Read Killing Commendatore: A novel Online

Authors: Haruki Murakami,Philip Gabriel,Ted Goossen

Killing Commendatore: A novel (65 page)

Another car was in the garage. A stylish blue convertible with a beige hood, the sports car her aunt had admired on their previous visit. Mariye couldn't care less about cars, so she'd barely glanced at it then. It had a very long nose, and, here too, the Jaguar crest. Even someone who knew as little about cars as Mariye could tell it was worth a lot of money. A collector's piece, in all likelihood.

A person could pass into the house through a door in the garage. She tried the knob with some trepidation, but it turned easily. She sighed with relief. Few people would lock a door like that during the day, but Menshiki was such a cautious man she couldn't be sure. Perhaps something had been on his mind to make him forget. She'd been lucky.

She walked through the door and into the house. Should she take her shoes off or keep them on? In the end, she decided to carry them with her. Leaving them on the doorstep didn't seem like a good option. The house was hushed when she entered. As if everything in it was holding its breath. Menshiki was gone, and she was positive no one else was there. I'm alone in this huge house, she thought. For the next little while, I am free to go wherever, and do whatever, I want.

Menshiki had given them a basic guided tour on their first visit. She remembered it well enough. The general layout was fixed in her head. She entered the big living room that took up almost the entire first floor. From there, one could go out to the broad deck through a sliding glass door. She hesitated, though. Menshiki might have activated the security system before leaving. If he had, an alarm would go off when she tried to slide it open. A light would flash in the agency's office. They would phone the house to check. A password would be necessary to end the alert. Mariye stood before the sliding door, black loafers in hand, pondering the situation.

Finally, she reached the conclusion that Menshiki hadn't set the alarm. The fact that he had left the inner door in the garage unlocked suggested that he wasn't heading off on a long trip. Odds were he had gone shopping, or was running some sort of errand. Mariye made up her mind. She unlocked the door, slid it open, and waited to see what would happen. No alarm went off, and the security agency did not phone. She heaved a sigh of relief (had security guards found her there she couldn't have joked her way out of it) and stepped out onto the deck. Putting down her shoes, she went over to the binoculars and removed their plastic cover. They were too heavy to hold, so she tried balancing them on the railing, but that didn't work very well. Looking around, she noticed what looked like a stand leaning against the wall. It resembled a camera tripod and was the same olive color as the binoculars. The binoculars could be screwed onto the stand. She stuck them together, pulled up the low metal stool left nearby, sat down, and looked through them. Now using the binoculars was easy. Moreover, they were positioned so that she couldn't be observed from the other side of the valley. This had to be how Menshiki spent much of his time.

She was shocked at how clearly the inside of her house could be seen. Everything was a notch brighter—one of the binoculars' special features, she assumed. Some of the curtains in the rooms facing the valley hadn't been drawn. The view within was so distinct she felt she could reach out and touch what she was looking at. A vase of flowers, for example, or even a magazine on the table. Her aunt should be home at this hour. But she couldn't locate her anywhere.

It was weird to look inside her own house from such a distance, and in such naked detail. It felt as if she had become one of the dead (how was unclear) and now was viewing her home from their vantage point. She had belonged there for so long, yet it was hers no more. She knew it so intimately but could never go back. It was a strange, dissociated sensation.

She trained the binoculars on her own room. It faced in her direction, but the curtain was drawn. Shut tight, without a crack. Her familiar curtain, with its orange pattern. The orange bleached by the sun. She couldn't see behind it. But her shadow was probably visible at night, when the light was on. How visible, though, could only be known after dark. Mariye panned across the house, looking for her aunt. She ought to be there. But she was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps she was preparing dinner in the kitchen in the back. Or resting in her room. Wherever she was, she wasn't visible from this angle.

