Detective X: Prologue by Shirley Pesto
Kunihiko Mamiya was a true man of mystery. When he was first questioned by the police, he didn’t know where he came from, nor could he identify himself in a photo. He didn’t even know his own name. He only guessed it was Mamiya because someone noticed it was written in the tag of his coat and suggested that may be his name.
Detective Kenichi Takabe completed his statement and updated the report on Kunihiko Mamiya. He was the prime suspect of the latest serial killing case. Takabe couldn’t prove that Mamiya committed any of the actual acts of murder, but he was convinced that Mamiya somehow orchestrated the killings. Takabe hypothesized that Mamiya controlled the assailants through some sort of mass hypnosis, which caused the otherwise innocent people to commit such heinous acts. Each of the murders were committed by a different person, but they all had one thing in common: the carving of an X into the victim’s body.
Takabe suspected that Mamiya used the flowing of water or the flickering of a flame to induce the hypnosis. When Mamiya kept fiddling with a lighter during an interrogation, Takabe felt he was trying to use his hypnotic techniques. The lighter was confiscated, but Takabe’s colleague, Sakuma, subsequently fell victim to Mamiya’s persuasion. Sakuma committed suicide by hanging, but he found a way to carve the X into his own body before suffocating completely.
Regardless of whether or not Takabe could link the connection of the murders to Mamiya, the case against him was now closed. After Mamiya escaped from incarceration, he ultimately died at the hands of Takabe. It was legally categorized as an act of self defense, but Takabe was still trying to make sense of what actually happened.
On his desk, he left his firearm, his badge, his beeper, and a completed report about Kunihiko Mamiya. This would be Detective Kenichi Takabe’s final case.
Shortly after he left the detective’s office, he visited his wife at the mental hospital that she was checked into recently. He stood with his back against the wall outside of her room. His hands rested in the pockets of his beige trench coat. It was raining outside; the drops that saturated his shoulder pads hadn’t yet had time to dry. Looking down at nothing in particular, his hair hung down in front of his face. His intentions to get a haircut had been ignored for quite some time.
His wife’s hospital room was private and dark. She looked so small on the single bed that seemed to be floating in the center of the room. There was only one window and twilight peeked around the sides of the drawn drapes. The mint green walls matched those in the hall where the fluorescent bulbs hummed. The paint was cracking in some areas and spots of dark blue paint from the layer below were exposed.
Nurses and hospital staff crossed Takabe’s path without paying him much mind. Things were busy and stagnant at the same time. He pivoted on the back of his head and leaned for a moment, with the side of his forehead and shoulder against the wall. He hoisted himself upright and entered his wife’s hospital room. The heels of his smooth soled shoes clicked as he took steps with care. Sitting on the side of the bed, he studied her face. She was sleeping, yet her brow was tightly furrowed. This slumber was, no doubt, induced by medication. At this point, she spent her waking hours suffering from erratic breathing patterns. Each exhale was a cry out and each inhale was a gasp for air. Her face was cemented in a constant state of agony. At least when she was sleeping, she was able to breath normally.
“Fumie.” He spoke her name as a full sentence.
The loss of their son two years prior was the noticeable start of Fumie’s demise. Takabe was the one who found their son, dead by suicide. His attempt to revive him was futile. In the dark, he sat with his son’s lifeless body until Fumie arrived home.
He could remember hearing Fumie fumbling with the house keys at the front door. She walked in with bags of groceries in each hand. Each step Fumie made up the stairs made Takabe’s heart drop further down into his stomach. She reached the top of the stairs and her backlit body blocked the light source into the room. It took a few seconds for her eyes to adjust to the darkness. When she saw her son’s body, she realized what had happened and fainted. Takabe finally called the paramedics and Fumie regained consciousness after they arrived. When she came to, the first thing she saw was the fresh produce she had just purchased. It spilled out from where she dropped the grocery bags. She was still laying on the ground and Takabe had her head cradled in his lap. He was sitting on the floor with his back against the wall. She looked up at him and when her eyes met his, he knew she blamed him for their son’s death. He blamed himself, too.
Even before taking on Mamiya’s case, Takabe was much too absorbed with his work to concentrate on his family. He missed the bulk of his son’s childhood. By the time he had grown into a young man, Takabe only found time to point out his failures. Now, Takabe felt like he himself failed as a father.
Soon after their son’s funeral, Fumie disassociated herself from her feelings. To cope, she mostly acted as if nothing had changed. Her coping mechanism left her feeling completely detached from her reality. She was unable to cycle through her pain. Often times, she’d find herself walking aimlessly after going to the store. It was almost as if she were subconsciously trying to relive the day her son died, and felt if she had taken a different turn on the way home, then maybe it could have saved him. Eventually, her depression spread throughout her mind and body and concreted much of her psychosis.
Takabe found that he had to separate himself from Fumie’s issues due the the involvement in Mamiya’s case. He spent so many hours studying Mamiya, but remained perplexed about how one man could persuade people to commit such grizzly acts to others and themselves. The thoughts consumed him. Before he could understand how deeply troubled Fumie was, the situation was too far out of anybody’s control.
“Mr. Takabe? Visiting hours will be ending soon,” one of the hospital staff members spoke as softly as possible, while still making sure they were heard.
“Yes,” he answered without turning his attention away from Fumie.
Takabe parted the hair away from Fumie’s sweat soaked brow and bent down to kiss her forehead. His lips parted and pressed against the ridges of her permanent wrinkle. He lingered there for a moment, with his eyes closed.
He straightened back upright and exhaled. His eyes opened and he stared at the area directly above her head. His expression was blank, appearing to be possessed by a higher power. With an automatic movement, he raised his right hand to the same level as his face and drew an X in the air. Then, as if he had just conducted a business deal, he got up from the bed and left the room. His shoes clicked at a calm and steady pace as he walked down the hallway towards the elevator. That was the last time anybody ever saw Detective Kenichi Takabe.
The next morning, Fumie rose from her deep sleep. Her brow was no longer furrowed. She placidly removed the connections to her medical equipment and readied herself to get out of bed. She swiveled her legs out from under the covers and planted her feet on the floor. As she stood up and stretched, all the tendons in her bare feet visibly shifted. She walked the short distance to the window and opened the drapes as if she were in a beautiful seaside home in Okinawa. Her eyes looked into the distance, welcoming in the view. She calmly used a chair to push through the glass. Before anyone could come to her aid, she hoisted herself out of the window. The broken glass that remained in the window pane slashed her flesh. Tree branches impaled her body on the way down. Rather than the actual fall, her marred remains later proved that the cause of death was blood loss. The blood loss was most likely due to the cut in her carotid artery, which was shaped like an X across her neck.
With Takabe being unreachable, no family or next of kin could be found. Her body stayed in the hospital for three months until an anonymous donor provided the payment and arrangements for a proper cremation and burial.
Nobody attended her funeral and her ashes were laid to rest in a niche that was away from the area of plots that were reserved for families. The plots around Fumie remained empty for a while. Over the years, niches around her started to fill up. Then, twenty years later, the day came when the niche right next to hers was inhabited.