The Widest Smile and the Sharpest Scissors

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A work inspired by the works of Junji Ito. A gentle yet quite odd Souma Takahashi moves to the town of Kuragano-cho, Shizuoka Prefecture, to start anew. But even in this new environment, he continues to feel a familiar, unsettling presence breathing down his neck. A presence whose single, hideous smile would drive one to insanity. And soon, it may find itself another target... Potentially a beginning of a bigger series.

Horror / Mystery
Age Rating:

The Widest Smile and the Sharpest Scissors

“A-Am I… b e a u t i f u l ?”

Souma woke up suddenly and only barely managed to restrain himself from screaming. It was just a nightmare… but how realistic it was! His heart was racing, and he was drowning in sweat… What time was it anyway? He looked at the screen of his phone. It was well past the night hours, but the proper morning was yet to approach.

Just in case, he also checked his entire body… No, no sounds, nothing. Thank goodness…

He wasn’t going back to sleep, that was out of question. The nightmare had managed to shake off almost all signs of tiredness. Instead, Souma stood up and immediately took a walk through the dark house into the bathroom; he needed a shower, and then something.

After he closed the door, and after the water rained right down at him, Souma’s thoughts drifted away. It had not been long since his arrival to this town, but it was far away from peaceful, at least for him. Was it stress related to the moving? Or was it really something… off... about this place?

Suddenly, he lifted his head and looked to the side, as discreetly as he could. Through the steamed sliding door, he saw… something. Movement. A figure?

“Sou-ma-kun…? Sou-ma-kuuun…”

Perhaps it was just a figment of his imagination; a remnant of the last night. It could very well be but a towel hanging from the wall in front of the shower. But even then, Souma’s very being was filled with indescribable, irrational dread. It couldn’t possibly be… or could it?

Stay quiet, stay quiet…

For a brief while, all that sounded in the bathroom was the shower. The continuous stream of hot water clashing against the slender silhouette and the glass, steamy walls. Souma only dared open one eye after he was absolutely sure he was actually alone. There was nothing unusual, nothing at all. He could finally take a breath.

After the morning toilet was over, Souma went on to make himself breakfast; he could as well just start off with this day a little earlier than he had initially planned. He walked up to the kitchen corner in his little apartment and checked the fridge. Empty, of course. He had just moved here, and had little to no time even checking the nearby store. That only meant one thing: a morning field trip.

Souma proceeded to put on shoes and a jacket, and left the apartment, remembering to lock the door shut. After that, he went down the staircase and slowly into town, which was slowly waking up itself.

Kuragano-cho, Japan. A distant seaside town with a population no greater than several thousand, at least half a day away from the nearest bigger city. From what Souma had managed to see on the evening he arrived, it was quite a peaceful place, if a little odd. Rent was inexpensive, too, which was an advantage in itself. The apartment building where the boy was to live stood near the main street, where most of the businesses were located, hidden in a nearby alley. All that would take to get something to eat was a twenty minutes worth of walking there and back again.

Must have rained yesterday, thought Souma as he was walking along the alley. Indeed, the whole road was dotted with puddles, and the air smelled so fresh. I must’ve been too exhausted to even notice. And I still am a bit, dammit.

On his way, the boy checked his wallet. He still had some money on him, but he would have to check an ATM soon. He ought to stay pragmatic in terms of spending money for a while.

He finally reached the nearby store. Nothing particularly big, but not small either; something like a smaller cousin of bigger metropolitan supermarkets. There, he already noticed a few other people had a similar idea of getting their groceries early in the morning. Mostly elders, perhaps simply used to waking up early.

But there he spotted a person clearly younger than the rest of this morning clientele. A black-haired girl around his age, if not a tad bit younger, clad in what appeared to be a big turtleneck. From this distance at least, she looked kind of cute. What threw him off, however, was a facemask on her face, obscuring everything below the eyes.

For a mere few seconds, the girl turned her head towards him. Their eyes met, but it was very short-lived as she, evidently startled, quickly disappeared deeper into the store.

It wasn’t time nor a place for him to contemplate other people’s beauty or lack thereof; he was here to buy groceries and just that. Souma shook his head, absent-minded as he was at this point, and proceeded to look for something worthy of becoming his breakfast. He also took two packs of instant ramen with him, just in case.

On his way to check out, the masked girl was nowhere to be seen. Was she hiding from him? Or maybe she had already left the store?

