Saturday, June 23, 2012

Chapter 1 (i)


Erika: "I've been told that you and Hibari stayed in the gym quite longer than the others, is that right?"

Yuu: "Yes, we've told that much to the police."

Erika: "You were both still here when Oda found the victim. You really didn't notice anything? You didn't hear his screams? You never crossed him as he was going back and forth from this place to the school?"

Yuu: "I didn't..."

Kagami: "We didn't realize a thing!"

Erika: "Is Azuma the kind of girl that requires a lot of time to prepare herself? Does she usually stay in the changing room the longest?"

Kagami: "Huh?"

Erika: "She doesn't really look like it, but I was just wondering..."

Club Member B: "It's not that, rather Azuma is always the last coming to the changing room in the first place. She always volunteers to do the tiresome works like recovering equipments and putting them back to the storage room. That's the kind of person she is."

The other girls nod.

Club member A: "That's our prince, she's always considerate of others and always offers to help them."

The girls nod again with even greater assertiveness.

Erika: "Prince?"

Azuma blushes.

Yuu: "That's how I've been nicknamed... I didn't choose it or anything..."

It looks like she has her personal fan club. Come to think of it, I think that Oda implied the students gathered to watch and support her when she confronted Baba.

Erika: "Then that day wasn't an exception? You told Hibari to go ahead and you joined her later?"

Funny, is it uncertainty what I see on her face? And it isn't just her, Hibari too. This is a simple question, if it happened it happened, if it didn't happen it didn't happen. What is there to think so much about? Why are they taking their time, if not to consider whether it is safe to answer positively or not? What exactly are they hiding?

Yuu: "Yes... I stayed in the gym a bit more..."

Kagami: "But it was just a bit!"

In other words it wasn't just a bit.

Erika: "I see. So that's why Hibari left school earlier. And if I understand correctly, that's an usual thing. It's pretty normal considering Azuma's character."

Kagami: "Yeah! Nothing strange!"

Everyone seems to agree.

Erika: "Let's change subject then. I've heard there are a lot of interesting rumors regarding this school. What can you tell me about that?"

Again this awkward silence. They have much to tell, but they are scared of telling.

Erika: "I'm particularly interested in ghost stories, every school has at least one."

It's not like they didn't understand the first time I asked. They know what I'm looking for and that's precisely why they don't want to talk. There is however someone that looks less scared than the rest. An unskilled eye could easily mistake her reaction for fear, but not mine. She isn't afraid, she is nervous. From the very beginning she was anxious, and she is particularly anxious about me. With people like her it isn't even fun, I really hope she is not the culprit or my favorite entertainment is destined to end pretty soon.
Oda said something very interesting about her. She is Teramoto's sidekick number one. Not 'friend', 'sidekick'.

Erika: "Do you know anything about that, Hibari?"

Kagami: "I know nothing!"

It's not that she is scared of talking, she doesn't want to talk.

Erika: "Azuma?"

Yuu: "... I know more or less what everyone else does."

Erika: "And what everyone knows?"

Yuu: "..."

Club member C: "There are spirits that roam in this school..."

Erika: "Spirits! Like in ancient spirits, or spirits of relatively recently departed people?"

Club member B: "Both... but mainly spirits of students who died in this school."

Erika: "Students died in this school in the past?"

I send an inquisitive glance to Satsukawa.

Satsukawa: "It didn't happen. There are no such records."

Club member A: "It happened! It was during the war. A lot of students died."

Satsukawa: "That's not possible, this school didn't even exist back then."

Club member B: "There was a school and it was completely destroyed. All records of it went lost but the spirits remain."

Erika: "I see, that makes perfect sense. There was another school that existed in this very place, but it was completely destroyed during the war. All records of it are lost and that's why nobody knows or even remembers such thing. There you have it, Satsukawa-san."

Satsukawa: "..."

Club member A: "This school is cursed..."

A curse. That's interesting, but I wonder if it is really just about the spirits.

Erika: "Is that so, Yuu Azuma? Do you also believe that this school is cursed?"

Yuu: "I don't know..."

Erika: "But you heard the tales, right?"

Yuu: "The spirits are strong, or so they say..."

Erika: "But it was just students, isn't it? There's no reason they would be strong, there's no need they would curse this place. No, I rather think... that this curse is the very reason they're bound to this place, this curse is the very reason that makes them strong."

I make a pause and take a look around. There is no doubt, I'm on the right track, they are all surprised I reached these conclusions. And yet there is no reason they should. After all if it was just about spirits, what is inside this shed wouldn't make sense. And then there is what Teramoto said...

Erika: "Pazuzu."

The girls literally jump on their feet and open their eyes wide. So they all know in the end! Why all the secrecy? Why are they so afraid?

Erika: "It seems that this name isn't new to you. Can you tell me more? What do you know about it?"

Club member C: "Don't pronounce his name! Especially not here!"

Erika: "Uh? You mean... Pazuzu?"

Club member A: "Kyaaaa!!!"

Club member B: "Don't say it again! Don't say it again! Don't say it again!"

Yuu: "E-everyone... calm down!"

But they are all in panic now. The girl that cried a while ago, evidently the most emotionally unstable, decides to run away. When the others realize that, one by one they follow suit.
Satsukawa tries to stop them, but it's pointless, they are quick to run and hard to catch, that's what they train for every day. Only Azuma and Hibari remain.
It seems that the latter is starting to grasp the situation and turns her head left and right with a dumbfounded expression. She wasn't particularly scared by my utterances, but it looks like she is beginning to worry about remaining alone with me. She steps back still insecure about what to do.

Erika: "Stop there, Hibari! You don't really think you can escape me forever, right? Running away is pointless."

Kagami: "W-what do you want from me?!"

Satsukawa: "Seriously, what the hell is wrong with you girls? Why did they run like that?"

Kagami: "Of course they ran away! You can't name demons so carelessly!"

Erika: "Why not?"

Kagami: "Because simply by naming them you give them power on this world! You named him twice, that means he can see us! And if he can see us he can cast his curses on us! That's why they ran away!"

Erika: "Fascinating! So they believe Pazuzu himself killed Gotsuji?!"

Kagami: "Uggggaaaaaaaahhh!!!"

Yuu: "W-wait! Wait!"

Erika: "Ah ha ha ha ha! Oh this is so great! You should just see your faces! Incredible! This is simply amazing!"

Satstukawa: "Erika!"

Erika: "Lucifer, Leviathan, Satan, Belphegor, Mammon, Beelzebub, Asmodeus, Ronove, Gaap, Zepar, Furfur! I've dealt with demons before! So many you can't even imagine, I bet you didn't even know their names! So what? Demons?! Let them come at me! I will destroy them one by one! One by one! Without mercy! Without fear! I'll enjoy see them exploding in a thousand pieces! And after that I will grab their innards and rip them away! I will take them as a trophy and put them on display for everyone to see! Ah ha ha ha ha!!!"

Kagami: "Y... Yooouuu!!! You're mad! You're crazy! You're completely insane! Great detective, you say?! You're just a deranged woman! Who even let you inside this school?!"

Yuu: "Hibari-senpai!"

Erika: "Oh, now I'm insane! You believe in demons, spirits and curses, and I'm insane! What a foolish girl you are!"

Satsukawa: "Erika... we're supposed to question them... not to fight with them!"

Erika: "Do not interfere with my methods, Satsukawa-san. I know what I'm doing!"

Kagami: "No, you don't! You're just a stupid woman! Stupid, stupid, stupid stup..."

Yuu: "Hey! Hibari-senpai, stop it!"

Dlanor: "This discussion is pointless. Let us put it to an end for now."

Kagami: "Huh?"

Yuu: "Uh?"

It seems that they have only noticed Dlanor now. She remained silent the whole time and now she suddenly speaks with her usual emotionless and analytic demeanor. But I guess that is precisely why her intervention is having such a strong impact. She did a good job, I didn't really have any intention to prosecute this childish squabble. I won't get anything else from these girl as things are now.

Erika: "Dlanor is right, we can't waste any more time with you. Just go playing with the rest of your club members, the adults have important stuff to do in this place."

Hibari is literally livid, she's growling and trembling and she looks as if she could jump and bite me at any moment. She reminds me an enraged chihuahua.

Yuu: "Let's go, Hibari-senpai..."

Fortunately Azuma is a lot more levelheaded and manages to dissuade her from doing something she would certainly regret later. They go, and we are finally free to investigate the crime scene.

Satsukawa: "Erika... what was that? Why do you scare the witnesses? Why do you enrage them? I'm really not comfortable with that."

Erika: "Satsukawa-san, it's really not a surprise that you don't feel comfortable with my methods. You aren't used to them and you probably never will. But what exactly would be the point in me being here, if my methods were exactly the same as yours? It is precisely because I'm an unconventional investigator that you can expect from me results you wouldn't normally obtain."

Satsukawa: "I understand, but there's a limit. I'm well aware that you're a person that defies common sense, but Rokudou assured me you could be reasoned with. I want to believe he's right. I want to believe you can do some good for the sake of this school despite everything..."

Erika: "If by 'do some good' you mean helping you in solving this murder case, then you can rest assured that I will."

Satsukawa: "And how what you just did helps us with that?"

Erika: "Are you that blind? Didn't you realize how many informations we just obtained from them?"

Satsukawa: "Uh? What do you mean?"

Dlanor: "Mister Satsukawa, they would have never mentioned the demon and they would have denied knowing about him. But the way they reacted proves without a doubt that they know."

Erika: "Exactly! Considering the situation, rather than acquiring informations through a direct inquiry it's a lot more efficient to probe them by causing a reaction."

Satsukawa: "Well... okay, but... what about what you said to Hibari about all those demons?"

