• Ladies and gentlemen!

    What do people do at the weekend? Some might go shopping with their friends. Others may have dinner with their family. Maybe they attend a concert or a sports event. Perhaps they travel to a nearby city or sight. I do all these things as well. Last weekend however, I wrote a short story. It took me seven hours to write twelve pages and about five thousand words. I worked quickly because I felt inspired. This is the final result. Enjoy!

    Attention: This is a horror short story. Some elements might be brutal, disturbing and frightening. These are the purposes of a horror story. It's a fictitious story inspired by Japanese horror animes, mangas and movies. It's not based upon real events, locations or people. Except for the fact that I wrote this short story, it doesn't have anything to do with my convictions, personality or preferences. Again, if you're not eighteen years old, you shouldn't read this. Please note that there might be mistakes in the text. I don't have an editor. I'm my own editor. You have been warned.

    Hanako and the ramen shop

    Ken walked down the lonely country road of a small town in Hokkaido, a few miles south-east of Obihiro. It was a chilly late afternoon and fallen leaves were on the abandoned sidewalk. Winter was coming closer and the weather broadcast had announced the first snowflakes for the upcoming weekend.

    Ken had barely had time to take a shower at his parents’ house after school and was heading for his job. He worked as a waiter in a small family-owned ramen shop. Business wasn’t going well and the last waitress had quit her job to live with her fiancé in Sapporo a few weeks ago. Since no new waitress had been hired since then, Ken was working at the ramen shop every single night these days. He felt exhausted.

    The shop was owned by Honda Katsuyoshi, a kind man in his late sixties whose wife had died in a tragic car accident five years ago. He had tried to sell the ramen shop for three years but nobody was interested in the old business. If things continued like that, he would simply close the shop by the end of the year.

    A grey 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer drove down the road and slowed down when it came closer to Ken.

    ‘’Hey, Ken! Do you want a ride?‘’

    The driver of the car was Shigeki, an art school dropout who was five years his senior. He worked as a cashier in the ramen shop. He earned some money with paintings and photography but Ken didn’t think he had much talent. As a matter of fact, Ken didn’t hold his co-worker in high regard.

    ‘’Hey, Shigeki! Sure, thanks a lot!’’

    Ken got into the car and had to control his gag reflex when the overwhelming smell of cigarette smoke hit him. Shigeki’s car was in terrible condition. There were empty cans and bags all over the floor, the right headlight was broken and the passenger seat made a squeaking sound.

    ‘’Did you hear the good news? Our boss finally hired a new waitress!’’

    ‘’Really?’’

    Ken was carefully optimistic. A new waitress meant fewer working hours for him. On the other side, the last three waitresses hadn’t lasted longer than three months. Ken wondered who would work in a decrepit old ramen shop that was about to close. He realized that he could ask himself the same question. It was all just a matter of money.

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    ‘’Step inside, young men! Take a seat! I have good news for you!’’

    Katsuyoshi had a big smile on his face when he welcomed Shigeki and Ken at the entrance of the ramen shop. Ryuki, who was standing right behind him, didn’t move a muscle. The cook always had a bored face. Ken wondered whether this was due to his problems at home. Ryuki had come out as gay a few weeks ago and his parents didn’t approve of it. He had spoken even less to his co-workers since then than he had done before which meant that he was basically silent all the time.

    The three young men took their seats in the small dining area. The shop was about to open and they didn’t have much time to get everything prepared. Katsuyoshi didn’t waste any time.

    ‘’Gentlemen, here is our new waitress, Hanako!’’

    It was as if a train hit Ken when Hanako stepped into the room. She had dark, long, silky hair. Her face was gentle and oval with bright eyes, full lips and rosy cheeks. She had perfect skin, a feminine body and legs that were so long that they seemed endless to Ken. His mouth was wide open and he started to sweat. He had never seen a woman like this in his life.

    ‘’Good evening! It’s my pleasure to work with you!’’

    Hanako’s voice was soft and sensual like her appearance. Ken felt almost hypnotized when she looked at him. He noticed a tiny peach-coloured half circular scar below her right eye but that little flaw only made her look more gorgeous.

    ‘’Good evening, Hanako! Nice to meet you! My name is Shigeki. I work as a painter and photographer. I would really appreciate if you could pose as my model one day.’’

    Ken was so distracted by Hanako’s angelic laughter and her perfect white teeth that he barely realized that Shigeki’s behaviour was somewhat odd. He was the most sociable of the three young men but Ken had never seen him so straightforward before. Ken also wondered what Shigeki’s girlfriend would think about this.

    The only person in the room that hadn’t fallen under Hanako’s charm was Ryuki. His eyes were empty and sad as usual. Ken suddenly started to feel a startling anger arise. Stupid Ryuki! Why couldn’t he be nice to Hanako? Even if he was gay, he could still acknowledge her charming introduction!

