One Thousand Mornings: Chapter 1: Departure
After class was over, both Chiasa and Reiko dragged themselves out of the classroom with their heads hanging low. Their slumped figures expressed their unwillingness to go on with life any further. Neither one of them said a word to each other as they walked down the hallway. Reiko’s body slumped lower and lower until she finally hit rock bottom. “Mo ii” she cried with her body fanned out across the floor. “School just isn’t for me.”
Chiasa paid her no attention as she continued walking towards the elevator. Surely enough, Reiko was still ranting off as usual. At least for the next week, neither of them had to worry about school, or its exams anymore. That topic would be put at ease for the holiday.
As Chiasa approached the elevator, she came across Murano Akazawa; whom was also waiting for the elevator. Akazawa often wore muted colors, but refrained from wearing too much black or gray. Her facial features were angular, and her eyes came to sharp edges at the outer corners. Her hair was long, and dyed a deep maroon; often tied back into a ponytail. Her appearance always struck Chiasa as the model type, but anyone who knew Akazawa, was well aware of her disdain for the public eye.
“Ne Akazawa-chan?” She turned around as Chiasa called out to her and returned the greeting. But before she could say anything, her words stopped short as she focused her sight on something beside her. Reiko wasted not a moments’ time before she darted forward, chanting down the hall at Akazawa.
“Ne Akazawa, doushita no?”
Akazawa turned her gaze towards Reiko, then swiftly looked away, back in the same direction. Eyes neck deep in confusion. Reiko came crashing in to Akazawa, causing them both to drop to the ground. When Chiasa jogged over, Akazawa was rubbing her head with one hand, and forcing Reiko out of her face with the other. Akazawa’s bag had been knocked out of her hand, and all its contents scattered across the floor.
Akazawa started to bicker at Reiko furiously. “Reiko, you’re too hyperactive. What do you eat for breakfast?” she said in the most irritated tone possible. “Ugh, you disgust me sometimes Reiko.” Chiasa couldn’t help but laugh at the entire situation. Ever since both Akazawa and Chiasa met Reiko back in fourth semester, things have pretty much always ended up like this. Reiko always irrationally jumping forward towards something, and Akazawa always getting the full force of the repercussion because of it. Chiasa could no longer count the numerous trouble they’ve gotten themselves into. Akazawa picked herself up off the floor and began gathering her items that had fallen out of her bag. She began throwing a fit about her cell phone that went missing during the commotion; but assuring enough, Reiko was standing there with her arm stretched forward holding the phone out. Akazawa sneered at her and snatched the phone from her hand.
“Ne Akazawa, how’s about we get a few drinks tonight?” Reiko suddenly asked. She turned her head towards Chiasa as if directing her question at her as well, but all the while kept her eyes glued to Akazawa. Akazawa always had sort of a penance stare that made it hard for someone to look the other way. “I’ll go if Chiasa goes as well,” Akazawa swiftly responded. Reiko sprung up in to the air begging Chiasa to tag along with them. Chiasa, showing defeat, appeased to Reiko’s rambunctiousness by accepting to tag along. Reiko slipped her arms around their necks and pulled them in tight. Her cheap perfume had filled their nose as she stuffed their faces against her chest. Yet another night of impulse induced mayhem, Chiasa thought to herself.
