"I don't understand, ya know. No matter what their reasons are, I don't wanna understand what a murderer feels"
The third and final post in the Edogawa Rampo month series. Because I don't think that planning something for my blog was a good idea. But to be honest, the whole declaring a Edogawa Rampo month was all just to force myself to translate something by Edogawa Rampo. Because it's been a while since the last time I've done that. And the lucky one is 1929's Nanimono ("Who"), which is a very interesting Edogawa Rampo story.
Nanimono is an early story by Edogawa Rampo and probably his final real orthodox detective story. The publication of this story was between the publication of Kumo Otoko ("The Spider Man") and Majutsushi ("Magician") was kinda unlucky, because Nanimono is a very orthodox story without any of the outlandish and fantastical elements found in those stories, and so it wasn't accepted that well by the general public. They longed for more of the dreamy, fantasy-like crime stories (ero guro nonsense) stories written by Edogawa. Seeing this reaction, Edogawa stopped writing orthodox detective stories like Nanimono and D-Zaka no Satsujin Jiken ("The D-Slope Murder Case") and concentrated on writing his more pulpy stuff. So Nanimono is a turning point in Edogawa Rampo's writing career. Which is a shame, as this is one of the few stories Edogawa Rampo himself was pleased with and it was also quite well received by detective critics in Japan at the time.
I doubt I will ever translate something as long as this any time soon though. It's the longest story I have translated here yet and to be very honest, I don't feel very pleased about the translation, but it's readable. Enjoy Edogawa's story, and not my sleepy English-with-definite-elements-of-Dutch-and-Japanese-mixed-within.
Author: Edogawa Rampo
A word from the author
Even though the guilty party is right in front of the eyes of the readers from the beginning on, the readers don't know who it is until the very end: this has become one of the rules to orthodox detective novels. I've tried to comply to this rule as best as possible. Alert readers might figure out the guilty party halfway through this story. People who aren't used to reading detective novels, might not find out until the end. I have tried to write this story with this in mind. Please read this as a game of wits, where you are the one who has to solve the case.
1. A Strange Robber
A certain person said this after he had told me his story. It was about a case that happened four or five years ago, but he had always hesitated speaking of it, as the person around whom the story revolved, was still alive. But that person had died recently, because of some disease, or so he said. Having heard that, I thought it was indeed good material for a story. Why, I will not explain here, but you'll understand when you've read until the end of this story. The "I" hereafter, is the person who told me this story.
One summer, I was invited by my good friend Kouta Shintarou to the home of Yuuki Hirokazu (I was not so close to him as Kouta was to him, but he was a friend nonetheless), and we stayed there for half a month. It was then that the incident happened. Hirokazu was the son of major-general Yuuki, a man holding an important position at the offices of the Ministry of War. The Major-General's mansion was near the sea at Kamakura and therefore the perfect place to spend our summer vacation. The three of us had all graduated from same university that year.. Yuuki was from the English faculty, while Kouta and me were from the Economics faculty, but we all shared a room when we attended high school, so we were good friends, even though we were from different faculties.
It would be the last summer of our carefree student lives. Kouta would be working at a trading company in Tokyo from September on, while Hirokazu and I would be taken by the army and were to be enlisted by the end of the year. Though for different reasons, from next year on, we wouldn't be able to experience such a free summer vacation anymore. And so I accepted Hirokazu's invitation to spend this vacation as good as we could, as to have no regrets afterwards.
Hirokazu had no siblings, so he lived extravagantly like some kind of lord in his mansion. His father was a major-general, but his ancesters used to be the chief vassals of some daimyou, so his family had quite a fortune. And so life for me, as a guest, wasn't bad at all. At the Yuuki mansion was also a beautiful girl whom we had become friends with. Her name was Shimako and she was Hirokazu's cousin. Her parents had died long ago, so she was taken in to the Yuuki mansion and raised there. She had graduated from the girl's school and at that time pretty focused on practicing playing music. She could play a bit of violin.
We went to the seashore whenever the weather was good. The Yuuki mansion was located between Yuigahama and Katase, but we usually went the more lively Yuigahama. There were many of our friends, men and women, at the beach besides the four of us, so we never got tired of it. Beneath our red-white checkered beach umbrella, we'd sit with our tanned shoulders next to each other, talking and laughing with Shimako and some friends of hers. When we had enough of the beach, we would go fishing for koi carpers at the Yuuki mansion. The major-general had set loose a great number of koi carpers in a big pond, like a fishing pond, so even amateurs could catch some. We learned the tricks of fishing from the major-general.
Those truly were free, happy and comfortable days. But bright places are envied by that monster that bears the name "tragedy". The brighter the more intense its hate burns, and so tragedy suddenly came upon us. One day the sound of a gunshot rang through the Yuuki mansion. This story begins with that gunshot. One evening, the master (the major general), celebrated his birthday and had gathered his friends for a party. Kouta and I also joined as guests. We were seated in the Japanese room on the second floor of the main building, a room the size of 15 or 16 tatami mats. The host and guests were all dressed in yukata and the feast was quite relaxed. The drunken Mr. Yuuki encited gidayuu passages and begged by all of us, Shimako also played her violin for us. The feast ended without any mishaps and most guests had returned by ten o' clock. The people of family and two or three guests, enjoying a summer night, were still sitting in their chairs. Besides Mr. Yuuki, his wife, Hirokazu, Shimako and me, there were an old retired officer called Kitagawa and a friend of Shimako called Kotono, seven in all. The major-general and the old Kitagawa played some go, and the others asked Shimako and made her play her violin again.
"Well, I have work to do tomorrow, so I'll leave now," Hirokazu said to me after the violin performance had ended and stood up from his seat. At that time he had accepted a request to write a story for a local newspaper, that was his work, and every night, around ten, he would lock himself up in his father's study in the Western-styled annex to work . He had rented a house when he was studying in Tokyo, and the study he used when he was at junior high was now used by Shimako, so he didn't have his own study at home. Around the time he should have walked down the stairs, went through the corrider and arrived at the annex, the sound like something being beaten suddenly surprised us all. Looking at it now, it must have been the sound of that pistol.
"What was that!" As that thought shot through me, a loud scream came from the Western annex.
"Somebody, come! It's terrible! Hirokazu is..!" It was Kouta, who had left his seat just a while ago.
I can't remember the expressions on everyone's face at that time. We all stood up and rushed to the stairway. When we arrived at the annex, we found, in the major-general's study (I will give a map later), Hirokazu lying on the floor covered in blood and Kouta standing next to him with a pale face.
"What happened?" The Major-General barked with an unnecessary loud voice, like giving orders.
"There... from there..." Kouta pointed at window, faced to the south to the garden, like he couldn't talk any more due to the shock. And the window was opened and a hole had been made in one part of the window, a uneven round hole. Someone had cut the glass from outside, released the lock, opened the window and entered. There were creepy steps of mud on the carpet.
Hirokazu's mother went to his side and I walked over to the opened window. But there were no signs of someone outside the window. The robber of course hadn't waited for us. At the same time, the major-general, if you're wondering what he did, he didn't even look at his son's wound, but went straight to the small safe in the corner of the room, lined up the numbers, opened the door and looked through the contents. I was surprised seeing this. I didn't even know they had a safe in this house, but to just leave your wounded son there while you first check your treasures, that is no way for a military man to behave.
And finally, ordered by the major-general, the houseboy contacted the police and hospital. His mother was clinging to the unconcious body of Hirokazu, screaming his name. I took out my handkerchief and bound it around his leg to stop the bleeding. The bullet had been cruelly shot through his ankle. Shimako was alert, bringing a cup of water from the kitchen. Strangely enough, she didn't look as sad as the madam of the house. It was really strange. She looked indifferent. I thought she would one day marry Hirokazu, so I couldn't help but thinking that was weird. But talking about strange things, there was something even stranger than the major-general looking through his safe, even stranger than the cold Shimako.
It was the behavior of the servant of the Yuuki family, an old man called Tsune. He had also heard the commotion and had come to the study a bit later than us, but as soon as he had walked into the room, for some reason or another, he walked straight to the open window, around the backs of the people who were standing around Kazuhiro and just sat down next to the window. With everything going on, nobody was paying attention to the manner of the old man, but I just happened to see that and I was wondering whether the old man had gone mad or something. He was watching everyone's commotion, while he stayed put on his seat. But there couldn't be something wrong with his back.
After a while, the doctor came. And before long, the juridicial official from the Kamakura police station, chief inspector Hatano arrived with his subordinates. Hirokazu was taken on a stretcher to the Kamakura Hospital, accompanied by his mother and Shimako. He had regained his conciousness by then, but he had a weak psyche and due to the pain and fear, he was looking like a baby, crying out loud like having gone mad, so even if chief inspector Hatano had asked him about the appearance of the thief, he wouldn't have been able to answer. The wound wasn't so grave as to endanger his life, but the bullet had shattered the bone of his ankle, so it was a pretty heavy wound.
The investigation made it clear this was the work of a robber. There was no doubt the robber had crept in from the back garden and that when he was searching for things to steal, Kazuhiro had come in (Kazuhiro had probably chased him inside the room. Because he hadn't fallen by the door), and being surprised, the burglar had shot him with the gun he carried.
All drawers of the big office desk had been pulled out and all the papers were lying on the ground. But according to the major-general, nothing of value had been in the drawers. On that same desk, the major-general's large wallet had been lying around, but strangely enough, none of the dozens of hundred yen notes that had been inside the wallet had been taken.