Mariye felt a powerful urge to go back to that house. Right away. She longed to sit in her familiar chair at the dining room table and sip hot tea in her very own cup. To watch her aunt preparing dinner in the kitchen. How wonderful that would be, she thought. Until that point, she had never imagined missing her home this way. Not for a second. To her, the house had always been an ugly, barren monstrosity. She had hated living there. In fact, she was impatient for the day when she was old enough to move into her own place, one that suited her. Yet now, looking at its interior from the other side of the valley through the clear lens, she wanted to return at any cost.
It was where she belonged.
Where she would be protected.

Just then she heard a faint droning sound. Prying her eyes from the binoculars, she saw something black circling above her. A large bee with a long body, probably a hornet. The kind of hostile, aggressive hornet with a sharp stinger that had killed her mother. Mariye ran back into the house, forcefully slid the door shut, and locked it. The hornet buzzed around the door for a while, as if to pen her in. It struck the glass several times, then finally gave up and flew away. Mariye gave a great sigh of relief. Her heart was pounding, her breathing ragged. Nothing scared her more than hornets. Her father had lectured her time and again how dangerous they were. Mariye had looked at many photographs so that she knew exactly how they looked. In the process, she had conceived the terrifying idea that she, like her mother, would be stung to death. She might well have the same allergic reaction. One couldn't escape death, but it should come later—she wanted to know what it felt like to have full breasts and a woman's nipples at least once before she died. It would really suck if hornets killed her before she had that chance.

It was better to stay in the house a while, for safety's sake. That savage insect would still be flying about. Moreover, it appeared to be targeting her. She decided to search inside the mansion and forget about going outside for the time being.

Her first step was to tour the sprawling living room. She could see no particular change since her first visit. There was the big Steinway grand piano. A small stack of musical scores was piled on top of it. A Bach invention, a Mozart sonata, one of Chopin's études, that sort of thing. Nothing that required advanced technical skill. Still, being able to play them at all was impressive. Mariye could tell that much. She had taken piano lessons when she was younger. (She hadn't gone very far—art was what had grabbed her.)

A number of books were scattered on the coffee table's marble top. Judging from the bookmarks stuck in them, all were in the process of being read. One was on philosophy, one was historical, and two were novels (one of which was in English). She recognized none of the titles and had heard of none of the authors' names. She flipped through several, but they weren't her thing. The master of the house loved difficult books and classical music. Between those pursuits, he looked into her home across the valley through high-powered binoculars.

Was he just a perv? Or was there a logical reason or purpose for his behavior? Did he have the hots for her aunt? Or for her? Or for both of them? (Was such a thing possible?)

Next she went to take a look at the lower levels. First she made her way to Menshiki's study. His portrait hung on the wall. She stood in the middle of the room and studied it for a moment. Of course, she had seen it before (that had been the purpose of their first visit). This time, though, the longer she looked at it, the more it felt as if Menshiki were there with her. So she turned away from the painting. Trying her best to ignore it, she went over to inspect his desk. There was a state-of-the-art Apple desktop computer, but she didn't switch it on. She knew without trying that it was secured. There would be no way she could gain access. Not much else was on the desk. There was a deskpad calendar with almost nothing written on it. Just a few incomprehensible symbols and numbers here and there. He would have input his daily schedule into the computer, and then shared it with his other devices. All would be locked. Mr. Menshiki was a cautious man. He would leave no traces.

The other things on the desk were the sort of work-related materials you would expect to find in anyone's study. The pencils were all of the same length, and sharpened to a fine point. Paper clips were arranged according to size. The white memo pad waited patiently for someone to write on it. The digital clock faithfully clicked off the time. The desk was in such perfect order it was frightening. Unless he's a well-made android, Mariye thought to herself, something sure is funny about Mr. Menshiki.

As she expected, every desk drawer was locked. That was only natural. No way he would neglect securing them. The study held little else that she wanted to see. She had no special interest in the shelves of books, or the CD collection, or the new, obviously expensive stereo system. Those did no more than reflect his range of tastes. They didn't help her understand who he was as a person. They had no connection to the secret he was (most likely) concealing.

