Chapter 9: Edelmann’s Crime
The 9th day of the fifth month.
The weekend came to an end and classes resumed again. It was pouring rain.
Up early as usual, Seron gazed blankly at the misty world outside his window.
“Today might be the day…”
He stepped into a telephone booth in the dormitory lobby.
After school. It was still raining heavily.
Edelmann stood in the temp locker area. Like in the photographs, he was slight of build and looked very reserved. He had light brown hair. Edelmann had a bag slung over his shoulder and a large umbrella in hand.
Immediately, he walked over to one of the temp lockers and unlocked it.
He opened the door and squatted there. He put his bag down before him and put something inside, shielding the scene from view.
Then he stood again and slung the bag over his shoulder. But instead of putting the lock back on the door, he looked around and headed to an empty locker. He checked that there was nothing inside before putting the lock on it.
A girl was using another of the temp lockers at the same time, but she did not pay his actions any mind.
Slowly, Edelmann headed for the main building doors.
“He’s coming!” Larry hissed. The others quickly hid.
Seron and Jenny were working with Larry that day, pretending to chat by the the locker area while taking turns keeping an eye on the temp lockers.
Seron, Jenny, and Larry walked about 10 meters down the hall away from the locker area. When they looked back, Edelmann was passing.
“So our hunch was right,” said Jenny.
“I didn’t get a look at what he was taking out, though,” Larry noted.
“Whatever it was, it wasn’t large or heavy,” Seron said.
Afterwards, the three newspaper club members left the main building through a different door, then quickly strode to the gates with umbrellas in hand.
For security purposes, the campus only had one set of gates for student use. That made it easier for the club to track their suspect.
Jenny and the others rushed out the gates and waited at the intersection pretending to wait for a friend.
Not long afterwards, Edelmann emerged with his bag. He was hunched over, making his silhouette look even smaller. He almost melted into the crowd of students, but the newspaper club desperately kept their eyes on him.
Edelmann left the intersection bustling with cars waiting to pick up students, and headed for the thoroughfare.
“So he’s taking the tram after all.”
The newspaper club approached a car much smaller and more affordable than the others at the intersection.
A plain black Jones Motors car often used as taxis in the Capital District.
“Your turn, Kurtz,” Jenny said, opening the passenger-side door.
Rather than his usual black suit, Kurtz was wearing a plain grey suit and carrying a common office bag and a black umbrella. If not for his build, he could easily pass for an ordinary businessman.
“Of course, Miss Jenny. Please do not exit the car under any circumstances. I’m counting on you, Elsa,” he said to the black-haired woman in the driver’s seat and began to tail Edelmann.
“Good afternoon, Ms. Litner.”
“Thanks for helping us out.”
Jenny, Larry, and Seron folded up their umbrellas and piled into the back. No one took the passenger seat, which was too exposed. They half-closed the curtains on the windows in the back.
Edelmann and Kurtz soon disappeared into the crowd. It would take some time for the car to follow, as the intersection was so busy.
“Edelmann’s going to take the tram to Capital West Station. Then he’ll transfer to the Circle Line and get off at Capital South, then transfer again to the North-South Line,” Jenny explained with a map of the Capital District metro system. Both the Circle Line and the North-South Line were short routes that only ran inside the city.
The car would wait for Edelmann and Kurtz at Capital West Station. Litner drove through the city, which was not yet packed with rush hour traffic.
“Then he’ll be passing a lot of busy areas,” Seron commented from Jenny’s right.
“Busy areas mean lots of people,” Larry added with a smile, “which means he’s got a lot of opportunities to exchange his goods.”
Kurtz would tail Edelmann for a time, and once Edelmann made contact with someone, Kurtz would simply remember the face of the contact and pull out immediately. Even with the firearm he was permitted to carry, Kurtz had no intention of potentially getting involved with a drug cartel.
The car reached Capital West Station surprisingly quickly. Kurtz and Edelmann probably were probably not there yet, as the tram had many stops on the way.
Litner positioned the car so they could see the aboveground platform in front of the station. They could make out the faces of the disembarking passengers.
Tram after tram came and went, dropping off passengers bound for Capital West Station. Though the rain continued to batter at the world, there was still some time until they lost visibility at sunset.
Yet another tram arrived, passengers spilling from the two cars.
“There! The second car!” Larry cried. Edelmann and Kurtz emerged.
