Don't forget to vote your favorite novel HERE!
The most voted novel would get five bonus chapters in the next month.
My name is Jorge Joestar. I’m fifteen years old, and live in Fukui Prefecture, Japan. I’m English…but I look and probably am Japanese. For reasons I’ve never known, my Japanese birth parents were unable to look after me, or never intended to do so; without even giving me a name I was handed over to the authorities, and adopted by the Joestar family. So I was given a name that could be either English or Japanese.
According to Japanese law, when I turn eighteen I’ll have to pick either Japanese citizenship or English; at the same time, I have to select a formal name. Currently my official name is spelled out in katakana, with no kanji or Roman letter spelling set. The Roman letters in my passport read JOJI JOESTAR, which is super lame. If I go with Japanese citizenship, on my eighteenth birthday I’ll have to pick kanji for the name, and currently I’m leaning towards the kanji for ‘transferred’ and ‘child’ (譲児) in keeping with the Japanese idea that one’s name should describe you. But since I was raised English, trying to act like I’m Japanese now feels like I’m pretending; I’m used to the katakana, and don’t really care what my Japanese name is.
As far as the English name, despite the strong objections of my family, I’m dead set on Jorge, so I write it like that any time I get the chance. I’m not the least bit Latin, but my friends all call me Jojo, and I get called Detective Jojo a lot. But if I went with George Joestar the nickname Jojo would be impossible.
If nothing else, Joji wouldn’t cause any problems with the nickname, but if I let any native English speakers read it, they’d never pronounce it right. Joji is a reading by and for Japanese speakers. If details don’t add up right I get agitated, and start searching for a better way. This trait has lead to my room being very clean, and made me a great detective. And that very trait is getting up my nose right now. Something had been bothering me for a while, and was coming to a head.
This particular itch had been nagging me for the last couple of years, ever since I solved fifteen locked room mysteries in a row, but two serial killer investigations had distracted me for basically this entire year. But now that I’d successfully caught the triplet dismemberment psycho, Guruguru Majin, and had received word that they’d finally tracked down the serial torturer Nail Peeler after his daring escape six months back I was finally able to relax.
I made a full report of my escapades to my father, who – a victim of a particularly misguided attempt at selecting a Japanese sounding name – was named Jonda Joestar. Then I went to bed, and finally remembered the source of my discontent.
Specifically, a newspaper article that laid out the locations of the fifteen locked room mysteries on a map of Fukui Prefecture.
All the cases had happened in the Northern half of Fukui, in the area called Reihoku. The newspaper article numbered them in the order they’d been committed; in other words, the order the victims died. This made sense from a news perspective, but my immediate thought was that it was totally the wrong approach to these particular cases.
The trick to locked room mysteries lies in their discovery. The realization that the room has been locked from the inside is what defines them. The killer’s job ends with the discovery. I made a mental map of them numbered in order of discovery.
Something about this map had been tickling the corner of my mind for a while now. My instincts told me this order had meaning. My first thought was that the locations were drifting slowly south.
Each of the fifteen cases had a killer, and we’d found no links between the killers, the victims, or any other aspects of the cases. But the cases did occur more or less from north to south, moving like a cold front across the map.
Fukui’s Reihoku area wasn’t terribly large; fifteen locked room mysteries happening in rapid succession was enough to make you wonder if the urge to commit a locked room murder was somehow communicable.
An outbreak of the locked room murder syndrome.
I had a vague memory of some expert suggesting as much on the news.
Maybe it worked like dismemberment; it was a known fact that once the idea entered the public consciousness that cutting up your victim made it easier to carry, to hide the body, and to throw investigators off the track, we saw a sharp rise in the number of mutilated corpses.
But if that was the case, the influence would have spread to the whole country, and the trend would not have died out after only fifteen cases.
But it had.
As far I knew, in the year since the fifteenth cases, there had been no locked room mysteries at all.
This fifteen were an isolated group. They looked like they had no connections…or someone was making them look that way.
I opened the mental map again, and stared at it.
Was there a pattern that lay beneath the seemingly random spread?
Some principle at work?
Something beyond the general spread to the south, a boundary, or…border?
These were locked room murders; they took place in enclosed areas. If there was some sort of border around each of them?
Why had the word border caught my attention?
Maps have an outline around them, marking the borders of the location or place depicted.
I felt sure the scenes of each crime weren’t scattered at random, but carefully placed at appropriate distances, placed as far away from each other as the border allowed.
But I couldn’t quite see where the boundaries were.
There had been no cases discovered in the city of Takefu, leaving a big white space, and that felt like it was getting in the way of me seeing the pattern.
If a sixteenth case had happened there, then the map would make a lot more sense, I thought…and suddenly I saw it.
That gap had its own borders, dividing up the nap neatly.
A large 4×4 grid laid over the map; it had been right under my nose all along, but the blank space had blinded me to it.
Looked at this way, I instantly knew that blank space, the empty square, was the key to everything. This was a giant 15 puzzle.
I solved the puzzle an instant later. It was easy. I only had to move each piece a single square.
Each number was only one square away from sequential order. Since they’d moved in different directions, it appeared random; but order lurked right next door.
Having solved this two year old puzzle, I wondered what it
A 15-puzzle. If there was a puzzle, then someone must have designed it. And if it was hidden, that meant it was a message to whoever discovered it. Was someone trying to tell me something? When this flood of locked room murders had happened two years ago, the police and I had, of course, searched thoroughly for any connection between them, and verified countless times
that there was no such thing. Was there really someone directing all the individual killers? The tricks they’d used were all different. No connections, no pattern, and we’d been unable to figure out exactly where the killers all got the idea to use a locked room trick. They all insisted it had just seemed like a good idea, and we had no choice but to take them at their word. I knew perfectly well that human imagination did not always have a clear foundation, and certain criminal actions could trend without any contact between the perpetrators. But the police and I didn’t take the killers at their word, and had searched high and low for any indication that someone had helped them. How had we missed it? Had there really been someone who tracked down would be murderers and supplied them with plans for a locked room trick? There was. There had to be. This 15-puzzle proved it. But we’d caught all the killers. I’d explained the case, and they’d confessed, explaining their motives and essentially turning themselves in. They’d been very cooperative with the police and prosecutors afterwards…was this all a performance to protect the designer? What kind of person could inspire such loyalty in all fifteen killers? This was no good. I couldn’t started doubting the designer’s existence now. Throughout the case we’d been constantly of the opinion that there should be one, but the evidence said otherwise. That made it hard to believe, even now I knew the truth. I had to stop. If this puzzle existed, then someone had to have made it. I had to focus on deciphering the message contained within the puzzle. I looked over my mental map of the puzzle again. A simple 15-puzzle, each number moved a single square away from the starting position. Starting from the blank space, all you had to do was move the number that belonged there into the gap and the puzzle solved itself… I checked the order of moves again.
