Chapter 1:

Introductions Are In Order

The Assassistant & Idealist Detective

“You’re hired.”

Imagine my surprise hearing those words after job hunting for more than a few months at the age of 18. The black-suited, glasses-wearing Kido Natsumi, the secretary receptionist, pushed up her glasses, glinting briefly from the lights above. She stood up, leaving me and my untouched resume on the table.

“Wait, are you sure?”

Maybe the haircut I got before coming here killed two birds with one stone. She had only asked me basic questions like, “How long do you plan on working here,” “Are you willing to travel for the job,” and “When can you start?” I planned on working here for as long as I could, was willing to travel for the job, and wanted to start as soon as the interview was over, though it wasn’t like I had a choice to start next week or tomorrow.

“Yes, Mr. Katayama Masaru,” said Kido Natsumi. “From what I’ve read into you, I’d say you’re the perfect man for the job.”

“Read into?” I guess companies really do dig into potential recruits, though this is the first time I’ve seen it be admitted out loud.

She cleared her throat. “Anyways, the lady is waiting for you. Please follow me.” The lady? That’s an odd way to refer to the boss.

Kido beckoned me out of the interview room and into the main area dimly lit only by the sunlight streaming through the windows. There were four empty wooden filing cabinet desks along with bookless shelves against the walls. Everything was brown and warm. It was not what I expected of a private detective office which was supposed to be filled with notebooks and papers littering the floor.

I expected Kido to lead me to the other side of the building where a large office laid, but she instead greeted a windowless door near the interview room. She knocked on the door, and a girl’s voice answered, “come in.” We stepped inside, and a girl was sitting at a desk, fingers dancing atop the keyboard. The room was dimly lit from the only hanging light and the computer monitor and was filled to the knee with neatly stacks of notebooks. She looked to be my age, but there were heavy bags beneath her eyes as she frantically moved them from the opened notebooks to the computer screen. Her hair was yellow and tied into a ponytail, and she wore a buttoned collared white shirt. She only stopped when the door closed behind us.

“Oh Natsumi, did you need something?” said the girl, her voice low and hoarse.

“Ma’am. I have brought you some help.”

The detective eyed me from my straight, black hair to my dress shoes before she said, “Interesting.” She grabbed a pile of notebooks at her feet and brought it to my hands.

“What am I supposed to do with these?”

“Just read through them and write down what happens.”

“Shouldn’t we at least start with introductions?” I said.

“No time. Now get working,” said the girl, and she waved me off. I was ushered out of the room by Kido who was kind enough to give me an actual explanation of my task. I was to read through the notebooks filled with details of past cases worked on by a detective and type them up. What would have been a simple task was made challenging by the past detective’s barely legible and faded handwriting.

“Where am I to type this up?” I said.

“I believe we have a few computers in the closet,” said Kido as she hurried into the closet and carried out a monitor, computer tower, and wires. She picked the desk nearest to the big office and set it up.

“Please let me know if there’s anything else you need.”

“Thanks, Kido,” I said, taking a seat and opening one of the books. I expected Kido to leave, but she still stood behind me.

“Oh, did you need something?”

“Mr. Katayama, I know that you weren’t given the best impression of the lady, but please know that she means no harm.”

I nodded. From what I saw, it looked like she was just overworking herself.

“Don’t worry. I won’t hold it against her.”

She nodded and left, allowing me to work in peace.

I felt the cool, smooth board pressed against my cheek, and a warm blanket wrapped around my shoulders. I raised my head to see that the orange lights were on, and the windows were black. Someone was approaching my desk with two mugs in hand.

“You’re finally awake,” said the detective, setting a mug of coffee on the table.

“I’m so sorry for sleeping on the job!” I said when I realized what had happened, though this worked out in my favor. I hoped the detective did not see my sigh of relief.

“Don’t worry about it. You got through four notebooks which is impressive enough,” she continued, “My name is Kanda Mana. You?”

“Katayama Masaru. Please to meet you.”

We both drank our coffee in silence. I felt like there was something that wasn’t being addressed when I remembered.

“Kanda, what did you mean when you said I was interesting?”

I thought I saw her flinch for a second, but she simply said, “Hm? Oh that.”

“What was it?”

“It’s nothing. Really.”

“I insist.”

She hesitated, but her eyes began darting across me.

“If I was to guess, I’d say you’re running away from someone.”

The air around me grew hot, and I felt a bead of sweat form and fall from my temple.

“Why do you say that?”

“For starters, your hair. Your hair in your resume picture you sent two days ago is longer. It’s safe to say you either cut your hair yesterday or this morning. After all, you do look quite different from your picture.”

“I don’t see what that has to do with anything. Besides, I just felt like having a haircut.”

“I’ll get to it. Let’s look at the second point,” she continued, “You wanted to start work today even though you didn’t have to.”

“I’m a hard worker. Didn’t want to disappoint.”

“For someone who doesn’t want to disappoint, you sure did look relieved when it was night when you woke up. Combining all these points together, I’d say you were running away from someone or some people, most likely debt collectors.”

The air grew cooler, and my sweat began to stick.

“Are you planning on turning me in?” I said.

“I don’t plan on doing anything. You asked, and I delivered.” She turned to return to her tiny office, its size unbefitting for someone of her position. Before she could open the door, I called out to her.

