The Challenge Letter of Okitegami Kyouko Chapter 1 Parts 16-18 (End Chapter 1)

 

16

 

“Using the tub’s volume and the flow from the tap to work out the time it takes to fill is an elementary school arithmetic. Kujirai-san, the action you had to take as the first person on the body, what you had to do while you waited for the police to arrive— was to tighten the handle on the faucet.”
Of course, there were other finer details you had to take care off as well—said Kyouko-san.
“And that is the reason you had to be the first person on the scene.”
“… Are you being serious, Kyouko-san?”
“Very serious.”
Kyouko-san calmly replied.
“Or was there some flaw in my deduction? Something you’d like to object to?”
“Yes, of course, there is.”
While he said that, Kujirai had already given up. This was nothing more than a rebuttal of courtesy. It was pretty much like throwing Kyouko-san a bone so she could explain it easier.
“First off, would the dryer’s weight let it dangle in an empty bathtub? Wouldn’t it unplug itself all on its own? All the more if it were on. Secondly, are you saying the victim Unagi didn’t notice such a contraption? He silently watched on as a high output dryer was dangling right before his eyes? Thirdly, in the first place, what was he even doing, bathing in an empty bathtub?”
“Okay, okay, okay,”
Kyouko-san faithfully nodded at every point—it looked like she intended to answer them all together. So Kujirai decided to bring out the most fundamental question at the end.
“Fourth. As you said before. Even if such a trick was set up—there is no evidence that I am the culprit.”
It may destroy his alibi, but from the start, it was an alibi that was far from perfect.
“Even if, as the first person there, I turned off the water that was left dripping, I may just have done it because I ‘felt like it’ correct? Even without a certain reason or necessity, if you see a faucet that’s been left on, isn’t the normal response to turn it off?”
“You’re right about that. I can’t stand slovenliness myself.”
“Then…”
“You seem to be misunderstanding, but I never said a word about you being the culprit who killed Unagi-san.”
“Huh?”
She—hadn’t. Not a word.
“I simply saw an alibi so I wanted to break it—though it’s true that it all leads in from there. I meant it when I said not having an alibi doesn’t guarantee you’re the culprit, and I’d like it if you take that at face value. However—as you have so courteously pointed out, this alibi trick is a little forced. I see, while it’s a simple and well-put-together timer device, it is far too naïve of a method of murder. If you wanted to kill someone with this means, you would have to reinforce the plug so it doesn’t fall out, what’s more, you would need to take Unagi-san’s consciousness away before restraining him in the bathtub.”
“… Like tying him up or drugging him?”
“Even then, he could just kick the dryer out. Unless you bound him quite firmly, the trick would never work out. And even if, not restricted to drugs, Unagi-san was incapacitated by some means.”
Kyouko-san made the shape of a pistol with her fingers—no, she was more likely miming the hair dryer.
“With its high output, that dryer makes a great deal of noise. If he was sleeping deep enough that he didn’t wake with that rumbling right next to him, it would have left some trace on his remains”
No bruises from rope, no traces of drugs, nothing at all—Kyouko-san pointed out.
“In general, using this method just to make an alibi is plain idiotic. If you want to make it work out, that just increases the number of tricks you have to use, and while you may be able to kill someone, the possibility the alibi doesn’t work out is far too great.”
She declared.
As a matter of fact, Kujirai’s alibi went unconfirmed… though that was for a completely separate reason. And that aside,
“Kyouko-san, that’s one minute down.”
As Kujirai said that, pointing at the poolside clock, “That’s plenty,” Kyouko-san replied with a composed smile.
“It’s plain idiotic to kill someone like that—but thinking of it as an accidental death is just as idiotic. It’s far too unnatural for the short-haired Unagi-san to use a short-corded hairdryer in the bathtub. Even a grade schooler should know how dangerous that is—the noble Officer Hijiori thought this at first. Trying to dry your hair in the bath is suicidal.”
“……”
“Suicidal… yes, that’s right. Unagi-san’s death was suicide, Kujirai-san—as I’m sure you’re aware.”

 

 

 

17

 

“Suicide… when you look at it that way, it all fits into place. At the very least, it would resolve all the questions you brought up. If, on his own will, he waited in an empty bathtub for the water to rise, there would be no need for restraints or drugs. The sound of the dryer he had to endure on his own will—and to make sure the dryer didn’t unplug itself on its own, he held it in his own hand and supported it up.”
While that would leave fingerprints, they were his own prints. They wouldn’t be a problem—Kyouko-san finally folded up her fingers she had kept in the shape of the hairdryer.
“Meaning the dryer was a timer and an auxiliary device to a suicide. What you did as the first person on the scene was clean up his mess—perhaps? The reason Unagi-san had been talking with you on the phone lately was because he was pleading for you to do it.”
“… Your ideas are so out there I’m struggling to keep up. Why would an Olympic candidate with a promising future commit suicide?”
“For a man living alone, his room was strangely orderly. You’ll have to excuse me if I saw that as him preparing for a journey beyond.”
Kyouko-san said.
“Did the money disappear as his payment to you?”
She asked. The fact that question came up meant even this forgetful detective didn’t have an understanding of everything.
“I don’t know about that. Perhaps he went a little wild, or took to donating so he didn’t have any regrets at the end.”
“Is that so. Well, that sounds about right.”
He really didn’t know about the money’s whereabouts, so he answered a little haphazardly and Kyouko-san easily pulled back. While he found it a little doubtful, “I don’t think you’re the type of person who’d do it for money,” she added on.
“You sound like you know me.”
“As well as I ever will.”
“If Unagi committed suicide, then why did I have to be so desperate to make an alibi? Don’t you think I needed an alibi because I killed the guy?”
“The reason you needed to fabricate an alibi wasn’t because you killed him, but because you would be suspected. You would be stumbling upon the remains of Unagi-san, who you already didn’t get along with—an alibi would definitely be necessary. It was precisely because you weren’t the culprit that you needed someone to prove it.”
“… Just hypothetically. If there was such an arrangement between me and Unagi. Let’s say he suddenly called me out of the blue and, ‘Hey, I’ve decided to die this time. So when I die, you’d better have a proper alibi’ he kindly warned me.”
“Well I’m sure he did. Probably word for word.”
He was being cynical but it didn’t get across.
Despite how calm she looked, she was considerably firm.
“And then after that, I’m sure he told you, ‘There’s something I need you to help me out with’ or something. He needed you to finish up the crime scene.”
“It might look consistent, but isn’t that strange? In that case, the contraption was unnecessary. Instead of doing something as roundabout as letting the water in bit by bit, he just had to dunk the dryer in at the designated time. Doesn’t the use of that trick equal the conclusion that this case was a murder incident?”
“Not equal, nearly equal.”
“N-nearly?”
“I’m saying it was Unagi-san’s goal to make it seem that way. A dryer he didn’t usually use would leave too many questions for an accidental death. It was suicide pretending to be murder. Without leaving a will—and he asked you to take care of the scene.”
Unagi-san didn’t want anyone to think he had committed suicide, Kyouko-san said in a meek tone as if she had some thoughts of her own on the matter.
“Because, just as you said, he was an Olympic candidate with a promising career—I’m sure he didn’t want the world to see the weakness in his heart that led him to suicide.”
“… I’m envious of you, Kyouko-san.”
“Huh”
“I said I’m envious that you can so easily declare suicide as a weakness of the heart. Kyouko-san.”
It’s impossible for me, he said.
Because I saw the bottom before.
He had no drive to blame the detective, and he was mostly just taking out his resentment—but Kujirai had no choice but to say it.
“To swim, crawling at the bottom of the pool is impossible for me.”
Her mood unhindered, “And it’s precisely because it’s impossible for you—that Unagi-san cast away his grudges to make the request to you.” Kyouko-san smiled.
“Turn off the faucet for me—as if he was asking a friend.”
“… There’s just one thing you’re wrong about.”
Kujirai stood from the bench as he spoke. It was a trivial matter, and perhaps he shouldn’t say it, but it felt itchy for her to put it as if he and Unagi still understood one another, and unable to bear it any longer, he could no longer stay silent.
“What he asked me to do wasn’t just the faucet—if I had to say, that was just a side thing.”
“A side thing? Then what was the main?”
“Have you seen a photo of Unagi’s body?”
Kyouko-san shook her head.
Even if she had, perhaps she had forgotten.
“Then you should have a look. You’ll see he went off with a peaceful look on his face—a dying face so pretty, you’d never believe he was electrocuted. Of course, because I put it in order for him.”
While he said put it in order, all he really did was close his bulging eyes, and similarly close his mouth, but… that alone changed the impression he gave off quite a bit.
“What did I tell you? He’s a dandy dude who’s all about acting cool. He was even worried about his reputation after he died—that was the part of him I could never stand.”
“… You can’t call that efficient.”
But, Kyouko-san said,
“But a swimmer is a job all about drawing a crowd—I’m sure it’s important how people see you.”
“Kyouko-san, what is my crime? Defiling the dead… is it?”
“Who knows? I’m dull on law. I only know the concept and principles.”
“Is that really alright for a detective?”
“Even if I learn it, I’ll forget it. All you can really count on me for is a good old sense of values.”
Kyouko-san said before standing herself.
“If you made the corpse more presentable, that’s pretty far from defiling—it’s dubious whether you can be taken in for assisted suicide either. All you did was know and fail to stop him… stopping the water could be called destruction of evidence, so please consult with Officer Hijiori on that one. I doubt he’ll do you ill.”
“That’s a huge help… Hey, Kyouko-san.”
Kujirai looked at the clock—five minutes on the dot. He had nothing left he wanted to ask or talk about, and in that case, ending the conversation here was the smart way to go.
But just one more thing, it was overtime, he made the excuse as he decided he would pose the question to the detective in a swimsuit.
“Back there, I was being critical of you, but… it’s not like I properly understand how Unagi felt either. It’s not like I can accept the fact he took his own life—I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel about this… should I sum up this conclusion with, ‘some guy out there has some crazy ideas’ as well?”
“You can’t. Because this is reality.”
Please mull over it forever.
Kyouko-san told him flatly, no mercy to spare.
“I’ll forget it by tomorrow—but you have to remember Unagi-san for the rest of your life. No matter how much you hated him.”
“Well then, Kujirai-san.”
With her half-dried white hair, Kyouko-san turned to Kujirai and took a deep bow.
“Some other time, if we ever meet again— please do try seducing me from scratch”

 

 

 

18

 

“It’s as you said, Kyouko-san. Unagi-san’s best time has been stagnating for a while now—but that’s just in numbers. I tried asking around his coach and friends, but there didn’t seem to be any signs he was considering suicide.”
Meeting up with her outside the gym, Officer Hijiori walked beside her giving her report. With her eyes red from the pool and her hair as white as ever, Kyouko-san who had become somewhat rabbit-like didn’t seem particularly surprised.
“Perhaps the closer he was to them, the harder it was to open up.”
“Then why did Kujirai-san accept? It’s not as if he took the money, right?”
“And they weren’t close friends of any stripe. If I had to say, a man’s honor? … I’m sure you could also say he wanted to act cool. Just as Unagi-san didn’t want it to be seen as suicide, you could say he felt the same—birds of a feather and all that.”
“Were they friends, or were they not? Which is it?”
“They were men.”
Shrugging her shoulders, a slight smile on her face—by her tone, she was somewhat enjoying herself, so perhaps that was supposed to be a joke. Whatever the case, what followed was the police’s job… without enough evidence to apprehend him, Officer Hijiori could only wait for Kujirai to come himself.
He won’t run anymore, or so Kyouko-san gave her stamp of approval.
“Well then, Officer Hijiori. Now that that’s settled, I don’t mean to pressure you, but it’s about time I got paid.”
By the time they reached the station, Kyouko-san’s face had turned from a detective to a manager—present time ten at night, only two hours left of the day. The Okitegami Detective Agency generally dealt with in-cash payments within the day—she would forget by the next day, so there really was no other option.
“I know. As you can see, I properly prepared it during the day. Have a check. And could I get a receipt?”
Officer Hijiori said as he produced an envelope from the inner pocket of his suit and courteously handed it over—with the hand movements of a seasoned banker, Kyouko-san counted the bills inside, but there she tilted her head perplexedly.
“My apologies, Officer Hijiori. I can’t write up a receipt for this.”
“Eh? Huh, that’s strange. Was it not enough?”
Despite her gentle, polite tone, in a sense, as she indicated the deficiency, her eyes were far harsher than when she indicated the truth of the case, and Officer Hijiori was quite overwhelmed.
“I’m sure I prepared the amount we agreed on… ah, that’s right, I’ve got it. You’re wrong, Kyouko-san. See, the tax, meaning ten percent, you said you’d give me a discount from your regular fees.”
When Officer Hijiori pointed that out,
“I never said that. I mean, I have absolutely no recollection.”
Said the forgetful detective.

