"A word to the people who own a dog. Please stop using the suffix -chan when you call your dog's name. If you use -chan, your dog will think that -chan is part of their name and they might not turn around when you don't use -chan. With dogs... hmm..."
"Furuhata Ninzaburou: A Message from the Dead"
"Furuhata Ninzaburou: A Message from the Dead"
A new translation at last? I had translated half of this story already in Japan, but somehow never finished it. And even though it is a fun little story.
While I have introduced the Japanese drama Furuhata Ninzaburou before, I had forgotten to mention there is also a novelization available. And somewhat rare, but the original scriptwriter Mitani Kouki actually wrote the novelization. Mitani Kouki is an excellent writer, who is mostly famous for his comedic stage productions and lately, his comedy movies (for example Welcome Back Mr. McDonald, The Uchouten Hotel and The University of Laughs). The style of Furuhata Ninzaburou (and Columbo) are of course excellent for a stage writer, as it focuses on dialogue and few characters. Readers will note that most of the text of the translation consists of dialogue.
Chinami's Home is the novelization of Shisha kara no Dengon ("A Message from the Dead'), the first Furuhata Ninzaburou episode that was broadcast for the first time on April 13, 1994. The novelization is mostly the same as the episode, except for the removal of Furuhata's sidekick Imaizumi from the story. The character of Koishikawa Chinami, famously played by idol singer Nakamori Akina, would be referenced a lot in later episodes in all three series, chronicling her life after this story, and is probably one of the most famous culprits in Furuhata Ninzaburou history.
Anyway, this story introduced the world to the gentleman detective Furuhata and features a dying message. Or does it?
Author: Mitani Kouki
Koishikawa Chinami looked outside the window. The rain did not show any signs of stopping. The night was young. Chinami curled up on the sofa, simply waiting for the time to pass. She tried as hard as she could to forget about the dead body in the cellar.
This story started three days ago. Chinami and Hatano had gone to the vacation home for the first time in three months. Let me tell you this first, but Chinami had not invited Hatano there to kill him. She did end up being a murderess. But to say that Chinami was only pretending to be as happy as a little child when their car stopped in front of the villa, just to make him feel secure, that would be unfair to her. She did really love him. Even when she found out that Hatano had no intention of marrying her, her feelings for him didn’t change. Koishikawa Chinami was not a woman who would take her time planning a murder and then execute it. You might say she just was not someone with such a proactive way of living. In every aspect of her life, she was always the passive one. This was true, even when she committed her murder.
On the night of the day Hatano, Chimani and her beloved golden retriever Mangorou arrived at the vacation home, something unfortuneous happened. Chinami was making dinner with the ingredients they bought at a convenience store on their way up there. When she brought dinner up to the living room, Hatano was making a call to someone. Chinami instantly guessed the call was to a woman. She had heard long ago that Hatano was seeing other women, so she was not very surprised. And it was not even what was said which upset Chinami. But even if he really had to make that call (of course, the phone call itself also upset her), why couldn’t he at least be considerate enough to wait till she was asleep? The biggest shock was that when Hatano noticed her, he didn't immediately cut off the call. The consideration he didn't show Chinami, he did show the caller. More than angry, Chinami was sad. She couldn't cry, neither could she be angry. She just stood still.
Even when Hatano finished his call, he didn't show any sign of agitation. Not knowing what she should do, Chinami stood still, while Hatano went to sit at the table to eat the egg soup Chinami had made it, as if nothing was wrong. Showing a charming smile, he said:
‘It's delicious, Chinami!’
Afterwards, he hugged Chinami like always. It was probably then that the intention of murder made its way into Chinami's heart.
But if Mangorou hadn't cried out that night, maybe Chinami wouldn't have committed the murder. Due to the long trip with the car, Mangorou hadn't eaten enough. But usually he would wait like a good dog until daybreak Why did he beg for food so persistently that day?
The vacation home was a Western-style house and was owned by foreigners until a year ago. The cellar room Chinami used as a storage room, used to be a money vault. Opening the thick door with a big dial on it, she entered the room. Inside the six tatami mats wide room were fixed shelves. Manjuurou's food was placed in a box on the highest shelf in the back. Even using a stepledder, Chinami couldn't reach it. Chinami called for Hatano, who was doing some writing in his room. As he was disturbed in his work, Hatano got in a bad mood, but he succumbed to the whining of Mangorou, lay down his papers and went with Chinami to the cellar.
‘Is it this one?’
Hatano had taken off his slippers and stood on the stepladder, reaching out his hands and grabbing a can in the back of the shelve.
‘What does it say?’
‘My Dog's Friend‘
‘Not that, but My Dog's Dream‘
‘Isn't Friend just as good?’
‘I bought that by mistake. Mangorou doesn't like that. It might be further in the back.’
Chinami leaned on the side of the door, looking at Hatano. If Chinami had leaned on the wall, maybe Hatano wouldn’t have died there. As Chinami was unintentionally touching the side of the door, she remembered something. It was when they had come to the house one month earlier. She was tidying up the shelves when by chance the door slammed shut and she was locked up in the room together with Mangorou. The room used to be a vault. You couldn't open it from the inside in any way. As luckily Hatano was there that time, it didn't end in her death.
