Kujirai did not have any particular intentions of pulling off the perfect crime. Never an avid reader of detective novels- in the first place- he didn’t have an accurate understanding of what the term perfect crime even meant. At the point his hands were sullied in crime, he understood all too well it was leagues away from perfect; to start with, if such perfection truly did exist, Kujirai would never have had to retire from the world of competitive swimming—his unrewarded present state had already been proven by the world as a whole to an unnatural degree.
However, even if it wasn’t perfect, the need to aim for perfection was only human nature, and even if it was impossible to achieve completion with the whole, perfecting an individual part of it was a conceivable possibility—or so Kujirai thought. Otherwise, there was far too little salvation. And as long as one portion was complete, it was surely possible to feign completion in the larger picture.
Taken to the logical extreme, no matter how much evidence remained, no matter how clear the motive was—as long as the suspect’s alibi was unshakable, then as far as the law was concerned, it was impossible to make him out as guilty.
Alibi—right, the proof of absence from the scene.
The evidence he was not at the site of the murder.
Originally, that alone would be the minimum necessity.
And so it was, that on that day, at three in the afternoon, Kujirai found himself walking around the business district to forge his unshakable alibi; it wasn’t as if he had any concrete plan. In order to aim for perfection, to move however the situation called for, Kujirai intentionally neglected to plan out the details. If he scheduled out the finer details, the evidence might remain, he convinced himself somewhat neurotically. From the start, Kujirai knew he would definitely be placed under suspicious once the matter came to light—he may have been paranoid, but it was a justified paranoia.
Now then, the most reliable evidence would have to be being witnessed by a large number of people, and have them testify ‘he was there’; however, society is blind to the individual to a surprising degree. When he wasn’t famous by any accounts, if he wanted to leave an impression on a great many ‘eyes’, he would either have to cause an outburst in public, or take some eccentric behavior. If possible, he wanted to avoid standing out or the worse. Gathering strange attention carried a danger of hindering his actions thereafter.
That’s why, at most, as natural as could be, he needed to leave an impression on a third party—third party. Right, it went without saying that whoever testified to Kujirai’s alibi would have to be a third party—and the more of a third party they were, the more complete his alibi would be.
He had heard that family testimony was too weak for an alibi, and in that case, a close friend’s words couldn’t be too strong either—the most desirable person was one with absolutely no relations to himself, if possible, someone he was meeting for the first time.
With that on his mind, Kujirai prowled the main street—he came to a stop. More precisely, his eyes came to a stop—his eyes locked onto a single woman reading through a paperback as she elegantly sipped her coffee on a café terrace.
It was a sight that made for an exceptionally pretty picture. As her hair was all white, for a moment, he misread her age, but on closer inspection, she was a young woman whose age wasn’t much different from his own. It would be quite odd if she was dying her hair to be fashionable… but her tight skirt that went to knee length, and her three-quarter-sleeve blouse gave off a charmingly down-to-earth aura. The glasses she wore made her seem somewhat intellectual.
Of course, to Kujirai, there was absolutely no need for her to be the one giving testimony—anyone would do. It could be someone from the next table, or just as well the table across. But how miserable would it be if he spent too much time being nitpicky and he exceeded the three o’ clock he needed an alibi for?
With that on his mind, the white hair began to look convenient. With that characteristic hairstyle, she should be considerably easy to search out at a later date—especially with beauty on her level. Surely she will be the one to prove my innocence—Kujirai thought as he approached with a grin.
Not knowing anything about her.
“Is this seat open?”
Kujirai said as he pulled back the seat across from the white-haired woman. Softly raising her eyes from the book she’d been reading,
“Go right ahead,”
She conceded surprisingly easily.
“I was just in the business of looking for someone to talk to.”
Having thought the conversation would start with confusion, Kujirai tasted something similar to a letdown, but just because that was the direction, that was no reason not to sit—after a glance at his wristwatch, Kujirai lowered himself down.