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The Challenge Letter of Okitegami Kyouko Chapter 1 Parts 13-15

13

 

It’s a pleasure to meet you, she said.
Meaning—her memories had been reset again. While Kujirai had no way of knowing the forgetful detective’s specific rule or regulations behind her forgetting, the eyes of someone looking at someone for the first time in their life were something he could pick up on instinct.
He had tried to reset his thoughts through devoting himself to swimming but—this forgetful detective was able to do it simply by forgetting. Is there anything I can win at? He insulted himself.
Though it seemed Officer Hijiori wasn’t with her…
“Could I have a bit of your time?”
As Kyouko-san asked with a smile, he felt a sense of déjà vu—this was almost the exact opposite of the café from two days prior. She was wearing a cute one piece, but had she invited him wearing something with higher exposure, he felt he might immediately accept. Albeit, a former competitive swimmer like Kujirai wasn’t that impulsive.
“I’m sorry, I’m in the middle of training at the moment.”
“Oh? Don’t’ be so cold. Weren’t you just about wrapping up? You’ve been swimming for quite a long while…”
A long while, had she been watching?
Kujirai played dumb, “I’m just taking an interval,” he said and returned to the pool.
“I can wait until you’ve done another fifty laps.”
Of course, there was no way he could do another fifty—going beyond indirect to the point of blatant rejection, Kujirai pulled down his goggled and kicked the wall of the pool.
It happened at that moment.
Splash, Kyouko-san jumped into the lane one over—An active action one wouldn’t expect from her gentle appearance.
In the first place, the very fact she dropped by the fool made it feel like she got the drop on him—her movements were all terribly speedy, or rather, she was quick to react.
“… If you suddenly jump in without preparing yourself, you can induce a heart attack,”
Giving a warning as an instructor was the most Kujirai could do.
“Ahaha. A heart attack, is it—so it’s like an electric shock?”
“……”
“No need to worry. I’ve already done my warmup—hey, Kujirai-san.”
Equipping the swimming cap and goggles she had hung on the shoulder string of her swimsuit, Kyouko-san went on.
“How about we have a little competition? Fifty meters, freestyle. If I reach the goal first, you’ll have to spare me just five minutes or your time.”
“… You’re a forceful one. Are you one of those aggressive types?”
“I’m a detective type.”
“That so.”
If you just started out with that—he did think, but hindsight was twenty-twenty and it was already too late.
“Then if I win, Kyouko-san, will you go on a date with me?”
“I don’t mind. I do like dates.”
Kyouko-san readily accepted Kujirai’s inciting words.
With that reply, there was no turning back.
“Then it’s a match.”
Kyouko turned forward and prepared herself.
Judging by that action alone, she wasn’t a complete amateur… perhaps she could swim faster than the average man. Of course, Kujirai didn’t believe she could swim faster than a former professional.
Be that as it may, there was no way she made such a reckless challenge with no hopes of victory… she said she watched him swim a while, so did she think he was tired out?
Well of course, he was swimming without calculation so he couldn’t go at full power, but that didn’t mean he didn’t have another fifty meters left in him.
“Ready, start!”
Kyouko gave the signal herself and kicked the wall—with no prior notice, she had arbitrarily made her start but he didn’t’ mind giving her a bit of a handicap.
Following behind, Kujirai took in a deep breath, and kicked—with the same crawl as before, he began to swim.
He didn’t think anything as he swam.
But he felt.
It was somewhat irregular, but he couldn’t help but feel it had been a truly long time since he competed with someone like this—and he began to detest himself for enjoying it. In his active days, he had frequently gone up against Unagi just like this. He didn’t know what he was supposed to feel about that.
There was no mistaking the sole fact he would never be able to swim with him again—but as he swam on, he stopped feeling that as well.
“Buhah!”
When he popped his head out o the water to take a breath, he looked at the lane over. He must have passed her long ago—but Kyouko-san was nowhere to be seen.
It was only an instant and he was wearing goggles, so perhaps he simply didn’t see her, but she wasn’t there swimming on the second breath either.
Don’t tell me, she drowned? Did she force her body to win the race and get a leg cramp—or was it really heart attack?
“… Kyo- Kyouko-san!?”
Kujirai halted his crawl to get his face out of the water. He looked around—where had she sunk?
He had to save her fast… this pool was a deep one, and her feet most likely wouldn’t reach the bottom at her height. What was the lifeguard doing?
Kujirai had flown into a panic, and Kyouko-san had for all intents and purposes sunk to the bottom of the pool. To be more precise, she had dived there. Dived, and swam.
“I win!”
She appeared from the water with that cry—as she touched the wall of the course. Still in the center of the lane he’d been standing, Kujirai could only watch as it happened.
With such a great difference between them, he had lost…
“No… it’s against the rules to go underwater in freestyle.”

 

 

 

14

 

“What a peculiar rule. If you wanted to swim faster, more nimbly, it would be more appropriate to sink your entire body under the water’s surface and dive, and yet, to think it would be forbidden by the rules… don’t you find that inefficient.”
Kyouko-san said without any shame—seeing how she did whatever it took to win, it was on the contrary, even a little heroic, yet at the same time terribly idiotic.
And sure enough, as she said, the fastest way to swim was underwater—following the rules to always keep one portion of your body above water would just increase resistance.
Taking off her swim cap and refastening it in her shoulder string, wiping off her white hair that had taken on a silverfish hue with a towel, “I assume it’s because swimming is an event meant to draw a crowd—if all the competitors crawled along the bottom of the pool, you wouldn’t be able to cheer for them, and there would be no excitement,”
Kyouko-san said—the conversation took place on a poolside bench. Kujjirai made his resolve to sit beside her. To be able to sit next to a beauty in a swimsuit was truly an honored event. If not a crowd, it had at least drawn him.
“Not limited to swimming, I’ve thought the same about track and field events as well. Running in circles, crossing complicated courses, that’s quite a bit of loss, isn’t it? If you truly wanted to see who’s fastest, then even if it is forty two point one nine five kilometers, just like the hundred meter dash, it should be measured in a straight line course.”
“… Preparing a course like that is impossible. Humans are only able to do what they can in the scope they’ve been given.”
“You’re right about that… oh, that’s actually quite nice.”
“Pardon?”
He wondered what was nice, but that conversation was already over. Kyouko-san pointed at Kujirai’s head—his soaked hair. While it was still wet, he had a short cut that didn’t even need a towel.
“I always wanted to try cutting my hair really short once in my life, but I can never make the resolve… if I woke up one morning, and my hair was suddenly so short, tomorrow’s me would be terribly surprised and jolly about it.”
“… I’m sure any hairstyle would work. If it was on you, Kyouko-san.”
“You sure know how to compliment,”
Kyouko-san smiled.
While that part about any hairstyle suiting her was Kujirai’s complete honest impression, he also honestly felt her silver glistening hair was strangely sexy. The gap with her innocent expression caused her heart to skip a beat.
“Fufu,”
Kyouko-san draped the towel she used to wipe her hair over her shoulders.
“Well, unlike you and Unagi-san, I don’t swim so frequently, so it doesn’t matter. I haven’t smelled so much chlorine in a while.”
“Chlorine… I’ve gotten quite used to the smell, but as a woman, are you worried it might damage your hair?”
“I’m not really bothered by it. I don’t think you can damage my hair any further.”
She said quite indifferently.
Was that a delicate matter or not? He couldn’t decide so he decided to ignore it. It was hard to imagine any link between white hair and forgetting.
“So, Kujirai-san. May I begin the conversation? You did promise you would give me five minutes of your time.”
“Yeah… I’ll keep the promise.”
He said, taking note of the minute hand of the clock by the poolside. It was normally used as a reference for swim time—now it would serve a separate function.
“But can I ask one thing before that?”
“I don’t mind. What could it be?”
“I’m sure you’ve already forgotten, but when I first met you, there was a book you recommended me. A short story called ‘Sentenced to Conversion’ by an author called Sunaga Hirubee…”
“Oh, I’d surely recommend that one. It’s a lovely story I’ve read far too many times—did you read it?”
“Just the one.”
“I’m glad. Even between readers, it isn’t often you actually get someone to read a book you recommend.”
Is that how it works? Certainly, Kujirai had largely read the short story just to back his own alibi…
“And now that you’ve read it, how was it?”
“That’s exactly what I wanted to ask about. The villain is reformed… he’s made to reform, and when I thought that was the end, it kept going.”
It was, how to put it, a terrible punchline.
More surreal than bad.
After that, the once-villain Samaritan would trust people only to be scammed, save people only to shoulder their debt, get alone only to be betrayed; with his own sense of values grounded in virtue, he despairs at the discrepancy with the world, at the end his heart and body in tatters, he dies a dog’s death.
The sentence to conversion was, in short, that sort of sentence—by reforming a villain, he was sentenced to go through all the tragedy of a man of virtue.
A sentence far crueler than death.
… He thought it was an outrageous story. Upon reading it, just what sort of lesson was the reader supposed to take?
“Having a vile criminal go through something terrible is something I can understand in a book on morality, but in this one, the point is we’re supposed to accept the premise that it’s a virtuous man having all the terrible things done to him. The basis of the punishment is to make the villain go through hell by turning him into a good man… that one just doesn’t sit well with me.”
Just what am I supposed to feel?
It just didn’t sit right—that’s why, now that he had the opportunity, he wanted to try asking Kyouko-san.
Though he missed his timing at midday…
“You’re surprisingly, oh, I don’t mean this in any bad way, but you’re too earnest, Kujirai-san.”
Kyouko-san said with a peculiar laugh— when she reacted like that, it felt as if he had said something that terribly missed the mark. Was talking about that now missing the mark as well?
“No, I’m just not accustomed to reading. Mystery novels especially. That’s why I didn’t know how I was supposed to take a story like that.”
“People who are accustomed to reading can wander off on similar detours as well. I’m no exception—but Kujirai-san. To read a book and then see what moral lesson to take, what to learn, how to use it later in life, you don’t have to set yourself up like that. We’re not in Japanese class.”
Kyouko-san stuck up one finger towards Kujirai. While that was a gesture like a Japanese teacher, actually mentioning that was a statement unbecoming his profession.
“Well now, there’s someone out there with some crazy ideas. That’s all you’ve got to think when you close the book.”
“……”
“Then let’s start the mystery solving. Don’t worry, I’ll properly end it in five minutes—rationally and quickly.”

 

 

15

 

“Kujirai-san, two days ago at three in the afternoon, you spoke with a certain woman at a café terrace—the two of you enjoyed tea together, and enjoyed your time for a little under an hour.”
“…….”
A certain woman, what a strangely roundabout way to put it—she was the forgetful detective, but even if she forgot every day, he didn’t understand why she had to go so far to express it at someone else’s business.
“And miraculously, it was at that very same time that your once-rival Unagi-san is estimated to have died—meaning you have an alibi.”
“That’s great. I’m glad to hear that.”
He replied for what it was worth. Did he come off as sarcastic?
Kyouko-san’s alibi testimony was practically invalid, making it so he might as well not have a proof of absence from the scene… did they take testimony from the barista or some other customer?
“But for your alibi to match up so perfectly feels a little too contrived for coincidence. As someone who had discord with the victim, and the first person to stumble upon the body—”
“Don’t you think there are just some coincidences out there? Like the miracle of me meeting you?”
Just as a test run, he tried that evasive line but, “Certainly, there might be. But there might not be as well.” He was evaded in turn.
“Whatever the case, when someone has an alibi, it is a detective’s nature to want to crumble it—the more perfect that alibi is, the more I feel like taking it down.”
“Now that’s quite a nature…”
More than a nature, it was an occupation.
If he knew he would be getting involved with this sort of character, Kujirai likely would never have tried to make a perfect alibi—of course, it was he who dragged such a character into the case, so he had no one to complain to.
Though the reason Kyouko-san continued speaking as if Kujirai had a perfect alibi remained a mystery…
“And so? Did you destroy my alibi?”
“In this instance, there are a number of ways to think about it. First, your alibi at three in the afternoon was a falsehood. Second, the time of death is wrong.”
“… Well that sounds logical.”
More all-encompassing than logical, really.
To crush every conceivable possibility one at a time—detective was a far plainer job than Kujirai had anticipated.
“So which one is it?”
“It’s neither. That approach will not be able to crumble your alibi. So there, a final possibility arrises—meaning, if your proof of absence is real, and the time of death is real, I can only think that Unagi-san lost his life to what one might call a remote timer.”
Normally, he wouldn’t have any problem if she thought the culprit was someone apart from him, but… a remote timer?
“Are we getting high tech here?”
“That’s how yesterday’s me described it… but that aside… there was a timer mechanism in that bathroom, and when that mechanism was set off you were somewhere else making an alibi. That’s one way I can destroy your alibi—more than destroy, I would be rendering it meaningless.”
“Do you really want to make me out as the culprit that badly? Rather than pursuing that possibility, I think it would be far faster to search for another suspect.”
He tried saying cynically, but Kyouko-san didn’t seem hurt in the slightest.
“I have nothing against you not being the culprit. And just because you don’t have an alibi, that doesn’t mean you’re the culprit.”
“……”
When she said that with a smile, it was hard to refute any further.
One of the reasons Kujirai found it hard to read mystery novels was because he couldn’t understand why someone who committed a crime would obediently listen to a detective’s reasoning, but once he was actually standing in that position, it was surprisingly charming. To have his own actions analyzed and critiqued.
And so, from his own side, “So what was the remote timer” he urged Kyouko-san on.
“Are you saying I built up a Rube Goldberg and set it up to drop the dryer in the bath at the designated time? And I became the first person on the scene in order to collect that device?”
Not only did he urge her, he tried leading her astray, but the detective didn’t hop on board.
“No, I highly doubt that. The more complex the mechanism is, the more evidence will remain. Even if it were to create an alibi, it’s not clever to increase material evidence towards that means—though I do think that’s roughly the reason you became the first on the body. Otherwise, there would be no reason for you to go out of your way to discover the corpse.”
A simpler mechanism is best, Kyouko-san said.
“Since I said remote timer, it looks like you imagined some convoluted trick, but it didn’t need any unnecessary tools. The dryer that took Unagi-san’s life. That was enough.”
“… Did the dryer have a timer function? Hair dryers these days come with all sorts of bells and whistles. Though I don’t use them, so I’m not too knowledgeable.”
“Right, that might be the case for a man with short hair like you—and Unagi-san too, of course. Did Unagi-san usually use a dryer, by the way?”
“Who knows… unlike me, he was a dandy dude who liked putting on airs, so perhaps he did.”
As Kujirai shrugged his shoulder to play it off “The murder weapon dryer had no timer function,” Kyouko-san replied with a straight face.
“Rather, it wasn’t necessary. The dryer just had to have the highest output as possible.”
“Then another mechanism would be needed after all. Something to drop the dryer in the water when three in the afternoon came around—”
“It was unnecessary,” Kyouko-san emphasized. “No need for setup, or even for it to fall into the tub. The reason being, the dryer was in the bathtub from the start.”
“The bathtub, from the start? Hey now, what are you saying… if a high output dryer hit the bathwater, it would spark at that very instant. I can’t see a trick.”
“At first, I considered the possibility of pure water.”
“Pure… water?”
“Yes.”
Kyouko-san said as she pointed at the pool.
“The water in the pool is mixed with chlorine, right? Pure water is the opposite—meaning water with no impurities mixed in. Water in that state despite being molecular H2O does not conduct any electricity. If the water in the bath was pure water, even with the dryer in it, it wouldn’t spark.”
“… Then the dryer was on in the bathwater the whole time?”
“Not all of it. Once the pure water lost its pure state, at that instant it would quite likely spark.”
“Meaning… it would be the sort of timer you were talking about. Are you saying I predicted the state change of pure water? That someone without any scientific knowledge like me could predict it would pass current in an hour?”
“No, no, that’s not what I’m saying at all… I’m just trying to bring up how I was considering quite an idiotic possibility at first. Even a detective couldn’t read the state change of pure water through passage of time—I’m sure what the bathtub filled with was just bath water.”
“Most likely.”
“Rather, couldn’t it be that it didn’t have any water to begin with?”
After presenting a completely absurd hypothesis, she cut into the main issue—it seemed that was the forgetful detective’s way of doing things.
“The dryer was simply dangling in an empty bathtub. After that, the bath’s faucet was turned on—not completely, just a little. And bit by bit, the bathtub filled with water—the moment the rising water touched the dangling dryer,”
It sparked.
Kyouko-san declared.

