Fujiwara looked at his shoes until Evelyn took pity on him. "Fujiwara-san, I will sing with you." She linked her arm around his to lead him to the piano.
Mr. Yoshida said, "No, I will sing something. What shall I sing?"
" 'The Nearness of You,' " said Evelyn. "That's my favorite."
Yoshida ignored her. "Mary-chan, what shall I sing? I have always enjoyed Johnny Hartman."
Mary replied, "Johnny Hartman? Didn't he do 'Disco Lady'? My mom had that record. 'Shake it up, shake it down, move it in, move it round, disco lady...'" she sang to herself, grooving on her stool.
"That's Johnny Taylor," said Evelyn.
"Oh well," said Mary. She winked at Evelyn, taking another drag on her cigarette.
Mr. Yoshida took his singing seriously. He studied his favorite jazz singers, noting pitch, tone, and phrasing. Lucky once told him that Sacho-san could have had a career as a professional. Mr. Yoshida discounted the flattery to understand it meant he wasn't half-bad.
"Through the trees, comes autumn with her serenade
Melodies the sweetest music ever played
Autumn kisses we knew are beautiful souvenirs.
As I pause to recall the leaves seem to fall like tears—"
Wada was feeling good. He had put his tie around his head, pulling it over his face until it wrapped his head like a pirate bandana, one shiny yellow tail hanging rakishly over his ear. He was demonstrating his proficiency at chisanbop to Mary and Reiko. Mary watched him fingering the table top with interest. She had turned to face Wada fully, showing Yoshida her shapely back.
The song ended. "Mr. Yoshida," Wada called out to him in English as he returned to the table. "Are you enjoying?"
Mr. Yoshida made no reply. He was studying Mary's shoulders, and the line where the cheap pink fabric met the white skin. Why would she not look at him? What was so interesting about Wada? He was suddenly remembering being a student at Todai with his friend Arakaki, who was very good looking and owned a motorcycle. Everywhere he went with Arakaki, he saw the backs of girls. After twenty years of fourteen-hour days to reach the top of Ogata Corp, he would have thought that at least this would have changed.
"Sacho-san," Wada said in Japanese, noticing the direction of Mr. Yoshida's gaze. "I noticed that Fujiwara was in your office today. Was this the first time you met him?"
"There is nothing for you to be concerned about," said Yoshida, who recognized a clumsy fishing expedition for what it was. Why would she not turn around?
"I was not concerned. Just wondering..."
"I would wonder what became of Kady-chan, if I were you. Was she fired?" Mr. Yoshida thought this memory might shame him into leaving Mary alone.
Wada flushed. "When I called to reserve the table this afternoon, Kenji told me that she'd...that...well, I think there was something more than just dismissing her." Wada looked glum.
For the first time, Yoshida wondered who really owned Good Mood. He was suddenly conscious that Lucky and the mama-san might have other partners. He felt a deep shame for whatever small part Ogata Corp had in this unfortunate story. Wada was an idiot. There was nothing to be done now, except arrange to send Wada back to Japan at the first opportunity. Or better yet, let him man some Ogata rep office in Almaty, or Montevideo. That would teach him about women.
It was three o'clock. Someone had got Fujiwara to put his tie around his head in imitation of Wada, and the tails flapped against his flushed cheeks. At Wada's urging, one of the girls had decorated his forehead with a reproduction of Mary's ankh in lipstick.
Yoshida pulled his chair in a little closer. "Fujiwara-san. We have never really had the chance to speak informally until tonight. You seem like a bright young man. What exactly are your career aspirations at Ogata Corp?"
Mr. Fujiwara's eyes had ceased to focus. "What? Ogata Corp...yes. I joined the audit function because I believe it is important to audit...I mean, it's important to know about the operations and how they operate...I mean, I wanted to travel and—"
Mr. Yoshida smiled encouragingly. "Ogata needs enterprising and independent-minded young men like yourself, you know."
"I want to do the best job I can because—"
Yoshida stopped smiling. "Please tell me again why this trade review needs to go to Tokyo."
Fujiwara squinted hard a moment and then cast his eyes upward. He kept them there a long time. It looked to Yoshida as if he was actually trying to turn his gaze back inside his own head to search for the answer in some files kept back there. Finally he said: "Financial Accounting Standard 321B."