Erika: "Oh, that? I was merely challenging her. Satsukawa-san, I think you still don't quite understand the situation. Kagami Hibari doesn't believe in all that fluff, she wasn't afraid that Pazuzu would curse us or anything."

Satsukawa: "But... she said..."

Erika: "What she said is absolutely irrelevant. She's lying, she's full of lies, and I still haven't figured out all the reasons behind them."

Satsukawa: "And you think that by enraging her you'll understand that?"

Erika: "Absolutely."

Satsukawa: "Sigh..."

Erika: "She's stupid and she's proud, it's a perfect combination. Now that I've openly defied her, she'll do something. And since she's stupid, she'll do something stupid, and the more stupid things she does the more I'll learn from her."

Dlanor: "Unless someone else is doing the thinking."

Right, that's not something I should forget. My real enemy in this war isn't Hibari, it's probably someone a lot smarter.

Erika: "At any rate, we came here to check this shed. It's about time we start."

Friday, June 22, 2012

Chapter 1 (h)


As we approach the infamous P.E. shed, I realize how much isolated in respect to the rest of the school it is. The many trees that surround it provide an almost full cover from the eyes of passersby from the more crowded areas, and since there aren't any lights there, the effect must be multiplied after dusk. Once you consider these factors, it's not strange that Gotsuji chose that place for her secret meetings. Unfortunately the privacy she was looking for created the perfect opportunity for the culprit to kill her without being seen. The important question here is who and why she wanted to meet in secrecy.
As if to confirm my thoughts, the proof that you can hardly notice from afar people hanging around the shed presents itself in front of my eyes. There are students, a group of them, and they eluded my senses until now that I'm barely fifteen meters away. I send a quick, silent glance to Satsukawa. He noticed too and he is probably as curious as I am to see who are those people. I suppose that there isn't any reason to be surprised. The school was closed soon after the incident and regular lessons only restarted today. For all those students that wished to see the crime scene with their own eyes there weren't many chances to appease their curiosity before now. Nothing wrong with that as long as they comply to what the yellow tape says and don't trespass.
We are very close now and I realize that the group is made of girls wearing sport uniforms. How lucky! It appears that I'm just about to meet the female basket club!
One of the girls jumps in surprise when she sees us and that alerts the rest. They back away unsure about what to do and feeling ashamed for having just being caught doing something they weren't supposed to.

Satsukawa: "I hope you weren't thinking of sneaking inside."

He's obviously teasing them with a half joke, but some of them take it as a serious chastisement and apologize with exaggerated bows.

Satsukawa: "Whoa! Calm down, you didn't do anything wrong, as far as I can tell..."

I step forward and check them one by one, let's see if I can tell who among them is Kagami Hibari and who is Yuu Azuma. I bet the captain is the shortie with the number six, and the valiant knight defender of girls' violated honor must be the tall one with that cool and manly attitude.
They are looking at me in turn, they must be all wondering who am I.

Erika: "It's a nice day, isn't it?"

I smile with confidence and enjoy their confused looks.

Erika: "It's sunny, and warm... but not too hot. It's really the perfect day to spend outside. And this place... this place is simply divine, calm, serene... the ideal spot for a pic-nic, isn't it? I bet you girls just couldn't resist, who would want to stay under a roof on a day like this? Training for the club is important, but so are the little small things that make our existences worth of being lived. After all, life is meant to be enjoyed, and isn't it just wonderful to be alive? *giggle* *giggle* *giggle*"

If I had a camera I would definitely take a shot of this fine gallery of dumbfounded and outraged expressions, but I suppose I can live with just imprinting it in my nearly perfect photographic memory.

Kagami: "W-wait a moment, you! Who the hell do you think you are!"

Erika: "Aaah! I'm glad you asked! What a delightful question! My name is Erika Furudo and I'm a great detective, pleased to meet you!"

I conclude my introduction with a curtsy.
I like to make an impression on new people I meet, and I think I did a wonderful job. Wasn't my performance absolutely memorable?
Meanwhile Satsukawa seems to be troubled again, what a hopeless guy.
I'm waiting for reactions, but the girls are just looking at me as if they have just seen an alien. Good manners would dictate that they introduce themselves to me now, but I suppose it is up to me to break the ice again.

Erika: "You must be Kagami Hibari, am I right? I've heard a lot about you."

Kagami: "W-what? H-how do you know me?"

Erika: "Didn't I just tell you? I'm a great detective, this is nothing for me. My job is to observe and learn from my surroundings. There is much that one can understand from little, apparently insignificant particulars with a bit of intelligence and deductive skills, decidedly more than the layman can imagine. But that's precisely the point, I can see hints where others don't and that's why I can learn their secrets, because they can't erase what they cannot notice."

Kagami: "Ug... uggaaahhh..."

Club member A: "Excuse me... are you here to find out about... what happened?"

Erika: "Indeed! Now that I'm here it's only a matter of time before the culprit will be righteously exposed and punished."

The girls start chatting among themselves animatedly.

Satsukawa: "A-hem... do you mind if I ask you what were you doing here?"

They all look at their captain, obviously expecting that she will answer to our questions for the whole team, but it seems that Hibari is still too baffled by my declarations to even notice.

Yuu: "Just a while ago we gathered for our usual training, but in the end we couldn't do anything... the loss of our friend still affects us deeply. It's... it's just impossible..."

Erika: "Impossible?"

Club member B: "It's as if Hitomi is still with us... but when we look where she's supposed to be... she isn't there. We instinctively try to pass her the ball, but then we realize she's not with us anymore... and then... then we just can't go on. We can't play like this..."

Club member C: "In the end we gave up and we started talking about her instead..."

Yuu: "One thing led to another, and in the end we decided to come here, to see the place where she died..."

They all hang their heads, lost in their thoughts and sorrows. One of them starts crying and the girl next to her tries to comfort her.

Erika: "I see. I guess it must be tough for you. Do you mind if I make a few questions?"

They just stare at me without answering, I take it for a yes.

Erika: "Did any of you ever met Gotsuji in this place before the crime?"

They exchange looks, some of them seem to be particularly troubled. No one answers.

Erika: "Did any of you ever enter inside this shed before the crime?"

Just like before. There's no mistake, some of them if not all of them have been there, but nobody wants to talk.

Kagami: "This shed has always been closed! Nobody could enter it!"

A few girls nod.

Erika: "Interesting. So you say that this shed was closed."

Kagami: "Yeah!"

Erika: "Are you absolutely positive?"

Kagami: "I'm absolutely positive!"

Erika: "I don't believe you."

Kagami: "What?! I'm not lying!"

Erika: "If you're not lying, then I guess you just don't realize you can't really be certain."

Kagami: "Ug... uggaah! I'm certain! I'm absolutely certain! Do you think that I'm stupid?!"

Erika: "Ridiculous!"

Kagami: "It's not ridiculous! This shed was closed! Closed!"

Erika: "Sure! And when was the last time you checked?"

Kagami: "Right the day before the crime!"

Club member A: "..."

Club member B: "..."

Club member C: "..."

Yuu: "..."

Satsukawa: "..."

Dlanor: "..."

And suddenly, with considerable delay, the stupid girl is struck with the realization of what she just said.

Kagami: "Aaaaaaaaaaaaahhh!!!"

Erika: "Do you do that often, Hibari-san? Do you check that the door is closed?"

Kagami: "Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Uggaaah! That's not what I meant to say! You tricked me! You just tricked me!"

Erika: "Yes, and you fell for it. Can you tell me what exactly were you doing here the day before the crime?"

Kagami: "I wasn't doing anything! I was just passing by and I noticed the door was closed!"

Erika: "Oh right, you were passing by. This is a pretty trafficked area after all."

Kagami: "Uggah..."

Erika: "And by passing by you realized the door was closed, how?"

Kagami: "It was closed! I've seen it closed, then it was closed!"

Erika: "So in other words you can't say for sure that it was locked."

Kagami: "Ug..."

She's stupid, incredibly stupid, but even someone as stupid as her won't fall for the same trick twice.

Kagami: "Hmmmghmmm... Uggaaaah! Fine! I don't know if the door was locked!"

Yuu: "Senpai... calm down!"

Erika: "You! Are you Yuu Azuma?"

Just like Hibari, she's surprised that I know her name, but she doesn't let that affect her.

Yuu: "Yes, I'm Yuu Azuma."

Erika: "It's come to my attention that you had a discussion with a certain Baba on the day of the crime. Is that true?"

Yuu: "..."

Erika: "You shouldn't be ashamed, I think that was quite a commendable action, if what I heard is true."

Yuu: "It's true..."

Erika: "Are you and Baba on bad terms?"

Yuu: "I can't say I ever liked him, but I never confronted him directly before that day."

Erika: "And what can you tell me about Oda?"

Yuu: "Gotsuji-senpai was his childhood friend."

Erika: "That's not what I wanted to know. What do you think about him?"

Yuu: "I think he's a good guy... He helped me that day and because of that he got in trouble in my place."

So that was all true.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Chapter 1 (g)


Satsukawa: "That's quite a confusing set up, isn't it? Everything seems to be connected somehow, but it's hard to make head or tail of this mess."

Erika: "Oda, from the time Baba and Kubota left the student council room to the time Nagaoka-san answered your calls, nobody saw you. Is that right?"

Meito: "Yeah..."

Erika: "Nobody can testify where you've been."

Meito: "Yeah..."

Erika: "You claim that you've found a message from Hitomi in your locker when it was about 6:25 pm. Right?"

Meito: "Yeah..."

Erika: "Have you ever received messages like that before?"

Meito: "Yes and no... She used to write a lot of those messages... but she never put one inside my locker and she never asked me to meet her in front of the P.E. shed."