Blank ← 10 ← 14 ← 13 ← 9 ← 5 ← 1 ← 2 ← 6 ← 7 ← 3 ← 4 ← 8 ← 12 ← 11 ← 15. Was this…supposed to indicate a Domino Murder Exchange sequence?
If the victim from the tenth case was killed by the killer of the fourteenth case, and the victim in fourteen was killed by the thirteen killer…if the killers had traded places, allowing those with actual motives for the killing to establish alibis at the time of death and evade suspicion, would that make sense? But in that case there was no indication who could have killed the victim in the fifteenth case. If the Domino Murder Exchange were to complete, the murdered in case ten would have to kill the victim in case fifteen, but that wasn’t shown anywhere in the puzzle. If I was to correctly read the implications of this puzzle in terms of a Domino Murder Exchange, the tenth case’s killer would have killed the victim in the blank space, an as yet undiscovered sixteenth locked room, and the killer in the fifteenth case would have committed the murders in both the eleventh and the fifteenth cases. The true killer in the sixteenth case would have kept his hands clean…so did that mean he was the one behind the whole shebang? No, no, no. I was trying too hard to find answers in this puzzle. The whole point of exchanging murders was to get yourself a cast iron alibi and keep yourself off the list of suspects. But in all fifteen cases, the killers had been arrested, confessed, sent to the courts, and were starting to stand trial. With the possible exception of the killer in some hypothetical extra case that might occupy the blank spot, nobody got away with anything. If they had been so desperate to avoid suspicion that they’d do something as
risky as trade murders, hadn’t they been caught a little too easily? No, no, no, no, no, no. These fifteen murders may have taken place in the relatively short time period of a year, but it wasn’t like they happened all at the same time; they were spread evenly out across the full twelve months. So the first locked room mystery had already been solved by the time the third was discovered, the killer identified. The cases were being steadily solved as the new locked rooms were found. It was absolutely impossible for the ninth killer to have actually committed the thirteenth murder, as the puzzle implied; by the time that case happened, I had already identified the killer in the ninth case, the police had taken him into custody, and he was safely behind bars. For the same reasons, the killer from the fifth case could never have murdered the ninth victim, and the killer in the first case could not have committed the fifth crime. This could only fit the model of a Domino Murder Exchange if I had been wrong about all the killers I’d caught, if all those on trial were taking the fall for the real culprit…but that was impossible. Why? Because I was a detective, and if I felt I was right about something, I was never wrong. These killers were the killers. The Domino Murder Exchange theory itself was wrong. If I had the right killers, than those cases were closed. Solved. Then if I focused less on the numbers themselves, and more on the nature of the 15-puzzle, was the intent to suggest that the locked room murders had each occurred somewhere other than they would normally have happened? The tenth case would have happened in the blank space, the fourteen would have happened where the tenth was discovered, with each successive murder committed in the wrong location? Did that work? 56 Not in the least, I decided quickly. There was nothing unnatural about the locations of the murders. Of the fifteen cases,
two had occurred in tourist attractions, but the others had all occurred in homes belonging to the killers, the victims, or friends thereof. Each trick had been tied specifically to the layout of the room in questions, and no particular contortions had been required to make the tricks work. The trick used to lock the room in case fourteen would never have worked at the location used in case ten. It was impossible to divorce the tricks from the rooms they locked. A locked room trick can only be manufactured from the geography of the room. The placement of furniture, accents, of cracks string or wire could be run through, of hiding places – these specifics were different at each location. What the killer could physically do was different in each case, as different as the people involved. It went without saying that finding tricks that could be used at fifteen locations was highly improbable. No, it was impossible. Four of the fifteen cases had taken place in four of the strangest buildings in Fukui, and used the bizarre nature of those buildings as an essential component of the trick. No trick that involved moving walls and floors, or ceilings that turned upside-down could possibly be used anywhere else. The locked room murders had been used in the right place, by the right people. I had solved each of them correctly. Those cases were over. So what was this puzzle? If I assumed that I had solved everything correctly, then the meaning of this could not be that the real solution would only be seen if I shifted everything. There must be something else, something new. The fifteen locked room mysteries were of no importance, and I had to examine the meaning of this puzzle from the surface. The simplest reading was the correct one – namely, that because each number had been shifted, a new, extra space had been left behind. The man behind the fifteen locked rooms had created a new mystery, one that had only just begun.
Then what I had to do was try to find this new, extra space. I got out of bed, dressed, got on my bike and rode north towards Takefu. What was I looking for? Something sort of locked room, I supposed. But the borders I’d found each covered an area ten kilometers square. Trying to find something locked room-esque by aimlessly pedaling around country roads in the middle of the night seemed hardly productive…but as I came down route 365, entering the outskirts of Takefu, I found a house on fire. It was so sudden I almost didn’t recognize it as a fire. But I took a bizarre comfort in the knowledge that this was what I was supposed to find, that it had been prepared for me. I barely even had to look. The farmhouse on fire belonged to the Kato family of Nishi Akatsuki. Kato Serika’s parents had died recently, and she’d been in town to deal with their empty house. As I furiously pedaled closer, I found her standing outside with her husband Satoshi and their four-year-old son Seshiru, staring blankly at the fire.
“Are you hurt?”
I asked. When Serika and Satoshi failed to respond, Seshiru piped up.
“There’s a pool in the house and a stranger swimming in it!”
