Yaaaaaawn. Conan Edogawa fluttered his eyes open and stretched his little, shrunken arms. Beside him to the right, Kogoro Mouri was happily snoring in his bed. Conan looked at his watch. 'What?! Nine o'clock in the morning already? I slept for almost ten hours!' He thought. 'Well, it's not that surprising considering how the case developed yesterday. I suppose it doesn't matter because today is Sunday and the next three days are holidays.' Conan looked over to the empty futon on his left. Heiji and Kazuha had stayed over for the night, after they were visiting the cherry blossom festival yesterday; Heiji had mentioned to Conan yesterday that the two of them would have to get up early for their travel back home. 'Must've already left ... well then, bon voyage,I guess,' Conan thought as he got up and went to the bathroom, to brush his teeth.
'I wonder if he remembers that I asked him to do some research about Rena Mizunashi ... well, I guess I can send him a text later and it'll be fine,' Conan thought, while getting his toothbrush from the sink. He squeezed the tube next to his toothbrush for some toothpaste, but nothing came out of it, no matter how hard he squeezed. 'What? Already empty again?'
"Here, take some of mine," Heiji said and passed Conan his own toothpaste.
"Ah, thanks, Hat ... tori..." Conan said and hastily turned his head around, just to see Heiji Hattori standing in the bathroom, brushing his teeth as well. He hadn't noticed the teenage detective from Osaka before. "What the flipping heck are you still doing here?! Didn't you say you were supposed to get up early?!", Conan yelled. Raising his voice that much caused him to cough multiple times.
"Yeah, supposed to is the right term," Heiji exclaimed with an annoyed expression on his face. "But Kogoro-san was snoring so loudly, I could barely sleep at all and now my entire scheduling is obsolete! How do ya put up with this every night?!"
"You ... cough cough ... get used to it, just a matter of time, really ... cough," Conan replied.
"Hey, Kudo, what's with the cough there?" Heiji asked. "Don't tell me ya've caught a cold while solving that case last night in the forest?"
"No ... cough ... it's nothing ... cough cough ... okay, maybe it's something. No matter, it's not like I had any plans for the holidays besides reading and I can do that just as fine with a little cold," Conan said, still coughing.
"Sounds more like a little to me. Ya got any medicine in this cabinet?" Heiji asked with concern in his voice.
"No, that's really not neces- cough cough -sary," Conan said in response. "Alright, maybe a little bit. Give me that small box over there."
Heiji took the box from the cabinet and gave it to him. "Hey, ya sure about this? It's not labeled or anything, is this really gonna help ya?"
"Don't know yet," Conan explained. "It's a new cold medicine Professor Agasa is working on. He asked me to test it the next time I've got a cold and next time is apparently now, so why not do him the favor?" He took the little pill from the box in his mouth and drank some water from the sink to swallow it more easily. "Anyhow, if your schedule is messed up now, you better get a new ticket for your travel back to Osaka quickly."
"What?" Heiji asked, brushing his teeth again. "But I'm not traveling back just yet."
"Huh?" Conan wondered.
An hour later, Conan and Heiji were sitting around the table in the living room of the apartment above the Mouri Detective Agency, eating breakfast together with Ran, Kazuha and Kogoro.
"What?! An uninhabited island?!" Kogoro exclaimed between bites. "And that's where the two of you will travel next?"
"Yep, that's right," Heiji said, "visiting the cherry blossom festival and ya all was just a bonus."
"Oh, did someone hire you for a case on that island?" Ran asked.
"No, it's-," Heiji started, but he was interrupted.
"No, no," Kazuha quickly said, "it's just for some stupid television show."
"Yer the stupid one..." Heiji mumbled.
"B-but will you still catch the boat to that place now?" Ran asked with some concern in her voice. "It will probably set sail super early, right?"
"Nah, we've got plenty of time!" Heiji smiled, much to the annoyance of Kogoro.
"Then what was all the riot about getting up early for?!" Kogoro exclaimed.
"Relax, I just had planned to get there early to get a closer look at the other invited participants," Heiji explained, "because they are all just like me ... high school detectives!"
"High school detectives? Which are all participating in a television show?" Conan inquired.
"That's right! Nichiuri TV has gathered the best high school detectives from all over Japan and they want to find out who of them is the best. Kinda inspired by the Koshien baseball tournament. The name of the show is," Heiji put some kind of elusive intonation into his voice, "Competition of the Super High School Detectives!"
Ran, Kogoro and Conan were left a bit speechless. "W-what...? Competition of the Super High School Detectives...?" Ran asked. "That sounds ... interesting..."
"It sounds dumb, ya don't have to pretend otherwise," Kazuha laughed, "that's why I told Heiji not to participate in something that already has such a stupid name. It'll probably end in him becoming the joke of our whole school."
Heiji glared at Kazuha. "Hey, it's not like I wanted to participate, ya know, I had my doubts too. But the letter said that I was invited as the Great Detective of the West and thus would represent the Kansai region too. I couldn't just let some random no-name represent Osaka now, could I? Besides, if I attend this event, maybe I'll get to see that guy again ... the one who will surely represent the East..."
'The guy who will represent the East...?' Ran thought and blushed. 'Shinichi!'
Kazuha giggled. "Hey, Ran-chan, yer face is completely red!"
"Huh?" Ran looked at the girl and fanned herself some air. "W-well, it's a pretty hot day today ... all muggy and stuff, I wonder if there'll be a thunderstorm later..."
"Hmph, who cares about the weather?!" Kogoro exclaimed. "What interests me more is whether or not that detective brat will show up!"
Kazuha giggled again at Kogoro completely missing that she and Ran were already talking about that. "Well, surely he will!"
'Well, surely he won't!' Conan thought and glared at Heiji. 'But this guy should know that too, shouldn't he? Besides, Ran and I cleaned up my house just three days ago and there was no message left on the answering machine ... no letters in the mailbox either and the Professor, who usually takes care of that stuff, didn't mention anything about an invitation. He would've told me about such a letter, wouldn't he...? Yeah, probably would've...'
"Why don't the three of ya come with me and Kazuha and see me off?" Heiji proposed. "The invitation said that bringing some company would be no problem. Who knows, maybe the representative of the East, also known as the arrogant bighead that is Shinichi Kudo will suddenly appear out of nowhere!" Heiji put on a smug, cheery smile and patted Conan's head a few times. "Ya're excited to meet him again too, aren't ya, little one?"
Conan glared at Heiji with exasperation. "You sneaky, little bastard..." Conan mumbled, so it was only audible for him and the detective from Osaka.
"No, no, ya've got it wrong," Heiji said at the same volume and winked, "the little bastard here is ya, remember? I'm the big bastard!"
Two hours later, the group arrived at the port that was given in the invitation sent to Heiji. Meeting point was the big cruise ship in the harbor, which was so big that none of the five missed it even for a second. The sea was a little rough, waves crashing against the quay wall. While it was hot and rather muggy like Ran described to excuse her blushing because of thinking about Shinichi, it was also rather cloudy, with only a few spots where sunrays were able to fall directly to the ground. Probably not for much longer though, as there were already some dark clouds on the horizon, probably thunderclouds.
Heiji, Conan, Kazuha, Ran and Kogoro went ahead toward the cruise ship, where they spotted someone who apparently worked for Nichiuri TV, as evidenced by his jacket with the lettering saying exactly that, Nichiuri TV,and their typical logo, a pig with a counter-clockwise circling as the pig's eye. He was slightly smaller than Heiji, had a light mustache and a receding hairline; most of his hair was combed to the back, popping out behind his ears.
The guy went towards the group as soon as he spotted them, looking nervously to his clock. "You're late, Hattori-kun," the guy said, "you really have to be more on time. We're running on a pretty tight schedule here. Anyway, hello everybody, my name is Hiroo Tsuchio, I'm a director with Nichiuri TV. Alright, we have to get going now..."
"Sorry, sorry," Heiji said, "we've got a bit lost on the way here." He took a side glance to Kogoro, who avoided his gaze with an indignant huff.
"Let's just get to the island first, yeah? The other ones are already on board the ship," Tsuchio said.
"Is..." Ran mumbled, blushing. "I-is Shinichi also on board?", she asked, with a bolder tone this time.
"Huh?" Tsuchio halted in his movement, looking at Ran and Kazuha.
"Shinichi Kudo!" Kazuha exclaimed. "The best high school detective in the East of Japan!"
"Ah, the representative of the East? The thing is, we haven't heard anything from him today an he is not here yet, so I'm not sure what his status is. If he doesn't show up in the next few minutes however, I don't think he will participate then," Tsuchio explained.
"What...?" Ran mumbled.
"For real now...?" Kazuha said.
Heiji snickered. "What a shocker," he said without the slightest hint of shock in his voice.
"Tsk, what the hell did you expect?" Conan mumbled, clicking his tongue.
Kogoro went over to Tsuchio. "Is there a hotel on the island, where all the companions of the detectives can spend the night and stuff?"
"No, but all guardians can stay over night in..." Tsuchio rummaged in his pocket, pulled out a piece of paper and handed it to Kogoro, "...this hotel. Tomorrow, after the recording, you can come to island and pick him up."
"I see," Kogoro said and read the card Tsuchio handed. "But, I'm not his fa-..."
"Anyway," Heiji said, interrupting Kogoro, "this child can come with to the island, right? He's my little assistant."
"Ah, I don't know," Tsuchio said; he suddenly got a bit nervous when Heiji raised an eyebrow and continued hastily, "N-no, I'm afraid he can't come with you. But you can entertain yourself in the hotel, little guy!"
'I'm just fine, thanks...' Conan thought.
"Maaan, bummer." Heiji muttered.
"How about we get to the boat now, yes? We need to leave!" Tsuchio said.
"Just a moment, I forgot my bag in the trunk of the car, let me just get it real quick!" Heiji exclaimed. "Come on, Conan-kun, you can give me a hand!" Conan looked irritated at Heiji, because he didn't know why Heiji would need his help to get a single sports bag, but he went along with him to the car anyway.
"Geez, this Hattori-kun..." Tsuchio said and looked to his watch again.
"Hey, at least he is here now, right? You just said that a few more minutes would be still fine!" Kazuha said, not hiding that she didn't like the director's complaining about Heiji.
"This ship is really huge..." Ran wondered, ignoring Kazuha's remark. "Did you invite one high school detective from each of the 47 prefectures?"
"No, just from four! One for representing the South, the West, the East and the North of Japan each. I just picked this cruise ship as a meeting point, because there is no way you can miss it." Tsuchio said.
"I guess that's true enough..." Ran said.
Meanwhile, Heiji and Conan were out of the group's hearing range, standing at the open trunk of Kogoro's rental car. The detective from Osaka grabbed the bag from the trunk and completely opened the zipper. "Here, hop in," Heiji said.
"..." Conan looked from Heiji to the open bag and then back to Heiji. "...what?"
"I'm gonna smuggle ya on this island in here! Don't worry, the only thing in there are my school uniform with matching shoes, my clothes from yesterday and some fresh underwear, so nothing nasty," Heiji explained, "once ya're on the island, I'm sure they won't just send ya back. At the least ya'll be able to compete from behind the cameras, maybe even more."
"What the...? What, are you planning to score an easy victory again, by having me in your team, because nobody knows about my real capabilities, like you did when you competed with Kazuha to go to the real Koshien?" Conan said.
"Relax, it's not like that," Heiji smiled, "but of course I knew that Shinichi Kudo wouldn't be able to attend, so I thought that maybe this way ya could compete a little bit regardless of yer circumstances. After all, the brain is the same and come on, where would be the fun in me just sweeping the competition all by myself? In the end, the only one that is almost a challenge for me is ya!"
"I see how it is," Conan gave him a deadpan look, "you asked Uncle and Ran to come here, because otherwise I wouldn't even have accompanied you to this harbor for something silly like this TV show. And that's also the reason why you tried to sell me as your assistant to the director..."
"Well, to be fair, you're kind of my assistant," Heiji said.
"Oh please, you're my assistant," Conan said.
"No, I think you're my assistant," Heiji said.
"Let's be real, we're kind of equal," Conan said.
"I still think you're my assistant," Heiji said.
"Alright, have fun on the island, bored to death because you have no competition, while I enjoy a comfortable stay at a luxurious hotel. See you!" Conan said and turned around to go back to Kogoro and Ran.
"Wa-wa-wait, ya're my equal, okay, equal!" Heiji hastily exclaimed. "Please! And come on, ya're interested in what kind of mystery the network cooked up too, right? Right?!"
"Okay, okay, I'll do it," Conan said, went back to Heiji and carefully stepped into the bag; he sat up for a second and pointed a finger directly into Heiji's face, only an inch away from his nose, "I'll do it for the mystery, not for you!"
"Yeah, yeah, I got it," Heiji said happily, as Conan laid back into the bag, so Heiji could zip up the bag almost completely, leaving a small slit open for Conan to breathe a little bit easier. Heiji shouldered the bag. "Oof, have been eating too much of Neechan's food recently? What do you weigh, 20 kilograms?"
"Still feisty 18 kilos, a perfectly normal weight for a first grader, thank you very much!", came the muffled response from inside the bag. "Now stop talking and walk faster before the boat leaves without us!"
Heiji made his way back to the group, where Tsuchio was looking on his watch even more nervously than before, something that Heiji wouldn't have thought was possible. "Hattori-kun, really, how much time does take to get one sports bag? Anyway let's head to the boat!" Tsuchio said.
"But ... we are right in front of it," Heiji said and pointed to the cruise ship.
"No, no, that was just the meeting point, because it was impossible to ... you know what, just come on, we don't have time for this!" Tsuchio exclaimed and went ahead to the boat, with Heiji, Kazuha, Ran and Kogoro following them.
"Where is Conan-kun?" Ran asked.
"Oh, right, he took his skateboard from the trunk and said he would spend the day at Professor Agasa's place," Heiji explained.
"Geez," Ran sighed, "that child, can't help but to run off all the time!"
'When did he get his skateboard into the trunk of a car I only rented yesterday?' Kogoro thought. 'That brat must be even sneakier than I already assumed...'
"Yeah, well," Heiji laughed and patted his bag, "he's really a little brat, isn't h-argh!" Heiji exclaimed, as he promptly received a fierce kick into his side from the bag around his shoulder, after the brat part of his sentence.
"H-Heiji, are ya alright?!" Kazuha worriedly said.
"It's nothing, don't worry," Heiji reassured her, "what I wanted to say is that it was my suggestion that Conan-kun should leave, since I knew he wouldn't enjoy sitting around in a hotel the whole day, waiting for me..."
"Ah, I guess that makes sense," Kazuha said. "Conan-kun is just like Heiji after all," she said to Ran. "Without a mystery, they both get easily bored!"
"Yeah, I guess," Ran said with a little smile.
"Nice save," Conan whispered from inside the bag.
"Thanks, but from now on the peanut gallery remains silent and kickless, okay?!" Heiji hissed under his breath, to which he only heard a muffled snort from inside the bag.
The group followed Tsuchio to a considerably smaller boat. "Alright, this is it. Come on, time to get on board." Heiji nodded and crossed the small footbridge to get on the boat.
"Heiji!" Kazuha yelled, making Heiji turn around. "Ya're representing the whole Kansai region, get it? I won't forgive ya if ya lose!"
Heiji grinned. "Don't worry," he said and turned his cap around, "I wouldn't throw my hat into the ring if I didn't plan on winning!" He waved the three of them a last goodbye and then went along with the director, already spotting two other teenagers sitting inside the boat. He turned to Tsuchio: "The bag comes with me into the sitting area?"
Tsuchio shook his head. "No, the luggage gets stored in the back of the ship, safety protocols for boats and stuff. I need to talk to the captain real quick, around that corner and then just put it with the other bags, alright?"
Heiji nodded, the cue for the director to leave. He followed the described path and spotted the other people's luggage. Putting his bag with them, he zipped it up a bit. "Sorry, but ya'll have to spend the boat trip in there too. If we'll reveal ya too early, they might just turn around the ship and leave ya at the main land and that would kinda defeat the entire purpose of this exercise, right?"
"Yeah, yeah..." Conan huffed. "So? Do our fellow competitors seem excited?"
"Not really," Heiji said, "two guys with long hair, one with black hair and the other with light brown hair. Black Hair Guy is playing with some handheld console and Brown Hair Guy is listening to something on his massive headphones. I thought they would be more excited ... anyway, do ya also want something to keep ya busy during the trip? I could give ya my cell phone..."
"Nah, I've got my own with me, thanks," Conan said. "Just one more thing, Hattori: have you ever met this director guy before?"
"Nope," Heiji explained, "this was my first meeting with him. Before this, he only said that I would recognize him because of his Nichiuri TV jacket." He zipped up the bag again, careful to again leave open a small slit for breathing purposes.
After an hour on the boat, Conan felt quite bored in his bag, even with his phone at hand. 'Really now, letting myself get smuggled in a sports bag on to an uninhabited island, just for some mystery scrambled together by the same television network that also produces cooking shows with Yoko Okino ... Ran's right, I really am a mystery freak ... well, can't go back now.'
Suddenly, Conan felt a sharp pain in his chest and his heart started to pound fast and irregularly. 'Th-this ... feeling! It ... it can't be!' Conan thought, clutching the shirt underneath his blue blazer. 'M-my body ... is b-b-burning up...! Don't tell me ... I-I'm ... going to turn back...?!' He looked to the small slit in the zipper and put one finger through it, easily pushing the zipper open from the inside. 'I can't ... turn into myself in Hattori's bag ... I'd rip right through it ...' Conan stepped out of the bag and zipped it back up instinctively, not noticing that he had left his cell phone in there. He frantically looked around, but it seemed like the passengers couldn't see the luggage area from their seats. They probably couldn't have seen him even if there was a clear line of sight, because the dark thunderclouds that were on the horizon when they were in the harbor where right above them, blocking out almost all light from the sun; the sea had become even rougher, thoroughly shaking the boat. 'Great ... I'm still on a boat ... with four people that can't know my identity on it, two of them detectives like me ... what do I...'
A huge wave crashed against the boat, shaking it violently; Conan, who's legs were already shaky due to his condition, was caught completely off-guard by that, stumbled and fell right over the ship's rail. "...do...?", Conan asked out loud, completing the sentence from his thoughts, while he was falling head first into the waves. He only had time to utter this little word, before he was unnoticedly swallowed by the raging sea.
Hey everybody, I'm back! This time, with another alternative story or a What if...? type of story, where I take known stories from the manga and change something up, this time starting with the Detective Koshien case from the Volumes 54 & 55. Until now, that change was replacing Conan with Shinichi and as you could guess from the summary and this chapter, something similar to that might happen in this one. The reason why this is not called "Detective Koshien Revised - Detective Conan Alternative" but rather "Meitantei Shinichi" is because the Alternative series (well, it is only one fic as of yet, but it will probably be a series somewhere in the future) is for unrelated stories, which cross from the original plot for the story only and then return to it, while Meitantei Shinichi will (hopefully?) be a series of related fics, that all represent a different, continuous branching of the manga story.
Back to the chapter at hand: how did you like it? Are you looking forward for more? As always, comments are a great way to provide feedback for me and are helping me greatly to stay determined (Undertale much?) and to keep going. Stay tuned for the next chapter!
At the same time, Heiji was sitting with the other two high school detectives, from the South and the North as Heiji presumed. Brown Hair Guy was listening to some music Heiji didn't recognize through some giant headphones, wearing shades and chewing bubble gum, leaning on a bag with the Nichiuri TV logo on it, while Black Hair Guy was sitting hunched forward, busy playing with his Ony Avit handheld console. Heiji felt the boat shaking from the waves and hoped that it wouldn't start to rain before they had arrived at the island.
Hiroo Tsuchio, the director from Nichiuri TV came back to the three detectives with a little notebook in his hands. "Well then. Once we've arrived on the island, everybody stays in their respective room until dinner starts," Tsuchio explained. "Because it is planned that something happens after that! But don't underestimate the situation, the competition starts once you've put one foot on the island!" After he finished this explanation, he sat down on the bench, right beside Heiji, opposite of the other two detectives.
"Roger!," Brown Hair Guy said, not bothering to take the headphones off.
"All clear!," Black Hair Guy said, not looking up from his game.
'Hmph, they really seem not too excited,' Heiji thought. 'I thought there would be more enthusiasm over a competition like this...' Suddenly, Heiji heard loud burping from his right side. "Huh?" Heiji wondered and turned his head; Tsuchio was looking rather pale, burping and panting, slightly leaning forward on his legs, one hand covering his mouth.
"..." Black Hair Guy looked up from his handheld. "Seasick?" He simply asked.
"Ahh, no, it's just a hangover," Tsuchio said with a shaky voice. "The recording session yesterday went on for a pretty long time and as a reward, I visited a really high class restaurant with the crew. I guess I drank a little bit too much..."
"I see..." Black Hair Guy said. "First you went over the top and then all the way down to the bottom..."
"Huh...?" Tsuchio looked confused. "No, I-I just meant that it was really expensive..."
"My dear," Brown Hair Guy said, "don't be so nervous. Why don't you laugh for me?"
"Huh?" Tsuchio stared at the two of them. "L-laugh...? Oh, I see 'high class', 'over the top', I kind of missed the pun right there. Ha ... ha ha ... ha?"
Black Hair Guy and Brown Hair Guy both confidently smiled and laughed with him. Heiji's lips curled up to a little smile. 'Oh, I see, I see,' Heiji thought, 'they are more sharp than I originally assumed...'
Just as the three stopped laughing, a thunder strike rang through the air and it started to rain. And with this, the wind also got harsher and sea raged even more, making the boat also shake more. 'Damnit,' Heiji thought, 'I don't have a raincoat with me...'
A little while later, the boat arrived at the uninhabited island. The rain didn't stop, quite the opposite, it became a really heavy thunderstorm. A harsh wind shook the boat, as the detectives and Tsuchio retrieved their luggage from the back of the boat, getting completely drenched. They all hopped on to the landing. On it, they were expected by an elderly man, with glasses and grey hair, wearing a west over his dress shirt. He held an umbrella in his hands, as it seemed he didn't have a raincoat with him either; however, the little umbrella didn't keep him from getting drenched either. He briefly introduced himself as Renzo Koya, the one who was responsible for the welfare of the participants, before he suggested to get inside the house on the island first, out of rain and out of the harsh wind, that made it almost impossible to have a conversation. Heiji, Tsuchio, Brown Hair Guy and Black Hair Guy all nodded and they all ran to the mansion, with Heiji staying behind for a little bit to tie his cap to the front of the boat, before catching up quickly to the others; in the rush of the moment, Heiji didn't even notice that his bag was about 18 kilos lighter than before.
Thankfully, it was just a rather small run up a hill from the landing to the mansion. As the entered the two-floored mansion, pantingly standing inside the entrance hall, they were dripping water all over the floor. As the door was being closed, Heiji looked back to the boat a last time. 'Let's hope that this premonitory feeling of mine is wrong and that my message won't need to be received...' Heiji thought.
Koya noticed the dripping and sighed. "Do not worry, I'll clean the hallways after you go up to your rooms. It's not your fault that we suddenly got a downpour after all..."
Heiji shook himself. 'Lucky ya, Kudo,' he thought, 'traded a more comfortable boat ride for not getting soaked ... anyway, time to let the cat out of the bag.'
"Ya know, Director-san," Heiji said and put his bag to the ground, "seeing as the Great Detective of the East didn't show up, I think I have an alternative for ya." He opened his bag, revealing ... his clothes. And nothing else.
Tsuchio, Brown Hair Guy and Black Hair Guy stared at Heiji and his bag in confusion. Heiji's eyes widened and he froze on the spot. 'What ... what the hell?!'
"Uhm..." Tsuchio scratched the back of his head. "I don't quite see an alternative in your bag..."
"What...?" Heiji hastily turned around to the director and the other two detectives, who said nothing. "Ahhh, sorry, it was a practical joke," Heiji nervously explained, "I guess it didn't really work, ha ha ha..."
"You're kind of strange, you know?" Tsuchio asked. "But ... I guess I can feel with you about missing jokes after my little hangover conversation on the boat..."
"In any case, there is no need for an alternative of the representative of the East," Koya said. "After all, he arrived earlier in the morning and has been relaxing inside this mansion ever since!"
"Ehh?!" Heiji exclaimed. "Really? Are ya sure?!"
"Yes, quite sure," Koya explained calmly. "If I recall, his name was Sa-..."
He stopped talking, as the five of them heard footsteps approaching them. "It seems like there is really no cell phone reception here and no internet either. Completely cut off from civilization. This island is truly a perfect place for a mystery drama!" The teenager that the male voice belonged to came around a corner in the hallway, standing in front of the group now. He had blonde hair and was wearing a striped dress shirt in combination with a dark blazer. "Ah, splendid, the other detectives, I presume? I am Saguru Hakuba, pleasured to meet you!"
"Well then!" Tsuchio clapped his hands. "Now we have gathered the best high school detectives from the North, the East, the South and the West here. Alright, first things first, why don't you introduce yourself?"
"Sure," Brown Hair Guy said and took out a piece of paper to wrap the bubble gum from his mouth into.
"Shouldn't we wait for some camera guy to come here?" Black Hair Guy asked.
Heiji looked around, exasperated and somewhat nervously. "Or someone from the production team in general..."
"The crew and the host will arrive here tomorrow morning," Tsuchio explained. "We're already here today, so you can get an overview of this place, you know, get used to it and stuff. I only thought that you could just practice your introductory speeches, iron out some details, so we can get it perfectly for the recording tomorrow."
"Sure, why not, I guess I'll go ahead then..." Brown Hair Guy said and took off the headphones. "My name is Natsuki Koshimizu and I'm currently in my third year of high school. I was born in Fukuoka and thus I'm here participating as the best high school detective from the South. Despite that, I'm only really starting as a detective and I have just barely solved 100 cases, so please don't go too hard on me!"
"This one is called Junya Tokitsu," Black Hair Guy said. "I was born in Tokyo, but I grew up on Hokkaido, which makes the representative of the North in this competition. I guess I solved roundabout 300 cases; through my actions as a detective, about 250 criminals have either been caught or legally charged, although there were some cases where the criminal managed to avoid custody or took his own life."
"I'm Heiji Hattori," Heiji said, "I'm the most famous and most skilled detective from Osaka in particular and the Kansai region in general, which is why I've been invited to represent the West here. Let's see, I've solved about one, two, three..." Heiji pretended to count with his fingers. "Oh well, I've stopped counting after hitting 1000 solved cases," he cheerfully proclaimed.
"1000 cases?!" Natsuki exclaimed.
"Quite impressive," Junya said, "I wonder how many numbers you've rounded in your equation..."
"Nah, no rounding, just cold, hard numbers," Heiji said. 'If you count the cases of missing cats I solved in elementary school that is,' he added in his thoughts.
"So, you're the fabled Heiji Hattori, I see," Hakuba said. "My father told me a lot of things about you. You're said to have excellent deductive instincts."
"Huh? Why should yer father know anything about me, huh?!" Heiji yelled somewhat angrily.
Hakuba was surprised and confused for just a second, before he regained his composure and spoke confidently again: "As it happens to be, my father is the Superintendent General and thus head of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department; Rank 1, the highest rank in the entirety of the Japanese police, as there can always only be one Superintendent General to stand above the various Rank 2 officials, chiefs of a large prefectural police for example, such as your father Heizo Hattori happens to be one. And well, the two apparently talked about you, as my father talked quite a bit about you the last time we had dinner four and a half months ago." Hakuba chuckled. "We're quite similar in that regard though, with out fathers being highly ranking police officials, it's almost funny; although you probably left your sense of humour at home in Osaka, along with your politeness. Anyways, introduction: I'm Saguru Hakuba, I represent the East and I roughly solved about 500 cases."
"Well, well, well, only half of what I've managed to solve," Heiji snarked.
"Yeah, well," Hakuba flashed him a smug grin, "of course I'm only counting the cases that happened here in Japan."
"Huh?" Heiji stared at him in confusion. "What do you mean?"
"I'm studying abroad in England and therefore I'm not that often in Japan. But our housekeeper always accepts all kinds of cases on my behalf, which is why I never run out of work when I visit the homeland," Saguru explained.
"I'm kind of surprised though," Junya said, "that you, Saguru Hakuba, who is more famous overseas, was chosen to represent the East."
"Yeah, me too!" Natsuki said. "I was completely sure that this role would've been taken up by Shinichi Kudo!"
"Yes, yes, that's right!" Heiji yelled. "Shinichi Kudo, the one who is usually referred to as the Great Detective of the East, would be the rightful representative of the East and not ya!"
"Agreed. And that's part of the reason I'm here," Saguru said, his smile not faltering at the subtle doubts of his right to be here by his fellow detectives. "You see, our housekeeper got a call, about whether or not I could participate in this competition as the replacement for Shinichi Kudo, because he wasn't available. She took this to heart and begged me under tears to participate in this, to show the audience in front of the television screens that Saguru Hakuba is the smartest detective of East Japan and not the second choice. I couldn't just refuse her request, so I traveled here from England for this occasion. But it seems that all three of you also are of the opinion that I'm not the right representative, right?"
"Of course!" Heiji said with conviction.
"Then why don't we change the name of my role?" Hakuba proposed. "I'm the representative from outside the domain and the spot of the East remains vacant for this competition, out of respect for Shinichi Kudo? Does this seems acceptable?"
"I-I guess..." Tsuchio said, "since we'll still have four detectives competing..." Junya, Natsuki and Heiji simply nodded to show their agreement.
"Alright," Natsuki said, "could you show us the way to our rooms now? We should get out of these wet clothes quickly..."
"Yes, this one agrees," Junya said, "and also, will dinner be ready soon? My stomach's rumbling."
"Sure, let me show you the way!" Tsuchio said and looked over to Koya. "Koya-san will cook something for you and once it is ready to be served, he will pick you up from your rooms. Oh and I'd like to check your outfits for the recording, so please come to the dinner like we discussed. In an outfit that is worthy for our legendary Koshien inspired competition!"
Tsuchio led the four detectives from the ground floor to the first floor. Once they've climbed the stairs, they stood in a hall with a window and two corridors, on to the right and one to the left, symmetrically facing each other. Each corridor led to two rooms. Basically, the first floor was a large square divided into four smaller squares by a plus symbol, with the smaller squares being one room each and the lines of the plus symbol being the hallways. Heiji had his room in the right corridor, opposite of Junya's room. He closed the door behind him, dropped his bag to the floor and let himself fall backwards against the door.
The scent of lavender came to Heiji's nose; he looked around the room. There was a flowerpot with lavender in his room, with what looked like a toolbox on the ground beside it. Furniture-wise, the room had a bed, a wardrobe, a desk with a lamp on it and a chair. Two windows allowed him to see into the dark woods, although he of course couldn't see anything now, since it was night and he had the lights on.
Heiji knelt down to the ground and opened his sports bag again. He stared at his clothes, as if Conan would've jump out from under them if he looked long enough, but that was impossible.
'What. The. Hell...' Heiji thought. 'How ... why ...? What could've happened...? Maybe Kudo wanted to teach me a lesson for that assistant remark and simply played the long game: pretending to travel with me, but then he left the bag when I wasn't looking. Either when we were still at the harbor or when the boat came here and he simply hid himself and drove back to the main land with it that way, because the risk of me spotting him while already leaving at the harbor would've been too high. Or he has run off on me on this island and wandering through the forest, making me panic and thus apologetic when he comes out of there...' Heiji rubbed his temples and looked at the bag again, suddenly noticing Conan's phone among his clothes. 'Huh? His phone? Did he leave a message for me on there...?' Heiji pressed a button and the display lit up. It was the lock screen. 'Needs a PIN, of course ... well, I don't think he expects me to figure out what it is, so I won't waste my time on that ... hm, but looking at it, at least it also has no service, so I couldn't use it either ... weird ... although...' Heiji's eyebrow twitched. 'It would kinda fit this guy ... relaxing back on the main land, making me worried sick and then when I show up and get angry because he played me, he will let himself get protected by Kazuha and I can do nothing again. Hah! I've seen through yer game, Kudo! Not this time, I will just finish my business here and enjoy my time. And then the expression on yer face will be the priceless one!'
He took his bag and went over to the bed and changed his clothes, exchanging his white jacket, black t-shirt, gray pants and his blue casual shoes for his black uniform jacket and pants, with matching formal shoes and a white dress shirt underneath the buttoned-up jacket. Until he heard the knocking on the door, he spent his time thinking about the whole situation, the other detectives and Conan in particular.
The door was opened by Koya, with Hakuba and Junya standing behind him. "Excuse me, Hattori-sama, the dinner will be served now," Koya said and politely bowed. Heiji nodded and went along with the group.
"Is she already in the dining room?" Junya asked, while they were walking along the hallway.
"She? Is there a woman on this isl-..." Heiji wondered, but then stopped in the middle of the sentence and looked over his shoulder.
"Something the matter?" Hakuba asked Heiji, who hesitantly shook his head in response.
"No, it's nothing..." Heiji said. "Just thought I heard something..."
"Probably just the thunderstorm," Koya said.
"Yeah ... anyway, as I was asking: there is a woman on this island?" Heiji continued.
"Yes, of course," Junya said, "she was with us the whole time."
Koya knocked on the left door in the left corridor. They heard some hurried steps from behind the door; shortly after, Natsuki threw open the door. "What?! No way!" Natsuki exclaimed. "It's this late already?! Damnit, I've been wasting too much time again!" She was wearing a green-white school uniform, with a rather long skirt and a sailor type ribbon, which Natsuki was hastily binding at the moment.
'Eh?! Brown Hair Guy's a gal?' Heiji thought.
"My school is extremely strict, so it takes quite some time until everything fits correctly," Natsuki explained, as she finished the knot of her ribbon. "The skirt has to reach three to five centimeters over the knees! The ends of the ribbon have to be in perfect symmetry! Socks have to be black! Perms are forbidden and everyone who shaves their eyebrows gets detention!" She took a deep breath, calming down as she was finished with her ribbon and twirled a strand of her hair. "I can't tell anymore how often I got into trouble just because of my hair color, but what can I do, brown is simply my natural hair color..."
"Well, today is not yet the recording day, so you shouldn't trouble your beautiful face with all of this stress just yet," Hakuba flirted and gave her a smile.
"..." Natsuki absentmindedly twirled the strand for another moment, before the she looked to Hakuba and smiled. "I guess you're right!"
Hakuba gently placed one arm on Natsuki's back and led her out of the room. Heiji looked at him with annoyance about the behaviour of the English detective. Looking at him, he noticed something. "Hm? Am I mistaken or are ya still wearing the same clothes as before?" Heiji asked Hakuba.
"Indeed," Hakuba said, "because the high schools in England are less strict than the regular Japanese ones, not even speaking about the extreme ones like Natsuki-san's here. They don't even have mandatory uniforms, which is why these clothes are just fine for me."
Natsuki, Heiji, Hakuba, Junya and Koya made their way downstairs to the dining room. The smell of dinner already reached the noses of the high school detectives as the climbed down the stairs. A baked chicken, various salads and sauces were spread out all over the dining table.
"Oh, amazing!" Natsuki exclaimed and turned to Koya. "Did you cook all of this by yourself?"
"Yes, of course," Koya said and nodded.
Hakuba looked around the dining room twice. "It appears that our dear Director-san is still missing." Natsuki and Heiji also looked around at his comment.
"Weird," Koya said, "I knocked on his door earlier, but received no answer at all, so I assumed that he was already in the dining room..."
"Then, would you mind showing us where his room is? I would find it troubling to start dinner without him," Hakuba said. Koya nodded and the group left the dining room again. Exiting the door, Koya headed down the hallway to the left, leading to Tsuchio's room and the bathroom. They were almost at his door, when suddenly it knocked on the front door. Surprised, the five of them turned around, looking down the hallway to the entrance of this mansion.
"What the...?" Heiji uttered. "Don't tell me he went out to get some fresh air and locked himself out?!"
"It can't be..." Natsuki mumbled.
"Why would he do that in this storm...?" Koya wondered.
"I don't know, but that knocking wasn't the storm, I'm sure of it," Heiji insisted. Almost as if the one outside wanted to prove Heiji's point, it knocked again. "There, there is someone outside. Let's let Tsuchio-san in, it couldn't be anyone else on this uninhabited island after all, right?" The others nodded (Natsuki only hesitantly though) and the five went to the front door instead. Heiji unlocked the door. "What the hell are you doing outside with this weather, Tsu ... chio..." Heiji said as the opened the door, but stopped talking as he saw who was standing outside.
"What a weather, huh?" The one outside said, stepping into the hallway, with slightly wet clothes. He had black hair, piercing blue eyes, wearing a light blue jacket with a white t-shirt underneath it and black jeans with matching shoes. "I hope I'm not too late for this Detectives Koshien."
Heiji stared at him with an open mouth from not finishing his sentence; Koya, Hakuba and Natsuki also seemed quite shocked. Junya was the first one to say something: "You ... aren't you...?"
"Good evening," the man said. "I'm Shinichi Kudo. Pleasure to meet you all!"
There he is, the true champion of Tokyo! Shinichi Kudo has entered the scene to shake this Detective Koshien up ... or so it seems to everyone who doesn't know his secret!
I have received wonderful feedback after the first chapter already, which was great to read. Keep it coming! I might sometimes forget to mention comments and feedback in the notes at the end, but rest assured that I read every piece of feedback and appreciate it greatly! Next chapter, we will go back in time a few hours! Stay tuned!
Chapter 3: Stranded
Earlier, when the boat Conan fell off from was almost at the island:
Conan coughed up water and rolled around in the muddy sand. Rain was pouring down on him, a strong wind blew and waves washed over him in a regular rhythm. Instinctively, Conan tried to crawl further up the beach, to avoid that the waves pulled him back into the sea. Still coughing up water and with a burning pain aching all over his body, he used one arm to pull himself forward, while still clutching his chest with the other one. Conan crawled until he didn't feel waves reaching him anymore, before he turned around on his back and stared into a dark sky, which was occasionally lit up by a lightning. He slightly raised his head; now he stared on to the raging sea, that for some reason didn't swallow him, but instead washed him up on the shore of this island; at least Conan assumed that it was the uninhabited island that the detective competition was supposed to take place on. His whole body was shaking, but he tried to stand up. Slow and steady movements, until he was finally back on his feet. Conan looked around: he was on a small beach, which ended at two small cliffs on both the right and the left side and right in front him was only a massive forest, with no sign of civilization anywhere.
Suddenly Conan felt another surge of pain go through his entire body. It was so intensive that it knocked him right back on his knees. At this intensity, he might turn back any time now, he was sure of it. Back on instincts, he took off his bow tie and the blue blazer. Then he undid his suspenders and took off the shirt. After that he kicked off his shoes and stripped off his socks before he pulled down his shorts and underpants. Finally, he pulled the undershirt over his head and threw it away, leaving him completely naked on the beach. Not a second too early, as another wave of pain went through his body. With one hand on his now bare chest, where he could feel his heart desperately pounding, Conan wasn't able to hold back anymore and started to scream as much as his lungs allowed him to.
A few moments later, Conan Edogawa was gone. Instead, Shinichi Kudo was lying naked in the rain on the beach of an uninhabited island. What a day. Shinichi took deep breaths and sat himself up. He felt better now, much better, as usual when a transformation was finally over. And his body felt great too. Shinichi took the time to stretch his limbs, taking note and pleasure in the restored length of his arms and legs; his hands were tiny anymore either. It was great. At least it would be great, if not for the little things like being naked, on an uninhabited island, in the cold rain, with a cold wind blowing. He reached over to his clothes, that he thankfully took off, otherwise he would've ripped right through them, which would've been quite painful and would've made them useless. Shinichi spread the blazer, which now seemed tiny to him as well, out on the sand and put the others clothes on it. Then he bundled it all up, using his suspenders to knot the bundle, utilizing the technique he observed Ran using when she folded up her karate gi with its belt for club practice. The voice changer in his bow tie sadly didn't survive the water and both his wristwatch and his glasses had slid off his body and were now at the bottom of the sea.
Shinichi took his little clothing bundle and went into the forest. Hopefully nobody witnessed what just happened here, but the chances of that were pretty low; not like Shinichi was able to see anyone. As he walked a few meters under the protective leaves of the trees, he climbed up one of them. Even if this island was uninhabited and the possibility of one of the other detectives or some crew of the television show going around in the forest at this weather was stupidly low, he felt like minimizing the risk of getting spotted by climbing into a tree was a good idea.
'What the hell happened?' Shinichi thought, once he safely sat in the branches of a massive tree. 'Why did I turn back? I didn't drink or eat anything unusual and Hattori didn't bring any drinks with him this time either, so what caused ... it ... Hattori ... taking something unusual ... the cold medicine of the Professor! That must be it, it can't be anything else! But why give me that? The Professor seemed quite honest and innocent when he gave it too me, I don't think it was on purpose on his part. So either he took the wrong pill and gave me one of Haibara's prototype antidotes accidentally or Haibara switched them on purpose without telling him. But that would be stupid by her, way too risky. She likes to play wicked games, but not with our secret. No, if she wanted to test another antidote, she would've asked me; she knows I'd have accepted in a heartbeat. An accidental switch by the Professor then ... really now, he should be more careful with this stuff! Who knows in what unfortunate timing the change back could've occurred ... not to say that the way it happened, with me falling into the sea wasn't unfortunate already, but if it happened in the car drive to the harbor with Ran, Kogoro and Kazuha around ... I don't actually want to finish that thought.' Shinichi leaned back against the tree and swiped some water from his forehead. The leaves shielded him from most of the rain now. 'So, what am I gonna do now? I could wait here in the forest, until I turn back, then put my Conan clothes back on and search for the mansion and tell them I fell off the boat. The only problem is that I don't know how long I'm gonna stay myself. Last time, it lasted about a day, but I can't wait for so long here in the forest, completely naked. It is almost night, so it's getting colder and with the wind and the rain, I'd get sick for sure; the hypothermia might kill me, no, no no no, I'm not gonna just sit here and die of that, this can't be the end of me. Which means that I'll have to get to the place where the competition is held, there is no other way. Hattori mentioned he had his clothes from yesterday with him, in addition to his school uniform. If I can make it to the mansion and can manage to contact him without alerting anybody else, I could borrow his clothes and pretend to simply have arrived late or I'll hide somewhere. It'll be slightly embarrassing for sure, but there is just no other way!'
Shinichi chose to stay high on the trees, making his way through the forest like he was Tarzan. Good thing that he was highly agile and a skillful climber. He decided to climb along the coastline, since there had to be some kind of place where the boat would land and where the group could follow a set path to where the location of the detective competition. Without a cell phone or his watch he didn't know how long it took, but finally he spotted a landing from his higher point of view. Observing the surroundings, he spotted what he assumed to be it: a two-floored mansion. 'Great, another mansion for a detective gathering...' Shinichi thought. 'Hopefully without Kaitou Kid this time...'
Still staying hidden in forest shade, Shinichi moves closer to the mansion. Not too fast though, looking out for any possible people wandering below or cameras of the production crew. Almost surprisingly, he didn't spot anyone or anything. It was only the mansion, no production van or tent or anything that would indicate the presence of a production team. He closed in on the mansion and got back to the ground. He couldn't look into the first floor from the trees, so Shinichi was content with scouting out the ground floor first. Staring at the front door, he looked at the window left of it; from the outside it seemed like a kitchen. An elder man was working in it, but there was no way that he could spot Shinichi. Lit windows are blind and Shinichi was still well hidden rather far away from the mansion in the dark and the bushes. He started to circle the mansion clockwise: going along parallel to the left wall of the house, there was a shed. It was locked with a heavy padlock, no way for Shinichi to get in there at the moment. He looked back to the wall of the mansion and saw into the kitchen again through another window. After that, a window of a big room followed, presumably a dining room and after that, another lit room, a bedroom from what Shinichi tell from a distance; he couldn't risk to come closer. Shinichi continued to circle the house, now going along the backside of the mansion; another window enabled him to see into the same room again; Shinichi continued to walk past that window too. The next window was dark; it was kind of risky, but Shinichi slowly moved closer, careful that no one could see him from the first floor or the other room. He peeked into the dark room, the last few sunbeams of the day were hidden behind the dark thunderclouds, but together with the occasional lightning strikes and Shinichi's eyes adapting to the dark, he was able to make out what kind of room this was: an empty bathroom.
