Friday, July 6, 2012

Chapter 2 (b)

This is really a crazy riddle, but considering Rokudou's character this was to be expected. Behind his mask of a very professional man, he's a sadist at heart. I bet he was one of those kids that enjoyed burning ants with a magnifying lens.
But who am I to judge him in the end? All that matters is that his services are absolutely invaluable to me, I can't really live my usual life without him.
Anyway this riddle is absolutely cruel, I can see the many ramifications that this set up could generate, and the intricate design that is quickly forming in my mind is... terrific!

Erika: "I see where this is going, Rokudou."

Rokudou: "Is that so? Hu hu hu."

Erika: "This a set up that is meant to get the worse or the best out of people. Are you a hero or a villain? In this situation you're given the chance to become a true savior or a vile betrayer. There is no act that incarnates the concept of good better than relinquishing your very life to save others. I believe that the largest religion of this world revolves around this concept. Now I guess some would say that saving the world is quite different from saving three persons, but I once read that who saves a life saves an entire world. In the same book it's said that who destroys a soul destroys an entire the world. And what can destroy a soul? I think that being betrayed by whom you trust is among the most heart shattering experiences. And what worse betrayal than that which causes your death? Then you'd be killed twice, both in the mind and in the body.
But there is an interesting factor in this setup that makes it hard to perform either act."

Rokudou: "Please continue, milady, your reasonings are as always extremely fascinating."

Erika: "If it wasn't for this setup a hero could simply abruptly jump down into the fire. He wouldn't have to make the others agree with his plan. This would be a quick and easy resolution. The same way a villain would just need to push one of his 'friends' taking him by surprise. He could even make it look like an accident, if he's crafty. But because of the particular setup, you can't just do that."

Dlanor: "It would be possible if all the statues were on one platform, and all the people were on the other. However Mister Rokudou said that they are both equally distributed. That means there are two persons and two statues on one side and two persons and two statues on the other."

Erika: "Exactly! So in this situation if our hero decided to jump without saying a thing, or if our villain pushed the man closer to him, everyone would die!"

Rokudou: "How come you say that everyone would die? Wouldn't one person be saved in both cases?"

Erika: "Not at all! Maybe this is what a dimwitted villain would think, and it'd be quite hilarious if that were to happen! Let's think about the situation in realistic terms. If you realized that the platform you're standing on is going down, wouldn't you panic and quickly jump onto the other?"

Dlanor: "In other words suddenly there would be two statues on one side and three persons and two statues on the other."

Rokudou: "Terrific! Hu hu hu hu! Even if they quickly removed the statues they'd still weight more."

Erika: "I doubt anyone could manage to get rid of two statues and two men before reaching the bottom."

Rokudou: "But what about this? A truly evil mastermind decides to push the man near him. Then when the others panicking jump to his platform, he jumps to theirs."

Erika: "Hilarious! But quite risky. Who says that this plan would actually work?"

Dlanor: "In the end the first thing that should be done would be move all the statues to one side and all people to the other."

Erika: "Definitely, but it wouldn't be a simple task. You'd need at least two persons to move a statue, this would require a lot of coordination and cooperation. And I wonder if everyone would simply agree to do so before deciding what to do next.
Even if our hero volunteered to be the sacrifice, would everyone else simply agree with it? But this is an unlikely scenario anyway. I think in the end most people would end up deciding to choose randomly one to leave behind."

Rokudou: "And would the chosen one simply accept it, I wonder? Hu hu hu hu."

Erika: "No much problem there. It'd be three against one. I guess that's why the minimum amount of persons to play this game is four."

Dlanor: "So in the end you need to sacrifice one person to save three."

Erika: "Rokudou, let's say that we do that and that you lose at rock paper scissor, what would you do then?"

Rokudou: "That's an interesting question. If that were to happen I'd know I'd have little chances of survival."

Erika: "Chances of survival? I'd leave you with only two choices: jump directly into the fire, or move onto the next platform. I'd suggest the latter, so you could watch us as we'd slowly reach the exit while you'd slowly reach your doom."

