Devil On My Shoulder
Chapter 1: "The Incident"
A Sailor Moon fanfic
By Bill K.
Sailor Moon and all related characters are (c)2010 by Naoko Takeuchi/Kodansha and Toei Animation and are used without permission, but with respect. Story is (c)2010 by Bill K.
Shinjiro Hino sat at the desk in his office at the Japanese Diet, immaculate in his tailored black suit and his expensively styled hair. Image was important to the man, particularly now that he was past fifty. It was important to him that the world still see him as vital, strong and commanding. A politician who the people thought couldn't lead was not long for this world.
"Well yes, I see several problems with the bill," Hino said over the phone. He was talking with a member of the opposition Democrat party, who was trying to get his support for a bill. As one of the senior and more powerful members of the Liberal Democrat Party, Hino's support would mean the support of a great many LDP members. "It's too ambitious - - too sweeping. The economy can't take it as it is now. And if the mess that's going down in the United States spreads beyond its borders, it could destroy Japan's entire economy."
Everything he said was true, of course. However, Shinjiro Hino had learned long ago how to speak a truth that was designed to conceal another truth. He thought the Japanese Democrats were trying to do too much too soon. They had swept into power in the last election, deposing the Liberal Democrats' decades-long hold on government, but it was a fragile perch. Now they wanted dramatic results to show the masses that they were getting things done. That way, the masses would keep them in power.
And Hino knew that all he had to do was wait. If he and the LDP could drag their heels long enough while looking as if they had legitimate concerns over the legislation, the Japanese public would lose patience with the opposition Democrats. And with the economic panic in the US negatively effecting the already struggling economy in Japan, public patience could evaporate even more quickly.
"What you're proposing isn't sound economic theory," Hino told the caller. "You're placing too much of a burden on an already stressed financial and industrial sector. If they break under the strain, what do you think that will do to the unemployment and investment figures? You're like a drunkard in a gambling house, desperately hoping to roll a winning number."
Even if the Democrats got their bill pushed through, Hino knew he could get enough of it compromised so that it would be a colossal failure. And when it blew up in the opposition's face, well there he'd be, his party ready to resume being the safe, sensible alternative to all of these wild radical ideas. And he personally would be positioned to be majority leader - - perhaps even Prime Minister, if he timed it right.
"We'll discuss this further on the floor," Hino told his caller. "My mentor always said no bill is unsalvageable if people are willing to compromise for the greater good. But I've got an appointment right now and I have to go. I'll see you there."
Yes, Shinjiro Hino cared about Japan. He wanted it to be strong and successful. He wanted the people to be happy and proud of their government. But he wanted that on his watch, not the Democrats.
Hino left the Diet and drove to a restaurant in Roppongi. Inside the restaurant, he walked over to an occupied table and sat down across from a squat middle-aged man. The man was well dressed, though not nearly as expensively as Hino was, and was visibly trying to keep a low profile. Hino knew that was impossible for himself, so he didn't try. A waitress came over.
"Just Sake," Hino told her with a dismissive glance, unconsciously stroking his mustache. He turned to the man. "So what's the latest?"
"Nothing new," the man replied. He waited for the waitress to bring Hino's drink and leave. "Dietman Nogura is busy working on trying to get this economic measure passed. It's consuming much of his time. He's barely even seen his family." The man smirked. "Although he always seems to have time for Keiko."
"Are you certain she's still doing her job?" Hino asked. "It's not possible that she's fallen in love with the lifestyle of a Dietman's mistress and is slacking off?"
"Not Keiko," the man assured him. "She likes handsome young men too much. Besides, what you're paying her is enough to keep her loyalty."
"It's been three months," Hino began.
"Don't be impatient," the man told him. "These things take time. It was a delicate job planting Keiko in Nogura's life. You can't risk ruining all of that effort by becoming impatient and pushing for results."
"Yes, you're right," Hino relented. "Delicate things do take time and care to nurture properly." He downed his sake. "Keep at it. And keep me posted."
"Of course, Dietman," the man nodded. "And don't worry about Keiko. Among her considerable talents is a very good pair of ears. And she has a way of making men feel at ease around her. I think she could even make you fall for her."
Hino unconsciously stroked the wedding band he still wore.
"I doubt it," Hino said and downed his drink.
Nestled in the second floor of a professional building that housed doctors, attorneys, accountants, dentists and other professionals was the office of Midtown Medical Partners. Just near enough to the business district and just near enough to residential areas to cater to both clientele, the office bustled on a daily basis with patients. There was more than enough business for the two recently joined partners, Dr. Mamoru Chiba and Dr. Ami Mizuno.
Entering the office was a comely blonde in her late twenties. She had on a yellow sun dress and a wide-brimmed straw hat that barely fit on her head over the twin balls of hair pinned at the back of her head. Underneath the brim were deep blue eyes that sang of love and charity, and a small mouth with a mischievous smile that whispered of someone who hadn't yet completely grown up.
