Foreword – A Lack of Bullet Traces

 

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“How far does it need to be transported, and how fast?”

Those were the only two things Seymour Road always asked his clients. In other words, as courier he never asked about the 『what』. Be it people or items, regardless of the cargo, he would transport it ─ assuming, of course, that it’d actually fit into his car. No matter whether it was a person with a hidden identity, that would be discernible from the scar on their shin, or an item that would make anyone feel guilty if they understood its true nature, he never allowed himself to pry, or even try to get a glimpse of the cargo’s background.

And that was the very reason why he continued as Seymour Road, an individual working as something like a courier, and why he received work. The effect of that was far bigger than the shallow, refreshing, smile he never failed to show to his clients.

For example, his job on a certain day went down like this…

“Hey, transport this package right away.”

The one who said that to Seymour, as he thrust his head halfway into the car through the window, was a man obviously related to the mafia. His finely tailored suit, and the faint cologne drifting around him, failed to conceal the man’s shady atmosphere. Having said that, the unlawfulness stinking from his body like gasoline was the same one that was filling the whole city nowadays.

What he was handed over was a case with an impressive size that seemed difficult to hold onto with two hands, although it couldn’t be carried with one either. It was somewhat heavier than what would be suggested from its measurements.

How far? How fast? That was all he was told as the case was heaved on the passenger’s seat, and Seymour just nodded amiably.

“Very well, I accept. I’ll make sure to deliver it without fail.”

The job itself was simple. The destination wasn’t too erratic, and the deadline wasn’t overly harsh either. Seymour arrived at the delivery place at exactly the appointed time, obviously having timed it that way, and handed the case over to the old man who came out of the house. The man bowed politely, and carried the case into the house.

It was only several seconds later that the explosion occurred.

The building, which the old man had entered moments ago, was devoured by flames from within. Seymour was thrown to the ground by the following shockwave. The old man’s fate was more obvious than what would happen to an egg falling off a multi-storied building.

Blowing away traders and stores that didn’t pay their protection money with a planted bomb was an old trick, used by the lower stratas of the mafia. In this day and age, the city was infested by countless, intangible familia. Companies not belonging to any familia lived in fear that their company office building might be gone without a trace by the next morning.

In short, such a story amounted to only that much.

The items transported by Seymour weren’t limited to bombs. In the first place, there was little meaning in having him carry a bomb to an individual trader like that old man. If the delivery had been delayed ── Seymour wouldn’t forgive himself for doing something so rude, but whether that was properly appreciated by other people was a horse of a different color ── the target building wouldn’t have been blown away. Besides, because the mafia had a heap of ways to escape investigation by the police, it would be faster and more reliable to just blow the place up themselves.

Considering the circumstances, it was unlikely that Seymour had been tasked with delivering a bomb. That’s why, in reality, it was just a case of the building he made his delivery to happening to be blown up by a bomb right as he made the drop.

Such things happened to anyone working as a courier in this city, and Seymour was no exception to that. And those kinds of circumstances were normal for anyone living in this city, and Seymour was no exception to that either. For him, it was such a regular occurrence that he’d forget that they even happened.

Yet, on another day, his job went down like this…

“I’d like to go somewhere.” A woman in the back seat suddenly muttered, around ten minutes after the car had started to move.

Seymour couldn’t recall the particulars of the woman’s face, but what he could remember were her legs, which she had stretched out using the full width of the seat. Her high-heeled boots, which she had partially taken off, dangled on her toes, and seeing her blackened, cracked nails, Seymour felt that those were the nails of a prostitute.

“Say, boy. Can I change the destination?”

Seymour frowned at her way of addressing him. Normally he might have made up some lie while being stubborn about it, but since he was in the middle of work right now, he gave her an honest reply. In exchange, he kept his voice somewhat lower than usual, though.

“Yes, if that’s your wish, customer.”

“Can you take me away to the end of the world then?”