Rokudou: "I don't think I could decide that so easily. In the end I'm quite attached to my life, I'd try to bide my time."

Erika: "There's no time! Soon there won't be enough water on those statues to get us out of here. If you can't decide, Rokudou, we'll decide for you."

Dlanor: "You have lost in a fair game. By the rules that we have established and that you have accepted, you are to forfeit your life for the benefit of the rest."

Rokudou: "Wait!"

Erika: "We won't wait! Die, Rokudooou!"

Rokudou: "But as I said, I can't simply accept to die without trying all that I can to survive!"

Erika: "And what do you think you can do against the three of us? You want to fight? Don't even think about taking the cleaver from that statue, as soon as you'd even try getting close to it I'd push you down!"

Rokudou: "No, I'd never think I could get away with it by fighting. It would be foolish."

Erika: "Indeed! It'd be completely pointless! So you might as well accept your inevitable fate without further delay!"

Rokudou: "Wait!"

Erika: "There's no tiiiime!"

Rokudou: "This is a riddle, milady! A riddle! Surely there must be a way to save everyone! Is that really all right for you to give up so easily and choose the easy way out?!"

Dlanor: "..."

Erika: "Pfft... A ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!! Well done, Rokudou! Well done! If you'd say so there's simply no way I'd let you go! I'd rather let everyone die while waiting than accepting my defeat in this intellectual challenge! And so we'd be suddenly two against two! No, Dlanor would be on my side too, isn't it? Ha ha ha ha!"

Rokudou: "Hu hu hu, well played, milady, but you can't fool me, you knew I'd say so, you just wanted me to say it!"

Erika: "Indeed! You really think I didn't already realize that the real solution to this game couldn't be that simple? But I needed you to show me how much you wanted to live first. I needed you to show me your determination! And you played your cards well, you've been found worthy to hear my reasoning! Now I can tell you what your real two choices are! You want to survive Rokudou? I can't promise you that, but if you want to try, then I'll tell you how!"

Rokudou: "I'm listening, milady..."

Erika: "All that we need in order to move up is a five kilograms difference. Then why do we need to remove a whole body?! Aaah! Just because of the existence of that massive cleaver, this level of reasoning is possible for Erika Furudo! The choice is yours, Rokudou! Would you rather die relatively quickly by throwing yourself into the fire, or would you rather suffer a lot more by trying your chances at living and letting me dismember you? Whatever you choose is fine with me! Either way I have already solved this riddle! What do you think, everyone?!"

Dlanor: "..."

Rokudou: "Terrific... Terrific! Hu hu hu hu... ha ha ha ha!!!"

What an awesome butler I have! Look at him, he's simply ecstatic! He's laughing and clapping his hands as if he just witnessed the Japanese football team winning the world cup. Now that would be something to celebrate, but me solving a riddle? It wasn't even that hard, seriously. And yet I must admit that it has been fun.
And then we hear someone knocking at the door, this time it must be Satsukawa. Finally!
I invite him to enter, and Rokudou recomposes himself.

Satsukawa: "Good morning, everyone."

Erika: "You came at the right moment, Satsukawa-san! Between dying burned alive and being dismembered by a cleaver, what would you prefer?"

Satsukawa: "Uh... huh?!"

Rokudou: "Pfft... hu hu hu hu!"

Satsukawa: "I'm sure there's a funny story behind that..."

Erika: "Funny, indeed! We were talking about riddles."

Satsukawa: "I don't want to know how I'm involved with that. By the way, I have the answer to your question! You thought I wouldn't find it, right? But I did! Ha ha!"

Erika: "Question? Which question?"

Satsukawa: "The question about the shed's door! You asked me how I'd close the door from outside!"

Erika: "Oh, that... So, did it take you a whole day to figure it out?"

Satsukawa: "Ugh... you're mean..."

Erika: "He said I'm mean! *giggle*"

Rokudou: "Did you notice only now, Satsukawa-san? Hu hu hu."

