"Aaaaaand welcome back to the Ken Onami Show! I'm your host..."
The kitchen stove timer started beeping.
"I'll get it," Conan said, standing up.
He went into the kitchen, put on the pair of oven mitts, and set the tray of freshly heated chicken nuggets onto the countertop.
Nancy walked in and went to take two plates from the cabinet.
"You know, it's funny," Conan said. "When I was a kid the first time, I was all too happy to eat frozen junk out of a box whenever my mom was away for the evening. Now that I'm older, or I am mentally at least, you'd think that I wouldn't want to have to go through this again, but..."
"Say no more, " Nancy said. "I think I might even prefer dad's cooking to mom's. Tonight we enjoy a rare reprieve, so let's make the most of it."
They sat at the dinner table with their plates.
"Itadakimasu," they both said. Then they lifted the chicken nuggets to their mouths and enjoyed their meal.
(Shameless by CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE)
Whoo girl you're as cool as ice
Deal me another full deck o' lies
Dontcha dare break yer poker face
Empty my heart's vault at record pace
(Not all that glitters is gold! A pearly white smile can mask a heart as black as coal! Sounding off no alarms, the killer leaves as silently as he enters! Perceiving the one and only truth! With the body of a child but the mind of an adult, my name is DETECTIVE CONAN!)
And so we find ourselves at this crossroad again
Per my count, you've lied to me five times tonight
You've woven a tale that'd leave J.R.R. Tolkien speechless
A carefully constructed narrative flimsier than a house of cards
I don't know if I should let you walk away
I don't know if you're worth the trouble
But what I care enough to demand an answer to
"What did I have that you wanted for your own?"
You shameless thing, a web of deceit left in your wake
Antithetical to the driving force that binds people together
A thick veil of mist shrouds the true you that you can't let slip
In the name of all that's true, I'll deconstruct you piece by piece!
The Lock That Betrayed Its Owner
In another part of town, Kogoro and Eri were enjoying this time away from the two freeloading kids.
"So you and my husband met playing mahjong?" Eri asked.
"Yup," Kaichi Asahina, age 39, said. "I've suckered him out of a lot of money over the last few years."
"I've won quite a few games," Kogoro muttered indignantly.
"Ah, Kogoro, I don't think you've ever met my wife," Kaichi said.
His wife, Kiyomi, age 29, smiled formally (and a bit stiffly).
"Whoa, you bagged yourself a real babe," Kogoro said. "I only wish that I could've-
Eri elbowed him so hard that he began coughing.
Renjo Kumazaki, age 40, laughed. "Eri-san, I gotta tell you, your husband talked about you sometimes during our games back in the day. You two were estranged back then, if I'm not mistaken?"
Kogoro chuckled nervously. "These spring rolls are good. What's your recipe?"
"Let's not change the subject, dear," Eri said, insistent on hearing what Renjo had to say.
"Mostly it was when he had a little too much to drink," Renjo said. "He was like, 'I wish she would come back to me'. And stuff like that."
"Is that so?" Eri said, trying to stifle a smile.
"No! No! I never said that!" Kogoro said. "You must've been drunk too, and it must've screwed with your memories!"
"He was framed by the media, I tell you!" Kaichi said mockingly, eliciting some chuckles.
"Oi, Kaichi, you ready for our fishing trip next weekend?" Renjo asked.
Kaichi nodded. "I've already gone ahead and purchased the fishing wire. You're gonna handle the rods, right?"
"Yeah. I'll go shopping for them maybe tomorrow or some time around then."
Eri turned to Renjo and his wife, Tetsuko (age 40). "I hear you two are gonna buy this house from Kaichi-san and his wife?"
"Indeed!" Tetsuko said. "Uh, can I tell it, dear?"
"When I was a girl, this was my house. When we were about nine, Renjo's family's home in Shizuoka got flooded out, so they came and lived with us. At first, my mom and dad were doing it to be nice, until Renjo's family could find work again and a new place to stay, but whenever they found work, we realized: our house was a little big for just three people, and we could save money by all staying here and splitting the costs of living. Renjo's dad made a little bit more money than mine did, since he had a higher technical skill set, so it worked out really well."
"And so," Renjo said, "me and Tetsuko lived in the same house from nine years old until we were about eighteen, and then we both moved out and went to college. We married a few short years after, and found a cheap apartment somewhere."
"Oh, so you've been married a long time," Kogoro said. "Do you have any kids?"
"Two of them," Tetsuko said. "One's in jail right now, unfortunately."
"Well, sometimes, even despite our best efforts, our children don't turn out the way we hoped," Eri said.
"Amen to that," Renjo said.