? What the heck did that mean? I looked in the window of the burning house, and Seshiru was right; the house was filled with water, and there were jets of it spitting out of every crack. The water was moving through the house at whirlpool speeds, and the front door seemed to have been shut by Satoshi to protect his family from the current and the furniture hurtling along in it. As I gaped, I caught a glimpse of a human figure rocketing past a second story window. But it didn’t look like he was swimming to me. Was he dead? Was this another locked room mystery?
I tried asking the Katos again.
“How did this happen?”
“We…were eatin’ dinner, when suddenly water started pourin’ down the stairs. We rushed outta the house and…it just started burnin’.”
“It came from upstairs?”
“Did you have a tank up there?”
I looked up at the house, but it was a normal looking building, no sign of any water tower.
“That’s no ordinary water, neither. That’s sea water.”
“? Sea water?”
“From the sea. It was salty, like.”
“Yeah, that’s salt water, alright. It reeked of it,”
Serika said. Seshiru laughed, and nodded. It certainly did smell like the sea. But we were a good forty kilometers from the ocean, and there were several mountain ranges in the way. How in the hell had so much salt water suddenly appeared on the second floor? At any rate, there was definitely somebody inside, so this would soon be a crime scene. I’d like to preserve it as much as possible, but that was hard to do with it being on fire and all. I looked up at the second story window again, and saw a young man clinging to it, looking down at us. His hair was in his eyes, thrashing in the current, but for a moment, our eyes met. I’d just assumed he was already dead. Guess not.
“Okay, you guys better move farther back,”
I shouted, and ran to the nearest window. Between the weight of the water and the fire the walls were ready to burst…the indoor pool was no long for this world. Did I have time? I broke the glass on the nearest ground floor window. There was a crack, and water burst out, sending shards of glass and bits of broken window frame rocketing past me. Zsshhhaaaaassh! I barely dodged out of the way in time, and quickly broke another window. The spray on my face
confirmed that house was filled with salt water. But this wasn’t the time to ponder that mystery. I reached the front door, put my hand on the knob, but before I could open it the hinges gave up, and a wave of water burst out, sweeping me and the door away. There was a roar as the water filled the front lawn, and when it subsided I found the second story man lying on the ground in front of me, coughing up water.
“¿Qué pasó? ¿Dónde estoy?”
Spanish. He might be wet, but this guy looked Japanese. He was very handsome, but looked about the same age as me.
“This is Japan? I have no idea what’s going on, though,”
he said, in Japanese. Behind him there was a deafening rumble, and the Kato residence collapsed into a pile of wet bricks. At least the fire was out! There was another rumble – thunder. I looked up, and the clouds covering the sky were swirling. I saw something shaped like a funnel retreating back into the sky. It was dark, and hard to make out, but…had that been a tornado? But tornadoes generally dragged things off the ground, not dropped them off. And for it to do a pin-point touchdown on the Kato residence on tonight of all nights, at this exact time, with no other damage… I had no choice but to accept it. That tornado had brought this boy here. From somewhere that spoke Spanish.
I asked. He brushed his wet hair out of his eyes with both hands, and blinked up at me.
“That’s a tough question. I’m not injured, at any rate. What day is it?”
“Okay, same day…but I was on a boat, and we’d just sighted
the coast of Florida.”
“Between the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico.”
“…….? What’s the Atlantic? Never heard of this gulf, either.”
“Hunh? The Atlantic…it’s an ocean.”
“…sorry, but there’s no such thing.”
“……..? What do you mean?”
“There’s only one ocean. The Ocean.”
“……no, that’s……um? This is…where, in Japan?”
“Fukui Prefecture. Nishi Akatsuki.”
“Hunh? Then I’m home? How…?”
“? What, you’re from Nishi Akatsuki? So I am! How old are you? I’m fifteen, sixteen this year.”
“Same age. My name is Kato Tsukumojuku. My address here is Nishi Akatsuki-cho Nishi Akatsuki 3-21.”
Weird name, but I gulped for a totally different reason. I turned to the Kato family by the gate.
“He’s related to you?”
The address he’d just given was the empty home where Serika’s parents had lived. But the Katos didn’t answer. They just stared in horror at the remains of the house they’d just built a few years earlier. I looked back at Tsukumojuku.
“Your name written 9, 10, 9, 10, 9, then?”
“Ah, Fukui dialect…yes, it is.”
“So you made quite the bizarre entrance. What do you remember?”
“Well…I was on a boat, crossing the Atlantic from the Canary Islands to the America.”
“The Canary Islands?”
“Never heard of them? Small islands, owned by Spain, off the west coast of Africa.”
“Okay…and the Atlantic?”
“…the Atlantic ocean lies between the North and South American continent on the one side, and the Europe and African continents on the other. Doesn’t it?”
“No. Also, what are you talking about, American and African continents?”
“…..what continents do you have?”
“……..this doesn’t sound like an issue of education,”
he said. I nodded.
“I’m very well educated,”
I said. He gave me a dubious look, so I added,
“I’m a detective, after all.”
His eyes opened wide, then he grinned.
“Oh. So am I.”
“Oh yeah? You’re shittin’ me? The great detective Kato Tsukumojuku? Never heard of you, and it sounds like that ain’t cause you operated abroad.”
“Better introduce myself, then. My name is Jorge Joestar. Everyone calls me Jojo. Detective Jojo. Welcome to the new world, where the Atlantic and the Canary Islands don’t exist.”
Tsukumojuku just gaped at me for a while.
“…what is Beyond playing at?”
he asked, at last.
“What role does it have in mind for me?”
This made no sense, but it seemed like he was talking to himself, so I let it pass. No idea where he came from, but it was a place with weird ass tornadoes. Didn’t seem like somewhere you could just up and go as you pleased. What he’d just said was probably some sort of religious grumbling, nothing I could do about it.
The way he’d appeared was so bizarre I wasn’t really all that surprised by anything any more, but by the time he was through
getting checked out at the hospital Tsukumojuku had gone straight through surprise to clutching his head. Firstly, while it was indeed July 23rd, it was 2012, not 1904. He’d traveled forwards in time over a hundred years. We quickly proceeded to comparing world maps…of course, there were no world maps that looked the way Tsukumojuku described his world, so he had to draw his freehand. He produced a very detailed sketch of a very strange world. His world looked broken. I showed him ours, and he said,
My sentiments exactly. When Tsukumojuku said nothing more, I said,
“There’s no way the land shifted this much in a hundred years.”
