I was acquainted with the girl who died. We had even spoken a little. We talked about the student from this same school who died in an accident in the gym that was being torn down just a few days ago. This time, however, it was her turn. I can't believe it.
The news first came to me in a phone call from a reporter I'm familiar with. I was still asleep in bed.
"There's been another death at Hinashiro High. It's a student. Her name's Kazuki Aihara. She was a second-year, apparently. It sounds like she fell from the fourth floor, but something about it is suspicious."
After hanging up, I immediately made a call to the school. They connected me to the headmaster with surprisingly little resistance, and I received permission for a direct interview. If thirty minutes tomorrow evening was okay then he didn't mind meeting me, he said.
I turned on the TV and ate breakfast. This is a weird comparison to make, but I feel like I've dropped the pass case I always use.
In the evening, I grabbed hold of a student on the way home from school and we talked. The media are being pretty intrusive. The majority of the students' comments display confusion and bewilderment.
"I don't understand."
"I'm just scared."
"What's going on?"
"It doesn't seem real."
All of them have these anxieties. I tried to make contact with the student I'd known for a while, but failed.
The following day, a press release was issued by Hinashiro Police Station, the gist of which concluded that this case is a murder and body dumping. A task force has been established. The murder was apparently carried out within the school's chemistry lab. The cause of death was massive bleeding. Afterwards, the body was transported to the fourth floor of the northern building and dropped from a window. The authorities have also made an official announcement that this time, the body's right wrist was severed using a sharp blade and is missing.
Another body missing a part! This is purely my own observation, but perhaps this creates a link to the accident that occured during the demolition of the gym the other day.
In any case, things have finally progressed into a full-blown murder case. That means that a perpetrator exists for certain. Somebody is out there killing high school girls.
At 5PM, I headed for Hinashiro High. It was time to speak to the headmaster.
Did you hear today's announcement by the police?
"Yes; they contacted me in advance and I was shocked. I can't believe that such a thing could occur within this very school. I am still in shock."
It turns out that the death of the student, first thought to be an accidental fall, was really a murder on campus, after all.
"I can scarcely believe it. That is all I can say right now. When I think of how her family must be feeling, all I can say is that it is a true shame."
I hear that the crime took place inside the chemistry lab.
"So you have already learned that much."
Yes, and the forensic results are out, too. She was stabbed to death with a knife.
"Is that so?"
Do you remember the late student when she was alive?
"Yes, I remember her. I remember her class, too."
This might sound rude, but I'm a little surprised that you are able to recall each and every one of your students.
"I try to remember the students' names, at least. It's something like a creed of mine."
I see. What was she like as a student?
"She was lively, popular with her class. I believe she was passionate about her club activities, too. Perhaps she stayed late after school for her club, forgot something and returned to pick it up on the night of the incident."
Yes, that seems to be the case according to the testimony of a friend she parted ways with at the bus stop. It sounds like she came back to get her bag.
"I can only assume that it is some cruel trick of fate."
By the way, I hear that the dead student's body is missing its right wrist.
"Yes, that is correct. I'd like to ask the media to kindly refrain from making superfluous reports on such matters. I have heard that this is the case from the police, but we must take into consideration its impact on the other students."
But it is true that there was an accident the other day during the demolition of the gym, and that a student lost her life in it.
"Yes. But that is unrelated to the incident at hand, and I would like to avoid the nuance that such things are happening one after another."
I understand what you're saying. I will make a note of your statement.
"You seem to have a peculiar interest in this matter, Mr. Kato."
You accepted my request for an interview knowing my name.
"Yes. I wouldn't call myself a fanatic, but I am a reader of yours."
Thank you. About the case - what sort of person do you think the perpetrator is?
"I have difficulty comprehending why you would be asking me that sort of question, but I couldn't possibly imagine."
We know it was someone who was able to get inside the school.
"Unfortunately, since it was late at night, anyone could have sneaked in. For the time being, however, I intend to cooperate with the police and have the place under vigilant guard. We are also considering the security of students as they come to and from school."
I see. Might I ask a few more questions?
"Be my guest, Mr. Kato."
About the accident in the gym the other day - have you heard the story that part of the student's body was missing?
"I have only read about it in a very select few reports. No more than hearsay."
And even if such a story is circulating in some places, the school isn't hiding anything?
"That would be impossible. I know nothing. It doesn't appear to be possible to confirm it, anyhow."
Would you mind if I took a look around the chemistry lab later?
"Not at all. After the police have finished cleaning up, of course."
"It's quite alright. There are still students inside the building, so I'd be grateful if you would try to be discreet about it. Please do try not to get them into a frenzy. It's the students I worry about the most. Please be good to them."
Kazuki Aihara is dead. She fell to her death on the grounds of Hinashiro High. Lots of suspicious things about it, though.
The police later released a statement saying that Kazuki Aihara's death had been determined to be a murder. The body's left wrist was missing. A sign.
The cause of death was massive bleeding due to being stabbed with a knife. She was apparently stabbed in more than ten places.
Kazuki Aihara was a classmate of Mika Kishii, as well as one of her closest friends. Her death, at the hand of a murderer, is a shocking one. Will she hear of the news somewhere?
The scene of the crime is the chemistry lab. The body appears to have later been dragged to the fourth floor of the northern building. Then, she was dropped. Either way, why did the killer go to so much trouble when it would be immediately apparent that the cause of death was by stabbing?
If it was the killer who cut off her wrist (thinking about it simply, this is the only possibility I can imagine), it was likely due to the workings of some abnormal state of mind.
Is it connected to the accident at the gym? Is same person responsible for both?
Successfully managed to interview the headmaster. He probably won't accept any more requests for exclusives from now on. He really is a gentle person, but he can snap, too. Putting aside the education part, he is extremely capable at running the school as a business.