He placed a drink order with the waiter who came by—granted, every single entry on the menu was coffee. A long listing of nothing but brands Kujirai didn’t know.
So this was a coffee specialist store… A quick glance and the white-haired woman’s cup didn’t verify any traces of the use of sugar or milk. It did seem she drank it black; that was a little different from her fluffy appearance suggested. While he wasn’t trying to compete, Kujirai ordered it black as well.
“Are you alone? Or are you waiting for someone?”
“I’m alone. I’m generally alone.”
The woman closed her book. As it was draped in a hand-made-looking cover, he couldn’t read the title.
“It turned out that I’m off from work this afternoon, so I’ve got myself some time to spare. Well, it can’t be too rare.”
“Work… hmm. What do you do?”
It was midday on a weekday. At the very least, she couldn’t be an office worker. Granted, Kujirai was in pretty much the same boat.
“Umm, I can’t give the specifics, but I conduct inquiries on this and that. But I didn’t expect that today’s inquiry would finish before noon… It’s a real problem to be too fast at your job.”
She said quite carefree—with how calm and level she seemed, she didn’t look like the type to work with such speed. Inquiry… was she taking surveys or something? Certainly, if such a beauty called out, he felt like he’d respond to any poll she handed out.
“And what do you do?”
“Oh, I’m an instructor at a swimming school.”
He divulged his identity.
“Hmm. No wonder you have such a splendid physique. Your job must be training you hard.”
He didn’t expect to hear that. He didn’t think he was wearing the sort of clothes that would show the lines of his body…
“Can I ask for your name? I’m Kujirai.”
“It’s Kyouko. A pleasure to meet you.”
Once again, he was surprised with how easily she told him—He couldn’t help but repeat it back meaninglessly. Did this person called Kyouko-san have no wariness towards an unfamiliar man she was meeting for the first time? As long as she’d testify to his alibi, then even if she treated him coldly, he thought that would be perfectly fine, but… it kinda felt like there was hope after all. Although rather than a lack of wariness, he felt it more precise to say that she had leisure—the sort of leisure that no matter what happened, she could handle it at her own discretion.
Perhaps Kyouko-san was a fake name—though Kujirai wouldn’t be particularily troubled even if that was the case.
“Kyouko-san, do you come here often?”
Once the coffee (by the way, based off Kujirai’s common sense, it was an outrageously priced coffee) was brought over, Kujirai took a sip (once again by his common sense, it was an outrageously bitter and sour coffee) as he asked.
This wasn’t simple curiosity.
If Kyouko-san was a foreigner and she said it was her first time coming to this shop and this town, he feared it might be difficult to track her down later—while he may have been reading too deeply into it, if it were to create a complete alibi, it was better the more thought he put in.
“Who knows… I wonder.”
But there, Kyouko-san offered a strangely evasive answer.
“Judging by the barista’s attitude, it does seem I might be a regular, but I couldn’t say.”
“……? Mnn, that so.”
It was considerably hard to retort when she said it with such a gentle smile—well, if she was working in the area through the morning, she probably didn’t live too far away, Kujirai decided. He couldn’t quite ask a complete stranger where they lived…
Taking the adequate sense of distance for one giving testimony, he was better off refraining from asking for phone numbers or emails. He had to forge a relation for ‘here and now’. While it did feel like a waste, the testimony itself was something of a promise to meet again, taking a patient stance did seem for the best.
Whatever the case, for that day his undivided attention was to make an alibi.
“What are you reading?”
Kujirai pointed at the book Kyouko-san had closed and placed to the side—it was a somewhat thick paperback. He wasn’t very interested, to be honest, but he needed to pick a topic.
“It’s a mystery novel. A collection of Sunaga Hirubee’s short stories. Have you read it?”
While Kyouko-san did open the cover and flash the contents, it was naturally a book Kujirai didn’t know—he’d never even heard the title. But the words mystery novel gave him a start, as someone right in the midst of forging an alibi.
“Is it interesting?”