“If he doesn’t have any other stops to make, Edelmann will head straight into the station,” Seron said. And as the newspaper club and Liter watched, Edelmann went down the covered platform and walkway towards the station with the other passengers—but did not enter the station building.
“Whoa!” “Ah!” “…”
Edelmann opened up his umbrella and left the walkway.
He was headed not towards the department store by the station, but the small entertainment district behind it.
At night, the alley would be filled with the glow of neon restaurant signs, but no store was open at this hour. For now, the area was deserted.
“He might really be a runner after all,” Larry gasped.
“You never know,” Jenny said snidely, “maybe he’s just going to check out the stores.”
Kurtz began tailing Edelmann from a slight distance. He took extra precautions because it was so deserted.
“I’m moving in,” Litner said, driving from the street to the one-lane alley. She slowly followed Edelmann and Kurtz while pretending to be looking for a place to park.
With his excellent eyesight, Larry was the first to notice the discrepancy. “Hey, was Edelmann always holding that bag?”
Jenny and Seron strained their eyes. They could just make out Edelmann and the bag over his shoulder. And the cloth bag he held in his left hand.
“Is that for his lunchbox or something?” Jenny wondered. The bag was indeed just large enough for a lunchbox.
“He must’ve taken it out of his bag,” Seron hypothesized. Just then, Edelmann turned left and entered an even narrower alley.
Though he was now out of sight, the car could not simply pursue him outright. Instead, they let Kurtz follow on foot.
Dozens of anxious seconds passed before the car reached the corner. Instead of turning, however, Litner stopped.
On their left was a small alleyway crowded with stores that had not yet opened for the evening. The alley was not nearly wide enough for the car.
Edelmann stood in the middle of that alley. He was slowly walking about 50 meters ahead. Kurtz followed at a distance.
Without warning, Edelmann threw the cloth bag.
The bag disappeared from sight deeper into the alleyway. Edelmann did not walk any further. He turned on his heels to head back to the station.
It looked almost as though he had just realized he had taken a wrong turn.
Though taken by surprise, Kurtz turned faster than Edelmann and rushed to one of the stores. He pretended to have come out of the store at that moment, even waving at the deserted entrance to cement the act.
“Wow,” Larry exclaimed.
Edelmann spotted Kurtz, but he simply passed him by with head bowed.
An eye-catching secondary school uniform passed by a conspicuous grey suit.
“I’m moving us a little further ahead, Miss Jenny.”
Edelmann would soon pass right in front of the car. Litner drove out of his way, parking the car about 30 meters down the road.
A small truck approached from the opposite direction and rushed past the car.
As Larry, Seron, and Jenny watched Edelmann out the rear window, they spotted the back of the truck.
The truck continued straight for Edelmann.
“Huh?” “Hey?!” “Oh!”
Three sets of cries punctuated the air as the truck accelerated.
Edelmann finally noticed the oncoming truck. His eyes widened in fear, but it was too late for him to react.
As everyone prepared for the inevitable impact, a strong arm grabbed Edelmann by the collar and hauled him aside.
The moment Edelmann’s stiff body was pulled away, the truck made contact with thin air.
The truck quickly changed course and continued down the road as though nothing had happened.
“Mr. Kurtz did it,” said Seron.
Kurtz was soaking wet from the rain, holding Edelmann in a bridal carry. He bolted towards the car, and the moment Litner reached over to open the passenger-side door, he got inside.
Forcing himself and Edelmann into the single-person seat, Kurtz slammed the door shut. “GO!”
Litner cooly put a foot on the gas pedal. “What about the umbrella and the bag?”
“I have them, naturally. The boy’s not injured, either,” Kurtz replied.
The overstuffed car drove through the rain and straight back onto the thoroughfare.
The streets were more packed, and the number of similar models on the road helped camouflage the Jones car.
“You were right about this boy, Miss Jenny!” Kurtz exclaimed, “that was too close. Much too close for comfort!”
Jenny and the others leaned forward. Edelmann was unconscious, his eyes rolling back.
“Good work, Kurtz,” Jenny said, giving Kurtz a pat on the shoulder, “you can expect a bonus.”
“Thank you, Miss.”
“Mr. Kurtz!” Larry cried, “that truck was about to run him over!”
“Indeed it was. Did you see him throw the small bag earlier?”