“I bet you got all that from your secretary. There’s no way you can do that with just one look at me.”

“I only read your resume.”

I had always felt the need to challenge someone when they outsmarted me.

“I bet I can tell a whole lot about you,” I said, rising from my seat and letting the blanket wrapped around me fall to the chair.

“How so? You’ve only been here for a day,” said Kanda.

Before I realized it, I had forced myself into a situation where my employment here was in jeopardy, but I couldn’t risk losing face. It was also impossible for me to know anything about her as well. I calmed my breathing, felt the breeze of the air conditioner, and thought. Think, Masaru, think!

“I think you’re replacing the previous detective.” She looked at me with furrowed brows. Oh god, what am I even saying?

“You’re typing up these papers to preserve and learn from them,” I continued, “but I think it’s more than that.”

They were all placed in neat piles after all. It had to be the handwriting from someone important.

“All these notebooks you gave me belonged to one Ozaki Masahiro.” Kanda folded her arms.

All I had to guess was who this Ozaki Masahiro was. Since they had different last names, then it’s safe to say that he wasn’t her father. If that’s the case, then Ozaki had to be her uncle.

“Ozaki Masahiro is your uncle,” I said, concluding my analysis.

Kanda was silent for a while, and only the whirring of the air conditioner remained. After a while, the detective chuckled.

“Not bad, but you got one part wrong.”

“Which one did I get wrong?”

“Figure it out yourself,” said Kanda as she walked into her room and closed the door.

From the looks of it, I hadn’t offended her in any way, so I guess I still had my job. The time read 10:00PM on my phone. I had no home to return to, and I had no doubts those guys were still searching for me. It looked like Kanda didn’t have any plans on leaving, so I guess it wouldn’t be too bad for me to spend the night here in hiding. I grabbed the blanket, headed to the sofa near the windows, and fell asleep.

I awoke when the sun was bright enough to pierce my eyelids. Kido Natsumi was already at the front desk, copying the contents of the notebooks onto the computer. I made two coffees and brought them over.

“Morning, Kido,” I said, placing a mug on the desk.

“Good morning, Katayama,” said Kido, sipping the coffee.

There was silence between us. I wanted to learn more about Kido, though nothing came to mind other than her natural stoic expression. Much to my surprise, Kido was the one who interrupted the silence.

“Katayama, if you have time later, would you like to grab lunch with me?”

The agency office may have been some distance from my apartment, but I was still afraid of anyone coming after me. I had no doubt that Kido found me strange as I walked with her to lunch while throwing my head back and forth, looking for any suspicious people. We eventually arrived at a gyudon place where she proceeded to stuff her face with not one, not two, but four bowls with extra ginger. If she found me strange during our commute, I’m sure this balanced things out. With the final bowl emptied, she clapped her hands, said her thanks, and turned her attention to me, someone I thought she had forgotten until now.

“Katayama, the reason I have brought you out here today is regarding the lady.”

“Before that, why do you call Kanda ‘the lady’?”

“I owe her my life, as I’m sure you will too.”

That didn’t answer anything. Was she being forced to address Kanda as ‘lady?’ I guess it’s better if I didn’t ask anything. Kido continued on regardless.

“I wanted to talk to you about your conversation with her yesterday.”

“I thought you went home.”

“No. I was sleeping under the desk.”

That doesn’t sound healthy at all. I was seriously reconsidering my employment here if it turned out to be a black company.

As if reading my mind, she said, “It was of my own volition.”

“Is that so. You were saying?”

“I’m sure she wouldn’t want me to say it, but I thought you should know,” she continued, “The lady’s real name is Ozaki Mana.”

“Ozaki like Ozaki Masahiro?”

“Yes. The late detective Ozaki Masahiro is her father.”

“But her last name is Kanda. She even introduced herself as a Kanda.”

“That is because her mother remarried. The truth is she detests the name.”

“Ozaki does sound like a better name. Besides, I’m sure the late detective doesn’t mind his wife finding a new man and starting a better life.”

“That’s not it. It’s because her mother remarried while Ozaki was still alive.”

“That explains things,” I said, regretting my earlier words.

“Now, she has returned to her father’s old workplace in hopes of restoring it.”

“That sounds great and all, but she’s young and doesn’t exactly have the qualifications or experience.”

Kido Natsumi gave a soft smile, said, “No, but she certainly has her father’s mind.”

“Why are you telling me all this? I only got hired yesterday as an assistant.”

“Just as the lady has her mind, I have my eyes. I can tell a person’s true nature simply by looking at them.”

“It’s nice that you think so highly of me, but I’m just running away from things.”

“Maybe so, but I believe that you will help the lady the most.”

“You plan on quitting or something?”

“Not at all, but if I am ever absent, I hope that you will help her to the best of your abilities.”

She gave a bow and a great beaming smile as she spoke of Kanda. I wish someone would smile like that when they talked about me.

When we got back, Kanda was still locked up in her tiny office, and Kido returned to her work. It was a far cry from my old life and tedious in comparison, but it was peaceful. It was what I was searching for all these years. I wished these peaceful days would last forever and hoped I wasn’t asking too much, but looking back, I’m sure whoever was controlling my fate thought I was being too greedy. 

Joshua Lundquest
Joe Gold
Syed Al Wasee