Thumping bass sounds vibrating through the floor, and lights beaming through the room. Bodies twirling back and forth and up and down, drinks spilling over, and incoherent chatter mumbling out of people’s mouths. This was the exact kind of environment that Chiasa wasn’t always too fond of. She and Akazawa sat together at one of the side tables closer towards the bar, while Reiko dove head first into the ocean. “What, he still hasn’t asked you out?” Akazawa chanted. “No, not yet. I mean… I wouldn’t even be able to give an answer if he did.” Chiasa replied, before taking in a mouthful of her martini. “Geez, it’s just, he made it so obvious, you would think by now he’d grown a pair.” Chiasa’s expression lightened at Akazawa’s comment. She cupped her palm over her mouth, trying not to spit out her drink. “Hahaha, you could say it a little nicer,” she told Akazawa while wiping her face off with a napkin. “Hayate has never done anything wrong to you, you haven’t even met him.” Akazawa grasped the base of her wine glass and twirled it around slightly. The deep red liquid crashed back and forth from side to side as though a force had compelled it to rage against its glass walled imprisonment. Lowering her tone, Akazawa returned her own proclamation. “Technically no, but it does pain me to watch pitiful men operate in such a pitiful way, expecting you to give pity. But not me, I never pity a fool.” “Ouch!” Chiasa retorted, sensing a change in Akazawa’s temperament. “He may even have felt that one just now.” Akazawa had been staring straight at her drink the entire time, watching it whirl around and around. She adjusted the movement of her wrist slightly, causing the liquid to shift into a more uniform and controlled whirlpool. Suddenly, lightening back up her expression, Akazawa responded “Ha! he probably just sneezed.” She lowered her glass back down onto the table, letting the drink finally settle. “Don’t get me wrong, he seems like a pretty okay person, but he has to cut the antics eventually, and just be straight forward. At this point, I could give you an obvious reason to say no.” Chiasa took a deep breath, leaning back in her chair. Her gaze shifted downwards, but what she was seeing wasn’t the floor beneath her. She was sucked in to a deep thought. Contemplating her words; or maybe hesitating to say anything at all. “Thanks, but no need. I have enough reasons to say no to any offers.” The atmosphere between the two had done a complete 180. Now, it was Akazawa who was taking note of Chiasa’s change of mood.
“Well that doesn’t sound healthy. You’ve been single ever since I met you. Did something happen in a past life?”
“Past life? This life has enough problems; I’d rather not be haunted by any past life karma.”
“I agree, but life can be unfair you know...”
After a few hours, Chiasa looked down at her watch and noticed the time already read past ten. If she didn’t hurry, she would miss her last train home. As she took to her feet, she could feel her shoes sticking to the martini glazed floor. In an environment like this, if you weren’t careful enough you might end up with the mark of your shoe imprinted in to someone else’s vomit, only to carry its stench home with you as a thank you gift. She told Akazawa that she’d head out first since she had work the next day. Eager to make her way home for the night as well, Akazawa suggested for them to all head out together, but Chiasa proposed not to. “We’re close to the station, and your train isn’t for another thirty minutes. You might as well go out there and have some fun with Reiko, otherwise she’ll bug you during the week to make up for taking her home too early.” Akazawa looked towards the crowd of people and spotted Reiko still partying without even breaking a sweat. “I don’t know where she gets so much energy from,” Akazawa mentioned. Chiasa grabbed her bag from off the table top and replied, “There’s no point in trying to understand the mind of another species. I wouldn’t mind being as carefree as she is sometimes now that I think about.” Akazawa took another sip from her glass and said, “That’s one thing that I admire about her, she’ll stay young for the rest of her life with a mind like that.” Chiasa gave Akazawa one last request before leaving the two of them behind. “Don’t drink too much, you have to make sure she gets home.” She reached over to the bartender and asked him to close out her tab. Akazawa grabbed her cup and gulped down the last of her drink. “I leave her in your hands,” were Chiasa’s last words to Akazawa before making her way out the club.
Chiasa returned to her apartment late at night, crawled out of her clothes, and flung herself onto her bed; far too tired to wash up beforehand. As she lay spread out across her mattress, she noticed the paper crane from the night before sitting on her desk. She reached over and snatched it off the table to take a closer look at it.
The piece of origami had grown on her like a cancer. Why would someone give her such an anomaly? What was the point behind it? She slowly unfolded it, wondering if there would be something written on the inside. As she pulled the crane apart, returning it back to a single sheet of paper, she was, yet again, surprised to find nothing. She couldn’t kick the feeling that someone had left it for a reason. After analyzing it for a while, she questioned if whether or not there was more there that she just wasn’t seeing.
Chiasa left her apartment and headed down to the security office where the overnight guard Takumi Haruna was on shift. Takumi was once a good friend of Chiasa’s late father years ago, when he worked at the widely renowned Ten Towers Hotel in Shinjuku. The hotel was owned by Chiasa’s father, and Takumi was positioned Head of Management of the entire complex. The hotel has since been sold off, but Takumi has remained acquainted with the family ever since, usually trying to do the best he could to help them whenever possible.
