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The Horoscope

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Chapter 1 An Unexpected Morning

Kyoko, Saburou had no reason at all to believe that this Sunday would be different from any other. Aside from the fact that the newspaper he read in his arm chair by the east window was plagued with violent thoughts being unknown to him at that point, he also by no means expected the small knocking at his apartment door.

Curiously, he set the newspaper beside him and walked to the door. He was taken completely by surprise when he looked down to see his six year old son with a backpack slung over one arm and his jacket falling off the other. For a moment, Saburou just stared in horror at the boy, completely dazed by his stupid mistake of the day.

"I'm here Otosan," the boy stated, and that was just enough to bring the father out of the daze.

Ushering his kid into the house, Saburou noted, "I forgot to pick you up. Is it Sunday already?"

The boy nodded, barely mentioning, "Uh-huh," as he struggled to untie his shoes from the double bows his mom had tied that morning.

After watching a couple seconds, Saburou knew he wouldn't get them undone, and he knelt down to help. While he was working on the second one, he suddenly realized something and asked, "Did your mother bring you all the way down here?"

"Nope, I took the train," the boy answered, instantly running to the couch as soon as his shoes were off. Standing on the couch in his non-matching socks, he announced, "I like your TV Otosan, and your couch. It's soft. Can I sleep on the couch?"

"No, I have a bed for you," Saburou replied, seeming confused by the speed at which his son had made it all the way over there. He stood to his feet and stepped closer to the boy as he questioned, "Your mother let you take the train by yourself?"

"She doesn't know, I don't think. She just left me there this morning to wait for you…Then you never came."

Letting his shoulders slump, Saburou admitted, "I'm sorry."

With a shrug, the boy said, "That's okay," spinning around to sit on the couch and grabbing the remote. "Whoa! How do you turn it on? It has lots of buttons."

"Shimizu, Takeshi-kun! You are not going to watch tv this morning," Saburou ordered, taking the remote.

The boy was suddenly very sad, but it wasn't because he couldn't watch the television. Crossing his arms, he grumbled, "Don't call me that."

"What?" Saburou inquired, once again confused.

"Takeshi," was all the boy responded.

"Why not?"

"'Cuz that's what Haha and Mick-san called me."


"Her Astronautilian friend. He didn't like me. That's why he took her to Astronaulia without me."

"Australia," Saburou corrected, finally understanding the conversation again. Takeshi nodded once. "Well don't be so sad about it. This is just a temporary thing. It's their honeymoon. They'll come ba—"

"No they won't," Takeshi insisted.

Saburou swallowed hard. As much as he hadn't expected to hear that, he really believed it. The boy's mother was that kind of woman. In the back of his mind, he had dreaded this day his whole life—at least the past two years. He was by no means prepared to actually be a father. Overwhelmed by the responsibility, he resolved to take it all one step at a time. First: the boy's name.

"Then, what do you want me to call you?"

He just shrugged. "Nori."

"Nori-kun," Saburou repeated, perplexed. Where did kids come up with stuff like that? He asked, "Why Nori-kun?"

"My friend called me that sometimes."

"Nori-kun then, do you know what we do Sunday instead of watch TV?"

"Color?" He asked hopefully. When Saburou shook his head no, Nori guessed not so hopefully, "Church?" Another negative response made him shout in horror, "Homework!"

"No," Saburou answered with a slight laugh. "We walk around town…go to the park, and I might buy you ice cream."

Filled with excitement, Nori dashed back to the door to put his shoes back on.

"Wait a second," Saburou stated to stop him. "Did you eat breakfast?" Nori nodded in response. "Did you brush your teeth?"

That blissful expression suddenly changed to one of deep thought as Nori tried to remember that far back. "I forgot," he mentioned embarrassedly after seconds of pondering.

"Well, go do that," Saburou prompted when all Nori did was stand there.

Nori ran to the bathroom really quickly, but instantly came back, realizing he left his toothbrush in the backpack. After throwing half of the clothes from his bag onto the floor to get it, he darted back to the bathroom, Saburou calling after him, "Go potty before we leave too, so you won't have to go later."

A couple seconds later, Nori came back out, plastic handle poking through the gap in his front teeth where he was missing one, and foam dripping from the corners of his mouth. "Otosan," he slurred, "wour twoothpas'e is weally har' to wuse, an' it doesn't twaste gwood." (Obviously supposed to mean, your toothpaste is really hard to use, and it doesn't taste good.)

Frowning because he thought his toothpaste was just like anyone's, Saburou followed Nori back into the bathroom to see white foam all over the walls as well as some dripping from his bottle of shaving cream.

Dropping his head into his hands, he explained, "Um…that's not toothpaste. Someday I'll show you what that's for. The toothpaste is in that cup."

