“Using the tub’s volume and the flow from the tap to work out the time it takes to fill is an elementary school arithmetic. Kujirai-san, the action you had to take as the first person on the body, what you had to do while you waited for the police to arrive— was to tighten the handle on the faucet.”
Of course, there were other finer details you had to take care off as well—said Kyouko-san.
“And that is the reason you had to be the first person on the scene.”
“… Are you being serious, Kyouko-san?”
Kyouko-san calmly replied.
“Or was there some flaw in my deduction? Something you’d like to object to?”
“Yes, of course, there is.”
While he said that, Kujirai had already given up. This was nothing more than a rebuttal of courtesy. It was pretty much like throwing Kyouko-san a bone so she could explain it easier.
“First off, would the dryer’s weight let it dangle in an empty bathtub? Wouldn’t it unplug itself all on its own? All the more if it were on. Secondly, are you saying the victim Unagi didn’t notice such a contraption? He silently watched on as a high output dryer was dangling right before his eyes? Thirdly, in the first place, what was he even doing, bathing in an empty bathtub?”
“Okay, okay, okay,”
Kyouko-san faithfully nodded at every point—it looked like she intended to answer them all together. So Kujirai decided to bring out the most fundamental question at the end.
“Fourth. As you said before. Even if such a trick was set up—there is no evidence that I am the culprit.”
It may destroy his alibi, but from the start, it was an alibi that was far from perfect.
“Even if, as the first person there, I turned off the water that was left dripping, I may just have done it because I ‘felt like it’ correct? Even without a certain reason or necessity, if you see a faucet that’s been left on, isn’t the normal response to turn it off?”
“You’re right about that. I can’t stand slovenliness myself.”
“You seem to be misunderstanding, but I never said a word about you being the culprit who killed Unagi-san.”
She—hadn’t. Not a word.
“I simply saw an alibi so I wanted to break it—though it’s true that it all leads in from there. I meant it when I said not having an alibi doesn’t guarantee you’re the culprit, and I’d like it if you take that at face value. However—as you have so courteously pointed out, this alibi trick is a little forced. I see, while it’s a simple and well-put-together timer device, it is far too naïve of a method of murder. If you wanted to kill someone with this means, you would have to reinforce the plug so it doesn’t fall out, what’s more, you would need to take Unagi-san’s consciousness away before restraining him in the bathtub.”
“… Like tying him up or drugging him?”
“Even then, he could just kick the dryer out. Unless you bound him quite firmly, the trick would never work out. And even if, not restricted to drugs, Unagi-san was incapacitated by some means.”
Kyouko-san made the shape of a pistol with her fingers—no, she was more likely miming the hair dryer.
“With its high output, that dryer makes a great deal of noise. If he was sleeping deep enough that he didn’t wake with that rumbling right next to him, it would have left some trace on his remains”
No bruises from rope, no traces of drugs, nothing at all—Kyouko-san pointed out.
“In general, using this method just to make an alibi is plain idiotic. If you want to make it work out, that just increases the number of tricks you have to use, and while you may be able to kill someone, the possibility the alibi doesn’t work out is far too great.”
As a matter of fact, Kujirai’s alibi went unconfirmed… though that was for a completely separate reason. And that aside,
“Kyouko-san, that’s one minute down.”
As Kujirai said that, pointing at the poolside clock, “That’s plenty,” Kyouko-san replied with a composed smile.
“It’s plain idiotic to kill someone like that—but thinking of it as an accidental death is just as idiotic. It’s far too unnatural for the short-haired Unagi-san to use a short-corded hairdryer in the bathtub. Even a grade schooler should know how dangerous that is—the noble Officer Hijiori thought this at first. Trying to dry your hair in the bath is suicidal.”
“Suicidal… yes, that’s right. Unagi-san’s death was suicide, Kujirai-san—as I’m sure you’re aware.”
“Suicide… when you look at it that way, it all fits into place. At the very least, it would resolve all the questions you brought up. If, on his own will, he waited in an empty bathtub for the water to rise, there would be no need for restraints or drugs. The sound of the dryer he had to endure on his own will—and to make sure the dryer didn’t unplug itself on its own, he held it in his own hand and supported it up.”
While that would leave fingerprints, they were his own prints. They wouldn’t be a problem—Kyouko-san finally folded up her fingers she had kept in the shape of the hairdryer.
