Volume 1: Miss Shioriko and the Peculiar Guests (originally translated by TehPing at hellping.org. This chapter has been fully edited by ND.
Chapter Three: Vinogradov/Kuzmin’s Introduction to Logic (Aoki Publishing)
There was no response when I knocked, so I opened the door and entered the room.
The setting sun shined into the room through the window, and for an instant, I was unable to see the bed as it was partially covered behind increasingly tall stacks of old books. The patient—my employer, Shinokawa Shioriko, was nowhere to be seen.
She was probably doing her rehabilitation and normally wasn’t around this time of day. She must have been in a hurry when she went out, because her laptop was left open near the side of her bed. Though this was a hospital, it was too careless of her. There was a safe on the rack beside the bed, but she didn’t seem to have any intention of using it.
I ducked through the doorway and entered the room. Recently, it had become a daily routine for me to watch the shop starting in the morning and bring the books the customers left with me to this place in the evening. She would appraise and value the books, I would bring the books back to the shop, negotiate with the customers. If the customers agreed to our purchase price, I would then keep the books in the shop—my job was simply a repeat of the same motions.
I turned around at the faint voice. I saw a woman in a wheelchair wearing blue pajamas and a cardigan just outside the open door. She had long black hair and thick-framed glasses. She seemed to be at a loss for what to and was fidgeting nervously with her head down.
I hurriedly moved aside and let the wheelchair into the room. The middle-aged nurse pushing the wheelchair in frowned as she tried to avoid the obstacles while moving towards the bed. Despite how careful she was being, one of the wheels ended up bumping into a stack of books. The tower of books from the Japanese Ideology series shook precariously and nearly collapsed.
The two women called out at the same time; Shinokawa hastily checked the books, while the nurse checked the wheelchair.
“…I did mention it before, but please reduce the number of books here.”
The nurse sternly her as she helped Shinokawa from the wheelchair to the bed. It seemed it wasn’t the first time this had happened, but I guess that was to be expected.
“…Ye-yes. I’m sorry, I’ll be careful…”
Shinokawa lowered her head earnestly on the bed—but it was doubtful if she would actually change anything. Though she was beautiful, she was an incorrigibly hopeless bookworm and reading was as important as breathing to her. If all the earlier warnings didn’t do anything, what could possibly change now?
“You should pay attention to this too!”
The nurse suddenly directed her complaint towards me. I was leisurely listening to their conversation, but unwittingly straightened my back when she addressed me.
“Right! Please do not bring any books when you visit next time. You can’t pamper her so much, even if she is your girlfriend!”
I was speechless. The nurse folded the wheelchair and placed it as close to the bedside as she could before giving us a glance and walking out the room. An awkward atmosphere hung in the air.
“…That probably bothers you.”
The ambiguous line broke this silence.
Of course, we weren’t lovers—but the relationship between us was not simply that of a shop owner and employee. She, who couldn’t talk to other people about books even though she wanted to, could tell me about them to her heart’s content. I, who couldn’t read even though I wanted to, would listen to her as much as I wanted. It was a relationship where we supported each other, in a sense.
“Y-yeah…it—it does bother me.”
Shinokawa squeezed out a voice from atop the bed. Her ears were completely red.
“…It—it must have bothered you…that she said I-I-I’m your girl-girlfriend, Mr. Goura.”
“No, no, no! That isn’t it!”
My denial was in a great fluster and I tried to continue.
“I’m just saying it bothers me that I was misunderstood! Not because of that! That doesn’t bother me at all. Rather, I’d say it makes me really happy.”
I immediately closed my mouth. That was really an ambiguous line; it might have sounded like I was confessing to her.
“Ah…I was also…thinking the same.”
I had the urge to ask her what exactly she was agreeing with. Was she troubled that we were misunderstood? Or was it that she was also very happy? However, I missed the chance to ask while I was trying to choose my words.
“How—how is your rehab? Can you walk now?”
I ended up asking something completely unrelated and changed the subject.
“…Ye…yes. I can walk…bit…with support…”
“Do you know when you’ll be discharged?”
“Not yet…next month perhaps?”
Although this conversation might have seemed bland to any bystander, it could be considered a solid improvement when compared to before. Shinokawa was inept at talking about anything other than books, after all.
I suppose it was time to get down to business. I sat on the round chair, took out a pocket book from a paper bag, and gave it to her to inspect.
“…Could you appraise this book please?”
Vinogradov Kuzmin’s Introduction to Logic. It was a rather old book and did not seem to be in good condition. The cover trims and the edges were tattered.
“Ah, it’s from Aoki Publishing!”
Regardless, she accepted the book from me with a smile on her face. It was like she had changed completely compared to how she usually was. She stroked the cover slowly almost as if she was petting a puppy.
“I haven’t seen this book in so long! This book is no longer in print and the publisher isn’t around anymore either.”
This was actually the first time I heard of Aoki Publishing. This book was probably limited in print.
“Is it worth a lot?”
“No…not at all.”
She regretfully shook her head.
“Eh? But it is a rare book, right?”
“It’s a good book, but there just isn’t any demand for it in the antiquarian book market. Since the book’s condition isn’t too great, it’s only worth about 500 yen.
My eyes went wide. This was nothing like the Sanrio SF the book hunter Shida brought before.
