The Consultant: Chapter 6

But, of course, even that wouldn’t be so simple.

When he agreed to accompany Keiko to her apartment, Barry had assumed that they would go down to the lobby together and hail a taxi. 

Keiko, however, stipulated that they meet outside the hotel. (Once again, she cited concerns about her brother who worked as the bellhop.)

“Wait for me on the west side of the hotel,” Keiko told him. “The back side, facing the wharf district. I’ll be there shortly.”

And so now, fifteen minutes later, Barry was waiting on a sidewalk on the dark, west side of the hotel. 

It was lonely back here. There wasn’t much in the way of either vehicle or pedestrian traffic. When he looked down the street toward the east, he could see the glow of a main thoroughfare. But there wasn’t much going on back here, on the west side.  

His cell phone chimed again. Tessa.

“Still awake, Dad?”

Barry looked toward the hotel. No sign of Keiko yet.

“Yep,” he texted back to his daughter. “Going to bed soon, though.”

“Be careful over there.”

“Don’t worry, Tess. Japan is a safe country. I’ll be fine.”

“Famous last words.” This was accompanied with an emoji of a smiling face.

“Hey, we’re still on for lunch this Saturday, right?” Barry texted. He had a standing Saturday lunch date with his two children. Tessa showed up religiously. Ryan, not so much. Ryan never outright refused—but he always seemed to have some convenient excuse. 

“Absolutely!” Tessa fired back. 

Barry thought for a moment, then added. “Why don’t you encourage your brother to come this week? If you can, that is.”

Barry felt a little guilty, putting Tessa on the spot like that. But he also knew that in practical terms, she had more leverage over Ryan than he did. 

Barry and Ryan weren’t exactly estranged. Both went through the pro forma motions of being father and son (albeit father and son within the context of a divorce). Ryan was exceptionally well behaved for a fourteen year-old. There was no teenage rebellion, no sullenness or angry recriminations. 

Nevertheless, Barry had the consistent sense that his son was avoiding him.

Ryan seemed to prefer the company of Mike Royer, Joyce’s second husband. Though only a freshman in high school, had already expressed a desire to become a history teacher. 

Just like Mike. 

“I’ll definitely put a bug in his ear!’ she texted back. 

Okay. I’ll see you Saturday, then. Over and out!”

“Good night, Dad!” 

Barry felt a little stab of guilt as he pocketed his phone. If Tessa knew what kind of a good night he was planning, what would his daughter think?

Fifteen minutes, later, Keiko still hadn’t shown up.

Barry now realized what Keiko had done: She had led him on a wild goose chase, in retaliation for his presumptuousness and his lechery. 

She had resented the fact that he, a brash American foreigner, had assumed that he could simply pick up a woman at a hotel bar and spend the night with her. 

Who did he think he was?

Of course, Barry realized that plenty of men did that—or they wanted to, at least. Nevertheless, there would be plenty of women who would find such behavior objectionable, even offensive.

Several of Barry’s friends had reported women giving them fake phone numbers at bars. It was way of quickly getting rid of a man who was pushy, or obnoxious, or who wouldn’t take no for an answer. 

It was also a way of getting the last laugh. One of Barry’s friends had admitted that when he called the number a woman had given him in a bar, it connected to the division of the Chicago Police Department that specialized in sex crimes. 

Why, then, had Keiko sent the glass of champagne? Who knew? Maybe she had planned all this from the beginning. Perhaps another American man had broken her heart, and Barry had seemed a convenient proxy for revenge. 

Who knew, indeed?

Barry looked at his watch: It was late. But there was still time for him to return to his hotel room, and get most of a full night’s sleep. 

He was just starting back to the hotel, when he heard a female voice call out:

“Mister Barry!”

It was Keiko. She was still wearing her evening dress, but she had changed her shoes. Gone were the high heels she had been wearing at the restaurant. Now she was wearing low-soled black shoes that were a cross between sneakers and slippers. 

“Sorry I’m late!” she said, rushing up to him. 

“I was about to give up on you,” Barry admitted.

“I was always planning to be here,” she insisted.

“And now you’re here,” Barry said. He looked around the darkened street. He didn’t see any sign of a taxi. “I’m afraid we’ll have to go to the front of the hotel, or at least closer in that direction, in order to catch a taxi.”

She looked at him as if he had just made an unspeakably absurd suggestion.

“No, no, Mister Barry. We don’t need to do that.”

“But—didn’t you want to take a taxi?”

“We don’t need a taxi,” she said. “My apartment isn’t very far. Come on! Follow me!”

“Wait—”

Keiko started across the dark, empty street before Barry could ask further questions or make any protest. 

When she was halfway across, she turned around to find him still standing on the sidewalk.

“Come on, Mister Barry!” she called out. “Don’t you want to make love to me?”

Chapter 7

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