Yuki and Ami walked together to the front gate. “You’ve got a cool mom,” Yuki said.
“She is,” Ami agreed.
Yuki raised her hand to wave goodbye, turned her head, and frowned. “That’s odd.”
Ami leaned around her. A dark blue Lexus was parked a dozen yards down the street, the running lights on. The washed-out glow from the streetlamp revealed a driver behind the wheel.
Yuki said, “Hey, I know that guy.”
“You know him? You mean, Wada-san?”
“Yeah. Cocoa is his Pomeranian.” Yuki said under her breath, “That dog’s as persnickety as he is. The two of them make me jumpy. Not that he isn’t good for business. He spends enough on her to buy a small house. I mean, I love dogs but—” She shook her head. “Wait, how do you know him?”
“He dropped by the house a few weeks ago with some papers and—stuff—for my mom.”
“If he wants to talk to your mom, what’s he doing parked there?”
“It looks like he’s waiting for somebody.”
A black Cadillac CT6 turned down the street and glided to a halt behind the Lexus.
“Okay, this is getting weird,” Yuki said. “C’mon.” She took Ami by the hand and scooted over to the corner of the fence.
The car door clunked shut. The driver of the Cadillac wasn’t a big or a young man, but his age hadn’t diminished him in the slightest. He was an aging athlete beating back Father Time, a retired boxer still full of piss and vinegar despite his years out of the ring.
Ami said in a hushed voice, “That car sounds familiar. Yeah, it was here the last time Wada-san was here.”
The window of the Lexus rolled down. “Harada-san, coming here like this is not wise. As I said before, you have to be patient.”
“Patient!” the Cadillac driver hissed. “Have you seen the preliminary appraisals? Market value! What the hell good does market value do me? I can get market value from any fool walking down the street. Hardly better than liquidation! You promised me this thing was in the bag, that you had an understanding.”
Wada-san got out of the car, careful not to let Cocoa escape, and held up his hands as if trying to calm down an angry animal. “Let’s not jump to conclusions. These are the preliminary appraisals, Harada-san. I think—”
“Yeah, that’s the problem. Too much thinking. It’s time to cut to the chase.”
Harada poked Wada-san in the chest hard enough to make him take a step back, and marched to the front gate.
Ami would have leapt to her feet if Yuki hadn’t restrained her. “If he lays a finger on your mom,” she said, pulling Ami down next to her, “I’ll rip his throat out.”
Ami’s mother came to the door, perhaps wondering what was keeping Ami. She stood at the edge of the doorstep as Harada came up the walk, forcing him to stop several paces off so she wouldn’t be looking straight down at the top of his head.
“Harada-san,” she said, with barely a flicker of emotion.
“You!” He practically exploded, then realized where he was and the time of night and lowered his voice. “What kind of game are you playing here?”
“Game? I’ve appraised your properties at market value, value-in-use, and investment value. Am I missing something?”
“There’s hardly a bit of difference between them!”
“Because there is hardly any difference between them. If anything, I am giving you the benefit of the doubt in this economy.”
At that moment, Harada resembled a boiler about to burst a seam. “Tokudaiji Real Estate came to me wanting to do this deal.” He jabbed the air in front of him. “We’re supposed to be partners in this.”
Ami’s mother’s distaste for the word partners showed in the tight line of her mouth. “You don’t need me to sell your properties to Tokudaiji Real Estate.” She answered with a cool contempt that impressed Yuki. Ami clearly came by her sangfroid from more than just the fox side.
“That’s not how this thing works! No bank in this city is going to front the loans with the price and appraisal values so out of whack!”
Clearly confused about what he meant by “this thing,” she cocked her head to the side. “You are free to file an appeal when the final report is submitted. Or petition to have me recused. In the meantime, I believe it would be in both our best interests if you voiced any future objections through counsel.”
Her gaze shifted to Wada-san, mopping his brow with a white handkerchief. Prodded into motion, he hurried up to him and said, “Harada-san, please.”
After several apologetic bows, he steered the angry man back to the Cadillac. Harada snapped at Wada-san, “If those appraisal values don’t change before the sale, the whole deal’s worth shit!”
“Don’t worry, Harada-san. She’s simply going through the motions, I’m sure. These discrepancies have to be properly papered over. Due diligence and all that.”
“I’ve got a dozen creditors snapping at my heels! No more promises. I need guarantees. Or I’m taking out a little insurance of my own!”
“Yes, yes, Harada-san.”
A round of bowing commenced, Wada-san’s head horizontal with the ground.
The Cadillac and the Lexus glided off in opposite directions. Peace and quiet and decorum returned to the tidy residential street.