Ibusuki briskly walked over to Chizuru and Ageha, gripping the iron fence tightly and intimidating the two. As Atami looked over it, his heart was thumping in his chest.
“Why are you two here?”
“We stopped by on the way home from school,” Ageha replied. “We learned about the case from news on the net… ah, this was Chizuru’s idea, not mine.”
“I see, I see.”
Ibusuki sent Chizuru a sharp glare.
“… What is your intent?”
“Yeah~, well it’s not to the level of intent. I’m here in the pure spirit of curiosity.”
Was Chizuru’s response. In the back, Atami pat his chest in relief.
“In the first place, why do you… know unpublished information like the fact the scene was sealed off with concrete blocks?”
“The lady in forensics I happened to pass by was kind enough to tell me. Um, the person with the braids.”
Perhaps recalling her face, Ibusuki wrung out a tired voice from her bitter face.
“More importantly, I’m a bit curious about the scene. I’d like to see what’s going on with it.”
“No way!! Of course you can’t!”
Ibusuki slammed both her hands against the fence. But unmoved, “Oh, is that so,” Chizuru answered.
“… T-that’s right. Chizuru.”
Ageha tugged at Chizuru’s sleeve.
“Let’s go. Isn’t that enough…”
“Hmm? Right, then see you later. Atami-san, Ibusuki-san.”
“I have no plans to see you again.”
Chizuru slowly narrowed his eyes to look at Atami.
“Why did the crime scene have to be that freezer? I think that’s the main point behind this case. Well then, goodbye.”
Ageha made an awkward smile as she sent a nod. And the two went away.
“… What did he even come here to do?”
Ibusuki offered a sound retort. Atami could only say, who knows, as he tilted his head in contemplation.
“And wait, who’s he supposed to be? He looked like little more than a high schooler.”
A voice came from behind the two officers. As Atami turned, he found Hiyama Mitsuhiko making a dubious face. Come to think of it, he was here too.
Ibusuki threatened him.
“Nothing at all. He’s nothing. You didn’t see anything.”
“I-is that so…”
Overpowered, Hiyama took a step back. And right with that momentum, Ibusuki grabbed his arm.
“Now then, I’ll have you come with me.”
His fervor chipped away, Hiyama irresponsibly averted his head.
As they entered the front door, the eyes of the two officers stopped on Shirahama Yayoi of the forensics department.
“Ah! Ibusuki-san, Atami-san. I was looking for you.”
She ran over. To her, Ibusuki sent a bitter smile.
“Shirahama-san… this is troubling. You can’t leak information to an outsider.”
“Eh? Oh, I’m sort! You’re talking about Chizuru-kun, right? I heard he’s the police chief’s son, I thought it would be fine.”
… Fine? What part of it was fine?
Or so Atami thought, but recalling how he himself had leaked investigation info to Chizuru (and not only once) he decided to keep silent.
“And I didn’t tell him that much. Just that the freezer was sealed up from the inside with concrete blocks…”
“Well I guess that much is fine… no, it’s still no good.”
After permitting it, Ibusuki hurriedly corrected herself.
Looking over the officers, Hiyama who had regained his composure gave a cynical sneer. Ibusuki glared at him, and from there she told Officer Nagashima- who just happened to be passing by- to take Hiyama away.
Heading towards the dining room where everyone was waiting, once Nagashima and Hiyama were out of sight, Ibusuki asked Yayoi for her report.
“Um, well you see,” Yayoi’s gaze fell to the binder in her hands. “From forensics, the first thing I should report… there weren’t any suspicious fingerprints found on the freezer’s doorknob. On the outside knob, we found clear prints from Kaneki-san and Koshimizu-san from when they found the body, but there weren’t any new prints on the inner handle.”
“I see… so that raises the raises the probability it was murder.”
“Eh? Why’s that?”
Atami ended up asking. But Ibusuki took a weary look at him,
“If it was suicide, Director Hishiro wouldn’t go out of his way to not leave any fingerprints. There wouldn’t be a need.”
“Ah, I see…”
It was something that didn’t take much thought to grasp. I have to learn to think for myself, Atami scratched his head.
Ahem, Yayoi cleared her throat and continued her report.
“Also, about the button to operate the freezer on the outside of the cold room. It didn’t have any fingerprints on it at all.”
I see, so by the same logic, that raises the probability of murder.
“And no suspicious hairs or anything of the sort fell in the cold room. That’s about all we were able to identify, but… I have something I have to ask about seizing the evidence.”
“Yes? What is it?”
