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I Love You Like the Ocean Loves Silence

Chapter Text

2016 

There were murmurs around the students as they gazed upon their fellow classmate. In the courtyard, the spectators formed a ring around two students that were surrounded by piles of flowers. It was an ironic situation; cherry blossom season was coming soon. Yet, this viewing was not suitable for an audience. One was crouching over, hands covering her face. Her hands hardly muffled the hysteria. 

“Senpai never noticed her,” she kept mumbling between her sobs.

Senpai never noticed her indeed. Next to the mourning girl was her friend, lying down. The recently departed girl was a second year. Her eyes were closed and hands laced together. She looked like she was resting peacefully. However, the cause of death was hardly peaceful. There was a huge bouquet that bloomed from her mouth. The cherry blossoms trailed downwards, passed her chin and shoulders. It stopped at her bosom. The school uniform hid the limbs; on the neck, the veins and arteries were thicker, resembling tree roots. 

It was another case of Hanaki Byou, the flower disease. 

Hanaki Byou was an ancient disease. The pathogen was an abnormal one; it could lie dormant within the human body for years. There were no known causes of how a human could contract it. At no predictable time the pathogen could become active, enabling the disease to ravage the victim. As the name suggested, flowers were involved. Symptoms included chest pains, sore throats, body aches, and constant coughing. The difference between Hanaki Byou and the common cold was flowers. The coughing gradually builded up to a violent one. Once the infected person coughed violently, petals came out. Fortunately, the flower discharge proved to be harmless. From there, the disease was broken up to four stages that resembled the growth of a flower shrub. 

It was a strange phenomenon as it was linked to mental and emotional health. The flower disease only occurred when the person experienced a one-sided love. The growth of the disease varies from person to person. However, there were two things for certain. Without confessing, the person would surely die from flowers consuming their body. Confessing could lead to rejection or reciprocation. If the former, the disease stopped growing, but it will not disappear. This could be easily be fixed through surgery. The only catch was it had to be intervened early enough to prevent lasting damage. With the latter, then the person was completely cured. All traces of flowers and roots vanished from the human body. There were no explanations how returning one’s love was the most effective treatment of all. There was even uncertainty about the disease returning if the person’s beloved passed away.

Researchers were studying extensively to answer the questions that have plagued Japanese society for centuries. Until there was concrete data that could rationally explained the disease and cure, the government funded a dating campaign. This campaign encompassed thorough details the disease (including misconceptions), mental health sessions, advertisements encouraging relationships, and surgical services. Yet, these efforts were somewhat in vain. Government officials underestimated the severity of the disease. Many victims were young people who were under extreme stress due to school, work, and high expectations placed by their parents, teachers, and superiors. When they developed an unrequited crush, they allowed Hanahaki Byou to take their own lives. Marginalized groups in society also enabled the disease to kill them. This group were part of taboo topics mainstream media would never dare mention. Members of this community refused to admit they were queer to their family and friends. The intolerance of society had lead to extreme unhappiness and demise.

The increase of Hanahaki Byou related death in recent years and perils of Japanese society (aging and low birth rates) forced adults and officials to care more for the younger generation. It made them question how social behaviors and customs were negatively affecting children. There was progress, but Japan still had a long way to go.

***

Sherlock could not stand the grating cries of the student mourning for her friend. Hanahaki Byou cases were not regulated to the Investigation Department. Yet, the mother of the victim was screaming that she wanted to know the student that was responsible for her child’s death. She claimed her daughter was murdered. Given the mother’s difficult nature, the police gave in and contacted Inspector Reimon. The inspector promptly came with a team of assistant police inspectors and herself, a consulting detective that frequently collaborated with the inspector.

The assistants took statements from the students while Reimon and Sherlock looked at the body. Both inspector and consulting detective knew each other for a very long time; it was mutual bond of professional trust. He knew her personality could be off putting for many, hence he acted as a mediator whenever Sherlock investigated. He knew the assistants were capable of handling the high schoolers, it was good practice for future questioning.

“What do you think?” he asked when she prodded the body. He was glad that she was wearing gloves this time. Perhaps it was because the victim’s mother was here; she kept trying to sneak past the officers and interrupt the investigation.

“No signs of physical harm,” the consultant murmured. “The thickness of the roots indicate that she suffered Hanahaki Byou for two years. The time frame indicated that the disease developed too quickly. It should have been obvious that she had the disease from discharging flowers through coughs.” Something did not seem right.

Sherlock stood up and removed her gloves. This was the signal to the other officers to take care of the body and transport it to the forensic pathology division. They placed the corpse on the stretcher before covering it with a white cloth. The forensic staff members hoisted it to a waiting ambulance. A pair of uniformed officers had to fend off the mother.

She approached the inspector. “I need to see the victim’s belongings: books, journals, school records, social media accounts, photos, friends, contacts, and anything related to the victim’s personal and professional life.” It was a tall order for the inspector, but he trusted her. Their investigations were nothing without her deductions. Her observations were honed to detect the minute detail and piece together a complicated narrative.

“I understand,” he replied. Reimon walked off and relayed her orders.

***

She knew she could count on Reimon for compiling and organizing the data she needed. There were folders filled with xerox copies of the items she requested for. It was a late night at 221b. Her only companion was an empty coffee mug that Kimie gave her three hours ago. Sherlock often got engrossed with her investigations; she never heard Kimie coming in and placing the drink on the coffee table. Yet, she appreciated the landlady of 221b. That lady was her confidant and one of the very few people that knew her best.

Reviewing the data took time, but Sherlock was not a stranger of sacrificing sleep for the truth. She finished reading everything at 5:45 a.m. Fifteen minutes before Kimie woke up to start her day.

Sherlock had almost two and a half hours of sleep before Reimon called her to accompany him to the school again.

At the school, she was given permission to investigate the victim’s desk, locker, and classmates. The investigation of the premises did not yield the information she needed. Even the friend that was mourning and accusing did not know the identity of the upperclassman. For a break, she went on the school’s rooftop. Being at such heights gave her the quietness and space she needed. She was physically above others; she was at a place where she did not have to hear officers calling her a bitch and other cruel remarks. Sherlock did not give a fuck. Let them complain and bitch to Reimon all they want. At the end of the day, she was the one solving these cases. 

She walked around the perimeter of the rooftop, enjoying the view and wind. The architecture was old, there were holes made from kids that were roughhousing or fighting up here. One particular hole caught her eye. Sherlock reached in and pulled out papers that were hidden. She recognized the handwriting and began reading.

Afterwards, she rushed down the stairs. She almost collided into Reimon, who was about to go on the rooftop to look for Sherlock. The consultant waved the papers in his face. “I need to see the class roster,” she said briefly. “It’s important for this case.”

“Got it.”

With the help of a school administrator, the list was narrowed to male students. She scrolled through the lists, searching for the real names of the students mentioned in these personal papers. Sherlock called for Reimon. She requested for an empty meeting room and two students: a first-year student and a third-year upperclassman.

*** 

The two male students were nervous and confused. Not that Reimon blamed them; Sherlock always worked at a faster gear than most people. There were times he struggled to understand her reasoning. In his experienced, he learned to roll with it. If one paid enough attention, Sherlock was quite methodical. There was a reason for everything.

Sherlock leaned against the doorway. “I need to speak with you two,” she stated as she walked back in meeting room. The male students silently stood up and walked inside. Reimon followed along; by the tone of her voice, there was something she wanted him to hear. The inspector was the last one to enter and closed the door behind him, signaling for the deduction to start.

“The cause of Hanahaki Byou was you,” Sherlock declared when she sat on the tabletop. So it was not an upperclassman assumption like the friend kept insisting.  

The first-year student grew deathly pale. “I didn’t mean it to happen,” he stammered, clearly disturbed. “I swear, I didn’t. Senpai has nothing to do with this!”

Reimon knew no charges would be filed against the student. The circumstances of the flower disease made it difficult for the legal courts.

“You never did,” Sherlock continued. “Your senpai was not to blame either.”

Oh? This was interesting, where was Sherlock going with this analysis?

Sherlock explained that the first-year student and victim were from the same middle school. Initially, she never knew he existed. The victim developed a crush on the first year when she saw him scoring a goal during an intramural match; he was a third-year in middle school while she was a first-year in high school. The interesting twist was the victim developed a borderline obsession with the male student. The writings even indicated times she was following him after school.

The third-year turned out to be a neighbor and childhood friend of the first-year. He noticed the victim frequently hanging out in their neighborhood. He grew concerned when the victim took pictures with her digital camera. Hence, the third-year began to spend more time with the first-year. The senior was athletic; his imposing frame proved to deter the victim’s efforts, giving the first-year a brief moment of peace. 

The time they spent together blossomed into more than friendship. Camaraderie gave way to intimacy: longing gazes, holding hands, whispers, and cute gestures such as sharing lunch and texting every night. Tutorial sessions became their haven to talk about anything and everything. Eventually, their feelings were pushed to the brink; neither could hold back their attraction for one another. This unexpected change brought great joy and great fear. Two people found each other; someone to connect them to the world. Yet, there was vulnerability, especially with the victim stalking the first year.

They tried to be careful, but the victim eventually caught on. The last segment chronicled heartbreak and inexplicable anger towards the secret couple. The combination of intolerance and vain feelings pushed her to the edge, spurring the disease to develop faster. In the occurrence of abnormal growth, there was a chance that the victim may not show symptoms. Rather, it could bloom unexpectedly. 

Reimon listened in rapt attention as Sherlock completed the narrative. As always, she knew how to surprise him. (Though, Sherlock could use more tact especially with exposing such relationship-but that will not be included in the final report.) He respected her analytical skills; even had greater esteem for her as a person. It was a shame that not everyone would bother to truly know her. Though, Sherlock did not seem to care; she was someone true to herself. When Sherlock hopped off the meeting table and exited the room, that was his cue to wrap things up.

“No charges will be filed,” the inspector announced. “It’s hard for building a case for the courts. That being said, your identities will be safe.” The first year looked at him with hope. The third year seemed guarded, but felt comfortable enough in Reimon’s presence. Before the students were allowed to return to class, Reimon gave them his business card. He encouraged them to call for anything: a trusted adult to listen, safety, or even contacts for nonprofit support groups.

He later found Sherlock leaning against a brick column at the front gate. “Thanks for your help. We managed to placate the mother and friend without jeopardizing their identities. They will never know the truth.”

Sherlock remained quiet before she pushed herself off. She looked at Reimon. “Inspector, never call me again for another flower disease case.”

***

“Sherlock!” Kimie greeted when she walked in. “Rin-san is here, she’s in your lounge.”

Ah, Rin. 

Hanawa Isuzu, an old acquaintance that was her roommate at her time in Cambridge University. She was brilliant enough to be admitted in a prestige institution and chose to study abroad instead of staying at the Ivy League schools. She was a Japanese American: her mother had German ancestry, while her father was Japanese. 

In the entertainment industry, she went by Irene Adler, a stage name that was formed from her English name and her mother’s surname. She got her break in Japan; the director of her first television role was enamored by her mixed ancestry. He insisted on giving her a Western moniker, claiming it would distinguish her from other actresses that were debuting.

Turned out the director was right; it launched her to stardom. Unable to juggle entertainment work and school simultaneously, Irene opted to complete her studies in under three years. Many scoffed at that aspiration, but Irene proved them wrong. Sherlock recalled the smug look on Irene’s face when she strutted during the graduation ceremony. She was the head bitch in-charge. 

Succinctly to say, their Cambridge years were interesting. Irene was Sherlock’s equal; the Japanese American’s intelligence was on par with her. Irene was eloquent, cultured, and had great fashion sense that accentuated her body. There were two differences between them. One, Irene had better social graces; her mastery of persuasion was a sight to behold. Irene could easily talk herself in and out of trouble. Two, Irene was far more open about her preference towards the fairer sex. She thrived on being unapologetic about love and companionship from women. Sherlock, on the other hand, never divulged her sexuality to her roommate, but Irene was sharp to pick that up. There was an unspoken bond between them.

As a celebrity, Irene knew how to play the act of a model citizen in front of society and fans. Celebrity Irene was a professional: collected, sincere, charismatic, and witty. Her personality won respect from the general public in variety shows; her acting skills lead to awards and recognition; and her modeling work garnered a fandom that collectively questioned their sexuality. Irene knew how to keep her private life guarded. In private, she was far more carefree (bordering recklessness), devious, and possessed an immature streak that could piss off Sherlock for days. Imagine the meltdown when her fanboys and fangirls find out. 

***

“Darling! How was the case?” Irene greeted when Sherlock opened the door. The celebrity was laying on Sherlock’s couch; her black mini skirt was on the floor and the magenta button down shirt was opened, revealing a u-plunge bra. She was also giving Sherlock a nice view of her tanga panty and stockings. Irene smirked while Sherlock rolled her eyes before almost tripping over the stilettos. Irene believed in body positivity; her figure was clearly blessed from her mother’s side of the family. There was no point in hiding her amazing physique. Hence, she was an exhibitionist whenever there were no cameras around. As Sherlock’s old roommate, she knew how to read that consulting detective. It was no brainer that Sherlock liked women; Irene knew it after observing Sherlock checking out her ass during the first three months in their dorm. 

Sherlock grunted and plopped herself at the computer chair. To Irene, that meant the case annoyed her. Used to dealing with such antics, she reached down to her bag and pulled out a gift. “I got something for you,” she said.

“If it’s another vibrator, I don’t want it,” Sherlock replied curtly.

“I paid good money for it!” Irene pouted. Nonetheless, she tossed the gift to Sherlock.

Sherlock looked at the gift with suspicion. This time, Irene rolled her eyes. “Open it, you ass.”

She fiddled with the wrapping paper. “You got me a chocolate massaging oil?”

“For lonely masturbating nights,” Irene chimed in. “I was in Belgium for my latest photoshoot.” The celebrity was confident that Sherlock would not chuck the massaging oil at her face. She was right. Sherlock placed the oil in bottom drawer of her computer desk. It would only be a matter of time before Sherlock would appreciate her gift.

Kimie later came with castella cake and Earl Grey Tea. The landlady rapped on the door, announcing her arrival to the lounge. Irene moved upright, planning to sloppily button her shirt and grabbing her skirt. She managed to fasten two buttons before Sherlock tossed her tan coat. It landed directly on Irene’s lap. Irene inwardly smiled; the consulting detective was a walking contradiction-what Sherlock says was often different from her heart. She cared about Irene having a semblance of decorum. Instead of thanking Sherlock (the consulting detective would never accept it), Irene neatly folded her mini skirt and fixed her top.

***

“Have your overseas managers and staff been treating you well? I’m so proud of your international recognition!”  Kimie exclaimed as she offered Irene a slice.

Sherlock remained quiet as they conversed. She and Irene maintained contact over the years. Since she lived in 221b, it was inevitable that Kimie would meet Irene. Kimie was delighted in meeting a collegiate acquaintance-let alone another Japanese. The landlady was impressed by Irene’s bilingual ability and often provided excellent hospitality during her visits. Kimie was the only one who gave Irene a nickname. Based on the second kanji of Isuzu, it could be read as Rin. It was a clever double meaning since Rin could also be a nickname from the Katakana spelling of her English name. It was fitting for Irene, an enigma that possessed multiple interpretations.

Sherlock ate her cake as the two talked about Irene’s international career. Irene’s prowess was not limited to Japanese television and movies. Her work was also released in the Asian continent, garnering an overseas fanbase. Eventually, this caught the eye of an upcoming Asian American director. They took a gamble: collaborated on a movie. It proved to be a box office hit, received positive ratings from film critics, nominated for awards, and launched Irene to international recognition. She was considered as a pioneer for Asian Americans in American entertainment. This was a catalyst for Asian actors and actresses in other Western countries to fight for roles in their respective entertainment industries. Irene’s influence was quite powerful.

Eventually, the topic of their conversation turned to the case. Sherlock summarized it, not wishing to spend more time on talking in great details. “I told the inspector to never call me again for another Hanahaki Byou case,” she concluded. The irritation she felt earlier still burned. Honestly, cases like these were a waste of time. Emotions were not her forte; it hindered rationale thinking. Not to mention, the unnecessary drama; it tested her limited patience. How could she be level-headed if feelings caught her in a chokehold?

Both Kimie and Irene remained in deep thought. For the former, the landlady had great empathy. She knew Sherlock’s and Irene’s sexuality; there was no doubt she felt concerned for those boys. With the latter, Sherlock could only hazard a guess. Irene was a wild card-she would either be concerned or be flippant. The celebrity dismissed the fears and concerns regarding the flower disease. Irene lived for pleasure and excitement. Since she had an active sex life, Irene certainly had an annual checkup for early Hanahaki Byou detection along with mammograms, pap smear, and STD checking. 

“It seems like they will be in good hands with the inspector,” Irene remarked.

So it was the flippant attitude.

“Come to think of it,” she continued, “you never experienced the flower disease, have you?”

Now it was a 180° viewpoint. Frustrating Irene could not make up her mind!

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Sherlock snapped.

***

The conversation ended when Sherlock stomped upstairs, declaring she was changing her clothes to work on a new toner. There was a pile of fresh cucumber waiting to be used. In response, Kimie cleaned up and left to give Irene privacy for putting on her skirt.

She was washing the dishes when Irene walked down, fully dressed. “Thank you for the cake, Kimie-san,” the celebrity said. 

“Of course, Rin-san. Would you like to stay for the night? It’s getting late.”

Irene beamed. “I would like that. I miss your cooking.” Without prompting, Irene reached over for an apron. She donned it over her clothes, signaling she was ready to help Kimie.

It amazed the landlady how similar she and Sherlock were. Kimie initially hoped Irene was Sherlock’s beloved when the Japanese American visited 221b the first time. After watching the two young women banter, she realized they were better off as friends. (Even if Sherlock would never acknowledge it.) Irene knew how to keep Sherlock on her toes, but she was unsuitable as a complement to Sherlock’s nature. The consulting detective needed someone that was a foil: compassionate and warm.

While chopping vegetables, she heard Sherlock playing the cello again. Perfect. Sherlock will be spared from hearing their conversation about her. “Do you think Sherlock might contract Hanahaki Byou?” Kimie asked. Given Sherlock’s social life, she feared for the consulting detective’s isolation in the future. She, the brother, and the inspector will do their best to be there for Sherlock. However, it would not hurt to have another person in Sherlock’s small trust circle. In the event of Sherlock falling in love, Kimie was concerned about the repercussions. Stubbornness and the inability to deal with such emotions could catalyze into an early death.

“Yes,” Irene replied. “Sherlock prides herself in repressing her feelings-even to the extent of being hard to read. Yet, she’s not invincible. Someday, there will be someone. A woman will thaw her heart and Sherlock will be unable to deal with it. That is a high probability for it.”

Irene shared the same sentiments as her. The possibility of Sherlock being afflicted with the flower disease clenched her heart. She may not be Sherlock’s biological mother, but she swore to the late Futabas that she would do everything in her power to watch and support their children.

“When it happens in the future, let’s place our faith in this woman,” Irene reassured. “Let’s hope that she too will return Sherlock’s affections. Let’s hope she will teach Sherlock how to love. After all, it’s the only cure.”

Yes, a reciprocated love was the most effective treatment.

***

2018

“I want the truth!” she declared, eyes beaming at her with sincerity and determination. The doctor was grieving at the lost of her mentor, yet she was willing to pursue the true cause of his premature death.

This was different from others that tagged along for shits and giggles. This woman was truly serious.

“Okay. Maybe I’ll ask your opinion as a doctor,” Sherlock remarked before turning her heel. The consulting detective heard another pair of feet trailing behind her. 

Chapter Text

Sherlock happily waved goodbye to the departing Reimon and Shibata. It was downright hilarious that Hotel Kamata would burn down. After all, the hotel had failed building inspection five years in a row. The manager refused to address these concerns, especially the electrical outlets. It was fitting that the hotel was set ablaze.

Before her, there was that doctor fretting about her lodging situation. Sucks to be that doctor, being unemployed and homeless in Tokyo. Plus, loosing all her possessions in that fire was an icing to the misfortune cake. Behind her, there was her brother, musing about the news. Surely that brother of hers was not serious about letting that doctor moved in with her. That doctor was not even her friend! 

“Well, that settles it,” Kento remarked. “By the way, what’s your name?” 

Why was he so interested? Do not answer his question.

“Tachibana Wato...Wato is written as ‘peaceful city.’” 

That was trivial Kanji information Sherlock did not need to remember. She already solved the case. The contract between them-investigating for the truth-had already been fulfilled. Mizuno Akiko was dead. (There was no way she was working alone. Someone else was the conductor for this crime, Mizuno Akiko was merely a musician playing her piece.) There was no point for them to stick together.

“Wato-san, please take care of my little sister, Sherlock,” he announced. Two big hands clasped on her shoulders. She found herself being pushed forward. Suddenly, there was a pang in her chest. The body spasm surprised her, she widen her eyes as a reflex. The brief pain quickly faded. Her body was normal again. It must have been from the caffeine she had been drinking all day.

Sherlock turned around and looked at her brother. Must she go with this doctor back to 221b? 

“Go,” he urged. He knew what question she was conveying through her facial expressions. The sibling bond between them was very strong. After all, they only had each other in this world.

Unsatisfied by Kento’s response, Sherlock turned her attention to the doctor. The chest pain returned and left. (Damn that caffeine, she would have to drink water when she gets back.) She parted her hair, revealing her forehead to the doctor. The consultant exhaled loudly through her nostrils to maintain her composure. 

“Suit yourself,” she retorted curtly. “I’ll make sure you regret this.” The consulting detective never gave her new housemate a chance to speak. Sherlock grabbed the doctor’s hand (the latter entwined with her own) and pulled her away from the crime scene, leaving the flashing lights behind. Another spasm and a sore throat just transpired as they walked onwards. The former went away quickly. The latter was most likely the change in temperature. She might have to drink hot water.

***

They returned to 221b where Kimie was still up, waiting for her return. The landlady listened to the doctor explaining her living situation. She was understanding and pulled the doctor away from Sherlock. She could hear Kimie excitedly giving a tour of the dwelling.

The consultant trudged upstairs to her lounge with a glass of water in hand and plopped herself at the computer chair. The monitor screen was asleep. A quick shake of the mouse revealed Poldhu’s tablet and microchip product webpage, boasting innovation for health management. She closed the browser and opened a blank word document. Since the doctor was going to live with her, there needed to be ground rules. What should she start with? She drank her glass of water.

Let’s start with something easy. Food was a good one. A stroke of inspiration finally arrived! Lips curled into a smirk as she began typing. 

  • 頼みもしないのに朝ごはんを作らない。[Do not make breakfast.]

This was pefect, it will definitely pissed off the doctor. Off to a good start, what else was there? Sherlock yawned, mentally noting she needed coffee again. Drinking that glass of water surely did the trick for detoxing.

Coffee…yes, another brilliant idea!

  • コーヒーは82度のお湯で入れる。[Make coffee with water heated to 82 degrees Celsius.]

After that, her fingers were dancing across the keyboard; ideas were flying left and right. Throughout the night, she created forty-six additional rules. All forty-eight rules will surely drive the doctor to a state of regret. Her fate was sealed once it was decided for her to live in 221b. 

It was 4:30 a.m. when she printed the rules. She contemplated of resting on her couch or walk to her bedroom. At the same time, she heard rustling upstairs. That could only be one person-Kimie’s room was a floor below hers. This early morning rush meant one thing: Tsukiji Fish Market. The market opened in thirty minutes, she better hurry up with the commute (even though Bunyko-ku was not that far from Chuo-ku) if she wanted to be there on time.

Sherlock hypothesized that the doctor will not come back until 7 a.m. Depending on the groceries bought to make breakfast, the doctor will not be done around 8:50 a.m. That will give her enough time to get some shut eye. Once she wakes up, she will play the Cello Suite No. 1. (in G major, of course) and present her printed rules to the doctor.

***

This was the first time she had sustenance all day-she did not expect another case so soon. The traditional breakfast offered to her earlier went uneaten. (She had a point to make.) Now, it was after lunch. They were eating wagashi at Tokyo Mise. Sherlock was dying to try this place at COREDO Muromachi 3. After all, the parent company was Tsuruya Yoshinobu, an old and famous confectionery shop from Kyoto. Fortunately, Nihonbashi Muromachi was not far from the Gables Museum of Arts. They were able to get good seats at the bar, watching the head confectioner prepare the namagashi.

“I didn’t notice a thing,” the doctor commented in a stupefied tone.

“Of course not. You look, but don’t observe,” she snidely retorted.

“It’s probably not relevant.” How could the doctor say that so carelessly? It was no coincidence. Everything happened for a reason.

The next step was to visit the gallery owner, Yanagisawa Keisuke. The doctor surprisingly declined to accompany her, citing a counseling appointment.

“What a waste of time,” Sherlock scoffed. “They can’t fix your problems.” The only one that could make a change was the person themselves. She knew that better than anyone. As punishment for uttering a flippant remark and ditching an important investigation field trip, she stole the doctor’s food.

*** 

It was a late night at 221b. The doctor was lying on the consultant’s couch reading a biography about the artist. She, in contrast, was flipping through a mineral illustration book. Sherlock was searching for the exact picture of the sample she had in her petri dish. The material she found at the rooftop was crucial for the case. Whatever rant the doctor was spewing about was background noise to her.

“You’re still here?” she asked when the rant was over. Such outburst should have tired out the doctor-go to bed or go leave 221b.

“Saneatsu-san poured love for his wife into the painting. Maibara-san must have known that!” the doctor exclaimed.

“Naive,” she commented. “I knew it when I met you.” It was quite obvious by the mannerisms from the previous case. “Maybe he had an affair and gave it out of guilt. Or he was telling his wife to be more devoted.” Sherlock said it before, she needed to consider the possibility, cover all the angles before eliminating the impossible. From her peripheral view, the doctor’s hand was reaching over to touch her shoulder. Shelock swiftly evaded the maneuver and moved upwards, away from her computer chair. The doctor soon followed her.

“You’re so cynical. Haven’t you been in love? Have you never felt affection for others?” Sherlock covered her precious right ear as the doctor stood next to her, with arms waving.

Ah, the doctor broke rule number four: Do not talk above 50 decibels. Was this doctor planning to disregard her rules? If so, she was now asking for trouble.

“Emotions get in the way of logical thinking. How about you?” She subtly took a sharp breath once she felt the chest spasm again. Was her body telling her to cut down the caffeine again?

Meanwhile, the doctor confirmed her impressions. Highly emotional and delusional about the idiosyncratic beliefs of love and feelings. Then, she looked at the person before her. The doctor began to squirm under her intense gaze. Good-this was for going above the decibel limit.

“You rarely check messages,” Sherlock began. She stood up while the doctor backed away. She advanced forward. “You hardly make an effort to dress up; you wear little or no makeup. This means…” Now the doctor was laying on her couch. In terrible defense, the doctor used her coat to protect herself.

“Stop, don’t look! Stop it! Don’t! Stop! Stop!” she cried out.

“Looks like you’re becoming friends,” Kimie called out as she entered the lounge. In her hand, she was balancing a long tray. Sherlock did not even hear her come in. Again, screaming above the prescribed decibel!

“Far from it,” she replied to the landlady. The doctor below shared her sentiments. Probably the only thing they agreed on.

“Maibara-san sent this. Want to try it?” Kimie asked as she placed the tray down. There was hot tea and a castella chestnut cake. Inspecting the craftsmanship indicated that this was the high quality one found in Ginza. Given Maibara’s net worth, it was plausible.

While the doctor enjoying her cake slice, Kimie approached Sherlock. “Is the investigation going well?”

“Pretty much.” It was moving at a decent pace-despite the extra baggage.

***

It was good to see him again. Hence, she walked up to the bald man and gave him a quick hug.

“A friend of yours?” the art appriser asked after he pulled away from the embrace.

Seriously? He was the second person after Kimie to assume they were friends. Assumptions were never good.

“She’s not my friend,” Sherlock asserted. Great, now her throat felt sore.

“Definitely not!” the doctor chimed in.

Once again, they had synchronized responses.

Since her throat ached, Sherlock allowed the art expert to describe his involvement in a case she solved four years ago. She smiled, recalling how fun that one was. Less than one percent of the forgery pieces were discovered. There was a possibility that she may be called again for her services. The consuting detective welcomed such challenge.

“A restorer? I may have just solved the case!” the doctor cried out, startling everyone. Honestly, this was why she had that decibel rule! The doctor seemed so confident in her deduction thanks to the tale of forgery in the art world. Since the artwork was due to be returned tomorrow, they might as well pay a visit to the art restorer. 

***

“I feel so ashamed,” the doctor confessed as they walked uphill on the Fujimi-zaka slope. An hour ago, they were at the art restorer’s studio where she made a magnificent error in front of everyone. Sherlock, sitting on the tabletop, enjoyed the spectacle. The doctor had brewing potential. All she needed was some guidance.

“Eliminate the impossible and you’re left with the unlikely truth,” she replied, thinking about the size.

There was something Sherlock needed to confirm.

***

“So it was murder. I’m glad I didn’t rush. Not a bad call, I guess,” Reimon said as he sat next to her.

“Delighted to help.” Despite her fatigue, Sherlock really was. First, she got to exercise her cognitive abilities. Second, she got to see her art contact again. Third, she will be handsomely paid by Maibara. Kimie had the best connections in Tokyo. 

“Would you return it to Maibara-san, please?” Sherlock asked when Shibata approached them. The sergeant did not seem to hear her request (she said please in front of the inspector’s presence) and balked about the Stradivarius frame.

“Art value is shaped by the values of the viewer. You like it, treasure it. If not, it’s trash,” the consulting detective commented.

The next morning was peaceful. The doctor was off for a counseling appointment, allowing her to play to her heart’s content. After her playing session, Kimie walked in and updated her on Maibara and Sachiko. She found it amusing how Maibara intended to keep the painting safe.

Afterwards, she quietly reflected on what might the next case be.

***

It did not take her long to wonder.

Three weeks later, she was working on her essential oils. It was a leisure activity she enjoyed doing-one that not many knew about. Sherlock reveled in flaunting her knowledge to the doctor. It was fun lying that the thyme linalool bottle was an aphrodisiac. She would have given a lecture had it not been for the newest client. Haitani Reiko, daughter of Kimie’s horse riding friend, came in with a request to find her curriculum vitae and unpublished research. Haitani was shrewd to bring in a magazine article about the headhunter, Shiina Arisa. It did not take long track down Shiina’s apartment. 

They did not meet much resistance as the younger sister, Shiina Yuma, helped them. Sherlock did enjoy checking herself out in leather jacket (she looked good) and intentionally messing with the doctor. Her face was priceless when Sherlock picked up the expensive glass plate from its display stand. In Sherlock’s defense, she merely wanted to look at the craftsmanship-perhaps it was another forgery.

On the elevator ride down, Haitani profusely thank them for their assistance. Sherlock almost tuned them out until she saw twenty-one digits written on the backside of the manila folder. A string of digits were only given to personalized accounts. It was the catalyst for their next case.

This one took a sinister tone as Reimon called her to meet him at the hospital. At the ICU, she was introduced to Morthon Pharmacy’s head researcher, who underwent electrical shock torture. The shocks severely damaged his brain, he was useless for the investigation. Might as well consider him brain dead with the neocortex and frontal lobe bearing the most damage. Hence, she sought out Watanuki’s research assistant, Sanada for more information about his work (something about tranquilizers). The only confirmation she got at Morthon Pharmacy was the older Shiina using Haitani’s credentials to gain access to the labs. It took two confrontations and a library book to uncover the confidential data that was pivotal to the case.

She was told that the Public Security Office was in charge of recovering the stolen the data. Her brother warned her that she will be in her way. Even though she was a civilian in the eyes of law enforcement and the government, she will be deciding the extent of her intervention.

Such revelation made her reach out to the younger Shiina. She seemed frightened when Sherlock visited her workplace. The consulting detective always loved a good surprise-especially when she was the one executing it. The girl was meek and shared the treachery her older sister did to their father. That raised an alarm to Sherlock. Whatever the headhunter was plotting with Watanuki’s work, it could end badly once she uncovers it. “Your sister may be planning an even deadlier crime,” Sherlock commented. She gave the poor girl her business card and encouraged her to call whenever Shiina Arisa returned from New York.

***

She felt tired from running around and socializing with people. There was so much information revealed to her in the past five days. Her body was ready to drift into the unconscious realm. The quilt she had over was quite cozy. Slowly, her eyes were shut and her breathing became relaxed. Peace and quiet.

Or so she thought. 

That doctor was unskilled at sneaking. Points for opening and closing the door quietly. Deduction for carrying that tote bag and baggy trench coat. There was a reason why burglars wore form-fitting clothes and carried the bare minimum! 

“Attracting male bees…male bees,” she chanted. 

What the hell was wrong with this doctor?

Ah, was this referring to the male colleague? Sherlock vaguely remembered seeing him when she strolled into the academic library section. Since the doctor had her back towards Sherlock, the consulting detective kept an eye, timing her disruption.

She pushed the quilt off of her to make her presence known. “Caesar Cipher…Polybius Square…Japanese Iroha Poem?” Sherlock babbled in nonsense. The doctor immediately stood up. The consultant also stood up when her phone buzzed. The younger Shiina texted her that her sister was back in Japan.

“I have to go to work,” the doctor said and attempted to make her escape. Somehow, she managed to find a job during the interim period between cases.

“The bottle you put in your bag alleviates athlete’s foot. I swapped the contents out yesterday,” she pointed out. On her lab table, there were GPS patches she received as a promotional gift from a past client. There was no time like the present to test its utility. “The aphrodisiac that you want is in this adhesive patch.” She held a patch in the air. Sherlock placed it behind the neck without waiting for a response.

The doctor had the biggest shit-eating grin on her face. It was slightly terrifying. The consulting detective never wanted to see that expression again.

Sherlock placed her palm out. The doctor reached into her bag and gave her the bottle. Good girl; Sherlock could now train her properly. 

***

“I saw this and realized she was back,” the younger Shiina explained as she guided Sherlock to the living room. “Please take a look.”

The glass window had the word “Adamas” written in red. It did not look like blood, but it did get the point across for being terrifying.

Adamas

.

.

.

アダマス

.

.

.

αδάμας

“Adamas is Greek for unconquerable or indestructible.”

“She’s angry about something,” Shiina Yuma commented. There was a crack in the window made by a very powerful punch; a living room lamp unplugged and toppled over, it even sported a dent.

Sherlock refuted. “No, it’s a password hint. Adamas has another meaning.”

Sherlock reached for a pen and a notepad. She wrote adamas and the twenty-one digit code written behind Haitani’s manila envelope.

Adamas means diamond.

Diamond means carbon 12.

A reference to the element’s atomic weight.

Divide the twenty-one digit by twelve.

You get a list of four digits numbers.

They represent atomic weights.  

6491: Lithium…1600: Oxygen…1899: Fluorine…5094: Vanadium…2698: Aluminum

.

.

.

LiOFVAl

.

.

.

Suran

.

.

.

スズラン

“Lily of the valley, this is the password. It’s a metaphor for the drug. The flower symbolizes happiness.” With that, she dropped her pen on the pad (it was her version of a mic drop). The younger sister was in awe at her erudite analysis.

She asked to see Shiina Aria’s suitcase, however, something else caught her eye. “That tissue box has been moved.” She pointed at the said box. The suitcase was now forgotten. “Last time, it was in your sister’s bedroom.” Sherlock reached off to grab it. Something fell out. 

“What is that?” This girl was spooked by everything.

She picked up the gadget. There was a glowing red light emanating. “A listening device,” she whispered with a grin on her face. It had been a long time since she had been bugged. There were few culprits that dared to one-up her. A well played move to make her solve the password. The head hunter was a cunning bitch.

***

It was good to know that the GPS patches were working. Perhaps she should stick one on Shibata so she could either evade him or sneak up behind him and ruin his day. Her iPhone indicated that the doctor was dining at that overpriced cafe. That was a terrible choice to eat lunch. The pasta salad was not even great. Regardless, she had a mission. Sherlock entered the establishment, scanning the environment for the doctor. She was in the back, eating with her coworker. He must be the one she was trying to attract.

She was infuriated. For once in her life, the deduction eluded her. She had no idea why she was so vexed. Ironically, that augmented her foul mood. It was good thing she knew how to keep a poker face. With irritation burning in her soul, she stomped towards their table. She forced her way into the doctor’s seat. “Let’s go, it’s an emergency,” the consulting detective ordered.

“How did you find me?”

“The headhunter, Shiina Arisa used me to determine the rest of the password,” she explained while looking at the menu. This place still had a terrible lunch selection. The prices were also raised.

“You cracked it?”

“Yes, and she bugged the room.” 

“The data?”

“Maybe she got it. We don’t have time. Help me find her.” She stood up, holding the doctor’s coat. Yet the doctor remained seated and exchanged glances with the colleague.

“Oh, this guy? Don’t bother with him.” She released the coat and walked closer to him. Like her clothes, the doctor had poor taste in men. "Want to know why?"

“Stop it!” 

She ignored the doctor’s plea. Oh, she will prove it.

Breton striped shirt

LL Bean Boots

Rolex Bubble Back

“It’s the same as Hemingway. A wannabe big shot writer, a narcissist.”

She spotted the fountain pen and journal. There were no calluses from writing. That meant one thing: “He’s actually not a writer, a nobody. He’s an irresponsible half-assed part-timer.”

On his left, there was his tote bag. Instead of Hemingway's novels, he read women’s magazine. This magazine was a terrible one; it had shitty advice articles that did not work on women. 

Hmm? What was that smell? Ah, she recognized that scent. It was a popular fragrance that women liked. Irene gave her a sample one time-more like almost chucking it to her face.

Overall, this translated to being a gigolo looking for an easy prey to financially support him. Possessing a medical license had quite a reputation to attract insincere affection.

The doctor stood up and vehemently declared she was not joining Sherlock. “Now I know why you have no friends. Stop messing around with me.” 

That was pretty bold to say. “Okay, suit yourself.”

For some reason, her chest ached again. Sherlock stormed out as an attempt to shake away the pain. She was stewing inside. The doctor refused and accused her. Of course she had no friends, she had no need for drama or fake politeness.

So that plan failed. It would not have been so bad if that half-assed gigolo was not there. He made everything worse. Thanks a lot, fucker.

***

Sherlock was in the cab with the driver driving aimlessly on the streets. 

“Okay, I’ll email you the frequency soon. Thanks.” 

“Ma’am, have you decided your location?” he grumbled impatiently.

“Wait.” Her phone rang. It was Shiina Yuma. “What?”

“Ane emailed me; she wants to eat dinner together at a hotel.” 

“Tell me which hotel,” she softly demanded. The younger sister whispered the address. 

Later, the cab pulled up to the hotel. She briskly walked through the lobby and caught the elevator going up. Shiina Arisa was in room 3011. She rang the doorbell and rapped on the door. 

The headhunter invited her in. She got a good look of the elder Shiina. Online video calls do not do justice on image quality. Sherlock was under the impression she would wear business pants. The skirt looked cute. 

“Did you open the file? You knew Haitani Reiko hired me. You wrote it on the envelope and window. All to get me to crack the password.” She peered down below from the hotel window. There was Reimon parking his unmarked vehicle. It would take sometime for him to come up.

“You cracked it, but it goes to the next stage.” Shiina Arisa turned the laptop around. There was a four-space input screen and a timer. Only forty-three minutes remaining. “Do it,” she ordered.

“That’s silly. I refuse.” What kind of consulting detective did the head hunter took her for?

A condescending smile emerged. “You can’t refuse though. I may show mercy, but my sister won’t.”

Sister…now she got it. It was not Shiina Arisa, it was all Shiina Yuma. Sherlock recalled the story about parental abuse. The elder one had nothing to do with the father's death. Everything was fabricated by the younger sister. Shiina Yuma, that cunning bitch. Where was she?

Oh, shit.

She reached for her cell and started calling. That doctor better pick up. Her shoulders were hunched and arms were crossover as the phone rang. The consultant struggled to breathe evenly. It was exasperating that the call went unanswered. Suddenly, it went to voicemail. Sherlock hung up once the automated voice kicked in. There was no point in leaving a message. She was too late.

Chapter Text

The elder sister explained that Shiina Yuma was a monster; she could not feel the pain of others. She was cold-blooded and sadistic. The deep hatred in her heart could not be removed. Even Shiina Arisa was powerless. 

The familiar tone for online calls filled the room. The headhunter accepted it and showed the iPad to Sherlock.

The doctor was strapped to an electric chair in an underground place. She apologized to Sherlock.

“She’s modified it to go up to 1,000 volts. It’s extremely painful. It literally fries the brain.” 

Sherlock shook her head as they commanded her to crack the code. The doctor, meanwhile, opposed it. 

Shiina Yuma warned that the doctor will get shocked if she got it wrong. Talk about pressure. Fine.

Sherlock removed her trench coat and sat on the chair. “It should be linked to lily of the valley.”

Kimikageso 

君影草

.

.

.

Ladder-to-Heaven 

谷間の百合

.

.

.

Convallaria Majalis 

コンバラリアマヤリス

 

All wrong. 

Why that name?

Returns happiness, like the drug. 

The arrival of Spring…

Spring? 

May 1st!

5月1日

“May 1st is Lily of the Valley Day in Europe. That’s it!” Type it in. Press enter. 

 

ERROR

The password does not match. Type the correct password.

2 MORE CHANCES

 

Sherlock made sure to exaggerate her petulant face. She dropped her act once Shiina Yuma flipped the switch. The doctor groaned as the electrical currents flowed through her body. 

Shit. An acute pain bloomed in her chest. It lasted less than a minute. Just like the shock torture. 

Sherlock growled. “I can’t think. I need to eat.” She pulled out her Meiji Milk Chocolate stash. Reimon was already set up in the room next door (he texted her before Shiina Yuma called). Now, he will be able to hear better. 

Lily of the Valley…

Highly toxic!

The drug is dangerous.

That’s why he used the toxic lily.

The poison’s name?

Convallatoxin 

コンバラトキシン

Chemical formula: C29 H42 O10

Molecular weight: 550.64

CAS number: 508-75-8

No!

Cardiac glycoside

強心配糖体

That’s it!

Cardiac glycoside can become poison or medicine.

Switch calcium ions with sodium ions.

 Two sides, like the drug.

Calcium ion, that’s it! Ca2+

“If you’re wrong, I’ll up the shock to 200 volts,” Shiina Yuma warned.

Ignore the cunning bitch. Type it in. Press enter. 

ERROR

The password does not match. Type the correct password.

FINAL CHANCE

Repeat with the petulant face. 

“What the hell are you doing? Solve it!” Shiina Arisa shrieked. 

Now it was the final chance. Time was rapidly tricking down.

Over the video call, she heard the doctor spoke up. “Why are you doing this? What will you do with the data?”

“I want to save the children,” the younger sister answered coldly. “The victims of parental abuse. I want to erase their fear. Then, they can stand up to their parents and society.”

The consultant rolled her eyes. Bullshit. Pure bullshit. Such a stupid excuse.

“It’s none of your business. Not every victim ends up hating their parents and society like you do,” she jeered. “Some enjoy life to the fullest due to their pasts.” She and Kento were living proof of that. Sherlock leaned over the chair. “No one's going to thank you. You need the drug, not the children!”

“Shut up!” Shiina Yuma roared. The accusation struck a nerve. The flip was switched on and another electrical current flowed through.

Shit.

The doctor groaned loudly. Seeing the doctor in pain also made Sherlock bowled over with her eyes shut. For some reason, the chest pain was more intense; it almost made her blackout. She had to steady herself with the chair and wait for the pain to pass. What the hell was wrong with her body?

She was able to catch her breath once Shiina Yuma turned it off.

“Next time, her brains will fry,” the Shiina sister announced. Her hand was lingering at the switch.

Sherlock had to act fast. “Do it! I want to see what 1,000 volts look like,” she goaded. There was morbid curiosity. She plopped herself down on the chair. “But it would be a shame not to crack the password,” she added quickly. 

Shiina Yuma withdrew her hand. Behind the consulting detective, the headhunter whined to hurry up.

Knew the danger, but made the drug anyway.

Why?

It was his dream.

Considered it to be…sacred! 

尊い

Legend 

物語

Lily of the Valley Legend…

Flowers grew in St. Leonard’s Forest. 

ノブラのレオンハルトの森

No.

Virgin Mary’s Tears… 

聖母の涙

Tears became the flower.

Nothing is more sacred.

Tears as in Tellurium and Argon. 

テルルとアルゴン

Tears.

TeAr

Atomic numbers 52 & 18!

 

Sherlock backed away and forced the headhunter to frantically enter the bogus password. The login screen went blank and showed a 3D model of a molecular bond. It was pretty flashy; Watanuki certainly knew how to protect his research with style. The younger sister ordered the elder one to email the data.

The consultant cackled as she fell back on the couch, enjoying flabbergasted reactions from the data being erased. “I must have been wrong,” she proclaimed with amusement. She mentally thank her brother for the useful information when he picked them up from the soba shop. His twenty minutes were quite useful-it did not gone to waste. 

“There’s a trap at the end; enter the wrong password and the data gets erased. How unfortunate!” She approached the iPad. “I wanted to show off, so I’ve been broadcasting,” Sherlock bragged. She waved her chocolate recording device and did a proper mic drop.

On cue, Reimon entered the room. Sherlock waved her arm to a shocked Shiina Arisa.

Over the screen, police officers infiltrated the hideout. The generator was disabled, Shiina Yuma was subdued, and the doctor was now unstrapped from the electric chair. Shibata’s voice was the loudest among the clamoring.

Reimon walked up to Sherlock. “Sorry to keep you waiting.”

“No problem, I knew you’d be here in time.” They worked on so many cases throughout the years. Only they knew the choreography of their dance.

*** 

The doctor was taken to the hospital for a checkup. Since she was given 100 and 200 volts, the doctor should be fine. No lasting damage like Watanuki. 

Sherlock tagged along with Reimon to the hospital. The inspector went to collect medical information for the report while she was waiting for the doctor to be released. 

At least, that was what the inspector presumed.

In truth, the blackout she almost had bothered her. Sherlock was not the most conscientious person regarding her health (that was Irene), but she will not allow any physical inconveniences to obstruct her investigation pursuits.

