Monday, September 10, 2012

Chapter 4 (c)

The discussion regarding the case goes on for several minutes. Satsukawa seems to be quite excited about the constant progress that we have made so far, but the truth is that we have reached a dead end. I have already talked to everyone that it is believed to be related to the crime, almost all the evidences that could be gathered were already analyzed, no conclusive proof has been found. Gotsuji had many friends, but most of them have solid alibi, so there is no point in questioning them. The culprit must be among the persons that I have already talked to, but I am missing vital clues. Therefore my only option at this point is to probe those people, in other words, I must cause reactions. I will throw stones into murky waters and look for whatever will surface. The problem is that certain conditions are required in order to get the best possible results, and that means I must patiently wait.
At any rate I still haven't received any reports regarding the victim's computer, they sure are taking their time with that. Hopefully something relevant will come up. For now, I must keep the pressure on certain individuals. I can't really be sure it will give me any results, but since they are still hiding things from me, there is a chance they will turn out to be useful.
Finally, the bell signals the end of the fourth period and the start of lunch break. The almost soundless atmosphere suddenly livens up with the voices of hundred students talking at the same time. On the background an ominous noise can be heard. It starts as a quiet rumble, but then it grows in intensity, more and more, until it becomes a thunderous roar. It's coming closer, it's heading right where we are. Satsukawa looks worried, but there is no need to. The stampeding crowd of hungry students is aiming for the food stalls, and where we are now, we are relatively safe.
Here they come. Like a raging torrent they flood inside the cafeteria. A huge compact crowd rapidly forms around the food shelves, completely hiding them from my sight. The many voices blend into an incomprehensible mass of noises, but occasionally I can distinguish students yelling their requests and vendors stating the prices.
They are all pretty much focused on their battle, so only a few actually noticed us. More people will, though, as soon as they leave with the spoil of wars in their hands.

Dlanor: "Miss Erika, I think you are overdramatizing the situation."

Satsukawa: "Uh?"

Erika: "Don't spoil the mood, Dlanor. This is war, that's how these guys and girls see it. It would be rude to trample on their feelings by downsizing the seriousness of this everyday strife."

Satsukawa: "Ah, I can empathize with that... It certainly brings back a lot of memories."

Erika: "Satsukawa-san, did you also need to fight for your food, back in your high school days? Didn't you bring your own bento?"

Satsukawa: "I wasn't that lucky, my parents have always been pretty busy with their jobs. What about you, Erika?"

Erika: "Me? The mere thought that something like this could happen in the all girls boarding school I was enrolled in is utterly preposterous. Running and yelling were prohibited and severely punished. At any rate, the cafeteria there was the real deal, they served us food directly at our tables. This one here barely qualifies as such, there isn't even a kitchen."

Satsukawa: "This is a catering service, I think. The food is made elsewhere and then brought here every day. Look, I think it's even written on these tags... Food service provided by Ushiromiya... group..."

Erika: "Would you shut up, Satsukawa-san? I'm trying to concentrate!"

Satsukawa: "S-sorry..."

Damn it! I have just listened to something extremely unpleasant. I feel like I am going to puke now.
I better think about something else, I must concentrate on my surroundings. More and more students have noticed me at this point, it is only a matter of time before Teramoto shows up. Meanwhile it wouldn't be a bad idea to try and listen to whatever the people around me are talking about. If I focus, I can listen to specific conversations even in the middle of this chaos. I just need to isolate the background noise from what really interests me. This isn't something that everyone can do, but with enough practice and the right aptitude it isn't impossible.
I am picking up several conversations, most of them are trivial and irrelevant, but some are about me and about what I have done yesterday. The news regarding how I freed Hibari from suspicions are already spreading, just like I hoped. That girl must have been bombarded with questions from her many classmates this morning, and she certainly didn't omit to tell that she is no longer a major suspect. Inevitably that has become a hot topic, I am witnessing it right now.
That apart, nothing really relevant is being said. I was hoping for indiscretions, some kind of rumor that could pique my interest, but nothing of that sort is being discussed. Two boys are joking about Teramoto and about how her secret cult was uncovered, they think they cannot be heard in this confusion. A mixed group of five is discussing about the great Hibari hunt that I started yesterday, one of them actively participated, and he is giving a detailed account of his heroic deeds. Another group is animatedly arguing about the supernatural, one guy keeps telling that it's all rubbish, but he is outnumbered by girls that apparently have been thoroughly fooled by Teramoto's tricks and propaganda.
Pointless, this is all absolutely pointless. The small and trivial talks of these brainless students aren't of any interest to me. So I decide that this isn't worth my time, I might as well stop focusing.
However... a group of girls that was originally talking about Hibari, suddenly changed topic, they are talking specifically about me now. This isn't particularly relevant, but at this point I am curious, and I need to kill time anyway.