He smiled wryly, and revved up the car’s engine for just an instant as if to pass on that laugh.

“I beg your pardon, but I only take on deliveries to places recorded on the map of the city.”

Their conversation came to a halt with Seymour’s response. The female client kept her mouth closed until the car stopped.

“Gimme the map then. If I find the end of the world on it, I’ll request your services again.”

While putting a hand on the door, the woman removed the map placed in the car by Seymour with smooth movements. Just like the transportation fees he usually took, the map wasn’t a cheap article either, but the woman had blown him a particularly elegant kiss as she got out of the car, so Seymour decided to forgive her.

Prostitutes would normally travel by foot, or in the brothel’s car. Even if they were to rent a means of transportation, it was unthinkable that they’d request a questionable contractor like Seymour. When the woman had crammed herself into Seymour’s car, a man, who seemed to be some kind of clerk, looked quite flustered. So it was possible this woman had some special reason for entering his car.

Seymour never saw that woman again. She might have been unable to find the end of the world, or she might have actually found it on the map she borrowed from Seymour, and walked there by foot. Sometimes he would comfort himself by imaging that was what happened.

Yet, on another day, another job went down like this…

“Please take this with you.”

What had been stuffed into his back seat alongside that request was the corpse of a man. Seymour simply asked his usual two questions of where to and until when, just like he always did, and started his car. No, only at times like these, Seymour would add one more condition to his job with a short comment. That is to say, he told the customer to make sure that the seat wouldn’t get dirty, seeing as a knife was still embedded in the man’s chest.

Just like he made no distinction between people and objects when trafficking, the discrepancy between the person being alive or dead didn’t play much of a role in his work. As the absolute silence dominating the car, despite someone boarding it, was rather tough on him, Seymour casually chatted up the man in his back seat.

“So, what’s your deal?”

The man’s head swayed slowly in tact with the car’s movements.

“Because I exist, you’ll be transported somewhere. But, even if I didn’t exist, you’d probably be transported somewhere anyway, using a different kind of method. In other words, me doing this doesn’t amount to anything more than just a means. Rather than a person, I’m just a medium to move you.”

As if to prove that, Seymour’s limbs steered the car fluently even as he was talking.

“I’m pretty sure someone righteous would hand you over to the police. However, the act of transporting you in itself isn’t a crime for me or anyone else. It’s not righteous, but it’s not a crime either. I wonder, just how bad does a crime need to be to not feel righteous anymore?”

Of course he didn’t receive an answer. Seymour didn’t know why that man, who stank faintly, and seemed to be homeless, had been killed and transported, nor did he even try to gather information that would allow him to form a guess.

Basically, such was the being called Seymour Road.

Just like the air served as a medium for voices, and how power cables were mediums to transmit electricity, Seymour acted as one of the city’s mediums. He just slightly quickened the movement of people and objects, which could also be achieved without him, using his car. His smoothness as a medium, and the time gained in comparison to using normal means, produced his remuneration as a courier.

With a naturalness, as if he had been doing things this way since the moment he was born, the courier called Seymour Road had adapted himself to life in the city.

 

❖ ── ✦ ──『✙』── ✦ ── ❖

 

Because of that, Seymour Road was in the diner with the name 『Holiday』 on that day, too. The Holiday had a long, narrow, and cramped structure, as seemed to be typical for most diners. A counter that extended almost across the whole store, and several stools lined up along that counter. So far as it goes, four round tables that were independent of the counter had been set up as well, but even those tables were so small that three adults sitting at them would bump their knees against each other, and on top, one of them was always occupied by the diner’s owner, an old woman called Madela.

Just these things were enough to make the diner so cramped that you wouldn’t be able to walk through it without getting a bruise somewhere, and yet, an upright piano had been installed along the diner’s wall, and since shady, exotic, decorations, which Madela had bought somewhere, and a mop and bucket, which didn’t fit into the kitchen anymore, had been added to it as well, it was a wonder that the Holiday didn’t burst apart at the seams.

