The Horoscope

By Xaitra All Rights Reserved ©

Mystery

Chapter 18 Two Days

Nakamura was a strong man. Difficult to get under his skin, it was hard to make him talk or admit to anything. Immediately after lunch, it was Tashi's job to do so. He was prepared, but was he up to the challenge? Could he make the soldier confess? Stepping into the room, he was ready to give it a whirl.

"Sorry about the wait," the officer began, taking a seat at the same table as before. "You could have helped us make it go quicker."

He now was wearing a jumpsuit accessorized with handcuffs, as he was being held for questioning. The stern look on his face never changed—not at the lengthy three days he'd spent in custody, not at seeing the officer he had exchanged stories with, not at the implicative pleasantry beginning their next conversation. Of course, conversation required speaking speaking on both parts. Nakamura was a statue.

"They released the other suspect this morning," Tashi continued, hoping to get a reaction. "His lawyer arranged it for him, but I suppose they were going to let him go anyways."

Arms crossed over his chest, Nakamura did not move an inch, even for that.

"Obviously, he wasn't the one who did it," Tashi could still get no reaction. "You did."

Raising his eyebrows, the soldier glanced to the man talking in silent disbelief. There was no way.

At that point, Tashi referred to the file he had brought in. "They know how you did it, the trick you used." He slid a piece across the table for Nakamura to see. It contained the math work which unraveled the man's alibi. "They say you turned the heat up on your wife, literally. By raising the room temperature, you delayed the appearance of the time of death, so you could escape suspicion. I think that almost fits with the description of your theoretic murder plan. What do you think?"

Finally, he spoke. "Whoever did that had a better plan than mine."

"Why do you say that?" At times, the officer found it a challenge to remain calm, pretending to be a friend of the suspect. He knew forceful interrogations would get him nowhere with the man, but this week, patience was running thin. He struggled to remain in character.

"Eventually you would realize the gas line was cut. There is no way at all to prove the temperature was raised."

"You're right," Tashi agreed. "No proof exists. Not on heating bills, not on cameras, nowhere in the apartment." At that, the officer took a short pause, giving the man one more chance to come clean.

"On the other hand, there is this," he continued, passing over one more picture. It was nothing more than a photo of a house plant. "What do you remember about it?"

Glancing for a moment at the potted house plant with small, brightly colored blooms, Nakamura frowned and replied, "Shinju liked the way it looked foreign. She took great care to keep it perfect." He was completely unaware of what had been his one mistake.

Tashi explained what had been told him in the lab, "Masdevallias are a cold-weather variety of orchids. In temperatures too warm, do you know what happens? The flowers fall off." The officer showed Nakamura one last photo. "This picture was taken the day after the crime. Notice most of the flowers have either died or fallen off. Nothing but 90 degree temperatures can have that effect in a single day. But who raises the heat that high, if not to hide a time of death? You no longer have an alibi, Nakamura-san. Would you like to change your statement?"

For the first time that soldier expression of his broke. Surprise, fear, and disappointment shown through in the slightest. The man slumped a tad in his chair and let the smallest sigh escape his lips. Betrayed by a flower? He felt that it had been Shinju's soul itself haunting him, calling for the police to aid her. Even in her death, she betrayed him.

Proudly the soldier raised his head, ready to finally let her go. "I did it."

The next man who found himself being questioned by the team was not nearly so reserved in his speech. Wtanabe, Dai, in fact, did not hold back from speaking at all. A tall man with wide shoulders and a thick neck, he marched into the office in his suit and tie. Sickening confidence exuded him and alerted all of the workers' salesperson radar. He was so certain nothing could happen to him.

"Arigatou, Babe," he stated gratefully to Tamura who happened to exit the building as he entered and held the door. She wrinkled her nose and continued on her way off to a different case just as he was arriving at his destination.

Kyoko met him in the lobby near the entrance and shook his hand briefly. "Thank you for coming in on such short notice."

"Not a problem, Officer," the man replied with an unusual, superficial respect. It bordered on flattery. "I've been meaning to stop by the station for a while."

