Read Here First – The Bicycle Thief. Part 1 – The Mama Chari
The Kurokawa Police Station is conveniently located around the block from the school. We could have walked there and avoided all the flashing lights. Though a much larger building, the Nagoya Expressway still towered over it. The building itself is placed just before the legendary swirling Kurokawa Exit Ramp.
Once inside I was taken to the third floor. This was an open floor filled with desks. It looked like the set for Barney Miller. I was amazed to see very few people in the station, though, it was late, and Kurokawa was not really a nighttime party destination. The room was small enough that everyone dropped what they were doing when we came in. There were old guys in suits who looked up from their desks and two young guys in uniforms who looked scared out of their minds.
The old guy in the Members Only jacket held up his hand, which I took as the international “wait here” sign. He walked over to his desk and began unloading his equipment. Its funny how policemen never sit down right away because they have so much gear attached to them. They just start pulling out equipment like some kind of weapon loaded clown car. He placed each item on his desk with a klunk. Meanwhile, the two young officers were running around like they were not sure what to do, but should clearly be doing something. As if this time… it’s not a drill.
I also noticed my bike roll past me in the hands of one of the officers. He came up to me and said,
“Kagi wo moteimasuka?”
I responded with a, “huh?”
He pointed at the lock and gave his hand a twisting motion. I reached into my pocket and pulled out the key. I looked at it for a moment and remembered when they were handed to me. I gave him the key. He bowed and walked off.
A big uniformed sumo looking guy entered stage right. He had a big round face with a few grey hairs sprinkled in his military style buzz cut. He walked over to the Members Only guy, exchanged a few words, and then approached me with the two young officers. One of the young officers tripped on a small office garbage can in his haste to catch up with him. The Sergeant shot him an angry glare. He stopped and waited for the young officer to collect himself and replace all the papers he spilled. He then rolled his eyes and let out a heavy sigh. I felt like I was in a Japanese animated police cartoon.
The Sergeant began talking to me in heavy slurring Japanese. I could not understand him at all, but I assume he was saying,
“Hello, my name is Sgt. Tanaka. This is officer Tall-skinny-guy and Officer Short-fat-guy. Perhaps you recognize them from every Japanese animated police comedy ever made.”
I nodded to them and wanted to say, “Though this is the first Japanese anime I have ever been in, I’ll do my best to contribute to the wacky hijinx and outrageous comedy skits that you guys have planned.”
He led us to a third floor room with glass windows, The Kurokawa exit ramp could be seen swirling around in the background. Sgt. Tanaka sat across from me. The two officers stood behind him. He began talking again and I began not understanding again. With a frustrated look on his face he realized that my Japanese was not good enough to understand what he was saying. He needed a translator. He turned and glared at Officer Tall-skinny-guy. Who then turned to me with a frightened look, and then to Officer Short-fat-guy. Officer Short-fat-guy nodded back to him as if to say, go ahead, what are you waiting for?
This was obviously Officer Tall-Skinny-guy’s chance to show off all those high school English classes he had been boasting about. He did not disappoint.
“Please have a name please?” he asked with confidence. “Where bicycle get?
After a thirty minute brow-beating of the English language, several questions popped up that were unanswered. We established all my personal information and what I do for a living. But they could not understand how I could teach English to Japanese students, yet not speak a word of Japanese. Or, how I work with other Japanese teachers yet, I knew nobody who could speak English. All this information was very suspicious.
I’d have to say, these were good questions. I had never thought about how unusual it all sounds until this most inopportune time. Of course what I did not want to tell them was that all the Japanese teachers I work with spoke English, I just did not want to call them. I was not sure how that phone conversation would go,
“Hello… Tomoko San? It’s Richard… your new English teacher, I know it’s the middle of the night but… I was wondering if you could come down to the Police Station and be a translator for some kind of bicycle sting operation I have just been arrested for?”
The big unanswered question was: Where did I get the bike? Somehow, “someone gave it to me”, sounds as bad writing it down as it did when I was saying it to them. It seemed like I was covering up for something big. I was still not sure what the hell was going on. Whenever I asked a question It was received with the same, we-are-asking-the-questions-around-here attitude. What I was to surmise from Officer Tall-skinny-guy was that I have possession of a stolen bicycle. If I can’t explain why I have it, then they are to assume I stole it.
I tried to explain that I was a teacher, a respected member of Japanese society; I was wearing a tie when they arrested me at 9:30pm. Doesn’t a suit and tie account for anything anymore? Why would I steal a bicycle? I showed them my alien registration card. It has the same title that my passport visa has: “Specialist in Humanities and International Services”. To someone who could barely speak English, it must sound like I am the Duke of Wellington. Why would The Duke steal a bicycle?
I started to really worry because I had no way out of this. I could loose my job or have my visa taken away. I could be deported. Deported!
The Sergeant then said in his best English, “Specialist… Tokyo… please.”
“Please talk to specialist… in Tokyo please.” Repeated Tall-skinny-guy.
Short-fat-guy was holding up a phone in the other room.
“Please!” said the sergeant, pointing to the next room I walked out of the room and Officer Short-fat-guy handed me the phone.
“Hello?” I said,
“Hello, This is Detective Nakayama.” The voice said in English.
“I am specialist.” He said.
“Do you know why you are here?” he asked.
“Because of the bike.”
“Um hmm. I see. Because of the bike.” He repeated.
He then asked me all the same questions that the other officers had asked, only he would say, “Um hmm, I see.” After every answer I gave.
“Where is the manager who gave you the bike?”
“I don’t know. Our office is at Nagoya Station.” I said.
“Um Hmm. I see, do you know where she is right now?
“Right now? It’s almost midnight. I don’t know her phone number, or what part of the city she lives in. I don’t even know her last name… How the hell am I supposed to know where she is?
“Um hmm. I see.”
He went on to explain that I am to go straight home and not leave. I was under house arrest. If he were to call at anytime during the night, and I don’t answer, he will issue a warrant for my arrest. Tomorrow morning I am to come to this station at precisely 9am.
The Specialist is coming to Kurokawa.