Mariye left the study and walked down the dim hallway, checking the rooms as she went. All were unlocked. None had been included in the house tour. She and her aunt had only been shown the living room, the study, the dining room, and the kitchen (she had also used the guest bathroom on the first floor). Mariye opened the doors to these unknown rooms one by one. The first was Menshiki's bedroom. As the so-called master bedroom (she assumed), it was very big. It had a walk-in closet and a private bathroom. Its large bed was neatly turned out, with a quilted duvet. Since there was no live-in maid, she assumed Menshiki had made the bed. If so, its neatness didn't surprise her. A pair of plain dark brown pajamas lay next to the pillow, also neatly folded. A number of prints hung on the wall. A set by a single artist, from the looks of it. A half-read book rested on the bedside table. He certainly was an avid reader. The window faced the valley, but it wasn't very large and its blinds had been drawn.

She opened the door to the big walk-in closet. Rows of clothes were hanging there. Lots of jackets and blazers, but not many suits. Not many neckties, either. She guessed he seldom needed to dress for formal occasions. All the shirts had plastic covers, and appeared to have just come back from the cleaners. Shoes and sneakers were lined up on shelves in neat rows. Coats of varied thicknesses occupied another part of the closet. Everything in the closet was looked after with care and reflected the good taste of its owner. Indeed, the whole closet could have been featured as it was in a menswear magazine. There were not too many clothes, nor too few. Moderation governed everything.

His drawers contained socks, handkerchiefs, and underwear. All were pressed and folded, and arranged in perfect order. There were more drawers for his jeans, polo shirts, sweatshirts, and so forth. One large drawer had been entirely given over to a colorful array of beautiful sweaters. None had patterns. Yet Mariye could find nothing in any of these drawers to help her unravel Menshiki's secret. Everything was immaculate and divided according to its function. Not a speck of dust was on the floor, and all the picture frames were level on the walls.

Mariye did reach one clear conclusion about Menshiki, however: this man would be impossible to live with. No normal person could meet his standard. Her aunt was something of a neat freak, but even she wasn't this meticulous.

The next door opened onto what appeared to be the guest room. It had a double bed, made up and ready to be used. A writing desk and office chair sat near the window. There was also a small television set. But there was no sign that anyone had ever slept there—the room felt as if it had been forsaken for eternity. Mr. Menshiki was not in the habit of entertaining guests, it seemed. Instead, this room was apparently to be used in emergencies (though she couldn't imagine what those might be).

The room next door was more like a storeroom. It had no furniture, and at least ten cardboard boxes were stacked on the green carpet. Judging by their weight, they contained documents. Each had a label, with markings in ballpoint pen. All were carefully sealed with tape. Mariye imagined they were filled with work-related documents. Those might contain important secrets. But they were business secrets, not the sort of thing that she was after.

None of these rooms was locked. Though their windows faced the valley, their blinds were closed. No one was there to delight in the bright sunlight and the majestic view. They were dimly lit and smelled of abandonment.

The fourth room fascinated her. Not so much the room itself, though. The furnishings were sparse—just a single straight-backed chair and a small, plain wooden table. No pictures graced the bare walls. Without decoration of any kind, it felt barren and empty. A room no one ever used. Yet when she checked the walk-in closet, she found an assortment of women's clothes hanging there. Not a huge number. But everything a woman would need, more or less, for a stay of several days. Mariye guessed the clothes had been set aside for someone who came to visit Menshiki on a regular basis. She scowled. Did her aunt know a woman like that was in the picture?

She quickly realized her mistake, however. The clothes were all out of style, designs from a different era. The dresses and skirts and blouses sported name brands, and were very fashionable and expensive, but not the sort that women wore these days. Mariye wasn't that up-to-date on current trends, but even she could tell that much. They had probably been in style before she was born. And all were permeated with the smell of mothballs. It appeared that the clothes had been hanging there for quite some time. They were being well looked after, though. She saw no moth holes. And the colors hadn't faded, which meant that care had been taken not to expose them to extreme heat or cold. The dresses were size 5. That indicated that the woman was about five feet tall. And very slender, looking at the skirts. She wore a size 5 shoe.

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