Yumoto Adventure Land’s management office…
Atami and Ibusuki stood before the meeting room where that’d had all those involved wait. Before meeting them, they did a final check over how everyone was involved.
If Oku Tamotsu who fell to his death in the new attraction, the House of Darkness, was actually killed, then naturally, there was a high probability the culprit was among those gathered.
“Hmm… At the time of the incident, not counting the victim, there were seven relevant people nearby.”
Atami flipped through his notebook as he conveyed the info the local police had gathered to his boss Ibusuki.
“First, there were five testers invited alongside the victim. And there were two female staff members to serve as guides for the attraction.”
Atami turned his eyes up to look at Ibusuki.
“Excluding Chizuru-kun, and from what I heard from the officers at the scene, Tsukioka Yusuki-kun was there as well, it seems… excluding them, that would make for five suspects.”
“What?” Ibusuki’s narrow eyes grew even sharper. “What basis do you have to exclude them? They’re splendid suspects all the same.”
“R-right! … And apart from the seven, I also had the manager of this amusement park come over. Because there are plenty of things we have to ask.”
“I see… then let’s go in.”
Around the meeting table in the center of the meeting room, sat the persons concerned. As the lights weren’t on, only the sunlight streaming in through the blinds would illuminate the space.
Anxiety over a police visit, and irritation at being detained mingled in with the looked directed at the two detectives. Only Tsukioka Yuzuki who was seeing familiar faces let a relieved expression cross his feminine face.
Giving him a light greeting with his eyes, Atami noticed something.
“Hello, Officer Atami. Fancy meeting you again.”
“Yeah, that aside… where’s Chizuru-kun?”
“Oh, Chizuru-senpai is…”
At that moment, from behind the two officers, Kirishima Chizuru made his entrance.
He carried a bottle of melon soda under one arm.
“Ah, Officer Ibusuki, Officer Atami. I appreciate your service.”
He let out a greeting without any heart, taking his position at a corner of the table with an innocent look on his face.
Taken aback for a moment, Ibusuki soon analyzed the situation and openly expressed her anger as she drew close to Chizuru.
“Why did you arbitrarily go out on your own?”
“I bought a drink from the bending machine. But even so, things sure are expensive at an amusement park.”
“Shut it! Just stay put!”
After some unintentional rage, she noticed the doubtful eyes of the other suspects and cleared her throat as she returned her eyes to them.
“Now then, everyone.”
Starting off with a normal greeting, Ibusuki walked to the whiteboard where it was easy to see her.
“I apologize for keeping you here so long. From here on, I’d like to ask you all a few questions…”
“Like, what is this all even about?”
The young woman with her hair dyed blond ipenly narrowed her painted eyelashes as she spoke.
“You know, it seems a person died, but we’re not related to that at all, are we?”
“Oy, oy, Makita,” her presumed boyfriend beside her calmed her down. “You don’t have to say it like that.”
“So what, Shin-chan? I’m telling the truth.”
“Anyways, calm down for now.”
With blatant discomfort, Ibusuki took back control.
“Who’s related and who’s irrelevant is something for the police to decide… now then, let’s get the flow of this case in order.
As I’m sure you’re al aware, a new attraction- The House of Darkness- opened for the first time today. And a man who entered as a tester… Oku Tamotsu-san fell down a hole in a portion of the building, and fell to his death.”
“Hah? There was a dangerous place like that? That’s totally terrifying.”
The blond woman knit her brow.
Perhaps unable to let that fact stand, a single man rose to his feet. Wearing a tidy suit, his hair split in a seven-to-three ratio, the man who looked to be in his forties was clearly the manager.
“This may sound forward, but I’m the manager here. I’m called Miyahara. Um, as this is a problem related to my company’s credibility, I’d like to say it clearly.”
Ahem, Miyahara cleared his throat.
“To make sure the testers never approached that hole, our preparations were perfect. First, in a location no guest would overlook, we put a clear sign saying the path was dangerous, not to go that way. In large print, right in the center.”
“Oh, come to think of it, that was there. The ‘Don’t go right!’ warning.”
The blonde-haired woman’s lover, the brown-haired man was the one who said it.
“Right? And in the million-to-one chance a guest overlooked that notice, to make sure no one fell into the hole, there was a ‘Danger!’ warning bulletin placed right before it.”
“That’s right, for argument’s sake…” Ibusuki sent a sharp glance at Miyahara, “But that aside, Manager Miyahara. Why was there such a dangerous spot in an attraction where guests were left free to raom What’s more, a pitch-black attraction.