Erika: "So you've never seen that message before."

Meito: "Uh? Of course not..."

Erika: "Didn't you think that it was strange?"

Meito: "I did... but I couldn't imagine... that..."

Erika: "When you arrived to your destination, did you see anyone around?"

Meito: "No one, the school was completely empty as far as I could tell, and it was dark already."

Erika: "Are you sure nobody was there beside you?"

Meito: "I haven't seen anyone! Uh..."

Erika: "Yes?"

Meito: "No, nothing..."

He's hiding something.

Erika: "Go on, what happened then?"

Meito: "I noticed that the door of the shed was opened. That was unusual, I thought that Hitomi might have opened it and that she might have been waiting for me inside. So I went in..."

Erika: "You said it was dark, how did you see what was inside?"

Meito: "The lights from the courtyard were bright enough for me to discern that. It took a little while for my eyesight to adapt, but in the end... I saw it..."

Erika: "Go on."

Meito: "I don't quite remember what I did then... I was shocked... I think I screamed... I'm not sure how long it took me before I decided to find help... So I ran back to the main building, I was still panicking... I started calling for help, I was yelling, but no one answered..."

Interesting... Nagaoka is tapping his left foot nervously.

Meito: "I ran to the stairs while keep yelling and finally I found Nagaoka-sensei..."

Nagaoka: "I heard him screaming from quite afar. It took me a while before I managed to calm him down."

Erika: "You didn't think it was serious?"

Nagaoka: "I couldn't imagine..."

Erika: "Even after he told you that Gotsuji died?"

Nagaoka: "Obviously I thought that he was pranking me or that he had been pranked."

Meito: "Obviously!"

Erika: "Nagaoka-san, how come you were the first teacher that answered Oda's calls?"

Nagaoka: "I was on my way home, I happened to meet him midway. When that happened I told him to keep quiet."

Meito: "That was the first thing he told me! Like that was his only concern, really."

Nagaoka: "Oda! Mind your words!"

Erika: "Then you both went to the P.E. shed."

Meito: "Right, Nagaoka-sensei said he wanted to check the situation with his own eyes before calling the police..."

Nagaoka: "I had to make sure..."

Erika: "You didn't happen to see Kagami Hibari or Yuu Azuma on your way there?"

Meito: "No... why?"

Nagaoka: "I haven't seen them."

Erika: "Then when you arrived at the scene..."

Meito: "It was closed..."

Nagaoka: "..."

Erika: "I imagine Nagaoka-san became even more convinced that it was just a prank."

Nagaoka: "It goes without saying!"

Meito: "Dammit, I'm not telling lies! That door was opened before! How many times do I need to repeat myself?!"

Erika: "..."

Nagaoka: "Of course I tried to open the door, but it wouldn't budge. We later discovered that it was closed from inside..."

Erika: "Satsukawa-san, what would you say about the possibility that someone was inside the room other than the victim?"

Satsukawa: "I'd say almost none. Sure there are a few places there where someone could effectively hide, but when the local police broke inside they took care to check every corner and any possible hiding place."

Nagaoka: "I was there and I can confirm this. I'm quite certain they checked every possible place."

Erika: "Is there no other way someone could have passed through?"

Satsukawa: "It's solid concrete all around: floor, roof, walls, there's absolutely no other passage."

Erika: "The door was still closed before the police broke it?"

Nagaoka: "They tried to open it and push it for a while before resorting to harsher measures."

Am I really the only one that notices the obvious problem with this closed room? Is it possible that not even Satsukawa realizes it? Does that mean that the whole investigation team is accepting without questioning a particular that makes absolutely no sense? And yet once you realize that this particular isn't even supposed to exist, it is easy to imagine that the trick must lie there. If I am right, this is a pretty stupid fake closed room scenario, certainly not something that is worth being reasoned about. I will probably be able to confirm it later. And yet there is a piece of the puzzle that I am probably missing.
The real question, anyway, is not how this closed room was created, the real question is: why. It makes absolutely no sense, it seems to be just a random element put there without any real reason. That is what intrigues me the most, because this apparent nonsense in the construction of the crime scene... reminds me of that witch...

Erika: "Oda, do you know anyone that had a reason to hate Gotsuji?"

Oda: "No... I can't really think of anyone that would hate her so much to wish her dead..."

I am kind of disappointed, I can't say this guy had been helpful in providing informations regarding the crime. I didn't learn much more than what Satsukawa told me, and yet between him and Nagaoka a few interesting facts have emerged. Oh well, it's not like Oda is going to run away, I can always interrogate him later, if I need him.

Erika: "I have no other questions, you can go."

This story is a giant puzzle. Right now I have several pieces in front of me, some are in place, some are still roaming around uncertain to where they should go. I don't have enough to understand the image that they are supposed to form, but I can tell there's something strange. Maybe what's wrong is that there isn't just a single picture in this puzzle, maybe there are many of them, and they are all superimposed. So, in other words...
The flow of my thoughts is abruptly interrupted by the realization that Meito Oda is still in front of me.

Erika: "Is something the matter?"

Meito: "Who are you?"

Erika: "Huh?"

Maybe this guy isn't as stupid as I thought.

Meito: "I don't understand... you aren't with the police, right? Then who are you?"

Good. If he wants to know, then I'll tell him.

Erika: "My name is Erika Furudo, I'm a great detective."

Meito: "Hah... is this... is this some kind of joke?"

Nagaoka: "Oda, show more respect! This isn't the way you're supposed to address those who are older than you!"

Hypocrite to the core, you are even more distrustful of me than he his.

Meito: "My friend died, Nagaoka-sensei. It wasn't even a week ago. I wasn't even granted the time to properly mourn her, I wasn't even given the time to recover from the shock. A squadron of investigators took me by force to a room where I've been interrogated for six hours straight! And they kept making the same damn questions over and over again. And for all that time I was haunted by the vision of the lifeless face of a girl that has always been part of my life. My mind was and still is filled with questions: why did she die? How did she die? Who did this to her? And yet you keep questioning me as if I had all the answers! As if I was the one who did it! Because that's what you think, isn't it? You think that I did it! And now what? You bring this woman who claims to be a great detective, as if this was some kind of mystery novel meant for the entertainment of the masses, as if this was a game! I've had enough of this! I don't even know what's going on anymore! I just know I'm tired... I should be angry, I should be sad, but after all this I just wish I could lay down somewhere and don't think about anything."

This guy is really something.

Satsukawa: "Oda-kun, I understand how you feel. You're confused, it's normal, these past days must have been hell for you, but I want you to know this: we're taking this very seriously and we're doing all that's in our power in order to find the truth. We're taking every single path that we can follow, we're trying even unconventional methods. The presence of Erika Furudo here is just the proof of our determination, it just proves that we're welcoming any kind of help that we can get. We'll get to the end of this story, in a way or another, I promise you!"

And this other guy isn't joking either.

Nagaoka: "Go home, Oda, and rest. The do-it-yourself club can go on without you for while. You just worry about your studies and nothing else."

Meito: "Aah... I'll do that... I'm sorry..."

Nagaoka: "Don't worry, I'll consider this whole conversation off the records. Just don't let those thoughts overwhelm you. Let the experts deal with this case, it's their job, you can only put your trust in them."

Oda nods, but he's still as confused as before. He stands up and bow.

Meito: "Then... If you'll excuse me..."

He walks away. He opens the door. He's about to leave.

Erika: "Wait."

He stops. The other two men look at me quizzically.

Erika: "What did Nagaoka-san just call your club?"

Meito: "... It's the do-it-yourself club..."

Erika: "I've never heard of a club like that before, you sure are crafty in this school! What exactly do you do in this club?"

Meito: "As the name implies... we do a lot of everything. We repair stuff, appliances mainly. We specialize in every little work that might be needed in a house."

Erika: "Doesn't that requires specific tools and materials?"

Meito: "It does... we have workshop, we call it 'the lab'. There's all that we need there... we're very organized..."

Erika: "A workshop... inside this school?"

Nagaoka: "It's in a separate structure. There are many of those inside the school grounds."

Erika: "This seems to be the stuff that would usually attract boys. Does this club have any female members?"

Meito: "... We have one..."

Erika: "What's her name?"

Meito: "Junko Andou... but... why?"

Erika: "Just curious. You can go, you've been very helpful. It was a pleasant conversation, rather instructive. *giggle* *giggle*"

Oda isn't satisfied with my answer and he knows that I'm not telling him the truth, but he had enough of me already. He turns around and leaves the room.
I wait a few seconds, until I'm sure the boy can't overhear us anymore.

Erika: "Well, what do you think, Dlanor?"

Dlanor: "I don't think Mister Oda is lying, the culprit must have used him."

Erika: "Go on, I want to know your perspective."

Dlanor: "The culprit probably left the message inside Mister Oda's locker so he could witness the crime scene."

Erika: "How come, Dlanor?"

Dlanor: "Maybe he wanted to frame him. We don't have enough data, it's not possible to explain it with certainty."

Erika: "Then, what happened?"

Dlanor: "The culprit must have been following Mister Oda. He waited until he found the corpse, and when Mister Oda left, he created the closed room."

Erika: "But why would culprit-san do something this pointless?"

Dlanor: "We don't have enough data, it's not possible to explain it with certainty."

Satsukawa: "I'm more curious regarding how he did it."

Nagaoka: "A-hem... I'm sorry to interrupt this... conversation... If you don't have any other business here..."

Erika: "Ah, thank you, Nagaoka-san, I think we're done here for the moment. I'd like to see this famous shed now."

Nagaoka: "In that case I'll excuse myself. I presume Satsukawa-san knows his ways in this school already."

Satsukawa: "Yes, thank you, Nagaoka-san."