Hence, she was sitting in the patient room. Sherlock was waiting impatiently for the physician return with the results from the CT scan and X-ray.

The door swung opened. Finally!

The physician explained the results. “There’s nothing wrong with you,” he said rudely. “I don’t see anything abnormal. It might be stress that manifested into physical pain.”

What? No, that could not be true. She knew what she felt. There was something wrong!

Yet, the physician insisted she was wrong and dismissed her.

Thanks a lot, fucker.

***

When they returned to 221b, the doctor felt unsteady. It was decided that she will sleep on the lounge couch. Sherlock intended to get a full rest on her bed, but the fainting pain prevented her to do so. For some reason, the pain subsided when she entered her lounge. Unlike the doctor, she was quieter. The sleeping woman seemed to be breathing normally. Still, she should monitor just in case. It would be a pain to explain why the doctor died in 221b. Sherlock made herself comfortable by sitting on the ground, near the doctor’s feet. She closed her eyes.

“If you sleep like that, your back will hurt,” the doctor called out.

Was she sleeping that long? She yawned and stretched her arms. That was one of the best naps she had this month.

“Are you upset you couldn’t crack it? You’ll never know the password.”

What? She turned her head. “Of course I cracked it.”

“You entered the wrong password on purpose?”

Oh yes she did.

 

First password: Lily of the Valley

Problem: How to open the lily

Also known as: Flower of May

.

.

.

 

March winds and April showers bring May Flowers

.

.

.

Wind and Shower Atomic Number: 74 & 61

 Final Password: 7461

 

Sherlock flashed a proud smile. Her own astuteness even amazed her!

The doctor placed the coat over her head before removing it. “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU! MY BRAINS WERE ABOUT TO BE FRIED!” she shouted. 

Then, she resumed her normal speaking voice. “Also, how were the police able to find me?”

Sherlock tapped her neck with her index finger. “They tracked your GPS signal.”

“It wasn’t a patch?”

“It’s a GPS, not a love potion.”

The doctor groaned. “Seriously?” That naive attitude of hers will get her in trouble someday.

GPS and love potions were forgotten when Reimon came in. He gave her a filled notebook that had one word.

 

マリスステラ

.

.

.

Stella Maris

Latin for Star of the Sea…

Which refers to the Virgin Mary in Catholicism…

She guides people, just like the North Star…

Hm?

 

North Star is one star in the Little Dipper constellation.

Mizuno Akiko had the Little Dipper design for her phone case.

“There’s no coincidence then,” the inspector remarked.

“Maybe Stella Maris is the name of a secret society; Mizuno Akiko and Shiina Yuma were members,” she muttered.

“So the Little Dipper is the society’s symbol?” the doctor inquired.

Sherlock folded her hands and stared at the Katakana notebook.

 

マリスステラ マリスステラマリスステラマリスステラ マリスステラマリスステラマリスステラ マリスステラマリスステラマリスステラ マリスステラマリスステラマリスステラ マリスステラマリスステラマリスステラ マリスステラマリスステラマリスステラ マリスステラマリスステラマリスステラ マリスステラマリスステラマリスステラマリスステラ

*** 

There were no new information regarding Stella Maris over the next month. Sadly, the cases presented to her were not challenging as well. For instance, she listened to Kimie panicked over an accusation when she went to a friend’s house. Sherlock conducted breathing exercises to have her landlady calm down and articulate her story properly.

Kimie’s friend was a former actress, Minato Anna. The ex-actress was showing off a diamond ring that her ex-boyfriend (an actor as well). She allowed her guests to take photos. Minato then bragged about a newly installed jacuzzi, which prompted everyone but Kimie to run upstairs. The landlady took selfies and random pictures of the interior and furniture. 

Afterwards, Minato disrupted tea time by crying out the diamond ring had gone missing. Since Kimie was the last one to join them for the jacuzzi admiration, the landlady was vehemently accused. 

“This is the dumbest case I’ve had,” the consultant quipped. It was obvious that the ex-actress was the culprit. The pictures Kimie took had her head looking behind the couch-the logical spot where the diamond could have been stowed away. The diamond itself was an imitation, it was a ploy to collect insurance money.

Kimie seemed surprise that the diamond she saw was fake. Sherlock continued that the real diamond was also hidden and will be pawn off.

The landlady was shocked. “Why? She seems to have plenty of money! She has a stock book and shareholder gifts.”

Sherlock pointed out that company’s shares crashed last month and Minato must have suffered a big lost. Satisfied by the explanation, Kimie grinned. “You’re the best, Sherlock.”

She appreciated Kimie’s network, but there were some characters the landlady was better off not associating with.

“I want more interesting cases to solve,” Sherlock complained. Hands were above her head. She looked to the ceiling, waiting for the universe to hear her wish. 

The lounge door burst open with the doctor barreling through. Rule number thirty-six: Do not abruptly open the door was broken. “I need your help,” she panted. She ran to Sherlock’s side and kneeled. “I’ve got an impossible case! Please!”  

Too close. Her face was way too close. She was also breaching rule number thirty-two: Do not stand in front of me. The doctor was dead set on violating every rule.

Sherlock could smell sweat and food. Gross. The doctor was also working as a part-timer at a restaurant. She could use that income to buy better clothes.

Instead of responding, her hand became a buffer for personal space. “Please!” the doctor begged again.

Well, she got what she wished for: a case waiting to be solved. The doctor claimed it was impossible, but Sherlock knew that was untrue. She was a brilliant detective after all.

***

The first thing that she saw when entering the Wakasugi household was a purification service. The mother-in-law brought in a priest, Madam Luhu. Given the mother-in-law’s irrational thinking and belief in the supernatural, no wonder why Wakasugi Ryota and the doctor seemed desperate to have her solve the case. Speaking of the doctor, she clung to Sherlock’s right arm when angry spirits were mentioned. Of course, the new client had to mention they were friends. When she shrugged off the doctor’s arm and denied the friends status, another body ache and sore throat reappeared. Fortunately, there was green tea to soothe her.

Sherock’s legs ached from sitting in a seiza position. This was partially why she had more Western furniture than Japanese ones. The Wakasugi case was quite absurd. The mother-in-law was quite convinced that the family curse was the cause of Wakasugi Sakura’s vampire act. However, that was stupid. There was only one species of bats that fed on blood and it was not found in Japan. The only curse would be hanging Wakasugi Sakura upside down. That would be a funny mental image. 

Aside from Madam Luhu prancing around in the house, the pesky obstruction in her investigation was manifested in a little whelp called Daiki. The boy was a six-year old brat that distracted her from looking at the crib and at the baby-the bandage on Wakana intrigued her. “Don’t touch her!” he shouted.

The kid even had the gall to touch her! “Don’t you dare touch my arm either!” Sherlock responded coldly and forcibly removed his hand from her right forearm. 

“Go away!” Now he was telling her what to do? Fine. She will leave. There was no point in working on case with a brat getting in her way regardless of pleading from Wakasugi Ryota or the doctor.

Just as she was putting her heel boots on, the whelp was also tying his shoes. “He’s a brat, good riddance,” she uttered when he fled the house.

***

As always, the doctor was trailing behind her. “So, you’re bad with kids?” she teased.

“No, I just hate them.”

“Why do you hate them?”

“They’re incapable of logical thinking.” Honestly, anyone under twenty-five were quite insufferable.

“Of course, they’re kids,” the doctor stressed. 

Sherlock pointed to her left. “Look, there he goes.” They saw the brat’s departing figure, veering off from the main walkway. For some reason, that sparked curiosity from the doctor. She had no choice but to follow. 

He led them to a local shrine. The doctor commented that he was most likely praying for his mother’s recovery. However, the consulting detective had her doubts. He was probably planning to steal the offering coins. Since they were at a shrine, that reminded her of the incense she found in Wakasugi Sakura’s room.

“Find out which temple sells this incense,” she instructed to the doctor. This was indication that Wakasugi Sakura visited a grave. 

“You expect me to find the temple based on that?”

“You want to solve the case, don’t you?” After all, the doctor did bring this to her attention. This will also be great hands-on investigation training. She turned around. “I’ll send you the photo.” 

***

It was late at night when the doctor came back. She held her phone out to present her findings to Sherlock. 

“The grave belongs to Kariya Misuzu. She was an actress in a small theatre group, but she died in a car accident four years ago,” the doctor began. Good progress, continue. “Misuzu-san and Sakura-san were high school classmates and were both on the archery team. None of the current teachers know anything.”

“You visited the school?” Impressive, no wonder why she returned to 221b so late. 

The doctor mentioned it was near the temple. “I’m useful, aren’t I?”

In Sherlock’s eyes, she was not quite useful. It was fair, but it could be better. “You should have check out the theatre group, too. You didn’t follow through to the end.”

“So rude,” the doctor quipped.

“Find out where they rehearse,” the consultant continued. “You want to solve this case, don’t you?”

***

At the theatre, the doctor did all the talking. She will let the doctor relay the information to her. While waiting for the doctor to wrap up her conversation with the director, she joined the other actors in stretching. A latecomer showed up and asked if she was new. Sherlock confirmed that she was, then she saw a particle on the ground. She moved closer to pick it up and walked back to the doctor.

“He works part-time at a gardening store,” she announced. 

“How did you know that?” the theatre director asked.

“This was on his shoe. It’s commonly used in gardening.” She dropped it into the doctor’s hands. 

The consultant turned her attention to the theatre space. “A theatre like this can’t pay people much. They need to work part-time to get by.”

Suddenly, the director projected his voice and ordered the troupe to get into practice. The roar startled her so much.

On cue, the doctor pulled her away. “Why do you always have to piss people off?” she hissed. 

She was just stating the facts. Sherlock winced when another body ached came. It quickly faded when the doctor unlatched her arm to answer a phone call. 

“BEGIN!” he bellowed. The poor consultant was almost brought to her knees. 

“Let’s go.” The doctor guided Sherlock towards the exit. “It happened again.”

***

At Wakasugi Sakura’s room, the mother-in-law and Madam Luhu were performing another exorcism. Apparently she was near the baby’s crib, prompting panic from the mother-in-law. Sherlock noticed the navy cardigan hanging had something protruding in its pocket. She easily trespassed the exorcism ceremony and fished inside the pocket. There was an empty syringe, scientific evidence that there was no family curse. 

Back at 221b, Sherlock set up her lab equipment. With her lavender gloves snapped on, she was ready to analyze the residue substance in the syringe. Behind her, the doctor kept pacing back and forth. The doctor was muttering about why the syringe was in the coat. Good effort for thinking, but it was now distracting. 

“Be quiet, I can’t concentrate,” she barked. 

The doctor stopped pacing. “I’m a nuisance, right? So I’ll go out.” She quietly slipped out.

Sherlock ignored the chest pain when she raised her pipette.

***

She was sitting on the floor when the door was quietly propped open then slowly closed. Sherlock grinned when the results came in. “There’s traces of poison,” she called out. 

The door flew open. “Poison?” Then the doctor stumbled in and kneeled towards Sherlock. There was another acute pain, Sherlock steeled herself to keep a stoic expression. Continue on like nothing happened.

“It’s curare, a natural poison used by South American tribes. Hunted prey is paralyzed and ends up suffocating.”

The doctor could not comprehend why someone would put that in a syringe. 

Sherlock raised an index-gloved finger. “Eliminate the impossible and you’re left with the unlikely truth.”

While Sherlock went upstairs to change her clothes, she directed to doctor to call the family. It was time to put the family curse farce to an end.

***

She explained that Wakasugi Sakura was sucking out poison, not blood from the infant. When they asked about the syringe, Sherlock mentioned it was hidden under the mattress crib.  She was retrieving it when the mother-in-law caught her the second time. All of this was an act to protect the real culprit. 

Suddenly, Wakasugi Sakura walked out and confessed she was guilty.

Nice try. “The culprit is…there.” A lone finger pointed at the figure behind Wakasugi Ryota and the mother-in-law. There was the whelp playing again.

“That’s impossible,” the doctor responded passionately. “Even if you do hate children, that’s terrible.” 

Sherlock redirected her attention to Wakasugi Sakura. “Well?” she challenged.

Since she refused to answer, Wakasugi Ryota intervened and asked his son. The brat may not say much, but it was obvious he was in trouble. It was a flight response to his crime. The doctor chased after the boy while Sherlock opted to intervene him. 

She pushed the kid away before a collision incident occurred. “Someone told you to do it, right?” There was no way he could get access to curare so easily. 

They brought the brat back into the house. Only her, the doctor, Wakasugi Ryota, and the whelp were in the family room. 

“How did you get the syringe?” Sherlock began. 

“Olfram gave it to me,” he replied. His father reprimanded his son for lying and asked him why did he inject the infant. 

The doctor left her side and kneeled down. “Were you trying to make Wakana-chan better?” she asked gently. The whelp remained silent. Then, she smiled. “Daiki-kun, did you want her to be able to play?”

“What makes you think that?” the consultant interjected. How did she come to that conclusion?

“Daiki-kun had a girl’s toy. I bet he got it for Wakana-chan. That’s what it was, right?”

Wow. Sherlock had been rarely impressed by this doctor. This was the best investigation performance she seen so far. It seemed that she underestimated this doctor-she picked up something that she grossly missed. The doctor was truly observing! 

Now, she had a new angle to work with. Sherlock crouched to his level. “How do you contact Olfram?”

“I write to him.”

***

The brat led them to his room, he pulled out the stationery letters. “I write a letter and leave it at the shrine,” he explained. “Then he writes me a reply.”

“When did you first meet Olfram?” she asked while scanning the content.

It was a month ago, there was a hero show at the department store. He pointed at the family group picture. Afterwards, their correspondence began. Olfram was interested in talking with the whelp.

A plan began formulating in her mind. “I want to write to Olfram. Write the letter for me.”

He looked at her, refusing to move. 

Very well. 

She placed her hands on his shoulders and redirected him to his desk. “You did this, you know. The bad guy used you. Your sister almost died! You did this. So you have to make it better,” she declared. The kid had to make things right. It was the first rule of taking responsibility. He needed to learn that truth in order to survive in this world. 

It was a battle of wills. She overpowered him. The whelp turned around and grabbed a clean sheet and pen. “Write this down: ‘Please give me more medicine. I’ll make sure she gets it this time.’ Go on.” She closely monitored him. 

The boy walked to shrine and placed the letter in a metal pencil box. Sherlock, in turn, contacted Inspector Reimon. She needed him for an ambush.

***

Yuuki Kaito was struggling against the hold of three assistant inspectors. Wakasugi Sakura and Ryota closely followed behind Sherlock and the doctor. The father was angry why a stranger would attempt to kill his daughter. The mother, on the other hand, had a guilty expression. The consultant clarified the connection. Yuuki was the fiancé of Kariya, Wakasugi Sakura’s best friend. It was clear that he blamed her for the car accident. 

His scheme started when he recognized the family at the hero show. He was dressed as Olfram. Underneath that guise, he was seething that Wakasugi Sakura was blissfully happy with her own family. This caused him to leave work early and follow the family back home. (Shibata even backed up her claim. Shocking.) Hence, he decided to take his revenge on the baby. All to experience the pain of losing a loved one. Under his instructions, the brat took the syringe and injected curare to his sister. The poison could easily be accessed by a gardening employee. 

“You killed her!” Yuuki spat. “You forgot her and moved on. I can’t forgive you!”

The doctor spoke up. “Sakura-san never forgot Misuzu-san.”

“Of course she did,” he scoffed. “How could she get married otherwise?”

“She visits Misuzu-san’s grave every month.”

“That’s just to make her feel better. Then she goes back to her happy marriage!”

“But you weren’t broken either! You kept going with a grieving heart. She’s gone, but you’re still with the theatre group. Even though she’s no longer there. You know how hard it is.”

For a moment, Sherlock felt that speech was not about the perpetrator nor Wakasugi Sakura. She truly miscalculated the cognizance of the doctor. As the sergeant escorted the culprit away, there was a growing need for the consultant to stand behind her.

***

The next morning, she and the doctor were back at the Wakasugi household. Not only she needed to collect the payment for her services, but she also had a parting message to bestow on the brat: “Your mother protected you. She didn’t want you to be the bad guy.”

The whelp never responded. Just as she suspected. 

On cue, the doctor gave him a letter. That got a response from the kid. Through his mother’s encouragement, the boy read it out loud: 

 

Hi Daiki-kun!

Your mother loves you very much. She even lied to protect you. Now it’s your turn to protect her. Bye!

 

The solemn expression finally broke, he was smiling brightly. “Okay Mom! Now I’m going to protect you!” he declared. That touched Wakasugi Sakura’s heart. 

“I’m protecting you, so I’ll do the hugging!” the kid announced. Cue a mother and son hug.

.

.

.

"Mama! I want to protect you from bad guys!"

Kento declared that a long time ago. It was one of the full sentences he said in English. Their mother was so impressed by his conversational skills and his sincere feelings. He was wrapped in a secure hug. Not wanting to feel left out, she ran over and proclaimed she was also going to protect. That earned a seat on her lap. Both brother and sister were snuggled in her warm embrace.


And then…

 

And then…

 

And then…

 

.

.

.

“So do you like kids now?” she asked in a teasing voice. Sherlock’s reverie was effectively broken. When did the doctor sneaked behind her?

“Hate them,” the consultant retorted. Her chest started hurting again.

Sherlock needed to leave.

***

Kimie’s television was on when they walked back in. The reporter was talking about Minato Anna’s fake diamond. There was a clip about Kimie talking about the counterfeit jewelry; she repeated Sherlock’s words by verbatim. She was so proud of her landlady.

A delicious smell lingered outside the kitchen. Kimie was baking something. She took a closer sniff. That only happened for certain occasions. 

No way…it surely could not be!

Sherlock bounded upstairs, she heard faint calls from the doctor asking what was going on. She gripped the door handle and forcibly opened it.

Inside there was a tall woman sitting in the guest chair, her back was against Sherlock. She stood up and turned around, giving the consulting detective a nice view of a byzantium sheer mesh chemise garter slip. The chemise was a snug fit, the cups accentuate her generous cleavage. Over two years, she could see a more defined torso, the sheer material failed to hide her taut abs. The lines from the chemise and the abs drew Sherlock's gaze downward. The outfit was completed with a bikini panty and garter slips, all in the same color. The woman only had her stockings on, stilettos were nowhere in sight.

“Irene,” she greeted in a monotone voice, returning her gaze upward before breaking eye contact. 

“Darling! How are you doing?” Irene smiled. “It’s been two years since I last seen you. Anything new?”

The doctor finally caught up and walked in, looking flustered at the newcomer.

The celebrity’s grin grew bigger. “That answers my question.” 

Chapter Text

“By the way, what’s your name?” Sherlock’s older brother asked. Right, she never properly introduced herself. Heck, she did not know his first name or surname.

“Tachibana Wato; Wato is written as ‘peaceful city,’” she replied. 

The brother placed his hands on Sherlock’s shoulders. “Wato-san, please take care of my little sister, Sherlock.” He pushed his sister forward and encouraged her to accept the new arrangement. Sherlock was stupefied and tried to fight her brother's advances. Wato also shared a surprised reaction. She went from being homeless to a housemate at 221b in less than three minutes!

Sherlock looked at her. “Suit yourself, I’ll make sure you regret this.” She immediately reached for Wato’s hand and tugged her away from the glaring lights and clamor. Her hand clasped awkwardly. She wiggled her fingers to lace perfectly with Sherlock’s. They walked back in comfortable silence.

Hatano Kimie quickly accepted her with open arms. She trailed behind the landlady giving a tour of her new home. 221b was a nice and grand place with a mixture of Japanese and Western architecture. Wato had to plan an afternoon tea session with Hatano to learn the history of this place. Before she retired for the night, Hatano gave her spare clothing. Wato tried to refuse the extra generosity, yet resigned to accept it. It was more than enough that she had a roof over her head in the capital. Living here solved her housing situation; she did not have to arrange a flight back to Sapporo.

Even though Sherlock pledged to make her life a living hell, she was determined to make it work. The first thing she could do was make breakfast. Wato set her watch alarm to wake up at 4:30 a.m. 

***

Breakfast preparation was accompanied by classical music played on the cello. She was not much of a musician (only played the trumpet in high school), but she could tell Sherlock was a skilled cellist. Hatano was at the stove, frying a perfect tamagoyaki. She was grateful for the extra help. Before Wato walked upstairs with breakfast in hand, Hatano mentioned a friend of hers was visiting Sherlock today. Wato intended to keep that promise.

Instead of receiving a response of thanks, Wato obtained a detailed list of rules:

 

•頼みもしないのに朝ごはんを作らない。 [Do not make breakfast.]

•コーヒーは82度のお湯で入れる。 [Make coffee with water heated to 82 degrees Celsius.]

•掃除はしろ。片付けはするな。 [Do not clean the room. Do not clean up.]

•50デシベル以上で喋るな。 [Do not talk above 50 decibels.]

•くつろぐな。 [No relaxing.]

•思い出話をするな。 [Do not talk about your memories.]

•自己主張をするな。 [Do not self-assert.]

•くだらない冗談を言うな。 [Do not make lame jokes.]

•面白くても言うな。 [Do not even say they are funny.]

•質問は一日三回まで。 [You can only ask up to three questions per day.]

•同じことを二度言わせない 。[I will not mention the same thing twice.]

•三度言わせたら即、退室。 [Make me say it the third time, you leave.]

•鼻歌を唄うな 。[No humming songs.]

•歯を見せて笑うな 。[Do not show your teeth when you are laughing.]

•髪をいじるな。 [Do not ruffle my hair.]

•室内で咳やくしゃみをするな。 [Coughing and sneezing are not allowed inside the room.]

•ケガをするな。 [Do not get hurt.]

•病気になるな 。[Do not get sick.]

•買い物を頼まれたら、数種類買ってその際、自分の好みを入れるな 。[If you are buying things and you are buying several different kinds of stuff, do not put your own preference to them.]

•気に入らない場合はすぐに買い直せ。 [Even if you do not like it, buy it immediately.]

•窓を開ける角度は48度。 [Angle of opening the window should be at 48 degrees.]

•指示もなく窓の開閉をするな。[ Do not open or close windows without instructions.]

•部屋の電気を消すな。 [Do not turn the lights off in the room.]

•冷房は常に27度、暖房は常に26度 。[Air conditioning is always at 27 degrees Celsius, heating is always at 26 degrees Celsius.]

•パソコンとスマホは常に充電しろ。 [PCs and cellphones should always be charged.]

•宅配物を勝手に開けるな。[Do not open home delivery packages for your own convenience.]

•チェロには指一本触れるな。[Do not ever touch the cello.]

•標本に指一本触れるな。[Do not ever touch the evidences.]

•書物に指一本触れるな。 [Do not ever touch the books.]

•機器類に指一本触れるな。 [Do not ever touch the equipments.]

•資料に指一本触れるな。 [Do not ever touch the documents.]

•前に立つな。 [Do not stand in front of me.]

•後ろに立つな。 [Do not stand behind me.]

•横にも立つな。 [Also, do not stand beside me.]

•歩く際、足音をたてるな。 [When walking, do not use loud footsteps.]

•いきなりドアを開けるな。 [Do not abruptly open the door.]

•書物に折り目を付けるな。 [Also, do not abruptly close the door.]

•苔に水をかかさずやれ。 [Do not water the moss.]

•ウツボカズラは水ゴケが乾いてきたら。[The moss on the Raffles’ pitcher plant should be dry.]

•ハッピーバースデー!みたいな妙。 [HAPPY BIRTHDAY! or anything like that is strange.]

•トイレットペーパーはダブル以外。[Toilet papers must be double ply.]

•依頼人からのプレゼントは受け取。[Receive presents from clients.]

•皮の剥いてある甘栗は買わない。[Do not buy chestnuts with the shells off.]

•どんな時でも同意を求めるな 。[Do not ask for consent at anytime.]

•私からの電話は呼び出しは1回で出。[You will only get one call from me when the phone rings.]

•ゴキブリが出たら生きたまま捕獲。[If any cockroaches appear alive, capture them.]

•気安く挨拶をするな。 [Do not worry about greetings.]

•私の目を見て話すな。 [Do not make eye contact with me when you are talking.]

 

“Hey! This has way too many rules,” she complained. These were all ridiculous! There was no way she would remember any of them!

Sherlock smiled as she posed at the doorway. “You’re free to leave.”

After Sherlock refused her meal, Wato decided to not to inform her about the visitor. She sat at the bar stool and ate two full shares of breakfast. Sherlock, meanwhile, drank a cup of coffee she forced Wato to prepare earlier. Hatano walked in and announced her friend arrived early. 

“Oops. I forgot,” Wato dead panned. “Someone’s coming.” If Sherlock decided to be petty, she could do it too.

The landlady was shocked that Wato was still eating! However, food was set aside when Maibara Mariko walked in. “I heard the stories, I wasn’t expecting you to be so cute,” the guest commented.

“Her personality sucks. It’s more like the devil,” Wato mumbled. Akiko was right about that. Sherlock tossed her coat in Wato's direction.

Maibara told Sherlock about a Kishida Saneatsu portrait she received from her late husband as a silver anniversary gift. The painting, Sachiko, was loaned to the Gables Museum of Arts for the first time. Within the first week of its exhibition, a young man vandalized the painting by drawing a mustache. His fleeing was thwarted as he got hit by a moving truck in the parking lot. The vandal, now unconscious, was under police surveillance at the hospital.

Poor Maibara had no idea why Sachiko was defaced or who the culprit was. Even the police were stumped. Hence, she sought out Sherlock. “You might be able to find out,” she begged.

“One thing’s for sure,” Sherlock replied. “He was just following orders from the real culprit.”

***

Wato could not contain her laughter when she saw the mustache. Although it was a serious case, it looked so comical! Also, Sherlock did not have to bump into her when they were in the storage room! Maibara did share an interesting tidbit: Yanagisawa Keisuke of Gallery Gelder approached her to buy the painting before the vandalism happened.

They did not spent much time at the arts museum. They traveled to the nearby hospital to see the culprit. The attending nurse did not offer much information on the identity, only a prognosis. Now, they were at some confectionery shop. Sherlock was telling her about the comatose young man in the hospital had his ear pierced and the gallery exhibit room and portrait number written on his hand. Wato never noticed any of these details. 

Whatever, it was probably not important.

The next visit was to Gallery Gelder, unfortunately Wato had her first counseling appointment with Dr. Irikawa Mariko. This was all planned by the HR personnels of the volunteer medical team. It was too late to reschedule, she had to be the responsible adult.

Their confectionery eating break concluded with Sherlock snatching her order. Wato’s protest fell on deaf ears. Sherlock sported a smug grin as she continued eating the anmitsu.

***

Her first appointment was awkward. She did not talk much; although the counselor assured her this would be confidential, the stigma against mental health was too strong. Wato did not want to be seen as weak or useless. She knew her silence tested Dr. Irikawa’s patience. Regardless, the counselor encouraged her to talk about anything that was on her mind. All thoughts were safe with her. Due to the lack of progress, Wato had to schedule another appointment. 

She reunited with Sherlock as they visited Takakura Hirotsugu, an art collector that was acquainted with Yanagisawa. 

That evening she was reading a biography on Kishida Saneatsu that was borrowed from the library not far from 221b. There was a sign advertising for part-time help, maybe she should apply. “I know why Maibara-san gave Sachiko to his wife. That painting was Saneatsu-san’s last work before he died. He couldn’t sell his paintings and was poor. But his wife, Sachiko-san, still supported him. She inspired the painting. Isn’t it a great story?” She closed her book and turned her head to face Sherlock. Her housemate had her back towards her. 

“You’re still here?” She deflated at Sherlock’s response. 

“Saneatsu-san poured love for his wife into the painting. Maibara-san must have known that!” Wato continued.

“Naive, I knew it when I met you.”

How rude! What was Sherlock’s problem?

“Maybe he had an affair and gave it out of guilt. Or he was telling his wife to be more devoted,” Sherlock proposed.

Wato got up and approached Sherlock. She needed to confront Sherlock’s ornery demeanor towards relationships. The other woman dodged her. Fine. If Sherlock did not want any physical contact, then she needed to be prepared for her speech. “You’re so cynical. Haven’t you been in love? Have you never felt affection for others?” Wato argued with hands waving to emphasize her point.

“Emotions get in the way of logical thinking. How about you?”

So that was this about: logical thinking. Wato may not possess Sherlock’s observation gift, but she knew rationale was not everything.

“Me? Pretty much,” she affirmed. Wato looked downwards, her housemate was studying her. “What?” She squirmed at the intense scrutiny.

“You rarely check messages,” Sherlock quipped, standing up. Now she was advancing! Wato retreated to maintain personal space. She ended up falling back on the couch. “You hardly make an effort to dress up; you wear little or no makeup. This means…”

Oh no, now Sherlock was too close! Stay away! She lifted her coat and placed it over her head. Sherlock’s gaze was too much, too powerful for her to handle. “Stop, don’t look! Stop it! Don’t! Stop! Stop!” Wato yelped out.

Her rescuer came in the form of Hatano. “Looks like you’re becoming friends,” the landlady chuckled. 

“Far from it,” Sherlock asserted. Wato had to agree.

“Not one bit,” she added. 

“Maibara-san sent this. Want to try it?” Hatano asked as she placed a tray with a castella cake and hot tea down.

Oooh! That looks delicious. It was also chestnut! “Yes, please!” The landlady placed the tea and cake on the table.

Hatano then approached Sherlock and asked about the case. The latter gave one-syllable answer.

“Maibara-san hardly ever goes out ever since loosing her husband, you know. Her feet’s bad and she’s cooped up in a room all day watching TV. I wish she had more of a social life,” Hatano sighed. “Well, excuse me. Good night!”

“Good night,” Wato called out.

***

“It was a waste of time. Both Takakura and Kuwabata have alibis,” Wato complained. They were returning from Kuwabata’s art studio. Sherlock found out the sample of manila copal. Aside from being a resin that held dinosaur fossils, it was also used for oil painting.

“Their alibis mean nothing in Yanagisawa’s case. He was killed using a timing device.”

“Timing device?”

“Whoever did it visited his office before he fell. The killer spiked a drink and got him to drink it. Then dragged Yanagisawa up to the roof and puts him on the ledge. The sleeping pills wore off and he woked up. He was in a daze and fell as he tried to stand up. That happened at 10:32 p.m.,” Sherlock explained. She pulled out her phone. “Look. He landed face down, but there’s paint on his back. He was lying on his back on the ledge.”

“I see!” Without that tiny detail, it really could have been ruled as a suicide.

Sherlock’s cell beeped with an incoming message from Shibata. “What’s that?” Wato wondered. 

There was a picture of him posing with three kids. There was something in his hands. Sherlock swiped over and zoomed in the second image, it was an eery looking eye.

They wounded up at Silver Geeks, a tattoo and piercing parlor. The earring was an original design, they needed to know the identity of the young man that worn it. Wato ended up talking to the owner while Sherlock kept snooping. She even lifted the tank top of the owner to see his tattoo and laughed about it when he turned around. That was inappropriate!

Regardless, they were able to identify the perpetrator: Kijima, a part-timer with no steady job. At Gallery Gelder, he transported artwork for a year.

It was all connected! 

***

“Let’s see if I’ve got this straight,” Wato started after swallowing a nigirizushi. “Kijima worked at Yanagisawa’s gallery and as part of the job he told him to deface Sachiko. He got paid to draw the mustache on the painting. Then, Kuwabata calls the museum.”

“Part-timer Kijima; Gallery owner Yanagisawa; Art restorer Kuwabata: the three were in it together,” Sherlock confirmed. Three different temarizushi: salmon, shrimp, and tuna appeared on Wato’s plate. They were placed by Sherlock. Each one represented the three suspects.

“But why was Yanagisawa killed?” That still eluded Wato. It did not make any sense-the three were working as a team.

“To know why, we must solve the Stradivarius mystery.”

“Stradivarius?” What was Stradivarius? It was clearly not Japanese-just like Sherlock’s name. Wato did not get the chance to inquire more as there was a knock on the lounge door. She initially thought that it was another delivery guy. (Why was Sherlock indecisive with ordering takeout? They already had a box full of pizza and a generous plate of briyani on the table.) However, it was Hatano with a bald male visitor for Sherlock.

“A friend of yours?” he asked after the quick hug. 

“She’s not my friend,” she maintained.

Wato concurred. “Definitely not!” She was a housemate, tagging along because the case was an interesting pursuit of the truth. However, that will change with part-time work.

Then the landlady addressed Sherlock and the man, asking how they knew each other.

He revealed to be an art appriser who went by Mikki. “Matisse was stolen from a museum four years ago," he clarified. "Sherlock asked me to examine the display painting.“

Hatano was intrigued by this four-year old solved case. “If you hadn’t discovered the fake nobody would know?” 

“Fakes are quite common. One man made over 2,000 fake paintings in London, but only thirty have been discovered,” Mikki continued.

“Really?” Wato chimed in. 

“A good forger is highly skilled. The man arrested was actually an art restorer."

Hold on. “A restorer? I may have just solved the case!” Wato announced while standing on her feet.

***

She did not solve the case. Mikki's confident words of confirming Sachiko's authenticity was the final nail on the coffin. It was so humiliating! Even Sherlock laughed!

“I feel so ashamed. What did you notice?” Wato asked, recalling that Sherlock stared at the portrait one last time before it was packaged. 

“The size: Sachiko and Takakura’s office painting of the dancer are both exactly the same.” 

“What’s the connection?” 

“It’s how it all started.” 

“I don’t get it.” Wato pouted. Why was Sherlock not making any sense?

“Eliminate the impossible and you’re left with the unlikely truth.” 

“Unlikely?” she repeated.

Her question went unanswered during their visit to Maibara. They scoured through the late husband’s ledgers of antiques. Later, they went to Takakura Resort Development. To her surprise, Kuwabata was at the president’s office. 

“If you refuse, I’ll have to force the issue,” Sherlock challenged. She grabbed the letter opener on the desk and charged at the wrapped package with the sharp object in her hands. There were collective gasps. Wato’s heart almost dropped, surely Sherlock did not stab Takakura! 

“It wasn’t the painting that you switched,” she explained as she ripped the paper. “It was the frame.” Sherlock placed the letter opener down and lightly patted the frame. “This is what you really wanted.” She kept it in her clutches while she strode around the office.

Maibara’s late husband bought the frame over twenty years ago. Wato learned it was made by Antonio Stradivari, an Italian luthier, back in 1721. He was known for his violins, the price for a Stradivari frame had to be astronomical.

Takakura, however, was not interested in selling the frame. He wanted it to adorn the dancer portrait. Apparently that painting was originally encased in the Stradivari frame. There was significant history behind it: the luthier constructed it for the dancer that danced to a violin he crafted. Both painting and frame became separated when it was passed through various art collectors almost over three centuries. That was how it became part of Sachiko and property of Maibara. 

Since Maibara refused to sell it, Takakura conspired with Yanagisawa and Kuwabata to steal it. There was one thing bothering Wato. “Why did you decide to go along with his scheme?” she asked the art restorer. 

“An art dealer is what a struggling artist needs,” Sherlock retorted. Yanagisawa provided false hope. That spurred Kuwabata to murder him. Of course, Takakura was not any better; he never intended to give Kuwabata a one-man exhibition. Wato shared the same opinion with Sherlock, that artist needed to have better judgement of character. 

Sherlock gave the artist one final message: “A person’s value becomes an artwork’s value. If the person can empathize with it, it’ll leave a strong impression in them, but if they’re not interested in it, they’ll just see it as junk. If a work can find a person that can be moved by it, then it’ll be able to be loved.”

That was quite profound. Wato did not spent much thought pondering on Sherlock's words for she spent the late afternoon giving her statement to the police. She did spied on Sherlock looking satisfied with solving another case.

She went to her appointment the next morning. Wato was in a better mood than the previous counseling session. Even Dr. Irikawa picked up on that. “Talk about whatever you like,” she said.

“Anything I like,” Wato replied, there was a smile on her face. “Okay, the mystery of Sachiko’s mustache.”

“Mustache? What about it?”

“An intriguing mystery that occurred just recently.”

*** 

Three weeks passed by. During that time, she was invited for an interview with the library-the same one where she borrowed the Kishida Saneatsu biography. Wato was confident in her interview performance, it was up to the manager to decide if she was fit for the job. At the end, he immediately offered the job! Wato quickly accepted.

Her cell phone buzzed on her walk back. There was a text message to buy lao cilantro. Wato could ponder why and how Sherlock got her number when they first met in Dr. Mizuno’s case. What a pain!

221b had an awful smell when she returned with the vegetable. Apparently Sherlock was creating a new blend of essential oils. She snatched the bag from Wato’s hand. “Wrong,” she said, picking up the cilantro. “This is cilantro. I asked for lao cilantro.”

“Isn’t lao cilantro just cilantro’s full name?” Yes, Wato studied botany as an elective course in college. 

“No,” Sherlock refuted. ”I already used the oils from regular cilantro. So this is worthless! Hurry up and exchange it!” The cilantro was tossed back.

Wato received an interesting lecture about essential oil application. Cilantro removed odor while lao cilantro worked as a sedative. Ylang ylang, on the other hand, was an aphrodisiac. Its main ingredient was benzyl acetate, the same chemical found in Chanel No. 5 perfume and to attract male bees.

Hatano announced there was a client waiting for Sherlock. Turned out she was the daughter of Hatano’s horse-riding friend. The landlady was an interesting woman, she did various recreational activities and had quite the social life. 

“How’s your job hunt?” she asked politely. 

“I’m going to work part-time at a library for now,” Wato responded. “I can’t freeload here forever.”

“Sure you can!” Hatano offered. “Sherlock loves having you here, right?”

“No, I don’t,” the housemate denied.

***

The client, Haitani Reiko, wanted to retrieve paperwork she submitted to a recruiter, Shiina Arisa, a month ago. Shiina interviewed Haitani for a position at Morthon Pharmacy (an impressive feat), however there was no follow up. The client was anxious and had no way to contact the recruiter. Haitani shared a magazine article on Shiina and Sherlock was able to deduced Shiina's residence thanks to the Zojoji Temple and Tokyo Tower in the background.

The trio took a cab to the Shiba-Koen district of Minato and successfully found the high-rise. Shiina Yuma, the younger sister was hospitable, however Sherlock was an unruly guest.

  1. She commented how the sisters do not look alike. 
  2. She opened the cabinets and looked at the chinaware.
  3. She used the floor mirror to look at herself-without permission!
  4. She picked up an expensive glass plate, much to Wato’s horror. There was no way Wato would be able to pay for damages-Sherlock will most likely not compensate.
  5. She sat on Shiina Arisa’s bed.
  6. She picked up a book sitting on the desk.

Wato did most of the talking; she learned that the sisters drifted apart when they got older. (Was she being assigned as Sherlock’s spokesperson?)

Yuma successfully managed to contact her sister (who was in New York for urgent business) and Haitani surprisingly declined the job offer. The paperwork was fortunately tucked in a secure cabinet.

***

A simple retrieval errand somehow transformed into an ominous case. It all started with Sherlock noticing a number sequence on the back of Haitani’s folder; the client herself did not write it. They were summoned to the hospital by the inspector. Beyond the ICU viewing window, there was a Dr. Watanuki Hiroshi. He was the chief researcher at Morthon Pharmacy who specialized in psychopharmacology. (It was the same company that wanted Haitaini. Was it connected?)

He was reported missing three days ago. This morning, he was found underneath an overpass. Dr. Watanuki survived his ordeal, but it came at a price. He has no recollection, not even remembering his own name. Police were only able to identify him thanks to his driver’s license in his wallet. According to Sherlock, the neocortex and frontal lobe were destroyed. He was tortured with electric shocks.

Later, they visited Morthon Pharmacy. Wato talked with the assistant, Dr. Sanada about Dr. Watanuki’s work. The assistant did not yield crucial information on his superior’s project. He did confirm one thing: Shiina posed as Haitani. She used Haitani’s work during the hiring process and gained security clearance. That month of work must have lead to stealing important data.

***

Today was her first day at work. Her fellow librarians were kind and helpful. She was assigned to Yoneyama Toshio. Wato followed Yoneyama around, learning the layout of the library and how to shelve the books. It went smoothly until he reached over and directed her where to place a book. He was so close, she could smell some kind of fragrance. It made her feel flustered. Not wanting to make things more awkward between them, she opted to retreat to the storage room.

The sight of Sherlock on the ground with a pile of books deterred her. Her housemate was looking into Dr. Watanuki’s research, particularly erasing fear with drugs. After her shift, she followed Sherlock into a noodle shop where they found Dr. Sanada about to enjoy his lunch. Sherlock rudely disturbed him in order to confirm her suspicions on a fear erasing drug.

It turned out it was true, Dr. Watanuki did complete his research. However, he realized how dangerous the drug truly was, especially if it was fallen into the wrong hands.

The case became more complicated when Sherlock’s brother picked them up. As a government project, the Public Security Office was involved with retrieving the stolen research. The only silver lining was the intricate password encryption that safeguarded the data. He warned Sherlock to not interfere. “I’ll decide that for myself,” Sherlock asserted.

“I knew you’d say that,” he retorted.

Later that night, Wato and Sherlock reviewed the new information they learned. It seemed that Shiina Arisa knew the password, the long numerical note written on the back of Haitani’s manila envelope.

***

Her break from thinking about the case came in the form of discussing bonfim bracelets with Dr. Irikawa. As a big sucker for romance, she entertained the idea of spending time with Yoneyama. That motivated her to sneak into the lounge and snag the aphrodisiac bottle Sherlock bragged about a few days ago.

“Caesar Cipher…Polybius Square…Japanese Iroha Poem?”

Oops, looks like she was not stealthy enough. As she stood up, she placed the bottle into her bag and tried to leave. “The bottle you put in your bag alleviates athlete’s foot. I swapped the contents out yesterday,” Sherlock announced. 

Eh? Wato turned around. Sherlock approached her lab table and pulled out a pack of patches. “The aphrodisiac that you want is in this adhesive patch.” 

Without warning, Sherlock snuck one behind her neck. She could feel the patch being firmly push into her skin.

The gesture surprised Wato. Here she was thinking Sherlock had no love! Yet, Sherlock was being the best wing woman a housemate could asked for. That made her smile! She went to work in a great mood.

***

It was her luck that she was partnered with Yoneyama again. While they were shelving more books, Wato flipped her hair back once, hoping for her coworker to smell the aphrodisiac.

Nothing, he kept his back to her. She tried again.

There was no result. 

Wato flicked her hair from the right and the left.

“Tachibana-san, could you help with these?” 

Wato quickly turned around, feeling embarrassed. He did not see her, right?

Yoneyama handed her the books. “They go over there.” He pointed to the shelf behind her.

“Sure.” She took the books from his hands and shelved them. It was back to hair flipping. This time, it was more frantic and desperate. She really wanted the love patch to work!

Yoneyama wheeled his cart away. That was so disappointing. 

“Tachibana-san,” he whispered. She jumped and turned around. Whoa, he was…so tall. Wato had to lift her head higher to maintain eye contact. She could smell the fragrance, it was more pronounce this time. “Do you want to have lunch with me today?” her coworker asked.

Wato was stunned. The love patch worked? Sherlock’s essential oil was incredible! “Yes, that would be great,” she replied.

Yoneyama smiled. “See you then.” He walked back to his cart.

Wato clasped her neck, stroking the patch with reverence. “This patch is amazing!” she remarked.

***

“Let’s go, it’s an emergency,” Sherlock ordered, effectively ruining her lunch date with Yoneyama.

“How did you find me?” Wato sighed. Her housemate was embarrassing her, right in front of her date! Totally the opposite of what a wing woman should do!

Sherlock explained that she solved the password, however she was recorded by the headhunter. It was likely that Shiina Arisa had Dr. Watanuki’s research. Hence, Sherlock urged for Wato’s assistance. 

There were problems with that request. 

First: she was on her lunch break, not off work. 

Second: Yoneyama; he was so confused with their conversation. Even though he only talked about Hemingway, this was Wato’s first date in years! When will there be another chance?

Sherlock picked up on her dilemma. “Don’t bother with him,” she declared. “Want to know why?”

Wato knew where was this going. “Stop it!” she hissed. Sherlock ignored her. She could only helplessly watch Sherlock using her deduction for humiliation. She reduced her coworker into “a wannabe big shot write," "a narcissist,” and an “irresponsible half-assed part-timer.”

“He’s just looking for easy prey. He’s a gigolo. He targeted you because you’re a doctor,” Sherlock accused.

Okay, that was it. Sherlock went gone too far. “Enough already,” Wato declared, standing up. All attention was on her now. “Now I know why you have no friends. Stop messing around with me. I’m not going.”

Her housemate seemed unfazed, but respected her wish this time. She stormed out of the cafe.

Yoneyama, on the other hand, was very rattled by Sherlock. It seemed that his writer cover story was ruined. He quickly made his escape, leaving Wato to handle the bill for two overpriced pasta salads. (It also tasted horrible.)

***

Wato’s disposition was the complete opposite as she worked on her remaining shift. Shelving books and avoiding Yoneyama calmed her down.

From her peripheral view, she saw someone walking towards her. “Hello,” Yuma whispered.

“Hi, Yuma-san.” It had been a while since she last saw the younger Shiina sister. Did Yuma often visited this library?

“You work here,” she commented. 

Yes, Wato did. She got off her step-ladder. "Can I help you with anything?"

“I brought some books to donate. I need help carrying them.” 

Wato retrieved a cart from the storage room and wheeled it outside. There was a lone Toyota Silver sedan in the parking lot. Yuma reached for her car keys and unlocked it. “They’re in the back seat.”

Wato set the cart aside and peered in. Strange, she could not see any. 

“Maybe they fell under the seat,” Yuma suggested.

Hm, okay; she will take a look. While bending over, her phone rang. She pulled it out; it was Sherlock’s number. 

Wato was still mad at her. She swiftly tapped the decline call option. Again, she could be petty. “I don’t see anything under the seat,” she called out before moving out. 

There was a buzzing and crackling sound behind her. Her lower back seared in pain. Wato never felt anything like this before! The pins and needle sensation was akin to stabbing. The intense tingling was unbearable! Her body stood straight, locked in place; her forehead made contact with the car frame. Then it stopped; Wato thought it would never end. She collapsed on the backseat. The pain was so great, she blacked out.