Hatano was leaning with all his might. Besides the stepledder, Mangorou was playing with Hatano's slippers, as if it was none of his business. Chinami silently left the room. She whispered for Mangorou. Hatano hadn't noticed a thing. Outside, Chinami slowly closed the door. It quickly became pitch-dark in the vault as the light from outside was being blocked by the door. Having noticied that, Hatano turned around to Chinami.
‘What are you doing?’
‘Farewell,' she said. She closed the door, leaving the dazed Hatano behind.
After she had locked up Hatano, Chinami went out of the house with Mangourou. She drove the car down the mountain, back home. The following three days, she spent her live as always. Only the two of them knew she had gone to the vacation home with Hatano. It was too simple to call it a planned murder. If she would just go to the vacation home again in a while, discover the body and report it to the police, then it would be all over.
Looking back at these eventsl, we can safely say that Chinami committed the murder in a way most fitting to her. Carefully constructing an alibi, going to the police with a testimony full of lies was too difficult for her. But in this case, she would only have to lie about one thing. She only needed to not say she had been to the mountain villa with Hatano.
On the third night after she had come down the mountain, she once again headed to the vacation home. Because of the rain that had been going on since the day before, the road had almost turned into a river. In the passenger's seat, Mangorou was looking restlessly at the road. The radio brought news about a landslide. It was right besides the house. Chinami grabbed the steering wheel tightly, as if fearing the mud would take it from her. The wipers were moving in front of her eyes. Chinami stopped the car. When she opened the door, she petted Mangorou's back.
Manjuurou ran at top speed along the small road to the entrance. Chinami grabbed her travel bag and ran too through the rain.
While she was drying her body in the living room, she began to think. If possible, she would rather make a phone call to the police without going downstairs. If she could avoid it, she didn’t want to see the body. But if she did that, she would have to lie about how she found the body. And it was that that made her worry. She wanted to avoid lies as much as possible. She knew of herself that she didn’t have the confidence she would be able to stick to her lies, nor would she be able to persevere. And most important, she just didn’t want to go through all that trouble just for that man.
After thinking for some time, she gathered all her courage, ordered Mangorou to sit on the sofa and went to the cellar room on her own. There was still a slight chance Hatano would still be alive. That was also a reason she should first check up on him. There was a big dial on the door of the vault. It was designed to lock automatically when the door was closed. Only two people knew the way to open the vault, and one of them should be on the other side of the door, dead. Chinami slowly turned the dial. She silently opened the door. She smelled a stuffy stench come out and she peeked inside. Near her feet, Hatano was lying on his back. She didn’t have to check whether he still breathed. No man alive would be able to keep their eyes open like that for such a long time. It was enough having seen this. Chinami left the door open and went back up to the living room. Then she called the police.
‘I came here for the first time in three months and there was a man lying in the cellar.'
Chinami truthfully reported what she saw in the cellar.
‘Could you come immediately?’
But the police told her it would be difficult to dispatch a patrol car to her house. Landslides had happened due to the rain, blocking the roads. This was unexpected. Chinami was shaking. Being told they would come as soon as the road was cleared, she reluctantly ended the call. Mangorou was standing next to his mistress, watching her. A troubled Chinami patted Mangorou’s head.
‘There are things in this world which you just can’t predict.’
Chinami rolled up on the coach, looking outside the window. The rain did not show any signs of stopping. On the other side of the window, the raindrops kept falling without rest. And so Koishikawa Chinami and the body of the man she murdered herself would have to spend a long night together.
The doorbell rang.
It startled Chinami. Nobody had said they would come visit. It was in the mountains, and it was raining heavily outside. Who would come in such a night? The doorbell rang for the second time. As if feeling danger, Mangorou started to bark. Trembling with fear, Chinami moved towards the entrance. Looking through the window of stained glass next to the door, she saw the dark silhouette of a man.
‘I am really sorry to disturb you so late at nigh.t’
‘What is the matter?’
‘My car has given up on me, it is just standing there now, so would you allow me to use your phone just a bit?’
Being on her guard, Chinami didn’t utter a word.
‘There is really nothing suspicious about me. Are you looking through the peephole of the door?’
‘Would you please look through it?’
Chinami looked through the hole. On the other side of the door, a slim man dressed in black was holding up a notebook.
‘Can you see it?’
‘I am from the police. My name is Furuhata. This is a real policeman’s notebook.’
Chinami checked the notebook.
‘I will leave the house as soon as I have made my call, so I implore you.’
Chinami let the man enter the house and offered him slippers.
‘I am really grateful. You are a big help.’
‘I am sorry the slippers are dirty. I don’t have many guests here, so these are the only one for visitors.’
‘I’m grateful. This will do just fine.’