Erika: "It was a pleasure, Nagaoka-san, I'm sure we'll have many chances to repeat the experience."

Oh, we sure will. And you still haven't any idea how much pleasurable it will be for me. Not so much for you, probably. I will have my chance to dig out the dirt that you are concealing under that hypocritical coat of inflexibility, my dear perfect teacher. I know you are hiding something, and when I will find out what it is, you will wish you treated me with more respect. But it will be too late then, and I will enjoy every single moment of it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Chapter 1 (f)


Nagaoka: "There are still a couple of minutes before the end of the period, I hope you won't say you absolutely can't wait until then."

Erika: "A few minutes are fine."

Satsukawa: "You both should just relax. There's so much tension in the air between the two of you, that I could cut it with a knife."

Erika: "Why? I'm absolutely calm."

Nagaoka: "I'll never relax around this self-styled detective. I won't hinder her, as long as she doesn't cross the line, but I'll keep my eyes wide open."

Erika: "You sound as if you have a personal problem with me."

Nagaoka: "Actually, I do. As a teacher with many years of experience, I've learned how to spot the troublesome individuals and discern them from the others. And you, girl, you are trouble. Even without knowing who you are, I'd still know that I'd do better to keep my eyes on you all the time."

Erika: "Interesting. What do you know, or rather, what do you believe to know about me?"

Satsukawa: "Sigh... like I said..."

Nagaoka: "I know that you come from a wealthy background, and that you completely lack any understanding of what does it mean to gain your bread every day through your honest work. People like you, who don't understand the real value of money and its intended purpose, are what is slowly killing this society. If you were my student, I'd straighten you up properly before you left this institution."

Erika: "Yes, Nagaoka-san, I've had the chance to notice the wonderful job you've done at keeping the students of this school under your complete control and supervision."

Nagaoka: "Spare me your sarcasm. This problem will be dealt with, you can rest assured."

Erika: "I wouldn't bet my money on it, and this comes from one who, as you say, doesn't know the value of money at all."

Nagaoka: "You think this is funny? Do you even understand what kind of place is this? This might be still Tokyo, but at the same time it isn't. We're on the fringe of the fringe of the metropolis, this is prevalently an industrial area and the people of this community are for the most part blue collars. That of course means that the families of the students of this school never knew what being rich means and most likely never will. This institute was created for the purpose of giving these young people a chance, a chance to receive higher education so to get more specialized jobs."

Erika: "Thank you for the lesson on the local folklore, that was very informative. Except it was absolutely pointless, since I've already made enough researches on the subject by myself. And that means I know that this school isn't exactly the best choice for the young people living here."

Nagaoka: "Better schools? Yes they exist, but they're far and you obviously didn't consider the fact that even transport costs might weight considerably on the budget of the families of this neighborhood. This school is the most affordable."

Erika: "Affordable! Yes, you can see it clearly, provided you overlook the principal's office."

This pleasant conversation could go on forever, but the bell signaling the end of classes abruptly interrupts it.
Nagaoka takes another few moments to pierce me with his stare without saying a word. This must be really a habit of his. He then moves behind the desk and pushes a red button which activates a microphone. His voice resonates through the whole school as he announces that Meito Oda's presence is required in the meeting room on the second floor.
The cacophony generated by hundreds of students walking and talking as they leave the classrooms can now be heard distinctly. It's a sound that brings back distant memories. Not so distant, actually, but to the mind it's as if centuries have passed since then.
Dlanor is sitting on one of the sofas, she is staring blankly in front of herself. I wonder what's going on on her mind, we haven't really talked much since the start of this adventure. Between the two of us, she has the most unbiased perspective. She sees reality for what it is better than anyone else, her insight is, therefore, absolutely invaluable to me. Indeed, she is a great connoisseur of the truth, the same truth that I know so well. That means she is free from the lies and hypocrisy of the world and she can see and accept the ugly face of reality without pointless embellishments. However, unlike me, she isn't happy about it, she can't appreciate the great gift she has been given. She simply accepts it with emotionless detachment.
But what really makes her different from me is that she lacks in ingenuity, creativity and lateral thinking. She just can't think out of the box, and that is a limit she will never be able to cross. As things are, she makes a perfect Watson, but the true detective is, without a doubt, me.
Someone is knocking on the door, it must be Meito Oda. I am kind of curious to see this boy with my own eyes at this point. Nagaoka invites him to enter with his usual stern voice, and a few seconds later there he is. He is quite tall, 1.85 meters at least, probably more, that's impressive. On top of that he is pretty muscular. I can't help but thinking that someone like him wouldn't have had any problems overpowering Gotsuji and dragging her inside that shed.
He is now looking at me and Satsukawa with a confused expression, he is probably trying to figure out who we are and why he has been called here. He can probably guess, but my presence is putting him off.

Nagaoka: "Oda, you probably remember who this man is. He is Keiji Satsukawa, he was with the inspectors that questioned you about the tragic event of four days ago."

The boy bows slightly without saying a word. It seems that the death of his friend still affects him deeply.

Nagaoka: "This young woman is Erika Furudo, she's helping the police with their investigations and she wishes to speak with you regarding what you've seen on that day."

Erika: "Pleased to meet you, Oda. It's just a matter of few questions, I won't take too much of your time."

Meito: "Pleased to meet you..."

Nagaoka: "Oda, if you don't feel like talking about this subject again, nobody forces you. You can go home, if so you wish."

Meito: "No... I'll do it."

Erika: "Good. Please, take a seat. This is an informal meeting, we're just going to chat for a while."

I point to one of the sofas and he sits down on it without asking any question. He is a good boy.
I sit right in front of him, next to Dlanor. Satsukawa takes the place on my right, I'm in the center.
As for the disgruntled teacher, he must have finally decided he is tired of standing and chooses one of the armchairs.
It looks like Oda is a bit nervous.

Erika: "Relax, I'm not going to eat you."

He blushes and then I notice that his attention has been caught by Dlanor who is sitting on my left.

Erika: "Don't mind her, she's with me. Pretend she doesn't exist."

He is a bit confused, but he does as I suggested and he focuses on me again.

Erika: "Meito Oda... since how long have you been friend with Gotsuji?"

he answers after a small pause.

Meito: "Since I can remember... we've always been together..."

Erika: "Would you say that you knew her well?"

Meito: "Kind of... I mean... I can state with confidence that I knew what kind of person she was. I could tell what was going on on her mind easily... and I know many facts about her, her habits and such... But she didn't really talk much to me about her private life. I don't know much about her friends or the boys she used to hang out with... If that's what you're interested in, I can't help you."

I suppose the investigators that questioned him before were particularly interested on that subject and he is assuming I am the same.

Erika: "So... what kind of person she was?"

Meito: "Uh?"

Erika: "You said you knew her well. Describe her. Let me know what kind of person the victim was. I'm interested in your opinion."

It seems my question is confusing him greatly, he certainly didn't expect that.

Meito: "I don't think that's something I can explain easily..."

Erika: "It's quite all right. I'm not expecting a detailed psychological profile. Just say it with your own words, whatever it's on your mind. You don't need to weight your words or be sensitive because she's not longer here. I don't need an eulogy. Your perspective will help me in figuring out who murdered her. So tell me your honest feelings and don't worry about anything else."

Meito: "..."

He is still having problems adapting to this unexpected situation. He probably doesn't even understand who I am and what my role is. His mind must be quite confused, but it is a good thing. The less he knows the better it is for me.
As a side note, this is the first time Satsukawa is witnessing my unconventional inquiring methods, he seems to be enthralled.

Meito: "Hitomi was... an amazing person. I'm not saying this out of respect or anything. She was amazing in many ways... even in ways that I didn't really like. I couldn't keep up with her no matter how hard I tried, she was always a step ahead of me. She always had that overconfident attitude... she kept telling me I was too grumpy and gloomy... Hitomi was the kind of person that would always get what she wanted in a way or another... She had a knack for breaking through people's defenses. At times... she could be pretty childish... and annoying... so damn annoying! ... But she could be pretty serious when the situation required it... and..."

He realizes his eyes are getting wet and he stops. That's quite interesting, in spite of his tough boy look he must be a pretty emotional person.

Erika: "Thank you, Oda. That was very helpful. I believe she was a very important person to you, I'm sorry for your loss."

Meito: "Yes! She really was... very important to me... even though we always fought about every small thing. I just... I just can't believe she died... how could this happen... It doesn't seem real..."

Erika: "Forgive my rude question but... did you ever get the feeling, at any given time, that you were more than just friends?"

He raises his eyebrows.

Meito: "No, I don't think so... Not from my side, at least. I've never seen her as anything more than a friend..."

Erika: "Just now you said that you don't know much about her friends. Is that true even for what concerns her best friend? I'm talking about Sumomo Takamiya. I believe she's your classmate, right?"

He blushes again. Interesting. This guy is quite funny, does he even realize how many obvious signals of his secret thoughts he is giving away? You don't need a great detective like me to see that.

Meito: "No, she's a separate case... she's my friend too."

Erika: "Do you know her well?"

He blushes even more intensely. Oh, my! I must must fight the urge of laughing.

Meito: "Yes... kind of..."

Kind of... Liar!

Meito: "The three of us were often together at school... I met Sumomo through Hitomi. That was back when we just entered this school, two years ago. Somehow they became friends, and later I joined them."

Erika: "Sumomo?"

Strike! If this was an anime, I would see steam coming out of his ears now. What a simpleton, he never showed any restraints from calling Gotsuji by her first name, why does he show such an embarrassed face now?

Meito: "We are close friends... No! I mean... it's just the way it was with Hitomi... She wouldn't allow me being too formal anyway... she disliked that."

Erika: "Did the three of you hang out often together?"