Chapter Text

Wato gasped when she regained conscious. It was cold, dark, and musty. The last time she remembered was being at the library parking lot. Where was this place? She did not recognize it.

Also, there was something constricting her. Wato looked down, she was sitting on a chair. There were straps on her arms and feet. Her torso was fastened by a thick black band. 

Wato’s eyes widen. This was an electric chair. A horrifying thought came to mind: this was how Dr. Watanuki met his demise. She was on her way to meet the same fate.

“You’re awake,” a cold voice stated.

Wato turned her head. Shiina Yuma was standing in front of a control panel.

“Yuma-san, what are you doing?” she asked. Dread rapidly dwelled in her.

The younger sister ignored her and approached her laptop. She clicked on her sibling’s contact name and started an online video call. The call was accepted and Sherlock’s face appeared on the screen. Like Wato, she was confused by the situation.

Wato’s heart fell. If only…if only she went with Sherlock to find the headhunter, then this kidnapping and being held hostage could have been avoided. Her housemate could have safeguarded her from the Shiina sisters. Wato had to make amends. “Sherlock,” she called out. “Sorry.”

“She modified it to go up to 1,000 volts,” the older sister said. “It’s extremely painful. It literally fries the brain.”

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no! She did not want anymore electric shocks! Wato did not want to become brain-dead!

Behind her, Yuma placed headphones on her head. It was quite short, it rested on the temple.

“Ready?” Arisa asked.

“Get her to work,” Yuma retorted. No! They were using her to force Sherlock into cracking the password! She recalled Dr. Sanada’s words; it was a lethal weapon when fallen into dangerous hands.

“Do it, we’re running out of time,” the headhunter ordered Sherlock.

“No! Don’t crack it!” Wato pleaded to Sherlock.

Yuma turned on the switch, the generator rumbled. “If you’re wrong, she gets shocked,” she warned.

“It should be linked to lily of the valley,” Sherlock mused.

Being under stress made Wato unable to focus on her housemate’s analysis. All she could do was be helpless. It was a despairing situation. Wato did not want the sisters to obtain Dr. Watanuki’s research, yet she did not want to receive electric shocks or die from electrocution.

“May 1st is Lily of the Valley Day in Europe. That’s it!” her housemate cried out. Her housemate quickly typed it in.

Did it work?

Sherlock’s crossed expression told her otherwise.

Yuma, who was sitting close to the laptop, got up. Wato followed Yuma’s steps with her eyes. No, please!

Her silent plea went unanswered. The switch was flipped and electric currents flowed through her frame. She had no control of her body; her head tilted upward while the straps locked her limbs in place. It was hard to describe the pain. Wato felt her insides were frying inside out. 

The currents stopped abruptly. Wato was gasping. A light sheen of sweat formed at her forehead and neck.

“Aaarrrrrrrrrggggghhhh!” Sherlock growled. “I can’t think. I need to eat,” she grumbled.

“Hurry! There’s no time!” Arisa snapped.

Sherlock rambled about lily of the valley being a poisonous plant. She talked way too fast for anyone to catch on.

“Cardiac glycoside can become poison or medicine,” she mumbled. “Switch calcium ions with sodium ions.”

“If you’re wrong, I’ll up the shock to 200 volts,” Yuma interjected.

Sherlock ignored Yuma’s warning and tried again.

Another annoyed face.

“What the hell are you doing? Solve it!” the eldest screamed.

Now it was a good chance to stall for time. “Yuma-san,” Wato called out. “Why are you doing this? What will you do with the data?” Her actions were incomprehensible to her. Wato had to understand.

It seemed to work as Yuma did not flip the switch right away. “I want to save the children,” the younger sister answered coldly. “The victims of parental abuse. I want to erase their fear. Then, they can stand up to their parents and society.”

“It’s none of your business. Not every victim ends up hating their parents and society like you do,” Sherlock taunted.

No! What was Sherlock saying? Be quiet! This was NOT how to do hostage negotiations!

“Some enjoy life to the fullest due to their pasts,” her housemate continued. Sherlock leaned closer to the camera. “No one's going to thank you. You need the drug, not the children!”  Wato was not one to be rude, but frankly: Sherlock, shut up. 

Even Yuma felt the same.

“Shut up!” the younger sister shrieked. She wasted no time flicking the switch upwards. Another electric current flowed through. 

Wato groaned loudly. It was more intense and lasted longer than the first time. She was drenched in sweat by the time was over. Her clothes felt sticky and her hair clung to her neck. Perspiration was definitely not good for electric shocks. Wato closed her eyes, she was completely exhausted and had no desire to watch Sherlock and Yuma challenging each other.

“Next time, her brains will fry,” Yuma declared. She sounded like she was ready to turn it on, waiting for Sherlock to goad her again.

“Do it! I want to see what 1,000 volts look like,” Sherlock cried out. “But it would be a shame not to crack the password.”

So far, no new electric shocks. Good.

“Tears as in Tellurium and Argon,” Sherlock stated. “TeAr! Atomic numbers 52 & 18! Go!”

The password was typed in and cries of relief from the sisters. The satisfaction did not last long. 

Sherlock cackled in the background. “I must have been wrong,” she proudly proclaimed. Wato did not get a chance to hear the rest, she was starting to black out. She heard Yuma screamed in frustration, followed by the generator powered down, then shouts. 

“Are you okay?” Shibata called out. “Hey, are you okay?”

She heard him come closer. “Hang in there!”

***

The next time Wato woke up, she was at the hospital lying down wearing a hospital gown. Five electrodes were placed on her chest with the cardiac monitor near her side. Her medical instincts immediately kicked in. She needed to know her prognosis. Wato reached over and pressed the buzzer, alerting for a nurse.

A nurse promptly came and checked on Wato’s wellbeing. She was cleared from any electric shock damages. A physician later came in and reaffirmed she was healthy. Wato inquired if she needed to stay overnight for monitoring her condition, but the physician dismissed those concerns. She was free to check out from the hospital.

After changing back to her clothes and signing the released forms, Wato was greeted by the inspector and sergeant. They were both here for collecting medical information for the case report. Shortly afterwards, Sherlock appeared with a stoic expression. That was a surprise to Wato. She thought her housemate left after solving the case, not staying at the hospital. There was something heartwarming about the gesture.

Reimon and Shibata drove them back to 221b. Wato was greeted by a worried Hatano. The older woman fussed over Wato’s wellbeing and informed her there was soup. While she was touched by the landlady’s kindness, Wato felt unsteady and fatigued. Sleeping on the hospital bed did not completely alleviate her exhaustion.

Not willing to walk another flight of stairs to her room, she was lead to Sherlock’s lounge and ended up dozing off at the couch. 

When she woke up from her nap, there was a crouched housemate near her feet. “Hey,” she said softly. No response from Sherlock, she was still napping. “Hey,” she called again. “Hey!” Wato lifted her foot; Sherlock’s head raised slightly.

“If you sleep like that, your back will hurt,” she gently chided Sherlock. Her housemate yawned and stretched her arms. It was an endearing childlike action.

“Are you upset you couldn’t crack it? You’ll never know the password,” Wato mused.

“What?” Sherlock looked over. “Of course I cracked it.”

She did? Wato raised her head. “You entered the wrong password on purpose?”

According to her housemate, the first password was “lily of the valley.” The problem was to “open” the lily. Like she said earlier, it was also known as the Flower of May. There was a mantra about March winds and April showers bring May flowers. Combing the anatomical numbers of wind and shower, the final password was 7461.

Sherlock looked so proud of herself. 

Wato leaned back and placed her coat over head. Unbelievable. Sherlock's goading was still fresh in her mind. She took a big breath before removing it.

“I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU! MY BRAINS WERE ABOUT TO BE FRIED!”

Why did Sherlock went through all that drama with entering wrong passwords? She almost died!

She felt calmer after that outburst. Now that was out of her system, there was another question bugging her. “Also, how were the police able to find me?”

“They tracked your GPS signal.” 

“What?”

Sherlock pointed to her neck.

“It wasn’t a patch?” Wato felt so crushed. 

“It’s a GPS, not a love potion.”

“Seriously?” she grumbled. Her attempt to attract Yoneyama was for nothing. Sherlock was right, her coworker was attempting to use her.  

They were interrupted with a light rapped on the door. It was Inspector Reimon with a manila envelope. “I hope you’re feeling better,” he said to Wato. 

“What’s up?” Sherlock quipped as she took it from him.

“We searched Shiina Yuma’s desk and found this,” Reimon explained. 

“What’s that?” Wato asked, with curiosity. She slowly stood up and walked towards Sherlock.

Sherlock opened the envelope and found a notebook. She flipped through the pages. “There’s more. All filled with writing, just like that,” the inspector described. “Any ideas?”

Wato glanced at the notebook. It had one repetitive word: マリスステラ. “Stella Maris,” she read out loud.

She learned that Stella Maris was Latin for Star of the Sea. It had Catholicism ties to the Virgin Mary, who guides people-just like the North Star. Then, Sherlock made an interesting connection. The North Star was part of the Little Dipper constellation. That same constellation was a decoration on Akiko’s phone. 

There was no coincidence.

“Maybe Stella Maris is the name of a secret society; Mizuno Akiko and Shiina Yuma were members,” Sherlock wondered.

“So the Little Dipper is the society’s symbol?” Wato asked.

Her housemate did not respond, she was lost in thought.

***

After that fiasco, Wato figured she should get another part-time job to reduce her time investigating with Sherlock. She can stay safer and not be subjugated to hostage harm. The following month was uneventful, there were no new information regarding Stella Maris nor new cases. Wato ended up applying for a yakiniku restaurant. Few days later, she got called in for an interview. Wato done well and was given a coral pink uniform to wear for serving guest.

On her first day, she ran into her childhood friend Wakasugi Ryota. It was great to see him again, but there was something bothering her big brother figure. Their time was cut short after the manager caught Wato not serving. For the rest of her shift, she managed to look busy.

When Wato was exited the restaurant, she found Ryota sitting on the outside bench. They continued their conversation from before. By the time he concluded, Wato realized she may have a new case to cure Sherlock’s boredom.

She exchanged phone numbers with her childhood friend-he even gave her the address to his place. Ryota was free to receive Wato and Sherlock this afternoon. Hence, Wato ran back to 221b and begged Sherlock to solve an impossible case.

***

“You want to solve this case, don't you?”

Infamous last words taunted Wato as she commuted to every temple in a twenty kilometer radius of the Wakasugi home. There were too many nearby, each priest gave a negative confirmation on the incense brand. The disappointment crushed her. The perk in her step transformed into a reluctant foot shuffle. She retained a polite demeanor when she talked to the mikos and priests, but her patience and optimism ran thin. 

Investigation work was not easy; it was quite exhausting. Stepping into a detective role in real life was much harder and more difficult than it was in mangas and light novels. (Part of her wished that the “Detective of the East” was not a character that existed in black and white panels and in flashy animation. At least he was more friendlier and patient than the detective she knew.) 

Part of her wondered that this was punishment. Was it because she introduced this case to Sherlock?  This mystery was laced in occult lore. The supernatural seemed to be the antithesis for sound logic. Such contrast must have lead to a foul mood. The sullen temper reached its zenith when Daiki confronted Sherlock about approaching a napping Wakana.

Had it not been a serious matter, Wato would have found it amusing that a little boy was successful in driving Sherlock away. (Her housemate truly deserved it. There was a list she could make of all the offenses Sherlock had done. She truly had no house manners and Wato found herself questioning Sherlock’s upbringing.) He was more successful than Sergeant Shibata during an investigation. Perhaps he should take notes from Daiki. The light hearted imagery renewed her vigor as she passed through the tori of the Asakura Shrine. 

The miko at the clerical office allowed her to wait inside while she fetched the head priest. Wato’s legs ached from sitting on the tatami all day. The Asakura head priest did not make her wait too long. He was quite prompt and allowed Wato to begin.

Like before, she showed the picture of the incense brand. Unlike before, the priest confirmed it. Wato cried out in happiness. It was finally over! Then she realized it was not over. Rather, it was the beginning. She swiped to the next picture, an image of Wakasugi Sakura in her sailor uniform and asked if he knew her. (Wato did not want to know how her housemate acquired such photos. It had to be illegal, she was sure of it.) The priest again confirmed and explained the backstory. Ryota’s wife was responsible for a car accident four years ago. The victim was a theatre actress, Kariya Misuzu. She and Sakura went to the same high school and were archery athletes. Every month, she visited Kariya’s grave and purchased a box of incense to replenish her supply.

This prompted her to visit the nearby high school and asked the instructors if they knew anything about Kariya or Sakura. None of the teachers were aware of it, they stopped contact after third-year students graduated from high school.

It was late at night when she returned. Wato held her phone and showed the picture of the late Kariya back in high school. She summarized her findings to Sherlock (who surprisingly remained quiet). Her housemate was impressed by her initiative to visit the high school.

“I’m useful, aren’t I?” Sherlock gave her this assignment and Wato intended to fulfilled it. It may have taken her all day, but she did it! Wato felt so accomplished. Judging on Sherlock’s reaction, Wato felt her housemate was proud of her.

“You should have checked out the theatre group, too,” Sherlock answered. “You didn’t follow through to the end.”

Wato’s good feeling was squashed by two sentences. “So rude,” she countered. 

“Find out where they rehearse.” 

“What?”

“You want to solve this case, do you?” Sherlock repeated. She lifted her head and stared at Wato. Her housemate was being serious. 

This time Wato realized Sherlock was not doing this out of spite. It was all for gaining experience. She needed to know if Wato was two hundred percent committed to the investigation. Her housemate was a reserve person underneath that dramatic flair. To her, there was potential in Wato’s budding deduction skills.

“Okay, I get it.” Wato left the lounge room to go upstairs. She was laying on her bed, looking up the theatre on the map app. Her phone was attached to the charging outlet throughout the night hours.

***

“I don’t want this!” Wato protested as Sherlock dropped a fertilizer particle into her hands. With extensive knowledge in biology, Wato was quite familiar with the microscopic world of bacteria. Plus, this came from Yuuki’s shoe. She really did not want to be holding something unsanitary nor irrelevant to the case. 

Wato was content with the new information about Kariya from the theatre director, but of course, Sherlock had to conclude their visits in a provocative manner. “A theatre like this can’t pay people much!” she proudly proclaimed as she walked to the troupe. In a small practice space, everyone heard her insulting the theatre. “They need to work part-time to get by.”

“A THEATRE LIKE THIS?” the director shouted, walking to the actors. Wato flinched when he raised his voice, but she could not blame him. Her housemate attacked his pride. He turned back to Wato. “It’s time for rehearsal, so we’re done,” he said flatly.

She also shared his sentiments. “Thank you and my apologies,” she replied and bowed quickly. 

“GET STARTED!” he bellowed.

“YES, SIR!” the troupe roared back. They soon got into positions.

It was a double whammy of loud audio processing for Sherlock. Her housemate looked so disoriented with the overstimulation. Wato walked over and tugged Sherlock to the exit. “Why do you always have to piss people off?” What was the point of doing that? By exercising sensitivity, things like this could have been prevented.

“Just stating the facts,” Sherlock easily replied. Wato could only look at her housemate with disbelief. It was tactless and a poor reason to defend such actions. She had no time to berate the other woman as her phone rang with an incoming call from Ryota.

Ryota frantically told her it happened again. Sakura approached Wakana’s crib, prompting panic and a phone call to the female priest for performing another exorcism. Wato promised they will visit. She dragged Sherlock back to the Wakasugi house.

***

They were back at 221b. Sherlock found an empty syringe in Sakura’s cardigan and finished setting up her lap equipment.

Wato was behind her, pacing as she mulled over the new case development. Why was a syringe in Sakura’s pocket? Was she trying to inject Wakana with something? 

“Be quiet, I can’t concentrate,” Sherlock snapped. 

She stopped pacing. Wato felt her heart breaking. “I’m a nuisance right?” she asked. Was all her efforts for naught? At this point, there was nothing for her to do. “I’ll go out.” Wato quietly closed the lounge door right behind her. She went upstairs and grabbed her bag. It will take a while for the lab results. Wato might as well be productive.

Outside of 221b, she called Dr. Irikawa’s office and asked if the counselor was available for a drop-in appointment.The receptionist on the line confirmed Dr. Irikawa was open in the early afternoon. 

At the waiting room, Wato noticed flyers for an art gallery nearby.

“Thanks for waiting.” Irikawa walked up to Wato and leaned closer. “It’s for an exhibition by a war photographer,” she explained. “You may find it interesting.” It was definitely intriguing that the counseling office would have flyers. Perhaps Dr. Irikawa was supporting the local community? 

“Thanks.” Wato smiled and placed the flyer down. She will check it out after her appointment. 

There was a fresh, hot cup of chamomile tea waiting for her at the counseling room. Both counselor and patient took their respective seat. Like always, Dr. Irikawa waited patiently for Wato to begin.

“Sensei,” Wato began. “You said I can talk about anything I like. For our past sessions, I talked about the cases I’ve been involved with.”

“Yes, they’re quite fascinating. You have a gift for storytelling,” Dr. Irikawa complimented. “Have you finished another one?”

Wato briefly smiled. “We have another case in progress. It’s about a family curse. I’ll tell you more after it’s over.”

“I look forward to it,” the counselor kindly replied. She said nothing more, giving Wato all the time in the world to collect her thoughts.

“Sensei…” Wato trailed off. “When we were working on the case, Sherlock told me to be quiet. She couldn’t concentrate on analyzing the sample we found today. Am I being a nuisance? Am I useful for the case? To Sherlock?” She brought the tea to her lips, taking long sips to calm herself.

Dr. Irikawa remained quiet before she spoke up. “Your housemate must be handling expensive equipment to obtain lab results. She might have needed close attention to ensure her lab work must not go awry.”

Wato relaxed at the counselor’s words. She was right, Sherlock had a single-minded attitude when investigating. Also, her lab equipment was no joke. She recognized the brand names, there was high-level machinery her housemate possessed. Sherlock needed to handle her equipment with delicacy.

“It would also be wise to create a wider social circle,” the counselor continued. “It’s nice to make different friends that share your various interests.” 

***

At the exhibition, Wato stopped at an empty hall. Each wall was decorated with black and white photos of children at refuge camps. (She fondly remembered the children from the hospital.) Some of the backgrounds were blurred, but she could make out the Arabic text. The text were signs for the refuge camps. In this series, it was taken in Iraq. The one with a young girl caught her eye. 

“That’s my favorite photo,” someone said behind her. Wato turned around. It was Moriya Toru, the war photographer! She recognized his profile from the small biography blurb from the program. 

“What a lovely smile,” Wato commented. “Almost makes you forget she’s in a war zone.”

It was easy to talk with Moriya. They had so much in common even though they had a different purpose and geographic location. Following the counselor’s advice, she accepted his offer for coffee at the nearby cafe.

Moriya revealed he was also a patient of Dr. Irikawa. He promptly scheduled an appointment whenever he returned to Japan. That was how his flyers were at the counseling office. He had strong admiration for the children. Their resilience was far stronger than Wato’s mentality. It made her think about her worth as a volunteer doctor and even as a consulting detective assistant. 

The war photographer was even candid about his experience in the Middle East, conflicting feelings, and flashbacks. It was an eye-opener for Wato. This subject matter was not something she can relay to Sherlock and her entourage. They will never understand the exposure of conflict, struggle, and vulnerability she faced. Japan was too isolated for current affairs beyond East Asia.

Moriya cut their time short, saying he needed to get back to the exhibition. He exchanged phone numbers with Wato, expressing interest to see her again. Making a new friend lifted Wato’s spirit.

***

Wato propped open the lounge room door. She was gone for several hours, yet Sherlock still had her lab equipment out. Her housemate was on the floor. Wato closed the door. 

She barely caught on Sherlock’s words. Wato dashed through the door and kneeled by Sherlock’s side. “Poison?” she questioned. 

The poison in questioned was curare. Used by South American tribes, the poison rendered paralysis and suffocation. “Why would someone put that in a syringe?” It was a horrifying way to die. Who could be that heartless?

“Eliminate the impossible,“ Sherlock responded, “and you’re left with the unlikely truth.” Wato recalled Sherlock saying something like that before. She was instructed to call Ryota, Sherlock had news to share.

***

“So she wasn’t sucking Wakana’s blood?” Ryota exclaimed. Sherlock answered that the baby was injected with poison and the mother was attempting to suck it out.

The syringe was hidden underneath the crib mattress. “Why did she hid it?” Wato interjected.

“To protect the real culprit.” Real culprit? Who could that be? Suddenly Sakura walked out, she must have overheard the deduction conversation.

“I did it,” she admitted. “I used the syringe on Wakana.”

“It wasn’t you,” her housemate refuted. Wato agreed, she seen Sakura longing to be with her daughter.

“The culprit is,” Sherlock began with her index finger pointed at Ryota’s direction, “there.” Behind him was Daiki quietly playing.

“That’s impossible,” Wato interjected, vehemently disagreeing. “Even if you do hate children, that’s terrible.” He was a sweet kid, she may not interact with Daiki, but she knew how to read him. His spirits were down due to a sister with a congenital heart condition, a grandmother that believed superstitions, a stressed out father, and a concerned mother.

“Well?” Sherlock dared. It was a chance for Sakura to clarify. 

“Sakura,” Ryota called out. When she did not reply, he turned to his son. “Daiki, what’s going on?” The little boy walked out. “Daiki!” he said.

Wato recognized that action. A flight response! “Daiki-kun!” she cried out, running after him. She managed to grab him in the front yard.  “Daiki-kun, what’s wrong?” He bit her forearm, causing her to loose her grip.

Sherlock appeared at the front gate and pushed him away from her. “Someone told you to do it, right?”

What? “What do you mean?” As usual, her questions were unanswered.

Wato and Sherlock flanked the left and right side as they escorted him back.

***

“How did you get the syringe?” Sherlock asked.

“Olfram gave it to me,” he answered. Olfram?

“Daiki, don’t lie!” his father scolded. “Why did you inject her?” His son remained silent. She could see it was difficult for the child to explain. She recognized this response from the kids back at the hospital. Time to do a different approach.

Wato sat down at the kotatsu to be at the same level as Daiki. “Were you trying to make Wakana-chan better?” she softly asked. He did not respond, but she can feel the tension in the child softening. She smiled, finally making progress. “Daiki-kun, did you want her to be able to play?” That was the only explanation she can think of. She knew Ryota well, he was a good man raising his son with good morals. 

“What makes you think that?” Sherlock interrupted.

“Daiki-kun had a girl’s toy. I bet he got it for Wakana-chan.” She saw a tiny bunny in his left hand while his right held the action figure when they first arrived at the house. “That was it, right?”

Sherlock seemed to accept her reasoning. She crouched next to the boy and reached over for his action figure. “How do you contact Olfram?” Sherlock's concentration was on wiggling the toy. How childlike.

“I write to him,” he replied. 

***

He reached into his bookshelf and pulled out five letters. “I write a letter and leave it at the shrine. Then he writes me a reply.” It was written in Hiragana, each correspondence was signed off by Olfram, a masked superhero on television.

“When did you first meet Olfram?” Sherlock continued with her questions. 

“A month ago, there was a hero show at the big store.” Daiki pointed at the framed family picture with Olfram. “After that, I got a letter from Olfram. He said he wanted to talk to me.” 

“And you began writing to each other?” To Wato, this seemed off and suspicious. Each letter asked for more details about his family. The boy nodded his head. 

“I want to write to Olfram,” Sherlock declared. “Write the letter for me.” 

He stared at her, unimpressed. Wato felt the same. She could use a clean stationery sheet and write sloppy Hiragana characters. Keep the rhetoric simple.

Sherlock leaned down and held his shoulders. “You did this, you know.” She redirected him to his desk chair. 

“Don’t talk like that,” Wato chided. Daiki was a child, he was manipulated by Olfram! 

“The bad guy used you. You sister almost died!”

“Sherlock!” That was way too insensitive. Ryota's son did not deserved to be traumatized like this. Let him keep his innocence.

“You did this. So you have to make it better.” Sherlock continued to stare at him. He finally relented and turned to pull out a new letter. Sherlock turned her head, smiling for being victorious. Wato rolled her eyes. That was too blunt for any child.

“Write this down,” Sherlock instructed. “‘Please give me more medicine.’” She turned his head to focus on writing. “‘I’ll make sure she gets it this time.’ Go on.” After writing it, Sherlock inspected the letter and approved it.

When Daiki left to drop off the letter, she hissed at her housemate for snooping in his drawer. The other woman ignored her protest and took a clean Olfram paper. She carefully folded the creases and placed it in her bag. Wato did not have the chance to ask Sherlock’s intention with the paper; her housemate was on the phone with Inspector Reimon.

***

Inspector Reimon, Sergeant Shibata, and a team of men were quietly waiting in the shadows. Yuuki Kaito approached the same massha Daiki was at the other day. He was shocked when Reimon called out to him. “I want to talk to you about Wakasugi Wakana.”

Yuuki, surprised by the ambush, attempted to escape. A team of assistant inspectors and Shibata subdued him. He pleaded he was innocent. Reimon found a contradiction, stating he would not have run if he was truly innocent. From the shadows, Ryota, Sakura, Sherlock, and herself emerged.

Ryota demanded to know what was going on. “Why would a stranger try to kill Wakana?”

“I believe you know the reason why.” Sherlock addressed that to Sakura. She looked uncomfortable seeing Yuuki. Her housemate clarified that Yuuki and Kariya were engaged. The car accident broke the engagement, Yuuki never forgave her. 

(Wato was surprised that the investigation work she did was incorporated into this new deduction. She did not think Sherlock would ever use her findings.)

Four years later, seeing the Wakasugis at a meet-and-greet event reignited that grudge. He hated the fact that Sakura had a family while his hopes for one was destroyed. Yuuki took advantage of Daiki’s fondness for his hero, Olfram. He followed the family after the event and began to plot his revenge, using the little boy for his dirty work. 

“You killed her!” he denounced. “You forgot her and moved on. I can’t forgive you!” His accusations made Sakura recoil. It was the truth Ryota’s wife cannot deny, that guilt was firmly embedded for the rest of her life. Yet, not all his claims were true.

“Sakura-san never forgot Misuzu-san,” Wato interjected.

“Of course she did. How could she get married otherwise?”

“She visits Misuzu-san’s grave every month.” The incense Sherlock found in her room was proof. It was clear that she was still hurting for killing her friend.

“That’s just to make her feel better,” Yuuki snorted. “Then she goes back to her happy marriage!”

“But you weren’t broken either!” Wato argued. “You kept going with a grieving heart. She’s gone, but you’re still with the theatre group. Even though she’s no longer there. You know how hard it is.” It was true strength and courage for continuing on, especially in honoring someone’s memory. Yuuki’s commitment to theatre was the same as Sakura’s monthly grave visits. They were the same, they remembered Kariya in different ways. Kariya Misuzu was definitely not forgotten, that was more than enough.

Yuuki was at a lost for words. Taking advantage of his silence, Reimon ordered Shibata to take him away. Ryota held his wife close. Wato heard the familiar heel clicking from behind. From a peripheral view, Sherlock was next to her.

***

“Your mother protected you. She didn’t want you to be the bad guy.”

That was Sherlock’s message to Daiki. Ryota’s son did not bat an eye; it was quite comical to see her housemate being terrible with children.

Wato reached inside her tote bag and pulled out a letter. “Olfram asked me to give you a letter.”

The letter was written by Sherlock, it had a kid friendly tone that her housemate unsuccessfully tried to convey orally. It was given to her before they left 221b. Sherlock remained silent as Wato took the letter from her housemate’s hands. For someone that truly despised children, her housemate was quite sensitive towards Ryota’s son. It was not Daiki’s fault that he was manipulated to poison his sister. However, he was young, that guilt could truly ruined him. Hence, the letter was written as a contingency in case Sherlock’s message failed to elicit an reaction (which it did).

“What does it say?” Sakura coaxed him to read it out loud. It was the last letter he would ever receive from Olfram. The letter truly cheered up the little boy. He was smiling and initiated a heartfelt hug with his mother. Everyone smiled at the tender moment.

Sherlock, on the other hand, looked at them with a soft look. This was perhaps the most human moment she ever saw from her housemate. The best way to describe Sherlock was wistfulness. Her eyes spoke volumes of hidden longing. Perhaps this awoken Sherlock’s empathy?

Wato quietly walked over to her roommate. “So do you like kids now?” Moments like these show that children were not bad. They can be sincere. 

“Hate them,” she replied quietly and slipped out. Seeing Sherlock knowing Daiki was not the real culprit and going out of her way to comfort him made her see that this was an act. There was something more to Sherlock. Wato was beginning to see it.

“See you!” she said to Ryota and Sakura as she walked out. She caught up with Sherlock and they walked back to 221b in silence.

***

“Sherlock! What’s going on?”

What had gotten into Sherlock? There was nothing out of the ordinary, Hatano was listening to the news while cooking. Since Sherlock did not bother to answer (as expected), she sprinted upstairs. 

The lounge door was open with Sherlock standing in place. “Anything new?” a feminine voiced asked. There was someone talking to Sherlock. 

She walked in the lounge to see the stranger. One glance made Wato blushed. This woman before her had a model ideal type: symmetrical face, long eyelashes, full eyebrows, elongated hands, the height, and body proportions. Wato was easily dwarfed by the woman’s tallness-the stranger was not even wearing heels! Yet, the physique was the not reason for her fluster. (There was something familiar about this woman, but Wato could not place her finger on it.)

Due to Wato's short stature, she had an eye-level view of the bosom before her. It was easy to tell that this woman had a natural bust-there was no evidence of plastic surgery nor makeup products for contouring the cleavage. From a biological point of view, it was impressive! It was clear that this woman was quite proud of her body. However, why was she wearing lingerie? Why was she in this state of undress?

“That answers my question.”

The woman’s voice startled her out of her musing. Wato redirected her gaze downwards…only to see a purple bikini panty. 

There was only one word: why? 

Why was this almost-naked woman prancing in 221b? She seemed awfully familiar (and possibly intimate) with Sherlock. Were they…lovers?

Again, Wato was caught up in her thoughts; she failed to see the woman walking closer to her. A lithe index finger tapped underneath her chin before lifting upward. Wato’s line of sight moved from the wooden floor to the woman’s face. 

“Hello,” the woman purred. “It is nice to meet you. What is your name?”

“Tachibana Wato, it’s written as ‘peaceful city.’” A pregnant pause. “It’s nice to meet you, too.”

Sherlock scoffed and walked over to her lab table. The woman ignored her.

“I am Hanawa Isuzu,” she began. “Although, you may know me as Irene Adler.”

Wato’s eyes widen. “Irene…Adler-san?” she squeaked. Wato could not believe it! She was in the presence of a celebrity. An A-list one! 

Adler chuckled. “You seen my works?”

“Of course!” Wato gushed. Back at the hospital, nurses and doctors brought DVDs and ran a filmography marathon. It was only the older ones, she have not seen any recent shows or movies. That was why the actress seemed unfamiliar at first.

Adler turned her head and returned her gaze to Sherlock. “You never told me your new housemate had excellent popular culture taste.”

Huh? How did she figure it out? Wato never said anything.

“You never told me you were coming!” Sherlock snapped. “You’re always waltzing in as you please!”

“My messages get ignored,” the celebrity pointed out. “After all we been through in college and in the bedroom, how can you be so heartless?”

“Excuse me?” Wato yelped. Her housemate, on the other hand, glared at Adler and huffed. Sherlock moved towards her computer chair and plopped downwards. She rotated the chair so that her back was facing Wato and the actress.

Adler strutted over, hips swaying in a seductive manner. She placed her hands on Sherlock’s shoulders and leaned over. Now, Wato had view of her butt and panties. She really had a nice figure; Adler must have worked hard to maintain her curves. The celebrity whispered something to her housemate. Whatever she said, Sherlock did not recoil from the closeness nor made any snide remarks. She snorted at Adler.

Hatano knocked on the door before entering with a tray of tea and cake. “I made your favorite, Rin-san!” she cheerfully announced. 

The actress leaned upwards and turned around. “Thank you, Kimie-san!” She beamed brightly at the landlady. Clearly, Adler had no qualms in showing her skin and revealing clothing.

Surprisingly, Hatano was also unfazed. She placed the tray down and distributed four plates, four dessert forks, and four teacups. She began to cut the chiffon cake and placed a slice onto each plate. Adler joined Hatano, Sherlock trailed behind the celebrity. 

Out of politeness, Wato sat down. She paced herself with the cake and tea. She declined for seconds after one serving, citing her fatigue from staying up to catch Yuuki Kaito. Wato closed the lounge door behind her, feeling relieved she was away from the weird love ritual between Sherlock and Adler. Walking upstairs, Wato noticed her throat ached. It must have been from the change of weather. It was best to get some rest and take a hot shower later.

Chapter Text

Even with a long rest of sleeping through the afternoon and evening, Wato still felt groggy and hungry next morning. The hot shower did little to relieve the discomfort. Her throat was no longer sore, but she had body aches. Was she developing a cold? Granted it was October, the season where everyone was susceptible to illness. It did not help she had been sleeping irregularly due to casework and the stress she received from her impulsive housemate. In a span of about three months, it seemed that her body was taking a toll. She grimaced about being confined to bed for recovering. It had to be one person to cause this stress induced ailment. She did not have this problem back in Syria. Wato was focused and remained vigilant around her surroundings back in the Middle East.

The best course of action was to call in sick, eat a light meal, take ibuprofen, and sleep for the rest of the day. Wato made sure to sound congested to make her story credible. Fortunately, her boss sympathized with her plight and wished her well. She made sure to quietly creep down the steps. 221b had a guest, she had no idea how long Sherlock, Hatano, and Adler stayed up. On the second floor, she stopped at the lounge room. The door was shut, but Wato did not dare to enter or knock.

The image of Adler in lingerie and being close to Sherlock burned in her mind. Wato did not know the extent of their relationship, but the body language gave her enough context to hypothesize. Their closeness can be categorized as almost lovers. Even Hatano approved their relationship. To her, it was surreal for Sherlock to have someone close to her. She seemed so against relationships. Did her housemate lied to her? Was she no longer special?

For some reason, that made her heart ached. It was silly. She knew Sherlock had a right to privacy. There were some things about herself she never divulged to Sherlock, Hatano, or even Dr. Irikawa. Yet, she could not help but feel left out. With Adler in 221b, it was no longer the three of them. Wato was merely a placeholder for the celebrity.

She moved away from the door, not wanting to imagine what Sherlock and Adler were doing in there. With Adler’s state of undress, there was little to speculate. Wato sighed in relief when she entered the kitchen. There was no sign of Hatano; she could eat breakfast in peace. She rummaged through the pantry and found a small packet of instant miso soup. It did not take long for the water in the pot to boil and stir in the contents. She drank the soup out of the pot, saving herself one less dish to wash.

Wato grabbed an unopened water bottle from the fridge and trekked to the bathroom. She carefully looked for the ibuprofen bottle. A single pill was popped in her mouth and chugged down with water. Now she had to wait for the medicine to temporarily alleviate the pain. 

Wato opened the bathroom door and started to walk up the staircase. Above her the door loudly creaked open. She inwardly frowned, it was bad timing on her end.

The first woman to emerge was Adler, wrapped in a quilt Sherlock kept in her lounge. “Now darling, you know breakfast is the important meal of the day,” she chided. 

Her housemate grunted. “You are the last person to harp about my eating rules. You don't eat breakfast when you have a busy schedule.”

“Darling, I am the breakfast,” the actress retorted as she walked down the steps. “I eat fruits when I am pressed on time. It is important to have fiber in your diet.”

Wato openly stared at her, wondering how tired she was to not hear housemate nor the guest last night. How good was their stamina? She blushed when the actress caught her staring.

The celebrity gave her a wink as she approached Wato. “Good morning, you have rested well. Your complexion looks better,” she greeted sweetly. Adler was a very forward woman in her attitude towards nonexistent modesty. They only met yesterday!

“Good morning, Adler-san,” Wato answered. Her voice sounded so awkward. “Have you slept well?” Wato wanted to slap herself for asking such question. She was raised to be too polite for her own good. The answer was quite obvious.

Adler quirked an eyebrow, but smiled without answering Wato’s inquiry. The expression signaled that Wato knew the answer herself.

Their conversation stopped short when Sherlock stomped down the stairs. She was wearing her black silk pajamas. The color suited her housemate well, the gold pattern was also a nice touch. Wato moved away to give her housemate room. Adler, on the other hand, stayed in place; she was amused by Sherlock’s behavior.

Wato was about to move upstairs when the doorbell rang. She detoured to reach the door, however, Sherlock was a step faster. She checked the video intercom to see who it was. “Oh,” she said flatly, giving no indication of the visitor. She opened the door, revealing Sherlock’s brother with a parcel bag in his hand.

“Ani,” she greeted as she stepped to the side. 

He nodded. “Good morning, Sherlock; have you eaten breakfast yet?” Then he looked ahead, ignoring the scoff from his sister. “Good morning Wato-san, how are you?”

Honestly? She was not fine, yet she lied and said she was feeling great. Satisfied by that response, he redirected his attention to the other occupant.

“Irene! It’s been so long! When did you arrive in Tokyo?” he greeted enthusiastically.

Adler broke into a wide smile as she walked closer to him. With one hand, she firmly secured the quilt as she gave him a great hug. “Oniisan! I missed you, too! I arrived two days ago. I came to 221b yesterday after recovering from my jet lag.” The actress untangled herself from the embrace, yet stayed close to him.

“Where did you flew from?” he asked.

“Los Angeles, California; I was in Torrance, visiting my parents before I headed up to Hollywood for the premiere of the new Asian American movie.”

“I see. Are your parents well?”

“They’re in good health. They keep telling me to come visit more often, now that I have a successful acting career. You and Sherlock need to come visit California! There’s lots of great places in Los Angeles for foodies. I can drive you two around, we can visit my favorite childhood eateries.”

Wow, even he knew Adler personally. Wato felt the isolation becoming more pronounced. 

The older sibling chuckled at the enthusiasm. “Someday, when I don’t have twenty minutes to spare.” Then he turned to Sherlock. “By the way, here’s a delivery package for you.”

Sherlock swiped the bag from him. “What brings you here?”

“I took over the Shiina sisters’ case,“ he replied. The air suddenly grew serious; Sherlock was interested, Wato was concerned, and Adler was quiet. 

“So here I am with a delivery package-it was left at the front gate when I arrived.” He glanced at his watch. “Let’s head upstairs to talk about it. I’ll be leaving in twenty minutes.” 

***

They walked upstairs and back into the lounge room. The room did not smell weird, yet Wato refused to sit down. The brother sat on Sherlock’s arm chair while Sherlock sat on the right arm rest. Adler, on the other hand, sat on the lounge couch. The delivery package was on the table.

“Did something happened?” Wato asked.

“They mostly remained silent during questioning. I asked Shiina Yuma about the organization, Stella Maris; even the link between her and Mizuno Akiko,” he explained.

“Did she gave any body language reaction response to your inquiry, Onnisan?” Adler spoke up. Did Sherlock tell her about the case when they were having sex? Wato inwardly shuddered at that thought. She banished all thoughts of the two women screwing each other on all the furniture in the lounge room and in the bedroom.

“No, she remained perfectly still, with a vacant stare on her face. It was if her mind was somewhere else. The psychiatrist for the case can’t make any progress. It’ll be some time before she recovers,” the brother answered.

Sherlock intervened. “What about her sister, Shiina Arisa?”

“She said she was following her sister’s orders.”

How terrifying it must have been for the elder sister to be at the mercy of her kin. 

There were no follow up questions after that. Not wanting it to be awkward, Wato opened the delivery package. It was a small box wrapped in a cloth with a small note attached. She read the note and smiled.

The brother eyed the box. “Is that…”

“It’s a thank you gift for solving the case,” Wato answered. She recalled they left the Wakasugi household quite quickly after Sherlock delivered the letter and received payment. Ryota was so sweet to deliver a present.

He leapt forward, recognizing the box. “It’s Kanbei’s Terrine au chocolat!” he cheered. “Perfect timing.”

“Is it famous?” Sherlock asked.

“Of course, darling,” Adler replied as she got up from the couch. She now sat the left arm rest. “One costs 16,000 yen.”

“16,000 yen?” Wato shrieked. How much money did Ryota spend on this? His family was far too generous. She would have to send a thank you note to them.

“Kanbei Terrine au chocolat calls for green tea,” Sherlock’s brother declared.

“We’re out,” Wato asserted. She only knew this from raiding the pantry earlier. “I’ll make some Earl Grey.” That was her ticket of getting out of the lounge room. With Adler and Sherlock sitting on both sides, it looked like the brother was some kind of pimp. Her imagination was weirding her out. Time for a reality check.

He insisted it had to be green tea.

Wato emphasized there was no more green tea.

“I want Asamiya tea, go get some,” Sherlock ordered, a devilish smile graced her face. What?

Adler tutted. “Oniisan and Sherlock, we are having chocolate. Chocolate pairs nicely with raspberry. Therefore, we need raspberry champagne white tea.” She grinned at Wato. 

Wato’s eyes widen. She never heard of such tea! Where was she going to find it?

“We need green tea,” he maintained.

“Asamiya tea,” Sherlock countered, twirling her hair.

“White tea,” Adler interjected, joining the argument. She adjusted the quilt around her body.

“Green tea.” 

“Asamiya tea.” 

 “White tea.”

“Fine! I understand!” Wato shouted, not wanting to hear a bickering match between the three adults. She opened the door and fled upstairs to retrieve her bag.

***

“Here you go!” the store clerk said as she handed shopping bag to Wato.

“Thank you!” she said as grabbed it before exiting the store.

“Thank you very much!” the store clerk responded. "Please come again!"

At the exit, Wato opened the bag. There was a can of Asamiya tea. By no means this was cheap to buy. It was fortunate she recalled this tea shop was doing a sale when she bought lao cilantro weeks ago. Getting Asamiya tea was a logical choice. Regular green tea can always be picked up by Hatano; the landlady loved sencha. The raspberry champagne white tea, on the other hand, was quite difficult to find. It only existed as an online purchase; Wato doubt the company that sold the tea would make international deliveries to Japan. Adler and Sherlock’s brother would have to live with drinking Asamiya tea. Besides, expensive chocolate with expensive tea should pair nicely.

She was happily walking on the street. It was fairly quiet and peaceful for a Sunday morning.

Suddenly, a large explosion boomed right behind her. Rubble and broken glass slammed into the pavement. Wato flinched at the detonation and impact of building debris.

Someone was bombing the capital. The bomber’s first target was Bunkyo ward.

No, this cannot be happening! Why was Tokyo under attack?

Her eyes widen as she slowly turned around to survey the carnage.

Nothing; there was absolutely nothing.

The buildings were pristine and the people (employees, pedestrians, and shoppers) were fine, going about with their own business. It was an overcast day, but there was no smoke covering the skies. The shopping area was serene and unblemished from a bomb attack. There was no chaos for the weekend.

Yet, why was she hearing cries and gunshots? The image of the street blurred into an alleyway of mothers screaming for their children. One haunting memory was a mother clutching her wounded child, the little girl had multiple shrapnels lodged in her body. Tears surged down her cheeks as her hands were drenched in red.

Wato found herself looking upwards. Her right hand clutched her ear, an attempt to muffle the amplifying sound. Her left hand curled near her mouth. It was an impulse to smother a cry threatening to escape from her throat. She slowly sank to the ground.

The bombing and screaming increased in tempo. Now, both of her hands were covering her ears. Hair clung to her cheeks; her face felt sticky with the gush of tears. Wato was gasping, trying not to cry out loud. Her knees ached from kneeling on a hard surface. Around her, people walked by, unaware of the conflict that had just transpired.

Eventually, the screaming and explosions lowered in volume. Then it gradually faded and became mute. When the silence was soon encompassed by pedestrians and Japanese speech, Wato realized it was safe for her to move. She gingerly moved upwards, her knees ached from kneeling on the concrete too long. Wato relocated to a bench where she massaged her knees. 

That episode she had on the streets truly bothered her. Even though the coffee talk (or specifically, a date) with Moriya had been refreshing, it also splashed cold water of reality. Flashbacks, screams, and explosions emerged on full force. Was she foolish to think Syria horrors would never come back to beset her?

There was only one person that can help her: Dr. Irikawa. She had to make an appointment. Wato scrolled through her contacts to find the counseling office number. With the phone ringing in one ear, she glanced at the small shopping bag next to her. That’s right, Sherlock was waiting for her tea. She hoped that her housemate was not waiting too long. Although, something told her that the brother and Adler will keep her preoccupied.

The call was picked up by the receptionist and Wato asked for any openings today. By a stroke of luck there was one-the only drawback was the appointment began in forty-five minutes. She immediately accepted the offer. 221b was not far from where she was at; Wato will have to hustle from there to Irikawa’s office. 

Fortunately, she ran into Hatano at the front gate. Wato briefly explained she bought tea for Sherlock and she had to get going for an emergency. The landlady accepted the tea, no further questions were asked.

***

She made it to her appointment on time. Unlike the other sessions, there was no chamomile tea waiting for her. It was understandable, this was an emergency drop-in. She was grateful for a counselor that was very accommodating. 

Like before, Wato and Dr. Irikawa sat facing each other. The latter remained quiet and listened to the former talking about her troubles.

“There was the sound of a huge explosion. And suddenly, children were screaming and wailing,” Wato concluded. "It lasted less than ten minutes."

“Did you experience something like this in real life?” 

Wato slightly bobbed her head, not looking at the counselor in the eyes. She felt so vulnerable. It was so disgraceful! She was fine this whole time, what made this different?

“An area close to the clinic was hit by a bomb. In an instant the whole area…” Wato trailed off, unable to continue. Describing the explosive carnage was too horrific. She cannot physically convey it.

“You’re suffering from PTSD,” the counselor responded. 

That made Wato look up. She developed post-traumatic stress? How could this be? Wato was fine after the attack on the clinic. There were no changes in her behavior after arriving in Tokyo and her subsequent life changes-living at 221b and accompanying her housemate on solving mysteries. Did that not mean she was no longer at risk for PTSD?

Her spirits were dampened as the counselor explained that was a myth. Typically, symptoms appeared within the first three months. Although, it could take even longer for a patient to develop it. Every case was different, that was what made it so difficult to properly diagnose someone.

