Jodie was reading through some more apartment ads in the newspaper Shuichi brought her that morning, again. Her search for an apartment was still going unsuccessfully. She had been to two apartments in the past few days, falling in love with one of them. The landlord had raised her hopes, making her mentally settle into that place, but ultimately, she’d been met with a refusal by mail. He was sorry, but he’d like to have a family living there instead. Reality was harsh and finding apartments in New York City was a pain in her ass.
Most of the time, however, she remained grateful to Shuichi who helped her out with bringing her his newspapers besides her efforts to find a good apartment online.
“He? Sh...u-u?” Jodie paused when her eyes roamed over a strange ad that neither provided any information about an apartment nor did it fit any of the private advertisements on the next page. “Have you read this?”
“No,” Shuichi replied tersely, without hesitating a second as he was writing something on his computer. “Why?”
“Here it says Nijuu in kanji,” she told him, frowning.
Jodie let out her breath in a deep sigh for the lack of attention he showed to her.
“There are two rows of numbers and then the kanji for twenty. Don’t you think that’s odd?”
Eventually, Shuichi stopped typing on his keyboard and looked over at her with a skeptical expression lying on his face. “If I found everything written in the newspaper odd, I wouldn’t stop racking my brains.”
“As if you ever stop thinking about anything,” Jodie replied teasingly. “I’m always wondering how your head isn’t going up in smoke at the end of the day.”
She smiled a fond little smile when she saw him tilting his head back and looking like he was trying to suppress the smirk that curled the corner of his mouth upwards.
“Idiot,” she called him affectionately. “But seriously, Shuu. Does 90012/15000 ring a bell?”
“90012 is a zip code of L.A.”
Jodie blinked. Once. Twice. Couldn’t he pretend like he had to think about a question she asked at least once? It was both frustrating and mesmerizing how much knowledge there lay in the depths of his brain.
“And what about 15000?”
“Definitely not a zip code. Why do you care anyway?” Shuichi asked and Jodie threw her hands in the air.
Disgruntled by his lack of interest, Jodie circled the particular ad, rolled up the thin page and tossed it on his desk – at least she tried. The single page was too light to make it all the way over to its designated place. Instead, it unrolled in the air and came flying a bit in her direction until it collided with a pile of files on his desk and rolled over the edge. Jodie groaned. She got up and picked it up from the floor to hand it to him.
“Take a look,” she ordered him sternly. “Call me silly, but you have to admit that the ad doesn’t make any sense.”
“Not for you anyway,” Shuichi shrugged.
But even he would have to admit, looking at those two lines, that there was no apparent use or logic in them.
8.07 / 03 二十
“The last line looks like a date,” Shuichi mused aloud.
Jodie nodded. “So July, 3rd. We’ve had seven murders so far, Shuu. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but the eighth murder in early July would fit into the scheme.”
Shuichi was quiet. The look on his face had changed; he stared at the ad with narrowed eyes and Jodie could literally hear the gears in his head set to work.
She pulled her phone out of her pocket to check the current date and grinned broadly. It was June 3rd - a month before the possible date in the newspaper.
“Ah,” Shuichi uttered as he startled out of his thoughts, looking at her with wide eyes. “Did you see the two stacks of newspapers on the stairs when we talked with Inazumi? I didn’t think it was of any importance.”
“Neither did I,” Jodie admitted.
She got struck by a sudden dark premonition. Her heart skipped and she felt a new spark of enthusiasm awaken in her. “I’m gonna go try to find other newspaper articles!”
Jodie immediately got behind her own screen and searched the internet for an online newspaper archive and found some. She didn’t know how many ads had been published if there was a system behind it even, but she started searching with what she knew for sure: the dates of the past murders. She forgot to keep looking for an apartment and all the other work she abandoned for this case.
She was clicking and looking through the old newspapers until nightfall. Every now and then she got disturbed by phone calls or colleagues, but she remained consistent and wouldn’t call it a day until she at least found a hint that she was on the right track.
The sun was already setting when she saved the latest ad on her computer and printed the pieces she had found.
Their hitman had actually left messages in the papers. There was a report exactly three days after and a month before each murder.
After her long-lasting excitement all day, she felt the tiredness creeping through her bones by the time she safely stored the prints in the file. Yet, she felt content with her progress in this case. However, their guy hadn’t left any more kanji in his ads, which had made it a little more difficult to find them. But once Jodie noticed the pattern, it had become easy.
A glance at the clock made her realize in horror how late it was, though. She would be back in the office in less than half a day.
Yawning, Jodie stretched her arms over her head, before she tidied up her desk. She left all documents in the office deliberately so as not to get tempted to keep working on the case at home. It needed a few hours of good rest and sleep before she’d spend another long day at work.
