The Horoscope

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Chapter 14 The Cycle of Revenge

Once More, morning came as a shock, starting with a never-ending beep from the man's watch. At first, neither father nor son stirred. Finally, a groan came from the former. Nori followed up by reaching a hand to his pillow and smashing it over the noise. Now calm again, he went back to sleep. Saburou woke, however, having just been beat by a pillow. He slid out from beneath the boy and turned off the alarm.

For the first time, they got it right. Both were dressed in appropriate attire, fed, and well groomed with everything they would need for the day as they ran out the apartment door on time. Then, Nori remembered they had forgotten snacks. They took a quick detour, to a vending machine, for some crackers—nothing too sugary—and still made it to the school before the bell rang. Nori rushed in without his father, changed into his school shoes, and collapsed in his chair. On time!

"Good job," Masami congratulated, setting himself at the desk beside Nori. "You conformed to the rest of us at last. Welcome to the boring life of Nikan Primary School."

"It's all still interesting to me," Nori commented in return.

"Oh yeah, small town boy," Masami reminded a little mockingly. "You know, you have something of mine."

Recalling the book to mind, the younger reached into his backpack. "Mm-hmm. Carli-san let me use it."

Masami looked over the returned book and frowned. "Can you even read this? You can hardly write your name."

"Can too!" Nori insisted, grabbing right away a pencil to show proof. After struggling to retrace the lines of kanji his father had scribbled so quickly, he crumpled the page and gave up. "It isn't my fault!"

All things considered, the celebrity leaned back in the chair, flipping open a pair of sunglasses to pull them on for effect. He decided, "As much as I don't like Carli-san constantly looking over my shoulder, what you need is a nanny."

"A nanny?" He repeated, unsure why.

"Or else, you'll end up missing out on a lot of stuff you need parents for." The older one spoke from his own experience.

"I do have parents!"

"I know," Masami simply stated, the two words implying a whole bunch more understanding than he was ready to reveal. The teacher then made her way over, ushering the young celebrity back to the designated seat for him, and 'without the sunglasses.' Before complying to her request, he finished, "You'll see. Trust me."

"Good morning Kyoko-kun," Matsui-sensei greeted cheerfully, taking the space Masami had left.

"Ohayo Sensei," Nori replied.

"How are you adjusting to the new school?" She asked.

Unsure of what exactly she was looking for, the young boy had to be prompted several times for specifics. Had he made any friends? Could he find his way around? Had he yet finished the homework from the first day? The answer to that question was an embarrassed no. He didn't mention that he expected it would never get finished.

"And what about your name? Can you write Kyoko, Nori?"

He tapped on the example his dad had given him the day before. "Still practicing," was all he said.

Matsui-sensei smiled knowingly at the sloppy kanji. There did seem to be a gradual improvement in the father, so she decided to let it slide a little. She redrew him another copy, more clearly, and with numbers to order the steps. As the bell was about to ring, she told the boy to keep practicing and made her was back to the front of the classroom. Another day began.

"Yamada-san," the boss addressed the 'delinquent youth,' causing the man to straighten up real quick to avoid a scolding during the customary morning meeting. It came anyways, but not on what he expected. "Officer Tashi-san informed me that you and Tamura-san worked the scene of a car accident Monday morning on the Setagaya Dori bridge."

"Yes," Yamada agreed.

"We received a call from him this morning explaining how another car resurfaced in the river under the bridge with paint transfer the color of the first man's car. He would like you and Tamura-san to look into a connection, but I am shocked that neither of you examined the casew ell enough to find such a big piece of the puzzle."

Yamada sat in silence. He had been a bit negligent. If he had reviewed traffic cameras to see the manner in which the man drove, certainly he would have witnessed the other accident—provided the new discovery was as accurate as it seemed it likely was. So the officer's impression that the case was more complicated than at first glance turned out to be true. He would have his work cut out for him for the day.

"I'll get right on that," he promised, trying to sound agreeable. He probably was. After all, they had found a dead person who would gain him access to the morgue.

