After parking the car near the crime scene, the two started walking towards it. The wind howled around them as Hiroto zipped up his parka to cover his neck.
The shrine was facing the road with private houses scattered nearby. There was also a shopping district a short distance away. The shops were small and there seemed to be quite a bit of pedestrian traffic. Hiroto surveyed the neighborhood while following Nishihara at a distance. The townscape had a Showa era (1926-1989) feel to it, making Nishihara feel a bit nostalgic even though he was a child of the Heisei era (1989-2019).
True to the stereotypical image of Shinto shrines, visitors were faced with a torii gate after climbing the stone stairway. Hiroto gazed at the stairway from below and wondered if it was at the top of these steps that the victim had been sent flying down from. Either because police were still searching the place or just so that people wouldn’t enter, there was a yellow “Keep out” tape stretching from the stone steps.
“Let’s go inside.”
Nishihara, who had put on a pair of white gloves at some point, raised the tape and was waiting for Hiroto.
“Huh, there’s nothing here.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, shouldn’t there be a white tape showing where the corpse was and all that?”
“The corpse was found at that stair landing. We put up the tape starting down here so that people would completely stay off the premises.”
Hiroto nodded his head in an “I see”-gesture and entered, passing under the tape. As he climbed the stairs behind Nishihara, Hiroto once again scanned his surroundings. The tall grass on both sides of the stone stairway had turned light brown and was rustling in the wind. They hadn’t left the road far behind when the surroundings became silent and started giving off a sense of lonesomeness.