling at me like a a pair of sake bottles offered to the gods.

“I say…”

“Yes?”

“Do you have a bottle cap you’re unable to open?”

The twins looked at me in surprise.

“Or is the shelf too high and you can’t reach the reference book on it? Or did you swipe a gaming book from the store and want to go apologize so you need the help of an adult?”
Once the words left my mouth, I realised I said something silly. I mean, they’ve got their parents.

But the twins replied, “You’re pretty sharp. Then this should be easy.”

I could feel cold sweat breaking out on my back. Where were their parents?

“Where’s your dad and mom?”

“Not here.” T replied in a manner that sounded like an oji-san saying, “I’m sorry, Seven Stars (5) just sold out.”

“Not here? Why, they went on a vacation?”

The twins shook their heads and told me a more terrifying fact. “They’ve eloped.”

I must still be in a dream. How could such things happen in real life?

“You’re saying you dad and mom eloped?”

“Yes.”

“Did you two oppose to their marriage? Why didn’t you agree? Go put up a notice in the papers saying ‘Dad and Mom, the problem’s been solve, please hurry home’ and it’ll be fine.”

“In this world,”

“Married couples wouldn’t need to elope.”

“Didn’t I tell you two to stop speaking that way?”

And so the twins walked over separately from both sides. T sat on the right side and S sat on the left side of the bed then spoke in all seriousness, “My dad eloped with the secretary from his company.”

“Mom ran off with the boss of the construction company which built this house.”

After speaking a line each, they joined in a final chorus, “We haven’t heard from them since they left half a year ago.”

I didn’t know what to say. The twins though, seemed to be taking it all in stride.

“They are such irresponsible parents huh.” I came up with something comforting after much difficulty but they responded by shaking their heads.

“They said we only get one chance at life.”

“And so do not wish to leave any regrets.”

What a shocker!

“Didn’t either of them think to remain to take care of you guys?”

“They probably expected the other person to stay behind.”

“In other words, they have a serious lack of communication.”

Seemed like this pair of brothers had accepted the situation.

“Sigh, poor kids.”

“You mean us?”

“Have you sought help from social services?”

The twins blinked a few times at me, even the number of times they blinked were the same. Ok, not really, I only made a guess.

“Why would we?”

“We don’t feel any inconvenience.”

The two of them had on innocent smiles reminiscent of the child stars on politician’s elections posters.

“But…”

See, here it comes. The scary ‘but’. When ‘but’ appears, all that you said before doesn’t count and everything has got to start over.

“But what?”

“We don’t have money.” The twins sat on the edge of the bed on both sides and cocked their heads to look at me in the same manner.

“This house still has outanding loans to repay.”

“We need to meet our daily expenses too.”

“We need someone who can help to earn money.”

“We’ve almost used up our savings.”

“So we have a suggestion.”

“You’re a professional thief right?”

“You look pretty well equipped.”

“Don’t look like an amateur.”

“You should be earning quite a bit right?”

“Can you take care of our expenses?”

I blame this on the thunderstorm. I could only think this way.

“We’ve only lived here for half a year.”

“Dad and Mom both have their own jobs,”

“And they only return on the weekends.”

“So even if you move in,”

“The neighbours wouldn’t find it strange.”

“Looking at your age,”

“You can just say you got married at a young age,”

“Shouldn’t be any problem playing our dad.”

“Let us introduce ourselves.”

“I am Sono Tadashi,” said T.

“I am Sono Satoshi,” said S.

“We will save the trouble and not ask your name.”

“My dad’s name is Sono Masao.”

“The name’s not bad right?”

I stared at the sake bottle combination for a while and asked, “What if I don’t agree?”

They laughed and replied, “We’ve already got your fingerprints.”

“You should have a criminal record right? This wouldn’t be too good for you right?”

“You wouldn’t like going back to prison right?”

Why didn’t I just fall to my death??

notes:
1) There are a number of ways to read kanji and since I don’t have access to the original Japanese script with furigana and 今出町is a fictional place, I can’t google for the actual reading of its name so I’m basing my reading of Imade (今出) off an actual place Imade-gawadouri (今出川通). Shin=new. Machi=town.
2) Group date. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gokon
3) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hideo_Nomo
4) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kogoro_Akechi Fictional Japanese detective. The boys detective club was set up by his student. The Fiend with Twenty Faces (怪人二十面相) and Black Lizard (黒蜥蜴) were his foes.
5) A brand of cigarettes.

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6 Responses to “Stepfather Step – Chapter 2”

  1. Anonymous February 26, 2012 at 4:52 PM #

    You’re really quick in translating. I love how you placed footnotes to help guide the reader. :))

    • J February 27, 2012 at 2:09 AM #

      Hope you’re enjoying the story! ^^

      • Anonymous March 3, 2012 at 6:11 AM #

        I am! Thank you so much for doing this. ^^ Just curious, how many chapters are there?

      • J March 3, 2012 at 8:46 AM #

        There are 7 chapters in this story.

      • Anonymous April 24, 2012 at 8:16 AM #

        Wow, it’s a pretty short novel. I re-read the chapters again, I just realized how much long this is compared to the last chapter.

      • J April 24, 2012 at 8:18 AM #

        The novel is made up of 7 short stories with the same characters. This is the first story and it has 7 chapters.

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