Continental drift was a matter of a few millimeters a year, and that was on the active side. It would take hundreds of millions of years for Tsukumojuku’s world to become mine. The continents moved on the plates, forming a giant continent, breaking up, and moving together again. Plate tectonics showed this had happened and would happen again. Even if his continents had just merged together once to form my world, that would have taken forever. But I didn’t see this change happening so easily. The pieces were all mixed up. To get this far, they’d have to trial and error it for billions of years – longer than the life of the Earth. It had been roughly a hundred million years since the first humans showed up, so if Tsukumojuku came from the same planet as me, he would have had to have been through several continental divides, but if he came from a billion years ago his clothes, manners, and Japanese were much too similar to our own. I couldn’t see more than a hundred years difference between us. I was pretty sure the only possible explanation would involve parallel world theory. That sounded fun! This proved parallel worlds not only existed, but that it was possible to travel
between them! Wah ha ha! While I worked myself into a tizzy, Tsukumojuku sat on the hospital bed, comparing the two maps closely, muttering surprise at the location of one place or another, confused about the location of others.
he said at least,
“I don’t see England anywhere.”
“English is a phantom country, not on any map,”
I said – the stock, self-deprecating description all English citizens used. A group of Anglo-Saxons living in Maine in the 19th century had declared independence, calling themselves the Kingdom of England. They even fought a war. The American government never officially recognized them, but several other countries did…only for them to collapse from within, and be swiftly swallowed back up into the United States. Having lost their country, the English scattered across the world. There were many families like the Joestars, that would have died out if they hadn’t adopted.
Tsukumojuku said, gravely.
“Well, at any rate, I have a theory as to how I came to this world.”
“You’re some detective!”
I said. I was used to hearing this, but I’d never said it myself before. I was a little miffed, honestly, but I didn’t have enough data to form a theory of my own yet.
“It’s just a theory. I’ve no proof of any kind,”
he said, and pointed down at the map he’d drawn.
“I was headed here, towards the Southern tip of Florida. If you connect Florida, this island, Puerto Rico, and then these islands, the Bermudas, you get a triangle shaped area of ocean. Legend has it that many ships vanish entirely as they pass through this area – sometimes just the passengers vanish, and the ships around found empty. We call it the Bermuda Triangle. Like I said, just before I passed out I was gazing at the coast of Florida on deck, then went down to my cabin to stow my luggage. The boat was headed due north, right through
this point on the triangle. Now, this area of Florida is located at 25 degrees north, 81 degrees west…which is exactly where Japan is in this world.”
Ooh, I thought, and took a closer look at the maps myself. Even on the hand-drawn map it was clear the two points overlapped. Then I noticed something, and said, excitedly,
“And if that theory is true, then we’ve basically figured out how to get you back.”
Since Tsukumojuku still didn’t quite know his way around the world, I pointed.
“See, there’s a bug gulf in the center of Panlandia, with a peninsula and a bunch of islands. That’s Florida, Puerto Rico, and Bermuda all right on top of each other, right? The Bermuda Triangle’s basically the Bermuda dot. And according to your map, this is right on top of your world’s Nishi Akatsuki.”
“Ha ha ha! This is straight up telling you where to go to get back home, isn’t it!?”
“Yeah…but…it’s kind of scary, isn’t it? Like someone made this happen. Like they summoned me…”
“’Like’ nothing, someone clearly did.”
“Sure, that’s scary, but I got your back on this. I’m hella interested in what’s happening to you.”
“But I’m not the target here,”
Tsukumujuku said, pointedly.
“Wha? I’m more like an innocent bystander that just got mixed up in this mess.”
“But you aren’t. Why were you there tonight? How did you find me?”
Good point. I explained how I’d solved fifteen locked room murders two years ago, then found a 15-puzzle that had eluded me at the time, solved it, and took off down route 365 to verify the answer. I had to admit, he might be right. I was lead right to him.
“…guess neither of us were there coincidentally.”
“Not only that. You said you solved fifteen locked room murders two years ago. In my own world, I did exactly the same thing.”
“In the Canary Islands, on the island of La Palma. I’m sure the details of the cases are different, but…”
The two of us compared notes on the salient points of each set of fifteen. They were completely different, of course. It was impossible to divorce the tricks from the rooms they locked. A locked room trick can only be manufactured from the geography of the room. The same tricks could not be used in a different country and time. But the order of discovery in Tsukumojuku’s
cases was identical; and the 15-puzzle they formed matched as well.
“I never noticed,”
Tskumujuku said, gloomily.
“I just noticed myself like an hour ago. Betcha woulda figured her out soon enough.”
He looked up at me.
“You ever worked a case with another detective?”
“Nope. Only like 800,000 people even live in Fukui. Lotta cases for the country and I ain’t the only detective around, but I never bumped into any of the others on a case. If we hear someone else is on the job the others all stay away, I suppose. I have heard it happens to Tokyo or Osaka detectives all the time, though.”
“I’ve never even met another detective. The Canary Islands were not much more populated. So let me ask you this; if several detectives are on the case, and one solves the case before the other does, is the slower one still a detective?”
Ugh. Who gave a crap? Just ’cause I solved the 15-puzzle first didn’t mean he had to sulk about it. His case was a hundred years ago – maybe – so we weren’t exactly racing, here.
“Depends on the next case,”
I said, at last.
“If the slower detective gets there first the next time they team up, they’re even.”
Honestly, I was just trying to make him feel better. He wasn’t buying it at all.
“Detective isn’t a title earned over a lifetime. You don’t look back over your deeds and realize you’re a detective. You know you are, and introduce yourself as such.”
“If you can’t solve a case, you aren’t a detective.”
“Hmm…certainly, in that moment, other people might say you weren’t qualified.”
“Detective, in the sense we use it, is an honorary term. The
moment people deny it, you lose the right to it.”
“And you can get it back on the next case.”
“You’re thinking in lifetime terms, again. You can’t be a detective your whole life. You’re one on each individual case.”
“Okay, okay, so you feel like you aren’t a detective any more? Do better next time.”
