Tok, tok. The notepad was starting to get dotted with black ink. Maru looked at the names of the club members for a bit before putting down his pen.
The number one suspect in any given crime was the reporter of the crime, it was only logical. In this case, given the result of the situation, Maru clearly wasn’t the perpetrator. He shouldn’t be affected much even if the police become involved.
“But what if I was the perpetrator?”
Given the evidence, the perpetrator had to be a student. In addition, they were most likely to be in the acting club. If that was the case, perhaps he could try to get an understanding of what they are thinking of right now? The goal of the crime appeared to be the destruction of the props and costumes, but the only thing that managed to get burnt were the clothes. They even finished the play successfully.
The perpetrator would then start wondering why their crime failed, they’d realize that they failed because of someone called Maru.
They would probably hate him.
‘A crime with purpose. Arson isn’t easy to pull off.’
The perpetrator was deadset on their objective, enough to start a fire. But they failed, so it was likely that they felt somewhat mad. They might’ve also felt guilty when they looked at Maru. After all, they likely didn’t intend for someone to actually get hurt.
‘Anger and nervousness, I guess?’
Everyone feels nervous at first, the same was true in the case for any sort of crime. What if he uses this?
“What if I become a scapegoat?”
Perhaps they might feel something if he does something they want? Maru scratched his eyebrows for a bit before reaching for his phone. He needed to make sense of all of this first.
* * *
Miso parked her car and opened the trunk. The trunk had some paint and paint rollers inside. Soon after, a small pickup truck drove towards the school. A man walked out from it.
“Is it here?”
“Yeah. Sorry for taking your time. I’ll pay you well, so please help.”
“Taking my time? No way. Just help me when I need it as well.”
The kind-looking man in front of her was Yoon Mintae, he was a friend of Miso’s that she recruited to fix up the auditorium. He was a polite young man, age 25, and he was currently working under the set director of the Myungdong Art Theater. Daemyung got off of Mintae’s truck as well, the boy was holding rubber gloves along with arm sleeves.
“Will we be able to finish this quickly?”
Mintae shrugged at the boy’s question.
“We’ll have to see it first. Let’s take our tools up. You get those, Daemyung and I’ll take the cleaner.”
Mintae took out the wheeled high-pressure cleaner from the truck.
“Is that something you use in the theater?”
“Yes. I got permission from the director and brought it.”
“Wow, so reliable. Need any help?”
“Could you take the paint and the tools from the trunk?”
“Let’s finish cleaning first. We can do the floors a little later.”
Miso took the paint and walked upstairs. The school was completely empty for winter vacation and she couldn’t be more thankful for that fact. Things would’ve been incredibly troublesome if this happened during the semester. Daemyung, who went up first, opened the door to the auditorium, he’s opened all of the windows inside as well. Miso put down the paint and looked next to the entrance, the wall over there was burnt black.
“This isn’t too bad at least. We should be done with it in a jiffy.”
“Yeah. All thanks to you guys.”
There were roughly four meters of damaged wall by the entrance. Parts of the wall that actually touched the fire were burnt completely black while the rest of it was grayed out slightly.
“So this is where Maru took out that bench?”
“Yes. I took him out to the hallway with Dojin when we saw him fall. It was thanks to him that the fire didn’t spread much outside of the costumes.”
“I’m surprised that you guys didn’t call the firefighters.”
“Well… Maru told us not to call them. He said he didn’t want to make this a big incident. I brought the fire extinguisher from the fourth floor while Dojin tried to keep the fire small and that turned out to be enough.”
“There isn’t much that could get burned by this after all.”
Miso knew the rest of the story very well, Maru got sent to the hospital in an ambulance after the fire was taken care of. Miso got information about this sometime during the fire and called Taesik over to the school immediately. She felt doomed, but she was quite relieved to hear that Maru was alright. The first thing she did after that was to call the principal, Taesik took care of this part.
Miso observed the burnt wall in the meantime. Why was there a fire? As she looked around, she spotted a burnt tube of glue among all of the ash. There was no reason for something like that to be there. So, the first thing her mind went to was that someone started the fire on purpose. To begin with, there was no other option. She started thinking. Should she be truthful with the principal, or should she tell him it was just an accident?
The principal came to the school quickly, he was visibly angry. The first thing he did, in fact, was scream about how poorly they managed the kids. That’s when Miso made her decision, she told him that it was all an accident. Surprisingly, the man calmed down quickly when she said she’d take care of it with her own money. Miso told the man it was her own mistake when he asked about the cause of the fire, the principal clicked his tongue at that.
- Trying to cover for the kids is very dangerous for their growth. It’s obvious that they started the fire while trying to make a snack.
The principal also seemed rather happy.