    Ken felt confused about his divergent emotions. He was amazed by Hanako’s perfection but irritated by Ryuki’s emotionlessness.

    ‘’Alright, gentlemen! It’s time to get to work! My shop is going to open in less than ten minutes!’’

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    Only a few weeks had passed since Hanako had started working as a waitress in the small ramen shop but many things had changed since then. She had given old Katsuyoshi a hand with decorating the dining room that had a fresh new look now. She had helped Ryuki with the old cash register and whenever she was standing by his side, customers would tip him more generously. Hanako had suggested Ryuki using a new broth for his ramen that had a hearty bittersweet taste the customers seemed to adore. She had developed great chemistry working with Ken who had much more free time and felt reinvigorated. The growing number of customers only had eyes for Hanako but that didn’t matter to Ken. Just working with her was such a pleasure!

    ‘’Hanako! Hanako! Hanako! You keep talking about her as if she were some goddess!’’

    His sister was annoyed by his behavior and disappointed that her older brother wasn’t interested in her new film project at school. His parents were also surprised by his attitude.

    ‘’I have never heard you speak like this about a girl before, son! You’re finally becoming more mature. I’ve met your mother when I was your age and we were working in a small coffee shop in Sapporo!’’

    His father seemed happy to discover his son was now interested in women instead of video games.

    ‘’If she’s so lovely, you should invite her over! We would love to meet her.’’

    Even his mother encouraged him strongly. Ken made a decision. He would ask Hanako to come to his place for the weekend after their next work shift.

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    Ken was anxiously waiting for Hanako in the parking lot of the restaurant. The shop had just closed and it had been quite a successful night. Even though it was a snowy Wednesday evening, more than three dozen customers had come to their shop.

    Ken smiled at Hanako when she stepped out of the restaurant but his smile faded immediately when he saw Shigeki right behind her.

    ‘’Hey, Ken! If you were waiting for me to give you a ride back home, I must disappoint you! Hanako has agreed to come over to my place tonight. I will take a few pictures of her and might even decide to paint her!’’

    Ken felt a dreadful jealousy in his stomach.

    ‘’How could you possibly paint a beauty like her? You lack the skills to do so! Painting her would only be insulting!’’

    ‘’What have you just said, you little rat? What do you know about painting? Besides, what’s your talent? Playing video games in your parents’ basement?’’

    ‘’Guys, there is no need to argue. You are both perfect gentlemen. See you tomorrow, Ken!’’

    As soon as Hanako spoke, Ken’s hot jealousy cooled down. He put on his toque as he watched Hanako and Shigeki drive away. When the car was out of sight, Ken felt a gloomy emptiness inside of him.

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    ‘’Could you turn your face just a little bit to your left? Thank you very much!’’

    Shigeki had been painting Hanako for over an hour and she really was the perfect model. She followed all his instructions patiently and always had a warm smile upon her face. Shigeki had taken a few pictures of her and was glad when she accepted to stay a little bit longer to let him paint her. Secretly, Shigeki hoped that she would stay for the night.

    ‘’Alright, that’s it! Before I show you my painting, I would like to offer you a glass of Champaign! Give me a minute and I’ll be back!’’

    As Shigeki got up, Hanako rose from her wooden chair and stepped towards the painting. She had a frigid smile on her face when she saw the final result. Ken had been absolutely right. Shigeki didn’t have any talent at all.

    Something else caught her attention. She saw a few pictures on the wall. They all showed Shigeki with the same young woman. She had an honest smile, brown hair and alert eyes. One photograph showed them on a ferry. Another one was a selfie of a smiling Shigeki who watched the young woman blowing out some candles on a cheese cake. Yet another one showed them in a colourful amusement park.

    ‘’WHO IS THIS?’’

    Hanako’s voice was suddenly sinister, hateful and aggressive. She pointed at the pictures on the wall as Shigeki came back from the kitchen with two glasses of Champaign in his hands.

    ‘’Oh! That’s… I forgot to tell you! This is… I mean, that was my girlfriend, my former girlfriend! She was my high school sweetheart, you know, a long time ago… Don’t worry about it! I haven’t seen her in six months!’’

    ‘’YOU’RE LYING! I know the amusement park where this picture has been taken. It has only opened last September, about two months ago.’’

    ‘’Oh, yeah, sure, you’re right! This picture, it was taken during a friend’s birthday party. He had invited us to the amusement park, you know…’’

    ‘’YOU SHALL HAVE NO OTHER GIRLS BESIDE ME!’’

    Before Shigeki could respond, Hanako moved forward and hit him in the face. Her punch was so powerful that Shigeki suddenly tumbled backwards. He tripped over the chair where he had been seating minutes earlier to finish the painting. He spilled the Champaign in the glass of his right hand over the painting while the glass in the left hand shattered under the weight of his arm as the fragments painfully pierced his skin. Blood dropped on the carpet on the floor.