"You have?" The investigator must have looked as bewildered as a child in a candy shop as he tried to decide what Watanabe had meant. All of the possible reasons ran through his mind, leaving his expression blank, with no appearance of intelligent life. Why had he been wanting to come to the police station? Did he know something worth sharing?

"Yes," he agreed, slapping a briefcase onto the table and clicking it open. "There's a few products I think the department might be interested in."

Kyoko, almost choking on the water he was drinking, interrupted the man's attempt at a sale, "Watanabe-san, you do realize you have come here to be questioned in the matter of a crime. If you have something to sell, you should refrain until another time, or at least after we have finished with the current topic."

Only a slight bit of frustration which was quickly hidden showed through before Wtanabe closed his case again. "Which is, Officer?"

"I mentioned it when I called you this morning," Saburou began, wondering what right the other had to be frustrated at that time.

He did not get the chance to repeat their purpose that afternoon, however, as the man broke in, "Speaking of which, you ought to use a device to block your phone number on caller ID's. It would be for your own protection of course, and that of your family. You do realize at this point it is very simple for just about anyone with bad intentions to find your information?"

"I might say the same of you, Watanabe-san," Saburou pointed out. "I had no trouble finding your number that I might ask you about an old friend by the name of Kento. I wonder if he happened to find your number as well."

"Who? That ol' man," Watanabe commented, seeming reminiscent. "After so many years, he better have moved on to a new group of companions. I did. Unless he's organizing a college reunion, or something. How many years has it been?" He paused for a moment. "No, Officer, that doesn't sound like something Kento would do."

"Hmm, I don't think he would call you about a school party either, under these conditions," Saburou agreed. "Whatever his reasons, though, has he contacted you at all?"

"I should say not, Officer!" The man answered. "And with my reputation, I wouldn't dare risk lodging him right out of prison, either. What respectable salesperson has dealings with criminals?"

Some people may not have been attentive enough to remark the unlikely coincidence, but the investigator had. Raising his eyebrows slightly, he was prepared to ask how Watanabe had known the call was about lodging if he had never been in contact. This was seeming suspicious at the very least.

"Pardon me, Officer," the man excused, catching the surprised expression on Saburou's face. "It is only logical to suppose that is what he would be calling about right after being released from prison. If you're interested in his whereabouts, Hayoshi, Tobe did call me and mention he had been contacted by Kento. I'm sure you've made an effort to look up his number as well."

"Let's try to focus on you for the time being, and leave the other people to me," Kyoko suggested, trying to center him on the right topic. "What was your relationship with Kento-san back in university?"

"Not much connected us besides the journal," Watanabe responded shortly.

"What was your role in the newspaper staff?" The questioning continued.

"I convinced people to read it and sold ads, publicity," the man replied. "Kento liked to pretend they didn't need me. I always had to remind him that, without me, they would have no funding for any of their projects."

"Generally, who's idea were the projects?"

"Mine, of course," Watanabe asserted, "when they weren't the editor's. Kento had opinions and motivation for our cause, but no sense at all. The rest just did what they were told."

With that, Saburou's earlier suspicion was given further merit. Kento could not have done the things he did unassisted. Without turning his attention to the past case of the slandered politicians, Saburou made a mental note—that this man had most likely been involved—for whatever time he could come back to investigate it as well. It led him also to one more question.

"Have you, at any time, contacted Kento-san since the day he was imprisoned?" Kyoko asked, figuring he had gone back far enough to encompass any current plans. The switch in his question accounted for Watanabe's ambitious role in the group, but the clear and negative response bashed that theory. He could only hope he would have more success with Hayoshi.

Unfortunately, Yamada was just pulling out of his interview in Oume when Saburou left the office to seek out Hayoshi. All day he had spent getting out there again, talking to an elderly lady and her nurses. It was all for a suspect who everyone claimed was as sweet as could be. No one had a clue where he had run off to or any way of contacting him. He added, And I still have a three hour drive home.

Saburou, thankfully, had a path not nearly as long as his coworker's. In fact, for convenience purposes, he took the train right over to the business district. The building where the programmer worked was only a few blocks from the newspaper headquarters.