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The Challenge Letter of Okitegami Kyouko Chapter 1 Parts 10-12

 

10

 

“Officer Hijiori, as you have pointed out, at present, we have a tendency to overthink things. We arbitrarily make the case convoluted, arbitrarily wandering into the labyrinth. So how about we go and press reset?”
She leisurely made the proposal. As if, to figure out where they had miscalculated, she was going to wipe the blackboard clean and recalculate everything from scratch.
No, it was true they were stuck at the moment, so Officer Hijiori was all up for resetting, but he’d have no trouble if he could do that—he was about to say when it occurred to him that the forgetful detective Kyouko-san could accomplish that with no trouble at all.
Kyouko-san only has today.
Her memory is reset every day—to explain it more precisely, once she sleeps at night and gets up in the morning, she’ll have completely forgotten everything that happened yesterday.
To take that even further, the rule was no restricted to day and night. In short, as long as Kyouko-san slept and woke up, she would forget anything that happened before she slept—whether it was a short nap or siesta, the rule was strictly applied.
Meaning in this case, if she were to fall asleep for even an hour in Unagi’s bedroom here and now, everything that happened that day—the series of events starting from the officer calling her to the police station, would have never happened at all.
It was like losing a ballpoint pen—however, unlike the missing pen, it could never be recovered later.
“But in that case, Kyouko-san, wouldn’t you simultaneously be abdicating all the deductions we’ve piled up to this point?”
“Yes, that’s why, that included I’d like to reset—it does seem the way I have gone at this case has been flawed from the get-go. When my entry point was as the very person meant to back up an alibi, there was no way I could handle the incident with a neutral stance. A detective should never be anything more than a third-party to the incident.”
Kyouko-san said as she crudely patted against the cover and pillow Unagi used. She was checking whether the place was worthy enough for her to sleep. It did seem it got a pass, as after removing her glasses and placing them on the bedside, she flopped right down with flowing movements.
“Well then, good night, Officer Hijiori.”
“Wait a second. You can’t just sleep here—from your point of view, wouldn’t you be being woken up in who knows where by a man you don’t know? If I end up surprising you,”
Officer Hijiori knew himself well. He knew he had a tendency to put pressure on people—that was precisely why he used it to its maximum efficiency while investigating, but he wasn’t suited to waking someone up. Even more so when he was dealing with the forgetful detective. In all actuality, it would be more than a surprise.
“Oh my. You do have a point. Then,”
Kyouko-san got up for a moment, taking a thick magic marker from a nearby pen stand—and rolling up her sleeve, on her left arms, ‘I am Okitegami Kyouko. White Hair. Detective. Currently investigating with Officer Hijiori,’ she wrote.
A succinct message.
I see, then when she was woken up, she’d be able to reason it out easily—it was her own handwriting, she’d have a hard time suspecting it. For a moment, he thought she was going to write a summary of the incident as well, but Kyouko capped and returned the marker.
“When you wake me up, show me your police badge. That should get me to trust you”, she said as she put herself to bed again.
“And give me an outline of the case—but cover up the fact I was meant to back up an alibi.”
“Very well…”
It did seem she intended to thoroughly reset everything—but if that fact was to be covered up, weren’t there other things he would have to hide as well.
“Yes, but going off of Kujirai-san’s plan… instead of a plan, it could just be a coincidence, so how about we give him the luck of the draw. Meaning, just tell me that his alibi at three in the afternoon was backed up, make it so that he has a perfect alibi. The woman he met at the café terrace was able to testify without forgetting.”
“… Telling lies isn’t my forte, but I accept. Is there anything else I can do?”
“If I had to say, if you could buy us some dinner. For desert, an adzuki bar would be lovely.”
And with that, Kyouko-san pulled over the covers and shut her eyes. She was already asleep a few seconds later—with a development so sudden, he had lost the chance to say good night on his end.
What was the best way to put it… he had always thought she boasted a brazen mentality unsuited to her soft, mature aura, but for her to actually fall asleep at a crime scene, in someone else’s bed, that went beyond brazen into impudence.
You could call her a crazed daredevil—but rather than impressed, the officer had to wonder if, even if it were to reach the root of the case, did she really have to go so far?
Did Kyouko-san have some sort of circumstances that made her so thorough as a detective—to the end, nothing more than a mere client, Officer Hijiori couldn’t tread in too deep.
All he could do was, at most, go out and buy dinner. Without forgetting the azuki bar, naturally.

 

 

 

11

 

“Oh I see. So that’s what happened.”
An hour later.
Woken by Officer Hijiori, the Kyouko-san who opened her eyes naturally—by her own devices—had completely forgotten the conduct of ‘Yesterday’s Kyouko-san’, and was understandably somewhat distraught.
But she immediately looked at her handwritten message on her left arm, and upon seeing the officer’s badge, with her own insight, she grasped the situation—eating the convenience store bento bought while she was out, Hijiori gave an outline of the case. Just as he thought she didn’t have any input, at the very end, she said that with a satisfied nod.
“So what do you see?”
He had given a false explanation for Kujirai’s alibi, so when she said ‘I see,’ it made him feel like he was tricking her… but at the very least, it was Kyouko-san who chose to be deceived for the time being, and he simply did what he was told.
“When I said I see, I mean I get the general idea. While a few points remain that I must confirm with the man himself… the supposed alibi trick set up in the bathroom, the true nature of the alibi fabrication Kujirai schemed, I’ve roughly worked it out.”
He was shocked.
This was an attitude brimming with self-confidence, unimaginable only a short hour ago.
“This is quite rudimentary, officer.”
“I-I see…”
Kyouko-san, who’d been just as stuck as he was not too long ago was starting to speak like a fictional great detective—well, it was nothing to retort at.
“Do you mean… a remote timer device?”
“Remote timer? Did I describe it like that? Hmm… well, it’s nothing so overblown, but you could call it a fitting depiction. I give myself passing marks.”
“……”
Having escaped the labyrinth of thinking too hard, Kyouko-san’s leisure was palpable—she was condescending over her own past self. In the first place, Officer Hijiori who was still trapped in the labyrinth could only say he was struggling to understand this confidence.
“… Then you’re telling me you have already seen through to the truth of this case.”
Not thirty minutes had gone by since she opened her eyes in the bedroom. No, even including from when he had called her to the station in the morning, it hadn’t even been twelve hours—and yet, she had ascertained the truth.
The fastest detective.
Who solves any case in a day—
“Oh no, you think far too highly of me. As things stand, a deduction is no more than a deduction. It’s not like I have any definitive proof.”
“Strictly speaking, what sort of trick do you foresee that he used? How did Kujirai-san construct an alibi?”
“I didn’t get there by a path I can brag about. It’s just seeing what works—no, a leap in thought perhaps.”
“……?”
“If I had to say, it’s because the suspect Kujirai-san and the victim Unagi-san are both swimmers. That’s why I thought it might be the case.”
What she had to say made it even less comprehensible—Kyouko-san likely didn’t want to carelessly say anything uncertain to an agent of the law, and she wasn’t trying to put on airs with her mystery solving, but it ended up making him impatient.
So what if both Kujira and Unagi were swimmers—he did tell yesterday’s Kyouko-san how ironic it was that a professional swimmer died in the bath.
“As I said, there are a few points I still have to verify with the man himself… those holes really can’t be filled in by deductive reasoning. Where is Kujirai-san right now?”
Kyouko-san asked, pulling the adzuki bar out of its packaging and swiftly biting down on it.
“Err… he did say he planned to swim at the pool tonight. Something about training… it did sound like an excuse to cut off the questioning, but I doubt it was a complete lie. And so, should we try asking him tomorrow morning or so?”
“I don’t have any reason to wait until tomorrow morning—I’ll have forgotten the reasoning I finally reached. Officer Hijiori, I do apologize for dragging you around on my whims, but I have one final request.”
“What could it be? Of course, come so far, I’m up for anything. Say what you will.”
“Thank you. I hoped you would say that. Well then,”
Said Kyouko-san.
“I’m going to buy a swimsuit, won’t you accompany me?”

 

 

 

12

 

Kujirai swam—he wasn’t counting how many laps he had already made around the fifty-meter pool. Ignoring pacing and his muscles’ limits, he devoted himself solely to paddling the water in a crawl.
Swimming was simply his passion, that hadn’t changed even now that he’d retired from active duty. His fondness came from the fact he didn’t have to think anything unnecessary while he was swimming, but today alone, no matter how long he swam, he always ended up thinking.
He thought. About his old friend Unagi—and about the white-haired detective.
While he had succeeded in driving the officer and detective away for the day, it wouldn’t go so well tomorrow—and there was no doubt it would be even more difficult the day after that. While her mouth said something about proving his innocence, everything else about that detective clearly held him in doubt.
At this rate, he could see the situation becoming poorer and poorer.
But be that as it may, Kujirai had no cards to play—from the start, he had constructed nothing but an alibi, and he had no intentions to cover anything up beyond that. By the point he failed to make a perfect alibi—the point he had to choose the forgetful detective of all people to testify, he had made a critical mistake.
Then what should he do? He swam as he thought—he thought in the time he wasn’t supposed to think anything. And he immediately reached his conclusion.
I should run.
Throw everything away and run—for honor.
If he ran, the suspicions might increase, but now wasn’t the time for such rational thoughts—if more seams came out the more he talked, he simply had to reject interaction itself.
Now that it had come to this, he grew thankful of his own present situation where he was practically unemployed—alright, I don’t have to wait for tomorrow’s sun to rise, I’ll pack up as soon as I get back, and go on a journey. Overseas, while I’m at it. I’ve gone to enough meets, back when I competed, I can speak my share of English.
Once he had decided it in his heart, he had actually begun to long for that life on the run—and that’s why, after that, he no longer had to think anything as he swam.
It was all gone and done. But even so, he was a step behind—no, a stroke behind. Perhaps he never should have given up thought—he should have stopped swimming along the way and left the pool already.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Kujirai-san.”
As he had finished his course and was about to climb out of the pool, what awaited him was someone whose impression had changed without their glasses, but be that as it may, there was no way he could mistake them. Wearing a one-piece swimsuit so white it was dazzling, yet her hair even whiter, the forgetful detective—Okitegami Kyouko.

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The Challenge Letter of Okitegami Kyouko Chapter 1 Parts 7-9

 

7

 