“Aoki Publishing was a press that was active for about 30 years from when it started operations in the fifties. Most of the ideology books and old communist literature from that period were printed by Aoki Publishing. This book, Introduction to Logic, is as its name implies, an explanation of logic. There have been many reprints, and it has always been popular. What was that person who brought it in like?”
“Hm, he was in his late 50s, dressed in a suit…”
I paused for a moment. Regarding my memory of that customer, there were a few points that couldn’t be explained with just a few mere sentences.
“…What is it?”
“Actually, there’s something I want to talk to you about. That customer was a little weird…”
“Weird? How so?”
She tilted her head doubtfully.
“Yeah. It’s a long story…”
September had just began, but that man was neatly dressed in a suit, and his tie was fastened all the way to his neck. His hair was combed neatly, and his moustache was cleanly shaved, giving the impression of a bank’s branch manager. However, he wore a dark pair of sunglasses and looked somewhat conspicuous.
The man walked into the shop, and went straight for the counter without looking around. He was tall and lanky, and his skin was of a healthy tan.
“I would like to sell a book.”
He enunciated each word clearly with a deep voice, and left the Introduction to Logic on the counter. My impression of a bank employee changed slightly in my mind. Perhaps he was a veteran broadcaster, or maybe a commentator.
“The one in charge of appraisal isn’t around. Would you mind leaving the book here for today?”
I managed to explain matters to him properly, at the very least. I was somewhat used to the process of welcoming customers in this Antiquarian Bookshop after three weeks of working here.
“Thank you very much. Please write down your name and address here.”
I placed a sales invoice slip and a ball-point pen on the table, and pointed my finger at the name and address column. The man took off his sunglasses, fished out a pen, and started to write. His name was Sakaguchi Masashi, birthday October 2nd 1950, and lived in Zushi City, right next to Kamakura.
His handwriting was not exceptionally pretty, especially in contrast to his neat attire. Perhaps he wanted to write neatly, but he ended up writing outside of the boxes.
Unwittingly, I noticed an obvious scar at the corner of Sakauguchi’s eye. Perhaps the sunglasses were meant to hide this wound.
It didn’t seem to be an injury he received recently, and it made his stern expression terrifying. This truly gave a completely different impression to me now. This man was dressed in a neat suit, had an abnormally deep voice and a scar on his face—combining these factors together, I could not tell what kind of work he did or even what kind of person he was. He simply wrote company employee on the invoice slip’s occupation column.
“This should be enough, right?”
“The price doesn’t matter. If it can’t sell, I’ll take it back.”
“I will come by again tomorrow afternoon, and I hope the appraisal will be completed by then. If there are any changes to this appointment, please contact me anytime. That is all from me. Is there anything else you need?”
There was nothing I wanted to add, but it made me little uneasy.
“No, nothing in particular.”
“I see. I will leave it to you then.”
Sakaguchi put his sunglasses back on and left the Antiquarian Bookshop Biblia the same way he walked in.
“…He seemed to be a neat sort of person.”
The moment I finished what I wanted to say, Shinokawa spoke.
“Yeah. Maybe he’s neat but he felt a little unnatural…well, he just felt a little too neat.”
I was not insinuating that Sakaguchi’s actions were weird, but I was very concerned that he immediately answered without hesitation. It seemed like he had already decided on how to answer, as if he had already considered all the possible conversations. Perhaps he really was just extremely neat.
“Is there another reason why you find him a little weird, Mr. Goura?”
I was a little surprised by her question—this person was really intuitive.
“Yeah, there’s still a second part to this,” I continued. Right, this would be where the problem began. “An hour after Sakaguchi left…”
It was about 2 pm later that day and I was having a conversation with the book hunter Kasai at the bookshop. It seemed he had received an order for antiquarian books through the internet, and did not know how to deal with this since he did not have the relevant knowledge. He asked Shida for help, and later thought of getting Biblia to help out as well. He was, of course, willing to pay for the help.
The phone in the shop rang just as I was thinking Kasai’s idea didn’t sound too bad.
“Thank you for your patronage. This is the Antiquarian Bookshop Biblia…”
I picked up the receiver, and was about to introduce myself when the high-pitched voice on the other end caused my ears to ring.
“Hello, is this the Antiquarian Bookshop? You purchase books here? Did a man called Sakaguchi go over to sell a paperback? He’s a tall, gloomy looking, a stiff-voiced old man. His last name is written with the characters for slope and mouth…”
At this moment, I recovered from my startled state.
“Might I ask who you are?”
“I’m Sakaguchi’s wife…to be honest, it’s a little awkward to say this so formally. Oohoohoo, honestly!”
There was some laughter in the voice for some reason. Just how cheerful was she? The man who called himself Sakaguchi was acting odd, but this woman claiming to be his wife was acting weirder. Was she really his wife in the first place? Was it really alright to tell her that Sakaguchi came by?
“So what is it? Did he come over?”
I frowned and thought to myself. She knew Sakaguchi’s name and that he came here to sell a paperback. Maybe she was really his wife and there was an emergency.
“…Yes, he did drop by.”
“Is that so? Has the book been sold yet? Did anyone else buy it by any chance?”
“No. He simply left the book with us. The person in charge of appraising it will look at it later.”
“When is that going to happen?”
“Then my husband will stop by the store again. Will that be today? Tomorrow?”
“Understood! Thank you very much! What’s your name?”
“Mr. Goura? Then, I’ll contact you again, Mr. Goura.”
I inadvertently asked. What did she mean by that? But she had already hung up.
“…She seems like a very lively person,” said Shinokawa cautiously.
