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Seize The Light (光を掴め)

Chapter Text

“Prisoner 259360,” pointed the supervisor of the guards, Kudo Fuyuki, of the Tokyo Metropolitan Correctional Facility as he stopped in front of cell 11. He was walking his newest recruit, a young, muscular guard in his mid-twenties by the name of Morishige, through cell block 5.

“259360…” Morishige checked his clipboard roster.

“Ohno Satoshi,” Kudo said staring at the sullen man sitting with his back leaning against the wall, hugging his knees as he faced the opposite wall. The cell was lined with tatami mats, contained a futon, toilet, sink, a cushion to sit on, and a small bookshelf anchored to the floor filled with notebooks.

“Ohno Satoshi,” repeated Morishige. “What’s he in for?”

“The violent murder of his lover,” Kudo replied, his eyes narrowing into slits as he peered into the barred cell. “Ohno,” he called to the prisoner.

The prisoner slowly turned to the barred door. Morishige could see that he was thin and worn out from being incarcerated. He did not appear to be a criminal, much less dangerous.

“Ohno, this is Morishige. He’s going to be in charge of cell block 5, 6 and 7,” Kudo explained. “Behave yourself for him."

Ohno nodded and then turned back to face his wall.

“I guess you really can’t judge a book by its cover,” Morishige mumbled to himself.

“He hasn’t spoken since he’s been incarcerated,” Kudo continued. “We think that he talks to his therapist during his one-to-one sessions, but his therapist has never confirmed or denied this. Ohno is fairly docile and compliant. A model prisoner considering he’s on death row.”

“He’s on death row?!” Morishige gasped in surprise.

“Yes, the trial was all over the news 9 years ago and the prosecutor’s office was very keen to make an example of him. He used to be a famous artist,” Kudo shook his head in disappointment. “But even the rich and famous are not above the law. That’s why the judge at the time gave him the death penalty. But of all the prisoners in cell block 5—and remember, everyone in cell block 5 is on death row—he’s the one you probably don’t need to worry about. He won’t say a word to you, so if you have any questions, ask them in a format that he can nod or point. During his free time, he will bring his notebook out and draw. The little money he makes here working he will spend only on buying new notebooks.”

“Notebooks?” Morishige asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Notebooks,” confirmed Kudo, moving them along towards the next cell block. “When the others are writing letters or journaling for their therapy, Ohno only draws. You don’t have to worry about him stealing the supplies or hurting himself or others. He will just borrow a pencil and draw during the time that he has access to pencils. The other prisoners will stay away from him for the most part. They say that Ohno gives them the creeps.”

“The creeps, sir?”

“Not my words, theirs. They say that Ohno’s eyes are dead and he doesn’t have any fear towards anyone or anything. The fact that he doesn’t ever talk is eerie and while they don’t mind doing chores or working with him, they say they can’t figure out what he is thinking—Hold on. I’m getting a call.”

Kudo touched his earpiece to answer the call. “Kudo here…yes, alright.”  Kudo put his hand down to his side and turned to Morishige. “You have your first escort job.”

Kudo led them back to Ohno’s cell.

“Ohno, you got a visitor,” Kudo called. “It’s Sakurai-san.”

Ohno stood up and walked over to the barred cell door. Kudo placed his palm over the touch pad and the bars slid down to make way for a small opening in the middle of the door. Ohno placed his hands at the opening and Kudo handcuffed his wrists. Once he was satisfied that Ohno was secured, he touched his earpiece.

“This is Kudo. Open cell 11,” he ordered.

Ohno stepped back and pulled his hands back just in time for the door to his cell to slide open.

“Morishige, escort him to visitor room 14,” Kudo directed as Ohno walked out and stood outside his cell awaiting instruction. “Close cell 11.”

+

“Sakurai Sho, here to see Ohno Satoshi,” Talent and financial manager/agent Sakurai Sho took out his driver’s license and handed it to the clerk. While the female clerk checked his license, Sho wrote his name on the log.

“Go ahead. Interrogation room 14,” she said without emotion, handing his driver’s license back, unfazed by the rather handsome gentleman in the suit before her.

Sho bowed and walked down the long quiet corridor that echoed the sound of his shoes tapping the tiled floor. He opened the door and saw a sleepy-eyed short man sitting on an uncomfortable squeaky folding chair in a sterile white room separated by a clear plexiglass. The man was looking down but acknowledged Sho’s presence when he looked up.

“Hey,” Sho waved, sitting down on the other side of the plexiglass.

The short man nodded in acknowledgment. He brought his hands up to his forehead to brush his outgrown bangs out of his face and Sho could see that as usual, he was handcuffed at the wrists.

“How are things going? You feeling okay?” Sho asked, opening his briefcase.

Ohno shrugged and nodded twice.

“Umm, so I don’t know if you heard, but your lawyer, Yazaki-sensei, passed away yesterday,” Sho pulled out a newspaper clipping that was protected in a clear file and placed it against the glass partition.

The man’s eyes widened slightly in surprise, the most emotion he had displayed in recent years, and he leaned in to look at the article.

“He was on a business trip in Nagoya when he suddenly collapsed,” Sho explained. “He had an underlying condition, but it was supposed to be under control. He didn’t make it to the hospital in time.”

Ohno’s face contorted in what Sho could only begin to deduce as a complex set of emotions.

“Would you like me to send condolences to his family on your behalf?” Sho offered, knowing full well that Ohno would not speak. His friend and client had not spoken a word since he had been incarcerated.

Looking down, Ohno nodded.

“Very well. I’ll do that as soon as I get back to the office,” Sho confirmed. “Also about your case…”

Ohno focused his attention back towards the man in front of him, but instead of giving him eye contact, he simply stared at the door behind Sho that represented freedom.

“I received a call from Yazaki-sensei’s law office and they sent me a list of recommendations and some referrals to other law firms that might be able to take on your case. May I have your permission to contact them?”

Ohno nodded.

“Very well, I’ll work on this today,” Sho stood up and placed the article back into his briefcase.

Ohno knocked on the glass as Sho closed his briefcase and began to take his leave.

“Yes?” Sho looked back to see Ohno had risen. Ohno bowed and then turned to knock back on his own door to signal that he was done with his business.

Chapter Text

Sho returned to his office to take care of the items he promised to do. He started with the condolence items and then after taking a short lunch break, he turned his attention to finding another lawyer for Ohno.  The list had 10 law firms and Sho had no idea where to start. Sighing, he closed his eyes and waved his finger around before randomly touching down on the paper.

Madarame Law Firm

Managing Partner:  Madarame Haruhiko

“Madarame Law Firm, huh?” Sho shrugged and dialed the number.

“Madarame Law Firm. This is Inoshita. How may I direct your call?” A pleasant female voice answered.

“Hello, this is Sakurai Sho. I received a referral to contact Madarame-sensei from the office of the late Yazaki Toshinori-sensei.”

“What kind of case is this regarding?”

“This is a criminal case. Would you be able to transfer me?”

“Criminal case. Thank you. Please hold.”

Sho was surprised that he was transferred so quickly and the man in question picked up after only two rings.

“Madarame.” The voice was older. It was mid-range and smooth.

“Good afternoon, Madarame-sensei. My name is Sakurai Sho and I received a referral from the office of the late Yazaki Toshinori-sensei,” Sho began nervously.

“So sad about Yazaki-sensei, isn’t it?” Madarame acknowledged. “He was a dear friend.”

“Yes, it is a great loss. He had been helping us appeal our case—”

“Yes, Inoshita tells me that you have a criminal case,” Madarame interrupted.

“Yes, I am the agent and manager of the artist Ohno Satoshi,” Sho began. “9 years ago, he was given the death penalty for the murder of his lover Matsumoto Jun. Ohno-sensei kept asserting that he was innocent, but his alibi was deemed insufficient, the evidence seemed to implicate him, and the court found him guilty. Yazaki-sensei has been helping us fight this since. With Yazaki-sensei’s sudden, unexpected death, we are looking for another firm to take on our case. Would you mind considering the case?”

“Sure. Please have the case files forwarded to our office.”

“Thank you very much.”

“Certainly. We will be in touch.”

+

Several days later…

“Good morning, everyone,” Madarame entered the criminal division office with a wave.

“Good morning,” everyone chirped. In the office were paralegals Fujino Hiroki, Akashi Tatsuya, and Nakatsuka Azusa. Lawyer Miyama Hiroto was sitting at his desk organizing his candies.

“Where is Sada-sensei?” Madarame asked, looking around.

“Right here,” grinned Sada Atsuhiro, strutting in grandly like a peacock in an expensive suit down the stairs leading into the criminal law division. “Good morning, everyone. Look at my newest trophy for Sada’s Win!” He waved his gold plated horse trophy about for effect.

“Let me see that!” Akashi held his hands out, his eyes nearly bugging out of his black glasses.

“No way! You always break my trophies,” growled the short Sada to the fish-lipped, curly-haired, lanky Akashi, pulling away.

“Ahem, I have a new case from a client,” Madarame said, handing folders to his two top lawyers, Miyama and Sada. “We are taking over the appeal from the late Yazaki-sensei, who passed away last week.”

“An appeal?” Miyama raised an eyebrow, opening a grape candy and popping it into his mouth. “That’s different…”

“Our client is genius artist Ohno Satoshi. He’s been on death row for the past 9 years for the brutal murder of his lover, Matsumoto Jun,” the sleepy-eyed managing partner of the firm announced. “His agent-manager, Sakurai Sho, came to me asking us to take on his appeal.”

“Ohno Satoshi? The Ohno Satoshi?” Sada repeated in surprise. “The guy whose art was super popular and super difficult to get a hold of? I tried bidding for one of his works once and I was immediately outbid by 50 other people!”