“It’s an anxiety order,” Dr. Irikawa continued. “It’s caused by exposure to traumatic events. Symptoms include flashbacks. Positive thinkers may think they’re okay, but they develop PTSD more easily than others.”

“Will I continue to have flashbacks?” Having one episode was enough. She did not want to be plagued with vivid and disturbing memories. Wato did not want to be hindered for the rest of her life. She wanted to live her new life to the fullest in the metropolitan.

“Perhaps; it’s impossible to totally erase such memories.” 

Wato should have expected something like that. The only way memories could truly be erased if she sustained a head injury or developed dementia. She was not keen on inflicting physical trauma on herself and she was far too young for a vicious brain disease.

“However, they’ll gradually fade with time. I promise.” The counselor’s words were not easy to process, but she had so much conviction that Wato will cope. 

Wato struggled to not shed tears. Dr. Irikawa passed over a tissue box and quietly left the patient room, giving her privacy. The counselor later came back with a fresh hot cup of chamomile tea. The warm liquid soothed her soul. It made her feel calm and clear headed. 

She walked back to 221b slowly. Wato heard chatter upstairs, it seemed to be the three women. Sherlock’s brother obviously left a long time ago. That gave her the chance to go back to bed. She did not forget to look at the mirror near the front door. Hands touched her cheeks and lifted it slightly. She made sure to practice her smile before being seen by Adler, Hatano, or Sherlock.

***

“You’re just like old friends,” Kento remarked as Tachibana Wato fled the lounge room. She and Sherlock quietly laughed. It had been far too long since she had fun with a meek personality. The new housemate was quite cute with her flustered reactions at the scant clothing the Japanese American paraded in 221b and strived to be respectful towards Irene.

“We’re not friends,” Sherlock automatically retorted. Her hand snuck over to the box and undid the cloth.

“Hey, don’t!” Kento protested as she opened the lid. Ah, the celebrity missed the banter between the siblings. She grew up as an only child, the Futabas provided the brother and sister she never had-without the attachment of being blood related.

“We’re going to eat it,” her old roommate declared, snatching a chocolate and popping it in her mouth.

“Look at that expensive sheen!” Kento excitedly commented as he plucked his piece.

Irene rolled her eyes at their antics. It was clear that chocolate was their ultimate culinary weakness. Even as adults, they still retained youthful hijinks. The actress adjusted the quilt around her body and reached out for her share; she made sure to set some aside for Kimie and the tenant.

A knock on the door stopped the trio from gorging their faces with Kanbei’s Terrine au chocolat. The newcomer revealed to be Kimie with a tray of hot tea.

“Kento-kun!” Kimie addressed. “Good to see you again. How are you doing?”

“I’m quite well, thank you,” he replied. “I was visiting Sherlock about Shiina sisters’ case and ran into Irene. Wato-san is out buying tea.”

Sherlock chortled, mentally replaying the teasing they did to Tachibana. Kimie had a puzzled look. Irene briefly explained what happened to the landlady. Of course, she carefully worded her story to completely blame her old roommate. There were no objections from the brother.

“Sherlock,” the landlady scolded, fully aware of Sherlock’s childish inclinations. 

The actress smirked as the consultant shot a dirty look at her. Sherlock knew better to not slap her, especially in front of Kimie. Moreover, Irene knew how to be creative with her revenge plots. The Japanese American made sure her plans induced a lifetime of disturbance and mental scarring.

"You should be nicer to Wato-san, she bought your favorite: Asamiya tea,” Kimie continued.

The consulting detective jumped to her feet. “Hah!” she cried out. “I won this round!” They had a weird competition of pairing tea and chocolate. The contest range from food-testing to goading someone to buy a particular tea.

“Thank you for the tea, Kimie-san. Unfortunately, I have to get going,” Kento announced, changing the subject. “Working for the Cabinet Intelligence Office means endless paperwork. Have a good day, ladies.” Then he turned his head. “Sherlock.”

Irene never seen a man swiftly move to narrowly dodge a whack to his head. Kento scrambled to the door and quickly closed it. Sherlock huffed and grabbed her own cup of tea. Irene and Kimie shared a secret smile, both enjoyed watching the strong bond Kento and Sherlock had.

The celebrity gave the landlady a share of chocolates she rescued from Sherlock’s and Kento’s hands. Kimie beamed at Irene’s thoughtfulness. She quietly ate and drank while listening to Sherlock summarizing the new information Kento shared. 

The tea pot was exhausted of tea and the chocolate box was emptied-sans for Tachibana’s share. Sherlock opted to practice her cello, the family curse mystery ate up her free time to play. Irene opted to go to her guest room and put on a change of clothes. It was quite exhausting with adjusting the quilt every five minutes. The only article of clothing she donned was her lacy g-string thong. She already strutted naked in 221b when Kimie was not home. Doing that in front of the new resident was a bit overboard.

She and Kimie left the lounge room. Soon as the door closed, the landlady asked if Irene could come to the kitchen once she was finished changing. Even though Kimie asked politely, the actress knew something was up.

***

The actress walked downstairs with a goldenrod cashmere sweater and black leggings. She saw Kimie sitting on the barstool at the kitchen island. She was drinking Earl Grey tea. “Kimie-san?” Irene called out. 

“Rin-san,” the landlady answered. “You’re not in trouble, I want a second opinion.”

Oh? She had an idea what this conversation was going. “About the housemate?” 

Kimie affirmed. "What do you think of her?"

The landlady was a sociable woman, she had various connections to different communities in Japanese society. Yet, she tended to be too trusting and often failed to see ulterior motives. Sherlock, in contrast, was suspcious. The consultant analyzed each conversation and relationship (personal or professional) she engaged in. Her skill into reading people was too intense and lead to poor results. Irene, meanwhile, fell in the middle of the spectrum. Her social graces masked her analytical intentions. Her forward nature towards sexuality, nudity, and skinship threw off suspicion and caught many off guard. She enjoyed being in control of social situations.

Irene sat at the opposite end of the island. “Sherlock briefly mentioned her from the four recent cases."

Yesterday, she whispered that she wanted to hear everything from Sherlock. That was how the two spent their time after the tea and cake. The consultant relayed her cases from late 2016 to the present. As it was autumn, she made herself comfortable in Sherlock's quilt. They had a great time catching up. Since they both had irregular sleep schedules, it was easy for the two to resume after resting (in their own rooms). It was a mistake to wear the chemise to sleep; the outfit unfortunately had underwire sewn into the cups. Her chest ached from discomfort when she woke up. Hence, she shed the article of clothing and changed her underwear before wrapping herself in the quilt. At the lounge room, they resumed their conversation with Irene relaying her upcoming projects and her adventures in the past two years.

"I have an idea about her background and involvement. Perhaps you can enlighten me more?” It was typical of her old roommate to be terse about new faces. Yet, something about Tachibana seemed different. It felt like Sherlock was subconsciously withholding information. There was something about their relationship that made Irene suspicious.

The landlady easily obliged and divulged her knowledge about the newest 221b resident. Tachibana possessed a medical license and returned from working abroad. Her hometown was Sapporo (Irene noticed her speech had a slight hint of Hokkaido dialect). She was currently working part-time jobs instead of returning to a physician's office.

“It's interesting that you and Oniisan commented that they were friends,” Irene remarked. For the celebrity, it was a first for her. Many people thought they were girlfriends back in Cambridge. Of course, the consultant vehemently denied they were dating. The Japanese American, on the other hand, found it amusing by their assumptions. Now, her old roommate's denial was typical, but the circumstances intrigued Irene.

Kimie nodded. ”Unlike you or Reimon-san, she doesn’t even call Wato-san by her first or last name. Sherlock seemed to be giving mixed signals of tolerating and despising Wato-san’s presence. What do you think of this?”

Unfortunately, Irene had only been here for two days. It did not help that the new tennant slept through the whole day yesterday, the actress did not have a full grasp of the new housemate’s personality. Fortunately, she also had a sharp eye. Sherlock’s behavior and actions were ambivalent. It was clear that the housemate was the source.

“Remember the prediction I made two years ago? I believe that prophecy is finally being realized,” Irene stated. It seemed to make sense: there was a new woman in Sherlock's life. The contrasting reactions symbolized that her old roommate was not emotionally mature to handle such changes. Tachibana was affecting Sherlock drastically. Every Hanahaki Byou case was different, but Irene was sure the consulting detective may be starting to contract it.

Kimie gasped. “What do we do? I haven't seen Sherlock coughing yet!”

It pained Irene's heart to see the landlady distraught by the possibility. What can they do? She and Kimie were discussing from Sherlock's perspective because they knew her best. They hardly knew much about Tachibana.

Irene did hoped a woman that will come into Sherlock's life will teach her how to love. Going back to Tachibana, her mild mannered and modest disposition could be a mask. There was no guaranteed Tachibana will relieve her old roommate from anguish. Sherlock hardly revealed her personal life to others, let alone a stranger. How would the housemate react to Sherlock being a lesbian?

The celebrity held her old roommate in high regard. As someone with full awareness of emotions and feelings, she will protect Sherlock from the shadows. The consultant was quite obtuse with emotional intellgience and slow to pick up subtle aggression. Irene will not allow the consultant be exposed to any homophobic remarks. 

"We'll have to watch them carefully," Irene decided. Kimie will handle Sherlock. The actress intended to learn more about Tachibana.

Was she the one that will return Sherlock's affections or will be the instigator for Sherlock's demise?

Chapter Text

American playwright James Thurber wrote in his short story that three was a crowd and four was a party.

Sherlock hated parties. She considered herself fortunate that 221b only housed a small number of occupants. The current living situation, however, tested the limits of her tolerance. The blame for her soured mood was Irene Adler.

Whenever the Japanese American did her surprise visits, Sherlock's first reaction was to recoil in disgust. That woman never called whenever she was in Bunkyo-ku! With her unpredictable schedule, Sherlock could never anticipate her arrival. Hence, she left all the hosting etiquette to Kimie. The landlady, on the other hand, relished Irene’s visits. Sherlock did not blame her; after all, Kimie had someone lively to engage with.

It normally took Sherlock an hour or two to adjust to the celebrity’s sudden presence. Once recovered, she can freely talk with the actress and catch up on events that transpired in their respective lives. That was the moment she valued conversing with Irene, the woman who can think at the same pace as her and understand reasoning without Sherlock over explaining herself. After that, the free time was exhausted. Irene normally stayed at least three or four days before throwing herself back in the fray of never ending, busy schedules.

Since she told Kento she flew from Los Angeles after attending an Asian American movie premiere, Sherlock thought she would be off again-traveling to another country for promoting. It was her modus operandi for an international agenda. However, that was not the case.

Over dinner, Irene told her and Kimie (the doctor was sleeping) that she will be returning to Japanese television. She was casted as the leading lady for NHK’s upcoming eight episode drama. Irene stated her role required her to take judo lessons. As a popular actress, discretion for her future projects was upheld with utmost importance. It was decided by her agency and NHK for the celebrity to attend a discreet dojo. 

It just had to be in the same neighborhood as 221b. Hence she stopped by and asked Kimie permission for a temporary stay. (Sherlock thought it was ridiculous-the actress lived in Aoyama district. The commute from Minato-ku was a hassle, but manageable!) The landlady easily accepted the request. As a result, Sherlock was reliving her college life. The only difference was the country and the lack of a course schedule.

She did not miss seeing Irene in gratuitous, suggestive yoga poses in the morning (her ass still looked amazing); her half-naked state of dress whenever she returned from her judo lessons in the afternoon; or her rich laughter that echoed throughout 221b in the evening hours. 

As the mistress of social graces, the celebrity’s prowess even extended to the doctor. Working two jobs did not deterred Irene from conversing with her. What the two talked about had no importance to her. The only thing the consultant cared about was the actress not exposing secrets about her. Her time in Cambridge was a thing of the past. The doctor did not need to know. She was not worthy of such privilege.

An intense throb.

Fuck.

The body aches, chest pains, and sore throats had been more intense and lasted longer. It frustrated the consultant that there was no proper diagnosis. She initially was sure it had to be more than stress. Now, she was inclined to believe it could have been. The doctor had to be a huge factor for her stress manifesting terribly. The doctor must have been taking more shifts or attending counseling. The abrupt change in the schedule caught the consultant off guard.

It was fucking annoying.

She would vent her frustrations through her cello, but the other day the actress had the audacity to ask her to play covers of pop songs. One in particular was “Smooth Criminal.” Sacrificing her cello to beat the shit out of Irene for an abominable request was not worth it.

Instead, her plan for today was to make the cucumber toner. She perfected her recipe in late 2016 and Kimie had been using it ever since. Through the landlady’s connections, there was a farmer from Hokkaido that sets aside a small portion of crops for Kimie and Sherlock. The cucumbers arrived yesterday, it was best to prepare her toner while the produce was still fresh.

***

“You’re subscribed to Hulu Japan, right?” Irene whispered in her ear. Taking advantage of Sherlock sitting on a stool, the actress curled into the consulting detective’s backside. Slim fingers lightly caressed on her pressed white Oxford button shirt. Sherlock felt the bust snugged against her upper back. She could tell that the Japanese American was wearing a sports bra; knowing Irene’s fashion history, it was most likely she was wearing short shorts. The celebrity’s intimate presence was not oppressive. It was an adept intuition to satisfy her need of physical contact with a woman while respecting the consultant’s boundary. It was also a bonus that the actress adhere to her decibel preference.

With these perfect conditions, Sherlock was not distracted from her peeling. “You mean Kimie’s subscription,” the consultant clarified. “She got it last year to watch the documentary of the female singer that retired in September.”

“That’s so cute she’s a fan,” Irene mused. “She must have been shocked by that retirement announcement last year.”

She lightly shrugged. “I supposed.” Sherlock never bothered keeping up with the popular music scene. The music industry was very grandiose; it was mentally impossible for one to be very familiar with every artist debuting; disbanding; going on hiatus; releasing new music; announcing a domestic tour; being featured in a photoshoot, drama, movie, interview, music show, or variety program.

Her disinterested tone made Irene to thankfully switch topics. “That’s quite a lot of cucumbers you have there.”

“Kimie’s cucumber grower knows how to deliver.” It truly paid off to have a landlady that knew how to network. The older lady worked hard to spread her consulting services beyond the Kanto region. The benefits she received in return were so rich.

“Surely Kimie-san won’t have a monopoly on them.”

That frivolous comment almost made Sherlock paused from her task. She saw where this was going. 

“Kimie won’t mind if her portion was halved.” She could feel a smiling Irene radiating behind her. It was expected of the celebrity to be a dedicated practitioner in skin care. The consulting detective knew it worked for her and Kimie’s skin. It would be an interesting experiment to see how the toner will fare on the actress’ skin.

Behind the two, the lounge door opened. “Sherlock! Are you working on your toner?” Kimie asked. An affirmative grunt followed. The landlady hummed in approval then addressed Irene. “Rin-san! I thought you were at your judo class today.”

The actress responded that the class was cancelled. Her instructor was attending a wedding today. He was the cousin of the groom. At that point, the celebrity released her hold on Sherlock and walked over to Kimie. There was some contentment that the Japanese American knew Sherlock very well. The consulting detective was almost at her limit for tolerating the breach in personal space.

With the peeling complete, the consultant switched her peeler for the mortar and pestle. She quietly mashed her cucumbers while listening to the landlady and actress converse about weddings. For the former, Kimie’s friends from the widow’s support group were planning to attend a matchmaking party. The landlady did not care for these events, but tagged along for morale support. Hence she was given a flyer for upcoming dates and wanted a second opinion for which one to attend. The latter shared that her instructor’s cousin was marrying a model; the wedding was taking place at Le Mariage Blanc, a popular wedding hall in Shibuya.

Their conversation was interrupted when door opened again for the second time. A simple process of elimination told her who it was. She listened to the passionate debate about marriage from the landlady and the doctor.

Kimie chuckled. “An illusion,” she said with sarcasm. “All women who lost their husbands are lonely, that’s just an assumption. Some women hated caring for their husbands. They’re finally free to lead their own lives again.”

Irene snickered, completely understanding the landlady’s disdain. The knowledge of terrible marriages must have been from her upbringing in America. Unlike the doctor, the Japanese American was not enamored by the perfect marriage imagination.

“Maybe there are some people like that,” the doctor acknowledged. “But aren’t there many happily married couples? They love each other, share their joys and sorrows.”

That only belong to the realm of fantasy. It was an impossible standard in reality. There was only one couple she knew that embodied that mentality. Sherlock seen it with her own two eyes, she watched it bloomed everyday then snuffed in an instant.

The brief thought made her recall the past. She had to quell the threat.

“Some participants may have killed their husbands,” Sherlock quipped in an effort to distract the anguish. Thankfully it worked. Crisis was averted.

As if Kimie’s social life could not satiate her nosiness, the doctor just had to approach Sherlock. She had to ask about the cucumbers. 

Luckily, the landlady intervened. “Her toner is magical,” the older lady praised. “It revitalizes the skin.” 

“I look forward applying that toner,” the actress chimed in. If the landlady was not here, she was certain Irene would make more sexual innuendos in her speech.

Her sharp ears picked up her phone buzzing. That specific tone was assigned to Reimon. The inspector had something for her. She had to answer the call before it went to voicemail. The cucumber-covered pestle was gently laid down while she stood up. The consultant commanded the doctor to move out of the way. Kimie and Irene were wise to stay isolated as Sherlock walked over.

Huh? It was not at the usual table. “Anyone seen my phone?”

Nobody saw it.

Cell phone, cell phone, where the fuck was it hiding?

The sound was louder as she moved closer to the lounge chair. Her phone was underneath the quilt. The call was accepted.

***

Case:

The Vanished Bride

消えた新婦

Location:

Le Mariage Blanc, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

東京都渋谷区レマリアゲブラン-ク

That was all the inspector told her before he ended the call. The terse debriefing ignited her hunger for pursuit.

 

Who was the bride? 

新婦

Who was the groom?

別当 

Who were in the opposition? 

対抗

Who were the witnesses? 

立会人

What was the disappearance tactic? 

失踪策略

When did it happened?

事の起こり

 

The barrage of questions outweighed the limited case details. Such imbalance spurred her haste to leave 221b. The doctor seemed to pick up Sherlock’s sense of urgency for departure. She strived to match her pace with the consultant. Kimie and Irene wished them luck for investigating.

An officer outside the venue informed her that the inspector and sergeant were in the waiting room. 

“The missing bride is model Mashima Risa,” Shibata spoke up. The evidence of the inspector’s training was illuminated. The sergeant described the case in more details without being prompted. “The groom is a famous jewelry designer, Saeki Kazuma.” There was a picture of him and the bride, Mashima, holding the wedding certificate with a gold cross in the background. That was an incredibly tacky picture.

While she did not recognize the model, she recalled the jewelry designer. Winning the prestigious Mazarin Award launched him to international recognition and scored him an army of celebrities endorsing his brand. One of them was Irene. She frequently wore earrings and bracelets for her movie and television premieres that year. The Japanese American even shared the products wth Sherlock and Kimie; both had the privilege to see a high-end brand upfront.

Learning the context of the case had its merits to be a worthy investigation. Shibata had done an adequate job with debriefing. There was one detail that the police failed to address.

“Why are you working a missing persons case?” Sherlock called out. She stared at the inspector, who remained uncharacteristically silent. Unless someone from the wedding party died and the bride was the suspect on the run (or vice versa), then this was not under the Investigation Department’s jurisdiction. This case was better off with the Mission Person Search (MPS) organization.

“Eleven years ago, I married my wife here,” Reimon explained. He showed them his wedding ring.

“Huh?” She was not expecting that kind of answer. Then again, this was a popular venue. She should not have not been surprised by the personal connection.

“This place is full of memories for me and my wife,” he continued. “I can’t let a case that occurred here go unsolved.”

She respected that reason. The inspector was one that hardly let emotions cloud his judgement during investigations. Still, he was not perfect like her in stripping illogical rationale. 

“Plus, the case would be ours if she remains missing,” Shibata quipped smugly. He had been doing well this whole time. It seemed like all that talking went to his head and inflated his ego. She wanted to wipe that smirk off his face.

Sherlock scoffed. “Okay! Gather every single photo taken at the wedding.”

“We’re already on it.”

“Wow, you’re learning.” Reimon still needed to train him to watch his tongue.

“Consulting detectives can’t handle this work,” he retorted.

“All hail the great detective!” Sherlock cried out with sarcasm. She really wanted to punch him; the consultant wished she did that instead of covering his mouth on the rooftop.

***

Reimon and Shibata left a while back, there was another call that required their presence. Meanwhile, they were still stuck at the wedding hall. The manager and wedding planner wanted to meet with her.

“Beautiful wedding location, isn’t it?” the doctor remarked. Oh great, she should have never taken the doctor with her. She was going goo-goo eyes for anything about a damn wedding. 

“It is,” she said tersely. It was beautiful, but she knew a grander one. This one truly paled in comparison. Too bad the one she knew went out of business years ago.

The doctor walked closer to the dresses displayed. “How nice, I want to wear a dress like this one day,” she sighed dreamily.

 

.

.

.

 

She flipped through album pages, stopping at one particular picture. “I want to wear a beautiful dress like this one, Mama.”

Her mother’s hand stroked her head. “One day you will, sweetheart,” she mused. “I wonder what kind of bride you will be.”

 

.

.

.

 

Fuck this bullshit. “I don’t understand why. Having an audience makes divorce difficult later.” 

“Do you have to be so bleak?” the doctor complained.

Did she had to keep talking about this damn wedding business? The doctor should take Kimie's place at those matchmaking events.

“Sorry to keep you waiting,” a man spoke up. Behind him was a woman. Based on their uniforms, they were probably the staff of this wedding hall. “You’re the consulting detectives?”

The doctor pointed to Sherlock.

“I was expecting you.” Sherlock walked closer to him, while pushing the doctor away. She will be doing the talking. By pressing on their name tags for identity confirmation, the male was Tachikawa while the female was Yokokawa Mako; they were the manager and wedding planner respectively.

Yokokawa led them to the bridal suite where Mashima was last seen. The bride fainted during the flower petal shower. She was taken back to her suite where she requested a glass of orange juice. She promptly dropped the glass, forcing Yokokawa to get the vacuum to clean up the mess and stain remover for the dress. In the short span of time, the bride disappeared. Tachikawa added he never saw the bride leave.

The consultant pushed the other occupants out of her way as she surveyed the room. Sherlock approached the window. “Any chance she left through here?” The bridal suite was on the third floor. It would be pretty cool if the bride was secretly a parkour athlete. 

“I don’t think so. It was locked from the inside,” the manager responded. There were no heel scratches at the windowsill nor streak marks on the glass. The window remained untouched.

Time to look at it from a different angle.

“Did you notice anything unusual about the couple?”

Tachikawa confirmed. “Yes, it happened two days before the wedding. A woman barged in while we were making arrangements.” She called Mashima a bitch and declared Saeki was her fiancé. The groom denied all claims of knowing the rabble rouser and the woman was promptly escorted outside. 

Yikes, this was why she was against the institution of marriage.

“What relationship did she had with Saeki Kazuma?”

“That I don’t know, we don’t know her name.” 

***

Irene once said Saeki Kazuma was a workaholic asshole. He was self-centered and she could not stand interacting with him when she endorsed his products. He was controlling and provided unnecessary opinions that insulted her stylist. The actress was relieved when her campaign with Saeki Design Co. came to an end.

Sherlock never doubted the celebrity when she shared her analysis of the people she collaborated with in the entertainment industry. The groom was not present in the wedding hall; after initial questioning by the police, he immediately left for work. With his course of actions, the consulting detective clearly understood the Japanese American’s words.

The office was fairly interesting: people walking, keyboards clacking, and phones ringing. There was so much going on, she needed to process it with her favorite sense: touch. Saeki was at his desk, typing away; he was no longer wearing that ugly gray tuxedo. The doctor waited patiently until he was ready to talk. Sherlock, meanwhile, surveyed his workspace. She recognized the ring sitting behind his chair. Irene wore this one for a photo shoot. The actress did say the ring would suit her fingers. Sherlock needed to test the hypothesis. 

The doctor slapping her arm and hissing at her to put the ring back did not deterred her experiment. 

The only exception was when the groom mentioned a bar.

That made her paused when she slipped on the ring. Sherlock did not know when Saeki started talking, but she honed in on important keywords: the intruder was Kanzaki Nanami, a bartender.

He stood up and told her to put the ring back. The consultant wholeheartedly agreed with Irene’s assessment. She tossed the ring back on his desk to express her displeasure.

Saeki led them to the meeting room next to his office. 

“What was your relationship with her?” she asked as her eyes drifted to the decor. Hey, that plant looked interesting. She needed to test out her knowledge of kingdom Plantae.

“She’s a stalker.” He walked up to Sherlock and forcibly gripped her elbow. 

His touch was severely unwelcome. She did not like being touched by a fucker like him. Since he had vital information for the case, she will let it go…for now. By the time she was done, Saeki better hope she will forget. Otherwise, she will find a way to humiliate him.

He reemphasized that Kanzaki was a stalker. “She would follow me every day,” he described. “If she saw me with another girl, I’d get threats.”

Did he report this to the police? She would have to get Reimon to check for any paperwork that mentioned Saeki or Kanzaki.

The doctor inquired about the bar she worked at and he frequented. Apparently, it had been out-of-business for years. It looked like the temple exercise did wonders for asking the right questions. Sherlock did not have to prompt her for anything.

Saeki glanced at his ring. “I designed this wedding ring for Risa. It reminds me of her every time I see it.” It had a simple design. Unlike his other products, this one seemed off. It did not match his personality nor character.

“Please find her for me. I’m counting on you.” He bowed to them. This was the perfect time to humiliate him. The time had come. Her lithe left hand reached over for a strand. Both hands began playing with the strand. It was quite smooth from the daily use of conditioner.

***

“I wonder where on earth Risa-san disappeared to. He seems to be truly in love with her.”

“Or so he says,” Sherlock quipped.

Saeki’s demeanor was off putting. He seemed so composed for a groom that just lost his bride. Normal people would be heartbroken. Yet, look at him! He was back at work, acting like he was not jilted at the wedding hall. To her, Saeki seemed to be more concern about the media hounding for news and the lack of a trophy wife to display at galas.

“You’re so bleak.”

No, she was not. Saeki did not have that look. That gaze of a man being completely in love with his wife. She knew that facial expression very well. After all, she witnessed her father looking at her mother with utter adoration or whenever he said her name with such reverence.

Had it not been for her reflection casted off the elevator door, Sherlock could have been lost in thought and embarrassingly rammed into the doors-face first. She underestimated the distance from Saeki’s office suite to the hallway.

The doctor pressed the down button. “I have plans. See you later.”

She did not care what the doctor did in her spare time. Unlike a homicide case, a missing person case took longer, simply because of data collection. In this case, the Investigation Department was still collecting pictures from the wedding and waiting for a dossier of Mashima’s private and public life. With investigation at a stalemate and the doctor with her plans, this gave Sherlock a chance to devote on non-investigation matters.

Realistically, the consultant should head back to 221b; semi-mashed cucumbers stashed in the refrigerator were waiting to become a toner. However, she was out and away from 221b.

A few days ago, the art appriser contact sent her an email about an upcoming art show in Roppongi. As continuous gratitude for Sherlock’s services in combatting forgery in the art world, he always shared information of these events. Due to his position, the art appriser always got great discounts and reservations. While her artistic talent was aligned with music, she appreciated studio art. Staring at a canvas, a sculpture, an abstract installation piece, a video, a series of drawings or photographs were exercises to keep her mind sharp. She thrived on perfecting her analytical skills. The Arts offered a different methodology to think creatively.

Hence, the art appriser continued to share exhibitions that may interest her. The newest one was called There is Hope Ahead of Sorrow, a photo exhibition presented by Moriya Toru. Below the flyer graphic was a link to Moriya’s website. He was a notable war photographer that traveled worldwide. His subject focused on children surviving in countries plagued with political and economic instability. His current series focused on the Middle East, the collection featured photographs from Iraq. 

It should be interesting to see his view of the world. 

On her phone, she planned her route: starting from Saeki Design Co. in Okomachi district, Taito-ku to Taka Ishii Gallery, Roppongi district, Minato-ku.

***

It had been a long time since she stepped in the Taka Ishii Gallery. The place itself was spacious, clean, bright, and quiet-just how she liked her environment space. The gallery made a regular appearance at Frieze London, a testament of its prestige in Japan and in the international community. She never heard of Moriya, but to be a featured artist here was quite a feat. She had high expectations that his work would have the same caliber as Araki Nobuyoshi and Moriyama Daido. Both photographers embodied her creed of an artwork evoking empathy from the viewer. They earned her respect and attention from showcasing the gritty, rundown areas of Tokyo and provocative portraits of women.

Upon entering Moriya’s exhibition, there were not many people perusing through the photographs. It was expected as the show opened at least two weeks ago. For Sherlock, it meant less crowds and more elbow room. She took her time walking down the aisles, taking in all the details of the subject (children) and background (the refuge camps).

She made a full circle, not forgetting to meander into every nook and cranny to survey the other photographs hidden by the walls of the building. When she returned to the entrance, there was a single verdict: Moriya’s photographs were not evocative.

His title for the show was straightforward and clearly expressed his political agenda: the impact of conflict on the youth. Children caught up in warfare will always move someone to tears. Capturing smiling faces definitely had a psychological angle to it. To her, the show was nothing more than propaganda. A propaganda that could be related to Japanese society: the horrors of war. Each photograph displayed radiated anger at the injustice rather than compassion and empowerment. It would have been more impactful if he captured candid moments of international relief volunteers helping single mothers and children.

It was a pity her opinion was one in a million. The signing book left at the exhibition entrance had a different outlook than hers. The consultant flipped through the pages, briefly reading the messages past guests wrote. She stopped at one particular page.

 

守谷透さん

写真共有が対してありがとうございました!  

大変お世話になりありがとうございました。ご苦労様。

橘和都 :)

2018年11月2日

 

Huh, the doctor visited the exhibition two weeks before she did. Based on the message, it looked like she personally enjoyed talking to Moriya and viewing the exhibition. She explicitly expressed gratitude for his hard work in capturing the photographs.

Indignation raged in her chest for the second time. (The chest pain was intense again. Fuck!) Twice, she did not have an answer for such reflexive reaction.

Chapter Text

“Welcome back,” Irene greeted when Sherlock stomped into the living room of the first floor. The actress had her back towards the consulting detective, eyes glued on the television. She was watching the J-pop singer documentary that was exclusive for Hulu Japan.

Sherlock grunted in acknowledgement. 

“What’s your latest case about?”

That made the consultant stopped in her tracks to head upstairs. Weighing her options, she can answer Irene’s inquiry now or later. If she did the latter, then the actress would pester her. It would be nonstop; she would pounce on the consultant at any unsuspecting moment. Sherlock learned the hard way back at Cambridge.

She redirected her route, opting to sit down on the couch. There was at least five centimeters between her and the Japanese American. Sherlock firmly kept her gaze on the flat screen as the title card spelled out 安室奈美恵  「Documentary of Namie Amuro “Finally”」  Episode 2.

The consultant watched as Amuro Namie, clad in white, walked into the room where the Hulu Japan filming staff were waiting for her. The singer sat in an arm chair and politely engaged with the interviewer. The questions asked were interesting and deep. In turn, Amuro responded with insightful answers. She was an analytical thinker and methodically eloquent. The televised superstar radiated silent confidence, dignity, and grace.

Sherlock was not familiar with the soloist, but she recalled Amuro was known for limiting her broadcast appearance and intensively guarding her privacy. She maintained a professional image of secrecy and allure. Perhaps that was how she secured her popularity for all these years. In retrospect, that was a smart move to minimize scandals for tabloids and netizens. Hence, an hour long interview was quite a rare treat.

“She’s from Okinawa,” Irene spoke up after fifteen minutes into the episode. “As you know, Okinawa is looked down upon due to its history along with geographical distance and cultural difference. Thanks to her twenty-five years as a singer, Amuro-san is a heroine and the pride of many Okinawans.”

The consultant remained silent, giving an impression that she was not listening to the actress. The Japanese American knew the truth, however. Sherlock was honing into every word.

“That includes my dad,” the actress continued. “His family moved to California before he was born, but my grandparents made sure he never forgot his roots. Listening to J-pop of the nineties connected him to his homeland. Amuro-san’s rising popularity in 1995 made him a fan. It was through his music collection that helped me with the language in addition to going to Japanese school as a kid.” The celebrity chuckled at the memory.

“It was hard for him to go to her concerts, but when Amuro-san announced her 25th Anniversary in Okinawa and Final Tour 2018 ~Finally~, Dad knew he had to go. Hence, I used my connections to secure him tickets. Since I helped him, my interest in the retired singer grew. What better way to know a singer-other than discography and concert DVDs-is through a documentary special?”

Sherlock really did not know how to react or respond to Irene’s story. What was the point of sharing about her past? They hardly talked about their backgrounds during their collegiate days.

This was a freaky Friday for sentimental bullshit.

“Oh! She’s so cute!” the actress gushed as Amuro laughed and smiled with the staff members.

It suddenly dawned on Sherlock that this was her old roommate’s roundabout way to make her talk about the case. The Japanese American was skilled at whittling down the consultant’s resistance.

Fine.

“A case at Le Mariage Blanc,” Sherlock replied. “Saeki Kazuma got jilted by the bride, Mashima Risa. Nobody knows how Mashima vanished.”

“Hence the frantic call for you to solve the case before the wedding hall’s reputation goes down the drain?”

The consultant bobbed her head. Silence reigned over the duo until Sherlock decided to speak up again. “I also met Saeki.”

“Oh?” There was amusement in the actress’ voice. “What’s your impression of him?”

“He’s an asshole. I can see why Mashima left him. He’s not worth it as a sugar daddy.”

Irene let out her rich laughter. “That man is an asshole! I don’t know Mashima-san, but I say she made the right choice.”

Sherlock nodded. Like the celebrity, she did not care for that jewelry designer jackass. Yet the wedding hall manager and inspector were depending on her to find the bride. Her mind mulled over possibilities and motives for the flight. She was drawing a blank due to scant information on Mashima.

“A missing person’s case must be harder than a homicide,” the actress commented off hand. “I imagined you would be home later this evening with the case halfway solved.”

Shit, she was not going to ask about the doctor. Was she?

Sherlock waited in tense breath and steeled herself for Irene’s further questioning. The consultant really did not want to explain herself why they split up after visiting Saeki Design Co. and her terrible visit to Taka Ishii Gallery. She did not want to even think about the doctor.

Her escalated fears about the doctor were never realized. Her old roommate remained silent and kept her eyes glued firmly on the screen. The program was now playing a portion of Amuro's Okinawa concert. It was maddening to be unascertained if this conversation was finally over.

It was thankfully eclipsed when Irene’s cell phone rang. The Japanese American reached over and frowned at the caller-ID. She promptly accepted the call, her voice masked irritation over the disruption. Once the call ended, Irene paused the program.

“Now, it’s my turn to head out,” the actress remarked. “They want me at the studio to shoot promotional pictures with my costar.”

Sherlock arched an eyebrow. How suggestive would these photos with her costar would be?

The celebrity rolled her eyes. “It’s a man, Sherlock. NHK is not as brave like Fuji TV’s Transit Girls.”

Pity. That would make it more interesting and variety to the drama landscape. Although, the consultant had mixed feelings. She was not keen on seeing the actress making out with a female partner. There were so many times she walked in their dorm with the Japanese American entwined with another girl (sometimes without clothes on).

As Irene headed upstairs, Sherlock walked into the kitchen to retrieve her semi-mashed cucumbers. She could finally complete her toner in peace.

***

She was a little enthusiastic when peeling the cucumbers earlier this morning. Upon completion, there was a larger quantity of the toner than she anticipated. The only issue she had with her creation was the perishability. The toner was not meant to last for an extended period of time. 

Hopefully Irene would put it to good use.

Sherlock shook her head. Living with her old roommate again brought a lewd wave of nostalgia. (The celebrity’s body was definitely toned now than in college; she was really aging nicely.)

Regardless, she will deal with the cucumber toner later. The Investigation Department finally compiled the photos and dossier for her. She placed her phone on the coffee table and slowly scrolled at the visual data, analyzing every detail from the foreground to the background.

The consultant was intensely focused, she barely registered that the lounge door was opened.

“Sherlock, what do you think of this photo?”

She continued swiping to the left, trying to find any distinctive faces in the setting.

“Sherlock!” Kimie cried out.

That broke the consultant’s reverie. “Oh, you’re here?” She thought the landlady would not return until much later. Was it already late? “What is it?”

“How’s this picture?”

So what was Sherlock looking at? "Composition? Quality? Paper? Subject?"

“It’s me! Me!” The older lady protested. “How do I look?”

Kimie proudly showed her matchmaker photo closer to Sherlock. Sitting against a backdrop of an engawa, the landlady was wearing a light green houmongi with her hair neatly styled. There was dark red lipstick and slightly thicker eyeliner. 

She did not know what to make of it. This was a rare moment when she wished Irene was here. The Japanese American could offer better insight. The consultant lifted her head up and smiled. “Yes, not bad!” 

Kimie clearly saw through that bullshit. “No, the photographer is not good,” she remarked. The landlady should really wait for the actress before making a declaration.

“Do you know anyone?” she asked.

That would be the celebrity’s department. Surely she would know some names of photographers that could take a portrait shot. Some photographers did a great job making Irene look more alluring, there was no reason why that gesture could not be extended to Kimie. Sherlock made a mental note to ask her old roommate.

The front door opened and closed shut. There was heavy steps bounding upwards. It was the doctor. “I’m back,” she greeted in a hollowed tone.  

Something seemed off.

Kimie seemed to not notice it. “Wato-san! Wato-san!” she exclaimed, hurrying over to the doctor’s side. “Look at this picture!”

The doctor took a closer look. “It’s very nice. You look very pretty.”

“Really?” The landlady inspected her photo again.

“You have a charming smile,” the doctor complimented. Then she continued upstairs.

What the hell? Normally that doctor would gush about romance crap. She would get excited for Kimie, but she just dismissed the landlady’s omiai application!

The older lady now picked up the unenthusiastic attitude. “Something’s wrong!” she whispered.

Something wrong, indeed. Again, she did not care about the private life of that doctor.

That was not Sherlock’s concern.

Her lithe frame just endured a painful body ache. The consultant steeled her composure and kept her jaw firmly shut.

Or was it?

***

The next few days were uneventful. Data collection was slow as ever-she reviewed the 300+ wedding photos for the fifth time. The identities of the registered wedding guests did not even bring her closer for a motive. Even the stalker Kanzaki Nanami was not present at the venue. She detested that the investigation was at a stalemate. There were even no sightings of Mashima throughout Tokyo.

Every day, the situation became grimmer. The chances of the bride deceased was increasing. Saeki and her family were becoming desperate. The emotional output was too much.

(It would have been better if this was a homicide mystery.)

The highlight of the sluggish investigation was a wedding dress hanging over the Tsurumi River. When Reimon received the report, he immediately contacted the consultant. There should be no coincidence that it belonged to Mashima Risa.

Sherlock and the doctor arrived in Yokohama. They joined the inspector and sergeant on the top of the bridge. Men from Reimon’s sector were on the ground level, searching for any articles that might be a key to the investigation.

“Only the wedding dress?” Sherlock questioned.

“Shibata,” Reimon commanded.

“This was in one of the pockets,” Shibata said as he handed over a small plastic bag containing a tiny paper slip.

 

誠も知ている。

電話してこい。

090-9818-9015

 

Such a brazen statement: declaring that the writer knows the truth. Was it a clue or a red herring?

Either way, whose phone number was this? Was it registered to a real person?

“It’s Kanzaki Nanami’s phone number,” the sergeant explained.

“Kanzaki,” the doctor began, “isn’t she the stalker?”

Sherlock inwardly frowned. Was she not paying attention? She refused to let her investigating training program go to waste.

“Right,” he confirmed.

Sherlock flipped the paper over, revealing a receipt. The origin was from Monmart, a convenience store chain. There was a timestamp and location printed. She nodded in acknowledgment and stuffed it in her pocket. Then she walked towards the inspector, who was standing before the matrimony garment. The consultant crouched down to inspect the dress. It was a match, this belonged to Mashima. Even with it lying on top of the tarp, the attire still looked immaculate. The design was simple, yet had a timeless look. It suited the vanished bride.

“Give it back,” Shibata squawked from the background. “Give it to me.”

She remained focused on the dress, studying every detail.

“You can’t just take evidence away,” he complained. No, she cannot, but she can make a copy.

She reached into her pocket, pulling out her phone and receipt. She tapped on the camera app and pressed the shutter. Then she stood up and faced the sergeant. The receipt was extended, next to Shibata’s face. Again, the shutter went off.

“I’m not evidence!” he snapped. The receipt was returned to him before he ranted again.

Sherlock sauntered down the bridge. She needed to find a bus stop.

***

She held her phone (showing Shibata’s face) to the supervisor on duty. Her arm ached and her patience plummeted. So much for being a simple run to the store.

“I don’t really get it,” he remarked in confusion.

The consultant tsked. What a simpleton, no wonder why he was confined to retail employment. How the hell did he ever got promoted?

She swiped to the next picture and shoved her phone to his face. Comprehension dawned on him. “That’s from our store.” Yes, that was what she was trying to convey in the last fifteen minutes!

The consultant looked upwards and to the left. There was a security camera recording her. Revelation struck her mind. “Show me the security footage,” she ordered.

“That’s against policy,” the Monmart worker objected.

That was a policy she did not want to hear. Sherlock had enough of this guy. Time to take matters into her own hands. She walked away from the counter. Where was the employee room door?

“Sorry about her,” the doctor muttered in passing.

“Hey!” he cried out and asked another sales associate to watch the front. He caught up to Sherlock and led her to the security room in the back.

Sherlock barged in and occupied the only computer chair. The supervisor entered next and took control of the mouse. The doctor followed behind.

The convenience store employee continued to complain while squatting uncomfortably. “I’m not supposed to do this.”

Like she cared.

The footage was rewound to the day which the purchase was made: November 14, two days before the wedding. Now the consulting detective had to find the exact hour and minute.

“Go back.” He obliged, holding the rewind button. 

“Too much.” He pressed the keys to go slightly forward.

Sherlock surveyed the customers and time stamp.

“Okay, stop!” He paused the video.

 

CAM 1

2018/11/14 10:21:21

 

A tall man wearing a white cap approached the register. He had a vest over a plaid long sleeve and completed his outfit with cargo pants. He looked downward, not giving the camera a clear picture of his profile. She noted he had a diamond-shaped face and angular cheek bones.

“I think it’s him,” the supervisor commented unhelpfully.

“A man?” the doctor asked. “Not Kanzaki-san?”

Sherlock pulled out her phone. “This lists a razor, shaving cream, and trunks.” The buyer was definitely a male specimen. She swiped the receipt photo, displaying the wedding photos. Let’s see if she could match a face. Found it.

“Wedding photos?” the doctor inquired. The slow reaction was infecting the doctor.

The consultant zoomed on one of the photos. The man in a suit also had his gaze downwards, avoiding all camera lens. She gave her phone to the doctor. Hopefully this would cure gradual rationalization.

The doctor inspected the two photos. “This guy? It’s him?”

It was. Sherlock finally had a lead. Satisfied by the discovery, the consultant resolved to visit the Investigation Department for proper identification.

The three stepped out to the sales floor. A chime rang, indicating a someone entering or exiting the store. The consulting detective looked up. Shit! It was him, wearing the same outfit: white hat, vest, and plaid long shirt. The only difference was the surgical mask; it was pulled down, revealing the lower half of the face instead of covering it.

He advanced further into Monmart. Fuck, he was approaching them! 

Sherlock smoothly turned to the refrigerated pastries. From a peripheral view, he lost weight and body mass. The cheek bones were more outlined, it was slightly disturbing. She was not seeing the same man as she saw in the footage nor wedding photos; there was something off about him.

Nevertheless, the consultant had to play this right. Remain aloof from a distance so she could follow him. This man was her clue to unravel the vanishing act. She only had one shot. It was all or nothing.

“Oh,” the doctor peeped. Sherlock whirled around to face the doctor. She was staring at the man point blank.

Damnit!

With his eyebrows furrowed, even he had the same thought. The man widened his eyes, pulled up his mask, and retreated.

Fuck, now her lead was getting away!

“Why did you do that?” the consulting detective snarled. 

“Sorry!” the doctor squeaked. Forget about apologies! Sherlock was already at the exit.

She followed him through alleys of old neighborhoods, barely catching his departing figure around the corner.

Her physical condition was not the best; it had been a while since she had a good work out. Shortness of breath, clogged ears, and a rapid beating heart. Everything was muffled and amplified. Sherlock ignored these constraints. Mind over matter. Keep watching that man!

Thanks to her long legs, her strides somewhat diminished the distance between the consultant and the man. Much to her vexation, her heels hindered her efforts. She did not expect to chase a suspect today!

He eventually moved out from the alleys and into the main walkway. It did not help there were pedestrians obstructing her pursuit.

The man made a sharp turn to the left. He ducked into a tunnel where bicycles were lined up. Unexpectedly, he tossed some bikes on the ground with ease. It was not effective since the tunnel was wide enough for her to avoid the obstacles.

Nonetheless, he increased the distance. Sherlock admitted defeat as he saw him bounding up the stairs with speed and ease.

The consultant took deep breaths so that her lungs could receive oxygen. She noted something was constricting her respiratory system. Amplified ears picked up she was wheezing while exhaling. Sherlock did not have asthma, but why did it felt like she had an attack?

Once recovered with normal breathing and unclogged ears, she stormed back to the tunnel. The doctor was inside, also breathing hard. Sherlock walked passed her. “Sorry,” the doctor muttered.

“Huh?” Save the sorry bullshit. Sherlock did not want to hear nor be anywhere near the doctor. She was so furious at the doctor’s carelessness. Anymore contact would make her explode.

That doctor royally fucked up the investigation. 

***

Irene returned to 221b around lunchtime. It was another hard training day. She considered herself fairly athletic, however the instructor was keen on sharpening her skills. He wanted the actress to not only be convincing but also unleash her full potential. She was sorely missed on Japanese television screens. It was time for her to dominate as Japan’s finest and best female actress.

