“Oy, Jessica? What happened?”
I tried calling a few times into the phone before noticing my own foolishness.
… When the line was cut, there’s no way she could hear me.
I dialed in the number, and called her again. But the call tone resounded in vain, without the slightest response.
… Did something happen.
I stood in the elevator hall, and pushed the button. Eventually, the door opened, and I pushed the button to go to the top floor.
The door closed, and after a bump, the elevator went on its way up. Along the way, I tried calling her a few more times, but no one picked up.
The door to the top floor opened up, I went outside. It was a dark hall, with nothing but a green emergency light at the end as its sole source of light.
There was white lettering on the emergency light, indicating that there were, ‘Emergency Stairs’ below it.
… So there are stairs too.
As I held the satellite phone in thought, its speaker suddenly let out an intense cry of, ‘Mr. Daniel, why did you suddenly hang up on me!?’ from Jessica.
I left the hall, and went outside. It was a roof with good weather expanding around it, with little interference for the electromagnetic waves.
“Oh, it finally got through. Don’t be so impatient.”
‘That’s my line. Why did you hand up?’
… sob, I could hear a small weeping voice.
“Ah? What are you talking about? Aren’t you the one who hung up? In the first place, after I called you so many times, you just ignored me.”
‘Vwaht? What are you talking about? I was redialing you the whole time. You’re the one who never picked up!’
… The story isn’t meshing. Was the signal thrown off? And what’s Vwaht?
“I got it, calm down for a second.”
‘Please don’t leave me alone again…’
… Why am I apologizing?
I placed my bag on the ground, sitting myself against a wall.
Looking up at the sky, I found it fresh and blue. It seems I had been talking with that guard quite a long time. The weather had cleared up before I noticed it. The outside December air still coldly stung into my skin. But the light of the sun was more comfortable than anything.
“And so? Did you take the pictures?”
‘Ah, um… that’s… the truth is…’
Jessica had great trouble saying it, as she evaded the question.
‘Urk, um, I’m sorry. The camera broke.’
… For real?
‘Um, until I came here, it was working just fine. I took a number of test shots, so there’s no doubt about it.’
“Hmm, I see. So did they come out well?”
‘Yes, I came out cute every time!’
… She tested through selfie.
‘But the moment I tried taking a photo inside the house, the camera suddenly let off smoke, and the film burned up.’
… It really surprised me, or so Jessica’s voice without any sense of crisis unnecessarily irritated me.
“Then why not switch out one of the spare films?”
‘I don’t have any more.’
“Why don’t you, I gave you loads of them!”
‘I already used them up.’
… No more, please.
‘Ah, but, but it’s fine. The digital camera is still properly functional!’
‘Oh, I hear your doubt! You’re terrible, how about you trust me a bit!’
As if I could! I thought, as I grew sick of this situation where there was no option but to trust her.
“Got it, understood. I’ll believe it. So what’s it like in the house?”
‘Well you see, Mr. Daniel. It’s really dirty!’ Jessica spoke in a strangely enthusiastic tone. ‘The inside’s all muddled, and covered in dust, and there are spider webs everywhere. I’d never be able to live there!’
From what I could hear, that was surely an uninhabited house.
Claudia received the letter and entered Grimbeld just the other month. I couldn’t think it would get that bad in just a month or two.
… No, under that cute face, perhaps she was actually a slob.
“Jessica,” I called across the satellite phone. “Do you think anyone could live there?”
‘Impossible, not happening, definitely not. There’s so much dust, you’d suffocate if you tried living here!’
Meaning irrelevant to whether Claudia could clean up or not, this house didn’t seem to be hers.
… Is it irrelevant to the case?
I couldn’t tell.
“Are you in the house right now?”
When I asked, I got the response of, ‘No, I’m out right now.’
‘I don’t want to stay another second in there. It burns cameras, the spider webs catch on my face, it stings my eyes, and it’s simply awful. On top of that, you don’t answer the phone.’
… Hmph… she let off a threatening voice. Even if I wasn’t looking directly at her, I could easily imagine the sullen look on her face.
“You’re still on about that? How persistent. Isn’t it fine? It connected eventually.”
‘Ah, you’re terrible. Do you know just how much terror I had to suppress walking through that house!?’
“Yeah, yeah, got it.”
‘I was ridiculously lonely until I got out. Please answer the phone quicker!’
“And I’m saying…”
… Until you got out?
“Hey, the phone connected after you got out?”
‘That’s right. What of it?’
… The phone line cut off because she entered the house.
It’s true, with signal jammers, you could interfere with a cell phone’s reception.
But would such a cutting-edge technology be placed in such a remote, savage land? More than that, a place without electricity, water, or gas?
It’s not like there were no ways to block a cellphone signal in a place without any existing infrastructure.
… If you used magic, it wasn’t impossible.
Among the magicians, there are some skilled in magic to jam signals, apparently. There were many magic tools on the market that could easily interfere with weak signals.
Of course, interfering with a high-output signal would require an adequate amount of magic.
Though if it were only on the level of cell reception, it should be able to do it without too much of a hassle. But if it’s blocking the high output of a satellite phone, that should mean it would take a relatively powerful magic.
Who had done such a thing? Did that old dilapidated house really hold something they didn’t want anyone to know that badly?
My interest was suddenly welling up.
‘What is it?’
“Conduct a thorough examination.”
On my words, Jessica let out an unpleasant sound, but in the end, she gave a reluctant, ‘understood.’