She certainly was lively, or more accurately, strangely upbeat.
“What do you think? Something happened between this couple, right?”
She placed a fist at her lips, and pondered for a while. Suddenly, she asked, “Did Mr. Sakaguchi’s wife drop by at the shop after hanging up?”
“No. Why do you ask?”
“Didn’t she say she would contact you later? I think she wanted come over to the shop.”
Upon hearing her say this, I realized that could have been what she meant. She had even asked for my name during the call.
“But what would she want to do at our shop?”
“She wanted to get the book back before it’s sold, I guess…thus, she asked when we would be appraising the book, and when her husband stopped by the shop.”
I see. After thinking about it, I could understand why she bombarded me with a one-sided barrage of questions—I was not certain, but this would at least explain things.
“Then, is that his wife’s book?”
“Why do you think so?”
“She wants to prevent the book from being sold, right? Maybe it’s her own book that’s going to be sold or something…”
“I don’t think that’s the case,” said Shinokawa, shaking her head. “If that were true, she would have explained matters to you in the first place, Mr. Goura…she’s not the type who can control her emotions, right?”
“…Is that so?”
She hadn’t seemed angry at her husband at all. Or rather, she laughed when she mentioned that she was his wife. If the book was something her husband sold without her consent, she would have added one or two begrudging words.
“So in that case, Sakaguchi wanted to sell his own book, and his wife wanted to stop him?”
“Yes, that’s how it is.”
Shinokawa showed me the cover of Introduction to Logic. There was a large blue half-crescent stamp under the title. The cover was very plain, and I supposed the old books were all like this.
“This book must have contained some secret.”
She started flipping through the pages as she said so, and I probed my body forward as well. Unlike Sōseki’s Complete Collection, there was no signature here, and there were no markings on any pages. It seemed the book was in poor condition due to constant reading, not because it was handled carelessly.
“Then, what sort of logic does this book talk about?”
I asked. It was the most basic of questions, but Shinokawa didn’t mind.
“This book introduces syllogism. Hm… a simple example would be, A equals B, B equals C; therefore, A equals C. Things like that…”
I searched through my memory. I had heard of this before.
“Yes. This type of logic, if explained through mathematical symbols, would be called syllogism. This book was a textbook used by schools in Russia—the Soviet Union back then, and afterwards the book was translated into Japanese. Naturally, the contents consist of an introduction to symbolic logic, and the common questions used inside are very interesting, mostly about the proletariat and the kolkhoz. It often includes quotes from Stalin.”
Upon hearing Shinokawa’s explanation, I inadvertently thought of the man called Sakaguchi. I suppose the precise way he chose his words could be explained by his fondness of such books.
“…This is the first edition.”
Shinokawa said so after flipping over to the publisher’s note. I leaned over to look, and found it was the first edition released on July 1st, 1955.
“It seemed Sakaguchi Masashi did not buy this from a retail bookshop.”
“What makes you say that?”
Shinokawa pulled out the invoice slip I placed in the book, and showed me the birthday column. Sakaguchi Masashi, born on October 2nd, 1950—I see. He would be 5 years old at the time the first edition was published. This was not a book a kindergartener would buy.
“Did he buy it at a secondhand bookstore?”
“Or maybe someone gave it to him as a present…ah!”
Shinokawa suddenly cried out, and covered her mouth, evidently surprised by her outcry. It was rare of her to call out like this.
Her stare was fixated on the last page of Introduction to Logic. A label-like item was stuck deliberately on the new edition introduction. There was a “personal reading permit”, and a few columns with the words “book name”, “owner”, “permit date”, “cell number”. Introduction to Logic was written on the “book title”, and the name Sakaguchi Masashi was written on the “owner” column. For some reason, there was a number 109 written above the name.
The “permit date” was October 21st, Year 47. I supposed that was the Shōwa Era rather than the Western Calendar. After that incident with Sōseki’s Complete Collection the previous month, I memorized the method for calculating the actual year. The 47th year of the Shōwa Era would be 1972. It was currently 2010, which meant this label was most likely used 40 years ago.
“What is it?”
It did not seem to be a library card. “Personal reading” and “cell number” were unfamiliar terms to me.
Shinokawa did not answer me, and merely looked at the personal reading permit.
“Shinokawa?” I raised my voice slightly, and she finally answered.
“…I do occasionally see this since I manage old books.”
She seemed to have difficulty articulating as she stammered.
“The books a prison library lends to its inmates are called official’s books, while the books belonging to the inmates are called personal books…this is a permit pasted on a personal book.”
I silently looked down at the personal reading permit. After a while, I finally understood what Shinokawa meant. This permit had Sakaguchi’s name on it. in other words—
“That man went to jail?”
“…Most likely. This 109 is probably his prisoner’s number.”
He was eccentric, but he did not seem like the kind who would commit a crime. I’d never met anyone with a record before, however.
“…Do you want to check if he really served time?”
“Eh? We can?”
“Since we have a clue, we might be able to.”
Shinokawa pulled the laptop on the side table close to her, and activated it for me to see. I was hoping for a cute wallpaper, but an image of a book cover appeared instead, which made me a little disappointed. The book name was The Late Years; she certainly liked to read, and I was impressed, rather than surprised by this.
“E-erm, about this…please don’t look…”
Her face was bright red as she opened the browser with a click. The side of the notepad computer has a mobile internet dongle to allow her to access the web from the hospital room. She accessed the database of a big news firm and quickly entered the name “Sakaguchi Masashi” in the search column.
