In Tokyo, Charlie Hillier discovers you can’t always bank on the truth.
Fresh off a harrowing experience in Russia, Charlie is keen to lay low, and his latest posting to Tokyo offers him the chance to immerse himself in a truly foreign culture.
Charlie is soon drawn into his first consular case when a successful young investment banker winds up in a coma following a car accident. After a man claiming to be a friend of the banker’s turns up dead, Charlie and the Tokyo Metropolitan Police inspector assigned to investigate the murder, Chikako Kobayashi, discover that trusting the banker who emerges from his coma with amnesia may be a dangerous decision.
As Charlie tries to sift truth from deceit, he’s unsure if he’s dealing with a man whose accident has brought about a profound change for the better or a devious criminal lurking behind a convenient facade.
About the Author
Nick Wilkshire is a lawyer and author. Remember Tokyo is the third book in his Foreign Affairs series featuring consular officer and amateur sleuth Charlie Hillier. He lives in Ottawa.
Read an Excerpt
Charlie Hillier followed the broad earthen path down its gentle slope, marvelling at the oasis of calm in the heart of a city of twelve million souls. The bustle of people, trains, and traffic that he had left behind just minutes before seemed to belong to another world as he glanced up to the canopy of old-growth trees sheltering the path from the midmorning sun. Whether heightened by the lingering effects of jet lag or not, an almost spiritual sensation gripped him as he followed the path onto a wooden footbridge over a babbling stream.
A few minutes later he was approaching a massive archway that led to the Meiji Shrine beyond, a Shinto temple built in honour of the beloved emperor. Passing through the first gate, he noticed a procession of some kind making its way from the main temple beyond. As he got closer, Charlie realized that it was a wedding party, its participants clad in traditional dress as they made their way to one of the side buildings. He paused with the rest of the crowd gathered in respectful silence to watch as the procession crossed the main courtyard. The bride and groom went first, sheltered from the sunshine that flooded the open space by an ornate umbrella and looking resplendent in their traditional wedding attire. While neither smiled overtly as they made their way past, Charlie envied the serene joy evident in their faces. The whole scene unfolded in orderly peace, and the reverent crowd waited until the wedding party had reached the other side of the courtyard before anyone dared to move or utter so much as a whisper. This was Japan, after all.
Continuing on toward the main temple, Charlie passed stalls selling little strips of paper and good luck charms to place on racks outside the temple. Reaching them, he paused to look at some of the handwritten scrawls in a multitude of languages, recognizing the French word for peace and a number of equally altruistic notions in English, as well as wishes for happiness and love. Not particularly superstitious, he nonetheless briefly considered making a wish before moving on to the temple instead, where some sort of official ceremony was going on inside. He watched it for a while, then toured the rest of the complex of buildings before checking his watch and slowly making his way back toward the main arch, or torii, and the path beyond.
Twenty minutes later, he had left the tranquility of the shrine to rejoin the throngs outside Meiji-jingumae Station. Spotting a familiar coffee sign, he stopped in for a cappuccino and took a seat by the window. Sipping the delicious coffee, he looked out the window at the passing crowds and resisted the temptation to rub his eyes. He had been in Tokyo for almost a week — in many ways it seemed much longer — but he was still waking up at five in the morning, his body clock not yet adjusted to the thirteen-hour time difference from Ottawa. Tomorrow would be better, he told himself. He was to start work at the Canadian embassy, and he was intent on getting himself into a routine as soon as possible. The move into his staff quarters would help with that, he was sure. The hotel where they had placed him temporarily was very nice, and not far from the embassy, but after six days of wandering its cavernous hallways at all hours of the day and night, he was finding himself a bit adrift in its enormity and keen to feather a nest of his own in the city he would call home for the next three to four years.
Charlie was just as keen to start work again, though he was a bit nervous about his looming first day, and wondered how his integration would go, it being months after the usual posting season. But he had already briefly met the ambassador the day after he had flown in, and he had felt somewhat reassured. Charlie's old friend and mentor, Winston Gardiner, had nothing but good things to say about Philip Westwood, not that Charlie could afford to be picky. A few weeks ago, he had been weighing his options for the future in case the Department decided to find a way to let him go. At the very least, his future had seemed bleak, as was any hope of his being posted abroad again, ever. He couldn't really blame his masters for wanting him gone, or at least safely tucked away in an Ottawa cubicle preparing reports that no one would ever read — not after the mess he had left behind in Moscow. And while he wished things had turned out differently in many ways, he had no regrets whatsoever about getting to the bottom of Steve Collins's death. Charlie had been whisked out of Moscow in the middle of the night and, after a short debriefing in London, sent back to Ottawa to await further instructions. Days had turned to weeks, then months before he had been assigned to a desk at head quarters — a position that was an obviously temporary measure while they figured out what to do with him.
