“That’s how it is, so let’s hear how it all came to this.”
On Detective Ibusuki’s urgings, the four concerned persons exchanged some looks.
The one who looked the oldest, Kaneki Shinya scratched his beard as he started off.
“Let’s see, where should I begin… first, let’s talk about why the three of us outsiders came to stay at this house.”
Kaneki’s story went like this.
Last night, there was an important discussion about the management of Yumoto General Hospital, so he and Hiyama Mitsuhiko had come to take part in it. The contents of their discussion was on whether or not to purchase a new piece of medical equipment. Hiyama’s company was a dug manufacturer, but they also dealt with the equipment in question, so he had come to do business.
“Hmm, what sort of equipment was it?”
As Atami took memos, Ibusuki asked a casual question, but Hiyama gave a condescending laugh.
“The sort of equipment an outsider to the field wouldn’t know or care about. Our discussion ate from nine p.m. to past two in the morning, after all.”
“… Is that so.”
Ibusuki concluded there was no point in talking to that man, as she decisively turned away her face.
“Were you, the late director, and Hiyama-san the only ones who took part in that meeting?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“Then Koshimizu-san, why were you at the house?”
Called out by name, Koshimizu Seijirou corrected his sitting posture, his docile face a little flushed.
“No, um… I wanted to talk to Director Hishiro about various things regarding Nagisa-san. No, I mean… the day of our wedding.”
Atami recalled that Koshimizu and Nagisa were engaged, and nodded to himself.
“In that case, you should stay the night. It’s quite late, Doctor Hishiro said.”
“Right, right, it’s because of those talks over your love affair with Nagisa, that our top-level meeting was delayed.”
On Hiyama’s cynicism, Koshimizu groaned. In the seat beside him, Hishiro Nagisa told him not to mind it, patting Koshimizu’s hand.
Kaneki cleared his throat.
“Anyways, the three of us talked to some time passed two, before we retired to various guest rooms. That was the last time I saw the director.”
“I see… so how was the body discovered?”
“We went looking when Nagisa-san found a will this morning.”
Kaneki sent a glance to Nagisa. Nagisa took over the conversation.
“It was around eight in the morning. Seishirou-san and Doctor Kaneki were awake, and only Hiyama-san and my father weren’t up yet. So Doctor Kaneki to Hiyama-san, and I to my father, we went to wake them up.”
“By the way, at the time, Hiyama-san was sound asleep. He seemed worn out, so I decided not to wake him.”
“On the other hand, my father wasn’t in his room… though there were traces he had been sleeping there at some point. And when I looked at the bedside table, that note was…”
“I have it with me.”
Said Officer Tohi who remained fixed by the door. After Ibusuki took it and glanced over it, she sent a sidelong glance at Atami.
‘It has been three years since I lost my wife… these days have been nothing but tiring for me. The same way she left this world, I shall go to join her. Farewell. Hishiro Kouzou.’
The document was written and printed on a word processor.
The contents clearly implied suicide, but there was no basis to determine the victim himself was the one who wrote it.
After ordering Tohi to send the note around for examination later, Ibusuki turned back to those involved.
“It mentions, ‘The same way she left this world,’ but how exactly did Hishiro-san’s wife die?”
“Hypothermia,” said Nagisa. “In the winter of three years before, my mother Emi fell from the balcony on a terribly snowy day… having broken her bones, she was unable to escape the deep snow, and she froze to death.”
“You have my condolences… I see, so that’s why it’s ‘the same way’,”
“When I found it, I flew into a panic… I went over to Seishirou-san who was waiting in the dining room and showed him the note. I was sure it meant he had jumped from the balcony, so alongside Doctor Kaneki who’d returned, we circled the grounds around the house, but my father was nowhere to be found. There, Seishirou-san hit upon the notion, ‘then did he mean freezing to death’…”
“And that’s why we checked out the freezer.”
The baton was passed to Kaneki.
“The three of us went to the front of the cold room. But no matter how hard I pushed the door, it wouldn’t budge an inch… I had Koshimizu-kun try too.”
“It didn’t work for me either,” Koshimizu scratched his head, “Well looking back on it now, if the inside of the door was blocked up with concrete, there’s no helping it.”
