As the first person on the scene, Kujirai was questioned by a scary-faced police inspector called Hijiori—so scary, in fact, that for a moment Kujirai hesitated to undo the chain on the door. Unable to believe such a manga-esque officer existed in real life, he was bewildered at the notion he had slipped into fiction. Perhaps that alone was proof enough that his standing was still hazy.
Of course, Officer Hijiori heard out the details behind the corpse’s discovery with a gentlemanly attitude unbefitting his face. He was tactful of Kujirai, who had stumbled upon the corpse of a dear friend; you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, or rather, look at things with open eyes, or rather, whatever the case, Kujirai felt a hint of guilt at that one.
Of course, as long as he was giving false testimony, it was only natural for him to feel guilty.
‘I came by because I was invited over, only to find my friend electrocuted in the bathtub’—those were the essentials of Kujirai’s account and he didn’t throw in any superfluous detail. The more he fabricated, the more seams would show. It was not his job to exercise his wisdom, that one was for the police.
And naturally again, he wasn’t asked for his alibi there on the site—at the moment, it was being treated as an accidental death, and until the autopsy gave its result, the estimated time of death was unknown. It would be a later date that the effects of his alibi construction on the café terrace would bear its fruit.
If I get to meet Kyouko when that happens, I’ve got to apologize for leaving so abruptly—or so, Kujirai thoughts were somewhat off the mark as he left the crime scene.
Perhaps I should say, as expected, the police moved far faster than he had anticipated, and the next day, Officer Hijiori dropped by Kujirai’s apartment with two of his men. Admittedly, that storyline of ‘Using a hair dryer in the bath leading to accidental electrocution’ was pretty impossible to start with, so it was no miracle that suspicions of murder were soon to follow.
He didn’t care. No matter how inconceivable his storyline was, as long as his alibi was complete, no one would be able to make Kujirai guilty.
“Kujirai-san. My apologies, but it does seem your relationship with the victim Unagi-san was not the sort of relationship one would call close friends… it seems that lately, Unagi-san has all but broken off all relations. And yet, why, on that day, did you drop by his residence?”
Well, I guess that’s true, said he. Just asking around Unagi’s circumference would easily elucidate that fact— if he knew it was going to come to this, he wouldn’t have badmouthed Unagi so thoughtlessly, but unfortunately, Kujirai did not hold the power of precognition.
“As I said, I was called out… we’re both adults here, I didn’t hate the idea of forgetting past grudges and renewing an old friendship.”
“Is it true you were also indebted to Unagi-san?”
The one who intruded with those words wasn’t Hijiori, but one of his subordinates behind him. From the man’s hot-blooded zeal, it was as if he had already concluded Kujirai was the culprit—perhaps he was one of Unagi’s fans as a competitive swimmer.
While Kujirai had no recollection of being in any debt to Unagi, perhaps he had borrowed some slight living expenses here and there when they still got along—though saying that would be a tad off the mark.
“After investigating the room, it was found that a large sum of money had disappeared. Kujirai-san, while you are certainly employed as an instructor at a sports gym, you only work there part-time, and you barely even get any work at all—have you ever been troubled with money.”
While he never thought he’d be treated as pretty much unemployed, such a blatant declaration of doubt made it easy for him to change the topic.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. Don’t tell me I’m a suspect?”
“You’ll have to pardon him. He’s quite new at this.”
It was there that, unexpectedly, Hijiori lowered his head—it really threw off his tempo when the scary-faced officer acted in such a way. If that was intentional, he really is something.
“However, it is in our best interest to remove any and all mystery. So could you please tell us? Yesterday, around three in the afternoon, where were you and what were you doing?”
“Is this one of those alibi investigations?”
Kujirai answered with half a laugh. Lightly acting out exactly what he’d seen in a police drama—that was just a scene from his everyday life, it would be unnatural to recall it too fast. He knew he had to pretend to think.
