The Horoscope

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Chapter 6 Setagaya Ward

As soon as they arrived at Masami-kun's huge mansion, the young celebrity was out of the car, in the front door, and changed into his house slippers. He was already halfway darted up the stairs when Carli-san entered the house with Nori and asked why the boy hadn't shown his friend around.

Masami-kun responded in a complaining voice, "Carli-san, my favorite anime is already starting! Can't I show him afterwards?"

Reluctantly, the nanny agreed, adding, "But one show only! After, no tv until you've done something useful."

Nodding, Masami-kun accepted the terms and ran off towards the theater room. Nori wasn't far behind, hardly noticing any of the richly decorated, spacious house as he quickly followed his green haired friend to the first thing they had in common: television.

Carli-san had not been so happy about that, as she was supposed to track down the boy's father as soon as she could, a task quite impossible without the boy himself. She decided, however, not to bother them at least until she had found both a phonebook and the telephone.

Nori walked into the theater room in jaw-dropped awe. The huge, flat screen television, the dozens of stereos, transmitters, players, and consoles left the six year old in astonished confusion. Dazed, he stumbled over to a bean bag on the floor next to Masami-kun who was already surrounded with remotes and pushing buttons.

When the whole process was half done, the younger boy wiped the drool from his chin and wondered, "Is this your room?"

"Yes," Masami-kun could only spare one word as he concentrated on starting his show as soon as possible.

"Where is your bed, then?"

"It isn't my bedroom dork. It's my tv room."

"You have your own room just for tv?"

"No, it's for movies and video games too."

The visitor was shocked, just by the one room of the house he had seen, and he probably would have continued to comment on it, had Masami-kun not arrived at the correct channel. One last button dimmed the lights, and the two boys were instantly captivated by the cartoon that was most likely a little too mature for both of them.

Though both laughed frequently throughout the show, for the first half it was never at the same thing. Finally, a series of events brought the main character to slip, slide, and stumble across the room, fall into the lap of his grandma in a wheelchair, and roll out the door into the swimming pool. Both fell from their seats to the floor in uncontrollable giggling. At last, another point they had in common.

Not too long after, Carli-san came in the room, conveniently right as the show went to commercial. She called Nori over and showed him in the phonebook where all the Kyoko-san's were. There was a bunch, so she asked for Nori's dad's first name. The boy told it: Saburou. Finding it, Carli-san dialed the numbers, attempting to call. No one answered.

"Well, your dad isn't at the school yet, or Atsushi-san would have called," Carli-san informed afterwards, "so aren't you glad you came here?"

Of course, Nori agreed with a nod.

"I'm going to keep trying to call your dad, okay. Enjoy your show," she concluded and left.

They did indeed enjoy the rest of the anime, each boy their separate parts. When the end came around, Masami-kun picked up one of the remotes. Thinking they were turning the television off because Carli-san had said so, Nori reluctantly stood up to move on to the next activity. The older boy, however, actually had no intentions of obeying, as he flipped to a different channel.

"Where are you going?" Masami-kun questioned bluntly.

Nori looked at the new show that was starting, knew he liked it, and sat back down. Surely, he felt somewhat guilty for directly going against his baby-sitter's orders. Obviously, it didn't bother him enough to do anything about it.

Five minutes later, Carli-san called up the stairs, "Boys! What's taking so long? Isn't the show over yet?"

"No," the celebrity boy shouted back a lie. The shocked look on Nori's face prompted him to explain, "What? She never said which show, and this one isn't over yet."

That answer satisfied the young boy, but not Masami-kun's nanny. She continued, "It's 5:05 Masami-kun. The show should have ended five minutes ago."

"Nuh-uh, there's still a few minutes left," Masami-kun persisted.

"How many?"

After a pause, hesitant to give an actual time, the boy repeated only, "A few."

For a while, Carli-san didn't say anything. The boys had just started to pay attention to the second show again when she made her last statement, "Masami-kun, you know I have both a tv and a clock in the kitchen. If you are lying, you will be in big trouble."

Then, Masami-kun knew that she really knew. After watching a couple more sentences, he shut down all the electronics and, as lax as he was urgent, made his way down the stairs, closely followed by the younger. Upon reaching the kitchen, the child celebrity made it very clear by the exasperated manner in which he presented himself that he was very unhappy about being bossed around by someone who made less money than his weekly allowance. Then he addressed her.

"Carli-san," he began, complaining in his voice, "we came downstairs, what are you gonna make us do?"

