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Crime Horror East Asian

The sun had set by then and the world had drawn its curtains as the rain cloaked the darkening sky.

The cold descending upon the earth, painting the streets in wet lights.

And it all seemed silent; like a town about to pull the covers and drift into dreams, goodnight.

But somewhere, near the town plaza where the fountain stands still for night, red lights glowed and grew in the dark, twinkling over the puddles and the wet asphalt about the roundabout.

The shops around had closed up and there were no other people around, no pedestrians, no shop-keeper.

The place felt abnormally quiet.

One could almost feel the bated breaths and the secretive eyes of those hiding out of sight, wondering what happens next as if the world had spun into some dystopia overnight.

The plaza had been taped off, and every shop was ordered to close, the owners told to return home.

Every shop, except the one bakery where all the police cars gathered before.

Something had happened, something enough to require the attention of every cop in town.

Something severe: murder?

Akane walked into the store, passing through the dark shadows hanging like curtains all around. The lights were too bright, everything seeming to blaze in the windows left and right.

She pulled out her notepad, her heart thumping, as she readied herself, wondering: what’s the case?

She had been called without a word about what the case really was. All she knew was that the crime scene happened to be the town’s favorite bakery.

She’d bought a strawberry shortcake here once…

Everything seemed just the way it was, only now draped in darkness, giving the place an eerie feel.

Haunting, even.

Places really do seem different in the dark…

She reached the back, walking behind the counter and passing the large cabinet of cupcakes along the left side, making it through the door into the back.

There were policemen near the door, interrogating a middle-aged woman at a distance; the woman at the table, sitting down, the moonlight lighting her back, but leaving her face and front in shadows.

Everything really did seem haunted…

The woman— it was the owner.

When the woman noticed Akane’s arrival, she told the policemen to give them a moment.

Without questioning, they left the room, passing through saying, “Excuse me,” their voices tired.

Or maybe carrying a weight.

Just then, with Akane looking behind, watching the men walk out the store to the front against the blaring lights, the owner called her over, telling her to sit down at the seat across of her.

“Why did you call me, Mrs. Yoshioka?”

“Something happened,” the woman replied, her words simple but vague.

Akane could see the woman’s face now; seeing it, the familiar sight, Akane felt herself calm.

She put her notepad down on the table, turning herself so she could see what she wrote in the pale moonlight.

But just as she wrote down the title and the date, Mrs. Yoshioka spoke again.

“A secret ingredient was stolen.”

Akane looked up.

“Eh?”

Akane’s mind seemed to freeze for a moment, as if the thing the woman said were too quick to catch.

“Stolen?”

“Yes, darling. Stolen.”

Her mind froze again, trying to wrap her head around the idea: was this a joke?

It couldn’t be. The police were all out, the whole station probably out for this one case; this one case requiring the need for the whole plaza to shut down. All this couldn’t be some prank.

Besides, who would they be pranking? The town?

“Um, Mrs. Yoshioka,” Akane started, confused still. “What is this secret ingredient?”

“It is in every recipe.”

Eh?

“But… what is it?”

“It is a secret. No one must know.”

Akane withdrew into her thoughts again.

If it really was a secret, then how would the police, let alone her, solve the case? If solvable at all?

People would only report if something valuable were stolen. But couldn’t an ingredient be bought again? If it were some sort of flour, then couldn’t she just buy a new stock?

And, now that she thought about it, why were the police here if they didn’t know what the ingredient was?

If they heard that some ingredient was stolen, then wouldn’t they’ve simply dismissed it as a joke?

Why were they all here? Why was everyone so serious about this?

It didn’t make sense.

It only would if the police knew what the secret ingredient was— but even then, how would that have made any sense?

What was this ingredient?

Just then, Mrs. Yoshioka spoke again.

“Where do you, Miss Minami?”

Why was she asking?

“At the Harukawa neighborhood… why?”

“Do you have a husband?”

“No,” she replied, suspicious; but, feeling like her answer were inadequate, she added, “My boyfriend and I broke up last month.”

“I see.”

Akane started feeling an odd sensation in her chest, as if some dark, animated slime were moving around within her, swirling around her heart like some slug, some obsessive hand.

“You bought a cake here earlier this week, right? Or am I mistaken?”

“Yes. I did, Mrs. Yoshioka…”

She didn’t feel comfortable anymore— it was making her feel the exact way when she visited the family murder case last year.

Something just felt off about everything— it’s as if a person had broken into her room and replaced all her things while she was asleep.

“May the police investigate your house, Miss?”

“E-Eh? Why?”

What’s with this woman?

“The secret ingredient.”

Akane couldn’t think— how did her home have anything relating to the case? And how did her last statement fit into any of this?

“What are you saying, Mrs. Yoshioka?”

“Have you eaten the cake?”

“Half of it. But-”

“Did you like it?”

“Y-Yes?”

The woman fell silent for a moment.

Just then, she asked, her tone changed, the air changing with it, as some dark feeling seemed to float up and linger around her:

“Do you want to know what the secret ingredient is?”

This is crazy…

“What is it?”

A moment of silence passed.

But when Mrs. Yoshioka opened her mouth and spoke— Akane couldn’t hear anything.

“E-Eh?”

“You now know the secret of this place,” the woman said; she could finally hear.

But just then…

“Mr. Koizumi. Do it.”

Akane felt her heart skip.

“Do it?”

“You now know.”

“But—”

Just then—

Agh-?!?

Something caught her throat— her vision faded, her hearing disappeared.

All she could feel was a numb feeling as she crashed to the floor behind her.

Before everything went dark.

What did you say…?

December 05, 2020 16:55

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1 comment

Calico Holmes
09:28 Dec 13, 2020

Wow! Never expected that twist!

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