She was greeted at the entrance to the waiting room by Mrs. Yoshiba. Mamoru had inherited Mrs. Yoshiba from the previous owner of Midtown Medical Practitioners, before he changed the name. She was sixty-three and rail thin, with graying black hair and heavy black frame glasses, and a humorless face. But she was an efficient records keeper, knew the ins and outs of billing and finance from forty years of experience and was a familiar touchstone for all the patients who had been coming here before Mamoru had even set foot in the place. Mrs. Yoshiba had a system. She kept out of the medical decisions and Mamoru and Ami kept out of the business operations. That was fine with both of them.
Usagi was another matter.
"Dr. Chiba still has one more patient to attend to," Mrs. Yoshiba told Usagi when she entered, by now used to Dr. Chiba's wife showing up early to escort him home.
"I won't disturb him," Usagi said and headed for the door. When she got there, she found the door to the inner offices was still electronically locked. She turned peevishly to Mrs. Yoshiba.
"No, you won't," Mrs. Yoshiba said, not even looking up.
"Well can't I at least visit Ami?" whined Usagi.
"Dr. Mizuno is currently with a patient," Mrs. Yoshiba replied.
"I won't get in the way! I promise!" Usagi exclaimed. Mrs. Yoshiba looked up and gave Usagi a disbelieving eye, then looked back down at her billing charts.
Folding her arms over her chest in frustration, Usagi blew at her bangs and waited.
Fifteen minutes later, Ami came out and brought a folder with charts over to Mrs. Yoshiba's desk. She had barely gotten the folder out of her hand when she felt Usagi's presence against her.
"Usagi," Ami smiled. "How good to see you. Are you picking Mamoru up again?"
"Yes. You know how it is," sighed Usagi. "I can only go so long and then I start going through man withdrawal." Then her eyes narrowed and she smirked. "Oh, that's right. You don't know."
"Don't start with me, Usagi," Ami warned her with good-natured vehemence, adjusting her glasses for emphasis. "Come on back. I still have a few things to clear up. We can talk while I do them." She signaled Mrs. Yoshiba to buzz them through. As she passed through with Ami, Usagi looked back and stuck her tongue out at the receptionist.
"Well, I worry about you, Ami," Usagi continued as they went into Ami's office. "You're always alone. It's not normal."
"Usagi, I realize that matchmaking is a compulsion with you and that you can't help it," Ami said as she gathered sheets of paper into a folder. "And I know you only have my best interests at heart. But I'm not sitting alone in my apartment, withering away like some neglected plant. I gain sufficient mental stimulus on my own and my work is very fulfilling."
"Is it?" Usagi asked hopefully. "You are happy here?"
"Quite happy," Ami smiled. "I'm doing good here, Usagi, as much good as I did at the hospital. I'm quite happy here." Ami sighed. "If only everyone would believe that."
"Aw, Ami, she'll come around," Usagi offered.
"If you say so," Ami murmured. "In any case, Mamoru, Miss Taibu and Mrs. Yoshiba have all been very supportive and very professional. It's made my transition quite smooth and very pleasant."
"I'm glad to hear it, Ami," Usagi beamed. Then her gaze shifted upwards. "Although at the hospital there were an awful lot of handsome young doctors . . ."
"Will you stop!" gasped Ami.
"Now you sound just like Rei," Usagi pouted. "I'm going to get you two married and I don't care how much either of you don't like it!"
"Shouldn't you ask Rei first if she wants to marry Ami?" Mamoru chuckled, standing in the doorway.
"Mamo-Chan!" Usagi squealed and leaped into his arms. Her arms braced behind his neck and she gave him a big kiss. Ami discreetly looked away. When they finished, he eased Usagi to the floor.
"Is this crazy lady bothering you, Dr. Mizuno?" Mamoru asked. Usagi's face twisted up and she swatted his arm.
"Usagi is never a bother, Mamoru," Ami told him. "I welcome her visits at any time."
"Maybe you could tell Mrs. Yoshiba that," Usagi grumbled. "Are you ready to go, Mamo-Chan?"
"Give me a few minutes to log my prescriptions for the day," Mamoru said, heading for his office as he spoke.
"I'll come with you," Usagi bolted after him. "I can keep you company."
"OK," Ami heard Mamoru say. "But no nibbling on my ear."
"But I haven't eaten since lunch," Ami heard Usagi giggle.
"No!" she heard Mamoru repeat.
"You know you liiiiiiiike it," Ami heard Usagi say in sing-song fashion. Then the door closed on them.
Ami shook her head and went back to work. She took the file out into the general file area and replaced it.