    A confused Shigeki felt a mixture of pain, surprise and terror when Hanako’s shadow suddenly covered his face. She held the picture frame of the photograph taken in the amusement park in her hands. Her angelic face suddenly looked demoniac. She put her hands far above her head and before Shigeki could react, she hit the picture frame in his mouth that had just opened to scream.

    Shigeki felt his teeth scatter as the frame hit his open mouth. When the nerves led the sudden pain into his fearful brain, the frame hit his eyes that made a squidgy sound. His eyesight was partially blurred by tears before a rush of blood covered them. Before Shigeki could raise his arms for defense, the picture frame hit his nose with such force that both the picture frame and the nose broke instantly.

    Shigeki laid on the floor, screaming in agony. He couldn’t see anything and felt so much pain all over his body that his mind couldn’t focus on any of it. For a brief instant, he hoped that Hanako would spare him as the hits stopped coming. He wiped the blood and tears away from his eyes and opened them very slowly.

    All hope was gone in an instant when he saw Hanako kneeling right beside him. She held another picture frame in her hand and smiled evilly. She raised her hands with agonising slowness but never kept her eyes off her victim.

    ‘’Hanako, please!’’

    Those were Shigeki’s last words as the picture frame hit his nose again and pushed it brutally into his brain, killing him almost instantly. As blood spattered Hanako’s white dress, Shigeki’s lifeless body stopped shaking. She laughed viciously, kissed her victim’s lifeless lips and dragged his body slowly towards the bathtub.

    Hanako found a saw in a cubbyhole and cut her victim’s body into different pieces. Her enduring work lasted until the early hours of the morning. Hanako enjoyed every minute of it. She found a few plastic bags in the kitchen. She used one for the victim’s disfigured head, two for its lifelessly dangling arms, two more for his pale legs, one more for his bloodied torso and a final one for his penis and testicles. Hanako put her dress in the washing machine. Then she took a long hot shower as she was standing in her victim’s encrusted blood. Naked, she waited for her dress to get clean, took all the pictures of Shigeki and his girlfriend out of their frames and cut them into pieces.

    When her dress was washed and dried, she got dressed, gathered the bloodied bags and picture snippets, took a shovel from the cubbyhole, found Shigeki’s car keys and left the small apartment through the back door. She drove about fifteen miles out of town, buried the bags in a shallow grave and burned the picture snippets with a silver lighter. The flames mirrored in her perfect eyes as Hanako watched the fire erase the memorabilia of Shigeki and his girlfriend.

    Then she abandoned his car in an old junk yard, walked to the next main street and called a cab with her cellphone.

    ‘’Good morning, young lady, where can I take you?’’

    Hanako smiled with disgust at the old cab driver who stared at the cleavage of her dress.

    ‘’Please take me to my workplace!’’

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    Ken arrived at the restaurant just a few minutes before it opened. He had had a discussion with his science teacher that had lasted much longer than expected and he hadn’t seen Shigeki drive down the road to give him a ride this day. Ken suspected that he might still be upset about their argument last night. When he thought about his colleague leaving with Hanako, Ken felt a relentless anger growing in his heart.

    When Ken entered the restaurant, he met Katsuyoshi who looked unusually worried. Ken hadn’t seen him like this in months. Since Hanako had started working as a waitress at his restaurant, he had been smiling all over his wrinkled face. Ken thought that the old pervert might even have an eye on the beautiful girl. What a disgusting thought! He was about four times older than her! Ken decided to protect Hanako from that old pervert, the superficial painter and the sinister faggot!

    Ken suspected that the old fart would criticize him for coming so late but Katsuyoshi worried about something else.

    ‘’Ken, have you seen Shigeki? He hasn’t shown up yet and the restaurant is about to open!’’

    ‘’Why don’t you ask Hanako?’’

    As soon as Ken replied this, he regretted it. He saw Hanako’s perfectly shaped face appear around the corner of the dining room. She had a radiant smile on her lips and was about to greet Ken joyfully but when she heard his mean words, her profound eyes filled with tears of deception and she looked down.

    ‘’What do you mean?’’

    Katsuyoshi was confused and Ken felt uncomfortable but Hanako looked up, smiled tiredly and moved forwards abashedly.

    ‘’I’m sorry I haven’t told you. I was with Shigeki last night because he wanted to paint me. However, he started to have a migraine and didn’t feel well at all. He called a cab and I left. I suppose he hasn’t come to work because he still suffers from this.’’

    ‘’Well, he should have given me a call. What am I going to do now?’’

    ‘’I will serve all the customers. Ken could take care of the cash register!’’