“Meaning the dryer was a timer and an auxiliary device to a suicide. What you did as the first person on the scene was clean up his mess—perhaps? The reason Unagi-san had been talking with you on the phone lately was because he was pleading for you to do it.”
“… Your ideas are so out there I’m struggling to keep up. Why would an Olympic candidate with a promising future commit suicide?”
“For a man living alone, his room was strangely orderly. You’ll have to excuse me if I saw that as him preparing for a journey beyond.”
“Did the money disappear as his payment to you?”
She asked. The fact that question came up meant even this forgetful detective didn’t have an understanding of everything.
“I don’t know about that. Perhaps he went a little wild, or took to donating so he didn’t have any regrets at the end.”
“Is that so. Well, that sounds about right.”
He really didn’t know about the money’s whereabouts, so he answered a little haphazardly and Kyouko-san easily pulled back. While he found it a little doubtful, “I don’t think you’re the type of person who’d do it for money,” she added on.
“You sound like you know me.”
“As well as I ever will.”
“If Unagi committed suicide, then why did I have to be so desperate to make an alibi? Don’t you think I needed an alibi because I killed the guy?”
“The reason you needed to fabricate an alibi wasn’t because you killed him, but because you would be suspected. You would be stumbling upon the remains of Unagi-san, who you already didn’t get along with—an alibi would definitely be necessary. It was precisely because you weren’t the culprit that you needed someone to prove it.”
“… Just hypothetically. If there was such an arrangement between me and Unagi. Let’s say he suddenly called me out of the blue and, ‘Hey, I’ve decided to die this time. So when I die, you’d better have a proper alibi’ he kindly warned me.”
“Well I’m sure he did. Probably word for word.”
He was being cynical but it didn’t get across.
Despite how calm she looked, she was considerably firm.
“And then after that, I’m sure he told you, ‘There’s something I need you to help me out with’ or something. He needed you to finish up the crime scene.”
“It might look consistent, but isn’t that strange? In that case, the contraption was unnecessary. Instead of doing something as roundabout as letting the water in bit by bit, he just had to dunk the dryer in at the designated time. Doesn’t the use of that trick equal the conclusion that this case was a murder incident?”
“Not equal, nearly equal.”
“I’m saying it was Unagi-san’s goal to make it seem that way. A dryer he didn’t usually use would leave too many questions for an accidental death. It was suicide pretending to be murder. Without leaving a will—and he asked you to take care of the scene.”
Unagi-san didn’t want anyone to think he had committed suicide, Kyouko-san said in a meek tone as if she had some thoughts of her own on the matter.
“Because, just as you said, he was an Olympic candidate with a promising career—I’m sure he didn’t want the world to see the weakness in his heart that led him to suicide.”
“… I’m envious of you, Kyouko-san.”
“I said I’m envious that you can so easily declare suicide as a weakness of the heart. Kyouko-san.”
It’s impossible for me, he said.
Because I saw the bottom before.
He had no drive to blame the detective, and he was mostly just taking out his resentment—but Kujirai had no choice but to say it.
“To swim, crawling at the bottom of the pool is impossible for me.”
Her mood unhindered, “And it’s precisely because it’s impossible for you—that Unagi-san cast away his grudges to make the request to you.” Kyouko-san smiled.
“Turn off the faucet for me—as if he was asking a friend.”
“… There’s just one thing you’re wrong about.”
Kujirai stood from the bench as he spoke. It was a trivial matter, and perhaps he shouldn’t say it, but it felt itchy for her to put it as if he and Unagi still understood one another, and unable to bear it any longer, he could no longer stay silent.
“What he asked me to do wasn’t just the faucet—if I had to say, that was just a side thing.”
“A side thing? Then what was the main?”
“Have you seen a photo of Unagi’s body?”
Kyouko-san shook her head.
Even if she had, perhaps she had forgotten.
“Then you should have a look. You’ll see he went off with a peaceful look on his face—a dying face so pretty, you’d never believe he was electrocuted. Of course, because I put it in order for him.”
While he said put it in order, all he really did was close his bulging eyes, and similarly close his mouth, but… that alone changed the impression he gave off quite a bit.
“What did I tell you? He’s a dandy dude who’s all about acting cool. He was even worried about his reputation after he died—that was the part of him I could never stand.”