She hurried down to the lobby, where the security office acted as the front concierge by the main entrance, and asked Takumi if he happened to have a black light somewhere nearby. Delighted to help her, he quickly turned around and began searching for one in the utility closet. Hit by a gust of curiosity, he stopped for a moment to ask Chiasa why she wanted a black light, especially that late at night. Chiasa, to quickly ease his concern, claimed it was for a school project that she was working on. Amused at how late she was up working on school projects, his usual smile returned as he turned back around and continued searching through the closet.
Seemingly taking his time to locate it, Takumi began ranting off about how he used to use the flashlights years ago, when he was a kid playing detective around his house; but now, he would rather not see whatever they had to show him. Chiasa was always grateful for all of his help, but much like anyone her age, she would rather avoid the long stories dated way back to some ambiguous time in the 60’s. Luckily, Takumi managed to find one soon after. He walked up to the desk and handed her the flashlight. He then urged her not to stay up too late. Claiming that without sleep, all the hard work goes to waste anyways. Chiasa thanked him for the help and headed back up to her apartment.
She hurried back inside and shined the light over the piece of paper. She was hoping to find something, maybe some sort of message, written somewhere in between those four corners that up until this point has served no meaning at all but to boggle her head. Unfortunately, she got nothing from her attempt, but without giving up just yet, she flicked off her bedside lamp and tried again. This time with the room in total darkness she looked carefully, scouring every inch of the paper. But it was to no avail, as there was nothing to be found. Disappointed, Chiasa gave up and put the flashlight aside. She had never seen anything like it before, but ever since she came across this crane, it had been gnawing at her conscience. A senseless prank? That was more than likely, but the possibility of an ulterior motive, for some reason, hadn’t escaped her thoughts. Why it had begun to sit on her mind so heavily was up for question as well. Regardless, it couldn’t be helped. There was nothing on the paper. She left it sitting on her nightstand as she rolled over into her bed. She had almost forgotten how exhausted she was.
Deep into the night, a large thumping sound echoed off in the distance. It began to grow louder as it picked up its pace. Louder and louder, faster and faster. The thumping morphed into a raging, angry banging, loud enough to jitter a person’s skull. Then, maintaining all its might, the sounds slowly separated from each other. Each passing bang, increasing in strength. One. . . bang; two. . . bang; three—
Suddenly Chiasa was ripped from her slumber. Drenched in an anxious sweat as she sprung herself upwards, looking around the room in puzzlement and breathing heavily. She ran her hand over her forehead and through her hair, wiping the sweat off her face.
She immediately got out of bed and marched over to the bathroom. Without turning on the light, letting only the moonlight through the window guide her path, she swung open the cabinet door and reached in for a bottle of medicine. The weight of the hollow bottle surprised her. She shook it closer towards her ear to confirm what she had just come to realize. She could have sworn that this bottle was half full in the morning. She stretched over and flicked the light switch on, but the reality was no different. Defeated, she smacked her hands down against the basin and hunkered over the sink.
Chiasa sunk her hands deep within her coat pockets as she trotted her way over to a 24/7 Kusuri drugstore up the block from her apartment. Eager to calm her impeding nerves and quickly make her way back to sleep, Chiasa scurried on through the front entrance, darted over to the pharmaceutical section towards the back, and requested a prescription refill. The pharmacist, sitting off towards the far right imputing information into the database, made no gesture towards her. Chiasa then propped herself upon the counter and leaned in a bit closer, trying to get the pharmacist’s attention. “Hello!” she bellowed a bit louder. This time, the pharmacist tilted his head back and peeked over towards her direction. “Oh! My apologies,” he said as he raised up from his seat. Cloaked in a white lab coat he made his way over to the counter. He was young, possibly in his mid-30s. His hair was cut short and his facial hair shaven clean. As he greeted Chiasa, his eyes smiled larger than his mouth did. “And what can I help you with today?” he kindly asked. Chiasa placed the empty bottle on the desk and claimed that she should be qualified for a refill. The man swooped the bottle off the counter and checked the label. “Anti-anxiety pills huh? A lot of college students nowadays have been picking these up from us. College seems to be getting rough lately. Taihen da ne!” He asked for her ID and began pulling up her information at the register. As time began to pass by Chiasa grew more uneasy. “It went down the drain,” Chiasa interjected, afraid that he may have found the short time difference between pick-up dates a bit suspicious. “What?” the pharmacist replied as if caught off guard by Chiasa’s statement. “The pills” she said, “I accidentally chucked it.” The pharmacist then replied, “No need to worry, I was actually just having some trouble with the system that’s all. But you’re all good now! Ms. Chiasa Nakamura, right? I’ll be back right away with a refill.” He made his way over towards the back and vanished behind the shelves.
