فصل 09

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Chapter nine

Naoko’s story

‘Well,’ I thought to myself, as I went home in the taxi, ‘I certainly made a big mistake there!’ Now what was I going to do? I had messed up with Naoko and I might not get another chance. I arrived back at the hotel feeling very tired and very angry with myself.

The Hotel Rhiga in the Waseda area of Tokyo was in what the Japanese think of as the European style. It was large and elegant with beautiful furniture and lots of gold paint. On the walls there were pictures of English gentlemen with hunting dogs and guns and, since it was Japan, there was recorded music everywhere, even in the lift. The music was designed not to annoy anyone which means that after a while you didn’t notice it. Then your brain turned to water.

I went straight to my room to rest and think. The wallpaper was dark green and somehow comforting. I turned down the lights and listened to Pat Metheny on my walkman. I ordered some sushi from room service then opened the mini bar and poured myself a beer. Sushi was my favourite food in the whole world but I ate without much appetite; I was so tired my body didn’t know what time of day or night it was. I lay on the comfortable bed and closed my eyes. Suddenly the telephone was ringing on the bedside table. I felt like I had been drugged, then realised that I had been in a deep sleep. I jumped up and answered the phone.

‘Moshi moshi,’ I said in my best Japanese, struggling into a dressing gown thoughtfully provided by the hotel.

It was Naoko Kawaguchi’s happy housekeeper.

‘Miss Jensen? Miss Kawaguchi would like to speak to you. She has something to tell you. She was a little upset before.’

‘I’ll be there in an hour,’ I said, already grabbing a bath towel. I jumped into the shower and tried to wake myself up.


‘Miss Jensen, I have never told anyone this, but I am dying. I’m afraid I may die and then no-one would ever know!’ Naoko Kawaguchi was as pale as when I had left her. She had been crying a lot and her face was still wet with tears.

‘What is it, Miss Kawaguchi? Is it something about Blakeston, about Blakeston’s murder?’ I asked.

‘Miss Jensen, I have never told anyone this - John Blakeston was my lover!’ she said quietly.

‘Your lover?’ I said. ‘Well, people did wonder at the time, but you denied it, your parents denied it.’

‘Of course, Miss Jensen,’ she went on. ‘My father is - was - a very dominating person. I loved my father, Miss Jensen, but I feared him. He was a strict man. A severe man, you might say. When he found out what was going on, he tried to stop me from seeing John. My father wanted to take me away from that school. He didn’t want me to ruin my life.’

I remembered the photograph of Kawaguchi at Jun’s house. Yes, I could imagine that he was very strict with his children. Particularly with his daughter perhaps.

‘You were very young…’ I started carefully.

‘I was nearly seventeen and Blakeston was twenty… just twenty years old.’ Naoko started crying again.

‘The worst thing… the thing that gives me nightmares,’ cried the poor woman, ‘is that I’m not sure that it was Brendan Murphy who killed John. I wasn’t sure then and I’m still not sure. I’m terribly afraid, Miss Jensen, that I sent an innocent man to his death!’

‘But Miss Kawaguchi, you picked him out at the police station, you gave evidence against him in court.’

‘Miss Jensen,’ she replied. ‘I was young, very young. I loved John very much. He was the only man who had ever shown me any kindness. I was terribly upset, in shock. It was a terrible experience. Can you imagine what it was like for a sixteen-year-old girl? It was hard for me to remember what really happened. I had spent five hours in a car with a madman and seen John murdered. I had been shot three times in the back and was lucky to be alive.’

I thought for a while. Murphy’s guilt was almost totally based on what Naoko Kawaguchi had said. If she had made a mistake…

‘But you must have got a really good look at the man during the five hours you were in the car with him,’ I said.

‘Not really, Miss Jensen,’ she explained. ‘He was in the back seat the whole time and remember it was dark for a lot of the time. Oh, I have no doubt that the murderer looked something like Murphy, but I’m no surer than that.’

A lot of people looked like Murphy, I thought.

‘Then my father was so insistent,’ she continued. ‘He wanted the whole thing to be finished. He didn’t want anyone to know that John and I were

‘Miss Kawaguchi,’ I said, ‘think carefully before you answer this… is it possible that your father had John Blakeston killed?’

‘I am afraid that I have thought about this many times, Miss Jensen,’ she replied. ‘I don’t know. I don’t know… I just don’t know.’ And with that, she started crying again.

On the way back to the hotel in the taxi, I thought about Naoko’s story. I thought I now understood why Naoko preferred to live in Japan. At least she was far away from the memories of her terrible experience so many years ago. Far away, until curious reporters like me came to find her, to make her talk about it all again. Sometimes I hated my job.

I thought too about her father. Kawaguchi had not wanted his daughter to ruin her life by getting involved with an older man. Perhaps he had also felt that Blakeston was not good enough for his beloved daughter. A caretaker would hardly be the right person for a Kawaguchi. And she was very young. Perhaps he feared that the girl would get pregnant and have to have the baby. It would have ruined her life perhaps. But if he had had Blakeston killed he had ruined his daughter’s life anyway. The murderer had either gone mad and shot Naoko too or had just made a mistake. Either way, Naoko had ended up losing the person she loved and being in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. It was a tragedy whichever way you looked at it.

27th December 1960

Brixton Prison

Dear Mum and Dad

It was wonderful to see you yesterday and to know that you are well. That is the main thing for me at this time, believe me.

Mr Jeffreys came today and told me that we should hear the result of the appeal to the Home Secretary any day now. He is a fine man and I know he is doing his very best for me. We are trying to prove that I was in Manchester when this terrible crime happened. Unfortunately, it is not so easy to prove as the people who I met there have disappeared and cannot be traced.

There must be somebody out there who knows that I am in this dreadful situation and could come forward and save me. That’s the thing I can’t understand - why they are keeping quiet. Some days I go mad just thinking about it.

I hope that Johnny has been to see you and he is providing you with some comfort through this terrible ordeal. Please believe that it will soon be over and that I’ll be home, where I belong. The thought of that is the only thing that keeps me going.

From your loving son

Brendan

That night I felt low - a combination of the time difference and the interview with Naoko Kawaguchi, whose life seemed like a living hell. My mind went over and over what she had told me. It was much too busy to feel sleepy. I went for a swim in the hotel pool to try and tire myself out. Fifty lengths later I still felt low but at least I was exhausted; I might have some chance of sleeping. I lay on my bed and thought a lot about fathers and daughters. Naoko’s relationship to her father was so different to the one between Dad and me. Perhaps Kawaguchi had loved her so much that he wouldn’t let her make any mistakes at all. It was like he wanted to protect her from life itself. Unfortunately, his dominating attitude had meant that she had possibly made an even worse mistake. She had given evidence that Murphy was the murderer and sent him to his death.

How different to Dad, I thought. He would never actually stop me from doing anything that I really wanted to do. He would advise me, guide me, but never dominate me. I thought about the times in the past when he had let me do things which were risky or even dangerous. When I was a teenager I had done all kinds of risky things, like most teenagers I suppose. The usual kind of stuff - drugs, drink - the things that most of my generation fell into.

Now I realised that he must have suffered watching me, knowing that it could all turn out badly, that he might lose me. But he knew that I had to work it out for myself, that if he tried to stop me I would just want to do it more. I smiled to myself. I hadn’t turned out too badly. Now I never took drugs, not even an aspirin, and only drank socially.

They were two very different ways of loving someone I suppose, Kawaguchi’s and Dad’s. I went to sleep feeling very lucky.

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