And when we arrive at the question of what was stolen, well, it seems like he was a really strange robber. First of all, from the desk a small golden table clock (which had been next to the wallet even), and from the same desk, a golden fountain pen, a gold plated wristwatch (with a golden chain) and the most expensive thing stolen was a sigarette set placed on a table in the middle of a room (only the cigeratte holder and the ashtray, the platter was left behind. The platter was made from copper), these kinds of items. This was everything that was stolen. They looked around, but couldn't find any more. There was nothing amiss with the safe's contents either. This thief had, without looking at the other items, gone off with everything made from gold in this room.
"A madman maybe. Someone with an obssesion for gold," chief inspector Hatano said with a strange face.
2. The Vanishing Footsteps
This was truly an odd robber. Leaving a wallet with hundreds of yen in it, while stealing a fountain pen and a wristwatch without much value, I really couldn't even begin seeing the thief's intents. The chief inspector asked the major-general whether among the items made from gold, there were items that were worth something besides money. But the major-general answered he couldn't think of something particular. Just that he had received the gold fountain pen when he was the regimental commander of a certain army division from an illuminious person from the same regiment and it thus had a special meaning to the major-general. And the golden table clock, it was quite small, about two sun (one sun is around 3.03 cm) in all dimensions, he had brought it back from Paris as a souvenir of his journey to the West and he wouldn't be able to get hold of such a exquisite piece of machinery anymore. But both items couldn't have had a special meaning to the thief. Then chief inspector Hatano went out the room, outside, and proceeded orderly with his meticulous investigation of the crime scene. He had arrived after at least twenty minutes after the gunshot, so he wasn't as foolish as to try to run after the thief's foot tracks.
I heard this afterwards, but this official was a believer of criminology, holding a scientific meticulousness as his most important motto. He was an extraordinary policeman. One time, when he was just a detective in some remote country place, he had placed a teacup on top of a drip of blood on the floor, and to preserve it until his superiors and the prosecutor came, he had beaten the floor with a stick all night long around the cup. Or so they say. By doing so, he was able to keep earthworms from feeding off the blood. He was able to get to his current position with such attention for detail and nothing was left untouched by the investigations made by this man. That's why prosecutors and preliminary judges all alike, trusted his reports absolutely.
But despite the meticulous investigation by this meticulous chief inspector, not even a single strand of hair was found inside the room. Therefore the only clues were the fingerprints on the glass window and the footsteps outside. Like I thought, the thief had used a glass cutter and a suction cup to cut a hole out of the window, in order to release the lock. We had to wait for the official for the fingerprints, so the chief inspector took out the flashlight he had brought with him and took a look on the ground outside the window.
It had luckily just stopped with raining, so clear footprints were left outside the window. The prints were of shoes like the kind workers wear and the pattern of the rubber sole had been left on the ground. The two sets of tracks leading to the wall, were the tracks of coming and going of the thief.
"He walks like a woman, with his toes pointing inwards," the chief inspector remarked to himself, and indeed, the toes of the foottracks were all pointing inwards, compared to the heels. Bowlegged man often have these kinds of footsteps pointing to the inside.
The chief inspector then called for a subordinate to get his shoes, he put them and somewhat rude stretched his legs over the window and got down on the floor outside and followed the footsteps guided by his flashlight. Even though I would be a nuisance, I couldn't keep myself from going around the grassy grounds of the Japanese mansion following the chief inspector, being a very curious man. It was of course to see the footprints made by the thief.
But it turned out I wasn't the only person to be a nuisance to the investigation of the footsteps. There was already somone standing there. It was Mr. Akai, who had been invited for the birthday party. He was a really quickwitted man, who had come out here before I even knew it. I had no idea about what kind of person Mr. Akai was, and what his connection to the Yuuki family was. Even Hikokazu didn't seem to know anything of interest neither. He was a rather slim man, around 27 or 28 years old, with unkempt hair and even though he didn't seem to talk much, he always had a smile on his face. A somewhat suspicious man.
He often came to play go at the Yuuki mansion. Always till late in the night and he had even stayed a couple of nights. The major-general said he had met him at some club and that he was a great go opponent. He had been invited to the feast and attended the diner, but he wasn't in the large room on the second floor when the incident took place. He had probably been somewhere on the first floor.
By some coincidence, I did happen to know this person liked detective novels. It was the second day I was staying at the Yuuki mansion and I happened to walk in on Mr. Akai and Hikokazu talking in the study where our incident happened. Mr. Akai was looking at the bookcase Hikokazu had placed in his father's study and talking about something. Hikokazu is a big fan of detective novels (so much that he, the victim himself, took up the role of detective later in this case) and there were many books on criminology and detective novels gathered there. It seemed like they were discussing famous detectives from Japan and abroad. The topic discussion went up to real detectives ever since Vidocq and detectives in novels since Dupin. And Kazuhiko pointed to a book called "The Akechi Kogorou Detective Stories" and criticized it with "that man is nothing more than empty words". Mr. Akai agreed with him. The both of them were great connoisseurs of the detective novel and they really had an interesting discussion amongst them. So it wasn't strange to see Mr. Akai having interest in this case, and him arriving before me to investigate the foot tracks.
But enough of this sidetrack. Chief Inspector Hatano said: "Mind your steps, don't step on the footprints," and while keeping a watch on the two of us, silently went to investigate the tracks. And when he saw that it seemed like the thief had climbed over the low wall to get away, he went back to the annex and it seemed he asked someone from the house for something, and brought back an earthenware mortar used for cooking and placed it on top of the clearest footprint. It was a precaution to preserve the shape until they would make a replica. A detective who likes to keep things under cups.
Then the three of us opened the back door and went outside the walls and there was an empty tract of land, where used to be a mansion, and because nobody ever walked by here, there were no other sets to confuse us, only the tracks of the thief had been left there clearly. Moving the flashlight around, we had arrived around halfway the empty tract of land. Hatano suddenly stopped and cried out in confusion: "What? Did the criminal dive into the well?"
I was surprised by the outrageous words of the chief inspector, but when I looked myself, I thought he had to be correct. The footsteps had ended at the well, which was standing right in the middle of the vacant lot. The footprints had also departed from that place. No matter how much we looked around, using the flashlight, there were no other footsteps within a perimeter of 5 or 6 tatami mats. Furthermore, there was no hard type of ground around the well on which one would leave no footprints. Neither was there any grass growing in which one could hide one's footsteps. The plastered well, which was covered with cracks, gave me a creepy feeling. When we looked inside the well using the flashlight, we saw that the cracked plaster continued all the way down, and what reflected back vagely at the bottom, was the moldy water. It bounced up and down, as if spirits were swimming there.
It was hard to believe that the thief had appeared from the well and disappeared back into the well. It was not like he was O-kiku's spirit. But as long he hadn't used some kind of balloon and taken off to the sky, the only explanation to the footprint was that he had entered the well. And even the scientific investigator Hatano showed some signs of hesitation. With scrupulous care, he ordered a subordinate to get a bamboo pole and poked around in the well, but he of course said he couldn't find a thing and was of the absurd opinion that there had to be some trick to the plastered wall, like some sort of underground exit or something like that.
"It's so dark, so we can't really examine everything in detail. Let's investigate tomorrow morning", thus Hatano muttered to himself and went back to the mansion. And while he waited for the people from the court to arrive, the diligent Hatano took the testimonies of the people inside the mansion and made a map of the mansion. For convenience's sake, I will explain the map.
(Clickable, page 23 of 江戸川乱歩、「何者」『江戸川乱歩全集第７巻：黄金仮面』光文社)
A. The major-general's study
B. Shimako's study
C. The kitchen is around here
D. The coming footprints
E. The footprints going back
Even though it is close on the map, there is a distance of half a block between the wall and the well.
He had taken out his measuring tape, which he always took with him and had carefully measured the place where the victim had fallen down (he got that from the blood stains), the space between the footsteps, the distance between the coming and leaving footsteps, a map of the annex, the placement of the windows, the location of the trees in the garden, the pond and the walls, more things than could he would have needed. Then he drew the map in his notebook. But the chief inspector's efforts were not useless. Even if an amateur would think it was useless, we would later see it had been extremely useful. For the reader's interest, I have made a map like the chief inspector made and inserted it here. I made this map myself after the case was solved, working back from the conclusion, so it isn't as precise as the one by the chief inspector, but the points of interest for solving the case are without doubt here, you might say they are even more accentuated.
As you will understand later, this map actually tells you a lot about the crime. To give a example, the drawings of the thief's footprints. They don't just tell us his footsteps were turned inwards like a woman's steps, but the distance between the steps of the footprints marked D are small, while the distance of those marked E are bigger, and that shows us that D were the footsteps of the thief silently creeping inside, while E are the steps after he had fired a gun and was running away as fast as he can. That's why we know D are the coming footsteps and E the ones leaving (Mr. Hatano had also measured the distance between the steps of both sets carefully and made an estimated length of the thief and written that down, but that would make everything quite long, so I'll leave that away).
But this was just one example. There is another meaning to the map of the foot tracks. From the location of the victim and some other points, another important interpretation will come up later. But to tell you the story in its right order, I won't touch upon this point now, but I would like the reader to carefully remember the map.
And to tell you about the investigation of the people at the mansion, well, the first person who was examined was the witness who first discovered the crime, Kouta Shintarou. He had gone down to the first floor of the mansion, about twenty minutes before Hirokazu had left, had gone to the toilet beneath the stairs, and afterwards had gone out to the hallway, to cool off his head from the drinks he had and just when he turned around to go back to the party at the second floor, he heard a gunshot followed by Hirokazu's scream. When he had arrived at the annex, the door to the study was half open and it was pitch dark inside as the lights were off. When he had told him the story up to this point, the chief inspector asked him:
"So the lights were off?" For some reason, he stressed this point.
