He didn't have much time. Shiro wanted to pound Matsumi-san's head into the shiny, red-lacquered bar top. Instead, he remained passive, watching Matsumi-san drain his second bottle of beer.
Lava-lamp style lights swirled across the bar as two girls in a suspended cage lip-synched to the pop singer Shakira high in one of the corners. Matsumi-san swayed to the music. Shiro signalled the bartender who brought them another round. The price of two more drinks included more snacks. This time, they received a small platter of sliced fruit.
Matsumi-san's face went slack. "This strawberry. It reminds me."
Shiro strained to hear over the loud music. Friday night. Tokyo was hopping. Everyone was in the mood for love, booze and karaoke.
"What does it remind you of?" Shiro asked in his half-baked Japanese.
"She is sweet, like fruit." Matsumi-san poked at the delicate sliver of strawberry that was cut into a perfect heart shape. "Siono can make a man forget everything. Her lips are like wine, her tongue so sweet...like this strawberry."
Dude, this is my mom you're talking about. Shiro took a deep breath, hiding his disgust for the inebriated, middle-aged office worker, and waited. The music thumped a little louder through the bar's four rooms.
They'd just opened the fourth room right above them. A hypnotic disco beat made Shiro's foot inadvertently tap against the leg of his barstool. At the age of twenty-three, the disco era had bypassed him. His generation was hotwired to different times, so his body's response to the music surprised him.
Young couples clustered in corners, up against bars and by the door. Half of the glazed-eyed men were being catered to by whores. Beautiful, alluring women, but whores all the same.
"She's so beautiful," Matsumi-san crooned. "Her laughter is like the river." He moved his hand in a wavy gesture.
"Can you remember the name of the hotel?" Shiro asked again.
Matsumi-san was a sweaty guy. He palmed liquid from his forehead.
"Blue lights out front. Many blue lights." He stared into space. "Many. That's what I remember." His eyes grew huge as he turned back to Shiro. "Is it true she is dead, Shiro-chan?"
That's what Shiro had been told. He had no idea if it were true, except it seemed unlikely that Siono would just disappear. Shiro noted the colloquial form of his name and felt a sudden burst of excitement. The guy was going to remember.
Matsumi-san clapped his hand on Shiro's arm.
"Hotel If. That was the name!"
Matsumi-san was so excited, he jumped from his stool, his hand raised high, sloshing half his beer in the air.
Hotel If. Man, how hard could it have been to remember that?
Shiro thanked him in gentle tones, catching the Masta's eye. The man who owned the bar nodded. He had assured Shiro that they'd find a suitable female companion for the lonely guy, once he received Shiro's signal.
With genuine feeling, Shiro thanked Matsumi-san again and took off.
"Blue lights, remember that. Right in the middle of town!" Matsumi-san called out after him.
It had stopped raining, but the seat on his bosozoku was wet. No matter. He had, at most, ten minutes before Shun'ichi's goons missed him. He jumped on his motorbike, hitting the street. He swung his helmet onto his head as he took the first corner sharply. One street, then another flashed by him. The half beer he'd had made him dizzy as he skidded and swerved through rain-slick streets from one brightly lit hotel to the next.
And there it was.
He stopped, one foot dropping to the road as he stared at the entrance of the Hotel If, watching a giggly young couple enter. Just one of the dozens of love hotels in Tokyo's Shibuya district, he'd finally found it.