The room was shut away from the wind and the myriad sounds of spring. The windows were permanently closed, concealed behind heavy, tightly drawn curtains. The air-conditioning seemed to be on, but a brief session at a desk was enough to realize that it barely worked, despite the racket.
The Administration annex was a little over sixteen square meters, located on the first floor of the north building of the Prefecture D Police Headquarters. To mark the fact that it was not in common use, it was often referred to as the “spring house” or the “retreat.” These terms were, of course, used only by the staff of Administration. The rest of the force chose to feign disinterest and call it simply “Personnel,” some with a knowing grin, others with a hint of trepidation in their eyes.
They’ll be up there now, barricaded in Personnel.
That was what they all said.
With internal notification due in five days, the work on compiling the annual list of transfers was in its final stages. With no more than three thousand career and non-career officers under review, and an even smaller number of these actually up for transfer, the pieces of the puzzle would, in any normal year, have already fallen into place.
But there had been a delay, following an inauspicious call from Internal Affairs that afternoon. The captain of Station S in the north had, it seemed, pressured a landscaper from a resort in his jurisdiction to construct a garden at his wife’s family home, for a fee that essentially amounted to nothing.
Shinji Futawatari cursed at the image of the man now pictured on his monitor.
The captain, whose oval features suggested a gentle nature, had assumed the post only the previous spring. And so, he had not been included in the list of candidates up for transfer. The knowledge of his transgression, however, meant it would no longer do to leave him visible to the public as the station’s representative. The director of Administrative Affairs had left Futawatari with specific instructions to redraft the plans by the following morning to make sure they included the captain’s reassignment.
Futawatari had a long history with Personnel. For a total of six years as assistant inspector and inspector, then two more following his promotion to superintendent and subsequent assignment to oversee the broader management of the force as Administration inspector, he had always been involved in the process of drafting transfers. It was unlikely the executive would consider letting someone of his experience move on. Not, at least, until the section—which scraped by on a minimal head count—was upgraded to a division.
He was no stranger to situations like this.
He’d worked under a captain who had been particularly susceptible to flattery. Like a foolish prince, the man had ordered one incredible promotion after another. Futawatari had seen a succession of Administrative Affairs directors, each of whom had sought to flex their authority in order to interfere with the pieces of the puzzle, paying no heed to local realities or conventions. There was, he realized, no point in getting worked up whenever something like this happened. The often arbitrary requirements of these self-centered bureaucrats meant it was all but tradition for the process to require a series of all-nighters.
Still, this was the first time he’d been forced to consider a change just when he’d been preparing to send the list across to Welfare and Officer Development for printing, having already obtained the captain’s stamp of approval. There was also the fact that it was not simply due to the whim of some career bureaucrat but rather to the reprehensible actions of a captain, someone who was supposed to be on the side of the law.
It was nearly enough to stoke Futawatari’s anger.
Have him sleep it off somewhere, maybe Licensing or Training.
Futawatari dragged his mouse across the organizational chart on the screen, searching for a suitable destination.
Whenever frontline members of the executive did something to cause a loss of face, it was usual to reel them in to some out-of-sight post in headquarters, to box them up and let them cool off for four or five years. You had to avoid transfers that were an obvious step-down, that would risk catching the attention of the press—and Futawatari realized that some of the veteran reporters knew the inner workings of the force better than many of the officers themselves did. That brought the danger that the transgressions would be made public. Fortunately, it was a particular strength of Personnel to nurture posts that were both impenetrable and obscure, enabling transfers that were recognizable from the inside as punitive yet justifiable to the outside as existing to “strengthen Department X or Y.”
What would be the best move?
Assuming, then, that the captain was bound for Licensing or Training, the next step would be to transfer a suitable management-level officer to the newly vacant position in Station S. A straight swap would be preferable, but it would be too big a step-up for the current chief of Licensing to assume a captain’s post. Even more of a problem was the chief of Training. His age and experience were good, but his hometown was in the station’s jurisdiction. Such a move was taboo and would bring questions. Futawatari would have no choice but to offer special justification for the transfer.
Futawatari cursed again. He took a deep breath, then set about tearing apart the pieces of the already approved puzzle. He would, after all, have to do this one step at a time. Move the chief of Licensing to Station G, one grade below Station S. Return the captain of Station G to Juvenile Crime in the Prefectural HQ. Take the chief of Juvenile Crime and slide him over to Community Safety. Move the chief of Community Safety to—
“Futawatari. A minute, if you don’t mind.”
Copyright © 1998 by Hideo Yokoyama
English translation copyright © 2019 by Jonathan Lloyd-Davies