The Horoscope

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Chapter 5 Return of the Green Mullet

Chapter names are subject to change. Enjoy!

Kuro entered the insurance facility and was directed to a cubicle in the back where he could find Nakamura. He was currently involved in stuffing everything on his desk into a single box with no organization. His computer was unplugged, leaving a tangled mess of wires on the floor beside a trash can overflowing with torn pictures of his wife. It was hard to see if the anger was part of his mourning her death or not. Was he running away?

The older lady from the front desk introduced, "Here he is, Kuro-san. Nakamura-san, there is a Kuro-san here to see you today."

"Not right now," he refused, not even looking up. "I have to get away from here."

"I hope you can spare some time, Nakamura-san," Kuro spoke for the first time. "I'm with the crime lab." Finally, the young man glanced at them, removing his hands from the box to shake the investigator's hand. Kuro couldn't help but inquire, "And why are you 'getting away' from here?"

Nakamura gave a concerned glance to the lady and simply returned to packing his things.

Noticing the small gesture, Kuro addressed the secretary. "Thank you for your help. Could you give us a minute?"

Compliantly, she returned to her station at the front desk, and Kuro leaned up against the suspect's cube wall. He was waiting for Nakamura to decide to answer, in the meantime taking the opportunity to observe his behavior. The man jumped distantly from one task to another, clearly either shook up, or frantic. Kuro was about ready to prompt him again when the man spoke up.

"You know…everything here—these photos, this stapler, the whole job even—it's all…her," he stumbled out, trying to maintain composure.

"I'm surprised to see you here, then," was the investigator's only response.

"Where could I go?" The absentminded comment which was not intended to be said was full of meaning, but too incomplete to be clear for an outsider. Kuro once again simply waited for further clarification from the man.

"My house is a crime scene," he continued, "not that I could bear to stay there, surrounded by…well everything, all memories." He paused for a while, and then stumbling across another photo, he fell back into reminiscing. 'She saved me, you know, in this city. Every piece of me is a part of her: my friends, my family, my hob. It all came through my wife. How can I stay here, where everything reminds me of what is no more?"

"So you're not running away from the police? That's good to know," Kuro mentioned, implying well enough that he did not trust Nakamura's story completely. Everything he said could be true, and at the same time, nothing more than guilt for having killed her. Perhaps the investigator was simply jaded from years of witnessing deranged psychopaths who were that way.

"What?" The man seemed shocked by the idea, as if he had been oblivious to what his actions appeared to say. "No, that wasn't at all what I meant. I just need to leave the memories."

"Are you haunted by the memories of a love that ended with a tragic death," the investigator probed, "or of a love that ended with another man?"

There was a look of complete shock on Nakamura's face of what Kuro knew, as he could still only manage to mutter a confused, "What?"

"You didn't know she was cheating on you?"

A slight delay in the clearly feigned response of surprise to the revelation was enough to convince Kuro. He didn't show much sympathy either in informing the suspect that they would be heading to the station. This was the typical result in an unfaithful relationship where one party ended up dead.

That did not necessarily mean, however, that the boyfriend was completely off the hook already. Officer Murata found himself questioning this man. It was his third that morning. He was tired, and not used to thinking of so many cases at one time. It was his job to make sure those things didn't show through, though, so the boyfriend had no idea he had twice almost brought up evidence from other crimes.

Murata was on a slight break at that moment. The suspect had at first been quite cooperative. As soon as the questions became personal and accusatory, he lost the "stunned deer" face and asked for his lawyer. It would be a while before one showed up, and in the meantime the officer was indulging himself with stress-lowering snacks. Kuro found him there and mentioned that the husband was now ready to be questioned in one of the rooms as well. With Tashi occupied elsewhere, Murata had no one to pass the task onto. Suspect no. 4.

He slid a picture of the discolored woman frozen in an awkward position across the table to the man in question. Nakamura responded just as the boyfriend had before, "Isn't it bad enough that I had to see that in the mortuary?" Then, he sent the picture back and crossed his arms.

The two men, it seemed, had far more than just that in common. About 180 cm tall, both had dark hair, cropped short, angular faces, wide and strong shoulders. Each of them had a resistant attitude, as they leaned back in their chairs confidently. They both reacted much differently to the interrogation than they had to the original mention of Shinju-san's death, as if the prying naturally made them uncooperative without even knowing. She clearly hadn't been looking for a different kind of man in cheating…perhaps just more time with the kind she had.

When informed their fingerprints were all over the scene, both replied word for word, "Is that the best you got? I was dating her." The exception being Nakamura had said, "married."

"Where were you, instead of at the house yesterday morning?" Murata inquired of each.

"I don't have to tell you anything until I have a lawyer," the boyfriend had answered.