Allowing a civilian like Kyouko-san into the crime scene required a separate series of permissions, so it was afternoon by the time they arrived. Mustering up some courage, Hijiori did try inviting her out for lunch but, “We’re short on time at the moment,” she softly declined—it was a fact that the forgetful detective who was as a matter of fact incapable of investigating for more than a day hadn’t the time for a leisurely meal. Hey munching on sweet bread side by side in the police car is quaint enough.
“For the residents of an athlete aiming for the Olympics, how should I put it… it’s a normal apartment complex. You said he was famous, so I thought his residence was somewhere with firmer security.”
“It may have been different if he actually won a gold at the Olympics, but… athlete in itself isn’t as lucrative of an occupation as it seems.”
Of course, it was a living environment that couldn’t even be compared to the dilapidated two-story complex where Kujirai lived, but… the place seemed considerably removed from the victim’s degree of fame and income.
“There’s no automatic lock, no security camera at the door… while there’s a camera in the elevator, you just have to use the stairs to avoid it… Unagi-san’s room is on the seventh floor, right?”
“Yes, Room 702.”
“Then even I could climb that high.”
Steadily conducting an on-site inspection before visiting the scene, the two finally arrived before Room 702. The police investigation was already over, so the place wasn’t deemed off limits. There was no one on watch. With the key borrowed from the management company, Hijiori opened the front door.
“Unagi-san lived alone, right? It seems he’s borrowed quite the large room for a single person. He’d be better off living in a studio apartment in some building with better facilities.”
Kyouko-san noted, upon observing the number of doors visible from the entranceway. That was the same question Hijiori himself held the first time he visited the room.
“He was quite the sociable fellow, and it seems he got a large room so he could call friends and juniors over… apparently the suspect Kujirai used to come quite often. That’s why he had a spare key.”
“Just by the sound of it, Kujirai-san might not be the only one with a key… you said he was the top suspect, but do you not have a second or third option?”
“Not at the moment… in that sense, you could say Kujirai-san might be our sole suspect.”
Which meant if his alibi was real, they would be in a troublesome situation without anyone to suspect.
“Considering the disappearance of money, the possibility of a passing burglar can’t be eliminated, but there are no traces of forced entry, so—there aren’t any broken windows, and the bathroom didn’t have a window to begin with.”
“But if it was an accident, the missing money would be strange.”
“Can’t say for sure. It wasn’t a precious metal, it was just cold hard cash. It’s possible the man just used it up himself.”
“Meaning the chances of accidental death still exist—now then,”
Kyouko-san said as she opened the door to the bathroom. Going right along to sliding open the bathing area’s folding door, she took a look inside—while she didn’t step in with her socks, as always, her flowing motions carried no wasted movements. Hijiori almost wished he had called in his subordinates so they could learn a thing or two.
“The bathing area is quite… wide. Both the shower and the tub…”
She said as she turned and looked at the nearest plug by the sink. She seemed to be measuring the distance by eye.
“A dryer cord isn’t generally that long, I would think… it’s quite a precarious distance. Whether anything plugged into the sink outlet could reach the tub.”
“It did reach, just barely.”
“Well I’m sure it did, but there really is no way to say it was particularly convenient… I doubt he could have been in such a rush to dry his hair that he would let himself feel so restricted—as long as he wasn’t a considerable optimist, he would have at least considered the possibility of the cord overreaching and dropping the dryer out of his hand.”
“Then you’re saying it couldn’t have been an accident?”
“Who can say… but I do think the cord’s length is just as unreliable if it were to be used as a tool for murder.”
It’s a bit pushing it to make it look like an accident, so could there be some necessity to using the dryer? Kyouko-san said, while removing her socks. Mere socks they may be, but the way she pulled them off was strangely sensual, causing the officer to inadvertently avert his eyes—by the time he got another look, she was already gone. She was surveying the bathroom with her bare feet.
“Upsie daisy.”
She entered the bathtub without hesitation. As it hadn’t been filled, she didn’t get wet from that, but the resolution behind each and every action she took was given far too eagerly. Albeit, she looked like she was attempting to assume the same posture as the victim.
“Kyouko-san, do you have a theory?”
“No, not at the moment. I just thought I’d try out whatever came to mind.”
She stretched out her legs and tried touching the faucet—for someone of her small build, it was a modular tub that would let her bathe stretched out all she wanted. Well, as a place someone had died not too long ago, I have no choice but to call her sensitivities to stretch out far too brazen… even a veteran officer like Hijiori would be reluctant if he was ordered to do it.
“Mnn,”
With her arms folded, she stood. And maintaining a difficult look on her face, she returned to the dressing area.
“Did you figure anything out?”
“While there are some things that have been answered, there are even more questions than before.”
After those cryptic words, Kyouko-san took the next hour searching Unagi’s 2LDK flat from corner to corner. The police had already gone through the place once, so she didn’t come up with any new evidence, but Kyouko-san didn’t seem particularly disappointed with her labor.
“As you said, there are no signs of anyone infiltrating through the windows… but this is quite a well-kept room. Quite tidied up for a man living alone… or could it be the police put things in order during the search?”
“No, we don’t offer such a thorough service…”
He hadn’t been too conscious of it up to the moment she mentioned it, but sure enough, Unagi’s residence was prim and tidy. Rather than a detective’s, perhaps this was a woman’s viewpoint—though it was difficult to say that was relevant to the case.
“I don’t know either. But maybe it wasn’t Unagi-san, but the culprit who cleaned up.”
“W-why would they do that?”
“If we knew that, we wouldn’t need a detective.”
With a warm smile, Kyouko-san sat herself down on the living room sofa. She carried herself gracefully as if it were her own room. Standing on his own wouldn’t accomplish anything, so Officer Hijiori say across.
“I didn’t find any notable evidence, but if you’ll let me speak off of pure impression,” Kyouko-san chose that timing to speak up, “Kujirai-san is guilty. Even subtracting the fact he was the first person on the scene, it’s far too suspicious.”
“Is that so… for example, it what regards?”
“He rung the intercom a number of times, and thinking it was strange there was no response, he went in with his spare key—that one’s, well, sure, why not. For now, we’ll put aside the question of why he carried the spare key around. But when the crime was reported and the police visited this room, you said Kujirai-san first took a peep through the door, and then undid the door chain after that… would your normally lock the chain in someone else’s house?”
“Mn…”
“Rather, he wouldn’t have locked the door in the first place—if there was a reason to lock it, then what could it be?”
“…Because he didn’t want to be obstructed? Or because Kujirai-san was doing something in the room he felt guilty about—is that what it was? He was cleaning up after his work…”
“I can’t think he had enough time to clean up the room as a whole, but… perhaps he could at least work some magic on the bathroom. To get rid of traces of murder, perhaps.”
Though it’s just a hypothesis, Kyouko-san remarked.
Sure enough, if at the present point they asked Kujirai why he fastened the door chain and he replied, ‘I just felt like it,’ there would be no means to pursue the matter further.
No matter ow many small questions and contradictions you piled up like in a mystery novel, the phrase ‘I just felt like it’ generally resolved most things in reality—that was something that didn’t need a detective. That’s why detectives had to pin down far more fundamental questions and contradictions.
“And no matter how suspicious he may be—no, despite how suspicious he may be, it is the basis of law that suspicious cannot be punished. If we’re basing this on guilty until proven innocent, then even if my impression is guilty, as long as there is no physical evidence, I must conclude that Kujirai-san is innocent.”
“……”
“Eh? Huh? Could it be that I’ve just forgotten, and the rationality and principal of law has changed just like the tax?”
“Oh no, perish the thought. Or at least, not that much.”
But, and this was unbecoming of a police officer—but, with all the time he spent on the force, if that hadn’t been a rationality and a principal, instead nothing more than a front, there would have been fewer times he found himself despairing at the world.
As a detective who, in a sense, operated in a domain even grayer than the police, he admired Kyouko-san who could say it so innocently—perhaps it was something only someone who, no matter how they despaired, would simply forget it could say.
It could be said that the forgetful detective unerringly embodied, ‘hate the sin, not the sinner.’
“I apologize that I keep bringing up hypotheticals but, Officer. If Kujirai-san’s alibi was established, where would you be around now? Meaning, if I weren’t the forgetful detective, and I could properly testify to his alibi.”
“In that case…”
It truly was a hypothetical, and not a talk Officer Hijiori could do anything about on his own, but even so, going by his own experience, he could express his view on the matter.
“He would quite likely be removed from the list of suspects. As long as his absence from the crime scene is proven, no matter how thick the suspicions are, he cannot be indicted—and there won’t be an arrest warrant. Naturally, the one who testified to his alibi… meaning you would turn into Kujirai-san’s accomplice, and we would have to conduct a careful investigation on whether or not you would give false testimony to cover for him…”
But in the case there was no reason to cover—even if he knew it was pointless, Hijiori had looked into it just in case, and had completely failed to find any connection between Okitegami Kyouko and the suspect Kujirai that went back further than the day before last. They really had met then for the first time, although even if that wasn’t true, she’s have forgotten.
“And if you’re wondering what I’d be doing around now, I’d quite likely be searching for a separate culprit.”
“……”
Hmm, upon hearing that, Kyouko-san folded her arms in thought—there was no way she actually felt responsibility at the fact the suspicions around a single suspect would clear had she been able to give testimony.
From Officer Hijiori’s point of view, at this point, he couldn’t help but feel something contrived about the alibi that had failed to be established—of course, in that regard as well, he couldn’t punish a suspicion. Whether it was a rationality or a front or anything else.
But there, “Then how about we go apologize to Kujirai-san, who couldn’t be removed from the list because of me,” Kyouko-san came out with.
With—absolutely no apologetics showing on her face, she gave what was simply a mischievous grin.

 

 

 

8

 