“I haven’t believed I was a detective for some time. Even on the Canary Islands, I wasn’t sure why – why I could continue to act like a detective in spite of it. It never felt real.”
“? I don’t know what you’re driving at, but if you solved cases, you’re a detective. I might have got to the 15-puzzle before you, but you solved all fifteen cases, right? You did your job.”
“If someone got to the truth before you, would you still call yourself a detective?”
“…I might keep a lid on it till the next time, yeah.”
“There will be no next time,”
“I’ll never call myself a detective again. Not now I’ve met you.”
“You are the Jorge Joestar who will steal my title.”
“What the fuck are you talking about!?”
I finally slipped and swore in front of him, but he didn’t seem to mind. He even laughed.
“Been a long time since a Jorge Joestar spoke like that to me.”
“Are you memories getting confused, or…?”
“My memories and mind are clear, Jorge Joestar. I can safely say my mind and headspace have never been so free of clutter. My role as detective may have ended, but I believe I have been given a new one. I am here to explain Beyond to you.”
What is Beyond playing at? He’d whispered. I instantly knew I didn’t want to hear any of this, but that I needed to hear it all the same.
“In my world,”
“There is another Jorge Joestar.”
What? ♡ Really!? ♡♡♡ This was getting fun! ♡♡♡♡♡
He told me about this other Jorge Joestar. The story of a bullied kid who made friends with a detective, and had adventures on a South Seas Island that didn’t exist in our world. The fifteen locked room murders weren’t the only similar cases. The three serial killer cases I’d closed the year before that, had also been solved three years ago by Tsukumojuku and his partner, ‘Jorge Joestar’. Likewise, they’d caught psychos remarkably similar to the Guruguru Majin and the Nail Peeler ‘last year’. Was this synchronicity? Or was history repeating itself? Before I could think further, Tsukumojuku said,
“And this year, Jorge and I captured the true mastermind behind the fifteen locked room murders. The man who invented all the locked room tricks, and controlled the killers from the shadows.”
“I haven’t done that bit yet let me think!”
Tsukumojuku recoiled from my sudden ferocity.
“It’s not that complicated,”
“You wanna steal the detective role back from me?”
“I don’t mean to do that, and I doubt that would happen…”
I ignored him and began thinking furiously. So there was a mastermind? Obviously that made sense, of course there was. Fifteen locked room murders had happened all in a row, all in Fukui, all in Reihoku. But like I said before, the police and I had suspected there was a mastermind/controller in the shadows, and left no stone unturned in our search for one. Had we
missed something? I didn’t think so. I was sure we’d been thorough. And correct. There were no connections of any kind between anyone related to any of the fifteen cases. The police and forensics people had been over every detail; we’d even tried hypnosis and every occult technique we could think of to no avail. We even tried voodoo dolls. I had not been wrong. Those fifteen locked room murders had ended with the summoning of this other detective from a bizarre alternate universe. I had been so sure the fifteen cases had each been independent, even though they’d lead me – coincidentally or otherwise – to what seemed awfully like a magical phenomenon. But perhaps that notion was my mistake. I definitely hadn’t overlooked anything; I’d checked every detail. Even now, I felt comfortable removing that option from the table. So if I hadn’t overlooked anything, then, logically, there must be something I hadn’t looked at yet. The man who invented all the locked room tricks, and controlled the killers from the shadows. If someone like this was behind the cases in my world too, then this shadow controller’s shadow must have touched each of the fifteen killers. But that was impossible. One of the cases had happened inside a prison, and the killer was serving a life sentence, with limited visitation rights. And we’d checked every visitor thoroughly. Another locked room case involved a shut-in son who killed his father; the son hadn’t spoken to anyone outside his direct family, and we’d found no records of any suspicious contact online, either. This shadow controller could not physically exist. In other words, he had to exist in some non-physical form. This wasn’t that surprising an idea. We’d already entertained a number of occult theories, and tested them thoroughly. We’d done occult. So what else was there?
Where did they meet? Where could they meet without meeting?
I wasn’t talking to Tsukumojuku. I was just thinking out loud. I kept going.
“Not daydreams…that’s just thinking, no way for someone else to control you. Unless you had a delusion that you were being controlled? But that would still mean they created the locked room trick themselves. So it must be dreams.”
Were dreams 100% produced by your own mind? At this point I noticed Tsukumojuku watching me. Half surprised, half impressed. From this I knew I must be right, but really? Dreams? It was my idea, though. Dreams, then. Could this shadow controller have manipulated the killers in their dreams?
“The killers in my world all met a clown in their dreams called the Locked Room Maestro,”
“He forced the plans for the murders on them. Since everyone forgets their dreams, they all thought they came up with the tricks themselves.”
Had he watched Inception or something? But that was scifi, and a movie, and you couldn’t actually jump into someone else’s dream. I must have looked skeptical, but Tsukumojuku carried on expositing.
“This so-called Locked Room Maestro wore clown clothes and makeup, and appeared in the dreams of the killers, working his way into their hearts, and drawing forth the darkest emotions within. That part wasn’t too hard. All he had to do was find someone they hated, or had trouble getting along with, or just had trouble communicating with, even just simple disgruntlement. Once he found those emotions, the Locked Room Maestro would appear in their dreams, and blame all those problems on this one person. Nobody can escape their nightmares. The Locked Room Maestro would twist their fear, making it seem like their eventual
victim was the source of it all. No matter how forced the reason, logic and sequential progression have no place in dreams; only the emotional response matters. One the seed was sown, the killers’ fixations would give them even worse dreams. The Maestro would keep a firm grip on the reins, whispering that it was all their victim’s fault, and his targets had no choice but to believe him. This vicious cycle continued until they were entirely under his control. The Maestro persisted, driving them deeper, even torturing them if he had to. The killers would find themselves murdered in their dreams, but their eventual victims, or by the Maestro himself. These dreams were so terrifying they’d awaken in a nervous frenzy, and this persisted until the real world felt like a dream to them. Physically, there’s nothing wrong with them, but that just makes it worse. They’re spending all their times in a state of panic, and don’t remember the dreams that caused it, so the frustration is building up inside them with no way to escape, and no clear cause. Eventually someone they would never have dreamed of killing begins to seem like someone they have to murder, and they act. But the Locked Room Maestro never once met them in person; he kept his distance, remained hidden in their dreams. The only reason we ever found the evil clown is because the girl he tried targeting next had a pathological fear of clowns. The Maestro’s guise was so terrifying she remembered the dream clearly, spoke to those around her about the horrible clown that kept coming into her dreams and whispering about locked room murders, and this, in turn, attracted our attention. Nobody she’d spoken to believed a word she’d said, but we did. We spoke with the fifteen killers, and they all began to remember him. From what they remembered, we were able to piece together his identity. Aside from the red nose and poofy wig, he was just wearing make up. From their descriptions, we were able to put together a composite sketch. He’d also talked about himself quite a bit in their dreams;
he was so sure they wouldn’t remember anything, he let slip a number of details that helped us identify him. I suppose after fifteen successful remote control murders, overconfidence is unsurprising. He was young, too. Still in high school, wanted to be a mystery novelist when he grew up. But he had the power to slip into other people’s dreams. When we burst into his house, police in tow, we found the clown outfit and makeup; we assume he purchased them to make that part feel real. We found notebooks filled with locked room tricks. But no novels. It seems he didn’t have what it took to be a writer.”
