Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Chapter 1 (l)


We enter inside the building and climb the stairs. Satsukawa reminds me the promise I made earlier and urges me to let him talk first to smooth things over. This guy is a real pain.
We are finally in front of the apartment now, 'Gotsuji' is written in clear letters on the door plate. Satsukawa takes a deep breath and pushes the doorbell button.
It takes a little while before someone finally decides to open the door. If I didn't know better, I would have thought that nobody was home. What I see in front of me is a middle aged man with a weary face. He seems to be quite tired and somehow confused, probably because his mind still can't accept nor understand what recently happened to his daughter. I suppose that he didn't expect to see the police knocking at his door again, and he must be even more perplexed by my presence.

Gotsuji: "You are..."

Satsukawa: "Assistant inspector Keiji Satsukawa from the criminal investigation section, we've met a few days ago. I'm very sorry to bother you again under these unfortunate circumstances, I hope this isn't a particularly bad moment."

Judging from the face he is making, I bet this man really wants to answer that there hasn't been any single moment that wasn't particularly bad from the day his daughter died, but he is way too tired and disheartened to argue.

Gotsuji: "Are you bringing news about... what happened to my daughter?"

Satsukawa: "Unfortunately not, but we're steadily making progresses each new day. We'll soon get to the bottom of this case, this is a certainty."

Gotsuji: "I see... well... uh... why don't... why don't you enter inside?"

This man is not completely stupid, he understood that we are here with other questions.

Satsukawa: "We're very sorry for intruding again."

I roll my eyes. Let's just drop these meaningless talks, we don't have the whole day.
The man nods a bit uncertain and disconcerted.

Gotsuji: "Please... come inside..."

He opens the door completely and frees the path for us to enter. By taking a quick glance at the shoes left near the entrance I confirm that the whole family is at home, however the living room is completely empty.

Gotsuji: "Excuse my wife for not welcoming you... she doesn't really feel like talking to strangers... especially not about what happened..."

The house doesn't seem to be in a good state, and not just because the furniture is cheap and a few decades old. It looks like this place hasn't been properly tended for the past few days, it's messy and not properly cleaned.

Gotsuji: "I don't have much to offer... maybe I can prepare some tea..."

I'm quite sure he doesn't really want to prepare tea.

Satsukawa: "It's all right, Gotsuji-san, we won't stay here for long, and there's no need to treat us like guests."

Gotsuji: "I see..."

Satsukawa: "The young woman that accompanies me is Erika Furudo, she's a person gifted with a rare talent, and she's helping us with the investigations."

Talk about being vague. Gotsuji and I bow to each other and exchange the formal greetings.

Satsukawa: "If it's all right with you, she has a few questions she'd like you to answer."

Gotsuji: "I don't think I have any particular problem with that... but I've already told you everything that I know..."

Erika: "I'm not interested in that, I'm here to find out what you don't know."

Gotsuji: "I... don't think I understand..."

I pace around the room slowly, taking notice of any small particular.

Erika: "So this is the place where Hitomi Gotsuji used to live. It's a pretty nice house..."

I'm being ironic, but I'm not making it too obvious, I need to honor my promise somehow. It's not like I have a problem with breaking it, but I prefer not to, if I don't have anything to gain. The reason for that is pretty simple: if you break promises all the time, people will stop trusting you and you will not be able to betray them effectively when the right moment comes.

Erika: "Did you use to eat here for dinner every day like a good family?"

Gotsuji: "... Yes..."

Satsukawa is making me strange signs. I don't understand, did I just say something insensitive?

Gotsuji: "Except for those occasions when she was out with her friends..."

Erika: "And her boyfriends?"

Gotsuji: "Those too, but rarely..."

Erika: "Did you ever meet the lucky guys?"

Gotsuji: "Only one... he seemed okay... but... what's the point of these questions?"

Erika: "Gotsuji-san, would you expect to understand the point of every question in a personality test? Of course not, it would be pointless if you could. If that were to happen you'd probably conclude that it's a badly conceived test, like those that you can find in third rate magazines."

Gotsuji: "I'm... not following you..."

Erika: "But that's precisely the point! If I really want to learn something from this conversation, I must make sure that you don't understand... for now."

Gotsuji: "Well... I'm not understanding at all... so I guess you're doing it right..."

