Lunch break. With a news article displayed on her smartphone, Beppu Ageha prodded Kirishima Chizuru in the seat beside her.
With relatively lax school rules, Yumoto Academy allowed the use of phones outside of class time. But Chizuru had his doubts about fiddling around with it when it wasn’t necessary. “What?” he replied.
Ageha showed Chizuru the display.
“Someone died in Yumoto City it says. The director of Yumoto General Hospital in his own home.”
“Oh, I see… but this is just the headline. It doesn’t say here whether it was an accident or natural death.”
The subtext, ‘Died in his Own Home’ didn’t say much about the details. Chizuru sought further information.
“The police are looking at it as a suicide, it says… the cause of death is a bit strange though.”
“He froze?” Chizuru tilted his head, “Freezing to death in Yumoto City… that’s hard to imagine.”
“His house had a large freezer, apparently. He committed suicide by sealing himself in it, they say.”
“Hmm… that really is strange. Was it really a suicide?”
“Who knows? Can’t say much from an article on the net.”
“… Wouldn’t it be kinda funny if it was another murder incident?”
As Chizuru nonchalantly leaked those words, Ageha made a dubious expression as she tilted her head.
“No, that’s a bit… Yumoto City can’t be that dangerous.”
“But it’s already been more than a week since that incident at Yumoto Park… you know, where that something-something Student Coucil President challenged me.”
“No, no, you normally don’t have so many incidents in a single city in a single month. You sure you’re not getting desensitized, Chizuru…”
Ageha gave a rare retort based on common sense, before bringing in an irregular measure.
“And if it really is an incident, I’m sure Atami-san will come crying to you.”
“I see. You do have a point…”
Chizuru recalled the pitiful face of the precinct detective Atami Itaru, nodding a few times in agreement.
Achoo! As Atami raised a loud sneeze, his boss Ibusuki glared at him from the corners of her eyes.
“Oy, don’t get your snot all over the scene. I know it’s cold, but at the very least, cover your mouth.”
Atami rubbed his nose, “I’m sorry,” he replied in a nasally voice.
Good grief, what’s with this cold?
Atami huddled his body. The chill of the cold room that had become a crime scene was quite hard to bear. And this was after the initial investigations had cut power to it and taken an extended break.
It was already June twenty-fifth. It was getting considerably hot in the Kantou region of Japan, but as expected of a true freezer. Its construction didn’t let the cold escape so easily.
Around four meters deep, and two meters wide, the building wasn’t very extensive. Its height was a low two meter’s and with her tall stature, Ibusuki’s head was quite close to the ceiling. The district policemen had said it hadn’t been in use for many years, and faithful to their words, there was dust piled around.
On top of that, there was nothing particular to look at, and no windows. The door that served as the only entrance and exit way was now broken, some lukewarm air stagnating in the space around it. And the wooden crate moved to the side of the door. Its lid open, it revealed the concrete blocks inside.
… If that’s what was used to seal the door from inside, murder was out of the question, right?
Atami looked at that bundle that couldn’t be moved by a lone human as he thought.
“S-Shuenji-san sure is lucky.”
Shirahama Yayoi of forensics suddenly let out a quivering voice. She felt the cold so hard even the lengths of her braids were shaking.
“An a-ambulance carried off the body s-so he d-didn’t have to come to the scene.”
“Right. That’s a coroner’s special privilege.”
Ibusuki bitterly rubbed her white coat. In her case, she was wearing her usual full suit instead of a skirt, so perhaps you could say she lucked out as well.
“Now then, Atami. We’ve taken a look around, so it’s about time we shift to hearing out those concerned.”
“That being the case, Shirahama-san, take care not to catch a cold.”
Yayoi sent an envious glance at the two officers who escaped that freezing freezer.
The cold room was on the premises of the estate that had become a crime scene.
With a high outer wall expanding around it, the estate was unduly vast, giving some supporting evidence to the old saying, ‘If you want to be rich, become a doctor or a lawyer’. The cold room was separate from, and distanced from the main wing.
In contrast to the luxurious main wing that showed signs of recent renovation, the cold room was terribly weathered. In the distant past, when this residence was a privately operated clinic, it was apparently used as a morgue. With its concrete construction, that cold room was a bit too much for personal use. What’s more, that wasn’t all.
If you faced the freezer door, there was a small pond to the left, and while it was now too muddy to see the bottom, it was easy to imagine koi thriving in times of old.
“… Good grief. The media’s already sniffed us out.”