“Yes, we did,” Seron replied, “so that was how he passed on the packages. The culprits must have picked it up by now. They were planning to silence Edelmann by having him get caught up in an ‘accident’. Probably not because they noticed us, judging from the timing. Today just happened to be the end of his usefulness to the criminals.”
“It was a very close shave,” Kurtz said, pulling Edelmann’s bag off his shoulder, “if you hadn’t tailed this boy today, he would have lost his life.”
“Where shall I take us?” asked Litner.
Kurtz responded. “The police, obviously. We’ll ask the Capital District Police Force for official protection.”
“Understood,” Litner replied, turning to head for the Capital District Police Headquarters.
“No! Not the police! They’ll kill me!”
The car continued to drive through the rain.
“Calm down, young man. Glad to see you’re awake,” Kurtz said gently to Edelmann.
In the back, Jenny held a finger over her lips to silence Seron and Larry.
“Wh-who are you?”
“Just a passerby. That was very close, young man.”
“Have you calmed down a little? All right, let’s talk. Sorry it’s so cramped in here, first of all. Now, why can’t we take you to the police?”
Edelmann trembled in Kurtz’s arms.
“Th-they threatened me. Said they’d kill me if I went to the police…”
“I-I don’t know! The other day I found three holes in the wall at home. I thought it was weird, and then one of those people told me that those were bullet holes and that they could kill me whenever they felt like it!”
“That certainly sounds very dangerous. So these people were having you transport something? Do you have any idea who they are?”
“N-no! Not at all!”
“And what about the goods you were transporting for them?”
“I don’t know anything! They said they’d kill me if I looked inside! I didn’t see anything! All I know is that the stuff was small and lightweight!”
Edelmann’s terror paralyzed his senses, almost acting as a truth serum. Kurtz took advantage of his panicked state.
“Why were you doing something so dangerous? For the money?”
“No! No! They are paying me a little, but I didn’t touch that money!”
‘So they’re paying him. Probably a ploy to make him feel less guilty,’ Larry thought.
“Then why did you start working for them in the first place?”
“Th-they tricked me…it was all a trap.”
“What did they do?”
Edelmann broke down sobbing. Tears ran down his face and he began sniffling.
“I was at the station…when this beautiful lady came up to me…said she wanted to get to know me…and we did…and I thought we were a couple…I was happy…then one day these scary guys came in…said she was his girl…I was so scared…”
‘A honey trap! Talk about old school!’ Larry thought.
“I see. I see. If it was a beautiful woman, I suppose it’s understandable. Were they big?”
Litner gave a disapproving grimace.
Edelmann—though sobbing—replied resolutely. “Yes…and soft.”
“So that’s how they forced you into this. Understandable.”
Kurtz never once clearly stated exactly what was so understandable, but he continued the questioning.
“And they must have given you all the instructions. About how you should use the school lockers and transport the goods. None of that was your idea, was it?”
If Edelmann had been calm, he would have wondered how Kurtz knew about the lockers. But he was in no state to be suspicious.
“They said no one would ever find out…that I just had to play dumb even if someone noticed…and that other students were doing the same thing for pocket money.”
“Of course. What else?”
“On rainy days…someone always comes up to me when I’m on the way to school…and gives me the package…and a letter saying I should toss the package here at a certain time on the next rainy day…”
“Is that all? No contact information?”
“No…I’m not allowed…to contact them…”
“I see. Now, one last question. Just out of curiosity, I mean.”
“Does anyone at your school know about this?”
“No…I haven’t told anyone.”
Kurtz glanced back.
When his eyes met Jenny’s, the latter nodded. She had no more questions.
“Then what should we do now? It’ll be best to get you under police protection…”
“No! Let me off here!” Edelmann cried, lashing out. Kurtz restrained him mercilessly.
“Calm down. Why are you so afraid of the Capital District Police?”
“They have friends on the force! They told me so!”
The dull rumble of the engine.
The crashing of the tires against puddles on the road.
The sweeping of the windshield wipers.
The tapping of raindrops against the roof.
An ambient silence filled the car.
“It’s not impossible, Miss,” Kurtz finally said.
“You’d know better than I do, Kurtz,” Jenny said, finally breaking her—and Seron and Larry’s—silence. “We’ll forget the Capital District Police for now.”
‘Mr. Kurtz has a history with the police? Maybe he used to be part of the force,’ Larry thought to himself.
“AAAAAH! Wh-wh-wh-who are you?!” Edelmann exclaimed, finally realizing that three of his fellow students were sitting in the back.
