Except nothing out of the ordinary happened for the next month. News of “The Flying Saucer that Landed on Earth” raced around the world, making headlines in the major newspapers of every country. But no one had seen the flying saucer since it disappeared from Mount Tanzawa. The giant winged lizard as well was lying low.
After all that commotion, the population of Tokyo felt like it was waking up from a bad dream. Only one strange thing had occurred since then—Ichiro Hirano’s good friend Kitamura-san went missing.
As we previously noted in these pages, Kitamura-san lived next door to Ichiro in a small house with his hard-of-hearing housekeeper. Two days after the flying saucer incident, he told her, “I’m going for a walk.”
He went for a walk. And didn’t return.
The old housekeeper kicked up a fuss. The police were summoned. They searched high and low but Kitamura-san didn’t turn up in any of the expected places.
A month passed and his whereabouts remained unknown.
One evening, Ichiro was walking across a vacant field near his house when he quite unexpectedly ran into the long sought-after Kitamura-san. The man was so haggard he appeared to be a different person altogether. His hair was an unkempt snarl. His unshaven jowls were dark with stubble. His pale face and his tattered and torn clothing made him look like an apparition from a horror movie.
“Kitamura-san?” Ichiro called out. “It’s you, isn’t it? What in the world happened to you?”
“Ah, Hirano-kun. I survived the gauntlet and managed to flee here. They may be after me as we speak. There is no time to spare. Come with me. There are things I must tell you.”
He glanced over his shoulder as if fearing his pursuers were close behind.
“Kitamura-san, let’s go home. The old lady is beside herself with worry.”
“No, we can’t do that. Too dangerous. I have a better place in mind. Let’s head to the street and hail a taxi.”
“A better place? Where’s that?”
“Any place but here. No more question for now. I’ll have more to say in the car.”
They got to the main avenue just as a taxi came down the street. Ichiro couldn’t think of any other option but to join Kitamura-san. They flagged down the taxi and instructed the driver to set off as fast as the speed limit allowed.
“What happened? Tell me what’s going on.”
“I’ll get to that soon enough. Once we’ve reached our destination.”
“What is our destination?”
“That I can tell you. You probably know his name too. The office of Kogoro Akechi.”
“The famous private detective, you mean.”
“Indeed. We must inform the police, of course. But Detective Akechi comes first. I’ve met him on several occasions. We know each other well enough. My best recourse at this juncture is to seek his advice.”
That was all Kitamura-san had to say for the time being. Ichiro pressed him on the matter but he wouldn’t answer.
The taxi got to Chiyoda Ward and stopped in front of Detective Akechi’s office. A rosy-cheeked boy, Yoshio Kobayashi, answered the doorbell. Yoshio was well known in the trade as the detective’s assistant.
Thankfully, Detective Akechi was in. Yoshio ushered them into the western-style living room and sat them at a round table along with Detective Akechi and himself. After a round of introductions, Kitamura-san launched into an explanation.
“Detective Akechi, for the past month I have been held captive inside a flying saucer. Only yesterday did the opportunity present itself and I managed to escape.”
“What!” the other three blurted out. They exchanged glances. Hadn’t the flying saucers flown off for good?
Detective Akechi asked at once, “Was it the flying saucer that landed on Mount Tanzawa? Where it is now?”
“It relocated to the midst of a deeper wilderness much farther away from Mount Tanzawa, within a rugged range where woodsmen and hunters fear to tread.”
“After your escape, once you got to the foothills, why didn’t you notify the police so they could commence a search?”
“It would have availed them nothing. The flying saucer comes and goes as it pleases. Having noticed that I had escaped, the creature wouldn’t have stayed there long. It surely took the saucer to an even more remote location. Nobody knows where it is now.”
Kitamura-san reiterated that the flying saucer traveled at such a high rate of speed it could slip through any police cordon. A plane that took off in pursuit was unlikely to keep up. This truly was one troublesome quarry.
Detective Akechi asked, “How did you come to be imprisoned inside the flying saucer?”
Kitamura-san nodded. “It happened two days after the saucer landed on Mount Tanzawa,” he said.
I enjoy going for strolls on the levees of nearby rice paddies. That day, I was walking around a big field on the outskirts of Setagaya Ward. It was late in the evening, dark enough that I could barely see my own feet. I was hurrying home when suddenly someone appeared right in front of me. I don’t mean walked towards me. I mean, stood there as if he had dropped down from above.
Even in the dark I understood at once that this was the winged lizard man. The lizard man exactly resembled the descriptions in the newspapers.
I started in surprise and immediately turned to run. But it sprang after me and stuffed a spongy object in my mouth, rendering me speechless. Then it wrapped a soft lead-like band around my head, blindfolding my eyes.
I only figured this out later, but the round spongy object in my mouth was made from the same metal as the blindfold. Not a metal found anywhere on Earth, though metal may not be the right word for this particular substance. It had a silver color, was highly flexible, with the elasticity of rubber yet the strength of metal. It could only have come from a world orbiting a distant star. The hull of the flying saucer was made from it, as were the instruments and machinery inside it.
No sooner was I gagged but I felt myself being carried into the air. The big lizard slung me under its arm and flapped its wings. It was hard to tell in the dark, but we quickly reached an altitude of a thousand feet. From the hard sting of the wind in my face, I would tell the winged creature was moving fast. It was hard for me to catch my breath.
Along the way, we passed over a bustling town. From above, the glittering illumination appeared like the river of lights during the Lantern Festival. It was quite pretty, much the same way a city appears from an airplane at night.
We’d been flying for more than an hour. Buffeted by the frigid wind, I was chilled to the bone. I was sure I was about to freeze to death when we must have arrived at our destination, for our speed dropped and at last we set down on the ground. After a brief walk, the lizard man removed the blindfold. I didn’t know the location but we were inside the flying saucer.
The surroundings were bathed in a white light like burnished silver. This light came from an unknown source, not electricity. Arrayed all around me was a chaotic assembly of strange objects unknown on this planet. The propulsion unit for the flying saucer, most likely, though it was different from any machinery I had seen before. No gears or shafts, only what I took to be twisting and turning belts winding all hither and yon. Some of the materials were colored silver, some were translucent like glass, and others had hues I could not describe.
Again, the metal and material of that alien civilization. Simultaneously hard and soft, flexible and resilient.
Kitamura-san paused and took a sip from the cup of coffee on the table in front of him.