“I was following that case. It was really high profile at the time. Super famous artist with a super secret male lover that apparently no one knew about,” Fujino chimed in. “My twin daughters would have loved his art…”

“Super shaky alibi,” Akashi added with a nod while he pushed up the black round-framed glasses up the bridge of his nose.

“That guy was guilty, right?” Sada said, opening the file.

“Except his agent-manager is saying that he didn’t do it,” Madarame explained. “Ohno-sensei has maintained his innocence this whole time.”

“That’s exactly what a psychopathic guilty killer would say,” Sada shook his head.

“Sada-sensei, of course you already think that Ohno Satoshi is a psychopathic guilty killer without even having met him and reviewed his case,” Miyama needled the veteran lawyer as he cocked his head to the right, flipping through the files to which Sada clucked his tongue back in annoyance. Miyama ignored Sada and addressed the group broadly, “Who is this guy and what does this guy’s art look like?”

“Miyama-sensei, you don’t know who Ohno Satoshi is?!” Fujino exclaimed in surprise.

“Nope. I’m gonna meet with the client,” announced Miyama. “Nakatsuka-san, can you get me photos of all of Ohno-sensei’s art pieces before I return?”

“Certainly,” the fashionable wrestling fan bowed.

“Oi, Miyama!” Sada yelled after him. “Why the hell do you need photos of his works?”

Ittekima~su!” Miyama waved. “I need to know if it’s the art of a psychopathic killer. Thanks!”

“Sakurai-san will meet you at the correctional facility,” called Madarame.

“I’m going with you!” Sada grabbed his briefcase and ran up the stairs, leaving the paralegals to set up for their return.

“See you all later,” Madarame waved.

“See you later!” The three paralegals acknowledged and bowed as the managing partner slowly made his way up the stairs. Once he had left, they set to unpacking the case files and organizing the documents

“Ahh!!!” Nakatsuka exclaimed as she unpacked some of the boxes.

“What?” Akashi and Fujino reacted.

“Take a look at this,” Nakatsuka held a photo up.

“Wait, is that Miyama-sensei?” Fujino asked, blinking in disbelief.

“No, it says that it’s the victim, Matsumoto Jun,” Nakatsuka turned over the photo and showed them that the case file had indeed labeled the photo ‘VICTIM: MATSUMOTO JUN’ in clear kanji characters.

“That can’t be right,” muttered Akashi, helping to unpack the case files.

“No, she’s right,” Fujino corroborated, opening the police report. “Look at his driver’s license. Miyama-sensei looks like a slightly older version of this Matsumoto Jun guy…but this guy died like 10 years ago, right?”

“The resemblance…is just….striking,” Nakatsuka shook her head in disbelief as she lined up the photos of the victim and their resident quirky criminal lawyer. “How can this not be Miyama-sensei?”

“Are you sure this isn’t Miyama-sensei?” Fujino pressed Akashi, thrusting the photo in his face.

“It can’t be,” Akashi denied. “Look at how stylishly this guy is dressed. You know how Miyama dresses.”

“Still, it really looks like Miyama-sensei,” Nakatsuka insisted, pushing a cart of documents over to the whiteboard so she could start compiling the case.

“Is it really okay that we sent Miyama-sensei?” Akashi wondered aloud after a few minutes of focused sorting.

“Why not?” Fujino shrugged, putting a box on the table and sorting through the contents.

“Just think if you were in prison for allegedly killing your wife, Fujino-san,” Akashi stared at the crime scene photo of Matsumoto Jun, his stomach churning at the resemblance to his long-time friend. “Sitting in prison for nearly a decade and all of a sudden, out of the blue, a woman that looked just like your dead wife showed up and said she was your new lawyer. What would you do?”

Fujino and Nakatsuka fell silent and the normally lively criminal law office was filled with stifling awkwardness as they pondered the upcoming encounter of Ohno Satoshi and Miyama Hiroto.

To be continued…

Chapter Text

Tokyo Metropolitan Correctional Facility…

“Excuse us!” announced Miyama, knocking on the door.

“You are not going in first!” Sada grunted causing the door to rattle in its frame. “And for the record, what’s the big deal taking my phone just so you could look at Ohno Satoshi’s artwork?! Thanks to you, I couldn’t make any phone calls during the taxi ride over here!”

“I left my phone at the office,” shrugged Miyama.

“Be more responsible!” Sada roared in protest while Miyama pushed his way past him.

“Ohno Satoshi-sensei!” called Miyama, opening the door slowly.

“That must be the new lawyers,” Sho said to Ohno, standing up and taking the third seat to the side to allow the lawyers to sit closest to the plexiglass. He was fixing his papers facing Ohno just as the lawyers were entering.

Ohno looked up and saw a short older man wearing a gray suit and red tie strut into the room. He was clearly the more experienced lawyer and certainly looked the part of a lawyer from a major law firm. He was followed by a pale younger man in his thirties wearing a blue suit and black tie. When Ohno saw the younger man’s face, his world seemed to slow down and his heart began to beat wildly. He stood up and placed his handcuffed hands to the glass to the surprise of Sho, who nearly fell off his seat at the sudden movement as Ohno stared the visitors down.

“Hello. We are from Madarame Law Firm,” Sada introduced them, giving a professional smile that brought Ohno back to his seat, and leaned his business card against the glass. “I am Sada. This is my colleague.”

“Criminal lawyer, Miyama. Miyama Hiroto,” Miyama bowed and also put his business card to the glass.

“Jun-Jun,” Ohno stammered, voice cracking, much to Sho’s shock at hearing his friend’s voice for the first time in 9 years.

Miyama raised an eyebrow and then looked at Sada. Then in a burst of anger, Ohno turned to his agent manager and banged his fist against the table.

“Sho-kun!” Ohno shouted, startling the two lawyers and rattling Sho to attention. “What the hell!”

“I’m sorry, Ohno-sensei,” Sho bowed. “Madarame-sensei said that he would send his two top lawyers since Yazaki-sensei was a dear friend to him. I didn’t realize—”

“What’s going on?” Sada looked around at Ohno who looked to be extremely agitated.

“Why the hell does he look like him!” Ohno demanded pounding wildly on the glass.

“Who? Who looks like who?!” Sada’s eyes darted about.

“Why the hell does your lawyer look like my Jun?!” Ohno snarled angrily.

“Is everything alright?” a guard popped in to see Ohno banging on the glass angrily.

“Everything is fine…” Sho waved from the other side of the plexiglass. Ohno gritted his teeth and shooed him away.

“I’m sorry, Sada-sensei, Miyama-sensei,” Sho apologized. “It’s just that Miyama-sensei bears a striking resemblance to Matsumoto Jun.”

“He does?” Sada replied incredulously as he had never seen anyone look remotely close to Miyama in his entire life and it was absolutely baffling that there could possibly be two people who looked like the quirky criminal lawyer.

Miyama pulled out the case file and began flipping through until he got a better look at the victim.

“Oh, you’re right…” Miyama pulled out a photo and held it to his face to show Sada. Sada recoiled.

“What the hell?” Sada grabbed the photo and compared the two men. “This guy looks like you. This guy could be your brother…no, your twin, Miyama! You sure you don’t have any siblings?”

“I’m sure. I am without a doubt, an only child,” Miyama took the photo back and placed it in his folder. He turned to Ohno and bowed. “I’m so sorry for your loss, Ohno-sensei. We did not know about this similarity and headed over here as soon as our boss asked us to. If it is too difficult for you to look at me, I can request that another lawyer take over with Sada-sensei.”

“Don’t offer that!” Sada hissed, nudging him. “This guy is on death row and has been for nearly 10 years! If anything he needs to the 0.1% truth to overturn the ruling!”

“Sada-sensei, can’t you see that this is painful for him?” Miyama pointed to his face. “I wouldn’t want to see someone who looked like my father sitting on the other side of the glass—”

“Too bad!” Sada charged forward. “We need the truth hiding in that 0.1% and there’s no one better to find that than you. Finding the 0.1% is your specialty, right?”

“It’s not going to serve the client’s interest,” Miyama shouted back, surprisingly taking Sada’s usual position in a moment of compassion. “We should ask Ozaki to switch—”

“Umm,” Sho began, trying to diffuse the escalation.

“We’re appealing for a wrongful conviction. We need you on this case,” Sada rejected the suggestion. “Ozaki can work on the drug case.”

The two lawyers bickered for another minute before Ohno interrupted.

“Are you two really the best?” Ohno asked bluntly.

Sada turned to the client. “Yes,” he said confidently. “If we’re going to pursue a wrongful conviction and appeal, we need Miyama-sensei on this. He is the best at finding the truth in the face of overwhelming evidence contrary to that.”

“Sada-sensei here looks like your typical selfish corporate law legal advisor,” Miyama chimed in.

“Whatdya mean ‘selfish’?!” roared Sada. “You always say such unnecessary things!”

“But he is surprisingly well connected in the business world,” Miyama continued, ignoring Sada’s dramatic indignation. “And his ability to secure information and resources leveraged from his connections is unparalleled in Madarame Law Firm. We often need a combination of both our skill sets for complex cases like this.”

“Fine. You may both stay,” Ohno sat down.

“Ohno-sensei,” breathed Sho. “I can’t believe you’re speaking…”

“My name is Ohno Satoshi. I swear that I did not kill Matsumoto Jun.” Ohno paused and took a deep breath as he closed his eyes and brought up the countless memories he shared with the man. “I loved him. He was my Jun-Jun. There’s no way I’d kill him.”

“Could you start from the beginning?” Miyama asked, left hand already to his ear close to the circular speaking area much like on a box office transaction window that allowed the sound to pass between both parties, inviting Ohno to recount his story.  “First of all, where were you born?”

“Huh?” Ohno his eyes fluttering open in bewilderment.

“What’s with this guy?” Sho demanded to Sada.

“Just trust us. This is part of the process,” Sada waved assuring them. “Please answer his questions. We need to start at the beginning.”