"Who's that woman anyway? Great detective Erika Furudo? What's with that?"

"She doesn't look much older than us, do you think she's actually a detective?"

"I've heard she's just a civilian, the man with her is the true investigator."

"I'm sure I've heard the name Erika Furudo before..."

"No way! Are you telling me she's actually famous?"

"Don't listen to her, her memory is really bad. She's probably confusing her with someone else."

"Uaaah! That was mean!"

"I'm just stating the truth."

"At any rate she's a strange person, no matter how you look at it..."

"She's kinda scary..."

"Careful! Don't look into her eyes! Don't make eye contact!"

"Ha ha ha ha!"

"Wait! Wait! I remember now!"

"Oh? So who's she? I'm really curious!"

"She's one of the victims of the Rokkenjima incident!"



"Rokkenjima incident? What the hell is that?"

"Ancient history."

"W-wait a second! Victim? Does that mean she's a ghost?!"

"Don't be silly! I told you her memory is all jumbled up, there's no way that woman is actually related to that incident."

"That's meaaan!"

"Do you remember the story about that incident? I only have fragmented memories."

"Yes, a few years ago there was still a lot of people talking about that. It all suddenly died out at one point, and everybody stopped caring ever since."

"So, was Erika Furudo one of the victims?"

"Absolutely not. I've read several articles about the Rokkenjima incident, I remember all the names of those who are supposed to have died there. Erika Furudo is not among those."

"But I'm sure..."

"You're probably mixing it up with something else."

"Hmmm... now I remember. There was this girl in middle school that was a real fanatic. She knew everything about the Rokkenjima incident, every speculation, conspiracy theory and so on. She's the one that told me about Erika Furudo."

"That doesn't look like a reliable source, don't you think?"

"But still, when you think about the Rokkenjima incident, a great detective really fits nicely, don't you agree?"

"Ha ha ha! So true!"

"C-can somebody tell me what this Rokkenjima incident is about? I feel left out!"

Satsukawa: "Erika? Are you still with me?"

Erika: "Where else do you think I am?"

Satsukawa: "I've reminded you something bad, you shouldn't think about it."

Erika: "I wasn't thinking about that!"

Is this a damned conspiracy to remind me that hateful case? To think there are still people talking about that cursed Rokkenjima incident in this century! The students of this school shouldn't even remember that day. Now I am really in a bad mood. There is nothing that I could hate more than an unresolved mystery!

Satsukawa: "We should concentrate on the current case. Don't you need to talk with someone? Why are we still here doing nothing?"

Erika: "We're waiting for that someone to appear."

Satsukawa: "Who are you talking about?"

Erika: "She'll come; surely. At this point everyone should know that I'm here."

Satsukawa: "Sometimes it's really difficult to follow you, you know?"

Erika: "That's good, I don't want to be followed."

Satsukawa: "Not even by your partner?"

Erika: "Dlanor is my partner, you're just an occasional helper."

Satsukawa: "Well... it's always good to know what your role is... Oh..."

She is here. Followed by her entourage, Teramoto makes her appearance. All the actors have been assembled and the show can finally start. The spectators seems to have noticed what is about to begin and they gradually become quiet, not unlike what usually happens when the lights of a theater are turned off.
Unknowingly following the script, Teramoto spots me and comes closer. My first line comes after hers, so for now I simply look at her, waiting.

1 comment:

  1. So Rokenjima pops up once more, and Okonogi is continuing the food business, I see.

    Round Two of the face off starts now and the ball is in Erika's court.