Then something unexpected happened. It began with a call from Steve Collins's sister, Sophie Durant, to let him know about an upcoming story in the Globe and Mail on her brother's death in Moscow. Reading the article, it was clear Durant had embellished the best parts of Charlie's involvement in the case, and either completely omitted or given a favourable account of the worst. The next call he got was from communications, who wanted to remind him not to speak directly to the media about the Moscow affair, or anything else to do with his work. He didn't, but the article had taken on a life of its own, and its flattering portrayal, not only of Charlie himself but of the whole department, seemed particularly welcome in the wake of a series of front page stor ies on consular cases that had ended badly in recent months.
In fact, Charlie had suddenly become something of a poster boy. Before the reporter making inquiries around Foreign Affairs discovered that the shining star of consular services had been relegated to toiling at entry-level work in the bowels of the Lester B. Pearson Building, Charlie's months-old and dormant request for a posting had been hastily dusted off and revived. Before long, he found himself on a plane — not to one of the three locations he had put in his posting request, but to Tokyo. The fact that it was about as far as they could possibly send him wasn't lost on Charlie, nor that it was a big enough mission that he could be absorbed without so much as a ripple on the surface. Whatever the reasons, he was grateful for another chance, and eager to show his employer that Charlie Hillier was capable of completing a full posting without causing an international incident. He had every intention of doing just that. Besides, didn't they say the third time's the charm?CHAPTER 2
Charlie sat at his desk, slurping his coffee and looking out the window at the trees behind the embassy building on Aoyama-dori. The Canadian embassy enjoyed a prime location across the street from the Akasaka Palace in the government district — a part of the city that was almost serene in comparison to the harried bustle of much of Tokyo. The large compound included the embassy building itself, with its unique, sloping glass roof at the front, a complex of staff apartments, and the official residence at the rear of the lot. Charlie's office on the third floor was small but nicely appointed, and offered a view over the green space between the embassy and the official residence.
He heard the sound of footsteps and looked up to see an athletic-looking woman in her early thirties standing at his door.
"You must be Charlie. I'm Karen Fraser. I guess we're neighbours."
Charlie stood and stuck out his hand. "Charlie Hillier.
Come on in." They shook hands and she took a seat.
"How's the jet lag?"
He grimaced. "It's getting better, but I'm still having a hard time sleeping."
She gave him a knowing smile. "It takes a while. When did you arrive?"
"About a week ago."
"You at the New Otani?"
"Yeah, it's nice enough."
"There's something disorienting about that place, though," she said. "Kind of like the place in The Shining, but more —"
"Populated?" He finished her thought.
"Exactly." Her broad smile showed sparkling white teeth that contrasted nicely with her dark hair. "When do you get into your staff quarters?" "This afternoon, I hope."
"You'll feel a bit more normal when you get into your own place."
They chatted for a few minutes about life in Tokyo and the differences from Ottawa. He learned that she was in her second year of a four-year posting and he tried not to fidget when they went through common acquaintances back in Ottawa — always a tortuous exercise for him. Luckily, Fraser had spent most of her time abroad and was a decade younger than Charlie. If she had heard anything about Charlie's ex-wife, or the reason he had joined the rotational stream in the first place, she wasn't letting on. She seemed more interested in his consular experience, given that they were the only two Canada-based consular officers in the embassy — the rest of the section being made up of locally engaged staff.
"So, where were you before Tokyo?" he asked, knowing where the conversation would inevitably lead, but deciding to get it out of the way early.
"Brussels. And you were in Moscow, huh?"
He nodded and thought he saw the glimmer of a smile in her eyes. "You may have heard I ran into some trouble there."
"Sounds like you did a great job." The smile spread to her mouth, and seemed genuine as she added, "Nice for consular to get some good headlines for a change. Must have been a bit scary for you, though."
"Let's just say I won't be vacationing in Moscow anytime soon," he deadpanned, noticing her wedding ring for the first time. Just his luck. "So, what's consular like here?" "Not too crazy ... so far," she added, with that twinkle in her eye again. "The usual fare — lost passports and medical cases. We've got about twenty Canadians in jail, mostly on drug charges."
Charlie nodded, reminded immediately of Steve Collins, who had been falsely accused of drug trafficking and tossed in a squalid Moscow jail. "What are the jails like here?"
"Like everything else in Japan," she said, with another shrug. "They're efficient, orderly, and clean. But the focus is definitely punishment, not rehabilitation. You do time here and you know it. The rest of the files are custody disputes — Canadians have a hard time trying to get access to kids from their Japanese ex-spouses, let alone taking them out of the country."
They had moved on to things to see and do and places to eat in the area when a man in his early fifties appeared at the door.
"I think we have a meeting?" he said, looking at his watch. Charlie glanced at the computer clock and saw that it was two minutes after ten. "Sorry, I guess I lost track of time."