Why am I even thinking about her? She’s probably already labeled me as some creep.

“Are you okay, sir?” asked the concerned clerk, quick to notice Souma’s state of uneasiness.

“Hm? Ah, no, no, it’s nothing. Just some morning fatigue,” explained Souma.

“Maybe you’d like to buy an energy drink to help you awake?” The clerk opened a small refrigerator and showed the boy a black-red can of soda. “The new Beast Power. Buy one, get one half the price!”

“Hm, I needed this anyway… You know what, I’ll take two. Thanks.”

Souma then promptly left the store, a bag in one hand and a can of the energy drink in the other. A chug or two later, he was back on his feet, at least thanks to the fact it was so cold; caffeine should kick in a while later.

It was at this moment that Souma suddenly bumped into someone. In an instant, the other person’s bag spilled around the sidewalk. The boy cursed under his breath.

“Sorry… Here, lemme help you with that.”

“Ah! N-No, it’s me who’s at fault. No need to a- a- Achoo!! Sorry…”

A girl’s voice. Actually, he should take a look at the person he was just helping; it was as if his entire body moved on its own and just proceeded to assist them. The boy looked up and froze immediately.

It was that masked girl from before!

“Thanks again for your help, Takahashi-san.”

“Don’t mention it. You’d do the same for me, I guess…”

As it turned out, the girl actually lived nearby, and they were heading in the same direction. Perhaps they even lived in the same building altogether; that would be quite a coincidence.

Her name was Uzumaki Shizuka, and she was a student of the local high school. And he had the mask on because she had caught cold and didn’t want to infect others. Thoughtful…

“So you’re new here? I’ve never seen you before,” noticed Shizuka before sniffling behind her mask.

“I’ve just moved in, yeah,” confirmed Souma.

“I must warn you, though: this town isn’t really anything exciting. You shouldn’t expect much from it.”

“Honestly, that’s what I’m in for: some peace and quiet,” admitted the boy. “My hometown was… a bit too much for me.”

“Hm? What do you mean?” Shizuka was quick to notice the strange tone of his voice.

Thankfully, it was at this moment that they finally reached the apartment building. Souma looked at his door next to the staircase, and a thin, somewhat relieved smile appeared on his lips.

“Ah, we’re here,” he stated and looked at the girl. “Sorry, but I’ll be going now. Gotta have some breakfast now.”

“Oh, okay,” nodded Shizuka. “I guess I’ll be going too. I shouldn’t be in the cold for too long.”

“See you later, I guess.”

Souma proceeded upstairs, and from the balcony, he discreetly observed the masked girl walk away. Soon enough, she was gone. And yet… he still felt someone’s eyes observing him closely. It was far from comfortable. He tried not to think about it too hard; he quickly entered his apartment and locked the door. There were things to be done first.

Elsewhere, someone smiled.

Shizuka came back home. She lived further away from the center, in a single-family house with a garden. She had lived in this town all her life with her parents. Her mother was a teacher and her father – a doctor; it was no surprise for their daughter to be home alone.

The girl walked quietly deeper into the household. Their parents were nowhere to be seen even before she had gone shopping. The entire house was eerily silent, the only sounds around being Shizuka’s footsteps and the clock on the wall.

She entered the kitchen, unpacked the contents of her bag, and quickly proceeded to make a meal for herself. In a few moments, a bowl of curry ramen was done, and Shizuka sat down in front of a TV, slurping the spicy noodles through the chopsticks – the spicier, the better for her cold – as she watched the morning news report…

Wait a second, she thought all of a sudden upon noticing something familiar on the screen. I recognize this street!



The reporter appeared on the TV, standing in front of an alley now wrapped with police tape, and with a number of police officers walking around in the background and examining the crime scene. Soon enough, he proceeded to explain the situation:

“We’re now in the town of Kuragano-cho, Shizuoka Prefecture. The peace of this supposedly quiet town has been suddenly disturbed after an anonymous report has been received by the local police: a dead body has been found near the town center, in close proximity to an old apartment complex. The deceased is yet to be identified, but we will stay in contact with the police and with our viewers in hopes of acquiring more information.”

After this introduction, the reporter walked up to the oldest policeman on the scene, apparently in charge of the entire operation.

“Excuse me, officer,” said the journalist, “if it’s not the problem, would you mind sharing with us some details about this case?”

