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Chapter 6 - Fissure

After dropping Agnes off at the Eaton News, Edwin, on orders from his supervisors, made his way to the largest assembly hall in Anchorville. There, he would be attending a press conference concerning the matter of Mr. Hart's enormous inheritance.

Edwin psyched himself up. 'All right. Let's go get this story!'

He entered the hall and hurried toward the press room, but found himself twisting through a maze of unfamiliar corridors... He wasn't quite sure what was happening.

'Where am I? Where the in the world is the press room?!'

He was becoming irritated, and his pace quickened. He checked doors at random, behind which were only storage rooms and more corridors.

Edwin could picture Agnes sighing and grumpily saying something like, 'Honestly...' Steadying himself, he pressed on.

A loudspeaker announced that the press conference would begin in 20 minutes.

'That's not good...' murmured Edwin.

Becoming impatient, Edwin flung open the door nearest to him. 'Waiting Room 105' was emblazoned in gold lettering on a plaque by the door. Inside was a man in his late 30's adjusting his necktie set against the fine suit he wore.

'Oh, we still have some time before the press conference, right?' the man asked.

Edwin recognized him. He'd seen the man amongst the photos of the Hart case's major players. He was neither Hart's best friend nor the chairman of the Hart Foundation. Rather, he was the middleman charged with managing all of Hart's properties while he was still alive. Someone deeply invested in the inheritance case.

'You're the property manager, Hux Montaigne!' cried Edwin.

He had completely ignored Montaigne's question.

'I'm Edwin, and I'm with the Eaton News. Can I be the one to interview you?!'

Edwin's request was completely nonsensical. It was like he was trying to take the entire story for himself. Hux was flabbergasted, but Edwin wore his usual, serious expression.


'...The division of the inheritance needs to be agreed upon by both parties. I'm not really sure how it will pan out. I'm a tax counselor, not a lawyer,' replied Montaigne.

He sank back into the black leather chair's cushion. He divulged what he could--partially out of sympathy. 'The liquid assets are cleanly split fifty-fifty, but there are also the properties and valuable items to consider. I can't imagine either party will give up without a fight.'

'The total inheritance is considerable, right? Could either of them be gunning for the whole thing?'

'No comment. That doesn't concern me.'

'Um... Do you know anything about what happened to Mr. Hart's adopted son? He was the original heir and just happened to die just last month.'

'...'


Silence gripped the room. Montaigne, who had been cooperative thus far, was as still as a statue.

'Crap, did I anger him? That's the sort of question a tabloid would print!' worried Edwin.

By the time he had realized how rude his question was, Montaigne quietly tapped his middle finger against the end table before touching his temple with his index finger. Edwin wasn't sure what that gesture was meant to convey.

'This might be a little too frank, so please keep this off the record. Speaking personally...I have no interest in Mr. Hart's inheritance,' said Montaigne. 'It's true that there is a considerable amount of money on the line, but I don't believe it's enough to be worth killing someone over.'

Hux continued, 'I wonder if you know of it. Something in this world of even greater value, something beyond a simple human's comprehension... Something like a clan of magicians, perhaps?'


The newsroom was nearly deserted. All the reporters were out covering various stories. Agnes refilled the cups of the few remaining people, and she scanned the room. Between an unfinished draft left on a desk and some unedited notes posted on the wall, Agnes had a decent idea what tomorrow's issue of the Eaton News would be like.

'Seems like Ed won't be getting his chance any time soon,' she thought. 'Yet another car accident... I feel like there have been way too many of those lately...'

Her eyes landed on a picture posted near the front of the room.

'Excuse me, Mr. Chang? Who is this man?'

Though the newsroom didn't allow outsiders, and though Chang was a bit of a stickler, he did not rebuff her question. He simply looked at her and identified the man as Mr. Hart's property manager.

Apparently, the photo was taken two days before the press conference. Looking at the skilled businessman's photo filled her with dread. 'This man could destroy me...' she thought.

'He may even know who I really am...'