"Ya know, it's a funny story," Kaichi said. "When I bought this house few years back, I had no clue this was Renjo's childhood home. But about four months ago he and his wife approached me and offered to buy it back from us. They offered more than this house's market value, actually. Aren't you just a meager salaryman?"
"You make it sound like my job doesn't pay well," Renjo said. "And I'm more than willing to work into my old age, if that's what it takes."
Kiyomi stood up. "Well, I'm going out now."
"In the middle of dinner?" Kaichi said, a clear tone of disapproval in his voice.
"Can't help it. I told my friends I'd meet them at Asaba's Maryland in twenty minutes."
"Hmph. That host club place again? If I didn't know any better I'd say you were seeing someone there behind my back."
"Yeah, my friends. Bye. Don't know how late I'll be coming home."
"Don't let the door hit you on the way out."
After Kiyomi left...
"I'm sorry you had to hear that," Kaichi said.
"Um, can I use the bathroom?" Renjo asked.
"Sure," Kaichi said. "Since you lived here before, I guess you don't need any directions."
"So, um, your wife's a lot younger than you," Kogoro said.
Eri elbowed him.
"What?" Kogoro protested. "Kaichi's a friend, I've always felt free to speak openly with him about anything."
"It's quite alright," Kaichi said. "Kogoro does have a point. She is a lot younger than me. But don't get me wrong: I'm not so old that I'd need a trophy wife. I haven't quite reached my midlife crisis yet. And I'm not so rich that a woman that beautiful would see fit to marry me just for my money. There are other fish in the sea. Ones with gold-coated scales, or so to speak. Still, lately I've gotten the impression that she doesn't really love me. To be honest, I've had the most peculiar thought lately: what if she just wants to kill me and take my money for herself?"
Kogoro, Eri and Tetsuko were taken back by his bluntness.
"I know, it's a really terrible thing to say, and I know that probably isn't gonna happen. If she just divorced me, she could probably get most or half of what I own without risking jail or whatever. If she is a gold digger, that'd be the best way to profit off me, I think. But, you know, it's been like this just about every night recently. She goes out, doesn't come back until real late, after I've gone to bed, and then refuses to talk about what she's been up to. She's cheating on me. I just know it."
Renjo came back from the bathroom. "What'd I miss?"
"Ahh, nothing," Kaichi said. "Who wants some anpan? My wife made it."
And so, they enjoyed themselves for about one more hour and then they all went home, save Kaichi, who was already home.
The Next Day
"WHAAT?!" Kogoro exclaimed upon reading the headline on The Beika Times website:
Famed Architect Found Dead In Home, Wife Suspected
Kogoro, Eri, Conan and Nancy pulled into the driveway.
"This is where you were last night?" Conan asked.
"Yeah," Eri said.
"Sheesh, why'd you have to tag along?" Kogoro asked.
Instead of answering, they all got out of the car and headed inside.
The house was crawling with cops. Megure was supervising the investigation.
"Inspector, can you please tell me what happened?" Kogoro asked.
"I'll tell you what we know," Megure said. "But first of all: I've been told that you were present here last night?"
"Yes, me and Eri were having dinner here with the owner of this house, Kaichi, and his wife."
" And the four of you were the only ones present?"
"No," Eri said. "Mr. and Mrs. Kumazaki were there too."
"Inspector, if it helps with your investigation I'll provide you with their phone number," Kogoro said.
"There's no need. We've already begun investigating them. I just wanted to be sure about the facts of last night. What time did you leave?"
"Ehh, around 9:30. And yes, the Kumazakis left at the same time as us," Kogoro said.
"Kaichi-san's wife had already left the house by that time?" Megure asked.
"Yeah. She left about an hour before."
"Hmm. So some aspects of her story, and the Kumazakis', can be corroborated. According to her, she got home around 12:30, upon which she discovered the body. Or so she says."
"You have reason to doubt her testimony?" Eri asked.
"Yeah. She told the police that she was with her friends at a host club, and Mrs. Kumazaki confirmed that was where she said she was headed before she walked out the door. However, when we paid a visit to the host club in question they told us she was not there last night. We even checked their security camera footage, and confirmed as much."
"Maybe the host club is a chain, and you asked at the wrong place?" Conan chimed in.
Megure shook his head. "We checked. There is only one 'Asaba's Maryland' in the city of Tokyo. At this point, we're considering the possibility that there's another establishment in some other part of the country."
Eri shook her head. "She said she'd be meeting her friends in 20 minutes. I highly doubt one could leave the city of Tokyo in that short time from here. By car, the nearest metro station is about 10 minutes away, assuming light traffic, so even that wouldn't work, I don't think."