The nanny instantly came out from the back of the kitchen with her towel, apron, and hot mitts, looking like the perfect house maid she was. Seeing the two boys—one annoyed, hands on his hips, the other staring at the room full of silvery stuff with his mouth wide open—the young lady chose to ignore the first and talk to the latter.

"Nori-kun, we still can't get a hold of your father," she revealed. "He won't answer the home phone, and Atsushi-san called to say he still hasn't come to the school. We think he is at work. Do you know where he works?"

Admittedly having no clue, the boy just shook his head.

"Okay." That was not the answer she had hoped for. This was getting complicated. "Is there anyone else you know that might be able to help us? Anyone?"

Thinking for a while produced the response, "Oh, Oji Sato Mizu."

"Oji Sato Mizu?" Carli-san repeated in confusion.

Masami-kun, surprised, couldn't help but enter the conversation, "That guy who sells Sato To Shitsu in the park is your uncle?"

"Kyoko Ichirou-san?" The nanny supplied the name, now as surprised as the boy she took care of.

Nori nodded in agreement.

A second after they both stopped staring at him, Carli-san mentioned, "So I'll send someone to get in contact with him. You kids can go now."

Without a word, Masami-kun ran off toward the stairs once more, but his nanny caught him at the landing, reminding, "You better not be going back to the television until you've done something else first."

"But Carli-san, I helped you try to find Nori-kun's dad," the boy excused, revealing where he had been heading.

She laughed a little, since he had given such an unreasonable response. "Uh, that doesn't count."

For a second, he thought, trying to come up with something short, before he remembered, "Oh yeah, I was supposed to show Nori-kun the house. Nori-kun, you're in the kitchen. That's the front door. That's the downstairs. You saw the tv room, which is basically all that's neat upstairs, and the bathroom is back there around a corner somewhere."

It almost goes without being said that he left a few things out.

Carli-san, who had been sending a text message asking Atsushi-san to go see what he could find out from Kyoko Ichirou-san, finished before noting, "That is not how you show a guest the house." She flipped her phone closed and ordered, "Come back down here and do it right."

Atsushi did not particularly enjoy his job when it entailed detective work, or finding the parents of his charge's newest pawn. He had signed up to beat things up…protect Masami-kun, he corrected. Either way, though, talking to random juice vendors was in no way appealing to the mostly introverted young man. The only task other than being or looking scary that he ever accepted with pleasure was playing war video games with the child, technically only permissible on nights when there was no school the next day.

With a deep sigh, the bodyguard drew the courage to take the final steps in approaching the target. "Good day Sir," he began, voice emotionless. "Do you know a boy named Kyoko, Nori-kun?"

"Yes," Ichirou replied hesitantly. Of course, it was followed by the obvious question, "Why?"

"Good," Atsushi continued, "we are seeking contact with the boy's father. Do you have such contact?"

He received the same, confused and hesitant yet affirmative answer.

"The boy is in our possession, in the Setagaya Ward. He may proceed as he wishes." Atsushi turned to leave.

Saburou's brother stood in shock for a second, letting every possibility cross his mind before giving chase. "Wait! What do you mean 'in possession'? Whose possession? It isn't a kidnapping, is it?"

"If it was a kidnapping, you would never have seen my face," the guard assured in a totally not encouraging way. Then, pulling a business card from his pocket, he handed it over. "Contact us when your brother is ready," he concluded and left.

Ichirou let his head drop into his hands upon seeing the name on the card. He would once again have to get after his younger brother for abandoning his child obliviously in someone else's care, this time the Konatoya family.

The tall man of African origin leaned back against a white wall, discussing case details with Suzume who sat behind a desk, trying to sort through details and statements from the murder. Neither man had admitted to it, and the investigators had no real reason to pin the blame on one or the other. The evidence, on the other hand, clearly showed it had to be someone close to the victim. Would they have to start questioning family?

"I found the number for one of the people Nakamura-san went to meet the morning of. He said the meeting was supposed to take place around 10 A.M., but that Nakamura-san had shown up early, around 9:45," he supplied at least one new piece of information. "The location was almost an hour's distance from his house, even more in heavy traffic. Even the surveillance footage from Nakamura's apartment confirms him leaving that early and also that the boyfriend did not come up until after noon."

"But the victim's body temperature pinpointed time of death to right around 10 A.M.," Suzume reminded. "Someone had to be there, and it was someone she knew."

"Clearly someone who knew her as well, and the importance of the necklace," Kuro added. "Should we start questioning the family?"

"I don't think so," she countered, thoughtfully inputting her more psychologically tuned opinion. "With a weapon as intimate as the one we're dealing with, we ought to think of a way one of the two men could have done it."