Trying to wait patiently, Chiasa checked her phone which read 1:30 am. Then seemingly out of nowhere, Chiasa was shoved by a passing customer. Clutching the counter top as she tried to hold her balance, Chiasa yelled after the man. The stranger simply kissed his teeth at her as he stumbled his way over to the beer section of the refrigerator, obviously intoxicated. Just then, the pharmacist returned with the refill in hand. He gave Chiasa his farewell as she grabbed her things and headed back towards the front. Before heading out, she decided to restack on toiletries. After grabbing a few items off the shelves, Chiasa headed to the front register to pay. She dumped the items on the countertop, pulled out her credit card and handed it to the clerk at the register. The cashier, another young individual, this time a female most likely in her twenties, swiped the card as payment. She swiped it a second time before handing it back to Chiasa claiming that the card was declined. Shocked, Chiasa tried not to waste much more of her time at the store and fished out another card from her wallet. Surprisingly, that card was declined as well. Flabbergasted, she decided to hand the clerk cash instead for the time being, and save the headache for later. She then grabbed her items and headed for the exit without taking a receipt.
After Chiasa returned home, while gulping down two white pills, she received an unusual late-night phone call by an unknown number. Her mother was ill and had been in and out of the hospital from time to time. With her ten-year-old niece, Yuki under her care, Chiasa feared that there may have been an emergency. As she picked up the call, she received nothing but static from the other end. An uneasy chill made its way down Chiasa’s spine as the haunting sound echoed through her ears. “Moshi-moshi,” Chiasa called out; but still, nothing more than static returned her call. Just as she decided to hang up the phone a faint voice called out to her from the other end. “Chiasa…” Although small, Chiasa could recognize the voice as Reiko’s.
“Hey, what is it? did you and Akazawa make it home?”
“Nn! But my boyfriend texted me on the way, said that he wants me to head out with him to Hakone.”
Chiasa looked over at her alarm clock and reconfirmed the time which currently read 2:00 am. Uneasy, Chiasa addressed Reiko with concern.
“Reiko, are you heading out there tonight?”
“Yea. I just wanted to let you know ahead of time that I won’t be around.”
“Can’t the trip wait until tomorrow morning? I mean, it’s kind of late.”
“Sometimes you worry too much, you know?”
“Then take this as me not worrying anymore; good night, Reiko…”
Reiko chuckled at Chiasa’s remark and replied, “Always so quick to put a situation to rest. One day you won’t be able to dodge the bullet so easily.” Off put by Reiko’s irrational statements, Chiasa couldn’t find the words to respond; until an unexpected knock at the door caught her by surprise. She wondered who could be looking for her so late at night. Strange occurrences were happening one after the other. Reiko’s phone call may have been one thing, but someone actually showing up at her door was another. It was as though she’d become a magnet of bizarre after hour oddities. Chiasa told Reiko, “I don’t understand a thing that you’re saying. Please, just go to sleep.” before hanging up the phone, and then began walking over towards the door. Right as she grabbed hold of the doorknob three large bangs halted her dead in her own tracks. She paused for a moment while grasping the knob firmly. With fear in control, Chiasa completely disregarded common sense as she suddenly swung the door open without checking whom it may be beforehand. To her surprise, no one was there.
Chiasa woke up the next morning, yet again, to the sound of knocks against her door. Her unrested body creaked like an old engine being fired up after sitting idle for years. Revving up her mind for cognitive thinking had never felt so painful. She somehow gathered enough energy to reach over and grab her cellphone from off the top of the nightstand. She checked the time which read 9:31 am. Chiasa was nearly disgusted at how early someone could have chosen to rip her from her slumber. Is this even real, she thought back to herself while gazing up at the ceiling. She hadn’t the slightest intention of moving. Three more knocks came echoing from the door. Assuming it may be something important, she decided to see what the disturbance was all about. Chiasa got out of her bed, headed over to the door, and again, without checking, opened it wholeheartedly.
