“Let’s get the flow of this case in order.”
Officer Ibusuki looked Tsukioka Kansuke in the eye as she spoke. Perhaps nervous, sweat flowed down his muscular body. And the glance he sent over remained wary of both Ibusuki and Atami.
“Sazanami-san the gardener was attacked by someone, and raised a scream. Hearing that, your younger brother Yuzuki-kun, and his senior at school Kirishima Chizuru discovered Sazanami-san in critical condition. That’s how it is.”
“… Yes. That’s how it is.”
“Then let me ask. When you heard Sazanami-san’s scream, where exactly were you?”
Chizuru and Yuzuki were making themselves scarce in the restroom, listening in on the questioning.
The sound through the phone in detective Atami’s pocket was mixed with a bit of rustling.
“… I somehow get the feeling we’re doing something we shouldn’t be.”
So his voice didn’t reach the other end of the line, Yuzuki whispered.
“Yeah, well…” Chizuru used the same thin voice as always, “That’s because we are.”
‘When I heard Sazanami-san’s scream, is it? Umm, back then I was…’
Across the phone, they could hear Kansuke’s answer.
“As I recall, nii-chan and the guy from the insurance company weren’t in the receptions room.”
‘At that time, the insurance inspector Kuragano-san went to use the restroom.’
‘I see,’ came Ibusuki’s sharp voice. ‘And what about you?’
‘I thought it was about the right time, so I went to see Ushijima-san in the reference room. Kuragano-san’s enquiry seemed it was going to take quite a while, so I went to tell her to wait a while longer.’
‘Did you meet her?’
‘I entered the reference room, but she wasn’t there. Besides some pieces of art, the reference room also has a few bookshelves, and it’s considerably large… so when I was searching around it, the scream came. I went out to the hall right in time to see Chizuru and Yuzuki running off… also, Kondou-san was following behind them.’
“Ushijima-san. Why did you come here today?”
Once Kansuke’s questioning was over, next came the curator of the Yumoto Modern Art Museum, Ushijima Miho.
Ushijima anxiously corrected the positioning of her round glasses.
“I came to return a vase. I borrowed it two weeks ago to display in an exhibition… ah, it’s a different vase than the one that became a problem in this incident.”
“I see. And where is that vase firth now?”
“I left it in the reference room. When I heard the scream and raced over, I didn’t have the mind to go back and get it.”
“I see… now then, where were you during Tsukioka Kansuke-san’s meeting with Kuragano-san?”
“As I was telling you, in the reference room. While it doesn’t have anything as valuable as in the storage, There are plenty of rare items from the Tsukioka Collection. It was quite a worthwhile time spent.”
“But when you heard the scream, you were not in the reference room.”
“Y-yes, that’s right. I’m surprised you knew.”
“Tsukioka Kansuke-san had just come to the reference room to speak with you… so where were you?”
“Bathroom? That should have been in use by the Insurance Agent Kuragano-san.”
“This house has a separate men’s and woman’s room.”
Listening in on the conversation, Chizuru couldn’t help but ask Yuzuki.
“The bathroom’s gender-separated?”
“Yeah. Wait, didn’t you use the restroom too?”
“I did, but… I just went exactly where you told me to.”
“Oh, right. The ladies room is a little closer to the outdoor passage.”
“… Seems it’s Kuragano-san’s turn next.”
“Kuragano Ryou-san, why did you come by the house today?”
“For work. I had to investigate the vase that was swapped out. Whether if fell under insurance coverage or not… we had a need to determine it.”
The high strung insurance agent of silver-rimmed glasses tapped his finger against the table as he spoke.
“So I had to hear out the son of the owner- Tsukioka Kansuke- and find out what happened. At first I thought it was some malicious scam, but taking today’s incident into account, it does seem there really was a theft.”
“That does seem to be the case… by the way, when you heard the scream, you were away from your seat in your discussion with Tsukioka Kansuke-san, were you not?”
“Right, I was in the bathroom.”
“When you heard the scream, what did you do?”
“I’d like you to forgive me for saying something dirty, but when I heard the sound, I was in the middle of business. So I looked out the window towards the storage. That boy called Kirishima and the girl called Yusuki were running down the passage.”
“… Tsukioka Yuzuki is a boy.”
Atami softly corrected him. Kuragano’s eyes opened wide.
“R-really…? It’s hard to believe it from those looks…”
“Yes, I thought the same. But it does seem he is a boy.”
“… He’s a resident of this house, thought. It seems you aren’t very knowledgeable about this place.”
To Ibusuki’s question, Kuragano gave a sullen nod.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever been to this house. And I’m here on business, so I’ve no need to dig into my client’s private matters.”
“… So Kuragano-san thought I was a girl.”
Yuzuki seemed dispirited.
“Yeah, well there’s really no helping it… come to think of it, that bathroom looks over the passage.”
“Yeah, it does,” Chizuru nodded., “I used that bathroom too, and you definitely can see the passageway from there.”
“… Oh, looks like Kondou-san’s next.”
