“The victim didn’t know who he was?”
Atami gave his head a big tilt.
“I don’t get what you’re trying to say,” Noboribetsu said it half in a scoff, “Your words are contradicting themselves, Kirishima Chizuru.”
Without a twitch of his brow, “Are they?” Chizuru asked.
“You know, don’t you? You believe that dying message is real. And yet the victim didn’t know the culprit… that’s what you said. This brings about a large contradiction.”
“By which you mean?”
“Good grief, this is a disappointment. You don’t know the foundation of detective investigations. Listen here, a dying message is what the victim writes on the brink of death to signify the identity of their killer. Of course, to leave one, the victim must have seen the culprit, with a clear grasp on their identity… that’s the major premise of it at all.”
“Well that’s how it generally goes.”
Chizuru scratched his face.
“But it just goes to show there are times the victim can’t pin the culprit down when they’re right before their eyes.”
“You mean the culprit disguised themself with a mask?”
Ageha said it the moment it came to her. Chizuru shook his head.
“In that case, there wouldn’t even be any meaning in leaving a dying message. And when this time’s culprit fled the scene, their real face was exposed to a witness. They probably weren’t wearing a mask.”
“I don’t get it, Chizuru-kun.”
Atami impatiently stuck his mouth in.
“Just what did the culprit see, and whose name did they leave behind?”
“… The dying message was ‘,’ right?” Chizuru stirred up the ice in his straw, “First, I think you’re all aware without any doubt, that the Poli part likely points to the suspect Souma Poli.”
“No doubt if you take his alibi out of the picture.”
Noboribetsu flared up. But Chizuru was curt.
“Forget the alibi for a moment. Now then, next is the ‘tci’. As I said, this wasn’t enough to be a divisionary tactic by the culprit, so what could this tci be? Is how it is. The main point here is the positioning of the victim’s finger. Let’s review. Atami-san, where was it placed?”
Called out, “Around the center of the ‘i’,” Atami replied but he still didn’t get Chizuru’s point.
“Right, in the center of the ‘i’… if she was to draw anything out from there, what’s the first thing that would come to mind?”
“Hey, could it be… she was trying to write an ‘r’?”
Ageha gave her thoughts. Chizuru gave a golf clap that barely made any sound.
“Ding ding ding. That’s the easiest answer to reach. Meaning the dying message could be interpreted as so. ‘’… Poli xor someone else.”
“An exclusive or?” Atami made an expression of surprise, “Either a or b? Not a then b? Not b then a?”
“You don’t have to confirm it so many times… that’s exactly what it is.”
“Now that’s quite a novel idea,” Noboribetsu spoke as if paying it no heed, “Meaning through the dying message, the victim was trying to say, ‘The culprit is either Souma Poli, or so and so.’ She meant to point out two options or more?”
“That’s how it would be. Now then, herein lies the question… the victim Mitsui-san was stabbed in the abdomen from the front, so nine out of ten times, she would have seen the culprit’s face. Yet even so, she couldn’t identify them. What would that mean?”
“How idiotic, like such a case exists.”
Noboribestu laughed. Atami and Ageha also looked at one another and tilted their heads.
“Then look at the name Poli. If you do, perhaps you’ll see something.”
Still oblivious, Atami wrote the name, ‘Poli’ on a paper napkin and left it in the center of the table. For a while, the three apart from Chizuru stared at the napkin.
And Noboribetsu suddenly undid his crossed arms. Opening his eyes wide, he grasped the napkin.
As he suddenly raised a scream, Atami and Ageha threw their heads back. Caring not for them, and forgetting this was a care, Noboribetsu stood to his feet.
“How could this be. I see, so that’s how it was. That’s why the victim didn’t know.”
The time was Six.
Atami and Ibusuki visited the apartment of Souma Poli again. Souma made a clearly bothered face as he ushered the two detectives in.
“What is it, officers? I’m sure I already proved my alibi.”