The next day, Jodie got hold of James as soon as she clocked in, and told him – and Shuichi – what she found out the previous night. As Shuichi had already suspected, the first number was the zip code – the zip code of the next place he was heading to murder a victim.
“The second number might be the price for the job,” she explained to the other two agents, pointing at the slightly varying numbers. These ranged from seven-and-a-half to fifteen grand. “The same thing is written in the advertisements published three days after each murder. The first payment may be a deposit?!”
James stroked his gray mustache with a clearly surprised expression on his face.
“If that’s true he’s getting paid well,” he muttered thoughtfully. “This means, he uses the newspapers to communicate with his client?”
Jodie nodded. Unfortunately, the ads couldn’t be traced back to a person. It was still like a search for the needle in a haystack. And despite their recent progress, this case would end in inactive status if they didn’t make a significant move towards the identity of their preparator.
She sighed and glanced at Shuichi. He was very quiet the whole time and seemed to be pondering about something.
“What do you think, Shuichi?” James asked, eventually. “Do you think we could get to his identity through Masazu Inazumi?”
Shuichi looked up to him and leaned back in his chair, shaking his head. “I doubt we’ll find anything at his’. He’s careful enough not to give himself away.”
“What about the newspapers?” Their supervisor pointed to the stacks of papers they both had missed.
“Those have been his smallest risk,” Shuichi replied. “We should check his account, but I would be surprised if we’d find anything there. He knows exactly what he is doing and how to hide it from us. That’s the only reason why he let us in and talked to us in the first place.”
“So we still have nothing?”
“I wouldn’t say that,” Jodie interjected. “I will call the victim's families and see if I can find the common thing that ties these murders together. Maybe I can figure out the motive.”
At the moment they only had a real estate agent, an architect, a corporate architect, three unemployed and a saleswoman who had been murdered in this case. There was nothing these victims had in common at first glance. There had to be something, however, and Jodie wouldn’t stop until she found it. Inazumi had given them the information they needed, whether he said it or not. He seemed good at leaving no traces, but he couldn’t cover up his motive - the reason he went over corpses and even paid money for it, no matter how well he kept his secret.
“And what about you?” James turned to Shuichi.
He shrugged and took a quick look at the many files on his desk. “I’m going to read through some military files. Maybe we can find something about our hit man in there.”
Jodie gave him a sympathetic, crooked smile. Rummaging through a pool of names without even knowing what to look for was an ungrateful task, and much more vague than finding common ground among the victims.
Their supervisor nodded in agreement. “I’ll have his account checked. You’ll get a call.”
Jodie’s phone calls were all disappointing, as was Shuichi’s search for a suspect. There were far too many former soldiers for him to go through without knowing if their perpetrator was among them. Jodie’s gaze rested on him for a while- his mood seemed to drop further with every hour passing that day. He didn’t look as if he wanted to read through the many files but still got on with his work.
“When we went to Binghamton, you said you had expected that Inazumi would jump on sexist behavior,” Shuichi suddenly broke the silence in their office. “How did you know?”
Jodie hummed. “That’s been a guess,” she admitted with a sigh. She propped her elbows on her desk and rested her chin on her hands. “The local police had received repeated calls about domestic violence over the past few years. He told them his stepfather would beat his mother. Yet her mother never confirmed that. I thought that could have been a motive for the first murder, but it wouldn’t explain the others.”
“What about the doctor who signed the death certificate for the girl?” Shuichi asked. “Has it been checked?”
“Not that I know of,” Jodie muttered. She went right to attack her files right away. “I think he hadn’t played a role in the investigation so far. It’s been more than ten years ago or something.”
Finding out the name of the doctor was not difficult. Just one phone call to the right authority later and Jodie had the right person on her phone.
“Satoshi Kogawa?” Jodie repeated the requested name and wrote it down.
Her gaze briefly met Shuichi’s. He regarded her with a faint nod and proceeded to type on his keyboard while she kept listening. She ended the call just a moment later and started at the name.
“Satoshi Kogawa was a surgeon at a Pennsylvania hospital,” Shuichi told her over the edge of his monitor. “And guess where he last worked.”
“Los Angeles.” Nothing else made sense.
“Exactly,” he confirmed. “He moved to LA. nine years ago and worked as an ER surgeon until just last year. He seemed to be retired.”
“And now we also know in which district he lives in,” Jodie added, tapping her lip with her index finger. “Where is 90012?”
“Chinatown,” Shuichi answered, grinning. “We might not yet have the hitman yet, but the victim for sure.”