As Atami stopped in his tracks to gaze at the cold room, Ibusuki muttered. Atami looked towards the sealed front gate. On the other side of the iron bars stood a flock of people armed with cameras and microphones, with nothing on their minds besides reporting. The cold room was closer to the gate than the main wing, and the cameras had gathered at just the right angle to make an article of it. Ibusuki ordered the nearby local police to spread a vinyl sheet over the gate.
Like that the two officers made for the main wing.
Catching sight of the truck parked to the right of the freezer, Atami stopped his feet again.
It didn’t look like someone’s personal property. For that truck had a loading tray with a door like what a delivery truck might have. Did it have something to do with the hospital?
“Oy, Atami. What are you doing? We’re going.”
Atami rushed to Ibusuki who’d continued ahead.
They got their data on the suspects from the Yumoto district police.
According to the words of Tohi, a strangely named officer, excluding the deceased, there were four relevant persons.
All four of them were related to the frozen director of Yumoto General Hospital, Hishiro Kouzou.
‘Well first we have his daughter, a nurse at Yumoto General Hospital, Hishiro Nagisa.
As Kouzou’s wife (meaning Nagisa’s mother) was departed, the family consisted of only her and Kouzou. The other three? Well surprisingly enough, there were three individuals who stayed over at this mansion last night.
There’s the young doctor of Yumoto General Hospital and Nagisa’s fiancé, Koshimizu Seishirou.
The assistant director of the hospital, Kaneki Shinya.
And finally, there’s Hiyama Mitsuhiko, who came to negotiate the price of a purchase. He’s from the public relations department of a pharmaceutical company.’
“… Now then, sorry to have kept you waiting.”
Ibusuki started up conversation before those concerned. The location was a tidy dining room on the first floor of the main wing.
Before the dining table unladen with food, the two detectives looked over the surrounding faces. Officer Tohi stood by the door with a nervous look on his face.
“While I’m sure you’ve already spoken with the district policemen, I’d like to hear out your story again.”
There, Hiyama Mitsuhiko let out a complaint.
“You’re treating us almost as if we’re suspects. Surely professor Hishiro committed suicide.”
With his low register and mockingly polite tone, it could be surmised he didn’t have the greatest goodwill towards the victim. Without the slightest intent to cooperate, his deep-set eyes bore into Ibusuki.
Both his suit and shirt were black, a dubious pairing, and while Atami may have been overpowered, Ibusuki didn’t falter.
“It’s a necessary procedure. You might find it unpleasant, but this is also for Hishiro-san’s sake.”
She replied. With the motions of a Hollywood star, Hiyama shrugged his shoulders.
“That’s right, Hiyama-kun.”
The older Kaneki rebuked him. When Hiyama looked to be in his thirties, Kaneki was considerably older, perhaps in his fifties. His voice was low, but unlike Hiyama, it was a baritone gentle on the ears.
“Such misfortune has befallen Director Hishiro, so let us do our utmost… and that isn’t something you should say right before Nagisa-san’s eyes.”
He lightly nudged his bearded chin towards Nagisa.
Somehow amassing everyone’s eyes, Nagisa covered her weeping eyes. Wearing a white one piece, she meekly tried to shrink her body, but her features gave the impression of a strong will. As she hung her head, her fiancé embracing her shoulders… Koshimizu looked like a so-called beta, and perhaps Nagisa was usually the dominant one, or so Atami ended up imagining.
“… Then has everyone calmed down?”
Breaking her silence, Ibusuki spoke. Atami took out his notepad as he readied himself for a difficult case.
Frozen to death in a cold room.
A door sealed with concrete.
Four people concerned, and a scene much too bizarre for suicide.
… This definitely didn’t look straightforward.
Pitiful as it was, Atami was beginning to miss that supremely unmotivated high schooler who could lead him to the truth.
“Ah, it’s hot… think we can put the AC on?”
Yumoto Academy High School Division’s fifth period break.
Chizuru let out a voice from the end of the world. To his side, Ageha gave a bittersweet smile.
“What are you going to do when summer hits full-steam? When you’re already hung out to dry.”
“The put the AC on in summer.”
Chizuru stiffly said something without a shred of coolness. And he muttered something ominous.
“Ah, a freezer… a freezer, eh?”
Chizuru nodded a few times.
“Alright, I should help out with the investigations. Let’s stop by the crime scene on the way home.”
“… From the flow of the conversation, I can’t think you have pure motives.”
“The result’s what’s important.”
Even as he spoke earnestly, Chizuru sunk down as if he was melting into his desk.
Eventually, the chime for sixth period rung out.