|Arson Attack at Ueno Town, Kira City – Suspected Case of Serial Arson|
At approximately midnight on 10 May, some abandoned bicycles caught on fire under the elevated railway in Ueno Town, 1st District, Kira City. The fire was spotted by a nearby resident, who promptly dialed 119. Firefighters managed to extinguish the fire, but it consumed roughly 10 square meters of land, along with a dozen or so abandoned bicycles. No casualties were reported. The Kira Police Department is investigating it as a case of suspected arson.
Since the start of this year, fires suspected to be caused by arson have been occurring successively in Kira City. This fire occurred just as the Ueno Town Neighborhood Association revealed plans to conduct fire prevention patrols.
|Only You Can Prevent Fires! Fire Prevention Training in Kira City|
On 17 May, fire prevention training was conducted for residents in Sanguuji Town, Kira City. Instructed by firefighters from the Kira City Fire Department, they learnt methods of dealing with incipient fires, among other things.
Since last year, a series of suspicious fires thought to be caused be arson attacks have broken out throughout Kira City. Many voiced concerns about Sanguuji Town due to the number of historical buildings there. Firefighter Tanaka Haruomi (51) of the Kira Fire Department said that “it is important to use the power of community to prevent large fires from breaking out”.
|(2 June – Funado Monthly, Page 8 Column)|
This is a follow-up report on the case of serial arson attacks in the city, which the Newspaper Club has put in concerted efforts to investigate. Unfortunately, the dastardly culprit has struck again in the month of May. The incident occurred on Saturday, 10 May. A dozen or so abandoned bicycles were set on fire under the elevated railway in Ueno Town, 1st District.
As the writer of this humble column, I coincidentally caught sight of the fire. Seeing it up close was absolutely frightening! Watching the fire intensify limitlessly drove into us the realization of how much we would have to sacrifice to escape from such a fire alive. (Thankfully, this fire was not strong enough to burn down the elevated railway.) The traces left behind at the scene told us that this fire was once again the handiwork of that arsonist, or Fireman as we call him. With that fire behind us, we at the Newspaper Club have renewed our determination to not let the culprit go scot-free.
We believe that this month’s target will be Kitaura Town, which contains many important facilities such as the General Sports Complex, Kitaura Bridge and Kira Castle Ruin Park. We ardently hope that this Fireman gets taken into custody this month.
There was apparently no dry rainy season this year. Going to school on consecutive rainy days was really getting me down. However, the rain barely let up on Saturday, the day on which I had plans. According to the weather forecast, there would be a twenty percent chance of precipitation in the afternoon. I was a little uneasy about that, but I still hopped on my bicycle and headed for Kitaura Town, which occupied the north area of Kira City.
My purpose for heading to Kitaura Town was, of course, to reconnoiter the place. Our patrols in Ueno Town last month lacked planning. While it was supposed to be a stakeout by the entire Newspaper Club, all we had were six members anyway. Also, one of them was still giving the excuse that his family was very strict so he could not be counted in our total strength. Another member was called out by the police in the previous month’s patrol, and was having cold feet about this one. If we didn’t take the risk, we would fail to catch the arsonist again. Going by the patrol situation in Ueno Town, there was a high chance that the police were buckling down on this case. If so, the chance of the culprit getting caught by our hand would become quite small.
I could have gotten someone from the Newspaper Club to accompany me for this bit of reconnaissance, but I called Hiya Yuuto, because he was more reliable than any other Newspaper Club member. As the club president, this was disappointing, but it was just a fact I had to accept, and there was nothing I could do to change it.
I’d arranged to meet with Hiya outside the train station. Although Hiya looked cool and comfortable in his striped polo shirt, the first thing he said when we met was:
“Hey. Steaming, isn’t it?”
He was right. In fact, the temperature wouldn’t be comfortable in the slightest no matter how much it rained. The weather being this bad in June made me worry about how blisteringly hot it would be in the height of summer.
As usual, we traveled side by side on our bicycles, taking the municipal roads and heading straight for Kitaura. With many possible targets, I was unsure of where to begin, but Hiya said, “Let’s check out the Castle Ruin Park for now.” I agreed with his suggestion.
For its austere name, Castle Ruin Park did not contain a single replica of a castle, and was actually a very peaceful park. After stopping my bicycle at the parking area, I made a remark as I turned the key to the padlock.
“Don’t tell me they’re going for the bicycles here again…”
“What a dangerous thing you’re thinking of right off the bat. Then again, I suppose it’s only natural since we’re here for reconnaissance. But I don’t think they’ll go for bicycles again.”