Kuro pondered over the image in his hands of the marks left by the necklace and eventually agreed, "There's no way Shinju-san's sister is tall enough to have strangled her from above like this. Then, how could it have happened?"

"The stairs," the woman provided after a moment. "The cameras in the elevators wouldn't tape anyone entering the stairway. At least for the boyfriend, he could easily have come up early and then pretended to be the one who found the body."

"What motive would he have for killing her?" Playing a little Devil's Advocate, Kuro tried to inspire thought with the obvious question.

"Jealousy? Hatred for the fact that she was already claimed. The necklace represented that. Maybe he found out."

Brainstorming—it was the abstract part of their job. The part that required determining what was the most logical assumption for their case. Would it be the boyfriend; though, they had expected from the start it was the husband? He had no real alibi, and he had requested his lawyer. At the same time, he also had much less motive.

"Kuro-san," Suzume brought out as she flipped through pictures. "Which one of them smokes?"

Though the house showed no signs that a smoker frequented there—it didn't smell at all like cigarettes—they had found one cigarette butt in the living room. It had to have come from somewhere, and that could be exactly the hint they needed to break the case.

"I'll see what I can't find out," Kuro offered, heading after an officer.

As soon as the tour of the enormous house was over, the green haired boy looked at the watch on his wrist. Commenting that it had ended just in time for such and such show to begin, he once more attempted to escape his caretaker for the television. She still refused to allow it.

"What have you done to deserve to watch more tv?" She inquired, stopping the retreating boy in his tracks.

"I," he began uncertainly, mind clearly racing for ideas, "showed Nori-kun our house."

"I showed Nori-kun the house," Carli-san corrected. "You only walked along behind and watched."

Now resigned to his fate of something other than mindless vegetation, Masami-kun turned back around to the group, saying, "Oh. So, um, Nori-kun, we have to go do something else. Would you like to…play games, play with toys…" he began slowly listing off a vague selection of activities, none of which he really seemed to have any interest in.

Carli-san broke in with the option, "We could bake a dessert."

Obligated to do so, Masami-kun inserted baking into his list, repeating the option in a rushed way before quickly moving on to, "play outside."

"Make dessert? Could we really?" Nori interrupted excitedly.

"You…want to," the older boy stumbled out in surprise. It seemed, however, to not be a mocking shock that the young boy wanted to bake, but rather sheer surprise that Nori himself was not mocking it.

"Yeah," Nori instantly agreed, too innocent to understand any of the older boy's previous concerns. He was trying to figure out Masami-kun's hesitation, though, and thus recalled, "but you can't have sugar, can you?"

The celebrity looked up at his nanny, and she smiled down at him. It was a smile that Nori mistakenly read as meaning he could have sugar this once, but Masami-kun understood it well. His nanny's smile reflected the inner joy he was currently holding at bay.

It did show a little when he answered Nori's question. "I can eat sugar when I make it myself. Come on, let's go." With a bounce, he walked away, leading the group to the kitchen.

Each second that passed, Nori became more and more aware that Masami-kun liked to cook. He had a special stool under the sink just tall enough for him to reach and work over the counter, and he climbed right onto it. He even remembered to wash his hands without being told, something no young boy ever remembered.

Leaning over a brown paper bag, he began taking items out as he asked, "What do we have to make today Carli-san? Can we do peanut, honey egg rolls again?"

"Not this time," the cooking instructor replied, having found a step ladder for Nori to climb onto. "This time is special. We need to do something that needs three sets of hands."

Nori's head popped over the edge of the counter with the comment, "I helped my friend and his aunt make pokky once. It was fun. That's how I know I like cooking."

Carli-san, who was busy putting away some things and getting out others they would need, paused in her work. "You've only helped cook once?" She inquired, a little surprised by that.

"Yeah, my mom didn't cook very much. We always bought dessert."

"Oh, that's too bad, but we're gonna have lots of fun, aren't we Masami-kun?"

"Uh-huh," the celebrity responded distantly. Having seen the recipe card Carli-san set out, he grabbed it and was trying very hard to distinguish enough kanji from it to guess the dessert.

"Anmitsu," Carli-san revealed, taking the card away from the boy. "Could you try to take notice of your friend while he's here?"

Compliantly, Masami-kun tried to inquire, "So, Nori-kun, have you ever made Anmitsu before?"

Nori began to refuse, but Carli-san broke in, "No, he hasn't. If you had been paying even the slightest bit of attention, you would have heard that."

"Gome," the celebrity responded, not at all sincerely.

