At the Yumoto Police Station, led to a space that gave off a receptions room feel, Chizuru and Ageha had been kept waiting long enough.
Once the two had found the man’s remains in the vacant lot, they contacted the police at once. And after they explained the situation to the officer who rushed over, “we have to draft up a protocol,” he said, bringing them along to the station.
“Do you think it’s really necessary to question us?”
Ageha quietly muttered. Even if it was April, the nights grew cold. The inside of that room was no exception, and her legs that extended out from the skirt of her uniform seemed a little unprepared.
“We only found the body by chance on our way home from school, and… well of course I’d assist with investigations if I could, but it’s not like either of us know anything about this incident.”
“It’s bureaucratic busy work.”
Even after they’d tasted the impact of discovering a body, Chizuru’s words still held the unchanging feel they gave off when he spoke of how he didn’t want to work an hour ago.
“… That man who died, I wonder what sort of person he was. His family must…”
As Ageha mumbled in earnesty, Chizuru- who sat lined next to her on the sofa- lightly tapped her shoulders.
“About that point, perhaps you could call it a small consolation. He didn’t have any dependents. But that person… Shinozaki Kouichi-san was a middle school teacher, it seems, so maybe he has some grieving students.”
Ageha slowly turned to look at Chizuru’s face.
“… W-why do you know something like that? Did you know that person?”
“No, first time I saw him, he was dead.”
Chizuru scratched his hair to play if off.
“I just saw the ID he had in his wallet.”
“You saw it!?”
“Shinozaki Kouichi-san, forty years old. Shimoda Junior High… that’s around three stations from here… Employed as a social studies teacher. The place he lived was right next to Shimoda Junior High, apparently.”
“… That’s some memory you have. Not that I have any way to check your answers.”
“Ah, we do have something like that.”
From his pocket, Chizuru produced a rectangular card. The driver’s license of the late Shinozaki Kouichi.
“Hey, wait Chizuru!! What the hell are you doing?”
“I put back everything else, but I carelessly forgot to return this one.”
“Forgot to… in the first place, why did you go through someone’s wallet? You didn’t nick any money, did you?”
“No, I just wanted to know a bit more about the guy. Even so, a license has a surprisingly scarce amount of information on it.”
“What do you have to gain from doing something like…”
As if to interrupt Ageha’s words, the door opened abruptly. Chizuru swiftly stuffed the license in his blazer.
The ones to enter the room were two who clearly looked like detectives.
The first was a female officer with a cream-colored suit over her body. Finely chiseled facial features, and her hair cut very short, if she earnestly tried to dress as a man, she’d likely look indistinguishable from one.
The other had a face that looked overly soft-natured, an unfortunate-looking young man. Just from his conduct as he passed through the doorway and closed the door behind him, it was clear he was the subordinate here.
“We’ve kept you waiting a while.”
The woman, meanwhile, let out a clear voice unbetraying of her appearance.
“I’m Ibusuki of the prefectural police department. This is my subordinate Atami.”
She casually pointed at the man. The female officer briskly took a seat at the sofa across the two high schoolers. Atami sat at a small one-man desk a little ways away. It seems he was in charge of writing up the protocol.
“Um… right. I’m Beppu Ageha. I go to Yumoto Academy… I’m a second year in the high school division.”
She poked the flank of the silent Chizuru. Chizuru painstakingly said, “Likewise, Kirishima Chizuru,” and cut it short.
Without paying any mind to it, Officer Ibusuki went into the main topic at hand.
“To get right to it, let’s finish up protocol…”
And in rapid succession, the officer sent out her questions. Instead of letting the other party say whatever they wanted, doing it promptly one question at a time could precisely draw out the necessary information. Her way of speech implied she had taken that philosophy to heart. Chizuru could instantly tell she was a sharp one.
The district officer on duty had already swapped out, and after that uninterrupted stream of questions, Ibusuki finally provided some new information at the end.
“… By the way, there’s something I’d like to ask. This letter was left on the crime scene, but did either of you two write it?”
What she showed was what Chizuru had already seen, the letter X.
A dying message they could only think the victim could have left.
“No, I think that was already on the ground when we got there… right Chizuru?”
Chizuru stared intently at the photograph, and slowly nodded.
“I see… then that’s all of our questions.”
Sorry for taking up your time, she said, “That guy will lead you to the exit,” she pointed at Atami. As he had recorded down Ibusuki’s rapid succession of questions and answers, he was quite winded. Chizuru looked at him with a bit of pity.
“… Could I ask something?”
After letting Ageha answer everything, and having spent his time in silence from beginning to end, Chizuru finally opened his mouth. A little intrigued, Ibusuki sent him a glance, and asked, “What is it?”
“The two of you are officers of the prefecture, right?”
“Questioning the persons who just happened to stumble upon the body and call in the report would usually be left to the people of the district. Why are you here?”
Ibusuki’s face curved in a sullen manner as she awkwardly removed her eyes from Chizuru.
“I doubt such a fact is relevant to…”
There, she suddenly closed her mouth and revised herself.
“… We have our own circumstance, is all I’ll say.”
Chizuru stared intently at her face, and after letting out a sigh, he spoke in a careless tone.
“If I’ve made you mindful of me then stop it. While I think you know who my father is, that’s irrelevant to any of this, so quit it with any special treatment.”
“… I’m sorry.”
After Ibusuki gave an apology without feelings behind it, she left the room, roughly closing the door behind her.
“… What was that all about?”
It was Officer Atami’s first question. Chizuru looked at him with some kindness in his eyes.
“About my… my dad?”