An abandoned bicycle was set on fire in January, and a dozen or so bicycles were set on fire right in front of me last month. But I didn’t think that the culprit was fixated on bicycles. They probably wouldn’t target the same object multiple times.
The path to the park was dry. However, the grass seemed to contain some moisture, and we were surrounded by the damp smell of grass.
“It seems like the rainy season here.”
Hiya joyfully said as he pointed at some blooming plants. They looked endearing with their light pink flowers shaped like bells. Seeing as I wasn’t going to reply, Hiya laughed.
“You can’t expect me to know the names of flowers.”
“I’m not that familiar with them either, but you should at least know bellflowers. It’s common knowledge, isn’t it?”
He was saying in a roundabout way that I didn’t have common sense. I set off in a huff, leaving Hiya behind.
While it was not raining, there was a thin layer of clouds in the white sky, from which the sun dimly peeked out. The humidity and heat were uncomfortable, but having no direct sunlight was pleasant enough. Furthermore, it was way better than being trapped by the rain, at the very least. Many people must have had this line of thought, for the park was quite a lot more crowded than usual. Since it was a Saturday afternoon, I also spotted some families.
In their midst, I was trying to find objects that could be targeted by the arsonist.
Running behind me, Hiya piped up.
“By the way, I read this month’s Funado Monthly. As usual, it was eloquent, but the writing style was a little different.”
Without turning back, I replied.
“I applied a secondary and tertiary measure.”
Interest in the article had not yet waned. The number of students visiting the Printing Preparation Room had not decreased at all. In fact, it had increased.
However, the number of Funado Monthly copies discarded in the trash had not drastically decreased. The case of serial arson was still a topic that attracted interest, but it was no longer flashy. Without billowing black smoke or crimson flames, it lacked the power to captivate the hearts of Funa High’s students in one go. To make people think, “I can’t wait for next month’s Funado Monthly, so let’s keep this month’s issue,” we needed to jazz it up more.
I’d planned to make it more exciting with the big event of the culprit’s arrest, but until that actually happened, a secondary measure was necessary. The one I thought of was some eye-catching naming.
“Perhaps ‘Fireman’ was too cheap.”
I mused, causing stifled laughter to erupt from behind me.
“You’re pretty sure of yourself for that bit of self-deprecation.”
“It was a hint, right?”
I’d told Hiya almost everything, including the fact that the arsonist was following the Disaster Prevention Plan. Hiya had obviously noticed that the name “Fireman” was not just to evoke the image of “fire”, but also had the double meaning of “firefighter”.
“If only our club members managed to notice this.”
I’d been quite confident in this naming, though I did feel some qualms about putting a double meaning on a simple name. However, I’d received some backlash over it at the Newspaper Club. The first-year Honda had said something like, “That’s uncool.” During the stakeout in May, he was the closest to the culprit, yet was nowhere to be seen. He could have been a little gentler with his words.
“It is quite uncool, though. I would have liked it to be more refined.”
…Was it that bad?
“Anyway, I wasn’t talking about the naming. I was talking about the style and manner of writing in the article… but it’s fine, I suppose.”
That was the fifth article in the series. Perhaps I’d subconsciously altered my style of writing over the past few months.
The bellflowers were probably not growing there naturally, but were planted artificially. As more patches of bellflowers growing here and there came into view, it hit me that the flower beds could be set on fire. Burning up flowers wouldn’t result in a lot of damage, but it seemed to me like an unforgivable, heinous act. That wouldn’t be ideal for Fireman’s self-promotion, would it? Though that was just some baseless conjecture on my part.
“By the way…”
Hiya, who had been behind me earlier, had sidled up to me without me noticing. He had a carefree look on his face, and I couldn’t tell if he was serious or not.
“What is it?”
“If you want to attract the readers’ attention, you must have some sort of especially significant information, right? How long are you going to keep it up your sleeve?”
I clearly understood what Hiya was talking about. It was the sign left behind at the crime scenes, a characteristic that he’d noticed after visiting them with me.
That sign was the common point left behind by Fireman in each arson location. In each crime scene, there would always be a broken object lying around, though the term “broken” was a little misleading. To be precise, the object would have a mark that made it look like it had been struck by a hammer.
According to a Gardening Club member, during the first incident, not only was the pile of grass clippings set on fire, but a hammer was also stolen. I didn’t know if Fireman was still using the Gardening Club’s hammer, but they always committed arson on the second Friday of each month, and always struck something with a hammer at the crime scene.