The two met in a spare conference room. He did not seem surprised in the least that the police were coming to see him. Kyoko, on the other hand, was quite shocked when Hayoshi simply confirmed he had been housing their mutual acquaintance, Kento.

"Yep, he stopped by my work on his way out of the slammer," Hayoshi supplied, a little nerdy tinge in his use of the slang term. "He needed a place to stay temporarily. I'm currently staying in a hotel because some pipes burst in my house. Everything's turned off for the repairs, but I told him he could crash there if he helped me with the carpet."

That hadn't even required any prodding. Pushing his luck, Saburou thanked him and asked further, "May I have the address?"

Hayoshi passed it over and inquired, "What are you after him for already? What could he seriously have planned in less than one week?"

"Do you read the newspaper, Hayoshi-san?" Saburou demanded.

"Yes, online," the young man answered promptly. After some thought, he concluded, "Oh you mean that one horoscope. Do you think he did that?"

"You saw it then?" The investigator was curious.

"Of course I did. My boss reads it to the whole crew every morning as research for a new game we're making. I can't believe that people actually believe that crap."

"Apparently, they do," Saburou affirmed. He could assume from the man's reaction that he knew nothing of the plan. Neither did he have any evidence to suspect him on, other than a friendly gesture to a potential criminal. Saburou was not going to close his mind to the possibility, though. At least, now he knew where to find Hayoshi if any new evidence presented itself. Closing up the short conversation, Kyoko headed out on foot for Nikan Primary School.

Nori marveled at his father upon exiting the school for the rest of the day. He didn't bring his car? There was always something new. The boy was loving all the surprises, and yet somehow this felt more familiar. Bounding over with eternal excitement, Nori greeted his father and then waved goodbye to Takanawa, who was walking home with her blond friend. The overly hyper girl waved back this time, giving Nori a wink. He frowned; he couldn't figure her out.

"I see you're making some friends already, Nori-kun," Saburou mentioned, having spotted the interaction.

"Yup," the boy agreed, instantly chipper again. "Takanawa-kun, and Masami-kun."

The father tried to make a mental note of the two names, expecting to hear them again in the future, and started toward the right. It was time to meet the recommended girl who hopefully would be the solution to his current dilema. If everyday went the way today had gone, he wouldn't need her help, but then again, if everyday was like today, they would never accomplish anything.

Unexpectedly, Nori dared to try something new. Taking his father's hand in his much smaller grasp gave the man a start. Clingy and dependent, the thought frightened Saburou. Nori ignored that tension and marched on with pure contentedness. He was settling into this place, and his dad made him much happier than his mom ever had. What else could he want?

They passed by an ice cream stand. Rubber necking, Nori slowed to a stop hopefully. He could want that. Saburou noticed when the bond between the two pulled tight and chuckled at the boy. "Not this time, Nori-kun," he countered as he ruffled the fringey hair.

Seeming to understand with no problem, the boy ran to catch up to his father, who had continued, and inquired, "Oto-san, where are we going today?"

With that single question, the man realized they had directly returned home not a single day since Nori's arrival. Whether it be someone else's house or work, the apartment had become merely a place to sleep. Someday, going out will be the exception, he promised himself. It was a goal to aim for.

"We're just going to make one quick stop before we go home," Saburou assured. "I want you to meet someone."

Nori cocked his head. Meet someone? He felt like he had met enough people already. Who was this one going to be? To find out, the wait was not long. Shortly thereafter, they approached the music store Ran had mentioned. The store was full of teens of both genders, making the task harder. This was a common place for them to be after school. It was easy to tell. Saburou noticed right away, however, the name Issei printed on the colorful banner outside the door.

Assuming that meant her family owned the store, he asked for her at the counter. A twenty year old looked up from a jammed cash register, his hair tinged with a blue shine. He seemed like an average kid, with a hint of mischief subdued in his eyes since he knew to take his work seriously. Dad could still kick his butt if not.