I understood her intention. If Sakaguchi Masashi had committed an offence, it might appear on the newspapers. I never thought of using such a method to investigate—I stared at the page, and looked through the search results with bated breath. There were a few large reports, all linking to the same incident. January 9th, 1971, a year before the permit was issued.
Robbery at Hodogaya Bank/Chase footage in the day.
There was a robbery at the Hodogaya Branch of the Yokohama City’s Sagamino bank on the afternoon of 8th January. A young man broke into the bank with a hunting rifle, stole 400,000 Yen in cash, and escaped on a passenger car parked outside. The police cars arrived at the scene pursued the suspect, and stopped and arrested the suspect at a civilian’s residence 1km away, where he had crashed. The suspect, an ex-worker living nearby named Sakaguchi Masashi (20 years old), is now undergoing police investigations.
I was shocked speechless. That man, who looked like a bank employee, was actually a criminal in a bank robbery—it was really unbelievable, but this certainly was the case. The age matched completely, and there was an additional report.
Sakaguchi’s face was slightly injured when he crashed into the civilian residence wall, and he is currently undergoing treatment at the hospital. The police has revealed that this incident isn’t affecting the investigation proceedings.
I recalled the wound at the corner of Sakaguchi’s eye. It must have been the injury he got back then.
“That guy…really has a record?”
“…Yes,” said Shinokawa, nodding. She looked very serious. “But after this incident, there was no mention of the name Sakaguchi Masashi in the news…this was the only crime he committed. He must have turned a new leaf since then.”
I agreed, but I was a little concerned that he really might not have changed his ways. Either way, I would be the one dealing with him tomorrow.
“What do I do with this book?”
“We should buy it like we always do. Please tell him this book can be sold for 100 Yen.”
It was certainly an appraisal as usual. As she said, no matter who the customer is, it would be expected of us to carry out deals normally—but it would be a lie to say that we weren’t a little worried.
“But there’s something I’m concerned about,” she said as she closed the laptop, and turned herself towards me.
“What is it?”
“Why does Sakaguchi want to sell the book, and why does his wife want to prevent him from selling it?”
“Eh? Isn’t it because he doesn’t need it anymore?”
“But this is a book he had with him for 40 years, right? He said the price doesn’t matter, so it doesn’t seem to be a matter of money. It’s improbable that he doesn’t have a place to leave this book…why must he sell it?”
I folded my arms. It was true there would have to be a reason to sell a book Sakaguchi kept with him for a long time. Maybe it had something to do with the call his wife made.
At this moment, tapping footsteps rang outside the quiet ward room. We looked back, and saw the door swing open. A petite woman entered.
“Hello! Is this the shop owner’s room?”
A shrill voice shook my head as it echoed within. She was dressed in a red one-piece, and the ends of her brown hair were curled up. She had double eyelids, a round face, and looked just like a child, but there were wrinkles at the corners of her eyes and lips. She was most likely in her late thirties, and the thick make-up made contours on her flat face.
The long gloves used to block off the sunlight felt different however as they were plain in contrast to the rest of her clothing. There was no doubt, however I looked at her, that she was a hostess preparing to go to work.
She narrowed her eyes and looked around.
“There’re a lot of books. This is the first time I’ve seen so many. Is the bespectacled beauty the owner? It’s already the beginning of September, but it’s so hot today. I walked over from Ofuna Station; it’s really hot out there…ah, sorry. I started talking so much without introducing myself.”
I knew who she was even without her introduction. She formally lowered her head.
“I’m the wife of Sakaguchi Masashi, Shinobu. Please return that book to me!”
Sakaguchi Shinobu smiled as she pulled a round chair over and sat down. There was no pause during this time, and she continued to rattle on. Her face was not notably attractive, but she had all sorts of expressions and made you feel like you knew her.
“I went to the shop in Kita-Kamakura before this, and the high school student working there told me the one who knows how to help went off to the hospital, so I took the bus here…ah, goodness me. I came to the hospital empty-handed! I’m really sorry, miss owner.”
Shinokawa immediately blushed the moment she was mentioned.
“It-it’s nothing, you don’t have to…erm, I’m Shinokawa…nice to meet you…”
She stammered, and she adjusted her body’s position slightly, apparently wanting to hide behind me. Either way, this person would not relax until we start talking about books. I coughed.
“May I ask, what do you mean about hoping that we return the book?”
“A-are you Mr. Goura? The one who picked up the phone? You’re really tall, taller than my Masa… ah, no, taller than my husband.”
I suppose this Masa was a nickname for Sakaguchi Masashi—for the time being, I did not want to think of this unfitting name.
“Your husband wants to sell the book to us, right?”
“Yes, but there’s definitely a problem! He suddenly said he wanted to sell a book he always treasured, and wouldn’t tell me the reason no matter what. I told him not to sell it, but he wouldn’t listen…I thought I should come here since I want the book back. Well, that man’s rather stiff when he speaks, right?”
“Hm? …well, a little…”
The topic changed suddenly, and it was a little tedious to catch up with her words.
“Supposedly it’s because of this Introduction to Logic book. He was a very ridiculous man when he was young, and when he was practicing at a monastery, his high school teacher gave him this book, telling him that he could talk with others logically if he read it a few times. It was an amazing book that changed his personality.”
At that moment, Shinokawa and I glanced at each other—monastery?