“Yes, you did,” Atami said as he looked the man in the eye, “Your alibi was proven.”
“I finally got it. You’re not the culprit after all. But you’re covering for him.”
“Wha…” Souma’s gaze swayed. “What are you talking about..”
“We showed you the dying message the victim left already, right?”
Atami cut off his words. On that question, “Yeah. So the culprit is a politician…” Souma tried to say, but “I don’t want to hear that fabrication anymore,” Atami jumped in.
“Of course, it’s because of your lie that we were able to notice a great oversight on our part. Right, the dying message definitely was something close to your name. But why did you purposely end up telling a lie you knew there was no taking back? That’s because you had a perfect alibi. You would’ve gotten through if you just played oblivious.”
Souma gulped. His noble eyebrows sternly narrowed.
“… You noticed the meaning of the dying message at a glance. Meaning the fact the message called for, ‘Souma Poli, or perhaps someone else’.”
“That’s quite a stretch. In the first place, who’s this someone else?”
“… The hint to solve that one came in the very fact the victim presented multiple options. Why, when the victim supposedly saw the culprit, was she unable to specify who it was? If you think about it, the answer is clear. Meaning…”
Atami stared straight into Souma’s face.
“Because Mitsui-san knew someone with the exact same face as you.”
Ibusuki bit her lip to the side of Atami’s explanation. Good grief, if you thought about it, it really was simple.
“The one who stabbed Mitsui Rin-san to death in Yumoto Park was your twin brother… Souma Kasuta-san. We’ve already looked into it.”
An hour ago, Noboribetsu followed up his exclamation with the word.
Atami couldn’t help but repeat. Noboribetsu gave a large nod.
“Right, twins. The victim Mitsui Rin-san knew both Souma Poli and his brother. So she was unable to hold certainty in which one had stabbed her.”
“Souma has a twin brother!? Oy, oy, that’s a bit sudden. Where did you get that from?”
“Look at his name.”
Ageha hit her hands together.
“Oh! The name Poly comes in a pair, so there’s a reasonable probability there’s also a Castor!”
“Ah, come to think of it…” Atami’s mouth was half open. “But wait a second, while that is a possibility, there’s no guarantee.”
“But if Souma’s twin brother was the culprit, it would explain mostly everything.”
Chizuru stepped in.
“In the first place, if a man identical to Souma Poli was witnessed who wasn’t Poli himself, then that’s the simplest answer. If the police overlooked the existence of the other Souma brother, then his alibi wouldn’t be a problem.”
“Y-you do have a point…”
“I’m pretty sure this is almost certain.”
Having completely reached the same point as Chizuru’s deduction, Noboribetsu was already treating it as his own.
“Try remembering the testimony of that manager called Futakawa at the host club where Souma Poli worked. The part where Poli cut him off.”
“Yeah, whether Poli really was in the store at the time of the crime? It was when we were confirming that.”
… And I went out on the floor from time to time. When I did, the one sitting at the table was undoubtedly Poli-chan. Even if Poli-chan…
… Futakawa-san!! Isn’t that enough?
He had hurriedly silenced him.
“Of course, the ones around Poli would know he had a twin brother,” Chizuru took over, “What Futakawa-san was trying to say was likely, ‘Even if he has a twin brother, it’s unthinkable they had swapped places,’ or something along those lines. Well, the probability they swapped out really is low. And that’s also because Souma Poli is…”
“Right, your high school diploma. That was what caught us.”
As Souma hung his pale face, Atami mercilessly continued to nail in his bullets of reasoning.
“The victim Mitsui-san was following around a certain man who’d gotten engaged. That man who thought Mitsui-san a nuisance was a classmate from her high school days. The fact that the individual with the greatest motives wasn’t you was our first pitfall. But that was your brother.”
Souma Poli didn’t say anything.
“The fact you came from a different school than Mitsui-san troubled us. But if your brother was her classmate, then the matter’s resolved. Since you’re twenty-four, the same age as Mitsui-san, then naturally Kasuta-san is as well. Surely he went to the same South Yumoto High as Mitsui-san.”