Once that mess had been cleaned up, Nori was done with that and using the bathroom, and he'd been reminded to zip his pants back up, they went to the door to put shoes on. Nori immediately put them on backwards and went about trying to retie the laces.

When Saburou went to help him tie the shoes, he noticed the problem and mentioned, "Kid, they're on backwards."

"I know," Nori replied.

"Well, why'd you do it then?"

"'Cuz Mick-san told me that a lot, but he didn't like me, so I do it."

A moment of imagining a terribly rebellious adolescence preceded the response of, "That's silly. Wearing your shoes backwards hurts you not him." Then, he whispered as if it was a secret, "If you wear your shoes backwards, and the shoe police see you, they'll put you in shoe jail."

Nori gasped and covered his open mouth with his hands in fear.

After a couple seconds, Saburou reminded, "Well fix them," and Nori instantly switched the shoes around. Then, Saburou helped him tie the laces, and they were ready to go out. They left the apartment before he could ever reach the horoscope page in his newspaper.

Unfortunately, not all were so unexpectedly sheltered from the horrifying page near the end of the newspaper. A great many people reached that page. Smaller in number were those whose sign prompted them to read Scorpio's message, and even fewer were those who took it slightly seriously. There are always those few, however, who smiled to be offered such a wonderful chance…

One such perverted mind belonged to a slender man with thinning hair that met in front in a swirled cow-lick. He was the kind of man who grew up on violent games and torturing stray cats, who terrified mothers just by his looks. What gave him the advantage, however, was that no one ever saw him.

The man was atop a bridge at that moment, carefully fitting the pieces to a sniper rifle. Then, he aimed, waiting for the perfect moment to come in the traffic jam before him. After almost a minute, he shot, piercing through the temple of his target—because to him that's all it was. He did not see the person driving the semi truck. He did not see the life destroyed. All he saw was the fun of seeing how many cars he could make crash into it.

He only watched the mess unravel for a moment before picking up the bullet shell and heading off to the next one.

As soon as they got to the sidewalk, Nori looked around for a second and then commented, "There's a lot of people here, and houses too."

"Yes, your mother lived in a very small town. This is Tokyo," Saburou explained. "Almost all of the people in Japan live in Tokyo."

"Whoa! That's lots of people! Like the whole world!" Nori exclaimed, and before his dad could correct him, he questioned, "Where's the ice cream?"

"It's that way," Saburou answered, pointing to their left.

Nori quickly took off running that direction, but with his short legs, his dad was easily able to keep up. He kept running for a long time, until something else caught his attention. Sliding to a stop, he turned around and went back to the store window they had just passed. He pressed his hands and face against it while he waited for his dad to return.

"I want one Otosan," he begged, "will you buy me a puppy?"

"Oh, they're adorable," Saburou agreed, kneeling next to Nori to look at the few puppies in the window. "I can't right now, though."

"But why?"

"I think first I need to get used to having to share my house with you before I have to share it with a dog too."

"But Otosan," Nori complained, pushing out his bottom lip to pout.

Unfortunately, Saburou was not yet immune to such childish ways of begging. Fortunately, he was saved from causing a disaster by his pager going off.

"What's that?" Nori inquired curiously as Saburou read the message.

"It's my pager. It's my job saying they need someone to come help them," he replied, frowning slightly and returning it to his belt.

"Do they want you?"

"No, not this time."

"What is your job?"

Saburou thought back to the message which had revealed the death of a twenty-three year old female and where her body had been found and simply stated, "Let's go get some ice cream." Putting his arm around Nori's back, he gently directed the boy further down the street.

The case of the twenty-three year old female was slightly more tragic, since the killer was not demented to begin with. Two of Saburou's coworkers—a tall, burly man and an average, slender woman—arrived on scene where the woman lay in an awkward position on the floor of her living room. The coroner had already come and told the two she had died of strangulation only a couple hours before, but it was fairly obvious by the string of round bruises across her neck.

"I guess I'll go question the witness," the man decided as the coroner zipped a bag over the female and carried her out of the apartment, "you can start processing the room."

His coworker nodded as he walked toward the young man waiting by the door. "So you're the boy who called her in?" He began. The boy, who seemed pretty shook up, hardly even nodded in response, so the man continued, "My name is Kuro-san. We're going to figure out who killed her, but I'll have to ask you some questions too."

Another slight nod.

"How did you know her?"

The boy pulled himself together enough to answer, "She…she was my girlfriend. We were supposed to have breakfast together this morning, but when I got here, she…she was like…that. I can't believe it. I—I should have been here for her."

"I am deeply sorry for your loss," Kuro stated as if he said it everyday—which he did, "But I'm going to have to ask you for a DNA sample, just to be sure, you know."

