2 June, Yutaka Maya

文字数 4,660文字

Non-essential, Non-Urgent


There was an incident and my apartment was burned down, stripping me of all my belongings. Driven out by the flames, I had no choice but to return to my family home. Being served three meals a day with time for a nap, I was rather comfortable at my parents’ house, and as I dilly-dallied over finding a new apartment, the corona fiasco meant I could no longer return to Osaka. Because the license plate on my beloved car was from outside the prefecture, some ignorant neighbors gave it a tough time, throwing stones at it and scribbling “Get out!” on it in permanent marker. I began to miss Osaka, and when I approached private detective Mercator Ayu about staying at his office, I was coldly rejected as it was against the rules to cross prefectural borders.
  The end of May finally arrived and the state of emergency was lifted, so I headed over to Mercator’s office for the first time in a while. It would have been great if he could have let me stay there, but I had no qualms about finding a hotel since there were plenty to choose from at rock-bottom prices.
  “Despite these hard times, you’ve gained some color in your cheeks, Minagi.”
  No sooner had he greeted me than Mercator began his teasing. Placed on top of the detective’s desk was a huge, wooden model of the five-storied pagoda at Hōryū-ji Temple in Nara. Almost eighty centimeters high, the uppermost section of the model’s roof was still unfinished. He must have noticed me looking.
  “I had some free time. I think I’ve done a good job.”
  I was more surprised by how serious he was about staying at home than how skillful he was with his hands.
  “Looks like things have been pretty easygoing. Have the murderers been controlling themselves as well then, this spring?”
  The only news in the countryside was about corona, so I was completely out of the loop with what was happening in Osaka.
  “Not at all,” Merc laughed. “It’s the opposite. The number of murders is on the rise. If there are fewer people out on the streets at night, it’s difficult for murderers to be seen sneaking into their victim’s home or ambushing them. Plus, these days, if they hide their faces behind masks, no one gets suspicious. Now is actually their chance to act, and they’re even committing non-essential and non-urgent murders.”
  “Don’t criminals worry about corona?”
  “They commit their crimes without attracting any attention, which means they inevitably avoid closed spaces, crowds and close contact—the three conditions that would facilitate spreading the disease. But what’s most important for the criminals is that the world’s great detectives don’t need to carry out any investigations that are also non-essential and non-urgent.”
  “Non-essential and non-urgent investigations?”
  Merc nodded knowingly.
  “The greater a detective’s abilities, the more money they have stashed away. That means we don’t have to rush out to accept requests during these times. Plus, even if we did go out investigating door-to-door, we would only be greeted with dirty looks. And that’s to say nothing of the famous, elderly detectives whose lives are at risk, leaving them confined to their homes like caterpillars to their cocoons. The only ones out in the field these days are small-fry detectives short of money.”
  “But you’re still young, aren’t you? Wouldn’t this be peak season?”
  “The thought of shamelessly going out to do business and being looked at the same as some petty detective makes me feel ill. There’s no need to rush. Fortunately, when it comes to criminals who take advantage and act amid the confusion, no matter how slow the initial response may seem, it will still be in plenty of time. For now, the first step is to complete this five-storied pagoda. This requires much more time and effort than a case of average difficulty. . . . Besides, I only have to delay the non-essential and non-urgent cases until next month, and then I’ll have non-essential and non-urgent money coming in.”
  Merc suddenly had an evil look on his face.


Translated by Lauren Barrett/Arranged by TranNet KK

Yutaka Maya
Born in 1969. Graduated from Kyoto University’s Faculty of Engineering. While at university, he joined the detective novel research club. Made his debut in 1991 with

Tsubasa

aru

yami:

Merukatoru

Ayu

saigo

no

jiken

(Darkness with wings: The last incident of Ayu Mercator). Won the 64th Mystery Writers of Japan Award for Best Novel and the 11th Honkaku Mystery Award in 2011 for

Sekigan

no

shōjo

(The girl with one eye), and the 15th Honkaku Mystery Award in 2015 for

Sayonara

kamisama

(Goodbye, God).

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