CH_4.6 (106)
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"She didn't let her attacker in." Takuma slapped crime scene photographs on Arisu's table. "Whoever it was— they broke in."

Arisu looked away from presumably a file from another case. She squinted her eyes as she regarded the photos that were shots of Machia Hirano's (the victim) front door lock.

"What am I looking at?" she asked.

Takuma pointed at the photo, specifically the scuff marks and scratches around the face of the lock. "It's obvious from the color of the scratches on the lock that they're new. The landlord told us the door was open, so it's clear that he didn't try to break in— and he's the landlord; he would use a key if he wanted to enter— which means it was someone before the landlord. Whoever it was, they weren't good at it, as they tried to force the lock open instead of picking the pins inside."

"You can tell that from… scratches?" Arisu asked, skeptical. "What if she was drunk and made those scratches with her keys when she was trying to enter her house?"

Takuma went silent for a moment. He looked at the photographs, and from the angles he had taken, he couldn't tell if there were damage to the lock. He clicked his tongue̵— he needed to get better at taking images.

"That is a possibility, but I'll go back and take a look just to be sure," Takuma sighed. He had to go check it because identifying the entry of the killer was crucial for the investigation. They could focus their attention on certain suspects if they knew how the killer entered the house.

Takuma heard someone call out his and Arisu's name. They gazed across the room to see Kano exit her office while a file to them as she walked towards the interrogation rooms.

"Ah, they must've bought in the lover." Arisu packed the stuff on her desk as she got up.

"What, who did they bring in?" asked Takuma, confused.

"Hirano's boyfriend," said Arisu. "The next-door neighbor told us that she heard Hirano and her boyfriend often fight when he visited. We called him in for an interrogation. Come on, let's see how he performs."

Takuma didn't know about the interrogation. It turned out that unlike shown in police procedural shows, law enforcement worked on multiple cases at a time. Takuma was involved in three more cases other than the Hirano Murder Case.

'I've got to make sure I'm caught up with what's happening,' Takuma told himself. He had to ensure that he was kept in the loop on every case he was on, or else he would be left behind on every one of them. There was only a limit to what he could rely on others, and it was his responsibility to keep himself up to date on everything.

———

.

Takuma looked through the two-way mirror at the small interrogation room with one table with two chairs across each other and one extra near the corner. The table was big enough to take up most of the room, and the space left around it was only sufficient for one person to barely walk around comfortably— giving the room a cramped feel.

That was by design, of course. There were a few different types of interrogation rooms designated to and modified by Organized Crime— and this one was to make the person being interrogated as uncomfortable as possible so they couldn't relax.

And right now, inside the interrogation room, Kano sat with Hirano's boyfriend while Arisu and Takuma watched them from the viewing area on the other side of the mirror.

From the looks of it, Hirano's boyfriend looked like a usual chap, if not a little blue. But that'd be expected— his girlfriend had been murdered, and from the looks of it, their last conversation had been a fight. A part of Takuma's mind felt sympathy for the guy, but the other part regarded the boyfriend as the potential killer. It was a type of mental conflict new to Takuma. He couldn't say he was a fan of it.

"Where were you last Sunday?" Kano's voice came through the speakers in the viewing area.

"A-At my home," answered the boyfriend.

"Do you have someone who can vouch for that?"

"… No, I was alone."

Kano hummed as she stared at the boyfriend, who squirmed under her gaze. The time of Hirano's death had been determined to be on Sunday, somewhere in the evening. The first step for eliminating from the suspect list anyone was to see where they were throughout the day. The more clarity and detail they could provide about their location and actions on that day, the safer they would be as long as they were away from Hirano's home.

"I aspire to be like her," said Arisu.

She had admiration in her eyes as she gazed at Kano and the interrogation. Takuma looked at Kano, who was his supervising officer, with Yakumi as his commanding officer. He didn't know much about Kano, but he did look up to her as much as one would do if they worked with someone who held considerable experience and knowledge over them about a job or craft.

"Kano was part of a jonin team out of the academy. After she was promoted to chunin and her team disbanded, she applied for the Police Force. Because of her medical background, the higher-ups wanted her to continue working as a field shinobi as an iryo-nin, and if she wanted work in the Police Force, she was given a position in the coroner's office because they suited her skills," said Arisu. "Given her skills, it made sense, but Kano wanted to work in the Police Force as a crime investigator— so she fought for the position and started out in Shinobi Fraud and worked her way to Organized Crime, all the while facing a resistance from the higher-ups in the Uchiha Clan and Police Force…"

Takuma looked at Arisu and recalled how she also had done a stint in Shinobi Fraud before moving to Organized Crime. He mused if Arisu was copying Kano due to her admiration.

"She persevered, and here she is,, one of the best investigators and interrogators in the Police Force," Arisu sounded proud. "I heard she got offers from ANBU but rejected them because she wanted to work in the Police Force."

"Is she really that good?" Takuma looked at the interrogation happening in front of him. Unfortunately, he didn't have enough experience with interrogations to differentiate between bad, good, and great interrogations.

"Of course, she is!" Arisu gave him a stink eye before the look of admiration returned to her eyes. "Ask anyone in the Police Force, and they all will say the same thing: You can't lie in front of Uchiha Kano!"

Takuma looked at his supervising officer, and she didn't seem to be doing anything special other than asking questions, writing down the answers, digging through follow-ups, and repeating the process. Her line and direction of questions were sound and solid but wasn't that what one would expect from someone experienced?

"Do you know why she wears those shades?" asked Arisu.