Carefully, Shinichi checked whether or not the window was locked. It wasn't, the bolt lock was open, rather careless considering the storm, so he opened the window and climbed inside. The whole time he didn't let go of the windows, so a gust of wind wouldn't throw them open or close, thus inevitably making a ton of noise. Instead, he slowly and diligently closed the window behind him, avoiding to make any kind of ruckus. Continuing to channel his inner Solid Snake, Shinichi only stood on tiptoes, as his feet were very dirty, so he would leave only minimal footprints. He silently went over to the closet, took two towels and cleaned off his feet and removed the few tracks and water drops he left on the floor. After that, he dried himself with the other towel, when he suddenly heard steps outside. Stealthily, he hid himself in the closet, but thankfully the steps weren't coming to this bathroom, but rather to the room on the opposite site of the hallway; the room that Shinichi didn't risk coming closer to.
Shinichi heard whoever was in the hallway knocking on the opposite door. If the person knocking said something, Shinichi couldn't hear it, but he heard footsteps going away from his position. Shinichi stepped out of his hiding place; since it was clearly too dangerous to sneak through the house, Shinichi decided to step outside again. He took the two towels with him, even the dirty one, since he couldn't leave it in the still empty laundry basket, it could raise too many questions and attention, both things that Shinichi didn't need in his situation. With the towels and his Conan bundle, he repeated the same procedure he followed while getting in and managed to get back into the bushes outside without making a sound or being spotted from any of the windows. He was careful. Some would call it overly careful, but Shinichi was extremely alerted. If was found now, he would be in dire need of a good explanation. Plus, the news flash 'Famous high school detective Shinichi Kudo caught naked trespassing a Nichiuri TV film site' wasn't really helpful in his efforts to remain dead in the eyes of the Black Organization.
He had exited the bathroom through its second window, that was on the right side of mansion rather than on the backside. Continuing to circle the house, the next window he saw through was a dark bedroom. No need to go in there for now, there wasn't anything for him to use now and it wasn't any safer to go into the house this way. He was finished with the right side and was back at the front of the mansion, staring on to the entrance again. Unfortunately, it seemed like the rooms of the detectives were all upstairs. Judging from the windows he saw from downstairs, there were four rooms. Three for each detective and one should be empty since he didn't attend this event. If they didn't find a last minute replacement.
Considering that the old man was probably still in the kitchen, Shinichi wanted start right here, with the room over the dark bedroom. The window in the first floor was high, but Shinichi estimated that it was possible to climb up there with a good jump. He tied the towels into the bundle of clothes and used his suspenders to carry the bundle over his shoulder like a sports bag, so he had both of his hands free. Shinichi went closer to the window in the ground floor. It was still dark and empty. He took a deep breath and jumped, managing to reach the board outside the window in the first floor. Stemming his feet against the wall of the house, Shinichi slowly pulled his upper body higher, until his eyes reached very slightly over the edge of the board. He didn't see anyone standing directly at the window from down at the ground, but he couldn't just pull himself up completely into some random persons field of view.
When his eyes were able to barely see into the room, Shinichi blushed deeply: he saw a girl with brown hair, who was meticulously brushing her hair over her ears and earlobe piercings. However, the thing that made him blush was that this girl was only in her underwear. Quickly, Shinichi dropped down again; he didn't need to see this and it obviously wasn't Heiji's room. This reminded him of that one situation when a magician made doves appear from underneath Ran's school uniform. The doves fluttering into freedom from underneath her clothes gave Shinichi (then Conan) a good, short view of her underwear too. She would kill him if she knew that ... then again, with the bathing incident at Kogoro's class reunion ... Shinichi shook his head. Neither time nor place to remember Ran in underwear or Ran naked. And why did he think of Ran when he just saw another girl in her underwear?
'That's true matrimonial devotion for you!' Shinichi heard Sonoko say in his thoughts. He shook his head again and went along the right side of the mansion, towards the backside. When he came to the window of the bathroom he used to exit the room, he looked upwards. Nobody there. He used the same tactic to climb up as before; he slowly pulled himself higher again, barely looking into the room. This time he was more lucky (at least from his perspective, some more pervy guys would have a different opinion on that matter), because it was Heiji's room. Problem: he was just exiting the room, accompanied by the old man from the kitchen, a guy with black hair in a suit and ... Saguru Hakuba?! What the hell was he doing here?
'Well, whenever he is in Japan, he's usually in Tokyo ... so, my replacement is him? He's skilled, but still ... nobody made an attempt at contacting me...' Shinichi thought, while Hattori closed the door behind him. Shinichi waited for a few more moments, before he completely pulled himself up and sat on the windowsill. 'Please don't be locked, please don't be locked,' Shinichi thought, then he opened the window. It wasn't locked. 'Yes!'
Shinichi climbed into the room, still careful about not making any noise. He closed the window behind him and quickly went over to the door and closed the lock on that. Shinichi leaned himself against the door and breathed a sigh of relief. He untied the towels from the clothes bundle and used the already dirty one to clean off his feet and the floor, then he used the clean one to dry himself again. The towels were a bit wet from the rain, but not drenched, so Shinichi got dry fairly quickly. He hid the towels along with his clothes bundle underneath the mattress and then opened Heiji's sports bag, where he was hidden just a few hours ago, when he still was in a size that allowed this.
He had seen that Heiji had already changed into his school uniform, so he put aside the clothes that the detective from Osaka wore today; probably every single person on this island had seen him in these, he couldn't wear them. But Heiji's clothes from yesterday, the light blue jacket, the white t-shirt and the black pants with matching shoes, yes, those would be perfect. Heiji and Shinichi had similar builds, so they should fit, no problem. Shinichi put on the fresh underwear and socks from the bag and then all of the other clothes. He felt good; finally dry and not naked anymore.
Then his instincts kicked back in: there was no camera team or any part of a production team. That means either they would arrive tomorrow or ... hidden cameras! Not something Shinichi would want, his naked run on camera. But he didn't see anything anywhere and he was very careful. Just to be sure, Shinichi searched Heiji's entire room, but there were no hidden cameras or microphones to be found. Thank god.
Now Shinichi had two options: hiding inside the house was too dangerous and unpredictable go back into the forest and try to live through the cold, rainy and windy night (with clothes this time) or go back outside, run to the front door and pretend to have arrived late for the competition. There was no camera team here, maybe he could get out tomorrow before anything would be filmed. If anything would be filmed at all; Shinichi had serious doubts about the authenticity of this whole thing. Shinichi didn't hesitate for a second; Nr. 2 was the only real option.
Shinichi unlocked the door and climbed out of the window. He made a quick sprint to the front door and took a second to catch his breath, before knocking on the door. Nothing happened at first, so he knocked again. This time he heard steps from the other side of the door and it was finally opened, by nobody else than Heiji Hattori.
"What the hell are ya doing outside with this weather, Tsu ... chio..." Heiji said as the opened the door, but stopped talking as he saw who was standing outside.
"What a weather, huh?" Shinichi said, stepping into the hallway. "I hope I'm not too late for this Detectives Koshien."
Heiji stared at him with an open mouth from not finishing his sentence; the old man, Hakuba and the girl who Shinichi had seen in her underwear (he somehow managed to suppress a blush) also seemed quite shocked. The guy with black hair in a suit was the first one to say something: "You ... aren't you...?"
"Good evening," Shinichi said. "I'm Shinichi Kudo. Pleasure to meet you all!"
Chapter 4: Locked Room Riddle
Shinichi quickly looked at the faces of the group staring at him. Heiji was completely baffled and shocked; the discovery that Conan was suddenly gone must've confused him greatly and seeing him in his real form again now probably didn't help with that. "Hattori!" Shinichi greeted his friend. "It's been too long!" He offered Heiji a handshake, who took it quickly.
"Kudo, I thought ya weren't coming! Good to see you," Heiji replied and pulled Shinichi slightly closer to him during the handshake and whispered: "Ya have to explain this later."
"Of course," Shinichi whispered before ending their handshake.
"This one is called Junya Tokitsu, representing the North," the guy with black hair in a suit said and bowed slightly. "I was hoping to compete with you here, Shinichi Kudo. Please don't disappoint me."
"I'll try..." Shinichi said.
"Erhm, I-I-I'm Natsuki Koshimizu! H-happy to make your acquaintance..." the brown haired girl stuttered, with a blush and widened eyes. It looked like a mix of excitement and panic.
"Saguru Hakuba," Hakuba and also shook Shinichi's hand briefly. "I came here to represent the East, but due to popular demand," quick side glance to Heiji, "my role was changed so I participate as the detective from outside the domain. Just in time for your arrival."
"I'm Renzo Koya," the old man said. "I'm taking care of everyone." He slightly tilted his head. "Your arrival wasn't announced to me beforehand, so we don't have a room for you."
"Yeah, it was all a really last minute thing," Shinichi explained. Although made up would be the more appropriate term. "I took another late boat."
'A boat in this storm ... is there a sailor crazy enough to sail out for such a trip in that harbor...?' Junya thought.
"He can stay in my room, no problem!" Heiji hastily said.
"I guess ... it's fine then," Koya said. "In any case, we should get the director now and all eat dinner." He led the group down the hallway. Shinichi felt Heiji's, Hakuba's and Natsuki's gaze on him, but didn't do anything about, because he felt quite exhausted all of a sudden. Once they arrived at the door of the director, Koya started to knock. "Tsuchio-sama, the dinner is ready. Tsuchio-sama?"
Heiji stepped forward and angrily turned the doorknob, but the door refused to open. "Locked. He probably closed the door and fell a ... sleep...?" Heiji let go of the doorknob and stared at his hand. His eyes widened. "Blood! There's blood on the doorknob!"
"Do you have another key for the room?!" Natsuki hastily asked Koya.
"No, there aren't any keys at all," Koya replied. "Just like in your rooms, the doors only have bolt locks on the inside."
"This room is identical to ours upstairs, huh?" Junya said. "Then it should also have two windows like ours."
'Indeed,' Shinichi thought, having made himself familiar with the layout of the rooms from his circling of the mansion.
"Then I'm gonna run outside and take a look through the window!" Hakuba exclaimed and turned around to run, Junya following him, but they didn't get far. After a few steps, they suddenly heard loud noises from behind them and turned around. "Huh!?"
Heiji was throwing himself against the door, again and again. Shinichi watched him do this without making any moves to help him, since he didn't have the power left for that and instead leaned against the wall. Meanwhile, Heiji threw himself shoulder forward against the door again, which began to budge. "W-wait...!" Natsuki exclaimed, but Heiji had already gone for the next push, which finally threw the door open, the lock busting with a loud noise. Inside, Tsuchio was lying on the floor, tied up with three ropes, two going around his upper body and one going around his legs.
Heiji and Hakuba ran to the director, Junya wandered into the room and looked around, Shinichi went a few steps into the room as well, before he leaned against the wall to his right side, between the door frame and a small dresser. Koya and Natsuki stayed in the hallway and watched the others from there. "Tsuchio-san?!" Heiji yelled.
"Tsuchio-san?!" Hakuba repeated. The two of them knelt besides the body of the director.
"Hm, the windows are both locked," Junya said matter-of-factly.
"The same goes for the door," Natsuki said, leaning forward to inspect the lock from her position. "Until Hattori-san busted it open, that is."
"So this is a murder in a locked room then!" Junya exclaimed and spread his arms in a showman-like manner.
"Indeed," Hakuba said, while still looking at the body of the director. "At least that would be the case, if Tsuchio-san were really dead, but he isn't!"
"What...?" Junya wondered, but then Tsuchio already began to move again and groaned. He slowly opened his eyes and tried to stand up, but he was still shaky and tied up. Heiji started to remove the ropes and helped him sit.
"Tsuchio-san, what the hell happened to ya?!" Heiji asked him.
"S-somebody knocked on my door, but when I opened it, nobody was there!" Tsuchio explained, holding his head because he appeared to still be in pain. "When turned around to go back into my room, someone suddenly attacked me from behind and drugged me!"
"Competition of the Super High School Detectives," Koya suddenly said, "Round One. Solve the mysterious incident in the locked room."
"Huh?" All five detectives wondered.
"Solve the case, write the solution down on a paper and bring that paper to me," Koya continued. "Whoever gets the solution right qualifies for Round Two and is allowed to leave this island!"
"Oh, so the game has already begun?" Heiji said with a sly look on his face.
"Then I guess there are hidden cameras everywhere, filming us when we don't expect it..." Hakuba said and looked around the ceiling.
'No, there aren't,' Shinichi thought. 'I checked all over Hattori's room and I'm pretty sure there were also none in the bathroom or the hallway. And I can't spot any in this room either. What is going on here...?'
"But I am surprised," Natsuki said and smugly grinned. "I thought the first round would be about uncovering that Tsuchio-san isn't a real director," she said and looked over to him.
Tsuchio's eyes widened and he got even paler than he already was. "What?! W-what are you saying? I really am...!"
"Don't even try," Heiji interrupted him and looked to Junya. "When Tokitsu-san said First you went over the top... earlier during the boat ride, he meant that yer recording session went on past midnight, which over the top is a colloquial TV term for." Heiji looked to Natsuki. "And what Natsuki-san said, is a colloquial TV term for moving obstructing stuff from a set, like the bag that was on her bench. Ya're not supposed to be some newbie to the TV business, no, ya're supposed to be a full-fledged director already. But these references wouldn't fly over the head of any real director, but ya completely missed them."
"B-but..." Tsuchio stuttered. "But how...?!"
"Ohh ... seems like you guys ... already put quite the screws on him," Shinichi said, heavily panting. "I just thought you weren't real because of your jacket. The circle in the pig's eye of the Nichiuri TV logo is going counter-clockwise on your jacket, but in the real logo, the circle goes clockwise," Shinichi explained, which made Tsuchio look down at his jacket with panic in his eyes. "Probably some cheap replica from a costume store. That's why the others doubted your authenticity and set up these little word traps for you."
"Who...?" Tsuchio wondered after Shinichi talked to him. "Who are you...?"
"Shinichi Kudo," Shinichi said (a fake name was out of question, of course, since Natsuki, Hakuba and Junya recognized him even before he gave them his real name).
"Shinichi ... Kudo?" Tsuchio's eyes widened. "The Great Detective of the East?"
"Live and in color," Shinichi said.
"Well, now that ya've been found guilty, ya can explain what that is all about after we solve this locked room mystery," Heiji said, smiling deviously at the fake director.
"Sorry to disappoint you, but I have this first round already in the bag," Junya said, making everyone stare at him. "This one has already seen through it." He smiled. "The mystery around the trick of this locked room!" Junya took a moment to enjoy the stunned silence and baffled looks of his fellow detectives, smiling even more. "Shall this one show you how it was done?"
The others regained their composure. "Oh?" Hakuba wondered.
"You're really fast, aren't you?" Natsuki said.
"Well, don't hold anything back. If ya got it figured out, prove it!" Heiji said, challenging the detective of the North through his words and gaze.
"You cannot!" Koya protested, still standing in the door frame. "Everybody would know about how the trick worked if you did. You will write down the solution and give it to me, like I told you before. This is the first round after all, and not the last!"
"Don't worry, I won't let the cat out of the bag just yet," Junya said, "I will give the others enough time to solve it on their own. In the end, that won't make a difference!"
"Hear, hear, someone's really confident," Hakuba said and gave Junya a deadpan look.
"But I really hope your solution isn't about Tsuchio-san tying himself up after he locked everything himself?" Natsuki inquired.
"Don't be silly!" Junya replied. "If that were the case, our dear Great Detective of the West would've noticed that the ropes weren't as tight, since you can only do so much when you tie yourself up. He couldn't have overlooked that, even though he may not be the smartest detective around here," he said and looked at Heiji with a teasing smile.
"Pardon me?!" Heiji exclaimed in annoyance.
"He is right," Hakuba said and gave Heiji a stern look. "When you saw the blood on the doorknob you got all agitated and busted the door. In this situation, the right move would've been to go take a look into the room from one of the windows, to decide whether it's preferable to bust the door or to smash the window. If Tsuchio-san's body was for example leaned against the door from the inside, you would've altered the crime scene immensely! The body wouldn't be in its original place and some evidence might be lost during such a reckless course of action!"
"Nonsense!" Heiji yelled. "It was a matter of seconds!"
"Someone who is always selfishly trying to be the first one at a crime scene is not apt to be a detective," Junya said, his teasing smile growing wider.
"Enough already, both of you...!" Heiji yelled.
"Hattori is very much apt to be a detective," Shinichi said, sounding exhausted.
'Kudo!' Heiji happily thought.
"If he manages to keep his temper in check that is," Shinichi continued with a smile of his own.
'Et tu, Brute?' Heiji thought and glared at Shinichi, but he knew that his friend wasn't serious. Shinichi's smile was different from Junya's; Shinichi's was warm and friendly where Junya's was cold and antagonizing.
"In any case," Junya said, "I'll go to my room and turn it into a locked room. Why don't you just all go to eat dinner while you wait for me? I'll need about one hour."
"A whole hour?!" Heiji spat in the direction of the other detective.
"I see," Hakuba said. "Between Koya-san bringing us to our rooms and finding the tied up Tsuchio-san here, roughly one hour passed as well."
"Huh, the trick requires such a rather long time period to be set up then?" Natsuki asked.
"Well, if you say so, then something like that must be the case, right?" Junya replied without giving an actual answer. "Oh and one more thing: this trick was made for calm-minded detectives and not for barbarians, who can't wait for anything. Got it?" Without another word, Junya went past Koya and Shinichi out of the room.
"Well, I'm not too worried that you're gonna make the same mistake twice," Hakuba said. "After all, the honour of the Kansai region and the reputation of his dear father are at stake here. Isn't that right, Great Detective of the West?" Hakuba flashed him another smile, before he followed Junya out of the room.
'Ya arrogant, little shi...' Heiji thought.
"But, you know..." Natsuki said, interrupting his thoughts. "I really like it! Detectives," turning to Heiji, blushing, "who are really passionate. Although those who are really cool," turning to Shinichi, still blushing, "are very admirable too!"
At the same time, at the harbor:
Ran's and Kazuha's eyes widened and they both felt a cold feeling crawling up their backs. They were still at the harbor, or rather back at the harbor, because after arriving at the hotel, it turned out that nobody there had ever heard of the competition Heiji was attending. No rooms were reserved for any guardians either. Still in confusion, they had left the hotel and Kogoro called Yoko Okino, who was regularly working with Nichiuri TV. However, as she asked around the employees, nobody had ever heard of a program called Competition of the Super High School Detectives. And nobody had ever heard of a director called Hiroo Tsuchio either. Currently, Kogoro was asking around the harbor whether any of the other boat captains had knowledge about where this island exactly was and which boat brought Heiji there, so the three of them could travel after them or call the police.
"..." Ran shivered. "Kazuha-chan, did you suddenly have some sort of bad feeling too?"
"Y-yeah..." Kazuha mumbled, still staring at her cell phone. "This whole situation is just so ... I can't believe it. Why would someone abduct Heiji and some other detectives like this?"
"I don't know..." Ran looked at the cell phone of her friend. "Still can't reach him?"
"No, still says that his phone is either turned off or that he has no service..." Kazuha said. "But this bad feeling ... I can't help but to think that something terrible might happen to Heiji. And I can't stop remembering his face and his words when he went aboard that boat..."
Heiji grinned. "Don't worry," he said and turned his cap around, "I wouldn't throw my hat into the ring if I didn't plan on winning!"
"Again and again..." Kazuha said and raised one finger up to her chin. "Ohh, I really wish Kudo-kun would've showed up to represent the East, if he were on the island with Heiji, I'd feel a lot better..."
"..." Ran stared at her own cell phone. After another moment of hesitation, she called Shinichi's number.
"The called participant is currently unavailable. Either they are in an area without service or they have turned off their cell phone," came the response from Ran's cell phone.
'The same thing as for Heiji ... probably a coincidence...' Ran thought and looked at the sea. 'Or ... could ... could it be...? Could Shinichi also have been abducted to that island?!'
On the island of the competition:
Natsuki crossed her arms behind her back and gave both Shinichi and Heiji another look, before she left the room. Tsuchio stood up, patted his clothes a few times and followed her. Koya looked at the two remaining detectives in the room of the director. "You two will come too?"
"Yeah, just..." Heiji looked at Shinichi, who just stared at him. The detective from Osaka cracked a smile at the caretaker. "Give us another minute. We don't want that North jerk to take the fun of solving the mystery away from us."
Koya nodded. "As you wish. The dinner is served, so join us whenever you're done here." He bowed and went down the corridor. Heiji looked out into the corridor, to assure that Koya really left. Then he closed the door behind him (as much as it could still be closed after Heiji busted it earlier) and went with Shinichi to the other side of the room, where Shinichi leaned against the wall as well, still panting. Just as Heiji opened his mouth to ask the other detective a ton of questions, Shinichi shushed him with a hand gesture and suggested that they should sit down on Tsuchio's bed before continuing. Heiji nodded and they both sat down.
"Ah, this is good," Shinichi said. A small sound of pleasure escaped his lips. "You have no idea how nice this bed feels right now for me." He looked at Heiji, who gave him a questioning look, but remained silent. "During the boat ride, I suddenly felt the pain in my chest that usually is only induced by an upcoming transformation," Shinichi explained, now whispering. "Because I was in panic, I left your bag and then fell off the boat when a wave hit it. I was washed up on a beach of this island and turned back. Then I made my way through the forest here, climbed into your room shortly you went with Koya-san, Tokitsu-san and Hakuba. I hid the clothes I wore as Conan under your mattress and took your clothes from yesterday, climbed out again and ran to the front door and pretended to have arrived late as part of this competition."
Heiji nodded a few times. "Any idea how ya've changed back?"
"The cold medicine I took this morning," Shinichi whispered. "I suspect that the Professor accidentally gave me one of Haibara's prototype antidotes instead of his prototype cold medicine. Must've mixed up the pills." He sighed and looked down at himself. "This is not a problem, is it?"
"Me taking your clothes," Shinichi said.
"Oh! No, no, not at all," Heiji replied. "These other detectives sure seem like jerks, don't they? Well, except for Natsuki-san maybe..."
"Yeah, she's nice," Shinichi said.
"True, but sometimes she seems to get a bit too energetic, like when she greeted ya," Heiji said. "Or ya should've heard her earlier, when we she told us all about her strict school regulations, with all of the requirements her uniform alone has to fulfill. Well, anyway, we should join the others now."
"Yeah, I guess," Shinichi said and wrapped an arm around Heiji's shoulder. "Can you help me walk there? My legs are getting a bit shaky."
Heiji looked at him for a second and then did as Shinichi asked. "Are ya really alright? Ya've been breathing so heavily since you arrived here too..."
"I'm fine, it's just..." Shinichi said as they made their way to the dining room. "You try to travel through this kind of forest for about two hours or something and then climb up and down a two-story mansion without getting exhausted ... I guess my adrenaline rush ran out after I got to safety..."
"Heh, I don't need to try that," Heiji grinned as he helped him walk down the hallway. "Imagine how shaky my legs were after I pulled Kazuha up from a ridge, climbed up a cliff with her and then carried her through the forest of that god forsaken mermaid island..."
"Heh," Shinichi chuckled, "you little upstager." He flashed Heiji a grin. "And I can say that now, since I'm the bigger one again."
They let go of each other a second before they entered the line of sight of the others and joined Natsuki, Hakuba and Tsuchio in the dining room. Shinichi and Heiji sat down besides Natsuki, with Shinichi sitting in middle with Heiji to his left and Natsuki to his right. Hakuba and Tsuchio were both seated on the opposite side of the three detectives.
Koya entered the dining room and brought another tablet with food. "Excuse me, everybody, but since Kudo-sama's arrival here was not announced to me, I don't have quite enough prepared food to make equal portions of the next courses for him. Would it be okay for me to make the portions of everyone else a bit smaller, so Kudo-sama can have a more proper meal? Together with what I already put on the table for everyone, that should be enough."
"I wouldn't be opposed to that," Heiji said, "but why don't ya just give this guy the portions ya prepared for Tokitsu? He already said that he will take about an hour and that we should eat without him."
"Yes, but..." Koya said. "Would that really be alright? Leaving him out like that?"
"Ya have enough for all of us for tomorrow though, when the TV crew will arrive?" Heiji inquired.
"Yes, even with Kudo-sama here it should be enough..."
"Then just serve him Tokitsu's portions. I bet he considers sacrificing dinner in exchange for winning the first round a worthwhile trade," Heiji said, not bothering to hide his annoyance at Junya.
"Is everybody else fine with this?" Koya asked, to which Hakuba, Tsuchio and Natsuki simply nodded, so Koya bowed again and left the room to get more food. Under normal circumstances, Shinichi would've probably protested, but with the exhaustion from his travels through the forest, he was happy to have a proper meal. And that Junya Tokitsu guy got himself some bad karma from being rather insulting to Heiji, so Shinichi considered him eating the meal of the other detective as sort of an equalizer. And, as mentioned, he was really hungry.
As they all began to eat, Natsuki excused herself and went to the toilet. When she was gone from the room, Heiji nudged Shinichi in the side and handed him Conan's phone under the table. "Here, I found this in my bag," Heiji whispered.
"Oh, thank you."
"What about yer other one?" Heiji asked, still whispering. "Lost to the waves?"
"No, that one is fine." Shinichi answered. "I left it turned off at my house."
Heiji nodded and they both resumed eating. Shinichi felt a bit uneasy though, like someone was staring at him. After a few minutes with that feeling, he looked up from his food and found Hakuba staring at him rather intriguingly; the detective from England even stopped to eat momentarily. "Do I have something on my face, Hakuba-kun?" Shinichi sharply asked.
Hakuba grinned. "No, it's nothing. I've just been thinking about something and left my gaze on you for a moment too long. I'm sorry."
'That guy...' Shinichi thought. 'I met him as Conan during the gathering of detectives in the Sunset Mansion, where Kaitou Kid appeared as well. Don't tell me ... that he, like Hattori did some time ago, is also making the connection between me and Conan...'
'Shinichi Kudo...' Hakuba thought, while averting his gaze from Shinichi and resumed to eat. 'Could you really have two identities...? It seems possible and it doesn't feel like this is the first time I've crossed paths with him either ... heh, don't feel too safe Great Detective of the East, if you really have such a secret, I will uncover it. That's what my dear housekeeper would expect from me and what will make people realize that Saguru Hakuba is the most honourable detective in the east of Japan.'
The door to the dining room opened and Natsuki entered the dining room. Just as she was about to sit down, she looked at the food on the table and what she saw made her eyes widen. "What is this?! Am I going crazy? I've only been to toilet for like ten minutes and already most of the chicken is gone?" Indeed, there almost none of it left. She looked over to Tsuchio, who had by far the most parts of chicken on his plate. "Really now, don't you think you're eating way too much, Tsuchio-san?!"
"Sorry, sorry," Tsuchio said and gave her a weak smile. "I was just very hungry, that is all." Natsuki shook her head and sat down besides Shinichi again and began to eat, throwing Tsuchio some guilt inducing looks from time to time.
Heiji took another sip from his cup before he looked straight at Tsuchio too. "Well, now that ya've obviously satisfied yer hunger, ya might start to tell us what ya are about? Why ya're posing as a director for us?"
"Huh?" Tsuchio stared at Heiji, seemingly not understanding the question.
"The question at hand is this: why are ya pretending to be a director here, when ya're obviously not involved with the production side of this whole thing. Ya must have a different role, otherwise what would be the reason for ya to be here then?" Heiji insisted.
"Sorry," Tsuchio said; he took out a cigarette and used a lighter to light it up. "If I talk, I won't get payed."
"If ya talk, ya won't get payed?" Heiji repeated.
Tsuchio exhaled some smoke. "You got it."
"Maybe you can answer this question then," Hakuba said, gaining the attention of the fake director. "There is something I've been curious about ever since I stepped into this lodge: the scent of lavender! There is a lavender plant in my room and in this room as well."
"That's right," Heiji said. "There is one in my room too."
"Same here," Natsuki said between bites.
"And there's a toolbox besides these lavender plants," Heiji continued. "Something's up with that as well, isn't it so?"
"Well, who knows...?" Tsuchio said with a smug look on his face.
"Finding out the meaning behind these things is the job of detectives," Koya said as he entered the dining room to serve some deserts. "Isn't it?"
"Surely," Hakuba said. "But since we're cut off from civilization on this island, our room for investigations is quite limited..."
"The Lavender Mansion Murder Case!" Natsuki suddenly said in a very serious tone, before lightening up a bit.
"Huh?" Heiji, Hakuba and Tsuchio wondered. The fake director's eyes widened and his face paled.
Natsuki swallowed another bite. "I just happened to remember a murder case in Shikoku one year ago when I thought about the lavender."
"Right, I heard about that as well," Shinichi said. "The young lady of the Lavender Mansion in Shikoku was murdered, but the police thought it was a suicide at first. It wasn't until half a year after the death that the police changed their mind and declared the case a murder instead!"
"Is that so?" Heiji said.
"And? Who was the culprit?" Hakuba asked, to which Shinichi shrugged.
Natsuki also shook her head. "Don't know either. I only heard that whoever was responsible committed suicide before the police was able to take him or her into custody..."
Suddenly, Tsuchio slammed his hands on the table. His face was white as a sheet, his eyes spoke of pure terror, he was nervously sweating and trembling. Everybody at the table stared at him. "Are ... are ya alright?" Heiji hesitantly asked.
"I-I'm fine. It's ... it's just ... m-my cigarettes are empty. I'll quickly fetch some from my room..." Tsuchio explained and hastily left the dining room.
The detectives finished eating dinner and diverted their attention while they were waiting for Junya to call them up. Hakuba was still sitting at the table, enjoying a nice cup of tea, Natsuki was wandering around the room, seemingly observing every inch of its structure, Heiji and Shinichi were standing at the window, looking into the still ongoing rain.
"Say, Hattori..." Shinichi said, only audible for the detective from Osaka.
"Yeah?" Heiji answered.
"Have you spotted you any hidden cameras or the like?"
"Nah, nothing. Why? Did ya see some anywhere?"
"No, I didn't and that's the thing; when I climbed into your room, I was afraid that there might be some of those, because I didn't see a camera team or something of the like. So, I searched your room and the result: nothing. No cameras, no mics, no anything," Shinichi explained. "Do you think there is even a real TV program to be shot here?"
"Highly doubtful at this point, I'd say," Heiji said.
"Indeed," Shinichi said and thought: 'But what is the point then? What does the lavender have to do with it? Does it even have a meaning? Is it truly supposed to evoke similarities with the Lavender Mansion Murder Case that Natsuki-san mentioned? Was that case an inspiration for this event? But then again, if there is really no TV company behind it, what would be the purpose of that inspiration, if it is not some writers getting inspired from real cases in the papers? I don't have a good feeling about this ... and I can feel Hakuba's stare in my back again ... as if I didn't have enough problems already...'
Another lightning lit up the night. The rain continued to pour down on the island. Heiji sighed and looked at the sky. "Maaan, I don't think it is gonna stop to raining anytime soon..."
Behind the two detectives, the door to the dining room was opened. Shinichi and Heiji turned around to see fake director Tsuchio enter the room. His jacket was wet and all the signs of panic he displayed before seemed to have worsened. "We're you outside?" Hakuba asked. "Your jacket is drenched..."
"Don't tell me ya've been out there in this rain, looking for a cigarette vending machine?" Heiji snarked.
Natsuki looked to her cellphone. "Say, don't you feel like Tokitsu-kun is taking way too long?"
"Hm, yeah..." Hakuba said and looked on his wristwatch. "He's been up there preparing the trick for over two hours now..."
"I'll go upstairs and ask him much more time he'll need," Koya said, who was carrying plates into the kitchen until now.
"Ah, thank ya," Heiji said.
A few minutes later, Koya returned and informed the group about what he found upstairs.
"What?!" Heiji exclaimed. "He is not in his room?"
"N-no..." Koya said. "I knocked a few times, but there was no response or any sound to hear from the room in general. However, the door was locked ... could it be...?"
"I see!" Hakuba said. "Tokitsu-kun probably already completed the locked room trick and is waiting somewhere outside of it, grinning about him outsmarting us."
"But..." Natsuki said and raised one hand to her chin. "Wouldn't he be boasting to us about how he solved it rather than hiding himself without us noticing his genius detective skills?"
"In any case," Heiji said and pointed to Shinichi, "we'll go outside and take a look through the window, to see whether or not the locked room trick is completed. You can wait here until we return."
"Not so fast," Hakuba said and threw both Heiji and Shinichi a teasing smile. "I'll accompany you, otherwise Hattori-kun may do something rushed again."
Heiji clicked his tongue. "Tsk, if ya can't help yerself..."
The three detectives left the dining room and went to the left, towards the entrance. Heiji was initially worried about Shinichi's condition, but the formerly shrunken detective assured him that the two hour rest and the dinner was enough recovery after his journey through the forest and that he was fine now. Due to the lack of umbrellas and raincoats, they could only shield themselves from the downpour by raising both arms over their heads. The three of them ran through the night, until they were right under the window of Junya's room.
Heiji looked up to the window and spotted the representative of the North sitting by said window. "What?" Heiji wondered. "He is still in his room?" Suddenly, a lightning lit up the night again. Heiji's eyes widened. "W-what...?! Tokitsu-kun ... blood is running all over his face!"
Hakuba turned around and yelled: "Quick! We have to bust the door open!" He ran off back to where they came from, when Heiji started to climb up the wall of the mansion to reach the board of Junya's window, using a technique similar to what Shinichi did when he climbed up to the rooms. "H-Hattori-kun?!" Hakuba stared at what Heiji was doing and halted momentarily, before he continued to run back inside the mansion. He shook his head. 'Damn hot-blooded Kansai fool...' Hakuba thought.
Heiji climbed up the board; the four paneled window was locked, so he smashed in the upper right glass panel. Then he reached through the hole, careful not to cut himself on the remaining glass shards and opened the bolt lock and finally opened the window. He climbed inside and checked Junya's pulse.
"Hattori!" Shinichi screamed against the storm, still staring up at the window from the ground. "What does it look like?! What's the situation?!"
"It's no good!" Heiji screamed back and took away his hand from Junya's throat. "He is really dead!"
Thunder and lightning roared outside and the rain continued to platter against the mansion. Heiji stood in the room of Junya Tokitsu, high school detective from the North of Japan and now a murder victim. Blood was running all over his face, because of a fatal wound on the head. His body was seated on a table besides the window; a bloody hammer was on the ground beside the table.
Heiji heard two knocks from the door. He turned away from the body of Junya and went to the door. Taking out a cloth from his pocket, Heiji opened the bolt lock and subsequently the door with it. Outside, Hakuba, Koya, Tsuchio, Natsuki and Shinichi were already waiting for him. "How's the situation?" Hakuba asked.
"Just look at it," Heiji said, stepped aside and made presenting motion with his hand. "He was killed by a hard direct strike on the head. That hammer is most likely the murder weapon, it still got Tokitsu-kun's blood on it. The culprit most likely took it from the toolbox that is in every room besides the lavender pots."
"The window was locked?" Hakuba inquired, while he and the other detectives stepped into the room and looked around.
"Yes, it was," Heiji replied. "Until I smashed it in that is..."
Natsuki went toward the table on which the corpse of Junya was seated and inspected the frame of the window. "Hmm ... the frame of window is hold in place properly by screws..."
"The door doesn't have any signs of manipulation..." Hakuba said.
Heiji looked around and said: "And since there are no hidden doors or anything like that ... it means that this really is..."
"Murder in a locked room. And sadly, this time the person inside the room is really dead," Shinichi said with conviction. "And the culprit is either Natsuki-san, Koya-san or Tsuchio-san."
"W-what are you saying?!" Tsuchio yelled.
"Why us, why only we three?!" Koya asked.
"He is right, it can only be one of us," Natsuki said and smiled. "Explain it to us, why don't you, Great Detective of the East?"
Shinichi returned the smile. "After Tokitsu-kun went upstairs to turn his room into a locked room," he explained, "we all sat together in the dining room downstairs. However, Natsuki-san went to the toilet before she even started to eat and didn't return until about ten minutes later. Tsuchio-san, on the other hand, went to his room and apparently outside, judging from the dampness of his jacket, to get himself some cigarettes. And lastly, Koya-san went alone to Tokitsu-kun's room, to ask him whether or not the trick was ready yet. But us three," Shinichi pointed to himself, Heiji and Hakuba, "sat inside the dining room for the entire time until we ran outside to check Tokitsu-kun's room through his window. Thus, we're giving each other perfect alibis, making us ineligible as suspects for this crime."
"N-now just w-wait a minute!" Tsuchio exclaimed. "I am innocent! I was simply hired to be here, I'm just here for the money!"
Heiji clicked his tongue. "Tsk; who hired ya then? I doubt it was Nichiuri TV, since no television channel in Japan, probably no television channel in entire world would produce a snuff-like show with real deaths."
"I-I ... I really thought it was real!" Tsuchio yelled, even more desperate then before. "I-I was with a small theater ensemble not too long ago. I received a letter from an employee of Nichiuri TV, which claimed that he had seen me on stage and wanted me to play the role of a TV director for this show. With the letter came half a million yen and it promised another half a million if I assembled all of the listed persons on this uninhabited island and if my cover didn't get blown."
"1,000,000 yen, 8250 U.S. dollars, 7600 euro, 5775 pounds sterling..." Hakuba said. "Quite the lucrative offer. An offer an actor from a small ensemble would never decline. Well, only if you managed to fulfill your tasks, of course."
"Y-yeah, that's right!" Tsuchio said. "However, if my identity would get revealed, but I played dumb and brought this competition to an end without telling anything, I would still receive another quarter million yen."
"Now that you're in a mood for confessions, I'd like to know what you did when you were supposedly getting more cigarettes," Shinichi said. "Your rooms is just down the hallway, yet it took you way longer to come back than it did Natsuki-san and the bathroom is just opposite of your room. You know, aside from the fact that you were drenched when you came back, so you were definitely outside for a large amount of time. Why?"
"I wanted to use the radio in the shed, I wanted to contact the outside world!" Tsuchio explained. "But," his expression grew more terrified again, "somebody destroyed it, smashed it to pieces. It couldn't possibly work anymore. However, when I came here three days ago, to get an overview of the location and everything, the emergency radio was still fully operational!"
"Is that really the truth?" Heiji asked, staring the fake director down.
Tsuchio swallowed and was visibly in panic, but he didn't cave in. "I-I'm not lying!"
"But it is strange," Hakuba said, "how you went to the radio before we others had knowledge about the murder. How did you know such an emergency would occur soon?"
"I-I just had ... a hunch! A premonition if you will..." Tsuchio hastily explained.
"And ya, Koya-san," Heiji said, "ya on the other hand were hired by this fake director here, right?"
"Yes," Koya nodded, "I came here two days ago. I was told that I supposed to take care of a few high school detectives. This offer came at the right time for me, since my employment as the butler of a family had just ended recently."
"Do you know the locked room trick?" Shinichi asked. "Since you asked us to write the solution down and give it to you, you must know the trick to verify our solutions. If you were even supposed to be verify them, but that wasn't the case, am I right?"
"Y-yes..." Koya looked to the ground. "I was merely told to say this stuff with the first round and writing down the solution, if something with a locked room occurred. After that, I was supposed to hide them under one of the bathroom mats. I ... I assumed that they would be checked and verified by the production team that was supposedly coming here tomorrow..."
"Ya've got a nice way of talking yer way out of that one, Koya-san..." Heiji said and leaned closer to the man, with a grim look on his face. "Makes it sound like there is some kind of grey eminence in the background, leaving you completely without any responsibility..."
Koya raised his hand defensively. "B-but...! I really know nothing!"
"In any case," Natsuki said, "I'm as innocent as you are. Just like you, I was invited to this island by this fake director, to represent the South..." Suddenly, another lightning struck and a gust of wind threw the window wide open, blowing through the entire room, waving around the hair of the detectives. "KYAAAAH!" Natsuki screamed, covered her ears and sank down to the ground. "I HATE THUNDERSTORMS! P-please ... close the window ... quickly!"
"Alright, alright..." Heiji said and closed the window. "There, it's already closed."
Hakuba went over to Natsuki, who was still cowering on the ground holding her head with both hands, and gently placed his hands and her shoulders. "It's okay, no need to panic," Hakuba purred into her ears and helped her stand up. "Don't worry, I'll have the case solved in no time and the thunderstorm will surely stop very soon."
'What the hell is wrong with this Hakuba guy?!' Heiji thought, annoyed by the behavior of the British detective.
'Oi oi, Natsuki-san's not a baby...' Shinichi thought.
"Now, we three detectives will investigate the crime scene and you three suspects can wait downstairs in the dining room," Heiji ordered.
"Hmmm..." Hakuba removed his hands from Natsuki's shoulders, who was going out of the room by herself, and looked at Heiji. "I'd rather have you wait downstairs with them."
"What is it now?! Do ya want me to watch over them or what?!" Heiji barked at Hakuba.
"No, I want you with them because you're methods are just too rushed, without any deeper thought," Hakuba explained. "Dare I say that the late Tokitsu-kun was right by calling you a barbarian..."
"Spare me ya backhand insults and tell what's yer problem already!" Heiji yelled.
"Just look at it!" Hakuba explained. "There are shards of glass everywhere around the corpse. And then your muddy footprints all over the table, it's a catastrophe! Maybe, to top it all off, you also carelessly opened the bolt lock on the window with your bare hands?"
"Yeah, well, maybe I did! Got a problem with that?!"
"Technically, he has kind of a point, Hattori..." Shinichi said.
"Not helpful, Kudo, okay?! Not helpful!" Heiji chided his friend.
Hakuba chuckled. "I am really disappointed in you. Especially with Heizo Hattori being your father ... well, the proverb goes The apple never falls far from the tree, but I guess there are exceptions to every proverb? After I escorted dear Natsuki-san and these two gentlemen downstairs, I'm going to investigate this room with Kudo-kun. Please don't stand in our way. Great Detective of the West." With another smile at Heiji, Hakuba left room and went downstairs with the other two men.
"Say, Kudo," Heiji said, when he heard the others go down the stairs, "am I mistaken with anything?"
"No." Shinichi smiled. "Not at all!"
And finally that jerk Junya is dead. Never liked him much. Also, with Shinichi here instead of Conan, Hakuba is closing in on his secret identity? As always, whether you liked this chapter or not, make sure to let me know through a comment; honest feedback is a great motivator for me to keep going. Next chapter: a thorough investigation. Can Hakuba and Hattori work together for more than ten minutes and how much exasperation will they cause Shinichi? Stay tuned!
At the same time, at the harbor:
"Not at all?!" Kogoro exclaimed. The Sleeping Sleuth, Kazuha and Ran were still at the harbor, looking for the boat on which Heiji drove to the island. He was currently questioning a fisherman, who claimed to know nothing. "How can you not know? A boat that shipped some overweight guy with a mustache and a dark-skinned teenager off to some island? You're practically living in this harbor, how come you don't notice a thing like that?"
"Well, actually," the fisherman said, "I've seen a guy with a mustache today."
"Finally!" Kogoro said. "Where is he now?"
"He is standing right in front of me," the fisherman said with a straight face.
"What...?" Kogoro's face contorted out of anger. "How can pull jokes like these when someone got basically kidnapped?!"
Ran was looking at her father and shook her head. Then she looked over to Kazuha, who was in deep thought. "What are you thinking about, Kazuha-chan? Still thinking about Hattori-kun's words?"
Kazuha faintly nodded. "Yeah, I just can't help it. There is something ... something ... about his last words before he departed..."
Heiji grinned. "Don't worry," he said and turned his cap around, "I wouldn't throw my hat into the ring if I didn't plan on winning!"
'He turned his cap around to the front ... his hat ... to the front...' Kazuha thought. "Ah! That's it!" She hastily looked around the ships that were in the harbor and started to run in the direction of more ships.
"K-Kazuha-chan...!" Ran said, but her friend was well on her way. "Dad, come on, I think Kazuha-chan has figured something," she said to her father and ran after Kazuha. Kogoro was unsure at first, but then left the fisherman behind and followed the two girls.
