One Thousand Mornings: Chapter 2: Rebirth
Kawamura stepped out of the interrogation room and rendezvoused with Lee and the others. “Why does this seem familiar?” Lee remarked with his forehead crinkled like an accordion. The Chief danced around in a circle with his eyes pointed down at his feet. He then looked over at Kawamura as he made his way into the room. “Did you notice it?” Lee asked Kawamura. “Yea, I did” he responded.
“I didn’t notice anything ...”
Everyone in the room slowly turned their attentions towards a nonchalant Saori sitting atop a table against the backwall, swinging her leg back and forth. “It’s no different than the kidnapper we questioned at the hospital,” Kawamura explained. “Whoever is behind all of this, it’s like they’re in their heads somehow. Brainwashing them; controlling what they say.” Kawamura rubbed his fingers across his bandages as he scoured his thoughts for an answer. “She’s wasting time,” Kawamura iterated. “Do you think it could be a cult? Feels a lot like extremism. Interpol comes across these types often.” Saori queried. “I don’t know…” Kawamura deflatingly replied.
“Reiko is dead, which means we focus on getting the kid back and locating Chiasa.
“Most kidnappings are by a family member, someone who traffics children, or to demand ransom from the parents.”
“Chiasa’s family may still have a lot of money, considering what her father was worth.”
“But they’ve requested neither of the two. Yuki’s only family is Chiasa and her grandmother.”
“There are loose ends all over this case. One of Chiasa’s attackers last night was found unconscious in the basement. Our men weren’t responsible for that.”
“Then, there’s only one plausible explanation.
“There’s more than one group involved here. And they have different motives. But one thing is probably certain. Wherever Chiasa goes, they’ll follow.
“We, on the other hand, have no idea where she is. According to the surveillance footage, she waltzed right out of here moments before the electricity went out.
“Well, then figure out a way to get her back, detective. Do the job you’re paid for!”
The Chief slowly made his way out of the room as the three of them quietly contemplated. “Did you get a confirmation on that photograph?” Kawamura asked Lee. “Yea,” he replied while handing him the photo, “The girl on the right with the long hair tied back into a half ponytail is Chiasa, the one standing next to her is still anonymous. We have no idea who she is. Although she and Chiasa look awfully alike, records don’t show Chiasa having any extended family. The picture apparently was taken around the time Chiasa was in middle school. You can tell by the uniform”
“So, about ten years ago,” Kawamura inserted.
“Yea. It’s difficult to get any accurate data about that school’s alumni as it shut down quite some time ago. Everywhere I checked the info was always spotty at the least, but we know Chiasa lived in Tokyo for about a year while her family tended to her father’s business, and the uniform she’s wearing confirms it. The girl to the side of her, on the other hand, hasn’t appeared at all.”
“Quantum Ten related as well?”
Kawamura tapped the nail of his thumb against his wedding ring while the room drifted off into a deep mull.
Tap … tap … tap …
The sound bounced off Chiasa’s skin with an invigorating chill, like a shower of tiny balls of cold ice. It sent shivers all the way to her fingertips.
Tap … tap … tap …
“Tell me more about this incident, Chiasa. When the explosion went off, were you afraid?” a calm voice asked.
Tap, tap, tap.
Chiasa bounced the edge of her spoon against the teacup repeatedly; letting the chills run through her body. “It felt real, and vivid. I can almost taste the air in my mouth. It still suffocates me at nighttime.”
“I agree, your descriptions are quite detailed. However, nothing like that ever happened I can assure you. The press conference went without fault. Your parents and about a hundred more people were there.” Still tapping her spoon against the cup, Chiasa slightly glanced up at the doctor. “If a bomb went off in Minato it would be all over the news,” the doctor continued. Chiasa placed the spoon down and sat upright in her chair. “I guess you’re right,” she calmly replied.