Even when on the phone, the man didn’t make any effort to dry his hair. He told a local policeman that because the road were blocked, he would arrive the following morning. Chinami was looking at the man. He didn’t look suspicious. He looked more like a gentleman. Furuhata quickly ended his call.
‘Thank you very much.’
Chinami held up a towel.
‘Please dry yourself with this.’
‘I really couldn’t. I will be leaving presently.’
‘You will catch a cold.’
‘Please don’t worry. You really were a great help.’
Mangorou was rubbing his head against him while Furuhata was saying his thanks.
‘Stop it, Mangorou.’
‘He’s a big dog, isn’t he? What kind of dog is it?’
‘A golden retriever.’
Looking at this unexpected guest playing with her dog, Chinami started to think. Considering the phone call, it seems he was a real policeman. What a coincidence. It would be natural as the one who discovered the body, to tell him all what happened.
Furuhata wiped away some of the dirt on his shirt and said
‘Mangorou, it seems your paws are a little dirty, aren’t they?’
‘Oh, I’m sorry. We just ran through the rain, so it must be from that. I am really sorry, please use this towel.’
‘It is not really dirty, so please don’t worry. I should make my leave now.’
Furuhata turned around.
‘Actually, I just made a phone call to the police.’
She saw that Furuhata’s eyebrow moved.
‘I really don’t know what to do, because they said they couldn’t come because of the landslides. I am really happy a real detective came here.’
‘Did something happen?’
Chinami explained everything.
‘It has been three days since he died.’
Furhata returned from the cellar where he had ended his examination of the body and sat down next to Chinami on the couch.
‘Do you know him?’
‘He is a friend of mine, Mr. Hatano.’
‘What is that room actually? It looked like a giant money vault.’
‘It used to be a money vault. I use it as a storage room now. This used to be the house of a German diplomat.’
‘I see, mansions in Europe indeed have vaults. I saw it in the movies. And I may assume that this vault can’t be opened from the inside?’
‘And you stated the door was locked when you discovered the body.’
‘So he must suffocated. But if we leave the details to the autopsy report and just reason from the facts, then, oh, excuse me, but what was the name of the deceased again?’
‘It would be natural to assume that Mr. Hatano was locked up in the vault through some kind of accident, and without a way of escape, used up all the oxygen inside the room and fianlly died.'
Chinami shook her shoulders, as if shocked.
‘It is rude of me to ask, but what kind of relation did you have with…?’
‘He has helped me a lot with my work for a long time. He is an editor at a magazine.’
‘And you are…’
‘My work consist of writing.’
‘Graphic novels. Is that something scary?’
Chinami picked up a book lying on the table and handed it over to Furuhata. He looked at the cover. It said ‘The Castle of Calimantan’. After looking at the name of the author, he turned a page. The picture of the author left no room for doubts, it was Chinami.
‘Ms. Koishikawa Chinami’
‘Pleased to meet you. My name is Furuhata. Please allow me to shake your hands.’
Chinami took out her hand.
‘I have indeed heard your name before. I am really to say to you though, that I haven’t read anything written by you.’
‘That’s because these graphic novels are for girls.’
‘’Notari Matsutarou’ is the only comic I have read…’
‘It’s a graphic novel, not a comic.’
‘The Castle of Calimantan’. It does look interesting, doesn’t it?’
Furuhata returned the book on the table.
‘Was Mr. Hatano in possession of a key to this house?’
‘Yes. We both made use of the house. I usually come here near the end of the month to work, but Mr. Hatano often used this house as a vacation home when I wasn’t here. We both have our own rooms upstairs.’
‘I hope you’ll permit me to ask you a pertinent question.’
‘It seems Mr Hatano and you were very close…’
‘We’ve known each other for a very long time now, but it was all professional.’
‘Why did you ask me that question?’
‘I thought that you would be dating or something, as you were sharing a vacation home. But you don’t look sad enough for a lover, so I couldn’t make sense of it.’
‘We’ve known each other for a long time. But we didn’t interfere in each other’s private life.’
Mangorou was running around Furuhata’s legs.
‘Mangorou has a beautiful coat, hasn’t he?’
‘Taking care of it takes some time.’
‘Manjirou, sit! Manjirou.’
‘His name is Mangorou. Mangorou, sit!’
Furuhata petted Mangorou, who was sitting next to him.
‘But what was Mr. Hatano doing in the vault?’
‘I wouldn’t know.’
‘Was he looking for something?’
‘Some old manuscripts are kept there, so he might have been looking through them.’
‘Those papers that were lying all over the floor?’
Furuhata made a memo of all the details in his notebook.
‘Poor Mr. Hatano.’
Chinami looked through the window outside. The rain started pouring even harder. The other side of the window looked like the deck of a ship, lost on the sea during a storm.
‘By the way, what were you doing there?’
Chinami turned around. Furuhata was pointing at Chinami’s bag, which was lying near the wall.
‘After arriving here, you went straight to the cellar, without even unpacking, right?’
‘What were you doing there?’
Chinami stared at her luggage.
‘Would it have been something like women’s intuition?’