"Oh yeah, she's in that aisle," he provided courteously, pointing to a slender girl in a navy blue uniform and black nail polish. "Ran, the man you were expecting is here to see you," the elder brother called to her, but it was no use. She had the store headphones pulled on, sampling a new album while she waited. Saburou cringed at her nail color as the brother repeated her name to get her attention unsuccessfully.

"Excuse me a moment," he stated to the visitors. Jumping over the counter rather than going around, he went over to the girl, lifted one of the speakers from her head, and shouted her name in her ear. Taken by surprise, she paused the music and pulled the headphones off, complaining harshly to the older sibling. He took it like he was used to her ways and informed her, "They're here to see you."

She smiled at her brother with embarrassed eyes and then turned to the father. Nori was now enthralled by a fish aquarium with a shy hermit crab. Even so, the introduction took place. Saburou was hesitant to entrust his son's care to someone with her appearance, but wasn't that just a bit prejudiced? Intelligence prevailed over instincts, and he convinced himself to continue with his prepared questions.

"Do you have any experience with kids?" He inquired.

Her answer was short and honest, "Not really."

The investigator made a note of that and continued, "Do you like kids?"

"Yeah, sure," she replied with almost no opinion on the matter.

He then asked her when she got off school in the afternoon and checked it against her planned route to Nikan Primary School and then his address. It matched perfectly for her to walk Nori home. As much as he didn't appreciate her, that was too convenient to let pass.

"Are you attentive?"

"Like what?" She was back to the two word answers. Maybe she was just a harmless teenager. For a moment, he wondered if Nori would eventually do the same.

"Will you pay attention?" Saburou clarified, specifying, "You won't let him get into things he shouldn't, leave the house without permission, or seriously injure himself?"

"No."

That being the extent of his questions, he called his son over to meet her too. "Nori-kun, this is Issei, Ran. I might have her watch you after school. What do you think of her?"

Nori seriously examined her from head to toe, front and back, twice. The flat, suede, knee-high boots she had slipped on after removing her school slippers said comfy and crazy. Her fingers were dirty, like the inside of an engine. The bow at her waist meant she wanted to be liked, whereas the long bangs meant she probably thought she wasn't. Her eyes had the same mischief as her brother's, but it looked like they needed to be turned back on.

Cocking his head to the side, he bit his thumb thoughtfully and asked a single question, "What is your favorite type of noodle?"

At first, Ran was surprised by the question. He was just a boy, though; she couldn't expect the question to have come from some deep-seeded intuition or anything. Figuring she owed his at least the truth, she wondered for a while on the topic. Rice noodles, spaghetti noodles...how could she even choose between all the different options? It didn't even really matter, between the crunchy ones or ramen, or anything. Then, she realized, he probably didn't want to know either. Something on his face told her the answer.

"I'm vegetarian," she responded, even if it wasn't the truth. It felt like a code.

Nori smiled. "She's cool."

"Vegetarian?" Saburou repeated curiously. "Do you not like mean, Nori-kun?"

Ignoring the question, Nori let out a roar and latched onto the brother's leg as he walked back to his counter. Suddenly, the boy was playing dinosaur. Had he had too much sugar, or was he just getting antsy? He seemed more distracted than normal. The brother pried the kid from his leg and grabbed a stack of CD's that needed stocked.

"Well, if he likes you—" The father left the rest of the sentence an implication. It was decided.

"So...what will you pay me?" Ran wondered. She couldn't take the chance that he would forget that part.

He gave his suggestion—a random price that brought her to her knees in laughter. "I expect at least minimum wage," the girl hinted to his unreasonably small offer. A quick calculation of the time after school for each day he had to work, a couple extra hours just in case, and the surplus expenses he would already be paying with the boy around brought him to a negative result. That easily all his money was gone, every month. It couldn't be!

If he tried to come home early some days and cut back...well somewhere, it might—maybe—work out okay. He offered her something lower, but similar to minimum wage. It wasn't an official job; she wouldn't pay taxes on it. It seemed reasonable to him. Ran thought on it for a while, the look on her face claiming she wouldn't budge on her previous statement. After a moment, though, she agreed, and they shook on the deal, while her brother chuckled in the background.

