Chapter a week is a story that’s updated once a week, but the writer continuing the story alternates every time. This serves as mainly a biweekly creative outlet for us where we try to improve our writing, but it also allows us to have fun with each other since we don’t have a story planned. Enjoy!
It wasn’t long after police sirens flooded the scene. Risa-chan took Bang’s death as well as any normal girl would. I never called the detective agency or Asumi(the latter for much more obvious reasons than the first), but it seems that Asumi was scolded quite a bit by Yosana, since she ended up coming to the scene relatively quickly. Makes sense, since Bang’s death could have been avoided if Asumi just solved the case properly.
When Asumi showed up, she had an expression which I hadn’t seen before. Shame? Embarrassment? Definitely not guilt, but something close to the two. When she saw my face, she brightened up a little.
“Kan-chan!!! I missed you so much~!”
She ran towards me with her arms wide open, but I pushed her back.
“You goddamn idiot, how much of the case had you actually solved?”
She pouted, before answering. “I don’t know who the actual culprit is, but I know what they’re after.”
“Could you have prevented Bang’s death?”
“Well, it was kind of obvious. The guy has 6’s all over his cafe.” Asumi replies in such a casual tone, I feel like I’m close to smacking her. And suddenly, a looming shadow appears behind Asumi. It’s Risa-chan, and she actually does slap Asumi. Hard. On one hand, I feel sorry for myself for not getting the first hit, but I am generally looking forward to these two’s future.
And now, we are in the present. 10 minutes from when Asumi was slapped, and also 10 minutes since Risa-chan said she wanted to hear about the case. I’d normally have tried to stop her, but she looked both so determined and pissed off that I couldn’t help but oblige.
“As I said, I don’t know who the culprit is. I’ll first explain the details that appeared after Kanou left me.” She fakes some tears before continuing. “A couple of days ago, we were able to identify two out of the four unknown victims.”
“Wait, four unknown victims? So there was a fifth murder?” I guess it wasn’t really surprising since Bang died after the 6’s covered the store, but it’s astonishing to think that after 5 cases, the bastard Ano still covered the case up and didn’t announce it publicly whatsoever.
“Yeah. As you know, the locations of the murders were just too far away for them to be placed as serial killings. Some in the countryside, some in the city. And the police are probably still under that impression, even after uncovering three of the victim’s identities.” Asumi pulls out a small paper crumble, and opens it up, revealing three photos, but no names or descriptions attached.
“Matou Suzuki, 56 years old, found dead in a bathroom in a high class restaurant called ‘Andou Honten’ in Osaka. Unknown cause of death and no bruises, apart from a mark behind his neck with the number 1.”
“Yonagi Kanna, 35 years old, found dead in her boyfriend’s apartment in Tokyo, and also the only one who we were able to identify immediately. Unknown cause of death and no bruises, apart from a mark on her wrist with the number 4.”
“And the previously most recent death award goes to Sallow Nicholas.” Irritated, Risa-chan looks like she’s about to hit Asumi again, and she quivers and rushes behind me in response before continuing. “He was 43 years old, and was found dead on the top of the Fushimi Inari Shrine* in the morning by tourists. Unknown cause of death and no bruises, apart from a mark on his forehead reading the number 5. His temperature was quite low when he was found, but that’s probably because he was on the top of the mountain.”
*Note: Fushimi Inari Shrine is a famous tourist attraction hiking course/mountain in Kyoto.
“Each of the marks are not too easy to tell, which was another reason why it took a while for even anyone to notice these deaths as connected. The forensics team said that the marks were burned onto each victims’ skin. They also said that the deaths are probably caused by some kind of poison, but they haven’t been able to identify any of them yet.”
Though I had seen it countless times before, Asumi still amazes me with her memory.
“On the surface, the victims seem to have nothing in common, apart from the fact that they had nothing to identify themselves, but Yonagi Kanna is an exception to that. I’m sure the police still can’t find a connection.”
“Wait,” Risa-chan interrupts, visibly confused. “If you couldn’t find out their identities up until a few days ago, why weren’t the deaths released to the public and shown to the news? Couldn’t it have helped to identify them?”