“Yes, quite. It’s got my recommendation—especially the story I just finished, ‘Sentenced to Conversion’ is a masterpiece.”
“Hmm. And what sort of story was it?”
“I can’t tell you that. It would be a spoiler. Mystery novels are about the mystery.”
“Oh c’mon, just tell me.”
“I wouldn’t dare.”
While he wasn’t that interested, when she refuted him so obstinately, it was human nature to grow curious.
“Then just up to where it’s not a spoiler.”
“Well, it’s a short story, you know. No matter what I say, it will spoil something… if I had to say, it’s a story about how a convicted criminal is reformed after that.”
That really didn’t get anything across.
I’ll have to read it on my own… Kujirai thought as he tentatively recorded the book title and author name on his phone’s memo pad. Honestly, he couldn’t imagine he’d have the opportunity to read it, but it might prove useful somewhere.
“Do you have any other mystery novels you’d recommend?”
If reading was her hobby, he thought he could kill time by hearing out her impressions of her favorite story, but with that approach, the bottleneck of mystery novel spoilers would seal her lips, so Kujirai changed topic. The plan was apparently a success.
“My favorite mystery, it’s from quite a while ago, but… do you mind?”
“Oh no, go right ahead.”
Kyouko-san began to prattle on.
Kujirai concentrated and listened—it was, of course, to form an alibi, but as she joyfully spoke on about her favorite books, it was hard to say there was nothing he found captivating.
After that, Kujirai took ample time, over an hour talking to Kyouko-san. When it came to his honest impression, it was an enjoyable exchange he wanted to continue, but that would be putting the cart before the horse.
“Ah… crap. I’m sorry, I had an arrangement tonight. I’ve got to get going.”
While a bit like an excuse, somewhat intentional-sounding, he gave his piece and picked up both cheques as he stood from his seat. “Is that so?” Kyouko-san didn’t particularly try to stop him.
That being the case, as they parted, Kyouko smiled and waved her hand, “Well then, some other time, if we ever meet again, please do try seducing me from scratch.” She said, so perhaps Kujirai’s sudden exit did ruin her mood—not that there was anything he could do about it.
He couldn’t dawdle and let someone else discover the scene first—Kujirai had to be the first witness no matter what. More so, it was no exaggeration to say he had forged a complete alibi solely to be the first to stumble upon it. Walking to the nearest station with slightly-hastened gait, he hopped on the tram.
It didn’t take long to reach his destination—the apartment where Unagi lived. Room 702 of the complex—he had once frequented the place and even owned a spare key, there was no way he’d get lost.
Still, be that as it may, he was nervous. Couldn’t he still turn back now? Wasn’t there some other way? He felt the temptation might take him. But he was gravely aware of how impossible that was.
There was already no turning back.
He would do what he had to, carry out what must be done—for appearance’s sake, he tried the intercom to Room 702 to no response. After pressing it a second, a third time, he had prepared himself to take the spare key from his pocket.
He undid the two locks starting from the top and opened the door— by the time he removed his shoes and took a step into the dark insides, his resolve had been made. Rather than resolve, perhaps it was more accurate to say he had killed his emotions.
He was the first on the scene, he didn’t have to care about fingerprints. Upon entering, he immediately opened the door to the bathroom. No one was there. However, a cord plugged into the sink socket was stretched to its limit, stretching towards the shower. With the cord in the way, the shower room’s folding door couldn’t close completely.
Kujirai threw that door open all the same. The cord from the sink led right into the bathtub. The appliance in the large tub was a dryer, just as expected.
In the bathwater, Unagi was dead.
Electrocuted… was the pain only for an instant? Did it drag on a long time? There was no way Kujirai who hadn’t experienced it would know, but whatever the case, he quietly pulled his phone from his pants pocket. For the first time in his life, with no need to enter the password, he placed a call to that number that didn’t incur any fees.
And he spoke in as great of a panic as he could muster.
“H… hello!? I-is this the police!? Somebody’s been killed!”