"Not this one ... not this one ... not this one..." Kazuha said after each passing ship. She finally came to a halt, when the harbor didn't go any further. It ended in a round bay with many different boats being docked there.
"Kazuha-chan..." Ran said, when she and her father caught up to the girl from Osaka. "What are you even looking for?"
"The cap, the hat, the front, just like Heiji said!" Kazuha explained, confusing Ran and Kogoro even more. Kazuha turned around, looking at each boat. Her eyes widened when she finally saw what she was looking for. "There it is," she said and pointed to one boat in particular. Ran and Kogoro looked at the boat she pointed to; now they saw it too: Heiji's cap was tied to the front of the boat. The three of them went to the ship and confronted the owner. "Hey, can ya take us to the island where ya brought Heiji?" Kazuha inquired, to which the captain of the boat just stared at her, without any special expression.
"Earlier today, you brought a dark-skinned teenager, a slightly overweight, middle aged man with a mustache and some other teenagers to island," Ran clarified. "We would like to know where exactly this island is and we'd really appreciate if you maybe could take us to that island."
The captain shrugged. "Don't know anything about that. Sorry. If you'll excuse me, we have the middle of the night, I will go home now."
Kazuha stepped in his way. "Not so fast. See that over there?" She pointed to Heiji's trademark cap tied to the front of the captain's ship; the eyes of the captain widened in panic. "That is the cap of my friend, the dark-skinned teenager with the Kansai accent. You brought him to this island, supposedly for some sort of television show, but no such show exists. Technically, this is an abduction then, under false pretenses. So, either ya're an accomplice or you were hired and had no idea that the show was fake." Kazuha's gaze darkened and her face became threatening. "If the second scenario is true, then you should cooperate with us. If the first scenario is true or you don't cooperate, well ... you're gonna have a bad time." Kazuha took a fighting stance. "Kazuha Toyama, Aikido 2nd Dan."
"Oi, I don't think this is a good idea..." Kogoro said.
"Yeah, Kazuha-chan, I don't think threatening him with violence is a good ... idea..." Ran said, but halted in her sentence, when her own thoughts from earlier came back into her mind. Could Shinichi also have been abducted to that island?!
Ran took a deep breath and walked right beside Kazuha, taking a fighting stance as well. "Ran Mouri, Karate Black Belt. Regional champion."
The captain gulped, but he shrugged again and looked to Kogoro. "Y-you won't just let this happen, right?"
Kogoro looked from the captain to Ran and Kazuha and back to the captain again. He took out a cigarette from his pocket, lit it, took a deep breath and exhaled a cloud of smoke. "I think I'm going to go for a nightly walk. Probably talk to anyone who could possibly come this way and you know, make them not come this way anymore. You girls be good, okay? Don't do anything I wouldn't do..." With that, Kogoro turned around and walked away.
The captain paled. "Listen, Kazuha Toyama-san and Ran Mouri-san, I ... I can't tell you..."
"It would be better if you told us..." Ran said.
"For yer conscious," Kazuha said. "And yer health," she added.
While Ran and Kazuha were busy threatening a suspicious/obviously guilty boat captain with Heiji and Shinichi in mind, said detectives were busy investigating the crime scene on the uninhabited island. After the two of them waited for a bit, Hakuba returned from downstairs. Seems like he got himself from stopping to flirt with Natsuki eventually. Not one word had been spoken yet since he returned, but the looks that Hakuba and Heiji exchanged said more than their words could.
Shinichi sighed. "Alright, I know you two didn't have the best start," he said, drawing the attention of the two detectives to him, "but if I might remind you, Tokitsu-kun is really dead, okay? And we need to solve his murder, a real murder. This is not a silly TV competition anymore, this is a real investigation. Our situation on this island is worse enough as it is, so we don't need unnecessarily insulting criticism," looking at Hakuba, "or angrily yelled justifications," looking at Heiji. "Let's just focus on catching the murderer, alright?"
"Sure," Hakuba said.
"I guess..." Heiji mumbled.
Shinichi almost demanded a handshake, but he figured that would've been too much. 'Really now, as if playing parent for Ayumi, Genta and Mitsuhiko wasn't enough...' Shinichi thought and sighed.
It was Heiji who broke the silence. "There is one thing I don't understand," he said. "Why did the culprit position the corpse of Tokitsu-kun this way? Sitting on a table, leaning against the window ... it's almost as if the murderer wanted to show him off ... I wonder if that has any meaning."
"Well, I'd guess the culprit wanted to be sure that we discover the crime," Hakuba said.
"In any case, I wonder why there are these toolboxes everywhere..." Shinichi said. "You said they are in every room earlier, right, Hattori? Along with the lavender pots..."
Heiji knelt down besides the toolbox. "We won't figure anything out if we just look at it," he said and pulled out his cloth again. "Guess I'll take a look inside."
"Wait, please," Hakuba held out one hand in front of Heiji to make him stop, then he pulled out a pair of gloves from the inner pocket of his blazer and put them on. "Allow me."
"..." Heiji wanted to spat a sarcastic at the snobbish detective from England, but after Shinichi shot him a glare, he flashed Hakuba a wavering smile instead. "Knock yerself out..."
Hakuba carefully opened the toolbox and looked at its contents: "Wire, nails, pincers, screwdriver, awl, protractor, long-nose pliers, glue, saw, box cutter..."
"Heh, as expected," Heiji said and held up the bloody hammer, touching its handle with his cloth. "No hammer. Seems like the culprit really took the hammer from this toolbox in Tokitsu-kun's room."
"Indeed," Shinichi said and took the hammer from Heiji's hands, still grabbing it where the cloth was, so he wouldn't leave fingerprints on it, and swung it a few times in the air. "Hmhm, with a hammer like this, from the right angle, even a relatively frail girl like Natsuki-san or an elder man like Koya-san could've committed the crime."
"The timing would perfectly fit for each of the three too," Hakuba said and took out his little notebook. "I wrote down the time spans in which Natsuki-san, Koya-san and Tsuchio-san were gone from the dining room. Natsuki-san went to the toilet from 19:26:32 to 19:39:15, so she was gone for 12 minutes and 43 seconds. Tsuchio-san went to get cigarettes from his room from 20:06:47 to 20:28:31, so he was gone for 21 minutes and 44 seconds. Koya-san went to Tokitsu-kun's room to check whether the trick was ready or not from 21:30:06 to 21:38:52, so he was gone for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Enough time for everyone of them."
"Well, down to the seconds. You're pretty accurate..." Shinichi said.
Hakuba grinned and looked at Shinichi. "That's my speciality." His look lasted for a bit too long.
'He's trying to taunt me with his stare again,' Shinichi thought. 'Don't tell me...'
'Don't feel comfortable,' Hakuba thought. 'Your secret is not safe from me...'
"Well, Koya-san went in and out of the kitchen all the time," Heiji said, breaking the silence between Hakuba and Shinichi, which he didn't notice at all, "so he could've gone off earlier without us noticing."
Hakuba looked at Heiji again. "No, the windows in the kitchen are built into the walls and can't be opened. Here, take a look at this," he showed Heiji and Shinichi a drawn plan of the rooms. "As you can see, the only way out of the kitchen is through the dining room. And without the windows, there was no way to leave to go kill Tokitsu-kun earlier without us seeing him. Here, I also made a drawing of the first floor, our rooms are basically identical."
"Ya're working really quickly too, aren't ya?" Heiji said.
"Well, I was on this island for half a day longer than you after all. So much time alone gave me enough opportunities to make myself familiar with the surroundings," Hakuba explained.
Shinichi couldn't help but to crack a little smile. The two detectives seemed to get along better with the investigation on the way; if only Hakuba would stop with his stares. Saguru Hakuba was certainly no fool, Shinichi was sure that he would be just as capable to figure the truth behind Conan just like Heiji did. Not good, and Shinichi had no idea yet how he could divert the suspicion of the detective from England. Shinichi took a deep breath to collect his thoughts and looked to the ceiling, his gaze falling on the lamp up there. He raised an eyebrow and said: "Question: how do we have electricity on this remote island?"
"Now that ya mention it..." Heiji said.
"There is a generator outside in the shed," Hakuba explained. "Why don't we go outside and take a look? After all, the radio Tsuchio-san claimed to be destroyed is supposed to be in there too!"
The three of them left the room and went downstairs. Still without anything to protect themselves from the rain with, they quickly ran over to the shed and opened the door, entering the small room. It was rather dusty, smelled unpleasant and was a bit damp. The generator was taking up much of the space; aside from it, there were buckets with paint, wooden boards, cleaning tool and various other stuff scattered all over the place. In the middle of the room was a wooden table with a single chair at its side. On it was the radio, which didn't look like it was in a working condition. Or as Heiji formulated it: "That thing is completely busted up!"
"This shed has no lock?" Shinichi asked.
"It was closed by a heavy padlock earlier, I guess Koya-san has the key for it," Hakuba explained. While Heiji and Shinichi were investigating the table more closely, Hakuba spotted something in the corner of the shed. 'The padlock!' Hakuba thought and leaned a bit forward to get a better look; there were scratches around the keyhole. 'Signs of a forceful opening...' Hakuba recollected his thoughts. '...! Wire!' He dashed out of the shed.
"Lotsa muddy footprints on the ground..." Heiji observed.
"These are most likely from Tsuchio-san, since he was the only one to go out here, as he told us; this could also be the explanation why he took such a long time instead of committing the murder, according to the time span that you wrote down, Haku-" Shinichi said and turned around, but the son of the Superintendent General was gone. "...ba?"
Heiji turned his head around as well. "Huh, he is gone..."
Shinichi sighed and inspected the radio again. 'Why would the murderer smash the radio? Sure, we could call the police with it, but we are three detectives of quite some reputation and everybody here knows that. Would the police and their capabilities be a deciding factor in this?' Shinichi absentmindedly picked up one the screws that fell out of the broken radio and twisted it around between his fingers, when he suddenly realized something. '...! Screws...' Shinichi recalled the situation when they all found the body of Junya:
Natsuki went toward the table on which the corpse of Junya was seated and inspected the frame of the window. "Hmm ... the frame of window is hold in place properly by screws..."
Shinichi put the screw he fidgeting around with into his pocket dashed out of the shed.
"Kudo...?" Heiji said, looking after him. 'What is the matter with him now? Running off like that Hakuba guy...'
Heiji looked around the shed one more time, but didn't notice anything in particular. He decided to go back into the house. After another quick sprint through the rain, Heiji went down the hallway of the mansion and entered the dining room, finding Natsuki, Tsuchio and Koya waiting there. "Oh, Kudo and Hakuba are not here?"
"No," Koya said. "Weren't the two of you with you?"
"Yes, they were," Natsuki said. "So? Did you find anything out there in the shed? You three not-suspects went there to investigate, didn't you?"
"Yeah, well..." Heiji scratched his cheek and avoided her stare.
"Give it up!" Tsuchio said, with a can of beer in his hand. He looked a bit hammered already, also evidenced by a few empty cans which were also on the table. "All of you teenage detectives, you are all just incompetent. You can't solve such complex matters until much later, when you are older and have way more experience, like proper members of the law enforcement hick..."
Heiji gasped. '...! Later!'
Hakuba rummaged through the toolbox. 'Nothing, nothing, nothing at all! No wire to be found anywhere in this toolbox.'
He smiled. 'I see! So that's how it is! The culprit is him. Hiroo Tsuchio!
Shinichi stood besides the table on which the corpse of Junya Tokitsu was still seated, inspecting the frame of the window. 'Screws, glue, long-nose pliers ... there is no doubt!'
Shinichi gritted his teeth. 'The culprit is her ... Natsuki Koshimizu!'
"Alright, I won't delay the solution of this case until later then!" Heiji said. "You killed Tokitsu-kun and locked the room..." He looked around between the three suspects, until he finally rested his gaze on the old man. "...Renzo Koya-san. The culprit is you!"
I looked through some older chapters of Detective Conan and suddenly I thought: '...! Chapter!' Anyway, this one is a bit shorter compared to the others, but I'll make up for it by publishing the next chapter a bit faster than usual and it will be longer than this one too! Stay tuned!
Chapter 7: Three Detectives, Three Deductions
The dining room was completely silent after Heiji had just accused Renzo Koya of being the murderer of high school detective Junya Tokitsu. Heiji confidently looked at Koya, whose expression darkened a bit, but he otherwise stood his ground against the detective from Osaka without words. Tsuchio and Natsuki were looking rather shocked and turned their gazes from Heiji to Koya and back.
Heiji let the silence do its work for another moment before cracking a smile and taking a deep breath. "Once ya've looked through it all, it not that complicated. Tokitsu-kun said he would need about an hour to complete his replication of the locked room trick. In other words, it appears to be a fairly time-consuming trick to set-up. Which makes me think that the culprit waited until Tokitsu-kun finished his preparations. He utilized these preparations and presented a perfect locked room trick to us! In this case, Natsuki-san couldn't be the culprit, because she went to the toilet almost immediately after Tokitsu-kun sent us back downstairs to eat dinner. Same goes for Tsuchio-san, who left the dining only about half an hour after Natsuki-san returned. That leaves us with only one possible answer as to who the culprit is: you, Koya-san! Because you went to Tokitsu-kun's room very shortly before we found his body and way after he started his preparations."
As Heiji was finished, the group suddenly heard the voice of Saguru Hakuba say: "Oh my, oh my, oh my...!" The British detective entered the dining room, shaking his head. "My dear Hattori-kun! How many times do you want to disappoint me today?"
"Huh? What's with ya again? Didn't we agree to a truce during the investigation?" Heiji spat at his fellow detective.
"True enough, but the investigation is over; the only thing left is the deduction part and well, your deduction is completely off! So, excuse me for calling out your disappointing record for this whole event, but in the end, you can't deny your deeds." Hakuba shrugged and then turned to the three suspects with a smile. "In any case, the culprit is someone who can open locks with a wire. And that is you..." Hakuba looked directly at the fake director. "...Hiroo Tsuchio-san!"
Tsuchio gulped and his slightly reddened cheeks turned pale again. Seems like the shock from this accusation sobered him up quite a bit. "W-what are you talking about...?"
"I'm talking about the padlock of the shed," Hakuba explained, "which is the place you said you really went to, when you told us you were going to your room to fetch some more cigarettes. Not only did it show signs of an forced entry, it was also lying wet in one corner of the shed. It must've been you who opened it, since you were the only one who went out there before we investigated the shed. In addition to that, the wire is missing from the toolbox in your room."
"So? How did he lock the room then?" Natsuki asked.
"Tsuchio-san said he came her three days ago to make himself familiar with the location, didn't he?" Hakuba continued. "My guess is that he cut a small hole into the window of Tokitsu-kun's room on that occasion. After he bashed Tokitsu-kun's head in today, he climbed out of the window and locked it from the outside, by threading a bent wire through the hole and closing the bolt lock with it. Since he appears to be very adapt with these kind of things, it wasn't a problem for him. He speculated on Hattori-kun's hot-bloodedness," side glance to said Heiji, who stared back at Hakuba with annoyance, "since it was predictable that once we've found the body, Hattori-kun would rush to the scene and smash in the window to get into the room. With the panel with the hole smashed in, we wouldn't be able to discover the hole anymore." Hakuba turned to Tsuchio again and addressed him directly: "Then you destroyed the radio and tried to induce fear into our thoughts, to kill another one of us later. Am I right?"
"Huh?" Hakuba and Heiji turned around from the suspects to the door that lead into the hallway, where Shinichi leaned against the door frame and had just spoken these two little words.
"Even if Tsuchio-san might've predicted that Hattori would smash in the window, he couldn't have predicted which one of the four panels he would smash. Besides, no matter how much of an hothead Hattori is, he's still enough of a detective to have noticed something like a small hole in the glass before just smashing in the glass," Shinichi explained.
'Oi, I don't like the subtext of yer words, Kudo...' Heiji thought.
"B-but I'm definitely sure that he is the one who broke into the shed!" Hakuba said.
"Yeah, he's definitely a sneaky pickpocket, but that's about it." Heiji looked from the fake director, who had gone even paler, to Hakuba. "Or is someone who stole before automatically guilty for ya? Is that it?"
"...!" Hakuba stared at Heiji. 'Heh, touché, Hattori-kun,' he thought.
"And the locked room trick? How did it work then?" Natsuki asked Shinichi with a little blush.
Shinichi stepped into the room and shrugged. "That one is really simple, almost child's play I'd say. First, the culprit takes out the screws from the window frame with the screwdriver from the toolbox and took out the entire window from the wall. Then the culprit pinched the screws in half with the long-nose pliers, so they become shorter. After that, he goes outside, covers the window frame with glue and puts the window back into the wall. After putting the shortened screws back into the frame and locking the bolt lock of course. In other words, the window appeared to be firmly held in place by the screws, but in reality, the screws were too short to do that and the window was only held in place by the glue on the frame; it would be easy to take it out."
"I see..." Hakuba said.
"Hm, therefore, the only one who was capable to do that was-..." Heiji said.
"Right!" Shinichi interrupted him and faced the old man in the room. "The one who had the chance to commit the crime was you, Renzo Koya-san. You were the last to leave the dining room. Only you could've done it! You surprised Tokitsu-kun during his lengthy preparations of the trick and killed him with the hammer from his room."
"Wh-what are you talking about?!" Heiji said.
"Yeah, pardon me interrupting your deduction, but it was possible for Koya-san to-" Hakuba said.
"I have evidence of course!" Shinichi interrupted Hakuba, rummaged around his pocket and took out a screw that he held with a cloth. "Namely this shortened screw that I found in Tokitsu-kun's room!"
'Ku ... Kudo?!' Heiji thought.
'Don't!' Hakuba thought. 'If you reveal this now, she might...!'
Shinichi stepped closer to Koya. "The case is clear, isn't it? You didn't manage to collect all of the screws. No wonder, when you pinch screws in half in such a way, the two halves of the screws get thrown all over the place." Shinichi noticed movement from the corner of his eye. Suddenly, he reached out and grabbed the left arm of Natsuki.
"Huh?" The female detective exclaimed, staring at Shinichi. Heiji, Hakuba, Koya and Tsuchio were looking baffled too, staring at the actions of the Great Detective of the East as well.
"So it really was you," Shinichi said to Natsuki, whose eyes widened. She opened her mouth, but was at a loss of words. "You killed Tokitsu-kun! He said he would about an hour to complete his trick, because he had to wait until the glue had dried. No matter how fast Tokitsu-kun would've completed taking out the screws and pinching them in half, even fast-drying glue takes about half an hour to dry completely. In other words, he would've completed all his tasks in about thirty minutes and then wait outside for another thirty minutes until the glue dried. Therefore, you were the only one who went out of the dining room early enough to interrupt Tokitsu-kun's preparations and kill him. You pretended to go to the toilet, but in reality, you went upstairs to his room, knocked on his door and told him something about having solved it too and comparing solutions or maybe you offered to perform the trick together. In any case, you went into Tokitsu-kun's room and when he turned his back to you, you bashed his head in from behind. Afterwards, you finished the execution of the trick and turned the crime scene into a locked room. Then you jumped from the windowsill down to the ground, went around the house and reentered the mansion through the front door and rejoined us in the dining room. Since Tokitsu-kun would never come to get us, you could be sure that the glue would definitely be dry before we ever got suspicious of the long time it took him."
Shinichi smiled. "However, all of this was just a theory of mine. I didn't have any evidence." He still held on to her arm and used his other hand to remove the cloth from the screw he held up before, revealing that it was just a regular, intact screw.
"That's why I used this screw from the broken radio for a little bluff of mine," he explained. "You were pretty sure you had collected all of the screw parts, but when I held up this one, you suddenly were doubting your execution of the trick or maybe you realized that Tokitsu-kun had overlooked one of the screw parts while he was beginning to pinch them in half. No matter which of these it was, my bluff had the effect I aimed for. You made a fatal mistake when you thought nobody was looking at you. I assumed you would look in the direction of your hiding spot, but to think you still had them in your pocket this whole and counted them with your hand..." He pulled her arm out of the pocket; she was clenching her fist. Shinichi slightly squeezed her arm with his hand, making her sigh and open the fist. Little pieces of screws fell out of her hand, rolling all over the floor. "...that was something I didn't expect." Natsuki looked to the ground in silence and Shinichi let go of her arm.
"Well, but I'd say there was a sign that she carried the screws around with her," Heiji said.
"Huh?" Natsuki and Shinichi wondered almost in unison.
"Earlier, ya knew that we went to the shed, so ya must've stood by the window for quite a while to notice us. Also, ya weren't nervous at all when this thunderstorm started when we were on the boat. So, I think the reason as to why ya pretended to fear thunder and lightning was to give yerself an excuse to fall to yer knees, so you could grab a screw piece from the ground, which ya missed earlier," Heiji explained. He looked into the face of Natsuki, but she just looked confused now instead of guilty. "What? Am I wrong?"
"I'm afraid so, Hattori," Shinichi said. "I think it was rather because of the gust of wind that blew through the window. You told me earlier that Natsuki-san was wearing headphones during your boat ride, which had the same reason, she was worried about the sea breeze. Because if the wind blows through her hair, it might revealed her earlobe piercings. Hattori told me earlier that you explained the strict regulations of your school to the others, so revealing your earlobe piercings might raise some eyebrows."
"Earlobe piercings...!" Hakuba said and stepped closer to Natsuki. "Allow me," he said and gently swayed away the hair that covered her ears; just like Shinichi said, they were pierced.
Natsuki smiled. "It is like Kudo-kun said. I thought I did it in time, because I didn't think that you, Kudo-kun, or you, Hattori-kun, were able to see my earlobes from where you were standing in that room, but it seems like I was mistaken. I knew that you might've noticed, Hakuba-kun, but I hoped that you wouldn't bat an eye at that."
"Indeed, I noticed it, but I really didn't think about it, since there high school students with earrings everywhere in England, where regulations are way less strict," Hakuba explained.
Shinichi blushed a little bit. 'She was right, I couldn't see her earlobe piercingsss at the time in Tokitsu-kun's room; I noticed it when I accidentally saw her while she was still dressing, with her hair not properly arranged yet. Well, she doesn't need to know that,' he thought.
"But wait," Heiji said. "Ya said yer high school was so strict, like Kudo said earlier. How don't ya get in trouble at yer school for that?"
"Don't worry," Natsuki said with a soft smile on her face. "I won't get any trouble, because I am already twenty years old. I graduated from high school two years ago. So my cover as a high school detective wouldn't get blown, I forced myself into my old school uniform and to seem completely authentic, I repeated the old complaints about the rather strict limitations from my school days. A mistake as it turns out..."
"But why are you doing this?" Hakuba asked. "Why did you bring all of us high school detectives here?"
"To catch him..." Natsuki mumbled.
"The high school detective, who solved the Lavender Mansion Murder Case, I suppose?" Shinichi said.
"Ah, yes..." Natsuki confirmed.
"Don't tell me...!" Heiji gasped. "Tokitsu-kun was that high school detective?!"
"I'm not sure," Shinichi said, "because the papers neither disclosed the name of the detective, nor further details about the case. But I guess Natsuki-san here was sure enough that it was him, to murder him in cold blood."
"Yes, it was him," Natsuki nodded. "He was just traveling Shikoku and appeared suddenly at said Lavender Mansion. Tokitsu-kun declared that this case wasn't a suicide, but a locked room murder instead. At the time, the only other person in the mansion with the victim was her maid, my best friend. Because of these circumstances, she was under suspicion by the police force. Countless amounts of questionings finally drove her into suicide. After that, he continued his travels and never came back."
"Ah, I see," Hakuba said. "You're blaming him for the fact that your friend killed herself and wanted revenge."
"You've got it," Natsuki said. "And here's the kicker: his deductions were incorrect. One month before Tokitsu-kun appeared, I also went to that mansion, as a detective. I asked my friend to let me conduct some investigations, since I also suspected it might've been a murder case. But there was no proof of a crime at all! After much thought, I came to the conclusion that it really was a suicide: the young lady of the mansion locked her door and hung herself."
"What happened then?" Heiji asked.
"As I said, a month after my investigation, Tokitsu-kun came through that place on his travels and found the deciding evidence. Outside the window, there were screw pieces on the ground. He also discovered that the window frame was only held in place by glue," Natsuki explained.
"How come you completely missed that?" Hakuba inquired.
"Hmph, there was nothing to miss," Natsuki huffed. "In the time between my departure and Tokitsu-kun's arrival, our dear Tsuchio-san over here came to the mansion and prepared the window with that trick. He probably planned to rob the mansion at a later point in time."
"Ah, so that's why Tsuchio-san got so nervous when that case in the mansion was mentioned," Heiji said with a look to the fake director, who was nervously sweating, sitting in his chair, grabbing the table cloth and just staring at it. "Also explains his sudden desire to leave this island immediately."
"Exactly! So, one month after me and thus overall six month after the young lady of the mansion killed herself, Tokitsu-kun came to the mansion and discovered the set-up window. He saw his chance to boost his reputation as a detective and convinced the police that the case was a murder." Natsuki gritted her teeth and her expression darkened as she retold the events. "It's so incredibly stupid; he only would've needed to check the corrosion of the screws and he would've realized that the window was prepared that way long after the suicide occurred. Well, he probably realized that his theory had some holes in it and was vulnerable, since he asked to not have his name put in the papers. This is also the reason why I didn't know which high school detective was responsible. The only clue that I had was the phone call I had with my best friend shortly before she jumped down a cliff because the accusations of the police were too much of a burden on her shoulders. You need to come here! A weirdly speaking high school detective is accusing me of being a murderer, she desperately told me on the phone, Help me, Natsuki! Please, help me!" Natsuki clenched her fists; a few tears ran down her cheeks.
"Hm, so that's why you gathered all of us here," Hakuba said. "I'm going back and forth between England and Japan a lot, mostly staying in England, so I've been neglecting my Japanese a bit. Hattori-kun characteristically speaks with a thick Kansai accent and Tokitsu-kun always referred to himself with the phrase this one."
"Correct. Additionally, you three are high school detectives with influence within the police." Natsuki wiped away the tears and looked at Shinichi. "Well, the second point is one that also fits you, Kudo-kun, but my friend grew up in Tokyo for a long time, so there was no way she'd describe your way of talking as weird. However, I used your name to invite Hakuba-kun instead. I was quite shocked when you suddenly arrived here, since you were never invited, but it was too late for me to back out from this plan."
"Well, I never said I was invited, just that it was a last minute thing," Shinichi said.
"True enough," Natsuki said. "It became clear to me, when I saw that you and Hattori-kun were quite close friends. I'd put my money on him probably mentioning this competition to you and you were curious because there was no attempt at all to invite you."
'You'd lose your money with that...' Shinichi thought, but instead he simply nodded, letting Natsuki think her deduction about that was correct.
"In any case, once I've gathered everyone here, I drugged Tsuchio-san and tied him up and reproduced the exact the same locked room trick from the Lavender Mansion. That set everything in motion," Natsuki explained.
'That must've been very close to the time I've been sneaking around the mansion...' Shinichi thought. 'Phew, that was close...'
"I put a toolbox into every room," Natsuki continued, "with all of the things one needs to perform the locked room trick. I even put flowerpots with lavender into every room as well. This way, the high school detective from back then would quickly realizes which locked room trick was used and solve it in record time. That was my cue. The mansion back then was filled with lavender too, fully justifying the name, wasn't it? Renzo Koya-san? You would know, since you were the butler of that mansion back then."
"Yes!" Koya said. "I really liked the young lady back then. It was an honor to be her butler."
"Huh..." Hakuba looked at the former butler. "Why did you bring him here?"
"He knows why she committed suicide, but he keeps silent about that reason," Natsuki explained. "She was mentally ill and addicted to her pills. She tried to kill herself almost every day as it turned out."
"I-I-I couldn't say anything!" Koya yelled, before he continued a bit calmer. "I had to keep that to myself. Mental illness ... society doesn't kindly on that in this country! I couldn't ... I couldn't allow her name to be forever tainted by that ... I thought the accusations against the maid would be dropped soon enough, since there was nothing to them. I couldn't have known that another tragedy would occur and I certainly didn't want that! I ... I am deeply sorry!" He did a deep bow, not averting his gaze from the ground. Everybody stayed quiet after that for a little while.
Heiji was the first to break the silence: "Wa-wait a second! If you also blame both of them for the death of yer friend, then does that mean...?!"
"Nicely deduced. Yes, a ship to pick us up won't come," Natsuki chuckled and the expression on her face became even more cold. "I made a deal with the captain None of the guilty ones should get a chance to escape. Not the detective who made a wrong deduction, not the thief who enabled that wrong deduction with his actions and not the butler who kept his silence. There was a chance that the high school detective would recognize the trick and not reveal himself, because he would know that his deduction was too weak and didn't want anything to do with it. But what did Tokitsu-kun do? He boasted to me with his false deductions from the Lavender Mansion Murder Case; he was unapologetic about the whole thing. Until the end. Until I bashed his head in."
Tsuchio jumped up from his chair. "T-then...! The radio ... that was you too?!"
"Of course!" Natsuki coldly stared at the scared man, before she looked at Shinichi with a softer expression. "I'm sorry, Kudo-kun, you weren't supposed to be here. But there is no way out. We'll all gonna die a wretched death on this island together!"
"What the hell?!" Heiji yelled at Natsuki. "Ya're just gonna let Kudo, Hakuba and me die with ya and these two? I know yer reason for wanting them dead, revenge, but us? We've done nothing to ya? And ya apologize to Kudo but not to us two?!"
Natsuki shook her head. "Your death was planned, even in innocence. It's not fair, but life isn't fair sometimes. This is the end. For all of us."
"Ya can't be serious...!" Heiji walked toward her with anger, grabbed her shoulders and shook the female detective. "There has to be a way out!"
"There isn't." Natsuki remained unphased by his actions.
"It can't be..." Heiji let go of her and stepped back. The three detectives stared at the girl, Tsuchio sat back down and grabbed himself another can of beer; Koya kept his head hanging, eyes closed. "..."
"...What are we going to do now?" Hakuba asked.
"Let's tie her up for a start," Heiji suggested.
"Tie her up?" Shinichi asked.
"Yeah, sounds like a good idea," Hakuba said, "who knows what she might do. Kill another person for revenge? Or maybe she has an escape boat for herself hidden somwhere; this island isn't that small, there might be a small bay where she has something prepared."
Natsuki chuckled and put her hands up, like if she were held at gunpoint. "Go ahead, I won't hold it against it you. It's a pretty smart move."
With that, Shinichi, Heiji and Hakuba led Natsuki into the kitchen; they retrieved the ropes that she used to tie up Tsuchio and used them to tie her to a chair. Since the windows couldn't be opened and the only way out of the kitchen led through the dining room, they figured this was the best place to leave her. For now.
"It's not the most comfortable solution," Hakuba admitted, "but it does the job."
"As I said, I won't hold it against you," Natsuki repeated. "I will have to go to the toilet eventually though."
"Just yell then," Heiji replied. "One of us will be outside, watching the kitchen door. Probably."
"Not that I have any intention to flee or anything, since there would be nowhere to flee to, but just hypothetically, if you take me to the toilet, I could escape through the windows in that room, since they are not locked," Natsuki said, playfully wiggling a bit, as if she would be testing whether or not she'd be able to slip out from under the ropes.
"You're assuming we would only accompany you to the bathroom door and then let you go in there alone because of basic decency, but if we are dying on this island anyway, why would we still care about basic decency?" Shinichi said, making Natsuki halt in her movements. "Just hypothetically, of course."
"Of course..." Natsuki said, staring at him. After making sure that Natsuki was properly tied up, the three detectives were on their way to leave the kitchen. "Kudo-kun? Can you do me a favor? You alone is enough..."
Hakuba and Heiji looked at Shinichi, who simply nodded. The detective from Osaka and the one from England left the kitchen and closed the door behind them, leaving Shinichi alone in the kitchen of the mansion with Natsuki. "What kind of favor?" Shinichi asked.
"There is a bottle of alcohol in one of cupboards, a bottle of Awamori. It's been a little pleasure I've occasionally enjoyed ever since I've not been a minor anymore," Natsuki explained. "I put it on the list of things that Koya should buy as provisions. In case I got nervous and doubt my plan, but I didn't need it after all. Can you ... I would like one glass right now."
Shinichi looked at Natsuki for a second. "Sure," he said and started to look through the cupboards. 'Awamori ... I wonder if there someone with that code name in the Black Organization...' Shinichi thought and finally found the bottle Natsuki was talking about. "Should I just pour it into a glass or is there a way to drink this?"
"I drink it with water and ice, the most common way. There should be some ice in the fridge," Natsuki said. "Have you ever heard of Awamori?"
"It's of Okinawan origin, isn't it?" Shinichi asked, while preparing the drink.
"Yeah, that's right. It's a distilled beverage, made from indica rice, going back all the way to the 15th century."
Shinichi went over to Natsuki, with the prepared glass in his hand. "Here you go," he said and put the glass to her lips, so she could drink. He wasn't about to undone the ropes just for this. After a few quick gulps, Natsuki had emptied the glass, except for the ice of course.
"Thank you," she said and licked her lips a few times. "I needed that."
"Glad I could be of help," Shinichi said. He put the glass into the sink, the bottle back into the cupboard and left the kitchen. Outside, Heiji and Hakuba were sitting at the dining table, busy ignoring each other. Koya and Tsuchio on the other hand were gone. "Where are the others?"
"We sent them to their rooms," Heiji said. "Koya-san needs a bit to think about everything that happened; he also has the list of all the food in his room, so he'll go through that later and see how long we can last. Tsuchio-san was drunk and tired, making pretty useless, so we put him in bed."
"What did she want from you?" Hakuba asked.
"A drink," Shinichi said and sat down at the table with them. "Awamori, to be precise, an Okinawan spirit."
"I see..." Hakuba rubbed his eyes.
"In any case," Heiji said and looked to Hakuba. "Say, yer came here half a day before we did, right? Did you maybe come with the yacht of yer family or something?"
"Unfortunately not," Hakuba replied. "I merely arrived much earlier at the harbor than you. After that, I asked around whether someone saw a boat bringing food, blankets and fuel to an uninhabited island recently. I asked the one who told me to also bring me to that island, because he told me, after a little monetary motivator from my side, that there is also a house on the island, where the provisions were brought and that a few people were supposed to spend some nights on said island."
"So nobody that would miss you really knows that ya're on this specific island?" Heiji concluded.
"That's right. Did you tell somebody?"
"Well, I left a hint for someone ... but she might be a bit too slow..." Heiji sighed.
"What about you, Kudo-kun?" Hakuba asked Shinichi. "How did you get here? Maybe you told someone?"
Shinichi shook his head and concocted an excuse. "No, similar to you, I've found a captain who told me the same thing and brought me here. He was quite drunk, so I didn't need to loosen his tongue with a few yen and it also allowed me to come here ... I don't think he would've driven me out during that storm if he were sober at that point. So, the answer is no."
Heiji rubbed his temples. "Well, aside from leaving a hint for my friend, how long could it take until someone comes? Tsuchio-san said to the people that accompanied me at the harbor that they would come here tomorrow," Heiji looked to his cellphone, "well, today by now, to pick me up, which obviously will not happen. So, next they'd probably call Nichiuri TV or something, because they think that the network is in charge of this whole thing. They will have no idea, because it is not real. And then they will probably call the cops. This island may be uninhabited, but it is certainly not uncharted or anything. So, it will take like what, 24 hours, maybe 48? I'm the son of the chief of the Osakan police force, plus the guy I came with is well versed with some high-ranking police officials in Tokyo, so that could speed things up..."
"Oh, really? Who did you come with?" Hakuba inquired.
"The Sleeping Kogoro himself, along with his daughter and a friend of mine, the one I left my hint for." Heiji said. "I've known them for some time now and usually stay at their place when I'm in Tokyo."
"Huh, the fable Kogoro Mouri himself. I actually met his daughter Ran-san once, at a place called Sunset Mansion, during a gathering of detectives." Hakuba said. "I didn't get to meet Mouri-san himself though, because Kaitou Kid knocked him out before he got there and disguised as him during the event."
'Good times...' Shinichi thought.
"What about that boy?" Hakuba continued. "Conan Edogawa. Is he still with him? He seemed quite smart to me during our meeting, almost too smart for his age."
'Oh no...' Shinichi thought.
Heiji was tempted to throw Shinichi a little side gaze, but refrained since he was under Hakuba's watch. "Yeah, that little guy is still with them. I wanted to take him with me as my assistant, but it wasn't allowed. Would've been helpful to have him here, but well, we've at least got Kudo here."
"Yes, lucky us..." Hakuba said, still looking at Shinichi. Shinichi didn't like that look. "I wonder, what are you up to these days, Kudo-kun? Not much about you in the news. Studying abroad somewhere like me?"
"Something like that, cases and stuff, you know how it is. But I wonder," Shinichi said, "have you been keeping track of me? I didn't know you were a fan."
"No, that's not it, I've been just curious since today." Hakuba smiled coldly for a second, before he put on a normal expression again. "In any case, I'm curious about that Awamori. Have either of you ever tasted it before?"
"Nah, how would we?" Heiji replied, while Shinichi simply shook his head in response. "We're still minors after all. Do you drink on a regular basis in England? You're what, 17 still?"
"Yeah, that's right. Not regularly, but is allowed to drink wine to a meal if an adult buys it for you, so I sometimes drink some of that when I'm in a restaurant with my mother." Hakuba explained. "It's not legal for us to drink that Awamori, but why not try it? I won't tell anyone..."
"Well..." Heiji swayed his head back and forth, trying to reach a decision. "Why the hell not? Kudo, mind if you bring that stuff here? You know where it is stored." Shinichi shrugged and stood up to go back into the kitchen. Heiji turned his attention to Hakuba again. "Though I wonder, why you of all people would be the one to be not that uptight about regulations."
"Oh, well, I figured we could make an exception, since our circumstances are a bit exceptional as well," Hakuba explained, glancing at Shinichi.
Shinichi entered the kitchen and grabbed the bottle of Awamori from the cupboard. Then he took out three glasses, filled up a carafe with water and a container with ice. Once everything was prepared, Shinichi put all of this on a tablet. Natsuki looked at his actions without a word until he was finished with the preparations and lifted the tablet up. "Got curious?" Natsuki asked.
"Something like that," Shinichi said briefly and left the kitchen again. He put down the tablet on the table. "You drink it with water and ice, at least according to Natsuki-san," he told the other two detectives. Everyone took a glass and prepared it, with Shinichi explaining how he did it before. Now that they were finished, everybody stared at their drink, not quite sure if they should really drink it.
"Well..." Hakuba said. "Should we...?"
"I guess..." Heiji said.
"Hmmm, why don't we spice it up a little?" Shinichi suggested. "You two had ... a few differences. Why not blow off some steam, complain a bit. Take a sip for every complaint, finish your glass for a longer rant."
"Great idea! I'll start, I hate yer condescending tone and yer snobbishness!" Heiji said to Hakuba and took a sip from his glass. It burned in his throat and he had to cough a little.
"Alright, I don't like your aggressiveness," Hakuba took a sip, "and you Kansai accent, it's simply irritating and insult to the Japanese language," he said and took another sip.
"What the...! Kansai-ben is perfect Japanese!" Heiji replied indignantly.
'Wow, this is going great...' Shinichi thought, absentmindedly shaking the ice in his glass.
"Let's see ... hm, I didn't like how boasted about yer father having a higher rank than mine? That was pretty uncalled for!" Heiji said, taking another sip.
"I was merely mentioning how I heard about you from my father and you straight up snapped at me, which was even more uncalled for than my response! Besides, I don't like to bring up my father, it is just bothersome. And that one time he pulled his rank on Inspector Nakamori to let me attend a Kid heist ... it's pretty annoying to say the least."
"Yeah, but at least ya're in England most of the time, where yer father is more or less unknown. Me, however, I have to live and operate in the shadow of my father all the time. Every time I'm on a crime scene, I can hear at least one pair of officers whisper Isn't that Superintendent Hattori's son? What's he doing on at a crime scene, playing detective again...? Geez, I'm in high school, they shouldn't treat me like a child!" Heiji ranted. "It doesn't help that my father doesn't take me seriously either, always treating like a spoiled brat who doesn't know what he is doing, sometimes he gets really angry too ... that one time he even manipulated me and used me as bait for a criminal..."
'Oh, you've got it really rough Hattori, complain more about being treated like child why don't you...' Shinichi thought.
"Still better than my father," Hakuba said. "Sure, he's quite jovial about my activities most of the time rather than being angry, but it's always so condescending too. But that's honestly better than the other side: disinterest or not having enough time to care. His high rank doesn't allow to keep track of my activities in England and when I'm here, I barely see him at all. Why does he even have such a big house, when he lives more in the Metropolitan Police Headquarters anyway...?"
"Are you two finished? That was a pretty long one from both of you, so I guess you'll both have to finish your glass," Shinichi said. The other two looked at him for a moment before they did as he said. Hakuba seemed to have less problems with that stuff than Heiji, but he said he drank some alcohol before after all.
"What about you, Kudo-kun?" Hakuba said after setting down his glass. "Your glass is still full, complain a bit too!"
"Yeah, otherwise where would be tha fun in waiting our asses off here?" Heiji agreed, not noticing the slight slur in his sentence. "You can start with yer father, worked for us two."
"Well..." Shinichi set down his glass and rested his head on one hand. "There's not much to complain about. Sure, he can seem like he's careless and can be rather irritating at times, but he supports me in my ways, he trusts me when it matters and he often tries to encourage or challenge me in order to make me improve my capabilities as a detective. And he's taught me many things too ... in conclusion, I don't have it bad with him, honestly, quite the opposite actually."
"..." Hakuba and Heiji stared at him. "Finish yer glass," Heiji said.
"What...? But I didn't complain! Well, not much," Shinichi retorted.
"Doesn't matter, you're making us feel bad for having worse fathers than you, drink it up!" Hakuba supported Heiji's demand.
"Geez and then the whole glass too," Shinichi mumbled, "with how little complaining I did, even one sip would almost be too much..." He downed the entire glass with a few gulps. It burned in his throat, but it wasn't that strong. Shinichi looked at the bottle. '25 % alcohol, huh ... compared to that 60 % Chinese Baiju I downed a whole bottle of with the body of a six year old, this seems almost mild. Almost...' Shinichi thought. He noticed Hakuba and Heiji looking at him. "Seconds...?" Shinichi asked.
"I guess..." Hakuba said, seeming a bit frustrated.
"Ssure, sure!" Heiji quickly said. He seemed to like it.
Just as Shinichi wanted to pour more of the Awamori into their glasses, they suddenly heard a sound that made all of them halt in their movements. It was the distant sound of an engine.
"Huh..." Shinichi wondered. "That sound...?"
"Don't tell me the generator is breaking down...?!" Hakuba exclaimed with widened.
"No, I think that sound belongs to..."
"Kazuha!" Heiji yelled, smiling from ear to ear while looking at the window. "Kazuha came with the boat!" He left the dining room and ran outside. Shinichi and Hakuba looked through the window and indeed saw the lights of a boat approaching the island.
"I'll untie Natsuki-san, you get Koya-san and Tsuchio-san," Shinichi said to Hakuba, who nodded and left the dining room. Shinichi went to the kitchen, to do as he said he would. Natsuki was already shifting on her chair, trying to get a look through one of the windows. "That is indeed the sound of a boat, if that is what you're wondering," he said while undoing the ropes.
"Huh?" Natsuki said. "B-but ... why?!"
"Well, Hattori made gave his girlfriend a little hint," Shinichi explained. "Utilizing his trademark cap. Anyway, I'll leave your hands tied up, just as a precaution."
"I understand," Natsuki nodded. She stood up and the two of them went into the hallway, where they were met by Heiji, Hakuba, Tsuchio and Koya. They all had their luggage with them, Hakuba carrying Natsuki's bag, since he knew she wouldn't be able to do that. A truly posh gentleman (also known as truly snobbish jerk in the Osaka region). All of them went down the hill to the landing. The sun was rising, it was already morning. The thunderstorm was over for some time now.