Ah, I guess she wouldn’t know. She did say that she didn’t know who Ano was before when I called her before too.
“It’s because of a certain bastard named Ano.” I answer.
“Ano… The detective that Nodaka told me to deliver her message to?”
“Yeah. This is the kind of case that the public could go crazy with. A serial killer, cult mass suicides, a curse killing citizens of Japan one by one, the press would go crazy with this. If that were to happen, then the police would most likely change the head detective in charge to someone more experienced and take Ano off the case. So as a way of trying to move up the ranks, Ano planned on solving the case all by himself, after noticing a pattern when the third death happened.”
“What a cunt.” She gives a disgusted look in response, which awfully reminds me of when she looked at Asumi.
“It doesn’t matter! He’s been taken off the case!” Asumi shouts. “Can I go back to my amazing deduction now?”
“Yeah, sure. Go ahead…”
“Okay!” She expresses a look of pride. “As Kan-chan said, the police and I suspected this to be a cult suicide at first. I then moved my theory to indiscriminate serial killings, but I changed my theory when the identities were revealed.”
“Identities? Didn’t you just describe them? They have nothing in common, right?” Sallow Nicholas, a man who is clearly a foreigner, is the nail on the coffin which to me, confirms these killings are indiscriminate.
“That’s probably what the police still think. But actually, they do have something in common. 12 years ago, there was a relatively exclusive, Japanese-styled cooking course in Montanna of the United States, in which 6 people participated in it for about 3 months. Yonagi Kanna, Matou Suzuki and Sallow Nicholas all were a part of this course.” Clearly she was leading up to something, but I couldn’t tell what it was. “That course was run by michelin star chef Johnson Bang.”
“Johnson Bang? Wait, is that–”
“Yep, that’s the 6th victim.”
“Holy shit… so these aren’t indiscriminate serial killings?”
“Nope, they’re calculated, individual murders.”
After a moment of silence, I turn to Risa-chan, who remains with a look of stun for a couple of seconds, before saying anything. “Jesus Christ… and so all we have to do is find out who the rest of the participants of the cooking class was, and the one person who didn’t die is the culprit, right?”
“Yep!” Proudly, she responds.
“Wow, maybe you really are a genius like everyone says!” Risa-chan fangirls over her in excitement, seeing Asumi in action for the first time.
Ah.. so innocent. I remember I was like that too before.
“Of course! Actually, not telling you the message to Ano was my part of my plan, too! After all, we couldn’t have been able to know if it was Ano or one of the course attendees who was the culprit! Haha! I’m so–” But before she can finish, she receives a loud smack by Risa-chan.
“Hey, I know these last two days have been difficult, but I guarantee you it’ll get better. You of all people should know how it usually is here. Kanou reassures me, and it works because of how calming his voice is. It’s been a couple of days since I witnessed Johnson Bang’s death, and although it does still haunt me occasionally, I feel relatively okay considering my situation. At least that’s what I thought, but I guess I’m still tense.
Man, Nodaka really messed up, letting him go..
“Does Nodaka ever get better?”
“That’s a different issue..” We laugh.
“So, I get why the Inspector is coming to the office, but why are the other suspects also coming?”
“Kan-chan always wants to meet the suspects before answering the case… personally, I’d rather just send him a text or something with the culprit and an explanation.” Nodaka slouches, being quite grumpier than usual.
“Why couldn’t you have done that before?!”
“ ‘Cause Ano’s not on the case anymore! No point in shoving it in his face!”
“In the first place, how did you guys even get access to this case if Detective Ano was trying to hide it?”
“Well, we’re given special access to all national cases from the Japanese government, but the case itself was brought to our attention by an anonymous tip.”
“An anonymous tip?”
“Yeah. An actual letter was addressed and sent to me. They come around sometimes, and the agency occasionally helps out cases like this to better our image for the bigger companies. That wasn’t as much so in this case, I think the president just wanted me to kick Ano’s ass on the case.”
“Also to keep you out of the mahjong tournament.” Kanou intervenes.