Meito: "Only at school, during breaks. On the day of the crime, we had lunch together..."

Erika: "Have Takamiya and Gotsuji ever been in a serious argument? Have you ever seen them quarreling?"

Meito: "Takamiya is not the kind of person that would get in a fight. Hitomi could get very obnoxious sometimes, but Takamiya wouldn't get angry no matter what. I guess that's why Hitomi preferred to be in her company over anyone else..."

She's 'Takamiya' now.

Erika: "Nagaoka-san, is there anything you would add about what Oda said regarding Gotsuji, Takamiya and their relationship?"

Nagaoka: "Takamiya is one of my best students, she's a very diligent person unlike Oda. I'm not really comfortable with the fact they're friends."

Meito: "Kh!"

These two get along pretty well!

Nagaoka: "Gotsuji was an average student, I agree with Oda when he says she was childish, but she never got in any trouble. She knew her place and she never crossed the line in front of the teachers. As for her relationship with Takamiya, there isn't much I can say. They were friends, that much is known to me, but no more than that."

Erika: "Oda, let's go back to four days ago. I've been told that you were under punishment. Can you tell me what happened?"

Nagaoka snorts and shows a displeased face. I guess he is involved somehow. This is unfortunate, I doubt Oda will easily tell me the whole story now. In fact, he looks troubled. He is trying to figure out how to explain the situation using the right words.

Meito: "I've got in trouble while... playing... with Baba..."

Nagaoka: "Oda and Baba are notoriously enemies. They're both troublemakers of the worst kind. I've had many occasions to deal with them and to straighten them up. But it seems that people like them can never fully learn a lesson. I'm pretty sure that they got in yet another scuffle that day, but they managed to get away with it with little consequences... somehow..."

Erika: "Is that true, Oda? Is this Baba an enemy of yours?"

He shrugs.

Meito: "I won't deny that. He's scum, everyone knows that. And I'm the only person in this school who has the strength and the courage to stand against him and his bullying. The teachers never move a finger unless something happens, and if no one stands in his way, Baba can do whatever he wants. But I can't let him, so I make things happen and then teachers find out. The price of that is that I get punished with him."

Nagaoka: "Oda!"

I raise my hand to stop Nagaoka from saying more. He's clearly angered, but Satsukawa sends him a clear message with his glare, reinforcing my implicit order. He sure doesn't like it, but our inflexible teacher can't disobey an order from the authorities, can't he? Anyway... this is... extremely... amusing.

Erika: "You don't mind getting in trouble?"

Meito: "Of course I do! But what other option do I have?"

Erika: "Is this Baba bullying you directly?"

Meito: "No way! Cowards like him always pick on the weak."

Erika: "Then you can just look the other way like everyone else does."

Meito: "Are you... seriously implying that that would be the right thing to do?"

I see Nagaoka moving on his seat, he wants to say something again, and again I stop him. Isn't that quite the  frustrated face!

Erika: "I'm not judging, I just want to understand your perspective."

Meito: "I can't do that! I can't just pretend nothing happens!"

Erika: "But then you get blamed as much as he does. Doesn't that make you angry?"

Meito: "Yeah, it does!"

Nagaoka: "Furudo-san! What exactly are you..."

Erika: "Do not interrupt, Nagaoka-san. I believe that Oda's insight on this matter is of extreme importance for a full understanding of the social dynamics of this school. It is pointless for you to interrupt us, I can continue this conversation whenever and wherever I want. But I think it would greatly benefit you to keep silent and listen to what your student has to say, for a change. Maybe you can learn something from this whole exchange. The choice is yours. You can comply and keep quiet, or we can go elsewhere where you can't interrupt us. School time is over and you don't have the authority nor the right to keep Oda here."

Right now I believe I have just become a hero in front of Oda's eyes. Nagaoka is livid, but he knows that I am right. He cannot stop me. I don't think he is used to humiliations, and it is even more aggravating the fact that this is happening in front of a student he is used to chastise. Isn't vengeance the sweetest thing?
Nagaoka slowly retreats to the back of his armchair, a sign of unconditional surrender. But if he could kill with his eyes, I'd be a lump of incinerated meat now.

Erika: "Please, continue... Oda. Tell me, what did Baba do to enrage you that much on that day?"

Meito: "Baba was taking pictures with his digital camera without permission... A girl, a first year student, noticed that and asked him to delete the picture he had just taken."

Erika: "Why did that bother her that much?"

Oda is biding his time, he is pondering whether it is the case to speak or not. I must get rid of these annoying barriers that are preventing him from telling me the truth. The truth that I so much crave for.

Erika: "It's time to talk, Oda. A crime was committed, a person died. Everything could be important. I need to know."

There's no way he can keep silent now.

Meito: "Panty shots..."

Nagaoka's jaw just dropped. Even Satsukawa is showing a weird expression. I find this extremely hilarious.

Meito: "That's the kind of stuff Baba collects..."

Erika: "I can quite understand that girl's feelings. So, what happened then? Did you promptly rush to help the damsel in distress?"

Meito: "No... I'm ashamed to say this, but I knew I could get in serious trouble if I fought Baba again. A lot of students gathered, I couldn't hope to get away with it. And yet I was about to go... but Hitomi stopped me."

Erika: "See? This whole incident happened on the very day of the crime and now we learn that the victim was there and witnessed it! Satsukawa-san, how could you miss this important fact?"

Satsukawa: "I'm... honestly, I'm quite baffled..."

Meito: "It was lunch break, practically the whole school was there watching."

Erika: "So you were with Gotsuji and Takamiya?"

Meito: "Yes, Takamiya also advised me to avoid getting involved."

Erika: "But in the end you went anyway."

Meito: "Someone beat me to it."

Erika: "Interesting. I could swear you just said you are the only one that would stand against Baba."

Meito: "You're right... there's someone else, but that was a first. Even then, she showed she had the courage, but I doubt she has the strength."

Erika: "A girl! And who could that be?"

He looks at Nagaoka worriedly.

Meito: "She didn't do anything wrong..."

Erika: "Of course! Nobody is accusing her."

Meito: "It was... Yuu Azuma."

At this point Nagaoka's anger has completely vanished. He is now completely shocked by these unthinkable revelations.

Erika: "Yuu Azuma! Haven't I heard this name before?! What do you say, Dlanor?"

Dlanor: "Yuu Azuma is a member of the female basket club. She was therefore one of the victim's acquaintances."

Erika: "Right!"

Meito: "Uh..."

Erika: "Oh, don't mind me, Oda, please tell me more. What happened after that?"

Meito: "Baba attacked her. But she managed to avoid his first punch."

Nagaoka: "Oda! Did all of this really happen?! Are you sure you aren't making this up?!"

Meito: "I'm not making up anything! This really happened! You heard it yourself when the whole school went wild! I know you did! That was when they saw Azuma dodging Baba's attack! And then you must remember what you saw when you arrived!"

Erika: "Oh, is that so? Nagaoka-san, does your first hand experience match with what Oda is saying? Did that many students gather? Did you hear their voices? Did you see Azuma there? And was there another girl, a first year student, with them?"

Nagaoka starts sweating and pushes the palm of his right hand against his front.

Nagaoka: "It... it matches! Everything matches!"

Erika: "Good! So all of this happened, and you didn't understand a single thing!"

Nagaoka: "Why didn't you tell me, Oda!"

Meito: "As if you would have listened!"

Nagaoka: "It... it still doesn't mean that this is the truth! There might be another explanation!"

Meito: "See?!"

Nagaoka: "You can't just blindly believe what he says! He's a troublemaker, you can't trust him!"

Erika: "Nagaoka-san, there's only one thing that I trust in this world: my logic. If my logic told me that Oda-san was lying, if my logic told me that something in his story is amiss, I wouldn't believe him. But let me check something. What did you see exactly when you arrived to the scene?"

Nagaoka: "Ah, good question! I clearly saw Oda holding Baba in a lock, he was grabbing him from behind and the latter was clearly trying to free himself."

Erika: "I see. And how likely it is that this situation would have happened, if Baba wasn't taken by surprise? As in the case where he was facing someone else, when Oda finally decided to stop him?"

Nagaoka: "You... you still can't exclude either possibility..."

Erika: "Then why Azuma and that other girl were near them?"

Nagaoka: "I..."

Erika: "You didn't bother to check."

Nagaoka: "It's... it's Kubota! He told me a completely different story!"

Erika: "Now that's interesting. Who is Kubota?"

Satsukawa: "Ah... he's referring to Kuon Kubota, that's the president of the student council I mentioned earlier."

Erika: "The plot thickens, and I think the pieces of the puzzle are slowly moving each to their right places. If I'm not mistaken this whole predicament is what brought Oda to the student council room."

Nagaoka: "That's correct. Kubota managed to confuse the situation to the point I decided to let him deal with it, but only because he promised to properly punish those two."

Erika: "And his 'punishment' conveniently happened to be work he had to for the student council. Am I right?"

Meito: "Damn right!"

Erika: "I wonder... did he do that to save two troublemakers from a dire fate, to be granted the services of free slave labor, or both?"

Meito: "Who knows... that guy's a weirdo."

Nagaoka: "I'd rather... not try to understand how his mind works..."

Erika: "Oda, do you think he would expose himself to help you?"

Meito: "I doubt, we used to be friends in middle school, but that's the past."

Erika: "Then, would he do that for Baba?"

Meito: "Not a chance! Baba doesn't have any friends, and nobody would be so stupid to befriend him, not even Kubota."

Erika: "..."

Something is amiss.

Erika: "At one point you, Baba and Kubota were all in the student council room, right?"

Meito: "Yes. Kubota made us work on a hundreds of documents that needed to be copied and sorted. He was supposed to help too, but he practically didn't do a thing."

