It seems that Satsukawa is a bit disappointed, he probably thinks that we have reached yet another dead end. We have learned a lot of many interesting facts, and we now have a clearer picture regarding the crime scene and the murder weapon. However very little progress has been made toward learning the identity of the culprit, and the whole situation that led the murderer to commit this crime is still uncharted territory.
Satsukawa: "Teramoto, during our present and past conversations you showed an extraordinary knowledge about this school and its students. It seems to me that you managed to create a very efficient network that let you know everything about everyone here. Is there really nothing that you can tell us about Gotsuji?"
So he was thinking about that. That wasn't a bad question at all anyway. If there is one person that would know about any possible rumors regarding Gotsuji, that one is certainly Teramoto.
Teramoto: "Hitomi Gotsuji... I think you're giving me too much credit by saying that I know everything about everyone. I did have several followers that would act as my eyes and ears... That's how I learned of Kubota's hobbies. Even so, I only know what other people tell me, and everything I know about that girl, I learned it from Kagami. You should rather ask this question to her. I'm sorry I can't be of much help..."
Satsukawa: "I see... thanks anyway, Teramoto."
Teramoto: "Wait a moment though..."
Interesting. She seems to have suddenly recollected something from her memories. The look in her face suggests that she is taking an effort in piecing the facts together. My detective instinct is telling me that a relevant clue is about to be revealed, I can sniff its smell in the air.
Teramoto: "Yes... I think that was..."
Erika: "Don't rush it. Think about it with calm and tell us all the details."
Teramoto: "That's not something that happened at school... it was a few months ago... I think it was the day after Christmas."
The end of December of the past year.
Around that time Gotsuji grew a sudden interest in dating sites. In addition, that's when she started purchasing more expensive stuff than she could normally afford.
This can't be a coincidence. Something must have happened between December and January, something that triggered a chain of events that ultimately led to the crime I need to solve.
Teramoto: "I had just arrived at Shinjuku with my friends. Since we live on the suburbs, we don't really have many chances to hang around the most famous wards and districts of Tokyo. Shinjuku, Harajuku, Shibuya, Akihabara, they're like myths to us. We always dream of going there to have fun. So it isn't unusual for the students of this school to visit those places during long school holidays. I was with Kagami, among the others, and then suddenly she told me that she spotted Gotsuji.
I usually don't pay too much attention to everything that Kagami says. It wasn't very likely that she actually recognized one of our schoolmates in the middle of that crowd, but then I followed the direction where she was pointing at with her finger, and I remember that I thought that she was probably right. To be honest, the girl that I saw was walking away from us, so I didn't even see her face, but Kagami seemed to be pretty sure that it was her.
We just went on our way then, and so I never put that much thought into that. However just a while back I remembered, and I just realized that if it was her, then she was all alone in that place. But there's more, because, now that I think about it, from there she could only be heading toward Kabukichou..."
Satsukawa: "... Are you sure?"
Teramoto: "No... not really..."
Kabukichou... of all the places. That's a well known red light district, under the control of the yakuza no less. That's the place to go if you're looking for hostess clubs, soaplands and love hotels.
Don't tell me that the Sumadera are involved again. Those people are everywhere... they are behind everything... they...
No, calm down, Erika. Think rationally. This is a murder mystery, criminal organizations are forbidden. Besides killing people in such a conspicuous way is not in their style. They aren't amateurs.
Satsukawa: "I find it very hard to believe that a teenage girl would adventure there all alone."
Teramoto: "Yeah... you're right... It was probably someone else."
No, it actually matches perfectly. Everything points into that direction, it can't be a simple coincidence. Hibari must have some kind of special ability to recognize people to compensate for her substandard intellect. Still, what a funny coincidence, this is definitely something that I can use for my plans.
Erika: "Do you remember anything else about that girl? Even small particulars are important."
Teramoto: "No... I don't think so... I have very fuzzy memories of that..."
Erika: "Go back with your mind to that time, focus on the image that is still imprinted in your little gray cells. Remember what you saw that day. Are you sure she was alone? Do you remember how she was dressed? Was there anything off about her?"
Teramoto: "She wore casual clothes, I don't know... there were people around her of course... She was in the middle of a crowd..."
Erika: "I see, well it's all right..."
Teramoto: "Wait... I think I know why she somehow stood out. She was... She was acting suspiciously."
Teramoto: "As if she didn't want to be seen."
This is really interesting.