“Which, if I need to remind you, I won!”
“And was disqualified from!” In response to Kanou’s retort, Nodaka goes back to her depressed state.
“As always, an excellent job, Nodaka!” Inspector Imai applauds Nodaka after listening to her admittedly great deduction. He looks to be quite elderly, possibly in his 60s. He makes up for his lack of height with either muscle or fat, but I can’t tell because of the thick clothes covering him. He wears a seemingly formal outfit in orange and black, a color combination bizarrely reminding me of the Inspector Megure in Detective Conan.
“And thus, I believe that Kanzawa Haruka is behind these murders. Not only do the facts match, but she is also the only one from the class that hasn’t had a successful career in cooking. Perhaps she held a form of resentment against the others for doing better than her, as well as to her instructor, Johnson Bang, for not leading her to success.”
“Then we’ve also got a motive. You’ve convinced me of your theory, Nodaka. But without any direct evidence, it remains a theory. None of this will hold…”
As the two continue on in their conversation, I whisper to Kanou.
“So the two beside Inspector Imai are the suspects, right?”
“Yep. The one on the left is Yukiyoshi Sendou. He was my prime suspect until Kanzawa, though Asumi said there was no way he could be guilty.”
“She was that confident, and you still thought she was guilty?”
“Well, more than guilty, he just seemed the most likely, at least compared to the other suspect, Honda Kennichi. The thing about both suspects is that the theory of them being guilty doesn’t stand up. Neither of them have possible motives for killing all 6 people, and there isn’t any evidence that supports their being guilty. Both of them had poor alibis, though. Honda said things like he stayed at home alone, or with his girlfriend or family, which can’t be trusted and won’t hold up in court. On the other hand, Yukiyoshi just didn’t provide any alibis whatsoever.”
“No alibis whatsoever? What? That sounds totally guilty!”
“That’s what I thought. He also happened to have hotel rooms booked near many of the crime locations at the right time.”
What the hell? How is this guy not locked up yet?
“But motives are the problem. Yukiyoshi has no possible motive that the police or I have been able to come up with whatsoever.”
“Motive, huh…. Didn’t think that would be so important…”
What if he’s just a crazy psycho who burns numbers onto people?
“What about the other person? Handa, was it?”
“Honda Kennichi has some circumstantial evidence against him. But ultimately it comes down to motives again.”
“What kind of evidence?”
“Besides the lack of a solid alibi, he’s a researcher at a scientific lab. So the unknown poisons that killed the victims wouldn’t have been too difficult for him to get his hands on. He also had some bruises on the day he reported the crime, though he claims it was from when he tripped.”
“I see… but from the way it looks, these two aren’t that great of suspects, are they?”
“Yeah. I think Ano just kept these two because they were his only hope to success.”
I look back at Nodaka and Inspector Imai, to see Nodaka seemingly zoning out of the conversation.
No… she’s not zoning out… is she… staring at Honda?
It just doesn’t add up.
Biting my fingernails, I continue rocking on my chair, trying to think of a reason. But my train of thought(or lack of one) is interrupted by Ken-chan.
“Hey, I’m going to go now. As much as I feel bad for Risa-chan, I did leave.”
“What’s wrong? You aren’t going to beg for me to stay?”
“…It doesn’t add up.”
“Add up? What do you mean?”
“My case against Kanzawa.”
“Huh? It sounded perfectly reasonable to me. Inspector Imai is bringing him into questioning today, right? If you can find some evidence, this case should be set.”
“No, it’s not. There’s no explanation as to why he bothered burning numbers into them, or why he performed the killings weekly.”
“Perhaps he just wanted to leave a mark on them? Murderers aren’t the most predictable or understandable, maybe he got a sense of satisfaction every time he defiled the bodies that he killed and left in pure condition.”
“It’s not that your explanation doesn’t make sense, it’s just really shitty.”
With a quite visibly irritated face, Ken-chan leaves, waving his hand while she walks away.
Is it possible that I was wrong about Kanzawa? After all…
But once again, my train of thought is interrupted, though this time, it’s the phone.