Once that had been covered, the boss asked for further updates. Unmocked for the time being by his coworker, Saburou awaited his turn to explain his discovery to the crew. Every single case was marked by the suspects's common astrological sign and the mention of reading the newspaper. All were shocked to hear it was not mere coincidence when Saburou read to them the actual horoscope printed in Japan Shimbun.

"Then they are all related," Suzume muttered thoughtfully.

Of course, he was then given the responsibility to track down the cause of the string of crimes while everyone else continued to work on the individual cases. After all, having read it in the newspaper did not make them any less accountable for what they did. So he headed out with Kuro to meet the workers at Japan Shimbun headquarters.

The two sat at a disk facing Ikeda, Hayata, the head editor for the journal. He hadn't really taken them seriously when they first arrived. Now, however, with the last page of the entertainment section blaring loudly in his face, They are not joking, a sobering look came over him. Once he was certain of what he was reading, he made his way to a file cabinet and pulled a version of the rough draft he had approved.

Many times shrunk to fill less pages, it required a magnifying glass to examine the article adequately. Silence continued to fill the air. He wasn't about to let any slight bit of information slip. Working in the press had perfected his skill of keeping his mouth shut. Without ever telling them if the original contained the same message or not, he set both papers down decidedly.

"We'll have our people get on this right away," he assured vaguely, with no intention to help.

"Unfortunately," Saburou disagreed, "all that 'your people' can do is write an article apologizing for the mistake. This is a series of murders that currently all point back to you. That makes you an accessory to all of them. If you have any evidence to show this is not your fault, you ought to be showing it to us."

Turning his head to the side with an intrigued curiosity, the editor replied, "Currently, it's more likely that you two of the ones with a conspiracy. A single example you brought me. How do I know it isn't just yours?"

The two investigators glanced at each other with the same thought. They were law enforcement, not just some random people who came in off the street. Even more, their hands were much too full of crimes to be pulling pranks. Ikeda had clearly covered too many con stories in his career.

He continued, taking his own concern very seriously, "If you'll excuse me, I am going to find another copy of the Sunday paper. You understand why I'd ask you two to wait in the hallway while I am away from my office."

With that, the two were moving backwards in their progress with the man. The trouble probably came from the deep rooted animosity between press and law enforcement. Whenever one needed information from the other, no one would say a word. Minutes passed by in waiting for the editor to return. Saburou was leaned up against the door jam, and Kuro beside him by the water cooler.

The former remarked, "Ikeda-san's a little uncooperative, don't you say Kuro-san?"

"We may have to motivate him a little," the elder partner pointed out, "make him more afraid of what we can do than the bad press."

A secretary made her way over, offering both of them tea she had brewed for them. They each accepted, and as they prepared it to their taste, Ikeda appeared in the doorway. Finally, he invited them back into his officer. Before they could even sit down, however, he was already turning them away again.

"We truly appreciate your taking the time to inform us of this issue. It is a terrible misunderstanding. I can assure you that it will be handled promptly."

Still, the editor showed no need to share, so Kuro tried adding his thoughts, "We have a warrant to question everyone in this office. You might be surprised by what other things we can dig up talking to all of them. As it stands, Japan Shimbun is already going to be everyone else's front page news."

Ikeda leaned forward, mostly amused by the demands of his visitors, looking like he would humor them with some secret just so they'd think they were getting to him. "Japan Shimbun does not endorse homicide."

"Are you implying, then, that your paper is not secure? That anyone from outside could have come in and altered the horoscope without your knowing?" Kuro accused.

Standing to his feet and removing his glasses, the editor slammed the newspaper down on his desk for effed. "You see how large this is? Do you think that I actually supervise every minor change that gets made on each page? I have editors below me, and section editors below them. When the draft came into my offics, there were 3 changes that needed to be made: a final source of the sports page, resizing a picture and an article in the news section. Entertainment was approved and complete. There was no reason anyone should have accessed that page."