All the information I’d gathered was distributed to all Newspaper Club members. That included the Gardening Club member’s testimony about the stolen hammer.
There was also the dented road sign on the road in Hamae.
The tree branch in the Nishimori Children’s Park that was beaten out of shape.
The impressions on a concrete wall at the Koyubi storage area.
At Kawanebe, another roadside tree was targeted. Its bark was stripped off, revealing the pitiful wood underneath.
The abandoned bicycle at Ritsuno had a smashed side mirror.
In Hinode Town, there was a hole in one of the plastic benches at the bus stop.
At the Mount Kazan parking area, there was a motorbike parked next to the scooter that was set on fire. The seat was torn apart, causing its owner to be mad with rage.
Finally, in Ueno Town, there was a scratch on a signboard, as well as some small dents here and there.
…But it didn’t seem like anyone else had noticed it yet.
“At first, I thought that since it’s a trump card, you would surely save it for later. For instance, you could write an article like ‘Traces of the Loathsome Criminal Left Behind at the Crime Scene!’ and show those pictures at a critical moment like this. But that’s not what you did.”
Hiya looked dissatisfied.
That was only natural, for it was he who had noticed those traces, not I. When we first went out for news gathering, I’d taken a photograph of the road sign in Hamae, but afterwards, the one who told me about the traces in Nishimori and Koyubi was Hiya.
However, I never wrote about it in my articles.
I felt regretful as we walked in the hot, humid park. Since I’d relied on him so much more than anyone else, I had to give him a proper explanation.
Well, it’s never too late.
“I probably can’t write about it until the criminal gets caught.”
“…Is it because you won’t write what you didn’t discover on your own?”
“No, that’s not it.”
Hiya was apparently more concerned about it than I thought. I raised my voice.
“It’s not as insignificant as a matter of pride. There’s a more important reason for that. Sure, I wrote the first couple of articles with the intention of saving this trump card, but now it’s different. There’s a reason for that.”
“A reason, huh.”
Hiya prompted me to continue with his eyes.
“I told you about it, right? When Doujima-senpai retired from the club, he was most worried about copycat criminals. If Fireman’s methods were to be written to great detail in Funado Monthly, someone who read the article could imitate the crime, and we would have no way of telling them apart.”
“Yeah, you told me. The previous club president retired because he was ashamed of his lack of foresight in failing to recognize that, right?”
“At that time, he told me to hide the rule behind the series of arson attacks, so that we would be able to differentiate between Fireman and any copycat criminals. By specifying that we know how to tell them apart, the Newspaper Club can continue predicting the next location, while claiming that we are preventing the appearance of copycat criminals. Everyone in the club knows about the rule in the Disaster Prevention Plan, while the set of hammer marks is the trump card I have.”
After a brief moment of silence, Hiya muttered.
“So that’s what those lines in the article were for. You prepared a truth that only the real criminal knows. That’s quite an ingenious way of handling the situation.”
He was quick on the uptake, as expected. Seriously, how dependable he would be if he were a member of the Newspaper Club! I nodded.
“Exactly. That’s why I can’t put your discoveries in an article, but I’m not ignoring them either. I hope you understand.”
Hiya placed a hand on my shoulder. When he spoke, his words were more composed than I’d expected.
“You’ve also changed a little, Urino. Perhaps it’s as they say, position makes the man. You were quite persuasive back there… Also, I’m not taking offense from this. It’s fine if there’s a reason for it.”
After saying that, he let go and pointed at a corner of the park.
“Hey, look there!”
Hiya was referring to a building constructed on top of a small hill that looked like an arbor1. It was surrounded by grass on all four sides, and had a narrow path leading up to it. The building made for a nice resting spot, so I could see multiple silhouettes there.
I carefully studied the structure. There were currently some people resting there, but it would probably be empty late at night. One could approach it without drawing attention to themselves, and it was made of wood.
“You’re right. It can burn easily, so it could be a target.”
I had a good feeling that it would be Fireman’s target for the month of June. But Hiya put on a wry smile.
“It sure is dangerous. But more importantly, it’s hot and I want to rest up there, or at least that’s what I want to say.”
Indeed, we were exposed to the humid weather.
“Just say so, then.”
I muttered, trying to hide my embarrassment. Hiya responded with a soundless laugh.
We walked up a slope of bare earth. When we first entered the park, it was still muddy all around, but after walking and talking for just a bit, it somehow looked a lot dryer than before. That was probably because the temperature had risen, even though the sky was still cloudy.