    Ken immediately liked the idea and Katsuyoshi was amazed by her resourcefulness. Only Ryuki couldn’t be bothered. He stood in the kitchen and read his mathematics workbook.

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    Ryuki had just emptied the dishwasher when somebody knocked on the kitchen door. He raised his eyebrows. He was usually the last employee to leave. Katsuyoshi was probably already in bed, Ken should have left after counting the money in the cash register and the waitress was normally the first to leave.

    ‘’Come in!’’

    Ryuki was surprised to see Hanako in front of him. She smiled timidly with her wide eyes and her rosy face was surrounded by perfectly cut hair. Ryuki didn’t like Hanako very much. She hadn’t done anything bad to him. He just didn’t like how people behave around her. Ever since she started working as a waitress, Katsuyoshi spent too much time around her, Shigeki couldn’t stop flirting with her and Ken never took his lustful eyes off her.

    ‘’I was wondering if I could help you with your mathematics exercises.’’

    Ryuki was surprised by Hanako’s grounded kindness. He wouldn’t have thought that Hanako had even realized that he was studying mathematics. He had mistaken her for a superficial girl who liked being admired by others but she apparently had a helpful and intellectual side to her as well.

    ‘’Yeah, I will have a university entrance exam next week.’’

    ‘’OH, REALLY?’’

    Ryuki ignored the slightly menacing tone in Hanako’s trembling voice.

    ‘’Yeah, I want to go to Aomori University. My aunt lives there. This is actually my last week of work!’’

    ‘’WHAT’S THAT?’’

    Ryuki was startled by the fact that Hanako raised her voice but mistook her excitement for interest.

    ‘’It has been my lifelong dream to become mathematician and to move away from this boring neighbourhood.’’

    ‘’YOU SHALL NOT MOVE AWAY FROM ME!’’

    Before Ryuki realized what was going on, Hanako shut the door with one hand and pushed Ryuki backwards with the other. She gazed across the room and saw the kitchen knife kit hanging on the wall. She grabbed the longest knife expertly as she stepped forward rapidly.

    ‘’Hanako, please!’’

    Those were Ryuki’s last words as the kitchen knife pierced through his Adam’s apple, collided painfully with his spine and cut through his thin skin on the other side of his tormented body to nail it on the kitchen wall. Hanako pushed the knife upwards as a rush of hot blood covered her white dress and her angelic face. Her movement was so powerful that Ryuki took off the ground until the sharp kitchen knife cut his chin in half and lost its grip. Ryuki slowly slid down and left a bloody trace on the kitchen wall.

    The aspiring mathematician felt his life juice flowing out of him, tried to breathe but felt no more fresh air in his lungs and wanted to raise his hands in defense only to realize that his body didn’t follow his brain’s instructions anymore.

    As he slid towards the ground and his head leaned slightly forward, Hanako grabbed his head abruptly and gazed at her victim with dark eyes. Ryuki felt as if he were getting drunk as Hanako made his head twist and turn. His vision became blurry, the outlines of his focus grew darker and all he could see was Hanako’s pitilessly stiff face. It would turn out to be the last thing he ever saw in his life.

    Hanako laughed manically as her victim’s sticky life juice flew over her arms. When his body collapsed with a final sigh, Hanako slowly arose and looked at herself in the kitchen mirror with satisfaction. Her dress was red, her upper body was covered in streams of blood and her eyes were popping out hysterically. She grabbed the mathematics workbook, took the bloodied murder weapon and cut the manual into pieces. Hanako didn’t mind cutting herself as she led out her brutal anger on the object.

    When she was finally satisfied with what she had accomplished, she dropped the kitchen knife like a hot potato, grabbed her victim's featherlight body and carried it out through the backdoor of the restaurant. She stopped in front of two stinky waste buckets, grabbed her dead victim’s neck and tore its head off the torso with one pitiless movement. Her long legs and white shoes got covered in a pool of warm blood. Then she threw the decapitated torso into one trash bin and the bloody head into the other.

    Hanako stood in the backyard of the restaurant, trembling with anger, ecstasy and lust. As she turned around, she saw the lights on the second floor of the restaurant open. That was where Katsuyoshi lived. The noise of the garbage cans must have disturbed him. Hanako smiled evilly. She now knew what she had to do next.

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    ‘’Oh, damn it!’’

    Ken realized that he had forgotten his wallet and his house keys at his workplace when he had almost arrived home. He must have put it in the kitchen just before his work shift and forgotten the two objects there. It had been a terribly stressful day and it only seemed darkly appropriate that it had to end on such a bad note.

    For an instant, Ken thought about waking up his parents and asking for a ride. He realized almost instantly that they shouldn’t carry the consequences of his own clumsiness.

    Ken turned around and watched down the pitch-black country road. The snow had intensified that night. Walking back to the restaurant would take longer than usual. It was only about a mile away but walking that distance at night through the snow might take half an hour.

