Episode 5: Strangulation
Kaoru, who is visiting Yukawa’s lab, jumps to the conclusion when his student Saeko approaches him. Seeing his cold attitude towards Saeko, Kaoru criticises Yukawa for being a coward. However, the truth is that Saeko and Hasebe from the archery society are planning to marry but because they’ve encountered tremendous opposition from the people around them, Saeko sought Yukawa’s help. Kaoru apologises for misreading the situation and hastily tells Yukawa that she needs his help in an investigation. This concerns a case involving a closed hotel room. The victim is a man called Yajima who runs a pension in Nagano prefecture. His estimated time of death is between the time he checked in to an hour later at 6.00 pm. In fact, slightly before Yajima checked into room 618, the electrical wiring in the corridor in from of the room was being checked.
According to the workman, during the servicing which took close to three hours, Yajima was the only one to enter room 618. However, there are coffee containers in the room, thought to have been drunk by the victim and murderer, and sleeping draught was detected in one of the containers. This seemed to indicate that the murderer strangled Yajima after drugging him. However, that isn’t the only puzzle. A company employee working in the building opposite the hotel attested to having seen a ball of fire fly in Yajima’s room which is thought to be the reason why the carpet in the room has burn marks.
Because Yajima took up multiple life insurance policies in the past few months, the police regard his wife Takako with suspicion. However, Takako was witnessed shopping at a local supermarket three hours by car from Tokyo at the time the case was thought to have occurred. Her alibi is solid.
Yukawa, who is interested in the case, goes to Yajima’s pension to meet Takako with Kaoru after seeing the scene at the hotel room. Takako seems terribly worn out. Asked about the case, Takako replies that she has no clue about the murderer and fireball. Yajima and Takako moved to this place for the sake of their only daughter Akiho, who is asthmatic. At that moment, Yukawa asks Takako what happened after Akiho went to school on the day after the incident. Takako replies that she remained at home by herself but …
The following day, when Kaoru and Yuge return from their investigation Akiho arrives. She says Takako is lying. The night before the incident, she had seen a fireball in the stained glass workshop inside the pension. Moreover, she had told Takako about this. Kaoru heads to Yukawa’s lab with Akiho.
Yukawa gets his assistant Kuribayashi to help, and lets Akiho see the various types of fireballs he makes. However, these seem different from the one Akiho had seen. Then Akiho says she didn’t come because she wanted to know the truth about the fireball. She adds that Takako must be keeping things from her because of her recent behaviour. Yukawa tells Akiho that she should refrain from declaring her suspicions about her mother without any evidence to prove it. Akiho gets worked up and shouts that despite this, the police suspects Takako. The next moment, she suddenly coughs violently, holds her chest and crouches down. However, the nebuliser she takes out of her school bag is empty. Kuribayashi frantically rushes to the first-aid room. Yukawa makes Akiho drink coffee, and soothes her. He says that caffeine has the effect of enlarging the bronchi.
Kaoru sends Akiho home. She takes the opportunity to look around the stained glass workshop and finds something odd. Just as Kaoru is about to leave, Akiho appears. Akiho is a little hesitant but she candidly tells Kaoru her true feelings. She often fought with her father because she hated him for his condescending manner in constantly reminding her that the family came to live in Nagano because of her health, but her parents were very close … … She says she doesn’t think that her mother is her father’s murderer. Kaoru expresses her gratitude to Akiho and gives an affectionate smile.
Kaoru, who continues with the investigation, gets hold of new information. The company employee in the opposite building had seen the fireball twice. Kaoru goes to Yukawa’s lab to report this to him. Yukawa is at the archery grounds. At that moment, Kaoru notices something. She remembers that she saw the characters in the poster pasted at the archery grounds at the stained glass workshop too. The moment Yukawa hears that, the complete picture comes to his mind.
Yukawa assembles his students at the lab and makes preparations for an experiment. He says that Yajima’s death was a suicide. The items that are prepared are a mannequin, an archery bow strung with a long and short string, and two soldering irons connected to a timer plug. Yukawa loosely winds the two strings around the mannequin’s neck, and places a soldering iron on each string. Because the string is made from high-density polethylene, it is susceptible to heat. Soon, current passes through the configured timer plug and the short string is burnt. Then the string wound around the mannequin’s neck strangles it. After that, the other soldering iron generates heat and burns the string around the neck. The two fireballs are the flames that appear when the last threads of the two strings are burnt off.
In order to pass his death off as a murder, Yajima carefully proceeded with preparations and on the night before his suicide, he tested his plan in the workshop. The fireball Akiho had seen was a result of Yajima’s test. Yukawa guesses that the tools that Yajima had used had been removed by Takako.
The next day, Takako, who is being interrogated, makes a complete confession. The archery bow and modified soldering irons that Yajima had used had been confiscated from their home. At the instructions of her husband, who had called her before his suicide, Takako had visited the hotel the morning after his death. That was when Takako learnt of his death. She desperately controlled her agitation, as she followed the instructions he had left in a letter by his body, removed the tools and returned home. Yajima had written in his farewell note that he wanted her to forgive him for not being able to protect the family. Kaoru asks Takako why she didn’t get rid of the tools as Yajima had instructed. If everything had been disposed, his plan may have been a success. Takako replies that she cannot throw away her husband’s treasured mementos as tears flow down her face.
At the same time, Akiho visits Yukawa. She passes two handmade stained glass coasters to Yukawa and expresses her gratitude to him and Kaoru. Akiho tells Yukawa that she will protect her mother from now on. She smiles as she says, “At times like this, a person will probably cry but maybe because I’ve seen my parents’ hardships all along, I’ve become warped.” Then Yukawa tells Akiho that it isn’t the case because he too had seen the difficulties his parents faced but isn’t warped … …
Kaoru, who has come to Yukawa’s lab, informs him that the prosecution will not be charging Takako. However, Takako and Akiho will return to Takako’s family home after the paperwork for personal bankruptcy and debt disposal is done. Kaoru asks Yukawa when he had begun to think it was a suicide. Yukawa says it was the moment he had seen the scene of the incident. He thought it wasn’t a murder in a locked room and that no one besides the victim had entered the room because fingerprints had been wiped off the coffee cans and the dead body was lying on the bed despite the administration of sleeping draught.
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