“At any rate, as you’ve indicated, I’m not getting proper work. Yeaaah, as I recall, I went out to get Unagi a gift so I left home early and loitered outside…”
“Ah, pardon, I didn’t buy anything in the end. You could call it neglecting my friends, but I didn’t want to seem overly patronizing…”
“Did you go shopping alone?”
To the question of the subordinate who was still new at this, “Yes, so I don’t really have anyone who can back up my…” he got up to when, “Ah, but, that’s right, come to think of it.”
He pretended to recall.
“You said around three, right? It’s at that time that old Unagi was killed?”
“This hasn’t been concluded to be a murder yet. Please just answer what’s been asked of you.”
Hijiori held back the subordinate that leaned in with those words, “Come to think of it, what happened next?” he asked like a gentleman.
“I did have a nice conversation with a lady. I think that was around three… the talks dragged on for a while.”
“A lady? I see. Was she an acquaintance?”
“No, a stranger…”
Playing pickup, eh, one of the subordinates spat a whisper—not a police officer for nothing, it seemed he boasted a rigid sense of values. Though Kujirai found it wholly unexpected for his actions to be labeled as a pickup attempt.
“We simply shared a table for around an hour. Though we parted without exchanging contact information, so I doubt this will prove my alibi…”
“No, please tell me the store name, and the woman’s characteristics. I do think we’ll be able to back your story.”
Well of course. It would be quite troubling otherwise. Leaving all the backing to the police was the backbone of this perfect alibi.
“Unfortunately, I don’t remember as far as the shop’s name. Did I keep the receipt…”
“But you at least know the location, correct?”
“Yes, it was only yesterday, so I haven’t forgotten.”
Kujirai tottered just enough so it didn’t seem intentional as he explained the shop’s location relative to the nearest station. It did seem he wasn’t completely new at this, as the subordinate quite easily pinned down the corresponding café on his smartphone map.
“I see. And what sort of woman were you talking to?”
“Umm, her age as around the same as mine, but her hair was all white and—”
In that instant, Hijiori who had consistently maintained a gentlemanly attitude with the ‘suspect’ Kujirai raised his voice in disarray. While flustered by that threatening cry, Kujirai didn’t know what exactly had instigated it, so he had no choice but to go on.
“W-white hair, with a gentle air, a fashionable woman who wore glasses—she read a mystery novel as she sipped black coffee. H-her name was—”
He was beaten to the punch.
Kujirai was taken aback—why did he know? Ignoring Kujirai’s surprise, Hijiori—alongside his two subordinates– were holding their heads. Now this was beyond confusing. Just going off their attitude, it did seem they knew about Kyouko-san, or at least someone who fit the part, but in that case, it should be a cause for joy; it would save them quite a bit of trouble. The reaction of holding their heads didn’t fit in with Kujirai’s sense of reality.
No, could it be they were lamenting that the prime suspect Kujirai’s alibi was being established? Or so he thought, but the words that finally came from Officer Hijiori’s mouth ran contrary to his expectations.
“Kujirai-san. You shared a table with her yesterday, correct? In that case, I feel sorry for you, but your alibi can’t be established.”
“The reason being, that person—Kyouko-san. Okitegami Kyouko-san is the forgetful detective.”
“Hah? I have absolutely no idea. Kujirai-san? Who’s that supposed to be? Doesn’t even tickle the heartstrings of my memory. I don’t remember going out for tea the day before yesterday either. I haven’t the slightest recollection what I did that morning or that evening.”
The next morning. Upon receiving the expected response from the forgetful detective who’d been called to the police station, Officer Hijiori held his head, just as he had in the suspect’s apartment the day before. Forgetful Detective.
Chief of the Okitegami Detective Agency: Okitegami Kyouko.
White hair and classes, a gentle air, a young woman—truly fashionable, and it’s been said that no one’s ever seen her wear the same clothing twice. She was one of those so-called ‘great detectives’ a portion of the population may treat as idols, but even among them, she was a somewhat enigmatic existence.