"I see. So it really was her, then."
"Umm, Inspector, at the risk of sounding like a moron, why couldn't this have been a burglary?" Eri asked.
"He was meticulous about making sure his home was secure," Kogoro said. "He had a security system in place that would go off if glass was broken, and he made sure before going to bed at night that his windows were locked."
"Umm, can we take a look at the locks on the window?" Kogoro asked.
Megure obliged, and led them to a nearby window.
The windows employed a plastic locking mechanism. One on the left and one on the right. When both of them faced away from each other, the door was unlocked. When you turned them towards each other, the door was locked.
Sure enough, every window in the house was locked.
"Kaichi-san's wife reported that the front door was locked whenever she returned home," Megure said. The back door was also locked, apparently."
"There wasn't a hidden spare key to this house by any chance, was there?" Nancy asked.
Megure shook his head. "When we asked his wife about it, she said there wasn't. Furthermore, it's an electronic combination lock. And according to her, only she and her husband knew the combination."
"For someone trying to cover up a murder, she doesn't seem to be doing a very good job," Conan said.
"Pfffh, that doesn't mean anything," Kogoro said. "There's dumb criminals all over the place. By the way, Inspector, what was the cause of death?"
"Strangulation," Megure said. "We've determined that the murder weapon was probably fishing wire. We found an open box on a high-up closet shelf."
"Were Kiyomi-san's fingerprints found on any of the wires?" Eri asked.
"No," Megure said. "Only the victim's were. We believe the culprit probably wore gloves. Both he and his wife had pairs which could've been used for that purpose. By the way, in the course of searching this house we found something unsettling."
"Unsettling?" Eri repeated.
"A single photograph, which clearly met the standard definitions of child pornography."
"Absurd!" Kogoro said. "Kaichi would never be involved in something like that!"
"You say that, but what's the alternative?" Megure asked. "That his wife was?"
"Hmm? Where's Conan?" Nancy said.
There it is, Conan thought. That person entered the house from here.
He put his hand onto the lock (of one of the two bedroom windows) and felt it.
So that's how it was, he thought with a grin. Still, I need proof. Think, Shinichi, think...
He ran back into the hallway. "Oi, Oji-san, there's something I need to ask you."
He signaled for Kogoro to bend over, and the sleazy private detective reluctantly did so.
Conan whispered his question, and...
"Hmm? Yeah, Renjo said that. Why'dya wanna know?"
"N-no reason," Conan said. Then he ran off.
Hopefully Uncle won't notice that I lifted his phone, Conan said, heading for the bathroom and locking the to behind him.
"Well, in any case, I think we've solved this," Megure said. "There's no reason for you to be h-
"Oi, Kogoro, why'dya call us here?"
Renjo, Tetsuko, and Kiyomi had just arrived.
"Huuh?" Kogoro said. "I don't remember calling-
He felt the pinprick again. Before it even really had a chance to take effect, he fell over, leaning against the wall.
Must be a conditioned response, Conan thought.
"Oji-san," Conan said, shaking him, "are you all right?"
He took this opportunity to slip a button speaker inside the unconscious Kogoro's coat pocket, and then he ran off, readying his voice changing bowtie.
"Let me guess, you know who really did it?" Megure asked.
"I'll walk you through it, Inspector," Conan/Kogoro said. "First of all, Kaichi-san's wife did not commit the crime. She has done virtually nothing to make herself look innocent. As the sole other occupant of the house, she was in perfect position to fabricate details of the crime scene. Had she killed him herself, wouldn't she have made it look like a burglary gone wrong? If I were her, I would've ransacked the house. Instead, the house is spotless. All, or course, except for one set of dirty footprints next to the bedroom window. Eri?"
Eri ran into the bedroom, took a look, and then came back. "It's just like he said!"
"Before we continue," Conan/Kogoro said, "Kiyomi-san, would you please tell us the truth now? About where you really were last night."
Kiyomi hesitated, and then answered: "Truth be told, I was preparing my husband's birthday present."
"Huuh?" Eri and Megure both blurted out.
"I've been working behind my husband's back to create a big compilation of his life so far. How 40th birthday was coming up, after all. I've been gathering things that he owned as a child, visiting his old college to find pictures of him in yearbooks and stuff, and so on. I tried to keep it all a secret from him, but in the end...I think I should've just been there for him. We're I there last night, he might not've been murdered. Or maybe I could've called the police or an ambulance in time."
There was a pause.