Before stepping inside, the Japanese American detoured to the recycle waste cans. The cans were parked to the side of the house. Every day, she accumulated bottles of water, tea, probiotic yogurts, or vitamin beverages given to her from the instructor and stunt coordinators that visited. Maintaining health was always a priority, but this was excessive. Her gym bag was stuffed with empty plastic bottles. 

She opened the waste can lid. It was not too full inside. Although there was something that caught her eye. With her plastics temporarily ignored, Irene reached down and gingerly picked up the bottle. Now that it was out of the waste can, it was easier to read the label in the light.

 

梅干番茶

 

Umeboshi bancha?

This pickled plum tea was known as a hangover drink. The most alarming part that there was not one bottle. Irene looked down again. There was at least six.

The celebrity knew Kimie had a decent gift collection of sake and wine bottles. Once in a while, the landlady would indulge with a glass or two. Sherlock, on the other hand, hardly drank. She had a sensitive palate and could not stand the aftertaste found in alcoholic drinks. That only left one person: Tachibana Wato.

During her stay, the tenant seemed determined to stay out of 221b as much as possible. (Irene pondered if it was because she roamed around practically naked. The celebrity was truly spoiled by Kimie and Sherlock that respected her nudity.) Nevertheless, the Japanese American persevered to corroborate the resident's origins and profession. The actress discovered the doctor lineage and the prestigious Tachibana Hospital through dinner discussions. A brief internet search informed her that the housemate was the dean of the hospital’s daughter. This woman was surprisingly complex underneath her plain appearance.

A notable feature was Tachibana’s travel abroad adventures. The resident briefly talked about her trip to Thailand eight years ago. She visited Bangkok in November and had the privilege to observe Loi Krathong. That unexpected aspect of Tachibana surprised the actress. She was cultured in her own way, definitely different from the two Cambridge graduates. However, did that translate into acceptance?

If only Irene had more time to unravel more about her character. It frustrated the celebrity that there were time constraints. The drama script for episode one was almost finalized. Irene would not be staying at 221b once principal photography began. 

The Japanese American would have to think about Tachibana later. She was still drenched in her own sweat. The autumn weather would make her susceptible to illness. She could not afford to be sick prior to filming. All plastic bottles were deposited in the waste can before she headed inside.

***

221b was quiet. The Japanese American retreated to her guest room, undressing along the way. She was already in her sports bra and panties by the time she grabbed a fresh change of undergarments. With her towel slung over her shoulders, the actress walked down the hall to the shower room.

The celebrity paused in her steps once she saw the entrance door partially opened and steam escaping. She heard the hot water turned off.

Damnit, Irene thought she had the place to herself. 

Who could it be? Kimie had the master bathroom to herself. It was either her old roommate or the housemate.

The actress crept closer and leaned against the door gap. The glass door was slightly foggy, but the person sitting inside had her back to Irene. Judging by the long hair covering her back, it was Tachibana. The celebrity resolved to give the resident privacy, but a loud sob alarmed her.

Tachibana was crying in the shower. The housemate wiped her eyes before moving her hair to the front. The Japanese American stifled a gasp.

A very scarred backside was exposed. Deducing the injuries, it had to be from a bomb blast. The upper half was decorated with tiny scars in the direction which shrapnels projected from. The actress grimaced at the sight. Wounds from explosives were always gruesome, regardless how superficial the injury might be.

The most appalling one was the extensive jagged scar that began from the right shoulder blade and trailed downwards. In a grim poetic sense, it resembled a battered river that shed blood.

By the color of the lacerations, the celebrity was certain it was healing for at least two to three months. Suddenly, it clicked. Tachibana must have sustained her scars when she was working abroad. Given her medical background, she had to be a volunteer doctor working in a combat zone. The Japanese American needed to verify which volunteer team that returned in that time frame. 

Not wanting to get caught, the celebrity pulled away from the door. Irene knew the limits of her covert sleuthing; she swiftly returned to her room. After closing her door, she laid back on her bed, thinking about what she saw. With wounds like that, it made sense why the housemate wore baggy clothes. Bearing such injuries must be sensitive to touch. Any caress or restricting apparel must result into a magnitude of pain.

Experiencing and recovering such atrocity would no doubt lead to mental trauma. The Japanese American recalled that Sherlock and Kimie mentioned Tachibana attended counseling sessions. She doubted that was enough for the resident. Mental healthcare was already dubious in Japan. Even a supportive network was lacking. The actress gathered that Tachibana was not on speaking terms with her parents-otherwise, she would have been back in Sapporo, not Tokyo. Plus, the six umeboshi bancha bottles supported Irene's conclusion about potential substance abuse. 

If Tachibana kept this up, then she was on her way to become an alcoholic suffering from PTSD.

The Japanese Amerian frowned at the situation. Tachibana Wato was deceptively a complex woman. Her background posed a risk for her old roommate and landlady. Left unchecked, that housemate would become volatile. Then the celebrity’s fear about homophobic aggression might come true. Sherlock would not be subjugated to any hostile behavior or action. 221b was a haven, it would not be tainted. Concurrently, she would not let the resident deteriorate from a disorder and intoxicating drinks. Irene resolved to split Sherlock and Tachibana. Her roommate seemed to take the first step as she returned the other day without the resident.

The Japanese American rose from her bed and approached the closed door. It had been a while since she fled the bathroom. She pressed her ear against it and strained to hear any sudden movements or outbursts. Was the shower vacated?

It was silent.

Should she take the risk? It was a gamble, but Irene would armed herself with her brazen state to dispel suspicion.

The actress twisted the knob. She leaned outwards when the gap was wide enough. The hallway was empty. 

Her towel was resting on her shoulder as she trekked to the bathroom again. Halfway walking, something caught her eye from the window. The second floor window gave a view of the front yard. From the corner, Tachibana deposited another plastic bottle into the recycle waste can. Afterwards, she moved closer to the entrance gate. Irene watched her unlocked it and slipped out.

Chapter Text

“Kanzaki-san did not write that message,” Reimon greeted as she stormed into the precinct. “She confronted Saeki-san four days because he promised to marry her. Needless to say, she was quite pissed…and drunk.”

Sherlock rolled her eyes. Typical male behavior, players wooing and breaking girls’ hearts; she was glad Mashima did that stunt on him.

The inspector trailed behind her. “During the wedding, she was at the hospital for acute gastroententis. Tokai University Tokyo Hospital also confirmed her stay,” he concluded. A beat later. “You’re not with your friend.”

Sherlock's patience snapped.

“That useless idiot is not my friend!” she exploded. Her heel made hard contact with the floor to prove her point. Taking a breath to compose herself, she whirled around and flashed her phone at the inspector. It had a picture of the man from Monmart. “The receipt was his. He spotted us and ran away.”

Reimon took her phone. “He looks familiar,” the inspector noted. The mobile device was handed to Shibata.

Hm?

“Just like the suspect in a case from two years ago.”

Her search was not in vain after all. “Where is he now?” She could feel her motivation rising.

“Supposedly dead; he killed his girlfriend and fled to the mountains.”

“The mountains?” Sherlock repeated. Seriously? She did not have time for a hiking trip. Damnit!

Frustrated by the setback, the consultant snatched her phone from the sergeant. He better not deleted any of her photos. With her phone safely tucked in her trench coat pocket, Sherlock walked down the hall. She needed to see that two-year old case file.

***

She sat on Reimon’s chair, drinking coffee while waiting for both inspector and sergeant to retrieve the file and make a copy of the paperwork. The bespectacled man sensed Sherlock’s desire for pursuit hence urged his subordinate to speed up with the copies. 

The sergeant returned and handed out the copies. “The victim was Nishino Miku, twenty-six years old,” he described. “She was stabbed in the back and bled to death.” The first copy had an image of the crime scene. The picture showed a collapsed young woman. Her cream cardigan was stained in blood. Judging by the location of the wound, the puncture also reached her heart. There was no way she could survived such attack.

“It was first thought to be a robbery gone wrong, but that wasn’t the case,” Shibata explained. “Koda Natsuo’s name came up as a suspect. He’s a twenty-eight year old alpine photographer.” The second page revealed a profile of the man. The man Sherlock saw and the younger photo of him were drastically different. Losing weight and body mass really made a difference.

“He was seeing Nishino Miku at the time. A knife covered in her blood was found in his apartment. An arrest was attempted, but he fled. It’s believed he was killed in an avalanche.”

Ugh, the outdoors; he could be based on any mountain near or far from Tokyo. Again, she was angry at the doctor for sabotaging reconnaissance. “Any proof he was in the mountains?” 

“Camera footage from a mountain hut, but his body was never found,” Reimon answered. “With the suspect missing, it’s an unsolved case.”

At least she had identities, the consultant could work with scant information. “Any family members?”

“The victim has a mother, Nishino Keiko, but the suspect’s family cut ties with him after a warrant was issued. The father declared if his son was on their property, he would immediately call the police,” the inspector replied.

It would be pointless to contact the Koda family. Their son was dead to them. That attitude will not help the investigation. That only left one lead: Nishino Keiko. The mother might provide more insight for both victim and suspect. Yet, she would have to tread carefully. A grieving mother was unpredictable. After dealing with Mizuno Akiko, there was a startling realization that she was absolutely horrible with sensitivity talk. Saying the wrong word or phrase would cost her another lead.

Fuck, she would have to think about this later. The consulting detective asked Reimon for the address of Nishino Keiko. He easily obliged her request and walked off to retrieve the contact information.

Sherlock surveyed the main office of the Investigation Department. It had been a while since she last step foot in here. Most of people that worked here already transferred out. She did not recognize the other inspectors. 

Except for one: the First Investigation Division Chief so-and-so. She got up and approached him. Sherlock distinctly remembered this middle-aged piece of shit. The consulting detective recalled the sexist name calling when she started working with the inspector years ago. He even tried to have Reimon suspended. Through his age and seniority, he should have been promoted to a much higher position. Good to know Kento’s connections ran deep. Her brother tolerated her tomfoolery, but refused to let anyone else fuck with her. 

Time to ruin his day and remind him that she was still here, working with Reimon, and kicking ass with these cases. Her lithe hand patted his left shoulder. “He’s still alive,” she asserted, meeting his confused and annoyed expression.

Shibata hissed behind her. “Sherlock! Sherlock! Stop that.”

She removed her hand, but did not leave his desk. She reached towards the phone receiver. That freaked out the sergeant. He cut in and pulled her away, frantically apologizing for her antics.

Sherlock’s mood was improving.

***

The consultant was greeted with a familiar sight when she walked into 221b. Kimie was most likely out with her matchmaking group. Irene was sitting in the living room, watching the documentary. The actress greeted her in response to the grunt. 

“You’re home early again; case got you stumped?”

Another affirmative grunt elicited. Given how they were repeating the same scene, she plopped herself next on the couch. There was a small travel bag next to the celebrity. Was Sherlock’s silent hopes of Irene leaving coming true?

While being engrossed with Amuro talking on a radio show, the celebrity addressed the consultant’s silent inquiry. “I’m scheduled for a commercial filming for Bioré’s skin moisturizing product. My manager will be picking me up.”

Sherlock scrunched her eyebrows. A commercial? That did not make sense. “I thought you have your drama to film.”

The actress chuckled. “It’s currently in ‘development hell.’ The stunt coordinators that came to the judo lessons told the executive producer they were impressed by my performance. In the recent lesson, the executive producer observed and ordered the script writer to incorporate a dojo scene. There is a major overhaul for writing the script.”

The consulting detective could not believe an executive producer could do that. It would drive her crazy with the abrupt changes. She would never survive as an actress. 

“My agency is taking advantage of this stalemate,” Irene continued. “I don’t have a luxury of long breaks unless I request a vacation.” 

Filming a product endorsement will not take long, however, 221b will be free for a while. This would have to suffice until the actress left for filming. The two Cambridge graduates sat in comfortable silence watching the documentary program.

Suddenly, the Japanese American spoke up. “Have you ever thought about taking a bath at night?”

Sherlock responded with a passive, puzzled look.

“Did it ever occurred to you to do a physical stimulating activity as a break from mental taxation?”

Honestly? It never registered in her mind. Once the consultant was focused, she was one hundred percent committed.

“You should take one tonight,” the celebrity urged. “Bathing yourself might give you an unexpected inspiration.”

Well, she did have a point. This case was mocking her. A break would not distract her. She would have renew vigor to kick its ass. Her reverie was broken when Irene’s phone rang. 

Her old roommate fished out her phone. “That’s my manager,” the celebrity remarked. “I’ll be taking my leave.” Like before, the program was stopped and the actress got up with her bag in hand.

There was something she had to ask. “About your contacts,” Sherlock began.

Irene paused in her steps then leaned closer, a huge smirk gracing her lips. “Yes?” she drawled.

“Know any good photographers that specializes in portrait shots? Kimie was unsatisfied with her omiai picture and asked me for a recommendation. You would know more than I would,” the consultant grumbled.

“I’ll see who’s available,” the Japanese American offered. “How soon does Kimie-san need one?”

She shrugged. “No idea; at the earliest convenience would be best.”

“Then let me see what I can do.”

***

Sherlock was leaning against the door with her arms crossed. It was already dinner time. Kimie was still out with her social group. Irene had not return from her commercial filming. 221b was so quiet. It had been months since she experienced such tranquility.

She was waiting for the doctor to return. Again, the consultant did not care what the doctor did during her private time, but what the fuck? Even though the doctor jeopardized their initial lead on Koda, she did have a hand on the case. The doctor had an obligation to complete the case.

The entrance door finally opened, revealing the doctor wearing different clothes from this morning.

“I’m back,” she muttered.

“Why was Koda Natsuo at the wedding?” she began. The doctor gave her a puzzled look. That was expected, she was absent when Sherlock was at the precinct. 

Sherlock raised her foot up. “He’s a murder suspect; he took a huge risk. He must have a good reason.”

“Do you think Mashima-san left with him?” Good. Very good, the doctor was demonstrating deduction again.

“People would notice a suspicious guy like him.”

“What about the dress? Why was it on the bridge?”

“To buy some time. Kanzaki’s number was written on the receipt to interfere with the police investigation.”

“Who would do that?” Something was still obstructing the doctor to think. Sherlock did not like that, but would not comment. The doctor needed to show improvement. Unsatisfied by the results, the consulting detective lowered her leg then walked upstairs without another word.

Perhaps Irene was right to take a bath at night.

Taking a nightly soak did not happen right away, however. When she walked upstairs, Sherlock sat in her lounge room. The consultant spent her time brooding. Not just the case, but everything that occurred within a few weeks. Her life was so simple a couple of months ago: solo mission on cases, sole police support from Reimon, trust in Kento, Kimie, and Irene (when she occasionally visited). Now, everything was changing so fast. 

She hated this overwhelming feeling. She needed to do something familiar again. Her eyes trailed to the cello case. The string instrument had not been touch for a couple of weeks-no thanks to unwanted requests.

Sherlock reached for her cello, opened the case, and gently lifted it. Her beloved instrument, immaculate and majestic as ever, was her steadfast companion for late nights. Her nimble hands twisted the pegs then plucked the strings, just to make sure it was tuned. Balancing the cello against her body, the consultant reached over for the bow. She tightened the horse hair with the screw. Everything was perfect and ready to go. 

Sherlock closed her eyes and positioned the bow. Her left fingers were positioned at the fingerboard. She normally started with Suite No. 4, but for tonight, she would start with Suite No. 1.

Let the concert of one begin. 

***

She opened her eyes once the final note was complete. Time ceased whenever she played. It could be late at night or early morning. It held no importance to her. Once she completed a suite, the spell was broken. Automatically, she gingerly set the string instrument back in its case and immediately loosened the bow hair. Everything was returned to its proper place. Sherlock remained in her seat; her muscles ached from the lack of frequent playing and the chilly air. A hot bath would be nice.

She sprinted upstairs for her pajamas and a towel. With the items in her hands, the consulting detective trekked to the second floor bathroom. Sherlock stopped short when she saw the bathroom door partially closed. There was light inside. Damn, she would have to comeback later.

The consultant was about to turn her heel when her sharp ears and nose picked up rustling and a familiar odor from inside. She heard something being unrolled followed by a pair of scissors clipping the material. The smell of antibiotic ointment permeated the air. Sherlock wrinkled her nose at that scent; it was not her favorite, but she knew that particular brand was the most effective product for treating wounds. During the process of dressing a wound, there was an occasional sob.

Even with the door closed, there was no question of the identity behind the door.

“You reached a conclusion.”

Sherlock jerked upright and turned to the direction of the voice. Not far from the stairs was Irene with her hair wrapped in a bun. As usual, her button-down dress shirt was opened, revealing her lacy bra. (The consultant was sure the Japanese American would develop abs by the time she was done filming her new drama.) Sherlock briefly glanced down before looking up. Of course, the actress was only wearing her thong. The pants rested on her shoulders. She must have returned from her commercial filming.

The most startling characteristic was the celebrity’s expression. The playful and carefree demeanor that sparkled in her eyes were extinguished. Even her remark was a statement, not a question. The actress had a serious demeanor, one that Sherlock rarely saw. There was no question that this would be a vital conversation. She moved away from the door and walked towards her old roommate. The two women made their way to the lounge room for privacy.

“That person was injured back in Syria,” Sherlock stated once she closed the door. There was no doubt the doctor sustained some brutal scars. She should have calculated that probability from the start. That country was ranked low for stability due to its domestic affairs.

“Correct,” Irene affirmed. “The Japanese volunteer medical team returned after the bombing at the hospital, but this was not first time the medical team narrowly escaped death.”

The consultant quirked an eyebrow.

“Bombing medical institutions were committed by the Syrian government to weaken the rebel forces,” the celebrity continued. “The Japanese government felt it was best if their volunteers remained neutral and focused on providing medical attention in makeshift neighborhoods of Damascus. That plan didn’t exactly worked out-no thanks to aggressive military campaigns made by world leaders. For two years, that medical team had their base of operations destroyed and relocated to different facilities. Only the recent attack in late August prompted their return.”

“What was the incident?”

“A child soldier infiltrated the hospital, planted and detonated explosives. That youth also committed arson. The brutality of the attack truly freaked out the Prime Minister. Hence an emergency evacuation order was made for the volunteers.”

As expected of a Cambridge alumni. Never underestimate her intelligence. It was no secret that the actress was a college graduate. That information was not only on Wikipedia (translated into different languages), but also on her profile of her agency’s website. Contrary to public assumption, Irene’s degree was not in theatre. Rather, it was international studies with a minor in theatre. 

If she was not scouted during a summer vacation in Japan (and influenced her career path), Sherlock was certain Irene would be a badass administrative assistant working in any field: administration, economic, humanitarian, legal, or politics in the United Nations. The Japanese American had great tenacity, she could do anything with her determination and quickly work up the chain of command.

Back to the doctor, the consultant could only imagine a fraction of hell. This was something she could not comprehend. Although, she could understood the toll of post-traumatic stress. Perhaps this was why the doctor clung to her counseling sessions, but Sherlock knew stunts like that were futile in the long term. The only one who could make the change was the person themselves.

“What is your assessment of her?” She could always trust Irene’s analysis on people. 

The actress did not answer right away as she carefully considered her next words. “She has a high risk for developing PTSD; she could be dangerous.” The consultant remained quiet as the Japanese American recounted how she found empty umeboshi bottles in the recycle bin. Sherlock understood the celebrity’s suspicious attitude towards the doctor. 

Her old roommate made a compelling argument on the doctor posing a jeopardy for her and the landlady. Maybe Sherlock already unconsciously knew the doctor was a threat during the first case. 

However, many weeks passed since 221b gained another tenant and she attained an assistant. They were still embroiled in a missing person investigation now tied with a cold case. Sherlock could not relinquish her yet, not with the time investment of training. The doctor had a role to play for Sherlock’s agenda.

The Japanese American took her leave and closed the lounge door behind her. Sherlock was now alone in her space. The consultant gave up for a nightly soak. Instead, she wrote a note, informing the doctor they will return to Le Mariage Blanc tomorrow morning. The note was taped to the doctor’s door.

***

They reached the wedding hall shortly before it opened. Sherlock requested for the wedding planner, the bridal suite occupied by Mashima, and the vacuum used to clean up the spill. Her three demands were quickly granted without question. The three women were in the room; both doctor and employee were waiting for the consulting detective to begin.

The consultant squatted in front of the vacuum Yokokawa used. It was so tiny, shiny, and squared. Her dexterous fingers explored the surface. On the control panel, her right hand pressed the red switch. The cleaning device roared to life. Shit!

Close proximity to the machinery bellow surprised Sherlock. Her willpower enabled her to not verbal exclaim, but it did not stop the muscle memory. Her hands temporarily shook before she regained control of herself and hastily switched it off. Relief settled once the machine powered down. 

She turned the vacuum to the side. “You used this vacuum to clean this room?”

“Yes,” Yokokawa replied with slight hesitation. “It can suck up broken glass and water.”

“But there was no broken glass,” Sherlock countered. The wedding planner’s face faltered. The consulting detective now sat on the housecleaning object, it made a comfortable stool. “You helped Mashima Risa disappear, right?”

The staff member was flustered, but continued to resist.

“You said she spilled orange juice on her dress, right?” the consulting detective pressed further. “But there were no stains on the dress we found. Why?” The dress was so pristine without a hint of an orange stain. Sherlock rolled closer to the wedding hall employee. “It's because you’re lying.”

Yokokawa still did not budge. 

“Mashima asked you for help, so you planned everything. You gave Mashima the vacuum and a change of clothes. Mashima changed into the uniform you brought. Next you compressed her wedding dress and hid it in the vacuum. Then Mashima left the room disguised as you.”

Sherlock stood up and advanced towards the door. “You waited for the right timing before telling the groom and guests about Mashima’s disappearance.” That was the last blow to the wedding planner’s defenses. 

Three.

Two.

One.

“I’m sorry!” the wedding hall worker cried out, bowing before Sherlock and the doctor. 

“Why did you do that?” the doctor spoke up. (Good participation, that was the effort the consultant liked to see.)

“Risa-san’s former boyfriend showed up.”

“Former boyfriend?” the doctor repeated.

Sherlock reached for her phone and swiped through the pictures. Found it. She brought it to the staff member. “This man?”

“Yes, him!” Yokokawa confirmed. “Risa-san thought he died in the mountains, but he showed up to take her away. She said she’d give anything to be with that man. My heart went out to her. I just had to help.” She bowed again. “I’m so sorry!”

The doctor took the initiative. “Where is Mashima-san now?” The wedding planner had no idea where Mashima went. That was enough. They thoroughly squeezed out all the information from Le Mariage Blanc. Time to leave. 

***

They walked down the entrance steps. “Wasn’t Koda-san dating Nishino Miku-san, who was murdered?” Ah, so the doctor did read the file she left on the lounge table. “Why did she say that Mashima-san was dating him?”

The profiles of Koda, Mashima, and Nishino flashed in her recollection. Her mind raced with possible explanations about the trio’s relationship. That’s it! “They’re not dating.”

“Huh?”

“Mashima lied about dating Koda to get the wedding planner’s help,” she explained. “They’re up to something.”

“What do you mean?”

Perhaps she had her hopes too high on the doctor’s analytical progress, such a shame.

They did not talk on the way to the train station. The doctor followed Sherlock’s lead as the consultant navigated through the subway system. They trekked to a quiet neighborhood in Meguro-ku and rang the door bell of the Nishino household. She attempted to press it again but the doctor caught her arm and stepped in front of her. It was perfect timing since Nishino Keiko answered the door.

The consulting detective let the doctor talk to the victim’s mother. Even though Sherlock was frustrated with the doctor at times, she had to admit the doctor was good at talking (even when the consultant did not mention her plans about visiting the family member). Her words gained cooperation of Nishino Keiko. The mother let them in and offered coffee. 

The consultant sat in the chair of the western dining table and watched the doctor approach the small butsudan. The set up was quite simple: two flower vases; a 6 cm x 8 cm picture frame; a rin with a wooden mallet; an assortment of beads; cup of oolong tea; and a sauce bowl with two cookies inside. The doctor was true to her word about paying her respects to Nishino Miku. She rang the rin then closed her hands and briefly prayed to the late daughter.

Nishino Keiko was sitting at a kotatsu, also observing the doctor. “Two years ago, nothing made sense,” the older woman commented after rite was completed. “The police said Natsuo-san killed my daughter, but I didn’t believe it. He would never do such thing.”

“Why do you say that?” the doctor gently prodded.

“Only days before, Miku brought him to see me.” Nishino Keiko elaborated that Koda was dressed in a suit and tie. He was incredibly nervous when he asked for Nishino Miku’s hand in marriage. The mother wistfully sighed. She recalled that he mixed up his speech asking her instead of Nishino Miku. His embarrassment spewed out more incorrect phrases which mother and daughter found endearing. 

“They were so in love. Truly in love.” Nishino Keiko shook her head, as if she was trying to not tear up. “Natsuo-san would never think of harming her. I just couldn’t believe it.” The tone in her voice was so genuine. She had nothing but a fond memory and good impression of Koda.

That account reminded Sherlock of her own parents' marriage announcement. Her father was incredibly nervous when he announced his intention to marry to Sherlock’s paternal grandmother. He had his speech planned out, yet he executed it poorly, leading to numerous misunderstandings and total embarrassment. In the end, it worked out: their marriage was accepted and wedding plans followed. Her mother was quite fond of sharing that story with her and Kento. She completely understood Nishino Keiko’s sentiment about her daughter and Koda. They shared a genuine, loving relationship like her parents once did.

The consulting detective’s thoughts drifted back to the present. Unlike Yokokawa, Nishino Keiko had nothing to omit. She was quite cooperative on how her insight could help their current case. Sherlock rose from her seat and walked towards the mother. “Do you know this woman?” The consultant showed her a picture of Mashima in her wedding gown.

“That’s Risa-san, an old friend of my daughter,” Nishino Keiko replied. “Miku wanted to make some jewelry for Risa-san. She always talked about it.”

“She was a jewelry designer?” the doctor asked.

“Yes, but she wasn’t famous. She always stayed up late sketching though. She really worked hard.”

Now it was the consultant’s turn. “Would you mind showing me her designs?” Her curiosity was peaked. 

“I’m afraid they’re all gone.”

Hm?

“I searched her room after the incident, but I couldn’t find a single one.” How puzzling, something did not seem right.

Afterwards, they took their leave and headed back to 221b. Both consultant and doctor sat in the lounge room, reviewing the information they received from Yokokawa and Nishino Keiko.

“Now we know the connection Mashima-san and Nishino-san,” the doctor stated. “But where has Mashima-san disappeared to?”

Sherlock placed her phone on the table. “Look at this.” It was the receipt picture. “It’s Koda’s receipt, but it’s a woman’s handwriting. Who wrote it?”

“Well, not Kanzaki-san.” 

The consultant flicked to the next picture: the matrimony paperwork. “Mashima signed this marriage certificate. Look closely.”

The doctor stared then met Sherlock’s gaze. “I don’t get it.” How frustrating, the analytical skill was not at the level Sherlock wanted it to be at.

“Mashima Risa wrote the note,” she explained. “This means Mashima and Koda met before the wedding and planned everything together.” It was quite elaborate; Sherlock was secretly impressed by stratagem; she loved the mental stimulation underneath the stagnant progress of a missing person case.

“But why?”

Again, she repeated her words. “Eliminate the impossible and you’re left with the unlikely truth.”

Chapter Text

True to her words, the consultant eliminated the impossible. The unlikely truth was the jewelry designer asshole. Saeki was the link between the three parties: Koda, Mashima, and Nishino. Both alpine photographer and bride were elusive for the police and herself. Underneath that frustration, she was mildly impressed by their wits. 

There was a fresh hot cup of coffee in front of her by the time she completed her phone call with Reimon. Sitting right across from her was the doctor eating her breakfast while reviewing the xerox files of Nishino Miku. It was only the two of them at 221b this Sunday morning. Both Irene and Kimie were out, either running errands or meeting up with their social groups.

The consultant reached over for her cup, inhaled the fragrance of dark coffee before she carefully sipped it. Sherlock had a schedule today. Nothing on her agenda would commence until she finished her coffee. The hot liquid was perfectly brewed at 82 degrees Celsius. The second rule was probably the only one the doctor actually followed.

It was not long before the cup was empty. The consulting detective stood up and informed the doctor they would leaving soon. She turned her heel and exited the lounge room before the doctor had a chance to ask follow up questions. They had to catch the first subway for Taito-ku.

***

The Okomachi district was very quiet for a Sunday. They trekked towards the high rises and stopped outside of the complex that housed the Saeki Design Co. offices. Sherlock lifted her head to gaze at the dark windows. She narrowed her eyes. For days, the consultant thought long and hard on predicting the next move the elusive duo might make. If she was in their place, they would take drastic measures.

“Sherlock?” the doctor prodded. “Are we going in?”

They were going in the building, but not through the main doors.

She ignored the doctor’s mumbled protest when she jiggled the knob of the delivery entrance door. The backside where deliveries were received had less security than the frontside. As she suspected, it was tampered with; the door easily opened. They stepped into the semi-dark room. The doctor was about to close the door then a bang startled her. Something or someone slammed into a wall, not far from the entrance. When Sherlock heard a groan, they were not alone. Perfect timing on her end. 

The consulting detective pawed towards the light switch. She flicked them off, the room was brightly illuminated. Two huddled figures were near the service elevator. She found them. With triumph hastened her steps, it was not long before she stood before Mashima Risa and Koda Natsuo. Sherlock took a good look at the vanished bride.

The other woman had her hair down; she wore a simple outfit: magenta long sleeve and tan long skirt. A perfect outfit for autumn. Mashima looked much better in person than that wedding photograph. She could see why Mashima made a modeling career. (Had she done fitness photoshoots? The consultant would not be surprised if Mashima had abs underneath that long sleeve.) The vanished bride crouched over, attending her conspirer.

Meanwhile, there was nothing special about Koda’s fashion. He was wearing the same clothes when she last saw him at Monmart. The hat and face mask still concealed his face. The alpine photographer took great lengths to keep himself bundled and hide his feature, but that did not escape Sherlock’s view. What was the cause for a great decline? A week ago, he was agile and possessed strength to toss bicycles on the ground. (Even though he looked incredibly thin.) Now he was sitting upright with labored and rapid breathing. He was clearly unsteadied. Had he not lost his balance, Sherlock would never catch them.

“Why are you and Koda-san here?” the doctor interjected.

It was not hard to figure out. Those two were going to set a trap. She merely lifted an eyebrow at Mashima’s direction. 

The other woman quickly caught on. “You’re not going stop me,” the bride challenged, her eyes narrowed at the consultant. “We’re running out of time.” 

The consulting detective grinned. She respected that assertiveness. “On the contrary, I want you to do it. Let me see what you written.”

Mashima merely stared before she pulled out her mobile device. It was unlocked; the text message app was opened. The screen had a message typed out; it was not sent yet.

 

未来のスケッチブックは私が持つてる

理沙

 

The consultant nodded in approval. The bride did not need to be told twice to send it. It was a good thing she contacted the inspector earlier. Sherlock needed someone to keep an eye on Saeki. They would have to wait for his call. The doctor helped Mashima pull Koda to his feet. The tall man used the two women as crutches while she activated the service elevator. It was a quiet ride to the top floor and hallway trek to Saeki Design Co. The consulting detective just finished picking the lock when her ringer went off.

She accepted the call on the first ring. “Sherlock, he’s on the move,” Reimon stated.

“Got it,” she responded. After ending the call, she turned to the others. “He’s on his way; get ready.”

***

In the dark, the frame of Saeki Kazuma briskly crossed the office. He approached a decorative house plant in the meeting room, the same one Sherlock noticed weeks ago. He crouched and dug the soil. He left a huge mess as he burrowed deeper. Then the scuffling stopped. The jewelry designer gingerly removed his arms from the dirt and pot. In his hands, there was a parcel. When he was unwrapping the package, Sherlock looked at Mashima. 

The lights switched on.

“That’s where you hid them,” the vanished bride commented.

Saeki was shocked when Mashima revealed herself. “Risa? This text…wasn’t you?” He pulled out his phone to double check. “What’s going on?”

Behind her, Koda walked out. He pulled down his mask to allow the jewelry designer identify. There was pure fury emitting from him. After a good minute, the facial mask returned to its proper place. The cheeks were much hollower; it was ghastly to look at.

“You killed Miku,” Mashima asserted; her voice was steady and direct. “After Koda-san went missing in the mountains, you planted the knife at his place.”

The asshole designer was puzzled. “What are you saying? Why would I kill Miku?” 

Time to interfere. “Isn’t the evidence in those bags?” Sherlock announced as she walked towards the standoff. The doctor, inspector, and sergeant followed behind. Under Reimon’s command, Shibata confiscated the bundle. One bag was handed to the consulting detective.

Inside the plastic wrappings were multiple sketchbooks. “You went to the trouble of a fake marriage,” Sherlock addressed to Mashima. “Just to obtain proof that he did it.” She went to Koda and Mashima, flipping through one of the sketchbooks. 

“Fake marriage?” Saeki repeated.

Aha! She found the page! “Here’s the design that won the Jewelry Awards.” She revealed a brooch that was in the shape of a leaf. “But this isn’t your sketchbook,” she continued. “It’s Nishino’s.”

“Miku often showed me her designs,” the bride added. “I notice it immediately. The same goes for all of your other designs, too. Everything was actually Miku’s work.”

It brought Sherlock great satisfaction that she distinctly knew something was not right with the products; it was not a reflection of his creativity not craftsmanship. Saeki was a fucking pretender; he plagiarized a late designer’s work. “You were a junior at design school and saw her talent,” the consulting detective articulated. He cornered Nishino at night and proposed a business collaboration. Naturally, Nishino did not want a partnership nor part with her work. Her refusal resulted to her downfall. As she bled to death, all her sketchbooks were stolen.

“You killed Nishino and stole her sketchbooks,” the consultant concluded. “You then planted the knife used in the crime in Koda’s apartment to divert the blame.” She patted Koda’s shoulder. The tall man unsteadily swayed by her touch. He was so thin, so weak, and so cold. The cool body temperature surprised her, but that was not important.

“The police were waiting at my apartment in Tokyo. Risa-san was the only one who believed I was innocent,” Koda remarked.

“You would never kill your beloved Miku,” Mashima replied sadly. Then the bride turned to Saeki. “Once I saw the award-winning design, I knew that you were the one that killed her. I didn’t have proof.”

“That’s why Mashima got close to you,” the consulting detective spoke up again, this time gravitating to the jewelry designer. “To find out the truth behind Nishino’s murder.” It was a two year operation. Mashima definitely knew how to play the long con. Again, Sherlock was impressed.

“I searched every inch of your apartment while you were gone, but I couldn’t find the sketchbooks,” the bride explained. Such dedication was commendable.

“That left the office and his parents’ home,” Sherlock remarked.

“Someone was always around,” the other woman grumbled.

“So you decided to search the day of the wedding?” the doctor questioned.

Mashima nodded towards the doctor. “I managed to get the keys and gave one to Koda-san duing the flower shower.” 

“He went to the office while Mashima snuck out to search for the sketchbooks at Saeki’s parents’ home, but there was no sign of them,” the consultant continued. Now she walked back to the bride, handing her the sketchbook. It was opened to a specific page. “You were getting desperate. You would soon contact Saeki directly.” Sherlock retreated, pushing the guilty designer towards the bride. Then she planted herself on the table edge. 

The sergeant lifted one of the sketchbooks. “After we analyze this blood, we’ll know for sure.” The spine revealed traces of blood. (Shibata’s potential was growing.)

The jewelry designer asshole sighed. He was caught by the round-robin deduction. “If I were Miku, I would be happy,” he retorted arrogantly. “I showed off her designs. She was talented, but she couldn’t promote herself.”

That was the flame that ignited Koda’s rage. He gently pushed Mashima to the side before lunging himself forward towards the jackass. “YOU BASTARD!” he bellowed, raising his clenched fist to clobber Saeki. The sergeant swiftly stepped in and held him in place; had he punched Saeki, Koda could be charged with assault. 

“YOU…YOU BASTARD! YOU SON OF A BITCH!” Koda howled. There were tears streaming down his cheeks. "FUCK YOU! DAMN YOU TO HELL!"

In an instant, the strength and fury vanished. He was a fragile, unstable man that collapsed to the ground. Koda bawled, a mix of anger towards the murderer and grief for the victim. It was a two year wait for this moment to happen. Shibata held the man and worked on lowering the crying volume. 

“I bet Miku appreciates what I’ve done, for the sake of her designs,” he remarked, no ruefulness in his voice. His character disgusted Sherlock. This asshole did not get his way and he reacted with a fucking homicide? His head was up his ass; there was no remorse for a serious crime.

The inspector walked up to Saeki. “That’s enough,” he said firmly. 

Mashima looked down at the page Sherlock left opened. “I knew it,” she commented. This time, her voice slightly wavered. “This was also Miku’s design, ‘Marriage Rings for Risa.’” She placed the sketchbook on the table and removed the wedding ring. “How could you give this to me?” Without warning, she raised her right hand slapped right across the face. The contact made a loud smack. Saeki’s head was tilted to the side, his left cheek was turning to a light shade of pink.

(Sherlock wished her nails were longer, that way Mashima could have drawn out blood.)

“Inspector, she attacked me,” he accused haughtily. 

Reimon was not impressed. “Did something happened?” The consultant always admired the sassy side of the inspector.

***

Shibata slapped cuffs on the asshole’s wrists and escorted him away. With that vile man gone, Mashima broke into tears. The doctor immediately rushed over and offered a shoulder to cry on. Reimon sighed and gathered the sketchbooks. “I’ll come back for statements once those two are feeling better,” he whispered to Sherlock. “Please keep an eye on them.” The bespectacled man hardly made requests. She nodded her head; his were always honored.

“After this is over, I’ll make sure these books are given to Nishino’s mother,” he added. This was why she enjoyed working with this inspector. He knew how to anticipate the next step. When he stepped out, she turned back to her charge. Mashima was still crying to the doctor while Koda was nowhere in sight. 

Shit. Where did he go? Sherlock better look for him before the inspector returned. That alpine photographer surely must not have gone far given how frail he had been. The consultant scanned her surroundings, there was an ajar door not far from Saeki’s desk. She quickly crossed the office suite and hurried out the door. In the semi-dark hall, she caught Koda’s departing figure again. Sherlock narrowed her eyes as she quickened her pace. That alpine photographer would not get away a second time. 

Since they were on the highest floor, the only place to go was on the roof itself. Sure enough, Koda was there. He was on his hands and knees, breathing very hard. His mask was no longer on his face; it was tossed aside. She quietly approached him and closely observed his fallen state. There was perspiration on his neck. The nail beds on his hands were pale and bluish. 

Fuck, that was not a good sign. 

Her eyes quickly darted to his lips; they also had the same tint of blue and paleness.

Oh, fucking shit. This man before her was dying. The consultant berated herself, she should have been paying very close attention to the signs. Yet, all the indications eluded her. Just like Mizuno Akiko’s demise. 

Sherlock crouched to his level. “You’re dying,” she stated.

“This was why Risa-san said we were running out of time,” he replied. His speech was slurred. The consultant needed to make this quick.

She was about to ask what illness he contracted when the answer was blatantly displayed in front of her. The hand veins were thick, resembling tree roots. She gazed upwards and got a better view of his neck. Those carotid arteries also had the same thickness.

It had been two years since she saw Hanahaki Byou.

Koda reached into his pocket and pulled out a red bottle. He gently shook it, but there was nothing inside. “Damnit!” he cried out and dropped the bottle to the ground. It slowly rolled over to the consultant.

She plucked the small bottle. It was plain with one label. The words were written in bold print.

 

神威 : 天の龍

 

Sherlock’s eyes widen. Shit. That was Kamui: Dragon of Heaven. She heard rumors about the destructive drug, it never occurred to her she would see one in person. The drug only worked for one disease: Hanahaki Byou. Its effects on the user were atrocious. 

The alpine photographer quietly eyed her. “That’s right,” he rasped. “I’ve been taking Kamui for two years. Damn disease reactivated itself when Miku died.”

“How? There was no evidence that Hanahaki Byou could reoccur when one’s beloved passed away,” she demanded.

Koda glared at her. “What kind of detective are you? The new research findings were published last year!” 

Well, shit. Those publications must have eluded her in 2017.

Sherlock let that insult slide. He was dying; the words he was spouting had little effect on the consultant.

“All our tax money being funded to a useless campaign that can barely educate a society that placed strong emphasis on learning,” he snorted. “How ironic!” 

“Is that why you went to the mountains? To obtain the drug?” she pressed on. Rumor had it there was a secret facility that made Kamui located on the mountains near Tokyo.

Koda nodded his head. “Miku was my middle school sweetheart,” he explained. “Had it bad as a third year back then; Hanahaki Byou coming back in 2016 was a bitch. Once I started coughing petals, I knew I did not have much time to prove my innocence. That's why I fled and stayed away. I met Risa when she was doing a camping photoshoot. We started planning after that.”

"Did Mashima knew you were taking the drug back then?" She could get in serious trouble for withholding information from the police for two years.

He shook his head. "She only found a few days ago after I escaped from Monmart." The alpine photographer wheezed. Talking too much placed a strain on him.

It was clear that Koda was doomed from the start, especially since Nishino Miku was no longer alive to relieve his pain. Kamui: Dragon of Heaven did not cure him; it merely suppressed the symptoms and allowed him to stay alive for two more years. The suppression placed a strain on the body. Hence, taking the drug came at a steep price: a declining health. That was no different from letting Hanahaki Byou ravage a victim.

His breath became more haggard. Sherlock wanted to ask more, but time was exhausted. It was not enough to satisfy her inquiry.

Koda sensed his moment was coming. He rolled over, letting his back rest against the ground. “I’m coming, Miku. We'll finally be together.”

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. There was no exhale. 

 

Ten seconds…

 

 

                          Twenty seconds…

 

 

 

 

                                                             Thirty seconds…

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                Forty seconds…

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                    Fifty seconds…

 

 

 

 

 

One minute passed. No movement nor sound; it was absolutely nothing.

Another minute later, there was a twitching movement from his chest. She furrowed her eyes. He was clinically dead. There needed to be another minute before the biological death mechanism kicked in. The bubbling movement traveled upward, the consultant watched as the lump ascended on the throat and into the mouth. The consultant stepped back, she did not need to be in a biohazard zone.

Koda’s cheeks expanded due to the bulge. Little by little, his lips parted. Suddenly a bouquet sprouted violently. The force caused the body to arch upwards. 

Oh, fucking shit. She never seen a gruesome process like this before. (Sherlock swore she heard a sickening crunch of the roots breaking bones.)

At full force, a variety of flowers sprayed outwards. There was a huge discharge of flower petals that surrounded Koda’s body. The corpse continued sprouting petals nine times. Each discharge also pushed the bouquet from outward; it trailed from the mouth, throat, chest, and navel. Sherlock would not be surprised if it reached his feet. 

It stopped around his knees. The bouquet was almost at the same length as him (Koda was at least 180 cm). It eerily reminded her of a casket spray. Sherlock gingerly moved closer to get the details of flowers sprouted.

 

Dark Crimson Roses: Grief and sorrow

Hyacinths: Regret 

Orchids: I will always love you

Pink Carnations: Remembrance

Red Tulips: Perfect Love

White Stargazer Lilies: Sympathy

 

These flowers were associated for a funeral arrangement. Yet, it also symbolized Koda’s unspoken feelings towards his late fiancé. The gravity of loss deeply affected him and triggered the dormant Hanahaki Byou. 

Sherlock took a deep breath and turned around. That was fucking terrifying. She steadily reached for her phone and called Reimon. The consultant kept staring at the Kamui: Dragon of Heaven bottle as she explained that she was on the roof.

The inspector walked in with Shibata, the doctor, Mashima, and assistant inspectors behind him. Everyone sans the bespectacled man gasped at the carcass and flowers. Mashima burst into tears again and clung to the doctor. The consultant ignored the theatrics and approached him.

Reimon’s calm facade transformed into a grim frown as his eyes focused on the red bottle. “We have to report this,” he stated grimly. “Kamui: Dragon of Heaven is an illegal drug in Japan.”

“I know,” she responded and promptly told him all the information she gathered from Koda.

“You only discovered he possessed Kamui when he pulled out the bottle to shake for any more pills?” the inspector reiterated.

“Correct.” At that point, it was drug addiction. Taking the pill the first time brought false sensation. Like other substance abuse, the user craved more and consumed more to achieve the same effect. Kamui: Dragon of Heaven made it easy to overdose: at least four pills every hour. Koda probably took his final dose before entering the high rise with Mashima.

The bespectacled man sighed. It was times like these when his job was very difficult. Behind him, the forensic pathology staff came through and started to care for the corpse after the assistant inspectors took photographs.

It was a very long afternoon Sunday. She, the doctor, and Mashima stayed at the precinct to answer all the questions the police had for them. Even Nishino Keiko was summoned. Sherlock had to leave the lobby to avoid the mother’s reaction to the news.

The consultant took refuge at the cafeteria. She ate a semi-decent yakisoba pan and drank iced coffee. While munching on sustenance, she thought about how outdated she was with the disease. Koda’s misfortune reminded her of Yuuki Kaito. That gardener-theatre actor also lost his fiancé. Except, he did not succumb to Hanahaki Byou. Neither did Nishino Keiko nor Kimie when they lost their husbands. (Hell, Saeki seemed unaffected with his one-sided infatuation and marriage sham.) Like Nishino Keiko said, Koda Natsuo was a man that was truly in love. Such affection that was par with her father.

It really showed the gravity of emotional and mental health influencing the flower illness. Everyone that contracted it had a different outcome.

***

It had been a week since the case concluded. Since Koda was estranged from his family, responsibility for funeral rites fell on Nishino Keiko. As the mother regarded the late alpine photographer as her son-in-law, his remains were in good hands. The doctor was set on attending Koda’s funeral and scolded Sherlock’s disinterest to pay respects. Clearly, the doctor did not understand the physical and mental toll that occurred when participating in a funeral. It was an experience she had for her lifetime. She was always grateful for Kento being her support during her parent’s burial.