“That’s you see. Originally, that hole that led down was supposed to be covered with glass. But that specially made glass order didn’t make it in time, so to our first testers, we thought it couldn’t be helped, and after putting a notice not to approach, we opened up the House of Darkness. From the start, by the blueprints, that road was nothing more than a dead end, and Producer Akabane who drafted it up didn’t put much emphasis on it.”
“I see. So you couldn’t change the date the testers were invited in?”
“We had already publically announced the date, and it came to light that it didn’t seem it would make it in time after we had already sent the tickets and notices to all the testers.”
“… Okay, I understand the circumstances. Now about that,”
Ibusuki made eye contact with everyone again.
“About the ‘Danger! Do not Enter!’ metal board Miyahara-san mentions before… truth be told, it fell into the depths of the hole.”
While he’d stayed silent to that point, the narrow=eyed man in the brown jacket said it intrigued.
“… And from the undamaged state of the metal board that supposedly ‘fell’, the probability that this act was done by someone’s hand with malice aforethought is exceedingly high… meaning this is a murder case.”
The staff member with fluffy chestnut hair raised the first cry of surprise. The other faces also showed surprised reactions.
“Calm down. Now then, that’s how it is, so at the time of the crime, I’d like to check when people entered and exited the attraction.”
“… First, when the attraction opened…”
The female staff member with black, braided hair spoke in a voice that travelled well.
“After I gave the introductory statements, we started letting guests in from the front of the line.”
“I see. What’s your name?”
“I’m Fukaya. My first name is Shouko… and then, let’s see. The first to go in was were those two.”
She indicated the couple of dyed hair.
“Then let’s hear your names.”
Still standing, Ibusuki leaned forward and put her elbows on the table. She looked over the couple as if to intimidate them.
“And I would be thankful if you could divulge your positions.”
“I-I’m Oomiya Shinjirou.”
Nudged by his girlfriend, the man started out.
“I’m a third year at Yumoto University.”
“Likewise, Ino Makita.”
With a sullen voice, the woman also named herself.
While Ibusuki sent them a glance, Atami made himself scarce as he took a memo on his notepad.
“I see. So the two went in… and did they get out?”
“Yes,” Fukaya nodded, “Right after we confirmed the two of them had passed the halfway point, we let the next guest… meaning Oku-san into the attraction.”
“I see. How did you know Oomiya-san and Ino-san had passed the halfway point?”
“When a certain door is opened, it sends a signal sound to my intercom. I heard the noise.”
“I see. And Oku-san went inside… meaning for a period of time, you two and Oku-san were in the same space.”
“Hey, you don’t have to word it like that.”
Ino Makita let out a complaint.
“We were together the whole time, you know?”
“The opinions of people in close relationships don’t serve anything further than reference.”
In regards to Makita’s defiant attitude, Ibusuki became quite agitated herself.
“Oh come on. And when that Oku-san(?) person raised a scream, we were at the exit area.”
“Ah, that one’s true.”
The chestnut haired staff member raised a hand and said it.
“The two of them came out precisely at the time I heard that man’s scream.”
“I see… By the way, your name is…?”
“Oh, me? I’m Takasaki Ibuki.”
So to put together the opinions up to now…
“The moment Oku fell to his death, he was the only one in the House of Darkness. Does that make this an accident?”
The man in the brown jacket said it tediously. Ibusuki fixed a sharp glare on him.
“I can’t overlook that statement. Did you know of the victim beforehand? I’d like to hear out your name.”
“Oh, my apologies. I’m Okabe Kazuhiko. I’ve seen a photo of him before, but it’s not like we were on any special standing. I mean, that Oku Tamotsu was a famous one.”
“Right, in a bad way. His name’s known across the net for being a zealous fan of Producer Akabane’s works, but I’ve never heard a good rumor about him. His manners are exceedingly bad.”
“Oh, so the victim was notorious… in that case, those out to get him wouldn’t be in small numbers.”
“We’ve never heard of him before. Right, Shin-chan?”
“That’s right,” the matter turned to him by Makita, Oomiya looked at Ibusuki, “We were given our tickets by a good friend, so as it stands, we don’t know a thing about Producer Akabane. Of course, we’ve heard of him, famous as he is, but calling us fans would be…”
“I see… by the way, Okabe-san. Did you go into the House of Darkness?”
“Unfortunately, I never set foot inside. Though that goes without saying.”
“Is that so… now then, Kirishima Chizuru and Tsukioka Yuzuki. Did you go into the House of darkness.”
“Of course we went in. Though that goes without saying.”