"But they did," Saburou reminded. "And if you don't allow us to find out who, you will be the one taking the blame."

"That would be quite an interesting headline: Japan Shimbun's lead editor arrested for obstruction of justice."

Ikeda made no response, reaching over to his phone to page his secretary. "Please send Horone-sensei up from downstairs," he ordered through the speaker. Then, he turned his attention back to the investigators. "You'll have to excuse my reluctance."

It wasn't long before Horone entered the room, introduced as, "I would like you two to meet my lawyer Horone-sensei. Would you leave us alone to discuss for a while?"

Saburou and Kuro once more found themselves in the hallway waiting. After the boredom became too much to bear, the younger started up on unrelated conversation, "Say Kuro-san, if you had kids, how would you take care of them after school, working this crazy shift?"

As he was larger than his coworker, Kuro looked down at Saburou with disappointment and surprise. "If I had kids?" He repeated the first few words, clearly indicating therein was the source of his disapproval.

"You do?" The former realized he'd made a terrible mistake.

"Saburou-san, we've been friends for three years now."

"I just never," he began to justify himself but decided rather to simply apologize. "Gome."

Their exchange was hushed then when the secretary kindly served them again. This time, she brought a platter of sweet crackers. Having thanked her, both men shared the same thought. Even though they had hoped to get the approval of the lead editor before questioning the staff, their warrant permitted them to proceed. In waiting, they might as well get started.

"Can you think of anyone who might be considered an enemy of the journal?" Kuro asked her politely. "Maybe someone who would have a reason to humiliate or threaten the company?"

She thought quietly for a moment, running a list through her mid of who might be a disgruntled employee.

"It doesn't have to be someone who works here," Saburou added. "Even someone on the outside that the paper has upset recently."

"Oh, now the list is much longer," she brought out good-natured, as always. "Working in the press, someone is always upset by something we write. I know; I am always answering their phone calls."

"Have there been any of particular interest recently?"

"Not specifically, no," the lady assured. "If someone had sounded serious about going through with something, I would have been sure to tell Ikeda-san."

Just when it seemed that they would end at an impasse, a forth person joined them in the entrance to the boss' office. He informed the secretary that he had been pages in. Then, just before he walked in to see the editor, the crime investigators caught his attention.

Noticing his momentary curiosity, she explained, "They were just asking me if I could think of anyone who might be particularly upset at the newspaper currently."

"Hmm, one person more than others," he began to ponder. "News is running an article on Kento-jukeisha's release from prison. I suppose that would have any newspaper on edge this week."

"Kento-jukeisha," Saburou muttered to himself, trying to make note of the name he did not recognzie.

"What did you get paged in about?" The lady asked pleasantly.

"Something about working late Saturday," was all he knew.

The door to the office burst open, and the lawyer showed his crooked face in the opening. Addressing the two investigators, he stated, "You have no place speaking to anyone without their legal representative. We will determine if the source is within this company and inform you of the results." Now finished scolding the two men, he ushered the worker into the office and slammed the door shut behind them.

A lawyer being the only thing that could at times trump the warrant, Saburou and Kuro chose to preserve the little peace between press and law by retreating. The would have to return with a different approach the next time.

On the way to the car, Saburou wondered, "Who is Kento-jukeisha?"

"An evil villain from your pre-superhero years," Kuro answered, teasing his inferior. "He was on the news, in every paper every day. Probably when you were busy drunk in college. He got paroled Saturday. It seems strangely coincidental."

"I wouldn't say as much," Saburou countered in doubt, "unless there's some connection."

"Ah, but there is," came the assurance from the old timer. They had arrived at his car and now had to postpone the explanation until they had both climbed in from opposite sides. "Kento-jukeisha was a newspaper photographer who sold his pictures to several of Tokyo's largest journals. He turned out to be a Superman sort of character, hiding his involvement in some of the events he photographed—namely, the political ones. Two high ranking officials committed suicide. Another was fired. Some were caught in drug dealings of smuggling of illegal imports. After their reputations were ruined, all were found to be completely innocent."