“Hey intern! Pick it up!”
“Yeah, got it.” She picks up the phone, and a while later, puts down the phone with a face of shock. “Okay, I understand. I’ll tell her.”
“About Kanzawa Haruka… he had no confirmable alibi for all the days in which the murders happened, supposedly visiting his parents weekly.”
“But this monday, when Johnson Bang was found dead, he was in a live concert. And there’s CCTV footage which proves he’s innocent.”
“Maybe Kanzawa killed just the five people, and someone else killed Johnson?”
“No. Even if he had an accomplice, there’s no reason he would just not kill the last person himself.”
Actually, it could be an imposter, disguising their own murder as someone else’s…
No, that’s impossible.
None of the murders were released to the public, and the poison and burning techniques used were similar enough for the forensics team to deem the perpetrator as the same person.
“What if he changed the poison? The forensics team hasn’t actually identified it, right? If there’s one with similar effects but more slow acting, then couldn’t it work?”
“No, it’s no coincidence that the murders all occurred on Monday, so Johnson had to die on Monday. And a slow acting poison kicking in at the right time is just too unreliable.”
“Damn… then… are we back to square one? We have no suspects!”
“No, we do.”
“We do? I thought the other suspects were duds.”
“Not exactly. I have my suspicions about Honda.”
“Honda.. You were staring at him yesterday. What’s going on?”
“He ended up spilling some water on his left hand, and he acted like a dog had just bit him. I’m pretty sure his hand is burnt. That could be from the burn marks that the victims had.”
“Really? I hadn’t noticed… but it’s just a burnt hand, isn’t it? That’s purely circumstantial and is much more likely to be a coincidence.”
“It would be just a coincidence if it were only that. But that guy… he was smiling. His girlfriend was murdered just 2 weeks ago, and when he’s told about the person who killed her, he smiles.”
“…Maybe he was just relieved that he wasn’t a suspect anymore?”
“Perhaps. But that wasn’t a look of relief. That was a look of joy. Something is going on that I’m not yet aware of.” I stand up, and grab my jacket. “I’d ask you to investigate Honda for me, but this case has been going on for too long. It’s time to settle this case once and for all.”
“Ooh~ so cool!”
“Also, I don’t trust you with an investigation.”
Honda Kennichi opens the door. He currently lives in the same apartment which his girlfriend was in. Not usual, but not unusual. Some people are often too afraid of moving on and try to remember their loved one by staying in the same place as them.
“Hi! I’m Nodaka, I met with you yesterday with Inspector Imai.”
He seems quite shocked. Maybe enough to be called panicked. But he manages to quickly recompose himself, and show a blank, perhaps slightly curious expression.
“Hello, can I help you?”
“Well, I just wanted to give you an update on the case. We actually got some damning evidence against Kanzawa Haruka. He has no alibi whatsoever.” The intern, who is standing on my right, turns her head to face me in shock.
“Wow… that’s… great… if he is really the one who killed Kanna, then I hope he is properly arrested.”
“Yes… I’m sure being treated as a possible suspect during this time must have been terrible. I really want to apologize for Detective Ano’s behavior. Could we come in?” I hold out a bag, with a box from an extremely high end sweets company(which is empty, but Honda doesn’t know that).
“Oh, of course. Please.” He steps back and opens the door.
Going through the relatively small apartment to the living room, I notice various holes and marks on the walls. I manage to secretly peek through a door, and I can see a cracked television screen.
But something is bizarre. Something is off. Ever since I first saw Honda yesterday, there’s been something about him that I just can’t place my finger on. I look at Honda, looking from head to toe multiple times.
He’s wearing glasses, which is new… but that’s not it.
His lower body…
No. This isn’t the right direction.
He does look somewhat more happy than before. No, is it better to say ‘free’?
What is it…. The colors on him?
Colors.. The clothes?
Yeah… the police report showed that he was wearing long sleeves and pants, despite it being in the middle of Summer. And yet just a few weeks later, he’s wearing short sleeves and short legs.
Oh. That’s it.