Seymour’s special seat was the one just before the deepest counter seat in the Holiday. It was a place where you would constantly hit your back, and the evening sun would shine directly into your eyes during this season. While swinging his legs on the stool, which was too high, he took out a cigarette, and put it between his fingers.

Cigarette still unlit, Seymour asked, “Were there any calls for me while I wasn’t here?”

Occasionally the Holiday rented its telephone number out to others. For example, to folks who didn’t own a phone at home, despite requiring a phone for their job, like Seymour.

“Now listen, I’m no telephone switchboard, okay?” The sole employee of this diner said, while allowing her lust for profit to ooze out from her expression.

Seymour shook his head, sparked a match, and lit the tip of his cigarette.

“Coffee. As hot as possible.”

“If that’s your order, you could have just said to give you the usual, right?”

“Coffee. As hot as possible.”

“Holy shit, how about drinking some booze every now and then?”

“I hate crimes.”

In response to Seymour’s words, the employee laughed with a deep, throaty, timbre. She knew very well what kind of work he did, and for what kind of people.

A prohibition that had turned into a mere shell. Crime lacking any penalty. Since such things existed, the people of this city acquired a humor that might have sounded cynical to anyone else.

“Ah, and about that, there was no call for you, Seymour. Congrats. The world is peaceful today as well.”

While saying that, the employee handed him the coffee that she had already brewed. It seemed as though quite a bit of time had passed since she made it. Going by the aroma, it was sour by now. Moreover, powder was floating on its surface.

Just like he always did, Seymour politely placed down the cup in front of him, pretending to not see it. Bending back on the stool despite its lack of a backrest, he called out to the owner, who was absorbed in her magazine, from across the whole diner.

“Madela! How’s business going today?”

The old woman, with her hunched back, gave an answer that was word for word the same as always.

“So-so, I’d say.”

“I see! Thank you!”

Seymour fixed his posture again, and traced the edge of his cup with a finger. Its porcelain, which was slightly chipped, was hot enough that it looked like he’d scald his finger. The gesture looked like he was tasting the coffee with his finger instead of his tongue.

The employee placed both hands on the counter, and bent herself slightly forward in his direction.

“But, Seymour, how about getting your own telephone sometime soon? You’re earning enough for at least that much, aren’t you? I think that would further your job as well.”

“You’re right. Then I wouldn’t need to sip this muddy water which you insist on calling coffee either.”

“How cruel. You know, that’s a work of art.”

“However, I have no intention of owning a telephone. At least not for the next while.”

“Why not? It’d make sense if it was because of some religious belief or something, but it’s not, is it?”

“Mmh…….”

At the moment he was earning enough money to keep on living. And, since his job was what it was, Seymour didn’t believe that he’d be able to live for long. No, more accurately, he didn’t have any reason to think about his future at all, so he didn’t really think about living or dying beyond this point in the first place.

If he installed a telephone at home, it might make his work smoother. He might be able to earn more money. However, just how important would that be?

Since it was plain as day that the employee in front of him would answer 『It’s more important than anything. More than anything else in this world』 if he were to ask her, Seymour simply shrugged his shoulders.

“This world, you see, doesn’t revolve around money alone.”

The employee laughed it off as a commonplace proverb you’d find written on generic advertisements all over the place.

“Haha, what a cheap line!”

Just then, the telephone rang. The employee winked at him in an exaggerated manner, and then headed deeper into the counter. Seymour, and the customers, who were likely there for the same reason as Seymour, turned their attention in that direction.

While placing his chin on the palm of his right hand, he smoked the cigarette inserted between his fingers. Slowly, one, then two, and then three puffs.

The employee looked back, and locked eyes with Seymour, who was sitting directly behind her.

“It’s a new commission, Mr. Courier, Seymour Road.”

 

 

 

 


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