"Yes, Hirokazu probably didn't even had time to switch the lights on," Kouta answered. "When I arrived at the study, I first pushed the switch on the wall and turned the lights on. Hirokazu was lying down in the middle of the room, unconcious. I then ran back to the mansion, calling out for the people there."
"And you didn't see any sign of the thief then?" The chief inspector asked the same question as when he had arrived.
"I didn't see anything. He had probably already gone outside through the window. And it was pitch dark outside..."
"Were there any points of interest? Anything at all?"
" Hmm, not really... Ah! Yes, it's a trifle point, but when I arrived at the annex, I remember I was surprised by the cat running out of the study. Hisamatsu came flying like bullet."
"Hisamatsu is the cat's name?"
" Yes, it's the family's cat. He's Shimako's favorite."
The chief inspector made a strange face when he heard that. Someone had clearly seen the face of the thief in this darkness. But a cat can't tell us anything. Afterwards the people of the Yuuki family (and the servants), Mr. Akai, me, and other guests were asked the same questions, but nobody had something interesting to tell. Mrs. Yuuki and Shimako had gone to the hospital and weren't there at that time so they were questioned the following day and I heard that Shimako's testimony was a bit strange, so I'll write it down now.
As the chief inspector had said "Anything at all," Shimako testified as following.
"I might be mistaken, but it seems like someone had entered my study."
As indicated on the map, her study was the room besides the major-general's study.
"Nothing has gone missing, but someone had opened the drawer of my desk. This morning, I found my diary, which I had placed inside the drawer last night, lying wide open on top of my desk. The drawer was still open. Nobody in the family, not even the female servants would do such a thing, so I really thought it was strange. But this is probably not..."
The chief inspector had just listened to her story without real interest, but as we would later know, the incident of the diary would have a certain bearing on this case. But let us return to the story. A bit later, the people from the court finally arrived. Specialists also arrived, taking fingerprints. But they didn't came up with more results than Hatano had already procured. There were signs of the window glass being wiped by a cloth and there were no fingerprints there. There were no fingerprints even on the pieces of glass on the ground outside the window. From these points, we knew the thief wasn't just your average guy. Finally, the chief inspector ordered his subordinated to make a print of the footstep that he had covered earlier with an earthenware morta, and carefully took it back to the police station.
It was already two o' clock when all the ruckus had stopped and we finally were in our own beds. My bed was next to Kouta's, but because of the excitement neither of us could get to sleep and we both kept turning over in our beds all night long. Despite that, we somehow didn't talk about the case at all.
3. Mr. Akai Sparkling Gold
The next morning, I, usually a late riser, got out of bed at 5 o' clock. I wanted to take a better look at those impossible footprints in the morning light. I am a pretty curious guy. Because Kouta was sleeping quite soundly, I stepped out as silently as possible, opened the shutter opening out to the garden, slipped on my garden slippers and walked around to the outside wall of the annex. But surprisingly, somebody was already ahead of me again. And it was once again Mr. Akai. But he wasn't looking at the footprint. What, I don't know, but he was looking at something else.
He was standing somewhat west of the south side of the annex (where the footprints where), hiding his body behind the building, and he was peering towards the northern part of the west side of the annex, with only his head sticking out. What could there be at such a place? That was the back of the annex, where the kitchen of the mansion was and just in front of that, only the flower bed the old man Tsune had been taking care of for his own amusement. It was not as if particular beautiful flowers had been growing there.
As he had been a step ahead of me again, I felt a bit cheeky and decided to scare him a bit, so I slowly crept up to him and slowly tapped him on his shoulders. He jumped up more than I would have expected, turned around surprised and cried out with a stupidly loud voice: "Hey, it was you, Matsumura!"
I on my turn was surprised by his voice. Mr. Akai then slowly pushed me back and started a nonsense story about the weather. I thought this was very suspicous and when I couldn't take it anymore, I pushed my way through the obstacle that was Mr. Akai, not caring how he felt about it, walked a bit away from the building and looked towards the north, but there was nothing to see. Only the sight of the early rising Tsune digging around in his flowerbed. What had. Mr Akai been looking at so intently?
Thinking this was suspicous, I looked at Mr. Akai, but he was just laughing ambigiously.
"What were you looking at?" I suddenly tried asking him.
"I wasn't looking at anything. By the way, you came here to look at the yesterday's footprints. Am I right?" he turned the questioning around. I gave up and answered yes.
"Well, let's go together then. I was just planning to take a look myself too, you know," he invited me. But I instantly saw these words were lies. Outside the wall, there were four sets of Mr. Akai's footsteps. He had gone and come back twice. One set of then had to be from this morning, before I came. 'I was just planning...' He had already taken a good look!
When we arrived next to the well, I looked around for a bit, but it was no different from yesterday night. The footsteps really started and ended at the well. Besides those tracks, there were only the footprint of the three persons who came here to investigate last night and to precise, the tracks of some wild dog that had walked around here.
"What if these tracks are made with some special kind of shoe?" I unwittingly said to myself. Why you ask? The dog's tracks had come from the other side towards the well, and after a bit of walking around there, had gone back the way it came. It was then that I remembered a real crime story from abroad. I had read it in an old Strand Magazine. A murder had been commited in a house on a plain. The victim had been living alone. The murderer had surely come from outside. But strangely enough, there were no human footprints to be found on the snow that had stopped falling before the crime. As if the murderer had commited his deed and taken off to the sky afterwards. There were no human footprints, but there were footsteps of another living creature. The tracks of horseshoes, of a horse having gone to the house and back. The police then thought for a while that the man had been kicked to death by the horse, but as they investigated further, they found out that the murderer had attached horseshoes to his own shoes to hide his footsteps. Thus the story went.
So I thought, maybe these dog tracks are like the tracks from that story. It seemed to be quite a big dog, so it wasn't impossible to think a man had been crawling on all fours with something shaped like a dog's paw and had made those tracks. And considering the time those tracks were made, going by how much the ground had dried there, the tracks had to have been made around the same time the man had been walking there. I told Mr Aakai my thoughts and he said, in a sarcastic way: "You're quite the great detective, aren't you?" and then stopped talking. A peculiar man.
I followed the dog's tracks to the road across from the empty lot, but the road was made of pebble stones, so there were no clear tracks left there. The "dog" had probably gone left or right on that road. But because I am no detective, I couldn't decide what to do after I saw the tracks ended and as my ideas had also dried up, it ended here, but I would later get to know what a real detective would have done at this point. An hour later, chief inspector Hatano came back for a second investigation, just as he had said, but he didn't make any discoveries worth mentioning.
After breakfast, Kouta and I decided to take our leave from the Yuuki mansion, as we couldn't possibly stay here with all the commotion. I myself was reluctant to give up on seeing how the case would develop, but I could hardly stay here on my own. Anyhow, I could just come here again from Tokyo. On the way back to Tokyo, I of course paid a visit to Hirokazu's hospital. Major-general Yuuki and Mr. Akai were also there. Mrs. Yuuki and Shimako had stayed all night in the hospital, but they hadn't slept at all and had pale faces. Hirokazu himself, I couldn't meet. Only his father the major-general was allowed inside the room. It was more serious than I thought.
Two days passed and on the third day I went to Kamukura again, to visit Hirokazu and also to see what had happened meanwhile. Hirokazu had been struck with fever after his surgery and while he wasn't in danger anymore, he had weakened a lot and didn't really feel like talking. Chief inspector Hatano had also come on that day and when he asked him whether he remembered the appearence of the thief, Hirokazu answered only with: "I can't remember a thing besides the light of his flashlight and a dark figure." This I had heard from Mrs Yuuki.
After I had left the hospital, I had gone to the Yuuki mansion to pay my respects to the major-general, but I saw a mysterious sight on my way back. It was something I just couldn't comprehend. After I had left the mansion, I kept thinking about the well, curious as I am, and I went to the empty lot, looked around the well to my hearts content, went to the pebble road where the dog tracks had disappeared, made a big turn and went back to the parking spot, but on a road not far from the empty lot I suddenly saw Mr. Akai. Well, well, Mr. Akai once again.
Opening a lattice door, he had come out a residential house facing the road, but as he saw me from afar, he turned his head away and quickly walked away as if fleeing. Seeing this, I made up my will and sped to chase Mr. Akai. When I passed by the house Mr. Akai had left, I saw the name plate said "Kotono Saemon". I memorized the name and went back to following Mr. Akai and after about one block, I finally caught up with him.
"Mr. Akai." When I called out like that, he turned around, looking as he had been thinking.
"Well, have you come out here too? I have also visited Mr Yuuki today," he explained himself.
But as Mr. Akai was talking facing me, I was surprised. Like the helper of a goldsmith, or the disciple of a paperer, his body was covered with gold powder. From his hands to his breast and knees, gold powder was all over him like aventurine, and with the summer sun upon it, was shining brilliantly. Looking closely, even his nose was gold like some statue of a Buddha. When I asked him about it, he answered vagely.
At that time, "gold" had a special meaning to us. The thief who had shot Hirokazu had only stolen objects of gold. He had, what chief inspector Hatano had called, "obsession for gold". This mysterious Mr Akai, who had been present that night at the Yuuki mansion had tried to run from me in this golden state. This was really strange. Mr Akai couldn't be the criminal, right? But how could he explain his mysterious behaviour, this sparkling figure of him?