Today Satsukawa brought me the recovered data from Gotsuji's personal computer. According to those files the victim made several searches regarding dating sites, especially those meant for people residing in the Tokyo area. I checked the dates of when each of those files was first downloaded in her hard disk, and the earliest were from December 27 of the past year. In other words it started exactly the day after Teramoto allegedly saw Gotsuji heading all alone toward Kabukichou.
Just what happened exactly that day? According to Teramoto it shouldn't be surprising if a student of this school went to Shinjuku during holidays, but alone? It would make more sense if Gotsuji was with one or more friends, unless she was up to no good to begin with.
And what about that last part? Acting suspiciously? She didn't want to be seen? While in the middle of a huge a crowd?
Erika: "Uh? What are you yelling for?"
Satsukawa: "I've been calling you for a while, are you still with us?"
Erika: "Sheesh, I was just thinking. You should try that sometimes."
Satsukawa: "I wanted to know if you had more questions. I think we should call it a day, it's pretty late. Teramoto's parents will begin to worry, if she stays any longer."
Erika: "I have no objections, I don't think we'll get anything else from her."
Satsukawa: "Okay then. Teramoto, I'm going to give you a ride back to your place."
Teramoto: "Eh, that's not necessary..."
Satsukawa: "I insist, it's the least I can do to make up for keeping you here. Don't worry, I have no intention to climb all the stairs up to your family's shrine."
That's a nice way to say he doesn't plan to talk to her parents, which is what Teramoto was worrying about.
Satsukawa: "All right, just let me make a call first. I'll be back in a few minutes."
Erika: "Be quick, a gentleman should never make ladies wait."
Before leaving the room, Satsukawa leans briefly toward me.
Satsukawa: "Be nice."
Yeah, sure. I am not going to eat the witness alive, I promise.
So it's me and Teramoto now, the two of us, all by ourselves.
Awkward... and yet, decidedly amusing. Because between the two of us, Teramoto is certainly the one who is feeling more discomfort. She is the defeated and I am the victor, this is only natural.
I gleefully observe her nervous gestures. This is actually a pretty funny sideshow.
Surprisingly, it seems that Teramoto is trying to start a conversation. So that's why she was so restless.
Teramoto: "You know what's going to happen to me starting from tomorrow, right?"
I see, this is what she was brooding over.
Erika: "Let's see. According to my predictions, not even you have the power to keep the extraordinarily crazy event that has just happened under wraps. It was too exciting and gossip-worthy to expect those first year students to keep silent about it. Most of them are probably already spreading the news by phone. Tomorrow this will be the hot topic of this school. By the start of lunch break there won't be a single student left that won't know about it, including boys. Naturally that means everyone will know that you always lied, everyone will know that you're just a vulgar trickster. More importantly, everyone will know what an unsightly defeat you suffered against me.
It goes without saying that any kind of power you had before today will be gone. Most of your 'loyal' subjects will probably turn against you. They'll claim that they were tricked as well to save themselves from the inevitable scorn and hostility. Don't worry, though, Hibari isn't smart enough to abandon the sinking boat.
I think you should prepare yourself to face even harsher accusations. Once it will be decreed that you're a villain, everyone will find convenient to use you as a scapegoat. I have no doubts that you'll be accused to be Gotsuji's murderer. Trust me, I have quite some experience about this kind of stuff. Hibari won't have it easier, they'll say that she's your accomplice. Some will even suggest that she killed Gotsuji following your orders.
The whole school will turn against you, people will talk behind your back and sneer. Wherever you will look, you'll meet malign stares, accusing you, despising you, besmirching you.
You see, Teramoto, what you said about the fact that everyone deep down is a bully is indeed one of the sad truths of this world. However some people are bound by what they call 'morality'. That basically means that they won't easily commit 'evil' acts, because that would tarnish the image of rectitude that they have of themselves. But that doesn't mean that they lack the same primordial and barbaric impulses of everyone else. So those upstanding and praiseworthy people subconsciously look for morally questionable scapegoats. Against those they can safely unleash their repressed sadism. It's all right, because those are evil, they don't need to feel bad about scum. It's eye for an eye, right? Even if they aren't the offended party, they'll feel entitled to be the executors of that distorted vengeance, and then they'll call it justice or karma.
What I'm getting at, Teramoto, is that you can't even count on those so called 'good-willed' persons. They will all gang up on you. Even those who normally wouldn't bother will jump on the bandwagon just to follow the flow. They will all rejoice for the advent of a special scapegoat which they'll be able to bully with no remorse."
Teramoto: "Stop!!! STOP IT!!!"