"When do I start?" Ran asked.

Hopeful, Saburou answered, "Tomorrow."

Attention caught by that word, Nori looked up curiously from a display of dancing penguins. "I'm going to Masami-kun's tomorrow," he informed.

That said, they decided on Monday. The three went their ways with an agreement and Saburou wondering why his kid hadn't asked for permission. Maybe he had just barely been invited that day. He looked down at the boy, singing a child's tune he hardly recognized, some folk song they probably didn't teach kids in the city. How could the father stay mad at that kid?

Once at home, Saburou made a quick phone call. Then, he sat down with his son and the puzzle Yamada had given them. It was as good an activity as any to occupy their afternoon. Nori was still acting distracted, but together they managed to complete the image. Just in time too, as the apartment door burst open while they were putting the pieces away. Both looked up attentively to see Ichirou, the older brother.

"Sato Mizu-oji-san!" Nori greeted, full of excitement to see the uncle.

He took off running to the door as Saburou rose, complaining, "Don't you ever knock?"

The elder laughed heartily. "After growing up with you as a little brother, I deserve ten years of payback. Don't you lock your door when people shouldn't come in?"

Saburou grumbled at the reminder of the arguments they used to have when still living with the previous Kyoko generation. The roles had been reversed, Saburou being an irritating child during most of Ichirou's adolescence. In the end, being immature at that age hadn't been his fault. The eldest ought to know better by now.

Despite the slight tension, Nori's happiness prevailed, "Why are you here, Sato Mizu-oji-san?" He wondered inquisitively.

Bending down closer to the boy's level, the uncle answered in a secretive whisper, "Your dad invited me. It usually means he's tired of instant food."

Nori snickered at the joke and then covered his mouth, attempting to guard the secret. As diligently as he tried, however, Saburou had long ago noticed his brother was poking fun at him. He was content with letting them have their fun...at least for now. Tonight he would just observe.

"Are you all settled in, Nori-kun?" The uncle asked, taking up his inspector role. "Have you unpacked everything?"

"Hai," Nori agreed cheerfully.

"Let's see what you've done with your room."

A sudden nervousness came over the father. See the room? Remembering how it had looked Tuesday night made him shudder. They hadn't had any chance to clean it since. He could not, under any circumstances, let his older brother see that he had fallen down on the job. That would be the worst embarrassment ever.

Pulling his son to the side, Saburou muttered quietly into the boy's ear, "If Aniki sees your room is a mess, I am going to be in big trouble. You clean it real quick; I'll hold him off."

Strategy defined, Nori saluted and ran off to his room, "See you there, Sato Mizu-oji-san."

Ichirou headed right over, assuming he would be let right in, but his younger brother got in the way. "Onii-san," Saburou addressed as a distraction, "I asked you to come over tonight because I might have to take care of some business for a little while. I don't know when, or even if, but—"

The elder brushed him off. That wasn't a big deal. If he had to take care of some work, he probably could have handled it all on his own. Now that Ichirou was there, however, he was going to make the best of it, starting with giving his nephew full attention. Saburou desperately searched for another delay as his brother once again hurried to Nori's bedroom.

"He has way more energy today than he should. I don't know why," Saburou spouted out.

Ichirou let himself be distracted; though, he knew it was intentional. "And you know for sure that this isn't his real personality finally starting to show through?"

"Until now he's been well behaved," the younger stated uncertainly.

"He's starting to get comfortable with you," the ex-parent chided.

Almost believing the words of his senior, Saburou was speechless, in shock. Was it true? Ichirou let the idea sink in until he made it to Nori's door. On his way in, he assured, "Just messing with you Saburou. It happens."

Nervous, Saburou followed his brother in to see the damage. Nori slid a drawer shut on a sock and turned smiling to the two adults. The room was clean. When had Nori cleaned it? He hadn't had time in those few moments. Where had all the mess gone/ It wasn't the best organized room ever, but neither toys nor clothes littered the floor as they had last time Saburou laid eyes on this corner of the apartment.