While we both kept the things we wanted to ask inside us and while making small talk, we walked back to the parking lot. There I asked him something that had been bothering me for a while.
"That night, it seemed you had been away from the second floor a bit before the gun was fired, so where were you at that time?"
"I am not good with alcohol," he said as if he had been expecting the question. "It felt a bit heavy on me, so I wanted to a breath of fresh air outside and I had just gone through all my cigarettes, I went out to buy them."
"I see. So you didn't hear the gunshot?"
With that, we both fell into a silence once again. But after we had walked a bit, Mr Akai suddenly said something strange.
"On the other side of the well, you know, a timber merchant from the neighbourhood had placed old wood there until two days before the incident. If he hadn't sold all of the old wood, the wood would have been in the way, so not even those dog's tracks we saw would have been left there. Don't you think? I have only heard it just now myself too."
Mr. Akai said this useless fact as if it was very important. Was he just trying to hide his emberassment, or was he just someone stupid trying to look smart? Because it didn't matter whether wood had been there or not two days before the incident. It wouldn't have been a obstacle to the footprint in any way. It was completely useless. When I told him that, Mr. Akai just said with the same assuming air: "If you say that, well, that's that then."
Truly a peculiar man.
4. The Amateur Detective in his Sickbed
That day ended with no further developments and I went back, but after another week I went for the third time to Kamakura. Hirokazu was still in the hospital, but I had received a telegram saying he had already recovered and that he had something to tell me so I had to come. During that week, I hadn't heard anything from the Yuuki family about the police investigation, nor was there anything in the newspapers, so I didn't know anything. But the culprit had of course still not been captured. When I entered the room, Hirokazu was still looking a bit pale, but overall quite good and was surrounded by flowers sent by people, his mother and the nurse.
"Hey, Matsumura, I'm glad you came!" When he saw me, he delightedly stuck out his hand. I shook hands with him and congratulated him with his recovery.
"But my lameness won't heal. I'm a hideous cripple," Hirokazu said gloomingly. I didn't how to respond. His mother was standing next to him blinking. After a bit of small talk, his mother said she had to do some shopping, so she entrusted Hirokazu to me and left the room. Hirokazu also sent away the nurse, so there was nothing hindering our talk anymore. We first talked about the case.
According to Hirokazu, the police had dredged the well and gone through the stores that sold the shoes that made the tracks, but nothing was found at the bottom of the well, and the shoes were of a very common kind, and many of them were sold every single day. So they hadn't found anything at all. As the victim's father, major general Yuuki, was an important man at the Ministery of War, chief inspector Hatano had been quite respectful towards such an influential local man and thus sometimes paid visits to Hirokazu's room, and when he heard Hirokazu was interested in criminal investigations, he told him every detail of the case.
"And that's why I know everything the police knows, but it really is a mysterious case, isn't it? Footprints disappearing from the middle of a field, it's like a detective novel. And it's strange only golden objects were stolen. Have you more news?"
Hirokazu had been the victim himself and he has always had an interest in detectives and such, so he was very interested in this case. So I told him every particular he didn't know, the strange behaviour of Mr Akai, the tracks of the dog and the strange sight of old man Tsune sitting at the window that night. Hirokazu nodded and was listening tensely and when I had finished my story, he started to think very hard. He was thinking so hard with his eyes closed, that I even started to worry whether there wasn't something wrong with his body. But he opened his eyes in the end and muttered seriously, "This is perhaps an even more fiendish crime than everyone is thinking."
"Fiendish... so you mean it wasn't just a burglar?" Struck by Hirokazu's deadly serious face, I had also become quite serious.
"Yes, what I just came up with, is an incredible case. Not a crime for a burglar. It's a plot that would make you shudder. The doings of a horrible and despicable demon."
While Hirokazu's thin, pale face buried itself in the white bed and he looked at the ceiling, he said those mysterious words. It was the middle of the summer, but even the sounds of mosquitoes stopped, and it was as silent as a desert in a dream.
"What are you thinking?" I asked a bit scared.
"No, I can't tell you," Hirokazu answered while looking at the ceiling. "It's still nothing more than a daydream. It's too horrible a crime. Let's just think about it a bit. We have enough data. Many strange events are to be found in this case, but behind the strange facts at the surface, a very simple reason might be hiding behind it all."
Hirokazu said this like he was just talking to himself, and then closed his eyes and became silent again. Inside his head, the horrible truth was probably being constructed. But what that truth was, I couldn't even imagine.
" The first mystery, the foottracks that start and end at the well." Hirokazu began to think out loud.
"What's there beyond that well...No no, I shouldn't think like that. There has to be a different explanation. Matsumura, you still remember it, right? Chief inspector Hatano showed me the map of the crime scene earlier and only the important things were taken down, and you see, there was something strange with the foot tracks. There was the point of the thief's steps pointing inwards like a woman and that's of course very important, but there was something even stranger. I showed that to Mr Hatano, but he didn't seem to pay it any real attention. You probably saw it too, right. The tracks coming and leaving are strangely far apart. In such a situation, isn't it more natural to choose the shortest way back? I mean, the shortest distance between two points. But if we take the window of the annex and the well as our base points, the tracks going and leaving are tracing an arc. There are even big trees between these arcs. To me, this seems very strange."
That was the way Hirokazu spoke. He loved detective stories, so he really liked such logical arguments as amusement.
"But it was pitch dark that night. And the thief would have been very agitated having fired his gun. Is it that strange that he took another way back?" I wasn't content with his argument.
"Those tracks turned out like that, because it was pitchdark. You're looking at it from the wrong angle. What I'm trying to point out, isn't the fact that he took different paths. What I'm thinking is that the two sets of footprints were made far apart from each other on purpose (and it was actually on purpose), that the thief intently avoided stepping on his own footprints. Because it was pitch dark, he had to be careful and walk around quite far away. And there has to be a reason for that. I asked Mr. Hatano to confirm whether the tracks going and back had overlapped at any spot, but of course, there was no such thing. To have no footprints overlap on a distance between two points in that darkness, I'd hardly think that's a coincidence."
"I see, now you mention it, it does seem a bit strange. But why was the thief trying so hard to avoid walking over his footprints? It seems rather meaningless."
"No, there is a reason. But let's think a bit more." Hirokazu acted like Sherlock Holmes, hiding his conclusions. This had been an old custom of his.
His face was still pale, his breath uncontrolled, the injury, wrapped in thick bandages still looked painful and from time to time he frowned with his eyebrows, but when he was talking detectives, he would show his trademark enthousiasm. And he wasn't just the victim, but he also seemed to have felt some kind of horrible plot behind the incident. No wonder he was so serious.
"The second mystery, the stolen objects were all golden objects. Why didn't the thief steal any money? When I heard that, I immediately thought of a certain person. Someone only very few people know of in this neighbourhood. It seems Mr. Hatano isn't aware of that person."
"I take it I don't know him"
"No, you don't know him. Among my friends only Kouta knows him. I once told him."
"Who is it? And do you mean that that person is the criminal?"
"No, I don't think he is. That's why I won't tell Mr. Hatano about that person. But I shouldn't talk to you about someone you don't know anyway. I was wrong anyway to have suspected that person for even a second. If it was him, it wouldn't explain all the other points."
With that, he closed his eyes again. He could really irritate people. But he was actually a lot better than me at this deduction stuff, so what could I do about it? I patiently waited for him, like some speaking companion for an ill man, and finally, he opened his eyes. His eyes shone out a joyful light.
"What do you think the biggest object was amongst the stolen golden objects? It was probably the table clock, right? How big was it, around three sun in length, two sun in broadth and depth, something like that, I think. And the weight. Something around 300 momme (1 momme is around 3.75 g), right?"
"I don't think I have seen the object, but from what I heard from your father, that seems about right. But how are the dimensions and weight of the table clock connected to the case? You're saying all kinds of strange things."
I was wondering whether Hirokazu wasn't delirious with fever and I actually tried placing my hand on his forehead. But looking at his face, it seems he was just agitated and not suffering from fever.
"That's the most important part. I have only just noticed it myself, but the size and weight of the stolen objects are of the highest importance."
"Do you mean those were things the thief was able to take with him?" But thinking about it, it seemed like a very stupid question. He ignored that, and suddenly said something outrageous.
"You, take the flowers from that vase and throw the vase with everything you got outside the window at the wall."
He had gone crazy. He told me to to throw the flower vase placed in his room at the wall outside the window. It was a five sun high earthenware vase, and not particular valuable.
"What are you saying! I would break the vase! Don't tell you have gone crazy?" I was really starting to wonder about Hirokazu's mind.
"It's alright, even if you break it. It's a vase from my house anyway. So throw it already."
I was still hesitant, but then Hirokazu started to become irritated and tried to get up from his bed. That was bad. He wasn't allowed to move even a bit with his body. He looked out of his mind, but I shouldn't argue with a patient, I thought, so I finally gave in to his stupid request. I threw the vase through the open window was hard as I can, towards the concrete wall about three gen away. The vase hit the wall and broke in fragments. Hirokazu stuck his head out and looked at the final moments of the vase. He then looked relieved and moved his body back to its former position.
"Great, great, that was perfect. Thanks." A nonchalant thanks. I was worried whether someone hadn't heard the sound and would come here.
"By the way, about old man Tsune's behaviour...," Hirokazu suddenly started with another story. It seemed his thoughts had lost all coherence. I started to worry.
"I think this is the biggest clue in this mystery"
He ignored the expression on my face and continued with his story.