    He hesitated for a while. He wondered whether it was a good idea to walk down such a road under those circumstances. He could get hit by a car, get lost in the snowstorm or meet a creepy stranger. Ken laughed at himself. He had known this area since he was born. What could possibly happen to him? Besides, he might come across Ryuki and Hanako. He had left before them. Hanako had told him she wanted to call a taxi because of the snowstorm and Ryuki was always the last to leave which didn’t matter because he lived only a few minutes away from the restaurant. Ken didn’t want to meet the antisocial creep but the possibility of seeing Hanako again warmed his frozen body almost instantly.

    The young man turned around with a radiant smile and walked back towards the ramen shop.

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    Katsuyoshi stared out of his window and inspected his ramen shop’s dirty backyard. He saw some dirt stains on the trash bins and some rats scamper from the nearby woods towards the restaurant. The old ramen shop owner figured that Ryuki must have made the noise that startled him when he had thrown away some leftovers a few minutes earlier.

    Ryuki was a weird fellow. He barely spoke, looked constantly joyless and always studied his boring textbooks. Still, Katsuyoshi regretted that the young man would quit his job to go to university. He had always been particularly reliable. That’s why the old man preferred him over Ken who had often come late to work and especially over Shigeki who hadn’t even shown up for work that day.

    But none of them was comparable to Hanako. She was truly a godsend. Since she had started working for him, she had turned the old ramen shop into a popular restaurant. Katsuyoshi realized that one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. When Hanako had had her job interview with him, he had wondered whether such a beautiful young woman would even be willing to work in his decrepit ramen shop. She had said that she had only recently moved to the area for her college studies, that she was living on her own and that she needed money as quickly as possible.

    She reminded Katsuyoshi of his late wife. Just like Hanako, she had had silky hair, perfect skin and a charming smile. Katsuyoshi couldn’t deny that he felt slightly attracted to Hanako. He wasn’t only impressed by her neat appearance but also by her positive attitude. Katsuyoshi hated himself for his little weakness but had to smile a little bit when he fantasized about meeting her alone in his ramen shop after working hours. He also realized that such a thought wasn’t realistic at all. Sweet Hanako had probably fallen in love with that useless spoiled brat Shigeki and the only person Katsuyoshi could meet downstairs was that boring Ryuki.

    Katsuyoshi decided to take a shower before going to bed. He had helped in the kitchen earlier that night and his clothes, hair and skin smelled like that unique bittersweet broth Hanako had crafted for him.

    The old man had just taken his shower, put on his bath robe and closed the lights to go to his bedroom when someone knocked on his door. Katsuyoshi hesitated for a while as the knocking repeated. He went towards the wardrobe and grabbed a baseball bat. He kept it there in case he needed to fight off robbers. His father had once been robbed out when the ramen shop was a popular new restaurant several decades ago.

    He opened the front door very carefully and was surprised when Hanako stood in front of him. She looked cold and was shaking slightly. She had changed her dress which was bloodred instead of white but Katsuyoshi didn’t pay any attention to it. He shook his head in disbelief and wondered whether he was still fantasizing. As Hanako started to speak, he realized that his wildest dreams might come true.

    ‘’I’m so sorry to bother you, Mister Honda. I called a cab about a half hour ago but it still hasn’t arrived yet.’’

    ‘’Oh, sure, no problem, no problem at all. Step inside, go ahead, don’t be shy. Do you want a cup of tea?’’

    ‘’That would be lovely, Mister Honda.’’

    Katsuyoshi felt his heart beat faster as he quickly paced into the living room, took out an extra cup and served his unexpected guest some of his liquorice tea. Hanako sat down on the couch with a timid smile. Katsuyoshi wanted to sit on the other settee but decided to be next to Hanako. He poured himself a cup of tea, smelled its soothing aroma and took a pleasurable sip.

    ‘’My late wife has always prepared this tea for me.’’

    ‘’IS THAT SO, MISTER HONDA?’’

    Katsuyoshi was startled by Hanako’s loud answer but he supposed she thought he was slightly deaf at his age. That thought made him feel slightly uncomfortable but when he looked at her alert eyes, he felt like gazing at an angel. He eagerly continued his story.

    ‘’My wife and I actually met at this ramen shop when it still belonged to my father thirty-five years ago.’’

    ‘’THAT’S INTERESTING!’’

    Katsuyoshi was surprised that the young lady seemed to be so intrigued by the story he had told every employee at least once. Still, talking about his late wife helped him cope with her absence. He still missed her dearly.

    ‘’My father cooked all the meals, she was the new waitress and I worked as cashier.’’