Satsukawa: "Rokudou-san too!"

Erika: "All right, what did you come up with to solve that problem?"

Satsukawa: "I'd use a string! It's really a simple thing when you realize it!"

Erika: "You should have realized it instantly precisely because it's extremely simple."

Satsukawa: "Well... anyway you just need to tie a string to the latch's handle, then you close the door and by pulling the string through the small crack you can make the metal bar slide into the locked position!"

Erika: "Clever, and what exactly would you do after that?"

Satsukawa: "After?"

Erika: "Do you plan to leave the string attached? Oh, that would be pretty stupid, even for you."

Satsukawa: "Well... I'd just pull the string very hard until it breaks..."

Erika: "Great! And I suppose the string will conveniently break where it's tied to the handle, right?"

Satsukawa: "Oh, come on! Give me a break!"

Erika: "Sigh... Rokudou, how would you do it?"

Rokudou: "Hmmm, I think there's no need to tie one end of the string to the handle. Rather, I think I'd wrap the middle around it, a single loop should suffice. Then I'd take both ends outside with me. By pulling both ends at the same time I should still manage to make the latch slide in position, then I'd pull a single end to retrieve the string."

Erika: "There you have it."

Satsukawa: "I would've get it, given the time! I just didn't think about this issue before..."

Erika: "The mere fact that you didn't think about it is a huge flaw in your thinking processes."

Satsukawa: "Okay, okay! You're the genius and I'm the idiot! You promised that you'd tell me about your reasonings, if I could find a way to close the door from outside."

Erika: "But you did it wrong."

Satsukawa: "The only thing you asked was for a way to close it from outside! You never specified anything else!"

Erika: "Interesting! What do you think, Dlanor?"

Dlanor: "It is a valid argument, you never asked anything more than that."

Erika: "All right, Satsukawa-san, I decided to reward you for finding this loophole."

Satsukawa: "Ugh... thanks..."

Rokudou: "Hu hu hu!"

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Chapter 2 (a)


Dlanor: "If two carpenters can make two tables in two days, how many tables can a carpenter make in six days?"

Erika: "Three."

Dlanor: "The seven letters in 'new door' can be rearranged to form one word, true or false?"

Erika: "True, you just said it."

Dlanor: "You are a shepherd and you need to take four sheep to the other side of a river, however one is a wolf in sheep's clothing. You cannot tell who the wolf is and if you leave it alone with a lone sheep, that sheep will be devoured. Two animals at a time can be taken on the boat. How do you manage to bring all the animals to the other side without risking losses?"

Erika: "I take only one animal on the first trip, then two, then the remaining."

Dlanor: "If a rooster laid a brown egg..."

Erika: "Roosters don't lay eggs."

Dlanor: "If an apple is worth two pears and three pears are worth two peaches, how many peaches you need to trade to get three apples?"

Erika: "four"

Dlanor: "If you say it, you break it."

Erika: "Silence."

Dlanor: "If fifteen years ago a boy was three times older than his little sister, and if eighteen years ago he was five times older, how old would the boy be today?"

Erika: "33 years old."

Dlanor: "One, three, five, four... which number comes next?"

Erika: "Four, and then four, and four, and four... an endless series of fours."

Dlanor: "You fear it, you shun it, and yet you are still walking toward it."

Erika: "Death."

Dlanor: "What can change the nature of a man?"

Erika: "An endless torment."

Dlanor: "A very good answer, Miss Erika."

Erika: "That question wasn't even a riddle, there are no wrong or right answers to that."

Dlanor: "No, I think that yours was the best possible answer."

Erika: "Anyway this is getting boring."

Dlanor: "It is not my fault, Miss Erika, I do not know any riddle that you cannot solve."

Erika: "The truth is that you only know childish riddles. None of them are challenging enough for someone gifted with as many little grey cells as I possess."

I hear someone knocking at the door, it must be Rokudou."

Erika: "Come in, the door is open."

