We checked the service entrance, looked through ground-level daylighting windows, office windows, toilet windows and, of course, the main entrance, but none of them were open, and none of the windows were broken. Then again, there were still other buildings in the premises. Even a small equipment shed near the tennis courts would be enough to hold Osanai-san. I was wondering if we should split up, but that would defeat the purpose of coming here as a pair in the first place. While I was having that thought, I suddenly spotted a staircase installed on the outer wall of the gymnasium.
“I think it’s connected to the catwalk on the second floor.”
Of course we should investigate. There was a chain at the entrance, but it would not get in the way of someone stepping over it. We climbed to the middle point of the staircase, and I crouched.
“What’s the matter?”
“It’s a lollipop wrapper…”
Incidentally, it was a wrapper for a cola-flavored lollipop.
It was neatly folded in four. I opened it and felt the other side with a finger.
“…It’s still sticky.”
Kengo and I exchanged looks, and jointly ascended the stairs more swiftly than before. There was a metal door at the end, but we didn’t even have to test it. The abductors were apparently careless, for the door was slightly ajar.
I put a hand on the doorknob, then looked at Kengo questioningly.
He slightly nodded, leading me to push open the metal door.
Lowering my body for no good reason, I trespassed into the gymnasium.
As Kengo had mentioned, the door led to a catwalk. Old basketball hoops littered the floor. The dirty glass let in some of the afternoon light, but with the overcast sky outside, all that achieved was bring about a gloomy atmosphere in the gymnasium that was just waiting to be demolished. With no where to escape, the hot air could only circulate within, and that stagnant air was nothing if not dusty. Feeling like I was about to sneeze, I quickly held my nose.
Worrying that it might break, I stayed away from the handrail and peeked at the first floor. There were no signs of people there.
Kengo spoke, but I held his hand to stop him from continuing.
I could hear another voice, a high-pitched one. It sounded like someone was shouting. Or was that a scream?
“…Can you hear that?”
“Yeah. It’s a girl’s voice, right?”
Osanai-san’s voice… no, I can’t confirm that. In the first place, it is difficult to tell apart different voices from a long distance away.
“What should we do?”
“We’ve come all the way here. Let’s make a report after seeing Osanai-san’s face. I’ll go in front. Kengo, you watch our rear.”
I stealthily progressed on the dusty catwalk in the direction of the voice. I was tiptoeing, but was also moving at a slight trot.
In the front side of the gymnasium, directly above the entrance hall, was a room separated from the catwalk by a metal sliding door. On a plastic plate were the words “Martial Arts Hall”. I could hear the voice coming from that room. Now that I was close enough, I could tell that those were not screams, but angry outbursts.
“How long are you gonna keep lying, huh? It was you, wasn’t it? Say something, you bitch! You taking me for a fool?”
Flinching from the crude language, I stuck close to the door. I was kneeling on one knee, while Kengo’s head was above mine. Putting our hands on the door, with me on the right and Kengo on the left, we quietly slid it open.
It was a wide room, with half the space floored with tatami, and the other half with wooden flooring. The tatami was the kind used for judo, and I could see a clique of people standing on it. One, two, three, four, five. And the person tied on a chair in front of the girl still hurling curses was… Osanai-san!
She was wearing a white shirt and a navy-colored skirt, an outfit that was just like the summer uniform in Funado High School. She was sitting on a folding chair, and tied to it with a white vinyl string. I couldn’t see her crestfallen face, but between her amasogi hairstyle and her small body that resembled that of an elementary school student, there was no doubt that it was Osanai Yuki.
There were five people in the kidnapping group, more than I’d expected. From what I could see, they were all female, and young. At the most university students, but most likely high school students like us. But looking at their figures, I immediately understood.
(As I thought…)
This was no ordinary kidnapping case. The strange thing that stood out above all was the ransom amount. In this day and age, the ransom for the only daughter of an upper-middle class family should not be only five million yen. Of course, it was not a small sum, and definitely a greater sum than I’d ever seen, but was like only earning a child’s allowance for committing the severe crime of abduction.
To explain the unbalance between risk and return, the only way is to lower the estimates of the culprits. This was not just a matter of impulse or the result of a short temper, but was the work of people who usually strayed so far from the rules that they did not realize they were committing a severe crime. In other words, I thought this kidnapping to be done by people who had gotten carried away.
However, no matter the identity of the culprits, a kidnapping is a kidnapping. It didn’t change the fact that they put Osanai-san in danger. After giving the signal to Kengo, we left the scene, walking outside via the catwalk. Next, I whipped out my mobile phone with no hesitation.
The number I called was under the name “Osanai Yuki House”. The dial tones sounded. Three, five, ten times… Just when I was starting to think that it was going to be a long wait, a tense voice answered.