‘I had already heard that that Mr. Hatano would be here. But because there was no answer when I called for him, I went looking for him.’
‘You are a very perceptive person.’
‘Actually, something like this had already happened once.’
Furuhata bent forward. Chinami continued:
‘Last month, I was locked up too. Somehow, the door just closed on me. But because there was somebody outside, I was saved.’
‘That is a very dangerous door then.’
‘So that’s why I thought it might’ve happened again tonight.’
‘I understand. And who would the person be who saved you that time?’
‘A friend. If I had placed a door stopper that time, I might have prevented what happened to Mr. Hatano.’
‘Please don’t blame yourself. It is not your fault.’
Chinami was looking depressed, but Furuhata continued.
‘I will be honest with you.’
Chinami looked up.
‘It is hard for me to ask you this, but do you think he might have been murdered?’
‘I can’t say too much as we haven’t made a formal investigation yet, but I am suspecting it was murder.’
‘But didn’t you just say he suffocated?’
‘But what if somebody willfully closed that door? That would be a murder.’
‘You’re saying somebody willfully locked Mr. Hatano up here?’
‘What made you think that?’
‘Actually, there are signs of Mr. Hatano having being struck here.’
As he was saying that, Furuhata pointed at his own forehead.
‘There really was a wound there. At first, I thought he had simply bumped his head somewhere. But did you see the small cash box lying on the ground?’
‘I didn’t notice it.’
‘It had fallen back there. It’s black, with a small handle on the top of it.’
‘Oh, then I know what it is. It’s a small box with stamps and seals in it. It’s always on top of the shelf. But why do you ask?’
‘There are bloodstains on the corners of the box. Mr. Hatano was hit with that box.’
‘I really can’t believe that.’ Chinami simply couldn’t understand what Furuhata told her.
‘It’s simply impossible.’
‘I wouldn’t know. Why do you think it is impossible?’
‘Well, the door was locked from the outside when I came here. And the only people who know how to open the vault, are Mr. Hatano and me. Nobody else could’ve entered,' Chinami emphasized. ‘Nobody could have entered. Nobody couldn’t have come in here and hit Mr. Hatano, before I arrived here.’
‘I see, that seems logical.’
Furuhata looked at Mangorou, who was playing with some slippers and said: ‘Mangorou is playing around with your slippers.’
‘I am wearing mine. He might have picked them up somewhere.’
Chinami yelled at him and Mangorou left the slippers on the ground and fled into the corridor. Furuhata sighed and said silently: ‘The way writers think is really different. You look at things in unique ways.'
‘What do you mean?’
‘You are thinking somebody would have come in after Mr. Hatano was locked in the vault to hit him on the head. Usually, you would think the other way around. It is more natural to think someone hit Mr. Hatano and then locked him up.’
‘I don’t see…’
‘Let’s say you open a box of cookies and you find one which have been nibbled on. A hundred out of hundred persons would say the lid was placed after the cookie had been nibbled on, right? I am just saying something like this.’
Furuhata stood up.
‘So it seems I will need to investigate whether someone accompanied Mr. Hatano when he came here three days ago.’
Chinami guided Furuhata to Hatano’s room. The two climbed the stairs and proceeded through the long corridor. Furuhata stopped in front of a window made of stained glass.
‘This is an awfully large house.’
‘Most of the rooms I don’t even use.’
Chinami mind was busy with the wound on Hatano’s head. Who had hit Hatano and why? She had gone through all the trouble to make it seem like a accident, so why had someone interfered with that plan? Chinami had no ideas about who would have done that. Nobody had been here except for Hatano and her three days ago. Nobody could have known Hatano had been locked up in the cellar. So who had hit Hatano?
‘What a horrible rain. It doesn’t seem to stop any time soon. At this rate, the police will probably arrive tomorrow afternoon.’
Furuhata moved his head towards the window and while looking at the scenery outside, said:
‘Miss Chinami, I will investigate alone, so please go rest a bit.’
‘Was Mr. Hatano’s wound a serious one?’
‘He was hit pretty hard. He probably lost his consciousness.’
‘Did a man do it?’
‘Well, I can’t say. It might have been a woman who really hated him.’
Chinami stopped in front of a door at the end of the hallway.
‘This is Mr. Hatano’s study.’
‘Let’s go inside.’
Furuhata walked inside the room, opened Hatano’s bag placed there and looked inside. It was full of beauty products.
‘He was a rather fashionable person, wasn’t he?’
‘Yes, he was.’
When he found a thick notebook, Furuhata picked it up. There were several receipts inside the notebook.
‘A tidy person.’
Furuhata placed the receipts on the table.
‘They are all dated three days ago. Gas and the toll road. He ate at a drive-in restaurant. Groceries at a convenience store. ‘
Furuhata picked up one receipt and showed it to Chinami.
‘He ate curry rice and curry nanban soba. That is a strange combination for just one person. Even a Indian wouldn’t eat like this. Mr. Hatano did come here three days ago with someone else. And his companion was a woman.’