“Start with where you were born,” Miyama urged, pen poised above his notebook with a dazzling, curious Cheshire-like grin.

To be continued…

Chapter Text

“Where I was born?” Ohno repeated slowly.

“Yes, where were you born?” Miyama asked.

“Mitaka City, Tokyo.”

“What was your family like?”

“4 person family. My parents, older sister, and me,” Ohno replied robotically.

Sho watched as this Miyama lawyer spent two hours inquiring about Ohno’s childhood and adolescence. Miyama and Sada took copious amounts of notes as they familiarized themselves with Ohno’s family life, personality, study habits, friendships, and behaviors.

“Ohno-sensei, when was the first time you received formal recognition for your artwork?” Miyama asked, turning the page.

“When I was 15, I decided that I didn’t want to study and only was interested in art. In all my classes, I never paid attention, got poor marks, and was practically failing. But I wasn’t sleeping or goofing off. I spent all that time drawing and sketching and in art class, I painted. One of the pieces I created was entered into a national competition without my knowledge and I won a junior artist award for high school students. They gave me a scholarship to an art school, so I dropped out of regular school and went there instead.”

“Did you continue to win awards for your work throughout your high school years?” Miyama asked, fingering his earlobe.

“Yes. Sho-kun can give you that information. He keeps track of all that kind of boring stuff that people want to know,” Ohno nodded to Sho.

“I can prepare that information and send it to your office,” Sho nodded, taking notes for himself on what he needed to compile.

“Thank you,” Miyama acknowledged. “And what happened after you finished art school?”

“I didn’t finish,” Ohno shrugged. “I dropped out sometime after my 18th birthday. I was tired of doing the coursework and it was impeding my creative time, so I left. I worked some part-time jobs and kept doing my art on the side. About a year later, there was an art auction going on and I asked if they would put my artwork in the auction. They said no, of course. I was a no name artist, and I begged them to take just one. They kicked me out and I was sitting on the steps with two of my paintings when Sho-kun walked by.”

“Is that when the two of you met?” Miyama asked.

“Yes,” confirmed Sho. “My father was making me do an internship at the time with the company that was planning the event, so I was helping out.”

“Tell me what happened next,” Miyama pressed.

“Sho-kun saw me looking depressed on the steps and asked what was wrong. I told him that I had just been rejected,” Ohno snorted to himself in memory. “I told him that I had dropped out of a prestigious art school and was hoping to make it as an artist. But I didn’t realize it would be so hard to get others to give me a chance. Sho-kun was so kind to me. He said my paintings were nice and he’d pay money for them.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t have much on me at the time,” laughed Sho. “I only had 10,000 yen. I told Ohno-sensei I’d give him 10,000 yen for them, but that’s probably not what he was expecting. I knew those paintings were easily worth way more than that. With someone else’s name on them, they could have easily fetched 200,000 or 300,000 yen. They were good—amazing for an 18 year-old.”

“I was so happy that anyone would want to buy my work, I sold my first two paintings to Sho-kun,” smiled Ohno shyly.

“Keep in mind,” Sho interrupted. “Ohno-sensei’s paintings today of that same size and complexity would easily fetch at least 500,000 yen. I paid 5,000 yen each. But that’s actually not the end of that story.”

“So what happened?” Sada looked on curiously.

“After I paid Ohno-sensei, I took those two paintings inside the venue,” Sho continued. “I put them next to my backpack in the storage room and went to help out. I was just going to wrap them up with some leftover packing paper at the end of the night and bring them home to my room. Well, someone thought that they were paintings for the auction, so they took them out with the rest of the artwork. At the end of the night when they were reconciling the pieces and payment, they realized they had two pieces extra and that no one knew where they had come from. When they were describing them, I realized those were the paintings I had bought from Ohno-sensei and apologized that they had gotten mixed up in the auction.  But it turned out that the paintings had been quite popular and had sold for 150,000 yen each. The auction took their cut and they gave me the rest and told me to call them if I had more pieces from that artist to sell.”

“What did you do after that, Sakurai-san?” Miyama asked, flipping through the case file and scanning a document.

“I spent a week looking for Ohno Satoshi. I knew his name and that he had just dropped out of an art school, but I had no way of contacting him, so I researched all the art schools and programs to see if anyone knew of him. Of course those offices don’t release personal information, but I got lucky when a student pointed to a poster that Ohno-sensei had drawn that was still posted at the school. He told me that Ohno-sensei liked to hang out at the cake shop across the campus. I went there numerous times when I was free to try to find him and finally I found him so I could give him the money, less my 10,000 yen.”

“That’s pretty amazing that you found him,” Sada praised. “How old were you at the time?”

“I was 18,” Sho replied. “Kind of crazy how they just gave that money to an 18-year old in a suit.”

“Indeed,” nodded Miyama. “So what is the relationship between you two?”

“Sho-kun and me?” Ohno clarified.

“Yes.”

“Sho-kun helped me sell my paintings and other artwork—”

“Other artwork?” Miyama repeated.

“Well, when I was at art school, so I dabbled in other forms like ceramics, work working, glass blowing, stuff like that,” clarified Ohno. “Sho-kun helped me sell it all. He was still in college, but his family had a lot of connections. I don’t even know how he did it, but he managed to set everything up for me, including getting me commissioned work. I gave him a cut, but when he graduated from high school and went to university, I asked him to be my agent and manager as his part-time job.”

“I see,” Sada nodded.

“Very good…yes, yes….now, have you two ever been romantically involved?” Miyama asked, switching the inquiry.

“Never. Sho-kun has always been my agent and manager. He handles everything related to my work so I can focus all of my energy on my art,” Ohno said firmly.

“We’ve never been involved,” confirmed Sho. “I respect Ohno-sensei, but I don’t have any romantic feelings towards him.”

“Ohno-sensei, are you sure you don’t have any romantic feelings for Sakurai-san?” Miyama asked with large eyes and a wide grin while wiggling his eyebrows at Ohno.

Ohno looked at Miyama and his heart skipped a beat. He immediately looked away. “No, I don’t. Please stop…”

“Lay off,” Sada elbowed Miyama and tugged the collar of his jacket to pull him back down into his seat. “You’re making him uncomfortable.”

“Okay. Let’s change the topic,” Miyama agreed, sitting back down and turning to a blank page in his notebook. “Tell me about the first time you met Matsumoto Jun.”

Once again, Ohno closed his eyes and almost as if he was swimming in an ocean full of vivid memories, he took a few moments to recall his dearest memories of the man he loved from the deepest areas of his mind.

“What is he doing?” Sada asked, pointing to Ohno.

“He’s bringing up all the memories,” Sho explained quietly. “He has hyperphantasia, the ability to visualize extremely clear and detailed images in his mind. If he can think it, he can see it in his head. That’s what allows him to create the art that he does. But also, I think this has allowed him to preserve his memories with Jun-kun. His memory for the time he spent with Jun-kun is extremely detailed and vivid. Supposedly he’s never forgotten a single moment he shared with Jun-kun.”

“Interesting….” Miyama trailed off.

“That must either be the most wonderful gift that you can preserve your memories in such a way,” Sada nodded in admiration.

“Or the worst possible curse since that means that you can never forget,” Miyama noted, muttering to himself as he rubbed his earlobes with both hands. “Ohno-sensei, please tell me about the day you met Matsumoto Jun.”

Chapter Text

“I met him when I was 21,” began Ohno, his eyes still closed. “He was 18.”

“What did he look like at the time?” Miyama asked.

Ohno smiled, his closed eyelids twitching. “He was a tall, skinny thing. No muscle, you could push him and he’d fall over. Like an enoki mushroom.” Ohno chucked to himself at the description before continuing on. “Dark wavy hair in a mop. Very dark luscious eyebrows with a slight arch. Big eyes…”

“What color?”

“Light brown. Like yours, Miyama-sensei,” Ohno continued to smile. “When the light hit them at the right angle they were almost amber-like. But normally a crystal clear light brown, like English tea with just a hint of lemon. Yes, lemon tea eyes. Long thick eyelashes, like a girl. Eyelashes so full it looked like he had eyeliner on sometimes. His skin was pale, like cream. He had a wide smile, large teeth in a perfect row, yeah, that smile was almost too big for his tiny face. His lips were full, his lower lip quite pouty. He had big ears, but a nice profile from the side. I liked his nose. And he had a lot of beauty spots all over his face. The most notable ones on the left side of his face. A dark one below his lower lip and a smaller one over his upper lip.”

“Was he your type?” Miyama asked. Sada and Sho immediately shot Miyama a questioning glare, which if Miyama had noticed, he ignored.

“I…” Ohno paused. “He was beautiful from an artistic standpoint, but when I first met him, he was just really cute. His eyes were just so sparkly, he had so much energy and life to him, and he reminded me of a squirrel or a puppy. He was adorable.”

“What was your favorite feature?” probed Miyama.

“His hands? And maybe is waist? He had a really nice hourglass figure. And pretty hands…”

“Oi, are you seriously writing all this down?” Sada rolled his eyes.

“Tell me about the day you met him,” Miyama redirected. “And it might be important; don’t interrupt, Sada-sensei.”

“I was holding my own first solo exhibition,” Ohno licked his lips. “Sho-kun had rented a space for me for 3 months and at the end, all the works were to be put up for sale at an auction on the last day. He said that with the increasing popularity of my works, he thought it would do well. We hired a retired art teacher who—”

“What was their name?” Miyama interrupted.

“Takase Yui,” Sho responded without missing a beat.

