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Part 4 may be found around this area.



“Are you going to explain to me now just why we went to see the princess? I know that look; there’s no way we went there just to update her on the case. You would have texted her if it was that simple.” Kurogane said, flopping exhaustedly into an armchair.
 
“Ah, your powers of deduction are increasing by the day, Kuro-gumshoe!” the blonde replied, pride swelling in his voice as he took the opposite chair. They were back at their flat after what seemed like an eternity, but had in actuality been little over half a day. Longest day of my life with this idiot, Kurogane added mentally, though was too tired to snap at the man in question. He waited patiently for his partner to finally elaborate on his grand theory, since the embers he had noticed glowing all day had turned into a raging inferno by the time they stepped out of the taxi onto Baker Street. There was no doubt now; he had definitely solved it.
 
“Alright, then, since you’ve been such a great help to me today, I suppose I could tell you everything that I’ve deduced, and why that was the most important trip to the supermarket that you’ve ever made...
 
“First of all, however, I should reveal the real reason for the murders; the motive hidden behind the motive, if you want.”
 
Run that by me again... motive behind motive? Alright brain, it’s one of those times where you can’t slack off. Just try and follow as best you can, nod the head in the right places, and it’ll all make sense eventually. Hopefully.
 
“So I mulled it over in my head, and it really doesn’t make sense. The murders are too obvious. If you want to get rid of some people, you usually do it quietly, so as not to get caught. By using the signature, the murderer drew attention to the fact that all three killings were by the same person- they wanted them noticed. Usually when there’s a signature and a blatant call for attention, it’s a typical serial killing sequence, but this is far from typical. Those tend to involve victims who are complete strangers to each other, but all of our victims here had a connection with a single woman. Making Yuuko look like a criminal can’t be the real motive of the killer; sure, dressing up as her makes her look a bit bad, but she’s not going to care about her reputation now she’s dead, is she? So I looked at it from another angle: what if this is all just a clever piece of misdirection?
 
Our murderer dresses up as Yuuko Ichihara, kills some people she used to know, and everyone thinks that there’s some sort of grudge against anyone who knew her well enough- predicting the next victim is more or less impossible, given the amount of friends the woman had. So if the next victim happens to be a certain person, no one will bat an eyelid. It will just be another murder, indistinguishable from those preceding it. But what if that one murder is the only one that our culprit wanted to carry out, but needed to do so in a way that wouldn’t point towards their hidden motive?”
 
“So what, they killed a load of people just to make sure that they didn’t get caught for one murder? Like a murder-needle in a haystack of other murders? That’s insane!”
 
“You might say that, but it is also very clever of our young lady. That is, it would be if they didn’t have me on the case. I daresay she would have gotten away with it otherwise.”
 
“So what’s the murder? The actual one, and the motive?”
 
“Ah, this is where it gets surprisingly easy! Human nature is so startling in its simplicity sometimes, and this crime is no different. Consider our imposter’s choice of charade: one Yuuko Ichihara. She definitely holds some sort of grudge against her, enough to dress up and go out killing people as her; so what is it about her that would drive someone to kill? Since she is recently deceased, there’s really only one obvious option.”
 
“Her money.”
 
“Exactly, Kuro-smarty! Yuuko’s fortune is totalled in the millions; people have killed for a lot less than that. Now that she’s dead, her fortune is up for grabs, and I’m sure that’s why these murders began.”
 
“You say they’re after the witch’s fortune?” Kurogane said slowly, heavy foreboding settling in his stomach, “But her fortune is going to Sakura...”
 
The penny dropped with startling clarity. God damn it...
 
“She’s the real target.” He said, a sinking feeling settling in his stomach. “It’s all to make sure people just think they’re killing of people who knew Yuuko, so they don’t look into who would want the money.”
 
“That’s precisely right.”
 
Shock realisation hit him like a brick, and he shot to his feet. “What the hell are we doing sitting here, then? We should be warning the princess to get the hell out of the city!”
 
“Calm down, Kuro-nerves...”
 
A further suspicion floated into his brain, and suddenly he understood the reason for their earlier diversion. He surveyed the man sitting before him, steely accusation in his eyes. “They were there, weren’t they? In the supermarket. You made me say all that stuff to her because we’re using her as bait.”
 
Fai let a small knowing smile creep into his expression, and Kurogane snapped.
 