"When everyone had come to the study, only old man Tsune had gone to the window and sat down. I don't think he's crazy and he wouldn't do something without reason."
"Of course he had a reason. But it's mysterious because we don't know the reason," I said quite agitated, as I was irritated.
"I think I know though," Hirokazu laughed. "Think about what Tsune did the following morning".
"The following morning? Tsune?" I didn't understand what he meant.
"What? But you saw it so clearly. You were only paying attention to Mr. Akai, so you didn't notice. Look, you just told me, right. That Mr. Akai was looking in the direction of the annex."
"Yeah, that was suspicious."
"No, you're thinking of something else. What Mr.. Akai was looking at, was none other than old man Tsune, don't you think so?"
"Hmm, you mean that?" That I hadn't noticed it myself, kinda surprised myself.
"The old man was digging around his flower bed, right? But there are no flowers there now, nor is it the season to plant seeds. Why would he be digging around the flower bed? It's natural to think he was doing something else."
"What do you mean with something else?"
"Think about it. The old man was sitting that night in a strange place in the study. And he was digging the next morning. Connect these two points and only one conclusion can be made. The old man has hidden something. What he's hidden, or why he has hidden it, I don't know. But I think we can assume old man Tsune had to hide that. He sat down to hide the thing between his knees. And if the old man would have wanted to hide something, then the place closest to the kitchen and the most normal-looking place, would be the flower bed. Because it would seem like he was working on the flower bed. And I want to ask you, will you go to my house now, dig around the flower bed and bring me that object? You should know where to dig if you look at the color of the dirt."
I had no protests against Hirokazu's clear deduction. The things I had seen but didn't understand, he had solved in mere moments.
"I'll go. You just said this wasn't the work of just some thief, but the work of a devil, right. Do you have some evidence for that? And what I don't understand, is the vase I just threw. Won't you explain before I go?"
"No, this is still all just an idea of mine. But if my ideas are right, please remember that beneath the surface of this case, a horrible crime is hiding. Because of that, an ill man like me is making such a fuzz."
Then I left him with a nurse, but just when I was leaving the room, I heard Hirokazu was humming some song, while muttering in German "Look for the woman, look for the woman."
When I arrived at the Yuuki mansion, it was already dusk. The major-general wasn't home, so I said my greetings to the house boy and when he didn't look, I sneaked into the garden. And if I were to tell you the results of me digging around the flower bed, well, Hirokazu's deduction was right. I found something strange. It was an old aluminium glasses case and it had certainly only been buried recently. I showed it to a woman servant when Tsune didn't look and when I asked whether she knew who the owner was, she surprisingly said it was the case for Tsune's reading glasses. It had a mark on it, so the servant was quite sure. Tsune had hidden one of his own possesions. That was strange. Even if it had been left at the crime scene, as it was old man Tsune's possession, he could have just kept using it and not buried it in the flower bed. If something he used everyday suddenly had disappeared, wouldn't that be more suspicious?
No matter how much I thought about it, I couldn't comprehend it, so I decided to go back to the hospital with it so I made the servant swear silence and I left the mansion, but then I encountered another strange sight. The sun had already set by that time and had become as dark, so I had to pay attention to every step. The shutters of the mansion had all been shut and the owner was gone, and there was no light from the annex either. In that gloomy garden, a shadow came walking towards me. When he came closer, I saw it was Mr. Akai, wearing a shirt. What was he doing in this mansion at this late an hour, when the owner was gone? When he saw me, he was surprised and stopped in his steps, but what was this? He was just wearing a shirt, on his bare feet and he was muddy and drenched from the waist down.
"What happened?" I asked him and he answered evadingly as usual.
" I was fishing and slipped. That pond is quite full of dirt, you know," he said as if to defend himself.
5. The Arrested Gold Maniac
It didn't take long for me to get back to Hirokazu's room. His mother was going back home and sitting near him was a nurse looking bored. When he saw me, he sent the nurse away.
"This is it. It was buried there, just like you deduced," I said and placed the case on his bed. Hirokazu took a look at it and appeared very surprised.
"Ah, so it really...," he muttered.
"So you already knew what was buried there? But I asked one of the women servants, and she said it was the case for old man Tsune's reading glasses, but why would the old man have to bury his own things, I don't understand that all."
"This is indeed the old man's possession, but there is a reason for that, you know. But you are not aware of one certain fact yet."
"One certain fact?"
"There is no doubt anymore. This is truly horrifying... To think he would..."
Hirokazu didn't answer my question and muttered very agitated words to himself. He knew who the criminal was. Who was this "he" person? And just when I tried to ask him that, we heard a knock on the door.
It was Chief Inspector Hatano who had come for a visit. He had come several times ever since Hirokazu was admitted in the hospital. He was thinking more of the Yuuki family than was actually expected from his profession.
"You seem quite well."
"Yes, thank you. I'm recovering finely." Thus they concluded their greetings and then the Chief Inspector continued.
"It's quite late now, but something has happened that I wanted to let you know at once."
He said and he stopped and stared at me.
"You know Matsumura. He's a close friend, so go ahead," Hirokazu urged him.
"Well, it's not a secret or something, so I'll tell you. We have him. We arrested him in the afternoon."
"You captured the criminal?" Hirokazu and I cried out.
"So who is it?"
"Mr. Yuuki. Do you know someone in the neighbourhood called Kotono Saemon?"
Was this all connected to Kotono Saemon? The reader still remembers it right? The scene of the ever mysterious Mr. Akai leaving Kotono Saemon's house completely covered in gold.
"Yes, I know him. You mean..."
"His son Mitsuo has some kind of mental illness. He is usually locked up in a single room and hardly gets out, so you probably don't know him. I have only learned of him today."
"No, I do know him. So you mean to say he is the criminal?"
"Yes. We have already arrested him and the questioning has already been conducted. He seems a bit crazy and has confessed in a real way yet, but he has a very rare mania. It's called gold mania. He is extremely attracted to gold-colored objects. I was surprised when I saw his room. The whole room was gold, like some Buddhist hall. Whether it's plated, brass powder or just foil, he doesn't care for its value, as long it's gold-colored, from a frame to gold paper and even filling paper, he just collects everything indiscriminately."
"I have heard that. So you say that because he has gold mania, he only stole golden objects from our house?"
"Of course. Leaving money bills and only stealing golden objects of no value, even a fountain pen, that can't be explained by any sane reason. I thought the case was a bit mad from the start, and it was indeed a kind of mania. Gold mania. It fits perfectly, doesn't it?"
"And did you find the stolen objects?" Somehow the words of Hirokazu seemed to carry a strange sarcastic tone.
"Well, not yet. We have looked, but they weren't in his room. But he is a madman, so who know what kind of strange place he has hidden it. But we are planning to make a thorough search."
"And have you already confirmed he had escaped from his room the night of the incident? Didn't his family notice?" Hirokazu kept piling up the questions and Mr. Hatano didn't seem to like that.
"It seems no one of the family knew. But because the madman was in a small annex in the back, he could have just climbed out the window over the wall and gotten outside without anyone knowing."
" I see, I see." Hirokazu was getting more sarcastic. "By the way, about those footprints. How do you explain the footprints starting and ending at the well? I think that's quite important."
" It seems like I am the one being questioned." The chief inspector looked at me and smiled openheartedly, but he seemd to be quite angry from the inside. "You don't have to worry about that. The police and the courts have their methods for that."
"Ah, I hope you're not angry, but as I am the victim, I just hoped you could tell me more about it."
"I have nothing to tell you. I mean, you are only asking points that aren't clear yet."
The chief inspector made a laugh. "The tracks are still under investigation by my subordinates."
"So you haven't any real evidence yet. Only the coincidence that gold mania is consistent with the stolen golden objects," Hirokazu said witout any hesitation. I was standing next to him, quite nervous.
"Only a coincidence, you say?" It seemed even the patient chief inspector was offended by this.
"Why are you saying that? Are you saying we are wrong?"
"Exactly." Hirokazu finally said it. "The police arresting Kotono Mitsuo, is a unbelievable mistake."
"What?" The Chief Inspector was taken aback, but he couldn't help but ask. "Do you have evidence? You shouldn't say things so easily without any evidence!"
"I have too much evidence actually," Hirokazu said calmly.
"Utter nonsense! You have been here ever since the incident, so how could you have found any evidence? You're still not fully recovered. You're just delirous. A dream caused by narcotics."
"Hahahaha, you are just scared. You are scared to see your mistake confirmed." Hirokazu finally made Mr. Hatano angry. Being said that, even if the person was young, even if he was a patient, he couldn't just let that go. He sat down with a loud crash on a chair.
"Let's hear it then. Who do you think the criminal is?" Hatano looked quite arrogant. But Hirokazu didn't answer him. In order to collect his thoughts, he looked at the ceiling and closed his eyes.
He had told me earlier he knew a person who would easily fall under suspicion, but that he wasn't the culprit. That had to be Kotono Mitsuo with his gold mania. And indeed, he was a very easy suspect. But if he wasn't the culprit, who was it that Hirokazu had in his mind as the culprit? Would he say there was someone else with gold mania? Maybe that person was Mr Akai? Ever since the incident, Mr Akai's behaviour has been very strange. And he had even left Kotono Saemon's house covered in gold fragments. Maybe that's another kind of "gold mania". But when I had gone to the Yuuki mansion to search through the flower bed, Hirokazu had said something strange. "Look for the woman." A phrase he had said in German. That might mean "a woman" might be behind this case. But the first woman who came to my mind was Shimako, and how could she be connected to the case? Now I think about it, the footprints were pointed inwards, like a woman. And right after the gunshot, the cat Hisamatsu had jumped out of the study. That Hisamatsu was Shimako's favorite. So was she...? No way, no way. And there was another suspicious person. The old man Tsune. His glasses case was at the crime scene and he had buried it in his flower bed on purpose.