Furuhata pulled out an unused condom from the notebook.
‘He took precautions against AIDS, it seems. She is the number one suspect. Would you know of Mr. Hatano’s relations with women?’
‘He seems to have been fooling with quite a lot of women.’
‘Let us take a look at his notebook. Ah, this really is something. He was booked full. With M and N and a Y. What would they be, probably the initials of women, right.’
‘With him, that’s very probable.’
‘Something to get jealous about. Let us take a look at the entry three days ago.’
Furuhata turned the pages.
‘Yes, something has been written here. The initial is a ‘C’. Any ideas?’
‘A foreigner maybe?’
‘And if it was a Japenese woman?’
‘It would be a name starting with a Cha… or Chu….’
‘Maybe Cho… Maybe it is the last name.’
‘But are there names like that?’
‘I can only come up with Katou Cha or Arai Chuu. I will try them, but I don’t think they have anything to do with this case.’
‘Ah, wait a minute. ‘Chi’ would also work. You were having trouble with names with a ‘Cha’ or ‘Chu’. Torigura Chiyoko, Okumura Chiyo, these are old examples, but there are plenty of them. Now that I think about it, Koishigawa Chinami, your name also starts with a ‘C’.’
‘Now that you mention it…’
Furuhata and Chinami sat around a table in the living room. It was already very late. The two of them were looking silently at the table. On top of the table lay a wrinkled piece of paper.
‘Have you ever heard of ‘dying messages’? They also call it a message from the dead.’
‘I think I know what you mean.’
‘Mr. Hatano would had to have known. Who had locked him up, I mean. Because he come here together with that woman. And if we assume that, then we can be sure he would have tried to leave the name of his murderer. I would have done so certainly.’
‘So what you are trying to say is, that Mr. Hatano was holding a manuscript of mine in his hand when he died, which indicates me as the murderer?’
‘It is probably more complicated than that.’
Furuhata placed a pen on the table. Chinami recognized the pen.
‘Mr. Hatano was holding this pen when he died. But strangely enough, he had written nothing at all.’
Furuhata picked up the piece of paper from the table.
‘The piece of paper was next to Mr. Hatano’s body. This was the only one that was wrinkled, lying there. It seems he had clenched it in his hands. Why would he have gotten this particular manuscript out of all the manuscripts there and clenched it? Don’t you think that’s strange?’
‘I think we can see some sort of intention of Mr. Hatano in that action. Let us think about it together.’
Furuhata turned the paper around.
‘This side is blank, nothing is written on it. So that means…’
He turned the paper around once again.
‘That means that on this side, somewhere in the drawing a hint must be that shows us the murderer. What is the title of this comic?’
‘’A late night in Zimbabwe’. It is my newest work.’
‘Was there some connection between Mr. Hatano and Zimbabwe?’
‘I wouldn’t know.’
‘Why would he have chosen this page? What kind of story is this, this A late night in Zimbabwe?’
‘It’s nothing special.’
‘Again so modest.’
Furuhata concentrated on the paper.
‘Let’s read the script aloud. ‘It’s alright. You’re still able to dance.’ ‘You can’t lose now.’'I think somebody has come.’’
‘It is a story about a dancer. The dancer falls in love with a spy.’
‘A dancer and a spy?’
‘It sounds cheap, right? It’s even cheaper when you read it. Please don’t look at it too much, it’s embarrassing.’
‘It is all part of the investigation. So I do have to look at it. Are there dancers or spies amongst Mr. Hatano’s acquaintances?’
‘I think he has several dancer friends.’
‘Maybe that is it.’
‘It seems he often went to shady bars.’
‘And what about spies?’
‘I wouldn’t know. Spies are usually undercover, right.’
Furuhata laughed. Chinami poured hot tea in his cup. The two of them silently sipped their tea. You could only hear the unrelenting sound of the rain. It was already late at the night, but it seemed the rainfall would only become even heavier.
‘This is really a nice house, isn’t.’
‘Size is the only thing good about it.’
‘It is like we are inside a foreign movie.’
‘It had been my dream ever since my childhood. A house with a big chandelier.’
‘Your dream had become true quite early in your life then.’
‘Maybe too soon.’
‘I am sorry I am asking this, but do comics really make this much money?’
‘If you have a hit, you’ll probably make quite a bit of money, I think.’
‘Not at all.’
‘No, I really am envious of you.’
‘To be honest, this house is for sale at the moment. It is too big for me alone. I am not good with money. I always buy things I don’t need.
Furuhata looked at the manuscript once again.
‘What kind of scene is this?’
‘This is where the protagonist dancer has fallen and injured herself and is helped by the spy who happened to pass by.’
‘It seems fun.’
‘It is really bad. I can only write stories like this.’
‘This blonde girl is the dancer, right?’
‘And this boy is the spy?’
‘But that’s strange, the dancer and the spy fall in love, don’t they?’
‘That is right.’
‘But why is the dancer calling the spy her brother in this scene?’
‘That’s not the dancer. That’s the spy’s younger sister.’