He looks a bit irritated now.

Satsukawa: "Furudo is an unorthodox detective, her ways defy common logic, but they were proven to be exceptionally effective in the past. We're taking this case very seriously and that's why we're trying every path available."

Gotsuji: "I see... this girl is a... detective?"

Erika: "A great detective, to be precise!"

Gotsuji: "I... don't understand..."

Erika: "Good. Then, if you don't mind, I'll continue with my questions."

He doesn't say a thing, so I take it for an implicit assent.

Erika: "If I asked you to tell me about Hitomi's friends, which are the names that you could tell me?"

Gotsuji: "Meito Oda... he lives in this building. They've been friends for as long as I can remember... then... Hibari from her club... and Takaya..."

Erika: "You mean Takamiya, perhaps?"

Gotsuji: "Oh... yes... I think that's the name..."

Erika: "Is that all?"

Gotsuji: "There are more... but as you've guessed I don't have a good memory for names..."

Erika: "Gotsuji-san... how much you and your daughter used to talk?"

He lowers his eyes in embarrassment.

Gotsuji: "She was in a rebellious phase... we didn't get along well..."

Erika: "Usually rebellious phases start on the onset of puberty, that means when they're around 13 years old."

Gotsuji: "Yes... more or less around that time..."

Erika: "Was it the same with your wife?"

Gotsuji: "Not the same... no... my daughter didn't fight with her as much as she did with me. But it wasn't anything major... the usual stuff... you know... But if you really want to know more about her friends, maybe I can try to convince my wife..."

Erika: "Gotsuji-san, I have absolutely no interest in learning about her friends from you or your wife."

Gotsuji: "But..."

Erika: "Can I see her room?"

Gotsuji: "... Y-yes... it's... it's that way..."

I don't wait for him to lead the way, I just go where he pointed to and open the door. What I see behind it is pleasantly surprising. This room is quite different from the anonymous and depressing living room, this is more what you would expect from any teenage girl of a well-off family living in Tokyo. The furniture is still quite cheap and the room is small, but you can see Hitomi's personal touch in almost every corner. The walls are entirely covered by posters of visual bands, singers, actors and anime heroes. Every surface is littered with dolls, plushes, gashapon, and various trinkets. They blend themselves among cosmetics and perfumes, most of which are small samples you can get for free. There are piles of books, compact disks, and manga scattered around in a disordered fashion. The only empty place on the desk is where the PC used to be, you can guess by the fact there are still a small flat monitor, a mouse and a keyboard near it. There are clothes on the bed and hanged on the wardrobe's handles. I open it to see the rest. Some of them are quite fashionable, but for the most part it's cheap stuff. I must still give Hitomi the credit for getting the most out of her limited budget, she had good tastes and probably a knack for finding the best sales.
But there is more in this room that catches my attention, there at least four or five elements that seem to be out of place, and I bet none of those investigators even realized it. This is getting fun, but it's not the right time to tell, let's go with order.

Erika: "I'm impressed, this room is lovely."

Gotsuji: "Please... don't mind the mess... we didn't want to touch anything..."

Erika: "And you did well! This room is telling me so many things about your daughter. Just by looking at it I realize that she was a pretty interesting person."

Gotsuji: "Thanks... yes... she was a very exuberant girl..."

Erika: "I suppose she was very active, the kind of person that could never stay idle."

Gotsuji: "Well... that's true for the most part... but she had her moments of laziness..."

Erika: "Do you know where she kept her photos? She must have had a photo album or more."

Gotsuji: "They're all in that closet..."

I open it and I find a lot of garbage inside, old magazines, old posters, used notebooks and other stuff. Rummaging among those I manage to take out what I was looking for: two thick photo albums. I browse them quickly and briefly.

Erika: "Can I borrow these? I want to examine them with care."

Gotsuji: "If this can help you with your investigations... yes, you can take them. As long as we can have them back as they are..."

Satsukawa: "You don't need to worry about that, you'll have everything back, including what we took before."

Erika: "Did Hitomi have a diary?"

Gotsuji: "Not that I know of... but even if she did, I doubt she'd tell me..."

Satsukawa: "We checked this room before, but we didn't find anything of that sort. By the way, part of this mess is our fault..."