A couple who looked to be a husband and wife in the prime of their lives was sitting in the arbor. There was a lot of space to go around, so Hiya and I sat down away from the couple. The square arbor had a high ceiling and no walls, resulting in good ventilation. Contrary to my expectations, it was pleasantly cool. Though the two of us were sitting together, I didn’t want to waste the cool air, so I put some distance between myself and Hiya.
“It’s quite a rare arrangement, isn’t it?”
Hiya said. Indeed, it might be a little strange for two high school boys to hang out together at an arbor in a park. Then again, it was so hot that embarrassment didn’t even cross my mind. Staring up at the ceiling, he continued.
“Nevertheless, there’s something I need to apologize to you about.”
Being suddenly spoken to like that, I had no idea what he was talking about.
“Apologize? What for?”
“I’m not sure if you remember, but…”
Hiya’s gaze shifted down.
“I think it was right after summer vacation last year, but you wanted to write about some kind of incident, right?”
I nodded. I’d wanted to write about a kidnapping incident that had occurred. Thinking back, that was the start of it all.
“I wondered why you wanted to do that, and you said that you wanted to do something that would make you go, ‘This is it!’ You didn’t want to graduate without having achieved anything, which was what happened in your three years of middle school. At that time, I was surprised. ‘What childish nonsense is this guy spouting?’, I thought.”
With a thin smile on his face, he continued.
“We don’t exactly have a lot of time on our hands. Just by following our educational schedule, time passes by in a flash. And even if you’re seeking fame, it would be isolated to Funado High. I thought it was foolish to seek such insignificant fame.
“But since then, you’ve done a brilliant job making a name for yourself. You’ve become a club president, and while it may be temporary, you’ve shaped the conversations in school. That incident has also become huge, with many towns moving to start their independent patrols and conducting firefighting practice. It was in the newspapers, too.”
“Yeah, I read about that.”
“Yet you weren’t satisfied with that, and let off a secondary measure. If that turns out to be successful, I wouldn’t be surprised if the police send you a certificate of appreciation.
“On the other hand, I’ve got my hands full with cram school six days a week. As expected, that causes time to pass by in a flash.”
I noticed that Hiya’s fists were clenched tightly.
“In fact, I feel great when I read your articles every month. It’s delightful. Not because of the article itself, but because I get to think, ‘This guy sure is working hard,’ which makes me feel much better… So I have to apologize for laughing at you in my heart that day.”
After saying all that, he fell silent for a while, then let out a self-mocking laugh.
“That was a weird topic I brought up.”
“No… You’ve helped me so much as well.”
“I didn’t do much. All I did was lark about in the shadows. By the way…”
As if detesting any silence, he continued.
“You plan to, how do I put it, catch Fireman this month, right?”
It didn’t even need to be said. I nodded.
But Hiya’s countenance clouded over.
“I don’t mean to rain on your parade, but it might be difficult this month.”
This month’s target, Kitaura Town, was a developing area. This Castle Ruin Park was not that old, and the General Sports Complex was only completed two years ago. However, it was not so busy for how new it was, so I’d thought that the conditions were actually good for a stakeout.
“I don’t think it’d be simple, but I certainly wish we had more club members.”
“I didn’t mean it like that. I seem to get misunderstood a lot, huh.”
With a bitter laugh, Hiya pointed. In the arbor with no walls on all four sides, he pointed up at the sky.
“According to the weekly weather forecast, next week’s weather will be quite bad. I kind of doubt that Fireman will follow his rule in the rain.”
The sky, which had been only lightly cloudy earlier, had turned dark. It was only now that I realized the number of people in the park had decreased as well. The couple that was supposed to be in the arbor had disappeared. By all accounts, it looked like it was about to rain.
He had a point. I’d assumed that the culprit was getting around by car, so he would carry out his crime even if it was raining. However, I certainly had to consider the possibility of the arsonist canceling his plans due to rain.
On top of that, with such low morale among the Newspaper Club members, they probably wouldn’t go for a stakeout in the rain even if I told them to. If only the weather would be clear…
Seeing me instantly sink into thought, Hiya spoke in an apologetic tone.
“I didn’t mean to, but it seems that I really rained on your parade.”
The second Friday, June the 13th arrived.
There was no disturbance caused by the rain. Although it was still early for the typhoon season, a strong one approached Japan, and while it didn’t get on land, it almost completely enveloped Kira City in a high wind zone. It was fine in the morning, but it started raining heavily in the afternoon, even causing flood alerts to be issued.
