‘The plot is taut and intriguing … this psychological driver sets it apart from more run-of-the-mill crime thrillers … Agatha Christie would be mightily impressed’
‘A very clever novel that explores the consequences of a murder from the perspectives of the murderer, the police investigators, and the man who engages in a battle of wits with the police … a page-turning thriller'
‘The ending is a killer twist’
Also by Keigo Higashino
The Devotion of Suspect X
Published by Hachette Digital
ISBN: 978 1 4055 1852 9
All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2008 by Keigo Higashino
Translation copyright © 2012 by Alexander O. Smith
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher.
Little, Brown Book Group
100 Victoria Embankment
London, EC4Y 0DY
The pansies in the planter had flowered – a few small, bright blooms. The dry soil didn’t seem to have dimmed the colour of the petals.
‘Have you heard a single word I’ve said?’ Yoshitaka asked.
She turned around and smiled faintly. ‘Yes, everything. How could I not?’
‘You might try answering more quickly, then.’ Yoshitaka, lounging on the sofa, uncrossed and recrossed his long legs. In his frequent workouts, he took pains not to put on too much lower-body muscle – nothing that would prevent him from wearing the slim-cut trousers he preferred.
‘I suppose my mind must’ve wandered.’
‘Oh? That’s not like you.’ Her husband raised a single sculpted eyebrow.
‘What you said was surprising, you know.’
‘I find that hard to believe. You should be familiar with my life plan by now.’
‘Familiar … Maybe so.’
‘What are you trying to say?’ Yoshitaka leaned back and stretched his arms out along the sofa top, ostentatious in his lack of concern. Ayane wondered if he was acting or if he truly was that nonchalant.
She took a breath and stared at his handsome features.
‘Is it such a big deal to you?’ she asked.
‘Is what a big deal?’
Yoshitaka gave a derisive, wry little smile; he glanced away, then looked back at her. ‘You haven’t been listening to me at all, have you?’
The smile faded from his lips. He nodded slowly. ‘It
‘I just don’t think that’s all marriage is.’
Yoshitaka shook his head. ‘I do. I believe it quite strongly and have no intention of changing my mind. Which is to say, I’ve no intention of continuing on like this if we can’t have children.’
Ayane pressed her fingers to her temples. She had a headache. She hadn’t seen this one coming. ‘Let me get this straight,’ she said. ‘You don’t need a woman who can’t bear your children. So you’ll throw me out and switch to someone who can? That’s what you’re telling me?’
‘No need to put it so harshly.’
‘But that’s what you’re saying!’
Yoshitaka straightened. He hesitated, frowning slightly, before nodding again. ‘I suppose that from your perspective it would look that way, yes. You have to understand, I take my life plan very seriously. More seriously than anything else.’
Ayane’s lips curled upward, though smiling was the furthest thing from her mind. ‘You like telling people that, don’t you? How you take your life plan so seriously. It was one of the first things you said when we met.’
‘What are you so upset about, Ayane? You have everything you ever wanted. If there’s something I’ve forgotten, just ask. I intend to do everything I can for you. So let’s just stop all this fussing, and start thinking about the future. Unless you see some other way forward?’
Ayane turned to face the wall. Her eyes fell on a metre-wide tapestry hanging there. It had taken her three months to make it; she remembered the material, specially ordered direct from a manufacturer in England.
She didn’t need Yoshitaka to tell her how important children were. She had wanted them herself, desperately. How many times had she dreamed of sitting in a rocking chair, stitching a patchwork quilt, watching her belly grow larger with each passing day? But God, in his mischief, had made that impossible. So she had given up – it wasn’t like she’d had a choice – and resigned herself to living without. She had thought her husband would be okay with that.
‘I know it might seem silly to you, but can I ask one question?’
Ayane faced him again, taking a deep breath. ‘What about your love for me? Whatever happened to that?’
Yoshitaka flinched, then gradually his smile returned. ‘My love for you hasn’t changed a bit,’ he said. ‘I can assure you of that. I
That was a complete lie, as far as Ayane was concerned. But she smiled and said that was good. She wasn’t sure how else to respond.
‘Let’s go.’ Yoshitaka stood and headed for the door.
Ayane glanced at her dresser, thinking about the white powder hidden in a sealed plastic bag in the bottommost drawer on the right.
As she followed him out of the door, she stared at Yoshitaka’s back, thinking,
Hiromi Wakayama began to suspect something when she saw the Mashibas coming down the stairs. Their smiles were clearly forced – Ayane’s in particular.
Sorry to keep you waiting,’ Yoshitaka said as he reached the bottom of the stairs. A touch too curtly, he asked her if she’d heard anything from the Ikais.
‘Yukiko left a message just now saying they’d be here in about five minutes,’ Hiromi told him.
‘Guess I’ll get the champagne ready, then.’
‘No, let me,’ Ayane said hurriedly. ‘Hiromi, would you mind getting the glasses?’
‘Not at all.’
‘I’ll set the table, then,’ Yoshitaka said.
Hiromi watched Ayane disappear into the kitchen before she walked over to the tall cupboard against the dining room wall. The cupboard was an antique that had cost somewhere in the neighbourhood of three million yen, or so she had heard. The glasses inside were all suitably expensive.
Carefully, she took out five champagne flutes: two Baccarat and three Venetian-style. It was customary in the Mashiba household to offer the guests Venetian-style glasses.
Yoshitaka was busily setting out placemats for five at the eight-person dining table. He was an old hand at dinner parties, and Hiromi had gradually picked up the routine.
She arranged the champagne flutes at each place. She heard the sound of running water from the kitchen. She stepped closer to Yoshitaka.
‘Did you say something to her?’ Hiromi whispered.
‘Nothing in particular,’ he answered without looking up.
‘You did talk, though?’
He glanced in her direction for the first time. ‘About what?’
‘They’re here,’ Yoshitaka called into the kitchen.
‘Sorry, I’ve got my hands full. Can you get it?’ came Ayane’s reply.
‘Absolutely,’ Yoshitaka said, walking over to the intercom on the wall.
Ten minutes later the hosts and their guests were sitting at the dining room table. Everyone was smiling, though to Hiromi it looked forced – as if they were all taking great pains not to disturb the casual mood. She wondered how people learned this kind of artifice. Surely the skill wasn’t inborn; Hiromi knew it had taken Ayane at least a year to blend into this particular scene.
‘Your cooking is always just exquisite, Ayane,’ Yukiko Ikai exclaimed between mouthfuls of whitefish. ‘You don’t often see a marinade getting the attention it deserves.’ It was typically Yukiko’s role to praise each dish during dinner.
‘Of course you’re impressed!’ her husband Tatsuhiko said from the seat beside her. ‘You always just get those mailorder instant sauce packets.’
‘I make it myself sometimes.’...