Nakamura just pushed back further in his chair without saying a word. The tiniest shred of a tattoo showed at the bottom edge of the sleeve of his dress shirt. Of course, he had seemed all along like the military type. If that was the case, Murata was going to have to put all his effort into this one sitting. Soldiers were trained not to crack, and this one seemed like he wasn't completely telling the truth.

The officer sat down in his chair for the long haul. "You said earlier that Nakamura-san 'saved you.' From what exactly?"

"That has nothing at all to do with your investigation," the soldier pointed out.

"What did you do Sunday morning?"

"I read the paper," he answered, still incompliantly providing information that was worthless. "And then I had some plans with some friends."

"What time did you leave the house?"

"Before she died, obviously." The man's words were slightly lacking in respect.

"I'm going to need the phone number of one of your 'friends' to check your 'alibi.'" Murata informed, easily showing his disbelief.

"You have my phone records. Look it up." Yes, they would have their work cut out for them on this one.

Later in the day, Matsui-sensei was passing back the assignments from earlier. Halfway through, she stopped and asked, "Okay which one of you silly kids wrote the wrong name on their paper?" When no one fessed up, she took a chalk and drew out the characters. "Shimizu, Takeshi. That is not the name of any student here, so who wrote it?"

Standing up, Nori admitted, "I did."

"Kyoko-kun," the teacher scolded. "That is your name, isn't it?"

The confused boy nodded, still not knowing he was writing his name incorrectly.

"Then why did you write Shimizu, Takeshi, if your name is Kyoko?"

"Because…that's my name," he answered after a while, and the class giggled.

"Which one is your name?"

Perplexed, the boy waited a long time before saying, "Nori-kun."

"Then, come write your real name," Matsui-sensei ordered. When the boy arrived at the board, she handed him the chalk. Nori stood there for a very long time unable to write his new name, but trying very hard to come up with the symbols for 'Kyoko, Nori.'

"Do you know how to write your name, Kyoko-kun?" She questioned after watching him struggle a while.

Urgently, Nori nodded. He wouldn't let himself go backwards. He had to know how! Finally part of it came to him, and he certainly drew some kanji on the board to represent the 'Nori' part. Half was better than none. Still, what he wrote brought more laughing from his schoolmates.

He didn't know why until the teacher read the name he had written. "Ao Nori Karintou? Be serious boy, this is real."

Ao Nori Karintou—a sugary seaweed candy that almost had the appearance of green beans—was the reason Takeshi-kun had decided to go by the name Nori. His best friend in Yuni had called him that as long as he could remember because of the candy. He didn't know which part of the candy's name represented 'Nori' so he wrote it all. He was serious, and it was the best he could do just to recall the words on the package.

The teacher apparently thought he was doing it on purpose so the rest of the class would laugh. She was convinced she was dealing with a first-class class clown, so she wouldn't offer to help him. Knowing she expected him to try again, Nori again had to come up with a different idea. Choosing half of the candy name—the wrong half—he rewrote it after an upside down symbol for Tokyo.

More giggles came from the class, but Matsui-sensei frustratedly cried, "Kyoko-kun, write your name or stay after school."

Sadly, Nori gave up. "I don't know. That's the best I know."

Then, the teacher understood that it was a real problem and not a joke. She sent him back to his seat, unsure of what to do at the moment but wanting to continue with her lesson. When her students had a little free time near the end of the day, she went over and sat with Nori at his desk.

"Who taught you to write your name Shimizu, Takeshi?" She asked first.

"The other school," Nori answered, hanging his head in shame.

"Why didn't they teach you Kyoko, Nori?"

"They didn't call me that."

"But we call you that now," she commented, still slightly confused. Nori just nodded, so she tried to guess, "So you changed your name and need to learn the new one, is that it?" When the boy nodded again, the teacher decided, "That is your homework tonight. Ask one of your parents how to write your name. And everyone is supposed to bring a book tomorrow that they can read to the class. How well do you read?"

Nori stopped filling in the circles in the numbers on his paper and put his pencil down. "Good," he assumed, "I think."

"What do the questions on the paper say?"

Of course, the boy tried to read the questions, but he only succeeded at reading half of the words he should have known, and none of them were the important ones. Concerned, Matsui-sensei told him to bring a book he could read and to remind his parents to pack him a snack. By then, the school day was almost over, so everyone started getting ready to go home. They all wanted to be prepared so as soon as the bell rang they could run out the door.

Masami-kun rushed out with everyone else, just to have one of the guards outside the school reveal, "Konatoya-kun, when your driver turned on your limousine to come pick you up, it started smoking and died. You mother is in press conferences all day. So Carli-san will be coming as soon as she finishes her grocery shopping, which should be about twenty minutes."

Understanding, but with clear, annoyed dejection, the young celebrity went to sit impatiently on a bench. He knew how press conferences were, and waiting because his car broke was better than taking the bus like everyone else. Still, he couldn't help but be aggravated as the time painstakingly inched along.