‘Didn’t you just say she was the dancer?’
‘This girl and that girl are different people.’
Furuhata looked at the manuscript.
‘They all have the same faces. I am sorry, this is very embarrassing.’
‘I see. The noses are different.’
‘Let’s stop this.’
Chinami took the paper from Furuhata’s hand and returned it to the table. Furuhata was still puzzling over it.
‘It’s a difficult problem, isn’t it?’
‘Please have some more tea.’
‘ Don’t mind if I do.’
‘It’s too bad. You even managed to single the murderer down to a woman.’
‘Yes, but this case has too many strange points.’
‘The mystery of the wound on the head still remains unsolved, right?’
‘And the notebook.’
‘You mean the initial ‘C’?’
‘That too, but there is something else. Because the murderer came together with Mr. Hatano here, they would have to been quite close. And that person would have known that Mr. Hatano was the type who wrote everything in his notebook. So you would think the murderer would have gotten hold of this notebook after she had locked up Mr. Hatano. That would be the most logical way to act, don’t you think?’
‘However, this murderer hadn’t done anything to get rid of it. It is almost as if she is saying ‘please catch me’. I just can’t think this person really was trying to pull off a perfect crime.’
‘It does seems like that, now that you mention it.’
‘What do you think, from an author’s point of view?’
Chinami thought for a while and answered.
‘Maybe she had enough of it.’
‘Of hiding evidence?’
‘That, and maybe of just life itself.’
‘I can somehow understand it.’
‘In any case, I think the murderer certainly isn’t a coldhearted killer.’
It was the middle of the night when Chinami lay down on the bed in her room. Furuhata had told her to take some rest, but she couldn’t fall asleep. If that piece of paper really was a dying message, then it would certainly indicate her as the murderer. She couldn’t understand how that manuscript was pointing at her. Was it really a dying message? Didn’t somebody take the real one and made away with it? The person who hit Hatano. But who could it have been? The more Chinami thought about it, the more insecurity crept up on her. Moving in the wind, the branches of the tree outside were tapping the window.
She just couldn’t fall asleep and went downstairs to the living room, where Furuhata was sitting on the couch, reading The Castle of Calimantan. Furuhata didn’t notice Chinami and was all caught up in the story, turning page after page. One tear was running down his cheek. When he noticed Chinami, he tried to hide his embarrassment and on purpose wiped away his tear in a very theatrically way.
‘That was a good story,' he murmured. ‘I thought I would just kill some time until the police arrives. But The Castle of Kalimantan, it is fantastic.’
‘But you are only at the end of the first part.’
‘I was really moved. Please allow me to shake your hand.’
With a slightly strong grip, Furuhata took hold of Chinami’s hand.
‘It was wonderful.’
‘Don’t you want to eat something, Mr. Furuhata?’
‘Don’t worry about me. Please take some rest.’
‘ I am not sleepy at all. I’ll make you something.’
‘Would you really?’
‘I’m actually quite the homely type. Please wait a bit.’
‘I am really grateful, going through all that trouble for me.’
Chinami laughed and grabbed a coat from the coat rack in the corner.
‘Where are you going?’
‘The food cupboard is outside.’
‘Are you going outside in this rain?’
‘It’s very close, so it is alright.’
Chinami headed towards the entrance. Furuhata followed her. A small wooden storage cabin was located left of the rear exit. Without even getting an umbrella, Chinami ran to the cabin. She quickly ran inside and closed the door and dried her hair with her hands. And then Furuhata came running in.
‘Well, it was almost like I entered a washing machine.’
‘Please shut the door. It’s getting drenched in here.’
‘Oh, I am sorry.’
Furuhata shut the door hurriedly.
‘You didn’t have to come with me.’
‘Nonsense. I couldn’t let you go through this alone.’
Bags of wheat flour and a basket of vegetables were on the shelves. Chinami opened a small refrigerator next to the shelves. She looked for some time inside and then took out some eggs.
‘What about egg soup?’
‘If you insist on making me something.’
‘Please don’t expect too much of it.’
‘I will help you. They say my meat loaf and chawanmushi are quite good actually.’
‘How homely, Mr. Furuhata. But I’ll cook tonight.’
Chinami looked around the shelves and chose some vegetables, when Furuhata called from behind her.
‘You have been drawing since you were nineteen years old, right. It said so on the back of your work. How did you come up with such a story?’
‘I just come up with it all in my head.’
‘Don’t you base it on your own experiences?’
‘I have been doing this work ever since I graduated high school, so I don’t have any real life experiences.’
‘But you have an amazing gift. That you’re able to create such a story with just your imagination.’
‘But I really have to experience more in my life. I really am not fit to write love stories.’
‘That is nonsense.’
‘A story created by a girl who never really had any love affairs, who only stays inside the whole time, there is no way such a story can be interesting to anyone. It is all just one big lie, all that is written there.’
‘And what is wrong with a little lie?’
‘You’re very nice, aren’t you, Mr. Furuhata.’