Takuma shook his head. Kano wore her red aviator shades as much as she did not. She wore them both outdoors and indoors, be it during the day or late in the evening— there was no time or place where Kano thought that her shades weren't welcome.

"Because they hide her Sharingan," Arisu said.

Takuma's eyes widened as the realization dawned on him. Daily, he was surrounded by people who could use Sharingan, but because he could look everyone in the eye, he wasn't worried as long as their eyes stayed onyx. But what about Kano? The first time he had seen her, it was with her shades. And he had quickly made it her default look. He could even say that seeing her without her shades was out-of-place— like it was weird to see someone who wore spectacles without them.

"Sharingan doesn't allow the Uchiha to tell lies from truth," Arisu continued, "but it can do so much more, and Kano has figured out a way to use her Sharingan to tell when someone is lying. I once asked how she did it. Kano said that it was cold reading turned up to eleven. Of course, I think she was underplaying it. I've seen it on display— it's like she can read their minds, target and prod their thoughts until they're willingly spilling out their guilt and truth in front of her."

It was known in the shinobi circles that the Fuma Clan was the Uchiha Clan's closest ally. That fact was evident by how many Fuma Clan members were in the Police Force. In the entire village, the Fuma Clan might be the one who knew the most about the Sharingan next to the Uchiha Clan because of how closely the clans worked with each other.

"There's no one in the entire Uchiha Clan who can use the Sharingan like her," Arisu declared proudly.

And Takuma would've been impressed if his head wasn't occupied by the thoughts of his interactions with Kano. Had she used her Sharingan on him? Had he unknowingly divulged some of his secrets?

Arisu smirked, "I'm willing to bet she 'read' you on your first meeting."

That did wonders for Takuma's anxiety. As in, it made him plunge deeper into it.

Maybe Takuma had let his worries show on her face because Arisu slapped him on his back. "Don't worry about it. If she didn't like you, she would've already called you out, and Kano would definitely not still be working with you," she said.

Inside the interrogation room, Kano stood up, exited the room, and walked into the viewing area. She had her red shades in her hands and rubbed her eyes as if fatigued.

"He doesn't seem to be lying. They fought often, but I don't think he did it. The crime of passion doesn't match what we usually see in crimes of passion. He has some alibi, which should clear him out. However, we can't strike him out just yet." Kano turned to Takuma. "Check the alibi out and go ask Hirano's friends if they ever heard or noticed signs of violence on her…. What happened to you?" she noticed how tense Takuma was.

Takuma shook his head, straightened up, and schooled his expression. "Yes, ma'am," he said, taking the notepad from Kano.

Kano glanced at Arisu, who only shrugged.

———

.

Takuma followed his orders and checked the boyfriend's alibi, which cleared him of suspicion. But before returning to the office, Takuma took a detour to Hirano's house to check his lock theory. The house had been released from police custody, and the landlord had already started the clean up on the house while Hirano's family had taken out their late daughter's belongings.

However, according to the landlord, they hadn't changed the locks, which allowed Takuma to photograph the lock and the door for signs of damage.

"Knew it," said Takuma as he squatted before the door lock. The door's wood was lightly splintered; combining that with the scuff marks, it was clear that someone had tried to brute force the lock open without a shred of delicacy. It was a miracle that the lock was still functioning, and the damage wasn't clearly visible until closely observed.

He quickly took the photographs so that he could show them to Kano.

But as Takuma was clicking the photographs, a thought passed his mind. Brute forcing the lock would've made noise enough to alert the person inside that someone was trying to break in. If Hirano was aware of the fact, why didn't she scream? Not screaming wouldn't make sense. Even if he assumed she was asleep and was a heavy sleeper, the sound should've been enough to wake someone up.

'What if she did scream?'

Takuma looked at the door beside Hirano's house. Hirano had two neighbors— one on each side. One of them was a couple who were on vacation at their parent's house and hadn't been home when the murder happened. The other one was a single woman who lived alone like Hirano.

In fact, she was the one who gave them the information about Hirano's boyfriend and their fights.

'She could hear them fighting,' Takuma thought— which meant if something went down in Hirano's house, there were great chances she would've been able to hear it.

And if Takuma recalled correctly, the woman was home during the estimated window of Hirano's death.

Takuma stood up and walked to the next door, and pressed the doorbell. He put his ear against the door and listened in. He heard the noise of falling, a groan, and then what sounded like someone getting up and walking towards the door with irregular but rushed steps.

Takuma stepped back from the door. As it slowly opened, Takuma caught the sight of the engaged latch and then a woman peeking through the gap.

"W-What is it?" said the woman.

"… Good afternoon, ma'am. I'm from the Police Force, and I was wondering if I could ask you some more questions about your neighbor, Hirano," asked Takuma as he looked down at the woman.

"I've already answered all the questions you all asked before."

"I'm aware, ma'am. I just have some more questions I quickly need to get out of the way. It won't take more than a few minutes," he said.

Takuma gazed at the woman. She was lightly shaking as if feeling cold even though the weather was warm and the sun was at its peak. From the gap visible to him, he could see her clammy and sweaty, pale skin, unkempt hair, dark bags under her unfocused eyes, and a god-awful smell as if the woman hadn't bathed in days.

Takuma, by no means, was an expert, but he had been a dealer long enough that he had seen most of the stuff that came with the territory. He had been to places, seen people, and knew what the bottom of society looked like when they let go of everything for just one thing, and one thing only that gave them joy.

So, he felt confident when he could tell that the woman wasn't suffering from a ridiculously high fever…

… and instead, she was going through severe withdrawals.

 

 

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