As she peered out the door to see just who her unexpected guest could be, she was greeted by not one, but two men. Neither of them she had ever met before. One reached for his pocket, setting Chiasa on alarm. Shuffling his hand around for a bit, he then lifted out a black wallet, flipping it over to reveal a detective’s badge. He introduced himself as Detective Kawamura, and his partner as Detective Lee.
Without elongating their introductions, the two detectives got right down to business. They asked Chiasa if she could tell them her whereabouts last night. Caught off guard by the sudden questioning, Chiasa stumbled over her words.
“I… I was at home, why?”
“Is that all?”
“Should there be something else?”
“Is that an implication?”
“I’m just confused is all. What’s this all about?”
“And so, you didn’t do anything else at all last night?”
“And around what time are we talking about?”
“Approximately around the time that the day stops being day, and becomes night. You need me to research the definition?”
“I’m sorry, you’re going to have to excuse me, I just really think that this is all some sort of prank. Who’s paying you two assholes to stand in front of my door? because you guys can’t be real.”
With a slight pause in her speech, noting that the two detectives’ stern façade had yet to fade even by a little. Chiasa asked, “Is there something wrong? What’s this all about?”
“Well, there’s been a missing person’s report. I’m not sure if you’re aware or not mam. Now we don’t normally pursue a case this quickly, especially considering the age, but something in particular showed up.”
“The person reported missing is a 24-year-old female university student. She attends Chuo University; her name is Reiko Honshou.”
Detective Kawamura pulled out his wallet from his breast pocket and showed her a photo. There was certainly no mistaking it; this was her friend Reiko.
“Now, if you could just tell us, Ms...?”
“Nakamura; Chiasa Nakamura.”
“Good! It’s nice to know that we’ve got the right person.” Kawamura held his speech as he gave a glance up at Chiasa. She had a muddled stare baked over her face. “No really, it is.” He iterated, jabbing at her befuddled mindset. He reached for a notepad from one pocket and lifted a pen from another as he continued onwards. “Okay, Chiasa. So, if you could tell me, how would you describe your relationship with Ms. Honshou in one word?”
Kawamura peered over his shoulder at Detective Lee, who returned the same look of question back to him.
“What makes you choose that word?”
“I don’t know, it’s just what came to mind I guess.”
“Did you like her?”
“Well, she was my friend.”
“But did you like her? You see friends are; how should I put it, only as cherished as they are ‘useful’ at the time being. If you’re not gaining anything out of that person, then their virtually nonexistent from your point of view. We label a lot of people as friends, but really, it’s just an expression of them being beneficial. You see liking someone, and putting up with someone, are two different things. We put up with our ‘friends’ all the time, but it doesn’t mean that we like them.”
“Honestly, is this a joke?”
“I’m very serious.”
Chiasa quickly mentioned to the two detectives that Reiko spoke with her last night, “She’s most likely staying in Hakone.” Out of curiosity, Chiasa said to the two men “She could have only been gone for a couple of hours, isn’t this a bit soon? I mean, I know her mother can be a bit on the protective side but…”
As she looked up at the detectives, she refrained herself from continuing. The detectives looked at each other in a manner that had begun to make Chiasa more anxious than she already was.
“You spoke with her?” Detective Lee asked.
Chiasa replied “Yes, she called me in the middle of the night, I was a bit worried because she called me so late. Umm, maybe around 2am or so. She began saying weird things over the phone, almost as if she didn’t know what she was talking about. Not to mention, I did find it a bit strange that anyone would take a trip to Hakone that late at night. To be honest, I assumed she was just drunk, I didn’t imagine that she would actually go.”
Fiddling through his wallet as he stowed Reiko’s photograph away, Kawamura snakingly made a remark against Chiasa’s statement. “I guess people still do that nowadays? Run off with their lovers in the still of the night, acting out their Romeo and Juliet fantasies.” He put his wallet back in his pocket and acknowledged Chiasa fully. “Anyways, do you remember what time that was?”