"So Kento-jukeisha staged all the accusations," Saburou deduced. "But why?"

"All of the politicians had taken the same position on something or other that personally mattered to him. He wanted the world to see how those men were ruining lives. In the end, all the papers misquoted him, totally out of context, and distorted his words to mock him. The very people who enabled his revenge, took away the very meaning of it."

A moment passed as Saburou filed all of that away. Then, he responded, "How much do you want to bet Suzume-san's reaction to this news will be: 'In human nature, revenge is a cycle. A personality who seeks it once will find it hard to stop'?" He even tried to match her voice.

Kuro laughed. "I think your general analysis is correct, Saburou-san, but you sound more like a fortune cookie."

Of course, there was an embarrassment that resulted from being told that, but it didn't last long, followed by Kuro's mentioning, "While we're over here, I have an appointment with another lying, uncooperative CEO. Mind if I stop by?"

"Sounds like fun," the younger replied sarcastically.

Lunch time came as a surprise for the young Nori for whom everything was an unexpected and delightful gift. He was not to make his way to the cafeteria with the other students of his class, however. Halted in the hallway by a thick fabric thrown over his head, it went unnoticed that someone snatched him away. A cold gap was left in the line of first graders.

A terrifed Kyoko, Nori was dumped onto a cold metal chair, which his stiff arms were immediately restrained to with plastic wire ties. Thoughts rushed through his mind of ransoms, Russian spies, and interrogations. He knew how to handle this; he could do it! The first glimpse of light in what seemed like an eternity was a flashlight pointed straight at his face as they ripped the cloth off him.

"I won't tell you a thing," he promised as quickly as possible. Then, he tried to blink away the brightness directed towards him.

A large, shadowy figure in the background had only to crack his knuckles, and Nori's determination crumbled. There was only one thing he could think of that he had been keeping a secret. "My real name is Shimizu, Takeshi," he announced, frightened by their presence.

"Yes? Continue." The unnerving voice came from the direction of a second person.

"Chichi is a police officer," Nori rambled on. "Maybe you should talk to him. I don't know what you want."

"Oh, I believe you do, Takeshi-kun," assured the deep voice.

Nervous, Nori kicked at the floor beneath his shoes as an involuntary shiver ran from his spine through to his fingertips. What could they want to know from him anyhow? Everything he knew piled into his mind at once, and he struggled to filter out what an adult would be interested in. What was worth the white light stinging his eyes?

"I do like Chiyo-chan," the kid added hopefully. "I haven't done any homework in 3 weeks. Konatoya-kun likes to cook, and his bodyguard laughs in his nose."

The shadowy figure snorted in amusement and then realized he too had the characteristic.

Nori just kept on going. "One day Oji-san was driving in Yuni, and he hit an ugly old guy trying to catch a ride beside the road. My friend and I were in the backseat when we took him to a doctor. He disappeared. The police said it was because he was only pretending to be hurt because he wanted a ride to the city. Are you looking for him? Because I remember what he looked like."

"No good," the man responded, but he had switched back to a normal sounding voice. He turned off the flashlight, revealing that the dimly lit room was a school cleaning supply closet. Masami's two bodyguards stood in the background, and the elder one was speaking. "This is not an acceptable way to respond in the face of pressure. He is not worthy of Konatoya-kun's friendship."

Having quickly taken in all the true details of his surroundings and deciding upon the non-serious nature of the abduction, Nori had no troubles demanding, "What do you mean by that?"

"Let's suppose for a minute that you two remain acquaintances. Certainly, the press will trap you again. If you tell them everything that's on your mind—like you just did—they'll pick your bones dry until our families are no more. Do you understand?"

"What should I say then?" The boy inquired, hoping to soon know the right answer.

"Nothing," was the short reply.

"I tried," Nori whispered, still slightly freaked out by the idea of his bones being picked. It sounded painful.