Erika: "You were alone there, no one else."

Meito: "Yes. All the student council members were missing."

Erika: "And then Baba and Kubota left you alone, and from that point you had to do all the work by yourself."

Meito: "Yeah..."

Erika: "Would you mind explaining what was their excuse?"

Meito: "Kubota said he had some urgent business to attend to. He said he needed help for that, so he took Baba along."

Erika: "When did that happen?"

Meito: "I'm not sure... between 4:00 and 5:00... I'm sorry, I don't really remember with precision."

Erika: "Could this urgent business be related to the old P.E. shed?"

Meito: "What?"

Erika: "I'm just examining every possibility. Do you think it might be possible? Did you hear something that could suggest that?"

Meito: "I haven't the slightest clue. Why would they be related to that?"

Erika: "It appears that the administration of that shed was under the discretion of the student council. For some reason Kubota always refused to reassign the structure to other uses. That was quite convenient to whoever had been unofficially using it until now, don't you think?"

Meito: "I had no idea..."

Erika: "Who would you rather say that is more likely to be involved with what was found there?"

Meito: "Maaya Teramoto."

Straight to the point! Not even a hint of doubt.

Erika: "Was Gotsuji involved in any way with her, to your knowledge?"

Meito: "I can't really say that... I mean... there's hardly anyone that doesn't know Teramoto in this school, and she's always on the look for new people to convert to her supernatural beliefs, especially girls. What I'm getting at is that it's unlikely that Hitomi never talked to her, even I did, and quite often too... But I don't think Hitomi was interested in that stuff, and I don't think she and Teramoto were close."

Erika: "What about Takamiya?"

Meito: "Pretty much the same."

Erika: "What about the members of the basket club? Is there anyone there that is connected to Teramoto?"

Meito: "..."

Nagaoka: "Ah..."

Erika: "It seems that you both know something that I don't. Would you mind explaining?"

Nagaoka: "Kagami Hibari is one of Teramoto's closest friends."

Meito: "That's an understatement. She's Teramoto's sidekick number one."

Erika: "The very captain of the basket team."

Meito: "Yeah..."

Erika: "Intriguing..."

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Chapter 1 (e)


I'm finally inside the Mitsugi institute. It's just me, Dlanor and Satsukawa now; Rokudou returned to the mansion to attend to his many duties.
As I expected, this is a rather small and plain school. There's nothing peculiar about the buildings and overall everything looks rather cheap. There's absolutely no comparison to the place I used to be in when I was still a student. It was a gigantic all female high school meant to provide a perfect education to the daughters of rich and important families. I hated that place, but it was a most refined environment suited for someone like me... Why did I hate it again? I don't really make a habit of remembering trivial facts. What really matters is that the disparity between schools for rich people and commoners is truly appalling.
However, it looks like the principal didn't have problems in finding funds for her own office. It's still a spartan room when it comes to walls, doors, windows and lights, but it's quite a nice desk she has there, and that chair looks pretty comfy and expensive. The bookshelves seem to be a recent investment and they hold quite a number of thick hardcover books. Lastly I think that her personal computer isn't one of the cheapest models either.
Akemi Wakamatsu, the principal, is sitting behind her stylish desk and looks at me with a sort of disapproving expression, as if she was scowling at an undisciplined student. She must be around 40 years old, maybe a little more, but her clothes, hairstyle and make up are telling me much of the efforts she makes to look younger. And I must say she isn't unsuccessful at that, she's a surprisingly good looking woman. A less attentive person would probably think she's still in her mid thirties.
Considering all that, I'm pretty sure that she's still unmarried, and yet it's difficult to believe such a comely and successful woman never was in a relationship. Her bitter attitude is probably the result of several bad experiences with the other sex. I wonder how many tears discolored the black ink of her eyeliner.
But there's someone else in this room who's showing even more hostility. It's Shuuichi Nagaoka, the teacher who answered Oda's calls when he found his friend's corpse. He's standing silently next to the principal. Apparently he thinks that sitting on a chair in front of me would be too much of a welcoming sign, and he has no intentions to show any. I think he must be more or less as old as Wakamatsu, perhaps a little more.

Wakamatsu: "This whole affair is a regrettable incident, and I partly recognize my responsibility in letting it happen. The murder of Hitomi Gotsuji is an unprecedented tragedy for this institute and a stain that will never be washed away. However I have obligations towards all the hundreds students of this school, and they have the right to receive a proper education in a tranquil environment."

Erika: "A tranquil and safe environment, I would add."

She grimaces at my comment and her eyes pierce me with renovated enmity.

Wakamatsu: "We have already lost precious days, classes have finally resumed today. It is my wish that everything returns to normality as fast and quietly as possible. I hope that you understand my concern and that you'll act with discretion while inside the premises of this institute. We have no need for further turmoil and distress."

Satsukawa: "We understand your position, Wakamatsu-san, but shedding light on this murder takes precedence on everything else. Of course we recognize that this is still a school and life needs to go on for the rest of the students, but we cannot prioritize that over the capture of a criminal who's still at large and who might cause further damage in the future if not stopped."

Nagaoka: "What I don't understand, Satsukawa-san, is why a civilian was given the right to meddle in this affair. And I don't understand why the institution, financed by our taxes, that is supposed to deal with such cases isn't enough."

Satsukawa: "The law enforcers cannot deal with every situation without availing themselves of experts. In the end you may consider Erika Furudo an expert who's providing her precious insight to help the investigators in this difficult case."

Nagaoka: "What exactly qualifies this individual as expert? Why did you bring..."

Satsukawa: "I suggest you weight your words carefully, Nagaoka-san. Erika Furudo is working as an external advisor for the MPD, she's under my responsibility and I'm still a policeman. She was given permission to investigate by law enforcers, hindering her would be the same as hindering official investigations. I thought we discussed this matter already and I thought we came to an agreement. There's no need to discuss this any further and it's not up to you to decide how we should do our job."

He's good. He's surprisingly very good. I could have joined this discussion and I could have defended myself fine, but it's more entertaining this way. Beside if it was me, I would have had to resort to lies, but he's seriously believing in what he's saying, so it's a lot better to let him deal with these persons.
Nagaoka is still as disapproving as he was in the beginning, but he can't debate what Satsukawa said, so for now he is staying silent.

Wakamatsu: "Nagaoka-san, I completely share your opinion and I have your same qualms, but we have no choice on the matter, we need to cooperate. That being said, Satsukawa-san, if it'll come to my attention that you caused unnecessary distress to my students, you can rest assured that I'll file a complaint to your superiors."

Satsukawa: "Duly noted, but it won't happen. We have no intention to create unrest anymore than you do."

Oh, Satsukawa, you're so wrong on that. But you're doing a very good job, so please keep it up.

Wakamatsu: "Then... in what way can I be of help to your... investigations?"

Erika: "For now, if you don't mind, I'd like to make a few questions to both of you."

Wakamatsu: "I have no problems with that, provided it's just a few questions. I have business to attend to."

Erika: "Wakamatsu-san, where were you between 6:00 and 6:30 pm on the day of the crime?"

Wakamatsu: "I finished my work early that day, so I had already left school. I was in my car for the most part. I think I must have arrived at home at around 6:25."

Dlanor: "Can anyone confirm it?"

Nagaoka: "Oh, come on! This is ridiculous!"

Wakamatsu: "Am I a suspect, now?"

Erika: "We're just checking every relevant fact. There's no need to feel accused. Please, answer the question."

Wakamatsu: "No. No one can confirm it. But I'm sure you've already checked the recordings of the surveillance camera in front of the school. That should prove that I had already left school before Gotsuji was last seen."

Satsukawa: "That's correct, we've already checked. Wakamatsu-san left school at 5:52 pm."

Erika: "What can you tell me about the occultism club?"

I see my question is causing Wakamatsu to grimace again.

Wakamatsu: "You're getting straight to the most uncomfortable questions... I admit I didn't really supervise the creation of new clubs the way I should have. Two years ago Maaya Teramoto, a first year student at the time, filed a request for the creation of an occultism club. Everything was managed according to our rules, and the teachers didn't imagine it could degenerate in something serious. I have however realized that it was a mistake and I've already decided to disband her club and to enforce stricter rules in the future."

Erika: "Do you think that the occultism club and what was found in the P.E. shed are related?"

Wakamatsu: "I can't say for sure that Teramoto is responsible for that, but there are strong suspicions. Regardless, it became apparent that rumors and beliefs related to Teramoto's activities went out of control in this school. The occultism club had a bad influence on the students of this institute and I believe that directly or indirectly it's at least partly responsible for what happened."

Nagaoka: "I'm of the same opinion and I never approved that club from the beginning."

Erika: "When you say that it had a bad influence on the students of this school, do you mean someone in particular?"

Wakamatsu: "I'm not sure... Nagaoka-san?"

Nagaoka: "I think it wouldn't be an understatement that there are many students that were plagiarized by Teramoto. But unfortunately it's not something that I can prove."

Erika: "Are these students prevalently female?"

Nagaoka: "Yes... yes they all are, as far as I know. But that goes without saying, who else but girls would be interested in that garbage?"

I think Wakamatsu is silently disapproving Nagaoka's last remark.

Erika: "I suppose that you've already talked to that girl about this issue, perhaps you've even summoned her parents?"

Wakamatsu: "Of course we did! That's one of the first thing we took care of."

Erika: "And how did that go?"

Nagaoka and Wakamatsu send quick glances to each other. That alone tells me that it didn't go as they wished for.

