At about one o'clock, an idea began to form in Mr. Yoshida's mind. It was not yet a plan, but Mr. Yoshida knew from experience that ideas, when well-crafted, did not require plans. Events had a way of taking on a momentum of their own and could be sculpted to achieve the appropriate outcome.
Later that afternoon, Mr. Yoshida looked out onto the trading floor and focused on Wada. It wasn't more than a minute before Wada looked up, took off his headset, and hurried over.
"Wada-san. I think we need some whiskey tonight."
Wada brightened. It was the first suggestion the chief executive had made to go out together since the regretful incident with Kady.
"Very good idea, Sacho-san!"
"I think I would like to try to get to know some of the new arrivals, some of the junior men. I think it would be a good idea to include one of them this evening. How about Fujiwara-san?"
"Inspector Fujiwara?" Wada's head tilted uncertainly. "That is also a good idea."
Mr. Yoshida looked at Wada evenly, masking his shock at this challenge to his authority. "Please arrange it," he said. He made a soft grunt and returned to work.
That night, Mr. Yoshida's black car took the three men to Good Mood. Fujiwara squirmed in the back seat, just as he had squirmed all through dinner. The Inspector had frantically agreed with Mr. Yoshida's every statement and greeted the arrival of every new dish to the table with little cries of ecstasy. It was all so delicious, he said, spilling broth as he slid noodles into his mouth. When Fujiwara at last went alone to the men's room, Mr. Yoshida could not contain his annoyance any longer and asked for the check. Wada confided to him that the traders called Fujiwara "Inspector Gadget." Mr. Yoshida did not smile at this. It only confirmed his opinion that traders were fools.
When they reached the bar, the driver got out and ran around the car to open Mr. Yoshida's door first. Mr. Yoshida saw deep blue neon filling East 51st Street. He enjoyed its cool glow, and regretted they always ushered him inside before he could savor the way the sign bathed the white brick of East Midtown in its violet light: GOOD MOOD.
Kenji, the barman, opened the door with a deep bow. "Sacho-san! Irashaimase!" Behind him fluttered the mama-san. She was not Japanese, and the kimono was not becoming. She took his arm and beamed at him, stammering in her crooked Japanese, with its heavy Tagalog accent. "Sacho-san! Please come in to my...my...which is so small, and really, so shabby, but I am so delighted you may overlook how humble—"
"Yes! Yes! It's so, so, shabby!" cried Kenji, slapping his forehead. "The drinks, they are even more watered down than before! And the girls—they aren't even so pretty! In fact, we've got some really ugly ones!"
The mama-san scowled at her bartender. Mr. Yoshida chuckled. He'd missed Kenji.
Wada stepped out from behind Mr. Yoshida. "Miss Tita. Are you well? It's been a long time!" he said heartily.
"Yes, Wada-san, I am well." The mama-san offered a pretty smile, but her eyes were stones. Wada was not yet forgiven. She then turned to Fujiwara. The appraisal took less than a second, and a corner of her mouth turned down. She asked: "What is the name of Sacho-san's welcome guest?" But she did not wait for the answer, already beckoning them to their table.
"Inspector Gadget," snickered Wada as they filed into the lounge. Yoshida scoped the room through the haze of neon and cigarettes, hoping to see The White Shoulders, but she wasn't there. Lucky, the Nisei piano player, who had been enjoying a cigarette behind his keyboard, swiftly stubbed it out and started playing "If the Moon Turns Green," one of Yoshida's favorite tunes."Sacho-san," he called out, with a brief bob of his head. He smiled under his pencil mustache. "Irashaimase!"
From his piano, Lucky shot a cold look at the two girls lounging at the bar, who immediately joined the men at their table and seated themselves on little stools. They offered the men cigarettes, mints, and seaweed crackers. As one girl poured all three of them Scotch from the bottle Ogata Corp kept behind the bar, the other dropped in ice cubes, tweezed from a miniature ice bucket with tiny silver tongs.
The shorter of the two girls was Japanese. Mr. Yoshida had not met her before, and so she gave him her calling card with two hands. It had the characters of her name, "Reiko," handwritten in ballpoint. Mr. Yoshida thanked her and left it on the table.
"It is a beautiful evening we are having. Don't you think so? I really enjoyed walking to Good Mood tonight," she said slowly, carefully allocating one sentence to each of the men as she spoke. "I believe this is Indian Summer." She wore a black crêpe jacket with a large pink floppy fabric rose that Mr. Yoshida longed to snip off with his cigar cutter so it would not bob around under his nose all night. She appeared to be wearing some sort of camisole underneath the jacket. He wondered if it would be untoward to ask the mama-san to ask her to take the jacket off.
The other hostess was well-known to them. She was a tall, slender Chinese girl named Evelyn, who had pitted skin and unmistakable breast implants. Yoshida recalled that she liked to sing duets with the customers in a big brassy voice, and, when it was not her part to sing, she would weave her body back and forth in time to the piano, flinging her long black hair around like Cher. Mercifully, she did not know any jazz standards, so Yoshida himself had hitherto been spared this disagreeable experience.
The girls did not have much to say, so they attacked their table housekeeping with zeal, adjusting the bowl of crackers, freshening drinks, changing the ashtrays. The ice left a single drop of water on the table, and the Chinese girl mopped it up instantly with a small napkin while she lit Wada's cigarette.
