Back in the stakeout apartment, the police officer peered through the crack in the curtains with his binoculars, watching the unfolding events. Thanks to the electric light next to the front door of the storehouse, he could see the alien clear as day.
The sound of the iron bars falling into place reached as far as the stakeout apartment. The alien inside certainly appeared to be gripping the gate with its fearful strength. But the wall of heavy iron did not rattle or shake in the slightest.
Finally the alien turned and disappeared deeper inside the storehouse. It was obviously going to attack Yurika. But due to the wan lighting inside the storehouse and the obstructing wall inside the entranceway, Yurika and the events unfolding in the vicinity of the desk were out of sight.
The police officer glanced away from the binoculars and shouted, “It sprang the trap!”
As long as the gate held, the alien had no place to run. The three small windows were protected as well by iron bars that no known monster could bend out of the way.
The officer rushed across the room to the switch panel and pressed the button labeled “Bell.” A shrill clanging of a loud klaxon echoed through the yard outside the apartment. Responding to the signal, five men emerged from the darkness around the field. They ran towards the storehouse, two to the entranceway and the other three around the back.
From the outside, they secured the rugged iron shutters over the front doors and the windows and retreated to a safe distance. A half-dozen people now crowded the room on the second floor of the apartment building. Officials from the Metropolitan Police Department were waiting in an adjacent room, the Section Chief of the Criminal Investigation Department and two of his subordinates, one of whom was the now-familiar Inspector Nakamura.
Assisting Inspector Nakamura in the investigation was Inspector Sato. Kitamura-san and Yoshio Kobayashi were also present. For some reason, Detective Akechi was not.
The five officers having secured the storehouse, the sound of footsteps accompanied their arrival at the apartment. They reported that all the doors and windows were sealed tight.
The officer poised at the switch panel turned to his superiors and asked in a low voice, “Shall I press the button?”
Inspector Nakamura whispered to the Section Chief, who nodded in return. Inspector Nakamura said in a decisive voice, “All right. Let’s do it.”
The officer firmly pressed the button next to the label that read, “Gas.”
Only assigned to help out with the case that evening, Inspector Sato tapped Inspector Nakamura on the shoulder. “What’s that button for?”
Inspector Nakamura grinned. “I guess you haven’t been filled in on the particulars of the case. That button sends a signal to the storehouse. Beneath the floorboards is a pressurized tank of gas. Pressing the button opens the valve and floods the interior at tremendous speed.
“You don’t intend to kill the creature.”
“Not at all. Simply put it to sleep. The gas is an inhalational anesthetic, you see. “
“So the young lady you are using as bait will be sedated along with the alien. But aren’t you concerned about any harm it might inflict before it succumbs?”
Inspector Nakamura chuckled. “Looks like they really left you out of the loop. The young lady is perfectly fine. Nothing untoward in the slightest will happen to her. You like fishing, right? Fishermen use artificial lures all the time instead of live bait. In the same way, the Yurika inside the storehouse is not the real Yurika.”
“But if we deployed a doppelganger, there’s still a human being in there.”
“Nothing human about this lookalike. It’s a doll equipped with electric motors to move the head and hands. A robotic doll, in other words. See the labels on these buttons, like Music and Lights? The one that says Music instructs the doll to play the violin. Of course, it can’t actually play the violin. The music comes from a recording. A turntable is hidden under the desk with a record of Yurika playing the violin. A press of the button sets it into action. The control wires run out of view under the ground. Similarly, the button that says Lights turns the lights in the storehouse on and off.”
“Huh. So that’s what was going on. Explains why everybody appeared so calm. In any case, this is quite an ingenious setup.” Inspector Sato spoke with undisguised admiration.
“I’m afraid the credit for this plan goes to Kitamura-kun here. He’s quite the scientist. The novel design for this trap is not something we would have come up with.”
This explanation answered all of the outstanding questions. Yurika was currently being kept in a safe location. The alien had been drawn in by a facsimile of the real thing and fell into the net cast by the police. Kitamura-san had pulled off a great achievement.
During this conversation, enough time passed for the gas to completely infuse the storehouse. The Section Chief gave the order. Together with another officer, Inspector Nakamura went to inspect conditions inside the storehouse.
The two left the apartment, crossed the field, and approached the entranceway to the storehouse. They seized hold of the double doors. On the count of three, they heaved them open, then quickly backed away to avoid breathing in any remaining gas.
The iron gate was in place. The interior of the storehouse was deathly still. No signs of life. The alien must be unconscious or asleep.
Having waited a prudent amount of time, the two of them moved closer to the gate and peered inside. The mechanical Yurika doll lay in front of the desk. The alien was nowhere to be seen.
“That’s odd,” Inspector Nakamura whispered. “It must have hidden behind the desk. Let’s take a look from the rear window.”
The circled around to the back of the storehouse. A small ladder was there from when the windows were shuttered. The officer climbed the ladder and opened the shutters. He called down, “There’s nobody in there. What’s going on? I can’t think of anywhere else it could hide.”
Inspector Nakamura changed places with him and looked inside. As the officer had observed, there was no sign of the monster anywhere. He said to the officer, “Go get the Section Chief and the others. Something strange is going on. The creature may have used more of its magic to disappear into thin air.”
The officer ran off. A short while later, everyone who’d gathered inside the apartment assembled in front of the storehouse. The Section Chief ordered the officers to open the remaining windows and inspect the interior, but no evidence of the alien turned up.
After further discussion, they decided to physically inspect the inside of the storehouse. One of the officers ran back to the second floor of the apartment building and pressed the button to raise the gate.
The Section Chief and two officers, pistols at the ready, cautiously passed through the open gate. To guard against any unforeseen circumstances, the remaining personnel surrounded the storehouse on all four sides.
The three inside the storehouse searched high and low but found neither hide nor hair of the alien.
The Section Chief muttered, a stunned look on his face, “This storehouse has a concrete ceiling and floor. The windows were shuttered from the outside and the iron bars in the windows haven’t been disturbed. There isn’t a big enough gap anywhere for a mouse to escape. This is quite extraordinary.”
“More sorcery from an extraterrestrial civilization. Maybe it stretched its body like rubber and escaped by squeezing through the gap under the door.”
Inspector Nakamura’s fanciful speculations notwithstanding, there was no way any creature from the stars could flatten itself thin enough to slip through the gap in a door jam. Deeper logic was at play, the workings of an alien intelligence that none of them could fathom.
In any case, the alien had fled the storehouse and gone somewhere. Perhaps it soared into the sky. Which was all fine and good, but what if it had detected the location of the real Yurika and was slinking away there even now?
With a collective start, the thought occurred to the three of them—the Section Chief, Inspector Nakamura and Inspector Sato—at the same time.
Inspector Nakamura said as he rushed out of the storehouse, “Yurika is our most immediate concern. Phone ahead and get to her location as quickly as possible.”
But would even a phone call reach her in time? If the alien escaped before the Gas button was pressed, an insurmountable amount of time might have already passed. It was entirely possible that the silver-masked monster already had the brilliant and beautiful girl under its arm and was bearing her away to parts unknown.