It seemed that Nishino Keiko felt the same way. After all, she had to arrange one for her husband and daughter. The mother requested a simple cremation for the alpine photographer. No ceremony was involved-probably because Koda was not a Buddhist like the Nishino family. His ashes and picture now rested on the same butsudan in her home. The betrothed were reunited. Along with the sketchbooks.

In all, Sherlock was spared from attending another service.

“This case has put me off marriage,” the doctor muttered as she put away the matchmaking flyers. Sherlock knew the feeling; this mystery was far more wild to the crazy wedding cases she done in the past. Life was better being single; no relationship to tie someone down.

A sharp rapped on the lounge door was followed by Kimie barging in. “So, did you find someone?”

Oh, shit. Sherlock actually forgot to follow up with Irene for recommendations. It sucked that the celebrity was out for her commercial filming again. She reached for her phone and scrolled through the unknown messages that resembled Irene’s rhetoric. (In the consultant’s defense, the actress changed her number to avoid calls from obsessive fans.) The consultant did not bother answering nor looking up.

“Come on!” the landlady complained. “A good photographer!” The consulting detective frantically scrambled through her inbox. Fuck, no messages from the celebrity! She quickly opened the email app and composed a short memo. 

“I asked you to find someone! The matchmaking company needs my photo,” Kimie scolded. Damnit, Irene! Answer back!

A few seconds later, the email chime went off. Her inbox had one unread message from the Japanese American. Yes! She scanned the contents. Apparently, Irene had been reaching out to various photographers that worked in the past. She got a response yesterday: only one was happy to take a portrait shot. However, the photographer just sent a follow up message that he had to cancel on short notice. To make up the disappointment, he reached out to his associate as a replacement.

That colleague was Moriya Toru.

Sherlock felt that pain again. Anyone, but him! Yet, Kimie had a deadline to meet. There was no other way. Brushing away the discomfort, she addressed the doctor. “You know someone right?”

“Huh?”

“A good photographer,” she retorted. With that, the older lady’s attitude did a 180° and now focused on the doctor. 

“Really?” Kimie exclaimed.

The doctor slightly smiled. “I guess so.”

Crisis was averted, Sherlock swirled her computer chair around and jiggled the mouse. Her desktop came to life. The browser was on the scientific journal website. There were multiple tabs opened regarding the recent publications of Hanahaki Byou and Kamui: Dragon of Heaven within five years. Reimon already warned her that the department responsible for drug seizures and arrests will contact her. Kamui: Dragon of Heaven was an incredibly unstable drug with a high mortality rate. That was why the Japanese government declared it was illegal. Though, that did not stop dealing operations and smuggling. With the rise of Hanahaki Byou cases, this also affected the increase of drug trafficking nationwide.

She was the closest the narcotics division had to gaining intelligence on manufacturing. The consultant had to be prepared when that day will come.

***

Three days later, Moriya Toru visited 221b in the morning. Sherlock stayed clear from him and watched him from afar. He was tall, but basic looking. Personally, she found his hair nothing special. The facial hair turned her off. Even though Kento had a beard and mustache, her older brother knew how to properly groom himself. He, the doctor, and Kimie remained on the first floor. The photoshoot was held in the northeastern corner. That was a hallway in which the shoji was replaced by glass doors. Moriya explained to the two women that dawn created a softer light. The natural lighting would make the portraits more flattering. Both landlady and doctor were impressed by his knowledge. To Sherlock, the war photographer was showing off. She seen his pictures. They were nothing special-it had no soul. It was only propaganda and anger.

Kimie went first, dressed up in her light green houmongi and smiled brightly. She did different poses while the he clicked the shutter. After a succession, she left her seat and approached the doctor.

“You should get some taken too,” the landlady remarked.

“Me?”

“Yes! He won’t mind!” Kimie looked at Moriya. “Right?”

He chuckled. “Of course not.” For some reason, the consultant did mind.

“I’ll make tea then.” The landlady excused herself. It was a good thing Sherlock chose not to linger in the kitchen.

She watched the two stood there awkwardly.

“I never thought I would see you again,” he started. His attitude was pissing her off. She could not understand the irritation. The consultanting detective wished Irene was here to articulate her instincts.

“Me too,” the doctor responded. Then she moved into the hallway. “Will you take my picture?”

Sherlock and Moriya took a double take on the doctor’s words. What the hell did she just say?

“Make me look good, please," the doctor insisted. What the fuck was she doing?

The war photographer smiled. “You got it. Please take a seat.” The doctor sat down. “All right, get ready.” This situation throughly disgusted her.

The intense chest pain flared intensely. It was then replaced by body aches and a sore throat. Both were also painful. Sherlock could not endure it any longer. The consultant slipped through the back, fleeing to the lounge room, her sanctuary. 

Upon entering, she opened the cello case on the intent to distract the pain. The instrument was swiftly tuned and the bow was quickly prepared. It did not take long for the consulting detective to get lost in the world of classical music. Halfway through the refrain, Kimie interrupted her playing time. She made herself comfortable on Sherlock’s lounge couch.

“I’m so relieved,” the landlady commented.

“About what?” Since she seemed keen on talking, Sherlock ceased playing. The cello was back in its case and the bow had its horse hair loosened.

“You were worried, too!” Kimie exclaimed. No, she was not. (Damnit!) “Wato-san was so depressed.”

So that was why the doctor seemed off when investigating Mashima. What could have caused it?

“What do you mean?” 

The older lady chuckled. “You two are such good friends.”

“She’s not my friend!” the consultant instantly countered. She needed to distract her mind.

“Why can’t you just admit it?”

It was simple: they were not friends. There was no pact, no declaration, and certainly no friendship bracelets nor necklaces. Sherlock did not need friends. She needed cases and associates for her investigation. Her life was fulfilling thanks to the two criteria that were already met. The consulting detective did not need more. The less she had, the less disappointment would remain when everything went downhill. 

Her hands snapped the cello case closed. Enough with this bullshit.

Though, her playing time gave her a solution to her problem.

She rose from her chair and walked over to her lab refrigerator. She pulled out a small bottle after opening the refrigerator door. Sherlock instructed Kimie to give it to the doctor. Three people could not used all the cucumber toner; she did not want her efforts to be wasted. “Make sure you tell her it’s not only good for skin, but also scars as well.”

The consulting detective fled the lounge room before the landlady could ask. She quickly grabbed her coat and purse. Her feet quietly bounded down the stairs, through the front door and gate. Sherlock set her sights to Edogawa-ku. There was someone that could shed more light on the illicit drug.

***

It had been long since Moriya left 221b. Yet, Wato could not help but stare at the pictures he took. Seeing the image of herself was a perplexing experience. For starters, her smile looked genuine. She was not faking it like the ones in the past few weeks.

Wato was mindful to be in good spirits with Hatano while being polite to Adler. With the latter, she had no idea why the actress was so interested in her. Was she not Sherlock's lover? Wato may not have been in many relationships, but even she knew about being faithful to one's partner.

Her heart ached at the passing thought of the celebrity. She did hear about the upcoming television drama; hopefully Adler would leave 221b very soon.

Wato jumped when she sensed someone behind her. When she turned around, it was the landlady. (By the way, where was Sherlock? She had not seen her housemate all day.) 

"You look happy," Hatano commented.

"No, not really," she protested gently. Then she changed subjects. "How long have you been there?" Did the older lady learned how to sneak up from Sherlock or was it the other way around?

Hatano stepped forward and sat on the armrest. In her hands, there was a small circular bottle with a spray top. "Ta-da! It's cucumber toner," she explained.

Cucumber toner? Did a friend give it to the landlady?

"Sherlock made too much," Hatano continued. "Here." It was handed over.

Wato automatically pointed at herself. It seemed surreal that her housemate would give her something. The last "present" she received was a list of ridiculous rules she did not bother memorizing (other than coffee).

"She said it's not just for skin, but also good for scars," the landlady concluded before leaving after that.

Wato stared at her cucumber toner. How did Sherlock knew about her scars? She made sure to keep the door shut at all times whenever she changed clothes, bathed, and tended her dressings.

Regardless, it was a nice gesture. Did her housemate had a change of heart?

***

It was late at night. Sherlock was not home, but for some reason Adler was. The celebrity was in the living room with Hatano as they shared dinner and watched a Hulu Japan program. Wato wanted to grab a water bottle before going to bed. She quietly tiptoed downstairs to avoid attention. She nearly jumped when Hatano exclaimed, "Rin-san! That's you!"

Curiosity got the better of Wato. She turned over to see what the landlady was referring to. On the flat screen, the camera showed Irene's backside. It was smooth and devoid of any blemishes or scars. It was pristine.

Unlike hers.

(Sherlock was incredibly lucky to have a woman like Adler in her life.)

The commercial and chatter from the two women were tuned out as she heard phantom explosions and cries in Arabic. Wato shook her head; thanks to her sessions with Dr. Irikawa, she knew this was PTSD. It pained Wato it was getting more serious; looked like she would have to book another appointment. 

She was brought back to reality when her body ached. Wato walked into the kitchen, retrieved a bottle, and made a detour to the bathroom for ibuprofen before returning to her room.

Chapter Text

“Cease what you are doing and gaze at me,” she commanded. “Stop everything, save for the thrumming of your heart.” Both prisoner and prison guard straightened their shoulders. The glazed look on their eyes became lucid. All attention in this confined space was on her. 

Excellent.

She approached the table and neatly laid her notebook on the table; her bag was on the floor, leaning against the chair. She glanced up and came face to Shiina Yuma. It had been a very long time since they talked face-to-face.

“Hello, Sensei.” There was a bright smile on her face.

“Hello to you, Yuma-chan. It has been a long time. Tell me everything that happened.”

Obediently, Yuma narrated her tale of desperation, success, and downfall. It was on par what Tachibana Wato told her last month. She enjoyed listening to the same story from a different perspective. None of their conversation was recorded. It was not after she gave Yuma final instructions when she pressed the recording button. The following interrogation was one-sided, consistent to the other reports from the other psychologists.

She pressed the intercom, informing a government official that her session was concluded. She did not bother looking at her patient as she left the interrogation room. This was the last time she would see the young lady.

***

Irikawa Mariko just stepped inside her office when her phone rang. An hour ago, she was fighting the afternoon rush. It could not be helped that she was summoned to a government building that served as solitary confinement for suspects that threatened national security. In a few hours, the case would collapse on itself. She made sure that Yuma would conceal all details to her older sister. Shiina Arisa would be very useless for the case. It was safe to say it would end with a roadblock.

Speaking of wordplay, the inverse of useless was transforming into a fruitful avenue. Her newest patient, Tachibana Wato, was scheduling appointments more frequently. She was quite pleased at this turnabout. It took the counselor’s willpower to maintain a professional facade when Wato confessed she had a PTSD episode while shopping on a Sunday morning. In her notes, Mariko predicted that the petite physician would not only develop PTSD, but also a psychosomatic illness. Wato was on her way to suffer from the latter soon. It was great timing that Toru’s exhibition opened when Wato was already acclimated in Tokyo. Her talks were the inception of the Syrian conflict flashbacks, the war photographer merely enforced it.

Thanks to the PTSD attack, Mariko had to admit Wato’s adventures with Sherlock were more entertaining.

During her tale about the vanished bride, the patient mentioned she had trouble breathing at the convenience store. Her reaction costed their efforts to investigate a suspect called Koda Natsuo. Afterwards, Wato returned to her home, took a shower and did a walked-in appointment. For the counselor, it was a pleasant surprise. All this time, she was patiently stripping her guarded exterior. The bespectacled woman's efforts were greatly rewarded when the physician expressed her greatest vulnerability: being treated differently. Her fear stemmed from the scars she sustained back in Syria. The intensity of the bomb blast lead the young woman to conclude it would never fully heal. She did not want the esteem others had for her go to waste; she detested that vulnerability.

She told Wato it did not change her opinion. That was partially true. In reality, her impression on Wato’s character drastically improved. Her patient looked so surprised by that declaration. Perfect, now she had another one in her clutches. With this vulnerability exposed, Mariko could break her spirit. She could transform an interpersonal, caring doctor to a heartless terrorist. Oh yes, she had great plans for Tachibana Wato. 

After their session, Mariko noticed that Wato deliberately left out the part where she went out drinking at The Gulliver in Shinjuku. However, that was what Toru was for. Since those two exchanged contact information, he kept an eye on whenever they went out. Using the information the counselor elicited from Wato’s private life, she constructed a narrative for Toru: he traveled to Thailand and photographed the 2010 Loi Krathong. She stressed it was important for the photographer to sound remorseful for his photos to trigger flashbacks. Though, he went a little too far about sprouting shit about fate. According to him, Wato merely stared at him and quickly drank her beer. The counselor imagined how awkward it must have been for the bartender to witness that. She respected Toru’s approach of being transparent, but there were times subtlety could be better.

However, the important part was that he brought Wato back to his apartment and gave her an umeboshi drink laced with a low dose of benzodiazepines. It was an integrative step to alter her cognition and induce the petite woman to a state of hyper suggestibility. By biding her time and orchestrating external factors, there will be a new Dock disciple.

Now it was the next step of her long con. She pulled out her cellphone and called a specific number. “Yoshiyuki-kun,” she greeted. “It’s time to take revenge on Takayama. You have worked hard to uncover the truth.” She paused, listening to whatever concerns he had to say.

“Yes, Yuri-chan would like that. Remember, ‘forgiving the wicked brings nobody peace.’”

After that, she hung up. Yoshiyuki would start his mission. There was a fifty percent chance that he would not live after his assignment. It was a shame-it was never easy to lose a soldier when they got caught. 

Too bad there was a worthy adversary within the ranks of authorities: Sherlock. No thanks to her, Mariko lost Akiko and Yuma. 

She heard whispers and seen obscured forum posts about the detective. The counselor never doubted the other woman’s prowess, she already had a first hand account thanks to her patient. The young physician was certainly exasperated by her housemate, yet she unconsciously forged a sense of companionship. Mariko looked forward twisting it; examining the stress of the coils being wounded so tightly, it would eventually snap from the tension.

The swiftest way to shatter someone’s rationality was to cripple their sense of reality. That was exactly what she done to Akiko, Yuma, Yoshiyuki, Toru, and countless others. She looked forward adding Tachibana Wato to her collection. Larceny of reasoning was her most prized carnal hedonism.

***

A few days later, Toru called her. He promptly informed her that she would be receiving a call from Wato. It turned out the young doctor’s landlady had an abundance of yams and planned a small party. The idea was cute, but infiltrating 221b was much easier than she anticipated. The counselor thanked him for the information and acted very surprised when her patient called her.

On the day of the party, Toru picked her up. The war photographer reassured her that he had the equipment. Mariko never doubted him. He was the finest soldier she fashioned. He was responsible and always went beyond her expectations. There was little talk between them; they both knew the roles they must play.

As Toru pulled up the curb where 221b was at, the bespectacled woman found the architecture peculiar. She liked the European and Japanese co-inhabitation. The counselor was quite certain the owner must have lived in Europe for a good number of years. She recognized the Swiss chalet structure (complete with large windows) and the gambrel roof style anywhere. When the ringer at the front gate was pressed, the gate suddenly propped open. There was tiny Wato with a smile on her face. She enthusiastically greeted the guests and welcomed them in. Mariko took the lead, she knew how to smooth out introductions.

There was an older woman at the front entrance; it could only be the landlady. 

“It’s great to be here!” she greeted with a smile and a bow. 

“This is Irikawa-sensei, my counselor,” Wato explained to the landlady. “Please don’t tell Sherlock.”

“Why not?” she asked, turning to the young doctor.

“She guesses people jobs right away.” Her patient pouted before having a mischievous grin on her face. “I’ll say Irikawa-sensei is a photographer, too. I want to trick her!” The two giggled at their prank.

The counselor doubted it would work, but she will humor them for now. The hostess invited them inside.

***

They were quickly settled in the lounge room. The person-whose reputation preceded her-was already sitting in her favorite chair, wearing a fuchsia turtle neck long sleeve. Mariko was certain that today’s outfit was a deliberate choice: to conceal yet assert command of the room. It was uniquely feminine and it successfully made the consulting detective hard to read.

It was nice to meet her adversary. 

She chose to sit by Sherlock’s left. It was sign of intimacy to know one’s enemy. Her opponent seemed to recognize it as well. Immediately, the short haired woman gazed at her. “You’re her counselor, right?” Everyone else remained quiet, unsure what to say. Mariko anticipated this.

“Your outfit is not too flashy, but not too drab,” she continued. “The only accessory is a watch.” The counselor looked down to act as if the deduction surprised her. 

The detective leaned closer. “Your perfume is a scent hardly anyone dislikes.” The floral fragrance was intended for reducing anxiety and stress. “You’re not trying to assert your personality, a common trait among psychiatrists and counselors.”

Mariko maintained her posture as an involuntary shivered ran down her body. It had been years since someone dared to do an evaluation on her. This woman before her was her equal; her opposite on this wager of crime. “Amazing deduction reasoning,” she remarked.

“Spoilsport,” Wato mumbled before taking her seat between Toru and the landlady. Mariko chuckled. Playing with Sherlock would be so much fun!

Once the yam dishes were served the older lady started the conversation. “You must have studied hard to become a counselor.”

She chuckled, playing off with false modesty. “People think psychology is very difficult. Yet, it is everywhere,” she began. The owner was hooked. “For example, signs that say ‘1 per person,’’10 servings a day,’ or ‘today only,’ don’t you feel more drawn to the item?”

“I do!” The hostess clapped excitedly. Wato also concurred.

“Not me,” Sherlock countered. “Why buy what you don’t want?” Mariko smiled; she liked this attitude, the anger. It was so contradictory to the detective’s hoarding nature-she had so much shit littered in the lounge room.

“What makes us want to buy?” Wato interjected. 

“In psychology, we call it the principle of scarcity. We value what is rare, so we want it more.”

Both the landlady and detective laughed. “What a stupid reason to value something!” the short haired woman commented.

There was brief silence before the physician spoke up again. “Sensei, what about psychological tests? I’ve seen them on TV. Are they reliable?”

In honesty, those really were not; it was nothing more than a facade of entertainment. Nonetheless, she would humor them again. “Suppose there is a large apple tree. Some apples have fallen on the ground. How many fell?”

“I don’t know, three?” Wato guessed.

“Thirty!” declared the landlady.

“Five,” Toru replied.

It was time for Sherlock’s response. Mariko was still trying to get a feel from the detective. 

“Where’s the tree? What’s the species? What’s the season?” she demanded. 

“Skip Sherlock!” the young doctor interjected once again. “What does this tells us?”

“The number of times you’ve fallen in love,” the psychologist easily lied. This test really did not mean shit.

Peals of laughter rang out. “Hatano-san, you fell in love thirty times!” her patient announced. The laughter grew harder, even Sherlock joined in.

“I know one,” the short haired woman spoke up. That sparked everyone’s attention. “Santa Claus gives a boy a soccer ball, but he is not happy with it. Why?”

Oh? Where was her adversary going with this idea? The counselor had a theory, but was intrigued to find out.

“He already has the ball,” the landlady said.

“He doesn’t like soccer,” Mariko offered. Wato had the same conclusion as well. Now it was Toru’s turn. She looked forward to hear his response.

“Maybe the boy has no legs,” the war photographer commented quietly. Macabre, but expected. She knew enough grisly tales of children heavily injured from artillery and projectiles. 

The light-hearted mood quickly dampened. The young doctor could not even think of a response.

The hostess turned to Sherlock. “What does this test tell us?"

The detective looked at mug as she answered. “To tell if you’re a psychopath.” She briefly looked up at Toru’s direction. The mug was raised to her lips, concealing a smirk that she knew what he was.

Mariko never encountered someone so brazen before. Another involuntary shiver ran through her composed frame. From peripheral view, she quietly gauged his next reaction. She had high expectations for him to maintain his cool, but there was always a small percentage of marginal error. It did not help that the detective was still staring at him. Her dark eyes goaded him to react. This short haired woman truly enjoyed provoking others.

“Moriya-san, why did you think that?” Wato interjected as an attempt to ease the thick tension. 

“It was all that came to mind,” he simply answered. There was no change to the mood.

The landlady quickly jumped in and offered baked treats that her patient made.

The spell was broken when a cell phone vibrated. The call was meant for Sherlock as the detective immediately perked up. The short haired woman excused herself and picked up her phone. “Inspector?” she greeted.

Inspector, huh? Mariko had no doubt they were investigating Yoshiyuki’s handiwork.

“I see; I’m on my way.” Sherlock swiftly ended her call.

“Did something happened?” the older lady asked. 

“A finger arrived.” The detective looked so pleased when she said that. Too bad Sherlock was not a patient; Mariko would loved to take a chance at analyzing her psychology. Without giving time for anyone to react, the short haired woman took her purse and coat. “Enjoy the food,” she said before leaving.

The other two 221b residents were surprised by the gesture. The petite physician kept her stare at Sherlock’s departing figure. 

The landlady leaned forward. “Wato-san, you want to go, right?”

“Not at all!” she denied, picking up her bowl. “She’s exhausting, upsetting people wherever she goes. She was awful to a sergeant that lost his mentor! So insensitive!” Yet, with all that criticism, her eyes were glued to the door. 

“Go on,” Toru encouraged. Wato looked at him and thoughtfully considered. Eventually she placed her bowl down.

“Sorry; if I’m not with her, she’ll start trouble. I’ll be back soon!” The young woman made her exit.

“She became a great partner for Sherlock,” the owner commented in approval. There was a brief pause before she spoke up again. “So, what’s a psychopath?”

Oh, this was going to take a while.

***

Moriya Toru was furious. The insult he received earlier stung. He could not even concentrate on the tasty food before him. All the flavors tasted like ash in his mouth. His fiery emotions were burning away his restraints. How dare that so called consulting detective called him a psychopath! He was not a psychopath! 

 

Not a psychopath!

                                                                                                                                                                   Not a psychopath!

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NOT! A! PSYCHOPATH!                         NOT A PSYCHOPATH!

NOT A PSYCHOPATH!

 

HE WAS NOT A PSYCHOPATH!

 

“Toru-kun,” Sensei called out, breaking him from his thoughts. “Sherlock is wrong for calling you a psychopath.” Yes, Sensei was right. It felt great to have her reassure him.

“That bitch needs to be punished,” he mumbled angrily. God, if only he can wring his hands around her neck. That bitch looked flimsy; all talk, no action. It should not be hard to snap it in two.

“She will,” Sensei reassured. “That is why we need to collect her finger prints. Sherlock has already proven to be a bright individual. We need to set rules for our game. We need to tip the scales in our favor.”

“Yes, you’re right Sensei. We’ll also have Wato join The Dock,” Toru affirmed.

“That will come in time. Hurry up with your mission before the landlady comes back.”

Toru complied with the order. The camera bag he carried to 221b had fine powder and a brush to dust for fingerprints. Given that they were in the bitch’s space, it was quite easy to collect the data. Satisfied by the results, Sensei ordered him to use his camera and take pictures of documents containing sensitive information. 

To him, the bitch was a pack rat. She was a goddamn hoarder that had so much papers and books. It was a miracle that 221b had not caught on fire. He opened a nightstand that had stacks of file folders. The war photographer pulled them out and turned them horizontal to read the tab labels.

The first one had an interesting title. 

 

2016年4月1日 他殺体: 桜塚護聖

 

“Sensei,” he announced. “Look what I found.” He brought the file to her.

“April 1st, 2016 Murder Victim: Sakurazukamori Sei,” she read out loud. Sensei took the file from his hands and placed it on her lap. She gently opened it and scanned the content.

“Sakurazukamori Sei was a second-year at Kokuji High School that died from an abnormal Hanahaki Byou growth. She had an obsession with a male first year student. That student, however, was in a secret relationship with a male third year. She died from her anger towards the couple and unrequited love,” Sensei summarized.

Then she read a little further. “How ironic,” she mused, “the flower she bloomed was a sakura during Hanami. Do you know the story about their pink colors?”

“No, what is it?”

“Normally the petals are white, but corpses are buried underneath the tree. The blood from the victims are sucked up by the roots. The tree feeds on the decayed. That is how the flowers bloom every year with a pink hue.”

That was a fascinating story, he always liked the tales she told. Sensei was always gracious to impart her wisdom to others. That bitch was so ungrateful, rejecting Sensei twice.

“Sensei, is it possible?” Sherlock succumbing to Hanahaki Byou was the ultimate contingency. Playing into unrequited feelings with Wato will be the icing on the misfortune cake. He seen how her gaze lasted longer on Wato than anyone else during the yam gathering. It was clear Wato did not feel the same to the bitch. Sensei roped her well with the bonfim bracelet. She was deeply enamored by him. He played his role as the dashing boyfriend well.

“Yes,” she confirmed. “Sherlock’s downfall will be easier than I thought. Toru-kun, please have your camera ready. There are pictures I want you to take from this document.”

Toru pulled out his Canon DSLR and pressed the on-switch. Soon as the camera was on, he pointed it at the papers Sensei wanted. He focused the lens before pressing the shutter.

SNAP! SNAP! SNAP!

He took pictures in a quick succession. There was no need to worry about redoing a shot, he was a war photographer after all.

Once Sensei was satisfied with the information accumulated, he placed the files back. Now it was time to collect fingerprints. His eyes drifted to the small kitchenette. The table and countertops were littered with petri dishes, test tubes, beakers, syringes, and other equipment for science experiments. To him, all he saw was reliable forensic data. 

The war photographer slipped on latex gloves. He brought his brush, dark powder, tape, and evidence card to the table. He gingerly picked up one of the beakers. Toru tapped the brush into the powder. Once the bristles were coated, he hovered it over the beaker and gently tapped the brush. The rap caused the powder to fall, covering the glass surface. Now that the oils were visible, he got his tape and lifted the prints. The evidence card was filled with prints from multiple fingers.

However, that was not enough. They needed all ten fingerprints; there was at least four from the beaker. There not much time before the landlady returned upstairs. He stowed away his dusting materials and brought out an electric pen with a metallic filing brush. Using the pen was less time consuming than dusting. He quickly went to work, scouring through the other lab equipment. So much was accumulated in a short time. He was confident that all ten prints (including extras) were all captured. 

The lab equipment were returned to its proper place, providing the illusion it was left untouched. All his tools returned in his camera bag. He returned to his seat before Hatano returned with a fresh teapot. The kind hostess offered him a cup of Jasmine Oolong tea. The warm drink was exactly what he needed to quell his rage. Now he could easily relax, knowing that he accomplished his task. Sensei steered them in the right direction. She was Stella Maris, the herald for guiding everyone into a new world.

***

By the time the gathering concluded, Wato nor the bitch returned. That was fine by him. He did not need his temper to be flared by the sight of that bitch. The two said good bye to Hatano and returned to his car. It was evening when they left 221b. The temperature dramatically dropped from the afternoon. It was clear that winter was coming soon. The war photographer was quite concern for Sensei’s health since she started lightly coughing once they were outside. Soon as he turned on the ignition, the heater was flipped on. She kindly thanked him and remained silent on the drive to the outskirts of Tokyo.

At The Dock, Toru asked one of his comrades to prepare a bowl of nabe for Sensei. The young man ran off to the kitchen to ask the cooking staff. Toru walked down the sterile halls until he stopped at the forensic room. The room had state of the art equipment that most police departments would be jealous to have. He unloaded his bag, taking special care of the prints. 

The war photographer began processing the biological data. First, he organized the prints to the respective fingers and hands. Second, he selected the ones that had the clearest impression of the finger friction ridges. These were scanned into the computer. The digital copy of the prints were emailed to their contact in the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department with instructions to secretly upload it to the database. 

Toru pulled out his phone and texted Kurata Mitsuki. She was to be on standby; her time was coming soon.

Once he was done with Dock duties, the war photographer turned his attention to his day job. There were emails from his publisher informing him that his photo book printing were in the final stages. It was set to hit the bookstores soon. There was a sense of accomplishment for him to display the injustice of political warfare imposed on the children. His photo book was a stepping stone to expose the world of such twenty-first century evils and a trumpet for revolution. 

Another email informed him that personal copies would be ready for pick up. He could not wait to share them with his Dock comrades, Sensei, and Wato. 

Chapter Text

Tachibana Wato practically ran after Sherlock. She flung open the front gate, only to see the cab patiently waiting. Her housemate was inside, deep in thought-much to Wato’s relief. She flashed a smile of thanks to the driver and got in. It was a quiet ride to the police department, yet they kept getting the red lights. The setback enabled Wato to process this bizarre case.

***

It started with a package delivered to Takayama Yuichi, the college-aged son of Takayama Kouichi, the former head of the National Police Agency and a politician that was a likely candidate to become the prime minister. The maid, Ichihara, handed the parcel to Takayama Shizuka, the wife of the representative and mother of the Tojo University student. The lady of the household took it upon herself to open the object for her son. It turned out to be an icebox filled with dry ice. Resting on top was a bloody ear sealed in plastic wrap. There was no question that the ghastly sight would warrant a call to the investigation department and ignite the investigation spark in the other woman’s eyes once she was notified of a baffling case. (Thank goodness for that, otherwise Wato would be wrestling a knife with her childish housemate. She saw no joy nor fascination with running a freaking blade against the wrist.)

Unlike the previous cases, the first stop was not the crime scene site. Rather, they went to the precinct’s forensic laboratory. Like all labs, it was sterile and quiet-sans for the humming of machines analyzing data. Inspector Reimon introduced them to Dr. Mukaiyama Ryouko, the lead scientist. Dr. Mukaiyama was a skittish bespectacled woman that valued silence in her workspace. Everyone that stepped foot in her lab had to comply with speaking in hushed tones. Sherlock and Reimon had no trouble with keeping their voices low while she and Shibata had to keep themselves in check.

Upon opening the box, the forensic scientist explained that the wrap and dry ice slowed down the decay. This allowed the parcel to be delivered without arousing suspicion of a body part decomposing in transport. Her housemate handed the box over to Dr. Mukaiyama, declaring that there was something inside the ear. The bespectacled woman immediately complied. She put on latex gloves, grabbed scissors, and started cutting the wrap. As she fished out the organ, she reached over for tweezers and gently plucked out a circular object.

Reimon asked what the object was and the housemate explained it was a hearing aid while opening a door containing blood samples (forensic labs must be some kind of amusement park to her). Wato did not realized that hearing aids could be this tiny. Sherlock retorted that model was for young women and people that wore glasses. This lead to Shibata speculating that the victim was a young woman with hearing loss, but she refuted that. Apparently the ear and hearing aid did not match: the hearing aid was made for a woman, but the ear belonged to a man.

Sherlock’s sharp observation never failed to impress her.

That information was enough for the inspector and sergeant to narrow their search for a man missing his ear, though the chances of him being alive were so slim. For Dr. Mukaiyama, on the other hand, she called her team over to take measurement and perform a 3D scan of the ear canal. They would also start analyzing the DNA. Given the quiet nature of the workspace, Wato could only imagine her housemate would find joy working here if she was not a consulting detective. With the two parties off with their task, the two women opted to leave the police department.

A new taxi drove them to the Takyama household. While the mansion was impressive, Wato was surprised by the lack of Sherlock’s knowledge of the politician. How could her housemate have so much uncommon knowledge (mourning jewelry, resin, convallatoxin, bats, curare, etc.) yet, be so clueless about important figures mentioned on the news? The other woman easily justified that her mind was a closet with limited capacity. Hence it was filled with trivial knowledge that somehow provided context to their investigations and not names of people. Perhaps this was why the consulting detective never bothered remembering her name. Wato bristled at that fact.

It was too much to ask for her housemate to at least be polite.

 

1. She pressed the door bell too many times and shoved Wato in front of her to talk to Ichihara, the maid. Sherlock, meanwhile, started playing with a tall pot off to the side. 

2. When Ichihara lead them to the sitting room, Sherlock started to play with the maid's apron. Wato never felt so embarrassed by being associated with this childish woman. She had gone too far with that curiosity stunt (it somehow topped off the ring playing at Saeki Design Co.). It was completely inappropriate in public. Wato forced herself to not think about her intimacy with Adler. Her throat suddenly felt sore, she suppressed the urge to cough.

3. While Wato was surprised to see Sherlock’s brother inside (his name still remained a mystery to her), but that was eclipsed by her housemate’s appalling behavior towards the son. Like everyone else, Yuichi was put off by the blunt deduction of his penchant for Porsches. Both Wato and the brother teamed up to keep Sherlock in check.

 

Yuichi was consistent with the police report of not knowing the sender nor with anyone with hearing loss. The interaction was brief and quite crude. He abruptly left the room when he received a call from his friend. Shizuka also left when she ran after her son, asking if he had enough money. The meeting concluded on an unsatisfying note. Ichihara escorted her and the siblings out of the mansion. While Sherlock preoccupied herself with a large plant pot in the front for some reason again, she and the older brother discussed more about the Takayama family. It was clear that Yuichi was spoiled by a mother that allowed him to act rude in front of others and a father that covered up his delinquent acts: from killing and dissecting a cat to running over a classmate he hated. It was a shame that corruption was alive and well with law enforcement; social harmony was an illusion in light of these scandals. While the son had a detestable personality, the ear and hearing aid most likely had something to do with his troublemaking activities. 

The two women followed him to his car. Suddenly, her roommate switched topics. She asked about Shiina Arisa, the older sister and accomplice of Shiina Yuma. Wato had not heard about the sisters in weeks. Did something happened in the ongoing investigation?

Wato’s heart sank when her housemate’s kin revealed that Yuma committed suicide. While the setback was obstructing that case, the loss of life greatly upset her. She could not imagine how Arisa was feeling after losing a family member. There was hope that the eldest Shiina would provide some clues, but that was unlikely since she acted under Yuma’s orders. Sherlock’s brother also divulged that there was an impasse for deducing what was Stella Maris. Their talk concluded with him kicking them out of his car and instructing his sister to not get distracted by the Takayama case. He made it clear that the Shiina investigation was under government jurisdiction. They watched him drive off as they waited for a cab to pick them up. There was not much they could do at the moment, so they returned to 221b.

Few days later, Wato kept thinking about the Takyama family. They were truly dysfunctional under the guise of being a perfect family. What would the administration be like under Takayama Kouichi’s leadership? Her houemate quipped that nothing would change as justice and evil would have no meaning. Wato frowned at that attitude and remark.

Did she really have to be so bleak? Did her friends found her weird? Even when Wato questioned it, the other woman bluntly explained that she had no friends since childhood.

If that was the case, then what was Adler to Sherlock? From her perspective, the actress was clear on defining their relationship. Her chest felt tight at the thought of their intimacy again. Wato really needed to earn more money so she could be financially stable to move out of 221b.

It was pointless to argue with the consulting detective. Wato directed her efforts to folding laundry. She was relieved that none of the clothing belonged to the celebrity. It would be too awkward to fold such revealing attire, she hardly saw the actress wore anything that was remotely modest. Although, that did not stop her outburst about Sherlock having multiple button downs. It was clear that her housemate had expensive taste and was quite fashionable, however, what was the point of having the same shirt? Not just one or two, but at least ten? What was with the extravagance?

Wato did not have time to ponder as Hatano came in with two crates of yams she received from a friend. It would be very difficult for the three of them (well four, but who knew when Adler was leaving) to eat the vegetables, so the landlady proposed a party where they could eat yam-based dishes. Wato thought that was a swell idea and the older lady encouraged her to invite Moriya. She smiled at the coaxing. Like Hatano, she had not properly thanked him for the lovely pictures he took of her. 

Wato’s smile slightly faltered as the landlady continued about inviting other friends. For her, Moriya and Irikawa were the closest she had to a social circle. Everyone else she interacted with were colleagues, customers, or clients. None of them had any foundations for association, let alone friendship. In Tokyo, she was a woman with no ties to her name. There was no prestige Tachibana Hospital within the Kanto region of healthcare. Plus, the only people that knew her background were no longer around anymore. She dispelled all thoughts about Dr. Mizuno and Akiko.

“Is Wato-san your friend?” 

Hmmm, what was this about? Wato glanced over at Hatano. The older woman was staring at Sherlock who was swiveling in her computer chair.

“She’s not my friend,” the housemate retorted quickly.

Of course they were not friends. She was only staying at 221b until she found a way to get back on her feet. The closest semblance of friendship was Adler and Wato avoided speculation at all cost regarding their...companionship.

Their conversation stopped short as Inspector Reimon called Sherlock again. There was a new development on the investigation since the housemate had a grin on her face. That smile grew wider as she and Hatano were informed that the body of the missing ear was found. Wato and the landlady shared a matching grim of the news. This consulting detective was enjoying this morbid case a little too much.

The two women quickly left 221b and took a taxi to a high-rise complex in Shinagawa. It was nighttime when they arrived, but the blaring sirens and flashing light bars from the police vehicles provided illumination. Officers guarding at the entrances permitted them to use the elevators. They stopped at the sixth floor where another officer was keeping lookout at the unit near the end of the hall.

Inside, there was a male body tied to a chair. His ankles had zip ties around the chair legs. His arms were behind the chair (also fastened by zip ties). These were the lock that prevented the body from collapsing. His head slumped down. Eyes were closed and there was brown packing covering the mouth. The right side was bloodied due to severing the ear. The hacking ruined his clothing. In addition, there were two stab wounds at the abdomen: one below the chest, the other near the large intestine. Blood from these wounds dripped downwards, leaving dark pool stains on the pants, chair, and carpet.

It had been over twelve hours since the Takayamas received the ear. Wato noted that the body was at the algor mortis stage. Despite her knowledge in forensic science, she saw no joy in this homicide. Reimon quietly explained that this was Kawasaki Yuzo, a forty-five year old inspector from the same unit of the Investigation Department. This was probably how the police were able to quickly narrow down the missing person and location. The inspector continued that the late Kawasaki was passionate about his work and served as a mentor to Shibata. 

Her heart went out to the sergeant: she knew exactly what it felt like to lose a teacher to senseless crime. The detective was even around the same age as her mentor. The young man was distraught like she was, wondering out loud why did this happened to him.

Sherlock, meanwhile, remained unaffected. Not only she stood close to the body (clearly immune by the scent of death), but also kept touching the corpse! She lightly patted his chin with her bare hand as if the act would wake him up. In an angry tone, Shibata asked her to stop the antic. Her housemate ignored him and moved right behind inspector. She placed her hands on the shoulders and shook him. That set off the sergeant as he leaped up from his squat and smacked her hand away from his late mentor.

She merely replied that he was too emotional.

Of course he was emotional, that was what grieving was. Any homicide investigation could be taxing; it was more grueling when the victim was a friend or loved one.

Yet, the other woman had no empathy. She demanded that Reimon needed to remove the sergeant from the case. The bespectacled man did no such thing and asked her to refrain from trading taunts. Shibata, while trying to keep his tears in check, explained that Inspector Kawasaki had so much sympathy for the victims and their family. He made yearly visits to their graves and visited families to help them with their grief. The stressed on compassion led Wato to believe he was indirectly insulting her housemate.

Sherlock, on the other hand, was unimpressed and demanded that the sergeant tell her about the case. Shibata glared at her before exchanging glances with his supervisor. Then he launched into his report. The inspector died two days ago, between 10:00 PM and midnight. The cause of death was fatal stab wounds. No murder weapons have been found yet. Wato mentally cheered that her growing deduction skill set was par with the investigation department.

Her housemate made an interesting comment that the stabbing was well done. That garnered looks from the three of them. She elaborated that it was a clean hit with no pretense of hesitation. Wato shuddered at that description; it was hard to imagine someone so callous. Reimon wondered if the perpetrator had done it before. The other woman pondered at the inspector’s inquiry.

Couple of hours later, they joined Reimon and Shibata at the forensic lab. Dr. Mukaiyama confirmed that the DNA found from the ear and Kawasaki’s body were a clear match. The hearing aid, meanwhile, was manufactured under a company called Tone Susan. It was a model released in 2013. As expected, it did not fit the late inspector’s ear. He also did not have hearing loss. This new information puzzled Wato. What was the point of the ill-matched hearing aid and ear?

Sherlock interrupted (which made the poor head scientist flinched again) and asked if there was a connection between him and Takayama’s son. So far, there was nothing. There was not much for the two women to do, so they left the precinct and returned to 221b.

Planning for a yam party was a welcome change to the horrifying and perplexing case. Wato texted Moriya first. She later called her therapist a few days after Kawasaki’s body was found and her shift (which was on purpose to work longer hours). They both accepted her invitation, much to her delight. Hatano did not have much luck with anyone in her social circles to RSVP. Sherlock did not bother to make an effort to inform Adler. Wato was not seeing her much these days-thank goodness.

Wato and Hatano opted to greet the two guests on the day of the party. After introducing her counselor to her landlady, a naughty trick formed in her mind. She conspired with the older lady to possibly trick Sherlock about Dr. Irikawa’s occupation. As a licensed psychologist, surely the therapist could use her knowledge to fool her roommate!

She was wrong, dead wrong.

One glance at Dr. Irikawa enabled Sherlock to deduce her counselor’s occupation. There was a small part of her that was intrigued by the details. Who knew that olfaction and fashion heavily played a role in psychology? Wato realized that these attributes contributed to Dr. Irikawa’s success as a counselor. There was a sense of gratitude from the volunteer medical team assigning her to that practice.

Regardless, that did not stop her from voicing her displeasure at her housemate’s blunt nature. Since her counselor was impressed by the analysis, Wato supposed all was well. 

The party began off without a hitch. Hatano was intrigued by her counselor’s profession, which lead to Dr. Irikawa entertaining Wato and the landlady with her psychology trivia. Wato did her best to not let Sherlock’s responses soured the jovial atmosphere. Nevertheless, she was powerless to stop the other woman from sharing a psychological test of her own. The question about the boy’s unhappiness seemed innocent enough. She and her therapist shared the same guess, while it evoked a dark response from Moriya. The chilling answer dampened the mood and it got worse when her housemate declared it was an evaluation for psychopathy.

Wato barely suppressed the shiver that ran through her body. It did not help that Sherlock merely smiled as she brought her coffee cup to her lips. For a moment, she could not understand what was going through her housemate’s mind. Hatano did her best to salvage the situation after the proclamation, but normality resumed after Reimon called her. Her housemate brightened up remarkably as she declared a finger arrived at the precinct. With her attention redirected, Sherlock immediately grabbed her purse and coat. She barely muttered a good bye before waltzing out of the lounge room. Wato’s gaze remained steady at the door, long after the other woman left. She was torn between following her housemate and staying with her guests.

“You want to go right?” Hatano asked.

“Not all!” Wato exclaimed, picking up her bowl to resume eating. “She’s exhausting; upsetting people wherever she goes. She was awful to a detective that lost his mentor; she’s very insensitive.” The memory of Sherlock acting inconsiderate to a grieving Shibata was engrained in her mind. With the new development in the case, her housemate could easily clash with the investigation team through her lack empathy. The case could not afford discord between her and the authorities, especially when the culprit was a professional killer. On instinct, her gaze returned back to the door.

“Go on,” Moriya spoke up. She stared at him, there was understanding beaming sincerely in his eyes. Her decision was made. Wato slowly put down her bowl and stood up. 

“Sorry; if I’m not with her, she’ll start trouble. I’ll be back soon.” She scurried off to grab her coat and purse.

***

In the taxi, Wato mused that it would have been better if Adler was present. The actress had a flair for words and was adept with the art of conversation. Her therapist would have an engaging conversation regarding psychology along with swapping tales abroad for photoshoots with Moriya. From Wato’s line of sight, she would have witnessed the celebrity salvaging the situation with ease and subtlety, probably by placing her hand on Sherlock’s lap or shoulder. There was an acute pain in her chest. She shook her head to clear the mental imagery of the celebrity keeping Sherlock in place. The pain immediately went away after that.

The cab stopped in front of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. Seeing the eighteen story high concrete building was a familiar sight for her. Throughout her time in the capital, she was a regular visitor. (Wato had mixed feelings about that revelation.) She followed her housemate's lead as they exited the vehicle after paying. The clack of heels and soft squeaks of converse sneakers filled the halls as the two women arrived at the forensic lab.

Reimon and one of Dr. Mukaiyama’s assistants were waiting for them. At a table, there was another ice box addressed to the Takayama house. According to the inspector, it was addressed to the son again. Sherlock grinned broadly as she lifted the box. Inside had dry ice and with a plastic wrap resting on top. Instead of another ear, it was a finger.

“The false nail,” the consulting detective began as she picked it up. “It doesn’t match.” Wato moved closer to get a better look. The index finger short and wide while the false nail was tall and slim. It was an ill fit as the nail plate was exposed. She observed that the false nail was also placed haphazardly since the glue was visible.

“I’ve seen this mole before,” her housemate continued. Wato could only wondered who; her mind raced with possible people they interacted with in the past few days. Seconds later, the other woman whirled around to face the assistant. “Where’s your boss?”

Oh, no.

“We haven’t heard from her since yesterday,” the forensic scientist replied. 

That did not sound good.

Her housemate tossed the finger to the assistant. The poor scientist gasped as she caught it. “Find her!” Sherlock ordered as she stood up and stormed out. Wato jogged after with Reimon following behind her. The inspector escorted them to a police vehicle. He made a radio call to have a team at Dr. Mukaiyama’s residence. As he drove them, there was a sinking feeling in Wato’s stomach. 

The three arrived at an apartment complex. Officers were stationed everywhere. The sixth floor had barricade tape at the entrance of an apartment. The inspector paused to put on gloves a policeman gave him, while Sherlock lifted the tape over head and waltzed in. Wato was slightly reassured as the bespectacled man said that they were with him.

The interior had the same setup as Inspector Kawasaki’s crime scene. Dr. Mukaiyama was bound to a chair with brown packing tape over her mouth. Her striped long sleeved was stained with blood; the late forensic scientist sustained a fatal injury from the abdomen. Unlike the late detective, her hands were zip tied to the armrests. Her right hand was missing an index finger.

“Mukaiyama-sensei,” the inspector sighed. Wato could sense how upsetting this was for him. Her heart went out to the investigation department that lost two of their members to this senseless crime.

The consulting detective kneeled as she scanned the body, then she stood up and stepped aside. Wato moved closer and inspected the hand. It was a good thing Wato hardly ate the yams. Witnessing gruesome deaths were nothing to her, but this exposure was too much. She would love to leave, but duty as a budding assistant to Sherlock (as well as keeping her housemate in line) was stronger. There were responsibilities to be filled.

“There are no decoration on her other fingers,” she announced.