“…Well, what was going on at the monastery?”
“Ah, sorry. Our house’s man left home whem he was 20 years old, and seemed to have spent his time at some monastery for around 5 years. He wasn’t planning on becoming a monk, but it seemed he had to go there because something happened.”
I tried my best to maintain a look of admiration. It seemed this person did not know anything about Sakaguchi’s criminal past, and even talked about some monastery practice.
“Anyway, he said it was a really tough place, with a wall so high he couldn’t get over, and he could only meet visitors for a short while. After he finished his training, he was shocked by how greatly the outside world had changed.”
Wouldn’t that mean our guess is correct here? I thought involuntarily. Even after listening to this part, she still did not realize that he was talking about prison; she really has a trusting personality—
No, that was not all. She really trusted her husband, in particular, to the bottom of her heart.
“Anyway, I just think it’s better not to sell it, I know he’ll regret it. …erm, is that book over there his? Is it possible for me to take it back if you haven’t paid?”
Sakaguchi Shinobu straightened her back and pointed at the Introduction to Logic on Shinokawa’s thighs. She looked ready to snatch it away immediately, and I hesitated on whether I should stop her.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t hand it over.”
Shinokawa said decisively. She has stopped hiding behind me at some point and was staring right at Shinobu. This was what she was like whenever she talked about books.
Shinobu’s eyes went wide at the abject refusal.
“Eh? What’s the matter? Why not?”
“Your husband’s the owner of this book, and your husband hopes to sell it…as someone who trades old books, I can’t ignore the wishes of the customers. If you want to stop your husband from selling it, please convince him, and not us.”
Shinokawa held onto the book tightly as she looked down deeply. Sakaguchi Shinobu seemed to have lost her strength as she leaned forward. She suddenly became silent, and soon, smiled weakly at Shinokawa.
“Hm, that’s true…it’s as you say, shopkeeper. I don’t think things through, and I was being unreasonable…sorry.”
She then sighed and narrowed her eyes at the ceiling.
“But why does he want to sell it? It’s so strange. He won’t tell me himself and I don’t think there’s anyone else that would know.”
That would be too much to expect. If his family members didn’t know, how could anyone else understand what he was thinking—no, there would be someone who would know. I turned to look at Shinokawa; she was someone who was good at solving mysteries like this.
“…You have quite the nice relationship with your husband.” Shinokawa said.
Shinobu grinned and nodded fiercely.
“You’re right! We do! We got married 20 years ago, but we’re still very much in love even now.”
It was clear their relationship was good if she should declare her love like that. Shinokawa too seemed to be affected by her as she smiled.
“How did you first meet your husband?”
I knew she wanted to obtain more information. Shinobu’s expression changed and she leaned forward towards us.
“It will take a long time for me to explain this. Is that alright?”
We nodded silently and she began her story without any hesitation.
“I first met him the year after I graduated high school…
“At that time, I was working at a hostess…ah, I’m helping out at a friend’s snack bar now. I’m dressed up like this because I have to get to work later.
“You see, I didn’t really get along with my parents who were both very intelligent and graduated from good universities. I was totally inept at schoolwork, so I was scolded ever since I was young for being dumb. It would be one thing if I’d even liked learning, but I really hated it.
“That’s why I immediately left home once I graduated from high school. At first, I was a clerk at an ordinary company, but I couldn’t understand anything, and I was of no use at all. They fired me half a year later.
“I tried all sorts of part-time jobs for a living after that, but they all kept getting mad at me. I figured there had to be a job I was suited for, so I tried working at a cabaret club.
“There aren’t many of them nowadays, and they weren’t really common when I was younger either. There was an old and famous club at the west exit of Yokohama station which took me in after I interviewed with them.
“As you can see, I talk a lot now, don’t I? But back then I could talk way more. A hostess’ job was to take care of customers, but I kept talking about my own things. The customers are all adults and nobody wanted to listen to some kid who just graduated high school. I really wanted to work hard, but I just kept getting scolded. My boss told me that he would fire me if this kept up. Just when I was feeling downhearted, Masashi came to the shop alone.
“It was a hot day, but he was dressed neatly in a suit, and his back was straight. He was no different from now, and even back then you could call him old man. He was, of course, not married back then. He said that he would normally didn’t come to clubs to drink with woman, but did so that day to relieve his boredom.
“At first, I thought he was a really scary man. He would not talk about himself, and his method of speaking was rather stiff. He was just like my father, and I thought he was a graduate from some good university, and working at some bank. As I thought about that, I tensed up…we didn’t say anything for half an hour and only drank silently.
“And then, he suddenly spoke up. ‘I’m not good at talking about myself, but I would like to hear about you. I would be willing to hear you talk about anything, whatever you say.’
“I had been told not to talk so much in the past, but this was the first time anyone had told me I could talk to my heart’s content. I was a little surprised; if he said so, there was no reason to hold back, right? So I started talking about anything I could think of, like yesterday’s dinner or the dog I raised when I was a kid.
“I gradually started talking about more depressing things as I started to feel more comfortable and told him how I almost got fired. It turned into some kind of counseling session before I even noticed. I sobbed and I talked about all the misfortunes I had in my life, how I couldn’t do anything because I was too stupid, that I didn’t know where and how I should live on… Now that I think about it, he was listening very intently even though I was simply complaining away.
“And then, what happened next was important! After all of my complaints, I said, ‘A hostess isn’t the right job for an idiot. I’m not suited as a hostess because I’m so stupid’.”