As I was thinking about these things, Hirokazu finally opened his eyes, turned to the waiting Mr. Hatano and started to talk slowly with a low voice.
"Kotono's son may have gotten outside without anyone of the family knowing. But, no matter how mad you say he is, he can't walk around without leaving footprints. Explaining the footprints that disappeared at the well, that is what makes this case, it's the fundamental problem. To just ignore that problem and try to find the culprit, that's a stupid act." Saying that, Hirokazu paused a bit to catch his breath. Maybe his wound hurt, but he was looking painful. The Chief Inspector was feeling a bit cornered by his logical argument and his confidence, so he waited for Hirokazu to continue.
"And Matsumura here," Hirokazu continued, "he has come up with quite an interesting deduction. I don't know whether you know, but there were dog tracks on the other side of the well. It seems those tracks continue from where the footprints stop and go all the way up to the road, but, what if the culprit had made some things shaped like a dogs paw that he put on while crawling, so he deduced. This is quite an interesting deduction, but unrealistic. You ask why?" he turned to me, "If the culprit had already come up the trick with the dog prints, why would he have left his real foot prints to the well? Then his great plan would go to waste. Not even a madman would only leave dog tracks only half of the way. Anyway, a madman wouldn't even came up with such a trick. So it's too bad, but this hypothesis is rejected. So the problem of the footprints remains. By the way, Mr. Hatano, do you have your notebook with the map you showed me last time? I think the key to solving the mystery of the footprints is hidden there."
Luckily Mr. Hatano had the notebook in his pocket, so he took out the map and placed at Hirokazu's pillow. Hirokazu contined with his deduction.
"Please look at this. I just told this to Matsumura, there is an unnatural large distance between the foot tracks coming and leaving. Do you think that a criminal who was hurrying, would take such a roundabout way? And it's also very unnatural that the footprints don't overlap each other. Do you see what I mean? These two unnatural points tell us one thing. The criminal had to be careful and take a roundabout way, as to avoid stepping on his own footsteps in the dark."
"I see, it is strange the steps don't overlap each other. Maybe it was done on purpose like you say. But what does that mean?" Chief Inspector Hatano asked a stupid question. Looking irritated, Hirokazu said:
"You don't see? You're stuck in a psychological trap that's hard to get out of. You stubbornly hold to the wrong idea of thinking the set of steps close to each other is the one going, and the set with wide steps was made while running away, thus thinking the steps started at the well and ended there."
"Hey, so you mean, the steps didn't begin at the well, but began at the other side, leaving from the study, back to the study?"
" Yes, I have been thinking that from the beginning."
"No, that's not possible," the chief inspector became excited. "I'll just say it, but there is a big fault in your hypothesis. If the thief was prepared so well, why didn't he walk all the way to the road? If his tracks stopped halfway, then this trick would be useless. Why would the thief just stop halfway through his trick? Can you explain that?"
"There is a simple reason for that," Hirokazu immediately answered. "It was very dark that night."
"Dark? You don't mean to say he could walk to the well, but couldn't walk a bit more to the road in the dark?"
"No, that's not what I'm saying. The culprit thought he didn't have to make any prints any more beyond the well. It's a funny little mistake. You wouldn't know, but until one or two days before the incident, old wood had been placed on the ground beyond the well, for almost a month. The criminal made the mistake because he was used to seeing that. He didn't know the wood had been moved and thought he wouldn't have to leave any footprints there, thinking the wood was lying there, and if there was wood, the criminal would have walked on top of that and wouldn't have left prints.So he just made a mistake in the darkness. Maybe the criminal had bumped into the well and thought it was the wood."
Ah, what a surprisingly simple and clear explanation! Even I had seen the pile of old wood. No, I hadn't only seen it, Mr. Akai even told me about it the other day implying its importance. Hirokazu was able to explain it, while I couldn't.
"So you say the foot prints were just a trick to make us think it was someone from the outside." Chief Inspector Hatano finally seemed convinced and was eager to hear the name of the real culprit from Hirokazu's mouth.
6. "It's a mathematical problem"
"If we assume the footprints are fake, and as long as the culprit didn't fly away, we'll have to also assume that he was inside the mansion," Hirokazu continued his deduction. "Secondly, why did the thief only pay attention to golden objects? This is actually really interesting. This is probably because the thief knew Kotono Mitsuo has gold mania, and he wanted to make it look the work of that madman. He made the footprints for the same reason. But he had another reason. Related to the size and weight of the golden objects."
This was my second time, so I wasn't much surprised, but Mr. Hatano was quite taken aback by this strange hypothesis and stared silently at Hirokazu's face. The amateur detective ignored that and continued.
"And this map tells us all. Mr. Hatano, this drawing of the pond that stretches beyond the annex, did you just take it down without thinking about it?"
"What do you mean.... Ah, you..." Hatano seemed very surprised and stuttered unbelievingly. "It ca.. can't be..."
"It wouldn't be strange if the thief had stolen the golden objects that were valuable. But they are all also small and quite heavy. The thief made it seem like he had taken them with him, but aren't the things actually just perfect to throw into the pond? Matsumura, you just threw the vase outside, but you know, that vase was about the same weight as the stolen table clock and I wanted to know how far you could throw it. So the stolen objects are somewhere at the bottom of the pond."
"But why would the thief take the trouble to do so? You say it was to make it seem like the work of a thief, what was made to look like the work of a thief? Nothing has been stolen besides the golden objects. Do you mean that gold wasn't the thief's aim?" the Chief Inspector said.
"Now you have it. His aim was to kill me."
"Ki- kill you? Who? Why?"
"Please wait. If you ask me why I think so, well, at that time, the thief had no need to fire a gun at me. If he had hidden himself in the darkness and ran away, he would have gotten away easily. Most thieves with guns only use it to scare people and they seldom fire them, right? And stealing gold and then killing someone, that's not the way of a thief. Theft and murder are two totally different crimes. My suspicion started from this point. The suspicion that this was made to look like theft, but that the actual aim was murder."
"Well, who's your suspect? Someone who hates you?" Mr. Hatano seemed impatient.
"It's just a simple mathematic problem... I wasn't suspecting someone from the start. I just looked at my data logically and arrived at the obvious conclusion. If you will investigate at the crime scene, you can confirm whether this conclusion is correct or not. Like whether the objects are at the bottom of the pond. Arithmetics is just the simple fact that two minus one equals one. You might call it too simple." Hirokazu continued. "If the only tracks in the garden were fake, then the thief must have headed back to the mansion through the hallway. But at the time the gun was fired, Kouta was walking through the halllway. As you know, the hallway goes straight to the annex and is also lighted. It would be impossible to avoid Kouta's sight and sneak away. And you have also examined Shimako's room immediately, but there was no place to hide there. Going by this logic, the criminal can't exist."
"I have of course noticed that. The thief couldn't have ran to the mansion. Therefore, the thief had to be outside," the Chief Inspector said.
"The thief was neither in- or outside. So that leaves only the victim, me, and the first one on the scene, Kouta. But the victim can't be the culprit. There is no one in this world so stupid as to fire a gun at himself. Therefore only Kouta remains. The mathematical problem of two minus one. If you subtract one victim from two persons, then only the assailant remains."
"So you mean..." Both the chief inspector and I cried out.
" Yes. We have been fooled. One person has been hiding in a blind spot. He had a strange invisible mantle, the mantle of being a close friend to the victim and the first one on the crime scene."
"So have you known since the beginning?"
"No, just today. That night I only saw a dark shadow."
"It all seems logical, but Kouta can't..." I couldn't believe his words and tried to get in between.
"That's the point. I don't want to make my friend out to be the culprit either. But if I don't talk, the innocent madman will be blamed for the crime. And Kouta isn't that good a person we think is anyway. Just look at his handiwork. He was done everything treacherously and cunningly. Not someone a sane person would come up with. He's a devil. This was the devil's work."
"Do you have any real evidence?" The Chief Inspector considered the problem from a practical viewpoint.
"He was the only one who could have done it. Isn't that the best evidence? But if you want it, there is other evidence too. Matsumura, can you remember Kouta's gait?"
He asked me, and I suddenly remembered. Not even in my dreams would I have thought that Kouta was the culprit, so I had forgotten about it, but he did walk with his toes pointing inwards, like a woman!
"Now you mention it, he does walk like a woman."
"There's your evidence. But there is better evidence, "Hirokazu said, and he took out the glasses case from under the sheat and gave it to the Chief Inspector, and said after he had told him the details of old man Tsune hiding it. "This used to be old man Tsune's. But if he was the culprit, he wouldn't have needed to bury it in the flower bed. He could have just used it while playing innocent. Nobody wouldn't known the case had been found at the crime scene. The fact he hid it, proves he is not the culprit. But why did he hide it? There a reason for that. Why didn't you notice it, Matsumura? Even though we went to the beach every day..."
