He was known around the night clubs of Ginza area of Tokyo as Daytime Daisuke and his sight was set at a shot at the big league, up there with the likes of Akira and the rest of the legends like Saito or Matsuyama.
The Legends worked the evenings, at the time when the club received its finest, richest female clientele. But not for Daisuke. Five weeks in and he’s still entertaining the senior citizens and taking what little pension money they had left at the end of the month. His hours were from ten in the morning until five in the afternoon, hence his nickname, “Daytime.”
The VIP seats, elevated a little higher from the main floor, situated at the back of the club, were for the nighttime regulars who held the coveted title of “Empresses,” women with fat pockets, deep enough to order thousand-dollar Don Perignon champagne with a flick of a wrist, usually adorned with Gucci’s latest modern creation. It wasn’t a coincidence that Akira was driving around in a souped-up Datsun when one of the clients, known to everyone as Madame X, chose Akira as her own exclusive host.
These women were not looking for sex when they came to Adonis Club, it was not that type of establishment, according to Takeshi, the owner, an ex-military in Japan’s Self-Defense Force.
After a failed stint in bodybuilding left only with pulled tendons and burst blood vessels in the vicinity of his pre-frontal cortex, a notion came to him one night while watching a Knight Rider rerun on Fuji Television that the world needed real men, not some Hasselhoff doofus who needed rescuing from a talking car, but a man who knew what it was to be real man, a man’s man.
He envisioned a place, straight out of the Roman Empire with Corinthian columns, festooned with silky, opaque drapes that ran from column to column around the whole club. There would also be lush marble tables each surrounded by plush sofas fit for the emperor himself. This place pumped full of testosterone would be the perfect venue to show females everywhere that real men still walked the Earth. His eyes would light up every time he told this story to a recruit.
Daisuke decided that he was going to talk to Takeshi about being slotted in the evenings, no more nagging and whining, but an ultimatum: put me in the evenings or else I’ll quit. As he made his way up the stairs which led to Takeshi’s office, he practiced over and over in his head how he was actually going to go through with it.
“Come in Daisuke,” said Takeshi. “Close the door, sit down.”
Daisuke cleared his throat and began to recite his prepared speech.
Takeshi puts up his hand. “Let me talk,” he said. “What do you think of our Akira?”
Daisuke thought it was a trick question and just stated the obvious: “Well, he is the number one host.”
“Number one fucking kisama, you mean. Let’s cut the bull, okay? Overheard that aho is planning to open his own club, take all the Empresses along with him too. He’s too good for the Adonis. He was just a no-good piece of kuso when he came here ten years ago but now look at him, he thinks he owns the place. The worst thing is, he’s got my Ami as well. I hired a private investigator to snoop around and look at what he’s found.”
He opened a file and there was Akira and Ami in black-and-white shots in the front seat of his 72’ Fair Lady Z. She’s got her arms around Akira’s shoulders. In another one, a close-up of them, they’re walking hand-in-hand through Ueno Park. There were swan boats in the background.
“Ami was a whore I picked up from Shinjuku anyway,” said Takeshi. “Yeah, let me tell you straight Daisuke, I loved that bitch but what comes around, goes around, eh?”
Daisuke forced his forehead to wrinkle up to show his concern, shaking his head in sympathy. Yeah, life is a bitch. The whole time, he was thinking of his rightful place at table number one and receiving favors from the clients. He didn’t notice the couple of tears running down Takeshi’s face.
“I’ve got an idea,” said Takeshi. “It’s simple and Daisuke, I know you’re my man, you’re the outsider. I don’t know who to trust anymore. The other guys, heck they’ve been working the club with Akira for almost a decade. They’re as close as a den of thieves. Waste him Daisuke, smoke the aho out. There’s no other way. Killing isn’t too hard. My grandfather must’ve killed a dozen or so Americans in the Philippines and look at him, strong as an ox. He tells me he sleeps like a baby every night.”
Daisuke tells Takeshi the war is over and the idea of ending up in prison for the rest of his life was rather unfavourable to a hot-blooded man like himself.
“You think I got this far in life without working it through?” said Takeshi. “Challenge him to a duel, Daisuke. It’s the only way. Forget about ‘78. A fucking scratch and the officials go ape shit over it. Akira wasn’t very much the fighter anyway. And now, he’s just a fat shit. You’ve got more reflexes in your little finger than he does in his whole fucking body.”
The plan then was to challenge Akira to a gladiatorial duel, right in front of all the high spenders. The last show ever held was in 1978 between Saito and Ricky, one of the few foreign males that worked the club. Saito, once a legend himself a generation ago, was one of the classics of his time. Crew cut, sharp, angular face and smoldering eyes underneath his thick-arched eyebrows, he could have made it big in the latest samurai revival flicks but decided on the small-town life instead. Age in the form of cataracts, made his vision worse, making the duels an occupational health hazard, which the officials used as the sticking point in court.