The officer in question straightened up, looked in the camera for a second or two, then at the alley, and finally responded:

“I must admit: up until this point, I thought I’ve seen everything. The victim is a young male, roughly in mid-twenties. He seemed physically fit, and we haven’t seen any indication of a struggle, which suggests he had been ambushed. All the wounds on his body seem to have been inflicted around the main arteries of the upper section of his body as well as the face. And as of the face…” The policeman made a pause, which lasted uncomfortably long.


“I’ll leave that without a comment.”

After a moment of pointless attempts to grab the officer’s attention once more, the news report ended with the speaker asking the viewers to share every piece of information regarding the victim with the police, as well as telling everybody to stay safe and out of trouble.

Up to this moment, Shizuka didn’t even realize how closely she had been watching the TV screen. A death in Kuragano-cho so disturbing, even seasoned police veterans felt appalled? This was as unexpected as it was disturbing. Also distressing was the fact that she knew where this had taken place… It was near the street on which her new friend supposedly lived.

A newcomer in town and a gruesome death next door… Could it be that the two were somehow connected?

“Takashi Souma, yes? Am I pronouncing it correctly?”

“It’s Taka-ha-shi, sir.”

“Ah, I’m sorry, my bad. Must be my eyes…”

Souma had entered the local high school and had a meeting with the principal. It was an old, balding man with large glasses and a small mustache; if a photo the boy had passed by on his way to the office was to be believed, he must have looked quite a lot like emperor Hirohito more than a few years before. A charming and cautious academic personality…

“Well, Takahashi-kun,” proceeded the principal, “I must say I’m impressed with what I’m seeing. Your grades from your previous school set you as a true example in some fields. Who am I not to take this into account! Although I’ve noticed something troubling. Here… Could you explain this to me?”

As asked, Souma explained everything as clearly as it could, though he did omit the more personal parts. After that interview, he was free to go, and he had to go to class 1-A on the next day.

The boy left the principal’s office and leaned over the wall. He took a long, deep breath, and a faint smile appeared on his lips. He made it out successfully…

In the end, it was time to go back home and prepare for his first day at school. And so, Souma slowly made his way through the building, also taking some time to look around and orient himself in the seemingly new environment.

The high school in Kuragano-cho didn’t appear as anything particularly stunning in terms of the appearance. It was a rather generic-looking three-story building with an adjacent gym and outdoor swimming pool, as well as with a large sports field right behind the compound. It was very lively in almost every corner; justifiable, considering it was the forenoon, and there were students entering and leaving the corridor and the classes. One of them was kind enough to direct him to class 1-A.

“...I’m telling you, it was him to die in that hole!” he suddenly overheard a conversation.

“Bullshit! He’d never end up like this. Trust me, I’ve seen him in action once.”

“Hey.” Souma stepped in to approach two gossiping students, clearly younger than him by at least a year or two. Upon seeing the boy – a gaunt, black-haired figure right in front of them – one of them almost jumped in surprise. “What were you two talking about?”

“Ah! Who’re you?!” squealed the first student, the one who seemed much more scared of him than the other.

“Jesus, calm down!” The other one smacked him on the back and then turned his attention to the stranger. “Sorry about him. We were talking about that murder last night. Haven’t you heard?”

“I heard about it, yeah, but not much other than that it happened.” Souma shrugged his arms.

“Yeah, they’ve not figured out who was killed, but some suspect it was Taji-senpai.”

“Eh? Who? Sorry, I’m new here and I’ve no clue who is who.”

“Oh, okay.” A faint, uneasy smile formed on the younger boy’s lips. “Taji was one of the toughest and most popular guys at school, the captain of the karate club.”

“Wasn’t the victim in his twenties, though?”

“He had to repeat a class,” mentioned the first, more cowardly boy.

“Yeah. He graduated last year, somehow, but would visit us from time to time.”

“Mostly to flirt with the girls, anyway.”

“Sounds like your usual jerk of a pretty boy…” summarized Souma.

“Pretty much, yeah.” Both students nodded their heads.

“But would that really be the reason to get killed?”

“I dunno. Pretty sure few here would stand up to him,” said the braver boy. “I don’t believe it was him, though. He’d wipe the floor with most of the people around here.”

“But he didn’t show up today!” argued the scaredy one.

“It’s not like he comes here regularly!”

“Huh… Alright,” sighed Souma as he looked both ways on the corridor. “I guess I’ll be going, then. Should I let you know if I find anything?”