In regards to the fact it had completely thrown off the police investigation and pushed it into a dead end, it was hard to say Kujirai’s fabricated Alibi was a complete failure, but quite naturally, one would be hard pressed to say he was living with peace of mind.
There was no way he could have anticipated that the person he chose to testify for him wouldn’t remember it in the slightest—there weren’t any means to anticipate that the occupation ‘Forgetful Detective’ even existed in the world, so he didn’t even have any way to reflect on himself.
Good grief, the world sure is vast.
Considering how he hadn’t been arrested, his alibi hadn’t gone as far as to be disproven… but even if it still held water, as long as it was incomplete, his prospects of the future were slim. He had thought that, as long as the alibi was complete, no matter how suspicious he was, it would end as a suspicion…
As a change of pace, the day before, he had ordered whatever book she was reading over the net had it delivered within the day, and read it late into the night. Rather than a change of pace, perhaps he wanted to prove to himself that he really did meet that white-haired girl and talk to her two days prior—forget mystery novels, Kujirai wasn’t accustomed to reading in general, so one short story was the most he could manage.
It was the one she had read that day, that she had called interesting and recommended to him, Sunaga Hirubee’s ‘Sentenced to Conversion’.
And quite a bizarre story it was.
The contents were greatly estranged from the image of mystery he had gleaned from the few mystery novels, drams and movies he had processed—While it was yet another field he lacked expertise in, so he couldn’t say anything for certain, he got to thinking it was more of a sci-fi or fantasy story than a mystery.
Once upon a time, there was a heinous criminal—a true scoundrel, a natural-born villain. Not only every offense listed in the six codes of law, rumor had it he had committed every crime in the world.
The time had come for him to finally pay the piper.
He was arrested, prosecuted, and definitively guilty. He would naturally be punished with the greatest penalty the law had to offer— all those against the death sentence, and those who advocated for human rights, they all had no choice but to assent to his execution.
All besides one.
That person was a renowned psychologist, a surgeon, and a judge, a man who went by the name of Sorimine, and he declared that no matter how vile a villain, they should not be put to an end through the noose. If one had to be killed because they were a criminal, then they just had to not be a criminal any more—he said.
You just have to reform them.
Naturally, the villain was a villain to the core, and not the sort of man who would reform, but the reform Sorimine referred to was something a little different. You simply have to ‘reshape the heart’, he thought.
Suppressing the world’s objections that he should just be killed this instant without all the tedium, Sorimine conducted the surgery.
And the villain was reborn.
He understood the feelings of others, believed in others, worked for others, allied himself with the honest, took the side of the weak, never hurt a soul, and was modest and kind—he was reborn as a man of virtue.
And the released villain, now a Samaritan—
“Excuse me!”
Just as he had recalled the contents of the short story to that point, he heard a knock on his apartment’s door and the voice of a woman.
It was an easy-going voice, so he couldn’t help but carelessly open the door unwary, but awaiting him in the corridor were the scary-faced Officer Hijiori, and the white-haired Kyouko-san he couldn’t forget even if he was forgotten.
“Ah… err,”
He had to put his all into hiding his fluster… no, don’t panic. Today those, umm, two subordinates who were still new at this weren’t there. It didn’t seem they had come with an arrest w aren’t to take him in.
More so, the fact that a key person in Kujirai’s alibi, Kyouko-san, had come along meant it couldn’t be such a pessimistic development—even if she’d forgotten, was she brought along on the off chance she might recall upon seeing his face? In that case, there was no need to be cold-hearted. To confirm his identity, he was far better off treating her with due courtesy.
“Officer, and… Kyouko-san, right? Do you have some business with me? A new development in the case?”
“No, we’re still hard at work investigating… how is it?”
Officer Hijiori asked Kyouko-san—was this an identification after all?
“Yeaaah, looks like I really can’t recall… I’m Okitegami Kyouko. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Kyouko-san said, lowering her head.
It had kinda seemed like bad joke up to that point. Until he had confronted her face to face, Kujirai couldn’t believe it, but it did seem she really had forgotten the events of that day.
As if he were the sort of boring man who wasn’t worth remembering, it made him ashamed to his heart, but that probably wasn’t it—the forgetful detective’s memory reset every day.
Please seduce me from scratch—should he have placed more weight on those words she gave at their parting? Should he have asked her what she meant? There’s no way he could have figured it out back then.
“The name’s Kujirai Ruka… it’s not our first meeting, but it is a pleasure to meet you.”
“Kujirai-san. Is there any mistaking the fact that the woman you talked to around three the day before yesterday was this person?”
“Yes, there is no doubt about it.”
Kujirai answered as Officer Hijiori made doubly sure—well, Kujirai’s one-sided memories wouldn’t establish an alibi, but there was no way anyone would mistake such a peculiar woman.
“Kyouko-san, you really don’t remember me?”
While he tried asking, for argument’s sake, “Nope, not in the slightest,” she refuted it stronger than necessary. “I’m sorry, Kujirai-san. I wish I was able to back up your alibi, but—oh, could you let me in?”
“Pardon?”
“Please. It’s cold outside.”
“Oh, sure… I don’t mind.”
“Thank you.”
She asked quite naturally, so he accepted just as naturally, but asking to be let in because of the cold, come to think of it, was quite a brazen request. What’s more, not only Kyouko-san, he ended up letting the police officer Hijiori in with her—that was a clear blunder.
It wasn’t as if he had any suspicious articles in his room, so he didn’t particularly mind, but he was beginning to realize that his pace was thrown off whenever this white-haired woman was around.
Rather than evading as slippery as an eel—it felt as if slippery as an eel, she was stepping around him. That was, in essence how she stepped in, anyway…
“Officer, would you like some coffee? Kyouko-san, you take your black, right?”
He casually mixed in the episode of their meeting two days prior as he procured some drinks—something must have been off as, during that whole time, Kyouko-san restlessly surveyed the inside of the room.
“But that was a surprise. To think you were a detective.”
“Did I not say so? Two days ago me?”
“The first I’m hearing of it. Aah, but you did say something about conducting inquiries…”
“Yes. I mainly conduct inquiries. I’m a detective, you see.”
While he got the feeling she was being purposely misleading, the idea she was taking surveys was definitely Kujirai jumping to conclusions. Detective… based on that conversation the day before last, Kyouko-san definitely did seem to like mystery novels, so could it be she got the job out of fondness for the great detectives? In that case, she might be around the age where the gap between real and fictional detectives started getting to her.
Though she didn’t seem bothered in the slightest…
Forgetful detective, eh.
“Kujirai-san, there are a few things I’d like to ask you. Could I go ahead?”
Once he had reached the low table with three drinks, the one who declared that to Kujirai wasn’t Officer Hijiori but Kyouko-san.
“Mn… yeah, sure.”
Once again, he carelessly accepted all too easily.
He hadn’t let his guard down, but she had exquisite timing with each question.
“Could you explain the situation behind your discovery of the late Unagi-san’s remains in detail?”
“I’ve already done that… to that officer.”
“In detail. Word for word, not missing a single detail.”
“……”
While he wasn’t up for it, he couldn’t think up an appropriate reason to refuse—if he didn’t want to show any more openings, it made it even harder to refuse her demand.
Kujirai- mostly honestly- described to the two the situation surrounding his discovery of the body. Perhaps it would disrupt the investigation even further, he thought as he explained more than what was demanded of him, not skipping a detail. Of course, he covered up the important point… but surely they didn’t notice. They had no way of noticing.
“I see. To discover your dear friend has passed must be a terrible experience. You have my sympathies.”
Kyouko-san said. While Kujirai was talking, she intently watched him all the way—as if rather than the contents of the story, she was paying more attention to the way he said it—and yet her impression at the end was something terribly mundane.
“Yeah, I was really nervous when I thought I’d see him again after so long…”
“When it was such a long-awaited reunion, you called out to me for tea right before that?”
I’m really sorry for getting in the way—Kyouko-san said in a blank, innocent tone. Kujirai was startled. Even if he was making an alibi, that part was pushing it, even he thought so—it was inevitable, or rather, a choice between two evils, but for a young man such as himself to cut off a conversation with a young woman like Kyouko-san to see Unagi was…
Normally, he would have flaked out on a promise with a male friend to continue talking to Kyouko-san—not to mention Unagi wasn’t even a friend anymore.
Even so, as long as he had a perfect alibi, he convinced himself that problems with his own M.O. wouldn’t make for conspicuous flaws, but now with his alibi incomplete, nothing but the problems remained.
In the first place, at the point he called out to her as she read a book at the café, he would have been perfectly fine if she turned him down—if he incessantly latched onto a woman enjoying her coffee alone, it would leave an impression on her and the people around her, but contrary to his expectations, she conceded the seat all too easily, and the conversation bounded, so instead of a silver lining on a dark cloud, perhaps it was more of a dark lining on a white one.
“Oh no, don’t worry about it. It’s my fault for finding you so captivating I simply couldn’t help but strike up conversation. Though when the conversation grew lively, I really grew pale when I finally remembered my promise with Unagi.”
It was a bit painful, but he could only press on with that excuse. He had calculated that she wouldn’t feel bad if he called her captivating, but Kyouko-san just smiled and ignored that part of it.
“But if instead of talking to me, you hurried to Unagi’s apartment, you might have been able to prevent his accidental death.”
“Nah, I wouldn’t have made it in time. I heard he dropped the dryer right around the time I first talked to you.”
With Kyouko-san’s use of the term accidental death, he matched the story by reflex, but Officer Hijiori beside her made a grim expression. When the officer silently stationed himself with that scary face of his, it made Kujirai imagine all sorts of things on his own. Was this that ‘good cop, bad cop’ routine he’d heard about—no, Kyouko-san wasn’t a cop… but she showered him with questions just like one.
“How long has it been since you last visited Unagi-san’s apartment?”
“I couldn’t tell you… it’s been years. So long ago I can’t remember. Is that important?”
“I’m just trying to crush every small question one at a time—it greatly hurts my heart that I was unable to testify for your alibi, so I thought I would try to clear up the suspicions placed on you.”
“Uh-huh…”
“I’m a detective who specializes in inquiries, so if I could at least contribute the best I can.”
“……”
He would have been happy had that been the case, but at this point, no matter what beauty was saying it, Kujirai wasn’t feeling gracious enough to take those words at face value. More than that, her questions for a while now had done nothing but solidify the suspicions on him.
“But phones, right… it’s got to be cellphones these days.”
He tried to measure out what she meant, but apparently, when she was surveying the room, she was confirming whether or not he had a landline. Perhaps she had already done the same at Unagi’s house.
“When you rung the intercom a few times at the promised time, you found it strange he didn’t answer and used a spare key to go in— correct?”
“That’s true.”
What about it? He was a bout to say when he swallowed his words—if he kept trying to probe into the meaning behind the questions, it would only make him more suspicious.
“Before you entered Unagi-san’s room, why didn’t you put in a call to Unagi-san’s phone?”
“……”
Crap, he thought, but whether that reached his expression or not—he hurriedly smoothed it over with, “Oh, you’re right. It totally slipped my mind”. As a matter of fact, entering Unagi’s room without calling wasn’t particularly strange for someone who owned a spare key. It was just the way she posed the question that made it practically seem like a decisive mistake.
If he was going to press the intercom button a few times when no one was looking, then even if he knew no one would answer, he should have called too… but that’s all it was. Nothing more than something that honestly slipped his mind.
“Well, in the end, by that time, old Unagi was already dead.”
“That’s right. In the bathroom—however, Kujirai-san. What I really must ask is, how were you able to find Unagi-san’s body?”
“…? How was I able to find it…? Err, I don’t get what that means.”
That one he really didn’t know. It’s not like Unagi’s body was hidden in the ceiling or under the floorboards—he was in the bath, there wasn’t even a lid on it. Even a five-year-old could spot that.
“No, no, that’s not what I’m talking about. Don’t humble yourself—I mean, normally, when searching for someone in an apartment, barely anyone searches the bathroom first. They’d normally check the living or dining room.”
“Oh… that.”
His gaze flitted to Officer Hijiori for a moment. The day before last, when he was first questioned, he had testified so—meaning, he said that as soon as he entered the room with the spare key, he immediately discovered the body in the bathroom. While he had determined he shouldn’t tell any unnecessary lies… should he pretend to remember that he just didn’t say it, and before the bathroom he checked the other rooms?
You might say there’s no way to forget something like that, but there was, right before his eyes, the forgetful detective who couldn’t back up his alibi. It might have some persuasive power.
Still, even if he did say he investigated the living or dining room, that would lead to a peculiar development where his fingerprints wouldn’t be found in either room—what a bog.
“Oh, it was just kinda happened. He didn’t answer the door so I thought, hey, couldn’t he be taking a bath or something? I had a hunch. In the past, when we still got a long, it had happened a few times… you can call him absentminded or slovenly, but he’s the sorta guy that falls sound asleep in the bath.”
It was true that he was the sort who fell asleep in the bath. The fact it had happened a few times before was a lie. But well, with how long ago that was, it would be hard for anyone to determine the authenticity of that claim.
“It was just coincidence that I checked the bathroom first, I doubt it will serve as any reference.”
“It is the closest door to the entrance, after all.”
“Yeah, there’s that.”
“Was it also often that Unagi-san took baths in the evening?”
“Well let’s see. After exercising, he would hop int the bath without showering… I’m pretty sure he’d rather relax than clean up.”
“I see, I see.”
Sure she had accepted his explanation, Kujirai almost pat his chest in relief. Yet, “But in that case, it’s even more curious,” Kyouko-san swiftly leaned her body in.
“I mean, going off that train of thought, I get the feeling searching the bathroom’s the first thing you’d give up on.”
“……?”
What did she mean? Was she trying to say calling out to someone in the bath was rude?
Perhaps if he was dealing with a woman, but when it was a man, and they were men the both of them, that retort was quite a stretch.
“No, no, what are you talking about, Kujirai-san? I mean, by that point, Unagi-san had dropped the dryer into the bath and been electrocuted to death.”
“Y-yes, I know that now.”
“Meaning—by that point in time, the room’s breaker was tripped.”
Even after she had said that much, it didn’t hit home with Kujirai. So what if the breaker was tripped? Even if she brought that up, it wasn’t particularly surprising to him. As a matter of fact, the electricity in the bathroom was off—off?
“… If the bathroom lights are off, you wouldn’t usually conclude there’s someone inside.”
Officer Hijiori solemnly said—from what could be picked up from his reaction, he had just reached that realization himself.
“That bathroom didn’t have any windows—if you’re bathing without the lights, it’ll be pitch black.”
“……”
“If it were me, even if I did suspect he was in the bath, at the moment I opened the dressing room door, I’d decide ‘he’s not here’. Even if I did search the bathroom after that, it would be after looking at the living and dining room—and yet, you’re saying you investigated the bathing area beyond that and discovered Unagi-san, so you must boast a marvelous power of deduction. If it were me, then the moment I saw the pitch black hallway, I might have gone home.”
“Y-you don’t have to praise me like that, you’re making me blush.”
Her cynicism was palpable, but he could only answer as such and play it off with a laugh. Calm down, it’s not like she’s brought up some physically impossible contradiction, thought he. It’s because he knew there was a corpse that he investigated the bathroom—she couldn’t prove that.
“Maybe I heard old Unagi pleading for help. Maybe he guided me…”
He tried taking the conversation in a spiritual direction but, “Though you couldn’t help him in the end,” Kyouko-san simply, dryly cut that down.
“Aah, maybe you saw the cord? The dryer cord leading from the sink to the bath. And you got suspicious?”
Her theory sent out almost like a lifeboat almost made him hop right aboard, but both the changing area with the sink and the corridor were pitch black. Could he insist he saw the dryer’s cord in that situation?
Of course, he did see it, so he should say that he saw it. Even if it was pitch black, that didn’t mean it was perfect darkness. But even if that was the case, perhaps he could only make it out because he knew it was there beforehand—in that case, if he said he saw it here, that slip-up might prove fatal. Kujirai cautiously answered, “I don’t really know.”
“Is that so. By the way, what did you do after you found Unagi-san’s remains?”
“… Why of course, I immediately reported it. On my cellphone…”
“And then?”
“A-and then what?”
“Ah, no, it’s fine if you didn’t do anything—it is perfectly possible to lock and chain the door without any real reason.”
She said with an unperturbed smile—while her words seemed to carry some profound meaning, Kujirai couldn’t make out what that meaning was. He didn’t know, but it was clear as day that continuing this conversation was bad.
It wasn’t as if escaping here would change anything, but whatever the case, he had to break up the flow he’d been caught in.
“… I’m sorry, officer.”
Kujirai ignored Kyouko-san to turn to Officer Hijiori.
“I have to go to the pool tonight, so I’d like to start packing up…”
“The pool… for your job?”
“No, I wish that were the case, but I can’t neglect my training…”
It wasn’t anything as exaggerated as training, but it was true he had plans to go swimming at the gym.
“Is that so? Then I apologize for keeping you so long.”
Kyouko-san stood—and to Officer Hijiori who still seemed to have something to ask, “Then let’s be off, officer,” she said.
With a gentle smile, she turned to Kujirai.
“Pardon us, Kujirai-san. I’m glad I got to speak with you. I’ll definitely prove your innocence, so rest at ease—as long as you’re innocent.”
“… Thank you. I’ll be counting on you.”
I may have entrusted my alibi to quite an outrageous person—Kujirai-san thought for the first time.

 

 

9

 