Flipping back on the light, Nora warned, "Don't be afraid of their lights Kyoko-kun. Don't be afraid of feeling trapped. It's a harmless illusion they create. Fear only Atsushi-san." He gestured the light over to his grim looking companion before turning it off. "And say nothing unless Kaoru-san has prepared something for you."

"Hai,' Nori agreed, certain he would succeed. "I'll do that."

"I doubt it," the guard countered, "but at least now you've been warned."

Nori could see Atsushi coming toward him with the heavy cloth to cover him once more, but he had no chance to protest. Before he could so much as gasp, he was thrown over the bodyguard's shoulder and hefted away from the closet. Next thing he knew, the boy was seated at a table, in the lunchroom, across from the green-haired boy, with a tray of food in front of him.

"Took you long enough," the celebrity child complained.

Blinking, Nori cocked his head in confusion.

"I've almost completely finished eating. Where were you?"

"A closet...somewhere." The answer showed that the boy was still bewildered by the events.

"Did you get lost?" Masami teased.

After insisting that wasn't the case, Nori proceeded to tell him everything that had happened, ebelleshing the details that frightened him. Who wouldn't, right? He had to justify why he had been scared. Otherwise, he would just be a scaredy-cat.

Masami chuckled slightly until the end when he said, "Well it's a good thing they didn't forbid you from talking to me."

That had totally shocked Nori. Not only did it imply that Masami had been fully aware of the miniature kidnapping, but it was also the first and only time he had shown an attachment to their relationship. A good thing,replayed through the boy's mind. Had he really heard that right?

"Do you really think so?" He couldn't help but ask, full of hope.

"Akiko-chan says she likes you. She thinks I should keep you...as long as I fix you first." The celebrity child was back to himself, acting like there was something fundamentally wrong with the less fortunate one of the duo.

"Akiko-chan?" Nori repeated, still confused. "But she wasn't even—"

"We talk," Masami interrupted to explain. It was the same exact answer Akiko had given the day before. Nori spotted the girl in question across the room. If they were so close, why did he not see them together at school? He couldn't figure it out.

A couple of officers met Kuro at the address of the dead golfer's putting companion. They had a bone to pick with him, and Kyoko just tagged along for the ride. It was always enjoyable trying to pry the truth from rich people. Standing in the front garden of the mansion brought such sarcasm to all four of their minds. One thing all rich people hated, more than anything else, was to make a negetive statement about themselves.

Without a moment of hesitation, the man's first words were, "Oh, officers, I was just on my way out to a business meeting, otherwise I would stay to answer any of your questions. I'm not sure how helpful I would be, though, seeing as I left before Konami-san actually died." He was still tying on his tie as if it had been a last second addition to his ensemble in hopes of convincing his visitors he was leaving shortly.

Kuro responded, "It's not difficult to assume that you were lying about that, since—as we just recently discovered—you already falsely told us Konami-san's caddy was there, which he wasn't. Not only is that against the law, but it also makes you suspicious enough to bring in for questioning."

A nod was sent to the two officers, and they hastened to cuff the suspect.

As he was led off to their car, Kuro muttered to his partner, intending to receive some help, "Only problem now is that Yamada-san recorded having seen his complete set of clubs. None were missing."

"Let's take a closer look," Saburou offered. They both turned to the suspect that he may lead them to the golf equipment. Reluctantly, he did, and the pair of investigators took their time examining every last minute detail. It didn't seem that Yamada had overlooked anything, however. All 14 clubs were present and accounted for. They were even all of the same brand and apparently equal usage. That meant he hadn't replaced one recently.

Out of curiosity, Saburou chose one at random. Pulling it from its protective case, he gave it a practice swing. He didn't golf much. Still he could tell something wasn't quite right with the club, so he tried again. That time he easily recognized the problem.

Tossing the club to his partner, Saburou informed, "This is a girl's club. It's too light."

Both glanced to the suspect for an explanation, Kuro adding, "Are these your daughter's?"