"Or is it 325G?" said Fujiwara. He giggled.
"What are you talking about?"
"The rule," said Fujiwara. "There is an accounting rule...You let them enact an accounting hedge. That company drew down on their line of credit in order to create a transaction that could then qualify the foreign exchange trade for favorable accounting treatment. That is not in accordance with our Head Office Accounting Policy number A67-872."
"Out of policy!' snorted Mr. Yoshida. "I've done nothing wrong!"
From the other end of the table he saw Mary doing shots with Wada and laughing. Suddenly she shrieked to the table at large: "I've got a great joke! You want to hear it? It's like my favorite joke!" Wada looked over to Mr. Yoshida and pointed at Mary, as if to interrupt him.
"Ok, so this guy is working in a deli, right? And he comes home one day and says to his wife, 'I got fired for putting my penis in the pickle slicer. So help me, Gawd. I'd been thinking about doing it for years. I just had to put my penis in the pickle slicer!'" Mary blew a smoke ring. " 'My Gawd!' says his wife. 'Lemme see it,' " Mary flaps her hands. "He opens his pants. There's nothing wrong with his penis. It's fine. So his wife is confused. 'But...what about the pickle slicer?'" Mary paused to look around the table. " 'She got fired, too.'"
The other girls at the table looked at the floor. Wada suddenly began studying the drinks menu.
"Tanaka-san has a new procedure," Fujiwara continued. "Ever since he came to New York six months ago. All large trades must be additionally screened through him. He noticed the two transactions by the same company, on the same day. He was surprised that you even approved them the same day, and did not raise this as an issue. He was very, very surprised." Fujiwara slurped the last of the melted ice at the bottom of his glass. "Tanaka-san is very generous with his knowledge. Do you know he is a Chartered Accountant?" Yes, Mr. Yoshida remembered. "He knows a great deal. Especially General Accounting Prihihnnhnicples," hiccuped the Inspector.
Tanaka had been sent to New York to spy on him. He realized with mounting horror that Tanaka had no doubt been sent to Singapore and London, for the same purpose. And he slipped once, carelessly, and Tanaka leapt. Tanaka was a hedge position, put on the books years ago, and then one day remembered. He'd been a long-dated option. Now someone in Tokyo would be exercising it.
Lucky caught Evelyn's distress signal from under the table; her fingers were slicing decisively, a signal from a baseball catcher. Mary was guffawing at her own joke. Reiko looked on in dull shock. Wada-san was still studying the drinks menu, as if cramming for an exam, shamed at either the memory of Kady or the pickle joke, it wasn't clear. Sacho-san looked stricken. Just at that moment, Fujiwara-san let out a deep sigh and toppled over, scattering glassware and snacks everywhere.
They walked out of the bar as the first garbage trucks of the day were backing up, beeping, onto the empty sidewalks, Wada and Mr. Yoshida holding up the Inspector. Mr. Yoshida's car was waiting for them. Kenji walked into the middle of 51st Street and bowed deeply to the departing sedan.
No one spoke in the car. Fujiwara's head kept rolling first to Mr. Yoshida's shoulder, then to Wada's. At Grand Central, when Wada helped the Inspector out of the car, Mr. Yoshida remained inside. He would not be sending Wada anywhere. It would be he who would be sent somewhere, anywhere, most likely back to Japan. He told the driver to take him directly to Ogata Corp.
He crossed the trading floor with his trousers encrusted with cracker crumbs and without his tie. He sat down at his desk and put his head in his hands. He remained in that position for a very long time. Dawn came. The trading floor slowly came to life all around him. The market opened. He thought about his wife's auburn hair. Why had she colored it? He did not notice Miss Sogo arrive at her desk, or see her tuck her handbag in her desk drawer, or pull out her compact and inspect her bangs before turning on her computer.
But he did see an IM when it was blinking on his screen.
Everything will be all right.
Lisa Maguire is a graduate of Smith College and received her doctorate in European History from NYU, both of which should stop bugging her for more money. After many years in Manhattan, she now lives in the woods in Connecticut, with her husband and young son. She has two cats who like to walk on her keyboard whenever she tries to write short stories. Lisa would like to thank Sigrid Nunez and her classmates in the workshop for their helpful criticism and suggestions for improving this story.
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