I knew it. There’s no doubt in my mind now that Honda Kennichi is the one who murdered all 6 people. I’ve got the motive down. He has no alibi. All I need now is some actual concrete evidence…
The intern and I sit on the table, and I place the bag of (empty) sweets on the floor, so that Honda doesn’t open it while I try and find some evidence. I try to continue a dialogue between Honda and I, while I continue to talk about the likelihood of Yukiyoshi’s arrest, and other bullshit like that. During this, I try to casually peak around and ask some around the bush questions about the house, but nothing comes to avail.
I’m out of things to say…
At this point, I probably only have this left.
I discreetly reach into my phone in my pocket, press the power button three times, and my phone begins to ring. I take it out, stand up, and answer.
“Yes?” I mumble some hmms in before continuing. “Ah,” I look at the intern, sign her to come over to me, and look at Honda. “Sorry, we need to take this. Could we just have a moment?”
“Yes?” I mumble some hmms in before continuing. “Ah,” I look at the intern, sign her to come over to me, and look at Honda. “Sorry, we need to take this. Could we just have a moment?”
We walk towards the hallway, and I whisper to her.
“Hey, have you noticed anything?”
“Um… I don’t know, he looks a little happier than he did in the report.”
“Come on, anything else?”
The intern takes a couple seconds to think. Thinking….
“What is it?”
“I forgot to message my friend!”
“Wha.. are you fucking kidding me? I know you don’t believe Honda is the murderer, but you’re getting paid to do this! Your messages can…”
I’ve got it.
I can’t help but smirk, though I would even if I could help it.
“Hey Intern, you better turn your brain on, because Master Detective Nadoka Asumi has done it again.”
“Oh, before I leave,” Nadoka asks. “Honda, could I ask one final question?” She said something about solving the case, but she just got up to begin leaving. What the hell is she thinking?
“I just wanted to know… how did it feel to kill your girlfriend?”
Wait, did she really just…
“…Excuse me?” An array of emotions begin to play on Honda’s face, like a broken TV screen. Confusion, anger, disarray, sadness. “What in the– you… Get the hell out of my-”
“You see, I thought it was weird, changing from long sleeve to short sleeve for no apparent reason. If anything, it’s colder now than when you wore long sleeves. And yet, you’re wearing short sleeves! What reason could there be for that? Is it just a coincidence that you happened to be wearing long sleeves during the day Yonagi Kanna died? Of course not.”
“It was to hide bruises, right? Holes in the wall, a broken TV, hell, long sleeves weren’t even enough to cover all your bruises! All classic designs of domestic abuse. Kanna died approximately two weeks ago, meaning that the latest you could have been hit by her was two weeks ago, which is around the time it takes for bruises to fully heal. That’s why you’re wearing short sleeves now. There’s nothing to hide, after all.”
No, but that still doesn’t match up.
“But Nodaka, that’s only a motive for killing one of the victims. Why would Honda go out of her way to kill 5 other people?”
“That’s the thing about Honda. Why it took so long for me to connect the dots. He used the other killings as a camouflage. I’m sure he heard about the cooking class with Johnson Bang more than a couple times from Yonagi. After all, it’s 3 months with a Michelin star chef. From that, he probably formed a plan to murder Yonagi, and every member from the cooking class except for one person, to frame them. And it just so happens that one of them, Yukiyoshi, was failing in business. A perfect scapegoat.”
This sick bastard… so he killed 5 other people just to avoid suspicion?!
“The only problem for Honda would have been to allow the police to make the connection between the victims. But he couldn’t be too obvious about it. So he gave them all unnatural deaths with causes difficult to recognize, and numbered them from 1 to 6.”
“Did he kill them on Mondays for that reason too?”
“No, that was to frame Kanzawa. Her comment about visiting her family is probably true. I doubt it was hard to find a weekly event that Kanzawa did, even an amateur can manage to find that kind of information with enough trailing.”
“The 6’s all over Cafe Bang, as well as the note ‘You Cheated Me’ was placed there for the same reason. If Kanzawa was angry at the people in the cooking course for the success they couldn’t achieve, it’d be natural for her to be most upset with Johnson, the most successful out of everyone as a michelin star chef, and also her mentor who failed to guide her.”
