Saturday, September 15, 2018

Shimada Soji : The Executive Who Lost His Mind (Hakkyō-suru Jūyaku) - Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, August 2015

Of the three stories prepared so far by Soji Shimada for EQMM:
"The Locked House of Pythagoras" (original title: P no Misshitsu) EQMM, August 2013), "The Executive Who Lost His Mind" (original title: Hakkyō-suru Jūyaku) (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, August 2015), "The Running Dead "(The Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, November-December 2017), The Executive Who Lost His Mind is the second, and is together with the third more than a locked room, a crime with an impossible disappearance. Moreover, while in The Locked House of Pythagoras and in The Running Dead, who solves the riddles is the Mitarai interpreter of The Tokyo Zodiac Murders, in The Executive Who Lost His Mind, central figure is the Takeshi Yoshiki interpreter of an alternative series of novels .The Executive Who Lost His Mind has a very markedly fantastic element, which borders on Horror, before being rationally explained.The story is told by Yoshiki, a police detective to the narrator, who, as he explains to the reader, is a mystery fan. Basically we talk about a story that would encroach on the fantastic if Yoshiki really did not solve the mystery.Everything happens in Hibiya, where a factory is located. 

One day a worker, climbing into the office of his employer, finds him sitting at the desk that fixes a high-heeled female shoe placed in front of him, with the expression and physical state of one who has lost his mind. And in fact then they hospitalize him with a serious nervous breakdown. What had happened so much to reduce it like this? Yoshiki tells the story of this man, as evidently he had told it himself.The protagonist is Shintaru Inudo, a 41-year-old chief of industry rampant: his factory, an old building, almost falls apart, at least in the premises used for the work of his workers, while his studio is quite different: new, furnished with a Scandinavian sofa and a valuable desk and a collection of renowned and expensive brandy is available. And what's more, it has a beautiful view of the garden below the street level: a green triangular expanse, with an oasis of shrubs and bushes at the top of one of the three corners. This man, who has no respect for his workers, but does the good life, has a family and two children of school age. And so far, not bad. The fact is that Shintaru is a womanizer of the most ugly ream: he is attracted to women, and with the excuse of working up to small hours, he takes them to his big studio located on the upper floors of the factory and has sex with them.It did not always go so well. Indeed, as a boy he had experiences in reform, and as a child of delinquency. Then he did various jobs and even sold ice lollies. Indeed, while he was selling, in the summer of 1960, he had met a girl, beautiful and alone and, taking advantage of the fact that there was nobody, had raped her. Ikuko Koike, from an old family, had brought this shocking memory with her and had not even spoken to her husband, a diplomat. Until the day when Shintaru Inudo began to blackmail her. She would do everything because the person of her husband and her family had not been interested and therefore had paid a large sum, with which Inudo, along with his friends had put on a small factory, making more and more career. After a period when Ikuko had not heard of his blackmailer again, he had shown up, and this time he had thrown her on sex: Ikuko would have had to grant both to him and his friends and satisfy their cravings more and more thrusts.Even that afternoon, Ikuko was with him, in the study of his factory: as usual he had asked her to undress, but this time he had become more despicable: he would have forced her not to return home to her husband and stay with him at her disposal for the night, and for this he had locked her clothes in his combination safe : in her panties and bra she could never have left, without causing a pandemonium. This thought Inudo going away and leaving her half naked and alone in her study. But he did not find her on his return.Was it possible that she had left? When questioning the service staff, he learned that she had turned to a cleaning lady to get her clothes. Yet the watchman swore he had not seen her come out, even though he sometimes slept after drinking.Inudo calls her several times, but no one knows anything about Ikuko. Until that bloody day of 1980 when he receives a strange letter in which Ikuko contacts him, almost a year later. But a strange writing: not the elegant one of Ikuko but awkward. She asks him to be found in his office at night.