As the time passed, it quickly became apparent that Masami-kun knew what he was doing strikingly well for his age, and he saw no need to involve Nori at all. Noting this—and that she had forgotten to get out eggs—Carli-san sent specifically the younger boy to the refrigerator for three. Nori took his job very seriously. He had to be careful with the eggs to not drop them. He successfully kept them all in tact all the way until he made it back to the counter, just until he climbed back onto his stool.

"Uh-oh," he muttered believably, "I dropped one." Then, his head appeared over the counter's edge, eyes gleaming, with a huge smile and all three eggs. "Just kidding."

His little joke was met at first by a disappointed yet sympathetic Carli-san, who was already pitying the boy's clumsy mistake. She quickly relaxed when she realized he was teasing. Masami-kun, on the other hand, started out angry and followed that by threatening to beat his friend with the wooden spoon he held.

Scoldingly, Carli-san called the young boy by his full name. "It was only a joke," she reaffirmed.

"It wasn't funny," Masami-kun retorted, revealing the full scale of his obsession. "It would have been better if he had actually dropped an egg than joking around like that."

"Calm down child," the adult of the group ordered. "You're too uptight."

"Yeah, man, you need to chill," Nori agreed, the comment sounding silly from his young mouth. "This is s'posed to be fun." As he said that, he accompanied his words with the immature act of throwing a handful of flour at the celebrity.

"Stop it," the other insisted, clearly upset.

"Stop being so serious, Ma-chan," the nanny replied, teasing her charge with a young girl's nickname.

"Don't call me that!" The child cried desperately.

"What?" Carli-san asked, pretending to not see the issue.

"That! 'Chan!'"

Carli-san gave in a little. "All right, Mumu-kun."

"Not that either. If you want to call me something that's not my name, make it Chef Masami-san."

"Okay, we'll settle," Carli-san conceded, or so it seemed. Dipping each of her index fingers into the flour and then using it to paint a stripe on both of the boy's cheeks, she continued, "Chief Mumu-san."

At first, that name did not meet his standards any better than the others. Nori, however, could hardly stifle his giggles anymore, and broke into laughter. When Nori laughed, Masami-kun's grumpy frown shifted into a half smile before becoming a small chuckle.

An idea developed in the boy's mind, and he pointed to his companion with the same spoon that a moment before was a threat. "And I dub you, Takebera-kun," he decided. "You will spike your hair and wear a cooking hat crooked."

Compliantly, Nori ruffled up his short, brown hair, but his excitement withered as he reminded, "If I had a hat."

Perplexed, Carli-san couldn't help but wonder, "Why Takebera-kun?"

"His name isn't really Nori, Carli-san," Masami-kun explained, revealing that he knew, "it's Takeshi-kun, like 'Bamboo Tree.' Only we're cooking, so it's Takebera-kun."

Accepting the explanation and both nicknames, Carli-san laughed slightly and proceeded with the recipe. For the remainder of the afternoon, the two boys got along tolerably well. So well, in fact, the nanny considered inviting Nori over for another go at it whenever this 'Father' of his showed up.

"Have you seen Yamada-san?" Tamura inquired as she entered the room, pulling Saburou from a tangled report of families Chinta, Yamashi, and the neighbors.

He tossed the papers on the coffee table in front of him. "Yeah, a couple hours ago he dropped by to give me his paperwork and then ran off with my case, why? Are you looking for him?"

The tallest member of the team towered over his seat a while, skimming through his work. Knowing he was familiar with what she had to say made it easier to explain, "Chinta-san's girlfriend just came in to see the body. She made this claim that she witnessed Yamashi-san shove him down the stairs fighting over the sister, who 'would obviously lie to protect the scum that she for some reason cares about more,' end quote. It completely contradicts everything concluded to this point."

"And you were hoping to get advice from him on how to know which is true," the man supposed the intent of the girl who was also the newest member of their growing team. She had moved up from working in the trace lab, so she understood all the evidence. At times, though, manipulating people still stumped her.

"Tell her he admitted to it, and tell him she blamed him," he suggested when Tamura agreed. "See how the stories change. Watch their initial reactions closely. You can see a lot in that one instant—the fear of needing a new excuse, the relief of getting away with something, the love that compels someone to take a fall for someone else. It could indicate which one you should put more pressure on afterwards."

"Thank you so much Kyoko-san! You are a life saver," the tall and bubbly girl informed. "I'm going to take care of that right now. Could you sort evidence from a case I had this afternoon?" She too ran off, leaving a file of information on the table beside him.

"Of course," he muttered to himself. "Because I'm not busy at all."

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