    Katsuyoshi looked at Hanako and for the very first time he felt something strange about her. He suddenly felt cold as if a frozen hand had taken his weak old heart and squeezed all energy and joy out of it. The old man started to feel dizzy. He got up very slowly and walked towards the kitchen sink to pour himself a cold cup of water. He opened the kitchen cabinet, found some headache pills, took two of them and drank the cup of water. He filled the cup again, drank all of it and slowly felt better.

    He was so distracted by his sudden headaches that he didn’t see how Hanako took out a little flask that she had hidden in her red socks, opened it very gently and poured the liquid inside into the old man’s cup of tea. She had found a whole bottle of rat poison in the kitchen and had decided to keep some of it. She had initially planned on forcing the wrinkled pervert to drink all of it but now that she had his tea cup right in front of her, the occasion to poison it secretly was too promising. She poured most of the liquid into the old man’s tea cup and the rest into the larger teapot. She had just finished and put the empty flask in her red sock when the old man came back from the kitchen. He walked like an undead which made Hanako smile evilly. Soon enough, the old creep would be dead for real.

    Katsuyoshi sat down weakly, smiled stupidly at the young lady and took a tiny sip of his tea with trembling lips. Hanako took the teapot and filled the old man’s cup again. She looked at him intensely as he drank the entire content of his cup.

    ‘’WON’T YOU TELL ME THE REST OF YOUR STORY?’’

    Katsuyoshi opened his mouth to reply but suddenly started to gag. He desperately tried to hide his distress which made Hanako snicker quietly. Katsuyoshi took the teapot, looked at it in disbelief and then gazed at his guest who suddenly looked like a demon with an angel face. As the old man rose up with shaking legs, convulsing stomach and twisting head, he let the teapot fall on the ground where it loudly shattered into a myriad of tiny particles. He slowly opened his mouth, bent forward and vomited all over Hanako’s silky hair, perfect face and formfitting dress. He raised a trembling hand in an odd combination of excuse and self-defence.

    He didn’t stand a chance against Hanako’s relentless anger. Covered in vomit, she stood up with a creepy smile, put her rigid hands around the old man’s neck, moved forward slowly only to accelerate furiously and push the senior’s head through the glass of his living room window that overlooked the restaurant’s filthy backyard. Pieces of glass cut into the old man’s fragile neck as Hanako pushed it down against the frame.

    Katsuyoshi realized that the dirt stains on the trash bins in the backyard were actually blood. That was his last thought as Hanako snapped his neck by violently twisting it in a sharp ninety-degree turn to the right. She left the old man’s body dangling over the edge of the window. She then shoved the index and middle finger of her right hand deep down her throat and made herself vomit violently on the dead old man’s stiff body. The stinky slime poured down his lifeless body and dropped down on the dirty backyard.

    Hanako chuckled crazily and watched at the sinner she had committed with horrifying delight.

    Suddenly, she heard a knocking. First, she thought it was her mind playing tricks on her. Then she heard it again after a few seconds. She thought it was a noise caused by the intensifying snowstorm. She then heard the knocking a third time and this time it was followed by a distant shout. Hanako focused on the voice that sounded eerily familiar. When she heard it again, she smiled insanely and thanked some higher spirits for this fateful coincidence. She had finally recognized the voice. It was Ken’s voice.

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    Ken had made it through the intensifying snowstorm. The ramen shop looked abandoned, old and sinister in front of him. Ken thought about knocking on the door of the main entrance but supposed that Ryuki and Hanako must have already left. He went towards the side entrance that led straight to the old man’s apartment on the second floor. He knocked against the door and waited for the sound of footsteps but couldn’t hear anything through the powerful wind of the snowstorm.

    The young man looked up the wall and saw the lights in the old man’s living quarters. If the old man were still awake, he would certainly end up hearing him. Ken knocked on the door once more but couldn’t hear nor see any reaction.

    The building suddenly looked gloomily uninviting to him. He wondered why the ramen shop was situated so far away from the next settlement. He always thought the old man had something of a weird recluse. Ken wondered how the old man would react if he opened his door. Maybe he would fire him for disturbing him so late at night. At that point, Ken didn’t even care anymore. He was terribly cold and simply wanted to retrieve his keys and wallet from the kitchen table.

    He vigorously knocked on the door again and decided to shout as well.

    ‘’Mister Honda, it’s me, Ken! Please open the door!’’

    There was still no reaction whatsoever. Ken became frustrated. He didn’t want to wait any longer in the cold. He knocked so heavily on the old wooden door that he was momentarily afraid he might break it down. He decided to knock gentler but to scream louder.

    ‘’Mister Honda, I forgot my keys and wallet in the restaurant. Please open the door!’’

    Ken waited a few more moments and was almost about to give up in despair when he suddenly saw a shadow moving behind the blurred glass on the upper half of the door.