“Like I said, around 2am or so.”
Detective Kawamura, a man most likely in his mid-30’s, didn’t dress up in the usual suit and tie that was typical for most detectives. He had on fitted black chinos with mid-ankle boots. Up top he wore a dusty grey leather flak jacket, with the zipper pulled halfway up. He kept an untidy chin strap which helped enforce a more rebel look to his appearance. All the while, maintaining an unwavering sense of authority between the two detectives, and a clear understanding that he’s not new to his job. He nodded his head in a sense of sarcastic understanding towards Chiasa. “Hai!” he retorted alongside the clap of his hands, gathering Chiasa’s attention. “Ryoukai desu.”
“These phones nowadays, they keep track of everything, don’t they?” He made a turn towards Detective Lee as he continued his statement. “Is it possible for us to just backtrack through your logs?”
“Yea, I guess.”
Chiasa fetched her phone from off her night stand. What on earth was going on, were the words constantly replaying itself in her head. She checked her call history hoping to prove to the men that she had in fact spoken with Reiko. But to her dismay, there was no history of a call from Reiko recorded. She flicked her thumb up and down and across the screen, exiting and reentering the call logs; but given that she had just gotten the device, Reiko’s phone call was the only call she had received, and would have been the only call listed in the phone’s history. But, there was no mistaking it, the logs were empty of any previously received calls. Looking over her shoulder and noticing that there was in fact no evidence of any phone calls received from Reiko Detective Kawamura stepped back and contemplated his next statement.
“You see, it’s a bit odd for you to have actually received a call from Reiko last night. The thing is, because her belongings were in police custody since 8pm yesterday, we would have been the ones sending the call. From what we know; as a matter of fact, there were no calls made the entire time.”
“That makes no sense, I was with her until 10. I left her at the club with a friend. She called me later in the night—”
Then it hit her. The detectives took note of the abrupt end to her statement. They were edging to see what would come next. Chiasa had suddenly caught wind of something she’d forgotten. Reiko’s call came through last night as an unknown number. Could that be the reason there had been no history in the logs? Or perhaps there was a technical issue with the phone itself? She dialed back her memories of last night, envisioning what Reiko could have been up to. Why did she call from an unknown number? Chiasa asked herself. “A bit odd, don’t you think?” Kawamura probed. Disrupting her train of thought.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“She was reported to have been missing since Friday. But you’re saying that you saw her last night on Saturday?”
Detective Lee pulled out a notepad and continued where Kawamura left off. “Around 6pm yesterday, Reiko’s anxious mother got a friend of hers to track Reiko’s phone via the ‘find my phone’ app. After discovering it in a location somewhere in Shibuya, they went to go get her. Upon arriving, they were surprised to have only discovered her bag behind the night club that she had visited the night before. Afraid for her daughter’s safety, the mother contacted the police.
“Reiko’s belongings have been in police custody as potential evidence ever since.”
He turned his gaze away from the notepad as he flipped it closed, then adjusted his focus back towards Chiasa. Chiasa, now feeling the sweat of fear trickle down her spine, mentioned that she definitely spoke with her over the phone last night. She told the two men that the call history could just be a glitch in her phone. Detective Kawamura interrupted her before she could explain any further, “Do you know why we came here today? Chiasa gave them a blank stare. There could have been a few reasons for them to question her in particular. Some of which were extremely obvious. If what the detectives said about her belongings being found behind the night club was anything to go off, then Chiasa was possibly one of the last people to have been with Reiko. Except for Akazawa of course. But something about the way these two detectives had approached her didn’t feel like a “sealing all of the gaps ordeal.” They weren’t presenting their questions as though they had been reading them off a list, or trying to pull together a time frame. What were you doing at so and so time, on said date? Who were you with? And so on and so forth. Somehow, instead, it was more like they were canvasing her. Picking her brain for a sense of character, rather than just covering their bases. In Chiasa’s mind, these men knew something she had yet to realize, but they were eager to give her the roundabout until she confirmed the information herself, rather than just telling her straight out. It was as though they had come to her in order to paint a picture of their culprit.
“Your friend has probably been taken Ms. Nakamura, and you are a person of interest.” Kawamura blatantly mentioned.
Chiasa stared at them with an alarmed expression. “What day is it today?”