“Someone added it intentionally,” Reimon commented from above. “It’s similar to Kawasaki’s ear.”

“The false nail was a popular design from five years ago,” her housemate remarked. 

Five years ago?

The bespectacled man voiced Wato’s thoughts. “The hearing aid is also five years old. Is there a connection?”

“The hearing aid and false nail are messages.”

Their conversation was interrupted when the inspector’s phone rang.

 

A message for Reimon-san!

 

A message for Reimon-san!

 

A message for Reimon-san!

 

Reimon reached for his phone and disabled the notification. “It’s from Shibata,” he said. “He found the owner of the hearing aid.”

So that was why he was absent at the forensic lab! It was a good move that he did not accompany them to the late forensic scientist’s home. Shibata did not need an extra layer of anger towards Sherlock when he was still mourning. Reimon had the foresight to redirect his subordinate towards research. The sergeant’s efforts truly paid off.

The inspector moved closer and showed Wato the message. She was secretly proud that her considered her as a colleague. 

It was imperative for them to return back to the precinct. As they exited the crime scene, Wato paused to turn and look at the late forensic scientist one last time. She vowed that they will find the killer, deliver justice that Dr. Mukaiyama and Inspector Kawasaki deserve, and bring closure to the Investigation Department.

As the bespectacled man battled with the afternoon traffic back to police headquarters, Wato could not help but feel a sense of anticipation over the new information Shibata uncovered. It was a puzzling sensation as this case was sickening and draining. She took a glance at Sherlock, who was sitting in the passenger seat. Her housemate had her hands clasped together, her eyes glanced downwards and were focused. Wato noticed that she also had a gleam of excitement. Their feelings were the same.

Wato began to wonder if she was being weird from her prolong exposure to Sherlock.

Chapter Text

The office of the Investigation Department was busy with personnels walking in and out and a flurry of phone calls ringing. Barring from their current investigation, it was fascinating to see how the police tirelessly worked to keep the metropolitan safe. Shibata was waiting at Reimon’s desk as the three walked in. The inspector took his seat and the subordinate passed out copies of his findings. Before the sergeant could begin, he had to stop Sherlock from playing with the office phone of First Investigation Division Chief Kamogawa. Wato idly wondered if she was fascinated with a corded telephone or she had something against the investigation chief. Based on his glare when the other woman had her back turned, she surmised it was the latter. It was obvious that her housemate had history with these people.

Once Sherlock rejoined the group, Shibata began. “Takai Yuri, twenty-three years old; she was a nail artist. The customer list showed the hearing aid belonged to her. She had a hearing disability and died five years ago.” 

“Five years again?” Wato spoke up. She glanced down at the paperwork, Takai’s death date was September 9, 2013. This young lady was young, too young. There was a pang of sadness for the late artist.

“Takai Yuri was walking home from work,” the sergeant continued. “She got hit by a car. The driver took her body to a forest and abandoned it. Her body was found two days later. Inspector Kawasaki handled the case.” 

Inspector Kawasaki? Wato could sense a connection. 

“Was Mukaiyama the forensic scientist for this case?” Sherlock asked. Shibata confirmed it.

“Shibata, good job,” Reimon complimented. She wholeheartedly agreed with the inspector. He did a great job on his research. In the midst of his grief, he powered through to shed light on the truth. That was true strength.

The subordinate quietly bowed in thanks.

Sherlock glanced at the papers. “Fingerprints were on the body and glass was found at the scene, but there were no suspects.”

That seemed awfully suspicious. “Why?” Wato asked.

“Someone covered up the suspect’s identity.” 

Wato could literally see the cogwheels revolving in her housemate’s head. “Did you figure something out?” The two men stared at Sherlock. She did not even bother to respond.

***

The next step was learning more about the victim. There was not much on the Takai family, sadly. They were a family of three inflicted with multiple hardships. In 2009, Takai Yukiko was hospitalized. Her hospital stay resulted with their daughter looking for work to help with the bills. She managed to land a job at a nail salon. Four years later, just months after Yuri’s untimely death, Yukiko passed away. In a short time, Takai Yoshiyuki lost his family.

The only surviving member owned a dining hall in the Akasaka district of Minato. It was worth checking out. The eatery was located in the older, quieter neighborhood of the district. It was tricky to find as many residents and business blended together. Eventually, they found Takai Four Season Dining Hall.

The decor looked like any small eatery found on the side streets, the hidden culinary gems of the metropolitan. Unlike the other shops that were open, clean, and inviting, Takai Four Season Dining Hall was closed and disorganized. There were plastic crates haphazardly tossed in the front, there was recycle waste in the cavity. The glass case displaying sake bottles was marred with grime, dust, and dirt. The windows had the shades down from the inside, preventing light from filtering through. The slats were filled with unopened mail. It was clear that the establishment was not maintained: the posters on the walls were for an event back in May. 

Sherlock pushed Shibata to the side and approached the door. She jiggled the handle. It was locked. The other woman reached into her pocket and pulled out a lock picket. She began to fiddle with the lock.

The sergeant gasped at her illicit activity! “Sherlock, hey! Stop that!” he hissed. Wato felt bad for the young man. Her housemate’s antics was certainly not helping him. She disagreed with Sherlock’s actions, but she sensed urgency to solve the case.

“Excuse me, is something wrong?”

Oh, no! His outburst attracted a neighbor! Wato, Reimon, and Shibata turned to their left. There was a woman with curly hair pushed back by a red headband approached them. The three quickly got into formation to shield Sherlock’s break-in. Her housemate remained blissfuly unaware of the sacrifices they made while she did stunts like this.

“It’s fine, we’re the police,” the sergeant said quickly, flashing his badge towards the civilian. “Do you know when Takai-san left?”

“I haven’t seen him in a while,” she replied, trying to look behind them. Wato stood on her tippy toes to block the view. “Maybe six months ago?” 

“I did it!” Sherlock loudly proclaimed. She forcibly opened the door and walked inside. Wato felt embarrassed once again from her devious housemate.

“Wow,” Reimon muttered in amazement. Wato wondered how could the bespectacled man remained amused. He quickly turned around and followed the other woman. 

Thanks a lot, inspector! 

“Do you have any idea where he went?” Shibata continued. Wato moved closer to the sergeant to keep the neighbor distracted.

"I don’t know, but an association for bereaved families of traffic collision victims might know.”

“An association for bereaved families?” she repeated.

The civilian nodded her head. “It’s called Hinata. Takai-san did a lot with them. He often held meetings here.”

Shibata took out his notepad to write it down. She made a mental note to mention this to Sherlock. Since they were both distracted, Wato took her leave. 

The interior was dark and musty. It felt more cluttered in here than outside. The chairs were hanging upside down on the tables. She could see a thick layer of dust on every surface. 

“Thank you very much!” the sergeant cried out hastily as he closed the entrance door. 

“You picked a lock, we have to arrest you,” Reimon stated as he placed his hands on his hips. He was looking at Sherlock, who was rifling through the menus. Wato wondered if he was going to follow through with that arrest. He was an honorable man after all.

“Are you listening?” Shibata barked. The other woman was clearly not.

“We have no choice,” the inspector commented. Wato lifted her eyebrows when he reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone. The bespectacled man turned to face her and the subordinate. “We’re taking a half day-off, starting now.”

What? Being honorable did not mean there were terms and conditions!

“If we’re off duty, it’s not our problem.”

She could only stare at him in astonishment. Was this the secret to Sherlock getting away with practically everything? Was this the secret to Reimon keeping his job and rank? Wato certainly had mixed feelings towards the inspector now.

“Even so, we can’t ignore a crime,” the sergeant argued to his superior.

“I’ll take full responsibility,” the bespectacled man asserted. Shibata could not rebuttle against that.

Time to redirect the two men. Wato scanned her surroundings again. “Looks like he hasn’t been back.” No business owner nor chef would leave his establishment out of business nor dirty like this.

“No, he’s been here recently,” Sherlock spoke up.

“What? What do you mean by that?”

“I smell something.” Her housemate’s olfaction was quite powerful.

“It just smells musty to me.” Wato wondered what smell Sherlock’s nose picked up.

“It’s incense.” 

Incense?

The other woman walked further in, Wato followed. She heard Reimon emphasizing to Shibata they were off-duty.

They trailed behind Sherlock, who was walking upstairs. There was one room with the door opened. Her housemate peeked inside and walked in. From Wato’s right, there was a butsudan with three photos, candles, flowers, and incense.

“He came to burn incense for them,” she commented. In the front, there was Takai Yukiko on the left and her daughter on the right. Behind was a photo of all three, smiling brightly. Wato felt a wave of sadness coursing through her body. This reminded her of the Nishino butsudan.

(Why was she surrounded by so much family death? This was too distressing.)

Nevertheless, she clasped her hands together and paid her respects. Shibata also joined her and offered his prayers. Perhaps he was asking for forgiveness for Sherlock intruding their house.

“Sherlock,” Reimon called out. All heads turned to the inspector. He was standing near another room. They all walked closer. 

“What is this?” Wato wondered.

The most striking feature was the number of photographs and paper pinned to the closet. The cluster was very disturbing. 

“Inspector Kawasaki,” Shibata sighed.

Upon closer look, there were photos of Inspector Kawasaki and Dr. Mukaiyama. Seeing their profiles from various angles and places indicated they were unaware of being stalked. Wato felt sick looking at the images. Their deaths were predetermined. To the side, there were old news clippings, dated five years ago. This was a five year grudge. The hostility emanating from this closet was intimidating. She needed to look away. 

Wato glanced downwards. There was a kotatsu in the middle with pens, rulers, packing tape, food vacuum sealer, and mailing address slips haphazardly laid on top. There were even blood stains, bloodied gauzes, and rubbing alcohol. “Sherlock, look at this,” she called out. “He must have used that to seal the ear and finger.” She shuddered with the visual of Takai using a food vacuum sealer for body parts. It was an impossible image to erase. The sergeant crouched down to get a closer look.

“He’s a chef,” Reimon added from behind. “He knows how to use knives. I’ll call headquarters.” The inspector took his leave. 

Why Inspector Kawasaki and Dr. Mukaiyama? What grudge did he harbor against them? They were just part of the investigation.

“That’s exactly why,” Sherlock quipped from the side. She made herself comfortable at a chair. “They investigated.”

Ah, Wato said that out loud again. Sherlock really had selective hearing. Oh, well. “What do you mean?”

“Kawasaki was made to destroy evidence. Mukaiyama also got involved in the cover-up. Takai’s father found out and took revenge.”

“Revenge?” Wato felt sick to her stomach. She was no stranger to these revenge violence plots due to her volunteer experience. Yet, each gruesome story was never easy to process. It never mattered where she went, the tale of human cruelty remained the same.

“Wait a minute,” the sergeant cut in. “Inspector Kawasaki would never destroy evidence.” Wato could see his unwavering faith towards his late mentor. Based on Shibata’s recollection, Kawasaki was an honorable man. Yet, she could not ignore the possibility from Sherlock’s speculation.

“No one is one hundred percent free from sin,” the other woman retorted. Wato agreed with that sentiment. After all, she froze up and failed to save a patient. The weight of losing a life was heavier than her accumulation of compassion throughout the years.

“Kawasaki’s behavior from five years ago needs to be investigated.” She put something in Shibata’s hand. The sergeant had a firm grip on the object.

“Fine,” he said flatly and walked out.

Wato watched him leave. As she turned around, Sherlock was crouching near the closet, holding a tack in her hand. She approached her housemate. “Looks like something else was here,” Wato observed. There was a circular space. Thumbtacks occupied the inner circumference. Some had torn photographs underneath the tip.

“He has one more target,” the other woman replied.

Eh? One more? 

Sherlock tapped at the push pin with the torn pictures. Who could the third target be?

***

Both Sherlock and Wato walked downstairs and exited the dining hall. The room on the second floor remained undisturbed, sans for the object her roommate tossed to the sergeant. The other woman did take some photos for her personal reference. The two women stood next to the inspector and sergeant. The four waited until a unit arrive. Three police cars pulled up. Uniformed officers got out, bowed to them, and walked inside to seal the premises. 

One of the members of Mukaiyama’s staff was with the forensic team that was affiliated with this neighborhood. Wato felt another pang of sadness for the young woman. She had no idea what was in store for her once the forensic personnels walked upstairs to collect blood samples on the kotatsu.

Another inspector approached Reimon and asked for details. The other three remained silent; they knew very well that lock picking was illegal. If the authorities knew that Sherlock possessed lock picking tools, then she could easily be fined for 500,000 yen or be sentenced for one year in prison. The bespectacled man remained calm and gave a plausible excuse of how they were able to enter the private property. Wato had a nagging feeling that both inspector and consulting detective must have done this many times in the past.

After talking, Reimon informed the two women that they were excused. He and his subordinate were required to stay at the crime scene. Shibata reached into his notepad and ripped off a page. He handed it to Wato.

 

高井

交通事故被害者遺族の会『ひなた』

 

She quickly recognized this as the notes he took from the nosy neighbor. Wato flashed a brief smile of thanks. Like Reimon, Shibata also recognized her as an asset. Even though she and the sergeant did not interact as much, Wato could tell he respected and trust her more than Sherlock. Having another person accepting her meant the world to her. He was counting on her to help solve the case, to help Inspector Kawasaki and Dr. Mukaiyama. Now that they have their next target, it was time to get going.

Wato typed HINATA: Association for Bereaved Families of Traffic Collision Victims into the search bar on her phone. There was a local chapter in the Akasaka district. “Let’s go,” she said, tugging on Sherlock’s arm to walk forward. “There’s someone we can ask more about Takai before he disappeared six months ago.”

There was no resistance from the other woman as Wato dragged her along.

***

Near the main road, they found their target: HINATA. There were two big blue flags that had the association name printed in white and dark blue characters. There were volunteers wearing blue parka jackets, handing out flyers to pedestrians.

Wato approached one of the volunteers and asked if they could speak to someone that knew Takai Yoshiyuki. A worker referred them to her supervisor, Wakui Saburou, the district representative. Further beyond the flags was a canopy with a table and chairs underneath. A middle age man was manning the table, that had to be Wakui.

It was her luck that Sherlock remained quiet as Wato introduced themselves and stated the purpose of their visit. Wakui was receptive to her inquiry.

“This explains our group,” he began, handing a flyer to her housemate. Then he offered them a seat.

Sherlock quickly scanned the content then passed it to Wato. “When did Takai joined the association?”

“Five years ago, right after his daughter was killed. At first, he was in a state of shock.”

From the corner of her eye, Wato watched Sherlock playing with the donation box and the senzaburu. Bless Wakui for halting her efforts. 

“As time went by, he immersed himself in activities,” he continued. According to him, Takai acted as the spokesman on the streets. He was very charismatic and enthusiastic about how HINATA could support grieving families. “He helped the victims, families, and drivers.” 

Wato found his compassion admirable, but why did he stop?

“When did you lose contact?” Sherlock cut in.

“About six months ago; I went to his house, but I couldn’t find him.”

That was consistent with the nosy lady and the sloppy state of his place. “You haven’t seen him since?” Wato asked.

“No, I accidentally bumped into him two weeks ago right here.”

“You met him?” She felt excited at the new information revealed.

“Yes, but,” Wakui trailed off. Wato sensed the encounter disturbed the representative somehow. “He seemed like a completely different person.” 

“A different person?” she repeated. How so? 

Two weeks ago, Wakui and the other volunteers were packing up the equipment. He happened to see Takai walking passed him. Naturally, the representative greeted him. The other man treated him coldly and scoffed at Wakui for continuing his counseling talks. “He said, ‘It’s worthless, nothing will change. There’s only one thing victims’ families can do: find the killers and take revenge.’ I couldn’t believe he was the same man,” Wakui concluded, shaking his head. “He used to say hate wouldn’t solve anything.“

Wato suppressed a chill that ran through her body. The ominous word reminded her of fanatics she was warned about before she started her volunteer work in Syria. As someone with sound reasoning, hate truly did not solve anything. It perpetuated the vicious cycle of anger and resentment. Hate damaged one’s psyche. An embittered person could never move on nor make peace with oneself. 

After all, hating the person that inflicted pain and humiliation would not change the past. It was okay to be hurt for the moment, but it was not okay to clench on that pain forever. It was more important to recognize it and not let it control a person’s life forever. With all the struggles in the twenty-first century, it was easy to embrace it, especially with the internet spreading horrible news like wildfire. Ever since she returned to Tokyo, Wato personally strived to be the antithesis. She glanced over at Sherlock as means to redirect herself back to reality. She sighed in fond exasperation towards her housemate. The other woman was focused on examining the paper cranes on the other senzaburu when Wakui had his back turn.

Wato did not anticipate that a trip to the forensic lab turned into driving around Tokyo. After talking to Wakui, she and Sherlock talked to the other volunteers that knew Takai. The HINATA volunteers were consistent about Takai’s compassion and six month disappearance. Only the representative had a glimpse of his personality change. 

It was evening when the two women returned to 221b. Wato’s guests were long gone and most of the yams were consumed. She felt bad for ditching Moriya and Dr. Irikawa, but Hatano waved off those concerns. Both war photographer and counselor were very understanding. They wished her and Sherlock the best to solve the case.

Sherlock and Wato were the only occupants awake when Hatano retired for the night. Wato ate the leftovers in peace, there was no Adler waltzing in the kitchen and striking up a conversation. She did not know whether or not to be flattered or terrified when Adler expressed interest in her medical background. Wato truly tried to not talk about herself nor past to the actress, but the celebrity found a way. She was on another level when it came to conversing. Adler was a masterclass of her own.

It also did not help that she had a magnetizing stare when she listened to Wato talk. It had to be a foreigner thing as many Japanese do not keep eye contact when speaking. Adler’s stare was not malicious nor piercing as Sherlock’s. Wato really did not know how to describe it, other than beguiling. It was like the actress wanted to collect something. She already extracted personal details of Wato’s life. Wato could really not wait until Adler left 221b for filming. Hopefully when the celebrity returned, Wato would be long gone.

***

Few mornings later, her housemate received a text from Inspector Reimon. He and Shibata revisited the nosy neighbor. The sergeant showed her a picture of the late Kawasaki and asked if she saw him at the dining hall. According to the lady, she saw him around six months ago. The inspector was on his knees, bowing to Takai. She did not know the circumstances behind it, but she distinctly recalled Takai raising his voice and accusing the inspector. 

Sherlock was on the right track when she speculated the investigation connection between Kawasaki, Mukaiyama, and Takai. It was incredulous to think that six months ago was the catalyst for Takai’s drastic personality shift. Wato truly wondered how it came to be. Unfortunately, she had to get going for work. 

The case lingered on her mind as she shelved library books. During her break, the television in the lounge room was on. It was on a news channel that was covering a live press conference from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. The captain and director from the investigative division were at the podium. The two men explained the ongoing investigation briefly. They never mentioned the names of Kawasaki, Mukaiyama, nor the Takayamas. Wato thought it would be over, but the conference was extended when a journalist raised his hand and asked how did Takai got pictures of the late inspector and forensic scientist. Like herself, the director and captain were caught by surprised. How was this information leaked to a reporter? Wato suspected that journalist must have cornered the female neighbor to wheedle information out of her. She pondered how this would affect the investigation. She noticed that the authorities favored confidentiality when releasing information to the public. She could not imagine how frustrating this would be for the team. They truly lost their element of surprise. Wato did not have the chance to watch how the men reacted as she returned to the front.

On her ride back, Wato found online clips of the press conference. Both captain and director had clenched jaws as they responded tersely to the persistent questions. The same journalist pressed further and asked about Takayama Yuichi’s involvement. That was when the director and captain lost their cool and declared the press conference was over. The abrupt ending garnered comments and tweets of criticism and speculation. Some even posted screenshots of Yuichi’s delinquency from forums. As expected, it was a mess. There had to be someone on the force babbling this information to the press. That made her think about the consulting collaboration between Sherlock and Reimon. Those two must be very lucky to maintain privacy in previous cases.

At 221b, the landlady and actress were out again. Wato certain that Sherlock was still here. There was one way to find out. She walked upstairs and approached the lounge room. She slowly twisted the knob and opened it. Her housemate was inside. This time, she was wearing her signature black button down and slacks. Was she planning to go out?

Wato decided to make her presence known. “Why did Takai-san send Yuichi-kun the ear and finger?” she wondered out loud. “Did Yuichi-kun kill his daughter?” It was a plausible theory, given how spoiled he was.

“Five years ago, Yuichi was seventeen years old,” the other woman replied. “He wouldn’t have a driver’s license.”

That was a good point she made. “I guess even he wouldn’t drive without a license,” Wato remarked as she sat down. Obtaining a driver’s license in Japan was a long process. Even though the National Police Agency helmed license issuing for the country, it seemed unlikely that Yuichi would selfishly demand one. Her mind flashed back to the online posts about Takayama’s son.

“What is it like to have a famous father?” she began. Wato was well-versed of the pressure parents imposed on their children. She was no exception as her family ran Tachibana Hospital in Sapporo. The pressure was immense and extremely brutal. It must have been ten times worse to be the son of a politician in the metropolitan. In that perspective, his delinquency was his way to relieve stress and rebel. “He must be under a lot of pressure,” she continued. "Even their names are similar, Kouichi and Yuichi.” Father and son even shared the same character.

 

鷹山幸一 

鷹山優一  

 

“Huh?” Sherlock cried out. Wato stared at the consulting detective. What gears were turning in that mind of hers? 

“How stupid to overlook something so basic,” she muttered. Then she gazed at Wato and approached her. “You have your uses.” She reached over and placed something in Wato’s hand. She used her other hand to pat Wato’s shoulder. Wato was familiar with normal body temperature in humans, yet she could feel how warm Sherlock’s hands were. The soft touch on her shoulder tingled. She looked down to inspect the object. It was a small piece of chocolate. 

“Huh?” Wato squeaked. She did not get a chance to ask further as Sherlock tossed her another piece of chocolate before reaching over for her phone. The other woman quickly texted. It did not take long before her mobile device vibrated with a reply. 

Sherlock chuckled as she read the message. “Even the inspector can be useful.” She tapped on her phone again and the printer began printing. “It’s all coming together.”

How so? Wato had a vague idea. Before she knew it, Wato was following Sherlock out the door. Her housemate was holding the papers she printed in her hands while texting. They did not have to wait long until a taxi pulled up at the front gate of 221b. The two women got inside and Sherlock rattled off the address.

She quickly recognized their destination. “Are you sure it’s okay to do an unannounced visit? We don’t even know if he will be at home.” Yuichi should be in class at this time.

“Oh, he’ll be there,” Sherlock asserted with confidence. “He has an hour before attending a fundraiser.”

Ah, that made sense. Now she was beginning to see how all the evidence and people were interconnected. Epiphany was an amazing sensation. 

Wait a minute.

There was something not clear to her. “How did you know that?”

“I texted Ani. He’s well connected in the national government.” 

Wato could not deny that sounded intimidating. Sherlock and her brother (who still did not have a name) seemed to be powerful individuals. As the cab drove them closer to their destination, Wato felt her heart pounded with excitement. Final deductions were the most rewarding part of investigating.

Chapter Text

Wato found herself munching on the chocolate morsel when the cab drove them to the Takayama residence. The silence, sans for the car engine purring, amplified her pounding heartbeat. She had no idea what to expect once Sherlock did her deduction performance. The ones that ended on a calm note had the police present or nearby. The ones without the authorities were more harrowing. She hoped that the officers (or at least Inspector Reimon and Sergeant Shibata) were on their way or close by.

She paused at midchew. Surely her housemate texted them…right?

Wato glanced to her left. The other woman had her hands together and head lowered. Her eyes were closed. Wato hoped that Sherlock at least messaged Reimon before she went to her meditation pose. Wato sighed, she had no means to contact the bespectacled man. She would give the consulting detective the benefit of doubt that she was being responsible and requested backup.

***

Sherlock was irresponsible. She never bothered to text the inspector again and ask him to come over to the Takayama estate. Wato wanted to scream in frustration, but she refused to startle the cab driver and Takayama’s neighbors. Since the representative had a fundraising event today, the front gate was ajar. The cab pulled up to the residence and collected payment from Sherlock’s card. They exited the car and slipped through the gap between the gates. The driveway was empty except for the black car parked directly near the front door. Her housemate’s eyes sparkled with mischief and sprinted closer to the vehicle. As fast as her tiny legs could carry her, Wato finally caught up to Sherlock. The other woman stood near the backdoor. To both of their surprises, the car was unlocked! Her housemate opened the door more. Then she took a step back and pushed Wato inside.

Wato stumbled into the backseat. She had no chance to recover as Sherlock followed suit. She scrambled over to the other seat. The consulting detective, meanwhile, closed the door behind her. 

“Sherlock!” Wato hissed. This antic was completely out of line. The politician would be less forthcoming and cooperative once he discovered they were in his car. 

“What?” Sherlock countered with a head tilt. “It’s fun.” There was a tiny grin on her face.

Fun? There was nothing fun about this! Oh, man, she would have to do a lot of damage control. Wato needed to have Reimon’s number on speed dial.

“Here he comes,” her housemate remarked. Wato saw the front door opening. There was Representative Takayama and another man in a suit with glasses. The new one must be the driver. Wato held her breath as the other man reached over for the back door. He slowly opened it, revealing Sherlock and Wato. The other woman leaned closer to the backside of passenger seat and greeted the politician with her cute tiny wave.

“What are you doing here?” Takyama Kouichi demanded. 

“Takayama, do you remember a hit and run five years ago?” Sherlock challenged. “It’s connected to the packages sent to your son. Weren’t you the driver?” Her lithe index finger pointed at Takyama before curling back.

“Excuse me sir.” The other man stepped forward. “How dare you! I’ll call the police! Get out!” He pulled Wato to the right. He was much stronger than her; she ended up bumping into him. The other woman got the hint and started exiting from the left side.

“You pulled strings to cover it up,” her housemate chuckled while jumping. She was unfazed by getting kicked out from the vehicle. “You threatened Kawasaki and Mukaiyama.” She slammed the car door and walked to Takayama. Wato followed suit: closing the car door and walking behind the representative. “But Kawasaki was stricken with remorse. He told everything to the victim’s father. Takai sought revenge and killed them both. He sent the ear and finger to you. The hearing aid and nail were a message.”

“The packages were sent to my son, not to me!” he argued.

Sherlock shook her head in a condescending manner. The representative was not following along. The other woman was making it so clear. “Takai sent them to you. He wrote it in Katakana, using a ruler. He accidentally put Yuichi instead of Kouichi. The characters for ‘yu’ and ‘ko’ are almost the same. The correct name is written on the second package, but no one bothered to check the name.” To prove her point, Sherlock pulled out the papers she printed earlier from her pocket. 

The top label had his son’s name: タカヤマ ユイチ.

The second label had the correct name: タカヤマ コウイチ. 

She dramatically dropped the paper from her hands. Wato made a mental note to pick it up. She refused to let Sherlock litter someone’s property even after trespassing.

“The killer's prints were found on the victim,” the other woman concluded with a grin on her face. “No one can protect you this time! Your prints will match those in the file.” She walked closer to him and played with the lapels. “You have such a clean image!” she mocked. “Why don’t you just confess?”

“Sensei, I’ll call the police,” Takayama’s aide proposed, quickly pulling out his cell phone.

“No,” the politician replied. “I’ll admit to everything.”

Wato widened her eyes. That was easy! Granted, Sherlock’s deduction was a sound argument. There was no way for him to back out now. 

“Sensei!” his aide protested.

“I can’t take it any longer,” the representative confessed. “Every time I get in a car, I remember her face.” He bowed his head and paused for a brief moment, recollecting that night. “The car I drove is in the garage.”

Sherlock and Wato immediately gravitated to the garage with the staffer following them. This would be valuable evidence to record for the report. It was supplementary information essential for the justice Inspector Kawasaki, Dr. Mukaiyama, and Takai Yuri deserved. The aide opened the garage door and allowed them to enter first. 

That was strange. The garage space was empty. “Where’s the car?” Sherlock asked.

A heavy arm grabbed her from behind. In a flash, a blade was near her neck. Wato barely had a chance to peep. Her small noise was enough for Sherlock to turn around. Her housemate stared at her with an impassive face. The other woman may not be internally freaking out like Wato was, but Wato could tell there was resignation in those eyes. There was nothing either of them could do for now.

***

Wato struggled against the restraints before giving up. The rope was too tight. If she continued to wrestle with the cords, then she could get friction burn. “What will happen when he returns?” she exclaimed. It had only been a few minutes since the assistant left. There was no doubt he was receiving orders from Takayama along with retrieving some kind of weapon for torture and murder.

“He’ll kill us,” Sherlock stated the obvious. Duh, Wato knew that! Was it too much to ask for a coherent plan to get them out of this predicament? Oh, how she wished Reimon or Shibata accompanied them! If they were present, then none of this would happen!

“How can you be so calm?” she demanded. Seriously, how could the consulting detective relax with lying on her side and being tied up? The concrete floor was hard and cold. This was not a mattress or futon to recline on! 

“I’m thinking of a plan,” Sherlock replied as she sat up. Her eyes gleamed with determination.

“A plan? He’ll be back soon!” Wato protested. Was procrastinating on a rescue strategy was part of the other woman’s definition of fun?

The garage door swung opened. The staffer walked inside, carrying a briefcase with him. He stared at the two women as he strutted towards a workbench. He placed his briefcase on top and opened it. Inside, there was a collection of knives: pristine and sharp. Wato was certain these were the prohibitive weapons smuggled into the country. This man definitely had connections to the yakuza and other international mobsters. 

The man took his time to take off the suit jacket, roll up the sleeves of his white button down shirt, and undid his tie. He even removed his glasses before picking up a blade. He turned around, showcasing it to them. Wato’s heart sank as she recognized the shape. Thanks to her volunteer work, she had knowledge of wilderness survival skills. One of the courses was using a utility knife. The weapon in his hand had a clip point blade. That shape was good for piercing and slicing. Her heart pounded at the thought of him lacerating their flesh. 

Sherlock better have a counterattack and act on it! Otherwise, she could not bear to witness this man slashing that beautiful face. 

“So who’s first then?” the man began as he had the tool pointing at them. It swayed from the left to right as he picked his target. He glanced at Wato. “I like your face,” the assistant (now assailant) complimented as he walked towards her. She leaned back on instinct. Now her breathing was heavier and harder. Just like the time she was tortured by Yuma and even the bomb detonations. 

He lingered, clearly enjoying the reaction she was giving him. “But,” he continued, “I’ll start with the insolent one.” The attacker shifted towards Sherlock and crouched. The clip point knife was before her. The other woman retained her cool and lowered her head. Her eyes did not blink. 

No! Please, no!

The aide grinned. “Good; I love that expression. I get to twist it with fear.” The flat side of the blade stroked her housemate’s face. Wato did not want to see blood marring such fair complexion.

“Don’t move; don’t move,” he whispered as he clutched Sherlock from behind. “If I go any deeper, you’ll die.” 

Wato’s heart sank! She struggled against her restraints again. She had to do something! Sherlock was acting too lax when the staffer had a freaking cutting tool against her neck! She thumped her leg in frustration. The brow trench coat felt heavy against her thigh. There was something that softly hit her. Wato wondered what it was. Suddenly, she was bombarded with recollection from a few days ago. 

 

“Stop, stop, stop! You’ll get hurt! I’m confiscating this!”

 

Wato remembered rushing over and snatching the cutter from Sherlock. She collapsed the blade and shoved it into her pocket. Wato completely forgot about it! Her heart pounded with excitement that she had a way to free them from the ropes and increase their chance of survival.

However, there was the issue of reaching it. Her hands were tied behind her back.

Wato took a deep breath to calm down and think clearly. From the wilderness survival skill course, there was a lesson on freeing oneself from restraints (duct tapes, handcuffs, ropes, or zipties). There was a specific maneuver she could do thanks to her short stature. It was time to put it to the test. Wato leaned back until her backside touched the concrete. Simultaneously, she brought her knees close to her chest. This gave her enough space to move her arms underneath the legs. She mentally cheered once her hands were in the front, but she could not stop there. Wato reached over for the tool in her pocket. She successfully retrieved it and furiously worked on cutting the rope that bounded her wrists. 

Wato listened to her housemate. She had no idea what the other woman was planning, but the consulting detective was stalling for time. 

“I don’t want to die,” Sherlock replied. 

The first set was now cut. Time to work on the feet. This went much faster since her hands were free.

“That’s right,” he goaded. “Beg more.” 

Perfect! Now she was completely free! The trusty utensil was safely back in her pocket. She glanced over at Sherlock. The other woman was too engrossed with staring at the man to notice Wato standing up. She needed something to hit the guy. Something blunt and heavy. Her eyes scanned the surrounding.

Aha! A metal pipe was propped against a cabinet. She shuddered to think this was one of the weapons he used against other victims. She picked up the object. It had weight, but she could easily hold it in her hands. Now it was a matter of waiting to strike him without hitting Sherlock.

“Not by someone so unimaginative,” her housemate continued.

“What?” the assailant snarled in anger.

That was the distraction Wato needed. She took a step closer, raising the pole to swing.

”I want someone who’s more creative,” the other woman replied, revealing she undid the bindings on her wrists.

“YOU BITCH!” he bellowed. Good thing he did not see Wato completely free.

To her surprise, Sherlock wrapped the rope around his neck, intending to choke him. The man was much taller and faster than her; he pinned her to the ground with the weapon in the air.

Wato did not think twice. She took another step forward and struck him behind the head. Her hands hurt from the strong impact, but that was nothing to the concussion she gave him. The attacker fell forward, face smashing into the concrete. He was going to have one intense headache.

She dropped the pipe and grabbed the knife from his hands. She kneeled at Sherlock’s feet and cut the rope. Immediately, her housemate kicked off her pumps and snatched the tool. Then she straddled on top of the unconscious man. What was the other woman going to do?

“Now listen,” Sherlock growled. “To kill somebody, you stab the liver!” The clip point knife was raised in the air once again. The only difference was the assailant and victim.

“Stop it!” Wato shrieked. From her time with Sherlock, she seen many sides of her housemate: knowledgable, playful, musician, aromatherapist, fashionista, cultured, determined, strategist, and tactless. Wato may not know Sherlock’s background well as Adler, but she could confidently say Sherlock was not a murderer! She already seen how the other woman jumped in shock when she witnessed Akiko’s demise. Her committing to murder would be worse.

She braced herself for the sound of flesh being pierced and the oozing of blood. Yet, none of these scenarios were realized. The weapon was lowered, but it did not make contact with the body. Instead, the blade was released from Sherlock’s clutches as she tossed it behind her. It clacked and bounced to the side.

“I thought you were going to do it!” Wato cried in relief; she turned around to wipe her tears. Thank goodness! She could not bear the thought of Sherlock being haunted for stealing a life. It was a heavy burden to shoulder for a lifetime. It was a sin she never wish upon her dear housemate.

“How did you break free?” the other woman cut in bluntly. She quickly wiped away her tears, reached into her pocket, and turned around.

“I used your knife! It was still in my pocket!" Wato proudly stated, waving the blade in Sherlock’s face. She would let the consultant detective figure out exactly how she freed herself.

“See? I’m useful sometimes,” she continued. “Next you’ll say I should have remembered sooner.” Once again, the utensil was tucked away.

Sherlock stared at her, completely floored by her words. It was true. Wato may not be a mind reader, but she knew how to pay attention to body language and personalities. Staying in 221b for a few months allowed her observation and deduction to grow.

Then, Wato widened her eyes and backtracked. Being mentored by the other woman meant she was picking up Sherlock’s mannerisms. Wato refused to be rude like her housemate and bowed in apology. As she lowered her head, Wato glimpsed at her watch. There was fifteen minutes before the representative would be leaving. She raised her head and declared, “Let’s get Takayama!” She sprinted out of the garage door. Clacks of heels soon followed behind her.

***

It felt good to be out of the garage. Soon as Wato stepped out, Takyama was leaving. He exchanged a brief glance with the two women before he ducked into the driver’s side, turned on the ignition, shifted gears, and drove off. It would be difficult to catch up with a moving car, but that did not stop them from running. They were so close! Giving up was not an option!

Wato watched as the black sedan made a left as Takyama exited the front gate. She heard the car run over something and a subsequent groan. What could that noise be?

“Yuichi?” Takyama cried out. “Are you okay, Yuichi? Yuichi! Help! Help! Someone, I need help!” 

That did not sound good. She and Sherlock hastened their pace. At the front gate, the black sedan was haphazardly parked on the side with the driver’s door opened. On Wato’s left, Takayama was holding his son. Tears were streaming down his face while his son clung to his arm like he was a little boy again.

“How does it feel?” a new voice spoke up. “To lose your beloved son?” The two women glanced to the right. Another man stood there, looking ragged. His eyes were glazed with anger and apathy. That was the glance of a killer without remorse. There was a kitchen knife in his hands, stained with Yuichi’s blood. He inflicted a penetrating trauma on the young man.

Her housemate took a step forward. It was clear that she wanted to deal with the newcomer, leaving Wato to help the Takayamas. She surveyed Yuichi. There was a trail of blood from his mouth while a blooming red stain on his shirt. His dark pants were soiled with dirt made from tire tracks. (She inwardly cringed at Takayama running over his son.) The closer she got, there were hissing sounds from his breathing. Suddenly, he coughed. Blood marred his white sweatshirt, purple plaid button down, and his father’s sleeve.

These were signs of a sucking chest wound. She had to act fast!

“Do you have a first aid kit?”

“What?” The representative was confused. The sharped edge he had earlier was gone. All he cared about was his child.

Wato repeated the question and he said yes. The politician pressed the key button to open the trunk. While Wato retrieved it, she ordered him to call the paramedics. When she returned, Wato had Takayama reposition Yuichi while he was still on the phone. His son was now lying on his lap. She, meanwhile, set up her medical station. Hair was retied; purse and coat were moved to the side; sleeves were rolled up; hand sanitizer was generously applied; and latex gloves were slipped on.

Wato was quietly impressed by the contents of the first aid kit. She procured two items: EMT shears and a chest wound seal. Using the shears, she cut away the top clothing. The chest trauma was the size of a 500 yen coin, near the left lung. There was heavy bleeding from the wound along with bright red blood foam. No time to waste, Tachibana!

The backside of her left hand covered the wound. This allowed her palm to be free as she opened the chest seal package and peeled off the plastic covering. Then she removed her left hand and mounted the seal over the puncture. It was carefully applied to ensure no air would go through. Afterwards, Yuichi was rotated to his side to prevent him from choking on his own blood. She had Takayama remove his coat to cover his son in order to stop him from going into shock. 

Wato, in contrast, monitored his condition for signs of tension pneumothorax. If Yuichi displayed any of these symptoms: severe shortness of breath; an unequal chest (due to lung collapsing); no lung sounds; bulging vein on the neck; or blue lips, or fingers, then she would have to remove the chest seal and perform more first aid.

After donning new latex gloves, she used the EMT shears again to snip away the dark pants. She was quite concern about any fractures, internal bleeding, or internal injury from being run over. She truly hoped the paramedics were closed by. Even though Wato was throughly focused on her task, her ears picked up on the conversations around her: Yuichi’s ragged breath, Takyama quietly apologizing over and over again to his son, and her housemate confronting the culprit.

“Takai Yoshiyuki,” Sherlock stated. “Tell me, what happened to you? From rehabilitating killers to this?”

“Forgiving the wicked brings nobody peace,” he repeated his mantra. “Victims can’t rest until the wicked are punished.” 

Sirens from the ambulance and police were heard from the distance. (Takyama must have requested for the police to arrest Takai.) Dialogue between the two ceased. 

Suddenly, she heard something being cut then a gushing sound. Wato quickly turned her head to a terrifying sight. Takai Yoshiyuki used the weapon to sever his own artery! It was a fountain of bright red blood gushing out. His eyes and mouth widened as a reflex to any fatal wound. He gasped as more blood spilled before he fell over. 

Wato returned to her task. She would not let another death happen on her watch! So far, there were no indications of tension pneumothorax, fractures, nor internal injuries of any kind. (The latter two were quite limited without X-Rays or MRIs.)  She was relieved when the paramedics approached with a stretcher. Both Wato and Takayama moved out of the way to let emergency responders do their work. She gave one of the personnels a brief report of the injury and first aid. He was impressed by her skills and thanked her.

The commotion led to Takayama Shizuka and the maid, Ichihara running outside. The wife was confused and let out an outburst once she saw her son in the ambulance. Shizuka ran to her husband (who was talking to the police) and demanded to know what happened. Wato turned away. Mothers bawling over their children with severe injuries were too much for her. She removed her gloves and grabbed her belongings. She needed to have some distance from the hysteria.

Yuichi was loaded up to an ambulance with Shizuka accompanying the paramedics. Takayama, on the other hand, was escorted to the back of a police cruiser. His assistant (now conscious and handcuffed) also followed suit. It was clear that he confessed to everything. The politician truly looked remorseful and haunted by his past actions. His hit and run and deliberate investigation sabotaging resulted in four deaths and one life on the line. 

Both Sherlock and Wato remained on site, waiting for Inspector Reimon. The bespectacled man and subordinate walked up to the duo and asked for their statements. To everyone’s surprise (especially Shibata’s), her housemate was unusually quiet and subdued. Wato noted this was the third time she seen Sherlock like this. The other woman personally witnessed three deaths before her: Akiko, Koda, and now Takai.

That was enough to shock anyone. Even someone like Sherlock who was used to morbid things. 

As Wato answered Shibata’s inquiry, Takai’s last words struck a cord. Her mind flashed back to the final moments of Mizuno Akiko. “All the talk about rehabilitation, but what about the victims?” the perpetrator bellowed before she took her own life. It surprised her how they sounded alike. 

***

It was late at night in 221b. Wato was lying on her bed, the events were replaying in her mind-especially Takai’s suicide. That twisted smile before raising the bloodied knife to his neck was haunting. She took a deep breath, trying to meditate. It was no use, sadly. The imagery reminded her of a news report eight years ago. 

In summer 2010, she could never forget the shocking news that rocked the nation. The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department was puzzled by a serial murder case. Eleven people were killed in connection to a strange word: Strawberry Night. When the culprit and conspirer were caught, the press somehow got quotes of nonsense from the perpetrator. One of them was a vivid imagery of the artery being severed.

 

“That was a work of beauty. The bright red blood shot up. In the blink of an eye, his face was stained red. Like strawberry.”

 

After witnessing Takai’s demise with a kitchen knife, Wato exactly understood the imagery. She remembered how his right side spraying with blood, the gurgling sound of him choking, and the smashing impact as he fell forward onto the ground. The black asphalt was colored with blood.

Soon, Wato’s phone rang, disrupting the unwanted recollection. It was the inspector. (She finally got his number!) She pressed the call button and listened to Reimon’s report. After their conversation, she got up and walked down to the lounge room. The light was still on, but she heard no other voice inside. That meant Sherlock was alone.

Her housemate briefly glanced up before she went back to toying chocolate wrappers. In that short moment, Wato saw a bandaid on Sherlock's neck. It gave her pain that her housemate got injured during their garage hostage. (She hated that the other woman got hurt for their sake of surviving against that man. That aide could have done so much worse.) She mentally waved the intrusive thought away.

She looked so fragile by being hunched up in her favorite chair. If Wato reached out to touch her (even with a mere shoulder pat), she was sure the gesture would be rejected. The other woman was either a crystal structure (on good days) or shattered broken glass (like today). Too delicate or too dangerous to handle.

Wato opted to do nothing and took her seat at the arm chair rest across from Sherlock. “Takyama-san is formally charged for the hit and run,” she began. ”Yuichi-kun, didn’t make it.” Chest traumas were unpredictable. It did not help that the weapon was withdrawn from his chest. Despite the large margin for failure, she wanted to save him. He was spoiled for sure, but he was so young. Losing someone that young was more tragic than a bad personality.

It hurt her so much that she lost someone from her medical attention. There was no way she could face the Takayamas. Wato glanced at her housemate. The other woman gave the impression she was not listening, but Wato sensed the consulting detective was tuning to every word she was saying. She wanted to test to be certain.

“Takai-san,” Wato trailed off. “Could we have save him?” Just like Akiko? Could she had been saved as well? Even Yuma?

She waited for Sherlock’s response.

“He’s better off dead.”

“What?” That was completely unexpected. She never anticipated the depth of apathy from the other woman.

“He lost his purpose in life. There’s no point in living like that.”

Somehow, that response struck another recollection from the summer 2010 investigation. The media, in scary fashion, even managed to collect statements from the culprit’s collaborator. She distinctly remembered the tone of agony in the text.

 

“I don’t feel alive. I’m wrong. Because I’m here, I’m only breathing. I’m dirty like the maggots.

I’m a maggot. I’m a ghost, I’m different from everyone else.

I just wanted to feel human. I wanted to be more human.”

 

Both the culprit’s and Sherlock’s observation had different circumstances. Nonetheless, the pain of existential crises were the same. The two had a fixed mindset of staying on course for unhappiness and hopelessness.

“You’re wrong,” Wato spoke up. “As long as you’re alive, you can find a new purpose.” She was proof of that.

Wato returned to Japan at the order of the prime minister. She arrived at the Narita International Airport with disappointment and a sense of failure. Dr. Mizuno’s nineteen letters saved her from the harrowing reality of unprecedented human cruelty and military might. Her late mentor was kind enough to welcome her back. Then he was taken away from her through a mere tap of a bomb detonation. Losing him was the last straw. Had it not been for Sherlock’s autopsy, then Wato’s life would have been drastically different. These few months mapped out a timeline of what Sherlock was to her: stranger, consulting detective, housemate, and now mentor for deducing cases. In essence, living and working together in 221b saved her. Wato was able to fight on because of Sherlock’s existence and eccentricities.

Of course, she could never tell the other woman that. Sherlock would scoff at her for being emotional.

She looked to see Sherlock staring at her. The gaze was intense, Wato had to look away. Yet, it signified that her housemate was truly listening to her. “Just like I did, not so long ago.”

Chapter Text

A knock on the door disrupted the quietness. Both Wato and Sherlock broke contact and focused on the closed door. Who could it be? It did not sound like Hatano.

“I’m coming in!” Sherlock’s brother announced from the other side before opening the door.

“Good evening,” Wato greeted. What was he doing here? Was there some kind of breakthrough with the Shiina sisters case?