Just as I expected, it's my butler. He brought my tea and my kompeito as he promised yesterday.

Rokudou: "Good morning, milady, I hope this room was of your liking and that you had a pleasant stay."

Erika: "It was fine, not exactly what I'm used to, but I don't complain. I suppose there wasn't really anything better in this forsaken ward of Tokyo."

Rokudou: "That is the case, unfortunately. Good morning, Dlanor."

Dlanor: "It is not necessary to greet me, Mister Rokudou."

Rokudou: "It would be rude not to. But I think you were having a conversation before I interrupted you, please don't mind me and feel free to continue."

Erika: "It wasn't really a conversation, I was getting bored and I asked Dlanor to entertain me with her riddles."

Dlanor: "It was a pointless request."

Rokudou: "Hu hu, I suppose milady can't really get any fun from a riddle, if it's Dlanor to tell them."

Erika: "Absolutely... it was truly disappointing."

Rokudou: "I believe milady requires something unconventional and more elaborated than a standard riddle."

Erika: "Indeed, I really wish for something that requires to truly think out of the box for once."

Rokudou: "Hmmm... well, there's this strange story I've read, I'm not sure if it's enough of a challenge for you, milady, but I think it will be of your liking."

Erika: "Interesting, a riddle from Rokudou, this looks promising."

Rokudou: "You really do like riddles, milady."

Erika: "It's always been a passion of mine, no matter how stupid and pointless they are, it's like a drug."

I gulp my kompeito and sip the tea Rokudou brought me.

Erika: "Go on, I'm listening."

Rokudou: "Before I start, I must let you know that this is a story, a very strange story. You need to imagine yourself in the situation described in order to full appreciate it."

Erika: "Okay, I'll try."

Rokudou: "You need to imagine yourself with three people you know, three people you consider your friends."

Erika: "There's no one I consider my friend."

Rokudou: "Then imagine three persons that are important to you, for example, what about Dlanor?"

Erika: "Okay, I'm with Dlanor, you and Satsukawa. How about that? I can't think of anything better."

Rokudou: "I suppose that will do, but this fictional experience is best to be lived when you're imagining to be with people you truly care for."

Erika: "I see, I guess I won't truly enjoy it then."

Rokudou: "Let's see. You and your companions one day wake up in a very strange situation. Somehow you were kidnapped in your sleep, and you have absolutely no memory of the events that led you where you are now. You are on two suspended metal platforms, they are very close to each other, enough for people to go from one to another with ease. But you soon realize that they are connected to each other with chains from above and they form a sort of scale. If a platform goes down the other goes up and vice versa. After a few first minutes of complete confusion, you realize that the only exit from this prison is above. If you were to stand on a platform and cause the other to go down to the bottom, you'd reach the upper floor and you'd be free."

Erika: "Then I'd just tell you and Satsukawa to stand on one platform while I and Dlanor stay on the other. Your weight should be enough to pull us up."

Rokudou: "I'm glad you quickly understood the basic concept of this set up, milady, however there are complicating factors that I still haven't mentioned. Before that, may I ask you what would you do about me and Satsukawa to get us free?"

Erika: "Does this riddle require to find a way to set everyone free?"

Rokudou: "Well, it assumes that you'd want to save everyone, that's why you need to imagine you're with your friends. Oh, and this works even better if you tell this story to the four persons involved, or five or more, and see how they decide to solve this problem together."

Erika: "Five? How does that even work?"

Rokudou: "Hu, hu, I still haven't told you everything."

Erika: "Okay, so I suppose that everyone wants to free themselves without sacrificing anyone else. Is that so?"

Rokudou: "That's one of the way you can imagine it, hu hu hu!"

Erika: "Still, as long as you don't tell me everything, this problem is really trivial. As long as one person reaches the upper floor, there are several ways for her to free the others. She can find a rope or she can find more weights to drag on the platform that just went up."

Rokudou: "Indeed, if that was all, I suppose there wouldn't be any real problem."