“Yes, that’s right. Takase-san,” Ohno nodded.  “She lived nearby and her job was to show people around and promote the auction. She was the one who told me that there was this teenager that was coming there every afternoon and hanging out until closing every day for a couple of weeks. I didn’t think anything of it and I thought it was just some high school kid. Even though it was my exhibition, I didn’t really spend any time there. I was just living alone in my studio creating more art during those 3 months. Sho-kun told me that I really only needed to be there on the last day for the auction. But on the last day, the day before the auction, Takase-san called me to tell me that a frame had fallen to the ground and sustained a bit of damage to the corner so I went down to see how bad it was. It was right before closing, so I figured that no one would be there. While I was looking at the frame, she asked me if I wanted to meet my number one fan.”

“Number one fan?” Sada repeated.

“The teenager,” Miyama clarified.

“Exactly,” confirmed Ohno. “She told me that that teenager had been coming every day to look at my art for 3 months. She asked if she could let him meet me and I agreed. I could see her approach him and ask him. He looked like he had stars in his eyes and was practically bouncing over to meet me. That was the first time I felt like I had a true fan. It was actually kind of cute. When he got closer, he introduced himself as Matsumoto Jun.”

“Was Takase-san there when he introduced himself?” Miyama asked.

“Yes, she was still there, but when I introduced herself, she took her leave to clean the floors and lock up, leaving me with him.”

“Did Takase-san leave for the day before you did?” Miyama scratched his neck curiously.

“No. She was still cleaning the floor when we left for the day,” Ohno scrunched his face as he recalled the moment.

“Sorry, please go back to what happened when you started to talk to Matsumoto,” Sada requested.

“We talked for maybe 10 or 15 minutes—” continued Ohno.

“About what?” Miyama pushed curiously, edging closer to the plexiglass circle.

“He told me that he was 18 and attending a vocational school nearby—”

“What kind of vocational school?” Miyama’s ear was practically at the glass in fully piqued interest.

“Fashion and beauty, I think, but I’m afraid I don’t recall the actual type,” Ohno apologized. “Actually, he may not have ever mentioned it, but it offered some sort of work-study-apprenticeship program or something and that was what he was doing. I asked him why he had been coming and he told me that he was in love with my art and that he had seen my works in Junior Artist Monthly. He said that he had been following my work for a while and was so excited to be able to see it every day for the last three months, but that he was sad that the exhibition was ending and that the works would now be auctioned off. He said that he had no money to go to the auction to purchase anything, so he came every day to burn the works into his memory so that he could remember them forever.”

“Did you get the sense that he was a creepy or dangerous fan?” Sada asked.

“Not at all,” Ohno shook his head. “He was so young and innocent. And looked like he had not yet grown into all of his features, but I could see that he would be handsome. I wanted to draw him, so I invited him back to my studio.”

“Did you feel any romantic feelings towards him at that moment?” Miyama interjected.

“No. I just wanted to draw him. So we left together and I brought him back to my studio where I had him model. He took his clothes off and I gave him a sheet for some modesty and then I spent a few hours sketching him in silence.”

“Were you there, Sakurai-san?” Miyama asked.

“No, I wasn’t,” Sho responded. “Ohno-sensei typically works alone and until he is done creating, he never really tells me what he’s working on.”

“But you have seen the drawing?” Miyama twirled his pen and pointed it at Sho for effect.

“Yes,” Sho nodded. “It was a black and white charcoal piece with Jun-kun laying on the on the couch with his upper body against the arm of the couch and his legs stretched out. He was facing Ohno-sensei and his crotch area was covered with a sheet like Ohno-sensei said.”

“Where is it?” Miyama tapped the pen along the back of his head as he thought about this sketch.

“The canvas? It’s in Ohno-sensei’s house in the gallery room. It’s on the east wall next to the painting of the sunset,” Sho explained. “I can send you photos of all of his personal works that were not meant for the public eye if you’d like.”

“Excellent, please do,” Miyama nodded. “Ohno-sensei, what happened after you finished your art piece?”

“I showed the piece to him. He got really excited about it and said he couldn’t believe how well I had captured him on my canvas,” Ohno’s eyes were still closed but he smiled fondly in the memory, his eyes moving behind his eyelids almost as if he were watching a movie in his mind’s eye. “He gushed on about it for a few minutes and then our eyes met. It was like we had both been hit by something—”

“Something?” pressed Miyama, his pen stopping mid character.

“A jolt of energy, I guess?” Ohno ventured. “I felt something at that moment and I could tell that he felt it too. We stared into each other’s eyes and he looked so hopeful. He leaned in and then we kissed. It was soft and innocent at first and then it became more passionate.”

“Did you sleep with him that day?” Miyama asked.

“Yes,” Ohno admitted, opening his eyes to face his audience of three.

“You slept with him that day?!” Sho asked in surprise.

“Yes, I knew I felt something for him and he wanted it too,” Ohno confirmed. “He stayed the night and the next morning, he made us breakfast and then we—”

“Sorry, what did you have for breakfast?” Miyama interrupted.

“Is that really important?” Sada moaned, slapping his palm to his forehead.

“Yes,” Miyama nodded with wide eyes so Sada backed down.

“It was toast and eggs,” Ohno answered.

“How were the eggs cooked?” Miyama inquired with piqued interest.

“They were scrambled—”

“Fluffy? Runny? Dry?” Miyama was on the edge of his seat about the eggs much to Sada’s annoyance and Sho’s confusion.

“No, fluffy and moist. Buttery. Soft and almost custard-like curds. They were perfectly cooked and seasoned. He must have gone out to the store, now that I think about it,” Ohno looked up at the ceiling to recall the memory. “There were definitely chives in, or maybe on top, of those eggs and I didn’t keep any herbs in my fridge at the time. He also made a pot of coffee, we ate in bed. And then an hour later, we took a shower together. He said he needed to go to class, so he kissed me and asked if he could see me again. We exchanged contact information, and then he left.”

“How did your relationship progress after that?” Sada tried to move the conversation along.

“We started seeing each other regularly,” Ohno’s shoulders slumped as he shifted in his chair. “We lived about an hour away from each other but his school was near my studio, so he often came by to hang out. We were seeing each other for about a year before I told him that I was moving to another area in town and getting a bigger studio. I needed more space and so I had found the perfect studio that had a loft upstairs where I could sleep and cook, so I could stay there if I needed. But I was also looking for another place to live and I asked if he wanted to move in with me so we could split the expenses. He agreed to move in and we found an older house up for sale in a suburban area that had a lot of space but was quiet and perfect for the two of us. We were so happy together…”

“Did you know about the relationship, Sakurai-san?” Sada asked.

“Yes, I met Jun-kun a few months after they started seeing each other and I can attest that they were a really happy couple,” Sho affirmed.

“How was Ohno-sensei’s professional success at that time?” Miyama interrupted, attempting to take control of the interview again.

“He was doing very well,” Sho said, taking a small bound report and handing it to Miyama. “This is the report of his financials from that time until present day.”

“Here,” Miyama took a brief scan and then passed it to Sada with a gaze of confident trust that said without words, ‘You got this, right?’

“Yeah,” Sada nodded, slipping the report into the case file. While he was straightening his papers, Miyama had turned his attention back to Ohno and Sho.

“Sakurai-san,” Miyama was looking at Ohno, but then his pupils slid slowly to the side to give a creepy side-eyed glance to the manager.

“Yes?” Sho acknowledged, shifting uncomfortably in his chair and suddenly crossing one leg over another.

“Out of curiosity, do you know who killed Matsumoto Jun?” Miyama asked, slowly shifting his body to face the man he was addressing.

“What?! No, why the hell would you ask me such a question?!” Sho spat angrily to Sada and Ohno’s surprise at such a heated reaction. “All I know is that it was not Ohno-sensei! What the hell is wrong with this lawyer?!”

“Are you sure?” Miyama pressed.

“YES! I’m SURE!” Sho shouted angrily, clearly insulted by the insinuation. “How DARE you accuse me of withholding information from the police! I ought to—”

“Sho-kun, calm down. Please…you’re making a scene,” Ohno pressed his handcuffed hands up against the glass. “It was just a question. No need to get upset.” As Sho took a few deep breaths, Ohno continued, “I’m in here because I deserve to be in here, but I did not kill him.”

“Oooh, please tell me more about your guilty conscience—” Miyama’s probe was unfortunately interrupted by blaring sirens and flashing strobe lights.

“What the?!” Sada looked around before the speakers boomed with a commanding female voice delivering an announcement with a robotically dead cadence.

“Attention. Code 14. This correctional facility is on lockdown. All prisoners must return to their cells immediately. Visitors, please proceed to the Central Security Checkpoint for processing. Attention. Code 14. This correctional facility is on lockdown. All prisoners must return to their cells immediately. Visitors, please proceed to the Central Security Checkpoint for processing. Attention. Code 14…”

The door on Ohno’s side swung open and a guard waved his hand urgently. “Ohno! Visiting time is over. Get back to your cell.”

“Are you kidding me?!” Sada roared in annoyance that they had not even managed to get the story of what had transpired that fateful evening.

Ohno bowed and shuffled silently out the door.

“We should go too,” Sho urged.  “It’s a Code 14.” The agent manager ran into the hall and began to briskly walk with purpose following the flow of traffic.

“What the hell is a Code 14?” Sada yelled over the alarm, shoving everything into his briefcase.

“Prison riot,” Miyama shouted back with a gleeful grin, already at the door with his backpack on his shoulders.

“I don’t even wanna know how you know that,” muttered Sada, grabbing his briefcase. He silently marched in time with Miyama down the corridor, noting how briskly the people in front of them were walking. Sho was nearly to the end of the corridor, but there were others moving calmly through the hallways so there was no doubt as to where they should be heading.

“Very interesting,” Miyama commented, turning a corner. “There’s one thing for sure.”

“What’s that?” Sada squinted as the alarms rang through his eardrums and the announcement was broadcast again. When the voice stopped speaking and it was only the sirens, Miyama grinned excitedly.