“Sunday mam, its Sunday like it always is after a Saturday. Besides that; obvious fact, you claim that you stopped at a store late last night correct?”
“Yes, but… it was after I came home.” She then timidly asked, “Today is Sunday?”
Chiasa had the word “dumbfounded” written across her face as her strange enquires baffled the two men in front of her. Kawamura and Lee momentarily exchanged looks once again.
“Mam, today is Sunday, you can grab a newspaper and check for yourself. As for your trip within the middle of the night, could you perhaps tell us which store that was?”
Now, the actual questioning had finally begun. Of course, Chiasa thought to herself, they couldn’t perform a proper investigation without it.
“Umm, yea sure… One moment, I need to just…”
Chiasa frantically pulled her phone and checked the date. To her demise, the date read perfectly. April 4th. . . Sunday. Her heart sunk in to her stomach as she swallowed a potential outburst of panic. She looked towards the two detectives as if hoping for some sort of life saving explanation. But unfortunately, they simply stared back in ambiguity. It was as if she could no longer read their expressions.
As Chiasa sat there attempting to regain her sanity, Detective Lee interrupted once again.
“Did you forget?”
Chiasa looked up towards him as if frightened by his question, “What?” she replied.
“The store, did you forget which one it was?”
Attempting to stay calm and appear as normal as possible, she pulled herself together and answered the question.
“Umm, the Kusuri drugstore across from the train station.”
“I see, and then you headed home straight after correct?”
Chiasa paused for a moment before answering the question. Then she vigorously retorted, “What is this all about? Someone is missing and you want to know where I went shopping last night?” Taking a deep breath, Kawamura bypassed her question and continued. “What did you buy at the store?” he asked.
Chiasa rubbed her hand against her forehead and replied, “I picked some toiletries.”
“Okay, did you take a receipt?”
“No, I didn’t, I usually throw them out right away, so I decided not to take one.”
“But we could check your bank statement, yes?”
“I paid in cash.”
“I see…. Mam, if it’s not too much of a bother, I would rather we finish our conversation at the station. Is that okay?”
She looked upon the men silently, and confused.
Chiasa rode in the back of the detective car as they headed to the station. With her nerves eating away at her, she leaned forward and asked if it wouldn’t take too long? Claiming to the two detectives that she had to head to work by afternoon. “Oh, excuse me for not informing you, we’re heading to our station in Shibuya, so you might as well get comfortable. It’s a long ride.” Detective Kawamura then pressed on, “Once we clear the waters, you’ll be free to go.” Defeated, Chiasa fell back in to her seat as if she was agitated. Chiasa and Detective Lee’s eyes meet briefly through the rear-view mirror. Detective Lee asked if she’d noticed anything off about Reiko before leaving her on Friday night. Chiasa didn’t answer the question and continued to look out through the side window. Kawamura then said to Lee that “it’s alright, don’t take it personal.”
A few moments later, the car pulled into a parking lot about a few meters before passing the local station. Chiasa recognized the place as the same store that she’d visited last night. Kawamura addressed Chiasa through the rear-view mirror and told her that he’d be right back, “Just gonna buy a pack of smokes.” As he opened the door and stepped out, he turned back and leaned into the car towards Chiasa. “This is the same store that you stopped at last night, correct?” She looked at him, turned to look outside the window, then turned back to him and nodded her head.
Kawamura swiftly pulled his phone out in front of Chiasa. She cringed against her will as he snapped a picture of her. “I’ll be right back. Five minutes!” He then swung the door shut and walked off towards the front entrance. A young lady passed by him as she exited the store around the same time. As she walked past the vehicle, Detective Lee grabbed Chiasa’s attention. “If you really did receive that phone call last night, then even if it’s not stated in your phone, we should be able to request the data from your phone carrier. So, for right now, try and keep a positive head.”
Kawamura walked up to the counter and asked for a pack of cigarettes. As the cashier began charging him, he pulled up the picture of Chiasa and showed it to the cashier. He questioned him if whether or not he had seen this girl stop by last night around 1am or so. The cashier leaned in and took a good look at the picture, but then ultimately shook his head signifying that he knew nothing of it.