“The people who saved your life,” Kurtz replied with a smile, “and don’t you forget it.”
“So what now?” Larry asked.
Seron thought for a moment before responding. “We can’t send him home, and we can’t go to the Capital District Police Force. Then the Confederation Police is our only option, but if we go to them without concrete evidence and they turn us away, it’s over.”
“True,” Jenny nodded.
“SC Edelmann,” said Seron, “will you get in trouble with your parents if you were to stay out of the house for a few days? Would they be all right with you staying over at a friend’s house for a few days now that exams have ended, for instance?”
“Huh? Y-yeah, I don’t think they’ll mind…not that I have any friends to crash with, anyway.”
“Good. Ms. Driver?” Seron said, pointedly avoiding Litner’s name, “please take us back to the school.”
* * *
Thanks to the rain, the world grew darker much earlier than usual.
The car drove into the intersection in front of the 4th Capital Secondary School with the headlights on. Most students were getting into cars headed home. But the Jones car, on the other hand, dropped off its passengers.
The four students and the bodyguard ran to the gates without even an umbrella and checked in with the security guard before disappearing inside.
Several minutes later, an announcement was broadcast throughout campus.
<Mr. Mark Murdoch. Mr. Mark Murdoch. The newspaper club has a visitor. Please make your way to the club office immediately. I repeat—>
Mark Murdoch, the nominal advisor of the newspaper club, had been reading through a magazine in the staff bathroom.
When the announcement came on, he cringed and glared at the speaker on the ceiling.
“Up to no good again, the little troublemakers?”
* * *
“More tea, Mr. Murdoch?” Larry offered.
“No thank you. Hmph.”
Mr. Murdoch sighed loudly as he reclined on the sofa.
Before him were three club members, the bodyguard who had supposedly come to visit the club, and a fifth person.
“Wh-wh-what do I do…?”
A sobbing fifth-year student whom he had never taught before.
The newspaper club filled in Mr. Murdoch on the details.
“Tch. Do you children enjoy making trouble for no good reason? Damn it! Can’t you act more like regular secondary school students?!”
From his usual attitude in class, it would be difficult to imagine Mr. Murdoch swearing. But he showed no such reservations here.
The curtains were shut. The world outside was pitch-black, and the rain was growing heavier.
“All right. Let me go over this again. No one knows what was in those packages, and you have no other information?”
“No,” Jenny replied.
“And what are the chances that the truck driver simply made a mistake?”
“Not zero. Then since it’s getting late, do you propose we leave SC Edelmann out in the cold so he could get another truck accidentally barreling his way?”
Mr. Murdoch shook his head.
“So what do you want with me? I suppose you’re going to coerce something out of me again?”
“Exactly. Glad you’re quick on the uptake, Mr. Murdock.”
Edelmann stared at the exchange, which was unthinkable for an ordinary student and teacher. He watched blankly as though half-asleep.
‘Poor guy. He’s paying a heavy price for that honey trap.’ Larry thought, looking at Edelmann.
The club had already called Edelmann’s family to inform them that he would be staying with friends to study for the next few days.
“Seron will give you the details,” said Jenny. Seron stepped up.
“Mr. Murdoch. We need you to hide SC Edelmann for tonight, and maybe for the next few days,” he said, “it’s too dangerous to take him outside campus now. The drug dealers may try to arrange an accidental death for him again, or he may be contacted by a corrupt police officer. We could prevent the former situation, but the latter is something we can’t do a thing about.”
“Of course. But what do you want of me? The campus is safest, true, but you could easily arrange him a room at the dorms for him, Maxwell.”
“True,” Larry mumbled. The dorms were on campus, which meant it was sequestered from outside contact. And the dorms also had spare rooms that could be rented by visitors.
But Seron shook his head.
“There’s a chance that the criminals may attempt to snipe SC Edelmann from one of the many apartment buildings in the area. Not only that, SC Edelmann would be plainly exposed to other students. And what if our corrupt police officers decide to enter the premises under the pretense of an investigation? Above all, we can’t risk getting the dormitory students involved.”
‘Nice, Seron. You’ve really thought this through,’ Larry thought to himself, but did not say a word.
“And that is why we need your help, Mr. Murdoch.”
“Oh? And what could someone like me possibly do for you?” Mr. Murdoch replied snidely with a shrug of the shoulders.
“Please let us use the basement room.”