In the last duel, a spotlight was centered on Saito and Ricky. Saito, temporarily dazed by the light, slashed his sword against Ricky’s helmet. The choreographed move should have made for a nice, clanging sound but instead ended up sounding more like a tomato thrown against the wall. It was in fact Ricky’s face. Ricky ended up on the floor dreaming the dream of all fallen warriors and the ‘scratch’ that Takeshi referred to was in fact a popped eye and a scar, running from eyebrow to lip. He was shipped right back to Canada once the doctors put him back together the best they could.
“So you see, don’t you?” Said Takeshi. “It just like any professional sport like boxing, you kill someone in the ring and the police will just write it off as a sports accident. Sure maybe I’ll get in shit with the police again with breaking some employment standards but hell, Akira will be gone and guess what my friend, you’re the next in line for the crown.”
Daisuke liked the last part, the crowning bit but the killing bit, the running through of Akira with a piece of prop spear was both comical and distasteful. No, he didn’t need to kill Akira, the humiliation of defeat in front of the whole club would be enough. Takeshi always had a thing for the dramatic. Poor sucker’s losing his business and girlfriend at the same time, mixed together with his drugs, what else is he going to turn to but a little murder.
Daisuke was offended by the fact that Takeshi thought he would go through with it too. But of course, he wasn’t going to tell Takeshi that. The red in his eyes and the throbbing vein that beat across his forehead was enough to make Daisuke shut up and accept his offer.
Yes, he told Takeshi, Akira would die on Friday night.
Takeshi arranged for Daisuke to meet with Jimmy, the trainer, for some practice with the equipment. Jaw-tight Jimmy he was known as. Although he had the physique of a host –tall, dark and handsome – he lacked the loquacious skills needed for being one of the greats. So he ended being the trainer/choreographer for the Adonis hosts. That was of course before Ricky’s face was smashed in.
Daisuke surveyed the equipment and went straight for the plumed helmet, the trident and the net. They were all made of aluminum except for the steel prongs at the end of the trident which was suppose to add to the auditory realism of metal clashing against metal. The same weapon that Takeshi was expecting to gut Akira.
“The net fighter?” said Jimmy. “Not my taste but to each his own right?”
For the next couple of hours, Daisuke learned the fine art of fighting: Lunges starting with the right foot, stepping away from attacks and keeping a distance in the style of the Retiarius fighters. Like the professional wrestling guys that he saw on television, each maneuver had an appropriate reaction. Every move choreographed for maximum excitement and audience tension.
After a while, Daisuke got the basic moves down to a science, each step, each swing or jab of his trident, a reflex that was as natural as breathing in and out, a real Zen experience. The combination moves were a little trickier, but the preparation allowed Daisuke to learn as quickly: step, lunge, block, slash, side-step, slash, and block. Each move flowing into the next. Reticent Jimmy hadn’t said much during most of the training but on the last day, after intensive rounds of sparring, Jimmy put down his sword, took off his helmet and slapped Daisuke on the back: “Your training is done gladiator. Go with the Gods!”
Friday night. The regulars were all there. Madame X was early this evening, having just flown back from business on her private jet. She has her own table to herself and there’s Akira, the number host for the last twelve weeks, snuggling next to her as if she were the centre of the universe. Unlike the other hosts, who often froze in awe of Madame X’s worldly intelligence and wealth, supposedly in the millions of dollars, Akira’s cockiness made up for his lack of discretion.
Daisuke was there too, sitting off in the corner, just taking everything in, the noise, the pale neon lights and ethereal sounds of Yanni pumping out of the corner speakers. He caught Takeshi’s eyes at the other side of the club, peering out through the curtains that led to the kitchen.
The other tables were full as well. Fine crystal glasses filled with champagne and tittering laughter. Plates full of food intricately placed were made to look more like works of art. One-million-dollar smiles all around and conversations that flittered from the benign to the controversial. Takeshi had his hosts take art, music, gourmet cuisine and an intensive course on how to talk to women, so that each table was always enlivened with conversation appropriate to the needs of each of the Empresses, who paid top-dollar to be members.
As Daisuke was thinking about when to act, Akira was in his face, their noses almost touching.
“Hey daytime baka-yaro, the lady ordered some champagne,” sneered Akira. “What the hell are you looking at?”
He gave a light slap on Daisuke’s cheek. Madame X lightly scolded Akira while at the next table, four women tittered and then laughed over Akira’s comment about how hard it was to find decent hosts these days.
Daisuke stood up and pointed his index finger at Akira and twitched it like an ejaculated penis.
“Get that fucking finger out my face,” said Akira, slapping it away. The Club went quiet; everyone suspected that something was up. They could feel the testosterone levels rising.
“I challenge Akira to a duel,” yelled Daisuke.