Upon leaving Kujirai’s apartment, Officer Hijiori and Kyouko-san directed their feet towards an electronics retailer—it was in order to purchase a dryer. Kyouko-san insisted she wanted to buy the exact same model as what had killed the victim, to confirm its length on-site. Officer Hijiori simply tagged along.
The way she grew somewhat unhinged at the novelty of the latest appliances was a refreshing sight to the officer, but (When her most recent knowledge was never updated, a visit to an electronics store was practically a visit to the future), whatever the case, when shopping was over and they had returned to Unagi’s apartment, it was right around five in the afternoon.
Five in the afternoon—meaning the time Kujirai came upon Unagi’s body two days prior. It wasn’t as if they were aiming for that time, but it was most convenient to confirm the situation.
Entering the room, making for the bathroom with all the lights off—as Kyouko-san told Kujirai, it was pitch black. Having seen that, no one would think anyone was bathing inside.
“Hijiori-san. Please pass me the dryer.
“Oh, sure.”
He took it out of the paper bag and undid the packaging. While he had tentatively kept the receipt, whether or not it fell under expenses was as of yet a mystery.
“Here. Do be careful.”
“I appreciate the sentiment. But a dryer on its own can’t be too dangerous… The bath’s all dried up, anyway.”
Kyouko-san said as she plugged the cord into the sink outlet and carried the dryer with her. Just like that, she softly placed it into the bathtub.
As expected, the cord just barely reached, but it didn’t make it to the bottom of the tub—it precariously dangled over the side.
“Is this scene the same one you saw on the day in question.”
“Yes… but by the look of things, the cord is going to lose to the weight of the dryer and unplug itself.”
“When the tub’s full, buoyancy will do its work, so I don’t think that’s a problem… but even if it reaches the bath, trying to dry your hair here is a tad… perhaps the shower area, but inside the bathtub is a tad pushing it—in the first place,”
With a tug, Kyouko-san yanked up the dangling dryer. She flipped the switch—a heated gale picked up, swaying her hair.
“Hmm,”
She assailed her own head with the dryer’s breeze from all directions—as it wasn’t wet to begin with, her white locks flashily hovered around.
After doing that a while, she slowly turned off the switch and returned to the changing area. For a while he had held his silence, but of course, Officer Hijiori couldn’t grasp the meaning behind that action, “What were you doing? Testing the dryer’s output?” he thought he should ask in jest.
“Why yes, that’s exactly what I was doing,” she replied with a nonchalant face. “Dryers these days sure have a high performance. It surprised me there.”
“… Umm, Kyouko-san. I get that you’re impressed with the advancement of technology, but look at the time…”
Officer Hijiori pointed at the watch on his wrist. While it was never good to rush, the forgetful detective had a time limit. Okitegami Kyouko whose memories were reset every day, it was impossible for her to investigate any case for greater than a one-day period. It was currently past five. It was too early to panic, but neither was it a time to play around.
“No, in short… officer, do you need this dryer?”
“? Ah, if you want to take that back with you after the investigation, then—”
“That’s not what I meant. I’m asking whether you need this much functionality to dry your hair.”
“That I do not.”
He tried to be tactful but missed the mark—to play off his embarrassment, “I’m perfectly happy with a cheaper one myself,” he answered the question. Of course, even that response was putting on airs to an extent, and when he did wash his hair, Officer Hijiori let it dry naturally instead of using a dryer, more often than not. While he might say things for appearance’s sake, he wasn’t one to care about appearances.
“Yes, even at my hair length, you wouldn’t need this output—I’m thinking this is meant for women with long hair.”
“… Oh.”
Kyouko-san’s white hair was bob cut at her shoulders. When even that hairstyle didn’t need it, would an athlete, what’s more, a swimmer like Unagi have any use?
From what he could recall from his corpse in the bath, it wasn’t a buzz cut, but his hair was considerably short. He had, in some way or another, accepted the pairing of bathroom and dryer as natural, but—there were people in the world who didn’t need a dryer at all.
If the need did arise, could he perhaps dry off with a thick bath towel?
“… Mn? Which means, what exactly does that mean?”
“I’m just considering possibilities. Of course, even if his hair was short, there are surely times he’d use a dryer, and perhaps there are oddballs out there who would use a dryer in the bathtub—but if, just like that, it is alright to take such outlying possibilities into consideration, then perhaps it is possible that the dryer that killed him did not belong to Unagi-san—right?”
“… You’re saying it’s a murder weapon carried in by the culprit? That because it was brought in for the express purpose of murder, they chose the highest possible output?”
That would make it material evidence. It wasn’t that Unagi’s personal belonging that happened to be there was used, it was the culprit’s personal possession—even if that wasn’t the case, if the culprit prepared it in advance…
“Yeaaaaah,”
Officer Hijiori was exhilarated, they had finally come upon a thin thread that might lead to the culprit. But the one who discovered it, Kyouko-san herself didn’t seem too merry about the whole thing.
“W… what’s wrong? Can’t we trace Kujirai-san’s recent movements to look into any traces of him buying a hair dryer…?”
That would be a door-to-door campaign, so it would no longer be an investigation that could end in a few days, but it could be said the forgetful detective had more than enough work already.
“Oh no, you see, how should I put it, I’m troubled over how I should express this feeling. Unagi-san used a dryer in the bath, and carelessly dropped the dryer, electrocuting himself—isn’t that the story the culprit was trying to depict?”
“Indeed.”
“The questionable points of this story are: the fact that someone exists who would use a dryer in the bathtub—something even a small child would know is dangerous, the fact that the dryer’s cord is a little too short to use in the bath, and as I just brought up, the fact that Unagi-san, at the very least, probably did not need a dryer with an output this high—correct?”
“Yes. If you want to sum it up, that sounds about right.”
That’s why it’s suspicious.
The fact that the case that at first looked like an accident started to be seen as a murder wasn’t simply because the person who found the body was suspicious.
“But, hear me out. Even if someone—it doesn’t have to be Kujirai-san, I’m trying to say that means that someone used the dryer as a murder weapon to kill Unagi-san.”
“Yes. That’s what I’m thinking right now.”
“But that does not resolve a single one of the questions I just posed.”
“……? Well yeah.”
Well yeah, of course, he was about to retort when he arrived at that not-so-surprising fact. If the culprit intended to make this look like an accident on the part of the victim, they likely would have noticed those problems far before Kyouko-san, far before Officer Hijiori and resolved them accordingly.
“Are we wrong in the premise that this was supposed to look like an accident? Perhaps they only realized the cord length after arriving at the scene… and they didn’t have an extension cord. One might have come up if they searched the living room, but there was the risk Unagi-san might get out of the bath while they searched…”
“If they didn’t intend to make it look like an accident, they would have brought the dryer back with them… as demonstrated, it would become material evidence otherwise. But if there was an attempt to make it look like an accident, it would be strange to bring in a dryer the victim didn’t usually use to begin with. Whether you look at it as an accident or a murder, it doesn’t resolve any of the questions or contradictions surrounding Unagi-san’s death.”
“… But it’s certain that Kujirai-san is suspicious, right?”
“That is correct.”
Kyouko-san declared that one without any hesitation.
“The actions he took as the first on the scene can be summed up in the word shady—you could say that upon actually hearing him out, my suspicions have only grown deeper. While we glossed it over, his movements in this flat were quite clearly the movements of someone who knew Unagi-san was dead in the bathroom… and now that it’s come to this, that matter with his alibi seems far too deliberate, or rather sly.”
“Sly.”
“If hypothetically, I weren’t the forgetful detective and his alibi was proven—is what I’m talking about. The time of death and the time he talked to me match up perfectly, don’t you think that’s too convenient?”
“……”
While ‘the first person to find the body is suspicious’ hadn’t reached the realm of unwritten law, ‘it is suspicious to have an alibi that’s too perfect’ was definitely an ironclad rule of detective novels.
“Meaning Kujirai-san talked to you in order to intentionally fabricate an alibi. Is that what you’re saying.”
“It does make sense to think of it that way. More sense than it being coincidence.”
“But if you look at it that way, then in the end, Kujirai-san’s alibi is pretty much established. That would be the same as accepting that at the estimated time of death, he was somewhere else talking to you.”
“Yes. So there has to be some sort of trick, some scheme with the bathroom and the dryer, is how I see it…”
“A trick? Come to think of it, you did say something like that.”
“Using the trick I’m thinking might be pushing it a bit, but it does explain why the murder weapon had to be a dryer… in short, I’m hypothesizing a timer.”
“A timer?”
Kyouko-san nodded and explained her reasoning.
“Kujirai-san visited this apartment around noon on the day of the incident and knocked Unagi-san out through some means. Perhaps he used violence, perhaps he used drugs. He stripped him and put him in the bath. And putting a timer extension on the dryer, he left the place. He got a few stations away, got to the main street—and at three o’ clock when the timer would activate, he made an unshakable alibi. If possible, someone who he was meeting for the first time, someone with a unique look that would be easy to find at a later date… for example, a young woman whose hair is all white. Choosing a time at his discretion, he’d wrap up the conversation and return here—in order to become the first on the scene. After confirming Unagi-san’s died as planned, he reported it to the police and got rid of the timer before they could arrive. How does that sound?”
“… I don’t see anything wrong with it.”
It would explain why the first person on the body, Kujirai, had the door chain up when Officer Hijiori arrived.
“There’s plenty of things wrong with it. From what I saw in the data, Unagi-san’s body didn’t have any physical injuries or any traces of sleeping drugs—even if you take away that viewpoint, there’s no way to deny the possibility he might wake up while the culprit is away from the scene. A remote timer is far too uncertain as a means to kill.”
“… Y-you do have a point.”
“And what even is a remote timer?”
Hey, don’t ask me, thought Hijiori. The idea hadn’t even existed in his head before Kyouko-san presented it.
“If there’s anything that can be salvaged from that nonsense deduction, it’s the single point of the necessity of the dryer as the murder weapon. If the dryer’s used as the weapon, then the breaker is sure to trip with Unagi-san’s death, the definitive moment preserved on the time-shift machine among other devices—it’s the perfect killing method to fabricate an alibi.”
“That is a train of thought we haven’t had yet, but… if that’s the way we’re going, it feels more like we’re moving backward than forward.”
To accept the existence of alibi fabrication and alibi tricks as a premise would paradoxically mean they would have to accept the premise of the suspect Kujirai’s alibi being real—it did nothing but distance them from the resolution.
“What seemed like a simple accident gets more convoluted the more you think about it. At this rate, just what sort of new twists will this case show tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow… is it?”
“Ah, no, my apologies.”
Kyouko-san only has today—it was bad manners to talk about tomorrow. However, without lending an eye to the officer’s apology, she slowly began moving. She proceeded down the corridor, opening the door to the bedroom.
“Kyo-Kyouko-san?”
“I’m going to sleep.”
“What?”
“I’m just going to take a bit of a nap. Officer Hijiori, please wake me up in an hour.”

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The Challenge Letter of Okitegami Kyouko Chapter 1 Parts 4-6

4

As the first person on the scene, Kujirai was questioned by a scary-faced police inspector called Hijiori—so scary, in fact, that for a moment Kujirai hesitated to undo the chain on the door. Unable to believe such a manga-esque officer existed in real life, he was bewildered at the notion he had slipped into fiction. Perhaps that alone was proof enough that his standing was still hazy.
Of course, Officer Hijiori heard out the details behind the corpse’s discovery with a gentlemanly attitude unbefitting his face. He was tactful of Kujirai, who had stumbled upon the corpse of a dear friend; you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, or rather, look at things with open eyes, or rather, whatever the case, Kujirai felt a hint of guilt at that one.
Of course, as long as he was giving false testimony, it was only natural for him to feel guilty.
‘I came by because I was invited over, only to find my friend electrocuted in the bathtub’—those were the essentials of Kujirai’s account and he didn’t throw in any superfluous detail. The more he fabricated, the more seams would show. It was not his job to exercise his wisdom, that one was for the police.
And naturally again, he wasn’t asked for his alibi there on the site—at the moment, it was being treated as an accidental death, and until the autopsy gave its result, the estimated time of death was unknown. It would be a later date that the effects of his alibi construction on the café terrace would bear its fruit.
If I get to meet Kyouko when that happens, I’ve got to apologize for leaving so abruptly—or so, Kujirai thoughts were somewhat off the mark as he left the crime scene.
Perhaps I should say, as expected, the police moved far faster than he had anticipated, and the next day, Officer Hijiori dropped by Kujirai’s apartment with two of his men. Admittedly, that storyline of ‘Using a hair dryer in the bath leading to accidental electrocution’ was pretty impossible to start with, so it was no miracle that suspicions of murder were soon to follow.
He didn’t care. No matter how inconceivable his storyline was, as long as his alibi was complete, no one would be able to make Kujirai guilty.
“Kujirai-san. My apologies, but it does seem your relationship with the victim Unagi-san was not the sort of relationship one would call close friends… it seems that lately, Unagi-san has all but broken off all relations. And yet, why, on that day, did you drop by his residence?”
Well, I guess that’s true, said he. Just asking around Unagi’s circumference would easily elucidate that fact— if he knew it was going to come to this, he wouldn’t have badmouthed Unagi so thoughtlessly, but unfortunately, Kujirai did not hold the power of precognition.
“As I said, I was called out… we’re both adults here, I didn’t hate the idea of forgetting past grudges and renewing an old friendship.”
“Is it true you were also indebted to Unagi-san?”
The one who intruded with those words wasn’t Hijiori, but one of his subordinates behind him. From the man’s hot-blooded zeal, it was as if he had already concluded Kujirai was the culprit—perhaps he was one of Unagi’s fans as a competitive swimmer.
While Kujirai had no recollection of being in any debt to Unagi, perhaps he had borrowed some slight living expenses here and there when they still got along—though saying that would be a tad off the mark.
“After investigating the room, it was found that a large sum of money had disappeared. Kujirai-san, while you are certainly employed as an instructor at a sports gym, you only work there part-time, and you barely even get any work at all—have you ever been troubled with money.”
While he never thought he’d be treated as pretty much unemployed, such a blatant declaration of doubt made it easy for him to change the topic.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. Don’t tell me I’m a suspect?”
“You’ll have to pardon him. He’s quite new at this.”
It was there that, unexpectedly, Hijiori lowered his head—it really threw off his tempo when the scary-faced officer acted in such a way. If that was intentional, he really is something.
“However, it is in our best interest to remove any and all mystery. So could you please tell us? Yesterday, around three in the afternoon, where were you and what were you doing?”
“Is this one of those alibi investigations?”
Kujirai answered with half a laugh. Lightly acting out exactly what he’d seen in a police drama—that was just a scene from his everyday life, it would be unnatural to recall it too fast. He knew he had to pretend to think.
“At any rate, as you’ve indicated, I’m not getting proper work. Yeaaah, as I recall, I went out to get Unagi a gift so I left home early and loitered outside…”
“A gift?”
“Ah, pardon, I didn’t buy anything in the end. You could call it neglecting my friends, but I didn’t want to seem overly patronizing…”
“Did you go shopping alone?”
To the question of the subordinate who was still new at this, “Yes, so I don’t really have anyone who can back up my…” he got up to when, “Ah, but, that’s right, come to think of it.”
He pretended to recall.
“You said around three, right? It’s at that time that old Unagi was killed?”
“This hasn’t been concluded to be a murder yet. Please just answer what’s been asked of you.”
Hijiori held back the subordinate that leaned in with those words, “Come to think of it, what happened next?” he asked like a gentleman.
“I did have a nice conversation with a lady. I think that was around three… the talks dragged on for a while.”
“A lady? I see. Was she an acquaintance?”
“No, a stranger…”
Playing pickup, eh, one of the subordinates spat a whisper—not a police officer for nothing, it seemed he boasted a rigid sense of values. Though Kujirai found it wholly unexpected for his actions to be labeled as a pickup attempt.
“We simply shared a table for around an hour. Though we parted without exchanging contact information, so I doubt this will prove my alibi…”
“No, please tell me the store name, and the woman’s characteristics. I do think we’ll be able to back your story.”
Well of course. It would be quite troubling otherwise. Leaving all the backing to the police was the backbone of this perfect alibi.
“Unfortunately, I don’t remember as far as the shop’s name. Did I keep the receipt…”
“But you at least know the location, correct?”
“Yes, it was only yesterday, so I haven’t forgotten.”
Kujirai tottered just enough so it didn’t seem intentional as he explained the shop’s location relative to the nearest station. It did seem he wasn’t completely new at this, as the subordinate quite easily pinned down the corresponding café on his smartphone map.
“I see. And what sort of woman were you talking to?”
“Umm, her age as around the same as mine, but her hair was all white and—”
“Hah!?”
In that instant, Hijiori who had consistently maintained a gentlemanly attitude with the ‘suspect’ Kujirai raised his voice in disarray. While flustered by that threatening cry, Kujirai didn’t know what exactly had instigated it, so he had no choice but to go on.
“W-white hair, with a gentle air, a fashionable woman who wore glasses—she read a mystery novel as she sipped black coffee. H-her name was—”
“Kyouko-san.”
He was beaten to the punch.
Kujirai was taken aback—why did he know? Ignoring Kujirai’s surprise, Hijiori—alongside his two subordinates– were holding their heads. Now this was beyond confusing. Just going off their attitude, it did seem they knew about Kyouko-san, or at least someone who fit the part, but in that case, it should be a cause for joy; it would save them quite a bit of trouble. The reaction of holding their heads didn’t fit in with Kujirai’s sense of reality.
No, could it be they were lamenting that the prime suspect Kujirai’s alibi was being established? Or so he thought, but the words that finally came from Officer Hijiori’s mouth ran contrary to his expectations.
“Kujirai-san. You shared a table with her yesterday, correct? In that case, I feel sorry for you, but your alibi can’t be established.”
“Pardon?”
“The reason being, that person—Kyouko-san. Okitegami Kyouko-san is the forgetful detective.”
Forgetful—detective?