“Masashi had been listening quietly all this time, but he suddenly put down his wine glass. It was so loud that it shocked me, and I thought he was angry. That was not the case however, and he looked at me with a serious expression.
“‘You used deductive reasoning a moment ago. That’s not something dumb people can do…you are absolutely not stupid.’
“It’s strange, isn’t it? He said it was just deductive reasoning, but I knew very well that he was trying to encourage me. I felt a little moved. Nobody had ever encouraged me before.
“And then, Masashi clasped my hands tightly and said to me.
“’You are a lot smarter than I was when I was your age…the fact that you’re honestly earning a living with your own two hands is proof of that. You shouldn’t be ashamed of yourself no matter what anyone says.’
“…When I heard that, I felt that it was the first time I could allow a man embrace me. No, not could, I did let him. Just like that, I offered myself to him, and we got married. Ahaha, there’s a huge difference in age, he’s a little eccentric, and there’s a lot of gossip, but I don’t really mind what people say. It’s been a long time since then, and we have quite the happy life together. Masashi looks very scary, right? But he’s actually really gentle. He probably went through all sorts of hardship, and I sometimes feel like it’s a pity for such a rare good man to marry me!”
And after that, Sakaguchi Shinobu continued to talk about her husband’s good points as she proudly raised her chest.
“How about it? He’s a really good person, isn’t he?”
My heart felt heavy as I listened and I started to pity Sakaguchi a little. It would have been difficult to admit that he had a criminal record to someone who trusted in him so much. I could understand why he lied and said he had been a monk.
“Has anything changed about your husband recently?”
Shinobu immediately showed a worried look when Shinokawa raised the question.
“He started acting a little strange about a month ago. He’s more silent than he usually, doesn’t smile as much as he used to, and doesn’t meet my eyes anymore…and—and also, the sunglasses! He bought them recently and they look so garish! That’s what’s been weirding me out the most!
I suppose that would be the least important thing. Shinokawa handed the cover of the Introduction to Logic to her for her to see.
“Has he ever let you read this book?”
“No, not at all.”
She shook her head hard.
“He really treasured it, but I couldn’t understand even if I wanted to….ah, but I did flip through it once when I was cleaning the house and saw it on the living room sideboard. There was some dust on the cover, and I looked through it for a bit after wiping it off a bit.
So she did try to read it before. It was clear from Shinokawa’s change of expression that she had realized something. It was same face she showed when she discovered the truth behind Sōseki’s Complete Collection.
“…Was your husband nearby at the time?”
“Let me think…ah yeah, I think he was. I had him go out of the room so I could clean and he was listening to the radio on the veranda. He’s been doing that a lot these days…”
“Is that so…”
Shinokawa muttered softly. I felt like I could understand what Sakaguchi was thinking—the “private reading permit” label pasted in this book was a tie to his criminal past. It had the potential to tear his marriage apart in the off chance that it was discovered. It would make sense for him to want to move away from that risk as much as he could.
“Maybe you could lend me this book? I’d like to take a look at it.”
Shinobu’s words caused me to widen my eyes, and Shinokawa looked reluctant, too.
“Ah, I won’t take it home or anything. I just want to know what sort of book it is. Now that I think about it, I never read through it. A little peek should be fine, right?”
She smiled and reached her hand out innocently. Before I realized it, I spoke up.
“Well, there might be something he doesn’t want anyone to see…”
Shinokawa warned me, causing me to recover. Not good, I almost said something unnecessary. But Shinokawa shook her head.
“…No, that’s not it.”
Was I wrong? What did I say exactly that was wrong?
Sakaguchi had a book, Introduction to Logic, with the ‘private reading permit’ label that he got in prison attached to it. His wife started looking through the book recently, and he came to our shop to get rid of it. Not matter how I looked at it, it looked like he was trying to hide the fact that he had a criminal record. Did he perhaps have something else in mind?
“What is it? What’s the matter?”
Shinobu compared our expressions, and finally turned her gaze to Introduction to Logic.
“Is there something about this book?”
Shinokawa did not reply and the hospital room fell into complete silence. I was regretting my carelessness. She might realize that the cause of our uneasiness was the private reading permit if we showed her the book. On the other hand, it would be more suspicious not to let her see. What were we supposed to do here?
Then, there was a knock on the door. I sighed in relief.
“…Please come in.”
Shinokawa answered, and the ward room door opened slightly. A tall man dressed in suit and sunglasses. He was breathing heavily, obviously anxious.
Shinobu happily waved to him.
Sakaguchi Masashi had arrived.
“Take a seat. Over here.”
Sakaguchi Shinobu pulled a round chair over and placed it next to her. Sakaguchi Masashi lightly sat down. They looked very intimate next to each other, and looked more like a father and his daughter who had returned home after a long time, rather than a couple.
“Why are you here, dear?”
“My plans for tomorrow changed. I called the bookshop and heard that you went to the hospital, so I came by.”
Sakaguchi frowned as he said, and added on with an unchanging expression, “Please don’t call me Masa in front of others. I told you that before, didn’t I?”
“Ah, sorry. Erm, Masa…shi! Don’t sell the book!”
She suddenly touched upon the crux of the issue, and Masashi pursed his lips.
“Sorry, I’ve already made my decision. I want to sell the book because I don’t need it anymore.”
“Why would you say that!? Didn’t you always treasure that book that much?”