"Was that Mrs. Chiba I heard?" asked Nanako Taibu. She was the medical assistant for both Ami and Mamoru. The woman was thirty, with brown hair tied in a bun, a stout figure and a professional demeanor.
Ami nodded. Nanako stared at the closed door to Mamoru's office.
"I wish I was that deeply in love with someone," Miss Taibu sighed and went on about her business. Ami paused at the file cabinet for a moment, letting the medical assistant's statement sink in.
"You want to do it."
That's what the urge kept telling Shiro Iyadomi as he silently rode the elevator up to the terrace level. He'd thought about it in the past, considered it fleetingly. Life could be so demanding sometimes. All the hours he put in at work, a middle manager at an insurance firm, added up. His superiors never seemed satisfied. Eighty hour weeks almost seemed expected of him. It was like he was on a treadmill, constantly expending effort and never getting anywhere. Didn't they understand he had goals and ambitions of his own, as well as a family he needed to attend to and a private life he'd like to have a chance to live?
Home life wasn't much better. His wife seemed to blame everything that had gone wrong in their lives on him. It was almost like she stayed with him because nothing better had come along. His oldest son had no respect for him at all and little use for traditional conformist Japanese society. He wanted to be a musician. He wanted to be free. But he still wanted to eat dinner at home. His daughter was beginning to run around with delinquent girl gangs. Nothing he said to her made any impression. And her rebellion was beginning to affect the younger daughter.
And private life - - what private life? Did a late night a week at a bar constitute a private life? Did the company softball team, which he joined only to favor his supervisor, define "fun" to him? Were the magazines with naked women that he stored in his office desk the only excitement he had to look forward to?
The elevator opened onto the terrace and Shiro Iyadomi walked out. The terrace was an enclosed deck on top of the insurance building. It was decorated with tables, chairs and sofas, as well as potted plants and a fountain in the center. It was an enclosed space that the employees could use as a quiet place to spend their lunch hours or free time in without having to leave the building. Even now several other employees were there, talking or eating. Two waved to Shiro, but the forty-four year old man with thinning hair, glasses and a sagging posture didn't acknowledge them. He was too consumed with his own thoughts.
So he'd had the thought before. But it had never been this strong, this consuming. It was as if someone from above, some higher power had given him silent permission to think this way and now it dominated his thoughts. It seemed like the perfect answer. But did he have the courage?
And suddenly he knew he did. Without a word, Shiro Iyadomi picked up a chair from the terrace, walked over to the nearest glass window and flung the chair through the window. The great sound it made attracted the attention of everyone on the terrace. As such, they were all witness to what came next.
"Why can't you tell me where we're going?" Mamoru asked with thinning patience. Usagi clung to his arm and led him down the street as other people hurried along to their own destinations.
"Because I want you to SEE it first," Usagi responded, her own patience thinning.
"Because you're afraid I'll say 'no' if I don't?" Mamoru inquired with a cynical smirk.
"Don't be so smug all the time!" his wife pouted and Mamoru knew he'd hit the truth.
"Is it food?" Mamoru asked.
"No," Usagi replied.
"Is it clothing of some kind?"
"Is it one of the new 2009 Honda motorcycles?" Mamoru asked, with little boy hopes.
"Don't be silly," scowled Usagi.
As Usagi tugged him along, Mamoru began to recognize the area they were in. When he spotted the gown shop in the first floor of the office building next to the insurance building, the pieces began to fall into place.
"A ball gown?" Mamoru gaped. "You said it wasn't clothing."
"Mamo-Chan!" Usagi responded impatiently. "A ball gown is not just 'clothing'!"
"You've got a gown already," he said, confused.
"Mamo-Chan, you have to see this!" Usagi implored, knowing that the sight of it would silence any argument her husband might have.
Mamoru scowled, preparing to be bored by the sight and prepared for the argument that would follow. That all changed suddenly. Suddenly there was danger. Suddenly there was that buzz he felt whenever Usagi was threatened. He looked up.
"Usako, stop!" he snapped, jerking Usagi back. His bewildered wife stumbled back toward him. Mamoru scooped her up and turned her away, protecting her with his body.
"What . . .?" was all she got out. Then a chair crashed to the sidewalk right where she would have been. All feeling seemed to wash out of her body for a moment. Usagi stared at the broken, bent chair. It all seemed suddenly so unreal.
A sound rising from the crowd that had stopped to look at the chair was her only warning. Falling to the sidewalk just to one side of the chair was Shiro Iyadomi. Usagi saw his head impact with the concrete sidewalk and burst like a watermelon.
"Oh, Mamo-Chan!" she gasped and buried her face in his chest, her hands clutching the lapels of his coat like they were life lines. Mamoru, who had seen it too, wrapped his arms around the woman he loved and squeezed tight, trying to reassure her through physical proximity. She trembled within his grasp and he supported her as she shook.
Continued in Chapter 2