“Yes, this is Osanai.”
It was a woman’s voice. However, I felt that the voice sounded a little different from that of Osanai-san’s mother, with whom I’d talked with earlier, but that could just be my imagination. Perhaps she passed the phone to a police officer? Then again, I could really be reading too much into it.
“Hello. Is this Osanai-san’s house? I’m Kobato, who came over earlier. I’ve found Yuki-san.”
“She’s at the South Municipal Gymnasium, on the second floor of the main building. The culprits are a five-person group of high school girls. Are there any police officers at your end?”
There was no change in speaker, but the voice suddenly became stiff.
“Who are you? Is what you said true?”
“I’m Kobato. Kobato Jougorou, Osanai Yuki-san’s friend. You can check with Osanai-san’s mother. A clue came to mind, so I went to search for her. She is currently tied up and surrounded by the culprits. Please come quickly.”
“The South Municipal Gymnasium, right?”
“Got it. We’ll be there in five minutes.”
“Thank you very much.”
I let out a deep sigh.
“…T-That was so nerve-wracking…”
That was definitely not a normal person. When I was a middle school student, I used to stick my nose into all sorts of matters. In one of them, I made a call to the police station, but this was the first time I’d ever talked to someone who seemed like an investigator. I was momentarily overwhelmed. If that was not an investigator but actually Osanai-san’s mother, that would be a volte-face just like Osanai-san.
In any case, this was as good as the end of the case. It would be just a matter of time for it to be cleaned up and dusted off. I lightly bowed to Kengo.
“Thanks for your help, Kengo. It should be fine now. Seriously, what a heavy matter this has been.”
However, Kengo did not even grin. In fact, he had a grim look on his face as he spoke in a low tone.
“Jougorou, you saw the loud girl, right?”
“Hm? Yeah, I did.”
“That’s Isawa. No doubt about it. Isawa Hasami.”
But before I could recall, Kengo explained.
“Do you remember Kawamata Sanae? She’s the one whose affairs I was apparently meddling in. Isawa is the leader of the group that Kawamata was dragged into.”
I was taken aback by that sudden revelation. I certainly was not expecting that story to show up here.
The response came in the form of a solemn nod. I instinctively thought about why Isawa Hasami would kidnap Osanai-san, but I realized something more important.
“So Kawamata Sanae’s in that group? She’s the elder sister of your girlfriend, right? It’ll be five minutes before the police arrive, you should get her to pull out before then!”
“Kawamata is not my girlfriend. Anyway, it’s fine, she apparently didn’t show up today. More importantly…”
Kengo suddenly turned on his heels and gripped the doorknob of the metal door.
“I’m worried. Based on the stories I’ve heard, Isawa is quite a short-tempered person. With how she was just now, you can tell what she’s planning to do with Osanai, right? Let’s go back.”
I had no objections.
Once again, Kengo and I stormed into the gymnasium.
This time, we paid little heed to our footsteps, almost sprinting to the area in front of the door to the Martial Arts Hall. We peeked at the situation within from the gap that had been opened earlier.
It was good that we returned!
The girl that had showered Osanai-san with curses, Isawa, was holding a cigarette between the index finger and middle finger of her right hand. Two other girls surrounded Osanai-san from the back. One of them was holding her down, while the other was rolling up the right sleeve of Osanai-san’s shirt. Isawa guffawed with evident satisfaction.
“I’m really such a kind person! I decided to not do it on your face, after all. So? Do you finally feel like apologizing? Not that I’ll stop now, though!”
The fire on the cigarette was nearing Osanai-san’s white right arm. That’s no threat, she’s serious about it!
“Let’s go, Jougorou.”
Kengo said, but he really didn’t need to. My hand was already on the door…
The one who shouted was Osanai-san. She sharply raised her head which had been drooping down, fixed Isawa with a withering gaze, with a smile on her lips.
That was… a smile I can only describe as cruel.
I’d witnessed it multiple times back in middle school. But since we’d entered high school, I’d only seen it once, during the “tart incident”. It was neither mocking nor impudent, but was a faint smile that seemed to display a dark sense of pleasure.
While she was tied up, that Osanai-san was not a little citizen… that was Osanai Yuki, the wolf.
Taken aback by the would-be victim suddenly raising her voice, Isawa’s hand stopped moving. Our hands stopped moving as well. Osanai-san fluently spoke.
“Isawa-san, you slapped my cheek five times, threw four punches, one to the shoulder, one to my arm, and twice to my solar plexus, which hurt a lot. You kicked my shin twice, and in another instance you missed, so your knee hit the back of my knee instead. Also, you yanked my hair even when I said it was painful. As for the people at the back, Houjou-san, you knew that I couldn’t escape, yet you suggested tying me up. I was tied up so tight that I don’t have any feeling in my fingers.