“… To start off, who are you? You called me out like an acquaintance, but have we met somewhere before?”
She blankly asked such a thing—he felt crestfallen at those words. In all his life as a police officer, the numerous difficult cases that carved grave impressions on his life—for instance, the Three-Consecutive Abduction Murder Case and the Signal Attempted Defection Case—it was no exaggeration to say they had walked the boundary of life and death together, and yet to have her take such a distance, no matter how many times he experienced it, was never a pleasant feeling. Even if he knew in his heart that was what made her the forgetful detective.
“My name is Hijiori. Officer Hijiori. I have investigated with you in the past.”
“Oh, I see. To think I have cooperated with the police, there is nothing more a private detective can ask for. Why this is quite the honor.”
Or so Kyouko-san offered some incomprehensible answer—however, right after, “But I’ve already forgotten about it, so please don’t bring up the past. As my duty of confidentiality as a detective, I mustn’t recall any of my jobs,” she added on.
That was how it worked with Okitegami Kyouko.
As he wasn’t a brain specialist, Officer Hijiori didn’t have a precise understanding of the theory behind it, but it was a fact that Kyouko-san’s memories reset each day. She was unable to accumulate experience.
No matter what sort of day she spends, she’ll have completely forgotten it come the next—no matter what difficult case, what classified information she treads into, she won’t remember.
In an era of misgivings towards the disclosure of private and confidential information, there was no greater means to adhere to absolute confidentiality—and in that regard, the Okitegami Detective Agency had secured itself a niche no other could hope to follow in.
Now just between you and me, the top brass of the police force have been in her care more than a few times—it should normally never come to be that an officer relies on a civilian detective, but when the detective you request is just going to forget, it gave way to a strange sense of lenience.
As such, the forgetful detective could at times be treated as an exceedingly priceless treasure—however, the story changed when she stepped on stage to testify for a suspect’s alibi.
More so, if it had to come to this, they would have been better off if the suspect actually did have a firm alibi—of course, if they asked the café staff and examined the footage of the security cameras in the area, it might be possible to get some backing, more or less, but if the central point, the only individual who actually spoke with the suspect face to face didn’t remember in the slightest, it was largely meaningless.
Officer Hijiori had never heard such an incomplete alibi before—albeit, nothing good would come of blaming the detective before his eyes.
“Understood. I apologize for calling you so early in the morning, Kyouko-san—thank you for your time.”
“Yes, I do apologize I couldn’t be of use.”
She said, as—still seated—she lowered her head down so low it might smash into the table. She stayed like that, it didn’t seem her white head was rising.
It’s nothing for you to apologize for, Officer Hijiori was about to follow up; but, come to think of it, as Kyouko-san didn’t have any memory of the matter, there was no logical reason for her to feel apologetic. Then it was best to consider this apology didn’t have any meaning beyond social courtesy.
In the midst of that thought, Kyouko-san finally raised her face, she looked at the officer all smiles—why was she smiling?
“… Err, Kyouko-san.”
“Yes, what could it be.”
“Umm… I have nothing left to ask you, so you can leave if you want to.”
She replied, and yet the detective made no attempt to leave—she didn’t even stand from her seat. Simply in silence, the look in her eyes pleading something.
“D-do you have some business from your side?”
“Oh, no, now that you’ve made such a strong request, I have no choice left but to reservedly get to business,”
Kyouko-san started off as if she’d been waiting for that.
“As a civilian, it pains my heart dearly that I could be of no use to the good boys in blue. So how about it? Won’t you allow the Chief of the Okitegami Detective Agency, Okitegami Kyouko to lend her power to the investigation? Inept as I may be, I would be happy to oblige.”
“You’re going… to help out?”
“Why yes, of course, I have a strict adherence to confidentiality.”
Kyouko-san indicated her selling point as the forgetful detective—and what a captivating temptation it was. It was more than he could hope for; even excluding confidentiality and what not, the reason the Okitegami Detective Agency was regarded so highly came d own to the simple fact that Okitegami Kyouko was exceedingly proficient as a detective.