Wakamatsu: "Teramoto dismissed every single accusation. She's an incredibly headstrong and shameless young girl. Honestly, I don't know how to deal with her. When we questioned her practices, she accused us of violating the principles of freedom of thoughts and freedom of religion. The fact that her father is a Shinto priest didn't help, we couldn't really count on his support to deny the existence of spirits, curses and demonic possessions."

Erika: "Her father is a Shinto priest? Satsukawa-san, why didn't you tell me that?"

Satsukawa: "Ah... sorry! I didn't think it was important..."

Erika: "Does that mean her family lives in a temple? An old temple perhaps?"

Wakamatsu: "That's correct. Though I'm not sure how old it is."

Nagaoka: "They claim they've been there since the Heian period. I never bothered to validate that, it's not like it is of any relevance."

Erika: "However when someone says 'occultism', it's usually about western beliefs. Is her father really okay with that?"

Nagaoka: "Teramoto has her own peculiar beliefs. She claims to approach the supernatural from an holistic and universalistic perspective. That's a fancy way to say that everything is fine with her as long as it deals with the occult. She has quite the talent for elaborating convincing theories and persuade others of their validity. That's why she has that much influence on other students. Her father doesn't share her particular view, but he still fully supports her dedication to the supernatural."

Erika: "Satsukawa-san, did you inquire about Teramoto's and her club members' whereabouts at the time of the crime?"

Satsukawa: "Naturally. The occultism club's activities on the day of the crime officially ended at 5:00 pm. Teramoto spent a bit more time talking with two of her friends. The three of them left school at 5:15 pm, and by that time everyone in her club was already gone. Teramoto claims she's been hanging with her two friends the whole time until around 19:00 pm when she returned home. They are providing alibis to each other, but we couldn't find anyone else that could confirm their claims."

Wakamatsu: "Maybe you should talk to Teramoto directly. The last period is about to end, we can arrange a meeting."

Erika: "No, not yet. But I wish to talk to Meito Oda."

Wakamatsu turns to Nagaoka with an inquisitive expression.

Wakamatsu: "Is he at school today?"

Nagaoka: "Yes, but I don't think he's in the right state of mind to answer your questions. I think we should let him go home."

Satsukawa: "I suppose it can wait, then..."

Erika: "No. It cannot."

My stern declaration is causing all sorts of amusing reactions. Nagaoka is looking at me with disgust, Wakamatsu with concerned surprise and Satsukawa is thwarted and embarrassed.

Nagaoka: "Why."

The way he says it, it doesn't even sound like a question.

Erika: "Because."

I smile at him mockingly and we begin a sort of staring contest.
Satsukawa presses his thumb and index against his closed eyes for a few seconds and breathes heavily.

Satsukawa: "Okay, in the end it's not like we can force him to stay and answer our questions. Let's just call him and let him decide."

Neither I nor Nagaoka show any reaction to Satsukawa's proposal. We remain focused on our psychological battle.
After a few seconds the principal interrupts the impasse.

Wakamatsu: "Do as he said, Nagaoka."

He waits again a few seconds before answering.

Nagaoka: "I'll be coming with you. I'll supervise your questionings."

Erika: "Fine with me."

Satsukawa: "Great. Is there an empty room we can use to interrogate students?"

Wakamatsu: "There's a meeting room on the second floor. That's what we use when we need to talk to  students and their families in private. You can use that."

Nagaoka: "I'll bring you there."

Erika: "Let's go then."

Dlanor: "Thank you for your cooperation, Miss Wakamatsu."

Wakamatsu: "..."

We exit the principal's office without saying any more words. Just a quick bow as good manners dictate and we are off to our destination. Nagaoka is leading the way, he walks a good three meters in front of us, as a yet another sign of his disapproval. We are on the third floor so we need to get down  a set of stairs.

Erika: "Nagaoka-san, where's the teachers' room located?"

Nagaoka: "Third floor, same as the principal's office, the student council room and every other room with administrative functions."

We are in front of the meeting room, Nagaoka takes a key from his pocket and unlocks the door.
Once inside I find two black three-seater sofas placed one in front of the other and separated by a glass tea table. At the end of the table opposite from the door, there are two armchairs matching the sofas' design. Further down in the room there's an office desk and two chairs for the guests.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Chapter 1 (d)


Erika: "Then let's talk about how and when the corpse was discovered, and by whom."

Satsukawa: "As we already disclosed to the press, allegedly the corpse of Hitomi Gostuji was found around 6:30 pm by a male student named Meito Oda."

Erika: "Allegedly?"

Satsukawa: "I'll get to that later. Before that, it's important to consider that Meito Oda was one of the victim's classmates and a close friend since childhood."

Erika: "Friends! You should always check who are the victim's closest friends when dealing with murder cases. Oh, and of course close relatives and lovers too."

Satsukawa: "Why do you say so?"

Erika: "Why? Isn't it obvious? The closest a person is to you, the higher is the chance you'd want to kill her."

Satsukawa: "That's... completely the opposite of what I'd normally expect."

Erika: "Really..?"

Satsukawa: "In the first place, why would someone be close to you, if they hated you."

Erika: "Oh, there are a lot of situations... but that's beside the point. Relationships might start in a good way, but they can easily degenerate. Let me reverse your question. Why would someone hate you, if they weren't close to you?"

Satsukawa: "Uh... what?"

Erika: "Don't you understand? People don't hate without a reason. Well... for the most part they don't. Before hating you, they first need to know you. And if they barely have any contact with you, if their lives are completely separated from yours, why would they go all the trouble to commit a crime and kill you? In that case they could simply ignore you. Conversely, if they have to deal with you frequently and if your life is tied to theirs in any way, then they'll have to kill you, if they can't stand you any longer."

Satsukawa: "I think... there are better ways to solve these situations... They don't have to kill anyone."

Erika: "Sure, from a completely rational standpoint you're right. But don't underestimate hate. It's the strongest human emotion after all."

Satsukawa: "Isn't that love?"

Erika: "Love can turn into hate as easily as food can turn into rot. But how likely is the opposite to happen? Not much, trust me. So once you consider that, what do you think is the strongest emotion again? There, you see, when people hate they feel compelled to take action against the source of their resentment. You might think that they don't have to, rationally, but to them it's like they have no choice."

Satsukawa: "Wow... you sure have a bleak view of the world..."

Erika: "Sure it's a very bleak view, and some might think it's sad and depressing, but it's simply the right view. How do I know it's the correct way to look at the world? Simple. If I were wrong on that, my reasonings would also turn out to be wrong. The fact that I'm always right, proves without a doubt that assuming the worst from people around you is the right approach to life."

It seems that I left Satsukawa completely speechless. I'm sure right now he'd want to debate and argue that I'm wrong. I've met a lot of delusional persons like him, but it isn't really their fault. This society pretty much indoctrinates us into the so called positive thinking. From a very young age they teach us that the world is wonderful, life is grand, friendship is everything, love is eternal, justice always triumphs and evil is always punished. Bullshits.
This isn't a just world, good is almost never rewarded, criminals run our lives, corruption dwells in every human heart, friends will forsake you as soon as they no longer need you, love will inevitably wither and die and then lovers will cheat on you with someone younger, richer or prettier. Aaaah, this is the truth, the one and only truth!
And of all the people of this world, with their eyes clouded by lies that they are constantly fed on since their very birth, I am the only one who can see reality for what it is. I am the only one who can truly appreciate and love the perfection and beauty of the truth. I like the truth for what it is, I like the truth in its purest ideal form, I like the truth as a supreme concept. It is therefore irrelevant how the truth reveals itself. The truth of the world and the truths of the single persons might be ugly, disgusting and revolting, but the truth itself is beautiful. Truth is perfection, truth is justice!
It is my duty to destroy all lies and bring the truth to light. And you think I'm evil because of that? How hypocrite! I am a great detective, what do you expect? That I will show you cute little bunnies and adorable kittens? I am here to show you a detestable individual and his petty reasons that brought him to commit the worst possible crime. I am here to dig in the filth of humanity and bring the rotten findings to your very eyes. So stop hiding behind your false beliefs. There is absolutely nothing good about the truth of a murder, whatever you dig up, it can't be anything else but scum and putrescence. If you still think that this kind of truth must be unveiled, as you should, then admit it already: there's no such thing as an evil truth, there's no such thing as a truth that mustn't be told. Because truth is a good in itself, all else is irrelevant.

Erika: "You see, Satsukawa-san, all humans are substantially ugly, weak-willed, cowardly, self-centered and selfish persons deep in the inside. They compensate to that by working hard every day to hide their hideousness by creating a shell made of whatever society deems as acceptable. As long as the single individuals stay far enough from each other, they will only be able to see each other's shells. And that's how this world runs, that's how we can maintain moderately peaceful existences. But what happens when someone gets too close to you, is that he'll end up seeing what you are behind your mask, and that is almost always invariably a grim finding. That's when people start hurting each other, and that's when hate starts growing."

There is a sort of... twisted, perverted pleasure in revealing uncomfortable truths, a pleasure that even I can't fully explain. Right now, for example, I feel ecstatic. And this, in the end, is nothing. My words didn't really reach this man, they merely unsettled him. He didn't recognize that I'm right, and his mind right now is occupied into finding ways to deny my theories and prove them wrong.
However, the mere fact of blurting out a truth that nobody wants to accept feels great, it's liberating, it's uplifting.

Satsukawa: "Well... not everyone hides himself behind masks. It looks like you have no qualms in revealing your true self."

Erika: "Only when I wish so, Satsukawa-san. I can be pretty devious, don't underestimate me."

Rokudou: "Hu hu hu, milady is right. You should always be prepared and constantly alert around her, Satsukawa-san. If you don't, you'll get in a lot of trouble! Hu hu hu!"

Erika: "What my butler said! He really knows me well, doesn't he, Dlanor? *giggle* *giggle*"

Dlanor: "Miss Erika, we should resume the briefing. Time is running short."

