“I’m not sleeping here tonight,” Genma said. “I don’t have any of my stuff here, and I’d kind of like to get a bed before I move in.” He paused, then added, “And it’s not haunted.”
Ryouma pointed his half empty beer bottle at Genma with an outstretched arm. “Now you’ve said it,” he accused. “I’ve seen this movie.”
“I haven’t,” said Kakashi. “Don’t tell me how it ends.”
“The Plum Wine Thief?” Genma asked. “I haven’t been having nightmares or compulsions to move. It was a total fluke Watanuki was even looking to rent it.”
Raidou stopped with his bottle halfway to his mouth. “There is a movie?”
The light of mischief in Ryouma’s eyes when he grinned at Genma was impossible to resist. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? it asked. Let’s gang up on them.
“Oh,” Genma said. “Yes. There is.” He peeled the cellophane from one of the onigiri. “First the main character loses his house in a flood and has to move in with his sister. I lost mine in a fire and moved in with a friend, it’s already totally different.” He took a bite of the rice ball and nodded at Ryouma to continue the story.
Ryouma picked up the thread fluently. “So he’s living in this crowded house, kids running all over and his sister fighting with her husband, and he’s desperate to move out. Starts looking at apartments. There’s this absolute dive he dismisses out of hand, but then he starts dreaming about it.”
“He keeps looking at places,” Genma continued, “but there are hardly any vacancies, and every time he finds a place, it gets rented right before he can make an offer.” He looked up in mock thought. “Actually that’s a little like with me. I really did have a couple of places rented out from under me.” He shrugged. “Life imitates art, I guess.”
Kakashi leaned in, intrigued. Raidou looked like he couldn’t decided whether to be horrified or exasperated.
“Don’t worry,” Genma said. “We won’t spoil the ending.”
“That’s it?” Kakashi looked disappointed. “Bad dreams and renting difficulty?”
“Hardly,” Genma said.
“He keeps walking by the place,” Ryouma said. “Like he's taking a new route home and it's there.> And he keeps dreaming of it, like he's standing at the bottom of the stairs to this place, and every night he goes a little further up.”
“It’s starting to creep him out a little, but the sister and her husband are fighting even more, and the kids are horrible little jerks, and he’s getting desperate.” Genma took another long swallow of beer, and passed the bag of snacks amiably to Raidou.
“So he ends up taking the place,” Ryouma went on before Raidou could interrupt. “He's gonna fix it up, but there's a red stain in the bathtub that comes back every time he scrubs it, and there's a scarred beam in the ceiling like something heavy was hangin' from it, and every night he smells plum wine, like a bottle broken in his bedroom.”
“But then the dreams stop, and everything seems like it’s going to be okay,” Genma said. “He gets the place looking a little nice. He paints the weird beam white, and his friend says it’s just rust from old pipes staining the tub. He even gets a girlfriend. But then he wakes up one morning, and the smell is intense, and right there in the middle of his floor, there’s a broken bottle of plum wine. Only he doesn’t drink and he has no idea where it came from.”
Kakashi was completely hooked now. Pakkun was listening, too, although he was pretending not to. Kin got up from her spot to go lay her head in Raidou’s lap. He dropped a hand to her ears.
“And?” Kakashi demanded. His tea rested on one knee, completely forgotten.
And Raidou looked like he wanted to be anywhere else. His eyes were fixed on the distant hills, his expression one of practiced disinterest. He didn’t like scary movies. He’d told Genma that only a few weeks ago. It seemed he didn’t like scary stories, either.