Interrupted by three evenly timed knocks, the doctor placed his notepad into his pocket and informed Chiasa that he’d only be a moment. As he stepped out of the room, Chiasa leapt over towards the door and pressed her ear against its cold wooden surface. “Whatever went on in her head, it’s still there,” the doctor’s voice could be heard explaining. “We’ll take care of it; nonetheless, things worked out.” Chiasa squinted her eyes while caught in a deep mull. She knew exactly whose voice that was. “If you want my advice, sir. The mind can only stretch so far before it breaks. Please be careful.” The doctor then warned. “You don’t need to tell me that,” the man replied.
Sunken down into her own thoughts, confusion rampaged through her mind. What is happening? Chiasa asked herself. The doorknob began to shuffle and Chiasa sprang back over to her seat. Trying to act undisturbed, Chiasa slouched back down into her usual languid posture. She could hear the doctor’s footsteps creeping towards her. Meanwhile, the door continued to creak in the background.
“Chiasa, we’re going to end our session here for today. Your father is here to take you home.”
Chiasa looked over her shoulder and saw her father standing in the doorway. He had a pleasant smile on his face, but Chiasa couldn’t help but picture a more unreceptive countenance underneath the false façade. The doctor tapped his hand against the armrest of her chair, and Chiasa glanced at him through the corner of her eye. “We’ll continue next week,” he said to her with a smile on his face. Chiasa nodded her head, and then dragged her coat off the back of her chair. Swinging her coat over her shoulders, her cellphone slipped out of her coat pocket and tumbled to the floor.
Lee leaned over and picked up his phone which had slipped from his hand as he analyzed the printed photo of the two middle school girls. Kawamura was steady observing Akazawa, while Saori comforted her hunger by digging into a rice ball. “Look at this picture. It’s as clear as day,” Lee proclaimed as he tapped the back of his hand against the photograph, “except for that one guy standing in the background.” Kawamura swiftly turned around and looked for himself. “I didn’t notice anybody standing in the background,” he said. “Yeah, take a look,” Lee replied. “It’s hard to make out because he’s dressed in all black in an already dark picture, but there’s definitely someone there. He just looks all blurry though.” Saori hopped over, eager to get in on the buzz. “Yea, now that you mention it. There is someone back there.” She twisted and turned her head like a desk lamp being situated into the right position; trying to catch the image from all angles. “He looks almost like a smudge. Staring at him makes me feel like there’s something caught in my eye,” she stated while rubbing her eyelids. Kawamura, on the other hand, carefully observed the photo from over Lee’s shoulders without saying much.
“You see the thing is, I saw this man, I know I did. But a few minutes after he’d walked away, I could hardly picture the guy in my head. I honestly can’t imagine what he looked like, it’s just… gone.”
The old man’s words came spinning back to Kawamura like a disk on repeat. As if his intuition was ringing an alarm. Why was that landlord’s story suddenly cropping up in his head? What was it about this picture that made two unrelated things feel as though they were connected somehow? He could only assume that there was a detail somewhere that he was overlooking.
“They’re wearing school uniforms, but this doesn’t seem like the inside of any school building I’ve ever seen,” Saori remarked. “Well, this could be anywhere, can’t really tell for sure,” stated Lee. “The question that I’m begging to ask is, who left this picture and why did they want us to find it?”
Lee’s question flooded Kawamura’s thoughts with memories of the explosion that now had the entire precinct shaken and under pressure like a bottle of soda ready to explode.
“Who!” Kawamura barked as he turned towards both Saori and Lee. “Who did this?” his eyes wide open as he stood with his hands spread apart and a look on his face as though he was imploring an answer. “I stood in that very same room when, in a matter of seconds, someone was able to impale a knife through an officer’s chest and go unnoticed.”
“Perhaps, you were the only one who didn’t notice.” Saori’s sound statement made reality clear. “To my knowledge it wouldn’t be the first time. Chiasa’s apartment happened just last night but it seems as though you’ve already forgotten about the men in uniform that were on the other side. Maybe we need to be a little more careful when moving forward.”
Kawamura gave her a solemn look as he slightly shifted the weight of his body onto his left leg, firmly feeling the pain run through his ankle.