Erika: "Right. This was an entertaining exchange of opinions, but we should focus on the case at hand."

Satsukawa: "Agreed. We were talking about the victim's friends, if I'm not mistaken."

Erika: "Correct, and not just friends. Anyone who was close to the victim."

Satsukawa: "Well, from what we've gathered the victim had a lot of friends, she was a very easy going and extroverted person. However everyone agreed that her closest friends were Meito Oda and Sumomo Takamiya. They're all from the same class."

Erika: "What can you tell me about this Sumomo Takamiya?"

Satsukawa: "Not much. Her club activities ended at 5:00 pm and she left school shortly after that. She seems to be completely unrelated to this crime and, for all that we know, she and her victim have always been good friends."

Erika: "What about Meito Oda, then?"

Satsukawa: "He was made to work for the student council after committing an infraction. He's been there from the end of the last period to around 6:30 pm, probably a few minutes earlier. He was supposed to help the student council president alongside another schoolmate who was also under punishment."

Erika: "But that didn't happen?"

Satsukawa: "At first it did, but then the president found an excuse to leave and he brought the other student with himself. Figure, those two even denied it at first, but once we told them we had proof that they left school at 4:48 pm, they confessed they ditched their duties."

Erika: "So they never returned?"

Satsukawa: "That's right. Which means Meito Oda was left completely alone for almost two hours."

Erika: "No one can confirm he's been in the student council's room the whole time?"

Satsukawa: "No one. He has no alibi."

Erika: "How was his relationship with the victim?"

Satsukawa: "They were constantly bickering, but it looks like there's never been any significant quarrel. At least not to anyone's knowledge."

Erika: "Did the victim have a boyfriend?"

Satsukawa: "She had a few in the past, but they never lasted for more than three months. She's been without a boyfriend for the past six months."

Erika: "Unless she kept it secret."

Satsukawa: "I suppose it can't be excluded, but judging from the phone calls and mails she received for the last few months, I think it's unlikely."

Erika: "Family members?"

Satsukawa: "She lived with both her parents and her six year old younger brother. A moderately normal family all considered. There are no criminal records on them and there are no complaints from the neighbors. Considering the kind of crime we're dealing with, the investigation team believe it's extremely unlikely that they're involved. We didn't gather many informations on them."

Erika: "No one else?"

Satsukawa: "That's all. Now, I guess it's time to get to the best part."

Erika: "How in the world Meito Oda found the corpse of her friend?"

Satsukawa: "That's right. It was very late when he supposedly finished his work in the student council's room. He was supposed to head straight home. However, he found a message from the victim inside his locker."

Erika: "From the victim?"

Now, that's interesting.
Satsukawa takes a transparent plastic envelope from his suitcase and invites me to take a look at its content.
There's what seems to be a notebook page inside. It looks like it's been folded and crumpled. There is something written with a red marker on it in a somewhat flamboyant style.

"Meet me in front of the old P.E. shed.
 - Hitomi."

This message is absolutely fishy.

Satsukawa: "We confirmed that this is the victim's writing style, and the page comes from a notebook she possessed. In addition we found her fingerprints on it."

Erika: "Are you telling me the whole truth, Satsukawa-san? Shouldn't there be three different fingerprints?"

Satsukawa opens his eyes wide. It's a delightful view, I really missed this feeling.

Satsukawa: "I was... getting to that... but how..."

Rokudou: "Hu hu hu. Milady, I'm looking forward to listen to your explanation."

Erika: "Of course, Rokudou. Let's begin with the obvious. Since Meito Oda claims he found this message, then it follows logically that he left his fingerprints on it. It really wouldn't make sense if he didn't."

Satsukawa: "Indeed. But why did you conclude that there had to be other fingerprints? I admit that even I don't know why we found them."

Erika: "I believe this message wasn't meant for Oda at all. We know that the victim wanted to be free by six o' clock, hinting that she had an appointment with someone at that time. However look at this message, it doesn't tell anything about a meeting time. Why would the victim be so concerned about not being late then? But that's not all, if you look at the cracks in the paper you can tell that this message was folded, probably by the victim. That's what you normally do when you send messages this way, right? However there are other signs that show this page was crumpled. And when normally do people do that with messages of this kind?"

Satsukawa: "Uhm... uh... I suppose, after they've read them and... ah..."

Erika: "Right! After they're no longer of any use and they can be tossed in a trash bin! But there's only one person that could have logically done this, and that's the original intended recipient of this message."

Satsukawa: "But... wait! Why couldn't that be Oda himself?"

Erika: "I suppose it's not impossible, but it's unlikely. He probably wouldn't toss it before finding Gotsuji. But the real reason is that I can't really believe this message was meant for him, because there aren't sufficient informations. This is the kind of messages you'd give personally to someone else. In such cases there's no need to specify a time, because it's implied: 'now'. In other words the victim must have given this to someone that was with her while they were surrounded by people. She had to resort to this method to relay the information because she didn't want the bystanders to know. Or possibly this was done during class, when they couldn't communicate verbally."

Satsukawa: "A... aaah! Of course..."

Erika: "So what I think that happened, is that the recipient of this message quickly read it, crumpled it and then tossed it in a bin. I think it's pretty safe to assume this happened while they were at school. At this point we can imagine that the culprit noticed this exchange and retrieved the message taking care as to not leave any fingerprints."

Satsukawa: "But... for what reason?"

Erika: "Maybe to frame Oda and divert the attention from himself. It's still too early to tell."

Satsukawa: "Damn... doesn't this mean that we can't really get anywhere from this? I thought these fingerprints could prove useful!"

Erika: "So you still don't know who's the owner?"

Satsukawa: "Not yet, but we'll get results soon. Anyway, your reasoning was really amazing..."

Erika: "Of course! Just because of the existence of this message and the many cracks on it, this level of reasoning was possible for Erika Furudo. What do you think, everyone?"

Satsukawa: "That was really amazing..."

Rokudou: "A perfect line of thoughts, as usual, milady."

Dlanor: "However... there was another possibility."

Erika: "Uh? What is it, Dlanor? I'm curious to listen to your reasonings."

Dlanor: "What I thought from the beginning is that Mister Oda used an old message he received from the victim to justify the finding. In other words the presentation of this message would be just a tool he used to explain why he was there without actually telling the truth."

Satsukawa: "That's something I also thought in the beginning."

Erika: "But then why would it be crumpled?"

Dlanor: "By assuming this is an old message he received, it is possible that it has been in his pocket for a while. It doesn't necessarily need to have been tossed."

Erika: "Good. Indeed there was this possibility, and in fact I wasn't completely sure that there was a third fingerprint. But since its existence was confirmed, this proves that my reasoning was correct. By the way, if my hunch is correct, the original recipient is either Takamiya or one of the victim's club members. This is something we should check."

Satsukawa: "There's still the question, why did the victim want to meet someone there?"

Erika: "I suppose she was involved in whatever was happening in that place."

Satsukawa: "I guess I'll drop the bomb now..."

Erika: "You sure know how to catch my interest. What might this be?"

Satsukawa: "According to Oda, he went to the old P.E. shed as soon as he read the message. Once there he found the door open and the crime scene presented to his eyes more or less the same way the police found it. Or so he claims..."

Erika: "That again. Why do you doubt his words?"

Satsukawa: "After a few minutes of panic, Oda decided to call for help. He ran back to the school and started screaming to get someone's attention. At that time nobody was inside the school except a few teachers, the groundskeeper and Oda himself."

Erika: "And Azuma and Hibari."

Satsukawa: "Right, but they couldn't hear him if they were in the gym. Anyway a teacher, a certain Shuuichi Nagaoka, answered his calls and asked what was going on. He didn't believe him at first and he wanted to check the crime scene before calling the police. He claims that at the time he thought it was a prank and decided not to alert anyone else. So in the end they went back to the shed together. And that's where things get confusing."

Erika: "What happened? Someone messed with the crime scene? The body walked away on its own?"

Satsukawa: "Not quite, but close. Right... closed. That's how the door of the shed was when they arrived."

Erika: "Someone closed it while Oda went to the school?"

Satsukawa: "That. Or the door was never opened to begin with."

Erika: "Why do you doubt Oda's words?"

Satsukawa: "Because the door was closed from inside... with a latch. And there are no windows nor any kind of openings in that storage."

Erika: "Ah... Ahahahahahahahaha!!!"

This is great! I can't even contain my laughter! What is this? What kind of joke is this?! So there is a hidden gem mixed in this trivial case after all!

Erika: "Good! Very good!"

Satsukawa: "I knew you'd love this part, but I didn't think you'd love it that much..."

Erika: "A closed room! With a corpse skewered by a sword lying inside! Don't make me laugh! You must be kidding me! I haven't been this amused since... oh that was quite some time ago, wasn't it? Right, Dlanor?!"

Dlanor: "..."

Rokudou: "Milady... what do you think about this strange setup?"

Erika: "I think that I'll have a lot of fun by uncovering all the lies that gathered around this messed up murder! That's all I will say, for now!"

Satsukawa: "At this point I already told you almost everything that we know. When Oda and Nagaoka found the shed closed they started to argue. It took quite a while before the teacher finally yielded to Oda's requests and decided to call the police. This is the reason why it's not so strange that Azuma and Hibari left the school without realizing what happened. When the local police arrived, they broke inside the shed and confirmed that a murder occurred. Oda claims that everything was exactly as he saw it the first time. The officers then interrogated the witnesses while waiting for the crime investigation team to take over. And with this my report is concluded."

Erika: "Very interesting. Amusing, indeed! So, when are we going to that school? I'm dying to see the place with my own eyes!"