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News & Features » August 2017 » “Roppongi Noir” by Barry Bergmann

“Roppongi Noir” by Barry Bergmann

Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays. 

This week, Sergeant Tanaka unearths an uncomfortable truth about a Tokyo murder.
Roppongi Noir
by Barry Bergmann
Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan

It was a typical August night in Tokyo when each breath felt like you were sucking cotton into your lungs. An evening shower had cleared away some of the muck, and I was hoping that midnight would come soon so I could go home and shed my almost soggy suit. But I knew I wasn’t going to go home to an empty apartment. I would drink myself to sleep at a bar like I’d done every night since my wife Keiko left me. She’d just walked out, declaring one day that she needed more excitement than, “Waiting all day, to watch you come home and eat noodles at midnight then go to bed.” She claimed, “I need something more—a little excitement.” The numbness didn’t seem like it would ever go away.

Inspector Kokura’s footsteps brought me back.

“Sergeant Tanaka. You and Watanabe—a hostess bar in Roppongi called Lucky. A body was found outside their back door.”

I looked over at my partner who reacted by arching his eyebrows toward the ceiling. A man of few words Watanabe was.

You could throw an Onigiri from the front door of the Azabu Police Station, where we were, and hit Roppongi. So Watanabe and I walked out the back door and wound our way through the steamy capillary of streets and the unique bouquet of aromas that only Roppongi has to offer. Like every night, Nigerian touters eyed the foreigners sprinkled amongst the sidewalk throngs, looking for a likely target to lure to a seedy bar where the drinks were weak and expensive. They always reminded me of a lion looking for the weakest in the herd. Ready to pounce.

In five minutes we were at the front door of Lucky. It was on the ground floor of an eight-story sliver of faux white brick, on one of the rail-thin streets of the main drag of Gaien-Higashi Dori. The stacked, backlit sign that ran up the side of the building displayed the names of the other hostess bars on the floors above.

We surveyed the outside of the building and came up with nothing but the piquant fragrance of urine. These small back streets were great magnets for the biggest act of civil disobedience in Japan—public urination. It was still early, so the odor had yet to be mixed with that of drunks depositing the contents of their stomachs at the scene. Usually after a late night binge at one of the many noodle shops in the area.

We walked through the beaded curtain that marked the entryway and found that even a dead body nearby had done nothing to thin the crowd. However, the way the patrons spied us through the smoky darkness, I reckoned that wouldn’t last long. We must have stood out like a pork chop in a sushi shop because a fellow in a black suit, open white shirt, and bottle blond hair quickly skittered across the floor toward us.

“Follow me,” he said, without asking for ID’s or names. So much for plain clothes, I thought. I did note that he wore a plastic name tag that said “Shimizu.”

We weaved through small round tables occupied by young women looking like the daughter of the man who sat with them. The hostesses performed various activities from pouring drinks for their make believe paramours, telling them how handsome they were, or coaxing them to the small dance floor where they could burrow their silicon breasts or padded bras into their partner’s chests. All of this was observed by tuxedoed men, cloaked in darkness on the edges.

Shimizu led us through a narrow hall at the rear, that dumped us into the alley behind the building. Splayed out on the damp street, with a couple of cockroaches testing the air nearby, lay a man on his back. A jeweled handle of a knife growing out of a blossom of blood on the corpse’s chest. I quickly squatted down next to the body. I’d seen a knife like that before. A costume bejeweled handle, with a short retractable blade. My wife Keiko carried one after being, for Tokyo, uncharacteristically mugged on the subway late at night. My melancholy at my loss of Keiko hit me again when from behind me Shimizu said, “One of our girls, Harumi found the body.”

I turned around, and this Harumi was standing next to Shimizu, but it was not Harumi. It was my Keiko.


BARRY BERGMANN is the third generation of a family that settled in Los Angeles in 1906. He retired four years ago after thirty-five years in the airline industry in 13 cities and five countries.  Barry has lived in Tokyo, Japan since 2001 where he found a new idea for a story every time he walks out my door.  He is also on his umpteenth rewrite of Touch and Go, his first novel, a mystery featuring Blake Hardy, Airline Security Investigator.


Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—Accepted submissions are typically published 6–8 months after their notification date and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Aug 14, 2017

Category: Original Fiction, Mondays Are Murder | Tags: , , , , , ,