Erika: "I see... Gotsuji-san, did you notice any particular change in your daughter's behavior in the past few months?"

Gotsuji: "No... I didn't notice anything of that sort..."

Erika: "So she wasn't returning home later than usual?"

Gotsuji: "No... why? Of course, she had her club and she often hanged with friends after that... or she went shopping... but this is what she's been doing for at least the past two years..."

Erika: "And what about the recent spring break? Was she absent from home for an unjustified amount of time?"

Gotsuji: "She went on a vacation with her friends for a whole week. As for the other days... I don't think she's been different than usual... but again... why?"

Erika: "You just said she used to go shopping, how much was her allowance?"

Gotsuji: "I couldn't afford to give her much... only 2,000 yen weekly. Sometimes I gave her a little extra... but it was rare. Oh, and sometimes I payed for the most expensive things, like the computer..."

Erika: "2,000 yen... that's awfully low! Did she have to buy her clothes too with that?"

Gotsuji: "No, occasionally she went with her mother to buy what she needed... But if she wanted something in particular... she had to use her money..."

Erika: "It's hard to imagine she could go shopping that frequently with 2,000 yen per week."

Gotsuji: "I think it was window shopping... for the most part... Then she used to go to cheaper shops when she actually needed to buy something."

Erika: "I see... so, if I understand correctly, she didn't get a part time job recently, right?"

Gotsuji: "No... a part time job? She didn't have the time for that..."

Erika: "She didn't become a model for a magazine or something?"

Gotsuji: "What? Why are you asking? A model... I wouldn't even allow such a thing..."

Erika: "Ah, I'm sorry, don't mind me, I'm just asking things at random. It's just that I imagined her with that dress over there, it looks like the stuff one of those teenage models would wear, don't you think?"

Gotsuji: "I... I never really agreed with the kind of clothes she used to buy..."

Erika: "Of course not! Do you like music, Gotsuji-san?"

Gotsuji: "Uh... huh?"

Erika: "Music! Your daughter certainly loved music, didn't she?"

Gotsuji: "I'm not sure what you're trying to get to. I know how much those compact disks cost... if you're implying that she couldn't buy them with her allowance..."

Erika: "Not at all! I think she could afford those. What I think she couldn't afford was to listen to her favorite songs freely, which would explain the headphones."

Gotsuji: "I'm sure you realize what kind of place this is... I always taught my daughter to be considerate of the neighbors..."

Erika: "Of course! So did you ever use a pair of these?"

I take the headphones and put them on.

Gotsuji: "No, but... why?"

Erika: "Did you know? All music fanatics agree that the best way to listen to music is through headphones such as these."

Gotsuji: "I'm sorry... I don't really understand why are you telling me this..."

Erika: "You do know what headphones are, right?"

Gotsuji: "Are you mocking me? I know what headphones are!"

Satsukawa: "Erika... what are you..."

Erika: "So you surely know how much they cost."

Gotsuji: "I've seen a lot in electronic shops! I know the prices!"

Erika: "Indeed! As much as you know how much a perfume costs, or how much a bag costs!"

Gotsuji: "I don't know much about those... but..."

Dlanor: "Mister Gotsuji, the headphones Miss Erika is wearing are a Sennhauser HD 600. They are a very high grade model that you can only find in specialized shops. Retail price is about 40,000 yen. The perfume bottle on that desk comes from a Koko channel deluxe set that was sold two months ago for 25,000 yen. The dress you were looking at earlier is one of Ilang Ilang's latest production: 55,000 yen. Finally, the handbag on that seat is an authentic Louis Mutton, which is one of the most prized and costly brands worldwide. The price of that model is about 100,000 yen."

That's why I love Dlanor so much: she's so perfect, emotionless an merciless in her exposition of facts. I couldn't have said it better, I couldn't have been more blunt.

Erika: "Sooo... if your daughter's allowance was only 2,000 yen per week, if she didn't work as a part timer, and if she didn't have any other source of income, there is but one logical question that can come to mind! And the question is obviously: how in the world could this girl afford all these expensive items? Can you answer this simple question, Gotsuji-san?"

And so we finally reach the grand conclusion of my little show. Aaah! It truly is for witnessing moments like this that life is worth being lived!
The face of a man who just learned his daughter had a lot more secrets than he used to think... is absolutely priceless!

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