Poli acknowledged it in a cracked voice. He had recognized his brother as the murderer, it was a clear declaration of defeat. Atami let out a deep sigh.
Ibusuki leaned forward and added onto the reasoning.
“When you went to the CD rack and found and pulled out your high school diploma in an instant, it bothered me to no end. Thinking back on it now, you likely feared the police doing research into your high school. If you didn’t have the documents to prove it, perhaps the police would have inquired at the ward office. Fearing the process would have your brother’s existence come to light, you tried to cut off the police’s investigations into you as soon as possible.”
“You proposed verifying your alibi at the host club of your own accord, and the reason you followed us there was for that sake,” Atami continued those words, “The reason you proposed it was to swiftly prove your alibi and establish proof that, ‘Souma Poli’ was irrelevant to this case. And the reason you followed us was out of fear your brother’s existence would leak from Futakawa-san’s mouth. In all actuality, he did try to say it, and you shut him up.”
“… You’ve seen through everything.”
Poli stuck his elbows into the low table, holding his head. And letting out a long sigh…
“I’m sure you’ve already sent investigators for my brother as well… why did you come over to me?”
Atami narrowed his eyes as he answered.
“Because I thought you’d clarify the details of this case for us… you should know everything there is to know about it.”
Poli spoke. Of just how Souma Kasuta’s crime came to be.
It all started a month ago… at the beginning of May, it had begun.
On that day, when he’d boarded a train for personal business, “Souma-kun?” a single woman called out to him. It was Mitsui Rin. It was empty train of the early afternoon, and while she struck up a conversation so intimately, Poli hadn’t the slightest idea who she was. Sensing this was the same pattern he had long grown used to, “The Souma-kun you’re talking about is probably my twin brother,” Poli replied.
In the space of a few stations, Poli ended up telling her everything about his brother’s present state of affairs. From how she bit onto every detail, they probably dated in their school years, Poli quickly reached the conclusion and leaked Souma Kasuta’s whole profile with a bit of an intent to tease him.
When she heard of his engagement Rin showed surprise and yearning, and Poli ended up sympathizing with her. He took up her request to let them meet, and exchanged contact information with her.
From there, the two would often get around to meet, but he was unable to arrange a meeting of Kasuta and Rin.
“He said he doesn’t want to meet her,” Poli spat out the words, “Said his heart wasn’t ready yet. As I kept looking over her, I grew to think my brother who’d hurt such a woman was cold-hearted. If it was me… I got around to thinking. But even those positive feelings on my part were within the realm of her calculations.”
Atami had no doubt about it either. The reason being when Poli and Rin first met, she had already told her colleague Kyouda Ikuko, ‘I’ve found a lead to make the man I told you about fall’. The lead she mentioned was likely Poli.
What’s more, while Poli said she was surprised when he brought up the engagement, at that point, she should have already known about it from social media. The moment Poli met her, she had already begun her plan to make a stepping stone of him.
“Our relationship deepened. I didn’t mind if I was just my brother’s replacement. If that was what would make her happy, I thought… it was a foolish notion.”
And five days ago, a mere two weeks since Poli got into an adult relationship with Rin.
“Rin suddenly demanded I let her see Kasuta,” Poli said mortifyingly, “From the start, I was just being used. He’s engaged, if you mean it in a strange sense, I won’t let you meet, I drove in the point, and she turned defiant. She showed me the pictures she’d taken of us… photos where one could only think we were in a special relationship.”
Rin asserted this.
If Kasuta’s fiancé were to see these pictures, she’d believe Kasura was cheating. For Kasuta and Poli were two peas in a pod.
Poli told her it was meaningless. His fiancé knew they were twin brothers… but even as he refuted, if she used such forceful means, then some cracks would definitely run through Kasuta’s relationship. He realized that. And his fiancé would have some doubts that he laid hands on some lost love from high school.
