The Three Suspects
“You said you had some business with me, but…… what is it? I’m quite busy, you know.”
This was the first thing that Achim Balser, one of our suspects, said when we visited him.
We were in the reception room of the Balser Company, which was run by Achim.
The desks and chairs had quite a solid structure to them, and the paintings that decorated the walls, as well as the vases surrounding the corners of the room, looked like they had high antique value.
The business appeared to be doing quite well.
Achim was an older man with a rich beard.
As we learned from our discussion with Frieda, he was around 60 years old.
However, he gave off the impression of somebody younger than that.
“We’re sorry to bother you when you’re so busy. We want to ask you about Arnaud.”
“Arnaud? What about him?”
“He’s no longer with us.”
“W-What did you just say……? Princess, is that true……?”
Upon hearing Philine deliver the news, Achim looked like he could hardly believe it.
“Seriously…… Since when……?”
“Around three days ago. You didn’t know about it? Wasn’t he one of your subordinates?”
“Arnaud should’ve left for the Imperial capital city to purchase more merchandise. He was due to return next week.”
“I didn’t expect that he’d die,” Achim groaned.
“Do you know why he was killed?”
“He was murdered? …… To be honest, I can hardly believe it. I knew him very well. It’s regrettable, but he was one of my best subordinates. He was humble and had such a gentle personality. I can’t imagine that somebody would have a grudge against him.”
“I heard that you were planning to name him a successor. Do you think that may have caused trouble for anybody?”
In response to my cruel question, Achim had a slightly offended look on his face.
“That certainly is true. However, he didn’t seem interested in it at all. My successor is going to be my son, Bruno. We’ve already made the preparations.”
He had a displeased look on his face, but Achim still answered my question calmly.
“A-Achim-san, you still look quite young, but you’re already planning to retire?”
“That’s quite a cheap compliment, huh. But I’m already at that age. Recently, my memories have become increasingly vague. In the world of merchants, something like that is considered lethal.”
Achim responded to Lily-sama’s question without getting upset as well.
It seemed that he wanted to hand his business off to the next generation while he was still doing fine.
“By the way, where were you when he was murdered?”
“Are you suspecting me!?”
Achim seemed very enraged at my next question.
Well, this was probably a natural reaction anyway.
Anybody would find it unpleasant if they were being suspected of murder.
“We’re just trying to clear up any doubts. Achim-san, will you please cooperate with us?”
“……. Hmph. So? When was Arnaud killed?”
“Oh? Didn’t we say it was three days ago?”
In response to my intentionally provocative question, Achim sneered at me and said,
“And didn’t I mention it earlier as well? I’m quite busy. I meet a ton of people every single day and visit a lot of places. I can’t prove my innocence from three days ago.”
In this world, where there weren’t any watches, we couldn’t exactly work things out down the exact minute, but perhaps he really was just that busy.
“Arnaud was murdered in the morning three days ago at around five or six AM.”
“At that time, I went to go meet somebody just outside of the Imperial capital city. Since I’m planning on passing down my business, I went to go greet a merchant that I’m familiar with.”
As if digging through his memory, Achim answered while his gaze was focused in the upper right direction.
“May we know what the name of that merchant is?”
“You guys are extremely skeptical, huh. His name is Cato. That’s enough for you, right? Just go home.”
We exited the company building.
“It’s true that some trouble came up between us.”
Our second suspect, Ilza Gröllmann, acknowledged the issue quite quickly.
We were having our conversation in a lounge in one of the Empire’s government offices.
The lounge had a simple look to it, and there weren’t any particularly remarkable pieces of furniture around either.
However, perhaps it was out of consideration of their citizens, there were several vases filled with real flowers.
We were sitting on a sofa face-to-face with Ilza.
Ilza was a rather tall and slender woman.
Her long hair was bound up, and she gave off the atmosphere of a serious career woman.
“What kind of trouble was it?”
