Takuma sat at his desk, his foot tapping an impatient rhythm on the floor as he stared at Kano's office. After hyping himself about it for a bit, he went and knocked on the open office door.
Kano hummed without looking up from the documents.
"It's about the Hirano case," said Takuma.
Kano heaved a deep sigh of subdued frustration. Takuma understood where that was coming from. The Hirano murder case should've been the responsibility of the Department of Homicide. It wasn't like the Department of Organized Crime didn't see murders; on the contrary, fifty percent of all deaths were directly caused by or related to organized crime. But there were no signs that the Hirano murder case was related to organized crime. The only reason the case had been forwarded to Organized Crime was that Homicide was swamped with other cases. The Hidden Leaf village was the hub of shinobi— and shinobi-on-shinobi crimes were unsurprisingly high for various reasons.
"I believe I have a solid lead to solving the case," said Takuma.
Kano looked up. "What is it?"
Takuma placed the photograph of Hirano's damaged door and lock on the table. "After checking after the boyfriend, I went back to the house to get some more photos. As you can see, someone tried to force it open, which leads me to believe that Hirano didn't let her killer in willingly. We found blood and scratched skin under Hirano's nail, meaning she didn't sleep through it all, leading me to believe there was an audible struggle. Even if we somehow assume that Hirano didn't make a peep, just forcing the door should've made enough noise.
And while I was there, I recalled how Hirano's neighbor was the one to give us the boyfriend tip… and ma'am, the walls are thin. I put my ear to the door and could faintly hear footsteps; a struggle would've been clearer," and he had taken his enhanced hearing into account.
Kano leaned into her chair. Takuma had her attention.
"I'm assuming this has something to do with the neighbor?" she asked.
Takuma nodded. "She's a junkie, ma'am. I questioned her, and the signs of withdrawal were clear as day. It seems she hasn't had a fix of whatever she's hooked to." He gave her a description of what he saw.
"And? Are you saying she killed Hirano for money?" Kano didn't sound satisfied.
Takuma shook his head. He hesitated before speaking out his thoughts, "Ma'am… I believe it was one of the enforcers."
Kano's eyes sharpened at the words. She reached for her aviators on her desk and fiddled with the shades for a moment. "And how would you know about the enforcers, Officer Takuma?" she asked.
"… I live right next to the eastern slums, ma'am," said Takuma. "Every third person in my neighborhood is hooked onto something, and most of them can barely afford their… hobbies." He looked Kano in the eye. "Enforcers are akin to regular guests in where I live… I'm well aware of what they are."
It was true. Takuma's residence wasn't in a great place. People lived miserable lives, and drugs were their way to cope with it. But due to the nature of drugs, people tend to indulge beyond their means— and that's where enforcers came in.
When people weren't able to pay up, enforcers were sent to collect debts. Enforcers were symbols of fear, lingering in the corner of people's minds, reminding them of the consequences— and most of the time, that worked. Fear was a great deterrent. People paid up by any means possible. However, there were times when fear didn't work, and people slipped up. That's when enforcers did their job— after all, fear needed to be built.
They threatened, confiscated property… and in some cases, they even killed.
Takuma's knowledge about enforcers didn't end there. Enomoto and Ryuu had their enforcers as well. Enomoto used his enforcers to threaten retailers like Ryuu if they weren't able to pay up for their purchase— while Ryuu used his enforcers against dealers like Takuma and lent them to the dealers to deal with problematic customers for dealers.
Because Takuma didn't reveal his true identity, Ryuu refused to sell to him on credit. Takuma didn't need enforcers because of how he had developed his clientele, his business practices that revolved around customer satisfaction, and because his bottom line was to pay up Sango's bills and not turn maximum profit— he didn't have many problems cutting people off if they refused to do business upfront.
And if someday he needed an enforcer… Takuma preferred to deal with his customers on his own.
"It may be a reach, but I think there's a chance that an enforcer might have mistaken the target," said Takuma. "However, I think we might be able to confirm if we bring in the neighbor for questioning. I'm sure she must've seen something." Takuma didn't push the questioning to be safe because he didn't have solid proof to put behind his conjecture.
Kano stayed silent, leaving Takuma standing without an answer, and with every second, Takuma thought if he had indeed overreached.
"Alright, bring her in; I'll interrogate her." Kano sighed, "It's not like we have any other leads to follow."
Murder cases went two ways. They were either easily solved, or cases died due to the lack of eye-witness to identify the murderer or a lack of clear proof tying someone to the murder. As long as the police had an eye witness, motive, and some evidence— suspects usually broke down during interrogation and confessed to the crimes. But if there was a lack of leads, it became harder with each passing day to nail down the guilty party.
Every cold case was a detriment to the department.
"Yes, ma'am!" Takuma clenched his fist, confidence filling him.
"You really went ahead with that lock thing, didn't you?" Arisu glanced at Takuma as they stood in the viewing area of the interrogation room.
Takuma watched Kano and Hirano's neighbor in the interrogation room. The woman looked as bad as before, if not worse. It was clear that she hadn't been getting her fix and that she was too deep beforehand for the withdrawal period to pass quickly on its own without help. With her condition, bringing her wasn't difficult. Takuma threatened her a little bit with some drug-related criminal charges, and she had no choice but to comply.