Hirokazu had explained till that point when it hit me. Kouta had been wearing glasses lastely, but he had brought a glasses case with him to the Yuuki mansion. He normally didn't need a case, but without that, finding a safe place to leave his glasses while swimming is troublesome. Old man Tsune saw this and lent the case for his reading glasses to Kouta. This fact (I had carelessly failed to notice), was well known not only to Hirokazu, but also to Shimako and even the servants at the Yuuki mansion. So Tsune had found the case at the crime scene and taken aback, had hidden it to protect Kouta. If you ask why Tsune had lent his case to Kouta and protected him, well, he has had a lot of help in the past from Kouta's father and Tsuna was also hired at the Yuuki mansion thanks to his introduction. So he was quite fond of the son of his benefactor. I had known this for quite some time.
"But isn't it strange Tsune would have suspected Kouta that fast just because of a case lying around? Isn't that a bit strange?" As could be expected, Mr. Hatano quickly retorted.
"No, there is a reason to that," Hirokazu started to tell somewhat hesitantly.
To make it short, there had been a love triangle between Hirokazu, Shimako and Kouta. A battle had been fought for a long time now in the darkness for the beautiful Shimako. Like I said at the beginning of the story, the two of them were closer to each other than I was. That is because the father of Yuuki is an old friend of Kouta's father and that's why I hadn't noticed the hard fight between the two of them. I had known that Hirokazu was engaged to Shimako and that Kouta had definately had feelings for her, but that he had become so desperate as to kill his opponent, I wouldn't have thought that even in my dreams.
Hirokazu said: "It's an embarrassing story, but when nobody was around, we would have arguments over all sorts of trifle stuff, without actually addressing the real point, we even had a small fight like children do. While we were rolling in the mud, we would cry out in our hearts 'Shimako is mine!'. But it was the fault of Shimako and her ambigious stance. She never showed any sign of really disapproving the love of either of us. That's probably why Kouta decided to kill me, who had a very big advantage being Shimako's fiance. Old Man Tsune knew about this hostility between the two of us. We even had a fight in the garden the day of the incident. Tsune probably heard that. Being a loyal retainer, he understood the frightful meaning the case held when he found it. Kouta hardly ever went into that study and as he said that after he had heard gunshot, he saw me lying from the doorway and immediately ran back to the mansion, he couldn't have left that glasses case all the way in the back of the room."
It had all become clear. Against Hirokazu's logical deduction, not even the formidable Chief Inspector Hatano could object. The only thing left to do was to check whether the stolen objects were at the bottom of the pond. A bit later and quite by coincidence, a call came from the police station for the chief inspector, with good news. That night a man had recoverd and delivered the stolen objects from the bottom of the pond. There had been at the bottom of the pond, besides the golden objects, also a gun, shoes for the fake footprints and even a tool to cut glass. And the reader can probably guess, but the person who had found these objects was of course Mr. Akai. That night when he was covered in mud in the garden of the Yuuki mansion, he hadn't fallen into the pond, but he had gone in to get the items. I had suspected him of being the assailant, but that had been a grave mistake, he actually seemed to be a great detective. When I told him that, Hirokazu said the following.
"Yes, I had suspected so since the beginning. Observing Old Man Tsune burying the case, coming out of the house Kotono Mitsuo covered in gold: he was detecting. His movements have been a great help to my deductions. The fact we found this glasses case is all thanks to Mr. Akai. When you just told me the story of Mr. Akai falling into the pond, I was quite surprised he had already gotten that far."
Well, the following facts I didn't hear directly myself, but to tell you everything in order, among the objects from the pond, a golden ashtray had been tied to the shoes using a handkerchief, probably fearing the shoes would float. That handkerchief turned out to be Kouta's handkerchief. At least, the initials S.K. had been written in ink in the corner of the handkerchief. He probably hadn't guessed the items would be recovered from the pond and he hadn't thought about his own initials on the handkerchief.
I probably don't have to tell you that Kouta Shintarou was arrested the next day on suspicion of attempted murder. But he seemed calm and quite determined. No matter how much they questioned him, he didn't confess truth. When he was asked where he was just before the attack, he would just keep silent. So he didn't have an alibi until the moment the gun was fired. He had first said he had gone out to the hallway to cool his head off, but the testimony of the Yuuki house boy quickly took care of that. One of the servants had been in a room facing the hallway and he said that only Mr. Akai really had gone off to buy cigarettes. But no matter how stubborn Kouta was, there was just too much evidence against him. And he didn't have an alibi. He was of course prosecuted and the case was accepted into the court. The case is still in pendant.
7. In the Shadow of the Dune
About a week after that, I visited the Yuuki family. It was because I had received a message Hirokazu had finally left the hospital. A gloomy air was still hanging around the mansion. But that wasn't strange, as even though he had left the hospital, the Yuuki's family only son Hirokazu had become a cripple. His father the major general and his mother each told me their pains in their own way. Shimako had it quite hard. But Hirokazu's mother told she had been very caring to her handicapped son, like a nice wife.
Hirokazu looked unexpectedly good, like he had forgotten the bloody crime and told me about a plan for a novel. And Mr. Akai came in the evening. I felt bad I had suspected him, so I tried to talk to him more than I used to do. Hirokazu also seemed pleased with the visit of the amateur detective. After dinner, we invited Shimako and went for a walk to the beach with the four of us.
"Crutches are actually handy, you know. Look, I can even walk like this!" Hirokazu turned up the sleaves of his yukata and flew away in a strange way. Tok. Tok. Every time his new crutches hit the ground, they made a knocking sound.
"Look out!" Shimako looked nervous, yelling and running after him.
"Let's go see what's going on at Yuigahama," Hirokazu proposed in high spirit.
"Can you walk that far?" Mr. Akai looked doubtful.
"It's alright, it's just one ri (3,92 km) far and the beach isn't that long."
The freshman cripple seemed to enjoy walking like a child who has started doing that. While we were making jokes, we walked on a small road in the night, with a cold beach wind blowing at us. Halfway the road, when our talk had ended and the four of us fell silent, Mr. Akai suddenly began to laugh as if he had just remembered something. It seemed to be extremely funny and he just couldn't stop laughing.
"Mr. Akai, why are you laughing like that?" Shimako couldn't take it any more and asked
"It's just a trifle point," Akai answered while laughing, "You know, I just thought the human foot is a strange thing. A short man has small feet right? But you know, I now know there are people of small builds, with big feet. Isn't that hilarious? Someone with big feet?" Mr. Akai said and began laughing again. Shimako just said "I see" out of politeness and smiled at him, but she of course didn't see what was so hilarious. The things Mr. Akai said were quite absurd. A peculiar man.
Yuigahama at night was like a festival and very lively. On the stage at the beach, kagura-like dances started. A large crowd had gathered. Around the stage, a city of small stands had been set up. Cafes, restaurants, haberdasheries and fruit stalls. Hundreds of lights, gramophone music and girls wearing heavy make up. We sat down at a cheerful looking cafe and while we had something cool to drink, Mr. Akai once again ignored all common sense and did something strange. He said he had cut his finger on some glass the other day at the pond and had put bandages on it. But his bandages had loosened at the cafe, so he tried to tie it again using his mouth, but he had troubles with it.
Shimako saw this and said "I'll apply it for you" and she stuck her hands out, but ignoring her help and etiquette, he turned his finger to Hirokazu who sat on the other side and had him tie the bandage for him. This man was either oblivious to everything or a real devil.
In the end, a talk about detective stories between Mr. Akai and Hirokazu started. The two had accomplished an extraordinary feat in this case by outsmarting the police, so it became quite a lively talk. And as the story progressed, they started, like always, to speak ill of real and fictional detectives from all over the world. And of course the protagonist of "The Akechi Kogorou Detective Stories", whom Hirokazu seemed to consider a foe, war harshly criticized.
"That man you know, he hasn't handled a case with a really smart criminal yet. You can't call him a great detective if he's just catching your ordinary run-of-the-mill criminals, right?" Hirokazu said.
Even after we had left the cafe, the talk about detectives just didn't seem to end. And we naturally ended up in two groups and Shimako and I had overtaken the two who were concentrating on their talk and were way ahead. Shimako was walking at the abandoned water's shore while singing merrily. I sang along with the songs I knew. The moon had changed in silvery dust dancing on top of the water and the cold beach wind blew our singing voices all the way to the pine wood.
"Let's give them a scare," Shimako suddenly sprang up and whispered that mischievously to me. I looked back and the two amateur detectives were still caught up in their talk and about one block behind us. As Shimako pointed at the big dune besides us and started to push me there, I gave in and like two kids playing hide and seek, we hid ourselves in the shadow of the dune.
"Where have they gone off to?" After a while, the footsteps of the two came closer and we heard Hirokazu's voice. He hadn't noticed we had hidden ourselves.
"I doubt they have become lost. Let's take a rest now. Using crutches on sand seems tiresome," So the voice of Mr. Akai said, and it seemed like the two sat down. Chance had it we were sitting around the same dune, with our backs to each other.
"There is nobody to hear us speak. I actually have something I want to tell you in secret."
It was Mr. Akai's voice. We had been standing ready to jump out and scream at them, but we sat down again. While it was wrong to eavesdrop, it was already too late to jump out at this time.
"Do you really believe Kouta is the culprit?" We heard Mr. Akai's grave voice. What was he saying now? But for some reason I just had to listen to his voice.
"It's not a question of believing or not believing. There were only two persons near the crime scene and if one of them is the victim, the other has to be the culprit. And there is ample evidence with the handkerchief and the glasses case. Do you think there are some unclear points remaning?"