"I'll leave you to it," Fraser said, getting up. Something in her expression made it clear she didn't care for the other man, and the tight frown on his face as she brushed by him in the doorway told Charlie the feeling was mutual.
"Louis Denault. I'm the MCO."
"Charlie," he said, gripping the moist hand of his new boss as the two men met at the door. "Sorry again. I'm still getting over the time change."
"It's normal." Denault gave a curt smile before leading him down the hallway to the corner office. "How are you settling in, apart from the jet lag?"
"I'm doing okay." Charlie sat in one of the chairs in front of Denault's large desk.
"Well, we're certainly glad to have you with us." Denault closed the door behind them and took a seat. Charlie noticed that the office was immaculate, with a single file folder the only thing on the main surface of the desk. Denault was similarly well-kept, and he fidgeted with a French cuff as he adjusted himself in his seat. "I'm sure you're looking forward to a change of pace from Moscow. Perhaps a bit of a lower profile," he added, with a little grin that Charlie found instinctively annoying in contrast to Fraser's.
"Just want to help out where I can," he said, taking the high road. He hadn't heard much, either positive or negative, about Denault from anyone in Ottawa in the short time since learning he was to be posted to Tokyo. He was beginning to wonder what he had gotten himself into.
"Well, I think you'll find Tokyo very different from Moscow."
"Were you in Moscow?" He hadn't meant it as a challenge, but Charlie noticed a subtle change in Denault's posture and his mouth puckered as though he had bitten into a particularly tart lemon.
"I just mean things are very organized here. The Japanese run a tight ship, and we try to do the same here at the embassy."
"I'll try to keep that in mind." Charlie was unable to avoid the sarcastic tone that accompanied his words. Denault frowned, appeared to consider a retort, then flipped open the file folder on the desk in front of him.
"I understand you've done some property work. We could use your skills here."
"I thought I was going to focus on consular work," Charlie said, wondering what Denault was talking about. There were no plans to move the embassy, as far as he knew.
"We've had a proposal from a developer to swap some staff apartments out in Toshima-ku," Denault added, seeming to enjoy Charlie's confusion. "They're offering to build us something new just across the street in return." He gestured over his shoulder to the south. "I'd like you to have a look at their proposal, perhaps meet with them, just to see if there's anything there."
"Well, like I said, I was hoping to focus on consular work ..." "It won't take much of your time, I'm sure." Denault gave a dismissive wave that Charlie found hard to stomach.
"They're probably just trying to rip us off, and you'll be able to rule it out quickly."
"Sure, I can have a look." Charlie reluctantly accepted the file and stood. He had spent five minutes with the man he was going to be reporting to for the next four years, and he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt he didn't like him — not one bit.
* * *
"Why so glum?"
Charlie looked up to see Karen Fraser standing in his doorway again.
"Oh, nothing. Just a little dragged out." It was partly true, but Fraser saw through it.
"If you're worried about Louis, don't be. He can be a bit difficult sometimes, but he's basically harmless."
Charlie nodded and gestured to the chair. "That's funny. I got the feeling you're not a member of his fan club."
She grinned. "We have an understanding. He stays out of my face and lets me do my job, and we get along just fine."
"Hmm, I might need a few tips on how I can come to the same arrangement."
"You'll get there. Just don't let him push you around."
Charlie tapped the folder on his desk. "He wants me to look at this property swap, but from what I can see, it looks like a load of crap."
"Why are you looking at property?"
Charlie shrugged. "He knows I did some property work on my other postings. Besides, It's not like I can say I'm too busy doing other files, since I don't have any yet."
Fraser gave him the familiar grin. "If you're looking for consular work, I can hook you up no problem."
"Sure. We've got a Canadian banker in hospital. I was going to do the visit, but if you're interested, have at it."
Charlie flipped the property file shut and gave her an enthusiastic nod. "I'll take it."CHAPTER 3
Charlie stood at the far end of the subway car, watching the digital display above the door that announced the next stop: first in Japanese, then in English. Satisfied that he had two more stops to go, he relaxed and surveyed the rest of the crowded car, noticing for the first time that he was the only Westerner. Combined with his height, it was enough to make him feel like a bit of an oddball — a recurring feeling since his arrival in Japan. In fact, just about everything seemed different here, from the food to the time change, and from the language to the climate. His first two postings were to places that were hardly similar to Ottawa, yet he hadn't felt as out of place in Havana or Moscow as he did in Tokyo. He glanced down the row of seated passengers and noticed that literally everyone was fiddling with a phone or some other electronic device. This was, after all, the mecca of electronics. Charlie had strolled through Akihabara on his third night in Tokyo, still jet-lagged and even more disoriented by the bright lights and dizzying array of stores, each one ten stories tall or more and packed with the latest consumer electronics.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Remember Tokyo"
Copyright © 2018 Nick Wilkshire.
Excerpted by permission of Dundurn Press.
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