"Now that that's out of the way, I would like to address the matter of the illicit photo. Why would a man who did not live alone keep several illicit photographs in separate locations? Considering that just one would be enough to get him in severe legal trouble and ruin his marriage, wouldn't he try to avoid doing anything that would raise the probability of some of it being found? This proves that there's probably just one illicit photo here. But in that case, why? Child molesters and other sex predators are often found to have large collections of pornographic material. In many cases, the sheer amount of material means that it could even be described as a library of such. The idea that a pedophile would have only one illicit photo is borderline laughable. Those kinds of people simply cannot control themselves, 99 times out of 100."
"Please cut to the chase," Megure said.
"Gladly. Kaichi-san had only one picture because it wasn't his. Rather, he just happened to find it somewhere. I'm guessing it was one left over by a previous occupant of this house, one who, right before moving out, tried to dispose of all the evidence of his wrongdoings but happened to miss one photo by chance, only for it to be discovered by Kaichi-san years later. Renjo-san, I'm referring to you, of course."
Feeling very hot and flustered, Renjo stomped his foot hard. "LIAR! I did no such thing, you lying son of a-
" Now now, there's no need for name-calling, " Kogoro said. "This isn't personal for me. You did something illegal, and it's my job to expose you. It's as simple as that. Anyway, this is what I figure happened: you and Kaichi-san agreed on a price for the house. But whenever he discovered the photo, he blackmailed you into paying a much higher price on the house. More than you could afford. Because you were angered by his apparent betrayal, and because you needed to keep him quiet, you conspired to kill him. Last night when you came over for dinner, you took a moment to sneak into the bedroom and opened a window. You taped two strings of fishing line to the back of the two locking mechanisms and then stuck the two dangling strings out the window. Then you shut the window, locked it again, and returned to where we were. That night, you likely gave your wife something to drink, something laced with a seditive. Tetsuko, am I right?"
" Y-You're wrong!" Tetsuko said. "Granted, when we got home he fixed me a glass of warm milk and afterwards I fell right asleep, but, you know, warm milk does that!"
"Your husband is lucky to have had you, you know that? Defending him right until the bitter end. Unfortunately, that doesn't change the fact of his guilt. After he knocked you out, he returned to this house. He swung around the back, to where the bedroom window was. He pulled on the two pieces of fishing line that were dangling downwards, and by doing that he got the two locking mechanisms inside the house to turn, so that the window would unlock. Then he pulled the window open, climbed inside, used those same two fishing lines to strangle your husband in his bed, and then left via the front door, pushing the button to lock it as he left. Of course, I do have proof. To all of you who were there last night, is Renjo-san wearing the same shoes as he was then?"
Eri and Tetsuko nodded.
"Yeah, so?" Renjo said.
"Remember how I pointed out the footprint in the bedroom? Well, that was probably from when Renjo-san was walking in the grass. If we were to remove his shoe now and compare it to the print in the bedroom, I'll bet that it'll be a perfect match. But, if that doesn't convince you, check the illicit photograph for prints. You should find Kaichi-san's, and Renjo-san's."
Renjo fell to his knees.
"...It's true," he said. "When I was a teenager, I was a big time porn junkie. And yes, I experimented for a little while with child pornography. But by my college years, I'd turned my back on porn altogether. That was more than 20 years ago...I don't believe that I deserve to be punished for what happened way back then...D*MMIT! Curse you, Kogoro! Curse you, Kaichi!"
He broke into tears.
(Hoshi Monogatari by Egoist)
I know you've taken this from my cold dead fingertips
I wrote this to tell you what I never had the nerve to say
Because I know that right now, you're punishing yourself
Because you of all people deserve to know the whole story
Once I was only a child, but I was old enough to understand
Something important was missing, though I didn't know what
I wandered in the dark, calling to the crowd, "Excuse me, sirs!"
"Somebody, anybody, please, tell me what I'm doing wrong!"
Finally, on the starry night of Tanabata, I looked out my window
And said, "Kami-sama, if you could let me have a friend, just one.
One who's true and faithful, and funny, but most of all spirited.
This one thing I ask, and I'll never ask for anything ever again."
And then I met you, and in what seemed like an eternity I had
The chance to know you, and for the first time I was really happy
It never ended, you see, that initial bliss: it grew, as we grew closer
Thank you, my one and dearest friend, for teaching me how to love
"Hmm, so you didn't eat them all last night?" Kogoro observed.
"Nope," Nancy said. "We saved half of the box. Aren't you glad, Auntie Eri? You didn't have to cook tonight."
Eri took a bite into a chicken nugget.
"Bleh! What philistine tastes are behind this abomination to cooking?! she said. "I oughta find the people behind this product and show them what real cooking tastes like!"
Please don't take away our one refuge from your cooking, Conan thought with a deadpan look.
End of Episode