I didn’t think that setting off a series of fires made up the actions of a rational person, but no arsonist would dutifully start a fire on a day like this. It even looked like we would be entering a storm area later at night. Whenever there is a typhoon, there would be some people who die after going out to take a look at the river state. It would be too amusing if someone died to the typhoon while trying to carry out an arson attack.
I’d told the Newspaper Club members to do patrols if the weather was good, like if it was cloudy or if there was only a slight drizzle. But of course, torrential rain was out of the question. Just to be sure, I headed for the Printing Preparation Room after school.
The door was not locked, so someone was inside. Perhaps it was Ichihata, who was a little more motivated than the rest. Or perhaps it was Itsukaichi, who felt some responsibility as a senior. With that thought, I said, “Hey” in a low voice as I opened the door.
But the person in the room was neither Ichihata nor Itsukaichi. There were only boys in the Newspaper Club, but that person wasn’t even male. She was sitting with her back to a glass window which was being pounded by the rain, a light smile on her face.
“As I thought, you came.”
“I knew you’d come.”
She was now wearing her white summer uniform, and was dexterously holding open a paperback with just her left hand. Placing that book on a table, she tilted her head to the side, taking delight in reading my expression.
“How did you get here?”
I blurted out those words without thinking, causing Osanai to giggle.
“How? Through the door, of course.”
“What about the key?”
“They lent it to me when I said I was in the Newspaper Club. Right, I was asked to pass a message. ‘There’s a typhoon, so finish up and go home quickly.’”
Osanai was not part of the Newspaper Club, but she had no qualms about lying like that. Then again, it was not such a bad thing to do, and it would be indecent to make a fuss about it here. I placed my school bag on a table.
“They’re right, we won’t be able to get home if we don’t hurry. It’s really pouring out there.”
“It’s a rain-laden typhoon, right? The wind isn’t that strong yet.”
Even so, the rain was buffeting the windows intermittently, powered by the wind. The fact that Osanai was the only one in the room meant that the other members must have gone home already.
“But I’m worried since it’s Friday the 13th. We should get home as early as we can.”
“You believe in that?”
“About Friday the 13th being unlucky.”
Based on her girlish tastes, like how she loved to eat cakes, it wouldn’t be strange if she was the type to believe in divination, jinxes and the like. However, I was just a little surprised because she had not been worried about such things before. With a grin, she replied.
“Yup, I feel like something bad’s going to happen.”
She then continued, apparently having just remembered something.
“Ah, talking about Friday reminded me. I read the recent issue of Funado Monthly. You sure worked hard. As for the Fireman name, you were the one who came up with that, right?”
That was true, but I felt a little uncomfortable because Hiya had given it a low rating. Did Osanai read my state of mind?
“I thought it was good.”
She said, but it seemed more like words of encouragement, making me think that she felt the name was a terrible choice. Fireman should be really fitting in terms of its meaning, but… in any case…
“Thanks for reading.”
Then again, Osanai had sent an email on the day Funado Monthly was distributed, saying “I read it. You sure worked hard.” If she was repeating that, it probably meant that she had more to say. “So, what did it remind you of?” I prompted her, and a slightly anxious look appeared on her face.
“It’s just a small matter, just some details.”
“…The article’s a little wrong.”
She said it in such an incredibly apologetic tone that I did not take damage from her unexpected statement. It was a long article, so there could be some minor mistakes here and there. I asked her a question with a carefree attitude.
“Where is it wrong?”
“You wrote that the arsonist set fire to the bicycles under the elevated railway on Saturday, the 10th… but it was actually Friday.”
Did I write something like that? It was indeed a minute detail, so I couldn’t immediately recall. It did seem like something that would be in the article, though. I scratched my head and gave a reply.
“By the way, why were you waiting at a place like this today? Were you trying to tell me that?”
“No, it’s just something that I remembered. You know…”
Osanai stuck out her tongue.
“I wanted to talk to you, but my phone’s dead. The batteries don’t last very long nowadays. That’s why I couldn’t contact you.”
“You could have sent an email after…”
“Sure I could, but I prefer talking in person to talking on the phone or via email. You’re happier this way, aren’t you?”
There was no way I wouldn’t be happy with that.
“I get it, but it’s dangerous, so let’s go home.”
She said, but held up only two fingers. Did she notice her own mistake?
“…But we can forget about the first one. It was just something I wanted to ask if you were planning to do a stakeout tonight.”
“That’s impossible no matter how you look at it.”