    The young man had a jolt when he suddenly saw Hanako behind the door. Her beautiful face looked monstrous through the frosted glass. Before Ken could think why the gorgeous waitress was in the old man’s flat, the mysterious young woman opened the door.

    ‘’Come inside, Ken!’’

    Hanako almost shouted through the loud snowstorm and Ken quickly entered the old small floor that led to the old man’s apartment. There was also a direct connection from the flat to the restaurant downstairs that the old man always used to keep an eye on his employees. Ken was quite discouraged that Katsuyoshi still didn’t seem to trust him after all the time he had been working for him. On the other side, he had to admit that he would neither have trusted that silent weirdo Ryuki nor that failed artist Shigeki. Ken realized that the old man had progressively stopped observing them since Hanako had started to work with them. The young man was slightly jealous but he could understand the old man’s reaction. The four men had all fallen under her inexplicable charm.

    ‘’Oh, you are soaked, Ken! Why have you come back here tonight?’’

    Ken could smell a revolting stench but did neither know where it came from nor what it could be. The light was shut in the small floor. The young man took off his solid winter boots and followed Hanako upstairs. He wondered why she hadn’t taken off her shoes before entering the old man’s apartment. On the other side, her beautiful red shoes couldn’t be compared to his old smelly boots. The young lady opened the door that led directly into Katsuyoshi’s living quarters.

    ‘’I have forgotten my keys and wallet in the restaurant kitchen.’’

    ‘’HOW UNFORTUNATE!’’

    Ken froze as Hanako turned around in the dim light of the old man’s apartment. It wasn’t only because of her startingly loud voice. She was covered in yellow slime from head to toe. Ken now realized what the terrible smell was. It was vomit.

    ‘’Oh my dear, what has happened to you?’’

    ‘’I GOT REALLY SICK. THAT’S WHY I’M STILL HERE. LET’S GO TO THE KITCHEN!’’

    Ken hesitated briefly but then followed Hanako. He wondered why she was speaking so loudly. Maybe she was embarrassed to be covered in vomit. Ken found the sight disgusting and exciting at the same time. Somehow, Hanako still managed to look elegant under those revolting circumstances.

    It was oddly cold in Katsuyoshi’s apartment as if somebody had left a window open for too long. Maybe it had been caused when Hanako had opened the front door for him. Ken wondered why the old man hadn’t come to greet him. Perhaps he had called an ambulance for poor Hanako. She clearly needed to see a doctor. Ken had never seen so much vomit.

    Hanako opened the squeaking door and walked over the threshold towards the stairs that led down right next to the section of the restaurant restrooms and kitchen. Ken followed her carefully as he didn’t see much in the dark. His eyes were filled with melted water from the snowflakes and Ken’s glasses were still foggy.

    They arrived in the small corridor. Ken almost walked into Hanako who had stopped right beside the stairs. Her disgusting smell made the young man stop at the very last moment. He smiled uncomfortably and walked down the hall past the restrooms and towards the kitchen.

    At the first moment, everything seemed to be perfectly normal when Ken entered the kitchen. Ryuki had washed all the dishes, filled the refrigerators and cleaned the table. Ken’s wallet and keys were still on the table where he had inadvertently left them. Ken slowly realized that something was somehow different. He didn’t immediately realize what it was until he saw what was left of Ryuki’s mathematics textbooks. It had been cut into shreds. Ken wondered whether the strange cook had become so upset over an exercise that he had destroyed the textbook.

    Then, Ken saw the stains on the wall. They were not just on the wall. They covered the ceiling, the sink and even the floor. Ken refused to believe what was already obvious to him. Maybe those stains were some sort of cleaning product. Perhaps they were some kind of grease. It could possibly be animal blood. Right?

    But then Ken saw that the stains led towards the back door of the kitchen. With his eyes wide open, his heartbeat racing and his legs shaking, he stumbled rather than walked towards that door. Ken was dreadfully afraid to open it and yet morbidly curious to get to know what had happened here. He realized that the door wasn’t completely closed and moved slightly in the harsh wind.

    Ken stood in a little pool of blood that had not completely dried yet. Somebody must have stopped here when carrying out Ryuki’s mutilated body. Ken breathed in, closed his eyes and swallowed nervously before he pushed the door.

    At first, Ken couldn’t see much in the dense snowstorm. He opened his eyes very slowly and saw faint footsteps in the snow that led towards the trash bins. Ken could also see the traces of blood leading towards the dumpsters.

    Like a robot, Ken moved forwards. He didn’t even bother that he wasn’t wearing his shoes at that point. He couldn’t even think clearly anymore. He was under shock. His mind was filled with bleak horror and sinister anticipation. He wondered how he could be so courageous to walk on and not just turn around, scream out loud and run away. The thoughts hurt his already aching head, so he stopped thinking altogether.

