１４ Ａｐｒｉｌ， Ｒｅｉｉｃｈｉｒｏ Ｆｕｋａｍｉ
As Inspector Ōbeshimi slunk away from his desk, Lieutenant Unno was watching, from the corner of his eye. Leaping to his feet in hot pursuit, the lieutenant hurriedly flagged down his boss.
“Inspector, now, where do you think you’re going?”
Having successfully entrapped the inspector at the exit from the vast precinct floor, Unno made sure to maintain an arm’s length between him and his scowling superior, in the name of social distancing. Then again, Unno was not one to get all close and personal, and knew to keep his distance, even under more ordinary circumstances.
“I’m off to the bookstore, not that it’s any of your concern.”
The inspector’s tiny mask was dwarfed by his enormous head.
“The bookstore? At a time like this?
“My second book came out today.
Detectives,published in paperback by Kobunsha. You should pick up a copy, and read all about my exploits.”
“With all due respect, sir, I don’t think that’s advisable. I can imagine how satisfying it must feel to see your own book on the shelves, but we were ordered to avoid any nonurgent, nonessential outings.”
Eyes bulging, the inspector balked in disbelief at this brazen display of insubordination.
“Listen, kid. This is serious business, urgently essential! Besides, I haven’t been sick a day in my life. Even the flu knows better than to mess with a guy like me.”
Undaunted by the inspector’s uproarious cackles at his own haughty “joke,” Unno pressed on:
“No bueno. You might be an asymptomatic carrier, and spread the virus to others. The best thing to do right now is stay indoors, away from crowds.”
“So, that’s what I am, huh? Some kind of ‘carrier.’ Just another temporary host. Spoken like a true parasite.”
Never one to mince words, the inspector clearly had a shaky understanding of virology, dubious at best. But there were more pressing matters at hand. Namely, this walking contagion vector must be stopped, lest he roam the streets like a pathogenic ticking time bomb.
“What’s the rush? Give it a few weeks, I’m sure there will still be plenty of copies of your book left in stores.”
His pride injured, the inspector doubled down:
“Mark my words, this book’s going to sell like hotcakes. The prequel practically flew off the shelves! Whether it sold out due to popular demand or was just sent back to the publisher as remainders, I don’t know. But that’s neither here nor there.”
“Aren’t all the big bookstores in Tokyo closed, anyway? Now that a state of emergency’s been declared.”
“Curses, foiled again!”
The inspector stamped his feet in frustration, having evidently overlooked the citywide shutdown in his haste.
“Talk about a state of emergency. By the time this is all over, my book won’t even qualify for the new release section. I might as well kiss the red-carpet treatment goodbye.”
“I think that depends entirely on the book. . .”
“Just my luck, this couldn’t have come at a worse time for me. You’re saying that I have to stay holed up indoors? No visiting the shrine under the cover of night to lay a voodoo hex on my nemeses? No pinching those watermelons from my neighbor’s yard? I’ve had my eye on those melons for months!”
The lieutenant nearly pointed out how, on the contrary, both of the inspector’s petty pastimes would technically be “permissible,” on the grounds that they involved no person-to-person contact. But thinking better of condoning such borderline criminal behavior, the lieutenant bit his tongue. After all, he did swear a solemn oath to uphold the letter of the law. (Like an electromagnetic field, Inspector Ōbeshimi certainly had a unique knack for interfering with moral compasses.)
“Boy, things sure can’t get back to normal quick enough.”
“Roger that, sir.”
For the first time since being assigned to the department, Lieutenant Unno found himself agreeing wholeheartedly with Inspector Ōbeshimi, improbable as this turn of events once seemed.
Translated by Daniel González/Arranged by TranNet KK
Born in Yamagata Prefecture, 1963. Made his literary debut in 2007 with
torukko(Ultimo trucco), for which he won the 36th Mephisto Prize. Won the 64th Mystery Writers of Japan Award for his short story
mētoru(Human dignity and an 800-meter race). His 2015 novel
arīna(Mystery arena) placed first in the 2016 edition of the mystery fiction guide book
10(Authentic mystery best 10). His other works include
hanzai(Four seasons of indecision: The unravelling of the perfect crime),
bōryoku(The fourth act of violence), and