She sighed in such a rueful manner that I decided to ask her about it anyway.
“What would you have asked if I were going?”
“Ah, it’s nothing much, but…”
Osanai peeked at me, fidgeting. Eventually, she spoke in a small voice.
“I wanted to ask about how many people you would bring along and where you would station them.”
After some reflection on the events of last month, this month’s personnel distribution was pretty much set in stone. I’d also told the first-year club members to ask their friends for help since we lacked the manpower, but even with all that preparation, we couldn’t have known that a natural disaster would occur. Nevertheless…
“Why would you want to ask about something like that?”
Osanai looked bewildered.
“Eh? I mean, I’m interested.”
I didn’t know what exactly she was interested in, but my conscience wouldn’t allow me to continue grilling her.
Ever since that day after school when I grabbed Osanai by the shoulders, I had not taken such a firm stance with her. It was fun going out with her, so I wouldn’t dare force her to do anything. She never demanded anything of me, so it wasn’t like I was completely under her thumb, either.
“Well, perhaps next time when the weather’s clear… so, what’s the second thing?”
The sparkle in her eye changed. It had been close to a year since we started going out, so I could easily tell. This was the version of Osanai that would appear when she was talking about cakes.
“You know, there was a shop called Tinker Linker that sold delicious pies. It closed down last year so I thought that was it… but a new shop just opened next to the station. It’s called Tinker Tailor, and it even sells peach pies!”
It was exactly as I expected. I smiled wryly.
“Yep, it is! I think it’ll be sunny tomorrow after the typhoon passes. Urino-kun, do you have plans on the weekend?”
I didn’t. Even if I did, an invitation from Osanai would take priority over anything else.
“No, but I’m not sure if it’ll be sunny. If it is, let’s go.”
Osanai nodded twice energetically.
A particularly strong gust of wind collided with the windows, causing them to shake violently, and the two of us to reflexively look at them. Perhaps it was just my imagination, but the rain seemed to be a little stronger now.
When the windows finally stopped shaking, Osanai spoke.
“Looks like we really should go home soon.”
“Yeah, but what about the third topic?”
“The third topic?”
She repeated perplexedly.
“No… there were only two things I wanted to talk about. But I suppose there’s one more thing.”
She took a key out of her skirt pocket.
“Here. Sorry, but return this to the staff room for me. I’m not good at dealing with the teacher on duty today.”
That would be no trouble at all. After passing me the key, Osanai checked the time on her mobile phone, then stood up.
“See you tomorrow then, if it’s sunny!”
Slinging her bag over her shoulder, she dashed out of the Printing Preparation Room. I could understand her hurry. The wind and rain were only getting stronger. I didn’t know where Osanai’s house was, but since she commuted to school by bicycle, it probably wasn’t close.
I should get home too. With that thought, I casually looked outside the window, when I noticed something.
There was a book on the table. It was the one that Osanai had been reading earlier… She must have forgotten about it in her hurry to get home.
That was rare. I never thought of Osanai as a responsible person, but forgetting things and being late did not fit my image of her. I suppose I could bring it back and return it to her the next day if it was sunny. Then again, there could be heavy rain on the way back, and the book could get soaked. It would be better to leave it here and return it to her on Monday.
The book was placed with its back facing up. I nonchalantly turned the book up, but I was confused by the title. I couldn’t tell what kind of novel it was. A white piece of paper, probably a receipt, was peeking out of a page. She was also using a receipt in place of a bookmark the other day, and she always seemed to do that. Perhaps it was a habit of hers?
I’d thrown away the receipt that she’d said would make a good memory, because I would get embarrassed every time I looked at it. I was reminded of that event just by looking at the receipt lodged in Osanai’s book.
I picked up the paperback.
I had no intention of reading its contents. Sticking my fingers between the pages that held the receipt, I pulled it out. As for why I was taking the trouble to look at the receipt even though the embarrassment was causing me to shudder, I had no idea myself. According to the receipt, the book was bought on its own, and cost 609 yen, including tax. Osanai had paid with the exact amount, so she’d received no change.
It was as if I was taking a peek at Osanai’s life. Hit by the realization that it was quite the vulgar thing to do, I decided to return it to its original position. At that moment, I noticed it.
I even let out a sound.
The store and time at which the book had been bought was printed without omission. I instinctively clasped the small receipt with both hands.
Once again, the windows were barraged by a combination of rain and wind.
Editors (Tier 2) : Joshua Fisher
Assistants (Tier 1) : Rolando Sanchez
Thank you very much for all your support!