"Would you like something to drink," asked Mr. Yoshida to Evelyn.
"You know we're only allowed to drink tea, Sacho-san," she said.
"If I say you can have a drink, you can have a drink!" Yoshida motioned to Kenji for some more tumblers. "Everyone at my table must drink!"
Fujiwara was valiantly trying to obey Mr. Yoshida's edict. Since he'd arrived, he'd had two Scotches and was now blinking his eyes, listing to one side in his chair.
"Sacho-san!" Lucky was rubbing his hands together, grinning. "Please give us a song!"
Mr. Yoshida waved the air in front of his nose. Not this time. He motioned to Fujiwara. "Come on, then, why don't you sing us something?"
Fujiwara stood up, took hold of his tie, and held it up momentarily like a noose, as if he were saluting his companions in the shadow of death. "Do you know any Elvis?" he asked Lucky.
"Do I know any Elvis?" boomed Lucky, switching to English. "Honey, I am the only Japanese from Tupelo, Mississippi!" Yoshida saw Evelyn roll her eyes at Reiko. At various times, Lucky claimed to be the only Japanese from Austin, Texas, Detroit, Michigan, and Nutbush, Tennessee.
Fujiwara chose "Love Me Tender." He gripped the piano, looking uncertainly at Lucky, who kept nodding and grinning encouragement. "GO INSPECTOR GADGET!" cried Wada in English. Fujiwara came to the bridge, and the melody collapsed into a tuneless honk. Wada laughed. "He sounds like a donkey!" Mr. Yoshida was also enjoying the Inspector's torment as he kept the beat with one slender hand on the table.
Fujiwara was staggering through the last bars of the song, when Mr. Yoshida saw The White Shoulders come in to the vestibule and start arguing with Kenji.
"I'm here to pick up my pay. You tell Mama she better not screw me out of what she owes me for last Saturday. I went to dinner with Watanabe-san and stayed past closing and went to the Cloud Bar with all them because they needed a fourth for mah-jong... What's this? I ought to get time and half. I hate mah jong. I got screwed out of my pay last time I stayed out with them, and I better not..." The mama-san had by this time joined them and was trying to shush her.
Mr. Yoshida felt a little shudder of pleasure as he heard the nasal voice and the choice inflection, faintly Yiddish cut with Irish, always impatient, that people from the boroughs had in their speech. You will come to my table, he thought. He stared at them in the vestibule until the mama-san bustled over to apologize for the disturbance. "Sacho-san, I'm so sorry—"
"Can you ask the girl to stay?"
"It is Mary's night off," said Tita.
Mary! Mr. Yoshida would never have correctly guessed it. It was so simple and modest. "Please, Mary-chan may be my guest."
The mama-san waited. "Please let me pay her wages tonight," he said.
The mama-san hesitated, but Mr. Yoshida had been to corporate seminars about getting to yes. "I will pay her double if she stays."
Mary was seated between Wada and Fujiwara, across the table from Mr. Yoshida so that he had full view of her. Tita had told her she'd get double her pay tonight to stay. She looked at Mr. Yoshida with cool interest.
Mr. Yoshida was two-drinks happy. It had been Mary's night off, so she was wearing jeans and a pink tube top, to which the mama-san had added a cheap white polyester blazer to make her appear a little more decently attired. To Mr. Yoshida's delight, she'd taken off the jacket as soon as she'd sat down, baring her shoulders. The tube top was a loud shade of pink, and made of some cheap, stretchy material with little puckered gathers around the bust. Nevertheless, seated on a little stool, hands demurely in her lap, she was set like a jewel. Yoshida noticed for the first time that she had a tattoo on her arm, a small, crudely drawn Egyptian ankh on one bicep. It gave him another small frisson to see it there in the expanse of fair skin around it, like a grubby finger stuck into a bowl of clotted cream. Maybe he could take her with him to that conference in Bermuda. The general managers were only going to be offsite for three days, but he could easily tell his wife it was five.
Fujiwara was back at the table, gamely trying to drain a new glass of Scotch. "Sacho-san," he burped, "Who is this beautiful lady?"
"Mary-chan," said Yoshida, "Tell us, where are you from?"
"That sounds like a beautiful place. Ten-a-fly," said Wada dreamily.
"It isn't. Mind if I smoke?" She pulled a crushed pack of Marlboro Reds out of her bag. Yoshida knew instantly what would be his first gift to her—a silver cigarette case.
Evelyn telegraphed her disapproval to Reiko across the table. The girls weren't supposed to smoke in front of customers. Mr. Yoshida took the matchbook from her tenderly, lit a match, and held it to the cigarette. Evelyn's painted mouth fell open.
Mary looked Wada over. She blew out a great quantity of smoke. "You know, you look like that actor, John Lone. The Chinese movie star."
Wada grinned. "You must be trying to be an actress, Mary-chan. Or are you a model?"
Mary dropped her head, smiled, and looked up at him through her lashes. "Get out of here."
Mr. Yoshida started tapping his foot to the music, and not in an appreciative way.
Lucky was watching him from his piano and knew a distraction was in order. "Wada-san, utaimasho kudasai." Please, let's sing.
Wada shouted in English: "But I want to hear more from the Inspector! I am already an enthusiastic fan! Sing another Elvis song. How about 'Treat Me Like A Fool?'"