“Pretty sure we’ll all find out everything, sooner or later,” replied the braver one, “but thanks anyway. Pleasure to meet you, by the way, senpai.”

“Yeah. See you ’round.”

This whole Taji guy, thought Souma as he made his way through the crowded corridor. Sounds like your usual class jerk, alright. Maybe it was him? Maybe not. Not like I’m gonna barge into the morgue to find out anyway. But that’s some information, at the very least. Maybe he had a competitor, and they’d gotten into a fight, resulting in his death? Or maybe someone hated him so much just for being a jerk, they snapped and ambushed him?

Then, suddenly, he bumped into another student – so much, they were already on their way to the floor. Souma was quick enough to grab them by the hand and prevent the fall.

“Whoa! Sorry about that.”

“Ah! Thank you- Eh? Takahashi-san? You, here?”


Indeed, some wicked whim of fate once again decided to throw the two into each other. Uzumaki Shizuka, now in her school uniform, was hanging on the hand of her unexpected new friend. Soon enough, the girl stood back on her two feet and looked at the confused Souma, who stared at her with his single visible eye.

“What are you doing here?” Shizuka finally broke the brief, albeit uneasy, silence between them.

“Just became a student,” Souma answered bluntly. “You go to this school? Which class?”


“So apparently we’re classmates now…”

After being shown around, Souma left the school and, alone, decided to take a tour around town, to know it a bit better. At this time, it seemed far more lively than before. On his way, he saw many faces of people content with their lives; one kind old lady even gave him a free taiyaki as he was passing by what seemed like a marketing spot of some bakery.

And yet, despite this positive aura everywhere around him, he couldn’t stop feeling that odd uneasiness, as if somebody was obsessively observing him from afar. He looked around his shoulder, but there was nobody there. This lingering feeling continued to haunt him no matter what…

Finally, he couldn’t walk anymore. Souma sat down on the nearest bench and took a few deep breaths, and a chill crept down his spine. His heart was racing; he felt like throwing up, too.

“Ku… ku… ku…”

Did he hear someone snicker? Or was it just in his head? He couldn’t tell. He took another deep breath and stood up, trying to just walk it off. It should pass in time, right…?

Without even knowing where he was going, he eventually stumbled upon an empty alley. Souma shook his head and looked around. It seemed oddly familiar. Wasn’t it somewhere around his apartment? He could have sworn he could see the outline of his block from here. Yes, there it was, on the other side of the street, hidden behind another building.

Hadn’t he heard police sirens a night before, coming from somewhere around here?

Could it be that he unconsciously entered the crime scene from before? Indeed, he was mere meters away from the black-and-yellow police line obstructing entrance into the alley. There were still faint, albeit recognizable for a keen eye, traces of blood, as well as an outline of a person on the ground. There was also a single policeman walking about, seemingly guarding the crime scene, should the culprit come back.

Soon enough, the officer noticed Souma’s presence as the boy was staring at the alley. He was a mature-looking man, maybe in his thirties, with a stern yet seemingly kind face.

“Sir,” he said as he tapped Souma on the shoulder, “this is a crime scene. You’ll have to step back.”

“Ah, sorry, officer.” As he was told, Souma took a step back. “Got lost in thoughts, that’s all.”

“Officer Tanaka,” the officer introduced himself.

“Takahashi. Pleasure, I guess. I didn’t mean to disturb.”

“Don’t worry, we don’t punish people for innocent curiosity. Besides, this is certainly a case to be curious about. I’m sure you’ve heard.”

“Also heard he might have been a student at my school,” mentioned the boy.

“That’s possible. He did look around your age,” agreed the officer.

“May I ask: what was his name? That is, if he’s already been identified.”

“Information like this is usually limited to the relatives only…” Tanaka’s voice sounded as if he was quoting a police manual. “...but since you two probably were schoolmates at one point, I believe I could bend the rules just this once.”

Deep within, Souma took a breath of relief. Finally, some light would be shedded on this case.

“His name was Tsuda Taji, aged twenty in the moment of death.”

So it was that Taji after all. At least one part of this mystery has been solved.

“Heard his face was almost unrecognizable…”

“True. Pretty sure the sergeant won’t sleep well anytime soon. Whoever killed that kid, they must be an utter psycho. They pretty much tore his face apart and even decorated it with that… that freaky smile or something.”