“Ohno Satoshi is innocent,” Miyama announced grandly to Sada as he stopped at the painted line on the floor 200 meters from the security check point. People had stopped and were spaced out at 2 meter lined intervals as security handed people back their items and ushered them through the body scanners. “This case reeks of false conviction. Ohno Satoshi didn’t kill Matsumoto Jun and we’re going to find the 0.1% truth about what happened that night.”

To be continued….

Chapter Text

“Oi, Miyama—” began Sada.

“Sakurai-san sure has quick legs when it comes to running away,” Miyama commented as he looked around, noting that the personal friend of Ohno Satoshi had somehow disappeared among the chaos of the lockdown. “You on the other hand, Sada-sensei, would die if there’s ever a zombie apocalypse.”

“Haahh?” Sada forced his face into Miyama’s, riled up to action.

“You have no sense of danger or crisis,” Miyama teased, stepping forward as the line moved forward. “The sirens were blaring and you were taking your time. Had I not kept a reasonable pace, you would have been lost in the shuffle. You would be zombie food since you’re the slowest one. Nature would totally select you out of the gene pool—”

“Hahhh?!” Sada roared back. “Let me tell you, I am a winner not a loser—”

“I am glad I’m faster than you,” laughed Miyama.

Sada tsked his tongue and rolled his eyes while he crossed his arms in a sullen pout. “So?”

“So?” Miyama repeated.

“You think he’s not guilty, right, Ohno Satoshi?”

“Yup,” Miyama swayed from left to right watching people being processed out instead of giving Sada his full attention.

“Based on?”

“Just a feeling,” shrugged Miyama with a singsong cadence. “Definitely feels guilty about something he did to his lover prior to his death, but I don’t get the sense that he killed Matsumoto Jun. You know who does seem suspicious though?”

Sada rolled his tongue throughout his mouth and returned a knowing glance. “Yeah, he does. Definitely seems like he’s involved…or maybe knows more than he’s let on in the past.”

They stood in silence for a few moments.

“But does he have motive?” Sada asked, moving forward with the line. “What’s his motive?”

“Well, isn’t that your job to find out, senior corporate lawyer Sada-sensei?” Miyama reminded him with a mocking tone to Sada’s title.

“Why me?”

“A guy like Sakurai Sho? If he’s guilty of anything, it’s probably something white collar,” Miyama surmised, fingering his ear. “Those aren’t the hands of someone who would do the dirty work themselves…”

“You want me to run his financials then?” Sada confirmed, his head turning as two guards rushed past them.

“And scrutinize that report that he gave us, and do whatever it is that you do for people who seem like they have political connections.”

“Political connections?”

“He looks like the son of a politician or a CEO of some major firm, don’t you think?” Miyama pulled his visitor’s badge and handed it back to the guards who were processing the visitors out. They ushered him through the metal detectors and waved him along.

Sada followed along, though his excessive metal accessories kept setting off the sensors.

“Sada-sensei, we just can’t take you anywhere, can we?” Miyama shook his head as they hailed a taxi.

“Shuddup,” Sada mumbled and scooted into the back seat first. Miyama followed him and Sada turned to Miyama expectantly the second he got comfortable. “Well?” To which Miyama raised his eyebrows. “You wanna go somewhere to investigate more, right? You’ve got some hunch, don’t you?”

“Oh, you know me so well, Sada-sensei,” Miyama nodded in pleasant surprise.

“Yeah, yeah, so where to?” dismissed Sada.

“City Hope Life 38,” Miyama directed the driver, who immediately entered it into the navigation system to find the fastest route.

“What the hell is that?!” demanded Sada.

“It’s the building where Sakurai Sho works—”

“Now how the HELL do you know that?” roared Sada as Miyama rummaged through his backpack.

“It was in the case file,” Miyama replied.

“Why? Was he a person of interest?” The taxi pulled pulled out of the parking lot and began following the directions being read quietly in the background.

“Turn left and proceed two kilometers east.”

“It seems that he was cleared very early on in the investigation,” Miyama flipped through the case files.

“You have a problem with his alibi?” Sada glanced at Miyama as he observed the flow of traffic.

“Hmmm…mayyyybeee,” Miyama pointed to the second paragraph of the page that he was reading. “It says that his whereabouts are accounted for during time of death. He was having dinner with a female companion at the top of Tokyo Sky Tree and the restaurant vouches for him. But later that evening, he was most definitely in the vicinity of the crime scene—”

“Oi, are you going to confront him right now?”

“As if,” scoffed Miyama.

“Take the next right and your destination is on the right, 38-9 Tsunozawa. City Hope Life 38.”

“I’m going to get some things from him.” Miyama opened the door as the taxi rolled to a stop. “Can you tell Akashi-san to meet me here? I’ll see you later,” Miyama waved and ran into the building.

“Miyama! I’m not your damn secretary—” Sada protested but Miyama had already gone into the building.

City Hope Life 38 was a massive 38-story building that boasted 38 floors of premium office space for the elite and highly successful. Miyama wandered about the lobby past the large fountain and tropical plants and made his way to the front desk where two ladies greeted him with a smile.

“I’m looking for the office of Sakurai Sho,” Miyama said professionally.

“He is on the 36th floor in unit 3601 on the left as you exit the elevator,” the older one in her late thirties pointed helpfully towards the elevators.

“Thank you,” Miyama returned the smile and made his way to the elevator. He assumed that a place like City Hope Life 38 would have stricter security and require appointments to access the offices, but there was simply a security guard in the standard blue uniform by the elevator who nodded and greeted him as waited for the elevator. Miyama glanced curiously at the directory next to the elevator and noted that there were floors dedicated to entire companies, private professionals, and entities that he was not quite sure what they represented.

The elevator opened with a ping and Miyama pressed the button for the 37th floor. He noted that there was a black pad installed under all the buttons. As he rode up, he pressed the button for the 21st floor. It did not light up like the 37th, but the black pad began to flash a red border indicating that it required card key access to authorize the stop. Miyama pressed other buttons to check this theory and discovered that only certain floors had open access.

“37th floor,” the elevator voice spoke to him, informing him that he had arrived. The doors slid open quietly and Miyama stepped directly into a large office space that took over the entire floor.

“Hello, sir. Welcome to the office of House of Representatives member Sakurai Shun. Are you here to join the campaign?” an energetic man in a suit, undoubtedly an intern of some sort, greeted him immediately with an idol smile.

“Sakurai Shun?”

“Yes, he’s very excited about the upcoming election,” babbled the intern, handing Miyama some papers. Miyama politely listened on while looking around at the bustling office. “Anyway, there’s lots to do and what level of support were you thinking that—”

“Sounds all very interesting,” Miyama nodded. “But I’m looking for Sakurai Sho.”

“Ahh, his son is on the floor below us in 3601—”

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Miyama apologized.

“Not at all! It’s a common mistake since they’re so close in proximity.”

“Oh, so they must get along quite well to work,” Miyama engaged, walking towards the elevator.

“Of course! The Sakurai family is known for its grounding in strong family values.”

“Hmmm, yes, I imagine so….Have you been interning here long?”

“How did you…?”

“Your ID,” Miyama pointed.

“Ahh, well, I’ve been interning here for about a year, but I’m a close family friend.”

“Well, good to meet you…close family friend of the Sakurai family…Ueda-san…Ueda Ryuuya-san—”

“It’s ‘Tatsuya’. Ueda Tatsuya,” he smiled, pointing to the fine print showing the reading of the characters above his name.

“Ah, my mistake. So it is. Ueda Tatsuya-san,” Miyama bowed and the elevator doors closed between them. As he took the elevator one floor down, something nagged at him as he drew a mental map of the players entering the field. “Sakurai Shun…Ueda Tatsuya…Sakurai Sho…City Hope Life 38….”

Chapter Text

The 36th floor opened to a typical corridor of offices. Miyama wandered down the corridor to see who else was on the floor before coming back full circle to the first office on the left. He opened the door to see a spacious waiting room with an administrative assistant typing away as she spoke on the phone. She was surprisingly older, in her mid-forties, professional and serious, but cordial given her demeanor on the phone. Miyama figured the man to be someone who might keep a young, pretty thing as his administrative pet, so he was quite surprised to see his choice in assistants. Sakurai Sho was nowhere to be seen.

“Yes, thank you. We will be in touch. Hello, do you have an appointment?” the assistant greeted Miyama.

“I’m Miyama Hiroto,” Miyama introduced.

She checked the large black appointment book. “Hmm, I don’t think I saw you in the appointments for today. Miyama, you said?”

“It’s written ‘Fukayama’, but read as ‘Miyama’,” he added.

“No, I’m not seeing you in the appointments,” she said apologetically, but subtly signaling that it was beyond her power.

“Will you tell him that I’m here?” Miyama insisted.

“But you clearly do not have an appointment—”

“I’m sure he will see me once he knows that I am here,” Miyama picked up an odd dog-shaped ornament from her desk.

“Put that down! Please, Fukayama-san—”

“It’s Miyama,” he replied cheerfully.

Miyama-san,” she said tensely. “Please, come back when you have an appointment—” she declined with a pursed frown, reaching over her desk to take back her personal item from Miyama.

“But I’m already here and he doesn’t have an appointment right now—” Miyama grinned. “I can see in your book that he’s open. You should just put me through—”

“That’s not how it’s done here!”

“Do you always keep a manual record of the appointments in a book like that?” Miyama craned his neck to see. “How do you know that my appointment was not misplaced? You should switch to a digital—”

“I always keep a record of the appointments like this and I would not make a mistake like forgetting to write down an appointment!”

“Can you just call him on the intercom?” Miyama pointed over her phone. “He’s clearly not on a call—”

“The boss will scold me if I bother him with your nonsense—” she raised her voice, slowly losing her cool.

“It’s not nonsense!” Miyama instigated. “I’m here on an important case! Tell him it’s Miyama!”

“Miyama-san, please lea—”

“What’s all the commotion out here?!” the heavy wood door swung open, revealing none other than Sakurai Sho.