“I couldn’t bear it any longer, so I consulted with my brother.”
Poli told his brother about Mitsui Rin’s abnormal attachment.
Kasuta seemed worn out, and spoke out of how even through his four years of college, he was followed around by Rin all the way. He spoke of all his terrible troubles. When he thought she’d been lying low for a while, she was resorting to such underhanded means, and he flew into a rage.
His anger up to now had finally exploded out.
The brother said, “I’ll properly tell it to her, so call her out to the park at night,” he ordered Poli. Poli followed his brother’s orders, and properly went to work as usual during that timeslot.
“I never thought he would kill her.”
Poli shook his head as he explained.
“I read in the paper her phone was carried off, but that was probably because my brother’s name was in the mail I sent her…
But even now that it’s come to this, there’s something she’s left to break me. Not in the order of Caster and Pollux, the fact she wrote my name as her dying message meant she still thought there was no way my brother would kill her. I’m sure there was something close to her wishes in it. In the mail, there was a possibility I lied when I wrote, ‘My brother is coming’. But I was just a bit heartbroken, Officer Atami. It was only a few weeks… two weeks of being used, but the more we were together, the more I really ended up liking Rin. There are times I feel envious of my brother who she loved so much it tortured her.”
A strand of tears flowed down Poli’s face.
“Since we have the same face, the insides of our heads must be the same… it was the prejudice directed at us twins since we were children. It was mindset I always hated greatly. But ironically, ‘When we have the same face, why won’t she choose me?’ I ended up falling to the train of thought I detested most in the end.”
After school the following Friday, Chizuru, Ageha and Noboribetsu got together to read through the case summary Officer Atami sent over.
“I see. So this is what lay under Mitsui-san’s stalking claims.”
Ageha gave her impression with a satisfied face.
“I like thin books on twins, but when you read a story like this, it really makes you think.”
What sort of book is that, or so the retort seemed meaningless, so Chizuru vaguely shrugged his shoulders.
“But you’ve truly made a fool of me, Kirishima Chizuru.”
Noboribetsu sent Chizuru a sidelong glare.
“When I acknowledged you’d defeated me in that battle of wits, you suddenly said, ‘Attend cram school in my place’…”
“Cram school is a pain. Solving a case is much easier.”
Due to certain reasons- largely involving slacking off- his entry and exit records were sent straight to his aunt’s phone. Having Noboribetsu go to cram school in his place, Chizuru was able to get some gentle sleep at home while she was away.
“But your crime-solving speed is worthy of admiration, Chizuru-kun. As a matter of fact, I wasn’t a match.”
“I get that a lot.”
Chizuru killed a yawn as he answered. Noboribetsu turned sullen.
“But! I won’t lose next time. Next time, that’s right… I’ll have a proper competition with you. This is the last time I’ll be one-sidedly forced to taste defeat.”
To be honest that’s a pain, Chizuru wanted to say, but getting angry was a pain, so yeah, yeah, I’ll be waiting, he replied.
Of course, Chizuru had no intent to carry out one of these unproductive deduction showdowns again.
(TL: I apologize if my translation has made this case out as stupid. The clues were much more subtle in the original text. In the original mystery, Poli’s name was Seiji, and the dying message was Seijika (セイジカ)(Politician) where the ka at the end became a hirigana ka (か) to form the statement (セイジか____) which was changed to (Poli xor ___). The ji of Seiji’s name consisted of a kanji often put in the name of a second child, which is what indicated he had a brother. Some portions of the text were rewritten or removed to incorporate Castor and Pollux. (three lines where Chizuru asked Atami what kanji are in Seiji’s name, some general rewording to incorporate it). But I don’t have the heart or fortitude to set this story in Los Angeles. You might not consider this a translation in the truest sense, and in all truth, neither do I. I agree wholeheartedly that my translation of the narrative trick falls short of the original intent, but I thought it better to keep the story rather than making it a mystery an English speaker couldn’t solve.)