Erika: "Then, what's the catch?"

Rokudou: "The bottom is burning with hellish flames, milady, you are inside of a giant furnace. You find yourself exactly midway between the top and the bottom. One platform needs to be engulfed in the fiery fire for the other to reach salvation."

Erika: "Ha ha! Well, I think that if I actually found myself in the situation I'd still go with the original plan."

Rokudou: "I wonder if Satsukawa-san would just let you do that, hu hu hu..."

Erika: "What about you, Rokudou? Wouldn't you sacrifice yourself to save your mistress?"

Rokudou: "I regretfully must admit that I wouldn't be very happy at the idea. And I fear that our servant-mistress relationship would be void in such situation. We'd be on a completely equal standing."

Erika: "There's no need to fake embarrassment, Rokudou. You serve me because I pay you. Of course you value your life more than my money. I was just teasing you."

Rokudou: "I'm glad you understand, milady."

Erika: "Anyway, I think you still didn't tell me everything. At first I thought that this was just a lazy riddle and that you were simply overlooking the fact that different people weights differently, which would make balancing impossible in most cases. But then you said this can be done even with five people."

Rokudou: "Indeed, you see, there are four statues with you on the platforms. Both you and the statues are equally distributed so to keep the platforms in a perfect balance. I must also add that the gears of this infernal contraption are kind of stiff. A difference of about five kilograms must be achieved before the platforms can be put into motion."

Erika: "I see, so each person has its own counterweight. This makes things less problematic, at worst you just need to sacrifice a single person."

Rokudou: "It might be just a single person, but for that single person her life is everything. There is something I must tell you about these statues. Three of them represent humans on their knees in submissive stances. The remaining shows a man standing in the act of striking someone with a really massive cleaver."

Erika: "In other words they suggest a human sacrifice. *giggle* *giggle*"

Rokudou: "When you inspect closely the statues you realize that they're hollow. They have holes in which water was poured in. You understand that whoever put you in this situation calibrated the statues' weights by adding the necessary water in them."

Erika: "Wait a moment! Water? This is a giant furnace, you said, it must be extremely hot..."

Rokudou: "Hu hu hu! Indeed, you don't have much time! The more you wait the more the water inside the statues will evaporate. You must decide what to do and quickly! But if it's any consolation, you're losing water too, so you have a little more time than you may think. Hu hu hu hu!"

Erika: "What a truly horrific situation! Well done, Rokudou, I'm still not sure if this will prove to be a worthwhile riddle, but you have already reached the objective of entertaining me with your sadistic story! *giggle* *giggle*"

Rokudou: "I knew it'd be of your liking, milady. There is just another small particular that I need to mention. The cleaver the statue is holding is real. It can be taken out from the statue's hand and used."

Dlanor: "The first person that takes it will gain the upper hand."

Erika: "Not so fast, Dlanor. Taking that cleaver without a justification would be the same as a declaration of war. It's not really a weapon, it wasn't meant to be used in a fight, and Rokudou said it's massive. I think it wouldn't be easy to take it and use it quickly enough. What if the other three decide to ally against you? You see, Dlanor, an average human in this situation would naturally wish to save his own life, but morality would prevent him from killing another man. However if you just give them the excuse, they'd kill you without a second thought. Take that cleaver with the intention 'to get the upper hand' and they'll decide that they're justified in killing you."

Dlanor: "But there's a risk that someone else will take it and he might be strong or intimidating enough to dissuade the others from acting."

Erika: "I never said that I wouldn't try to take it, I'd just be smart about it. I'd use my logic and my persuasive skills to be always in control of the situation."

Rokudou: "The game is set, milady, what would you do in this situation? What would the best possible solution to this conundrum be?"

Erika: "Isn't it possible to climb up using the chains?"

Rokudou: "Unfortunately that's not an option. The chains are spiked, and the spikes are poisoned!"

Erika: "Clever! And what's the height of this 'furnace' again?"