“B-But… Wait a second, Nodaka.” Honda finally spoke up after staying silent during Nodaka’s long monologue. “The things you’re saying… it sounds like there’s no reason to suspect me instead of Kanzawa. Isn’t that right?”
“You’d be right, but you’re unfortunately wrong. You knew about his weekly visits to his parents, but you didn’t study up enough on him. He went to a live concert instead of visiting his parents on the day of Johnson’s death.”
“Wh-what?” The shock and panic on Honda’s face was simply too clear to imply anything but this man’s lack of innocence. “But- w-well, everything you’re saying is circumstantial! None of this would hold up in court. You may as well be reading a fiction book!” He tries to form a smile.
“Once again, you’re wrong! Man, maybe you should become a pair of dumb and dumber with my intern here!”
“I’m guessing you overestimated the police’s judgement. Even with the clues, they weren’t able to piece together the deaths as even connected until after the third casualty. Panicked, you sent an anonymous tip to a certain detective agency. You realized you forgot to erase your fingerprints on the letter, so you burned your hand to remove them off of yourself. But what you didn’t realize was that there were a couple strands of hair in the letter.”
Panic once again overcomes Honda, but at an even more extreme rate. He begins to breathe heavily and quickly, enough to make me suspect he’s hyperventilating.
“Now, if I tell all of this to Inspector Imai, and considering you were one of the prime suspects in this case, I’m sure there will be enough reason to ask for a hair sample. And if that matches with the hair strands in the letter I received, then that’ll mean that you, Honda Kennichi, sent a mail to my firm with the details of a case that was private to the public, and at the time, you weren’t even involved with, since Yonagi Kanna was the fourth victim.”
Nodaka takes a short breath, and points a finger gun at Honda.
As if to respond to Nodaka, Honda runs straight towards her, presumably to attack her. But this proves completely futile, as Nodaka slightly turns and does a massive kick on his neck. Immediately afterwards, she grabs his face, and slams his entire body onto the wall, creating a bigger crack than any we had noticed before.
She lets go, and Honda’s body lifelessly drops down to the floor, like a ragdoll.
With Nodaka’s reveal, as well as this fight, I think this beats my experience at Cafe Bang in terms of sheer surprise, since I think I witnessed a death both times.
“Do you want to carve a seven?”
A few hours later, Honda gained consciousness in the hospital, and confessed, seeing as he was bound to be found guilty one way or another. Nodaka avoided attempted murder charges with a self defence claim, though I’m not sure that one was justified.
The last few days here at Yuzuriha Detective Agency have probably been the worst in my life, but it’s somehow given me some respect for Nodaka, though maybe only for her intelligence. The double layer of this case… I don’t think I would have been able to properly deduce even the surface layer of the murders.
And yet despite that, because of the traction that the cases gained, the agency offered me a permanent job as Nodaka’s assistant. I don’t really expect it to go further than a babysitter, and I’m somewhat dreading the moments where I’ll have to face incidents like what happened in Cafe Bang. Johnson’s death still haunts me to this day, and I don’t think I can properly forgive Nodaka for that. But the pay is too good for me to refuse, so I’ve got no choice, as unqualified as I am.
Oh, and I ended up asking Nodaka about the other suspect, Yukiyoshi Sendou.
“Nodaka, how did you know that Yukiyoshi wasn’t the culprit? Even if he didn’t have a proper motive, didn’t he strike you as suspicious?”
“Ahhh, that guy. Nah, he’s gay.”
“He was participating in a secrative gay group tour around Japan. Him being at the right location was just a coincidence, and he didn’t tell anyone since being publicly homosexual doesn’t do you any good around here.”
“Wha… huh… wait, how do you even know about that?”
And I also learned something quite shocking.
“Because I’m a lesbian?”
“Oh, I guess I never did tell you.”
“Huh??? B-but, you and Kanou, weren’t you two-”
Maybe, a couple of things.
“Yeah, we were a thing before. Wait, you thought Kanou was a guy?”