‘I think everybody is doing their best to get a happy end in their lives. But I don’t think you can arrive at a happy end when you're just halfway in the story. I think that’s why your work is so popular.’
‘I don’t think I would read them myself, actually. Let’s go back.’
Chinami opened the door and was hit by the rain from the side.
‘Miss Chinami, the rain has become even heavier. Let us wait some more.’
‘We’re already drenched, so it doesn’t really matter.’
‘You’re quite pessimistic, aren’t you. This is no weather for man to be walking outside. Let’s wait for one or two minutes and then go.’
Reluctantly Chinami closed the door. While looking outside the window, they were waiting for the rain to become lighter.
‘Oh, yes, there was one thing that still bothered me, may I ask you about it?’
‘I read some more of your work that was lying around, but the protagonist in Calimantan was lieutenant Hatase right, and in the spy in Zimbabwe was Hatagura Shinnosuke, and the lover of the heroine in Azerbaijan was doctor Hatar. In all those works, the cool types have a ‘hata’ in their name, but might there be something that made you concentrate on the word ‘hata’?’
‘Is it just a coincidence?’
‘It is just a coincidence. Authors always come up with names which sound alike.’
‘I see, thank you.’
‘But I think I know what you’re saying.’
‘You do? That makes it a lot easier for me too.’
‘I was not thinking of Mr. Hatano in particular.’
‘I was not trying to say that. But I do have something to ask you. Would you please use my name in one of your works too? There is a ‘hata’ in Furuhata.’
‘You’re a funny person, Mr. Furuhata.’
‘Would you please use it?’
‘I’ll think about it.’
‘Thank you very much.’
Chinami looked outside the window.
‘It’s becoming heavier and heavier. It’s your fault, Mr. Furuhata.’
‘I am very sorry.’
‘Let’s just make a run for it.’
‘I won’t wait.’
Chinami opened the door and ran towards the house. Furuhata followed her.
Half an hour later, Chinami was sitting across of Furuhata, sipping on her egg soup.
'Calimantan’ was good, but this egg soup is the best.’
‘But I didn’t really do my best on it.’
‘You will become an excellent wife.’
‘It’s already too late.’
‘What are you saying? You don’t know what’ll come in the future.’
‘It’s alright. I have already given up.’
Then it happened. Without any warning signs, the lights of the room went out. Chinami just stood up.
‘What has happened?’
‘There might be problems with the electricity lines because of the landslides.’
The room was only lit by the fireplace. The fire flickered bewitchingly, illuminating the faces of the two.
‘What a horrible night, isn’t it.’
Furuhata looked at the bundle of manuscripts on the table.
‘Miss Chinami, isn’t it about time you’ll tell me the truth?’
‘About your relationship with Mr. Hatano. But please sit down first.’
‘There is nothing to talk about.’
‘That can’t be true.’
‘There really is nothing.’
‘It pains me to say this, but your statements about Mr. Hatano are full of contradictions. For example, you’re saying you don’t anything about his private life, but you are quite knowledgeable about his relationships with women. Wouldn’t you please tell me the truth? Were the two of you in a relationship?’
‘Whatever you want to think.’
‘It was you who came here three days ago with Mr. Hatano.’
‘The last time I came was three months ago.’
‘That is false.’
‘Why are you saying that?’
‘This egg soup is the prove of that.’
‘The egg soup?’
‘You used the eggs without any hesitation. And it was then when it came to me. How did you know the eggs in the refrigerator weren’t old? You said you had come for the first time in three months. I would think that you would hesitate then about using eggs from the refrigerator. You came here quite recently. It was then when you put the eggs in the refrigerator. The ‘C’ in the memo, that was the ‘C’ of Chinami.’
‘A love affair of a comics artist and a playboy editor, unknown to the world. I don’t know what happened. But you noticed you were just being played around by him, and took your revenge.’
‘You are good at making up stories, aren’t you?’
‘And the last thing that caught my attention, was the problem of why the murderer hit Mr. Hatano on the head. If you would have wanted to make it look like an accident, then you’d certainly not hit him. Right?’
‘But the murderer did hit Mr. Hatano and even left a wound. That is contradictory. You do think it is strange, don’t you?’
‘It has been bothering me the whole time too.’
‘And so I started pondering. What if the person who made it look like an accident and the person who left evidence indicating murder were two different people?’
‘Does that mean there were two murderers?’
‘No, there was only one murderer.’
‘I don’t understand.’
‘There was somebody who outsmarted the murderer.’
Furuhata picked up the wrinkled piece of paper again.
‘Let’s go with this. To tell you the truth, I finally solved the mystery.’
‘You mean the dying message?’
‘Yes, it hit me just now. We had overlooked something very important.’
Chinami looked at the manuscript.
‘I first noticed it when the lights disappeared in the room just now. Yes, I mean just that. That cellar room used to be a money vault. As soon as you close the door, it will become pitch dark in there. So you would be no way of knowing what kind of drawings were on the front of the paper. If you touched it with your fingers, you might find out what the front side was. But you wouldn’t be able to understand what the drawing was, that would be impossible. That means that what was drawn on the paper, didn’t matter at all. Any piece of paper would have done.’