Rokudou: "About 50 meters, 25 meters separate you from salvation and from hell. And naturally you do not possess anything that might help you in this situation. All the items that you're allowed to use were already mentioned."

Dlanor: "It doesn't seem that it is possible to solve this problem without a sacrifice."

Rokudou: "What would you do, Dlanor, if you were one of the persons involved in this strange game with milady?"

Dlanor: "I would volunteer to be the sacrifice."

Erika: "Ha! As if I'd let you! You're mine, Dlanor, I won't just give you up so easily, not when there are others that can be sacrificed in your place!"

Dlanor: "Miss Erika, you should not underestimate the strength of Mister Rokudou and Mister Satsukawa combined. In such situation your brain wouldn't prove to be as useful as their brute force."

Erika: "It's hard to imagine that that Satsukawa would abandon all of his morals to save his skin... but you're right, Dlanor, this is a situation where you shouldn't really trust anyone. You might realize that people are a lot worse than how they look. They could even surprise themselves."

Rokudou: "Indeed, this is a situation where you'd really understand who truly is your friend, hu hu hu! And you'd also realize what's the extent of your trust in them!"

Erika: "For me it's very easy, I don't trust anyone."

Rokudou: "But you trust Dlanor."

Erika: "It's different. You don't normally suspect that a chair or a table will betray you. It's not a matter of trust."

Rokudou: "So, what would you do, milady?"

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Chapter 1 (l)


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

Gotsuji: "You are..."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gotsuji: "I see..."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gotsuji: "... Yes..."

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

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

Erika: "And her boyfriends?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He looks a bit irritated now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erika: "You mean Takamiya, perhaps?"

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

Erika: "Is that all?"

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

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

He lowers his eyes in embarrassment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gotsuji: "But..."

Erika: "Can I see her room?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erika: "Did Hitomi have a diary?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gotsuji: "Uh... huh?"

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

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

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

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

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

I take the headphones and put them on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Chapter 1 (k)

In the end there was nothing we could find inside the shed. Satsukawa checked every nook and cranny to no avail. I told him it was completely pointless, but he didn't listen. He double checked that I heard that sound too and that I was as sure as him that it came from the shed. Once again I told him that there was no doubt, and even Dlanor confirmed it. There is absolutely no kind of hole or crack that could be used for something, no matter how small, to exit or leave that room. Naturally the door is an exception, but it was in plain sight and we were both very close to it. For someone or something to get out from there without any of us noticing, it should have been invisible. And naturally this also applies to when Satsukawa checked the shed, because Dlanor and I stayed outside in front of that very door. Considering all these facts, I can only conclude that whatever caused that sound it had to be still inside, and yet it was completely invisible to Satsukawa's eyes.

Erika: "It's been a few minutes already since we heard that sound, Satsukawa-san, but you still look troubled. Are you still thinking about it?"

Satsukawa: "Of course I am! How am I supposed to simply forget that I've just witnessed something that defies any logic?"

Erika: "Then do you mind if I ask you something? I'm curious about your thoughts. You see, there is an inherent shortcoming in having a superior mind: it's hard to understand how a commoner sees and interprets the world. So in this situation it would help me greatly if you could tell me more about what's going on in your head."

Satsukawa: "Sure... this commoner will be more than glad to share his trivial thoughts with the great genius..."

Erika: "Perfect! Then I'll go straight to the point: are you, right now, contemplating the possibility that the sound we heard was caused by a ghost, a demon or something equally supernatural?"

Satsukawa: "Of... of course not!"

Erika: "Is that so? Are you being completely honest? In other words, are you completely positive that this event didn't shake your disbelief of the supernatural? As I said earlier, I need to understand your perspective and you aren't of any help if you lie to me."

Satsukawa: "Well... okay... maybe a little. But I really don't think it was a ghost or anything in the end!"

Erika: "You don't... as in you have absolutely no doubts or you do have some?"

Satsukawa: "It's... only natural to become a little dubious after something like that..."

Erika: "Is that so? Something like that is enough?"