Once fifteen minutes had gone by and the crowd of children started to dwindle, Masami-kun noticed Nori was still among those waiting. He stood on the curb where most of the students had already been picked up by their parents, anxiously hoping to find his own any moment.

The two bodyguards of the rich child exchanged glances as the younger boy stood on his tip-toes to see farther. Both were thinking the same thing, and the middle-aged one asked it, "Konatoya-kun, is that not the boy from the park that you ate lunch with today?"

Looking up, Masami-kun responded as if he hadn't noticed the boy before, "Oh yeah, that's him."

"He's alone over there. You should ask him to sit with you."

"Yeah, but," the proud boy protested, intending to mention they were only temporary, fake friends.

There was a reason Masami-kun always had two people guarding him. A man in his mid-twenties stood at attention constantly but with his arms crossed to protect the boy from those people with bad intentions. The older was more kind, more verbal, more butlerish. He was there expressly to make sure Masami-kun did nothing evil to others. One glance from him to the younger could result in ringing ears and a significant bruise, so the boy usually paid close attention when he knew he was pushing the limits.

Seeing that the look was close to appearing, he slid from the bench, slinging his backpack over one of his shoulders, he made his way to the curb. "Who are you waiting for?" The celebrity began, pretending to be interested, "Your mom?"

"She's in Australia," Nori reminded.

"Oh yeah," Masami-kun could easily have remembered that had he actually cared. "Your dad then."

Nori nodded. "And you?"

"Carli-san," the older answered, but Nori's unsatisfied look made him explain more clearly, "my nanny. She should be here soon, so I can be home to watch anime by 4:30. Will your dad?"

A shrug accompanied the response, "Dunno, soon I think." He didn't much sound convinced.

For a short time, they were there in silence before a 1980s Toyota Corolla came clunking into the empty parking lot. "Good ol' Carli-san, always right on time," Masami-kun commented, meaning that to be his goodbye. Even before the car had come to a stop, the young celebrity had opened the door and climbed in, practically abandoning his new day companion.

He expected Carli-san to drive off right away—since the bodyguards had not been far behind at getting in the car—but he shouldn't have. Deep down, he really knew she would curiously inquire about the boy he had been standing next to.

"The new kid," Masami-kun vaguely replied when she did, hoping that would be the end of it. His hopes were ill-founded.

"Are you two friends?" Carli-san continued to prod when Nori waved goodbye.

"Yeah, sure." The child celebrity was trying to end the conversation quickly. He could see where his nanny was headed. Spending the whole day with the younger boy was bad enough; spending the afternoon together as well would be intolerable.

"Well, he's cute. Is he still waiting for his parents?"

It was exactly what Masami-kun had expected to hear. Sighing he tried to throw her off with, "I don't think he has any. Whenever someone mentions them, he makes up this story about astronauts, and he doesn't know his phone number either, Carli-san."

"His phone number," the nanny repeated, knowing she hadn't mentioned anything of the sort. "What are you getting at Masami-kun? If you want to invite him over, I'm sure we could look the number up in the phone book."

"No, I didn't mean that at all!" The boy exclaimed, frustrated by the way Carli-san so skillfully insisted upon saying whatever she originally purposed.

"You don't want him to come over?"

The truth would simply be to agree with the statement, but Masami-kun couldn't just bluntly say it and risk having to answer why. Desperate for an excuse, he tried, "He's waiting for his dad."

"Well, I'm sure we could arrange some things around for him to come over," the young nanny assured. "Anything to encourage your actually developing friendships." Decided, she rolled down the window to ask her charge's friend.

As the window opened, Nori leaned in curiously, inquiring before Carli-san could speak, "Are you guys going to leave?" They had been sitting there for a very long time.

"Yes," Masami-kun answered firmly, hoping the female driver would take the hint.

She was far too determined to give up so easily, so she proceeded to ask, "How much longer before your dad gets here?" Realizing she didn't know how to address the boy, she paused, glancing at Masami-kun until he supplied Nori's last name—he didn't want them to appear too intimate yet. Then, she was able to finish, "Kyoko-kun?"

"Um…I don't know," Nori replied with a shrug after a moment. "He didn't really say he was coming, but I know he is, at least…sometime."

"Do you want to come over, and then he can just pick you up from our house later?" She offered.

"Oh! Carli-san, that is so complicated," Masami-kun moaned, trying one last time.

"But," the invitee pointed out, "but I'm not supposed to get in a car with strangers."

"We're not strangers," Carli-san persisted. "I'm Masami-kun's nanny. You know who we are."

"I don't know if I want to get in the car with Masami-kun," the younger boy admitted.

In shock, the nanny looked to the son of her boss. "Have you been mean to Kyoko-kun?"