    The stench was almost unbearable as Ken approached the trash bins. It was the smell of rotten food, rat feces and human blood. Ken opened the first garbage can and shrieked out loud when he saw Ryuki’s bloody decapitated head. Ken moved back in terror, lost his footing in the snow, fell on his side and felt a slight pain in his right shoulder, turned around frantically and got up hectically in just a few seconds.

    He looked around and screamed out loud in terror again. He saw Katsuyoshi’s dead body dangling over the window of his apartment just above him. Ken now realized why the old man hadn’t greeted him. He now understood why it had been so cold in bis Katsuyoshi’s apartment. And he also realized why Hanako had been acting so very strangely. Shivers were sent down Ken’s spine and they weren’t provoked by the cold weather.

    He turned around very slowly. Hanako stood right in front of him with a bleak smile. She had put her hands behind her back. Ken now realized that her body wasn’t only covered in vomit but that there were also tiny spots of blood. Katsuyoshi’s blood. Probably also Ryuki’s blood. Maybe even Shigeki’s blood.

    Hanako nodded at two familiar objects on the ground. Ken saw his house keys and his wallet in the snow. He bent over very slowly to grab them when he looked up into Hanako’s murderous face. She had hidden a heavy frying pan behind her back and before Ken could escape, the stainless-steel container hit his temple.

    Ken fell headfirst into the freezing snow. His racing pulse was hammering inside his aching head. He tried to crawl away from the lady in red but he didn’t stand a chance. The second hit was so painful that Ken screamed so loud that he felt as if his lungs were bursting apart. The louder he screamed, the dizzier he got but he still crawled forward like an injured lizard. Deep down inside of him he knew that his efforts were useless. Nobody could hear him in the snowstorm. His colleagues and boss were dead. The next house was about half a mile away. The area was surrounded by endless meadows. Since he was in the restaurant’s backyard, the street was several hundred feet away. Nobody could hear him. Nobody could see him. Nobody could save him. It was all over now.

    With a last-ditch effort, Ken turned around and looked at the demon with an angel face. Knowing that victory was near, she smiled cruelly and enjoyed seeing her victim suffer.

    ‘’WHY DON’T YOU PICK UP YOUR KEYS AND WALLET?’’

    The frying pan hit Ken harder than ever before and he heard his skull crack under the impact. Blood blurred his eyes and the last thing he saw was his murderer’s blood-covered bloodred dress through his own blood. Then the lights went out. They went out forever. There was nothing after death.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    ‘’That’s the grisliest crime scene I have ever seen in my whole career, Okimoto!’’

    ‘’I have to agree, Ichiro.’’

    The two veteran detectives were the only ones who hadn’t vomited after seeing the scene of the crime. The first victim had been stabbed to death, decapitated and deposited into two separate trash cans. The second victim had apparently been poisoned, pushed through the glass of his apartment window and got his neck broken with inhuman force. The third victim had been hit with a heavy object on multiple occasions until it cracked its skull. A fourth potential victim hadn’t been found yet but the amount of blood and the number of scattered body parts in his apartment seemed to indicate that he had been hit and cut to death and buried elsewhere.

    The maid had found the three victims at the restaurant in the early hours of the morning, probably just a few hours after the last victim had succumbed to its vicious injuries. The murderer had already fled the scene of the crime. The maid was under shock and a team of psychologists was now taking care of her.

    Ichiro looked at the file and shook his head. The two veteran detectives had read the files of everyone who had been working at this restaurant. Honda Katsuyoshi, sixty-nine years old, the owner of the ramen shop: poisoned and beaten to death. Fukuhara Shigeki, twenty-one years old, artist and cashier: most likely beaten to death and cut into pieces. Kagawa Ryuki, eighteen years old, college student and cook: stabbed to death and beheaded. Tanaka Ken, seventeen years old, college student and waiter: beaten to death. At least the maid had survived since she wasn’t at the scene of the crime while the grisly murders occurred. Her life was still shattered and it would take her years to overcome the terrible things she had seen if she were strong enough. Ichiro doubted it.

    ‘’Hamada Hanako, sixteen years old, high school student and waitress. It’s hard to believe such a beautiful young lady can commit such horrendous crimes.’’

    ‘’Right, Ichiro. If those crimes were her first ones, I wouldn’t believe it either.’’

    The two detectives looked towards the meadows behind the restaurant. They wondered whether Hanako had run across the fields after committing her brutal murders. It didn’t seem to matter anymore at that point. The detectives knew they wouldn’t catch her. They hadn’t been able to catch her in three years. All they could do is wait until she would resurface again.

    ‘’Let’s get some breakfast, Okimoto. We need a good cup of coffee.’’

    ‘’Right, Ichiro. A good cup of coffee and a packet of cigarettes.’’

     

    The End

     

    Hanako will return.

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