A murmuring of voices propagated through the club. Akira got up, any hesitation or confusion a second ago, now taken over by the look. Yes, the Look, the famous Look of brazen cockiness framed around that grin.
“For the heart of my lady,” said Akira. “I gladly accept the challenge.” He winked at Madame X.
And so the tables were cleared back and the suits and equipment were clumsily brought out by Takeshi. The whole pile of armor, spears, helmets and nets heaved onto the floor with a mighty clash.
Akira stepped forward and without any formalities, slashed at Daisuke’s chest, hoping to gain the advantage with a shock-and-awe strategy. Daisuke was neither shocked nor awed and easily evaded the blow, almost dropping the net he had in his left hand.
Akira advanced and continued swinging his sword back and forth while Daisuke just swiftly retreated, away from the reach of the sword. Out of breath, Akira let his sword arm down. Daisuke knew he had a chance to attack with his trident. He threw his net at Akira as a distraction, sidestepped away and with both hands firmly on his trident, he lunged. Just as the trident was about to make contact, Akira twisted away but not fast enough as the outer blade made contact.
A piece of rubbery flesh with a diamond stud attached to it soared over to one of the tables and landed straight into a half-empty champagne glass. When Akira’s ear, for that was what it was, fell into the Perignon, pink bubbles started floating to the top.
The only movement in the club was Takeshi, pumping his fist up and down as if he were holding the trident in his own hands and pulpifying Akira’s head. No, the job was done Daisuke told himself, there would be no senseless death. He had achieved what he wanted.
It should have been over with Akira skulking away with a tail between his legs, or rather a head with a piece of missing ear. The clients should have continued with their drinks and their conversations about the hotter-than-hell Daisuke, the one who usurped Akira. Takeshi should’ve cried foul and screamed at Akira about how “he would never work in any club within the twelve wards ever again.” But Daisuke and Takeshi didn’t account for the unknown variable, the mysterious ‘x’ factor in the form of as you can guess, Madame X herself.
She was the first one on the floor with Akira’s head cradled on her lap. He was crying and babbling on about how he was set up. Madame X hushed him and told him everything would be okay as if she were his own mother. No, there was no blood relation between them but no one in the club could guess that Madam X was a motherly type of sorts.
Before he was number one host, before working for the club, Akira was just simple Aki, living on the streets, looking for the next hit. She found him, fed him and instilled in him the confidence he needed to begin a new life, an alternative Pygmalion story. She of course, was not at all pleased when he decided to join the Adonis Club and harsh words were exchanged about that charmless Ami of his.
But a mother must give certain latitudes to her child, to watch him grow up in his own way.
So there she was nursing her injured child. Yes, there, there, everything’s going to be fine. No one in the club could have suspected what was going to happen next. Daisuke was still bowing and blowing kisses to the women at their tables when he noticed a change in the air. Time seemed to have stopped. The audience had their eyes wide open, their mouths agape. They were not looking at Daisuke though but at the space behind him. Madame X, armed with the trident in her hand, smashed the metal prongs on Daisuke’s head. Blood spurted from Daisuke’s nose. He was down on one knee and just before the pain settled in, he figured that yes, a distressed lover would have to react to her fallen lover. Then he screamed.
Madame X appetite for vengeance was not yet satisfied. She invoked the spirit of Grendel’s mother of yore and began clawing at his face with her manicured hands, ripping out pieces of flesh from Daisuke’s face and when his hands went up to protect the soft tissues of the eyes, Madame grabbed his hair and pulled tufts if it out with patches of bloody scalp still attached. And just when everyone thought the horror was over, Madame’s proceeded to pulverize Akira’s balls with the blunt end of the trident.
Daisuke gargled the blood that thrashed around in his mouth and his throat. He swallowed it hard and yelled out that it was Takeshi’s idea to kill Akira. He was never going to kill anyone though, he only wanted to be number one host. Jesus, the only thing he’s ever killed belonged to the insect family, and that didn’t even include insects larger than a spider, a daddy long-legs at that, all legs, hardly a body even.
By the time Daisuke mentioned his personal history with arachnids, Takeshi had already ran out the door. Seconds later followed by tires squealing in the parking lot to make a quick escape that would even impress Hasselhoff himself.
Eventually the details of Takeshi’s plan to murder Akira became public. He was wanted by both the police for conspiring to murder and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for breaking the regulation prohibiting gladiatorial shows. Ami and Akira inherited the Adonis Club and a few months later, Akira stepped down as number one host on account of the abundant paperwork and administrative duties of running a thriving business.
Daisuke was let off easy on account of his pending testimony against Takeshi upon his capture. As such, he never pressed any charges against Madame X for assault. He soon found fruitful employment at a local supermarket as a stock clerk. Unfortunately, because of his disfigurement and limp, his supervisor told him that many of the customers with small children were scared of Daisuke. And so without any protest from Daisuke, he was put on the nightshift for an indefinite amount of time.