“But I’m fine with that. I’m fine with taking a little pain. I have a small cut on my mouth, but it’s fine. I don’t mind, so you don’t have to worry.
“But if you push that on me, it’s going to leave a burn. If that does happens, do you know what will happen next? Do you?”
“Huh? What are you talking about? Have you gone crazy?”
Isawa replied in exasperation, apparently not cowed by Osanai-san’s monologue. She then brought the cigarette to her lips and took a puff.
Osanai-san casually continued, as if she were talking about the weather.
“If that happens, I’ll remember every time I look at the scar. I’ll remember you, Isawa-san.”
She then looked at the three people standing in front one by one, then lightly turned around to face the other two at the back. At the same time, she spoke.
“As well as you, Houjou-san. And Ueno-san, Souda-san, Hayashi-san… I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget.”
Having been called by their names, two of them were clearly shaken. It seemed that some girls who were not mentally prepared to abduct a person were mixed in the group.
Isawa-san blew some cigarette smoke at Osanai-san.
“You won’t forget? Huh? So?”
Isawa-san, right? Osanai-san won’t state the consequence, but I know. If you get a burn on her, she will definitely never forget about you.
And in that case, there’s no knowing what will happen to you.
“You’re just taking me for a fool, right? So what if you remember? Alright, I’ll make it easier for you to remember. How about making a burn on your neck?”
She raised the cigarette again and slowly moved it forward, and even Osanai-san recoiled. The two girls at the back were apparently not putting in much force, for Osanai-san’s body shook violently, causing the folding chair to creak.
“Don’t move! I’ll stick it in your eye! That’s fine by me too!”
This is bad.
“Stop right there, fools!”
With a loud clatter, the metal door was flung open, and a sharp exclamation was thrown into the room.
Damn, I’m late to move. With one knee on the linoleum floor, I looked up at Kengo, who had just opened the door. Returning my gaze to the front, I locked eyes with Osanai-san.
I raised a hand in greeting.
Not expecting intruders, the abductors froze. Having no choice, I also spoke.
“You shouldn’t commit any more crimes.”
Ah, that was a failure. My line was somewhat lacking, or even quite useless. It was also too common. Since this was a rare opportunity, I should have said something like, “It’s not too late, so return to your home unit!”
“Who the heck are you two?”
It would be awkward to say that we were acquaintances of Osanai-san, because they would then be able to use her as a hostage. Hence, I answered as such:
“Just a passer-by.”
To prevent Kengo from saying anything unnecessary, I pointed at Kengo who was above me with my index finger.
“So is this guy.”
Isawa, as well as the other four girls, turned to look at us.
“If you don’t have any quarrel with us, then go away. This is just a discussion among us.”
“A discussion, you say?”
Kengo replied in a deep, menacing voice. It was the first time I’d heard him use this voice as a high school student.
Striking his right hand with his left, Kengo growled.
“…Don’t make me laugh.”
Not that we can laugh in this situation. Kengo, there’s five of them, and only two of us…
– After receiving the tipoff from Osanai Yuki’s friend, Kobato Jougorou, two police officers from the nearest police box in Zaimoku-cho rushed to the South Municipal Gymnasium. It took some time for them to get into the locked compound, but they arrived at the scene eleven minutes after the tipoff.
At the scene was a scuffle between the informant, Kobato, who was with his friend, Doujima Kengo, and the abductors. Since Isawa Hasami was holding a knife, she was taken into custody. Doujima Kengo, who was cut on a finger in his left hand, was sent to the hospital. It took three days for the injury to fully heal. Besides that, other people had been punched in the face and elsewhere, but they wre only light injuries. Osanai Yuki, the victim, was successfully rescued.
Three people directly involved in the abduction and two people who were involved in confining the victim were arrested, for a total of five. With Isawa Hasami’s previous history of drug abuse, that line of questioning was also pursued.
The police were suspicious of the informant, Kobato, who had ascertained Osanai’s confinement location before everyone else, but the victim actively covered for him, and since Kobato’s mobile phone did contain the email that Osanai claimed she had sent, all suspicion was cleared.
Considering the victim’s shock from getting abducted, her interview was to be held from the following day onward, and she was only asked some basic questions on the scene. Osanai asserted that she could return home on her own, but the police rejected that suggestion, given their duty to escort her safely home.
Editors (Tier 2) : Joshua Fisher, _Maki
Assistants (Tier 1) : Definitelynotme, Rolando Sanchez
Thank you very much for all your support!