Chizuru would use a more polite tone with his superiors, but now he corrected himself. To cut to the chase, he had determined Atami wasn’t his superior.
“That’s right. As a matter of fact, that question you just asked was on my mind as well. Without any explanation, Ibusuki-san suddenly said, ‘we’re going off to question the highschooler who found the body,’ so I was surprised. Our prefectural division rarely ever does those small jobs, you see.”
“… My dad’s head of the prefectural criminal affairs department. That’s all there is to it.”
“Eeh!? Your dad is?”
Seeking confirmation, Atami looked at Ageha. “It’s true,” she said lightly. And there Atami was left staring blankly.
“I see, it’s true our chief’s name is Kirishima, but… should I be using polite speech with you?”
“I already said I don’t need your mindfulness. More importantly, I have a question for you.”
“Oh really? What is it?”
“What exactly did you do?”
“Seeing your mannerism up to now, it was clear enough. Officer Ibusuki works you especially hard. Even if coming here personally to do the questioning was to curry favor with the chief detective, transcribing the protocol could at least be left to someone lower on the pole. Meaning Officer Ibusuki has imposed some sort of penalty on you. Am I wrong?”
“Erk… as expected of our chief’s son. You’re absolutely correct.”
He let out a large sigh.
“Truth is a week ago, our division caught a certain larcenist and murderer red-handed, you see… while he was being taken in, I had him use the restroom in the parking area. Then he suddenly shook me off and ran away.”
“Eeh!? What were you doing!?”
Ageha cried out. Atami’s expression sunk into disgrace.
“There was no helping it. He was quiet up to that point, so I never thought he’d suddenly put up such a resistance… and so Ibusuki-san and the others managed to pin down the culprit, until they got to him, he managed to injure few children and elders. After giving me a stern reprimand, Ibusuki-san issued an order, ‘You’re going to be on grunt work for a long, long while,’ she said…”
While Atami seemed discouraged, “That was your own fault…” Ageha muttered. Atami carried on with his sorrows.
“The grunt work’s mainly, ‘Brew me some tea, buy me a lunch, carry my stuff, transcribe protocol, organize the files, drive’. I was on the detective track, so it was the first time I ever did these odd jobs. What’s more, Ibusuki san said, ‘I’ll take you out to the crime scene, for argument’s sake, but unless you help land a culprit ten times, you’re not getting off your penalty’…”
Chizuru suddenly hit his hands together.
“I’ve got it. Atami-san. I think I might be able to help you.”
“W-what’s wrong, Chizuru!? Do you have a fever or something!?”
“Ageha, what’s wrong with you?”
“It’s the first time I’ve ever seen Chizuru the trouble-evader offer say he actually wants to help someone!”
“… Really? Well, I’ve got some thoughts of my own.”
As Chizuru muttered that, he turned back to Atami.
“What’s this, um, Chizuru-kun. Could it be you’ll put in a good word to the department chief for me?”
“No way. There’s no way I’d do something as troublesome as that.”
“… Then how do you plan to help me?”
Givign an impish smile, Chizuru lazily went out.
“I’m saying I’ll solve this case in your stead.”
Atami was taken aback, his mouth left half open as he looked over Chizuru.
“… Um, and what do you mean by that?”
“If you’ll investigate and offer information to me, then I’ll resolve the case for you. Plain and simple.”
“You sure know how to sound conceited… but that’s downright impossible. This is linked to the credibility of us officers here. Regardless of whether or not you’re the chief’s son, I can’t leak our findings to an outsider like you.”
“But it’s true you’re troubled with investigating this case, right?”
Chizuru showered Atami with a level-headed gaze.
“That victim still had a full wallet, so it wasn’t a simple theft. In that case it would have to be a grudge. And the victim even politely left us a dying message. But among the suspects that have come up in your search, you haven’t found any linked to the letter X. How troublesome. That’s the present state of your investigation, right?”
“H-how did you know that!?”
Atami stood forcefully from his desk. Chizuru boldly waved his hand to calm him.
“That’s because Officer Ibusuki showed us the dying message. Normally, she wouldn’t go as far as to show us the photo if she just wanted to confirm it. Which means it’s that. She wanted to believe we were the ones who drew it. She wanted to observe our reactions from looking at the photo. Isn’t that how it is, Officer Atami?”
“… You’re right.”
“So why would she be so obstinate in thinking the dying message was a fake? Precisely because there were no suspects it connected to, and the message itself was an inconvenience to the case… isn’t that how I’d have to take it?”
“… Well you’ve got me there.”
Atami covered the upper half of his face.
“You’ve seen through it all. That’s how it is. We’ve found three suspects so far, but troublingly enough, none of them have an initial of X.”
“Hey, just tell me about the case. If you do, I have confidence I’ll definitely solve it.”
“I can vouch for the Chizuru’s intelligence.”
Ageha gave a reserved addition.
Atami stayed silent for a while, but he gathered up his strength and lifted his head.
“Well, it’s a request from the chief detective’s son after all… guess there’s no helping it… Yep, there’s no helping it!”
He said it in desperation.
“Okay, got it. If you’ve said that much, then there’s no helping it. I’ll tell you a little bit about the case. With my previous incident, I’ve been taken off the front lines of investigation, and I was just growing bored. Let’s meet up at nine at the restaurant in front of Yumoto Station… how does that sound?”
Only from Ageha’s position was Chizuru’s profile visible. His right face covered up by his long-grown bangs. There, a dark grin floated up. Ageha knew. It was the face he made when he was thinking of something awful.
Chizuru’s voice had an impish tinge to it.
“I found a job.”