Something clicked in Souma’s head. Not in a particularly good manner. In an instant, it seemed as if his face was completely drained of all blood. It didn’t escape the policeman’s notice.

“Hey, are you okay?” he asked. “You look like you’ve just seen a ghost.”

“What… did you just say?”


“His face. What was on it?”

“A… smile.”

“I-I gotta go. Now!”

“Huh? Wait a moment!”

Before Tanaka could even try to catch him, Souma was gone, running away from the crime scene with inhuman speed. The officer just stood there, completely bewildered with his abrupt change of behavior.

“Strange kid, this one…”

In the evening, Shizuka left the school and headed straight home. The sun was slowly beginning to set, coloring the clear sky in vibrant shades of pink and orange. The town wasn’t as lively at this point, though it was far from empty. The girl could still see and hear many people enjoying their free time. She wouldn’t consider herself a person eager to go out like this, perhaps because she had never had a reason to do so, and going out just for the sake of going out didn’t seem that tempting.

Shizuka made it to a little quieter street. Soon, it became apparent that this part of town was too quiet. She fixed her facemask, stopped mid-step and looked around. She listened. Indeed, it was way too quiet. Just as if every single sound in the vicinity had been muted. No footsteps, no cars on the street; it was only her and this dead, eerie silence, which began ringing in her ears.

And then, all of a sudden, she finally heard something: someone seemed to be walking the same way, and was closing down to her. Instinctively, Shizuka turned around to see who was approaching.

In front of the girl appeared a tall, dark-haired woman. She was clothed quite plainly, with nothing significantly outstanding in her apparel. Nothing save for a facemask on her face, concealing everything below her unnaturally pale eyes. Shizuka couldn’t define what exactly, but something about this woman was giving her the creeps.

Before the girl managed to walk away, the woman approached her quickly. Her moves were like those of a puppet: sudden, stiff, and somewhat fidgety. Shizuka had to change her mind: it wasn’t something off about her; it was everything.

“A-Am I pretty?” asked the woman, staring at the girl, her voice sounding as it uttered through gritted teeth.

“H-Huh? What?”

“Am I pretty? Am… Am I b-beautiful?” she repeated her question.

“Uh… I… I guess…?” Shizuka replied with much hesitation.

“Are you… u n s u r e ?” The woman’s voice became somewhat agitated and aggressive. As soon as she said that, she took another step closer. Something shone in her left hand, but Shizuka couldn’t see what exactly. Then, her right hand slowly reached towards her facemask. The long, unhealthily slender, fidgety fingers wrapped around the white fabric and in one decisive move tore it off her face. “Am… I… pretty… or not…?!”

It was at this moment that Shizuka stared at the woman, and her entire body froze in silent terror as she beheld what utter hideousness the stranger had been hiding under that single piece of fabric; what indescribable amount of horror one could be engulfed in by just a single smile. A single, bloodied, ripped smile from ear to ear…

The slit-mouthed woman stared down at the terrified girl with her eyes, paler and colder than ice, and the expression on her face shifted into an unnerving mixture of innocent mischief and utter, animalistic rage.

“Oooh… He-si-ta-ting…” she cackled slowly. “I h-hate hesi-tation!...”

Under her own mask, Shizuka opened her mouth, but made not a single sound. The ghastly woman clearly didn’t like it and quickly lunged herself at her, scissors gleaming in the fading sunlight. Only then did the girl manage to shake off just enough of this fear to only narrowly dodge her attack.

“Agh!!” she shrieked in pain as the assailant’s scissors cut through the fabric of her facemask.

“Y-You will be pretty too…” uttered the woman, showing her half-rotten teeth in a smile as she grabbed Shizuka by the neck and raised her scissors to make another cut. “Just… like…meee…!”

Then, all of a sudden, a rock appeared from nowhere and flew right at the slit-mouthed woman’s head. Something as unexpected as this immediately disoriented her for long enough to allow Shizuka to force her hand open and fall on the ground; she was unable to flee, though, paralyzed by fear and pain.


“Come at me, slit-face!” Shizuka then heard an oddly familiar, now surprisingly aggressive voice. “It’s me you want!”

Out of a nearby alley walked a gaunt, hooded figure, whose hand was clutched on something long. Upon a closer look, Shizuka noticed a familiar dark eye, filled with unfamiliar bloodlust.

“T-Takahashi...san?!” gasped the girl.

“Y-You…?” hissed the woman.