Chizuru gave a nonchalant answer.
It was natural. If you hear a scream, going over to help out is what human kindness is all about.
Ibusuki looked like she wanted to say something, but unable to think up a clever reply, she rudely turned her face away.
“Um… you’ve been calling it a murder incident for a while now, but isn’t that impossible?”
Yuzuki timidly said it. What do you mean by that? Asked Atami.
“I mean, even if they hid away the signboard, there was that, ‘Don’t go right’ warning sign before it. Normally, you’d choose the left path without ever going close to the hole.”
“I think that depends on the nuance,” This time, Okabe stepped in. “With Akabane’s words, there are quite a few attractions with a beginner’s route and an advanced route. If the sign was written to imply, ‘The right side is for experts,’ I think Oku would head right without any hesitation.”
“That’s unthinkable!” said Miyahara the manager. “We wrote it specifically to avoid such a misconception. To be precise, ‘Please continue down the left path. The right is still in a terribly dangerous state.’ Is how I remember it going.”
“Ah, is that so. My apologies… well I doubt anyone would mistake it like that.”
“Right,” said Yuzuki. “So no matter what you do, you wouldn’t be able to direct Oku-san down the right path.”
Atami nodded. Takasaki tried giving a proposal.
“All I can think about is either covering up that sign, or replacing it with a different one…”
“That’s not possible.”
Chizuru said nonchalantly.
“If it was constructed like that from the moment the mansion opened up, then Oomiya-san and Ino-san who went in before him would have noticed And even if those two are the ones who did it, when Oku-san screamed, they were just about leaving the mansion. I can’t think they had any time to retrieve their handy work.”
“Y-you’re right. I thought it was a good idea when it was coming out of my mouth.”
“By the way, how many people were preparing it before the opening?
“That’s, you see,” Miyahara butted in. “Takasaki-kun, Fukaya-kun, and I, the three of us were doing it. We divided up and performed various checks, and confirmed the work we would do. Takasaki-kun and Fukaya-kun are part timers who were just hired for the day, so I had them learn their roles to the fullest.”
“So you’re working part time?”
Fukaya nodded to Atami.
“Well, even if I was only working today, I came here around a week ago, and got to see the House of Darkness.”
“Is that so. Meaning you and Takasaki-san had much time to think about things over the course of a week.”
“… What are you trying to say?”
Fukaya frowned. Ibusuki met her eyes.
“No, it just occurred to me. Since you were charged with guiding people at the entrance, you could have given Oku-san special instructions beforehand in order to lead him. And if the three of you were divided in preparation, you had the opportunity to conceal the sign board.”
“That’s not possible.”
Yusuki hurriedly said.
“Fukaya-san gave him the same explanation she gave to Oomiya-san’s group. She didn’t say anything strange.”
“… I see.”
Ibusuki knit her brows.
As things went on, the murder line was running thin.
Atami groaned and reflexively looked at Chizuru. And he was shocked. Chizuru had a smile of leisure spanning his lips.
“Oh, Atami-san. What seems to be the matter?”
When he said he had to go to the bathroom and arbitrarily left on his own, it’s true Ibusuki assigned Atami to look over him. But Atami also had personal business.
“Don’t you know who it is? The culprit?”
“Yes. Of course.”
“Who is it?”
“For Christ’s sake!!” Atami gave an irritated cry. “I know what it is you want. It’s money! It’s money, isn’t it!? You plan on selling me the truth!”
“Good grief, you solved it free of charge the other day. Normally, shouldn’t you be doing this sort of thing out of good will… what’s with you.”
“The last case had your relatives as suspects, so I gave you a special freebie. You weren’t in the right mind to solve it on your own. I’m fundamentally a man of business, to an extent last time was too much an irregular for my liking.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ll pay. I’ll pay you… so? What sort of trick did the culprit use? You have proper evidence, I’m sure.”
“Of course. The evidence can probably be found in two places. The traces of a trick the culprit couldn’t erase.”
“Yes. Have your forensics look into it.”
“… Investigate where?”
“The first is the warning notice in question. That’s the main focus of the howdunit. And the other is…”
Those words that followed caused Atami to tilt his head.
“What will investigating that accomplish?”
“It’s the most important thing. The basis of the trick.”
“I can’t see it. Just what sort of trick are they saying they used.”
Chizuru stared intently into Atami’s eyes, raising one of his fingers.
And in an enigmatic tone, he slowly asked the question.
“Here’s a bit of miscellaneous knowledge… here it goes. When telling a counterfeit bill from the real thing, what sort of tests would a specialist use?”