“Hell, you can catch the guy, but you can’t try him,”
“No way you can prove the ability to enter dreams, and even if he demonstrates it, nobody would remember.”
“…there was no trial. The Spanish police on La Palma beat him to death with their nightsticks, and sank his body in the sea at night. Jorge and I were powerless to stop them, and his mother didn’t even try. If word got around that her son was a witch, and the church got involved, her whole family would be persecuted.”
Yikes. Country life a hundred years ago sounded harsh.
“If you don’t mind me veering off subject,”
Tsukumojuku started. I stopped him.
“Hang on, sorry, let me check up on this, see if there are any connections between the dreams of my side’s killers.”
I pulled out my phone, called Shirai Masami at the Fukui PD, and asked him to interrogate the killers about the dreams, using hypnosis if necessary.
“Dreams? There you go again with the weird ideas, Jorge,”
he said, but I knew he’d get it done. I hung up.
“That’s a modern phone?”
“It’s so small, and there’s no line, and there are little pictures moving behind that glass panel.”
Surprising, certainly, but everything he was experiencing was. We had no time to stop and discuss the culture clash.
“Look, if we start down that road, it’ll never end. America’s about to put a man on Mars.”
“…yeah, leave it for another day,”
“Back to the point…or rather, the tangent.”
I wasn’t sure what the main point was any more, but I let him run with it.
“Truth is, I don’t think Javier Cortez – the true killer – was born with the power to enter dreams. The cause of his problems lay with his mother, Leonora Cortez. Just before the cops made him disappear, Javier confessed everything to Jorge. He asked Jorge, ‘Do you know why I always did locked rooms?’ Jorge shook his head. ‘Because all deaths take place in locked rooms. I’ve slipped through the dreams of any number of people, and convinced them to kill someone in a locked room, but the one I really wanted to die, the one I really wanted to kill…was myself. When I slept, I was trapped in a locked room with my mother.’ When Jorge repeated these words to me, I finally started asking the question I should have been asking…now that I had the answer. In other words, why was it Javier spent so much time dreaming. It takes a lot of time to drive someone so far into a corner that they’ll commit a locked room murder. Javier wasn’t working on the fifteen killers one at a time. I don’t think he did them all at once, but he was always working on several simultaneously. And those are just the people he succeeded with; there must have been other targets that proved less susceptible. He traveled through all their dreams, even showing up in their daytime naps if they got too scared to sleep at night. Which means Javier was sleeping all day, too. That’s an unhealthy amount of sleep. Why did Javier spend so much time sleeping? ‘When I slept, I was trapped in a locked room with my mother.’ Locked in a room with Leonora, he slept, escaping into other people’s dreams, hoping to find someone who would kill him. What caused such anger, and self-loathing? Why would being
locked in a room with his mother make him sleep, and make his hatred erupt across the dreams of strangers? What was his mother doing in that room that would lead to such hatred?”
These weren’t questions. I knew the answer. There was no need to speak it.
“I assume some sort of abuse was involved,”
“The desire to kill himself is the desire to make his flesh disappear. Sleeping and escaping into dreams were ways of escaping his flesh while he was in that locked room with her. Whatever was happening to his flesh was so horrific he had to escape it. Which implies the abuse was likely sexual. But we’ll never know the truth. Javier was killed, and Leonora killed herself before her seaman husband, Juan Rovira, returned home. With his family gone, he spoke briefly to Jorge. Whatever happened may have been going on for more than ten years. Juan was absent from home for long periods of time, and quite the philanderer. When Javier was young, Juan often made Leonora cry, but at some point the tears stopped.
“I’ve got Javier,”
she said. He’d seen the boy comfort her when she cried, so Juan assumed she’d gotten over it, and thought no more about it. He certainly noticed that she doted on the boy, but since that meant less strife for him, he was pleased. In that sense, the cause of the cause lay with Juan Rovira Cortez. One person hurt another, that person hurt someone else in turn, and that person developed a strange power that let them harm a number of strangers, and those strangers created locked rooms and murdered people in them.”
The core pattern behind so many of the world’s problems.
“Reality is what it is, and webs of misery are all around us, but my point is that Javier Cortez’s ability to enter stranger’s dreams was a power born of the suffering his mother inflicted. It’s nothing but a hypothesis, but I’ve begun to believe that continual, repetitive suffering can lead to the development of unusual
powers that help the sufferer escape.”
Eh? That’s quite a thought. Here Tsukumojuku explained a case that had led to him forming a friendship with the other Jorge Joestar. It was another case of child abuse by an insane mother. Poor Antonio Torres, who had his skin peeled off by his mother every year since he was a baby, and when he turned ten developed the ability to shed his entire skin intact once a year.
“Ugh, that’s gross!”
“But the cases are remarkably similar, aren’t they? Repeated suffering, supernatural abilities. No normal people shed their skin.”
“Point taken, but…can I ask a question?”
“It might be a little rude.”
“I promise not to mind.”
“Maybe the world you come from is kinda fucked up. Maybe stuff like that just happens there.”