Roaring like a beast, Takahashi Souma charged at the assailant, who in turn raised her scissors in front of him. This didn’t faze him at all as he was too blinded with this irrational rage. As his body slammed against her and sent her on the nearest wall, he swung a thin metal pipe right over her head.

A disgusting crackling sound echoed throughout the street. The slit-faced woman, dark blood coming out of her enlarged mouth, eyes, and the skull fracture, collapsed. Her smile, though, didn’t seem any less scary; if anything, it was even more terrifying to behold, with the crimson slowly seeping through her lips and scars, just as though she were a predator who had just satisfied its hunger.

Staring at the body and breathing heavily, Souma dropped the bloodied pipe and turned to Shizuka, who had been observing this short yet truly gruesome assault all this time. The girl was doing her best holding onto her grievous wound and trying not to cry out in excruciating pain; this would only make the matters worse. Through tears of pain and drops of blood, she barely managed to give Souma a thin smile before it immediately disappeared as she looked lower, at his shirt.

“S-Souma!” she uttered in terror.

“Huh…?” The boy looked down, and here it was: a crimson flower slowly growing on his stomach. “Oh shit…”

Souma collapsed on the ground, right before the girl, groaning and desperately trying to press onto his wound as much as Shizuka was pressing onto hers. It was at this moment that the girl, upon crawling closer to her new friend and unexpected savior, managed to find a certain gruesome detail of his being, carved right in front of her…

Then, the sirens blared.

Officer Tanaka returned to the station. This was one wild day. In the morning, they had gathered remains of a murder victim, and in the evening, they took two local students to the hospital. How they got these injuries was beyond him and everyone else; clearly it couldn’t have been a fight between just them. There was no one else in the scene save for those two, blood all over the place, just like the last time… and a strange human-like shape imprinted on the nearby wall. To whom this shape belonged, no one had any idea.

What they did recover, however, was a pair of bloodied scissors on the ground. They were so sharp, one of the investigators cut his fingers on them, trying to pick them up. Could it be those kids had somehow relieved the mysterious murderer of their tool of mutilation?

As Tanaka sank into the armchair in his office and stared at the photographs displayed on his computer screen. Pictures taken by the police crew on the crime scenes from both the morning and the evening. Truly a hideous sight. They had also taken one photo of the kids’ injuries. The girl would have to deal with one nasty scar on her face once back on her feet, and the boy… that Takahashi, whom he had met before. There was something strange about him, but Tanaka couldn’t tell what exactly evoked this feeling within him.

There was one thing for certain, however: with the murderer’s weapon analyzed, they should identify and deal with them quickly…

“Officer Tanaka?” a younger policeman approached him, holding a clipboard with some files.

“Hm?” Tanaka only glanced at the young man as he was just about to take a sip of his green tea.

“We’ve taken the fingerprints off those scissors. You told me to tell you as soon as we get any results, remember?”

“Ah, right.” He straightened up in his seat. “So? What do we have?”

“All I can say about this is… odd,” said the young officer as he handed him the files. “Turns out there has already been a similar case, roughly twenty years ago, and the fingerprints from our scissors match to those the police had found back then.”

As Tanaka began turning the pages, the policeman continued:

“The files about this case are incomplete for some reason, but as far as we know, these fingerprints belong to a woman that mutilated and brutally killed her husband after he had fixed a similar grin on her face. A revenge with particular cruelty. She allegedly commited suicide soon after… Unfortunately, there was a fire a few years ago, as you may know, and all that remains of that case is just these papers I gave you.”

“This is ridiculous…”

“Ku… ku… ku…”

“Huh?!” Tanaka suddenly started up and looked around. “What was that?”

“What was what, sir?” asked the confused officer.

After a while, the older officer sat back down and took a sip of the tea.

“Nevermind. Thought I heard something. Must be all this stress… Alright, I’ll read these in a bit. Right now, I need some rest.”

“I’ll be right here if you need me.”

As Tanaka was alone again, he started reading the case files. They were burned in several places, and some of the valuable content was missing. He couldn’t even read the name of the victim and the culprit. All he could make out of this was the overall description of the investigation, as well as a few gruesome photos. One of them depicted the woman, post-suicide, with a fatal wound all across her throat. There was absolute insanity in those dead, wide-open pale eyes of hers, and the bloody smile seemed unnervingly genuine. It was just as if she wanted to ask:

“ I pretty?”


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