“It’s me, remember?” Miyama waved.

“Oh, Miyama-sensei,” Sho brought his energy down to a more professional level. “Did we have an appointment? I haven’t compiled the information you requested yet. It’s going to take me a day or so.”

“No, I stopped by for some information regarding the case,” Miyama explained. “May I have a few minutes of your time?”

“Shachou, shall I call security to escort him out?” offered his assistant.

“Ahh, it’s fine,” Sho waved. “But in the future, please make an appointment with my assistant, Yumesaki-san, in advance.”

“Will do. Nice to meet you, Yume-san!” Miyama waved, clearly unapologetic. “By the way, you have such a cute name despite your icy exterior.”

“It’s ‘Yu-me-sa-ki’!” she emphasized as the door closed behind them.

“Can I have the keys?” Miyama asked.

“To…?”

“To whatever Ohno Satoshi owns—house, studio, storage locker…” Miyama trailed off.

“For…?”

“I need to be able to investigate in my own way. The best way for me to find the truth is to retrace and replicate the events. You don’t have a problem with that, do you, Sakurai-san?”

Why would I have a problem with that?” Sho took a defensive tone to his voice.

“I mean, you want me to find the truth. That’s why you hired us, right?” Miyama closed the distance between them and placed his face in close proximity to the manager-agent. “I’m very good at finding the truth,” he whispered, pupils dilated in excitement.

Sho swallowed and cleared his throat while he gathered himself to react.

“May I have the keys and locations?” Miyama prompted.

“You do not need to flirt with me to get them. I will give them to you,” Sho stepped away and opened a cabinet that revealed a wall safe. There was a passcode of eight digits that needed to be entered in and a biometric fingerprint scanner that required authentication before it opened.

The safe was large and contained what appeared to be 18 long and narrow locked safety deposit boxes and an open cavity with rows of hooks that contained rings of keys. Sho pulled out a set and brought them to Miyama. “Here are all of the keys that open Ohno Satoshi’s assets.”

“There are quite a few keys on this,” commented Miyama, staring at the full ring of keys of different sizes.

Sho picked up the ring and began to rattle off what they opened. “House keys—front door, garage side door, workshop shed, gallery, safe. Storage Lockers—in two different buildings. Bank safety deposit box. Car keys—”

“What about his workshop or studio? I imagine he had one of those.”

“Yes, here, at the end. These two,” Sho fingered them.

“And what about these three?” Miyama pointed to the ones that Sho skipped over.

“I don’t know what they open,” Sho shrugged. He turned to his phone and pressed the intercom.

“Shachou?” Yumesaki acknowledged.

“Can you pull up a list of addresses for Miyama-sensei?”

“Certainly.”

“Give him everything related to Ohno Satoshi.”

There was a pause.

“Yumesaki-san?”

“Yes, I’m here. Sorry, addresses related to Ohno-sensei.”

“Home, workshop, lockers, just give Miyama-sensei everything. He’s from Madarame Law Firm, taking over for Yazaki-sensei.”

“I will compile this list at once.”

“Miyama-sensei will pick it up from you on his way out.”

The second that Sho hung up the phone, Miyama was ready with his next question. “Did you not ask Ohno-sensei?”

“Ask him what?” Sho shook his head in confusion.

“What these extra keys were for,” Miyama reminded.

“I did, but he said that he didn’t know either. All I know is that these were picked up when Yumesaki-san and I swept his things.”

“Yume-san was there all those years ago?” Miyama asked in surprise. And now we add Yume-san...

“Yeah, and it’s Yumesaki. She used to work for my father, but when she was pushing thirty, he wanted to hire someone younger for his office, so I asked her to come work for me,” Sho walked back over to the safe and began to secure it back into the paneling.

“Does she know that?”

“What? The reason why I asked her to come work for me?”

“Yes.”

“No, I was smooth about it,” Sho replied, returning to his desk area now that the safe had been secured, to which Miyama raised an eyebrow. “I begged her to come help me. She had no clue.”

“Yume-san…” Miyama trailed off, the wheels turning in his head. “She seems pretty sharp though…” Miyama turned his attention back to the keys. “Interesting….” Miyama fingered his ear. “So maybe…”

“Oh, you have a theory?” Sho said in surprise.

“Well, only two options, really,” Miyama pointed to the keys in question. “Either those belong to Matsumoto Jun and Ohno Satoshi did not know or did not want to acknowledge their presence. Or, those belong to the killers.”

“Killers? The police didn’t think there were multiple killers—”

“Of course they didn’t. They arrested Ohno Satoshi,” Miyama agreed.

“No, I mean, why do you think there were multiple killers?” Sho clarified, taking a sip of his tea from the ceramic cup on his desk.

“It never crossed your mind?” Miyama ricocheted and redirected.

“Not at all.”

“It should’ve,” Miyama quipped and then changed the subject. “Remind me—I haven’t yet read the case in its entirety and with the lockdown I didn’t get the whole story yet from Ohno-sensei, but what was the motive for the murder?”

“They said it was a crime of passion.”

“Crime…of passion?” Miyama said slowly. “Even though Ohno-sensei maintains that he did not kill Matsumoto Jun.” Miyama turned away and mumbled to himself, “Which begs the question of who was passionate enough to kill him if it wasn’t Ohno-sensei…”

“Things had been rocky at the time,” Sho began. “Ohno-sensei had gotten into a fight with Jun-kun, people heard them fighting, and there were people who saw Ohno-sensei storm off. Ohno-sensei was the last person to see Matsumoto Jun alive—”

“Sorry to interrupt you, what were they fighting about?” Miyama placed the keys into his pocket since it seemed that the keys were otherwise accounted for and the manager-agent had no intention of touching upon them or elaborating any further.

“I think he suspected that Jun-kun may have been cheating on him.”

“And what do you think?” Miyama opened his bag and pulled out a photo from the case file to place in front of Sho on his desk. Sho looked at it and looked up at Miyama. “He’s handsome, nice skin, fashionable….”

“I…” Sho paused awkwardly.

“Ohno-sensei isn’t on par in terms of attractiveness,” Miyama pointed out, laying a photo of Ohno and Jun together next to the first photo. “Ohno-sensei is maybe a 5—at least by picky female standards—or…a 6 or 7 if we’re being males judging other males. Let’s go the middle ground and say he’s a 6 in terms of physical attractiveness. When you put together the fact that he’s talented and wealthy, he’s probably an 8 in terms of datability. But, the victim is a 9 or 10. He didn’t have to settle for Ohno-sensei. Could it be that he was dissatisfied with his partner? You knew him, right?”

“I…I don’t know…” Sho shrugged.

“You don’t know? You don’t know if he was dissatisfied or you didn’t know him that well?” Miyama repeated. “You were friends with Ohno-sensei and you knew his partner. And yet you have no opinion about the victim’s fidelity?”

“It was a long time ago….I can’t really say…”

“You can’t?” Miyama said with surprise. “We’re not talking about what you ate for lunch 10 years ago to the day, I’m asking you if you think Matsumoto Jun was cheating on Ohno Satoshi so I can determine if that was motive for murder.”

“But Ohno-sensei didn’t kill Jun-kun—”

“You don’t know that for sure, since you weren’t there. Or were you?” Miyama wiggled his eyebrows dramatically. “Oh, no matter, we’ll talk again soon, I imagine!” Miyama did not wait for Sho to respond, but instead wrapped up the conversation. “You’ve been moderately unhelpful, but moderately useful, so I suppose a moderate thank you is in order. I think those items I asked you for will be much more enlightening.”

“You’re welcome?…I think?” Sho replied, watching the whirlwind known as Miyama whip through his office.

“I’ll see myself out and return these keys when I’m done. Or do you need them right away to take care of Ohno-sensei’s affairs?”

“No need,” Sho waved. “I have another set. You can hold on to those for as long as you need to.”

“Well, then! I shall pick up the list from Yume-san and be on my way! Thank you for your time and the documents in advance!”

Miyama waved and let himself out. Yumesaki was still seething in her seat, but handed him an envelope as he approached her desk.

“Thank you, Yume-san!” he smiled radiantly.

“It’s Yu-me-sa-ki!” she scolded.

“See you both soon!” Miyama waved.

“Be sure you make an appointment next—”

Miyama closed the door behind him and pressed the down button on the elevator. While he was waiting, he opened the envelope to review all of the addresses that had been provided. He had ridden down the elevator absorbed in his packet when he heard a commotion reverberating through the lobby.

“I’m telling you, he’s here! Don’t call the police on me! I swear that I’m from Madarame Law Firm—”

“Oh, Akashi-san!” Miyama greeted with a wave. “You made it!”

“Miyama, tell them that I’m not a suspicious person! I’m your paralegal and here to help!” Akashi moaned as the security guards had him handcuffed from behind.

“He’s definitely a suspicious person,” Miyama nodded and walked away.

“MIYAMAAAAAA!” Akashi shouted.

“Just kidding, please let him go. He’s with me,” Miyama pulled out the gold pin badge showing that he was a lawyer. “I was here to see Sakurai-san,” Miyama explained, showing the guards the colorful pamphlets he had received from the politician’s intern. “See?”

The guards released him reluctantly and Akashi continued to make a fuss as they unlocked the handcuffs while Miyama chatted with the reception ladies.

“Oi, Miyama!” Akashi wheezed rubbing his wrists, hobbling towards a blissfully ignorant Miyama.

“Perfect timing, Akashi-san,” Miyama acknowledged, leading him out with one last wave to the reception ladies. “Let’s get ready to go on a field trip!”

“A field trip?”

Miyama took out the key ring from his pocket. “I got his keys,” he said gleefully with a twinkle in his eyes.  “Ready for a spelunking journey?”

“Akashi is ready for action!” he nodded enthusiastically with one hand raised. “Where are we going?”