“What the hell, sleuth?” He snapped, grabbing the smaller man by his scarf and yanking him to his feet. “There’s a girl in danger, and she doesn’t even know it! I thought even you had more sense than that, idiot detective!”
 
Fai faced him, unmoving, face blank, until Kurogane’s sudden burst of rage subsided. He placed a hand on top of the one gripping his scarf, fingers dancing over the larger man’s knuckles. “She doesn’t finish work until after seven thirty. She’ll be fine until a little after then.”
 
Kurogane glanced over at the clock on the mantelpiece. Just after a quarter to seven, the roman numerals informed him. “Are you absolutely sure?”
 
“Yes.” He had the decency to look a little ashamed. “It was the only sure way to get our killer.”
 
The hand lightly choking Fai released his scarf, and he slumped back into his chair, looking a lot more relaxed than the man opposite him. His black haired companion ran his fingers through his hair awkwardly, itching to go immediately to the girl’s rescue, but unable to. He fidgeted a little, then met the blonde’s gaze once again, crimson eyes urging him to continue.
 
“I’d actually like to continue my story at our cute little girl’s house,” the consulting detective declared, stretching his arms high into the air and yawning. “We’ll head out soon; we can’t have our dastardly killer beating us to it, can we?”
 
*
 
“I don’t understand,” Sakura said, eyes wide with fear, “You’re saying that they’re really after me?”
 
They had arrived at Sakura’s flat a little after seven twenty, waiting outside the door until the girl arrived to greet them. Fai had had the sense to send a text ahead of their arrival, so that they wouldn’t scare the girl half to death when she returned home to see two shadowy figures loitering near her apartment door. The corridor was poorly lit at night, and had lost all of the warmth it has seemed to have the first time Kurogane had visited. Apologising that they would explain momentarily, Fai demanded the keys from the poor girl and insisted they check the apartment before she entered. Of course ‘they’ meant ‘Kurogane’, who had been volunteered instantly by his smaller companion to search thoroughly for any knife-wielding women hiding in the shadows. He’d brought his gun, his safety blanket, safely stashed in his waistband, but thankfully he didn’t have to point it at anything more threatening than a coat rack. After declaring the flat safe of all murderous ghosts, they entered and settled on the familiar sofa, Fai taking the plush-looking armchair across from them so that he could be the centre of their attention.
 
“I’m afraid so,” Fai said, having explained the general situation, including the truth of Kakei’s fate. “Are you alright for me to continue, or would you like some tea or something? I know that’s supposed to calm people down and whatnot. Kuro-useful, if you’d be so kind...”
 
I’m not your servant, moron! Go make it yourself if you’re so concerned!
 
“No, no it’s fine. Please, go on.” The girl reassured them, trying to look as if she wasn’t terrified that a crazy woman dressed like her aunt was going to burst through the door at any minute.
 
“So, as our doctor here deduced, we actually came to visit you at work earlier for a reason. The true purpose of that visit, apart from checking on your wellbeing, of course, was to set a trap. I suspected for a little while before that, as soon as I worked out the true aim of the killer, that our imposter was close to their intended victim. They’d need to be to know the habits and routines of their target, to know when she’d be alone; since work is where she spends most of her time outside of her apartment, I figured that it was here that our killer lurked.”
 
“It’s someone I work with? But, they’re all so nice to me!”
 
“Precisely, Sakura. And what better way to get to know you than by getting up close and befriending you?”
 
She looked horrified at this, and Kurogane almost snapped at Fai to stop, but it was important that they got to the bottom of this, so he put a reassuring hand on the princess’ shoulder. She looked up at him, no longer hiding the fear, and he nodded at her. His determination must have shown, because she nodded in return, and apologised to Fai, asking him to please continue. He smiled almost like he empathised with the girl, something Kurogane rarely saw, and did as she bid.
 
“To set the trap, I made sure to place us all in the best place to be overheard, near the tills. Then we just had to wait until our third player came along. I made sure that everyone within ten square miles had their attention on us- you really need to tone it down a bit, Kuro-spectacle- then we began to recite the lines in our little play. You mention the case to Sakura and imply we’re one step away from catching the culprit. In the meantime I covertly look around for someone standing out, someone who shows a little more interest than the rest in our meeting, someone looking a little panicked, signs like that pointing me towards our target. My face is well known in the criminal circuit, after all, so even if they couldn’t hear exactly what we were saying, my face and Sakura’s expression that things are going well would be enough to rattle the killer. If I’m onto you, you know it’s only a matter of time, and it was particularly bad in this situation because they hadn’t gotten round to killing their true target yet.”
 