Knowing the trouble he would be in if she thought he was being mean would be far worse than wasting one afternoon with his childish companion, Masami-kun instantly insisted, "No! I wasn't mean. You'd come over, wouldn't you Nori-kun, if you weren't worried that your dad would show up before we get to a phone and call him?"

"That too," Nori mumbled in agreement; though, that wasn't exactly the reason he'd thought of.

"Look Kyoko-kun," Carli-san continued, "I know, being new here, the city is new, the faces and people are new. You've never seen me, and that might scare you, but you will be safer at our house than standing alone on a street corner. Atsushi-san will stay here in case your dad comes." The younger guard looked up in surprise and slight annoyance at the offer.

Thinking back to the day before, Nori remembered how his dad had worked very late. If he had gone to work today too, it would probably be very late again, and his dad was nowhere near arriving at the school. He did not want to stay alone at the school until night, and the rich boy surely had cool toys and fun games. It was not hard to convince the small boy. Agreeably, he opened the door and hopped in to the seat the bodyguard obediently climbed out of.

Finally having everything separated into tiny bits of possibly useful evidence and a pile of useless scrap, Saburou was about to distribute the various pieces to a number of technicians who would tell him what it all meant. Suddenly, he heard a beep come from his belt and found his pager announcing the coroner was ready for him. He added that to his list of places to stop in the maze that was the police station/crime lab/morgue and headed out.

As he did, Yamada was coming into the room with five spare minutes and thoughts of maybe cracking the box from that morning's car accident. Seeing Saburou and the gory photo of a bloodied head, his mind was distracted. Instantly, he fell in line with the busy investigator.

"Kyoko-san," he greeted. "I thought you weren't supposed to be in this week. Sucker! Next time you want time off, leave the country."

"Yeah, right," Saburou agreed, pondering the prospect of a real vacation someday, but also knowing it would never have worked in this case.

"So what do they have you working on?" Yamada—slightly younger, smaller, and less professional than the man beside him—inquired, taking a handful of photos straight from his hand. "Interesting stuff."

"I was just heading down to the morgue to take a look at the bodies," the elder revealed.

"I was too," he lied. It wouldn't hurt anything to take a peek at his own victim, however, so the excuse fit. He joined himself to the more interesting case.

Downstairs, the morgue was so overflowing that the mortician's assistant was taking on responsibilities usually left to the master. She lifted her small saw away from a sternum to smile at the two new—living—arrivals. The older, slender man currently wrist deep in organs across the room requested her to present to the investigators. She pulled off her mask, switched her gloves, and directed them to yet another table. So many bodies.

Handing a sealed, plastic bag which contained the weapon removed from the victim's skull, she began to explain, "The cause of death was pretty obvious. There was no evidence that anything else played a roll in his death. There were no signs of struggle, as if this was a surprise attack that required only one blow. The only other thing found was a small piece of fiber in the head wound."

Saburou found that as well in a plastic bag on the table, as she continued, "The lady's story is a bit different. She was smothered from behind, which was also the only injury she experienced, but she didn't go down without a fight. She had fibers under her nails as well as those in her nose and throat, and they appear to be of different varieties. That's it. Pretty much straightforward."

"They all have been this time around," Yamada noted. "An overwhelming number of really easy cases. At least, that's what everyone's been saying."

"What are you doing down here Yamada-san?" The assistant questioned.

"I came to see my body," the investigator replied, completely innocently.

"You already heard the diagnosis for your victim, and there aren't any others for you to check up on," she pointed out.

"I think you know what I mean," he responded with a wink.

A look crossed her face threatening to punch his, but she resisted, solely for the fact that the room was full of damageable evidence. "If you're not here for a dead person, get out of my morgue," the head doctor ordered from over an autopsy.

From the hallway, Yamada complained, "I don't see why I always seem to get the cases where the victim still lives. It's really throwing off my game."

"Generally, you should appreciate the life that was saved," Saburou corrected.

"There are plenty of cases where people live and where people die. We can't change the numbers, but we can at least split them equally," he continued to complain.

"That is your method of picking up girls? You are truly a calloused soul Yamada-san. That's what's wrong with your 'game.'"

The younger one scoffed. "You're one to be talking, Mister 'Have I Ever Even had a Girlfriend?' What are you doing now?"

"Well, I have the name of the person who golfed with my dead guy from the register, so I was going to visit him next."

Even though Yamada had meant for it to be a more personal question, the perspective of a task more interesting than sorting all the details of his car accident for the lab held his attention. "Let me see," he ordered, grabbing the book and the name circled. "You know, I just finished up the case I was working on. Evidence and witness testimony agree on the same thing, so if you finish up the paperwork for it, I'll question this guy for you."

Before Saburou could refuse, the lazier investigator had stuffed the paperwork in his chest and walked off with the more interesting aspect of the job. It was back to the grindstone for him. So much for a vacation.

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