“Now then, Kondou-san. You went to the storehouse to look after the art pieces you failed to work on a week ago… is that right?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
An enervated expression floated across Kondou Bunji’s aged face. In fear, he watched Ibusuki with upturned eyes.
“After the maintenance was over, I went looking for Kansuke-san so he could lock up… I never thought a bandit would use that instant to sneak in.”
“When you heard the scream, where were you?”
“In the living room with young Yuzuki. I met that Chizuru kid, and we all went to the receptions room to get Kansuke-san. He wasn’t there, though.”
“I see. Meaning when you heard the scream, you were with the two high school students?”
“That’s right. So I’m irrelevant to this case!”
“… That’s something we’ll be deciding.”
“Kondou-san’s innocent, isn’t he? I mean, just like he said, at that time he was together with us.”
“Well, you’re right about that… finally we have Wakamatsu-san.”
“Wakamatsu-san. When you heard the scream, where were you?”
Wakamatsu Megumi the Housekeeper answered without much a change in expression.
“Yes. At the time, I had finished taking in the laundry, and I was in the middle of folding it. In the Japanese room.”
“Japanese room? Where is that?”
“At a former of the corridor that leads to the passage. I heard the scream, and when I was in a daze over what it could be, I heard the sound of people running, so I gave chase as well. When I got to the detached storage, I saw Sazanami-san in such a state…”
“Yeah. There was nothing strange about Wakamatsu-san’s testimony, right?”
“That’s right,” from there, Chizuru cut off his connection with Atami, “More importantly, let’s get back. We’ve been putting off Officer Atami for a while, but it’s finally our turn.”
The police questioning ended with Yuzuki, then Chizuru.
“… That’s everything. You can go now.”
Ibusuki waved her hand as if to brush Chizuru away. Chizuru stood as he sent her a glance.
“Did you identify the culprit?”
“I have no obligation to tell you. Seriously, cut it out already!”
“So you don’t know yet? Did you investigate the items littered around the scene?”
Ibusuki furrowed her brow.
“The fragments of the vase? Our forensics team examined them thoroughly.”
“Not that. Whether there was anything else around or not, I think it’s best you go ask your forensics people. Well then.”
Leaving some cryptic words, Chizuru left the room.
Ibusuki sent him off with a loathsome glare before turning those hate-filled eyes towards Atami.
“Oy, about the items that had fallen at the scene! Was there anything besides the vase?”
“Eh!? Um… uh…” Atami flipped his way through the documents. They had just come in from the forensics team’s Shirahama Yayoi. “Um… ah, here we are! A cell phone. According to Shirahama-san’s report, ‘the victim’s bag that had been nearby was kicked over, and it fell from inside’… she wrote.”
Ibusuki was lost in deep thought. After a while of that, she sent a glance to Atami.
“Do you understand what that means?”
“Eh? … Nope, not in the slightest.”
“I’ll bet. Even I’m not certain.”
Ibusuki stood from her seat and left the receptions room. Atami hurriedly followed behind.
Entering the living room next door, Ibusuki declared to the members gathered.
“Today’s investigations are over. We may call you in for more discussion at a latter date. Well then… hmm?”
Ibusuki furrowed her brow.
“I don’t see Kirishima Chizuru or Tsukioka Yuzuki.”
“Oh, if you want my brother and Chizuru-kun,” Kansuke sounded apologetic, “They left not but a moment ago.”
“Left? To where!?”
Ibusuki unintentionally raised her voice.
“T-the convenience store, he said.”
Ushijima Miho answered. “That Chizuru kid said, ‘It’s hot, so I want some ice cream,’ and pulled Yuzuki-kun out.”
“What is he, five!!?”
Ibusuki clicked her tongue hard, and scratched her shord hair.
At that moment, a call came to Atami’s phone. Atami left the room to answer.
‘Officer Atami, been a while.’
“I-is this Chizuru-kun?” Atami lowered his voice, “That’s no good you know, you can’t just go out on your own! Where are you now?”
‘The restroom of a convenience store… more importantly, how is Ibusuki-san doing? Does she know who the culprit is?’
“Doesn’t have a clue, it seems. Of course, neither do I.”
‘Is that so. By the way, do you want to know the truth of this case?’
“… Of course I do.”
‘Really now. I know the culprit. I mean, we got some decisive evidence in that questioning.’
“Haaah,” beaten down, Atami took a long sigh. “Got it, I have to pay you, right? But the deal’s the same as before, and if your reasoning’s too far from the mark, you’re not getting anything. Ah, and also, just as you promised last time, you’re properly giving me a generous discount from fifty thousand yen, aren’t you?”
‘Of course. Now then, I’ll email you, so could you tell me your address?’
After giving his address, Atami insisted Chizuru, “Get back soon,” before cutting the call.
He pushed his back against the wall, and took an even bigger sigh. There, a mail came in.
Atami opened up the email. And he scrolled down the screen to read through it.
His hand stopped halfway thought.
“What was that? That can’t be…”
He almost let go of the phone. The name Chizuru identified as the thief was much too unexpected to the detective.