On the boat, Kazuha and Ran were standing at the front of the ship. Kazuha was scoping out the island with a pair of binoculars. Kogoro was on the bridge together with the captain, who's right eye was swollen, his head was bandaged and there were marks of blood remaining on his face, especially under his nose. "You know, if you had just told us the truth from the beginning," Kogoro said to the captain, "then you wouldn't have tanked these girls martial arts moves." The captain only gave a pained groan in response.
"Do you see something, Kazuha-chan?" Ran asked her friend. "Anything at all?"
"Yes! I see the director from the harbor and I see Heiji! They are coming to the landing. And I see an old man and..." Kazuha said, when she suddenly spotted something. Her eyes widened and she gave Ran the binoculars. "Here, Ran-chan, see for yerself."
"Huh...? Okay, sure," Ran said and took a look through the binoculars. "Hm, Hattori-kun, some other teen ... agers? And ... ahhh!"
The group was standing at the land, staring into the sunrise and to the approaching boat. Tsuchio was wildly waving with his hands, not taking any chances that the boat might miss them. A gentle sea breeze was blowing.
"So there are still detectives like you..." Natsuki said to Heiji.
"Huh?" Heiji wondered.
"Since I smeared some blood on the doorknob, I knew that you bust the door open. And since the body was leaning against the window, I was sure you smash in the window as well." Natsuki explained. "That's why I had to lean the body against it, because otherwise you might've tried to bust it with your shoulder and than the whole frame would've fallen out immediately, since the glue couldn't have hold that. Well, your temperament sure is reliable."
Heiji snorted. "Sorry for being so hot-blooded..."
"No, it's nothing to apologize for." Natsuki spoke softly and looked into the sunrise while she spoke. "For me, not giving up on the victim until the death has been undoubtedly confirmed, makes a detective into a great detective. Don't you think so?" She looked and smiled at Heiji and Shinichi for a moment, before looking back into the sky. "If god forgives me my sins one day, I would like to compete with you all in a real Detective Koshien ... but, I'm afraid, that day won't ever come for me anymore..."
A few minutes later, the boat arrived at the landing. Kazuha jumped off the boat, stormed towards Heiji and hugged him. "HEIJI! I was so worried!"
Heiji blushed and laughed. "It's alright, Kazuha, I'm alright. Ya found my hint, yes?"
Kazuha ended their embrace and took out his cap from her pocket. "Of course!" Kazuha said and put the cap on his head.
Slightly adjusting the cap, Heiji smirked. "Great, I knew you'd figure it out!"
"I don't want to interrupt your reunion, but can someone explain to me what the hell is going here?!" Kogoro yelled from the boat. Shinichi noticed now that Ran was standing beside her father, staring at him. Not good ... of course he knew that Ran would come along if Kazuha came to Heiji's rescue, but he pushed that thought away for quite some time, so he hadn't thought of anything to say to her or any excuse.
"It's all my fault," Natsuki said to Kogoro, Ran and Kazuha. "My obsession caused all of this. I'm sorry." She bowed and went past Heiji and Kazuha, stepping on the boat and sat down on one of its benches.
"That girl ... what's with her?" Kazuha asked.
"And why are her hands tied up?" Kogoro asked.
"Let's get on that boat first and leave this island," Heiji said. "I'll explain everything on our trip back to Tokyo."
"Eh?! So she murdered another high school detective?!" Kogoro yelled after Heiji explained what happened on the island. Koya, Tsuchio and Hakuba had taken a seat close to Natsuki on the benches of the boat. Close, but not too close. Heiji, Kazuha, Ran, Shinichi and Kogoro were standing at the back of the ship. "Unbelievable that she was capable of such a terrible deed..." Kogoro shifted his gaze from one high school detective to the other. "And what are you doing here?"
Shinichi huffed. "What do you mean? It was a competition of high school detectives, I heard of it from Hattori, it sounded suspicious to me, thus I came here to check out if there was more to it. And, surprise, there was."
"I'm surprised that you saw right through it," Kogoro sneered. "Since the Sleeping Kogoro has taken over the spotlight, your fame and skill seem rather lackluster in comparison."
'I am everything that you are, you insulting, bumbling, old geezer!' Shinichi thought. 'You'd be nothing without me!'
"Well, your friend from Osaka comes close to me, but only close," Kogoro continued.
Shinichi grinned. "Well, well, then I guess I'm at least equal to you after all, since I solved this case on my own, my deduction surpassed both Hakuba's deduction and Hattori's. Anyway, I'm not in the mood," he said, leaving the group while bumping into Kogoro with his shoulder and went to the front of the boat, where he was alone and not under the scrutiny of anyone. Shinichi took out Conan's cell phone and turned it on; to no avail, they were still out of service range.
"Shinichi," Ran said from behind him.
Shinichi turned around, hiding the Conan phone behind his back. "Ran ... hey..."
"Yeah, hey..." Ran brushed aside a strand of hair that the wind had blown into her blushing face. "Shinichi ... where were you...? Why ... when ... I haven't seen you since that evening ... I-I have some question to ask you..."
"Same here!" Hakuba said from behind; Ran turned around and Shinichi's eyes widened.
"Hakuba ... wha-?" Shinichi started, but Hakuba cut him off.
"I have some questions too," Hakuba said. "About your secret identity!"
This chapter took some time to be published unfortunately, but oh well, it is done now. In any case, remember to write a comment to tell me your opinion. Direct feedback of any kind is always appreciated and helps me greatly when writing this fic. Next chapter: dealing with Hakuba and two scientists appear! Stay tuned!
"I have some questions too," Hakuba said. "About your secret identity!"
"S-secret identity...?" Shinichi replied. 'Not good, not good at all!' He thought. 'Especially with Ran here ... what do I do? Hm, but what could he say? Does he have proof? I doubt it actually ... wait, having Ran here could great, she could testify for me! If she doesn't have own doubts again that is...'
For a moment, the three of them just stood there, in the gentle sea breeze and the red light of the sunrise. Then Hakuba spoke up again: "You are..." Shinichi swallowed. "...Kaitou Kid, aren't you?"
"Huh?" Ran and Shinichi exclaimed in unison.
"Height: 1,74 m, weight: about 58 kg, black hair, Japanese, IQ of over 400, between 15 and 17 years old; a few of facts I have gathered about Kaitou Kid. They fit you pretty well." Hakuba explained. "You've vanished from the press for a longer time now. I suspect you started while still doing both, being a detective and a thief, but then found that these two activities occupied too much time, which is why you're more focused on being Kaitou Kid now."
Shinichi and Ran both stared at him, with Ran occasionally looking from Hakuba to Shinichi. She didn't look like she believed that theory. Good.
Shinichi chuckled at first, but then he managed to hold back his laughter. "Okay. And now what?" He asked. "What will you do now?"
"I seem to have amused you..." Hakuba noted, still looking fairly confident. "Most of these facts I have determined by a partial DNA analysis. Of course, that original DNA sample is still safely stored in the evidence rooms of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. Surely, once we have called the police, you will give us a DNA sample to compare them?"
'The results will disappoint you,' Shinichi thought. 'But this isn't good at all. I can't get caught up with such an investigation now, even if I'm proven innocent at the end. Who knows how long this could take?' He slightly tilted his head and said: "Surely I also have the right to refuse all of that and just walk away? Since you have nothing more than speculation at this point."
"You have that right, of course. But it would make you a lot more suspicious," Hakuba replied. "And if I tell Inspector Nakamori about that, he will probably stay on your trail, because when it comes to Kaitou Kid, he doesn't take any chances."
Not good either. Inspector Nakamori and Hakuba hot on his trails also fell under the category of Things I really don't need at the moment.
She had remained silent until this point, but now Ran spoke up. "I'm sorry, but this is ridiculous! Shinichi isn't some kind of thief; do you honestly believe the Heisei Holmes could also be the Heisei Lupin at the same time? And besides, Kaitou Kid first appeared 18 years ago, right? How would Shinichi have been able to do that? It's not like there's a fountain of youth anywhere in this world where he could've significantly reduced his age at!"
"The analysis doesn't lie, Ran-san," Hakuba argued, "Kaitou Kid is most definitely around our age. Which means 18 years ago, somewhere else was wearing the mantle of the Magician under the Moonlight; in any case, that doesn't concern me at this moment." He continued to stare at Shinichi.
"I'm sorry, I'm really sorry, Hakuba, really." Shinichi regained his composure. "That's certainly a nice theory, but I have to disappoint you. I'm not Kaitou Kid."
"Do you think just denying it will convince me of your innocence?" Hakuba replied.
"No, but maybe this: I have an alibi!" Shinichi said. He could've started with this, but he had to try getting out of this situation without revealing too much and without sending Hakuba on a search mission through the police archives.
"What kind of alibi?" Hakuba asked, not convinced.
"I attended a heist of Kaitou Kid and helped to prevent it, the Station Clock Tower Heist, to be precise," Shinichi explained. "The Inspectors Megure and your friend Inspector Nakamori could testify to that. My involvement should've also been noted in the police files about that case. I was in a police chopper with Inspector Megure; I called in a favor with him to get into that. I advised Inspector Nakamori and his task force over the radio from the that chopper, much to the annoyance of said Inspector Nakamori. I'm sure he'll remember my involvement. It was also me who shot at the illusion that Kid had prepared at the clock tower. Since you're rather familiar with Inspector Nakamori, it wouldn't be a problem to inquire about that heist, right? Ask him and maybe look at the files; with your father being Superintendent Hakuba of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, this shouldn't be a problem for you. Is that enough to prove my innocence?"
Hakuba stared at him with widened eyes and considered what Shinichi just told him for a second. "Inspector Ginzo Nakamori and Inspector Juzo Megure ... Station Clock Tower Heist ... I've heard of that heist and the illusion, a large blanket over the clock-face of the tower, downed by the police ... that was you?"
"Indeed," Shinichi nodded. "I shot of the bars that held the blanket in place; however, Kaitou Kid, who was standing on the clock-face, simply let himself fall of the tower together with the blanket, vanishing into the crowd of people below. I used the gun of Inspector Megure, so maybe you'll find it reported that he fired instead of me, to avoid possible problems from the higher-ups; you know, a minor firing a police weapon and stuff."
"Hmmmm," Hakuba sighed, looking visibly shaken. "My apologies then, Kudo-kun."
"You are forgiven," Shinichi said, when he remembered something. "Excuse me, I have to talk with Hattori about some other matter," he said and left Ran and Hakuba standing there at the front. Getting as far away from Hakuba as possible on this boat felt really good to him.
"Your serious demeanor worried me there for a second, Hakuba-kun," Ran said. "But as I told you, Shinichi being such sort of criminal ... I couldn't even imagine that to be the case."
"My apologies to you too then, Ran-san," Hakuba said. Ran was about to turn around as well, but he stopped her with a polite hand gesture. "However, if you don't mind, I'd like to ask you one more question if you don't mind. You seem to know Kudo-kun rather well, considering you're calling him by first name only." Ran simply nodded in response. "Then allow me to ask this last question: does Kudo-kun have any ice skating skill?"
Ran chuckled. She didn't understand why Hakuba was asking such a silly question out of nowhere. "Yes, he does. He's pretty skillful, actually, and he taught me how to ice-skate as well. It's almost irritating how good he is at it..."
Hakuba sighed again. "Thank you, Ran-san. That's all."
"Alright," Ran said and went back to the others like Shinichi.
'Again, my deduction was flawed, because Kaitou Kid obscured my thoughts ... I thought confronting Kudo-kun here on the ship, where I had him cornered was a good idea ... but with the basis of that confrontation already flawed ...' The detective from England clenched his fist. 'Kuroba-kun ... I'll get you and restore my honour as a detective once and for all!' Hakuba thought, while staring into the sunrise again.
Shinichi went towards Heiji, who was standing at the back of the boat with Kazuha; they were busy not talking to each other. Just what did Heiji do now? Shinichi put one hand on Heiji's shoulder and whispered into his ear: "I don't know if it was the Awamori or a problem with my memory, but my stuff..."
"Don't worry, I've got ya covered," Heiji whispered. "I've put that stuff into my bag before we left."
Shinichi nodded and stepped away from Heiji. Kazuha was pouting and staring back to the island. She wasn't acknowledging Heiji at all. "What did he say now to upset you, Kazuha-san?"
"Hey, hold on, why do ya think I did something wro-" Heiji said.
"He thinks I'm a bit slow and that the rescue could've been a bit sooner," Kazuha explained, not letting Heiji finish.
"Oh, I see. Smooth, Hattori, really smooth," Shinichi said.
Heiji snorted, one eyebrow twitching. "Yeah? Well, at least I left a hint for someone..."
"Right, right and I didn't..." Shinichi said, before suddenly grabbing Heiji and putting him into a headlock, whispering to him again: "I would have too, but I was too busy being guilt tripped into a sports bag..."
"Argh, stop, stop it!" Heiji squealed. "Ka-Kazuha! A little help...?"
"Ha, forget it!" Kazuha cracked a smile. "Keep it up, Kudo-kun, maybe this will straighten him a bit," she said and left the two alone to check on Ran.
"Ah, ah, ahh! Enough already!" Heiji yelled.
"Oh, no, no no no, this is for all of the times you used the fact that I was too small to get back at you properly," Shinichi said, when he heard his cell phone beep. He let go of Heiji, who held his head in pain, and took the phone out of his pocket. A text message from Ran from earlier, while Shinichi was still on the island. Since this was the Conan phone, the message subsequently was meant for Conan, informing him that something weird happened with Heiji and that she wouldn't be home until late into the evening. "Wait a minute ... if this message got sent to me now, that means..." Shinichi wondered and checked the top right corner of the screen. He was right, they were in service range again. "Sweet! Hattori!"
"What?!" Heiji hissed.
"Okay, I'm sorry, but this is important. I need to call Haibara, can you keep an eye out that nobody comes into hearing range?" Shinichi asked his friend.
Heiji facial expression changed from anger to a more understanding look. "Sure, I'll do that. Go ahead and call that little devil."
Shinichi nodded and called the number of Professor Agasa's house. After a minute of nothing, the answering machine took his call. Shinichi ended the call and dialed the number of Haibara's cell phone instead. After another minute, he heard the sleepy voice of Haibara answering him. "Edogawa-kun? It's early in the morning, the sun has barely risen and it is a holiday, why would you call at this ungodly hour...?"
"Sorry, Haibara," Shinichi said and could practically feel Haibara jump up in her bed, "but this is an emergency."
"Please tell me you're using the bow-tie to mess with me..." Haibara said, not sounding sleepy at all anymore.
"Nope, I have this voice because I'm back to sixteen. Listen, I traveled as Conan with Hattori to a detective competition, on an uninhabited island. Then I turned back; don't worry, nobody was missing Conan, because we've made up a story that Conan went to the Professor's house instead, so that's the first thing you need to know, Conan Edogawa spent half of yesterday at your place. Secondly, this competition turned out to be a murder scheme, so a very low risk of exposure here too, but currently I'm on a boat back to Tokyo, with Ran, Kogoro-san and a little group of other people. I need a way of getting away from the harbor and the group and since I have no money to call a taxi..." Shinichi explained.
"I've got it," Haibara interjected. "I'll wake the Professor and we'll be there as fast as possible. Where exactly will you land?"
Shinichi told her the address of the harbor and the exact location from where the boat took off in the first place. They also agreed on a meeting point and then ended the call, not wasting any more time. "Let's join the others, shall we?" Shinichi said and the two of them walked to where the group had taken their seats. Shinichi looked out of the window; Ran had returned from the front of the ship too, but didn't talk to Shinichi with all the other people around. Shinichi was both happy and sad about that: he wanted to talk to Ran, he really did, especially now that he had his real body back again ... only god knew about all the things Shinichi wanted to tell her the last time. But that was in a restaurant in a romantic setting, only the two of them and not on a shabby boat, after a sleepless night and with people like Ran's father or the annoying/teasing detective buddy around.
After what felt like an eternity, the boat finally arrived back at the harbor in Tokyo. Kogoro immediately called Inspector Megure, who seemed about as happy as Haibara was to be called this early, but just as with Haibara, Megure was very attentive once they got to the point of the call. Of course, Shinichi could've told them that they already had service on the boat after a certain time, but he didn't want to pull out the phone of Conan from his pocket; Ran might recognize it, especially after that whole ordeal when she doubted his identity again, which led to him getting a second phone, a Shinichi phone.
While they all leaving the boat, waiting for the police to arrive, Shinichi and Heiji stealthily took out the Conan stuff from Heiji's bag and Shinichi sneaked off while nobody was looking. He entrusted Heiji with the questionings and dealing with the others. When he was out of the sight of the group, Shinichi started to sprint to the meeting point. Just as he wanted to run around another corner, he heard a voice calling out to him. "SHINICHI!"
Shinichi halted immediately. That was Ran. He turned around, hiding the Conan stuff behind his back. "H-hey, Ran..." He lamely stuttered. Since he stopped to run, Ran came closer to him.
"Why do you run off like this?" Ran asked. "Don't you want to explain the case to Inspector Megure? And besides..." She nervously twirled a strand of her hair. "...I still have some questions ... things I would to like to know."
Shinichi took a deep breath and a step towards Ran and smiled at her. "You know, I have a lot of things to say and ask as well ... but, if my deduction is correct, then maybe, what you want to ask and what I want to ask, is one and the same..." By now, they were both blushing, Ran even more than Shinichi. "But, right now, I have something urgent that I need to take care off, even more urgent than our questions..." That was a lie. He simply wanted to get away from the others, the police questioning and potential reporters that would show once they sniffed out the scoop; and most important of all, he didn't want to turn back in front of any of those groups. There were few things more urgent than their questions and the answers. 'Wait though, the last antidote lasted about day, maybe ... maybe I have some time remaining later in the day...' He thought and said to Ran: "Tell you what, how about ... I call you in the early afternoon? We could ... well..."
"Go to a cafe, maybe...? I know a fine, little one that only recently opened ... it seems to be a quite popular insider's tip around Beika..." Ran said. They were both blushing about the fact that they basically scheduling a date here.
"S-sure, that sounds lovely..." Shinichi said. 'Oh god, why did I use that word?!'
"Alright, you call me then, okay? I'll be waiting..." Ran said and turned around to go away. As she walked, Ran looked over her shoulder one last time and then went back to the others.
Shinichi stood there and stared into the air, thinking about what just happened. If Heiji were near them, he would've surely teased for all the sweet talk, but that was probably just because Heiji only manages to get something resembling sweet talk to leave his mouth if he is close to death. Shinichi shook his head and made his way to the meeting point, where the yellow beetle of Professor Agasa was already waiting for him. Since nobody was watching, Shinichi quickly entered the car and sat down on the back row. "Good morning," he said to the two scientists, who eagerly awaited him.
"Shinichi! So you've really turned back! I almost couldn't believe it when Ai-kun woke me up!" Professor Agasa cheerily exclaimed.
Haibara was less cheerful however. "What the hell happened?!"
"I figured out something, but let me explain while we are driving," Shinichi said. Agasa nodded and started the car. "Here's what I assume: yesterday, I took the cold medicine prototype that you gave me a little while ago, Professor. Could it be possible that you've accidentally given me one of Haibara's prototype antidotes instead?"
Haibara groaned. "Professor...?!"
Agasa gasped. "W-well ... now that you mention it ... it m-might be possible..."
"Are you for real?!" Haibara snapped and rubbed the bridge of her nose in anger. "This could've had dire consequences! You need to be more careful with this kind of stuff!"
"Sorry about that, Ai-kun..." Agasa said and avoided looking at her. "I-I need to concentrate on the road..."
"Yeah, right..." Ai muttered.
Shinichi cleared his throat. "In any case, do you know how long this will last?" He asked and thought: 'Please be a day, please be a day, please be a day...'
"Since I've been basing it on the one I gave you before, it should last about a day again, like last time. Maybe a bit more if I've managed to make enough improvements, maybe a bit less if your body has developed a certain level of immunity already ... let's hope for the former and not the latter, shall we?" Haibara explained.
"Yeah, that would be good," Shinichi replied, while he was cheering mentally. "Also, about Conan: I figured since the next few days are holidays, we could give Ran and Kogoro the excuse that Conan's mother came to pick him up all of a sudden yesterday. Ran was at the harbor the whole time, so we could say that Conan's mother didn't call her, because she didn't Ran's cell phone number and calls to the agency reached nobody. And then when I turn back, we'll say Conan's mother dropped him off at your place as well."
"Yeah, that sounds good enough for now," Haibara said.
"Okay, got it, Conan's mother picked him up spontaneously," Agasa confirmed.
"Alright, Haibara, would you mind borrowing me your phone for one call?" Shinichi asked. "I need to call Inspector Megure, but he might have the number of my Conan phone in his contacts by now; if that is the case, it could provoke questions we don't want someone to ask..."
"Sure, go ahead," Haibara said and tossed him her phone.
"Thank you." Shinichi quickly dialed Megure's number. After a little while he heard the voice of the portly inspector. "Hello, Inspector, it's Kudo."
"Ah, Kudo-kun," Megure replied, "sorry, but I'm currently on my way to a case, so if it's nothing really important, we'll have to talk later."
"You were called by Kogoro Mouri, because of a murder case that happened on an uninhabited island in your jurisdiction, isn't that right?" Shinichi replied.
"Eh...? Yes, that is right, but how did you ... wait, don't tell me you were involved too?!"
"Correct. And I need to ask you to keep my involvement a secret again. I won't attend the questionings either. It doesn't matter too much, since Heiji Hattori actually did most of the work anyway, so his testimonies will be more than sufficient for a proper resolution of this case," Shinichi explained. "Could you do me that favor?"
"Well, s ure..." Megure said, "but Kudo-kun, is this something like with the case in the Haido City Hotel? There are still some things you haven't told me..."
"No, nothing like that. It has nothing to do with anything related to the Haido City Hotel case, trust me. It's just that I don't want my name prominently in the case files; and the press shouldn't be allowed to know that my name could be associated with this case. Alright?"
"Sure, Kudo-kun, as I said, I can do that. Although you really need to explain some of these things when you can..." Megure replied.
"I will do that, Inspector, I promise," Shinichi said. "Anyway, I have to take care of something now. Thank you, Inspector Megure."
"Okay, goodbye," Megure said, so Shinichi ended the call without another word. He sighed, gave Haibara her phone back and leaned back into the seat. The three of them in the car remained silent for the entire rest of the drive to Agasa's house.
Once they arrived, Shinichi threw his bundle of Conan clothes in one corner and then followed Haibara down to her basement laboratory. She took some blood samples and DNA samples. The current change back to Shinichi might've accidental, but that didn't mean that they couldn't at least get some valuable data out of it. After she was done, Shinichi was sent upstairs to wait for her in case she needed anything, like more blood or saliva. He rested himself on the couch and closed his eyes, just for a second, to rest his eyes. While that was the intention, the fact that Shinichi spent the entire night with solving a case instead of sleeping and his very minor tipsiness from that glass of Awamori caused him to fall asleep as soon as his eyes were closed.
The recent chapters haven't been coming as regularly and fast as the chapters at the beginning of the story, but currently I can't deliver them any faster than this, sorry. In any case, we are now done with the Detective Koshien case and Shinichi managed to invite Ran to another not-date! As always, please tell me what you think by leaving a comment, it is always appreciated and helps me greatly while writing this thing. Next up: Ran has a plan. What kind of plan? Stay tuned!
Chapter 10: The Anniversary-Cheer-Up-Plan!
"Wake up!" A voice called out to Shinichi. He stirred a bit, but didn't want to comply. "Wake up already!" The voice called again and Shinichi felt a small nudge in his side. He threw his eyes open and sat his body up. Shinichi was still lying on the couch in Agasa's living room, but he now suddenly had a blanket on him. He looked to the side, to see who woke him up, but he already knew who it was since he recognized the voice, it was Haibara of course. What he didn't immediately know, until he looked at he looked at her, was the fact that she was rather small.
"That's right, I'm not tiny at the moment..." Shinichi mumbled and rubbed his eyes.
"Still half-asleep, I see..." Haibara said and handed him a mug. "Here, some coffee should get your brain going again."
"Ah, thank you," Shinichi said and took a large sip. "Mhhh, that's good stuff. Anyway, sorry for falling asleep, the events on that island were rather exhausting. Guess I didn't make a good test subject today."
"It's fine. To be honest, I wasn't awake until roughly half an hour ago either," Haibara said. "When you called me from that boat, I was only in bed since about two hours at most, so I fell asleep during the first test already; so it's not like I was a good tester today either."
"Oh, I see. By the way, what time is it?" Shinichi asked.
"Noon," Haibara replied. "I'll continue the test later in the day, so why don't you go over to your house, get a shower and some fresh clothes in the meantime?"
"Sure, sounds like a plan," Shinichi and finished the mug of coffee. He threw back the blanket that Professor Agasa probably put over him and went over to the Kudo mansion, opening it with the keys he had deposited at the Professor's place. Once he closed the front door behind him, Shinichi stretched himself and took a deep breath. Home sweet home. Ran and Conan had cleaned this place up only four days ago, so everything was in a nice shape and Shinichi didn't need to clean anything himself. He went upstairs to the bathroom and undressed himself, putting the clothes and underwear of Heiji into a laundry basket. 'Guess washing and ironing these before Hattori takes them back is the least I can do...' Shinichi thought and stepped into the shower.
Twenty minutes later, Shinichi was standing in his room with a towel tied around his hips, looking at his own clothes; the ones that were appropriate for his real age. After a little bit of consideration, he chose a polo shirt with short sleeves, as it was quite warm today. It was mostly dark blue, with the collar, the small button row, the end of the sleeves and two vertical stripes (one on each shoulder) being purple. For pants, he chose a jeans, colored with a lighter blue. Once he was fully dressed, Shinichi stretched his body again and threw himself on his own bed. Back in his house, wearing his own clothes, lying on his own bed ... the last time he was able to do that was around the time of the Teitan Summer Festival. Such a nice time, really ... if only it had lasted a bit longer...
Shinichi stood up and went downstairs. There, he retrieved his Shinichi phone and put it into his pocket as well. He still also took the Conan phone with him, for emergencies. Turned off, of course. His stomach reminded him that the last time he had something to eat was a already a little while ago. Seeing as there was currently no food in the mansion (having anything stored here simply wouldn't make any sense), he went back over to Agasa's house; before leaving the mansion however, he put on one of his Tokyo Spirits caps and some shades. A simple, yet effective disguise. If you can't make proper masks like his mother or Vermouth, anything more than shades and a hat (poorly applied make-up for example) would probably just attract more attention instead of less.
"Ah, Shinichi, just in time!" Agasa called out to him once Shinichi closed the door behind him. "I prepared a little late-breakfast/lunch combination. I'm sure you must be quite hungry!"
Shinichi smiled. "Ah, thank you, Professor," he said and sat down at the counter with Agasa and Haibara.
"Oh, another thing," Agasa said before they started to eat and handed Shinichi some of the bugs that he usually kept in the glasses of Conan and a pair of in-ear headphones. "Here, I fitted them to test out this new app that I put on your smartphone, which makes tracking and listening of the bugs a bit more convenient for when you can't turn on the radar screen of the glasses. Well, since you currently don't use the glasses anyway, it's your only way of using them at all. And the headphones are so you don't have to listen to the bugs over speak, that would be quite bothersome."
"Right, I'll keep it in mind," Shinichi and put the bugs and headphones into his pocket, before they all started to eat.
Meanwhile, Ran was going down the street towards the Kudo mansion. She was carrying a bouquet of orange roses with her. Those weren't for Shinichi though, even if Sonoko suggested otherwise while they were talking over the phone. No, those were for somebody else. And the call with Sonoko was about something else too: Ran wasn't quite sure what she should wear today, so she did some troubleshooting in that regard. Considering the temperature of today, she was appropriately dressed, sure. White cargo shorts and a green jacket with short sleeves; those were fine, but Ran wasn't sure about the black belly top that she was wearing at the suggestion of her friend. Well, she was right in front of his house now, going back now would be too bothersome.
Ran hesitated for a moment, but then she pushed the doorbell button on the intercom at the iron gate of the Kudo mansion. For what felt like a minute, she stared back at the intercom, but nothing happened. Ran frowned; it couldn't be that he wasn't awake yet? Sure, he said he would call her and that she was here now was a spontaneous thing, but it wasn't that long until the time he promised he would call her. Ran pushed the button again. And again. The last time she did something like this he angrily came out of the mansion and yelled at her, but not this time. Ran gasped. 'Or ... could it be ... he is already gone out of town again...? He wouldn't just do that without at least telling me a bit in advance, right? Right?' Ran thought. She pushed the button again. Nothing. Ran somberly sighed and looked to the ground. It would've been too good to be true, wouldn't it? Without looking, she pushed the button one more time and waited for a few seconds, same result as before. Still looking to the ground, she walked away.
"Thank you, that was really tasty!" Shinichi thanked the Professor and stood up. "If you have no objections, I'll go and read something next door, alright? Maybe I'll take another short nap too..."
Haibara and Agasa nodded, so Shinichi left Agasa's house. What he was really about to do was to call Ran like he promised her at the harbor, but those two didn't need to know that. Haibara would just endlessly object and call him a love-struck idiot again and Agasa would go into the tease-gossip mode again, which was appropriate for schoolgirls like Sonoko, but not for an 52 year old man! Shinichi sighed and pulled out his phone. He was dialing her number, while absentmindedly walking through Agasa's front yard and subsequently the front gate on to the street. Just as he was about to push the call button, Shinichi bumped into someone the street. No wonder, considering he was intensely staring on the display of his phone. Instinctively, he grabbed the arms of that person, preventing that the two of them from falling to the ground. "Ah, sorry, I wasn't looking..." Shinichi apologized.
"No, no, this was my fault, I wasn't looking either..." Ran apologized.
A few milliseconds of realization later:
The two childhood friends looked at each other for a moment, before the noticed that Shinichi was still holding her arms from preventing that both of them lost their balance. They hastily put some distance between them.
"Sorry, Ran ... I-I wasn't expecting you here..." Shinichi stuttered, because two things irritated him. First: the bouquet of orange roses. Second: the top she was wearing, which was exposing her belly. Not that this was a bad thing, quite the opposite actually, but ... when was the last time he had seen her wearing one of these? It couldn't be ... because of their trip to that cafe today, could it?!
"Yeah, me neither..." Ran mumbled. "I ... was actually just at your house ... I know you said you would call me, but there is something else I wanted to do with you before that..."
"Huh, I see..." Shinichi said. "Well, I was just at the Professor's house to eat something, since I don't have anything edible in my house at the moment."
"Oh! Of course!" Ran exclaimed and her face lit up. 'Of course, how silly of me! Why didn't I consider that he would have to get food somewhere, either from Professor Agasa's home or from a trip to the nearby grocery store...' Ran thought, while smiling.
"Umm," Shinichi tilted his head. "What are those flowers for?"
Ran looked at him with a confused stare for a second, when she realized that she still had that bouquet in her arms. "Oh, these! They are for my mother!"
"For ... your mother?"
"Yeah, you see, today is the anniversary of her first date with Dad!" Ran fumbled around with her phone and then showed Shinichi a picture she took with it. "See? I accidentally knocked over one of the photo albums at home after I returned from police questioning and stumbled upon this page. Here, their first date, the first meal she cooked for him, their first fight as a married couple, the first time Dad solved a case." True enough, there were four photos with respective hand-written descriptions. Judging from the rather beautiful handwriting, these comments were written by Ran's mother Eri rather than her father. On the First Fight picture, Eri was pouting and looked away from the camera; the First Case picture showed Kogoro grinning from ear to ear, showing a peace sign for the camera, with Eri happily cuddling against his shoulder. On the First Date picture, Kogoro and Eri were both smiling into the camera wearing rather fancy clothes: a light blue tuxedo for Kogoro and a black dress for Eri, which showed quite a bit of cleavage. The First Meal picture showed Eri feeding Kogoro a bit of her cooking from behind the camera with chopsticks. It was taken right before it actually entered his mouth.
'Good thing it was taken at that moment,' Shinichi thought. 'One moment later and his face would've probably been full of disgust, if Kisaki-san's cooking was already so bad back then. Probably was...' He looked from the picture on Ran's cell phone back to Ran and said: "Happier times, I see."
"Yeah..." Ran sighed, but then she almost immediately smiled again. "But I'm going to bring these times back! And I wanted to start by celebrating this very important anniversary and by giving my mother these flowers! She'll love them, flowers always cheer people up!"
Shinichi smiled as well. Ten years of separation, but Ran was still optimistic and cheerful about bringing her parents back together. It wasn't easy for growing up in the past years under these circumstances, Shinichi knew that, but despite all that, Ran remained a happy and upbeat person; another thing that he really liked about her.
"So," Ran continued, "I know you wanted to call me, but I thought that maybe we could bring my mother these flowers first and then go to the cafe afterwards."
"We? Do you think your mother will be happy to see me along with those flowers?"
"Oh, come on! I'm sure it will be fine..." Ran looked a bit nervous.
"Raaan..." Shinichi said. "Don't tell me you weren't sure about her reaction and didn't want to go to her office alone?"
"Well, I mean, it would be a bit bothersome to drive to her office with the bus and then back here to go to a cafe with you and ... you know," Ran was fidgeting around slightly, "sometimes, when it comes to things with Dad, she can be a bit ... moody."
"I think the word you were looking for was scary..." Shinichi replied.
"Shinichi!" Ran exclaimed, but then clapped her hands together (as much as she could with a bouquet of flowers in her hands) for a pleading gesture. "Pleeeeease?"
He groaned. "Alright, fine. We go to her office, give her these flowers, brighten her day and then we're out of there!" Shinichi added in his thoughts: 'Hopefully that dragon doesn't eat me when she sees me as myself...'
Ran put on a smile that expressed satisfaction and nodded. "Good, I knew that wouldn't a problem for you! Oh, another thing, I wanted to quickly visit Conan-kun at the Professor's house before we go."
"Conan-kun?!" Shinichi exclaimed, before he hastily nodded. "Ahhh, right, that glasses kid wasn't with you when you came to the island with the boat ... he stayed at Agasa's place?"
"Yeah, he left us when he wasn't allowed to go with Hattori-kun on to that island," Ran explained. "We didn't come home because we found out that the whole thing was stage after checking with the hotel and the network, so I assume he stayed with Professor Agasa, since he wasn't home. Didn't you see him when you were over there just a moment ago?"
"No, at least he wasn't eating with Agasa, that little evil girl and me," Shinichi said.
"Oh..." Ran seemed to become worried now.
"Well, well," Shinichi quickly said as he noticed that, "maybe he is still sleeping or is already out playing with his other little friends, it is a holiday after all!"
"Mh, I guess you are right, but let's ask the Professor about that real quick, yeah?"
"Sure, he probably knows..." Shinichi replied and the two went back to enter Agasa's house. 'Hopefully the Professor remembers the cover story...'
They entered the house and already heard Professor Agasa coming to the door. "Did you forget something, Shinichi?" Agasa asked, before he saw Shinichi wasn't alone. "Oh, Ran-kun! I didn't expect you here."
"Yeah, it was rather spontaneous. I just wanted to check with Conan-kun. He came here yesterday, yes?" Ran asked.
"Y-yeah, he spent the day here, but Conan-kun isn't here anymore. You see, yesterday evening his mother came here..." Agasa explained.
"That's right," Agasa continued. "Since today and the next two days are holidays, his mother thought it would be nice to spend some time with him again. She wanted to call you, but Conan-kun's cell phone had no battery anymore, we didn't know your cell phone number by heart and nobody picked up the phone at your home..."
"I see, because we were out at the harbor the whole time..."
"Tsk," Shinichi clicked his tongue. "His mother could've at least left a message on the answering machine..."
"She was probably too excited to see her son again and forgot about that..." Agasa said and then looked back to Ran. "I'm sure Conan-kun will call you soon, Ran-kun."
"Hmm, I guess..." Ran muttered.
"In any case, should we go to your mother's office now?" Shinichi said to divert Ran's attention. "If we wait much longer, we risk accidentally coming during court times, when she might be away from her office, handling a case."
Ran turned around her arm and looked on her watch. "Ahh, you're right! We'll be going now, Professor, goodbye."
"Bye, Ran-kun!" Agasa responded and watched the two teenagers leave the house. 'Phew, glad that's over,' he thought.
Ran and Shinichi were walking to the bus stop that would bring to the building the Kisaki Law Office was in. Shinichi was wearing the Tokyo Spirits cap and his shades by now, which was probably why Ran was stealing looks at from time to time, feeling very sneaky. "Do I have something on my face?" Shinichi asked out of the blue, which made Ran wince. Busted.
"Ahh, no, it's just..." Ran said. "You wearing a hat ... it feels weird, especially after seeing Hattori-kun wear one all the time. And these shades..."
"Come on, I think it looks okay! It's so warm today and with no cloud in the sky the sun is mercilessly shining down on us," Shinichi tried to explain his disguise. "Besides, it's not like Hattori patented the Detective with Cap look!"
"Hm, but still..."
"Well, I think you're just jealous of my cap! But that's fine," Shinichi said, took off the cap and put it on Ran's head. "You can have it if you desire it this much!"
"Ahh, Shinichi!" Ran tried to take it off, but Shinichi firmly held it in place. "Take it off!"
"Why? Afraid it'll mess up your hair?" Shinichi grinned.
"No, that's not it," she replied and grinned. "But as a Noir Tokyo fan, I can't be seen with a Tokyo Spirits cap!"
"Noir Tokyo fan?!" Shinichi faked an indignant gasp, feigning to be offended. He snatched the cap of her hat and wiped over the inside with his hand, like if it were dirty. "Great, now I'm going to have to disinfect this..."
"Aww, too bad!" Ran stuck out her tongue. They looked at each for another moment, before they both started to burst out laughing. Shinichi put his cap back while they were walking, still laughing until they came across some other pedestrians, who looked at them weirdly for laughing so much. Both tried to keep it in after that, both failing miserably. When they finally calmed down a bit, Ran said in a serious manner: "Well, but I'll have you know, the only soccer team I ever really followed was the Teitan Middle School Soccer Club."
"Oh, that didn't continue with the Teitan High School team?"
"No," Ran said. "When you left the team, I didn't really have a reason to watch them anymore." She continued to walk, while Shinichi came to a halt for a few seconds, staring after her while his face began to feel a lot warmer. Regaining his composure, he quickly caught up to her again.
After a little bit more walking, they reached the bus stop, about five minutes before the bus that drives in the direction of Eri Kisaki's office would arrive. The two of them were waiting in amicable silence, while Ran was constantly staring at her cell phone; she had taken it out of her pocket shortly after they go to the bus stop. She flipped it open and dialed a number, but then closed the phone before she pressed the call button. Shinichi raised an eyebrow, especially after she repeated that process once. Ran noticed his curious gaze and said: "I can't decide whether I should call him or not ... Conan-kun, I mean."
Shinichi's look became a little somber. 'Ran...'
"It's not like I'm worried or something," Ran continued, "it's just ... something doesn't feel right about this ... maybe I should just call him!" She flipped her phone open again and this time she called Conan's number for real. Straight to voicemail. No surprise for Shinichi, since he had turned that phone off and left it hidden in his mansion. "Hmm, why is it not responding at all...?"
"Eh, there are a couple of probable reasons for that," Shinichi said, trying to sound as unconcerned and uninvolved as possible. "Out of battery for example. Maybe his mother took him along for a trip in the mountains, where they have no service. Or maybe she took him along on a trip that involves a domestic flight and they are either still in the plane that required them to turn their phones off or he simply forget to turn it back on after they landed. Or ... a more terrible reason..." Shinichi said and put on a grim look, making her staring at him with worry in her eyes. "...maybe his mother took the phone away from him and turned it off because she thought he was playing too much with it! What a terrible deed from a parent!"
"Shinichi!" Ran slapped his arm. "Geez, don't joke about these kind of things, I was really worried here for a second," she said with some anger in her voice, but at the same time, her mouth was slightly twitching because she suppressed a smile, so Shinichi knew had kind of achieved to distract her mind. It would be of no good use for her to worry about this kind of thing. A few seconds later, the bus arrived and the two teenagers got on to drive to the office of Ran's mother. The thought of cheering up her mother also cheered Ran up, who seemed like she wasn't thinking about Conan anymore at the moment, which was a relief to Shinichi. During the whole drive, the two of them engaged in chit-chat (mostly about school, travels and this sort of stuff) and friendly banter. It was almost like before their not-date at Tropical Land. Just with the exception of a gigantic sword of Damocles, in form of his entire involvement with the Black Organization, hanging threateningly over Shinichi's head. But apart from that, it felt like his life was back to normal.
Fourty minutes later, Shinichi and Ran were standing on a plaza in front of a building with a huge glass front, which housed the office of Ran's mother Eri Kisaki. Ran led the way and Shinichi followed her through the large lobby, where the personal at the desks was busy taking calls and advising visitors. The two of them went straight past them towards the elevators, since Ran already knew where her mother's office was. They entered one of them and Ran pushed the respective button to take them to the right floor.
Shinichi took off the sunglasses, since they weren't for indoor use, and put them in one of his pockets; Ran was humming some song, getting more excited and happy the closer they came to her mother. After getting off the elevator, they went to the door, which had the words Kisaki Law Office on it, and Ran pushed the button of the doorbell of the little intercom of the office. After nothing happened after the first push, Ran pressed the button a few more times. Since it took a rather long time until there was a reaction, Shinichi deduced that the secretary of Ran's mother, Midori Kuriyama, was not in the office at the moment. Finally, the Queen of the Courtroom herself opened the door, wearing a purple blazer and a rather risqué black dress; Ran downright shoved the flowers in her face and cheerily exclaimed: "Congratulations, Mom!"
"Huh?" Eri stumbled back a little bit, completely taken by surprise. "R-Ran? And..." Eri's gaze wandered from her daughter to the boy who was standing behind her (hiding behind her one might say). "...Shinichi Kudo?!"
"H-hey..." Shinichi weakly greeted the woman who had given him more than one stern (and scary) lecture back when he was actually around the age of Conan.
Eri turned back to Ran, ('Thank god...' Shinichi thought when she did), and looked at the flowers with confusion. "Ran ... what do you mean, congratulations?"
Shinichi and Ran entered the outer office, where the desk of Eri's secretary was empty, as expected by Shinichi. Eri closed the door behind them and the three of them moved towards the door of Eri's office. "Come on, don't tell you've forgotten!" Ran chirped, still as cheerful as before. "Today is a super important anniversary after all!"
"Anniversary?" Eri asked, while she opened the door to her office. Her cat Goro was expectantly waiting in front of the closed door. "But, you know that today is not my birthday, right?"
"Of course I know that! I'm talking about the day on which you and Dad had your first date!" Ran grinned from ear to ear and blushed. They went into Eri's office and closed that door behind them too.
Eri was still baffled by everything that had happened so far. "P-pardon ... me?"
"After I woke today, I accidentally knocked over a photo album and discovered some old photographs with all kinds of handwritten commentary from you!" Ran explained. "First date, first meal, first case, all that kind of stuff." Ran turned her head around. "Isn't that right, Shinichi?"
"Y-yeah..." Shinichi said, standing (hiding) behind Ran again. 'Guess that dragon was a much more romantic and happy person when she was younger, and before her marriage went down the drain, to make such lovey-dovey photo albums...'
"And as your daughter, it's my obligation to celebrate such an important, life-changing anniversary!" Ran concluded her explanation.
"I'm really sorry, Ran," Eri coldly said. "But today I'm not in the mood to dust off such silly memories from a different life."
"Mom!" Ran yelled.
"Oh, and another thing. I have to ask you to stop bringing me flowers..." Eri, not bothered by Ran's chiding yell at all, said and knelt down to pet Goro. "This little one might eat them; for cats, even seemingly harmless flowers might be dangerous..."
"Huh, I didn't know that. Well ... I can maybe put them in the bathroom then," Ran said and started to look around. "Let's see, a vase ... vase ... vase..." She mumbled before she spotted one in the corner of her mother's office. "Ah, Shinichi, would mind handing me that vase over there?"
"Sure," Shinichi said and picked up the vase, but before he could give it to Ran, Eri came over and took it out of his hands.
"Not this one," Eri said and put it back into the corner. "Pick one from the shelves over there, alright?"
"S-sure..." Ran said and turned around to do just that.