- Well, given the club’s prior incident with fire, I don’t think I can let them use the auditorium anymore. Mr. Taesik, please give the kids the news. Understand?
It was an expected result, but she still felt bad about it. Had she told him the fire was intentional, the principal would’ve become very serious. He would’ve judged that the perpetrator was in the acting club. In that case, the club could no longer act at all during the competition. They would have to give up on the nationals.
No, that was fine. There were more competitions down the road, but what if the principal called the police? Doing that could very easily hurt the kids. By the time Mintae arrived with his cleaner, she got a call from Maru.
- Are you free for a chat right now?
Miso gestured at the other two before stepping outside. Maru clearly didn’t call her to catch up.
- Are you partying right now?
“Mm? Yeah, yup.”
Miso leaned on the wall. She did tell the boy they were going to have a party without him, but it really wasn’t the time for such a thing.
- Bit too quiet for a party.
He seemed to have caught on already, too.
“Hah, yeah. Parties my ass. I told the kids to go rest. We just gathered to see you.”
- You should’ve celebrated. It was the perfect time, too. “Shush. Why did you call?”
- I had a few things I wanted to ask you. The people higher up didn’t say anything much about the fire, judging by the faces of the club members, right? So you didn’t tell them that the fire was intentional.
Miso took her phone off of her ear for a second dazedly. What was up with this kid?
“Who told you?”
- Just a theory.
“Hah. Yeap. I told the principal that it was my mistake. That’s how I’m cleaning things up with Mintae right now. Ah, do you know Mintae?”
- Yoon Mintae?
“Oh? You know him?”
- Yes. I’m working with him. Anyway, good job. Things would’ve gotten too complicated if you told him it was intentional. There’s a low chance the guy would report the incident to the police, but anything can happen after all.
“‘The guy’? You mean the principal?”
- I can be as rude as I want to him when no one’s listening.
“Oh? So you talk about me rudely when I’m not around as well?”
- I’ll leave that to your imagination. Besides that, instructor.
- Where do you think the perpetrator is?
Miso frowned. She could tell where Maru was going with this.
“You think someone in the club did it?”
- Isn’t that the most logical conclusion?
Being suspicious of a friend? Unthinkable. But she couldn’t help but agree with him a little bit. The only people who were at school on that day were from the acting club.
- I’m hoping it’s not true either. But as long as there’s the possibility, we have to consider it.
Miso frowned even more. She already told the principal that this was an accident, the school was quiet about this as a result. If they were going to do this, the acting club would be alone in its investigation.
- This might not end with just this one incident.
Miso bit her nails, an old habit of hers that resurfaced. To her, the acting club was a place filled with pleasant memories. She didn’t want to lose it and she didn’t want to see its image sullied. She wanted to keep the place clean for the future students of the school, but what if there was a kid who was planning on starting trouble in the club again as Maru said?
“You know you’re the most suspicious one for bringing attention to this, right?”
- Of course. But it’s pretty obvious that I’m not the one.
That was definitely true. It wouldn’t make sense for a person who started a fire to jump inside it. Plus, Maru did his best to stop the fire. It was obvious it wasn’t him, Maru also came down from the school with everyone else. The people who came out late back then was Yurim and the second years.
- But I was the one who did it.
“What? What are you talking about?”
- It’s a bit obvious, but I’m asking to lay a trap for the perpetrator. If there really is someone who started the fire in the club, they would hate to attract attention. So we’ll set up a stage for them. That there’s someone who started the fire in the club.
“You want me to announce that?”
- Yes. Tell them that as a group. They’ll all try to deny it. After that… meet them one by one and tell them your ‘true’ feelings. That you’re suspicious of Maru.
- Bring the ones who have even a bit of a reaction over to me. Or someone who actively tells you that I’m the perpetrator.
“...Be honest with me. You’re certain that it’s someone in the club, aren’t you?”
- When you eliminate what’s impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. Plus, given our knowledge, it can only be someone in the club, don’t you think?
Miso smiled bitterly.
“I suppose there’s value in trying it.”
- At the very least, we can trust everyone again if we don’t find anything.
“But if we do?”
- ...I’d rather not think about that.
Miso nodded. She didn’t want to even imagine it either.
“But why bring them to you? Do you have a secret plan or something?”
- It’s not for certain, but I have my ways. I can read minds pretty well.
“...Hah, you can joke even now? Alright, fine. I’ll do what I can.”
She hung up and put the phone back in her pocket.
“Ugh, what a nerd. He reads too much.”
Miso shook her head, thinking back to what Maru had just said.
* * *
Maru sighed after hanging up.
“I hope it’s not true.”
The snow outside mirrored his current feelings. For now, Maru decided to leave this to Miso since he needed to rest. He opened the hardcover book he was reading, Sherlock Holmes: The Sign of The Four.Previous Chapter Next Chapter