"Not too bad," Ichirou commended. He made a comment on the bed sheets and then took a seat among the pile of stuffed animals. "Hmm, I remember helping Ototou buy this one, isn't that right Saburou?"

The father looked up from the closet at the mention of his name. Nori hadn't hidden everything under the bed, behind the door, or in the closet. He had seriously cleaned. At that moment, though, he had to agree with his brother and pay more attention. The two chatted about dinosaurs, a subject the younger adult never would have thought of discussing. Yes, he had bought the pterodactyl currently in the boy's arms, but he was by no means fluent in child-speak.

After a short while, the uncle decided it was time to make dinner. Rather than just leaving the other two to their own devices, he ordered them to do little things to help him. Dressed for the occasion, Ichirou sported the headband he wore for work, and posed like a real hibachi chef. It was at this point that Nori learned what the Cinese character written on it stood for. As long as they kept the boy busy from one small task to the next, he didn't get too distracted by anything. His expression was of pure joy, which carried into the excitement of his actions.

That wasn't the emotion, however, that prompted everything. Displaying to his uncle a tray of his most recent accomplishment, Nori misstated, "Me and Chichi breadered the butts!" The switch of the words could be brushed off as typical childhood mistakes, or as another symptom hinting at what was plaguing Nori that day. Continuing on, the family ignored it.

You'll never fill that pathetic void in your life; what are you going to do about it?

The ones closest to you have betrayed your trust. You don't deserve that.

Last week, thousands of people had been infected by the words on the printed page. Now it was many times multiplied. Several papers with the same collection of words distributed all through the country, online, to cellular phones. When the law enforcement found out this time, they would be completely overwhelmed. They wouldn't know where to start.

A fatigued uniform glanced wearily at the panel ceiling. In the corner, a tipped over folding chair leaned against the office copy machine, clearly used as a step up for the short man now hanging from the ceiling. Obviously, it was a suicide. His eyes were bulging from the strain of choking, strangled by his business tie. What could have compelled this man to end it all?

At an aquarium downtown, a class of middle school students stared, wide-eyes, at the shark tank. It wasn't just fish in there. A mauled face floated, petrified, through their line of vision, long strands of hair drifting hither and tither like tendrils of a jellyfish, while the man's dismembered arm was ripped to shreds in the background by aquatic carnivores. Needing to interview a hundred pre-teens and dozens of employees, investigators would take months to track the cause down. They would be hindered by the accidental appearance of the case. Eventually, they would find the murderer who had tripped his coworker into the tank with a hose because the victim had been mistreating the former's sister.

Of course, with insightful words such as the ones written, plenty of gun fights ensued, and several involving marriage mates with hidden agendas. Down at the sea shore, a frantic husband gathered bystanders and police after dragging his wife out of the water. He had tampered with the oxygen tank of her scuba gear so she would suffocate beneath the surface. Now playing the concerned spouse trying to rescue her, no one would suspect he had killed her for her inheritance and insurance pay out. At least, he had been told no one would.

Kento smirked over a cup of steaming tea at the thought of what could be, come next week. There was a note for him downstairs. For no reason should he have known this already. No knock at a door, nor a phone call received had informed him so. Yet he was so easily torn from his fantasizing by the knowledge. Taped to a window on the bottom floor was a card. Not a soul could be seen anywhere, but it was no matter. The card contained a set of four numbers printed in blue ink. That was all he needed to proceed.

After dinner was Charades. The kid's version, obviously, consisted mostly of animals and cartoon characters. Saburou had learned this after only a few rounds. It was a good game, involving both quality time and a controlled release of energy. The boy was actually rather good at it, the guessing anyways. His acting was limited, so that there was a strong resemblance between all the animals, as well as all the heroes.

Right about the time the father had run out of guesses for people in a cape who beat stuff up, his phone rang. That was the call he was expecting. The officer on the other end of the line described what was happening.

Hayoshi's house was empty. Neither did they find a person crashing there, nor did they find evidence that someone had been. Plastic, paint tarps hung randomly throughout the building, and the floor was ripped up. Electricity was not turned on, moreover, and there were no fingerprints on any entrances.