Eri turned her gaze from Ran to Shinichi. He gulped. "Shinichi-kun, Shinichi-kun ... how long has it been?" She coldly smiled. Scary. "About ten years now? You have changed quite a bit."
"And you look almost the same as you did back then, Kisaki-san," Shinichi replied, with a nervous smile. 'Although the last time when we met was really the time when you rescued Goro from Kogoro-san,' he added in his thoughts.
"My, my, so polite. I bet Yuki-chan drilled you to give that response to women like us, didn't she?" Eri inquired.
"Something like that..."
"I'm glad that she finally managed that," Eri sighed, "you were never much polite or friendly to me back then..."
"Mom!" Ran chided Eri from the desk, where she was still busy putting the flowers into the vase properly.
Shinichi's eyebrow twitched. She may be scary, but he wouldn't just take everything. "To my defense, you never gave me much reason to be polite or friendly back then ... especially since never showed me friendlyness or politeness yourself either..."
"Shinichi!" Ran chided her childhood friend from the desk.
"I never had the opportunity to! You always dragged Ran into stupid things, coming back from playing with bruises and dirty clothes! Among the group made of my useless husband, the carefree Yukiko, the permanently relaxed Yusaku-san and me, I was the only one who seemed to take parental responsibilities seriously, so it was my duty to tell you off!" Eri explained.
'You didn't seem to care much about your parental responsibilities when you left a six year old Ran alone with someone you call my useless husband...' Shinichi thought bitterly, but this wasn't a thing he would dare to say out loud. Instead, he said: "We were just children, playing around and having adventures is simply what children do!"
"And I was just a parent, caring for the safety of their children and showing them the limits of what they should do is simply what parents do!" Eri replied with almost the same wording and then extended her arm for a handshake. "But, that's long in the past now ... peace?"
Shinichi looked at her hand for a moment, before he shook it. "Sure ... peace..."
Eri pulled him closer during their handshake (for a second Shinichi was worried she'd dislocate his elbow) and whispered with an even colder tone in her voice: "Just to be clear, this peace is for the past and not the future. Parental responsibilities still play a big role in the teenage life of ones child, if you know what I mean."
"I think I have an idea..." Shinichi said and let go off her hand. 'Tsk, what an unfair life,' Shinichi thought. 'Ran gets my parents, who would love to see us marry as soon as legally possible and I get the angry brute Kogoro Mouri and the ice queen Eri Kisaki, who threatens me like a serial killer, even though I'm not even her daughters boyfriend...' That he was basically set to go on a date with Ran later didn't really come into his mind right now.
Ran went over to the two of them, having not noticed their little exchange during the handshake. "Is something wrong, Mom? I hope I didn't make you mad or anything," Ran asked.
"No, that's not really it..." Eri took a moment to look at Ran. "Since when do you wear belly tops?"
"Ehh? W-well, I had it in my wardrobe for some time now..." Ran stuttered.
"Huh and you decided to wear it today, because it's warm ... or maybe for some other reason..." Eri looked to Shinichi, who offered a nervous smile again. "Well, well, I think I know what's going here wi-..." She stopped in the middle of her sentence, when the phone on her desk suddenly rang. Eri almost sprinted over to the telephone and took the call. "Yes, hello?! Kisaki Law Office here!" Ran looked at Shinichi, who merely shrugged, and the two of them looked back at Ran's mother, who was listening to what the caller was saying. "What, now...? No, that's fine, it's not a problem." She breathed a sigh of relief and smiled happily. "Thank you very much. See you soon!"
'Huh? Mom?' Ran thought.
'That smile...' Shinichi thought.
Eri hung up and said: "I'm really sorry, Ran, but I have to go. Please take of Goro, he'll probably have to use the bathroom soon, but Kuriyama-san should be back any minute now. After that, you two can do whatever, just don't forget your karate club sleepover this afternoon, alright? Okay, bye!" With that Eri hurried out the door and closed it behind her.
Shinichi and Ran stared at the door she just went through. "What was that...?" Shinichi said and thought: 'Do whatever we want ... what did she have in mind with that?! And did she suddenly not care anymore?'
"Who do you think she talked too on the phone?" Ran asked him. "She seemed rather happy about the call..."
"Well," Shinichi slightly tilted his head, "maybe a senior lawyer who helped her out with a difficult case? Although, I'm not sure how your mother would have difficulties with a case considering her skill, but then again, I'm not a lawyer myself..."
"Meow!" They heard Goro behind them and turned around, just to see Eri's cat toppling over the vase she had taken out of Shinichi's hands moments ago and crawling inside it.
"Wah!" Ran exclaimed and ran over to the vase. "Goro-chan! You can't just climb into the vase like that!" She picked up the cat and prevented him from going further into the vase.
Shinichi walked over to the two, observing how Ran handled Goro like that; weirdly enough, he was able to empathize with the cat pretty well right now. "Hm?" Shinichi noticed that Goro held something with in the mouth. "What's Goro-chan holding here? A photo? Must've been inside the vase, I don't think your mother would just leave photos lying around..."
"Huh, you're right..." Ran took the photo from Goro's mouth and let the cat down, who quickly proceeded to flee from the daughter of his owner. She looked at the photo; it depicted her mother, smiling and holding a yawning Goro, together with a tall, dark-skinned man, with long, black hair, tied up in a ponytail, killer sideburns, thick eyebrows and a chin beard. "Who's this guy with Mom?"
Shinichi took a quick glance at the photo and raised an eyebrow. "No idea..." He mumbled and noticed that there was something written on the back of the photo. 'Telephone number, huh...' Shinichi thought; almost instinctively, he went over to the desk of Ran's mother and looked at the phone. First, he looked over the numbers which were on speed dial and indeed found the one which was written on the back. Then he looked into the caller list and found the number again. It was the first one. "Hm, that man is probably the one who just called," Shinichi said.
Ran looked over to him. "Huh, why's that?"
"There's a phone number written on the back of that photo and it's the same number as the one most recently recorded on this phone's caller ID list," Shinichi explained.
Ran turned the picture around to look at the number and then joined Shinichi at the desk to look at Eri's phone, confirming for herself what he just said. Ran frowned. "But ... this guy doesn't look like a senior lawyer who helped Mom out..."
"Well, not really," Shinichi had to admit. "But, you know, looks can be deceiving," he tried to calm her, thinking: 'Trust me, I know all about that...'
"Don't tell me...!" Ran exclaimed. "Could it possibly be that Mom didn't want to give me this vase because she didn't want me to see this photo?!"
"What? I ... I think you're interpreting too much into just this picture..." Shinichi said.
"It's not just that!" Ran said with determination, went over to the vase and knelt down. "Look, there's only crumbled papers and trash in here!" She shook the vase and emptied its contents on the floor. "She probably wanted to use the excuse that she simply used this vase as a bin!" Ran continued to shake the thing, until suddenly a ring dropped out. "What?! This ... this is ... HER WEDDING RING?!"
"Huh, that's right, she wasn't wearing it..." Shinichi said and, in order to feign a lack of knowledge about Eri's habits, added: "I just assumed she wasn't wearing it anymore after ten years..."
"No, she's still wears it, to keep overbearing men away..." Ran said and continued to look at the ring. "So, if she's not wearing it now ... does that ... does that mean ... SHE HAS AN AFFAIR?!" Ran faces grew dark and she grabbed Shinchi's hand. "Come on, Shinichi! We can still catch up to her!" She exclaimed and practically dragged Shinichi out of the office.
"Huh?" Shinichi wondered, but he couldn't really protest against her conviction at the moment. 'Really now, rushing to conclusions like that...'
Just as Ran was about to open the door to the hallway, Eri's secretary, Midori Kuriyama entered the office, noticing the daughter of her boss right away. "Oh, Ran-chan! What a nice surprise!" She chirped, noticing that Ran was holding Shinichi's hand. "Oh my, who is this? You usually never come here with boys in your age, is he your boyfriend?"
"What?" Shinichi gulped. 'Oi oi oi, what's with all the rushed conclusions today?!' He thought and replied: "No, it's not like-..."
"Yes, he's my boyfriend," Ran hastily said, interrupting him.
'O-oi! Did I miss something here? When did that happen?!' Shinichi gaped and stared at Ran.
Kuriyama blushed and a grin came to her face, but Ran continued with letting her mother's secretary say a teasing thing. "No matter now though, have you seen Mom? She went out to meet someone and we need to catch up to her!"
"No, I didn't come across her on my way here," Midori Kuriyama answered, a bit dumbfounded because of Ran's overly serious demeanor. "But if she's meeting someone, she probably went to the Dog Cafe that's close to here. Sensei has been going there often recently when she wanted to meet someone..."
"Dog Cafe! I know that place, it's really not that far away!" Ran exclaimed and started to run again, still holding Shinichi's hand and dragging him along. "Come on, Shinichi, we can make it!" They left Midori Kuriyama standing there and ran straight to the elevators, narrowly squeezing through the doors of an empty one, which was just about the leave. Ran pressed the button for the ground floor ten times, as if that made it go faster. Ran was panting and had a dark expression on her face.
"Ran? Could you let go of my hand before you break it?" Shinichi asked, as her grip became tighter and tighter.
She stared at him for a moment, before a blush suddenly grew over her grim expression and she hastily removed her hand. "Ah, sorry, sorry!"
"It's fine, nothing happened," Shinichi said, opening and closing his hand a few times, to make sure that he could feel it, and then stretched his arm a bit. "Not yet, anyway. I was worried you'd dislocate my arm or just tear it off with your karate champion strength..."
"Yeah, yeah, sorry, but we really have to hurry," Ran said, not turning her gaze away from elevetor lights indicating the floor it was currently on. "Time is of the essence now!"
'Woman, do you even realize what you just did?' Shinichi thought. 'You just told the gossiping secretary of your Mom that I'm your boyfriend. Once Kisaki-san comes back to her office, she will learn about that in no time and then ... phew, almost glad that I'll turn back into Conan to not have to face the consequences of that just yet.' He sighed and stole another glance of Ran. 'Almost glad, but not quite, really; if enduring another lecture/death threat by Eri would turn me back permanently I would take it ... for your sake alone...'
This chapter has taken quite a bit time to come out, hasn't it? And this chapter then also happens to be one of the shorter ones, ugh, really sorry for both of these circumstances. I promise the next chapters will be longer and come out faster/more frequently (at least a bit ^^). Recently, I became worried that people wouldn't care anymore, since I wasn't updating fast enough, but I'm probably just overthinking this matter, right? Anyway, aside from all that, remember to tell me what you think about the story in a comment, as feedback is always appreciated and helps me greatly while writing. Next chapter: adultery investigations! Stay tuned!
Chapter 12: Snooping Around The Dog Cafe
Fifteen minutes later, Shinichi and Ran were standing in front of the cafe that Midori Kuriyama mentioned to them. It was unmissable, as the letters DOG CAFE were written in a massive size on a sign over the entrance, along with a black dog paw symbol. After exiting the elevator, they made their way here quickly, at least without Ran crushing Shinichi's hand this time.
They entered the cafe and were greeted by loud chatter and dog barks. People were talking, enjoying drinks and playing with the various dogs in the cafe. Animal cafes where the ideal places for animal lovers in the dense urban city of Tokyo, were most apartments are tiny and have strict rules against having pets. Ran was so busy locating her mother in the cafe, she didn't even notice the friendly waitress who wanted give them a table. Shinichi was taken aback for a tiny moment when the waitress immediately asked him whether the two of them would like a table and not Ran, but since he didn't look like a six year old anymore, the waitress perceived him as someone who had authority over deciding such things. Although that felt nice, what didn't was the way this waitress looked at him, because with him looking like this, the waitress didn't see a little boy enjoying a nice afternoon with his older sister, but rather two teenagers on a date. Or she was looking at him with other intentions; she somehow looked like the type who would send him fan mail. Flattering, but Shinichi had lost interest (which was rather superficial to begin with) in vapid things like fan girls and fan mail somewhere between being hit on the head by Gin and today. While he and Ran sat down at their table (behind Eri, completely out of her vision) and ordered two colas, a third option came to Shinichi's mind: maybe that waitress recognized him. That would be bad, but he had been wearing his cap and the shades again after leaving the office building. He chose to focus on the matter at hand, since worrying about the waitress seemed a bit pointless; nothing he would be able to do about that now. After all, Agasa hadn't invented amnesia darts for Conan's watch. Yet.
"There is no doubt," Ran said, after they were sitting for a while, observing Eri and her mysterious companion. "He is definitely the guy from that photo! But ... why...? Why, Mom? I thought ... it felt like she and Dad were getting closer again, you know?"
Shinichi had an answer on his lips, but he saw the waitress approach again, so he waited until she finished serving their drinks and Ran paid her for them. Shinichi took a sip of cola through the straw, before he said: "Maybe she still has feelings for you father, but also has feelings for him and maybe ... other ... desires..." Shinichi immediately regretted saying what he thought about the situation and about her mother, since it was distasteful to say something like that, but Ran didn't seem to take offense, but rather seemed secretly concerned about that as well.
"I ... I know, but," Ran said after looking at the man for another moment, "I just ... thought, no, hoped rather, that everything might ... turn out for the better..." She frowned and looked back to the table of her mother, before her face suddenly turned into a rather grim and determined expression and slammed both hands on the table. "Alright! Just dwelling on it won't solve anything! I'm just going over there and confront them!"
"Wait, wait!" Shinichi hastily said as Ran wanted to get up, halting her movement. "Let's just observe them for a little while, why don't we? We're still largely working with speculation here and it's not certain that he will do anything bad."
"Well, you're right, but..." Ran pressed her lips together and looked from Shinichi to her mother and back again in an unsure manner.
As Ran was thinking about what to do, another woman with twin ponytails and a dog in her arms walked by the table of Eri and her mysterious companion. The man spotted the woman with the dog and suddenly sported a very joyful expression. "Oh, Meguuu-chuan!" The man exclaimed cheerfully. "Awen't chu looking cwute today~!"
"Thank you!" The woman replied and grinned from ear to ear, accompanied by a joyous bark by her dog.
Shinichi choked on his drink and Ran's jaw almost dropped to the ground. 'Awen't chu cwute?!' she thought.
'That guy uses baby-talk...?!' Shinichi thought and coughed a few times. When he regained his breath, he said: "Well, his questionable speech style aside, I don't think we can hold much against him, really. And I don't think he has an affair with your mother, he's not even her type ... well, as far as I can judge that at least..."
"No, you're kinda right about that, but," Ran said, "when Dad gets drunk, if you still remember that, he talks in a somewhat similar manner. Raaan-chuaan, get me another bottle sweeety! and dumb stuff of that like. And of course you still remember that he is quite the lecherous womanzier..."
'I wish it were only a memory, but I'm currently living it!' Shinichi sighed in his thoughts.
"Maybe ... maybe Mom is attracted to this man because he bares those similarities to Dad..." Ran continued, just as she spotted something that turned her expression dark again. "Look at this, Shinichi! His arms are full of scratches and scars!" True enough, Ran's description was accurate. The man was lifting up the ear of another dog, so Ran and Shinichi could get a good look at his arms.
'Wait, what is he doing with that dog ... isn't that...' Shinichi gasped. 'Of course, this could be it! I think I know what this man really is, but can other odd things about him be explained as well? Let's see: the baby-talk, yeah, could fit. The scars and scratches are a clear yes. Why Ran's mother is meeting this guy, hmm ... yeah, considering she is a pet owner, it fits as well.'
"Heh, so he is a bad guy after all," Ran smirked, stood up and went over to Eri's table.
"Ah, Ran, wait a second," Shinichi hissed to not attract the attention of Ran's mother and hastily got up to go after her.
Just as she wanted to raise her voice and confront her mother, she suddenly noticed something odd about the woman in front of her. 'Mom ... she's ... she's shaking...?'
"T-the..." Eri said to the man at her table, neither of them noticing the two teenagers behind her. Her voice was tainted by sadness and despair. "The shaking ... just wouldn't stop."
Ran and Shinichi were able to see tears rolling down Eri's cheeks. 'Mom...? She's crying, but ... Mom is usually so strong and never cries ... why, why?!' Ran gritted her teeth. 'This, this...! This damn polyamorous jerk with his baby-talk method dares to make my mother cry?!'
"What ... just what should I do now?" Eri asked, still with a shaky voice.
"Don't worry," the man on the other side of table said, "it's most likely a dream. You see, this is all just a dream!"
'WHAT?!' Ran clenched her fists. 'That's it! First that guy seduces my Mom and breaks her heart and now he is trying to talk himself out of the responsibility with some gibberish about dreams and impermanence?! You're not getting away like this, buddy! No, you're gonna pay...!'
'The shaking wouldn't stop ... all just a dream...' Shinichi thought. 'Then that's probably about ... huh?!' He suddenly noticed that Ran had taken a fighting stance. 'Don't tell me ... since she thinks he is some playboy, she wants to attack him with her karate?! Some misunderstanding this is ... I've gotta do something, but what...?' Shinichi frantically thought about what to do, when Eri looked down to the table to wipe away her tears and the man handed her a handkerchief. They weren't paying any attention to their surroundings, this was Shinichi's chance. Without any better idea, he quickly placed his hands on Ran's hip, making her halt her fighting movement instantly and pushed her past the table of her mother into the direction of the toilets, while expertly dropping on of the bugs of Professor Agasa under the table of Eri.
"Ehhh?!" Ran exclaimed after the surprise had worn out a bit. "What do you think you're doing?!" She hissed at him, thankfully still caring about not attracting the attention of her mother. Seems like she had forgotten that mere moments ago she wanted to launch a karate kick right besides Eri.
Shinichi placed one finger over his mouth and pulled Ran into the empty bathroom of the cafe and took a glance over his shoulder. Good, Eri hadn't noticed them at all. Shinichi closed the bathroom door behind him and sighed. "What were you doing? Did you seriously want to kick that guy's teeth in?!"
Ran pouted. "If you say it like that, it sounds worse than it actually would've been ... it's not like he doesn't deserve it, you heard what he said to Mom, didn't you? That jerk, trying to gloss over her emotions like that..."
"He's not a bad person, Ran!" Shinichi proclaimed.
"Eh...? But, then what...?"
"He's just a veterinarian, that's all."
"Huh?" Ran wondered, while Shinichi took out his smartphone, started the app Agasa installed and put one of the in-ear headphones into his ear. "He's a vet? That baby-talking womanizer?"
"He's not a womanizer though," Shinichi said. "He didn't address that woman when he spoke like that, he meant the dog in her arms! Veterinarians often talk like when they are examining animals, because it gives their voice a calming yet still happiness inducing tone. Not every animal stays calm during a examination however. And when pets like dogs and cats are trying to fight a perceived threat off, they use their claws, which is probably where he got the scars and scratches on his arm from. I made that connection when we saw his arm, because I also saw something else: he looked into the ear of the dog!"
"Into the ear? How does that make him a vet?" Ran asked.
"You can tell whether or not a dog has some sort of sickness by looking for reddened skin in the ear canal. Smelling an offensive scent from any part of the ear is a big sign for something being amiss too," Shinichi explained.
"But what about Mom crying? And her words, the shaking just wouldn't stop..., what about those? Why was she shaking then, if not for some emotional turmoil?" Ran insisted.
"Not she was shaking, Goro was!" Shinichi said.
"Go-Goro?!" Ran repeated. "... I see, since he is a vet..."
"Yeah, exactly. And his words about it all being a dream, is probably because..." Shinichi stopped his sentence there, because he was hearing Eri talk over his headphone. "Here, listen to this," he said and held the other earphone in the air.
"Huh?" Ran looked at the headphone. "Why that all of a sudden?"
"Professor Agasa gave me some ... prototype portable microphones he is currently experimenting with, I dropped one under the table of your mother and that guy!" Shinichi said.
"What? You just go around wire-tapping my mother? That's not exactly ethical, is it?" Ran frowned.
Shinichi gave her a deadpan stare. "Do you want to hear what they are talking about or not?"
Ran bit her lip and quickly grabbed the headphone. The cable wasn't very long, so she had to come closer to Shinichi to put the headphone into her ear. Much closer; Shinichi could feel her breath on his face. 'Faces...' Shinichi thought, 'so close...!'
"Are you alright?" They heard the man Eri was with say over the headphones.
"Yeah, yeah, it's better now," Eri said. "I'm sorry, Tobe-sensei, usually I'm not crying so easily, but when Goro suddenly was shaking and trembling all night ... my previous cat never did anything like that, so I was really worried that it might be some sort of terrible sickness or neural dysfunction..."
"Don't worry, it's only natural for pet owners to worry about their darlings, believe me," Tobe said, "and what Goro does is only natural as well. Like I said, it is a dream. Cats who play in their dreams sometimes shake, because of the brain accidentally sending out impulses to the nerves. They are just like humans in that regard. In our sleep, we also roll around, sometimes we twitch, flail around with our arms or we talk in our sleep. Works just like that for cats, they even talk in their sleep ... well, meow in their sleep to be precise. So, no reason for you to worry, Mouri-san."
"Phew, I'm glad. You can't imagine how relieved I am right now," Eri said. "I want to thank you again, for making it possible for us too meet on such a short notice. My schedule is really tight at the moment, so I hope I didn't cause you too many inconveniences..."
"Not at all, I'm here every day, so having a little consultation with you here is just fine," Tobe said. "Well, you couldn't bring you cat because it is a cafe for dogs after all, but aside from that..."
"I think we heard enough, don't you think?" Shinichi said and pulled the headphone out of his ear.
"Yeah..." Ran nodded and pulled the headphones out too. "He's really a vet, huh?"
"Mhh, I guess she didn't want to worry you or anything, that's why she didn't say anything. And I'm fairly certain that she also didn't want to hide the photo or her wedding ring," Shinichi explained. "It's most likely that this vase is simply Goro's the place where he puts the things he plays with. Balled up pieces of paper and the like. Your mother leaves that photo lying on the table, Goro grabs it when she doesn't look and puts it in the vase. Your mother maybe gets some ink on her fingers and leaves the ring on the table to wash her hands, Goro grabs it before she returns and puts it in the vase." He closed the app and put the phone back into his pocket.
"But I'm really glad," Ran smiled. "I really hoped I was wrong, but it seemed all so convincing..."
"Yeah, that can happen if you're too bent on one theory that you make the evidence fit your theory instead of..." Shinichi looked up, noticing that Ran was still standing as close to him, something she hadn't noticed yet, "... the other way ... around..."
Ran looked at him when he suddenly started to fade out his sentence, noticing their closeness now too, judging from the blush on her face. "Shinichi..." she muttered and he felt his face getting warmer too. It was hard to tell for him: was Ran coming closer or was he coming closer to her without thinking about it? In any case, somehow their face came even closer than before.
"What the hell do you think you're doing in there?!" A female voice yelled and suddenly, the door of the bathroom was pulled open. Shinichi and Ran pretty much jumped away from each other and turned their head to the door. For a moment of horror, Shinichi thought it was Eri at the door, but no, it wasn't. Just a woman they didn't know; she looked a bit older than Eri actually. And she was angry. "I knew it, two teenagers! Hearing a male and a female voice from the men's bathroom was horrifying! What were you doing in here, something perverted?!"
"Eh?!" Shinichi and Ran exclaimed in unison. "Ah, no that's ... a misunderstanding," Shinichi unconvincingly said, making the woman raise an eyebrow. "We'll just be going now, right?" He said and looked at Ran, who quickly nodded, so they both walked past the woman.
"Tsk, young people these days..." The woman mumbled as she looked at them walking away.
"Hey, Shinichi, this is the wrong direction," Ran said to him. Indeed, they were walking towards the back of the cafe.
"I know," Shinichi replied, "but your mother is still sitting in that cafe area and she is looking directly at the hallway leading to the bathroom, so we'd walk right into her. I'd rather not do that, wouldn't you agree?"
Ran slowly nodded again, so the two of them basically sneaked around the area that was probably off limits for customers. 'Sneaking around somewhere again, within one day even. Just my kind of luck...' Shinichi thought and looked around for personnel that could spot them, until he found the back exit. He motioned Ran to follow him and the two slipped out into a back alley.
Just as they wanted to breathe a sigh of relief, they were approached by someone coming around a corner. As he spotted them standing there in front of the back exit, the guy spat out the cigarette from his mouth and stepped it out with his boot. "What are you kids doing at the back door of my cafe?" He asked them. Seemed like he was the owner coming back from a smoking break.
"Uhm..." Shinichi scratched the back of his head. "We were ... on the search for a half-time job...?"
"Hehe, I see," the owner said and took a deep breath, before he screamed: "Do I look like I have money to hand out to lousy teenagers?! Get lost!" After this, Shinichi and Ran wasted no time and dashed through the alley back on to the main street.
Again, the took a little time to catch their breath, before the went on their way away from the cafe. "Phew, that was close at multiple moments..." Shinichi said.
"Yeah, but we got lucky somehow..." Ran said, but something seemed to bother her. "Still, about Mom ... something seemed rather different about her today..."
"Probably her great worry for Goro, no?" Shinichi speculated.
"No, that's not it ... something was just different about her..." Ran frowned while she thought, when she suddenly realized what bothered her. "That's it, I've got it! It was her outfit! That revealing black dress, she usually never dresses this provocative! So Mom also wants an affair with that Tobe-sensei, in addition to medical counsel for Goro?"
'Her dress...' Shinichi thought, before he quickly tried to calm Ran down: "W-wait a minute, Ran...!"
"I'm should go back there and confront them this time!" Ran exclaimed, turned around and started to run back to the cafe.
"What was it again?!" Shinichi yelled.
Ran halted and turned around to him again. "Huh? What do you mean?"
"What was the reason we went to see your mother today again?" Shinichi asked.
"Huh?!" Ran stared at him with annoyance. "You can't already have forgotten! I knocked over an old photo album today and inside there was a photo of Mom and Dad ... on their first date..." Realization dawned on her face. "Their first date!" Ran exclaimed, hastily took out her cell phone, flipped it open and selected the photo she had shown Shinichi earlier. "Ah! Mom is wearing the same outfit today as she was back then on their first date...! Wait a minute ... a few days ago, Dad asked to bring a suit to the dry cleaner's that looked similar to the one he wears on this photo. So, this means..."
"Yeah, it seems like they both remembered," Shinichi summarized.
"But why didn't she tell me?" Ran frowned.
"Maybe she was too worried about Goro to be happy about it and tell you, or maybe she didn't want to raise your expectations too high," Shinichi speculated. "But since they both got their outfits ready, it must mean they plan to go on some sort of date together, right?"
"It has to be, right?" Ran's expression brightened again and a smile was plastered on her face. "Awesome, I can't wait to ask Dad about it tonight when he comes back! But until then, we should head over to that cafe now, our little detour took long enough already." She said that last part with a little blush.
"Sadly, I don't think either will happen," Shinichi said, looking at his own smartphone. "Look at the time ... your Mom mentioned earlier that you had a karate club sleepover this afternoon, right? I'm afraid you have to get going already..."
"Huh, really?" Ran looked at the clock on her phone and gasped. "Oh god, you're right, it's this late already! I really have to make a run for it!" She put the phone away. "I'm sorry, but tomorrow is another holiday, so I'll call you after I'm back from the sleepover and we'll just visit the cafe then, alright?" Without waiting for an answer from him, Ran started to run off to a nearby bus station. As she did, she turned her head around, waved and said: "See you tomorrow then!"
"W-wait, Ran...!" Shinichi tried to call out to her, but Ran was already too far away and before he could go after her, she had already vanished within the crowd of pedestrians. 'See you tomorrow then...' Shinichi thought and clenched his fist. 'Tomorrow ... I won't be here anymore tomorrow...'
Meanwhile, Eri had finished her drink after Doctor Tobe had to leave and went to the counter to pay for her drink. "Can you believe the youth these days?" A woman older than her, standing next to her also paying for her drink, said to no one in particular, but Eri somehow felt like responding.
She chuckled and asked the other woman: "What has the youth done this time?"
"You wouldn't believe it I tell you!" The woman quickly turned to Eri, happy to get someone to pay attention to her rant. "Earlier today, I found a teenage boy and girl in the men's bathroom of this cafe! First, I only heard their voices, but when I opened the door to confront them, they were just kissing I think, not to think what perverted stuff they were planning to do in there! That girl with her belly top ... slutty fashion at it's best, if you ask me!"
'Belly top? Wait a minute...' Eri thought, before she asked the woman: "Really, that bad? What else were they wearing?"
"What else? Hmm..." The woman thought about that for a second and then continued: "Well, aside from the belly top, the girl was wearing some cargo shorts and a green jacket and the boy was wearing a polo shirt and jeans. Where those teenagers get their outfit ideas from, I really wonder..."
"Yeah, me too..." Eri absentmindedly said, because she was busy thinking about something else. 'Don't tell me ... these two...'
A few hours later, Ran had already snuggled herself under the blanket of her futon, as had many of her fellow karate club members. Their club sleepovers were always fun, although she couldn't help but to feel a little sad that the timing of this particular sleepover was rather poor, but then again, who could've known that this day would turn out like this. Her parents on an anniversary date and almost another not-date with Shinichi. Not to worry though, tomorrow was another day to ask her parents about how it went and to go on that not-date with Shinichi. This new cafe wouldn't run away after all and neither would ... Shinichi?!
Ran jolted up and sat straight on her futon, prompting some stares from the others, but since Ran didn't do anything else, they quickly tended to their own business again. 'Shinichi!' Ran thought. 'What if ... what if Shinichi isn't there tomorrow, if he has to go back to his case?! I ... I was happy about my parents remembering their first date, I didn't even wait for his answer when I ran off ... did he say anything when I ran off...? Between being happy and being in a hurry, I forgot about that ... oh no, I have to make sure...' She rummaged around her stuff and grabbed her cell phone, flipping it open. Just as she wanted to open her contacts though, she felt the eyes of even more of her teammates on her. She was the captain of the team and calls and texts were forbidden after it was bedtime on their sleepovers, since it would distract you from sleeping and be disturbing the others. If she used her cell phone now for either of these things, surely some others wouldn't keep to the rules either and cause a bit of disturbance, which would surely fall back on her, both in her function as the captain and as the cause of it. Ran bit her lip and decided that she couldn't call or text him now, so she turned her phone off, in such a manner that many could see it, pretending that this was the reason she took it out from her stuff, forgetting to turn it off. She closed the phone, put it back and laid back on her pillow again, pulling the blanket far up over her lips. It was hard for her to find sleep, but eventually she did.
At roughly the same time at the Kudo mansion, Shinichi had just tried to call Ran, but her phone was turned off. He wanted to tell her that he had to leave at morning and that they couldn't go to that cafe tomorrow. After their parting, Shinichi wandered through the streets of Tokyo for a bit, before remembering that walking around in the public as himself, even with the cap and the shades, probably wasn't a very good idea, so he took a bus back to where he lived. He had dinner with Haibara and Agasa, since of course there was still nothing to eat at his mansion. Haibara asked him whether he wanted to stay up until the antidote wore off or if he wanted to go to sleep first and let it come over him during that. Shinichi decided for the latter, wanting to sleep in his own bed again, for the first time since the Teitan Summer Festival, even if it was just a little while before he turned back. When he went over to the mansion, he forgot to take his cap and sunglasses with him as Agasa handed him the freshly washed clothes of Conan, which Shinichi had been carrying in a bundle since his transformation on the beach of that island, since they would come in handy tomorrow morning, after he had turned back. After entering his own house again, he struggled with the decision whether or not to call Ran, until just now, when his phone told him that her phone was either turned off or out of service range.
Shinichi sighed and put his phone on his old desk. Well, old desk technically wasn't correct, since it is still his current desk, which he just wasn't using at the moment. How long had it been since he sat here, bored to tears, working on his homework at this desk? Shinichi felt too tired to think about these kind of things right now. He yawned and took out Conan's phone. I'm sure Conan-kun will call you soon, Agasa had said to Ran earlier, but Shinichi didn't feel like leaving a message on her mailbox now and it wouldn't have been much use anyway, since he would be back at the Detective Agency before Ran, so her worries would be over soon enough anyway. Besides, he would have to go back to the Professors house to get one of the spare voice changers. Sending her a text from the Conan phone? Nah, not that either. And it wasn't much use for the same reason the call wouldn't be, spare for the voice changer part. Shinichi put Conan's phone besides the Shinichi one and changed into one of his pyjamas. He quickly went over to the bathroom to brush his teeth, before he rested in his bed. Shinichi sighed and also braced himself for the upcoming transformation. It was hard for him to find sleep, but eventually he did.
Yaaaaaawn. Shinichi Kudo fluttered his eyes open and stretched his long, teenage arms. He was still a bit groggy from what he suspected to be a night of restless dreams, but he knew he had to get up, so Shinichi threw back his blankets and scuffled over to his closet, opening its door and grabbing his Teitan High School blazer for the upcoming school day. Suddenly, he noticed something was a miss, but couldn't quite place his finger on it at first. Then it came to his mind. "Ah, that's right, today is a holiday, I don't have to go to school," Shinichi said to himself and put the blazer back. Suppressing another yawn, he made his way over to the bathroom and took a relaxing shower, feeling his senses finally awaken under the hot water. When he was done, he wrapped a towel around his waist and brushed his teeth in front of the bathroom mirror. When he was done, Shinichi couldn't help but to feel something was wrong. Again. Staring at his face in the mirror for a moment, he realized what felt off to him this time: he wasn't wearing his glasses. Just as he wanted to turn away from the mirror to fetch his spectacles, the penny dropped in his head and he stared with wide eyes at his own reflection.
"What!? I ... am still myself?!" Shinichi yelled, touching both the mirror and his face for confirmation. "What in the ... why? I should've turned back tonight..." He ran back to his room, quickly dressed himself with an orange t-shirt and the jeans from yesterday and made his over to the house of Professor Agasa and rang the doorbell.
When the Professor opened the door, his eyes were looking down at the ground, as if he was expecting a grade schooler to appear at his door, which he most definitely was, also exampled but the hasty look up from the ground to Shinichi's face. "Shi-Shinichi?!" Agasa exclaimed upon seeing the son of his friend Yusaku Kudo, firmly still being 16 years old. "What ... why...?"
"I've been asking that myself too," Shinichi said as he walked past Agasa, entering the house. He walked over to the kitchen-table-counter combination of the Agasa household, where Haibara was currently having some breakfast. "Good morning, Haibara."
The little scientist spun around in her chair, staring at the teenage detective. "Good ... morning?"
Shinichi raised his arms and looked at her with questioning look. "I am still myself."
"Nice observation," Haibara said.
Shinichi groaned. Great, sarcasm. "Why am I still myself?" Shinchi asked. "What happened?"
Haibara looked at him from tip to toe and shrugged. "Judging from I'm seeing, it is quite simple: the antidote didn't wear off."
He already had an annoyed response on his tongue, but Shinichi bit that back when he stopped for a moment to think about her words. Suddenly his questions seemed stupid to him, as it was really as simple as Haibara said. She probably was already further with her thoughts. "Yeah, right, but why didn't it wear off?"
"I'm afraid that is something I cannot judge from what I'm seeing," Haibara said. "To tell you the truth, since this antidote was just a modified version of the antidote I gave you to trick your girlfriend at that play, I actually expected it to last less than 24 hours, calculating for the antibodies your body might've developed against the antidote. Guess that isn't the case at all..."
"So, these modifications you mentioned just now were successful then and the antidote last longer than before?" Shinichi folded his arms over his chest, ignoring certain words Haibara said. "Hm, I wonder how long it will last then..."
"Couldn't tell, since I didn't make the modifications with a new duration in mind, not that I had one in mind when I first developed the prototype, the 24 hours were just the length from your first test run," Haibara explained. "Well, I'll be smarter when I'll finish my examination of your blood and saliva samples."
"You had an entire day yesterday to work on them," Shinichi said, "and yet there are still no results?"
"Hey, cut me some slack here, alright?!" Haibara huffed. "That's not exactly hospital level tech I'm working with in that basement, not to speak of the top notch equipment that pharmaceutical companies have. I'm doing the best I can!"
"Yeah, yeah, sorry," Shinichi sighed and sat down at the counter besides her. "It's just ... yesterday, I was feeling a bit down at the prospect of turning back to Conan again and now, this ... not sure how to feel about it."
"You don't feel good about still being a teenager?" Haibara asked, while Agasa presented Shinichi a plate with breakfast, which he gratefully accepted.
"No, that's not it, of course my true form feels great," Shinichi said while starting to eat. "But, the implications ... Conan's trip with his mother is going to be longer than anticipated it seems. If that is the case, I'll need another voice changer, to make a call to Ran as Conan, otherwise she will worry too much and ask unwanted questions if she doesn't hear from him."
"Ah, yes, I'm already working on the repair of the bow tie," Agasa said, "but it is not finished yet. But you can use one of the voice-changing face masks for a call to Ran-kun. As for the glasses, you could use the spare pair that we have here, but it's not much use for you at the moment anyway. Making a new tranquilizer watch will take some more time however."
"That's okay," Shinichi said, "maybe this time you'll make it able to carry more than one dart at a time?"
Agasa chuckled. "No promises," he said with a wink.
Shinichi turned back to Haibara. "Another bothersome thing will be the kids. Surely they'll want to play with Conan over the holidays at least once, so I'll probably have to call them at one point too. And the fact that I'll have to reduce leaving my mansion, since I can't show myself out in the open too much."
Haibara stared at him. 'That wasn't something you cared about the last time though,' she thought. 'Showing yourself in front of so many classmates and going on a date in a high class restaurant and all that...'
"Here's the voice changer," Agasa said and handed Shinichi one of the face masks Haibara used to take his place as Conan during his last transformation back into his real body.
"Thank you," Shinichi said and took it from the Professor's hand, as he was just finished with the plate before him. "I'll head over to my house and at least call Ran, maybe the children too," he continued and stood up, making his way back to the Kudo mansion. In his room, he sat down at his desk, put on the face mask, turned it to the voice of Conan and picked up the Conan phone. He looked at it for a moment, took a deep breath and called Ran's cell phone, however, his call went straight to voice mail.
"Hey, Ran-neechan..." Shinichi said with Conan's voice, which felt a bit strange to him. "I'm sorry that I left on such a short notice, but Mom showed up out of nowhere, like she was Kaitou Kid or something ... anyway, I'm having great time with her at the moment, but I'll be back home soon. Tell Uncle not to drink too much while I'm away, okay? See you!" Shinichi ended the call, sighed and took off the face mask. She was probably still with her karate mates this early, no wonder the cell phone was off. Shinichi felt like it was better this way, avoiding to have a real conversation where she could ask questions and force him to make up a more detailed excuse. He probably would have to give that anyway once he transformed again and went back over to the Detective Agency, but at least he had a bit more time to think about that cover story now.
Shinichi turned off the Conan phone and put the Shinichi phone into his pocket. He didn't feel like calling one of the children right now, but that could wait anyway. Now it was time to return the voice changer and then it was just him and A Study in Scarlet in his library. His last Sherlock Holmes re-read had been too long ago anyway. He went back over to Agasa's house, handed the old man the face mask and grabbed his cap and sunglasses. Shinichi put on the cap and opened the front door. Suddenly, he was standing in front of three six year old children, the Detective Boys, Ayumi Yoshida, Genta Kojima and Mitsuhiko Tsuburaya, who looked at him like he was an alien. Ayumi already had her arm raised and hovered over the doorbell with her finger when Shinichi had opened the door.
"Uhh ... hi?" Genta said, breaking the silence.
"Professor!" Shinichi quickly yelled and went back into the house. "You have visitors!"
Professor Agasa came back from his work with a confused look on his face, but as Shinichi showed him to the door, he understood immediately. "Ahh, children...! What are you three doing here?"
"Geez, don't tell me you forgot, Professor!" Mitsuhiko said.
"Today are the semi finals of the Akihito Cup and you promised to take us!" Ayumi said, in her usual, always a bit whiny sounding voice.
"Tokyo Spirits against Big Osaka! The most anticipated soccer match of the season!" Genta added. "We bought our six tickets ages ago, remember?!"
Shinichi's eyes widened. 'Crap, the semi finals! These are today? I totally forgot about that because of the recent events ... looks like the Professor and Haibara did too...'
"No, no, I remember now..." Agasa scratched the back of his head. "I just didn't sleep enough tonight, so I didn't get it immediately, ha ha ... ha."
"Really now..." Mitsuhiko sighed and looked over to Shinichi. "Huh? Do we know you...?"
Genta looked over to Shinichi as well. "Yeah, his face seems so familiar somehow..."
'Not good...!' Shinichi thought.
"Ah! Ayumi knows now!" The girl exclaimed. "He is that friend of Ran-oneesan! We met him back when Ai-chan was so sick she couldn't come to school at all and Conan-kun had to wear a face mask all the time!"
"You're right, that weird teenager, who's living in the haunted mansion next door!" Genta said.
'Oi oi ... I can hear you, you know?' Shinichi thought and said to the kids: "That house of mine is not haunted, you know? The only frightening thing surrounding it is how I manage to not drown in a sea of dust living there."
The look on Genta's face told him that the round boy indeed had not thought about how Shinichi was totally in hearing range. He nervously scratched the back of his head (involuntarily looking quite similar to the Professor), while Shinichi noticed Ayumi staring at his face again from the corner of his eye. Only Mitsuhiko lost his interest in the teenager and cared more about the reason why the three of them had came here in the first place. "Where are Haibara-san and Conan-kun?" He asked Agasa.
"I'm right here," Haibara suddenly said and stepped around a corner. She had apparently listened to their little meeting, observing how it played out. "But I'm afraid it's just me..."
"EHHH?! Conan-kun has gone traveling with his mother?!" The three Detective Boys cried out after they were told that Conan would not come with them to the football game. After the initial shock, their faces were quickly covered in disappointment and sadness. The Professor and Haibara tried to cheer them up again; while doing so, Haibara gave Shinichi, who had retreated to the kitchen area and was drinking a glass of apple juice, some poignant side glances. It looked like she was holding him responsible for letting the kids down. Shinichi slightly gritted his teeth. It's not like this was somehow his fault. He could've called the children, but he doubted it would've helped much. And while it was true that Shinichi forgot about the football game that they had tickets for, it wasn't like Haibara or Agasa had thought of that either. He finished his glass and sighed. The Professor ended his attempts by promising to visit the new Café Ikenaka with after the game and treat them with some of the café's highly praised cheesecake. This plan did a reasonable job to cheer them up indeed (Genta even more than Ayumi and Mitsuhiko) and they smiled again already. It wasn't much use for them to dwell on Conan's absence for long anyway. Shinichi sighed again. Shame he would miss out on that game. The Akihito Cup semi final, Big Osaka versus Tokyo Spirits, played in Tokyo ... a must-see for Japanese football fans indeed and being in the stadium surely would've only added to that. Oh well, at least now Shinichi was reminded about the game and could turn in to it on TV.
"Hey, Oniisan!" Ayumi said. Shinichi turned in his chair and looked down to where the voice was coming from. "Since our friend won't make it to today's game, we have one spare ticket. Do you want to come with us and see the game?"
"Huh...?" Shinichi wondered, caught off guard by the little girl.
"Yoshida-san, I don't think this is a good idea..." Haibara said.
"Why not? He's a Spirits fan too, so he would love it in the stadium, right?" Ayumi replied.
"Yeah, I have to agree, just because Conan-kun can't come, doesn't mean we have to let the ticket go to waste!" Mitsuhiko added.
"A Spirits fan? How did you know?" Shinichi asked.
"Heh," Mitsuhiko waggled his finger, "you see, we deduced it, because we are," he made some kind of pose, "The Detective Boys!"
"And Girls!" Ayumi added, while posing.
"That's right!" Genta added, posing behind the other two.
Shinichi had always wondered if that introduction style looked as silly to someone who was receiving it as it did to him when he was part of the ones introducing themselves. Now he had confirmation that it did. Also, he realized how they figured that out.
"Do you wanna hear our deduction?" Genta asked with a big grin.
"Let me guess: you figured it out because I'm wearing a Tokyo Spirits cap, didn't you?" Shinichi said, pointing to his head.
They visibly slumped a bit. "Yes..." The three admitted in unison, before Ayumi spoke up again: "So, wanna come with us?"
"Eh, I don't think so..." Shinichi said.