"She's in a bad condition," Arisu frowned. "Perhaps she's the one who killed Hirano for the money and belongings."
"She wouldn't be like this if she were the culprit," Takuma said. Let's say the money and valuables stolen from Hirano's house were used to pay off the debt or a part of it; the dealers wouldn't let the woman go and supply her with some more drugs, and with how the woman was suffering, she would take the drugs, and the cycle would continue. "Whatever it is, I'm sure if Kano is as good as you said, we will have the truth soon."
"Of course, she will!" Arisu harrumphed.
Takuma already had the name of the enforcer. For obvious reasons, he couldn't reveal it due to the source of it. Takuma as Tobi had kept his identity hidden, but that didn't mean he was invisible. Dealers had some level of interaction and awareness of each other, and Takuma was no different. He knew the other dealers, even those who sold different drugs than him. Territory, corners, and customers were an essential part of the drug space, and some 'etiquette' needed to be followed to maintain peace among wholesalers, retailers, and dealers. No one wanted conflict to arise, especially not the people on the bottom rung, most of them who were barely earning a living.
Especially not when conflict would attract the Police Force's attention to them. Unlike many drug organizations that had law enforcement in their pocket, the ones in Hidden Leaf Village operated without any assistance. The Leaf Military Police Force was the biggest enemy.
Takuma had prod around, and the answer had come about. Of course, no one could be sure, and even Takuma didn't have any proof, but the probability of him being right was high.
It was as Arisu said. Kano didn't take much time to get the truth.
"You were right," said Kano as she entered the viewing area. "She was there when the attack happened, she even got a glance of the killer and said she can identify him." Kano looked at Takuma. "It seems you were right. It was most probably an enforcer— which we can confirm after we get an identification— and he indeed mistook the target," she sighed, "to think it'd be so idiotic as mistaking the target."
As it turned out, Hirano's neighbor was in serious debt due to drugs and couldn't pay. When she couldn't get drugs from one dealer, she approached another, offered her body to extend a line of credit and surprisingly did it multiple times— a strawberry, as they called them in the business—the debt continued to pile up. It seemed the people got fed up with her and decided to get rid of her due to her actions.
A hit was probably issued.
Takuma could see where things had gone wrong. He didn't know where any of his clients lived. He knew their general area of residency, but their exact addresses were unknown to him. He never visited their home as transactions happened elsewhere, so he didn't care. Takuma believed that somewhere along the line, the home address had been miscommunicated. Moreover, there were no nameplates in front of the houses— only house numbers. The killer had gone into the wrong house, not asked any questions as it was a hit, and done the deed without listening to a word Hirano might have said.
"As soon as we identify him, bring him in," Kano said.
"The target is Nakai Gorou," said Arisu, holding a photograph in front of the three people. One of them was Takuma, and the other two were beat officers who were inducted alongside Takuma but weren't given the same training as him. "He's a former genin, left the system three years ago, and since then has been known to be part of the Haru Group, working as an enforcer for them."
Genin were signed to a whopping ten-year contract after they graduated from the academy. Only after that ten years could they leave the shinobi system to pursue other occupations. Every genin was subjected to that contract, and if they were trained after the academy in some technical field, as in iryojutsu and fuinjutsu, that contract was extended. When a shinobi was promoted to chunin, that contract was extended even further, and the same for jonin.
Every year, genin left the shinobi system throughout the nation. Some went to be employed by private organizations or whoever could pay them— and the market existed as these ex-shinobi were cheaper, but they were also less skillful. Others switched their occupation altogether and did something unrelated to the shinobi world.
There were also people who ended up joining illegal organizations who wanted shinobi in their ranks to boost their strength and standing. Especially in the Leaf Village, every criminal organization worth its salt had ex-shinobi (or even current shinobi) in their ranks so they could survive.
Nakai Gorou was one of those ex-shinobi and was employed by the Haru group and was involved in many illegal activities. Drug peddling being one of those activities.
"He comes to the casino every Wednesday," Arisu pointed at the building in the distance. "He's in there right now, and according to the intel, he will be out in some time. When he gets out, we will bag him. Officer Takuma and I will take charge." She turned to the beat officers. "While you two will provide backup…. I don't believe there will be much of a problem with our numbers, but let's be careful nevertheless."
After the briefing was done, Arisu turned to Takuma, who was checking his gear.
"Nervous?" she asked.
"Hmm? Not really," Takuma shrugged. "Well… I'm worried about civilians getting involved."
Arisu narrowed her eyes. She thought he would be nervous about a potential combat situation, but from the looks of it, he looked pretty relaxed. She wondered if he was experienced— and then recalled the rumors about the Land of Frost mission, which had been working its way around the department. She didn't know the details, but from what she had heard, there was a clash. Perhaps that's what gave Takuma his confidence.
Arisu trailed off when she noticed Nakai Gorou exiting the casino.
"Get ready, let's finish this quickly," she said.
Takuma nodded, his eyes following Gorou like a hunter stalking his prey.
Want to read ahead of schedule? Head over to Patreón [fictiononlyreader]. Link here and in signature.
Note: All the chapters will eventually be posted on public forums.