Otherwise, no matter how secretive she could be, she’d be of little service. The fastest detective who could solve any case in a day (because once that day was over, she’d forget about the incident)—and such a woman was offering her assistance to the investigation free of charge.
“Eh? Who said it was free of charge?”
As if to ask, what sort of nonsense is this man spewing, Kyouko-san put in a clear rejection.
“There’s no way a grown adult would work for free. I’m saying that, as a special discount, I’ll at least subtract the cost of tax.”
“… I’m pretty sure your fees are already illegal.”
As expected, she had barely any intent to apologize for her lack of use in testimony, and it seems this was nothing more than a brazen sales pitch.
With her gentle looks, she shrewdly calculated it out.
So this was what it meant to be a detective by trade… Kyouko-san wasn’t the sort who would solve mysteries out of interest or concern.
“But well, I should be thankful for even a ten percent deduction. Understood, I officially request your cooperation, Kyouko-san.”
Hijiori said and sought to shake her hand, but the woman in question said this in a fluster.
“When did… tax get up to ten percent?”
Even if it was only a few percent off, Kyouko-san felt the regret in her whole body at having given a bigger discount than expected, and as that was going on, Officer Hijiori had finished the procedure. Meaning, he got permission from his direct superior to allow the cooperation of a civilian private detective. While his superior showed disapproval at first, upon learning they were dealing with Okitegami Kyouko of the Okitegami Detective Agency, their attitude immediately changed. That superior got permission with the superior’s superior, and the superior’s superior handled matters with the superior’s superior’s superior—an hour later and all the problems were cleared up.
Well, regardless of her proficiency, that woman has some fans in high places.
I couldn’t be said Hijiori, who had dealt with her directly, was one of them. More so, with all the trouble he caused her, he could barely hold his head high when she was around… even so, if it were to resolve a case, being strung around be her selfishness a bit was the least of his worries.
“The victim was Unagi Kyuugo—a competitive swimmer. Ring any bells?”
When he said that to Kyouko, who had finally recovered from the shock of failed price negotiation, she shook her head.
“It’s outside my expertise,” she contested.
That was understandable—or rather inevitable.
Just as she didn’t know about the rise in taxes, or had more precisely forgotten about them, Kyouko-san, who could not continuously maintain memory, was unable to update her knowledge beyond a certain period. There was no way she would know a swimmer who had only distinguished himself in the past few years.
There was even less reason for her to know the suspect Kujirai.
“He was only twenty-seven? How young, he has my condolences.”
Kyouko-san put her hands together towards the victim’s profile picture. After a little while with a faithful expression,
“And what was the cause of death?”
She moved matters forward. The speed at which she changed gears in that regard, made her a professional that put the police to shame.
“Electrocuted in a bathtub… well, when it comes to dying at home, the bathroom’s not a rare place to go, but I have to wonder about the electrocution.”
Officer Hijiori said as he was about to pull a photo of the victim’s body from the case files and hesitated for an instant. While it was his common sense at work, that showing a picture of a corpse to a woman might be too stimulating, “Don’t mind me, officer,’ said the woman in question. “No matter what gruesome crime scene I may see, I’ll just forget it by tomorrow. It won’t leave a trauma.”
Right, that was also an advantage she had. The forgetful detective was indifferent to such occupational diseases—while he wouldn’t say he was confident in himself, Officer Hijiori had at least an average level of memory, and he could at most vaguely imagine it, but if they went at it with the thought, ‘I’m going to forget anyway,’ perhaps humans can stop feeling fear and disgust.
Whether that’s a happy notion or not… at the very least, as a detective, this woman could issue a level-headed decision without having her emotions thrown out of order.
Officer Hijiori handed over a few pictures—pictures of Unagi who had died in the bathtub.
“Oh my. His expression’s far more serene than I anticipated. Since you said he was electrocuted, I thought he would have died with his eyes bulging out and his mouth wide open.”