“Hmm…I don’t have any grounds to deny the possibility, at the moment.”
“I mean, I’ve never heard of anything like this.”
“I’d never heard of anything like that before I met Jorge Joestar. And I only have the two instances of this phenomenon to draw upon.”
“See? Sorry, but I just think it’s your world that’s weird. Everything’s normal here.”
“I think there are many things about your world that are strange, but perhaps the laws it operates on are simply different from my own.”
“Unnh, this tangent’s getting scary. Some of these mental images I really didn’t need.”
“Come to think of it, I had Antonio Torres, 1900 – his skin – in my luggage…did it arrive here with me? I was gathering my belongings right before I passed out, and I’m certain I had the tube it was in slung over my shoulder.”
“Jesus! I really don’t want to see that, but I guess we could ask the Katos? That house is done for, but maybe they found something in the rubble.”
“Yeah…but it’s not that important. If they find it, I’d like it back, of course. Javier Cortez’s clown nose and wig were in a different trunk.”
“Ha. At any rate, that’s enough of that tangent. There’s another point I really should make; something you need to hear.”
“About this other Jorge Joestar?”
“No, about you.”
Me? What was he on about? What could he know about me?
“You call yourself a detective, so this shouldn’t take long for you to grasp. Have you never wonder why it is you’re able to solve difficult cases and problems that nobody else can? Have you never found it strange that you always get to the truth in the end? When you find a clue in a book you just happened to be reading, or have an idea triggered by a conversation you happened to have with a complete stranger, or when a criminal close to getting away with it suddenly makes a boneheaded mistake, have you ever wondered if it was one too many coincidences in your favor? Have you ever felt like the world revolved around you? Like God himself was looking after you?”
“Hunh? I mean, I get your drift, but isn’t that what a detective is? Luck is part of skill.”
“But humans are prone to failure, Jorge Joestar. Everyone
“I make mistakes all the time.”
“But in the end, you’re right.”
“Yeah, but I work my ass off.”
“Hard work doesn’t always lead to results. Normally.”
“Normally, shmormally, someone’s doing all right you don’t stand there hoping they fuck up. What’s your point? That I should be less sure I’m a detective?”
“No, quite the opposite. There never any reason to doubt yourself, or that you’re a detective. But you should be aware that you are receiving preferential treatment at the hand of an arbitrary god.”
“…why? Should I give thanks for it or something?”
“No. I call this god
– and I’m certain that this god has lined you and the other Jorge Joestar up for a reason, for some greater purpose. It must have been Beyond’s power that sent me here.”
“And not because I solved the 15-puzzle?”
“You did. But think of it this way: Beyond set you on that path, and summoned me here. See? What most people imagine when they hear the word god is something all-powerful, that never explains itself to humans, that acts in a seemingly arbitrary fashion. Irrational, devoid of logic. But not here. The god I call Beyond prepared that 15-puzzle for you. I believe that there was a reason why Beyond had to do that. You’re a detective, and to some extent the nature of the world becomes predictable. Lords knows, as a detective myself, I’m sick of explaining to people that because I am there, everything has meaning. Just like the arrival of a detective in a mystery novel. In a sense, Beyond is a mystery novelist. Beyond is writing a mystery novel in which you are the detective. And you should be aware of that fact.”
Hunh…I understood his point well enough, but…
do I need to know this?”
“I told you. Because there is another Jorge Joestar.”
“You said you’d never worked a case at the same time as another detective. But you’ve read mystery novels where that was the case?”
There were a lot of them, these days.
“Two detectives, one truth. If both are detectives, then both must arrive at the same truth. But does that happen in the novels of this world?”
“Most novels with two detectives have one solve it, then the other discover the real solution hidden behind it.”
“At that point, are they both still detectives?”
“Hmm…they’re treated like detectives, but certainly, within that novel, the latter is the real detective. But they might switch places in the next novel.”
“If it’s a series. But what I’m talking about, like I said, isn’t in terms of a lifetime, but in terms of each individual case. One volume at a time. There is no next time. You are one of the two detectives. Your life will prove whether you’re the real one, or the fake.”
Man, this good-lookin’ kid was really making everything seem like a giant pain in the ass. I was getting sick of listening to him lecture me.
“Fine, I’ll be the fake, whatever. Your friend, this other Jorge Joestar, he can be the real one, it’s cool. Ha ha ha. It won’t change who I am. Why should I care? Not like being a detective is the only job I can do. There are plenty of others who can do the job instead of me, and I’m happy to leave them to it.”
I meant it. Murders and murder cases were hella scary.
Seriously dangerous. Figuring out the tricks was a pain, and last act twists always pissed me off, and I never got off on the praise or gratitude…man, thinking like this really made me wonder why, exactly, I was a detective at all. I didn’t really give a damn. I just did it cause I was there; if there was someone else, then I’d rather not. I think this rattled him, but he kept his poker face, and added,
“The two of you are working in parallel, but you aren’t both detectives. You’re both Jorge Joestars. Are you still fine with being the fake?”
“Course I am,”
“Didn’t I mention it? I’m adopted. You tell me I’m not Jorge Joestar, well…I’m not.”
At last I cracked his poker face. Didn’t he think it weird when I gave the name?
“I just assumed a hundred years from now Jorge Joestar might well be a Japanese name,”
he said, laughing.
“No, no, I mean, some people do have weird names, but most people are all still
or other super normal names. I guess your name is pretty dang weird, and that might make you less sensitive to odd names? Most modern Japanese have ordinary names with easy to read kanji.”
Tsukumojuku sighed deeply. Ffffffffffffff.
“I don’t even know any more.”
I was starting to feel sorry for him.
“Sorry, sorry, maybe I shoulda played along more, but I never was a good liar.”
“Please, spare me your sympathies.”
“Cool. Anyway, where you staying tonight? They’ll probably let you sleep at the hospital tonight, but tomorrow?”
“You could go check out this non-triangular Bermuda Triangle? I can pay your hospital bill and travel expenses. Not like you know anyone else here.”
Except maybe the Katos.