Just then an officer stepped inside the room with a stack of documents in his hand. “The information you requested, sir” stated the officer as he handed the papers to Kawamura. “This is the forensics report from Reiko’s bag that was discovered behind the club, and this folder has a compilation of the items we pulled from Kouto Fujioka’s residence. The first page seems like a blueprint for something that he was possibly trying to build behind the wall of what looks to be a closet. I’m not really sure to be honest; I put it on top because I thought maybe you might want to take a better look at it yourself.” Kawamura flipped the folder open and analyzed the document. Saori crept over beside him and slipped the forensics report from his hand and began studying it as well. “It says that Reiko’s bag was wiped down with a chemical no longer used in current day cleaning products. What does that even mean?” queried Saori. Responding, the officer informed Saori that the chemical was once used in products produced by a company that went bankrupt almost a decade ago. With her eyes squinted, Saori replied, “Why does that sound familiar?” Kawamura then directed Saori’s focus to a section towards the bottom of the paper. “The company was majority owned by Quantum Ten and went out of business just like every other business owned by them. Which means that this chemical was possibly placed there on purpose to get us to investigate Quantum Ten.”
“Like a message?” But then why not just… I don’t know, put the product label in the bag or something? Wouldn’t that have been easier?
“Maybe Reiko knew that she was being targeted. There’s only so many people capable of digging this far deep.
“It’s as if the answers that we need are always right in front of us but we’re just too late when noticing it.”
“Why don’t we try interrogating Akazawa again? Maybe with this info—-.”
“Questioning her all day is probably what she wants. We need to get ourselves ahead of the curve.”
As Kawamura swiftly stepped around the officer and began marching his way towards the exit, Lee called out to him “You mind telling me where ‘ahead of the curve’ is?” but Kawamura dodged his question by stating, “Saori, you stay here and keep an eye on Akazawa for me, contact me if anything comes up. If Reiko knew she was a target, then Akazawa probably knows something as well.” He then gestured for Lee to follow him as he turned back and grabbed the photograph from out of his hands. “Take the Interpol agent with you,” Lee suggested to the contrary, “I still have to file the reports about the Honshou family.”
Stepping halfway out the door, Kawamura obliged, “aye, aye captain.”
Saori turned towards Lee while shrugging her shoulders. “Have fun,” she then teased as she tiptoed off behind Kawamura. Not before long the two of them had left the room alongside the officer, leaving Lee the only one left behind. The room in silence, Lee quietly leaned closer to the window, and gazed down upon Akazawa.
Chiasa leaned against the wall alongside the entryway separating the kitchen from the living room. She held one arm across her waist with her chin propped up on the hand of the other. Her eyes were fixated towards the floor, and her expression was caught in a state between confusion and distress. A contingency of sort deep within her own mind. The television could be heard playing in the background as well as the faint sound of a tea kettle slowly boiling in the distance. “So, you’ve been seeing things that aren’t there?” Chiasa rolled her eyes upwards towards Yuhna who was leaning over the armrest of a couch on the opposite side of the room. Chiasa gently scratched the side of her face with her finger as she returned her gaze downwards. “… Yea, that’s what happened,” she calmly replied. “And this message that you said you saw on the computer; you have no clue as to who could have sent it?” Chiasa slowly shook her head from side to side. “And what about that piece of paper that you told me to get from your apartment?” Yuhna asked while gesturing towards a bag of Chiasa’s belongings leaning against a small table by the doorway. Chiasa glanced over at the piece of paper that lay rested on top of the table and replied, “I’m not sure what it’s supposed to be. After last night, for some reason I keep imagining red origami in the back of my head. None of it makes sense to me at all.” Yuhna quietly sat up in her seat as the sound of the tea kettle began to grow louder. A news report on the TV fished their attentions as the news of Reiko’s dead body being found in her apartment had now reached the public. Chiasa stared at the screen in apathy as the report stated, “Classmate Murano Akazawa has been detained in connection with the murder as she was discovered surrendering to local authorities at the scene of the crime.” The tea kettle began to whistle nonstop with a piercing intensity, but neither Chiasa nor Yuhna budged a single centimeter. Simply staring motionless at the television set the entire time.