“I’ll get straight to the point, Kaneki-san…Is there any truth to the rumor that Director Hishiro and Hiyama Mitsukiko were colluding to conduct fraudulent practices?”
Receiving Ibusuki’s question, Kaneki Shinya gently narrowed his eyes. He spoke.
“… You heard from Koshimizu-kun, did you?”
The Hishiro House receptions room that had temporarily been turned to an interrogation room.
The middle-aged doctor sitting across from the two detectives spoke quite calmly.
“What sorts of fraudulent practices did he speak of?”
“That unregulated medical supplies imported cheap from overseas were being passed off as domestic product and administered to patients… it seems that’s the rumor Koshimizu-san caught wind of. But you shouldn’t condemn him for it.”
Or so Ibusuki gave a warning.
“It doesn’t seem he actually believes the rumor, and he spoke in doubt the whole time… he also stated he was certain you weren’t involved in it at all.”
“Well, he’s an honest man. Like many youngsters these days, his ambition’s a bit lacking, but perhaps that’s what Nagisa-san was attracted to… pardon me, it seems I’ve gone off topic.”
Kaneki made a sociable, yet somewhat tired smile.
“As the assistant director, I’m also aware of the rumors floating around the hospital. By the whispers, it all started three years ago. I’m a surgeon, so I’ve nothing to do with stocking medication, but it wasn’t a problem I could ignore. They say where there’s smoke, there’s a fire.”
Pulling on his beard, Kaneki talked smoothly. Truly as fluid as water, thought Atami. Of course, this was after he’d heard out Koshimizu, who always spoke as if there was something caught in his back teeth, so perhaps it just felt that way.
“I did worry quite a bit on how I’d try to verify the authenticity of the rumor. I couldn’t just go to the one in question and ask him upfront. If it was an unfounded rumor, it would be libel, and I couldn’t believe my longtime friend would stick his hands into any illegal acts. But as I was thinking over it, a single rumor entered my ears. A nurse said she witnessed an intense quarrel between Director Hishiro and Hiyama-kun.”
They’d already heard it from Koshimizu, but Ibusuki feigned ignorance, and tries saying, “Really?”
“Based on what that nurse overheard, ‘import’, ‘illegal’, ‘caught’, some dangerous words came out, it seems. If the talks were growing to such magnitude, I had no choice but to move. If the rumors were true, there was a risk of malpractice, and even if there was no illegality going on, rumors alone would affect the hospital’s credibility. That’s why I proposed yesterday’s discussion.”
“I see. So the meeting between the three of you was your idea.”
“That’s right. I usually don’t take part in Hiyama-kun and the director’s meetings… but since it had come to this, I decided would bear witness no matter how forceful I’d have to be.”
“I see… so Hiyama-san and Director Hishiro had a quarrel.”
As Ibusuki repeated a prior point, she nudged her chin towards Atami. There was no risk of forgetting, but Atami did write it down just in case. The two detectives looked at Kaneki with anxious eyes.
“… It couldn’t be you think that was a murder? Are you trying to say Hiyama-kun is the culprit?”
“No, that wasn’t our intent. But within that whole morning ruckus, it’s bizarre that Hiyama-san never once showed his face. When everyone was in a state of frenzy, what exactly was he doing?”
“He was sound asleep. Before the note was found, I went to wake him and he was out like a light. Yesterday’s talk went passed two, so I can’t blame him. Well, I was supposed to go to work at nine, so I forced myself up early.”
“I see. By the way, when did he eventually get up?”
“Right after the incident came to light, Nagisa-san woke him. I told her to do so. When she was done calling the ambulance, I told her to inform Hiyama-kun too. No matter how proficient a nurse she may be, there’s no way she could stay calm at the sight of her own father’s stopped heart. So at the very least in the time we carried out the emergency procedures, I decided it would be best she took some distance. I think it was around the same time I sent Koshimizu-kun to fetch the AED.”
Is that so, Ibusuki responded.
Atami listened to Kaneki’s story in intrigue. Perhaps upon seeing the director in the cold room, he determined he couldn’t be saved, and afforded his daughter Nagisa some time to cool her head.
“Then one final question.”
Ibusuki asked nonchalantly.
“Does Nagisa-san know Director Hishiro and Hiyama were working together to perform illegal acts?”
Kaneki’s face clouded as he quietly shook his head.
“I don’t think she should know. Perhaps the rumor entered her ears, but I doubt she paid it any mind. She really trusted her father… especially since she lost her mother three years ago.”
“Ibusuki-san. Do you think Hiyama’s the culprit?”
Ibusuki’s almond eyes sent a trivial glance to Atami.
“If you already know, you don’t have to ask.”
I just wanted to confirm it, he thought as he gave an apology for what it was worth.
Kaneki had left the room, and they waited for Officer Tohi to bring in the last suspect… Hiyama Mitsuhiko. Ibusuki’s answer informed Atami that the case’s resolution was close.
Looking from a motive point of view, the suspicions on Hiyama were thickest. The quarrel witnessed the other day corroborated the theory that, ‘the case was a result of a breakdown in negotiations over illegal transactions’.
It was suspicious he didn’t show himself in the morning… thinking that far, Atami unintentionally opened his mouth.
“Ah, but it was a locked room…”
Ibusuki’s expression turned weary.
“Like I know. If Hiyama admits to the crime, we can press him on it later… it’s time. Come in.”
After Ibusuki responded to a knock on the door, with all his clothing toned in black, Hiyama Mitsuhiko entered the room with a displeased look on his face. When lined beside Officer Tohi’s suntanned continence, his unhealthy complexion stood out even more.
“Well, well, well. You’ve kept me waiting a while… let’s end this quickly.”
“That depends on your answers. Well then, have a seat.”