"You know, Kouta actually has made a statement, I heard it from a judge I got to know through a certain case and this hasn't been made public yet. At the time Kouta heard the gunshot, he said he was in the hallway and that he had gone out to cool off, but that's all a lie. So why did he lie? At that time, he was doing something even more embarrassing than theft... He was peaking in Shimako's diary. And that seems to fit. He had left the diary lying open on the desk when he was surprised by the gunshot and ran outside. If not, he would have of course placed the diary back into the drawer after reading it. That's why I think Kouta was really surprised by the gunshot. And therefore he didn't fire it."
"Why was he reading the diary?"
"Can't you guess? He wanted to know the real feelings of his love Shimako. He thought he might find out by reading the diary. You know how frustrated poor Kouta was."
"And does the judge belief his statement?"
"No, he didn't believe him. Like you said, there is too much evidence against him."
"That's to be expected. What could such a weak statement do?"
"By the way, while there is a lot of evidence against him, I think there is a lot of evidence in his favor too. Firstly, if he wanted to kill you, why did he call out for people without checking whether you were actually dead? Even if he was agitated, such an action does not seem to fit with the wiles that came up with the scheme to plant those fake footprints in advance. Secondly, supposing he had placed the fake footprints, why would someone smart enough to avoid stepping on his own steps to make his steps coming and going look reversed, just leave prints with his own gait of toes pointing inwards, that's just hard to believe."
Mr. Akai's continued: "Simply put, killing someone is just the movement of shooting a gun, but if you think about it carefully, it consists of thousands of small actions. More if you want to deceive people by placing the blame on someone else. Even in this case, a glasses case, shoes, fake footprints, the diary lying opened on the desk, the golden objects from the bottom of the pond, if only we pick out the larger elements, we have around ten of them, and if we concentrate at every single effort of the criminal, we can see thousand of small actions within those. And the detective can, like with a film, look at every single frame, one by one, and begin his deductions from those small actions. And no matter how smart and prepared the criminal is, he can't escape his punishment in the end. But such a deduction is impossible for the human mind, so we can only hope to stumble upon the most important scene of the crime. And with that in mind... I have done this so many times since my youth, and it has grown into a sort of habit, but I always pay attention to whether a person starts walking with his right foot or his left foot, whether a man wrings a towel with his right or left hand, whether a man first pulls his right or his left arm when putting on clothes, to all these kinds of small points. These might seem trifle, but these can be quite decisive elements when applied to a criminal investigation. Well, my third argument in favor of Kouta is the knot of the handkerchief used to tie the weighty ashtray to the shoes. I had taken the knot from it without loosening the knot and gave it like that to Chief Inspector Hatano. Because I thought it would prove to be valuable evidence. And if you ask me what kind of knot it was, where I come from we usually call it a standing knot, with the two ends beneath the knot standing like a cross, a knot kids often tie as a mistake. Among adults, very few people make such a knot. They couldn't make it even if they tried. Then I went immediately went to Kouta's home and asked his mother to let me search for something her son had tied. Luckily, I got to know his tying habits by looking at how he had tied his books, how he had tied a rope to the lights in his study and another three or four places. And these were all normal knots. I don't think it is plausible to think the knot of the handkerchief was a fake planted by Kouta. Because the handkerchief with the initials was more dangerous as evidence than the knot itself. So this is one strong evidence in the argument in favor of young Kouta.
Mr Akai stopped his story for a second. Hirokazu said nothing. He was probably looking intently at Mr Akai. The two of us were also very caught up in our eavesdropping. Especially Shimako was breathing heavily and her body even shook a bit. The sensitive girl had probably already understood the horrible truth.
8. THOU ART THE MAN
After a short silence, I heard Mr. Akai laughing. He kept laughing eerily for a while and then started to talk.
"And the fourth and most important argument in favor of him, hahahahaha, it's really hilarious. You know, those shoes, there was something really wrong with them. The shoes from the bottom of the pond do match the footprints on the ground. That's certain. The rubber soles don't shrink even if they are wet, so we know what the original form was. I measured the shoe size just to be sure and they were about 10 mon size. But you know...", said Mr. Akai and he stopped again for a second. He seemed he was pleased to say the following words.
"You know," Mr. Akai continued laughing, "the funny thing is, those shoes are too small for Kouta's feet and don't fit at all. When I went to Kouta's home for the handkerchief business, I asked his mother, and she said that last winter Kouta was wearing shoes of 11 mon. And so Kouta's innocence is certain. Because shoes that don't fit can't be disadvantegous to you. Why go all the trouble to attach a weight and sink them? It seems that the police and court have not found out this hilarious truth yet. It is just too stupid a mistake. They might find out if they continue their investigation. But if they don't let the suspect try out the shoes, nobody might find out. His mother told me that Kouta has unusual large feet for his build. That is the source of the mistake. We might suppose that the real criminal is someone slightly bigger than Kouta. Because he had worked from his own shoe size and thought that the smaller Kouta couldn't possibly have a larger shoe size, he made this unbelievable funny mistake."
"You have pointed out enough points," Hirokazu suddenly said irritated. "Please tell me your conclusions. Who do you think the culprit is?"
"You." Mr. Akai's calm voice said that and it felt as if he was pointing his finger towards Hirokazu.
"Hahahaha, don't scare me like that. Please stop with the jokes. Who on Earth would throw his father's precious objects in a pond, or shoot himself? Enough with the jokes," Hirokazu denied vehemently.
"You are the culprit," Mr. Akai repeated.
"You're serious. With what evidence, with what arguments...?"
"It's very clear. To borrow your words, it's nothing more than a simple problem of mathematics. Two minus one is one. If among two persons, Kouta isn't the culprit, then no matter how strange it must seem, the remaining person must be the culprit. Look at the knot of your own bandages. The ends of the knot are standing. You have been using this mistaken knot ever since you were a child up until now. But this point only is not very strong. This knot might be different because you were tying it from the back. But you were so kind to tie my bandage when I asked you and behold. It's the mistaken knot with a cross. Wouldn't you think this a strong piece of evidence?" Mr. Akai said with a low voice and still quite polite. That made it feel a bit strange.
"But for what reason did I inflict such a wound on myself? I am a coward and quite vain. I wouldn't do something stupid like inflicting such pain on myself and becoming a cripple for the rest of my life just to see Kouta fall. There have to be other ways to do that."
Hirokazu's voice seemed determined. He was right, no matter how much he might have hated Kouta, Hirokazu wouldn't risk his own life for that. The victim is the assailant, what kind of stupid story is that? Mr. Akai has made a ridiculous mistake.
"Yes, exactly that, that unbelievable point, that is what this crime has been hiding. Everybody has been mesmerized by this case. They have all made a fundamental mistake. They believed that "the victim can't be the culprit." And it is also a big mistake to just think this was just a crime to get Kouta convicted innocently. That was just a nice extra."
Mr. Akai continued slowly and politely, "It was a well planned crime. But it wasn't the plan of a real criminal, but the idea of a writer. You. You were all caught up in playing three roles yourself, the victim, assailant and the detective. You were also the one who stole Kouta's glasses case and left at the crime scene. And of course, you were the one who had thrown the objects in the pond, who had cut the window glass and who had made the fake footprints. With that prepared, you made use of the fact that Kouta was reading Shimako's diary in the room next to the study (you probably suggested the idea of reading it to him). You lifted your hand with the pistol up high as to leave no powder burns and shot at the farthest away point, your ankle. You had guessed correctly that Kouta would come running to you from the other room. You had also foreseen that Kouta wouldn't be able to produce an alibi as he would have been ashamed for reading his love interest's diary and this would make him an easy suspect. After you had shot yourself, you bit through the pain of the wound and threw the last piece of evidence, the gun, through the open window into the pond. The fact your feet were pointing towards the window and the lake when you fell down, is evidence for that. This is also clear from Mr Hatano's map. And after all this had happened, you fell down unconcious. Or maybe you just pretended to be so. A shot in your ankle is not a small wound, but not a life-threatening one either. It was just the right wound for your goal."
"Hahahahaha. I see, I see, it does all make sense," Hirokazu's voice sounded a bit shrill. "But would I really want to become a cripple just to accomplish that, that's a bit strange, isn't it. You might have all kinds of evidence, but regarding this one point you'll have to acquit me."
"Didn't I just tell you? Having Kouta taking the fall for the crime was indeed one of your goals. But the real goal was something else. You just said you were a coward. That is indeed so. You shot yourself because you are a great coward. Aaah, you are trying to deceive me again, aren't you, thinking I don't know. Well, I'll tell you. You are terribly afraid for the army. You made it through the conscription examination and you'll serve from next year on. You tried to avoid that at all costs. I found out you wore glasses as a student pretending you had bad eyes. And by reading your novels, I found out that the author is terribly afraid of the army. And you are the son of a military man. You were afraid some short-term method of getting out of it would be discovered after a while. You rejected cliche ways like inflicting wounds on your own body or cutting off your own fingers and chose a radical method. But it was a plan with which you kill two birds with one stone. What's wrong? Keep a hold on yourself. I still have something to tell you. I thought you were going to faint. Please keep a hold on yourself. I have no intention of presenting you to the police. I just wanted to see whether my deductions were right. But you can't keep silent like this forever. And you have already received the worst punishment you can get. Behind us, behind this dune, the woman who you didn't want to hear this the most, has heard everything just now. Well, I'll get going now. You need some time to think by yourself. But before I leave, I'll tell you my real name. I am that Akechi Kogorou you have been making fun of. I had been visiting your house, because your father had hired me to investigate a theft of military secrets. You said that Akechi Kogorou was nothing more than deductions. But I think you now understand that I am more than just fiction... Farewell."
Completely stonished and perplexed, I could hear the sound of Mr. Akai stepping on the sand and leaving.