Inudo is attracted to that request. But when the night of the meeting is not the Ikuko he knew but the woman he had raped twenty years ago, he has a stroke. Before understanding, by the girl's admission, that she is not Ikuko, but her daughter. A secret daughter, who had to study in France, who had come to Japan in the footsteps of her mother and was recognized, had found in her mother's notes and notes that she had made some dismal appointments to which had to submit  her mother, with him and his friends, and the blackmail in money she had to pay out.In those notes there is the condemnation of Inudo. There is evidence that could destroy his life and the honor of his family. And so he decided to kill the girl. Inudo plans how he could do to avoid arousing suspicion and leaves his studio; after having planned everything, he returns but does not find the girl at first; he notices after his presence, and then she understands the plans of the man, rather he shouts to her that he has to kill her because he does not run risks. The two fight, he loses his glasses, but in the end he lets the girl fly out the window. You hear a scream, a screech of brakes and a noise like a body that lands on something; then again the roar of an engine that goes away.Inudo is without glasses. First of all, he must close the window to prevent anyone from thinking that the girl has fallen from there. Then he retrieves his glasses and goes down.The girl is there. Strangely, she fell under the window, in the garden near the shrubbery. He sees her hair, from behind. The girl has sunk into the ground, from it emerges only the bust, the head and the arms. Near the body there is one of the girl's high-heeled shoes. The closer he gets, the more inudible note of the oddities: the arms seem thinner, even the hips as if she had lost weight when falling. But then when he is in front of the girl, his eyes dilate with horror: the skin has a brown color, the chest is withered, so that the bra hangs in the wind and instead of the face there is a mummified face with in place of the eyes two holes. Only the hair remained the same as before. Inudo is upset, his hair has become white with terror, his mouth drips, his eyes are wide open, he picks up his shoe and stumbles back to the office, where the worker finds him. The girl, flying from the window, had once again become that of a time: the woman who seemed to be the daughter of Ikuko was actually already the dead Ikuko who had come back to life and who then flew back from the window what she was?Inudo has convinced himself and for this he has become crazy.But history can not have an irrational solution. Instead, Yoshiko unveils an absolutely rational solution, in which the placement of shrubs enters the garden: the corpse found by Inudo is that of Ikuko, the woman who was thought to have disappeared almost a year before. How had she disappeared? Left in panties and bra, not enduring the shame and disgrace, she had thrown out of the window and ....And the girl who had flown from the window in front of Inudo? She was really the daughter of Ikuko, indeed she was also the daughter of Inudo, the daughter of that carnal violence suffered by Ikuko, who grew up in France far from everyone. The daughter returned home, to understand if indeed Inudo was responsible for the disappearance of his mother, if he had killed her.Where is she? Yoshiko also solves this disappearance with his pure deduction, explaining the origin of the noises that Inudo had felt without glasses. And also the presence of the shoe, and the presence of tire marks on the sidewalks of the garden and tangentially to the shrubs.And so gives a perfectly rational solution to a problem that navigated in the sea of ​​fantasy.I immediately say that this of the three is the most metaphysical story, and is also the most literary, almost a work of art: Soji goes beyond the simple mystery story and creates something that has distant origins, with a very fine and extremely allusive writing. A story at the limit of pure horror, but then, like the double finale of Carr's The Burning Court, explains the ending that would seem relegated to the fantastic dimension (a dead man who lives again, but who should die, it returns to be the dead body that was before) with a perfectly rational, truly amazing solution.

To define the literary nature of this small masterpiece, the figures of rhetoric: for example, the factory falling in the structures where the workers work and instead shining precious objects the study of Inudo, is not a metaphor of the soul of Inudo himself, of his disarming and vile person, narrow and debouched and falling in his intimacy, but recognized as shining and rich in his exteriority? And the duplicity of the rooms of his factory and of his soul, is also the duplicity that he applies to the relationship with women: his wife and children are an expression of his attempt to create his aura of respectability, the women he pays for make sex with them and those that he conquers, he leads in his study, his secret world, precluded to all except him and his impromptu conquests. But it does not end here the literary vein of this story: in fact the tragedy of a man who rapes a woman, who gives birth to a son (a daughter) who returns to the native places in search of answers and who risks dying at the hands of her father, but which then kills him (kills the soul: madness is the death of the personality) reducing him to a vegetable, it seems taken from some Greek tragedy: for example that of Creusa raped by Apollo who generates a child who abandons in a faraway place?Beyond this, the story has all the appearance of a horror tale, until Yoshiki reveals his truth to the astonished reader of mystery and storyteller, embroidering an absolutely perfect and precise solution, in which the noises have a value visual, because when explained, they visually recreate what actually happened. And the body half sunk in the ground is that of Ikuko disappeared eight months before, fallen into the bush and rotten there without anyone noticing: after all, the excuse of Yoshiko, sinks into the reality of every day: how many do people disappear, and maybe one day the remains are found, without anyone being worried about their lack or even some smells?Once again Shimada reveals a mathematical vein: each of the crimes present in each of the three stories is explained either with mathematical theorems, or with geometric figures, or with very precise seedlings and not at all entrusted to chance. We can say that the case never enters, except in The Running Dead, when the power of the wind causes ... but instead everything is carefully planned. And here, where unlike the two previous stories (in reality this is the second and comes after Pythagoras) there is almost no blood (in the third there is none but we can imagine it thinking about what must have remained of a body invested by a train), in reality the horror and the wickedness, the indifference to the fate of others and a frightful egoism and vanity connote the most bad and unforgettable story of the three.Pietro De Palma

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