 

 

 

5

 “Hah? I have absolutely no idea. Kujirai-san? Who’s that supposed to be? Doesn’t even tickle the heartstrings of my memory. I don’t remember going out for tea the day before yesterday either. I haven’t the slightest recollection what I did that morning or that evening.”
The next morning. Upon receiving the expected response from the forgetful detective who’d been called to the police station, Officer Hijiori held his head, just as he had in the suspect’s apartment the day before. Forgetful Detective.
Chief of the Okitegami Detective Agency: Okitegami Kyouko.
White hair and classes, a gentle air, a young woman—truly fashionable, and it’s been said that no one’s ever seen her wear the same clothing twice. She was one of those so-called ‘great detectives’ a portion of the population may treat as idols, but even among them, she was a somewhat enigmatic existence.
“… To start off, who are you? You called me out like an acquaintance, but have we met somewhere before?”
She blankly asked such a thing—he felt crestfallen at those words. In all his life as a police officer, the numerous difficult cases that carved grave impressions on his life—for instance, the Three-Consecutive Abduction Murder Case and the Signal Attempted Defection Case—it was no exaggeration to say they had walked the boundary of life and death together, and yet to have her take such a distance, no matter how many times he experienced it, was never a pleasant feeling. Even if he knew in his heart that was what made her the forgetful detective.
“My name is Hijiori. Officer Hijiori. I have investigated with you in the past.”
“Oh, I see. To think I have cooperated with the police, there is nothing more a private detective can ask for. Why this is quite the honor.”
Or so Kyouko-san offered some incomprehensible answer—however, right after, “But I’ve already forgotten about it, so please don’t bring up the past. As my duty of confidentiality as a detective, I mustn’t recall any of my jobs,” she added on.
That was how it worked with Okitegami Kyouko.
As he wasn’t a brain specialist, Officer Hijiori didn’t have a precise understanding of the theory behind it, but it was a fact that Kyouko-san’s memories reset each day. She was unable to accumulate experience.
No matter what sort of day she spends, she’ll have completely forgotten it come the next—no matter what difficult case, what classified information she treads into, she won’t remember.
In an era of misgivings towards the disclosure of private and confidential information, there was no greater means to adhere to absolute confidentiality—and in that regard, the Okitegami Detective Agency had secured itself a niche no other could hope to follow in.
Now just between you and me, the top brass of the police force have been in her care more than a few times—it should normally never come to be that an officer relies on a civilian detective, but when the detective you request is just going to forget, it gave way to a strange sense of lenience.
As such, the forgetful detective could at times be treated as an exceedingly priceless treasure—however, the story changed when she stepped on stage to testify for a suspect’s alibi.
More so, if it had to come to this, they would have been better off if the suspect actually did have a firm alibi—of course, if they asked the café staff and examined the footage of the security cameras in the area, it might be possible to get some backing, more or less, but if the central point, the only individual who actually spoke with the suspect face to face didn’t remember in the slightest, it was largely meaningless.
Officer Hijiori had never heard such an incomplete alibi before—albeit, nothing good would come of blaming the detective before his eyes.
“Understood. I apologize for calling you so early in the morning, Kyouko-san—thank you for your time.”
“Yes, I do apologize I couldn’t be of use.”
She said, as—still seated—she lowered her head down so low it might smash into the table. She stayed like that, it didn’t seem her white head was rising.
It’s nothing for you to apologize for, Officer Hijiori was about to follow up; but, come to think of it, as Kyouko-san didn’t have any memory of the matter, there was no logical reason for her to feel apologetic. Then it was best to consider this apology didn’t have any meaning beyond social courtesy.
In the midst of that thought, Kyouko-san finally raised her face, she looked at the officer all smiles—why was she smiling?
“… Err, Kyouko-san.”
“Yes, what could it be.”
“Umm… I have nothing left to ask you, so you can leave if you want to.”
“I see,”
She replied, and yet the detective made no attempt to leave—she didn’t even stand from her seat. Simply in silence, the look in her eyes pleading something.
“D-do you have some business from your side?”
“Oh, no, now that you’ve made such a strong request, I have no choice left but to reservedly get to business,”
Kyouko-san started off as if she’d been waiting for that.
“As a civilian, it pains my heart dearly that I could be of no use to the good boys in blue. So how about it? Won’t you allow the Chief of the Okitegami Detective Agency, Okitegami Kyouko to lend her power to the investigation? Inept as I may be, I would be happy to oblige.”
“You’re going… to help out?”
“Why yes, of course, I have a strict adherence to confidentiality.”
Kyouko-san indicated her selling point as the forgetful detective—and what a captivating temptation it was. It was more than he could hope for; even excluding confidentiality and what not, the reason the Okitegami Detective Agency was regarded so highly came d own to the simple fact that Okitegami Kyouko was exceedingly proficient as a detective.
Otherwise, no matter how secretive she could be, she’d be of little service. The fastest detective who could solve any case in a day (because once that day was over, she’d forget about the incident)—and such a woman was offering her assistance to the investigation free of charge.
“Eh? Who said it was free of charge?”
As if to ask, what sort of nonsense is this man spewing, Kyouko-san put in a clear rejection.
“There’s no way a grown adult would work for free. I’m saying that, as a special discount, I’ll at least subtract the cost of tax.”
“… I’m pretty sure your fees are already illegal.”
As expected, she had barely any intent to apologize for her lack of use in testimony, and it seems this was nothing more than a brazen sales pitch.
With her gentle looks, she shrewdly calculated it out.
So this was what it meant to be a detective by trade… Kyouko-san wasn’t the sort who would solve mysteries out of interest or concern.
“But well, I should be thankful for even a ten percent deduction. Understood, I officially request your cooperation, Kyouko-san.”
Hijiori said and sought to shake her hand, but the woman in question said this in a fluster.
“When did… tax get up to ten percent?”

 

 

 

6

Even if it was only a few percent off, Kyouko-san felt the regret in her whole body at having given a bigger discount than expected, and as that was going on, Officer Hijiori had finished the procedure. Meaning, he got permission from his direct superior to allow the cooperation of a civilian private detective. While his superior showed disapproval at first, upon learning they were dealing with Okitegami Kyouko of the Okitegami Detective Agency, their attitude immediately changed. That superior got permission with the superior’s superior, and the superior’s superior handled matters with the superior’s superior’s superior—an hour later and all the problems were cleared up.
Well, regardless of her proficiency, that woman has some fans in high places.
I couldn’t be said Hijiori, who had dealt with her directly, was one of them. More so, with all the trouble he caused her, he could barely hold his head high when she was around… even so, if it were to resolve a case, being strung around be her selfishness a bit was the least of his worries.
“The victim was Unagi Kyuugo—a competitive swimmer. Ring any bells?”
When he said that to Kyouko, who had finally recovered from the shock of failed price negotiation, she shook her head.
“It’s outside my expertise,” she contested.
That was understandable—or rather inevitable.
Just as she didn’t know about the rise in taxes, or had more precisely forgotten about them, Kyouko-san, who could not continuously maintain memory, was unable to update her knowledge beyond a certain period. There was no way she would know a swimmer who had only distinguished himself in the past few years.
There was even less reason for her to know the suspect Kujirai.
“He was only twenty-seven? How young, he has my condolences.”
Kyouko-san put her hands together towards the victim’s profile picture. After a little while with a faithful expression,
“And what was the cause of death?”
She moved matters forward. The speed at which she changed gears in that regard, made her a professional that put the police to shame.
“Electrocuted in a bathtub… well, when it comes to dying at home, the bathroom’s not a rare place to go, but I have to wonder about the electrocution.”
Officer Hijiori said as he was about to pull a photo of the victim’s body from the case files and hesitated for an instant. While it was his common sense at work, that showing a picture of a corpse to a woman might be too stimulating, “Don’t mind me, officer,’ said the woman in question. “No matter what gruesome crime scene I may see, I’ll just forget it by tomorrow. It won’t leave a trauma.”
Right, that was also an advantage she had. The forgetful detective was indifferent to such occupational diseases—while he wouldn’t say he was confident in himself, Officer Hijiori had at least an average level of memory, and he could at most vaguely imagine it, but if they went at it with the thought, ‘I’m going to forget anyway,’ perhaps humans can stop feeling fear and disgust.
Whether that’s a happy notion or not… at the very least, as a detective, this woman could issue a level-headed decision without having her emotions thrown out of order.
Officer Hijiori handed over a few pictures—pictures of Unagi who had died in the bathtub.
“Oh my. His expression’s far more serene than I anticipated. Since you said he was electrocuted, I thought he would have died with his eyes bulging out and his mouth wide open.”
“Well, I can’t say there’s no precedent, but… this time, it looks like there was no time to feel pain.”
“How ironic it is that a swimmer passed in the bath. Hmmm. But as expected of an athlete. He has some wonderful muscle.”
Quite naturally, Unagi was naked in the bathtub, but without any notable shame, Kyouko continued examining—Officer Hijiori thought it might be stimulating in that sense as well, but it seems his misgivings were misplaced in that regard as well.
“Is the item that’s fallen in the tub a dryer? The cord is stretched out… mnn? Meaning the spark came when the dryer fell in while he was bathing?”
“We thought so at first—however,”
“There’s some reason that can’t be?”
Officer Hijiori nodded. No, of course, he couldn’t guarantee it. There are quite a few people in the world who find the most unbelievable ways to use household appliances. Otherwise, the instruction manuals that came with them wouldn’t have to be so bulky—to try drying one’s washed hair as they submerged themselves in the bathtub was practically suicide already, but perhaps it wouldn’t be so peculiar to find a veteran who didn’t wince from the act. But surely such a veteran would never let it slip from their hand.
“But for a competitive swimmer with such a promising future, such a slip up is… my apologies, it’s just hard to imagine such a dishonorable death. But more than that,”
“More than that, it is more logical to assume there was a third party who shoved the dryer into the bathtub?”
This time, he didn’t nod—when someone got the jump on him like that, it made him feel as if he had been carrying out shallow deductions. Perhaps picking up on that feeling,
“In that case, I feel the same,” Kyouko-san added on.“While it does seem like a peculiar means of murder at first, for an athlete who had trained his body, rather than bludgeoning or stabbing, aiming for when they are bathing is, in a sense, far more efficient. It would be difficult to put up a resistance while naked.”
“… Back there, you said it was ironic how a swimmer died in a tub, but there’s another ironic thing to note. Unagi-san’s nickname among the fans was the ‘Eel of the Pool’, it seems.”
“Eel? Aah, because he’s Unagi-san. But what’s ironic about that?”
“No, see, electric eel…”
“… I see. The electrocution. But you know, the electric eel isn’t a real eel. It’s a knifefish.”
So that might be a bit of a stretch—when Kyouko-san pointed that out, the Officer felt like he’d been crushed at the root. But regaining himself,
“I’m just thinking, perhaps someone close to the victim purposely chose that way to kill him… with that thought, we performed a sweep of Unagi-san’s surroundings, and surprisingly enough, the first person to stumble upon the body, the victim’s friend came up as the top suspect.” He continued on.
“To suspect the first on the scene is something like common sense to a detective like me, but… the person you are referring to is that nice old Kujirai-san, who went as far as to treat me to coffee, right?”
“Yes, Kujirai Ruka… I called him the victim’s friend, but their friendly relation is a thing of the past, and beyond a certain point, they pretty much severed all ties.”
“… So they grew estranged?”
“More accurately became at odds. You could say they hated one another. It’s hard to tell whether that went as far as murderous intent… however, we can’t ignore the fact that individual was the first to come upon the body.”
“That we cannot.”
Kyouko-san said with a shrug of her shoulders.
“If this were a mystery novel, he’d be so suspicious that, on the contrary, no one would suspect him, but… it’s nonfiction. However, there’s some time elapsed between when he stumbled upon the corpse and called the cops, and the victim’s estimated time of death. And that is why you called me to back up his alibi.”
“You’re as quick on the uptake as ever. The victim’s estimated time of death is three ‘o five in the afternoon. What we wanted to ask you about was Kujirai-san’s alibi at that time.”
“? Three… o’ five? You can tell a time of death in minute increments?”
Kyouko-san dubiously asked. Indeed, under normal circumstance, if no one directly witnessed the moment of death, an estimated time would span a few hours. No matter how quickly the body was found, there was no way to identify the exact minute.
However, it was quite possible in this case.
“The room’s breaker was tripped. Presumably when the dryer hit the water.”
“I see.”
“As a result, all electronic appliances in the room stopped—to summarize, we have a clear snapshot of the time the breaker tripped, meaning the time Unagi-san was electrocuted.”
“… Do we? Is there really any telling when exactly the breaker…”
“For example, his time-shift machine stopped recording at that time. We looked into the exact moment the preserved recording cut off.”
Stopping mid-sentence upon noticing a question mark dancing about Kyouko-san’s white hair, Officer Hijiori noticed—that’s right, I have to explain what a time-shift machine is. Unlike the dryer, that recording device was a more recent invention, outside the scope of Kyouko-san’s memory.
“Oh my, I see. So it continuously stores more than twenty-four hours, days’ worth of whatever’s playing: that’s a surprising functionality. If only I had that much memory capacity—but that just means you know the time the breaker was flipped, and not the victim’s time of death, correct?”
“…? Are you telling me there’s a difference between the two?”
“There might be, and there might not—for example, if the time shift machine was set to stop by other means, it would be possible to fabricate the time the breaker went off…”
The deduction she illustrated surprised him—of course, in theory, it was like breaking a clock after forcing its needles in place, the same as an age-old means of alibi fabrication, but when she had only learned of the time-shift machine a moment ago, she was already crafting a theory around it. She wasn’t a detective for nothing.
“That may be the case with the time-shift machine, but these days, apartments are loaded with all sorts of appliances. I do think it would be difficult to stop all their timers simultaneously.”
“Is that so. Well, I’ll leave that to looking at the scene after this… but at the estimated time of death, three ‘o five, the suspect Kujirai-san said he was meeting with me?”
“That’s right.”
“Then he can’t be the culprit, can he?”
“… Perhaps if you were able to vouch for his alibi.”
While it was just now casually established he would be leading Kyouko-san to the scene afterward, whatever the case, that was the crux of the case. Incomplete as it was, the suspect had an alibi.
“You can’t count on my testimony. In which case, Kujirai-san is still the lead suspect.”
Kyouko-san had no restraint in saying. The way things were, Kujirai was even starting to seem pitiful—when normally, there would be no alibi more complete than one backed by a great detective’s testimony. Granted, the pity was only limited to the case where he wasn’t a murderer. As Kyouko-san said, at present, he was still the suspect in a murder case.
“Kujirai-san said he came to the apartment because the suspect invited him, correct? Were you able to confirm that?”
“Yeah. There was a call on the phone record. From Unagi-san to Kujirai-san, they’ve gotten in touch a number of times as of late. Though I couldn’t tell you the contents of the call; it could even be the case he was demanding money back.”
“Which means that could just as well have been the trigger for murder. Hmm… however, in that case, it would raise a separate question.”
“A separate question? And what would that be?”
“Oh, just based on the investigation material, it says Kujirai-san was a competitive swimmer who competed with Unagi-san neck and neck, and even now he works as an instructor at a sports gym. In that case, he must have confidence in his physique. And yet, would he choose such an intricate method of murder?”
That was a viewpoint Officer Hijiori didn’t have—judging by the impression he got yesterday and the day before, it did seem even after he had retired from competitive swimming, Kujirai had never neglected to train his body. You might say that was just his occupation, but seeing how he only instructed part-time, perhaps training was like a habit from his active days.
Whatever the case, if killing him in the bath was a means to prevent a scuffle with an athlete, Kujirai didn’t quite fit the bill.
“While he might train, he was no match for the active competitor Unagi-san—he might have decided, but in that case, he must be quite the timid soul.”
“Perhaps… he was striving for perfection.”
“Or maybe,”
Kyouko-san placed the case resources down on the table—it seemed she had finished reading through from beginning to end.
“His method of murder was necessary to fabricate his alibi.”
“To fabricate an alibi… is it?”
“While I cannot testify, if hypothetically, Kujirai-san’s alibi, his proof of absence from the crime scene is real, that’s what it would have to mean— in order to form his own alibi, he had no choice but to choose that method of murder.”