Even to Hiyama’s terrible mood, Ibusuki’s pace didn’t crumble.
“First, let’s confirm some of the events last night. You last saw the director…”
“In this room, right there. Look, the cups are still where we left them.”
Hiyama nudged his chin towards a round table in a corner of the room. Sure enough, three coffee cups had been placed on it.
“Meaning when I had that discussion with Director Hishiro and Kaneki-san. It carried on to two that night… or what would already be today… I was simply so sleepy, let’s have the continuation tomorrow, I said and called a close. The director was supposed to be free today morning, though it seems Kaneki-san had work to do. I usually speak with the director one-on-one, so honestly, the assistant director’s absence wouldn’t be the slightest hindrance.”
With that, a gloomy smile crossed his face. Perhaps he didn’t want Kaneki sitting in on their talks (meaning the site of illegal transactions), so he purposely did so, thought Atami.
Perhaps thinking the same, Ibusuki showered Hiyama with a gaze of ample suspicion.
“Is that so. From there, you didn’t see the director at all?”
“If you don’t count his corpse. After Nagisa-san woke me, I took a peek at the scene out of curiosity, and there he was.”
Without extinguishing his cynical smile, Hiyama told a joke that got him no laughs. Even if the bias against him as a suspect was removed, the man didn’t give a favorable impression.
“I see… by the way, Hiyama-san. I heard you were in an intense quarrel with the director just the other day. Is that true?”
On Ibusuki’s surprise attack, Atami took a bigger blow to the face than Hiyama. You’re already going there?
On the other hand, rather than surprise, Hiyama showed some discomfort.
“How sickening. Where did you get that information? From that young doctor called Koshimizu…? Well, whatever. I’d like you to stop with those strange allegations?”
“You’re trying to suggest I killed the director, right?”
Ibusuki tried showing him an overly surprised face.
“No, I wasn’t trying to suggest anything… wait, did you kill him?”
“Like hell I did,” Hiyama clicked his tongue and hit against the table. “As if that’s possible. In the first place, from what I’ve heard, the scene was a locked room, was it not? Is there really a possibility of murder here? Now is there?”
Ibusuki thoroughly ignored Hiyama’s leading questions.
“We’re the ones asking the questions. By the way, Hiyama-san. Are the rumors you were colluding with Director Hishiro to smuggle in illegal chemicals true?”
Opening his eyes wide, Hiyama’s lips went stiff. His petrified state continued for a whole ten seconds, and more.
… By his reactions, it signified he had accepted Ibusuki’s words as truth.
And suddenly standing to his feet, Hiyama glared at her and howled.
“Now that’s the most idiotic allegation I’ve heard all day! No wonder your investigation’s not getting anywhere, you’re looking in all the wrong places. Ignoring all the evidence, trying to make someone out as the culprit. What incompetent officers…! I’m not a suspect, so I’ve no reason to be restrained here. I’ll be taking my leave.”
Tohi in front of the door tried to stop him. But Hiyama threatened, “I’ll sue you for infringing on my human rights,” causing the district officer to wince and take a step back.
“Oy, wait Hiyama!”
As Hiyama swiftly walked towards the entranceway, Ibusuki and Atami gave chase.
Hiyama shook off their attempts to stop him and leapt out the door. Practically sprinting by now, he headed towards the come room. And right before the two chasing after him, he got into the truck. The truck that had been parked on the right of the cold room. So that belonged to Hiyama, Atami told himself. I see, if it’s a truck from a company that transports medicine, it wouldn’t be strange if it had a sealed-off loading tray.
And around ten meters from the truck, Ibusuki stopped in her tracks.
“Y-you’re not going to stop him?”
To Atami’s question, Ibusuki returned a cold gaze. And still with that look in her eyes, she made for the gate.
Ah, thought Atami. The gate was still covered with the vinyl sheet to block the eyes of the press. And the truck wouldn’t be able to get through it peacefully.
But perhaps intending to force his way through, Hiyama started up the engine and put the machine in motion. Ibusuki grimaced.
However, without a chance for her to step in, Hiyama stopped the car. Right after he started it up, the vehicle snagged on something, taking a large lurch. Hiyama stopped the car in hysteria, getting down from it. Of course, to check what it was caught on.
“The hell’s this?”
Closing in on Hiyama’s mutterings, Atami and Ibusuki took a peek too. The front tires had been caught on two logs, around ten centimeters in diameter. They both held a length of around half a meter, and they were clearly not a natural occurrence.
“Damn, whose mischief is this?” Hiyama cried out. “Why is something like that here?”
But even if he said that, neither Atami nor Ibusuki had any answers.
The investigators looking through the crime scene in the shadow of the truck had overlooked them as well. But what were they supposed to be…?
As Atami started crafting theories, a familiar voice rung out.
“Looks like rollers to me.”
Atami, Ibusuki and Hiyama turned at once in that direction. From the behind the cold room… from beyond where the iron fencing stretched out, an individual called out.
In a sweltering outfit consisting of a hoodie and blazer, his bangs long enough to cover one of his eyes. And the left eye looking at them boasted a drowsy double-sided eyelid. To his side, Beppu Ageha was there as well.
“… Kirishima Chizuru.”
As if groaning it out, Ibusuki called his name.
“In ancient Egypt, they were apparently used to move blocks to build the pyramids. Meaning you put a heavy load over multiple wooden cylinders, and roll it across. Just goes to show humans have been thinking up ideas to make their lives easier from ancient times. If you think of it like that, you could call lethargy humankind’s true nature…”
As he expanded upon his pet-theory to suit his own interests, Chizuru looked between Ibusuki and Atami.
“Meaning as long as they had the logs, a single culprit could have carried the concrete blocks to the scene. Hey, don’t you think so?”
Chizuru made a smile full of implications.