Shinobu said as she pointed at the Introduction to Logic.
“You even won me over with that book! Isn’t the syllogism you talked about written in it? It’s a book full of memories to me too!”
“…I’m not going to change my mind.”
“It’s as important to me as the time you won me over! Didn’t you confess, and kiss me then?!”
Sakaguchi glanced over at us. His expression had not changed, but large drops of sweat were dripping down his neck. He was really pitiful; all because she had brought this up, even the secret happenings between husband and wife were being revealed.
“At least tell me the real reason you want to sell this book. You’ve been acting weird recently. You don’t really talk much now, you don’t seem energetic, and you’re wearing those sunglasses! Everything about you is just weird!”
It seemed she was very insistent against those sunglasses, but upon hearing her words, Sakaguchi’s stared turned away somewhat. Why did it waver? Did it waver because of the sunglasses?
“…Mr. Sakaguchi,” Shinokawa slowly said. “Everyone around you will know before long. It’s not something you can hide… unlike a certain other thing.”
She spoke with more emphasis at the end. It was a little weird; she was clearly hinting that there was another secret beside the fact that he had a criminal past. I suddenly recalled her saying “that’s not it”—what exactly will the people around him realize?
Sakaguchi’s face became pale. It seemed he realized that Shinokawa was talking about his criminal past. The eyes behind the sunglasses narrowed, and he stared at us again.
“It looks like you know everything.”
I just about gave up—or rather, I couldn’t understand. What other secret was there other besides the incident 40 years ago? How did Shinokawa find out? I should have known everything she knew.
“I understand that you aren’t good at talking about yourself,” Shinobu said. “But if there’s anything troubling you, please, just tell me.”
Sakaguchi slowly removed his sunglasses. He stared at his wife’s face for quite some time, and after that, spoke calmly with a quiet voice.
“…Even from up close, I can no longer see your face clearly. I cannot tell whether your eyes are opened or closed.”
His wife cried out in surprise.
“I have an eye disease. My eyeballs have accumulated excess liquid, and there’s no way to treat it. The unfortunately thing is that my eyes were injured when I was young which accelerated the deterioration. I am selling that book because I can no longer read it.”
Silence descended upon the room again. Sakaguchi turned towards us.
“How did you know? I wanted to keep it all quiet.”
I wanted to know too—was there any clue in whatever we talked about? I turned and looked towards the bed. Shinokawa explained with confidence.
“…This note was the key.”
She pulled out the sales invoice from the Introduction to Logic. Sakaguchi leaned over to look at the tip of her hand.
“This is what you wrote in our shop, Mr. Sakaguchi. The words are outside the boxes…for someone with a meticulous personality, it was fairly odd.”
“…To think I didn’t even notice something like that…” Sakaguchi muttered in self-deprecation. “I can’t clearly see what I write anymore…you knew from that alone?”
“No. I realized it after listening to your wife tell us about you. You started listening to the radio because you have difficulty reading the newspaper, you wore sunglasses to protect your eyes from direct sunlight, and your book was covered in dust because you stopped reading it. All of it was because your eyesight was becoming worse.”
I was dumbfounded. Now that she mentioned it, that certainly did seem to be the case.
Even so, she never had a conversation with Sakaguchi before. She even knew the things he was hiding from his wife just going by the things she heard. She truly did have a terrifying intellect.
“…But, why couldn’t you tell your wife?” I asked Sakaguchi. Normally, family members would be the first to know about things like this. However, Sakaguchi suddenly lowered his eyes.
“I may lose my eyesight and will probably have to rely on others for help from now on. I’m going to leave my current company soon and there will be no chances of employment for me after this. We may end up on hard times…and she already suffered a lot for marrying me despite our difference in age. I needed to clear my thoughts before I could tell her.”
Sakaguchi lifted his eyes and looked at my face. For the first time, I discovered he was unable to look right at me since he couldn’t see clearly.
“It is true that some things are harder to reveal to your family. There might be a lot of people who think otherwise, but I am not one of them.”
I knew he was talking about his criminal past. Sakaguchi was someone who lived with such a huge secret. Perhaps the act of being honest was something he was resistant to.
“I’m really sorry for hiding it from you all this time.”
He lowered his head towards his wife. Sakaguchi Shinobu frowned as she folded her arms. This unhappy expression did not match her too much, probably because she looked like a child. After a whole, she spoke with that shrill voice from before.
“I don’t really understand, Masa.”
She called Sakaguchi by that name again, and this time, he didn’t point this out.
“…What do you not understand exactly?”
“Why do you want to sell that book?”
“Did I not say it? I can no longer read it. Books are meant for reading. I wanted to hand it over to someone else rather than throw it away…”
“Can’t I read it out loud instead?” she proclaimed matter-of-factly, and continued on as she looked at the stunned Sakaguchi.
“This is a book you really treasure, right, Masa? I’ll read it to you every day. I never recited before, so maybe my reading will be bad. Isn’t that good enough?”
She grinned widely.
“It’s fine even if you have difficulty saying it. Even if you stop being able to see, Masa, I’ll always be with you no matter what. If there’s anything you want to say to me, I’ll listen. You’ll definitely feel better that way.
Sakaguchi remained silent like a sculpture, and after a while, the edges of his lips hinted at a smile.
“…I understand. Thank you.”
He stood up, and approached Shinokawa’s bed.
“Sorry, but I don’t want to sell that book anymore. Can you please return it to me?”