A second worker, a female, leaned over to check the photo, then asked if it was last night that he was asking about? Assuming that she may know something, Kawamura quickly confirmed that detail with the young lady. She then let Kawamura know that if someone did show up in the store last night, then the overnight shift would be the only person to know. Ticked off by the wasted effort, Kawamura argued that they could have just mentioned that in the first place. The cashier finished with Kawamura’s purchase and handed him the pack of cigarettes. A cheap pack of Mevius, Kawamura’s favorite brand. Examining the store around him, Kawamura asked if the cameras in the store operated all night long. The cashier said yes, but notified him that the system had shut down two days ago, and a technician was scheduled to come fix it today. Kawamura shook his head in disappointment as he let out a sigh. “Are you guys selling half-assed accomplishments here or something?” he said in a snarky manner towards the two workers. Just then the young female cashier mentioned to him that the overnight shift had just walked out not too long ago. “She may still be waiting at the bus stop across the street. She’s wearing a blue shirt and red rimmed glasses.” In response, Kawamura repeated himself “You could have just mentioned that in the first place.” The workers simply bowed their heads and continued on with their work as usual.
Outside of the convenience store, Lee looked through the window to see if he could notice Kawamura on his way out. At the same time a large sound thundered from across the street, followed by the sound of screaming in the distance. Lee and Chiasa both looked through the rear window of the car in a fright. Kawamura heard the sound of the crash and quickly headed outside the store. Lee told Chiasa to stay put as he began to let himself out. He and Kawamura met each other as they both looked to investigate the enormous crash. Kawamura ordered Lee to stay with Chiasa and call for an ambulance as he checked out the chaos. Hordes of people began crowding underneath the train station looking for the source of the sound.
Kawamura sprinted across the street, shoving his way through bystanders as he rushed over to the scene of the ruckus.
Chiasa hurriedly slipped out of the police car and yearned her neck in an attempt to get a good look at the mayhem.
As Detective Kawamura made his way to the front of the crowd, begging for people to clear the way, he saw what anyone would rather not have wished to lay witness to; a girl pinned tight behind a car struggling to free herself. Her entire lower half from the waist down had been sandwiched in between the vehicle and the wall behind her. Her bloodied fingers had left a trail of red agony as she scratched and clawed at the hood of the car until her nails had ripped apart from the nail bed beneath it. Smoke began to fill the air, and a staunch smell of burnt tire rubber made its way into everyone’s naval cavities. To Detective Kawamura’s disbelief, the car was still pushing forward.
Without hesitation, he quickly ran over to the driver’s side and noticed that the driver was unconscious. Two men were attempted to yank the door open but it wouldn’t budge one bit. With no time to waste Kawamura dragged one of the men’s coats off his shoulders, wrapped his hand underneath it, and smashed the window open. He quickly dragged the unconscious man out from his seat, took his place and immediately began reversing the car.
Kawamura jammed his foot through the brake pedal. The sound of the young girl collapsing onto the hood shook the entire car, and signaled the worse. The witnesses gasped in disbelief. Some of them turned away from the ugly sight, while others shielded their young ones from the horrid scene. Kawamura shot out of the vehicle and darted over to see what he could do to help her. The girl that was just fighting endlessly for her life, now laid motionless with her hands spread both ways across the hood of the vehicle. As Detective Kawamura examined the scene, he slowly moved his gaze downwards. Yet, he was met with another tragic discovery.
Detective Lee and Chiasa, forcing their way through the crowd, met face to face with Kawamura. The three of them were caught in a suspended state as if time had paused for a moment. Chiasa had trouble figuring out what it was about Kawamura’s expression that struck her so, but Detective Lee knew exactly what had been made of the situation. Chiasa took a step towards the front end of the car but Detective Lee’s stiff arm against her chest stopped her in her tracks. As she looked towards him, he responded with a simple shake of his head. He didn’t want her to go any further. Eager to see with her own eyes rather than taking someone else’s judgement as a ‘tell all’, she shrugged Lee’s hand out of the way and headed over to the front of the car. And there it was. A scene that could never be unseen. The girl’s body had been partially separated from the waist down. Thick red blood slowly began to consume the footprint of the horror that laid before everyone’s eyes. There was no more room for possibilities; she was certainly dead.