“You have a choice!” Miyama said excitedly.

“I do?!” Akashi responded in kind.

“Yes! Given the proximity….either…” Miyama scanned the addresses. “Either Ohno Satoshi’s house or…Ohno Satoshi’s house!”

“I’ll take…Ohno Satoshi’s house! Wait a minute! That wasn’t a choice!” Akashi grumbled, following Miyama down the street towards the train station.

“No, I guess it was not, but hey, we can start at the house,” Miyama grinned optimistically. “There’s bound to me some juicy truth hidden there.”

“Please don’t say ‘juicy’ and ‘truth’ in the same sentence. It sounds icky.”

“Juicy truth! Truthy juice! Jruthy tooce!” Miyama rearranged the sounds playfully.

“It’s gonna be a long day, isn’t it?” Akashi sighed.

“I know, isn’t it great?” Miyama picked up the pace gleefully and began skipping down the street. “It’s like the 12 Days of Christmas in the flavors of murder, passion, money, and secrets!”

“Wait for meeeee! Miyamaaaa! Akashi is comiiiiiiing!!”

To be continued….

Chapter Text

Miyama and Akashi arrived at a two-story home in a quiet neighborhood on the outskirts of the metropolitan area. Considering that Ohno Satoshi had been quite the celebrity artist, the location of his main residence was surprisingly remote and the outside of the home quite modest.

“Are you sure this is the house?” Akashi asked, peering into the gated front.

Miyama looked down at the printout and then showed Akashi the photo in the upper right corner. “Yeah, looks like this is it.”

“This gate looks like it opens with a fob,” commented Akashi.

“It says on this to use the side gate on the directions from Yume-san,” Miyama cocked his head to the left and then proceeded to unlock the gate which opened with a creak.

“Yes, but then how did they get the car out?” wondered Akashi.

“Good…question…” Miyama looked at the keys while pondering.

“Hello!” A voice called from the neighboring house.

Miyama and Akashi looked up to see a woman in her late sixties with her head sticking out of a window.

“Hi!” Miyama waved.

“Who might the two of you be?” she asked.

“Who are you?” Miyama asked back.

“Isobe, the neighbor,” she identified herself.

“I’m Miyama. This is Akashi,” Miyama waved and entered the property.

“Ahem!” Isobe coughed. “What sort of business do you have?”

“Oh, are you the neighborhood watch person?” Miyama asked. “We have some questions for you.”

“Who are you people?!” she demanded shrilly.

“Oh, we’re from Madarame Law Firm. We’ve taken over the case for the late Yazaki-sensei. Sakurai-san sent us,” explained Miyama, pointing to his gold pin for proof of profession. “May we ask you some questions later?”

“You’re not the police,” she grumbled huffily.

“No, we’re not,” Miyama agreed. “But we’re here to see if there’s anything we can do for Ohno Satoshi and Matsumoto Jun. Did you know them?”

“My husband was close with Ohno-sensei,” she admitted. “And Jun-kun and I used to have neighborhood patrol duty together.”

“Was?” Miyama prodded.

“He passed away 6 years ago….”

“I’m so sorry,” Miyama acknowledged with a reverent bow. “You must have felt their loss quite profoundly.”

“Ahem. I’m quite busy right now, but you may call on me in 2 hours,” Isobe tucked her head in and disappeared without another word.

“Thank you, Isobe-saaaan!” Miyama called. “See you in 2 hours!”

“I’ll check the outside of the house and get photos,” Akashi offered. “Should I be looking for anything in particular?”

“I don’t think so. The crime scene wasn’t here, so just look for the usual stuff,” Miyama instructed and stuck the key into the front door. “Excuse meee~” he called, opening the door.

The second that Miyama opened the door, he felt as though he had flown back in time ten years. The design, layout, technology, and appliances of the house, while top of the line at the time, seemed dated and nostalgic. There was a security alarm panel by the door that no longer appeared to be activated given the blank screen. Miyama removed his shoes and wandered about curiously. Sakurai Sho appeared to have been keeping up with the maintenance of the home as far as he could see. The air was stuffy, so Miyama set his backpack on the living room couch and opened the sliding doors and a few windows.

Based on his preliminary walkthrough, the first floor consisted of the living room, kitchen, laundry room, bathroom, and two rooms with the doors closed. The living room faced an outdoor sitting area that was surrounded by a small garden and with the sliding door open, Miyama could hear a faint breeze flowing through the wind chime hanging from the ceiling. The living room contained several bookshelves with magazines, books, art pieces, framed photos, and awards. There was very little dust indicating that someone came regularly to clean the house.

As a cook himself, Miyama was quite curious about the kitchen. He was surprised to find that while it was rather modern in design, that it had been meticulously organized with all sorts of gadgets, matching dishes, glassware, and appliances. While the pantry, shelves, and refrigerator were no longer stocked with food—the refrigerator was not even plugged in—he could see that the person who cooked had a system complete with labels. As Miyama rifled through the drawers, he came across two weathered notebooks, one full and another partially used. Interest piqued, he opened the older notebook which had clearly seen many years and was not only yellowed and the pages rippled from water-damage, but it had a warm, familiar feeling to it.

On the first page written in round feminine characters was, Satoshi & Jun’s Favorite Recipes’. Miyama turned the page and he found a table of contents listing what looked to be around 50 recipes. He flipped through the pages and found that each recipe was hand-written by the same person, sometimes dated or with the occasion, and contained an illustration of the dish sometimes drawn in pen, other times pencil, and occasionally in full color in watercolor or colored pencil. Some recipes had been revised with corrections in the measurements or notes in the margins about which brands to purchase or what season to make it. Miyama stopped at a page with a large brown circle bleeding through from the next page. He turned the page and saw a drawing of Matsumoto Jun standing by the round kitchen window—the source of the large brown circle that bled through the paper—chopping some vegetable on the counter. His hair was pulled back with a hair tie, his sleeves rolled up, and he was wearing an apron, much like the one that Miyama liked to wear when he was cooking. The drawing appeared to have been painted in sepia watercolor hues. Most unusual. So Miyama took a curious sniff to the page—soy sauce? Was this drawn with soy sauce?

He noticed at the corner of the page was a scribble: ‘Can you please not turn my good shoyu into watercolors?’

To which, someone with more masculine, calligraphic handwriting wrote: ‘But how else will I shoyu how much I love you?’

Miyama laughed out loud to himself. This was a couple after his own pun-loving heart. As he flipped through the rest of the first volume, he was able to ascertain that Matsumoto Jun was the actual cook and Ohno Satoshi was the artist who illustrated their recipe book that they had carefully curated over several years.

“Miyama?” Akashi called, stomping into the house and closing the door behind him.

“Yeah? I’m in the kitchen,” Miyama continued to flip through the pages. “Did you find anything out?”

“Not really,” Akashi informed, setting his own bag down next to Miyama’s and bringing the camera to the lawyer. “I took a bunch of pictures of the outside of the house. It looks fairly normal. I don’t think you can easily see into the house and there’s nothing worth stealing if you’re just looking from the outside. The yard’s a bit overgrown. It looks like at one point they may have had an herb or vegetable garden.”

“Pets?”

“None that were living outside as far as I can see. If they had a dog or cat, it must have been an inside one.”

“Neighbors?”

“Isobe-san is on the west-side. The house on the east-side looks relatively new, maybe built in the last two or three years since they have those new locks—what were they called? The ones that Sada-sensei said were ridiculously expensive?”

“Oh, the Königsschild locks?”

“Yeah! Those came on the market only a couple of years ago and just looking at the condition of the house, it hasn’t been there very long.”

“What about the back of the house?”

“Nothing. It’s just a slope that goes down into another residential area. What did you find so far?” Akashi peered over to see what Miyama had been looking at.

“Matsumoto Jun was the cook and the kitchen was his area—”

“Sounds like someone I know,” muttered Akashi.

“It looks like they spent quite a bit of time at home and together given how much has been invested in ambience of the living room and that garden sitting area outside the sliding door,” Miyama looked up and pointed to the open relaxing space. “Laundry room and bathroom seemed relatively normal. I don’t think they entertained much.”

“Why would you say that?” Akashi followed Miyama to the sofa where Miyama set the two recipe books next to his bag.

“There were only enough dishes for 4 people. The bins for flour, sugar, pasta, all those things that people buy in bulk if they have a family or entertain regularly are what you would expect for a single person or a couple. Even the wine glasses were only in sets of two and four,” Miyama gathered the key ring, the itemized printout from Yumesaki, and his notebook. “The dining table only seats four, but you can see that based on the wear on the table, chairs, and floor, they only sat on one corner, next to each other, not across from each other. The floor on the opposite corner barely has any wear to it indicating that they didn’t entertain much.”

Akashi walked over to the dining room set and took some photos. To Miyama’s credit, it was exactly as he said. Two of the chairs were clearly more worn than the other two, which looked nearly brand new despite them sitting in the home unused for a decade. The table on one corner had more use and wear on the finish than the other.

“What about those two doors?” Akashi asked, taking some photos of the kitchen now that Miyama appeared to be finished with his initial inspection.

“I’m about to open them,” Miyama confirmed. The first door was between the laundry room and the bathroom. Miyama reached for the door and the knob turned easily revealing a bedroom that had been converted into a workroom.

“What’s in the first room?” Akashi joined him.

“I think this was Matsumoto Jun’s workroom,” Miyama looked around. The room was designed like a scaled down salon without the sink. It had a vanity and chair that could be raised and lowered. On hooks next to the vanity were hairdryers, several curling irons of different widths, and two flat irons. On one wall were shelves of plastic and glass heads with wigs and hats and the one next to it was filled with reference books and magazines displayed with the covers facing outward. The last large wall was lined with a nail polish display rack and bins of other beauty products. “Beauty industry…what did he do for a living again?”