第6回 亀裂

アニエスを通信社に届けた後、先輩記者たちに率いられたエドウィンは、アンカーヴィルの街で一番の大会館に来ていた。今日ここでウェーバーハルト氏の膨大な遺産について会見がある。さあ、取材をしようじゃないか! 席とりをしておけと言われ、会見室へ急いだエドウィンだが、今彼は見知らぬ廊下をぐるぐると回っている……気がしていた。

どこだよここ。どうして会見室につかないんだ!?段々腹が立ってきた。ズンズン歩きながら適当なドアを開いて入ってみるが、それは小さな物置場所だったり、やっぱり廊下だったりした。アニエスが見れば「まったくもう」なんて言いながら、むすっとした顔を作ってみせることだろう。でもエドウィンはいつだって本気だ。

どこからか、会見開始20分前を伝えるアナウンスが聞こえてきた。……あれ、やばくないかこれ。そろそろ焦りを感じ始めたエドウィンが、何だか金縁で「控え室105」と書かれたドアを勢いよく開けると、そこには品の良いスーツにネクタイを締めている、30代後半といった男がいた。「……おや、会見にはまだ時間があるはずだが?」

エドウィンはぴぃんときた。この男、確か編集部に写真が貼ってあった人物だ。ウェーバーハルトの親友でも関係財団の理事長でもなく、生前から財産の管理をしていて今はその遺産をどっちに渡せばいいんだ、と悩んでいる『真ん中の男』。財産管理人ハクス・モンテニューだ!

それでエドウィンは言った。会見の段取りを尋ねてくるモンテニューを完全に無視して。

「……俺っ、イートン通信のエドウィンといいます。今日の会見内容を取材させてもらえませんか!?」これは俺一人のネタだ! と言わんばかりの非常識な申し出は、さすがにぽかんとされたが、エドウィンはもちろん本気だった。


「──氏の遺産分配に関しては、本当にご両名に決めていただかないとね」私は税理士であって法律家ではない。半分お情けで取材に応じてくれたモンテニューは、クッションの効きすぎた黒革椅子に身をゆだねてそう答えた。基本は半々に分ける事になっている、ただ土地や美術品もあるし、あの両氏が簡単に引き下がるとは思えないがね。

「遺産は相当のものでしょう?どっちかが独り占めを狙ってるって事は?」

「ノーコメント。私の預かり知らぬことだよ」

「ええと……では、本来の相続人であるウェーバーハルト氏の養子が先月亡くなった件について、何かご存知の事は……?」

「………………………………」


唐突に沈黙が訪れた。今まで流暢だったモンテニューは石像のように何も言わない。……しまった、怒らせちまった? こんなのゴシップ紙の質問じゃねえか!エドウィンがようやく自分の無神経っぷりに気付いたとき、モンテニューの右手がそっと動いた。中指でトントンと机を叩き、今度はその人差し指が彼のこめかみをエレガントにつつく。……エドウィンにはそのジェスチャーの意味が判らなかった。

「私個人としては……、これはかなりぶちまけた話だからオフレコでお願いするが── ……氏の遺産などに興味はないね」モンテニューは言った。確かにウェーバーハルトの遺産は巨額だが、人を殺してまで手にする価値があるとは自分は思えない。

「君は知っているかな。この世には人知を超えた、もっと凄まじい価値もあるのだよ。──そう、例えば『魔法使い』の一族とかね」


記者たちが取材に出てしまった編集部は静かだ。まばらに残った人たちにコーヒーのおかわりを配りながら、アニエスはちらりと室内に目を走らせた。

机に残った書きかけの原稿や、壁に貼り付けられている無数の付箋──スペルミスばっかり──を見て、アニエスの頭の中では明日のイートン通信がだいたい組みあがってしまう。……エドの出番はしばらくなさそうね。それに、またどこかで事故があったみたい。やっぱり最近、事故が多い気がするな……。

ふと、正面に貼られた写真に目が留まった。「あの、チャン編集長、この人は……?」部外者立ち入り禁止の編集部だが、ガミガミ編集長で通るチャンもアニエスを咎めた事はなかった。チャンはただぎょろりとした目を向けて、ウェーバーハルト氏の財産管理人だ、と言った。

写真は2日前の会見のものらしい。そのやり手の実業家といった男に、アニエスは嫌な直感を感じた。

……この男は私を壊すかもしれない。私の正体を知っているかもしれない──……


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