Ten minutes later, he was sitting with the four children and Professor Agasa in his yellow beetle, en route to the stadium of the Tokyo Spirits. These children turned out to be really, really persistent on the matter. 'Curse your kindness, Ayumi,' Shinichi thought.
"Ah, how rude of us!" Ayumi said from the back bench, where she sat with the other three children. "We haven't introduced ourselves properly yet! I'm Ayumi Yoshida!"
"I'm Genta Kojima!" Genta said.
"I'm Mitsuhiko Tsuburaya!" Mitsuhiko said. He looked over to Haibara, who held her hand in front of her mouth, suppressing a yawn. "Haibara-san?"
"We already had the pleasure of meeting," Haibara said matter-of-factly between yawns and looked out of the window.
"I see..." Mitsuhiko bit his lip for a short moment, before he looked back to Shinichi sitting in the front. "Anyway, together with our friend Conan-kun we are an elementary school detective club. You know Conan-kun, right? He was the child that was with Ran-san when we met you back then, remember?"
"Yeah, I remember," Shinichi said. "And I know that glasses kid, who is living with Ran, too. Quite the bright child, isn't he?"
"Yeah, he is really bright and cool!" Ayumi exclaimed. Shinichi knew how Mitsuhiko's and Genta's expression changed without having to look at them. He was glad not to be the target of their stares this one time. "By the way, what is your first name?"
"Oh, sorry, how impolite of me, my name is Shinichi" he said, raising an eyebrow. "But why only my first name?"
"Again, we are detectives!" Mitsuhiko said with conviction. "We already figured your last name out! Well, it wasn't very hard like with your cap, admittedly. So it wasn't hard to find out that your last name is Eto, since it is written outside on the name plate of your house."
"I see," Shinichi said, while thinking: 'That still reads Kudo, you little morons. Kobayashi-sensei would probably shudder at misreadings like this. On the other hand, it might not be too bad. I never actually talked to them about it, but they have probably heard the name Shinichi Kudo before, from my little phase of media popularity. And having them go around school and tell everyone that they went to soccer game with that famous high school detective wouldn't be something I want to happen. Those other children might tell their parents and then those parents might tell it to whoever ... no, it's probably for the best to keep them thinking that I'm Shinichi Eto...'
At the same time in Osaka:
Heiji Hattori was sitting in front of a computer screen, scrolling through rows and rows of names. Outside, it was a bright and hot day, but thankfully, this archive room was well air-conditioned. Beside him, his friend and police detective Goro Otaki was sitting at another computer, doing the same as him.
"Hey, Hei-chan, this wasn't really how I imagined my free day would go," Otaki said. "Why do we have to search the records of all schools in Osaka again?"
"I told ya, didn't I?" Heiji said, scrolling past even more names. Why again does this software not have a search function? "We are looking at whether or not Rena Mizunashi went to school here in our city."
"Yeah, yeah, you mentioned that," Otaki sighed. "And why again are ya interested in that?"
"For a case," Heiji simply said, not elaborating any further. Thankfully, Otaki didn't press him for more details and just continued to silently search through the school records. Fifteen minutes later, Heiji sighed and turned his computer off. "Alright, I'm done, twenty years of school records and no results." Heiji rubbed his eyes, all that staring at the rather old computer screens took its toll on his eyes.
"Yup, same here," Otaki said. "I'm finished too, no result here either." He turned his computer off as well. "So? Is yer investigation finished now or do ya have a plan what to do next?"
Heiji wasn't finished with his investigation, but he didn't exactly have a plan either. Since both of them had no idea what to do next, they went over to the famous Osaka landmark, the Tsūtenkaku Tower, where a younger Rena Mizunashi had been photographed roughly ten years ago with a bag of groceries in her arms. Shinichi had discovered that photo on a Rena Mizunashi fan website and had asked Heiji to investigate, whether or not Rena had any background in Osaka, shortly before the Detective Koshien. Now, Heiji was standing in the streets underneath the famous Osakan tower, asking random pedestrians about this photo from ten years ago, but the people only identified her as that famous news reporter, who was currently taking a break. Of course, they didn't know she was having this break in form of a coma in custody of the FBI.
After one hour with yet again no results, Heiji had enough. He had just talked to a woman, but she said the same as everybody else. The Great Detective of the West sighed and wanted to put the photo back into his pocket, when he remembered the photo of that Eisuke Hondou guy, which Shinichi had given him. Just for the sake of it, Heiji took out that photo and showed it to the woman. However, she didn't recognize him either, just that looked quite similar to Rena Mizunashi. Heiji thanked her and that woman walked away, minding her own business again.
"Oi, Otaki-han, let's call it a day!" Heiji said to his friend and put one hand on the shoulder of his father's subordinate. "Tell ya what: as an excuse for wastin' time of yer precious day off, I'll treat you in that okonomiyaki restaurant over there, alright?"
Otaki grinned. "Deal!"
The two of them entered the restaurant, sat down at a table and Heiji ordered two portions. Still a bit frustrated that they didn't get any results, aside from hitting a dead end in the school records, Heiji sighed and put the two photos on the table, staring at them as if that would suddenly give him the deciding clue to this whole matter. He could almost hear Shinichi's frustrated voice, when they'd talk about the dead end Heiji encountered, since he would probably feel the same as Heiji did right now.
"Oh, haven't seen that face in quite some time," the restaurant owner said, as he served Heiji and Otaki their drinks.
"Yeah, Rena Mizunashi has been off-air for quite some time now, huh?" Heiji absentmindedly said, as he took a sip from his drink.
"Ah, no, no, I didn't mean that TV announcer. I meant that boy on the other photo," the owner said.
Heiji almost choked on his drink. "C-come again?! Ya know this guy?"
"Yes, indeed, although as I said, that was quite some time ago," the owner explained.
"Otaki-han, notebook," Heiji hastily said, before he said to the owner: "Would ya mind telling us about him and how ya know him?"
"I wouldn't mind, but how about I serve ya yer okonomiyaki first and then I'll tell ya while ya eat?" The owner proposed.
Heiji smiled. "Sounds like a plan!"
And so Shinichi meets the Detective Boys for the first time. Note that I am ignoring movie continuity and anime continuity for them here, since in the manga, the DB are not present at Tropical Land, so they only met briefly during the Desperate Revival, like described. In the first draft of these chapters, the cup they were going to see live was called Emperor's Cup; in the actual manga, it's called Sunday Cup, because of the magazine Shonen Sunday, which publishes the chapters of DC. However, I didn't like the name, so I changed it to Emperor's Cup, which is the actual cup competition in Japan. However, I think Gosho already used that cup during a previous football case, so I renamed it to Akihito Cup, which of course is the name of the current emperor of Japan. Naming things was never my strength ^^
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Remember to leave a review if you want to tell me what you thought about the chapter, any feedback is greatly appreciated and helps me greatly while writing. Next chapter: Tokyo Spirits vs. Big Osaka! Who will prevail? Stay tuned!
The stadium of the Tokyo Spirits was sold out for this match, this was something one could already tell from the amount of people streaming into the arena when Shinichi arrived with the Professor and the conanless Detective Boys. Not surprising, since the teams facing each other, Big Osaka and the Tokyo Spirits, were currently sitting at the top of the table of the J1 League, the top division of the Japan Professional Football League, fighting a fierce battle for this season's championship; because of this, many football experts and fans in Japan considered this semi final to be the real finals already, with the winner only having to mop up what lesser team would await in the nominal finals. In addition, there was also a long-lasting rivalry between the two teams, second only to the city derby rivalry the Tokyo Spirits had with Noir Tokyo. The result of all these circumstances: a packed stadium and a ton of media hype.
After they had parked the beetle on one of the stadium's vast parking lots, the group entered the home of the Tokyo Spirits through the ticket check-ins. In front of these check-ins, everyone was orderly waiting in line, but beyond them, it was quite crowded, the fan masses were running all over the place, lots of pushing and shoving included. Such a crowd would've been problematic for Shinichi until recently, because now he wasn't easy to overlook and to shove aside. Although that reminded him of the other Detective Boys, who hadn't become teenagers over night.
"Alright, everyone, let's hold each others hands so we don't lose anyone in the crowd," Agasa instructed, apparently having the same thought as Shinichi.
Just as Shinichi wanted to look around for one of the children to hold their hand, his right hand was firmly grabbed. He looked down and saw Ayumi staring at him a gleam in her eyes that seemed quite weird to Shinichi. "Don't worry, Ayumi won't let go and get lost in the crowd under any circumstances!" The little girl confidently claimed.
Shinichi nodded and wrapped his hand around hers, when he felt someone tapping on his left hand. Looking to his left, he saw Haibara, holding up one of her hands into the air, staring at him. "Go ahead, you're a responsible man, aren't you?" Haibara said. Shinichi looked at her for another second before he also held her hand. "If I get lost, it's your fault," she added and yawned again. At the same time, the Professor had taken the hands of Genta and Mitsuhiko and thus the six of them moved through the crowd to their seats, prepared for an awesome game.
The Spirits fans were in for an early treat, as their team capitalized on an early mistake in the fourth minute: after losing the ball during a counterattack, a midfielder from Big Osaka wanted to pass the ball away for a counterattack of their own, but instead the ball only found the feet of the Tokyo Spirits star Hideo Akagi, often simply called Hide by his fans, who doesn't hesitate long before he place the ball precisely under the bar, unreachable for the goalkeeper of Big Osaka. However, when the cheers of the Tokyo Spirits fans were still going on as the match proceeded, the opponents from the west of Japan silenced them merely five minutes later. A long pass into the run of an attacker of Big Osaka on the left side initiated it, as it left only the goalkeeper of the Spirits between the goal and the attacker. In the center of the penalty area, the superstar of Big Osaka, Ryusuke Higo, was completely free, no defender in sight to prevent him from scoring, but instead of playing a cross pass to Higo, the attacker kept sprinting towards the goalkeeper. The attacker knew what he was doing, as the goalkeeper had anticipated the cross pass to Higo and had jumped towards that direction, to intercept the pass which didn't come, leaving an opening for the attacker to easily score the equalizer with a simple low shot. The defense of the Spirits was visibly shaken now and Big Osaka kept up the pressure. It took them another ten minutes for them to get back into the saddle and keep up the speed of Big Osaka, who missed some big chances to take the lead during that phase. From there on out it was very equal, like the score, which both teams carried into the half-time break.
The second half picked right up from where the first half ended, with an intense and fast paced pressure game. Ten minutes after the players were back on the pitch, Hideo was fouled not too far from the penalty are of Big Osaka. Hideo took the resulting free kick himself and delivered right into the center of the penalty area, where his teammate Naoki Uemura was completely free to take a header and put it past the goalkeeper of Big Osaka, bringing the Spirits back up to a 2:1 lead in this match. Merely five minutes later, a similar situation happened, but this time right in front of Big Osaka's penalty area, where a defender from the western team kicked Hideo into his feels, resulting in a yellow card for the defender and another free kick. Hideo took it himself again, but this time he aimed for the goal directly, shooting the ball in a wonderful curve, making it impossible for the keeper to prevent the Spirits from going up 3:1 with only thirty minutes remaining in this semi final. The fans were going out of their minds, including Shinichi, Ayumi, Genta, Professor Agasa, Mitsuhiko (even though he was also a fan of Big Osaka, but in the direct comparison, he favored the club from his hometown) and even Haibara, who was a big fan of Big Osaka (mostly because of Higo), but with how amazing the Tokyo Spirits were playing, she just couldn't help herself but to be excited. Now the defense of Spirits was playing way more cunning than before, denying most the attempts of Big Osaka to come back into this game.
Until there were only ten minutes left to play. Suddenly, the defenders began to play sloppy. Two stupids fouls resulted in a free kick close to the penalty kick and another led to a penalty kick and both of these situations resulted in a goal for Big Osaka. Within five of the ten minutes left to play, Big Osaka had equalized the game again, sucker punching the morale of the Spirits, who had been the better team up until this point. With how intense the game had been prior to that, neither team was able to score another goal in the remaining regular time, so the match went into extra time. Since the coaches had already used all of their substitutions, the match became much more of a drag in the extra time, as the exhaustion was quite high after this kind of high speed pressure game. In the end, it came down to a penalty shoot-out. As per rules of the game, the players took turns in shooting the penalties, with Big Osaka going first. One after one, every player placed the ball into the net, the goalkeeper couldn't grab a single one. Then it was time for the last regular penalty, before they would switch into sudden death. Big Osaka had scored five out of their five penalties and the Spirits had scored four out of their four. Now Hideo came forth, with the fifth penalty for his team. He did the run-up, he kicked the ball and ... it flew against the corner of the goalpost. Hideo had missed and the Tokyo Spirits had lost the match. Just like that, in the spur of a few seconds, it was over.
The fans of Big Osaka were screaming and cheering and going absolutely bonkers, while the Spirits fans and team looked as miserable as sin. All the cheering turned into a hot, uncomfortable lump in their throats and the players were trying to hold their heads up high, which wasn't easy, especially for Hideo. Watching him stand there, hands on his hips, looking to the ground while his opponents were cheering around, Shinichi couldn't help but to feel reminded of himself, when he was quite a similar situation. He knew what Hideo was feeling right now, as he felt it himself before. Only that the stakes were much, much higher in this match.
About thirty minutes later, the yellow beetle of Professor Agasa drove down into underground garage of the shopping center that housed the cafe, which Agasa had promised the Detective Boys he would take them to after the game. Although it worked to cheer them up after finding out that Conan wouldn't attend the match with them, it didn't really raise their spirits after the crushing defeat of the Spirits. They were sighing and moaning ever since the group had left the stadium, the whole time during their drive to the shopping center.
"Come on now, what's with all the sighing," Agasa asked, as they all left the car and he locked the doors. "I'm about to treat you to some really delicious cheesecake, so stop being so down! You can't always win, that's simply the nature of sports!"
"But to think that Hide of all people would miss the crucial penalty..." Mitsuhiko said.
"Maybe he wasn't feeling good today?" Ayumi wondered.
"You think so? After all, Hideo scored two goals today and delivered the free kick for another goal perfectly," Haibara argued. "He was in top shape, but he simply cracked under the pressure. He's just human too."
"Tsk, how weak of him..." Genta scoffed.
"On the contrary!" Shinichi said, while playing around with a football from Agasa's car. "Do you know what a famous Italian player once said? You can only miss a penalty if you've had the courage to kick one!"
"Ah, I see!" Mitsuhiko smiled. "Many people always assume a penalty will result in an easy goal, but it's not that easy in the end!"
"You need the courage to risk shooting one, right?" Ayumi beamed.
"Yeah, that's exactly it," Shinichi said, as he dropped the ball from his head down to his foot, but didn't quite catch right, so it dropped down to the ground, rolling right in front of Genta.
"Still, Hide and Naoki were on the pitch today!" Genta muttered, as he looked at the ball on the ground. "The Spirits were coming off a six game winning streak in the league, why did they have to lose today of all days?!" Genta clenched his fists and kicked the ball away. "DAMN IT," he screamed, as he unleashed all of his frustration against the ball, making it fly across the rows of cars, hitting one in process.
"HEY!" The owner of that car yelled with a cigarette in his mouth. "Do you want to wreck my car or what?!"
"Ah, please excuse him," Agasa hastily and patted Genta's head. "His favorite team lost today and he got a little upset..."
"Tsk, next time deal with your mood swings without damaging my car, got it?!" The owner spat, getting into his car and shutting the door before Agasa or Genta could answer. The Professor breathed a sigh of relief.
"Huh, where did the ball go?" Ayumi wondered, looking around.
"Who cares..." Genta mumbled.
"Genta-kun, remember this," Shinichi said. "The strong one doesn't win, the one who wins is the strongest!"
"Ah, is that another quote from that Italian player?" Ayumi asked.
"No, it's a quote by Karl Schneider, a soccer star from Germany," Shinichi explained. "And it was actually a Japanese team that made him say that. Before you four were born, during the soccer Under-21 World Championship he participated in, Schneider was the captain of the German national team. They were a team full of talents and highly regarded prospects and easily made it to the finals, where they were vastly favored against a somewhat weak Japanese national team. But when the finals happened, the players of Germany were overly confident and arrogant, going down against the Japanese. In the sixtieth minute, when the German team had just conceded a second goal, Schneider got fed up with attitude of his teammates and yelled those words at them, a much needed wake-up call! After that, the Germans scored two goals in the remaining thirty minutes and decided the game with another goal during extra time, winning the championship. Schneider and his team were celebrated for their comeback. Five years later, many of those players, Schneider included, were part of the German national team which won the World Cup and they were heraled as a legendary Golden Generation by the media and the fans. And so, his words back then became legendary as well, the strong one doesn't win, the one who wins is the strongest or as Schneider said it in his mother tongue back then: Nicht der Stärkste gewinnt immer..."
"...der Gewinner ist immer der Stärkste!" A man finished the sentence from behind them. He was a foreigner, looked to be in his forties, had blond hair and a mustache. "Those happen to be some of my favorite words as well, you know? In fact, I'm quite proud of them."
"Something the matter...?" Genta asked the man who had just barged into their conversation.
"Well, I'm a German in bad luck, because some angry child hit my beloved ball with his soccer ball in frustration..." The man said, holding up the football Genta kicked earlier and looked back to his car, which had a smudged spot on its backside.
"Ahhh, we're so sorry...!" Agasa hastily apologized.
"Nah, don't beat yourself up about it!" The man said and handed Genta the ball with a smile, before he turned to Shinichi. "Do you speak German? Your pronunciation was quite good!
"Ah, I'd probably get around if I visited Germany as tourist," Shinichi said, "but I'm far from being fluent. Your Japanese, on the other hand, is excellent to say the least."
"Well, you see, my wife is from Japan. If I fall in love with someone, I also fall in love with their culture and language. I even asked my company to transfer me to their branch here in Japan, so I could live together with her here." The man explained and scratched the back of his head. "Ah, but all that dedication didn't save me in my first marriage, which unfortunately resulted in a divorce ... but at least I'm fluent in two languages now!"
"Oh, but still, your dedication is really amazing and admirable," Ayumi said.
'Heh, not too shabby, some people are left with far less after a divorce...' Shinichi snarked in his thoughts.
"I don't want to rush anyone, but if we wait much longer, there won't be much of that cheesecake left," Haibara said, looking at her smartphone.
Agasa looked at his watch. "Ah, you're right...!"
"Cheesecake?" The German said. "Surely you mean the cheesecake that is sold in Café Ikenaka upstairs, right? My wife loves this cheesecake, so I was just on my way to buy some for her..." He got interrupted by his own cell phone ringing. "Ah, excuse me," he said and stepped a bit away from the group taking the call. "Hallo, Janina? Ja, es passt gerade ... aha, die nächste Besichtigung ist also schon vorbei. Hat Tobias sich denn schon entschieden, welches Gymnasium er bisher am besten findet? Hallo? Hallo?"He looked to his phone. "Ach herrje, keine Verbindung mehr..." While Shinichi had a good grasp of what he said, the rest of the group, especially Ayumi, Mitsuhiko and Genta, looked at him in confusion, as they didn't understand what he was saying at all. He shook his head and came closer again.
"Everything alright?" Shinichi asked.
"Ah, yes, it's just my former wife, our son will change schools soon and she wanted to talk about some details..." The German explained.
"Oh, since they must still be in Germany, talking about such matters must be a bit difficult with the different time zones and stuff," Agasa said.
"Then, should we buy some cheesecake for you?" Ayumi proposed.
"That would be wonderful! I need to call her again and our talk could be quite lengthy, so you would probably save me from coming home to my wife empty handed!" The German smiled at Ayumi and said to Agasa: "Could you buy a whole cake for me?"
"Sure, but we were planning to eat in the cafe itself, so it could take a bit longer," Agasa said.
"Then let's not waste anymore time!" Mitsuhiko said. As they all began to move towards the exit, they noticed Genta wasn't moving.
"I'm not going with you!" Genta said as an answer to their questioning looks.
"Huh?!" Ayumi and Mitsuhiko exclaimed in unison.
"The Tokyo Spirits lost, I'm hungry anymore!" Genta explained, still with great frustration in his voice.
"Genta-kun, please..." Agasa tried, but Genta was having none of it.
"Go without me, I'm not feeling like having cake right now," Genta insisted.
"G-Genta-kun...!" Ayumi raised her tiny hands in a pleading gesture.
Haibara shrugged and put one hand on the shoulder of the other girl. "Leave him be, Yoshida-san. Let's try to not let our appetite be spoiled by his bad mood."
"Alright, Genta-kun, then wait for us by the car and don't do anything stupid again, got it?" Shinichi ordered as the group walked away without Genta.
"Yeah, yeah..." Genta said, still holding the ball.
After the five others were gone, he started to play with the ball, kicking it repeatedly against the wall in an empty corner of the garage for quite some time. 'It's on me now,' Genta thought, 'who can make things right if not me? I have to become better than Hide and Naoki combined, and then with me in their team, the Spirits will unbeatable.' Just as he was about to kick the ball again, a sudden and loud noise surprised Genta, making him lose his balance and fall to to the ground.
Genta sat up and rubbed his hurting head. 'Hm, that German guy shouldn't complain, I'm the one who is really in bad luck today...' Genta thought and looked around. 'Hm, where did the ball go again...?' He stood up and walked along the row of cars, looking for his ball for a few minutes, before he finally found it. "Got you!" Genta said to the ball as he picked up. Suddenly, he notice some feet on the ground between the cars. 'Feet...?' He walked closer to them and spotted the man from earlier, lying behind a car, with a bleeding wound on his forehead, one eye closed in pain. 'Tha ... that German guy?!'
The German pointed at Genta with his finger, heavily panting and said: "Tä ... Täter...!"
"What...? I don't understand you!" Genta yelled. Maybe it was from the shock or his fall earlier, but Genta failed to notice the footsteps too late, right until someone was right behind him. Just as he wanted to turn around, he felt a strong hit on the back of his head. The last thing he saw was his football rolling away as the world before his eyes turned black.
Well, it seems like this chapter ended up being mostly a description of the football match. Whoops. I hope it didn't bother you two much, but if you aren't a fan of the sport like Shinichi and myself, I can see how one might skip that part. By the way, the course of the match was based on a real life football game with the same score line, but that real game was a league game without extra time. In any case, I still hope you enjoyed the chapter; if you have thoughts of any kind about it, feel free to let me know with a comment; your feedback is always greatly appreciated and helps me greatly while writing. Next chapter: The culprit has Genta? Without Conan, Shinichi will have to take lead the Detective Boys to the solution as himself! Stay tuned!
Chapter 15: Underground Garage Investigation
"Ah, so Shinichi-oniisan was a soccer player himself until two years ago?" Ayumi asked. While the group were on their way to the cafe, the two real children of the Detective Boys had been inquisitive about Shinichi's relationship with the sport, seeing as he talked rather profoundly about it. And so Shinichi came to tell them quite a bit about his time as the captain of the Teitan Middle School football team.
"Mhm, that's exactly it," Shinichi confirmed. "In fact, I was once in a similar position as Hide was in the match today. And same as him, I missed the crucial penalty."
"Really? Ah, but I bet that required quite a bit of courage, right?" Ayumi said, remembering what Shinichi told them earlier.
"Yeah, it did. As the captain, I also had to stand up for my team, who were quite insecure after the initial penalty misses. Had I scored mine, their spirits might've been reinvigorated and we could've still one, but alas, it wasn't supposed to be," Shinichi told them. "It's all part of the beauty of this game though, the fact that the supposedly weaker team can beat a stronger team, if they work harder and function better as a unit. And if soccer was a fair game, in which the favorite will always win without a hitch, as if it were a math problem, where would be the fun in that? Some of the most legendary games were about underdogs rising up to the occasion, defying all odds in the fight for the win, lifting up trophies nobody expected them to lift. Or the games where two teams on par duke it out, going all out to determine who's better. The struggle to come out on top is what makes this sport, and probably many other sports as well, great in the first place, don't you agree?"
"Yeah, that is so true!" Mitsuhiko agreed and Ayumi nodded accordingly.
"Yeah, yeah, beautiful stuff, really exciting," Haibara mocked and yawned.
"Huh, I could've sworn I've seen you grin in excitement yourself earlier, as Osaka and Ryusuke Higo in particular made their comeback," Shinichi said.
"Ah..." Haibara stuttered, slightly blushing from being busted. "It's not like that..." She looked away and pouted, as Shinichi and Agasa smiled and the kids were giggling.
The Café Ikenaka was one of many new, hip locations, rapidly gaininig popularity through word of mouth, especially via the internet, thanks to food bloggers. While Haibara, Ayumi and Mitsuhiko sat down at a table, while Agasa and Shinichi moved over to the counter to make their orders. After a little bit of waiting, Shinichi ordered five pieces of cake and a whole cake for take-out. The waitress nodded and wanted to start dishing out the order, but Agasa quickly said: "Ah, make that a whole cake and one additional piece of cheesecake to go, please!" The waitress nodded again and went to work.
A few minutes later, Shinichi took the first bite of his cake piece. 'Mhh, delicious,' he thought while the flavor of cheesecake spread in his mouth. Shinichi quickly used his fork to chop himself another piece off the cake. As he ate the second piece, he noticed that unlike Agasa, Haibara and himself, Ayumi and Mitsuhiko weren't eating. "Have you lost your appetite, guys? The cake is really delicious..."
"No, it's just ... we kinda feel bad because of Genta-kun," Ayumi explained.
"Yeah, how can we enjoy this cake while he is feeling so down and is probably regretting skipping the cake by now?" Mitsuhiko added.
Haibara took a sip from the cup of tea she ordered for herself. "Oh, I wouldn't worry about Kojima-kun. If I'm not mistaken, our adults here have thought of him already."
A waitress came over and brought the takeaway cakes Agasa ordered. "Alright, this big box is for our new, foreign friend," the elder man said as he grabbed the big box, before grabbing another, smaller box. "And this little box here is of course for Genta-kun!"
"Ah, Professor, you're the best!" Ayumi said and smiled brightly. The group continued to eat their cakes, Ayumi and Mitsuhiko now joining the devouring of the delicious cheesecake, freed from their bad conscience. "Can Ayumi bring Genta-kun the box with his cake?" Ayumi asked as they stood up to leave. Nobody had any objections, so Agasa handed the little girl the little box, making her smile grow even wider.
'Ayumi is sure a sweet child,' Shinichi thought. 'Cheering up her friend seems to make her truly happy.' When they reached the elevators that went down to the garage, the one they used before had just been closed because of a security inspection. Since the stairs had just been waxed, the five of them had no other choice but to take the slow elevator down, which took almost five minutes to reach the garage. Just as Agasa opened the door from the stairwell to the garage, a man wearing a baseball cap with the letters 'LOVE' and a heart on it rushed through and bumped into Ayumi, who almost dropped her precious cake. The man wasn't so lucky however: he fell down to the ground and the contents of the bag he carried spilled over the floor. A few CDs and some posters as far as Shinichi could tell.
"I'm really sorry," the man said as he hastily collected his belongings and threw them back into his bag. "I'm in a hurry!" He added and ran off again, towards the stairs.
"Ah, wait..." Shinichi tried to say, but the man was already gone. He sighed. "The stairs were waxed recently, he won't get far on them before he bumps into on of those warning signs."
"Tsk, he can just come down again and take the slow elevator just like us," Haibara said. "Come on, let's get going."
"Wait a second," Shinichi said as he noticed something on the ground. "A driver's license. Hiromasa Inagaki, huh ... that man just must've dropped it." He turned around to the others. "Go ahead and give Genta his cake already, I'll wait here and give this Hiromasa guy his license back. As Haibara said, he'll come down here in a bit."
"Do as you like," Haibara said and shrugged. The group went into the garage, leaving Shinichi waiting alone in front of the elevator.
A few moments later, just as predicted, the man came running down the stairs again. "Hiromasa Inagaki-san?" Shinichi asked.
"Huh?! Yeah, that's me..." the man said.
"Here, you lost your driver's license earlier," Shinichi said and handed him the card.
"Oh, I didn't notice ... th-thank you very much!" Hiromasa said.
"You're welcome," Shinichi replied and turned around to go into the garage, past the security camera overlooking the stairwell. No problem for him, since he was still wearing his Tokyo Spirits cap. Just as Shinichi wanted to head to the beetle, a high pitched shriek piereced the air in the garage. Shinichi recognized immediately that this shriek belonged to Ayumi, so he sprinted in the general direction of where the sound came from. "Ayumi-chan?!" Shinichi yelled, hoping she would respond.
"Sh-Shinichi! Over here!" Shinichi heard Agasa call out to him. As he looked around, he saw the portly man by a row of cars, waving to him. Shinichi quickly ran over there, happy to see that Ayumi and the others were just fine, but then he noticed something else.
"That German guy...!?" Shinichi exclaimed as he saw the body of the German lying behind a row of cars. Blood was over his face from a wound on the left of his forehead. Haibara had knelt down beside the body. Shinichi moved closer to the shrunken scientist and asked: "Haibara, is he...?"
"No," Haibara said before he finished his sentence. "He is just unconscious; I already called an ambulance and the police. We found because we were looking for Kojima-kun, who wasn't waiting by the car. And then we found him."
"Huh. And Genta?" Shinichi asked.
"We didn't find him, even after looking everywhere and else and calling out his name over and over, so I don't think he is hiding anywhere. And take a look at this," Haibara said and moved a bit to the side, revealing a football lying next to the German. "Kojima-kun's soccer ball. You catch my drift?"
Shinichi nodded, the expression on his face turning grim. "Yeah. If the soccer ball is lying here and Genta is nowhere to be found, then it is possible Genta surprised the culprit while searching for his soccer ball and got kidnapped because he was a witness."
"That's terrible..." Mitsuhiko said.
"G-Genta-kun...!" Ayumi said with tears in her eyes.
"Don't worry, since the culprit has taken Genta and not just hit him too and left him here, it probably means that he didn't harm him," Shinichi said to the little girl as he went over to Agasa. "Professor, these takeaway boxes have napkins inside of them, right? Would you mind giving me one of them?"
"Sure, I don't mind," Agasa said and opened the bigger box, peeling back some the tape holding it together and handing Shinichi a napkin.
"Alright," Shinichi said and turned to the car the German was lying next to. "This is his car, right? Let's see..." Shinichi used the napkin to open the door of the car without leaving his fingerprints. It wasn't locked. "Hm, nothing really to see here, the glove box is empty too..." After he finished inspecting the interior of the car, Shinichi closed the door again and moved over to the German himself, carefully searching through his pockets with the napkin in his hand. "Hm, no wallet, no cell phone ... since we saw his cell phone earlier and know he wanted to buy a cheesecake for his wife, we can assume that the culprit has taken them both."
"Assault and robbery, huh..." Haibara said.
"Seems like it," Shinichi said and looked around the garage. Nobody was to been seen, but there a car standing at the boom gate of the garage.
"Will you hurry up?!" The man in the car yelled. "I'm waiting here for almost twenty minutes now!"
"I'm really sorry," a man in an overall said, seemingly working on the parking ticket machine. "The automaton is a bit error prone lately..."
'No exit in the last twenty minutes at least, huh...' Shinichi thought. 'That man could be the culprit ... aside from the exit for cars, the only way out is through that one stairwell we came through as well ... that Hiromasa Inagaki guy, was he in such a hurry because he had just killed this German? But then again, where would Genta be in a scenario like that? Did he put Genta in the trunk of his car and then left the garage because the exit by car was blocked? To come back later, when everything is fixed and a possible investigation is already over. Still, he was seen by the security camera in the stairwell not too long after the crime has happened, so suspicion would probably still fall on him. Or was it all just very spontaneous and he didn't there was a camera there?' Shinichi continued to look around, spotting someone sitting in their car. 'Isn't that ... the guy whose car Genta hit first, who was really angry? Why is he just sitting in his car? Earlier, he entered his car and the exit wasn't blocked yet. Why didn't he leave already or at least tried to leave?'
A little while later, the police and an ambulance arrived, with Megure and Takagi taking charge of the situation. Takagi summarized the circumstances: "The victim is Ludger Heinen, age 42, a German citizen living here in Japan; he worked for the Japanese branch of a German sportswear manufacturer. He had a wound on his forehead and one on the back of his head, we haven't found the weapon yet. According to forensics, it could be many things, a baseball bat or an iron bar for example. Heinen-san is currently recovering in a hospital. He is in a stable condition at the moment, but hasn't woken up so far."
"Hmm, so if he wakes up," Megure said, "he might be able to give us a description of the culprit. Do we have any idea what the motive could've been?"
"Seems like a robbery," Shinichi said, approaching the two policemen from behind.
"Eh?! Kudo-kun?!" Megure and Takagi exclaimed almost at the same time. "W-what are you doing here?" Takagi inquired.
"I came here with these guys," Shinichi pointed to Agasa and the Detective Boys, who were all standing a bit aside with some officers, "after the cup match today. We actually became acquainted with the victim here, before we went to eat some cheesecake at Café Ikenaka on the third floor of the shopping center. When we came back, we found Heinen-san like this. He was already unconscious."
"I see," Megure nodded, "why do think it might be a robbery?"
"When we met him, Heinen-san told us that he came here to buy some cheesecake for his wife," Shinichi explained, "so he must've had his wallet with him. Then he got an important call on his cell phone from his ex-wife. I didn't find either on Heinen-san when I checked his pockets."
"Is that true, Takagi-kun?" Megure asked his colleague.
Takagi looked through his notes, then he nodded. "Yes, indeed neither object was found within the belongings Heinen-san had on him."
"Also, I think we can narrow down some suspects," Shinichi said. "After we left Heinen-san down here, we spent about thirty, maybe thirty-five minutes up in the café. Shortly after we first arrived here, we met the guy still sitting in his car over there," he pointed to said car. "Furthermore, that guy sitting at the boom gate for the last twenty minutes might've done it. Also, when we came back from the café, we ran into a man coming out of the garage in the stairwell. He dropped his driver's license, so I know his name. Hiromasa Inagaki, age 35, big nose, carries a sports bag and a shopping bag and was wearing a baseball cap with the letters 'LOVE' and a heart on it. He went up into the shopping center and was surely caught by the security camera in the stairwell."
"Takagi-kun, please find this Hiromasa Inagaki guy and bring him here," Megure ordered, so Takagi called over an uniformed officer to give him the description. "That still leaves a big gap though," Megure continued. "The culprit could've driven in and out between you leaving the garage for the café and the boom gate malfunctioning. Or he left through the stairwell, although we can limit the number of persons who might've done it down via the footage of the security camera."
"Indeed," Shinichi admitted. "But there's another thing: Genta of the Detective Boys is missing."
"Genta-kun is missing?" Megure repeated and looked over to the Detective Boys, obviously not finding Genta. "Him missing is connected to the crime?"
"Yes. You see, Genta stayed down here in the garage while we were in the café, because he felt rather down after the Spirits lost the match today. When we came back down from the café, he was nowhere to be seen, which is why we were searching through the garage in the first place," Shinichi explained. "He is still missing and we found his soccer ball right besides the body of Heinen-san, so we think that Genta might've stumbled upon the culprit and got kidnapped."
"That's terrible!" Takagi exclaimed. "But ... what if the culprit is one of the potential persons who came in and out of the garage between Kudo-kun leaving and the boom gate malfunctioning."
Shinichi and Megure shook their heads. "Let's hope that is not the case," the portly inspector grimly said.
"The officers have found Hiromasa Inagaki," a female voice said from behind. Takagi, Megure and Shinichi turned their heads to see Miwako Sato approaching. She gave her colleagues a simple for a greeting, before she looked at Shinichi. "Huh, you look familiar. Aren't you..."
Shinichi gulped. 'Ugh, not good...! Detective Sato noticed how smart Conan is before, don't tell me ... she thinks...'
"Aren't you that famous high school detective from Tokyo, Shinichi Kudo?" Sato finished her sentence.
'Oh...' Shinichi thought, before he quickly replied: "Yeah, that's me."
"Ah, I knew it! Pleasure to meet you, I'm Miwako Sato, I work with Inspector Megure," Sato introduced herself, telling him things she didn't know he already knew. "I've read and heard quite a bit of praise about you. Savior of the Police, huh? Well, we'll see who will need saving in the end."
Shinichi shrugged. "As long as this case gets solved, I don't particularly care who saves who. I liked the moniker Heisei Holmes I got from the press, but Savior of the Police ... never quite knew what to think of that one."
"In any case," Megure said, "there has been a new development, Sato-san. It looks like one of the Detective Boys was taken by the culprit."
"What?!" Sato gasped and looked over to the Detective Boys. "That's right, Conan-kun and Genta-kun are missing..."
"Conan-kun?!" Takagi exclaimed. "He's not with the group either. D-don't tell me...! He has been taken as well?!"
"No," Shinichi quickly assured him. "That glasses kid is spending the holidays with his mother, he wasn't with them today." Takagi breathed a sigh of relief.
"Alright, while the guys from forensics secure the footage of the security camera, we should start to question the suspects at hand," Megure decided.
"What?! We're supposed to tell you what we are doing here?!" The angry guy from before yelled a few minutes later, as the three suspects were gathered by Takagi and told them the purpose of the questioning. "Parking, of course! Why does the police want to know things like that?"
"Did something happen?" The man who was stuck with his car at the boom gate asked nervously.
"I don't really have time for this..." Hiromasa Inagaki said, looking at his watch.
"Ah, well, you see ... someone has been assaulted down here," Takagi explained.
"And the three of you are among the suspects of that crime, so we'd like to ask for your cooperation in this matter," Megure added. "Of course, we could also take you with us to the precinct, then you would have all the time in the world, if you'd prefer that."
"The hell...?!" The angry guy clicked his tongue. "Alright, alright, I'll tell you what you want to know..."
"Good! Your name and what you've been doing here, please," Megure ordered.
"My name is Kanji Kojima. I was listening to the radio broadcast of today's horse races and since this shopping center is close to my betting office, I thought I'd reward myself with something nice from one of the stores if I win any of my bets," Kanji explained. He was a tall and slim guy, with spiky hair and some beard stubbles along his jaw. Shinichi considered him the most suspicious of the three at hand, since he knew that the angry Kanji was already in his car in the garage when Shinichi and the others first arrived here and he shouted at Genta.
"My name is Tatsuzo Genda. My girlfriend asked me to buy a recently released handbag for her, but the stores in this shopping center didn't have them anymore. So I was hurry to drive to a different shop, but then this damn boom gate malfunctioned and I was stuck at that gate for over twenty minutes," Tatsuzo explained. He was overweight, a bit shorter than Kanji, wearing glasses and had short, curly hair with considerable sideburns. Could've committed the crime and got unlucky with the malfunction of the boom gate.
"My name is Hiromasa Inagaki. I came here for a signing session of my favorite idol, Ai Sakaguchi. I was quite a rush, since with idol fans it's always first come first serve, so I didn't any attention to my surroundings," Hiromasa explained. He was still wearing the cap with letters 'LOVE' and a heart on it, probably merchandise of this Ai Sakaguchi idol, Shinichi assumed.
"So none of you saw or heard anything of the assault that happened, because you were either in a rush or too concentrated," Megure summarized, all three suspects nodding in confirmation.
"Inspector," Shinichi whispered to Megure, "if any of them is the culprit and has Genta, the only place to hide him would be their trunks. Let's ask them to show us theirs."
Megure nodded and did as suggested. They all protested a bit, but after another mention of them taking them to the precinct and getting a search warrant by Megure, they all went along with it.
"I don't know why you need to see this, but knock yourself out," Tatsuzo said, as he opened his trunk for them. It was completely empty and rather clean. Megure, Takagi, Shinichi and Sato took a good look, before they went over to the next one.
Kanji had parked his car with the trunk to the wall, so Takagi went alone to accompany him to the back of his car. As they went between the cars, Kanji suddenly opened the door to the driver seat. "Sorry, but the lock on my trunk is broken, so I need to open it manually from a lever on my dashboard," Kanji explained and climbed into his car. Takagi reached with his head into the car, to see what exactly Kanji was doing, when Kanji suddenly punched Takagi in the face with his elbow. The police detective stumbled back and Kanji closed the door and started his engine.
'Damn it!' Shinichi thought. 'Either he is completely stupid or he really is the culprit and he couldn't allow the police to look into his trunk!' Instinctively, he ran over to the Professor and the Detective Boys. "Professor, give me that cake box and Haibara give me the soccer ball!" Shinichi shouted and the two of them did as he ordered. Meanwhile, Kanji had driven forward, making the approaching police officers jump out of the way of his car and Kanji was speeding towards the direction of Shinichi and the others, since the exit of the garage was also in this direction. Shinichi hastily took some tape from the cake box and pulled out one of Agasa's bugs, which he still had in his pockets since he had put on the same pair of pants he wore yesterday this morning and used the tape to attach the bug to the football. Shinichi stood up and saw that the car was very close already and a second later it had driven past them. Shinichi turned on his heel and used the energy from that movement to kick the football as hard as he could with the other foot. Just before Kanji could drive around another corner, the football smashed through his rear window and landed on the backbench as far as Shinichi could tell. Then Kanji drove up the ramp out of the garage, with the police officers guarding the exit also having no other choice but to jump out of the way of the car.
"Oh no, does that mean ... Genta-kun!" Ayumi whined.
"Shame Shinichi-san didn't get the shot on windshield or otherwise the culprit would be knocked out now!" Mitsuhiko said.
"Idiot!" Shinichi chided the boy. "I could've taken that shot, but he drove in our direction! Had I knocked him out this way, he would've lost control and the car might've run us over! No, I took this shot on the rear window on purpose." He took out his smartphone and opened the tracking app. A mischievious smile made its way to his face. "Because this way, I have become a hound unable to lose the scent of his prey!" Shinichi turned around his phone and showed the display to the kids, with a beeping red dot on a map showing the location of Kanji's car.
Chaos ensued down in the garage. Megure shouted orders and the uniformed officers mostly made their way out of the garage, going to their cars in pursuit of the fleeing suspect. Unfortunately for Shinichi, Megure went right along with them before Shinichi could explain that he had a pretty good idea of where the culprit was going. Just as Shinichi wanted to run after the portly inspector, he noticed some other familiar face still being in the garage.
Over at where the car of suspect Kanji Kojima had been, Miwako Sato had knelt down besides Takagi. Shinichi came closer and saw that the police detective was covering his face with his right hand, but despite of that, blood was running over his mouth, dripping from his chin on his suit and shirt. Kanji must've hit Takagi's nose pretty badly with his elbow, Shinichi figured.
"Detective Takagi, how bad is it?" Shinichi said as he now stood besides Sato, Takagi and another uniformed officer.
"I'm fine, really," Takagi said, but Shinichi could see him wincing each time he moved his lips too much.
"You're clearly not fine, Takagi-kun!" Sato said, probably having noticed his wincing as well.
Shinichi had no more time to lose. "Detective Sato, are you here with a car?" He asked.
Sato looked from Takagi to the high school detective. "Yes, I'm here with my RX-7. Why?"
"I've managed to put on a tracking device on the car of the suspect," Shinichi explained and showed his smartphone display to the female detective. "But Inspector Megure and most others with a car have already left before I could explain."
Sato's eyes widened as she looked on the screen. "Got it. Officer, take Detective Takagi to the nearest hospital, that would be..."
"Beika Central," Shinichi filled in for her.
"Beika Central Hospital," Sato ordered.
The officer saluted and said: "Yes, at once, Ma'am."
"Alright, come with me, Kudo-kun!" Sato said and the two of them jogged out of the garage and to Sato's red RX-7, which was parked nearby.
Sato put up her police siren and put the pedal to the metal, while Shinichi gave her the directions from the passenger seat, looking at the screen of his smartphone constantly. They raced through the streets of Tokyo, cars making space for them left and right; going on to the speedway, still staying at full throttle. Then Shinichi noticed that Kanji was driving towards a harbor. "Take the next exit ramp to the sailing boat harbor," Shinichi said and Sato did exactly that. "He has come to a halt at that harbor," Shinichi noted. "Probably has a boat..."
"I guess," Sato said, slowed down a bit and put away the police siren. "Don't want to alert him of our presence."
"Hm, seems like no other police cars were able to follow him here, at least I haven't seen one in ages and there are no other sirens either," Shinichi noted.