“Good evening,” he replied then turned to his sister. “I only have twenty minutes.”

Her housemate straightened up. “What is it?”

“Shiina Arisa is talking. According to her, Stella Maris would show Shiina Yuma the way.”

“That organization was behind it all?” Wato spoke up. That sounded so ominous. It was so twisted like the extremist groups she often saw in the media.

“It may not be an organization,” the consulting detective interjected. What? What did she mean by that?

“So you think it’s a person?” her brother asked. (It was clear that they were related; he was able to keep up with her thinking.)

“Stella Maris is the North Star,” Wato began, trying to make sense of her housemate’s speculation.

“Sailors used it to navigate,” the consultant remarked. “When they were lost, it guided them.”

“Perhaps, Stella Maris was the guiding star for Shiina Yuma,” he mused.

“A guide,” the other woman trailed off. Then she gasped and dashed to her computer.

“What is it?” Wato asked as she watched her housemate jiggled her mouse to wake up the monitor. When the desktop was visible, the other woman clicked on an application. Her fingers drummed against the desk while waiting to the application to load. When it was on, she logged in. It looked like a telecommunications software.

Sherlock scrolled through her list of contacts before she found the one she was looking for. She immediately clicked on the name. Her webcam flashed on and the dial tone filled the lounge room. The call was soon accepted and there was an older man with glasses and a suit and tie. Behind him were books. He was a foreigner, Wato guessed he was a college professor.

It was strange to hear the other woman speaking English to the Western professor. Her English voice sounded nothing like her Japanese one.

“Who is he?” Wato whispered.

“A Cambridge professor,” her housemate replied before returning her attention to the screen. (How good was her hearing?)

Wato widened her eyes. Cambridge? Sherlock went to Cambridge? It should not be a surprised, given how smart her housemate truly was. Then again, she hardly knew nothing about the other woman. As the two converse, Wato lamented how poor her English was. She was able to pick up a few words, but not enough to understand a sentence without a transcript and dictonary. She took a glance at the brother. He seemed to be following along with no trouble. That was third person she knew that spoke English after the actress. (Adler was an American, therefore she was fluent due to the country of her birth.) She was certain that Hatano was skilled as well since the landlady was a woman of culture.

Great, was she the only one who could not speak English perfectly in 221b?

It was clear that the consulting detective asked the professor for some kind of research paper. On his end, he was unable to access it. Their conversation ended after that.

“What’s this thesis about?” Wato asked, hoping that her deduction of fragment English was correct.

The housemate swiveled in her computer chair. “It’s a theory about manipulating crime. There was a US railway accident in the 1800s. One of the workers suffered a head injury. He became a killer after that. This was all due to damage to his orbitofrontal cortex. A Cambridge student applied it to psychology. The brain is stimulated through dialogue: a law-abiding citizen turns into a criminal. It caused quite a stir back then.”

“Is the author Stella Maris?” the sibling spoke up.

“Perhaps,” the consulting detective answered. Then she widened her eyes and snached her purse and coat. She dashed out the door.

Eh? She was going out, this late at night?

“Your shoes!” Wato cried out. “Shoes! Shoes! Shoes!” She reached down for the heels in one hand and then her belongings in the other.

“Be careful!” he called out.

***

They took a cab back to the Akasaka district. Takai Four Season Dining Hall was still sealed off. Since Sherlock called Reimon in advance (this time thankfully), the officers on duty were expecting the two and allowed them through. The inspector and sergeant were waiting for them in the room with the disturbing photographs.

“Good evening,” Wato greeted to alert their presence. She was panting from the brief workout. (She quietly cheered that she did not sound as tired as before. She was slowly getting in shape!)

“There’s a connection to Stella Maris in here!” the consulting detective declared as she walked further in and planted herself on the kotatsu. “Devil’s Foot and Mizuno Akiko, Shiina Yuma,” she muttered as she stared intensely at the collage. The three waited in silence.

“Did someone rearrange these?”

“Nobody touched them,” the bespectacled man replied. “Why?”

“The thumbtacks have been rearranged.”

Huh?

“The North star,” she trailed off. Then her left hand shot out, pointing. “Give me that yarn; the red one.”

Wato reached over and grabbed it. The other woman took it from her hands and leapt up. She looped the string around certain pins. The others stood back and observed her moving from the bottom right to the upper left.

The red string made the design very visible. “The Little Dipper?” Wato gasped.

“Stella Maris changed Takai’s personality,” Sherlock explained. Her phone vibrated with an incoming message. The other woman pulled out her mobile device. “It’s Dr. James.”

That was the Cambridge professor! Wato leaned closer to her housemate to get a view. Her screen showed an email attachment. The other woman clicked on the attachment, it was a PDF. “Theory on Crime Manipulation, written by…” she muttered.

Her long index finger furiously scrolled through the pages. How long was this paper? It would take some time before she could reach the end. Few moments later, she reached the bibliography section. There was a name after the last entry. (Fortunately, Wato’s reading comprehension was better than her listening.)

 

Author

Akira Moriwaki is a third-year undergraduate student of Psychological and Behavioural Sciences Tripos at the Department of Psychology in University of Cambridge.

 

“Moriwaki Akira,” Sherlock read out loud. Then she turned to the inspector. “This person is Stella Maris.”

Wato suppressed a shudder. Stella Maris felt more real than ever.

“Hey,” Shibata called out. “There’s something written on the back here.” The young man was crouching near the bottom right pin. The photograph in his hand was slightly bent.

Her phone slipped back in her pocket. “Show me,” she commanded. She, Wato, and Reimon moved closer to the sergeant. He pulled back the photo, revealing a Latin character written in red pen.

“Take everything down!” the consulting detective ordered. The four went to work: unwinding the yarn and removing the thumbtacks. They took the pictures and turned it around. There was a letter on each one. The seven photographs were laid out on the kotatsu.

“What is this?” Wato asked. It was the western alphabet. Her brain wracked for a seven letter English word. Nothing came to mind.

“It’s a message from Moriwaki Akira.” Her housemate, on the other hand, stared at the photographs before arranging it swiftly. When the last letter was in place, it spelled a word Wato recognized as an expression.

 

WELCOME

 

The foreboding greeting raised more questions than answers about Stella Maris. Wato found herself moving to a corner to make room for the consulting detective, inspector, and sergeant. The other three were in deep discussion. Sherlock shared her research from Dr. James while the two men made notes about the message. It was clear that Stella Maris or someone trespassed the crime scene and interfered with it.

What was the point of doing that? Normally, crime scenes would be sabotaged to thwart an investigation. Yet this one only had photographs with a red inked letter written behind it. More importantly, how did the culprit evaded the police?

It was almost one in the morning. Her mind was tired and exhausted to think of a hypothesis. There was one thing for certain: Stella Maris was closer than they thought.

Stella Maris was definitely monitoring every move, every step.

Wato did not sleep soundly when they returned.

After a restless night, Wato decided to leave her bed late morning. She had to get ready for her afternoon shift at the library. Soon as she selected today’s outfit, her phone chimed with a missed call and voice mail. The sender was from Inspector Reimon. The precinct would be holding a dinner remembrance gathering at an izakaya for Inspector Kawasaki and Dr. Mukaiyama. The invitation was extended to her housemate, but Wato and the bespectacled man knew that consultant would have zero interest.

For herself, she was unsure if she actually wanted to go. She could not turn away from helping someone process grieving. It was part of her creed, her defining personality trait: compassion. Yet, this had been so hard for her. The last two cases were intense and emotionally draining. There had been no time for reprieve. It was work, counseling, sleep, mystery, and repeat. She could not relax in 221b, not when it was so clear that she was an outsider.

Fortunately there was time to decide if she was feeling okay to attend the gathering. Wato’s breath suddenly hitched as her throat became scratchy and a brief chest pain. What was that?

She would have to take ibuprofen before heading out. Wato hoped that this pain would not last all day. It was not good to mix medicine and social drinking.

***

It was finally time. The first day of shooting for her upcoming drama was slated to begin tomorrow. There was only one day to enjoy herself before she went back to a hectic filming schedule. Irene was glad that finished watching the Amuro Namie documentary; she hated leaving watching projects unfinished-especially when the star had a cute face. The retiring soloist was definitely her type.

The Japanese American spent her morning packing her belongings she brought to 221b. By the time she was finished, she decided to head down for a late breakfast. She barely stepped a foot into the kitchen when she saw Tachibana Wato dashing out. The two briefly made eye contact. Based on the actress’ observation, the new resident was certainly leaving for her part time job. The petite woman briefly bowed before she fled. The celebrity gazed at her retreating figure. It was clear that the newest 221b resident was intimidated by her.

Good.

The actress had a peaceful meal of fruits. She needed to maintain her physique for her role.

After running some personal errands, she returned to 221b. Kimie would not hear of the actress leaving without sharing one last meal. The two enjoyed an early lunch filled with easygoing conversations. The actress vaguely explained her next drama role to the landlady. The older woman looked forward to watching it in the upcoming drama season. The Japanese American knew she would also encourage her friends to tune in once NHK airs it. The celebrity knew she could count on Kimie to boost the TV ratings.

They were interrupted when Sherlock stomped downwards. She was in her pajamas with messy bed hair. The consultant grunted a greeting before she opened the fridge. Seeing her acquaintance made the celebrity realized she had not gotten an update on the case. She only knew about some politician’s son got an ear in the mail. The Japanese American knew the case developed more as time passed. She imagined the mystery was wrapped up by now. After all, that consultant worked hard on the cases. That consulting detective would not stop until she reached a conclusion. Once deductions were made, she would rest hard to make up for the physical and mental exertion. Her late appearance indicated how emotional draining this investigation was (in terms of vexation than actual horror or sadness).

Irene knew she could not leave yet until she talked with her fellow alumni, not only for satisfying her curiosity over the case, but for the housemate. She needed to know the consultant’s opinion of the other woman.

The actress watched her grabbing some fruit before walking back. She would have to wait until she satiated her hunger and other hobbies before having a deep conversation. She knew how to be patient.

***

The celebrity opted to stay in the first floor sitting room where she memorized her lines for the pilot. Her script was a thick booklet. The cover page had the title written in big bold text.

 

捜査会議はリビングで!

『事件は、休みの日に起こる』

第1回

作: 武井彩

演出: 河野圭太

 

She chuckled at the name. The title translated to Investigation in the Living Room! The upcoming NHK drama was a family comedy. Irene was starring as Morikawa Shouko, a female detective in the Criminal Investigations Department Special Unit. Her character was passionate about her job, very athletic, and had a strong sense of justice. Shouko was also married and had a young elementary school son. Unlike her professional life, Shouko was quite hopeless with daily housewife duties. Fortunately her husband excelled at housework. He was a mystery writer and a charismatic house husband on the internet. Their son, meanwhile, inheirited his parents' strong points. The drama chronicles the Morikawa family banding together to solve mysteries in their living room.

The Japanese American had to admit that the synopsis was pretty cute. The other cast and staff members were fun and easy to get along. Her TV husband was very nice and she looked forward working with him. Hopefully the director would not make them perform any physical affection. (She was already imagining her TV spouse as a woman.)

When she went to the table readings, the actress found it absolutely hilarious that her character was the straight version of Sherlock that worked in the police department rather than a consultant. With this revelation, she personally talked to the wardrobe department and asked if her character could wear a sexy black leather jacket instead of a cheesy and stereotypical detective outfit found in western media: the gaudy tweed deerstalker cap and tan trench coat. Thank goodness the costume coordinator was a woman, it made persuasion so much easier. Another victory was claimed when the woman fell for the wink and thinly veiled flirtation. The staffer vigorously pushed for the leather jacket in the promotional shoots. It was a sin to hide a gorgeous body such as hers after all. She had the body positive confidence and it needed to be flaunted.

She noticed that the music stop playing by the time she finished studying her lines. There was her chance to chat with the consulting detective. She closed the script and rose from her seat. Her long legs swiftly climbed the stairs. The Japanese American entered the lounge room. Her old roommate was packing up her cello. The other one grunted in acknowledgment, but made no other comment nor gestures to kick the celebrity out.

The actress left the door slightly ajar in case there was someone else going to walk in.

“How often are you changing your bedsheets?” she began as she lowered herself seductively on the couch. The alumni almost dropped her cello case and glared at the celebrity. “You do know that high levels of cortisol are not good for your health, right? I hope you have not forgotten what I taught you to lower it.”

“What I do to reduce my stress is none of your concern,” the consultant grumbled. “I could never forget what you did back then.”

“There is no shame with sleeping in the nude. It really can improve your overall health. Shall I demonstrate skin-to-skin contact in the bedroom again?” Good thing she stripped to the bare minimum earlier.

The Japanese American was met with another grunt as she had no comeback. The acquaintance studied her, trying to figure out if she would do that. The celebrity was not afraid to follow her word. She proved it once at Cambridge and she could do it again.

“Fine,” the consulting detective relented. “I’ll tell you about the case. You’ll enjoy this one since it has gore, blood gushing galore.”

The actress grinned. Only they knew the true agenda underneath their banter of grunts and innuendos. She remained quiet as her acquaintance launched into her narrative. It had been a long time since she listened to a gruesome case. This mystery was incredibly fucked up with a high count of victims. It was even stranger that the theory of leading crime played a role. Irene had not heard the outlandish theory since her university days. The Japanese American recalled the controversy was raised by a third year psychology behavior student, but she was so focused on completing her degrees to follow the gossip. Now that there was the name of the theorist attached to the elusive criminal Stella Maris, it was safe to say shit just got real. The hunt was on to find this Moriwaki Akira in Tokyo.

However, that was not the highlight of this tale. Personally witnessing the impulsive activities made her unfazed to the risky and dangerous shenanigans Sherlock would intentionally get tangled up in. She could not believe that the consulting detective easily allowed herself to be tied up and engage in knife play with a hitman of all people. The celebrity would have praised her for finally discovering her kink had it not been the gravity of danger in the situation.

“All of the sudden, the doctor came up behind and struck him with a metal pole. Then she used his knife to free me. I almost used that knife to stab the fucker in the liver.”

“So she saved your life,” the Japanese American mused, pointedly ignoring the murder attempt. That was completely unexpected. Tachibana confiscated Sherlock’s favorite pocket knife and never returned it. It was fortunate that the tool came in handy, but it was still in her possession. She was right to be wary of that petite woman after talking with Kimie during her second day at 221b followed by the umeboshi bottles she found in the recycle waste can. Returning from a war zone and drinking were in tandem with PTSD. Those suffering from the disorder were at a greater risk to engage in domestic violence. It did not help that mental health services were downright terrible and the stigma was immense; the petite woman had no chance for a complete recovery.

Now she had a fucking weapon in her grasp; that was true danger right there. There was a greater likelihood of the other two inhabitants being stabbed once that housemate snap-whether it was from the consequences of the mental health condition or discovering Sherlock's sexual orientation that unleashed a homophobic personality.

Irene would be damned if 221b was a victim to domestic and homophobic violence.

"That damn stare," the consultant muttered under her breath. "The fucking micromanaging and sabotaging during investigations. I don't want that damn pity." The celebrity merely lifted an eyebrow. Where was she going with this?

“I don’t want her stay,” the consulting detective declared with finality, breaking the celebrity's thoughts. “She’s so annoying. I hate it. Her presence is suffocating. She makes me sick. It feels like I’m drowning in a riptide I got caught in. I can’t swim back to shore. I'm fucking sinking! I'm deprived of oxygen! I FUCKING HATE THIS SO MUCH!” As the consultant kept talking, the tension in her voice escalated. Her eyes glowed in anger. She was even standing up. Her body language was so expressive.

That was the first for the celebrity to see her old roommate so enraged. It was simultaneously refreshing for Sherlock to speak of her true feelings and disturbing for Irene to be the recipient. The actress had no idea how to react. The consulting detective lived her life with repressing such emotions. That alumni thrived in making everyone guess the meaning behind the metaphors and obscure word play. (The Japanese American would dare say it was her kink to thoroughly confuse people.)

Most importantly, her verbalization was something to not be taken lightly. The fierceness in her tone supported the actress' conclusion of the petite woman. The celebrity could feel the fury behind the delivery. Her acquaintance was not the type to express herself so easily, but when she did, it was quite serious.

Part of her was surprised that her prediction was incorrect. She was certain it would come true given Sherlock's behavior and personality, but she was so glad that she was dead wrong. Kimie said before that her feelings towards Tachibana were ambivalent. The actress now knew the truth. The consultant's feeling were nothing but hostile. (It was truly commendable that the consulting detective lasted this long before erupting like this.) Her fellow alumni was clear where the 221b resident stood. This was not a woman that was changing the consultant's life for the better; Tachibana Wato was fucking up her life. So what the hell was Kento thinking when he proposed for them to be housemates? Was it not clear how much she was bothering Sherlock?  

It was up to the Japanese American to safeguard Sherlock’s wellbeing. She gazed back at the consulting detective. The other woman turned her head, not bothering to make eye contact after that declaration. 

Yet there was another part of her that was relieved as well. For starters, there was certainly no chance for the consultant to ever develop Hanahaki Byou. It was incredibly liberating to realize that. The consulting detective was in no danger to have life cut drastically short. That also meant there was a future of Sherlock falling in love with the right woman.

Conversely, her chances to banish Tachibana from 221b just got remarkably easier. The actress had her (quiet and subtle) blessing to kick the petite woman out. It was unfortunate that she only had one day and one shot to execute it. Too bad there was not enough time. The celebrity would have to make do. She was able to graduate with a degree and minor in three years while starting her career in Japan. She was capable of pulling off miracles. Separating her from Sherlock would be nothing. 

The actress opened her mouth to ask about the housemate's work schedule, but something else caught her eye. Since the alumni turned her head, her neck was exposed. For a split second, Irene swore she saw something bulging at the vein. What was that? Whatever it was, it certainly was alarming. The Japanese American was no medical expert. However, protecting her old roommate from the shadows also meant physical health.

“Hold still,” she murmured. Her lithe hand shot out before the consulting detective had a chance to respond. It landed against the neck, barely brushing against the clavicle. The thumb gently caressed the surface. The skin was smooth, devoid of bumps. She even pressed her thumb down. There was nothing underneath the surface. What the hell? The Japanese American knew what she saw. Her eyes were certainly not playing tricks on her.

The celebrity leaned closer. She intensely studied the skin with her acquaintance heavily breathing in the background. Her own exhaling was adding fuel to the consultant's flustered state. Really, Sherlock had her moments as a useless lesbian. Thanks again for sustaining the Japanese American's self esteem.

Since the room was so quiet, it was easy to pick up a faint gasp and quiet pattering of footsteps. That could only be one person and those footsteps did not belong to the landlady.

The actress withdrew her hand and said it was nothing. She stood up and stared at the other woman. Years of acting experience perfected her craft of portraying an excellent poker face. The other one made no reply. A few seconds later, the consultant moved away and exited the room. The celebrity was left alone to reflect on the events that recently transpired. All this time, she had been planning to drive the petite woman away. It was hard to formulate an idea, let alone executing it due to Sherlock and Tachibana working. Yet it turned out to be easier than expected thanks to the consultant's feelings.

She was anticipating to let the housemate catch them in a compromising position sometime tonight. It was much more effortless than she planned to choreograph.

From Tachibana’s view, there was no doubt that it looked like they were about to kiss. This spoke volumes even though it was one of her more subtler and tamer actions. Even the lack of clothing played a role. Wearing the lacy demi bra and g-string thong cemented the assumption that they were lovers. She was not blind of the incredulous stare at her physique. (Hoped she enjoyed the view of her toned ass.) Now the celebrity was certain that the housemate would withdraw even more. This was push to have Tachibana expelled. The celebrity started the process, it was up to her acquaintance to finish it. She knew that the consultant would eventually pick up cues she done to drive the petite woman away. By the time Irene would return to 221b, she looked forward to only seeing Kimie and Sherlock.

The actress sighed in relief and took her leave. She needed to retrieve the cell phone that was charging in her room. There was a call she needed to make. As she walked through the third floor hall, she could hear Tachibana on the phone.

"Hello, Reimon-san? This is Tachibana. I will be attending the remembrance gathering for Inspector Kawasaki and Dr. Mukaiyama tonight. No, I won't need a ride to Kokono Kasumigaseki Common Gate; I can commute there myself, thank you. I will see you then."

Huh, interesting. The celebrity hastened her pace to not get caught for eavesdropping. She heard about that izakaya, it carried the strongest liquor. It made sense since it was near the metropolitan police department. No doubt that the establishment wanted to retain its clientele. This was probably what the actress needed. The gears in her mind started whirling for a plan. Once she returned to her room, she grabbed her phone and dialed a number. Her call was picked up two rings later.

"Hey oniisan, it's me. Do you have a moment? I want to talk to you about Tachibana Wato."

Chapter Text

This was the fourth night this week he had been staying up. He had been doing this for five weeks straight and there was no indication that the streak would be broken. His focus was completely on the cellphone. The mobile device remained dormant on the coffee table as it was charging. He knew that little sleep was detrimental to one’s health. However, he was a soldier under Sensei. His training enabled him to be at peaked health. It was mind over matter.

Besides, there was no way that he would disobey Sensei’s orders. These past few weeks, Sensei increased the dosage of benzodiazepines into the chamomile tea Wato drank during those sessions. It was gradually working as Wato complied to social drinking with her coworkers due to Sensei’s suggestions. As a test run, Moriya monitored her from the shadows and discretely snuck bottles of umeboshi into her bag. The surveillance was tedious, but he supposed this was penance for fucking up their time at Gulliver. (He personally thought he said nothing wrong-it was a typical stock phrase that romance saps loved. He still had a long way to go with training.) At some point during observation, he shared that Wato had yet to contact him in a while. Sensei assured that all was well and trust her.

She remained vague on her words, but epiphany came when he saw the news of Takai Yoshiyuki. There was a brief sadness in his heart with Takai’s passing, but the grief was eclipsed with pride that he extracted revenge on the politician and police force that screwed over his family. Those fools had it coming to them. There was truth in Takai’s mantra: “forgiving the wicked brings nobody peace.” The vicarious feeling of satisfaction for his comrade made the war photographer crave his vengeance on society even more. It was only a matter of time when that day would finally come.

His thoughts were disrupted as his cell phone lit up and vibrated against the coffee table. Moriya sat up straight and grabbed his mobile device.

橘和都

It was her. He aggressively snatched it and pressed the call button. “Wato-san,” he said too hastily.

There was muffles and heavy breathing on the other end. He could hardly make out her speech.

Mo…Mori,” she whispered.

“Yes, what is it?” He was starting to get impatient because he had been on standby for so damn long.

Mori-ha…ha ha ha…Morimori.” Wato then broke into laughter. The war photographer was not amused. This woman was clearly drunk. He had no time for her tomfoolery, not when Sensei was expecting him to atone for his grievous errors.

His hand clenched tightly to his phone. His anger levels were rising. Moriya took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. His breathing went unnoticed by Wato. “What do you want, Wato-san?”

His question broke through the giggles. “Wha' I wan'…,” she trailed off. She fell into silence; the only indication of her being on the line was her loud, heavy breathing. "Wha' I wan'," Wato repeated again. "Eva' bin inna ciddy wid no people?"

Huh? What the hell was she rambling about? The fuck was with the random, obscure change of topics? Moriya could feel his patience was running thin at a dangerous rate. However, Sensei always encouraged discipline with exercising patience and composure. The war photographer took a deep breath, mentally counted to five, and breathed out.

Wato accepted the breathing exercise as his answer. "I'ave," she continued. "Sapro, Damsus, Toyo: ish alllllll da same. Wy? Wy? Wy? WY? I'm alone, allll alone. Ev'rytime I wanda' da streets I see da lights burnin' brightly n warmly. I see dem togeda. N I'm only on da outside, lookin' n. No madda where I go, ish all da same, da same, da same."

The fuck was with the literary nonsense? Well, that was an intoxicated person. Given her state of rambling, he should expect little from her.

"BUH! Buh, I dought 221b was diff'rent! So...wy? Wy ish 221b no diff'rent? Wy? Wy? Wy? Wy? " The more she asked, the more her breathing sounded heavier. Then it became sobs which transformed to wailing.

The war photographer despised that sound. His free hand clenched into a fist. He raised it in the air and immediately struck the coffee table. Soon as he lifted it, there was a small crack on the surface. The side of his hand hurt like hell, but the physical pain could not measure up to the suffering he was force to listen to.

Tachibana Wato was a pain in the ass being a crying drunk. She was caught up in her own world to be considerate to others. Somehow, she eventually got the hint and started to answer his questions. “Wat I wan' ish t'eave dis ciddy n find a new ciddy. Anew ciddy wid new people.

“Huh, how so?” This was the break he was looking for!

Wat I wan' ish t'not be at 221b anymo'. Wat I wan' ish t'not be at 221b anymo',” she repeated again and again and again. It was too much to ask for her to answer a simple question when she was drunk. Wato eventually hung up on him. The call time indicated they talked for over ten minutes. That was the longest phone call in his life. He took another deep breath again to keep his composure. It was time to initiate the next part of the plan.

Thanks to their contact in the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, it was easier to keep tabs on both Wato and the bitch when they were at the precinct. (Just thinking about her made him want to strangle her even more. HE WAS NOT A PSYCHOPATH!) His Dock comrade informed him that Wato accepted the invitation for the remembrance gathering at Kokono Kasumigaseki Common Gate, the closest izakaya for the metropolitan police department. His report included that the bitch was not attending.

Perfect, that made his job even easier. He grabbed his trusty green parka jacket and cellphone. After locking his apartment door, he texted his contact that he was on his way to the izakaya. The contact promptly responded that he would make sure Wato would not leave.

***

Kokono Kasumigaseki Common Gate was still busy with drunken officers still making toast to the dead inspector and forensic scientist. Moriya navigated his way in the sea of obnoxious authorities to find his contact. The comrade was leaning against the way, keeping his police hat over his eyes. He pointed behind him with his thumb. There was a quiet area where those that cannot hold their liquor stayed. These folks were sprawled at the kotatsu and snored the night away.

Fuck drinking into oblivion. They all needed therapy.

The war photographer spotted his target leaning against the wall. He carefully walked over the sleeping bodies and crouched before Wato. He took a good look at her appearance. She was bundled up and clutched her huge tote bag. Her face was flushed from consuming alcohol. He noted that her hair undone from her signature ponytail. It was disheveled, along with her clothes. (Give her fasion sense, she did not look sloppy than usual.) When Wato was sleeping like this, she looked okay from an artist perspective. For Moriya Toru, he felt no attraction towards her. He only saw her as a new recruit for the Dock. She only needed to stop her obnoxious crying; it was tragic.

He raised his uninjured hand gently patted her cheek to wake her up. The gesture roused her awake. She groggily opened her eyes and squinted. After adjusting, comprehension soon dawned on her. “It’s Morimori haha!” she cried out happily. "Yur here! Da person...da person jus' fo' me ish 'ere! I'm so 'appy! I'M SO 'APPY!” Being happy while inebriated meant more slurred speech. Great.

Moriya glanced at the other drunks. They were sleeping like the dead, unaware of the outbursts. Still, he should take this conversation outside. Who knew if there was an izakaya staff member watching? His comrade assisted him in escorting Wato out of the izakaya. He and Wato sat at an outside bench near Daiso Japan while the police contact went off to retreat his car.

“I’m so 'appy!” she exclaimed again. “I’m so 'appy dat Morimori haha ish 'ere! I’M SO 'APPY!”

He promptly opened an umeboshi bancha bottle and handed it to here. Wato accepted the drink. As she drank the hangover beverage, he pressed forward with his question about 221b.

Her face fell after she put down the drink and remained silent as her thoughts slowly formed. “Once upon s'ven years ago, a young girl decided t'leave 'er island n go somewhere fa' fa' away t'make a diff'rence n people's lives. She wan'ded t'use 'er compassion t'revolutionize da world."

Wato lowered her head and shook it sadly. "Buh 'appy endin's don't exist n modern times. She lost somethin' precious n Damsus n she was whisked back t'er homeland. Nothin' wid shame, ruined pride, n a broken, broken soul. She found 'erself alone inna ciddy wid no people." She fell back into silence once again. Moriya was careful to not make any comments for while recording this conversation for Sensei. The war photographer was sure the speech was verbatim for her, but he felt this was part of his ongoing penance. The war photographer clenched his injured fist to reign in his anger. With a sudden gesture, he might punch her instead. Sensei would be furious if anything happened to the newest Dock recruit.

"Hope...isha a verrry strange thin'," she continued. "Wen thin's fall apart n despair, dere'sa silva linin' t'keep it togeda. Buh..Buh wat 'appens wen dat t'read keeps gettin' small'a n thinna' 'ntil dere's nothin' left?" Wato brought her hand to her chest and clenched her shirt tightly.

"Da 'urt righ' 'ere ish a powaful feelin'. A powaful feelin' dat can cause me t'break. At dat point, yu can't fix wat's brokin." Her hand slightly unfurl from her clothing, yet her fingers still linger at the fabric. "Dat's wy I 'ave t'leave. Leave 221b n go t'anew ciddy. Even if da ciddy has no people, buh if I can find one. ONE! One person dat can gran' my wish, den dat will mean da world t'me." 

"'Ow long willit be 'ntil I break? I thought 221b would be diff'rent, buh ish not!" she howled. “ Am I a fool t'beieve thing's would change? I was merely a placeholda, seein' n realizn' it...da 'urt ish t'much. Ish t'much.” He was truly lost for words. This heart-to-heart talk was more of Sensei’s expertise, not his. Wato’s speech, laden with obscure references went over his head. He did not recall that Sensei identified Wato’s latent feelings of isolation and guilt. He also did not understand the reference to "her." "Her" could not be Hatano nor the bitch. There was no indication of a fourth occupant when he collected fingerprints a while back.

“Morimori haha...r yu da person? Da person jus' fo me?”

Unexpectedly, she flung the umeboshi bancha bottle to the ground and huffed loudly. Then she looked to her right and stared at the war photographer. What was she going to do next?

“Please 'elp me leave. Leave 221b n dis ciddy of no people. 'Elp me find anew one,” she begged. Two tiny hands flung forward on either side on his face. Once she had a good grip, she pulled herself closer until her lips touched his. On his end, there was no spark and certainly no arousal in his pants. It was one sided affection, but there was no time to think about his own discomfort. He had to play his role as the dashing boyfriend. Moriya began to move his lips in response to Wato deepening the kiss.

Their lip locking dissolved as the need for oxygen became imminent. They gasped for air while maintaining eye contact.

“Please 'elp me,” she repeated.

Gladly.

He held her chin and tilted it upwards so he could captured those lips again.

***

It was completely cliche like a drama where the lead female character got drunk and passed out on the late night walk back. This forced the lead male character to carry her back. In all, this was how Moriya’s night ended. Carrying Wato on his back, the war photographer trekked to the meeting spot where his police contact was at. After buckling a seatbelt for the passed out woman in the back, he instructed the driver to go back to his apartment instead of 221b. After all, she made it clear that she did not want to return to that place. Thanks to the speedy commute via driving, they reached his place in no time.

He gently carried her inside and laid her on his bed. He turned her on her side with a trashcan nearby. He placed a glass of water and ibuprofen on his nightstand before he closed the door behind him. Moriya retrieved a spare blanked and pillow from the closet before he made himself comfortable on his couch. Lying on his back, he messaged Sensei about the new development.

Sensei promptly texted him back, praising him for his hard work and warning him to not sexually assault her. That was one core rule that was heavily enforced at the Dock. He seen what happened to those that attempt to violate that rule. It was only right that they receive punishment for going against Sensei. Rest assured, he had no plans, no intentions to go back to his room. He was only playing his role as a dashing boyfriend. It would not be long until he was relieved from his cover. Glancing at the phone screen, it was close to 2:00 am. He switched off his phone and laid it on the coffee table. He needed his rest for tomorrow’s battle.

The next few days could be described as surreal. Ever since Wato recovered from inebriation hours later, she had a sense of gratitude towards him. She frequently visited his place. It was mainly in the afternoon when she finished her shift. Sometimes it was in the mornings when she had a rare time to report in much later. Whenever she stopped by, the war photographer prepared himself to deepen their relationship. It was absolutely crucial to have her drawn to him. The only feedback he received was from Sensei assuring that he was making good progress.

Moriya knew victory was his when they were doing a late night walk around the park. With no one around, Wato grew bold in her actions. She made her move when they were sitting at a park bench. One trivial conversation lead to another and soon she was leaning closer to kiss. He met her halfway and returned the gesture. It was certainly different this time around, perhaps it was her being sober instead of intoxicated. Yet his true feelings remained constant.

Nonetheless, that second kiss propelled them into a new status: dating. Being a relationship had Wato in high spirits. He wagered that it had been a long time since she experienced such euphoria (after suffering from PTSD and perhaps depression for so long). However, that uplifted mood would be nothing in comparison of epiphany and personal revelation once her mind was prepared for the Dock. It would not be long until Wato received Sensei’s blessing. Moriya could not wait for the future, but he would enjoy the present of having a girlfriend that made home-cooked meals.

He surprisingly liked her coffee the best.

It was the smell he woke up to whenever she stayed over. To him, it smelled peaceful: a contrast to gun powder, blood, and rotting flesh. When he gave his thanks, she offered to wake him up with coffee everyday.

It was time to change topics. “Ah, I just remembered. I want to show you something.” Moriya reached over for a book lying on the nightstand. It was his photobook. The desk copy shipment arrived and he already gifted his comrades. Wato was the last one. “Here it is.”

“Is this…” she trailed off. Her hand planed across the embossed cover.

“It’s my first photography book,” he confirmed.

“I was so impressed by your photos when I saw them. I’m sure people will love this.”

“Thank you. I want you to have this.” She will understand the significance in the future.

“Really?” she gasped. “Wait, no. I’m going to buy it. At least ten!”

“They were just printed. It won’t be in stores until next week.” He imagined the world finally waking up to the injustices imposed by corporations and the government. It was capitalism at its worse.

“Next week? This is so special,” Wato whispered in awe. “Thank you so much. Can I look inside?”

He nodded his head. He was getting choked up by the thought of global enlightenment. Japan was first, the world was second.

“Why did you hesitate?” she teased.

There were some things better left unsaid. “Go ahead.” With his permission, she flipped through the book.

“Well, thanks for the coffee,” he said as he got up. “I’ll make us breakfast.” He recalled that there was shoku pan in his nonexistent pantry. There was some butter and jam in the fridge. He could also fry some eggs. He should make an effort to make a substantial breakfast. His arms moved mechanically as he put toast in the toaster and cracked eggs in a sizzling frying pan. The war photographer plated out the toast and placed the eggs on top of it. With one plate in each hand, he walked out to his small dining area. He was about to set down the food when Wato ended her phone call.

“Sorry Moriya-san, I won’t be having breakfast with you,” she apologized. “Sherlock called, saying there’s a new case. She needs my help.” Wato slipped on her coat and fixed her appearance in front of the mirror.

“You go whenever she calls. I’m starting to dislike Sherlock-san,” he grumbled. That fucking bitch was ruining his efforts. Sensei was already making strides in mentally preparing Wato for the Dock. Consistency was the key for this preparation. That bitch was throwing off their schedule.

“‘Sherlock-san?’ Just ‘Sherlock’ is fine,” she retorted. Even though she drunkenly rambled about not wanting to near that bitch, Wato still had some iron clad loyalty towards her. It baffled him to no end.

The war photographer approached her with the plate. “Here’s your breakfast.” He never imagined that he would be playing out a morning rush that could only be found in animes. Life was funny like that.

“Thanks.” She grabbed the toast and finished it four bites. (He was mildly impressed.) “I’m heading out now.”

The war photographer leaned forward for a kiss. She reciprocated the gesture. “Call me later.”

Wato nodded her head. “See you later.” Then she backtracked from the door. “Ah! I almost forgot my phone!” she laughed. The phone was sitting on his counter (she must have placed it down when she put on her coat). She grabbed her mobile device then she suddenly looked up and was transfixed.

Ah, she was looking at the constellation portrait he had hanging from above. The war photographer observed her eyes becoming glassy. There was a faster reaction time to be in that state. Sensei would be pleased by this development. “Tachibana-san? What’s wrong?” he called out from her trance. Wato snapped out of it, said her goodbyes again, and quickly left.

Moriya sighed soon as the door was closed. He could not tell if that was a relieved or exhausted sigh. Fuck, he made too much breakfast. The war photographer contemplated throwing it out. From his sleeping space, the book he gave to her was left behind. Fuck once again. It was that bitch’s fault. Soon his phone rang. Checking the caller-ID, it was Sensei. He immediately answered it before the second ring. “Sensei.”

Toru-kun, Mitsuki-chan started her mission. Tenichi Chemicals and Kirishima, the Minister of National Policy, enlisted Sherlock’s help.

Ah, he remembered Tenichi Chemicals. The name alone made him boil with rage. He had been sending complaints to the company to admit their sins for six fucking months. (He was still haunted by the brutality of using humans as test subjects in uncontrolled space.) Finally, there was justice and retribution that will be passed on the corporation. It was all thanks to Sensei that made it all possible. There would be an ocean deep gratitude to her.

“They enlisted that bitch’s help,” he repeated. So that was Wato’s phone call about. Now the war photographer was seeing the bigger picture. He grinned from awe of Sensei’s brilliance. There was no woman like her.

Correct, Mitsuki-chan already has the vials and is on her way to the arcade in Ota. She will soon send an email to the police and inject herself with the virus.

“I’ll be on my way to pick it up.” It would soon be his turn to herald judgement on the despicable that ruined society.

Then I will let you get going,” Sensei replied. “I know you will do your mission well.

“Thank you, Sensei. I will see you soon.”

See you soon, Toru-kun.” The line went dead after that.

He swiped away the phone app and surveyed his surroundings. This would be the last time he would see this apartment. The war photographer did minimal cleaning up in his space. The breakfast was dumped, trash and trivial belongings were tossed out. His living quarters transformed into a model home: a juxtaposition where someone could live, yet held no traces of someone actually living there. The final touch was leaving his beloved digital camera on the coffee table. The battery was fully charged. He then exited his apartment while leaving the door unlocked.

***

His nose wrinkled as he crossed the dusty space of the arcade. By the time he arrived, Kurata was already handcuffing herself. Her right arm showed signs of needle bruising. His comrade was inoculated with the virus. Not much pleasantries were exchanged between the two. They were too focused on their mission.

“Be ferocious, Kurata-kun,” he remarked.

“You too, Moriya-kun,” she replied.

The war photographer slipped out of the back entrance soon as he heard the clamoring of the police storming through the front. His gloved hands had a tight grip of the precious cargo as he walked through the empty lot. The car he was borrowing from their police contact was tucked behind the foliage of trees. The black body paint blended well with the green. He got inside in the vehicle and placed the vial storage case on the passenger seat. It was even buckled in as well. He could not afford to have anything to happen to it. Then Moriya called Sensei to give an update.

Good work Toru-kun,” she praised. “Return back to my office.

“Yes, Sensei.”

Do you also have your camera bag with you?

His hand patted the bag that was slung around his shoulders. “Always, Sensei.”

See if you can place the vial case inside that bag. We cannot afford to have anything happen to it.

“Yes, Sensei, I will do that.” He hung up after that and complied to Sensei’s order. It did not take him long to fit the case into his bag. (The bag was quite roomy without his equipment.) Satisfied by the result, he buckled the precious cargo again before he put on his belt. Soon he turned on the ignition and released the emergency break. The war photographer was on his way.

***

There was a back office in Sensei’s practice that gave him the peace, quiet, and solitude he needed. He was wearing a hospital gown while sitting on the patient's couch. It was necessary for the next step in their mission. Nearby was the vial case. There was a tray filled with sealed syringes and a biohazard waste can next to it. The opposite side from the tray were packets of alcohol wipes and bandages.

The door swung open and the police contact entered. The war photographer was grateful that it was him. It would be embarrassing for Sensei to see the war photographer exposed. Plus, Sensei had been coughing so much lately. He was concerned about her health; it was almost December. The seasons were changing. Sensei could not be sick. It was inconceivable. He could not risk for her physical health to be compromised.

“Ready?” the police contact called out. He was wearing gloves had the syringe prepared.

“Let’s do it.” The packet was ripped opened. His upper left arm was wiped down. Moriya closed his eyes when he felt his skin pinched. There was no going back now. The needle pierced his skin. The plunger pushed downwards. Then it was over.

One down.

Six more to go.

***

As a deadly virus, he knew the incubation would not take long. He just finished dressing when his body swayed. Fuck, that was fast. One vial which Kurata take was devastating enough. Injecting seven was overkill. Yet sacrifices had to be made for the greater good.

“Moriya-kun,” the police contact called out wen he left the back office. “Tachibana-kun is with Sensei.” He did recall that she left him a message when he was preoccupied. That worked for him. He quietly walked down the hall to Sensei’s office. Wato was already there talking to her.

“Sensei, you’ll probably laugh,” Wato began. “I’ve always thought of myself as a good person. I’ve never ordered anyone to buy cilantro. I've never attached a tracker without permission. I went to Syria because I wanted to save lives.” She paused, thinking about the time in the Middle East. “But, now…I’m only thinking of myself and those dear to me.”

She did not even noticed his presence.

Wato looked up. “Sensei, you have to leave,” she pleaded. “A terrible thing is about to happen. There will be an unbelievable number of victims. I want to protect those precious to me.”

Sensei, on the other hand, did. He patted his bag as a gesture that he was still obeying orders.

“It’s okay to feel that way,” Sensei reassured, returning her attention to Wato. “What will you do to protect your loved ones? What can you do?”

Even though the question was not directed to him, the war photographer reflected on what he done for his comrades and for the weak (especially the children). Wato also remained silent, contemplating on her words. However, he already figured out the riddle: nothing. There was absolutely nothing they could do. The only option was extract retribution. It was karma at its finest in this cruel world.

The war photographer then moved closer to alert his presence. Wato glanced at him and gave him a brief smile. She was relieved he was here for support. (He was definitely playing his role as the dashing boyfriend well.) He directed to sit on the chairs.

“The virus will be released at 7:00 pm. Tokyo will be totally destroyed…” Wato explained. It was after 10:30 am. A little over nine hours to go.

He gently reached over and held her petite hand in his large ones. Moriya debated if she should massage her hand with his thumb. Then he glanced at Sensei. He did not want to disappoint her. The war photographer noticed that the contact helped calm Wato down slightly. It was enough for her to sound articulate for Sensei. “Where’s Sherlock?”

“Being chased by the police.They say they have all the proof they need.”

“Do you think Sherlock did it?” Sensei questioned. There was no doubt that she was pleased that the plan she orchestrated was being played out so beautifully. It took his will power to not snort in disgust. He truly despised her. There was a satisfaction that Sherlock was framed.

“She would never kill anybody!” Wato exclaimed. They broke contact when Wato’s phone vibrated. She withdrew her hand to access the notification.”It’s Sherlock. It says ‘I’m waiting.’”

That fucking bitch was threatening to ruin their operation. “Where?” he asked.

“We picked a place to meet in an emergency.”

“I’ll go with you.” He had to put an end to it.

“Moriya-san, thank you.”

***

The two pulled up to an abandoned chapel. Soon as the got out of the car, the police appeared behind them. Wato was angry at one of them for following her. The war photographer stick close to her. He observed the authorities storming into the old building. There was screaming that a bomb was about to go off. The crowd of officers and that Tenichi Chemicals CEO son of a bitch rapidly exited out. They braced themselves for an explosion, but it never came.

Moriya knew she was bluffing. There was no way that bitch would incriminate herself through her own actions. Any evidence that would support her being the culprit would be done by his own hands. The fingerprints and Kurata already worked wonders. From the corner of his eye, he watched the bitch walking out to one of the parked cars. The war photographer observed her making eye contact with Wato. The smirk immediately slid off her face.

That’s right, bitch: keep moving. She was not going to win. There was no way she was going to win.

Their stand off soon ended as an officer spotted her.

Half of them dashed to their vehicles as the bitch drove away. Wato, on the other hand, was incredibly dumbfounded. He guided her to sit on the ledge as the remaining officers fussed over the son of a bitch CEO. The clamor was enough to render himself invisible for his next task.

Using the back exit, he walked inside the chapel. He quietly slipped on his gloves before he opened his bag. The vial case was lifted up and planted on the ground. While he was changing after his shots, the police contact prepared the case with additional fingerprints. This mission was done; time to let the others do the work. First, he needed to report back to Sensei.

“I called Irikawa-sensei. She’s worried about you,” he greeted when he returned. She did not have a chance to respond as the police clamor overpowered her voice.

“Commissioner!” one of the officers cried out. “I found this. There’s no trace of the virus.”

“What is going on?” the commissioner barked. Then he walked over to Wato and kneeled. “Your friend ran off with the virus,” he stated quietly. “She even killed Kurata Mitsuki. If we don’t stop her, more people will die. Once again, will you please cooperate?”

Wato agreed with the commissioner and followed him. Before she walked off, the officer she conversed with earlier stopped her. “Did you loose faith in Sherlock?” he asked.

The war photographer saw that her conviction slightly wavered, but she was a naive, stupid girl. Wato still clung onto hope. It was only a matter of time.

They parted ways after that. She was very understanding that he had errands to run. He slipped into his vehicle and drove off.

***

As the day went on, the symptoms increased in tenfold. He could feel his body growing weaker as it vainly attempted to fight off the infection. He killed time by driving around Tokyo. It was his last time seeing it.

At 6:05 pm, he parked his car. It was the first time he pulled over since he left the chapel. Being incredibly sick made him drastically loose his appetite. He used his rear view mirror to inspect his reflection.

Wow, he really looked like shit. His eyes were tired and his face was growing paler. The bumps on his neck were more visible and he could feel himself wheezing. Even the coughs were more prominent.

Excellent, it was what he wanted.

Now it was time for his swan song. He reached for his phone and turned on the camera app. He flicked it to the video setting and set the camera to point at him. Then he adjusted the angle before he pressed the record button.

“By the time you see this, I may already be dead. After meeting you, I saw who I really was and I could finally be true to myself. I will fight for my beliefs. I’m ready to do what it takes. One more thing: a final request. Please take care of Wato-san. I’m sure everyone at the Dock will welcome her. I’m truly grateful. Thank you so much, Sensei.”