At that point, tashi grabbed the phone from the lower officer's hand with a bit of news to add, "'Money is the cause of all troubles. Even those whom you love will kill to have it from you.' What does that sound like to you Kyoko-san?"

The father pondered the words for a while but was unsure of where the officer was headed. "I'll give you a hint," Tashi continued. "Put it with a date."

His research from that morning clearly in mind, Saburou supplied, "April 21-May 21. Taurus. Is that another horoscope?"

"Looks like it," Tashi agreed. "I tore down a tarp and found a complete set of them, ready to be published, in a back room. Looks like our culprit got out just in time."

"Officer Tashi-san," a younger man approached him, hesitant to interrupt. It was urgent, though. "You need to see this."

"What is it?" Tashi inquired.

"We believe it's a bomb, Sir."

Saburou overheard the suspicions and glanced back into his living room where his older brother made a guess, "Superman."

"You already guessed that," Nori informed, offended as he dug his fists into his sides.

"Mr. Immortal," Ichirou gave his final answer, which was accurate, and took his turn acting. How had his elder sibling even known of so many characters?

"Kyoko-san," the officer called him back to the matter at hand.

"Yes, Officer Tashi-san?" The investigator confirmed he was once again focused.

"We have a timer here with only two minutes remaining, wired into a metal panel so we can't see the explosives, but it seems real enough."

"I don't buy it," Saburou informed after considering the possibility. "You found it too easily. This man doesn't want his own hands dirty, and he certainly doesn't want to do something that will draw more attention to himself as the culprit. It's a personal vendetta. Besides, the only person he has a good standing relationship with loaned him that house. He wouldn't ruin that unless he plans of being caught. Based on what he wrote, he doesn't."

"I'm getting my men out just in case," Tashi decided.

A thought came to Saburou about his interview with Hayoshi. With how cooperative, trusting, and innocent the man had acted, Saburou voiced the the rest of his theory, "What if that was part of their plan?"

"What are you muttering about over there Kyoko-san?" Tashi demanded, anxiety becoming clearer in his voice. Though he had sent his men out, he stayed behind hoping maybe to diffuse the bomb.

"Hmm? Nothing. It's not about the bomb; I'm still sure it's not one. Just that man, Hayoshi, Tobe, he was faking it. If he played the unaware but concerned friend, he could get off scotch free. He has to be involved somehow."

"Don't go all Sherlock Holmes on our conversation, Kyoko-san. It makes me look like Watson," Tashi joked, but his voice didn't sound amused. "Sorry Kyoko-san, you know I trust your judgment, but this is a bomb, and I'm out of time to hang around. I'm getting out of here."

The time was at 20 seconds when he decided that, 15 by the time he started on his escape. He was cutting it close, but if it wasn't a bomb...he had been curious at what would happen. It had been hard to leave, but he was not able to convince himself to stay. As the time ticked away, the silence of an open line ate at Saburou. What if he was wrong and Tashi didn't make it out in time? Glancing at his watch, he thought maybe the hand was moving slower than normal.

It wasn't. Running a finger through his hair, the man looked to his son again, like therein was the answer to internal calmness. Nori gave a confused frown to his acting uncle. Whatever he was trying to be, there were two of them. No, there were two of his uncle. As the seconds counted down, the boy's sight grew more blurry and vague. Everything began to seem distant. First, the corners of his vision went black, then all of it. Jerking alert, he tried to stay awake, but ended up passing out.

When the boy's face slammed hard on the table, Saburou looked worried, but his brother just laughed. "Asleep already? You must be working him hard, Saburou."

The younger sighed in relief. Of course, asleep. It wasn't related to the timer. It explained the hyper behavior. He hadn't slept enough. And he began to laugh at himself. He had mixed work and reality again.

From outside the building, a crew of police watched as nothing happened. The end of two minutes had long since come and gone. It would take a daft person to catch the clue Kento had left. At two seconds, the timer stopped and displayed a message.

2 DAYS, 4628, 1136, 2580

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