“Ever since that cold room door broke a while back, it couldn’t be locked, so it was clear something was blocking it up from inside. What’s more, from a gap of a few millimeters, I could feel cold air coming out. This is bad, I thought and said there was no choice but to break down the door.”
“So… I went and got an axe from the shed.”
On Koshimizu Seishirou’s words, Ibusuki raised her brow.
“A shed, is it?”
“It’s around the back of the main wing,” Nagisa of the house explained. “It’s quite far from the freezer, and even at full sprint, I think it took Seishirou-san a good three minutes to return.”
“I see. So you broke the door down?”
Atami thought that was a bit of a swift response. But, well, there was a note that hinted at suicide, and as there was cold air flowing from a locked freezer, perhaps you could call it the appropriate decision.
“That’s right. The one who broke it down was Koshimizu-kun. He destroyed the area around the hinges and removed the door… Director Hishirou was collapsed in the back, so we set foot inside.”
The door had been blocked up by a wooden crate around seventy centimeters in all dimensions placed right in front of it.
Surpassing it, Kaneki and Koshimizu entered and carried Hishiro outside.
“While Nagisa-san called an ambulance, we did try CPR on him, but… a considerable amount of time had passed since his death. We weren’t able to save him.”
Kaneki vexingly brought it to a close.
“I see. I get the general gist of it.”
Ibusuki hit her hands together and looked at everyone’s faces.
“Then we’ll move to individual questioning.”
On Ibusuki’s words, Hiyama let out a weary sigh.
A short homeroom session over, the students of Yumoto Academy were dismissed.
“Yeah… we can finally go… ah, but it’s hot outside, so leaving would also be tiresome…”
From his own seat, Chizuru looked outside the window as he spoke hesitantly. Ageha made a bitter smile as she looked at the hoodie the boy wore under his blazer.
“So you could just wear a normal shirt… You say dressing for the season is a pain, but you’re going to die from the heat when summer comes around… ‘Hot Enough to Kill’? I think there was a BL Manga with a similar title to that…”
She arbitrarily started up a conversation, and arbitrarily derailed it. Having this topic going any deeper would be troublesome, so Chizuru put all his effort to lift his heavy body.
“Now let’s go. We can cool ourselves off a bit on the way.”
“Ibusuki-san, what do you think about this case?”
“I can’t see it as a suicide.”
She gave a plain answer to Atami’s question. The first floor of the Hishiro House’s Main Wing, the receptions room. The space was more suited to individual questioning than that excessively vast dining room, so they had made the switch.
“Even if his wife died from the cold, who the hell would carry out such a bizarre means of suicide? Venturing out into a snowy mountain is one thing, but I’ve never heard of someone freezing themselves to death in their own freezer. This is likely a murder. Someone fed him something to put him to sleep and sealed him in that cold room.”
“I think so too. The fact the note was typed out also bothered me. Even if he thought it a pain, he could at least handwrite his last words.”
“That’s some good perception, coming from you.”
“… But how could we explain those concrete blocks? The door opens inwards. Putting them so close the door wouldn’t open would be impossible from the outside.”
“Right, that’s the problem… Weighing as much as they did, using some thread to pull them through a gap in the door wouldn’t be reasonable.”
Atami silently nodded. Besides that, ‘Was there even a big enough gap in that freezer’s sturdy door to lead a thread to begin with?’ he asked himself, but he didn’t put his question to mouth.
“… Well, there isn’t much else to talk about now… Officer,” Ibusuki called over to Officer Tohi who’d been listening to their talks from the side of the door, “Call Nagisa-san in.”
Led from the dining room, Nagisa gave a light nod before sitting on the sofa across from Ibusuki.
“Now then, I know you might be fatigued at the loss of your father, but…”
“No, you don’t have to be mindful.”
Nagisa said it firmly, stiffening her lips.
“If it’s to clear up everything surrounding my father’s death, then I won’t be sparing in my assistance.”
Fitting with her clear facial features, her mental side was also strong, it seems. In contrast to her praiseworthy attitude, Ibusuki recovered her indifferent behavior.
“I appreciate your cooperation. Now then, I first want to ask about the emergency call. You’re the one who made the call, right?”
“Yes. As Doctor Kaneki said.”
“It seems the call was made through a landline, but do you not have a cellphone on you?”