“What should we do about the wood crate and the concrete blocks inside? The forensics’ car won’t be able to carry them.”
“Ah… I’ll arrange for some more vehicles. But before you take them away, it would probably be best if you did a proper investigation on them here… okay, Atami, let’s go.”
The cold was already completely gone from the cold room.
Looking over the dreary interior scenery that hadn’t changed at all from before, Ibusuki leaned over the wooden crate in question.
“It bothers me that the concrete blocks were purposefully contained in a wood crate.”
“Come to think of it, why would he have to do that?”
“Perhaps there’s some mechanism on the box. Let’s look into it.”
But even if the two investigated it, there was nothing strange with that wooden box. It seemed to be considerably old, and there were some knotholes open here and there.It was around seventy centimeters per side, and relatively large, but the concrete blocks inside were a size smaller.
“It had a lid on it, right?”
The lid was leaned against a wall of the room. Atami diligently took it in his gloved hands and looked over it, and as expected, it was also an old piece ridden with holes. There wasn’t anything special about it.
“Yeah, when it was first found, it had a lid on it.”
Atami frantically thought over it.
“Perhaps by doing so, they made the box easier to pull from the outside!”
“This is what I mean.”
First, the culprit put the wooden crate nearby the door, wrapped a wire or something around it, and carried both ends of the wire out. Of course, at that time, there was enough space for a person to pass, and in order to make it a locked room, they would have to fill in that gap. That excess space was filled in by pulling the wooden crate with the wire.
“If it were just the concrete, then with just human strength, and just a wire, perhaps it would be impossible to move. But if they arranged it so the concrete barely moved, while the box slid under it, perhaps it could work out. The lid was to hide the fact the concrete would all end up on one side.”
“Even if they did something like that, it would be found out the moment the police opened the lid.”
“And by what you’re saying, we haven’t gotten anywhere from our initial theory of the box being pulled from outside.”
“Erk, that’s… but don’t you get the feeling it just might work?”
“Then want to have a go?”
Ibusuki directed Atami eyes without much expectation in them. Yes, Atami gave a strong nod.
… To speak from conclusions, the experiment was a failure.
They tried passing thread around the wooden crate and pulled it from outside the door, but it wouldn’t budge in the slightest. That was only natural, and as long as the blocks were in the crate, their weight would press down on the box as a whole, hindering any sort of movement. And as the door was on the right side of the room, there was no space to put the box if you wanted to drag it to where it should be. One would have to leave a considerable amount of space if they wanted a human to be able to pass, making it even harder to pull to the door.
All the suspects were slim, but even so, a considerable gap would be required for anyone to fit through. Even for Nagisa, who’d likely be able to pass most smoothly, the box would need to be fifty centimeters away.
“Yeah… that’s not going to work.”
“But it’s not as if we didn’t learn anything.”
Ibusuki gave some rare praise for Atami’s achievements.
“At the very least, something the size of a single thread can pass through the freezer door.”
“Ah, that’s right…”
Quite some time had passed since this cold room was first built, and the rubber seal on the edge of the door had almost completely come unstuck. Passing a thread through wasn’t difficult in itself.
“Just a little more, and I think we’ll get somewhere…”
Ibusuki bit her lip, but moving the concrete blocks from outside was no easy feat.
In that case, it had to be something else.
Something besides pulling the crate from outside…
… If it were Chizuru-kun, he’d surely solve it in one go.
No, no, that’s no good. Don’t rely on him, I’m the one who’s going to solve this.
“… Atami, something wrong?”
As Atami got onto the ground and started tapping the floor, Ibusuki sent him some perplexed eyes.
“I just thought maybe there’s a secret route in.”
“… Are you sane?”
“Ah, no, don’t get me wrong,” Atami blushed as he corrected himself. “By secret route, I don’t mean a secret passage… but there might be a hole or something, is all I meant.”
“Oh, so that’s what it is.”
Like that, Ibusuki said she would help out as she started banging against the walls of the freezer. Atami was a little moved as he looked over the floor.
But even after the two of them had looked all over the cold room’s interior, they couldn’t find any trace of such a contraption.
Half in despair, Atami stood himself up.
“Why… isn’t there anything?”
“Already worn out?”
“No… but I was sure we would find some other way.”
“Don’t give up!” Ibusuki gave Atami a pat on the back. “Continue turning your head. The door was no good. The floor was no good. The walls on all sides were no good. Then what’s left?”
“… The ceiling, eh!”
Atami looked at the ceiling. And he opened his eyes wide.