“Well, I can’t say there’s no precedent, but… this time, it looks like there was no time to feel pain.”
“How ironic it is that a swimmer passed in the bath. Hmmm. But as expected of an athlete. He has some wonderful muscle.”
Quite naturally, Unagi was naked in the bathtub, but without any notable shame, Kyouko continued examining—Officer Hijiori thought it might be stimulating in that sense as well, but it seems his misgivings were misplaced in that regard as well.
“Is the item that’s fallen in the tub a dryer? The cord is stretched out… mnn? Meaning the spark came when the dryer fell in while he was bathing?”
“We thought so at first—however,”
“There’s some reason that can’t be?”
Officer Hijiori nodded. No, of course, he couldn’t guarantee it. There are quite a few people in the world who find the most unbelievable ways to use household appliances. Otherwise, the instruction manuals that came with them wouldn’t have to be so bulky—to try drying one’s washed hair as they submerged themselves in the bathtub was practically suicide already, but perhaps it wouldn’t be so peculiar to find a veteran who didn’t wince from the act. But surely such a veteran would never let it slip from their hand.
“But for a competitive swimmer with such a promising future, such a slip up is… my apologies, it’s just hard to imagine such a dishonorable death. But more than that,”
“More than that, it is more logical to assume there was a third party who shoved the dryer into the bathtub?”
This time, he didn’t nod—when someone got the jump on him like that, it made him feel as if he had been carrying out shallow deductions. Perhaps picking up on that feeling,
“In that case, I feel the same,” Kyouko-san added on.“While it does seem like a peculiar means of murder at first, for an athlete who had trained his body, rather than bludgeoning or stabbing, aiming for when they are bathing is, in a sense, far more efficient. It would be difficult to put up a resistance while naked.”
“… Back there, you said it was ironic how a swimmer died in a tub, but there’s another ironic thing to note. Unagi-san’s nickname among the fans was the ‘Eel of the Pool’, it seems.”
“Eel? Aah, because he’s Unagi-san. But what’s ironic about that?”
“No, see, electric eel…”
“… I see. The electrocution. But you know, the electric eel isn’t a real eel. It’s a knifefish.”
So that might be a bit of a stretch—when Kyouko-san pointed that out, the Officer felt like he’d been crushed at the root. But regaining himself,
“I’m just thinking, perhaps someone close to the victim purposely chose that way to kill him… with that thought, we performed a sweep of Unagi-san’s surroundings, and surprisingly enough, the first person to stumble upon the body, the victim’s friend came up as the top suspect.” He continued on.
“To suspect the first on the scene is something like common sense to a detective like me, but… the person you are referring to is that nice old Kujirai-san, who went as far as to treat me to coffee, right?”
“Yes, Kujirai Ruka… I called him the victim’s friend, but their friendly relation is a thing of the past, and beyond a certain point, they pretty much severed all ties.”
“… So they grew estranged?”
“More accurately became at odds. You could say they hated one another. It’s hard to tell whether that went as far as murderous intent… however, we can’t ignore the fact that individual was the first to come upon the body.”
“That we cannot.”
Kyouko-san said with a shrug of her shoulders.
“If this were a mystery novel, he’d be so suspicious that, on the contrary, no one would suspect him, but… it’s nonfiction. However, there’s some time elapsed between when he stumbled upon the corpse and called the cops, and the victim’s estimated time of death. And that is why you called me to back up his alibi.”
“You’re as quick on the uptake as ever. The victim’s estimated time of death is three ‘o five in the afternoon. What we wanted to ask you about was Kujirai-san’s alibi at that time.”
“? Three… o’ five? You can tell a time of death in minute increments?”
Kyouko-san dubiously asked. Indeed, under normal circumstance, if no one directly witnessed the moment of death, an estimated time would span a few hours. No matter how quickly the body was found, there was no way to identify the exact minute.
However, it was quite possible in this case.
“The room’s breaker was tripped. Presumably when the dryer hit the water.”