“So they’d panic,” Kurogane replied, more pieces falling into place. “Maybe even to the point where they’d want to get it over and done with quickly, despite not having planned ahead.”
 
“So they could be coming now?” Sakura whispered, shivering a little.
 
“I’m almost certain she’ll be here very soon,” Fai added, smiling. “But there’s no need to fret. Kuro-valiant will protect you from harm!”
 
“Mm,” Kurogane agreed, adding his own small smirk to the mix. “If I get the opportunity to take down someone who’s already killed four people, I think being pushed around all day by a hyperactive idiot might just have been worth it.”
 
“You say ‘she’, Mr. Fai, but you haven’t told me which one of my supposed friends is coming tonight to kill me.” Her voice was colder now, green eyes shining with resigned determination. She’d set aside all of her fear in favour of trusting the two men before her, the emerging adult attempting to regain control of her emotions.
 
“When I was examining the employees, there were many who were interested to see who Sakura was talking to, but there was only one person staring who looked like she wanted to escape. It was only for a few seconds, a look of panic crossing over her face, but such tiny things never escape my notice. In fact, after we left, she probably asked you about what we’d said, just to be sure. And she’ll have a very slight limp- you’ve probably been around her enough to notice it by now.”
 
Kurogane could see the realisation hit the girl like a sledgehammer. There was even an accompanying gasp, as she brought shaking hands up to cover her mouth.
 
“B-But it can’t be... n-not... she was just curious about who I’d been talking to...” she spoke into her palms, voice barely above a whisper. “But the look on her face when I told her... it all makes sense, oh god...” There were tears in her eyes now, but she defiantly held them back.
 
Feel free to tell me any time now.
 
“My suspicions were pretty much confirmed by then, but I really like to be thorough. So I added another level to my trap, on a whim, just to make sure.” He turned to Kurogane. “Do you remember what I asked you back outside of Kakei’s place?”
 
He thought back, replaying their (mostly one-sided) conversation in his head. “You asked me about how I thought the stabbing was done, and I told you it was a right-handed person. I did think it was a little odd that you were asking me that out of the blue.”
 
Fai smiled again. “It was important because it contradicted something I had seen for myself. Our imposter killer made sure to kill all of her victims in the same way, using the same hand, the right one, to do the deed. I should point out that Yuuko is right-handed, so it fits with the persona. The interesting thing appeared when I chased after our clever little killer. I got close enough that I could have grabbed her, almost had her as well, when she really panicked. She threw the only thing she had available- a knife- and used my evasive manoeuvre as an escape opportunity. It wasn’t the murder weapon, because there was no trace of blood on it, but it did provide me with one fact. When she panicked, all pretence was lost, and she threw the knife at me with her dominant hand. Her left hand.”
 
“She’s left handed? But why go to the extent of hiding it?”
 
“Well, there’s statistically a much smaller percentage of people who are left-handed, so it narrowed down our pool of suspects, I suppose. The point is that she revealed a key fact about herself, which helped me confirm her identity.”
 
And the last puzzle piece appeared, revealing the picture as a whole. “We got served by that girl on purpose. And the milk...”
 
“Precisely. I noticed that she was making a great effort to appear right-handed when she scanned our two items, as a result of our encounter, and I made sure not to alert her to the fact I knew who she was. Then I pretended to drop the milk. And when someone drops something towards you, especially something heavy, it’s more or less instinct to put your hands out to try and stop it. Particularly the hand you’re used to using. Now which hand shot out first when I dropped the milk, Kuro-observant?”
 
“The left one,” Kurogane concluded, now on the same page as the sleuth. “But why didn’t we just arrest her then and there? Why the elaborate scheme?”
 
“Well, I can deduce any number of things about our killer that coincide with the adorable checkout girl, but it’s all circumstantial. She left no real evidence at the scene, and her knives are the type that anyone can buy, so it wouldn’t look suspicious if she had them at home. We needed some decisive evidence, therefore, and isn’t it the most decisive of all if we catch her in the act?”
 