“My father hated cell phones. So I made sure to leave it in my room whenever I was at the house.”
“I see. They let people get a hold of you no matter where you are and what you’re doing, so I don’t quite like them either… well, putting that aside, you spoke of how you lost your mother three years ago. Was that an accident?”
“Yes, that’s what I was told. She fell from the balcony late at night, so unfortunately, no one noticed her.”
“She went out to the balcony at night?”
“She was a person who loved looking at the stars… Perhaps she could see them out there once the snow cleared up.”
Nagisa looked into the distance. Come to think of it, when she didn’t even look thirty, she had lost both her parents. Atami momentarily forgot she was one of the suspects and sympathized with her.
“But it’s been three years since your mother passed away… do you have any idea what might have suddenly set your father on a suicidal path? Like someone confronting him, or some trouble with his human relations…”
As she asked for his cue for suicide, she casually probed for a motive to murder. Atami was impressed by Ibusuki’s art of questioning.
But Nagisa’s expression wasn’t clear. She was making an impatient, lonely sort of face.
“I can’t think of anything special. He seemed to be in extremely high spirits yesterday… really, why did he suddenly resort to suicide? Without saying anything to me…”
“Your guess is as good as mine. The director’s motive for suicide?”
The second questioning session.
Koshimizu Seishirou looked troubled as he furrowed his brow.
While having no leads was trouble in itself, ‘no suicide motive’ increased the probability of a murder. Atami absentmindedly thought that as he took notes.
“Come to think of it, what kicked off your engagement with Nagisa-san?”
“Eh? Oh… truth is, Dr. Hishiro was enthusiastically supporting us. Well, it was something close to an arranged marriage. To that point, I had barely ever talked with Nagisa-san.”
“And yet engagement? For what reason did Dr. Hishiro lend an eye out to you?”
On Ibusuki’s question, Koshimizu gave a troubled frown once more.
“I know it’s strange for me to be the one to say it, but… for argument’s sake, my results are at the top of all our young doctors.”
Meaning Hishiro intended to take a proficient doctor as a son.
Atami felt it was quite an antiquated notion, and he didn’t quite support it.
“What about your feelings?”
“Um, I…” Koshimizu’s face blushed, “Nagisa-san is smart and beautiful… I think I’m very happy when I’m with her. I wonder what she thinks.”
Well, Nagisa seemed to be a level-headed person, and if she didn’t feel anything for Koshimizu, it’s doubtful she would agree to an engagement. Meaning a discord between an arranged marriage wasn’t likely to be a motive to murder Director Hishiro.
But the fact that Koshimizu, who Hishiro had devoted such his attention to, wasn’t invited to yesterday’s… what Hiyama called a ‘top-level meeting’… was a little bizarre. It seems Ibusuki was thinking the same thing as Atami. She posed the point to the man.
“No, even if my results were favorable among the young hands, I’ve no relation to the hospital’s management policies. I’m in the surgical department, but even when I’m in the operating room, I still have an assistant position. I mean, just today…”
At the words Koshimizu had casually leaked out, Ibusuki stopped him.
“Before the ambulance came, when we tried resuscitating Director Hishiro. At the time, I went to fetch Dr. Kaneki’s medical kit from the second floor of the main branch. Because he had an AED in it. At that time too, the one doing all the work was Dr. Kaneki, and I could only watch…”
At this rate, we’re not getting many prospects, thought Ibusuki as she continued her questioning.
“So Dr. Kaneki desperately tried to treat him. Does that mean his relationship with the director was favorable?”
There, Koshimizu narrowed his eyes.
“… Are you trying to ask whether Dr. Kaneki had a motive to murder Director Hishiro?”
It’s not like he didn’t have a tendency for indecisiveness, but as expected of the number one young doctor. It seems he had grasped the implications of Ibusuki’s words. Perhaps thinking there was no need for secrecy with this youngster, that’s right, she honestly accepted.
“Well, I also thought it was strange for the director to commit suicide. Though I wasn’t around during Nagisa-san’s mother’s death three years ago. And I didn’t think there was any discord in the director’s relationship with Dr. Kaneki. But…”
Ibusuki unintentionally leaned her body forward as he said it.
“… Maybe, just maybe. Maybe Hiyama-san had a motive to murder him.”