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The Challenge Letter of Okitegami Kyouko Chapter 1 Part 1-3

1

Kujirai did not have any particular intentions of pulling off the perfect crime. Never an avid reader of detective novels- in the first place- he didn’t have an accurate understanding of what the term perfect crime even meant. At the point his hands were sullied in crime, he understood all too well it was leagues away from perfect; to start with, if such perfection truly did exist, Kujirai would never have had to retire from the world of competitive swimming—his unrewarded present state had already been proven by the world as a whole to an unnatural degree.
However, even if it wasn’t perfect, the need to aim for perfection was only human nature, and even if it was impossible to achieve completion with the whole, perfecting an individual part of it was a conceivable possibility—or so Kujirai thought. Otherwise, there was far too little salvation. And as long as one portion was complete, it was surely possible to feign completion in the larger picture.
Taken to the logical extreme, no matter how much evidence remained, no matter how clear the motive was—as long as the suspect’s alibi was unshakable, then as far as the law was concerned, it was impossible to make him out as guilty.
Alibi—right, the proof of absence from the scene.
The evidence he was not at the site of the murder.
Originally, that alone would be the minimum necessity.
And so it was, that on that day, at three in the afternoon, Kujirai found himself walking around the business district to forge his unshakable alibi; it wasn’t as if he had any concrete plan. In order to aim for perfection, to move however the situation called for, Kujirai intentionally neglected to plan out the details. If he scheduled out the finer details, the evidence might remain, he convinced himself somewhat neurotically. From the start, Kujirai knew he would definitely be placed under suspicious once the matter came to light—he may have been paranoid, but it was a justified paranoia.
Now then, the most reliable evidence would have to be being witnessed by a large number of people, and have them testify ‘he was there’; however, society is blind to the individual to a surprising degree. When he wasn’t famous by any accounts, if he wanted to leave an impression on a great many ‘eyes’, he would either have to cause an outburst in public, or take some eccentric behavior. If possible, he wanted to avoid standing out or the worse. Gathering strange attention carried a danger of hindering his actions thereafter.
That’s why, at most, as natural as could be, he needed to leave an impression on a third party—third party. Right, it went without saying that whoever testified to Kujirai’s alibi would have to be a third party—and the more of a third party they were, the more complete his alibi would be.
He had heard that family testimony was too weak for an alibi, and in that case, a close friend’s words couldn’t be too strong either—the most desirable person was one with absolutely no relations to himself, if possible, someone he was meeting for the first time.
With that on his mind, Kujirai prowled the main street—he came to a stop. More precisely, his eyes came to a stop—his eyes locked onto a single woman reading through a paperback as she elegantly sipped her coffee on a café terrace.
It was a sight that made for an exceptionally pretty picture. As her hair was all white, for a moment, he misread her age, but on closer inspection, she was a young woman whose age wasn’t much different from his own. It would be quite odd if she was dying her hair to be fashionable… but her tight skirt that went to knee length, and her three-quarter-sleeve blouse gave off a charmingly down-to-earth aura. The glasses she wore made her seem somewhat intellectual.
“……”
Of course, to Kujirai, there was absolutely no need for her to be the one giving testimony—anyone would do. It could be someone from the next table, or just as well the table across. But how miserable would it be if he spent too much time being nitpicky and he exceeded the three o’ clock he needed an alibi for?
With that on his mind, the white hair began to look convenient. With that characteristic hairstyle, she should be considerably easy to search out at a later date—especially with beauty on her level. Surely she will be the one to prove my innocence—Kujirai thought as he approached with a grin.
Not knowing anything about her.

 

 

 

2

“Is this seat open?”
Kujirai said as he pulled back the seat across from the white-haired woman. Softly raising her eyes from the book she’d been reading,
“Go right ahead,”
She conceded surprisingly easily.
“I was just in the business of looking for someone to talk to.”
Having thought the conversation would start with confusion, Kujirai tasted something similar to a letdown, but just because that was the direction, that was no reason not to sit—after a glance at his wristwatch, Kujirai lowered himself down.
He placed a drink order with the waiter who came by—granted, every single entry on the menu was coffee. A long listing of nothing but brands Kujirai didn’t know.
So this was a coffee specialist store… A quick glance and the white-haired woman’s cup didn’t verify any traces of the use of sugar or milk. It did seem she drank it black; that was a little different from her fluffy appearance suggested. While he wasn’t trying to compete, Kujirai ordered it black as well.
“Are you alone? Or are you waiting for someone?”
“I’m alone. I’m generally alone.”
The woman closed her book. As it was draped in a hand-made-looking cover, he couldn’t read the title.
“It turned out that I’m off from work this afternoon, so I’ve got myself some time to spare. Well, it can’t be too rare.”
“Work… hmm. What do you do?”
It was midday on a weekday. At the very least, she couldn’t be an office worker. Granted, Kujirai was in pretty much the same boat.
“Umm, I can’t give the specifics, but I conduct inquiries on this and that. But I didn’t expect that today’s inquiry would finish before noon… It’s a real problem to be too fast at your job.”
She said quite carefree—with how calm and level she seemed, she didn’t look like the type to work with such speed. Inquiry… was she taking surveys or something? Certainly, if such a beauty called out, he felt like he’d respond to any poll she handed out.
“And what do you do?”
“Oh, I’m an instructor at a swimming school.”
He divulged his identity.
“Hmm. No wonder you have such a splendid physique. Your job must be training you hard.”
He didn’t expect to hear that. He didn’t think he was wearing the sort of clothes that would show the lines of his body…
“Can I ask for your name? I’m Kujirai.”
“It’s Kyouko. A pleasure to meet you.”
“Kyouko-san.”
Once again, he was surprised with how easily she told him—He couldn’t help but repeat it back meaninglessly. Did this person called Kyouko-san have no wariness towards an unfamiliar man she was meeting for the first time? As long as she’d testify to his alibi, then even if she treated him coldly, he thought that would be perfectly fine, but… it kinda felt like there was hope after all. Although rather than a lack of wariness, he felt it more precise to say that she had leisure—the sort of leisure that no matter what happened, she could handle it at her own discretion.
Perhaps Kyouko-san was a fake name—though Kujirai wouldn’t be particularily troubled even if that was the case.
“Kyouko-san, do you come here often?”
Once the coffee (by the way, based off Kujirai’s common sense, it was an outrageously priced coffee) was brought over, Kujirai took a sip (once again by his common sense, it was an outrageously bitter and sour coffee) as he asked.
This wasn’t simple curiosity.
If Kyouko-san was a foreigner and she said it was her first time coming to this shop and this town, he feared it might be difficult to track her down later—while he may have been reading too deeply into it, if it were to create a complete alibi, it was better the more thought he put in.
“Who knows… I wonder.”
But there, Kyouko-san offered a strangely evasive answer.
“Judging by the barista’s attitude, it does seem I might be a regular, but I couldn’t say.”
“……? Mnn, that so.”
It was considerably hard to retort when she said it with such a gentle smile—well, if she was working in the area through the morning, she probably didn’t live too far away, Kujirai decided. He couldn’t quite ask a complete stranger where they lived…
Taking the adequate sense of distance for one giving testimony, he was better off refraining from asking for phone numbers or emails. He had to forge a relation for ‘here and now’. While it did feel like a waste, the testimony itself was something of a promise to meet again, taking a patient stance did seem for the best.
Whatever the case, for that day his undivided attention was to make an alibi.
“What are you reading?”
Kujirai pointed at the book Kyouko-san had closed and placed to the side—it was a somewhat thick paperback. He wasn’t very interested, to be honest, but he needed to pick a topic.
“It’s a mystery novel. A collection of Sunaga Hirubee’s short stories. Have you read it?”
While Kyouko-san did open the cover and flash the contents, it was naturally a book Kujirai didn’t know—he’d never even heard the title. But the words mystery novel gave him a start, as someone right in the midst of forging an alibi.
“Is it interesting?”
“Yes, quite. It’s got my recommendation—especially the story I just finished, ‘Sentenced to Conversion’ is a masterpiece.”
“Hmm. And what sort of story was it?”
“I can’t tell you that. It would be a spoiler. Mystery novels are about the mystery.”
“Oh c’mon, just tell me.”
“I wouldn’t dare.”
While he wasn’t that interested, when she refuted him so obstinately, it was human nature to grow curious.
“Then just up to where it’s not a spoiler.”
“Well, it’s a short story, you know. No matter what I say, it will spoil something… if I had to say, it’s a story about how a convicted criminal is reformed after that.”
That really didn’t get anything across.
I’ll have to read it on my own… Kujirai thought as he tentatively recorded the book title and author name on his phone’s memo pad. Honestly, he couldn’t imagine he’d have the opportunity to read it, but it might prove useful somewhere.
“Do you have any other mystery novels you’d recommend?”
If reading was her hobby, he thought he could kill time by hearing out her impressions of her favorite story, but with that approach, the bottleneck of mystery novel spoilers would seal her lips, so Kujirai changed topic. The plan was apparently a success.
“My favorite mystery, it’s from quite a while ago, but… do you mind?”
“Oh no, go right ahead.”
“Well then,”
Kyouko-san began to prattle on.
Kujirai concentrated and listened—it was, of course, to form an alibi, but as she joyfully spoke on about her favorite books, it was hard to say there was nothing he found captivating.

 

 

 

3

After that, Kujirai took ample time, over an hour talking to Kyouko-san. When it came to his honest impression, it was an enjoyable exchange he wanted to continue, but that would be putting the cart before the horse.
“Ah… crap. I’m sorry, I had an arrangement tonight. I’ve got to get going.”
While a bit like an excuse, somewhat intentional-sounding, he gave his piece and picked up both cheques as he stood from his seat. “Is that so?” Kyouko-san didn’t particularly try to stop him.
That being the case, as they parted, Kyouko smiled and waved her hand, “Well then, some other time, if we ever meet again, please do try seducing me from scratch.” She said, so perhaps Kujirai’s sudden exit did ruin her mood—not that there was anything he could do about it.
He couldn’t dawdle and let someone else discover the scene first—Kujirai had to be the first witness no matter what. More so, it was no exaggeration to say he had forged a complete alibi solely to be the first to stumble upon it. Walking to the nearest station with slightly-hastened gait, he hopped on the tram.
It didn’t take long to reach his destination—the apartment where Unagi lived. Room 702 of the complex—he had once frequented the place and even owned a spare key, there was no way he’d get lost.
Still, be that as it may, he was nervous. Couldn’t he still turn back now? Wasn’t there some other way? He felt the temptation might take him. But he was gravely aware of how impossible that was.
There was already no turning back.
He would do what he had to, carry out what must be done—for appearance’s sake, he tried the intercom to Room 702 to no response. After pressing it a second, a third time, he had prepared himself to take the spare key from his pocket.
He undid the two locks starting from the top and opened the door— by the time he removed his shoes and took a step into the dark insides, his resolve had been made. Rather than resolve, perhaps it was more accurate to say he had killed his emotions.
He was the first on the scene, he didn’t have to care about fingerprints. Upon entering, he immediately opened the door to the bathroom. No one was there. However, a cord plugged into the sink socket was stretched to its limit, stretching towards the shower. With the cord in the way, the shower room’s folding door couldn’t close completely.
Kujirai threw that door open all the same. The cord from the sink led right into the bathtub. The appliance in the large tub was a dryer, just as expected.
As expected.
In the bathwater, Unagi was dead.
Electrocuted… was the pain only for an instant? Did it drag on a long time? There was no way Kujirai who hadn’t experienced it would know, but whatever the case, he quietly pulled his phone from his pants pocket. For the first time in his life, with no need to enter the password, he placed a call to that number that didn’t incur any fees.
And he spoke in as great of a panic as he could muster.
“H… hello!? I-is this the police!? Somebody’s been killed!”

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