I see his point. There’s really no way around this, and it was the only way to definitely know where she was going to strike next. Now we just have to wait...
 
A muffled sound in the corridor made them fall silent, holding their breaths. Kurogane looked over at Fai, who nodded and lifted himself off the armchair, feet moving lightly over the soft carpet. Kurogane did the same, signalling for the girl to be quiet as he offered a hand to help her up. They scuttled quickly away from the entrance, Sakura looking like she wanted to bolt for the nearest exit (which was, of course, blocked). Now Kurogane just had to come up with a good ambush in the time before their target was due to walk through the front door. He was hoping the lock might slow her down but, judging from the other murders, it appeared she had experience with picking them efficiently. If she saw the two men when she came in she’d panic, run, and it would all be over.
 
Luckily his army training had taught him to think quickly in tense situations.
 
The door opened exactly one minute later, revealing a slim silhouette dressed in a sweeping black coat trimmed with a delicate lace pattern of the same colour around the hems. It concealed the majority of her outfit, bar the black tights and heels protruding from the bottom, but their flair was stolen by the main draw of the ensemble. Long black hair cascaded in delicate strands from the top of the head to mid-thigh, catching the light in the apartment and reflecting it back in a dazzling display. It served as an excellent method of hiding the woman’s face, which of course was the true aim of the excellently made wig.
 
Glancing around hurriedly, she tried to calm her breathing. This wasn’t how it was meant to happen, it was supposed to have proper planning and preparation, but they were just too close to figuring out what was really going on. If she didn’t kill her tonight, then tomorrow she could wake up to a knock on the door and a shiny new pair of bracelets. It had to be now. She would have plenty of time to dispose of the evidence, since the girl lived alone and had no regular visitors. Yes. It would be easy to get rid of the girl, then off a couple more people just to make sure.
 
Rationality calming her down, she reached into the long coat and pulled out her ever-faithful companion. Once a set of two, its partner now regrettably in the hands of her enemy, it gleamed viciously in the lamplight, beautiful in its murderous simplicity. At least there was less risk involved in this one; the girl was small and weak, unlike the ones who came before her. It would be a simple matter to overpower her and put the knife in her back. No inconsistencies meant that there would be no more scrutiny given to this murder than to the others, and her true motive would remain hidden. Focusing her senses, she noticed a continuous slapping sound, indicating that the girl was in the shower. Light seeped from under the closed bathroom door, confirming this assumption. Making sure to tread as lightly as possible, she moved closer to her quarry.
 
Right outside of the door, the noise was louder. The occasional loud slap of water meant that someone was definitely in there; it wasn’t just being run to get up to temperature. This was important to know. She needed to be sure of her victim’s location exactly, to better take her by surprise. It would be a disaster if she was running the shower and was actually in the bedroom undressing. Anything like that could lead to a struggle, and that would leave evidence. But she was in there; that was for sure.
 
Thankfully she had done some preparation for this, the murder she was willing to hide to the extent that she had killed others to mask her motive. At least, she had discreetly broken into the apartment one afternoon when the girl had been at work, to get her bearings. So she knew that inside the bathroom, the shower hung over the bathtub, which had an encircling curtain to prevent the floor from getting wet. So it’d be no problem to sneak in quietly, unseen.
 
She did just that, twisting the doorknob ever so gently to enter. The door shifted open with no resistance at all, and didn’t creak, thankfully. The sight that greeted her was precisely as she had anticipated; the small white-tiled room had a bath lined up along one wall, occupying most of the space, the interior currently shielded from view by a brightly coloured shower curtain embossed with cherry blossoms. The sound of the person showering was almost thundering now, along with the blood in her ears, as she reached out a hand to open the curtain at the end away from the showerhead. If luck was with her, the girl would be facing away, and her job would be much easier. If not, it was a simple matter of spinning her around before she realised what was happening.
 
She pulled open the curtain with her left hand.



Chapter 6...


on 2011-10-04 03:53 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] mikkeneko.livejournal.com
Dun dun DUN!

on 2011-10-05 12:50 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] tarmachan.livejournal.com
I was debating just leaving it here for a week and posting the rest later, for the suspense factor (and so that everyone could imagine a Psycho-like scenario with poor Sakura-chan...), but I decided to be nice XD

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