“He was a stylist, supposedly quite popular and in demand,” Akashi replied, rolling the video.

“He worked out of his house?”

“No, according to the case file, he was a triple A stylist at Salon Starlight in Kichijoji.”

“Triple A stylist?” Miyama repeated with a raised eyebrow as he opened the drawers of the vanity while Akashi continued to film.

“Nakatsuka-san said that Salon Starlight is a super popular salon with locations all over Tokyo and in a couple other major cities. They have a ranking system of A, AA, AAA, and S level hair stylists, S being the highest rank.”

“And what does triple A stylist mean?”

“I mean, you’d have to ask Nakatsuka-san, but she did seem rather impressed that at his age he had already been a triple A for quite some time. I’m guessing that the—”

“Hello? Nakatsuka-san?” Miyama spoke into Akashi’s mobile phone. “It’s Miyama.”

“Oi, Miyama! Is that my phone?!”

“Otsukare-sama desu. What can I do for you, Miyama-sensei?” the pleasant voice asked over speakerphone.

“We’re at Ohno Satoshi’s house now. Can you tell me about the triple A ranking that Matsumoto Jun supposedly possessed?”

“Certainly. Salon Starlight and many of the other new and popular salons in Tokyo have a new system of ranking their stylists based on experience and skill. When they start, they are B-rank employees usually still in vocational school and are mostly in charge of shampooing, stocking, cleaning, and supporting. They gain some experience and eventually work up to A-rank. A-rank stylists are the cheapest and usually have between 2 to 7 years of experience, but they’re a great deal because you get the benefits and ambience of the salon at a reasonable price. It’s a good deal if just need a simple haircut and straightforward color done. They’re also the people who usually do event hair for occasions like graduations or weddings for people not in the wedding party.”

“And what about the higher ranks?”

“Double A stylists are the largest group. They typically have over 7, but sometimes close to 20 years of experience. They’re good in their own right, can do all of the main services, have lots of experience, but….”

“But?”

“Something is just kind of lacking, you know? They’re comfortable in their work, but they lack the eye and talent to really step out and make it on their own. Put it this way, if your double A stylist moved to another salon an hour away from their current salon, you might think twice about whether they were worth the commute. And you might just decide to switch to another double A stylist to stay in that salon. Not so the case if you were paying for a triple A or S-ranked stylist. You might be more willing to follow that stylist at the cost of some minor inconvenience because you find value in their service.”

“I guess I just don’t get the world of women,” Miyama mumbled.

“To answer your questions, S-rank hair stylists are at the top of their game and charge a premium for their services. Their skill and expertise are unquestionably pro-level. They’re the people that could have their own salon, they’re highly in demand, and they often get contracted on jobs with celebrities. Triple A stylists are talented, charismatic stylists on that track to become S-rank professionals. They have an eye for being able to visualize not only what looks good on each client, but adapting the vision that the client has just enough so that they can be happy with the result. They know what is trending and have the skills to realize a wide range of services, including being able to pioneer the latest styles and techniques. Unlike double A stylists, triple A stylists are also certified in multiple areas of the beauty and health industry. The fact that Matsumoto Jun was so young and already a triple A stylist tells you how talented he was.”

“You think that may have caused some jealousy at his old salon?”

Nakatsuka paused. “I don’t know. Would you like me to find out?”

“Yes. If Sada-sensei doesn’t have anything for you, could you go to see what the Kichijoji salon has to say?”

“Certainly, Miyama-sensei. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

“That’s all for the moment. Thanks!”

“Miyama, do you think that something at the salon had something to do with his death?” Akashi asked, changing out the battery to his camera with a charged one.

“Hard to say…jealousy can be quite ugly…” Miyama wandered out and walked across the living room to the door next to the stairs leading to the second floor. “Come on. Let’s go check out the other room.”

Akashi closed the door behind him and followed Miyama who was fumbling with the keys to open the door.

“Oh, it’s locked?”

“Yeah. Based on the size of the room, I’m wondering if this is Ohno Satoshi’s gallery,” Miyama finally turned the key successfully. The pins tumbled to release and Miyama grunted as he tried to push open the door.

“What’s wrong?” Akashi frowned.

“It’s heavy,” Miyama leaned his body weight into his shoulder and pushed the door open. When the door finally swung open, it was revealed to indeed be the gallery.

Nearly equal in size to the living room, Ohno Satoshi’s gallery contained a number of framed paintings and drawings along with works made from all sorts of materials. The man was the consummate artist, with work carved from wood and stone, works in ceramic, glass, and metal, and even work in jewelry.

“Holy…smokes…” Akashi breathed, turning on the camera to film. “This is like a museum…”

Miyama strolled about the gallery once and then tapped Akashi on the shoulder. “I’m gonna go upstairs. Can you make sure you get everything in this gallery?”

“You aren’t gonna look at everything?” Akashi confirmed in surprise.

“Nah, we gotta go see Isobe-san soon, so I want to make sure I look at the second floor too.”

“Okay, I’ll be right up when I’m done.”

Miyama climbed the stairs whose walls were lined with photos of the happy couple over the years. Ohno and Matsumoto had gone on hikes, dates at the beach, and what looked to be a vacation where there were igloos in the background. When he reached the top of the stairs, there were only two rooms. The room closest to the stairs was simply a storage room with metal shelving to hold boxes of Ohno’s art supplies and Matsumoto’s beauty supplies. There were plastic transparent bins with seasonal clothing and extra bedding. A quick glance into some of the closed boxes and Miyama determined that there was nothing of interest in the storage room. The only other room, by process of elimination, was the master bedroom.

Also unlocked, Miyama pressed forward and found himself in the most intimate space of the home given how much had been invested. The master bedroom took up nearly the entire second floor with its own massive bathroom and bathing area with a barrier-free shower and separate jacuzzi. Ohno Satoshi had spared no expense in creating a luxury spa inside of his house. In their bedroom was a full walk-in closet, king-sized bed, a sitting area with a couch and arm chair facing what was once an aquarium built directly into the wall.

Miyama opened drawers and looked through everything, taking care to return things exactly as he found them. He sat in the armchair and sofa looking around the room. He sat on the bed and lay on the duvet staring up at the ceiling as if it might help him understand what it was like to live in the home. He turned to the side that faced the walk-in closet and saw the nightstand drawer was ever so slightly ajar. Carefully pulling the drawer out, he found that it contained several stacks of letters tied with royal purple satin ribbons. Swinging his legs over the side of the bed, Miyama sat up and picked up the stack of letters that had yet to be bound together.

+

Akashi eventually finished taping and making notes for everything on the first floor. Miyama was unusually quiet, which likely meant that he had found something, so Akashi closed the gallery door and headed up stairs. He saw the master bedroom door ajar and immediately headed to it where he saw Miyama surrounded with unfolded letters strewn about the bed and floor.

“Miyama, did you find something?” he approached. When Miyama did not respond, he repeated his question a bit louder and closer. “Mi-ya-ma-sen-sei! Did you FIND ANYTHING?!”

“Oh, Akashi-san, when did you come up?” Miyama blinked in surprise.

“Just now. What are all these letters?” Akashi pointed to the mess.

“Matsumoto Jun wrote a letter to Ohno Satoshi every day…or every night, in some cases.”

“Okay….”

“For the last five years prior to his death,” Miyama placed several fancy cookie and rice cracker boxes onto the bed and removed to covers to reveal bundles of letters tied with the same purple satin ribbon.

“Five years?! Did you read those all?!” Akashi exclaimed.

“Not yet, but I’m bringing them back to the office—”

“You can’t do that! Those are private letters between Ohno-sensei and Matsumoto Jun!”

“How else am I supposed to help him? I have to understand their dynamic and there’s a limit to how much I can talk to Ohno-sensei,” protested Miyama. “I can’t very well have him executed while I’m reviewing the case. We need to go through these letters.”

“That’s almost 2,000 letters to read!” Akashi groaned miserably.

“Bedtime reading,” shrugged Miyama, gathering the letters that were on the bed and placing them into the nightstand drawer that he had removed.

“Are you seriously taking the drawer with us? And how the hell are we supposed to bring all those boxes of letters back?” Akashi grumbled as Miyama stacked three more boxes onto the first one he had picked up.

“We need to take a taxi back, but first, we need to talk to Isobe-san. So let’s bring these to the living room to make it easier to load up when we call the taxi,” Miyama instructed.

“Why am I always in charge of carrying everything?” muttered Akashi behind the tall stack of boxes as he made his way down the stairs. “I mean, tell me you at least got the last letter with this haul.”

“What did you say?” called Miyama.

“His last letter, the day he died, tell me that it as least part of this ridiculous haul?” Akashi exhaled as he placed the boxes near the doorway.

Miyama placed the drawer on the floor and raffled through the letters. He stopped at one letter and unfolded it, scanning the document for the date. “This is the last one. It was on the top of the stack when I opened the drawer.”

“So it’s from the day he was killed?”

“No, this letter is from the day before he was killed,” Miyama said slowly. “So, where’s Matsumoto Jun’s last letter?”

“You think that he never got around to writing it?” Akashi wiped his brow and panted to catch his breath, wondering if it was safe to help himself to a drink of water in the house.

“Was it in the evidence that was cataloged when the three of you were going through it?” Miyama redirected.

“What? The letter?”

“Yeah. Did you see a photo of it?” Miyama grabbed his backpack and handed Akashi his. “Let’s go see Isobe-san.”

“Not that I can recall,” Akashi shook his head as Miyama locked up the house. They closed the gate behind them and walked over to the neighboring home. “I can message Fujino-san to see if it’s in the case file.”

“Yeah, can you have him check?” Miyama rang the doorbell. When the door opened, he gave a smile and held up his business card, “Hello, it’s us again, Miyama and Akashi from Madarame Law Firm. May we come in and ask you a few questions?”

To be continued….