“It was over something very trivial. I asked him a question because there was something that I was uncertain about regarding the amount that he paid on his taxes. In the end, it was just a misunderstanding, and I properly apologized to him, but he didn’t seem to be very convinced at all.”
“Even though the problem was related to something like paying his taxes,” Ilza said as she heaved a sigh.
“Was that truly just a misunderstanding?”
“? …… What do you mean by that?”
“For example, even though he was committing tax fraud, maybe you’re covering up for him or something?”
“That’s impossible. Us public servants are people that have been left in charge of these professional duties by Her Majesty Dorothea. For us to be complicit in something unjust like that, it’s practically out of the question.”
I whipped out the cruel questions once again.
During police investigations, there would always be somebody playing the role of a good cop that sympathized with the suspect, but there would also be somebody playing the role of the bad cop, who would act more hostile towards their suspect.
As for whether or not that was actually true, I had no idea since this was just something I often saw in the detective stories I read.
“Are you aware that Arnaud was killed?”
“…… Yes. I heard it from one of my colleagues in our office. I’m sorry to hear that.”
Contrary to what her words were, Ilza had a slightly relieved look on her face.
“Do you have any idea as to why he was murdered?”
When Philine asked, Ilza pondered for a bit before saying,
“Since the Balser Company is such a huge business, they must have had some kind of trouble brewing up over there. Wouldn’t somebody over there eventually explode? I’m not too sure, though.”
Her response sounded indifferent and like she was saying that she had no idea, but perhaps something like that had happened.
“He was killed around five or six AM three days ago. What were you doing at that time?”
“I was probably in the middle of a dream while still at home or something, but there’s nothing that can prove it either.”
“However, I am not the culprit,” Ilza said quite impassively.
When Anna heard the story from us, she became speechless and covered her mouth.
We were in Anna’s home.
Her room was cute and befitting that of a young girl’s, with various small items decorating it here and there.
We passed through the living room and were seated in her chairs as we spoke.
After we relayed the news of Arnaud’s death to her, Anna was at a loss for words and began to cry.
Claire-sama, who was sitting right next to her, gently stroked her back.
“Anna, you were going out with Arnaud-san, right?”
After waiting for Anna to settle down, Claire-sama pushed the conversation forward.
“Arnaud was my childhood friend. Our ages were a little bit far apart, and we were raised like we were brother and sister…… But I’d always loved Arnaud, so I confessed to him and we started going out. However, his behavior started to seem a bit strange lately……”
Philine chimed in.
“It felt like he had stopped caring about me completely. He said that he was having a lot of trouble at work, but…… I suspected that maybe he had found somebody else that he loved.”
And that was when they started talking about breaking up.
“Arnaud said it was just a misunderstanding…… And that he definitely didn’t want to break up with me. However, I was getting more and more anxious and uneasy…… so I told him I wanted a bit of distance…… If I knew something like this was going to happen, there were so many things I still had yet to tell him, so many things I wanted to do with him…….!”
Anna started crying again.
Claire-sama held her shoulders to help soothe her once again.
“Anna, would you happen to know why he was killed?”
“That…… There’s no way I would. He was such a wonderful person. He was liked by everybody around him, it’s unimaginable to think that there was somebody that wanted to kill him……”
Anna answered through her tears.
“This is something we’ve been asking everybody, but what were you doing between the hours of 5 and 6 AM three days ago?”
“…… This is for the sake of proving my innocence, right? I always take a jog around the neighborhood around that time of day. It’s my morning routine. There might be some people who saw me around that time, but I’m not sure.”
“I’m sorry I can’t provide you with more concrete details,” Anna said, sounding completely defeated.
“Whatever you do, please catch the person that killed Arnaud.”
As we departed from her house, we were seen off by Anna, who still had a sad look in her eyes.
This concluded our interrogation of our suspects.
We were told that somebody could be the culprit among them, but in the end, I wondered who it could be.