Satsukawa: "You make it sound as if that wasn't a big deal! Are you telling me that it didn't faze you not even a tiny bit?"

Erika: "Big deal?! Is that a big deal for you?! Of course I couldn't be bothered less!"

Satsukawa: "So you just see something that can't be explained by natural means and you still don't even contemplate the possibility that it might have a supernatural explanation?"

Erika: "Absolutely not."

Satsukawa: "But..."

Erika: "Listen, Satsukawa-san, if you can't explain something, it just means you lack the necessary informations to comprehend it. Jumping directly to the conclusion that it must've been magic, is simply stupid."

Satsukawa: "Then... how do you explain that?"

Erika: "Sigh... why do commoners always expect to understand everything easily and instantaneously with their limited minds? Why do you need to convince yourself that it has to be magic rather than conclude that you're too stupid to understand the trick? Oh, wait... don't bother answering, it was a rhetorical question."

Satsukawa: "So what about you? If you're a genius..."

Erika: "Ah, whatever, whatever. I'm not interested in this conversation at all."

Satsukawa: "You're the one who started it..."

Erika: "I just wanted to know if such thing could be used to make someone believe in the supernatural, and I think I've got my answer already. Think if the same thing happened while you were inside the shed, during nighttime with a hundred candles dancing around you. And think if it happened to a high school girl, which would certainly be more impressionable than an adult policeman. Now think if everyone around you was pretty serious about this occult stuff. I suppose it'd have a way greater effect."

Satsukawa: "Well... I guess it would've freaked me out a lot more..."

Erika: "That's what I think. Too bad you aren't a teenage girl though, you could have given me an even better insight."

Satsukawa: "Sorry for being an adult man instead..."

Erika: "Oh, it's quite all right. You're close enough."

Satsukawa: "Great... Anyway we've arrived, that building is where Hitomi Gotsuji used to live."

I take a look outside the window, while waiting for Satsukawa to park his car. It's dark outside so I can't really see it well, but it really looks like the kind of place where you stockpile poor families that can't afford a decent home. I wonder how many apartments they managed to fit in that eight story building, probably more than I would think. Oh nevermind, you can tell simply by counting the AC condensers... and there's quite a lot! Plus there must be an equal number of apartments on the other side.

Dlanor: "It looks like a danchi."

Satsukawa: "As a matter of facts, this is indeed a danchi, a public housing, the rent is very cheap."

Erika: "There are still people living in danchi in the 21st century? I thought they were a relic of the post war era."

Satsukawa: "There are still some that survived to this day. Beside, this is one of the most recently made, it's not that antiquated, especially for what concerns the interiors."

Erika: "I see... but I don't really care about the building itself. What I'm looking for is the victim's room."

Satsukawa: "Yeah... I thought that much..."

Erika: "You've been there already?"

Satsukawa: "Yeah, we couldn't find much of use, but we took her PC. Our computer experts are examining every single byte they found in the hard disk."

Erika: "They can't afford a decent house, but instead of saving money they spend it in computers and mobile phones."

Satsukawa: "That's the kind of stuff only a rich person would say."

Erika: "Indeed, if they could even think about the importance of saving and investing money they wouldn't be poor anymore. Instead they waste what little they get into futilities and thus they're bound to remain poor forever."

Satsukawa: "You make it sound as if it's their fault."

Erika: "But it is their fault! Do you think I should pity them? They simply lack the will to get a better life, and this is what they deserve. Trust me, I know what I'm talking about. A strong will can achieve everything, even miracles."

Satsukawa: "Now that's interesting, I'd never expect you to talk about miracles."

Erika: "Don't misunderstand me, Satsukawa-san. If you think miracles are granted to you by divine providence without any effort from your part, then I'm very sorry. The witch of miracles herself once told me: miracles are called miracles because they don't happen."

Satsukawa: "Now I'm even more confused..."

Erika: "No doubt. So, where's this apartment?"

Satsukawa: "... Third floor..."