Refusing to admit to it, the man simply gritted his teeth and stared them down. Obviously, he was unable to excuse himself in anyway.

"Suit yourself," Kuro concluded, "we found a piece of a custom glove you purchased inside the victim's head. We can find your clubs later. What we have now is enough. Though I still wonder why you hung around long enough to kill the receptionist."

The man answered, "When I read the paper that morning, it said I wouldn't be caught." Now he realized that was false. "Someone saw me."

It made perfect sense...to the already backwards thinking of a frantic man who had just become a murderer. If someone saw any bit of what happened, they became a threat to his escape. Yet it still bothered Saburou as they all returned to the driveway with the killer in custody. He had said 'someone' saw him. He never said she did.

Either way, he had been the murderer, so without further protest the investigator climbed into the passenger seat of his friend's car. The engine started, lighting up the dashboard panel, including the clock. How does afternoon always sneak up so quickly? Saburou asked himself to the blatant evidence that he needed to think of something to do with his kid.

He would feel guilty using work time and resources to go pick the boy up. Even more, he didn't want Nori hanging around all that death and those criminals. But he wasn't going to make the same mistake again: leaving him there. Kuro put the car in gear and began to drive away. There was always his last resort, to call his older brother. It seemed that would be the only option, at least until he got himself organized.

"Time to get Kyoko-kun," Kuro mentioned, surprising the father. "We'll be 'driving by' his school on the way to the office. Where is it?" He sent an encouraging smile to Saburou that lasted only a moment. Being new at this whole job, the younger had obviously been needing to know which answer was the right one to choose. Based on the shocked look on his face, Saburou would not have come to that conclusion on his own.

Several minutes later, they pulled onto the street where Nikan Primary School was located. They were a few minutes early, and none of the kids had come out yet. Kuro put the car in park and looked to his friend who still seemed uncomfortable. He decided he ought to answer a question from hours before.

"My wife and I have a daughter and twin boys. It's agreed that I make sure they get on their way to school and she watches the three afterwards," he explained. "But you have to find what works for you. And don't be afraid to tell Kyoko-kun what you do. He probably thinks it's cool."

Then, they waited for Nori to come out from school.

The bell rang, and instantly the whole room was filled with the rustle of approximately 30 six and seven year old children anxious to leave. As soon as they were dismissed, there was a mass stampede for the door equaling the same event occurring in every room throughout the building. Nori hurried to catch up with Masami, presumably just to say bye for the day.

Without really even looking over at his "friend,' the famous boy suggested, "How much are you willing to bet if you dad's here to get you or not?"

Hardly discouraged, Nori pondered whether or not he would bet on that and, even more importantly, if he had something to lay on the table. Masami just continued, "How about...if he is here, you'll hang out at my place Friday after school, but if not." He pretended like he stopped to think but ended up turning it into a joke. "You'll spend today at my house because no one else will take you home."

"I don't want your guards to put me in anymore closets," was the invited guest's only protest to going over either day. He didn't particularly enjoy the company of the green haired boy, but it beat being alone.

As soon as they stepped outside, Nori spotted Takanawa across the way with some friends. He waved cheerfully, but for some reason she ignored it. Maybe she didn't see, he deceived himself while the group of girls left school grounds to walk home. It was still weird, though, the way his two friends treated each other.

The beep of a horn caught both boys' attention, and they turned toward the sound. Sitting in the car from which the sound came, Nori could make out his father there, waving beside some other guy.

"See you tomorrow," Nori called in farewell as he ran off toward the vehicle.

Masami was visibly torn three ways as the younger boy left. Only a small part of him cared about the disappointment of losing the bet. A slightly more friendly side smiled with the pleasure of seeing the boy that he decided to help have an improved condition of life, his dad finally pulling himself together and all. The rest of the celebrity, however, was far to jealous to let either of the former show. He picked up a small stone and threw it at the vacant space left when the threesome drove away. He wished his parents were like Nori's dad.

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