And Furuhata turned the page around.
‘This is the front.’
‘Yes, it is blank. No matter how you look at it, there is no message here.’
‘Do you mean that in the end, he didn’t leave any message?’
‘You could say that. And that is the problem. Why didn’t Mr. Hatano leave any messages? I can think of five reasons. One, the victim didn’t see the murderer. But that is implausible, looking at the circumstances. Let us forget this one. Two, the victim didn’t know the name of the murderer. But even if he didn’t know the name, he would have been sure to leave some kind of hint. He had a pen, so even a drawing of a face could have worked. Let us forget this one too. Three, he tried to write something, but collapsed before he could.’
Furuhata picked up the pen which had been at the scene of the crime.
‘But please look at this, the cap of the pen is placed on the end of the pen. He had enough time to properly place it on there. So he could have at least written us a name or something. This one is also rejected.’
Furuhata drew a circle on the palm of his hand.
‘Please consider this, ink comes out of it perfectly. Four. He did leave a message, but the murderer took it away before we noticed it. This is also a empathic No. There are no signs of anything having been erased. That means there is only one possibility left. Mr. Hatano did leave us a message. It is just that we didn’t notice it.’
Furuhata pointed at the blank paper and said:
‘The message is here.’
‘No. Place yourself in Mr. Hatano’s shoes and think. He wanted to leave the name of the murderer one way or another. But even if he quickly wrote down her name, if the murderer would find it first, the message would be erased. He was sure that would happen. He was sure that the first person who would find his body, would be his murderer. So it was useless no matter what he would have written. Mr. Hatano was racking his brain. He had grabbed a piece of paper of a manuscript and placed the cap on the end of the pen, but couldn’t write anything. That is Mr. Hatano’s message. Saying he couldn’t tell us something, saying he couldn’t have written anything. That is what this piece of paper tells us. The person who killed me, is the person who will discover my body. Do I have to continue?’
Chinami had cast down her eyes and remained silent. And as if she suddenly remembered something, she looked up and asked:
‘What do you make of the wound on the head?’
‘That is also one of Mr. Hatano’s messages. Even if he left clues behind, if the case would have been seen as an accident, then all would have been wasted. Mr. Hatano needed to leave evidence indicating murder. And that is why he hit himself.’
Chinami looked at the scenery outside. It was mostly light rain now. The trees in the wind seemed to have calmed down too. Chinami looked at Furuhata and said:
‘You are an intelligent person, aren’t you. With just a blank piece of paper, you actually discovered the murderer.’
‘I was just lucky.’
‘That is not true.’
‘You had actually left behind some evidence at the scene of the crime. Showing you had been there when Mr. Hatano was locked up.’
‘Do you mean the initials in the notebook?’
‘No, more incriminating evidence.’
‘You can’t really call that incriminating.’
‘Then what is it?’
‘I noticed it when I saw the scene of the crime. Mr. Hatano, he had only one slipper on.’
‘Someone who had been there had taken it with him, just one slipper. Who would have done something like that, except for a mischievous dog?’
Chinami looked in the corner of the room. Mangorou was standing there, innocently playing with Hatano’s slipper.
‘And where there is a dog, there is his master.’
‘But Mr. Furuhata, he might have gotten hold of it tonight, when I discovered the body.’
‘That is not possible. Mangorou’s paws were dirty with mud. There were no footprints at the scene of the crime.’
‘As expected from a real detective.’
Furuhata smiled sadly.
‘I am awfully sorry I came to borrow your phone at such a night.’
‘You really ruined my plan, Mr. Furuhata.’
Chinami looked at Furuhata. He blushingly sipped his soup.
‘Why did I do it? I have been writing happy endings all my life, but it ends like this with me. What kind of life did I live?’
Furuhata couldn’t answer.
‘But please understand, Mr. Furuhata. I don’t regret it. I don’t feel sorry about killing him, I feel sorry for having met him.’
Furuhata looked up and stared at Chinami.
‘Why did I waste my life on such a man?’
‘Excuse me, but how old are you?’
‘I am twenty-eight.’
‘You still have a long way to go.’
Chinami shook her head. Furuhata laughed.
‘Like in Calimantan, only the first part of your life has ended. It is alright if your happy end comes at the very end.'
Furuhata took his last sip.
‘I guarantee you, you will be an excellent wife.’
Chinami looked outside the window.
‘Mr. Furuhata, would you listen to my request?’
‘If I can oblige.’
‘Would it be alright if you let me go to my room and cry?’
‘That is alright. I will be waiting here.’
Chinami stood up, keeping her tears in check and left the room. Furuhata and Mangorou were left behind. Furuhata said to Mangorou, who was looking worringly to where his mistress had left the room:
‘Go comfort her.’
Mangorou stood up and ran after her.
Furuhata picked up The Castle of Calimantan, sat in front of the fireplace and started reading from the beginning once again.