"Alright, let's change that," Sato said and pulled out her smartphone, dialing the number of Megure, turning the phone on speaker and putting it down on her dashboard. After a little while, Megure picked up his phone. "Sato here. Kudo-kun and I have tracked down the suspect Kanji Kojima to the Akimasu Sailing Harbor in the Kōtō ward. The suspect's vehicle has come to a halt at the harbor. We suspect that he has a boat, but we have stayed out of sight so far. Shall we approach the suspect?"
"Do it," Megure ordered. "If the culprit has a boat and gets out to Tokyo Bay with Genta-kun we'll have a big problem at our hands. Stay cautious, Sato-kun, he most likely got a hostage."
"Got it," Sato confirmed and ended the call. She drove up her car into the harbor. It was almost completely empty, which wasn't something Shinichi expected, since the weather was beautiful and it was a holiday.
"There he is!" Shinichi exclaimed and Sato stopped the car. Indeed, there was Kanji Kojima, walking on a jetty towards the boats, carrying something over his shoulder. It was Genta.
Sato jumped out of the car as soon as it stopped and pulled out her gun. "Kanji Kojima, freeze!" Sato shouted.
Kanji jolted and hastily turned around. As he saw Sato and her gun, he quickly took down Genta, who was still unconscious, from his shoulders and held him up in front of his throat and chest. "If you shoot now, you will hit this child!" Kanji yelled. His voice sounded terrified, streams of sweat ran down his face and his eyes twitched nervously. As far as Shinichi could tell he was also shaking.
"Put the child down, kneel down and put your hands behind your head!" Sato yelled back. "Giving up now will only benefit you!"
Shinichi carefully took a few steps behind Sato and walked over to the car of Kanji; the trunk was still open. "There are a bloody metal bar, the cell phone of Heinen-san and a wallet in the trunk," Shinichi announced.
"The victim is not dead yet, Kojima!" Sato yelled and took a few steps towards the culprit. "You assaulted and robbed him and then you knocked out and abducted a six year old child. You will definitely go to prison, but if you continue to flee from custody it will only add more and more years to your sentence."
"You're right, if you'll get me I go to prison," Kanji screamed and took a few steps backwards as Sato came closer. "But everything is still done. Whether that German bastard dies or not won't change if I give up now! I don't see how this could benefit me!"
"Idiot! You knocked out this child with the same metal bar, right?!" Shinichi yelled. "You're not a doctor and head injuries are very severe matters, who knows what your hit caused?! That child might die if we won't take him to a doctor soon!" Kanji's eyes widened even more. "Do you want the blood of a six year old on your hands too?!"
"That's ... I'm ... I just wanted the money!" Kanji yelled, still going backwards as Sato still came closer towards him as well. "I'm not a murderer and especially not a child killer!"
"You might be if this continues!" Sato yelled.
"SHUT UP! Shut up, shut up, shut up, shut..." Kanji took another step backwards, but he didn't look behind him and walked against a pile of rope tied to a stilt of the jetty. He lost his balance and stumbled to the side. Trying to regain his balance, Kanji instinctively tried to wave his arms around and due to that, he let go of Genta. The unconscious boy dropped off the jetty, right into the sea. Since this was a sailing harbor, the water wasn't shallow.
"Genta-kun!" Sato yelled.
'Genta!' Shinichi thought and hastily took out his smartphone and Agasa's bugs from the pockets of his pants and put them down to the ground. "Detective Sato! Apprehend the criminal, I'll take care of this!" Shinichi yelled to the female detective and took a header into the water.
Kanji and Sato looked after the high school detective for a second, before they both came back to their senses. Kanji dashed away along the jetty and Sato dashed after him, putting her gun away to run faster. "Kanji Kojima, freeze!" She shouted again, in full pursuit, but Kanji made no attempt to stop running away from her. He jumped on one of the boats at the end of the jetty and seemingly remained lying on the ground, at least Sato couldn't see him anymore; as Sato ran closer, Kanji suddenly stood up and swung a paddle at her. Sato noticed in time and was able to duck under his swing in time; as Kanji was now wide open, Sato sucker-punched him into the stomach. Kanji dropped the paddle and fell down to his knees, wheezing and gagging. If she had been a bit closer to the boat, Sato would've been unable to avoid his swing and would've been hit in the face with the wooden paddle. "Kanji Kojima, you're under arrest for assaulting and robbing Ludger Heinen and for the abduction of Genta Kojima," Sato stated and put handcuffs on him. He was still coughing, so Sato pulled him up into a stand and pushed him a few times to make him walk on his own. By the time they reached her car, he had recovered from the punch already, but he wasn't struggling anymore regardless of that.
When the left the jetty and walked back on the solid quay, Sato breathed a sigh of relief as she saw Shinichi sitting at the edge of the quay besides a ladder, panting heavily, with the boy Genta Kojima lying next to him on the ground, still unconscious. They were both completely soaked of course. "Everything alright?" Sato asked, as she undid one of the cuffs and chained Kanji to the steering wheel of her car, while removing her car keys at the same time and putting them in one of her pockets, so Kanji couldn't steal her car.
"Yeah ... we're fine..." Shinichi said between breaths. "Genta coughed up a bit of water ... but he is still breathing normally ... the wound on the back of his head doesn't look too bad either ... so everything should be alright ... except for his weight, I believe that boy weighs roughly forty kilograms ... I probably have several pulled muscles in my arm now carrying him up that ladder..."
"I didn't hit him hard..." Kanji mumbled.
"What did you say?" Sato asked.
"I said, I didn't him hard!" Kanji repeated a bit louder. "I didn't really want to hurt him ... his ball came rolling by when I had just hit that German man for a second time and then a few seconds later this child came looking for it. Seeing the body terrified him, so I was able to sneak up on the kid easily, even though that German was still awake enough to point at me. I..." Kanji swallowed hard and sighed. "I am in massive debt ... and that German had money, he had so much money, I noticed it when he checked his wallet for something else while he was on the phone. And I ... I just needed it, I wanted it ... so I did what I did..."
"Maybe..." Shinichi said after a little pause, "before committing two crimes ... you should've thought of selling your boat and your car first..."
Kanji looked to the ground and didn't say anything anymore.
One hour later, Genta woke up in the Beika Central Hospital, greeted by his parents, Professor Agasa and the Detective Boys (bar Conan of course). As Kanji said, he indeed didn't hit him very hard, so Genta was able to already leave the hospital on the same day. And the piece of cheesecake that Agasa still had for him helped to get his spirits back up pretty fast.
Ludger Heinen recovered from his injuries as well, without suffering any permanent damage to his brain. The doctors predicted that he could leave the hospital in a few days.
Takagi's nose wasn't broken, it just bled and hurt a lot. Sato was seen holding his hand while the doctor was doing the final examination, gently stroking it with her thumb, comforting her colleague who got wounded in the line of duty.
Shinichi checked in on all of this from a distance. Genta's parents wanted to thank him, but Shinichi had told the Professor to tell them he had to go with the police already. He told Inspector Megure to keep his involvement a secret again and walked down the hallways of the hospital towards the exit. He saved Genta, kinda solved a case and helped catching a criminal today; this all felt good, but he didn't want the recognition and praise for his deeds at the moment, as it was still too risky. At least from a wider spectrum of people, as Sato had praised Shinichi's actions today while they were still waiting for the other police cars to arrive at the harbor. Shinichi was as good as his reputation said, Sato attested and he was almost as good as Conan-kun. This scared Shinichi for a moment, but her eyes didn't show any sign of suspicion, she was merely speaking of Conan in a praising manner as well.
'Heh, if you knew the truth...' Shinichi thought as he walked to the exit. 'If all of the police officers knew the truth, how would they react? Would they still be impressed or would they consider it cheating? Tsk, that's silly, first of all they would have a million questions, but ... would their view of me change? Could they still take me seriously? I mean, they take Conan seriously, most of the ones I work with on a regular basis at least ... but still, it would probably be weird when they learn the truth ... if they learn the truth that is. There is always only one truth, but maybe some of these single truths should remain unspoken; maybe I shouldn't tell the truth to more people ... except for R-'
A familiar voice disrupted his thoughts. "I'm looking for my sister Hidemi, she looks like this!"
Shinichi gasped. He saw a young boy about his age, with bottle round glasses sitting on his nose. 'Eisuke Hondou!' Shinichi quickly hid behind a pillar in the entrance hall of the hospital. He pulled his cap deeper down over his face and put on his shades, before inconspicuously peeking around the corner of the pillar. Indeed it was Eisuke talking to some nurse with what looked like a photo of Rena Mizunashi, also known as Black Organization member Kir, in his hands. 'He has gotten wind of the fact that she was involved in an accident and was taken to a hospital, and now he is desperately looking for her. Rena Mizunashi, the Organization agent that still hasn't woken up from her coma. The FBI are guarding her and security is very tight among them, so he shouldn't be able to find her by asking around the nurses. That's a relief, but as long as I don't figure out who exactly Eisuke really is, I can't really make a move to resolve this situation. And there's also the fact that I'm not Conan at the moment, so contacting the FBI is only possible over phone with a voice changer, but not more. Meeting Jodie or James is currently impossible ... I hope this won't turn out to be a problem.' Shinichi waited until Eisuke had turned his back to the exit and then quickly walked out of the hospital.
Shinichi took a bus and was home before the Professor and Haibara came back to Agasa's house. It was already dark outside by now, the whole ordeal had taken up more time than Shinichi would have guessed. He walked into his room and checked Conan's phone. No missed calls, but a text from Ran had arrived; she wished Conan some fun times with his mother. Shinichi sighed, turned the phone off again and checked the Shinichi phone. No texts or missed calls from Ran. Somehow, this fact kinda disappointed him, although he didn't quite know what he expected. His bed looked very comfortable and Shinichi felt exhausted, especially his arm, as predicted, but his stomach grumbled and demanded a meal before going to bed. That one piece of cheesecake had been the last thing he had eaten today. Of course there was still the issue of having no food in the house, so Shinichi had no choice but to walk over to where he kept his money. He also had a bank account to which his parents transferred his monthly allowance ever since they moved to the United States, but Shinichi wasn't too keen on using an ATM machine or going into a branch bank because of the cameras that were placed everywhere. To avoid that for now, he had to deal with what he had in the house.
'One hundred and fifty thousand yen, huh...' Shinichi thought as he counted the money. 'That should be enough to get by for a few days, probably some weeks even, since I don't have to pay for water, gas and electricity...' He paused for a moment and then shook his head. 'Idiot, what are you even thinking? A few days, weeks ... I probably won't last another night ... or ... who knows, really, even Haibara doesn't at the moment. It's been pretty much two days already ... could it be ... that the antidote this was time was perma-' He shook his head again, not finishing that thought, because he knew it was even more foolish to think about that. Plain foolish. 'Anyway, if I run out of money I could ask the Professor to go to the bank for me or ask him to lend me money and me or my parents pay him back later; he will understand.'
Shinichi took some of the money, put his cap back on and left the house again, without his shades though. They simply didn't make any sense at night. He walked over to one of the countless stores that were open all day and bought some groceries, careful to never let his face get recorded by one of the security cameras. Thirty minutes later he was back in his house with two large bags and less money in his pockets. He put away everything that he bought into the fridge and the cupboards, before putting a fast-food bowl into the microwave. Shinichi then went to the bathroom and grabbed Heiji's clothes he had taken off after coming back from the island and put them into the washing machine, turning it on to run over night. After that, his meal was already finished and he enjoyed himself some fast-food noodles. Shinichi had some basic cooking skills, he didn't survive the two years in which his parents were gone on takeout, fast-food and Ran occasionally cooking alone after all, but he didn't feel cooking something basic at the moment. While eating, he felt foolish again for a second when he caught himself briefly feeling like everything was back to normal again, but that remained an illusion. But then he decided that it was too late and he was too tired for such thoughts, so he just stopped thinking about it and went with his natural flow. Shinichi finished the meal, threw the packaging into the garbage, went to the bathroom to brush his teeth, put on one of his pyjamas and then snuggled himself in under the blanket of his own bed. A few seconds later, Shinichi was already asleep.
This chapter again took a rather long time, sorry, but writing, editing and publishing these chapters isn't easy for me at the moment and this frustrates me just as much as it might frustrate you, believe me. In other news: I have drafted the rest of this fic and currently plan to end this story on Chapter 20, so there are four chapters left after this one (ofc this is only Part I of a series of fics that I want to do, but Part I has to end eventually, right?). I have finished first drafts for the next two chapters and am about half way finished with the first draft of the third chapter. Here's hoping I can deliver a new chapter weekly until the fic is done. Anyway, remember to leave a comment if you have anything to say about this chapter. Next chapter: Some ShinRan fluff that was hard for me to write, because I struggle with romantic (?) lines. Stay tuned!
The next morning, Shinichi was eating breakfast with Haibara and Professor Agasa again. He had woken up earlier and found himself still being a teenager. If the last time he turned back felt like a dream to him already, then this was the superlative of that feeling. When he was in the bathroom to brush his teeth, Shinichi found himself touching the mirror again, staring at himself in disbelief. Meanwhile, Haibara had no new results about his blood and saliva samples to report, which made Shinichi question how seriously she was even working on that, but he kept those thoughts to himself. No need to irritate Haibara at this point. Soon enough after the breakfast, Shinichi was back in his mansion, bored. He attempted to read some books to pass the time, but it didn't feel right. Right now, reading felt like a waste of his time, because really, what he was he waiting for? Turning back into Conan? No human being on earth currently knew when that would be. Still, normally Shinichi would be able to spend countless amounts in the library of his mansion and forget about time all together, but now that he was currently back to his true form, forgetting about time felt like a bad idea to him. After all, every minute and every second he would waste at the moment were minutes and seconds as Shinichi and not as Conan. And currently, no human being on earth currently knew when he be Shinichi again either.
So Shinichi put back the few books he had pulled out of the shelves and went into the living room. Now one question still remained: what to do as himself? He could go and play football without being restricted by a smaller body with less stamina. But with whom? Go to the park and play with some strangers? Possible, but somehow unfulfilling as well. He could go to the cinema and watch a movie rated R15+ by Eirin, the Japanese film rating regulator. There wasn't really a movie that he desperately wanted to see though. Shinichi began to feel bad; currently, being Conan offered him far more possibilities to do things. As himself, his current state of a need to hide had driven him into a weird kind of isolation. A very frustrating isolation. This was his regular body, this should be the normal state and not the other way around! Shinichi slumped into the couch in his living room. It's not like there was any other way to approach to handle things and Shinichi knew that. The Black Organization would kill everybody around him (both Shinichi and Conan) if they ever found out, so hiding was necessary. For a bit of time, this hiding in plain sight would probably work, but for how long? Possibly forever if Shinichi just kept hiding here, have Agasa supply him with food and everything and never leave the house. But making his own home into that kind of prison wasn't something that Shinichi wanted either. Then what did he want? Shinichi felt his heart beating faster and his cheeks reddening as his mind produced one answer to that question: he wanted to spend time with Ran.
His heart skipped a beat. Please, don't change back yet...!, he remembered his desperate and pained thoughts, I want to tell Ran ... with my real voice ... coming from my real mouth ... I want to tell her what I...
His heart skipped a beat again. N-no way...?! This can't be happening?! Of all the times ... why now?! This is not fair! Please, I don't want to change back! Ran ... she is waiting for me! I can't ... I can't turn back to Conan now...!
It felt like his heart wanted to burst out of his chest. No! I don't want to hear it!, Ran's grief-stricken voice and her tears came back to his mind, I don't want to hear anymore excuses...
Shinichi tightly grabbed the shirt where his heart was beating way too fast. He began to sweat and to breathe heavily. 'This ... feeling...! I can't be...?!' He got up from the couch hastily, ran to the bathroom, turned on the faucet and let cold water run over his wrists. Slowly but surely, he felt his heart beginning to beat normally again and he got his breathing back under control as well. When he felt relatively good again, Shinichi splashed some cold water over his face. 'Not turning back just yet,' he thought. 'Just ... memories ... painful memories...'
He looked up at the mirror again, staring at his reflection. 'I turned back two times and both times I ended up regretting that I wasted my opportunity. No more regrets! I don't have time for regrets anymore!' Feeling very bold right now, Shinichi took out his smartphone and wanted to call Ran, but then he hesitated. 'But ... how do I approach this situation...? I can't just tell her over the phone, no, I need to talk to her directly. I could visit her, but ... shouldn't something so important be told in an appropriate location? That was what I did last time ... and it was so hard back then...' Feeling not so bold anymore, Shinichi put the smartphone away.
"I am your father, don't you think I deserve to know in what kind of relationship you and that detective boy are?" Kogoro Mouri whined from behind the desk in his detective agency.
"What is that even supposed to mean?!" Ran spat back. Since she came back from her karate sleepover yesterday, her father was behaving weirdly, inquiring about her and Shinichi all the time. Sometimes subtly and sometimes very bluntly, like right in this moment, when Ran had just been innocently cleaning his office while he was drinking beer.
"Well, you know ... there is friendship, more than friends and then there is ... that kind of relationship..." Kogoro made a hand gesture emphasizing the that in his sentence. "And back then, when you eloped to the US with him, he asked about your bra, you talked in your sleep about it!"
"What the...!?" Ran blushed. "That was for a case!"
Kogoro clicked his tongue. "Tsk, I can imagine that case, the case of What does her underwear look like?, yeah, I can really imagine him desperately trying to solve that!"
Her face became a new shade of red. "Can we please pretend like this conversation never happened?"
"No!" Kogoro hit the desk with his fist.
"Okay, Shinichi is my best friend, alright? Nothing more, nothing less!" Ran shouted. 'At the moment,' she thought.
"Really? Interesting..." Kogoro said and stroke his mustache. "You know, two days ago I got a call from your mother. She said you told her secretary that a boy with name Shinichi, whose description fits the son of Yuki-chan perfectly, was your boyfriend and you two were holding hands. She also told me that you two were caught by an elder woman doing perverted things in a bathroom!"
"That ... that was, I mean..." Ran stuttered. Not good. How did her mother know that? The first part she was obviously told by Midori Kuriyama, but the second about Shinichi and her in that bathroom? Did Eri talk to that woman who caught them afterwards? It had to be, right? "We were late for ... our bus, so we didn't hold hands, I dragged him along to go faster. And because we were in such a rush, I told Kuriyama-san that Shinichi is my boyfriend in passing. Which he is not! And the bathroom thing was a misunderstanding as well...!"
"Is that true?"
"What, you don't believe me?"
Kogoro leaned back into his chair. "Not really..."
Ran stepped closer and hit his desk with her fist as well. "Fine, if you don't to, then don't! I'm sixteen years old and I have the right to a little bit of privacy, so stop asking me about what I'm doing with my friends, alright?! Again, we are friends. End of discussion." Ran spun around and left his office, slamming the door shut as she went out. Quickly climbing the stairs to their apartment; inside, Ran leaned against the closed door and sighed.
So that was why her father was behaving this way. Ran bit her lip in frustration. She didn't expect that her rushed words to Midori Kuriyama, uttered in the heat of the moment, would come back to haunt her in this way. And also ... what about Shinichi? What did he think about that? Until now, Ran didn't think about what she said back then. Surely, Shinichi must've deduced that she just wanted to cut off the teasing of her mother's secretary and get straight to the point, right? Right?
This wasn't good, not at all. After she came back home, Ran hadn't done what she wanted, calling Shinichi because of her worries that he might already have left again. She didn't have the courage. He said he will come back for you, even if it is the last thing he'll ever do, Ran heard Conan's voice again, full of sadness and worry.
'Silly deduction freak,' Ran thought, smiling. 'But he is back now ... or he is gone again. I shouldn't have gone, I should have called, I...' She shook her head. Useless thoughts and her useless lack of action didn't make it any better. But maybe it wasn't too late, maybe he was still in his house, staring at his phone, waiting for a call from her or struggling to find the courage to call himself as well, just like she was. Ran shook her head again and mentally chided herself. No way the latter was the case, not with Shinichi.
Still, there was only one way she could find out whether or not he was still here ... she pulled out her cell phone and dialed his number, hovering her thumb over the call button. 'But,' she thought, 'what if he actually is gone again? Continue to wait, knowing that this time I was as fault for leaving...'
"YOU!" She heard her father yell; Ran was surprised. Her father didn't have an appointment with any clients today and this certainly wasn't the way to greet one, even a spontaneous one. A mahjong buddy who didn't pay for his round? An old client who didn't pay? Well, if either of that would be the case, hopefully they were here to pay what the owed her father, since their monetary situation had become a bit peculiar because...
"Give that to me! Quit hiding it...!" Ran heard her father shout. 'He better not scare that person off,' Ran thought and opened the door to calm the situation. She quickly made her way down the stairs to the office and entered her father's agency. However, she didn't find her father quarreling with an old friend or a previous client, no, she found him yelling and grabbing for Shinichi! He was wearing his cap and the shades again, but she still recognized him. Behind his back, he held a little bouquet with flowers, which looked a bit disheveled, because her father was reaching for them in a rather violent way; a fruitless endeavor. Shinichi was quick enough to dodge her own karate kicks, so her father's attempts weren't even a challenge.
"Dad!" Ran yelled, making her father freeze at once. "You know that this is not the way to treat visitors, right? Geez..." She grabbed Shinichi's arm and let him to the door, away from her father. "Besides, isn't that talk show where Yoko Okino will be a guest today, to talk about her new movie, about to start in a few minutes?"
"Yoko-chan ... ah, I completely forgot!" Kogoro hastily went over to the couch and turned on the television in his office. He turned his head slightly and said to Ran at the door: "There are still a lot of things to talk about..."
"Whatever," Ran said and closed the door, slightly more gentle than before. Without any words, the two teenagers went upstairs into the apartment, away from the eager ears of an angry father. "Sorry for that," she sheepishly said after closing the door.
"Ah, don't worry," Shinichi said.
"No, you don't understand. It is my fault that he is so angry with you," Ran explained. "My Mom called him and told him, that I called you my boyfriend in front of Mom's secretary."
Shinichi frowned. "I knew that would come back to haunt us..."
"Yeah, again, sorry. I ... I didn't think straight at the time."
"Undoubtedly," Shinichi sighed. "Well, no use in crying over spilled milk, I guess. They will steam for a bit, but if you clarify it enough it'll wear off..." Ran nervously looked to her feet. "You did clarify it to your father, right?!"
She blushed. "Of course I did! But ... there is another problem. Mom also told him about us two in the bathroom of that café ... she must've heard about it from that woman who caught us ... somehow ... but I explained that as a misunderstanding, so hopefully it'll wear off as well...?"
"Let's hope..." Shinichi sighed again.
"A-anyway," Ran said, "what are those flowers for?"
Ran looked at her for a second, before showing her the bouquet he kept holding behind his back until now. "Oh, these! They are for my mother!"
"For ... your mother?" Ran slightly tilted her head.
"Yeah, I heard it is a thing now to come to the home of your friends with some flowers for ones own mother," Shinichi explained with a wink. They both had to giggle a bit. "No, but these are for you of course," Shinichi said with a lowered voice and a little blush on his cheeks.
"Thank you," Ran said, her face tainted just like his, and took the flowers he offered her. A cute, little bouquet of red roses. "They are beautiful."
"If a bit disheveled because of ... well, you know..." Shinichi scratched the back of his head.
"Yeah, but he didn't manage to ruin them," Ran said with a smile and went to grab a vase for the flowers.
"Well, I'm glad," Shinichi said. While putting the flowers into the vase, Ran noticed that he was shifting on his feet, burying his hands in the pockets of pants. "You know, I wanted to ask ... we were interrupted two days ago, with going to that new café and all. Wanna go today instead? Last day of holiday today after all..."
Her face lit up even more; thankfully, Ran was standing with her back to the high school detective, so he couldn't that. "Yeah, that ... that sounds like a good idea. And," she bit her tongue for a moment before continuing, "and I'm sorry for running off like that so hastily..."
"Oh, that ... don't worry, we can just go now, it's fine," Shinichi said.
"Yeah..." Ran finished arranging the flowers. 'We can go now because you are still here,' she thought. 'Still here.'
Ran put on her shoes and the two of them left the office. With her sweater/t-shirt hybrid, including a striped hood, there was no need for a jacket, since the weather was still very warm. Shinichi didn't wear a jacket either, just a black t-shirt with a light blue west and some matching pants. When they reached the door to her father's office, Ran quickly opened the door and said to Kogoro, who was sitting in front of the TV by now: "Shinichi and I are going to check out some new café in town. If you follow us, I'll move in with Mom! Bye!" Before the incompetent sleuth could answer anything, Ran had closed the door again and continued to go down the stairs with Shinichi.
The sun was shining brightly. It was a nice, warm day in the late summer. Such a high amount of sunrays had one certain advantage: it was doing a good job hiding the redness on Shinichi's face. After long and careful thinking, Shinichi had decided that the best course of action was to simply pick up where the two of them had left after finishing the investigation of her mother's mysterious date-not-date. As if that wasn't hard enough, buying those flowers was an unnecessary hassle as well. Apparently, when you are an elder woman running a flower shop and a teenager comes in wanting to buy some roses, you are required to ask the teenager embarrassing and borderline teasing questions. Shinichi had breathed a big sigh of relief once he got out of that shop with the flowers he wanted. Only to have them being damaged by that drunken old man. Oh well, it's the intention that counts and Shinichi was sure that Ran had noticed his intentions, even with the little joke he did to ease the atmosphere.
After a little while, the two of reached the café, sat down at a table and ordered some food and drinks. "You know, Shinichi," Ran said after taking a sip from her drink, "you mentioned that today was still a holiday ... so, tomorrow I will have school again. But ... what about you? You've been back for quite some time now, will you come back to school again as well?"
'Good question,' Shinichi thought and looked to his plate. The last time he attended class for one day, although that day consisted mostly of cleaning up the mess after the festival. And he enjoyed being around his classmates again, which only made his recent visit to the Teitan High School as Conan all the more painful, being completely alienated from all his companions. Now, he could feel back as part of his peers again, because he never really stopped being one of them, just changing into someone, who would never be perceived as part of their group. And as Ran told him over the phone quite often, his friends at school and especially his former football club mates were missing him.
On the other hand, there was a considerable risk. Revealing himself to everyone had been a gigantic risk already, but regularly attending class again? How long until the press would notice him again? And after that, how long would it take the Black Organization to notice? He would need to wipe out everyone within the reigns of the crows, who knew of his supposed death, before he could really return to a normal life. Or bring them all down while he was at it. But ... how long would that take? Too long? Would the isolation and separation from his normal life, aside from the close ones around him like Ran, Heiji and the like of them, be too large? Would he simply be unable to connect with his peers anymore, lonely? An outsider? Well, he wouldn't really be lonely, with Ran around him and somehow he had a feeling Sonoko wouldn't leave him alone either. Yet ... the price for his cover could be high, although, considering that the other option could mean the death of Shinichi himself and all his close ones, it could end up a price that Shinichi had no choice but to pay. With all of the consequences.
He sighed and looked up from his plate. "Ran, I ... no, I won't come back to school."
"Oh..." She looked disappointed. Not something Shinichi could ever hold against her in this situation. "But ... you ... will you stay in Tokyo for a bit longer?"
'Another good question ... nobody on this planet knows when I'll turn back into a little brat...' Shinichi thought, before he answered: "I don't know yet. Maybe I'll stay for a bit more time or maybe I'll have to leave tomorrow ... I can't tell you anything more specific, because I don't know it myself. The case I'm working on ... it requires me to some rather spontaneous actions ... b-but if I'll have to leave again, I will at least call you to give you a heads-up..."
"Yeah, that ... that would be good..." Ran said and bit her lip.
Shinichi went over his teeth with his tongue. 'Come on, where is your courage, Kudo?! You told her you have a lot of things to say and ask as well, so say something! Why is this still so hard? I just ... it's just ... a few little words ... although, it should be more than a few little words ... and yet even still, how should I verbalize something that makes me speechless...?'
The two of them stopped at that.
"No, Ran, you first..."
"No, no, Shinichi you can say what you want to say."
"Oh, yeah, well ... you know ... what I wanted to tell you..."
"Would you like anything else?" A waitress had come up to their table.
Shinichi and Ran stared at them in surprise, before they both hastily shook their heads. "Anyway," Shinichi continued, "what I was saying ... I mean ... it's just that..."
Ran showed him a sad smile, before she looked down to the table. "Shinichi ... we two," she looked at him again, "we two are both cowards, aren't we?"
"It's just, I told you that I have some more questions I'd like to ask and you told me that you have questions as well, and that our questions are likely one and the same. And yet still ... even though I know that ... I can't find the words to ask these questions anymore, to say what I want to say ... you can't find the words either, can you?"
Shinichi shook his head. "No ... no, I can't..."
"Yeah, I see ... that's what I figured..."
"But..." Shinichi reached over the table and grabbed her hand. "If we both know what the other wants to say, if we both feel what the other wants to say, aren't words very unnecessary? If we can't find the words yet, why do we need to force ourself to find them? Let's ... let's just with the flow of our feelings from here, until we feel the time is right to put it in words..." His face was probably bright red at this point, but Shinichi didn't care.
Ran's face looked about the same. "S-sure, that sounds ... good ... uhm, just out of curiosity ... that night at the restaurant ... you didn't find the words back then either, right?"
Shinichi smiled. "You figured that out rather quickly, Tantei-chan..."
After that last word, a longer period of amicable silence ensued. Shinichi had let go of her hand and the two of them finished their meals. Once they had paid, Shinichi said: "Tell you what: how about ... we go to the cinema? I-it's my treat..."
"The cinema?" Ran wondered.
"Y-yeah, we haven't been to one for a long time now ... I heard Yoko Okino's new movie Kiss Note is supposed to pretty good ... a love comedy thriller genre mix..." Shinichi somehow managed to get this invitation out of his mouth.
"Ah, I see ... sure, that sounds nice," Ran said. The two of them got up and left the café; Ran took out her cell phone. "I'm just going to text my Dad that I'm going to come home a bit later. I'm still mad at him, but I don't want him to unnecessarily worry either." She quickly typed something and then put her phone away. "Alright, let's go!" Ran exclaimed and the two teenagers were on their way.
And here is the fluff that I promised you last time. I really don't feel good about this chapter, I really don't. I run into the same problem every time I write something with Shinichi coming back over a longer period of time: the necessity to advance the romantic status quo between them, especially in a story set after The Desperate Revival or after the London Arc. Somethings just needs to happen with this gigantic elephant in the room. Gosho avoided tackling that in the Shiragami-sama story by having them being surrounded by people all the time they are conscious and then letting the antidote run out, but seeing as I have a story at hand where doing either of those for the entirety of the story is pretty much impossible. So here it is: me trying to tackle that topic while trying to retain as much of the status quo as possible at this moment. Don't get me wrong: I want to do some sort of romantic plot-line/development with these two, but not as fast as the current status quo would logically demand. So yeah ... sorry for the little ramble on that topic.
Anyway, remember to leave me feedback in form of a comment if you'd like. Next chapter: photos are in the focus. A link to the Black Organization emerges? Stay tuned!
Chapter 18: Photo Hunt
"Aaaaand ... smile!" Shinichi said and snapped a photo with his phone. It looked good. After they came out of the movie Kiss Note, starring Yoko Okino, Ran and Shinichi decided to take a photo in front of the poster in the Beika Cinema. To both fit on the picture, Ran moved closed to Shinichi, leaning against his side with her left arm, while making a peace sign with her right arm, showing the camera a wink and a smile. Shinichi held his phone with his left arm and placed his right over Ran's back and rested his right hand on her right shoulder.
Ran agreed with him, she thought the photo looked good as well. While they left the cinema, Shinichi sent the photo to Ran's phone as well. The movie had been fun; sure, it had a big love comedy to it, as expected, but the thriller aspects weren't poorly squeezed into the movie, they were nicely executed. A genre mix that truly delivered to the fans of both genres and thus both Shinichi and Ran really enjoyed it. Thanks to being exposed to Yoko Okino works through Kogoro, Shinichi even recognized that Yoko had really worked on her serious acting skills, which had improved greatly.
Ran was still doing something on her phone, when they came to a halt at a traffic light. Shinichi suddenly noticed that after they took the photo, he and Ran were rather close, because after he took his right arm down from her shoulder, Ran didn't back away, but rather subconsciously linked arms with him while she was typing on her phone. He blushed.
Shinichi's eyes widened and he turned his head around. 'Was that ... was that the sound of a camera?' It was already late by now, the movie had a rather long runtime; the sun was gone and so were most of the pedestrians.
'...! There it was again ... but I don't see anybody with a camera around here...' Shinichi thought and continued to look around until he felt his arm getting pulled for a second.
"Shinichi, the light is green," Ran said and looked at his face. It wasn't until this moment that Ran noticed that their arms were linked, so she hastily and with a blush of her own removed her arm from his. "Is something wrong?"
"No, it's nothing," Shinichi said and looked forward. "Let's go." They crossed the street with a few other people and the walked around another street corner. To Ran's irritation, Shinichi stopped immediately and peeked around the corner. And then he saw it: there was a person following them, dressed in a black trench coat and a black hat.
"Shinichi, what...?" Ran was just about to ask, when Shinichi grabbed her hand and started to run, dragging her with him for the first few steps before she started to run on her own. "Shinichi?!"
"You were right," Shinichi hastily said as he took a turn into an alley, "there is something wrong. We're being followed!"
"What?! Are you sure?!"
"One hundred percent. I heard some camera noises and when I peeked around the corner, somebody was running down the street after us, somebody who wasn't on the street before, which meant he came out of hiding after we were out of his line of sight!"
They continued to run down the alley, running around two corners before they came to a halt in a dead end. "But..." Ran whispered now. "Why would someone follow us? Does ... does it have anything to do with the case you're working on? Is it really this dangerous?!"
"I don't know, maybe, maybe not..." Shinichi said, kinda evading her question. 'It couldn't be the Organization, right...? Would they really have someone with such poor observation skills in their ranks? On the other hand, Vodka doesn't seem very competent in any regard either and yet still he is the right hand man of Gin...'
Trying to keep their breathing down, Shinichi and Ran suddenly heard footsteps coming closer to them. At first that person was running, but now the footsteps were slower and more quiet; they were still closing in on them nonetheless though. Ran cracker her knuckles. Shinichi stared at her. "What are you doing?" He hissed.
"I'm going to take our slimy little follower out," Ran whispered.
'W-what?! If it really one of the Black Organization members ... then Ran is going to become a target as well...!' Shinichi thought before he said: "Ran, no, wait, d-don't do anything stupid now..."
"Shh!" Ran shushed him and Shinichi instinctively shut up. The footsteps were coming closer and closer, until a person in black started to walk past them, not having noticed they had taken the turn into this dead end. Ran immediately grabbed the arm of that person and kicked his legs away, making their follower fall to the ground. Still holding the arm, Ran threw herself down on to the man following them, ramming his chest with her elbow.
"Ow, ow, s-stop...! Stop it!" Their follower yelled, wheezing and coughing. Both Shinichi and Ran immediately recognized that voice.
Five minutes later, Kogoro had regained his breath and was sitting with his back to a wall in the alley, while Ran started her cross-examination. "So, you followed us, even though I told you not to..."
"No, that's not right ... you told me not to follow you to the café, but not that I am not allowed to follow you to a cinema..." Kogoro meekly explained.
Ran gritted her teeth. "Technicalities in my wording, that's your excuse?! And give me that...!" She grabbed the camera that Kogoro was holding on to. There were only a few photos on it, all of them from after Shinichi and Ran had left the cinema, so it seemed like Kogoro was telling the truth about not following them earlier. He must've come after them, when Ran had texted him that it would get a bit later, because she was going to the cinema after visiting the café.
Shinichi looked at the pictures with Ran. "Hm, if I were a client, I wouldn't pay for such results," he said to spite Kogoro.
"Yeah, me neither," Ran nodded and put the camera in her pocket. "Consider this is confiscated."
"Hey, hey!" Kogoro protested. "I need that for my work...!"
"Really? You don't have any clients currently and no upcoming appointments either," Ran said. "If you really need, I will give it back. Maybe ... and what's with that trench coat?" She frowned. "It smells really bad, ugh ... since when do you even have a black one? Aren't all of yours beige or light brown?"
"Well, you gave all of my regular trench coats to the dry cleaner, so I had to search for this one," Kogoro explained. "It was crammed in the back of my closet ... I think it might be older than you..."
"And hasn't been washed since I've been born, I assume," Ran said and sighed. "Geez, what am I going to do with you? Get up, we're going home!" She helped her father to stand up, before she turned back to Shinichi. "I'm sorry, but I think it is better if I take him home now. Thank you for today, Shinichi, really. It ... it was wonderful. Thank you." She smiled at him and the way she did made his heart skip a beat and his eyes widened. Then she turned around again and left the alley with her father, sometimes pushing him to move along faster and bickering about something, but Shinichi couldn't quite hear their exact words anymore.
After they were gone and Shinichi didn't hear anything anymore, he leaned against a wall and looked at the sky. His face was burning and he knew that he had a big, dumbfounded grin on his face, stretching from ear to ear. He was glad that nobody was able to see him right now.
Shinichi didn't even notice that his smartphone was ringing, he was too busy staring and grinning like an idiot, before the ringtone made its way to his brain and not just to his ear. He took out the phone from his pocket and looked at the display: unknown number. 'No surprise, the only contact I have on this phone is Ran ... aside from her, only a few people have this number,' he thought and took the call. "Hello...?"
"GODDAMNIT! HOW DID WERE YA GONNA LET ME WAIT!? PICK UP THE DAMN WHEN I'M CALLING YA! Unbelievable..." An angry voice yelled in the unmistakable Kansai-ben. Shinichi had recognized the voice of Heiji Hattori immediately, before his ears were pierced by the yells of the Great Detective of the West.
"Sorry, Hattori..." Shinichi said after his ears stopped ringing. "But I was ... I was thinking about stuff..."
"I thought the dial tone would burn itself into my brain..." Heiji whined on the other side of the line.
"Yeah, again, sorry. So, did you find out anything about Rena Mizunashi? You already did the investigation I asked you for, right?"
"Uhm, yeah, I did, but Kudo ... now that you know that I'm the caller, there is no need for ya to use yer voice changer anymore, now that you know I'm not Neechan..."
"Oh, that. Yeah, Hattori, funny thing ... I'm not using a voice changer right now. I'm ... I'm still a teenager..."
"WHAT?! But ... why? How?"
Shinichi scratched the back of his head. "I don't know honestly. Haibara has no idea either. I assumed it would last about twenty-four hours like last time, but well, those twenty-four hours went by and I'm still myself and now it's almost been three days and I'm still myself."
"Huh, that's ... unexpected ... but I supposed if that little devil girl doesn't know the reason either, I guess then nobody can really say for sure..."
"Yeah, I guess. Anyway, we were talking about Rena Mizunashi...?"
Shinichi heard Heiji flipping through some pages, presumably of his notebook, before the detective from Osaka said: "Right. I've grabbed Otaki-han on his day off and we investigated this matter together. Don't worry, I haven't told him the details of what this is all about. We searched through all of Osaka's school registers of the last twenty years, but the name Rena Mizunashi didn't appear anywhere on these lists. Because we couldn't think of anything else, we went to Tsūtenkaku Tower, where the photo of that young woman resembling Rena Mizunashi was taken and we showed that picture around, asking the pedestrians if they knew her. Unfortunately, everybody only recognized her as that TV announcer who is on break at the moment. Nobody knew her from back in the day."
"I see..." Shinichi sighed.
"Alright, that's all, at least about her..." Heiji continued.
"But then we also showed around a picture of that Eisuke Hondou guy that transferred to yer school and it was a different matter entirely. We found someone, who claimed that he knew that guy when he was young."
"R-Really?!" Shinichi's interest was rapidly rising.
"Yep, a man, who runs an okonomiyaki shop close to the Tsūtenkaku Tower, claims this boy and his father were regulars at his restaurant back in the day."
'Eisuke's father?' Shinichi licked his lips and asked: "This father ... could the restaurant owner describe him? What kind of guy was he?"
"According to the owner, the father guy never talked much and the only thing he really about him was that someone addressed him as Hondou one time."
"Well, from time to time he came to the Tower with some colleagues." Hejii clicked his tongue. "But the owner hasn't seen that father guy in years..."
"Did the owner maybe know what job Eisuke's father had, if he brought some colleagues with him?"
"Nah, sadly not. But the owner said maybe the previous owner would know, because that previous owner and that father guy apparently got along like peas in a pod. The two of them used chat until late into the night, long after the restaurant's closing hours."
"And what were those two chatting about? You and Detective Otaki visited the previous owner and questioned him too, right?"
"We wanted to, but couldn't. That fellow, bless his okonomiyaki serving soul, isn't alive anymore!"
Shinichi's eyes widened and he felt a lump forming in his throat. "Don't tell me ... those guys in black did..."
Heiji interrupted him. "Nonsense! It was cancer. That guy was almost eighty years old, a death without issue."
Shinichi narrowed his eyes and sighed again. "So, to sum it up: that trail is another dead end too?"
"Nope, quite the opposite: the best is yet to come! The deceased, previous owner had a grandson, whom he loved more than anyone else. The current owner speculated that this grandson might've been told quite a lot of things by his dear grandpa! Additionally, the grandson attended a university here in Osaka and lived in the city for about four years. He supposedly ate regularly at his grandpa's restaurant, maybe he saw this Hondou guy for himself once or twice!"
"Do you know where this grandson went after he left Osaka?"
"He has a shop for plastic replicas in Tokyo. I've written down the address and the telephone number of it, I'll text them to you, but Kudo," Heiji's voice became a lot more serious all of a sudden, "be careful visiting the grandson. The father of this Eisuke Hondou guy wasn't yer average guy."
Shinichi raised his eyebrows, both at the tone change of his friend and what he said. "Huh? In what regard, what do you mean?"
"I mean the colleagues he visited the shop with," Heiji explained. "They were different people at almost every visit and half of them were foreigners. Apparently, every time they ate there, the men were dressed like they'd just come from a funeral, completely in black!"
Shinichi felt his muscles tensing up. "And you are absolutely sure about that?!" He yelled into the phone, louder than he initially intended.
"Yep; also, he hated being photographed. And on each meeting, his colleagues addressed him with a different name. Sometimes it was Tsubouchi, sometimes it was Ishikawa. Seems like Hondou was merely one of his many names."
"Seems like it, but it was the name he passed down to his family," Shinichi said. "Hm, but I got it, he didn't talk much and avoided having photos of him taken because he was a very careful person."
"Indeed ... and if this grandson knows the father of Eisuke Hondou..."
"Then it is very likely that this grandson is under surveillance," Shinichi said, completing the sentence. "Thanks, Hattori, I'll investigate the grandson, um, let's see ... probably right now, so be sure to send my the address and number of this replica shop asap!"
"Yeah, will do," Heiji replied. "Oh and Kudo ... be sure to enjoy yer body while ya still can. How about inviting Neechan to go to a restaurant ag-"
"Gotta go now, Hattori, bye!" Shinichi quickly said and ended the call before Heiji could even finish the tease. Sooner or later he would about what happened today anyway, since Ran would surely talk to Kazuha and she then mentions it to Heiji and then he'd give Shinichi another call about faster than Shinichi would like, so it was better to cut it short and rather focus on the matter at hand: details about Eisuke Hondou's father.
Shinichi quickly made his way to the house of Professor Agasa. He brought his old friend up to speed in regards to what Hattori had just told him and what his plans were.
"Huh, so you want to investigate this because of Eisuke Hondou ... at this time of the day?" Agasa looked at his watch.
Shinichi nodded. "Yes, I have to do it as soon as possible."
"And there won't be any problems?" Agasa asked. "What if that guy has to do anything with the Black Organization?!" The professor added, raising his voice.
Shinichi held one finger over his lips. "Not so loud, Professor. If you continue to yell like this, she might..."
"She might what?" Haibara asked from behind Shinichi's back. He whirled around and looked at the little scientist, who was wearing a lab coat and stood in the door that led down to her basement laboratory.
"She might ... she might be disturbed in her work and get angry at you, canceling tomorrow's lunch as a punishment?" Shinichi blabbered.
"Huh, hadn't thought about that, good idea. Professor, lunch is canceled tomorrow, we'll just have some bread," Haibara announced. Agasa's shoulders dropped, he looked to ground and sighed. Whoops.
