Sunday, 24 May 2015
Chapter five (segment eight), twenty four years earlier, June, Ulf
Ulf barely had time to enter the café before James pointed at the door to the inner room.
“Inside,” he said.
Ulf trusted him enough to open and go inside without asking any questions.
And that just proves how naive I am. Crap!
Principal Nakagawa sat waiting by the table. He wore his usual, strict suit, and Ulf felt strangely naked in his high school summer uniform.
“We seem to have a problem,” Nakagawa said. He didn't even bother with a greeting.
Damn, that old geezer scares me. But Ulf's previous conversation with Christina made him better armed than that awful time when he was called up to the principal's office.
“Yes mister Nakagawa?” he said in English. He had no reason to give the old man the advantage of language, and besides Nakagawa had spoken English that time as well.
“You kids are making too much noise. I want you to calm down.”
“I'm sorry...” No way in hell! I'm a fifty year old CEO with full responsibility for the well being of hundreds of employees. “No mister Nakagawa. We're not kids.”
This time he was going to make a stand.
“As far as I'm concerned you're a brat, and I...”
“Want our help with the upcoming police investigation concerning the assault in the locker room?” I'm not giving away the momentum this time. “We can do that. My legal guardian is a police after all. I'll tell her everything.”
“You'll do nothing of the sorts!” Nakagawa coloured with rage and he had risen from his chair.
“Do you really want to test that theory?” Ulf forced his voice into a younger version of what he had used on the few occasions when people needed being talked to rather than talked with. “I wouldn't recommend that. The repercussions would be unfortunate,” he continued. And finally, after over a full year in Oz, Ulf felt in control again.
“Are you threatening me?”
“Yes,” came Ulf's blunt reply. The cards were on the table. Now when he had nowhere to run Ulf felt that sense of calmness that always overtook him in his previous life when he was backed into a corner. He was a fifty year old man with a lifetime's experience of shouldering responsibility, not a frightened adolescent.
Ulf could see Nakagawa fight to regain control of himself. You're good, but this once I'm better.
“I see,” Nakagawa said. “Do you have any idea how much trouble I could cause you if you persist?”
“I do,” Ulf answered. And now for the killer. “But you're the principal of Himekaizen at a time when Japan runs a population deficiency of epic proportions.”
He actually said 'huh'? I've got you now. “Right and left wing designs. I'll bet the school had twelve classes in every grade not that long ago.”
“What does that have to do with anything?” Nakagawa looked… interested. As if he was evaluating Ulf.
He's not even angry any longer. He never was. All an act. Damn geezer! “That means you're down to two thirds of the student population you once had. Overhead costs must be brutal. Your budget should be shot to kingdom come by now.”
Nakagawa nodded thoughtfully.
“Add a thorough investigation by police all over the place, with media candy on top, and I'll have you down to six freshman classes next year. When would you prefer to file for bankruptcy?”
“You are an observant one, aren't you.” Nakagawa smiled. “Just about any other school and your game would have worked. Not this one though. We handle the arrivals after all.”
But bloody hell! How many aces does he have stacked up his sleeve? Ulf had only one more card to play, one that Nakagawa had just given him. “Black ops? I bet they'll love have media scampering all over the school.”
Nakagawa smiled again. A genuine smile this time. “No, no they wouldn't,” he admitted. “But that won't happen because I'm not going to push you any further.”
So we've come to an understanding of sorts. Pity I'm totally clueless what it is. Still he had been given a bone, and it was time to be more civil. “Mister Nakagawa, why don't we restart this meeting now?”
“You had a problem.”
“Yes. It's come to my attention that Christina Agerman made a surprising observation.”
So it was that business all along. “Yes, she found out one of the goons was rather overage for being a high school student.”
“Found out? You mean made a guess.”
“No, found out. She made a living out of it you know.”
“You're saying just because she was a model she has the ability to estimate the age of a girl?”
“Make that super model, but no. I'm saying that because she built a fashion empire that would make Uniclo look like a shoddy back street shop. She had to know just about everything, by instinct, brains or black magic, I don't care, but she did.”
“You love her, don't you?”
Where did that come from? “I guess I do,” Ulf admitted. He wasn't certain himself, but it was easier just telling Nakagawa he did. Do I? Maybe, but I'm afraid of falling in love again. It hurts too much losing someone.
“About Suzuki, I need her where she is. And no we can't afford having you bring in the police. I'll pay miss Agerman hush money. A lot of it. She'll accept.”
You cocky bastard!
“Now mister Hammargren, I'm going to bribe you as well.”
He really doesn't have any stops. “Give me your best shot.”
“I'll dig into what really happened at Red Rose, and I'll give you the results.”
OK, that was one hell of a shot. “I'm listening.”
“And sometime during summer break I'll fill you in a bit on what we know.”
You need to do that anyway. Otherwise you can't use us for whatever plans you have. “Still listening.”
“And you can run that club of yours as you see fit as long as your members get the grades I need to argue in favour of such an unusual decision.”
“That will take some time, and both Christina and I will have poor grades.”
“Because your Japanese is poor. I understand that. You'll have your time. Until second term finals. Half a year. Show me some results!”
“Consider me bribed. And in return?”
“You pretend that you believe that miss Agerman was bribed into submission and that you believe Himekaizen is just another corrupt private high school that only cares for its reputation.”
Ulf thought of it. In a few months he'd know more about what was happening, and he'd be given an opportunity to clear up a few educational deficiencies.
If Nakagawa could be trusted. The old geezer was a bastard, but he played with open cards. “We have a deal.”
They shook hands.