Chapter 20

TW: References to violence and death.

Tuesday, April 6th around 04:00)

Zero Hour Chapter 20“Her name was Rina. It took some deep digging but Nakamura was able to find her medical records. She’s been institutionalized since age six, as she told you. There’s no record of her having tried to kill her brother or anyone else.” Detective Shirai was pacing back and forth in Asami’s office referencing some notes. Asami, Kirishima, and Suoh sat watching him. It had taken Kirishima a good half hour to get his emotions under control after Maseo had left. When the detective had called him to say he was coming to the office, he’d been able to switch back into work mode much to his relief.

“All records of her existence appear to have been erased but there’s no source. It seems impossible that the parents would have had that much clout to make something like that happen,” Shirai continued.

“Something like that does seem out of reach for them. The father is a low level civil servant. Both parents come from ordinary families. We asked you to interview the parents. Did you find out anything of interest?” said Asami.

“I did the interview a few hours ago, in the early evening, Asami-sama. No. Nothing at all. They didn’t mention her even though I told them this was an important matter relating to the death of their son. It seems Jin hadn’t had contact with them since you two moved in together, and almost no contact prior. And, it seems, they preferred to keep it that way. They regret they didn’t reach out to him sooner.”

“When did she get out of the hospital?” asked Kirishima.

The detective shook his head. “That’s the thing. According to all the records she’s still there. I haven’t talked to the hospital yet but on paper she never left.”

There was a silence. Kirishima pulled out his cigarette case, handed Asami a Dunhill, and lit it for him. The smoke curled around him. “Clearly, she was let out by someone. That person installed her in the abandoned building, fed her, gave her Jin’s phone, and told her to call me,” said Asami.

Shirai nodded.

“And that person gave her a gun, presumably to kill me. But when she tried to shoot me, she missed. And that person, or someone working with that person, shot her through the window.”

“Any idea who might be trying to kill you?” asked Detective Shirai. This earned a short laugh from Asami. “I had to ask, Asami-sama. I know there are any number of people who want you dead. And for a variety of reasons.” The detective was still standing. He had his hands in his pockets.

“This is different,” said Suoh, “Someone not only wants Asami-sama dead, he also wants to inflict as much grief and pain on him as possible. This elaborate set-up is all calculated towards that end.”

“It would seem so,” said Shirai. “Any idea who might want to hurt you like this?”

“No. The only person who might go to those ends is Andou and he’s dead, along with his organization,” said Asami.

“Andou was never that smart or well-connected enough. He couldn’t pull off something this elaborate,” said Kirishima.

“I’ll continue to investigate and will let you know what I find out. I’ll check in with you by tomorrow, early evening,” said the detective.

“Thanks for your help.”

“I’m happy to help in any way I can, Asami-sama.”

Kirishima stood up and saw the detective out. When he returned, Asami was alone in the office looking out the window. Kirishima remained standing.

“Sit, Kei.” He sat down. Though the silence stretched out Kirishima waited patiently.

Asami took a drag on his cigarette and exhaled. He turned around. “I’m surprised.”

“Surprised about what, Asami-sama?”

“That you haven’t asked me about Maseo.” Asami was watching him with his piercing stare.

Kirishima shifted in his seat. “That’s a personal matter between me and him. I would never dream of asking you about him.”

Asami tilted his head. For a moment, he reminded Kirishima of Maseo. He pushed this thought out of his mind. “Always the professional,” said Asami, “I don’t always tell you this but I’m continually impressed by your conduct and work. It was a risk selecting you as First Assistant after only four years, Kei, but I’m very happy I made the choice.”

“Thank you, Asami-sama.” Kirishima felt a small glow. He knew Asami had given him this important compliment as compensation for not discussing Maseo with him and he was grateful for it.

“How much do we pay Detective Shirai?”

“About three times the usual fees. He’s been the most competent and responsive out of all the law enforcement on our payroll.” He hesitated but only for a moment. “In fact, I’ve authorized an increase in his payments since he proved so helpful with the kidnapping situation.”

“Good,” said Asami, “What do you think, Kei, of this situation so far?”

“Someone with enormous power managed to hide Rina from our background checks, got her out of the hospital, and manipulated her into calling you. I believe she was supposed to try to kill you though, again, the method seems clumsy.”

“And why is the method clumsy?”

“She obviously didn’t have much experience with a gun,” said Kirishima. “Even if you’d gone to the building alone, you probably would have been able to disarm her easily. With the group of us, it was like her not having a gun at all. And given her mental state, I don’t think she would have been easy to control for long.”

“So perhaps this was an attempt to unnerve me.”

“It worked, Asami-sama.” Kirishima kept his voice quiet.

“Yes, it did.” Asami sat down in his desk chair. He put his cigarette out and picked up an antique ivory carved letter opener that had belonged to his father. He inspected the intricately carved handle.

“Let me take you home now, Asami-sama. We both need sleep. We can tackle these questions after we’ve rested,” said Kirishima.

“You’re right,” said Asami but he didn’t get up. Instead, he laid the letter opener back down on the desk and looked at Kirishima directly. “I’m sorry about Maseo, Kei. That’s all I’ll say about it.”

“Thank you, Asami-sama,” said Kirishima. He felt the unfamiliar pain and longing but didn’t show his feelings as he followed Asami out of his office.

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