Shinichi decided to change the topic. "Seeing as you're wearing your work clothes, it seems like you finally remembered that there is blood and saliva to test, eh?"
"I have some results, yes," Haibara said, ignoring his remarks.
"So? What did the tests show?"
Haibara shrugged. "At first, nothing that surprised me. The antidote is working against the APTX structures in your cells, just like last time."
"No explanation for why it lasted longer this time? You just managed to create a better working medicine this time around?" Shinichi slightly tilted his head.
"Yes and no," Haibara said. "While it is right that the antidote is lasting longer because it is more effective this time, there is also something else. You see, while my antidote is fighting the APTX in your body pretty effectively, it wouldn't endure for longer than, let's say, twenty-eight hours at this point, because your organs would filter it too quickly. But, there are also traces of something else in your blood, which is neither the APTX, my antidote or your regular antibodies. I don't know what it is though, but I'd speculate on a virus? Maybe you've caught some sort of minor disease without symptoms after your little swim in the ocean when you fell off that boat, and these viruses in your bloodstream are somehow correlating with either the antidote or the APTX in your cells, enhancing the effect and duration of the antidote."
"Huh..." Shinichi didn't quite know what to say. "That's ... that's good, right? How much time do I have left...?"
Haibara shrugged again. "Don't know. If it is indeed a virus, then probably until your body has successfully fought off the disease and your organs would filter out the antidote like usual. And how quickly your body fights of the virus depends on what disease it is. I test for that, but this will take some time again."
"So, if you could determine what type of sickness it is ... couldn't we then expose me to it as soon as my body fought it off, so we'd renew the enhancement of the antidote, making it able to remain in my body until it has permanently removed all of the APTX effects from my body?!"
"Let's not get ahead of ourselves here," Haibara said. "You already got almost two days more than we had expected, be happy with that and let me do my work. After that, we can talk about further measures ... and now, what was that, about investigating something related to the Black Organization...?"
'Damnit,' Shinichi thought and sighed. He brought Haibara up to speed like he did with the Professor. And like he feared, she insisted on participating in this investigation. Together, the three of them thought of a plan about how to contact the grandson of the deceased okonomiyaki restaurant owner, who had been acquainted to the father of Eisuke Hondou.
"Ahh, well ... it was something your grandfather asked of me when he was still alive..." Agasa said into the phone after he had managed to call the grandson through the number Heiji had texted to Shinichi. The professor scratched the back of his head and produced some nervous laughter. Haibara was standing on a chair to his left and Shinichi stood on his right, without any need of some puny chair, both listening in to what the grandson on the other side of line was saying. "I'm supposed to return something to one of his regulars, one that he got along with really well. I think ... I think that I have found that regular now, but I wanted to make sure first. Unfortunately, I can't check with your grandfather anymore, but this object shouldn't fall into the wrong hands..."
"Huh," said the voice of the grandson from the phone. "Could you possibly mean that hideous woman, who always left her annoying dog outside? For some reason, she got along really well with my grandfather..."
"Ah, no," Agasa said. "The regular was a man..."
"Oh, I see. Well, I remember that one man who often came with his son. Could that be him?"
"H-his son?!" Agasa gasped. "Yes, yes, that could very well be...! Do ... do you his name or where he lives?"
"Well, I only met him once or twice, we never really talked..."
"Any other hints? Some special traits or something remarkable about his appearance? I ... I have two, maybe three possible men on my list, so any hint could help me very much..."
"Phew, man ... nothing comes to my mind right now ... do you want to look at a photo of that guy?"
"HUH?!" Agasa and Shinichi exclaimed at the same time. Shinichi bit his tongue, hoping the grandson hadn't heard that. "Y-you have a photo of him? I heard that guy hated it to have pictures of him taken..."
"Yep, that sounds about right, but there happens to be a coincidental recording of him. It seems like his sons played around with the camera back then and accidentally took the shot."
"May I pay you a visit and look at that photo?"
"At this time of the day? I'm closing my shop on 7 p.m. and then I go to the gym, so it'll probably be almost midnight when I come home..."
"Don't worry, I'll just wait in front of your apartment..."
"You know what, screw it, I'm not in the mood for the gym anyway! I'm gonna head home immediately!"
"Yeah, sure. I'm looking forward to hearing something about my grandfather again. I'll tell you my address and you just wait in front of it at around 8 p.m., alright?"
"Yes!" Agasa exclaimed. "Thank you very much!"
"No problem. What do you look like...?"
While Agasa gave a short description of himself, Shinichi wiped away some sweat running down his forehead and couldn't help but to smirk. Finally a fresh trail about Eisuke's past. 'If this indeed involves the Black Organization, then I need to hunt this lead down, no matter what!' Shinichi thought with determination.
Chapter 19: Photo Investigation
"Strange," Agasa said and looked at his watch. It was almost 8:35 p.m. already. The Professor sat in his yellow beetle across the street from the entrance of the apartment building, where Sohei Nishigun supposedly lived, who said he had a photo of Eisuke Hondou's father. "He said around 8 o'clock and this is the address he told me as well..."
Shinichi pulled his Tokyo Spirits cap further down over his face and sighed. "Maybe we should take a look and see for ourselves. The guy could've come home earlier and is looking out the window for you, Professor..." Shinichi opened the door and stepped out of the car and Agasa quickly did the same. "Hey, Haibara, you might want to wait in the ca-..." Haibara ignored him, adjusted her plain black baseball cap and stepped out of the car as well. "Guess not..." Shinichi mumbled and closed the doors of the beetle.
They crossed the street and walked up to the intercom of the apartment complex. Agasa stood in front of it and scratched his chin. "Shinichi, what was the room number again?"
"302," Haibara said before Shinichi could answer. "See, good thing I didn't wait in the car, huh?"
"As if I wouldn't have remembered that..." Shinichi huffed, while Agasa dialed the number on the intercom and pressed the call button. They heard the doorbell ring, then some footsteps approaching from behind and then the Click sound of taking the safety catch of a gun off.
"Yo!" A man said from behind, making Agasa, Shinichi and Haibara jolt around to face him. He was wearing a cameo-color jacket, had a long face and black hair that reached down to his shoulders and hung into his face, covering most of his forehead and partly the eyes even. And sure enough, as the sound just now indicated, he was pointing a handgun at the three of them, while he leisurely kept the other hand in the pocket of his jacket. "I can't help but to respect your efforts," the man said. "To find the location of my hideout isn't something I would've thought you were capable of, Gramps!"
"Uwahhhhhh!?" Agasa exclaimed and hastily stumbled backwards, raising his arms over his head. Shinichi stepped in front of Haibara, whom he felt tightly grabbing his leg. From one moment to the next however, the expression of that man changed quickly from dark, threatening look to a confused one, frowning and almost pouting.
"Relax, it's just a replica!" The man said and turned the gun around, showing them that it was harmless. "I'm Sohei Nishigun. You're the friend of my grandfather I talked over the phone with, yes?"
"Ahh, y-yes..." Agasa stuttered, still a bit afraid.
"Well, I thought I'd bring this little old joke for the occasion of meeting an old friend of my grandfather, since he loved thriller movies and guns so much and pulled off this joke on anyone that waited in front of his house," Sohei explained.
"Uhh, y-yeah, I ... I just wasn't prepared for it, that's all," Agasa said, nervously shifting his weight from one leg to the other.
'I see,' Shinichi thought, narrowing his eyes in exasperation. 'To pull of this little joke, he waited this whole time until we were impatient enough to get out of the car...'
"Hm, and who are these young fellows?" Sohei asked.
"Ah, just two of my grandchildren, they learned of this whole item return quest of mine by chance and for some reason really want to help me fulfill it," Agasa quickly explained.
"But, Grandpa, if your friend is dead now, how could he be at peace in heaven if he knows that one of his regulars is still missing that item? We need to fulfill his wish!" Haibara chirped, pitching her voice higher than usual. The fake sweetness dripping from her words made it painful for Shinichi to listen to her.
Thankfully, Sohei didn't see through her act, quite the opposite. "Aw, that's so sweet, little girl. I'm sure we will make my grandfather happy," he said and led them to his apartment. "But I have to warn you: my flat is a bit messy at the moment, I didn't have time to tidy up recently."
"I-is that so, huh?" Agasa said, still nervous.
And it was quite so. Just from watching through the open door, Shinichi could already see a messy table, some clothes lying around and a smelled the slight stench of dirty dishes. 'A bit messy was understating it...' Shinichi thought.
"The slippers are scattered all over the floor..." Haibara mumbled, looking at the entrance before them.
The three of them followed him into the apartment and winced after taking the first breath inside. The air was hot and thick, making breathing a bit exhausting. It was generally much hotter inside the apartment than outside and Shinichi started to sweat relatively soon. All of them took their shoes off and choose some slippers. Agasa had to go to the toilet, so Sohei showed him where it was, opening the door to the little room.
'While the slippers in the entrance are all messy, the pair of toilet slippers is lined up in an orderly manner,' Shinichi mentally noted, before Agasa stepped out of the normal slippers into the toilet slippers and closed the door behind him. Shinichi and Haibara followed Sohei into his living room, both the great detective and the shrunken scientist wiping away some sweat running down their faces.
"Hm, it's a bit hot in here, isn't it?" Sohei said, more to himself than to his visitors. "Well, let's fix that..." He grabbed a remote control and turned on his AC.
'He only notices this now?!' Shinichi thought and felt his eyebrow twitch.
"It was very muggy today, makes the heat staunch up in the rooms," Haibara said to Sohei.
"Huh, is that so? Chemistry wasn't my strongest class back in school." Sohei shrugged and put the remote control away.
"I-is that so...?" Haibara muttered and facepalmed while he wasn't looking.
Sohei walked over to his bookshelves. "Hm, let's see, where is album where I have the photo of that regular..." He looked quite clueless.
Shinichi looked down to Haibara and frowned, because Sohei seemed a bit like a buffoon. Haibara seemed to agree with him, as she shook her head and shrugged. As Shinichi looked down to her, he noticed something on the floor. 'The floor is ... wet? Droplets of water...?' There quite a few droplets sprinkled on the floor, near the bookshelf and near Sohei's desk with a computer on it. Some were near the trashcan besides the desk as well. Shinichi followed the droplets there and looked into the bin. 'Papers and some crumbled napkins...' He faintly brushed over the napkins with his fingertips. 'Still wet...'
"Huh, I can't find the album ... it's not where I thought I put it..." Sohei said.
Shinichi narrowed his eyes. 'Droplets besides the shelf where the album is missing and besides the desk ... don't tell me...' He cleared his throat to gain Sohei's attention. "Say, if you can't find the album, you probably have it on your PC as well? You have so many photo albums in your shelves, surely you must have digital back-ups?"
"Ahh, yes, of course!" Sohei smiled and sat down at his desk, booting up his computer. His desktop looked just as messy as his apartment did, but he seemed to know where to look for the data he wanted. "What is this?! My ... my data ... all of the data of that album is gone?! But ... but I didn't delete anything...!" Sohei said after some frantic clicking.
'As I thought ... which would mean...' Shinichi walked around the desk to the computer standing on it and touched both of its sides with his hands. 'The computer feels pretty hot...'
Sohei leaned back in his chair and stared at the computer screen in disbelief. "This can't be ... how can something like happen?"
"If I had to guess, I'd say it's because someone was in your apartment and made sure that all of the data and photos are gone," Shinichi told Sohei and let go of the computer. "And it all just happened very recently."
Now Sohei stared at him in disbelief rather than at his screen. "Somebody was in here recently and deleted the pictures? Is that what you're saying? Are you serious?"
"Quite," Shinichi replied. "There is enough evidence for it, some circumstantial, some not. The first thing that irked me were the toilet slippers. While the normal slippers were scattered all over the floor, the toilet slippers were lined up perfectly, which suggests that someone used your toilet while you were at work and afterwards placed the slippers in this way." As Shinichi was finished with that explanation, Agasa left the toilet and joined the others, leaving the toilet slippers behind in a similar manner like they were when Shinichi first saw.
"Well, I see your point..." Sohei said. "But sometimes I put at least the toilet slippers properly down on the floor..."
"Sometimes, maybe, but not always, right?" Shinichi insisted.
"Ahh, no, not always..."
"It's suspicious enough for one to begin to wonder," Shinichi continued. "Next, there are all these droplets all over the floor, besides the bookshelf and the computer and there are a number of wet napkins in the trash bin. From this, I concluded that this must be the sweat of the intruder!"
"S-sweat of ... of the intruder?!" Sohei exclaimed.
"I see!" Haibara said. "With the all the staunched heat in the apartment, the intruder started to sweat heavily. He wiped off the sweat from his face with the napkins, but didn't for the sweat on his legs, which is how it created the droplets on the floor."
"But why didn't the intruder just turn on the AC then if it was so hot in here?" Agasa asked.
"Yeah, exactly!" Sohei chimed in. "I always leave the lights on, even if I'm not at home and I leave the remote for the AC lying here on this desk."
"The culprit couldn't just turn on the AC, since he didn't know how long it would take for the room to return back to its hot temperature. Think about it, if you'd return home and the air in your apartment was nicely cooled down, even though you hadn't left it on as well, you'd be suspicious immediately!" Shinichi explained and wiped away some sweat running down his cheeks. "But the most concrete piece of evidence is your PC. Even though you've just turned it on, the area around the main processor is already very hot, like it had been running for a long time before that."
"Wait ... my PC was turned on, sweat at the desk, sweat the bookshelf..." Sohei muttered. "Do you mean ... the intruder was targeting..."
"Yes, he or she was targeting your photos and the digital back-ups!" Shinichi said. "The album is gone from your shelf and the data from your computer are both gone. Judging from the sweat on the floor and the wet napkins and considering the humidity and air circulation in addition to the temperature in your apartment, the fact that the sweat is not dry yet, leads me to think the intruder was in here as recently as about ten minutes ago."
"What...!?" Sohei panted nervously. "You ... who in the world are you?!"
Conan Edogawa, a detective, came to Shinichi's mind, but he stopped himself before he could say it. 'Heh, talk about old habits die hard...' Shinichi thought. 'He might've heard the Professor talk earlier when he approached us from behind and the Professor called me Shinichi then ... hm, let's hope I can convince him if he heard that.' Shinichi put his hand in the pockets of his pants and looked Sohei straight in the eyes, saying: "My name is Kinichi Eto, private detective by trade."
"More importantly," Haibara said. "How did the intruder enter the apartment? The front door didn't show any signs of a forceful break-in..."
"Mhh, true. So he had to find another way in if we exclude the front door." Shinichi nodded. He looked around and went towards the sliding door in the room. "Pardon me," Shinichi said as he opened the door, prompting some slight protests from Sohei. "These are the only two rooms in your apartment, Nishigun-san?"
"Y-yeah, right..." Sohei muttered.
This room didn't look any better than the other. Clothes were scattered in front of a closet, DVDs were lying all over the floor in front of a huge TV and in front of the couch, which Sohei used as his bed, there were more than one empty box of fast food and takeout. There was also a work table in the room, with a special lamp and brushes, tubes of glue and paint, and other various things that were messily scattered all over the table. Overall: quite messy. 'Keh, this reminds me of how Kogoro's room and the office looked like when I first moved in as Conan...' Shinichi thought as he looked around, when something caught his attention. 'Huh, the curtain ... is moving?' He walked through the room and pulled the curtain back. "The door to the balcony is open!" Shinichi said to the others.
"T-that means ... the intruder got in here over the balcony?" Agasa asked.
"No," Sohei said dismissively. "I always leave the balcony door open, always at least a little slit. See, since I'm working on my dioramas in here, I'm constantly painting, gluing or polishing something, so it is important that I always aerate this room properly. And see here," he said, opened the door to the balcony fully and stepped out into the fresh air. Shinichi followed him outside. "Look, down in the streets there are all kinds of bars and restaurants and everything is bustling with people. So, nobody could've climbed up or down to my balcony with a rope or something like that without anyone noticing. It's impossible." Shinichi rested his arms on the railing on the balcony, wiped away some sweat that running down his face and looked down into the streets. As Sohei had explained, there were quite a lot of people down there and the street was well illuminated as well. Shinichi looked around on the balcony, but there was nothing here except a dryer. No easy points of access from the other balconies on the floor, nothing at all. Sohei shrugged and said: "I wouldn't shut that possibility off if it were really late at night, but it's not even nine o'clock."
"So, the intruder didn't come over the balcony," Haibara summarized as Shinichi and Sohei stepped back into the room from the balcony.
"Yeah, it would've been impossible," Sohei said and closed the door behind them. "But there is a different matter on my mind: who you people really are!"
"Huh?!" Agasa stared at Sohei in surprise.
"You told you me you were an old friend of my grandfather, who passed an item down to you which you are supposed to return to one of his former regulars," Sohei said. "I let you in here to show a photo of that regular, but then this boy is suddenly a private detective and starts searching my apartment. Pretty strange, isn't it?!"
Shinichi narrowed his eyes and wiped away some sweat running down his forehead. 'Says the one who greets strangers by holding a fake gun into their face...'
Sohei continued: "And besides, if you have narrowed down the possible candidates to a few people, who might be that former regular, why don't you just the item to each of them? One of them will recognize, if my grandfather and that regular were really that close, I mean."
"Ah, well, y-you see ... it's because..." Agasa stuttered.
Shinichi stepped in for the Professor. "We can't do that, because it is a wallet, filled to the brim with cash."
"A-a wallet...?" Sohei asked.
"Yes, that former regular seems to have forgotten it in the restaurant of your grandfather," Shinichi said. "That's why can't show it to the candidates. It's impossible that one of them might be a dishonest person and would just claim it for himself because of the money. Sadly, the wallet didn't contain any ID cards or driver's license, but you probably already figured as much, since otherwise we wouldn't have come to you to look at the photo of that one regular."
"Yeah, no, of course I figured that," Sohei said.
From the expression on his face during that confirmation, Shinichi knew that Sohei hadn't figured that out before Shinichi pointed it out to him. Shinichi wiped away some sweat from his face and continued with a question regarding the intruder: "Is there anybody else with a key to your apartment?"
"Huh? Yeah, three people in fact," Sohei replied.
"Really, who are they?"
"Well, for one there is Saori, my ex-girlfriend," Sohei recounted. "She didn't return her spare key yet. The other two are my modelmaking colleagues, Tago and Furusho. When we are participating in a diorama competition and the deadline for submission comes closer, I usually give both of them a key, so that they can come in at any time and help with building or finish what they were working on when I'm not here." Sohei looked at Shinichi with a serious expression, yet his voice sounded a bit shaky. "But I tell you, not one of them would just come in here to steal some album and delete some data!"
Shinichi coughed and took a deep breath. He felt a bit short of breath suddenly. "Why don't you give each of them a call? Ask them innocently what they were doing today, checking their stories before you call the police, who might cast serious suspicions on your friends, while in reality they could be innocent." After he finished, Sohei nodded and pulled out his phone.
While Sohei was busy with that, Professor Agasa gestured for Shinichi to come closer to him and Haibara, so he walked over to the two of them. "Shinichi..." Agasa whispered to avoid Sohei from hearing what they were talking about. "Really now, why not just call the police? Or do you ... do you think the intruder might be one of..." He hesitated.
"No, the intruder is not from the Black Organization I think," Shinichi replied to the unfinished sentence of the old man and shook his head. "They would never leave behind so much evidence of their intrusion."
Agasa didn't seem convinced. "B-but ... couldn't that just be due to the fact that Nishigun-san came home earlier today because of us? Remember, he did say that today is the day he usually goes to the gym and doesn't come home until 11 p.m.!"
"Then we would have caught the intruder right in the act though, since he had no reason to hide because it would've been impossible to know that Nishigun-san would come home earlier," Haibara interjected. "And even if there was a guard outside warning the intruder of Nishigun-san's early return, they would've rather killed him and burned down the apartment than to leave so much evidence behind." A mild smile came to her face as she explained the MO of the Black Organization, showing her confidence in judging the movements of her former overlords.
"Then why don't we call the police...?" Agasa asked.
"Because ... once the police starts to question us ... the fact that you're not an old friend of Nishigun-san's grandfather ... will be exposed rather quickly I'm afraid..." Shinichi was out of breath again. "He won't answer any question if the truth comes out ... so we need to solve this case before the police comes in and catch the intruder ... it's the only way we'll get it in our hands ... the photograph of ... the father of Eisuke Hondou..."
"Shi-Shinichi ... are you alright?" Agasa asked. He looked concerned and Haibara narrowed her eyes at him.
"Yeah, no, I'm good. Just need to catch my breath," Shinichi replied. He wiped away some sweat from his face with the sleeve of his shirt, lifted his cap and ran his fingers through his hair. It was very damp. He put the cap back on and said: "I'll tell you what's not good: the AC of this guy. It has been running for quite some time now and it is still so hot in here..." The Professor and Haibara looked at each other and then back at him, with even more concern in their eyes. "What...?"
"Kudo-kun, the AC is working just fine, the temperature has been very pleasant for a while now," Haibara replied. "And neither the Professor nor I are sweating anymore..."
Shinichi gasped and he felt his legs getting shaky. He stumbled backwards and leaned against a wall. Memories of the restaurant in the Beika Central Building flashed back into his mind. "Say, Inspector Megure, don't you find it way too hot in here?" Shinichi had asked the portly inspector as they stepped through a curtain.
"What are you saying? The AC has been turned down way too low, I'm almost freezing," Megure had replied.
"Oh, really? Then am I sweating so much?" Shinichi remembered saying and then his heart felt like it wanted to burst out of his chest and his thoughts went to Ran waiting for his return.
Shinichi instinctively clutched his t-shirt where his heart was pounding, even though it hadn't skipped a beat just yet. 'Not now,' Shinichi thought. 'Not ... now...!'
"Shinichi...!" Agasa was still whispering, not attracting the attention of Sohei. "Are you ... turning...?!"
Shinichi couldn't help but to laugh, confusing Agasa and making Haibara look at him like he was going insane. "Oh, Professor, you make it sound like I am becoming a zombie ... did you watch the low budget horror night on television by chance...?"
"Kudo-kun, really now, this is serious," Haibara said. "We need to get you out of here."
"No." Shinichi pushed himself off the wall. "If we leave now, we lose our best chance to get information on Eisuke Hondou's father. Eisuke is a threat to the entire Kir operation of the FBI, the best chance of hurting the Black Organization that we have at the moment. We need to get this photo...!"
"Shinichi, you're pushing yourself too hard..." Agasa wanted to put one hand on Shinichi's shoulder, but he jerked away from his old friend's reach.
"Maybe, but there is no other way," Shinichi said. "I can't afford to go easy now!" He walked over to Sohei. 'If I don't succeed, I might lose my chance to get my life back,' Shinichi thought while walking, even though his body started to feel slightly numb. 'If I don't get my life back, I will be limited to the future of Conan Edogawa, but I want to live the future of Shinichi Kudo ... my real future, a future where I don't have to hide, don't have to pretend, a future with Ran! This time it was only Kogoro, but what if it really is one of the men in black next time...? No, this can't go on. I need ... this ... picture...!'
He reached Sohei and said to him: "Nishigun-san, can we call your friends now?"
"She is my ex-girlfriend, yeah?!" Sohei hissed at Shinichi, but his expression softened immediately. "Sorry, bit of a sore spot of mine, that one ... yeah, we can we call them."
'The way he looks at me ... worry, pity ... he sees that condition is worsening, it must be getting quite obvious now...' Shinichi thought, as Sohei did another double take at Shinichi before dialing the first number, of his ex-girlfriend Saori, also known as his sore spot apparently.
"Hello, Saori?" Sohei asked into the phone after a little wait. He had sat down at his desk. Haibara was standing on a chair next to him to listen to the conversation, as did Shinichi, without the chair of course. Although his height wasn't a problem anymore, his legs still felt shaky and his joints began to feel like lead, so he rested one of his arm on this chairback for additional support. "No, it's nothing special. I ... I just wanted to know how you are ... what did you today...?"
'Real subtle...' Shinichi thought, thought he lacked the energy for heartfelt exasperation.
"Huh?! Why should I my ex about something like that?" Saori replied.
"T-that's true..." Sohei scratched the back of his head.
"Well, if you want to know, I was just shopping for clothes and stuff today. And in a few minutes I'm going to go on a date with my new boyfriend!" Saori said.
"H-how ... nice for you..." Sohei's grip around the phone tightened a bit.
"Right? We're going to one of these cool new Italian restaurants! You need to eat properly as well, Sohei, not always those disgusting pre-cooked dishes!"
"And you need to take a bath regularly, yeah?"
"Anyway, my boyfriend is about to arrive, so I'm gonna hang up. Don't call again, okay?"
"Yeah, okay, I'm sorry, Saori..."
Meanwhile, Haibara noticed something on the chair. She knelt down to feel the covering of the chair, attracting Shinichi's attention as well. "It's ... wet?" Haibara whispered before she looked up to Shinichi. "Also sweat?"
Sohei had already dialed the next number, of his colleague Tago, not noticing the little exchange between the detective and the scientist. "What? You wanna know what I was doing today?" Tago asked from the other side of the phone. "I didn't take a step outside and worked on my tank, that's what I did! It's not long until the competition after all!"
"I see. So? Happy with your work, Tago?" Sohei asked.
"You betcha! I even got the rust perfectly!"
"Ah, I'm looking forward to see that! You have become even better recently!"
"Oh, before I forget, please finish your soldiers until tomorrow! I need to check if they fit with my tank!"
"Until tomorrow?!" Sohei exclaimed.
"Yeah! And please paint them as well. I don't have much time starting from the day after tomorrow," Tago explained.
"Are you for real now?! Am I supposed to pull an all-nighter here? I also need to do so much laundry and all..."
"Well, then do your laundry after waking up," Tago proposed. "It's pretty late already, your neighbors won't appreciate the sounds of your washing machine and the drier! I ... I could come over early tomorrow and do it for you while you are still sleeping, how does that sound?"
"Oh, thanks man, that sounds good. Yeah, let's do it like that!" Sohei said, when the doorbell rang. "Oh, there is someone at the door..."
"Alright, cool, see you tomorrow, dude!" Tago said and hung up. Sohei stood up and walked over to the intercom. It was a delivery man with a package for Sohei, as Shinichi could see on the screen of the intercom. Sohei told him to come up to his apartment and opened the front door for the guy.
'Wait a minute...' Shinichi thought. 'I can see the delivery man perfectly from standing here at the desk with Nishigun-san's computer ... and the screen on the intercom already showed the man standing at the front door after he used the doorbell and not just when Nishigun-san pressed the reply button ... that means, when the Professor rang the doorbell as Nishigun-san surprised us ... the intruder, sitting here at the desk saw us and Nishigun-san...? In that case, escape would've been impossible without running into us ... unless ...'
Shinichi turned his head away from Sohei and the front door and looked at Haibara. "Hey, Haibara, could you ... could you check the slippers at the front door for me...? See if some of them are wet or warm or both..."
Haibara looked at him and it seemed like she already had an Why don't you do it yourself?! on her lips, but apparently his condition was already looking worse enough for her to say nothing instead and she just nodded. Sohei opened his apartment door for the delivery man, signed a paper quickly and took the package from the man sporting a uniform that said Cheetah Delivery Service on it, appropriately with a running cheetah as their logo. After Sohei had closed the door and walked back to the desk, Haibara hopped down from her chair and walked past him, starting to check the slippers.
Sohei put the package down on the ground besides the desk and sat down again, proceeding to call his other colleague, Furusho. After another little moment of waiting for Furusho to pick up the phone, Sohei asked him what he did today, as he had already done two times now. "What?! You've caught a cold and spend the entire day in bed?!" Sohei exclaimed after Furusho had ended his tale. "Hey, Furusho, is it really nothing serious?!"
"Well, it might be a particular nasty virus, maybe," Furusho said, "but I'll survive. I'd advise you to tidy and clean up your apartment again sometime. Your's is just as much of a mess as mine and bacteria and viruses really thrive in such an environment! Speaking of viruses, you should update your antivirus software as well."
"Ah, you're right, I've of some nasty viruses going around online as well at the moment..." Sohei said.
"Quite. Imagine the photos of our work disappearing from our blog all of a sudden and then they are suddenly irreversibly deleted from our computers as well! Stuff of nightmares, man, I tell you..."
"Ah, you can shoot the photos again..."
"A DIORAMA IS ALIVE, YOU FOOL! IT HAS DIFFERENT MOODS AND FEELINGS FROM ONE DAY TO ANOTHER! YOU CAN'T TAKE A DIFFERENT PHOTO AND EXPECT THE SAME LOOK!" Furusho screamed at Sohei, a decision he regretted immediately, as he had a coughing fit right after finishing the sentence.
"Yeah, yeah, I got it," Sohei said to appease his friend. "And you're always taking awesome photos, I won't let them get deleted by some virus. Anyway, sleep well and cure your cold completely, you hear? See ya!" Sohei hung up and breathed a sigh of relief.
Shinichi looked over to Haibara, who inspected two more slippers before she turned around to him and shook her head. "Another question, Nishigun-san: do you know how many slippers you have?" Shinichi asked.
"No idea," Sohei replied. "Every time I complete a diorama I always call over my buddies and colleagues, we chink the glasses and party hard in honor of my newest masterpiece. I only know that I bought a lot of slippers, a whole lot, but not how many exactly."
'So he wouldn't notice if two of them were missing now ... and since none of those at the front door are warm or wet ... and escape was impossible ... the stories of the three persons having a key for the apartment...' Shinichi thought. 'I need a bit more information...'
Shinichi sat down on the edge of the chair that Haibara had used to listen in on the first two phone calls, careful not to sit down on any wet spots on the covering. "Nishigun-san, one last thing: what kind of people are those three persons?"
"Huh, we already went over that," Sohei said. "My ex-girlfriend and my colleagues is what they are!"
Shinichi wanted to shake his head, but he felt it was a better idea not to. "No, I meant like, how do they look, are they especially fat or thin, tall or small or are they average, that sort of profile stuff."
Sohei scratched his chin. "Well, Saori is about 1,50 meters tall, but a bit overweight for that. Tago is slender and smaller, even smaller than Saori! And Furusho is tall and thin, about 1,80 meters I think."
Shinichi shifted in his seating position. 'We searched through every place in this apartment. The closets are not big enough to hide a person, the balcony is empty and one couldn't have fled from there without somebody down in the streets calling the police, the toilet is empty ... rather small and overweight Saori, talking about restaurants and baths and that Nishigun-san shouldn't call anymore ... slender and small Tago, talking about work and laundry ... tall and thin Furusho, talking about being sick and that Sohei should clean up the apartment and antivirus software...' A cold shiver of realization ran down his spine. 'Wait a minute ... that's it!' Shinichi started to laugh quietly, but it was still loud enough for the others to hear.
"Huh, what's so funny?!" Sohei almost yelled.
"Many things," Shinichi said and looked him straight in the eyes. "I know now that the intruder must've been one of your friends, I know who of the three it was and here's the kicker: I know that this person is still inside this apartment."
"R-really?!" Haibara exclaimed in disbelief.
"Here ... inside?!" Agasa exclaimed.
Sohei grinned. "Now it's getting interesting! If you're saying that one of my three friends with access to the apartment in hiding somewhere in here, then you better pull them out quickly and show them to me, so that I know if you're right or not!
Shinichi grinned as well. "Sure! But will you promise me something? Once the intruder is caught, will you show us the photo of that former regular of your grandfather before calling the police? Once the cops are here, they'll sure confiscate the stolen album including the photo and it'll take a long time before we can take a look at it!"
"Okay, deal," Sohei said. "How do you figure that the intruder is still inside."
"The sweat, again," Shinichi said. "The chair Ai-chan used to listen to your phone calls has some sweat stains at the back as well, which means the intruder used the chair for boosting purposes as well, causing sweat stains with the feet." He ignored the glare Haibara threw at him for using Ai-chan.
"But just because the sweat isn't dry yet, doesn't mean that the intruder still has to be inside here..."
"Wrong, because I had Ai-chan," another glare, "inspect the slippers on the floor. None of them are wet or warm, which they should've been since the intruder wore some. There are no footprints or shoe marks on the floor, so the intruder must've worn slippers as well. And since none of noticed that the slippers we are wearing were already warm or wet, something that one cannot not notice..."
"Maybe the intruder wiped the footprints away," Sohei argued. "You know, a bit of professionality during a break-in?"
"Then, why didn't the intruder wipe away the droplets of sweat from the floor as well? They would've roughly been around the same place as the footprints after all." Shinichi remained sitting on the edge, but he leaned his back against the chairback. "If you wouldn't mind, I'd like to tell you the rest without interruptions, so that we can sort this out faster. Alright, how did the culprit knew you were coming home earlier and had the time to hide? The culprit stood on the chair in front of the shelf or was sitting at the computer, but in any case, he would've seen us coming via the intercom. It displays the feed from the camera at the front door as soon as the doorbell button is pushed. We did exactly that just as you were approaching from behind for your little joke, Nishigun-san. From either position, you can see the screen of the intercom well enough to see us four at the front door, giving the intruder an advance warning. Which also means that escaping without running into us was impossible given the layout of the hallways of this building. So the only remaining option was hiding in here. Now, who is the culprit?" Shinichi cleared his throat. Usually he would've presented the deduction in a more dramatic manner, without sitting in the chair and feeling like he was dying inside (and outside for that matter), but he at least wanted the dramatic effect of a throat clear before telling them the answer. "Your friend Tago, he is the intruder."
"What?! Tago?!" Sohei yelled.
"Yes." Shinichi nodded.
"But ... okay, why ... how...?" Sohei stumbled over his words.
"That was enough interrupting for the revelation of the culprit, thank you very much," Shinichi said, silencing Sohei. "First of all, Tago is smaller than 1,50 meters, so he would require to stand on this chair to reach a photo album so high on the shelf. Secondly, Tago gave himself away in your phone call. Since we didn't hear the voice of any of your friends two times during the calls, that means the intruder is hiding somewhere where he can't hear our voices and where we can't hear his. However, this also means that the culprit wouldn't know when it was safe to come out, like when you went to bed and went out to go somewhere for the evening and since you always leave the lights on, the intruder can't determine anything on that either. Furusho advised you to clean your apartment. Not a good idea if he was hiding somewhere in here. Saori told you to eat some proper food and to take regular baths; giving you suggestions to eat in a restaurant somewhere or to visit a bathhouse ... not a good idea if she can't check whether or not you were already gone to one of those places. Tago said you shouldn't do your laundry at this time of the day to not disturb your neighbors and told you to pull an all-nighter. Now, that sounds counter-productive as well, making you stay up for a long time, but it was necessary considering the place he is hiding in, since you are always keeping the door of the balcony open during and after work, even when you leave the house."
"Wa-wa-wait?! You mean he is on the balcony?!" Sohei exclaimed.
"I see," Haibara said. "He wanted you to open the door to escape, since you've closed it after our inspection earlier."
"B-but ... when we checked earlier, he wasn't there...!" Sohei insisted.
"Well, he wasn't where we could see him. Tago is small and he told you not to do the laundry, so his hiding place could be..."
Sohei's eyes widened. "Don't tell me...! He is in the drier?!" He turned around and ran outside onto the balcony. Shinichi could faintly hear the drier being opened in the distance and then Sohei screaming: "TAGO?!"
After that, he heard shuffeling and steps towards.
"I wonder if the innards of that drier was roomier than the inside of a coin locker..." Haibara murmured with a smirk.
It wouldn't matter if the inside was roomier, since Nishigun-san's friend is an adult and I was a kid at the time, so any additional space that the inside of that drier would have over the coin locker in that subway station is taken up by the additional body mass of this Tago guy, was the response that came to Shinichi's mind, but he saved himself the breath and instead just said: "Bite me..."
He turned his head and saw Sohei and his friend Tago walk through the work room/bedroom/media room of the apartment. "Additionally, what I also wanted to mention before you stormed off," Shinichi explained as the two of them walked through the sliding door, "Tago said in your phone call that he wanted to come over early tomorrow to do your laundry for you, so he would have an excuse if you caught him sneaking out early in the morning, plus his stature is the only one that matches with hiding in the drier and needing to stand on a chair to reach the album and so on and so on..." Shinichi made some waving gestures with his hands. "Would you mind explaining your friend why you did this? Make it quick, please..."
Tago looked from Shinichi to Agasa and Haibara to Shinichi again and then to Sohei, his face ridden with guilt. "Sohei, I'm ... I'm so sorry! I didn't mean any harm!" Tago exclaimed and fell to his knees before Sohei. "I didn't touch anything except the photos! Please forgive me!"
"So you did delete the data on my computer?" Sohei asked.
"Y-yes ... b-but don't worry! I made back-ups of all photos!" Tago explained. "After I had deleted the problematic photos, I wanted to copy the rest back onto your computer, I swear! And I just wanted to take out the same photos from the album and then put it back to the shelf as well!"
"What kind of photos?! I don't have any that would be problematic, especially not to you..."
"It was about the model that I showed you recently ... the one of the German tank from World War II, the Panzerkampfwagen IV, Modell H..."
"Huh?! That tank model was awesome! All of the others were applauding you for your work, they said you were finally showing your full potential!"
Tago clenched his fists. "The thing is, the tank model wasn't made by me! I bought it while I was on a business trip overseas. I ... I wanted to use it as a template to help me with building my own model of that tank ... just for fun, I put my nameplate on it and showed it to you guys, but you all bought it immediately, made photos and you even said that you would put them on your blog to show it to the wider model building community. So I had to get rid of the photos before you put them on the internet, but you came way earlier today even though you usually go the gym after work on Wednesdays ... so I quickly hid inside the drier..."
"You idiot!" Sohei yelled. "We play along with your little joke and you take it so incredible seriously!"
"We knew the tank model wasn't built by you! We just pretended to be fooled until you told us the truth!" Sohei said.
'Just like Ran until I fooled her again at the play...' Shinichi thought. 'And now I've got to think about all the nice things I did with my fake mother on my fake trip to tell her once I turn back ... one thing that I would've saved myself from had I just confessed it ... along with other confessions...' He rubbed his eyes. 'What am I even thinking right now, I need to speed this little pointless incident up...' Shinichi grabbed the arm of Agasa and when the professor looked down to him, Shinichi nodded in the direction of Sohei and Tago.
"What, really? That's so mean!" Tago exclaimed.
"Y-you were mean!" Sohei huffed. "You lied to us for a joke in the first place!"
"Uhmm ... ahem!" Professor Agasa cleared his throat to gain the attention of the two model builders. "Can we see the photo now? I don't think it will be necessary to call the police in this case, right?"
"Right, right, of course not," Sohei said and turned back to Tago. "You. You help us find the picture to make up for the trouble."
"Sure," Tago hastily said and opened the photo album. "Which photo are you guys looking for?"
"The one of the regular that my grandfather got along with really well," Sohei explained.
"Ahh, the one who often came there with his son?" Tago asked.
Shinichi tilted his head. "You ... know him ... as well?"
"Yeah, Sohei and I went to the same university in Osaka," Tago said. "So we regularly went to the restaurant of Sohei's grandfather together. We were introduced to that customer, Sohei's grandfather called him the best regular ever. He was doing scuba diving, right?"
Sohei scratched his chin. "Really? Didn't you say he was part of the Maritime Self-Defense Force?"
Shinichi raised an eyebrow. "Did that man ... tell you his occupation?"
"No, but when I was recollecting some loose change I had dropped, one coin fell near his table and when I picked it up he said: It's time for me to finally dive deeper," Tago explained. "When I was a child, I was always building models of tanks and battleships, so I thought he was talking a submarine of the navy, but when I asked Sohei's grandfather, he told me that the man was just a normal employee. That's why I figured he must've been talking about scuba diving with his colleagues..."
"Colleagues...?" Shinichi interjected.
"Yeah, they were with him at that day instead of his son," Tago said. "Three or four men, all foreigners and all dressed in black."
'What?!' Shinichi thought. 'A group of men dressed in black. Don't tell me...'
"Sounds like they were talking some dangerous diving, because they all looked so serious and told him things like good luck and no pain, no gain over and over again..." Tago flipped through another page and his expression changed. "Ah, this is it, right? The child must've pressed the shutter when he was looking into the lens."
Sohei looked over his shoulder and took the photo out. "Yeah, right, this is it. I was really surprised when I developed the photos back then."
"H-hey..." Shinichi meekly said. His voice was shaky. "Say, that man ... was really just an employee..."
"Yeah, well, my grandpa said that he was an employee who worked for the Company," Sohei explained and handed Shinichi the picture. Depicted was mostly the face and hand of a little child, blurred and out of focus. Even without expecting to see him on the picture, Shinichi would've recognized this child to be Eisuke Hondou immediately. More interesting however was the background, which was consequently not blurry and showed a man dressed in black, with wavy hair, bags under his eyes and wrinkels along his nose and at the corners of his mouth.
"Company? What kind of company?" Agasa asked.
Sohei shrugged. "Beats me."
'Company ... Company...' Shinichi's thoughts raced. 'Don't tell me...' He felt the photo slip out of his fingers, he didn't have the strength to hold it anymore. His vision blurred a bit and he felt himself falling to the side, unable to keep his composure and remain seated. The ground was coming closer to his face rapidly, but Agasa reacted quick enough and prevented Shinichi from landing on the floor. Instead, the professor help him to get up standing, even though the older man had to sustain the high school detective, wrapping one arm around Shinichi's hip while one of Shinichi's arms rested on the shoulders of his old friend.
"S-should we call an ambulance?!" Tago nervously asked.
"No, no, that's fine, we'll drive him to a hospital ourselves," Agasa hastily said. "Probably just dehydration or something..." Agasa help Shinichi to walk, although he was almost completely pulling him along, as Shinichi felt his heart skipping a beat and his legs were completely numb. From the corner of his eye, Shinichi could see Haibara picking up the photo of Eisuke's father and putting it into her pocket before following them. Sohei accompanied them to the front door and wished Shinichi a fast recovery, before the professor carried him over to the beetle and seated him on the back row of the car. Shinichi leaned back against the cushions and held on to the seat as tightly as he could, which wasn't much anymore. Haibara took the passenger seat in the front and Agasa started the engine and drove towards his home.
His vision wasn't getting any better and his whole body felt like it was melting. "I'm ... I'm going to die..."
"Idiot!" Haibara yelled. "Don't say stupid things, you're just turning back, it just feels like you're going to die, but you're not actually..."
"But ... this time ... it feels ... different ... more intense ... and my body never went ... this numb before ... I feel ... this is ... I need..." Shinichi fumbled around his pockets and pulled out his phone. "Ran ... I need to call ... Ran ... and tell her ... I need to..." Before he could do anything with the phone, it fell out of his hand and bounced off the back seat into the legroom. "Is ... this ... it?" He couldn't keep his composure anymore again. Shinichi felt himself sliding to the side and again he saw his face rapidly approaching something, the cushions this time. However, this time he wasn't caught, but he didn't feel any impact either. His mind had already gone blank before his head had hit the seat.
Haibara looked at him lying on the rear bench seat. "Kudo-kun?! Kudo-kun, say something!" Haibara's eyes widened. "Kudo-kun! Kudo-kun?! Kudo-kun...?"
~~~ The END. For now. ~~~
~~~ To be continued in Clash of Shinichi and Black - Meitantei Shinichi, Part II ~~~
And this is it! What are you saying? WTF cliffhanger!? Why does it end here? Well, for one, this is Part I, and as I wrote at the end of chapter one, this is supposed to stretch over multiple fics, because I don't want to let it get too long and because I wanted to get rid of the title (three days are over if you counted within the story), which was a reference to the anime episode of the chapters where this story started, but after I had chosen it, it seemed to restrictive all of a sudden.
Anyway, thanks to everyone who bookmarked this story, who gave kudos, who left a comment and those who are silent readers like myself. I hope you all enjoyed it. I don't know when I will start to publish the second part. I have a lot of notes and ideas of how to go about this canon diversion story next, but writing has become difficult for me lately. To be honest, I have written nothing for the next part yet except for the first sentence, "Ai Haibara was nervous." - not very much, is it? I will take a bit of time to properly write and edit the next part of the story, so please excuse if the delay before starting with the next part of the story will be a bit longer. Alright, time to stop rambling. See you next time!