Unlike the other sides that were done over with concrete, the ceiling was tiled, leading one to think there might be some gap hidden up there. There was a fan installed to send in cool air, making it seem all too likely some sort of contraption was installed.
“Should we try looking from outside?”
On Ibusuki’s proposal, Atami tried climbing onto the roof of the freezer.
But that would require some form of stepladder. Atami immediately ran over to the shed and nicked one.
As he returned he found Ibusuki inspecting the freezer’s outside. On the right side, where Hiyama’s car was parked.
“What are you looking at?”
“Yeah, Atami… this over here, it’s the refrigeration control of the cold room.”
I see, there’s something like an AC control panel stuck on.
“Well, it’s something anyone would be able to operate easily. Seems it didn’t have any fingerprints on it, and there’s nothing that connects it to a suspect… drat, but it sure is narrow here. Doesn’t seem you can put the ladder up on this side.”
Sure enough, the space was quite narrow because of the parked car.
Atami dropped his gaze again towards the wall and found a small water faucet stationed there. The sort you might find in a park, the tap was connected to a hose. Perhaps it was used the water the flowers.
Anyways, it was impossible to stand the ladder up here.
With the small pond on the left, and the back too close to the fence, those points were impossible as well. So he set the ladder up where the door was, right at the front of the cold room.
“By the way, Atami, did you wipe off the dust on that?”
“… Then there’s a high probability that ladder was used sometime recently. Possibly by the culprit…”
I see, sure enough. Then perhaps the culprit climbed on top of this cold room… Atami nervously ascended the ladder.
“How is it? Atami!”
There was a sheet of galvanized iron draped over the top. It was well-weathered, and there were a number of holes open here and there.
Atami climbed and took a look over it. In the area of the roof near the door, there were holes as well. Holes around the size of dimes and looking down, he could see into the room.
Did the culprit climb up and move the box from here…? But how?
“Yeah, it’s full of holes, but… there aren’t any traces of any special gimmicks.”
“Okay, got it. Then get down.”
As Atami got down and pat the dirt off his clothing, a call came to Ibusuki’s phone. She looked at the screen, and after exclaiming, ‘Geh’, she grimaced and answered.
Judging by her reaction, the caller was likely the coroner, Shuenji Shuichirou. Throughout most of the call, Ibusuki listened without saying a word. “I see, thanks,” she gave an emotionless word of gratitude before hanging up.
“A report came in from the coroner,” she wouldn’t call him by name. “The victim’s estimated time of death is between two and four in the morning. That’s quite a space of time… also, sleeping pills were detected in his stomach.”
“Yeah. Whether the culprit had him take them, or he used them regularly… whatever the case, they’re the reason the victim sealed in the freezer didn’t resist. I guess we should go ask Nagisa-san whether the victim took them as a habit.”
You’re right, answered Atami as he carried off the ladder.
Honestly, he himself was utterly disappointed.
After getting on his knees to investigate the crime scene, and even bringing a ladder there, he hadn’t found the slightest clue. At this rate, should I just put in a request to Chizuru… the notion entered his head, but he gave it a shake to chase the thoughts away.
… That’s no good. You have to think for yourself.
“But why did he even come here, I wonder.”
“Eh? Ibusuki-san… who are you talking about?”
“Kirishima Chizuru. Why does he always appear at the crime scenes.”
“W-who knows…? I really wonder.”
“Well, it’s good that he disappeared quickly this time. Just like his name, he faded like the mist.”
“Hahaha… that’s right.”
(TL: The Kiri in Kirishima means mist/fog)
Like the mist, huh.
When you thought of it like that, the culprit in this case also disappeared from a locked room like mist…
“What’s wrong, Atami.”
A single thought came to him.
Mist… water vapor… the changing state of water.
“What is it, did you think of something?”
I see, that would make the locked room possible! Ah, but it’s no good…
“No, it’s nothing after all.”
“… What’s with that? Then don’t let out such a misleading cry.”
Hmm, but wait a minute? Was it really impossible?
… No, it was possible. They could do it. There was just one person capable of using that trick.
The used stepladder. The holes opened in the crime scene’s roof. The rollers scattered around the scene. The pond on the left of the cold room. And Hiyama’s truck!
That’s right, it was possible. It was.
“I’ve got it! Ibusuki-san.”
“So which is it!?”
“I finally got it this time. The mystery of the locked room, and the identity of the culprit.”
Ibusuki raised her eyebrows in disbelief, but after her face gradually sunk into thought, she offered a proper reply.
“Then let’s hear out your reasoning.”