“As a result, all electronic appliances in the room stopped—to summarize, we have a clear snapshot of the time the breaker tripped, meaning the time Unagi-san was electrocuted.”
“… Do we? Is there really any telling when exactly the breaker…”
“For example, his time-shift machine stopped recording at that time. We looked into the exact moment the preserved recording cut off.”
Stopping mid-sentence upon noticing a question mark dancing about Kyouko-san’s white hair, Officer Hijiori noticed—that’s right, I have to explain what a time-shift machine is. Unlike the dryer, that recording device was a more recent invention, outside the scope of Kyouko-san’s memory.
“Oh my, I see. So it continuously stores more than twenty-four hours, days’ worth of whatever’s playing: that’s a surprising functionality. If only I had that much memory capacity—but that just means you know the time the breaker was flipped, and not the victim’s time of death, correct?”
“…? Are you telling me there’s a difference between the two?”
“There might be, and there might not—for example, if the time shift machine was set to stop by other means, it would be possible to fabricate the time the breaker went off…”
The deduction she illustrated surprised him—of course, in theory, it was like breaking a clock after forcing its needles in place, the same as an age-old means of alibi fabrication, but when she had only learned of the time-shift machine a moment ago, she was already crafting a theory around it. She wasn’t a detective for nothing.
“That may be the case with the time-shift machine, but these days, apartments are loaded with all sorts of appliances. I do think it would be difficult to stop all their timers simultaneously.”
“Is that so. Well, I’ll leave that to looking at the scene after this… but at the estimated time of death, three ‘o five, the suspect Kujirai-san said he was meeting with me?”
“Then he can’t be the culprit, can he?”
“… Perhaps if you were able to vouch for his alibi.”
While it was just now casually established he would be leading Kyouko-san to the scene afterward, whatever the case, that was the crux of the case. Incomplete as it was, the suspect had an alibi.
“You can’t count on my testimony. In which case, Kujirai-san is still the lead suspect.”
Kyouko-san had no restraint in saying. The way things were, Kujirai was even starting to seem pitiful—when normally, there would be no alibi more complete than one backed by a great detective’s testimony. Granted, the pity was only limited to the case where he wasn’t a murderer. As Kyouko-san said, at present, he was still the suspect in a murder case.
“Kujirai-san said he came to the apartment because the suspect invited him, correct? Were you able to confirm that?”
“Yeah. There was a call on the phone record. From Unagi-san to Kujirai-san, they’ve gotten in touch a number of times as of late. Though I couldn’t tell you the contents of the call; it could even be the case he was demanding money back.”
“Which means that could just as well have been the trigger for murder. Hmm… however, in that case, it would raise a separate question.”
“A separate question? And what would that be?”
“Oh, just based on the investigation material, it says Kujirai-san was a competitive swimmer who competed with Unagi-san neck and neck, and even now he works as an instructor at a sports gym. In that case, he must have confidence in his physique. And yet, would he choose such an intricate method of murder?”
That was a viewpoint Officer Hijiori didn’t have—judging by the impression he got yesterday and the day before, it did seem even after he had retired from competitive swimming, Kujirai had never neglected to train his body. You might say that was just his occupation, but seeing how he only instructed part-time, perhaps training was like a habit from his active days.
Whatever the case, if killing him in the bath was a means to prevent a scuffle with an athlete, Kujirai didn’t quite fit the bill.
“While he might train, he was no match for the active competitor Unagi-san—he might have decided, but in that case, he must be quite the timid soul.”
“Perhaps… he was striving for perfection.”
Kyouko-san placed the case resources down on the table—it seemed she had finished reading through from beginning to end.
“His method of murder was necessary to fabricate his alibi.”
“To fabricate an alibi… is it?”
“While I cannot testify, if hypothetically, Kujirai-san’s alibi, his proof of absence from the crime scene is real, that’s what it would have to mean— in order to form his own alibi, he had no choice but to choose that method of murder.”