Nobody lived in the house in Nishi Akatsuki; they might be distantly related but distant was the key word there, and when he’d arrived he’d pretty much demolished their house, so. It might not be his fault, technically, but it was hard to blame them if they had it in for him. Might be best to avoid trouble. Maybe researching their family tree might get me somewhere.
“Or do you want to meet with…some people who might be descendants of your family?”
“Well…I’d like to check if my luggage came with me, at least, so I’d at least like to speak to the people from the demolished house briefly. I don’t know if we’re really related, but I suppose I could try working as a detective here awhile. I don’t know much about this world, though, not at all sure I could be a detective here. Might be easier to just get a normal job if I need money.”
“Yeah. Well, tonight just get some sleep. You had quite a trip, and nearly drowned. You must be exhausted.”
“But I wouldn’t want my things thrown out with the rubble…”
“Don’t worry about that! Serika was still reeling from the shock of it all. They’re staying the night at a hotel somewhere, I’m sure. The police will have to work the scene over, too, so we can go check it out tomorrow.”
“Okay. Thank you, Jorge Joestar.”
“Cool. Hmm. If you do decide to head for the Bermuda Triangle, I’ll come with. It’ll be rough traveling on your own in the new world, and I’d love to see what going to another world looks like.”
“…thanks. But…I can’t explain why, but I think you shouldn’t come to my world. There’s no telling what would happen if two Jorge Joestars met.”
Some sort of time travel paradox?
“Then I’ll let him be Jorge Joestar. Whatever. I’m not the same guy as that Jorge Joestar, so how can there be a paradox?”
“…there’s no telling what Beyond will have in store.”
This again. I was starting to despise that word.
“Okay, okay, I’d love to see another world, but I doubt I could survive long without the last hundred years of technology, so I’ll stay on this side. Do you even have trains or jets? Getting home sounds like a pain.”
“In our world, you can probably get there in three hours by airplane, Narita to JFK.”
The Bermuda Triangle point was at the tip of Manhattan Island. I’ll be anything it’s right where the Statue of Liberty stands.
“Narita? From Narita Mountain?”
“Yeah. JFK is named after John Fitzgerald Kennedy, former president, it’s an airport on Manhattan Island.”
“Hunh…Manhattan, so America? A president who probably hasn’t even been born yet in my world. The history of my world and yours might be different, so maybe he’ll never exist.”
“Right. Truth is, if this is your future, you might be better off not knowing much about it.”
“You think so?”
“Maybe better not to think too much about it.”
At this point my phone rang. It was Shirai.”Hello?”
“Jorge, you got a minute?”
“Bingo, buddy. Their dreams clinched it.”
“….eh! Already? Really!?”
My eyes met Tsukumojuku’s. His eyes looked very sad. Did we have our own Javier Cortez? If there was sexual abuse going on, I was already feeling down.
“The second we brought up dreams, they all jumped,”
Shirai went on.
“They’d forgotten all about them till the moment we mentioned it. But every one of them described a man with a hat pulled down over his eyes. He showed up in their dreams, and told every one of them the same thing. ‘When the police arrest you, if they ask about dreams, tell them this.
“If Jorge Joestar ever comes to Morioh, I’ll kill him.”‘ He used your name, Jorge! Every one of the fifteen said the same thing, not a syllable out of place. Like the same guy put a message in all their dreams. They knew his name, too. ‘Kira Yoshikage.’ This is fucked up, Jorge. Never heard the like. You’d better stay the hell away from this.”
Hunh? Morioh? Where the hell was that? Who was this guy? Who was Kira Yoshikage? Was he not just replacing Javier Cortez as the Locked Room Maestro, but also sending me a warning through them?
“Creepy! Hell no, I’m not going there,”
I said. Shirai didn’t buy it.
“No, seriously, Jorge. There’s danger and there’s danger, right? We still need your help on stuff here, don’t you dare go.”
“I said I’m not going.”
“And when you say that you always go the weirdest places.”
He knew me pretty well by now.
“But man, it’s like he’s telling me to come!”
“Don’t! This dude can enter people’s dreams! That’s fucked up!”
“Ah, but you saying that is like waving a red flag.”
“It’s seriously dangerous. I knew we deal with all kinds of weird stuff on this job, but some dudes are on another level. This is definitely that other level. Beyond human comprehension.”
Shit like that just made me more interested! I didn’t say
that, though. I was wound up enough.
“Anyway, thank you,”
I said, and hung up. I filled Tsukumojuku in.
“So I basically have to go, right?”
“But I’m gonna stay out of it. Jorge and I already solved our version of the case, and I’ve got other things to do and think about.”
True enough, I supposed.
“Then leave this one to me. But I really will pay your bills and travel expenses. Tell you what, I’ll take you to Manhattan, watch you pop through the triangle to the other world, and then go to Morioh.”
I quickly did a search for Morioh on my phone. Found it. Up Northeast, off the coast near S City. Never been there. Never even heard of it. But someone there wanted me to stay away.
“All right, this’ll be fun. I’m off home. I’ll swing by tomorrow, bring you a phone. It’ll be under my name, but give us a way to talk,”
I said. Tsukumojuku bowed, to my surprise.
“Thank you for all your kindness. After all, we met just hours ago. It seems both Jorge Joestars are gentlemen. I truly believe that there is meaning in my meeting you like this.”
“Ha ha, okay. Maybe there is, but no need to get all formal. It reeks of hundred year old manners. Over here we’re more relaxed, right?”
“Heh heh, my Jorge and I were quite ‘relaxed’, I assure you. But I am grateful. I may be a burden to you for a while yet, for which I apologize. At the moment it seems I have no one else to rely on.”
“Sure. Anyway, I’m going home. See ya.”
I gave him my business card, and left feeling like he was a
weird guy, and the way we met was weird, but somehow, we’d end up being good friends. Woke up the next morning, and while I was getting dressed word came that Tsukumojuku was dead. His body was found in Morioh.
Shit, I thought. Someone really wanted me there. That was never a warning at all. It was always an invitation.
I was going even without you killing Tsukumojuku, shit for brains. What a waste! There was no reason for him to die.
Become a Patron read at least 30 chapters ahead for all novels in Main Novel List and bonus 5 chapters every month! Good deal right? Help us to reach the first goal if you could 😀
Please join Discord Server so we can talk ^_^