“… You can’t call that efficient.”
But, Kyouko-san said,
“But a swimmer is a job all about drawing a crowd—I’m sure it’s important how people see you.”
“Kyouko-san, what is my crime? Defiling the dead… is it?”
“Who knows? I’m dull on law. I only know the concept and principles.”
“Is that really alright for a detective?”
“Even if I learn it, I’ll forget it. All you can really count on me for is a good old sense of values.”
Kyouko-san said before standing herself.
“If you made the corpse more presentable, that’s pretty far from defiling—it’s dubious whether you can be taken in for assisted suicide either. All you did was know and fail to stop him… stopping the water could be called destruction of evidence, so please consult with Officer Hijiori on that one. I doubt he’ll do you ill.”
“That’s a huge help… Hey, Kyouko-san.”
Kujirai looked at the clock—five minutes on the dot. He had nothing left he wanted to ask or talk about, and in that case, ending the conversation here was the smart way to go.
But just one more thing, it was overtime, he made the excuse as he decided he would pose the question to the detective in a swimsuit.
“Back there, I was being critical of you, but… it’s not like I properly understand how Unagi felt either. It’s not like I can accept the fact he took his own life—I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel about this… should I sum up this conclusion with, ‘some guy out there has some crazy ideas’ as well?”
“You can’t. Because this is reality.”
Please mull over it forever.
Kyouko-san told him flatly, no mercy to spare.
“I’ll forget it by tomorrow—but you have to remember Unagi-san for the rest of your life. No matter how much you hated him.”
“Well then, Kujirai-san.”
With her half-dried white hair, Kyouko-san turned to Kujirai and took a deep bow.
“Some other time, if we ever meet again— please do try seducing me from scratch”
“It’s as you said, Kyouko-san. Unagi-san’s best time has been stagnating for a while now—but that’s just in numbers. I tried asking around his coach and friends, but there didn’t seem to be any signs he was considering suicide.”
Meeting up with her outside the gym, Officer Hijiori walked beside her giving her report. With her eyes red from the pool and her hair as white as ever, Kyouko-san who had become somewhat rabbit-like didn’t seem particularly surprised.
“Perhaps the closer he was to them, the harder it was to open up.”
“Then why did Kujirai-san accept? It’s not as if he took the money, right?”
“And they weren’t close friends of any stripe. If I had to say, a man’s honor? … I’m sure you could also say he wanted to act cool. Just as Unagi-san didn’t want it to be seen as suicide, you could say he felt the same—birds of a feather and all that.”
“Were they friends, or were they not? Which is it?”
“They were men.”
Shrugging her shoulders, a slight smile on her face—by her tone, she was somewhat enjoying herself, so perhaps that was supposed to be a joke. Whatever the case, what followed was the police’s job… without enough evidence to apprehend him, Officer Hijiori could only wait for Kujirai to come himself.
He won’t run anymore, or so Kyouko-san gave her stamp of approval.
“Well then, Officer Hijiori. Now that that’s settled, I don’t mean to pressure you, but it’s about time I got paid.”
By the time they reached the station, Kyouko-san’s face had turned from a detective to a manager—present time ten at night, only two hours left of the day. The Okitegami Detective Agency generally dealt with in-cash payments within the day—she would forget by the next day, so there really was no other option.
“I know. As you can see, I properly prepared it during the day. Have a check. And could I get a receipt?”
Officer Hijiori said as he produced an envelope from the inner pocket of his suit and courteously handed it over—with the hand movements of a seasoned banker, Kyouko-san counted the bills inside, but there she tilted her head perplexedly.
“My apologies, Officer Hijiori. I can’t write up a receipt for this.”
“Eh? Huh, that’s strange. Was it not enough?”
Despite her gentle, polite tone, in a sense, as she indicated the deficiency, her eyes were far harsher than when she indicated the truth of the case, and Officer Hijiori was quite overwhelmed.
“I’m sure I prepared the amount we agreed on… ah, that’s right, I’ve got it. You’re wrong, Kyouko-san. See, the tax, meaning ten percent, you said you’d give me a discount from your regular fees.”
When Officer Hijiori pointed that out,
“I never said that. I mean, I have absolutely no recollection.”
Said the forgetful detective.