Eden’s End: The Empty Cell
by J. H. Zech
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3, 4
Kenji Mishima dragged his feet up the stairs. He was dressed in his night robe. It was pitch-black inside the house, and he guided himself along the rails. He made it to his room and closed the door behind him.
A hand covered his mouth. He struggled but couldn’t escape. A cold blade touched his neck. “Relax. I’m not here to kill you right now. I just want to ask you some questions. Don’t scream when I let my hand go, or I will have to kill you. Nod if you understand.”
Kenji nodded. Without her glasses, Thanatos could see his Essence as clear as day. The tinges of darkness in the glowing energy inside him was typical of a shady businessperson. Thanatos freed him from her grasp and held the scythe by her side. Kenji felt along the wall, heading for the light switch.
“Don’t turn the lights on.”
“What do you know about Soichiro Watanabe?” Thanatos asked.
“Who are you? What do you want? If it’s money, I can give it to you. Just let me go!”
She chuckled. “I am Thanatos. I am no one. Money can buy you a lie, but it can’t buy you truth. And that is all I want from you. The truth.” She inched the scythe carefully across Kenji’s neck so as to not injure him.
Kenji shuddered. “I’ll talk! I’ll talk! He was an employee who committed suicide after being chased by loan sharks,” he answered without a hint of remorse or sadness.
“Oh? I don’t believe any information was released about his death being a suicide. How do you know this?”
Kenji clammed up. Thanatos held the scythe against his neck.
“I didn’t have anything to do with it! I only heard it from someone else!”
“Who?” Thanatos asked.
“Chief Iwashita. He told me the details of the case.”
The Chief? Of course. The call he had received today during the investigation wasn’t just personal business. “Why did he tell you?”
“We’ve been friends since college. I haven’t done anything wrong.”
“From what I know, you were the one who called him, not the other way around. The timing of the call seems suspicious. What were you calling about?”
“Is it so wrong for me to call a friend to talk?” Kenji dodged.
“I won’t make any judgments about that.”
“But I do want to know what you talked about.”
“I told him I wanted to catch up with him over drinks later this week.”
The Chief often took personal calls when there was no urgent work, so in ordinary circumstances, Kenji’s claim might have been believable. But the Chief had wanted to hide the nature of the call. He wouldn’t do such a thing had the call been frivolous. “I can tell when you’re lying. Tell me the truth. Or else... I noticed that you have two children and a wife. They’re sleeping very peacefully, for now.”
Kenji gulped. He broke out into a cold sweat. “Alright, alright! I’ll tell you!”
“I’m listening.” Thanatos crossed her arms.
“The truth is, Watanabe recently tried to blackmail me. He said he had evidence of some crime I committed.”
“And what is this crime?”
“He didn’t specify. But obviously I was worried. What if he forged evidence? I had asked Iwashita to look into this discreetly. Opening an official investigation would look bad for a consulting company. I would lose clients. I received a message today saying Watanabe was dead, so I called Iwashita to see if he had found any of this evidence at Watanabe’s residence.”
“You were wholly unconcerned about the death of your employee and saw it only as an opportunity to get your hands on evidence?”
“What do you want from me?” Kenji pleaded. “You wanted to hear the truth, and I’ve told you the truth.”
“You do know how this looks, don’t you?” Thanatos said. “An employee who was blackmailing you mysteriously turns up dead.”
“I had nothing to do with his death!”
“I’ll be the judge of that. Who sent you the message?”
“I don’t know. It was an unknown number. I asked Iwashita who was the owner of the number, but it was an old burner phone registered under a Mr. John Doe.” A localized public message popped up in Thanatos’s digital overlay. “Here, confirm it for yourself if you want to.”
Dear Mr. Mishima,
Soichiro will be a nuisance to you no longer. He is dead.
Something about the wording of this message bothered Thanatos, but she would look into that later.
“One last thing. Did Iwashita find any of this evidence you were so worried about?”
“No. He got back to me later after the investigation at the apartment, and he said he looked everywhere but couldn’t find it.”
“Is that so? I’m done with you, for now. Don’t even think about skipping town.” Thanatos jumped out the window and disappeared into the night.
* * *
“The autopsy and toxicology results came in,” Shanatto reported to the Chief.
“What do they say?”
“Cause of death was asphyxiation. Traces of a sedative were found in his blood.”
“That explains why he didn’t struggle as he suffocated. He took the sedatives so he wouldn’t suffer as he died.” The Chief sighed. “I had no idea Soichiro had been in such dire straits. I wish I could’ve helped him.”
“It’s not your fault.” Shanatto did her best caring-secretary impression. The Chief’s words rang hollow, though. A sedative could also mean foul play, yet he was quick to direct the conversation to suicide. Whether he was involved or not, clearly an investigation into the possibility of murder would be inconvenient for him. “What do you think justice is?” she asked in a nonchalant tone.
“Where is this coming from?” the Chief asked.
“Nowhere. It’s just a whim. You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to, Chief.”
“Justice is whatever whoever pays you tells you it is. That’s all. Everyone blabbering about their ideals wouldn’t be willing to stake their paycheck on it. Now, come on. Get back to work. Tell Detective Hozuki to go through the proper procedures and wrap this case up. I don’t want to leave Soichiro’s parents hanging for any longer than we must.”
What an utterly boring man. “Understood,” Shanatto said. She bowed and exited the office. Detective Hozuki was the serious type. He wouldn’t mind tying up a few loose ends before closing the case. Plus, maybe she could convince him to take a detour to the new fried-chicken joint that had opened. If God existed, fried chicken was the surest evidence of it. Realizing she was salivating, she sucked in her spit and hoped no one had noticed.
* * *
Copyright © 2020 by J. H. Zech