With another nod, the boy complied easily. When the sample was finished being taken, Kuro rejoined his coworker in the lady's bedroom. The room was a mess, a clear sign of a struggle.

After Kuro had a chance to glance at the room, he inquired, "Have you found anything in particular Suzume-san?"

Suzume, his partner, mentioned, "I had the feeling whatever happened began in here. Now look at this," she suggested, leading into the back corner of the room where a jewelry box had been overturned. "You can assume, by the amount of expensive gems still here, that nothing was stolen, except for one." She picked up a separate box which held a pair of pearl earrings and appeared to have the perfect spot for a matching necklace. "I think we know what the murder weapon was."

"But why would someone search through all her jewelry to kill her with just one specific necklace?" Kuro wondered.

The girl shrugged, "Maybe it was whoever gave her the necklace…an ex-boyfriend."

Kuro nodded, and his partner went back to examining the room. A moment passed, and then she asked, "So how did that guy know our victim anyways?"

"He was her boyfriend," Kuro responded. "Why?"

"Then who is this guy in the picture with her?" She pointed out, holding up a small frame with the victim and another man hugging each other near the ocean.

"The ex-boyfriend," Kuro guessed.

"You don't keep pictures of ex's when you're dating another man—at least not the kind that kill you. And it's far too passionate to be a brother."

"Do you think she was dating more than one man?"

"It's possible."

"All right, I'll go through her phone records, see who she calls often. If nothing else, maybe a relative will know some of her ex's. Call me if you need anything."

The next room Suzume examined was the bathroom because it was between the bedroom and the living room. She didn't expect to find anything there, but searched it just as thoroughly regardless. Of course, there were fingerprints on the faucet, logically all the girl's—perhaps her boyfriends', but Suzume guessed she wouldn't find any evidence there. The cupboard above the sink, however, displayed two toothbrushes, and two sets of deodorant, while the shower contained two shavers, two types of shaving cream, and two wash cloths.

Naturally, she assumed it was the boyfriend's things, but she grabbed both sets to test DNA just in case. Perhaps the lady had a roommate. Whoever that second set belonged to would definitely play a role in the case.

Suzume kept looking, next searching the cupboard beneath the sink. It was mostly cleaning chemicals, but she noticed something under the ledge caused by the cabinet. She carefully picked up the round, white pearl in her gloved hand, knowing it was from the necklace that had strangled the victim. Examining around the area, she searched for the rest of the necklace, but after emptying the small trashcan, she came to the conclusion: it had been flushed down the toilet.

She left finding the rest of the necklace as a last resort, and went on to process the living room. Not exactly sure where to begin in the room, she just glanced around for a second until she realized the answering machine was blinking. That gave her the idea to listen to the recording to see who lived with the victim. It was a brilliant idea as the recording played in a man's voice:

"Hello, you've reached Nakamura Kouta…and Shinju," the girl's name being stated by herself, "Sorry we can't come to the phone right now, but leave a message and we'll get back to you. If this is business and you really need to get a hold of me, call my cell. You know the number. Ciao." Then, you could hear mumbled in the background, "See, it's not that hard," before the message cut off.

Suzume knew she should let Kuro know as soon as possible, so she instantly called him. "I've got some news for you," she began as soon as he answered the phone.

Kuro stepped away from the victim's sister, who he'd been talking to, and responded, "Really? As do I, but you go first."

"Okay, so the man in the picture, is the victim's husband. His name is Nakamura Kouta."

Kuro added, "And he works for the local law office."

"So you knew already?" Suzume questioned, slightly confused.

"Shinju-san's sister told me. I think I'll go pay him a visit."

"Oh, before you go. I found part of that pearl necklace. I assume it's safe to say that's the murder weapon now."

"I agree. See you at the lab later, okay?" Kuro concluded.

"Yeah, see you."

As soon as they each hung up the phone, Kuro went back over to Shinju-san's sister. Pointing to a wedding picture of the Nakamura couple, he inquired, "So what can you tell me about that pearl necklace?"

"You see, Ju-chan never really was much of a conventionalist. In fact, she was about as far from that as you could get," the sister explained. "Kouta-san understood that and wanted to show that he was okay with it. So when he proposed to her, it wasn't with a ring. It was with that necklace. Of course, there was a ring. Our father wouldn't have it without, but that necklace was the sign of their engagement. My sister really cherished it. Why?"

"I can't exactly say," Kuro replied, avoiding the answer. "I think I would like to speak to your brother-in-law now. Would it be possible for you to give me directions to his office."

"Of course," she agreed, standing to her feet with the tray of tea they had been drinking off of, "I'll go to the kitchen and get some paper."

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