Shinokawa nodded deeply, and handed Sakaguchi the Introduction to Logic.
“Of course. Please take it.”
With the paperback in his hands, Sakaguchi returned to his wife.
“Do you still have some time before work? I want to find some place to talk about future plans.”
“Of course,” Sakaguchi Shinobu said, as she stood up.
I was finally relieved, at least, that this incident was seemingly resolved without revealing that Sakaguchi had a criminal past. There was no doubt that Shinokawa intended to let them talk after discovering what happened to Sakaguchi’s eyes.
As for whether the past will be revealed, it would take Sakaguchi a long time to decide—
“…Actually, there is something else I want to say.”
Sakaguchi’s voice interrupted my feeling of relief. Shinobu looked up at her husband doubtfully.
“What is it?”
“I have a criminal record.”
It was not Sakaguchi Shinobu, but myself and Shinokawa, who gasped. He barely managed to keep his criminal past a secret, so why was he revealing it now?
“I lied when I said I went to become a monk. When I was 20, I was fired from my job, and didn’t have any money to pay for food the next day. I thought I had to get a large amount of money so I could live without worry, no matter what. I stole a car and a hunting rifle from my friend’s house, robbed a nearby bank and, of course, got myself arrested immediately.”
He calmly explained his criminal past like a news report. Shinobu widened her mouth in shock as she stared at her husband’s face. Sakaguchi then pointed at the wound on the corner of his eye.
“This wound was caused by that incident…I apologize for hiding it from you for so long.”
Sakaguchi lowered his head deeply. I could not see his expression, but his back was obviously trembling. As I looked on, my palms were all sweaty from the tension; this was the biggest confession he had made in 20 years.
His wife took a deep breath and looked up at his face from below. She was the one to break this long silence.
“Is that it? I was wondering what it could be when you became serious all of a sudden.”
She then held her husband by the arms.
“I knew about that already.”
Shinokawa and I both exclaimed again. These two were just full of surprises.
Sakaguchi eyes flicked up as he asked.
“Yes. Anyone would know, as long as they weren’t stupid.”
She gave her husband a meaningful smile.
“And I’m not stupid, right? That’s why I already knew… ah, this is syllogism, isn’t it?”
“Ah, yes…that’s right.”
The two of them looked behind, nodded at us, and then walked out of the hospital room arm in arm.
“…I’m glad I married you.”
Sakaguchi’s muttering rang in the air, and the door closed again.
The room looked exceptionally spacious after the Sakaguchi couple left, almost like a hurricane had rolled through it.
“…When did she find out?” I said. Perhaps it was when they were living together, or maybe it was by some chance. However, Shinokawa shook her head.
“No, she actually didn’t know.”
“Eh, didn’t she say she did?”
“If she really knew, she wouldn’t have talked about her husband’s past so happily. She would have been very cautious to prevent us from finding out his secret.”
I recalled Sakaguchi Shinobu’s words. It was true that if she had realized her husband’s criminal past, she would not have talked about “becoming a monk” so easily.
“But why did she lie like that…”
“If she said that she did not know, then it would mean her husband had lied to his wife for 20 years. While it was true, he was already having enough trouble revealing his illness to her. She didn’t want him to feel guilty again…I think this is the reason. There is no other way to explain it.”
I sighed in admiration. If that was really true, she did not falter when told of her husband’s shameful past and even lied back with a smile. As Sakaguchi had said, she really wasn’t stupid.
“I think Sakaguchi realized his wife was lying, too. Her words didn’t make sense, logically speaking…but there was no point in revealing this lie. He saw that it was most appropriate to accept his wife’s graciousness.”
It had always been like this, but I was still truly astounded by her insight. It felt like she could solve any mystery as long as it had anything to do with old books.
I stared at the side of Shinokawa’s face. She talked a lot about books during the past three weeks, but I didn’t know much about her personally. All I knew was that she liked old books, and liked to talk about anything relating to them. I suppose that she, like Sakaguchi Masashi, found it difficult to express herself.
That didn’t matter, I guess. At this point, I felt happy too.
“I should head back to the shop then.”
I had left the shop to Shinokawa’s little sister. She would probably be upset that I hadn’t come back yet.
I got up from my stool only to have my movement stopped. Shinokawa’s pale fingers were tugging at a corner of my shirt. She looked at me with a worried expression.
“…What is it?”
Suddenly, I felt my entire body heating up. This was a first for me. I sat down on the chair again.
“If I, like Mr. Sakaguchi, had been hiding something, what would you do?”
“Would you want to hear it?”
It seemed she read what I was thinking. I was doubtful. What was she going to say?
“…I would want to hear it.”
I was confused, but still answered firmly. She checked that the door was shut, and slowly whispered.
“Mr. Goura, you asked before… about my injury.”
“Two months ago, I paid a visit to my father’s friend’s residence. It was a house built on a slope, and I suddenly slipped on the way up the stone steps. It was raining really heavily…so I told them that I had just slipped.”
“…But that isn’t that what happened?”
She shook her head. We were now somehow close enough that our heads were almost touching.
“I’ve never told anyone else this… but can I tell you, Mr. Goura?”
I answered. My heart was being faster. It felt like I was about to hear something terrifying for some reason.
“Someone pushed me down those steps that day. I’ve been looking for the culprit for the past two months.”
Shinokawa stared at me, and her eyes were filled with determination—it was the expression she had whenever there was a mystery to solve.