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Greetings, everybody! At long last, I have finished chapter two! To those of you who read and enjoyed chapter one, thank you, both for reading and for being patient as I worked on the second chapter. I still haven't come up with a title, for the series, or for either chapter, so any and all ideas are welcome. @Ayuna Yume, I saw your suggestion and I like the idea behind it, so I may try to work up some variation on that. I just know that, in my own mind, I simply think of it as Detective Conan, as I am trying to connect it directly to the main series rather than setting it up as an independent series. Also, if at any point in my intros or conclusions I ever refer to my chapters as episodes, I apologize for any confusion it may cause. Just as this series, to me, is Detective Conan, each chapter is an episode in my mind. Anyways, enough explaining for now. If anything else comes to mind, I'll put it in the conclusion. You guys have waited long enough! DISCLAIMER: I do not own Detective Conan or its characters; they are the property of Aoyama Gosho, Shogakukan, Yomiuri TV, Funimation, and any other companies or individuals with a legal copyright claim. This is a work of fanfiction, written for entertainment purposes only. I neither seek nor accept compensation for this material. If anyone (legal owners of the series/characters or fellow fans) wishes to distribute, recreate, or expand on this work, I ask only for notification. C&C are not only welcome, but greatly appreciated. MSTs are greatly enjoyed. Flames are laughed at, then greatly ignored. Now, please enjoy the story. CHAPTER TWO Conan yawned widely as he walked into his classroom at Teitan Elementary. He had barely been able to sleep the night before thanks to the tormenting thoughts that spawned from Maehara Yue's words. He looked around the classroom and saw Haibara just taking her seat, then walked over to her. “I need to talk to you,” Conan said flatly. “What is it?” responded Haibara coolly as she looked him over. Before he could respond, Kobayashi-sensei and Wakasa-sensei walked into the room. “Everyone, please take your seats,” Kobayashi-sensei called as her assistant walked through the room to kindly enforce her words. Conan grudgingly let Wakasa-sensei guide him to his own desk and sat down. As Kobayashi-sensei began the day's lesson, Conan tried harder than usual to focus on her words. Anything to distract himself from those thoughts, at least until he could discuss it with Haibara. * * * “So this woman said something that hit a little close to home, now you feel guilty and want me to make it better?” Haibara asked in a deadpan voice. School had let out for the afternoon and they were walking home. As they usually did when there were important things to discuss, Conan and Haibara held back to walk a short distance behind the other members of Shonen Tantei. “That's not it at all, Haibara!” Conan said adamantly, his voice raising in frustration. Ayumi, Mitsuhiko, and Genta stopped and looked back at the sudden outburst. Conan raised a hand in embarrassment “Sorry, guys! I was just trying to explain something!” “What is it, Conan-kun?” Ayumi asked in concern. “Oh, it's nothing important!” Conan replied, waving his hands to make his point. Undeterred, Mitsuhiko pressed further. “Are you planning to do something without us again?” “You're not going to get a fancy dinner, are you?” Genta inquired threateningly. “Nothing like that!” Conan said quickly. “I was just . . . uh . . . I was telling Haibara about a strange dream I had last night!” “You can talk to Ayumi, too, Conan-kun,” Ayumi said, her voice a little hurt. “You could tell Ayumi about your dreams.” Conan had no idea what to say to that. With the dream story already out there, he couldn't change it now without sounding like he was trying to hide something. Yet, if it was a dream, there was no reason why he shouldn't tell Ayumi about it. “Was it something embarrassing?” asked Mitsuhiko. “Like going to school naked?” “Did you forget your lunch?” Genta shivered in horror at the thought. Conan was shaking his head at their words. Mitsuhiko looked at Conan carefully, thinking of what Ayumi had said to him and his reluctance to discuss the dream. “Ah! I figured it out!” Everyone looked at Mitsuhiko. “The reason you don't want to talk about the dream is because you're embarrassed . . .” Mitsuhiko paused dramatically with an arm extended upward, index finger pointing into the air, before finally concluding, “BECAUSE YOU WERE DREAMING ABOUT AYUMI-CHAN!” He leveled his arm to point at the girl. Conan and Ayumi both turned shades of red so bright they could probably be seen from a kilometer away. “THAT'S NOT IT!” Conan yelled. Mitsuhiko grinned. “Then why are you blushing?” “I . . . I . . . I . . .” stammered Conan. “I have to go,” he finished stupidly before starting to walk away. Ayumi looked at the others for a moment before starting after Conan. She could just hear the boys start grilling Ai for information about their discussion, and shivered a little as she imagined the scary look she would give them when she'd finally had enough of the interrogation. “Conan-kun, wait!” she called as she turned a corner after him. Conan kept walking at a brisk pace, but said nothing to stop her as she ran to catch up with him. She slowed her pace to match his and continued to walk in silence for several moments. “It's . . . It's okay if Conan-kun has dreams about Ayumi,” she finally said, her voice soft and hesitant, her eyes on the ground before her to avoid contact. Conan finally stopped and faced her after looking to make sure the others hadn't followed. Seeing they had the sidewalk of this street to themselves, he started, “I'm sorry, Ayumi-chan. I really didn't have a dream about you. It's just that . . .” It was now Conan's turn to cast his eyes to the ground as Ayumi finally looked up to him. “If something is wrong, Ayumi wants to help,” she offered. “I know you do, Ayumi-chan. But I can't put you in danger. Not Genta or Mitsuhiko either. That's why I lied and said it was a dream I was talking about.” A flash of annoyance crossed Ayumi's face and her voice reflected it. “But it's not too dangerous to tell Ai-chan.” “Haibara is already a part of it,” he tried to explain. “She was a part of it before we even met her.” “So Conan-kun is trying to help Ai-chan?” “No,” he started. “Well, yes, but this time it is something that is more about me. Something I'm having trouble with and I thought maybe Haibara . . . It's hard to explain, Ayumi-chan. Especially since I can't tell you most of it.” Ayumi opened her mouth to respond, but was interrupted by a loud sound of shattering glass from around the corner of the building next to them. Conan immediately dashed to the corner and looked around, shielding Ayumi with his own body as he held her back with one arm. There was a narrow space between buildings, not even enough to be considered a real alley. The ground was covered with shards of glass that seemed to have come from three floors up, where the windows of both buildings appeared to have been blown out. Lying amidst the mass of glass was a man with shoulder-length black hair, his clothes and all exposed skin were a mess of tiny cuts. “Ayumi! Call for an ambulance and the police!” he called as he carefully made his way through the glass to the man's side. As he cautiously approached, Conan took in every detail of the scene. The man was lying on his stomach with his head turned to the side. His eyes were opened, but seemed unfocused. He wore casual clothes that looked clean aside from the blood now dotting them, and his feet were bare. Conan examined the buildings to both sides. The building to his right seemed to be an apartment complex, five stories high. The other building appeared to be an office building of at least ten stories, though it was hard to tell from such a low angle. Well, he's not dressed for the office, so did he get thrown through the window of that apartment? But how did the window of the other building break? Further examination revealed that there were pieces of glass on the man's back, as well as on the ground surrounding him. So he probably didn't fall from one of the windows. There wouldn't be this much glass on top of him if he had. Then was he already down here when the windows shattered and got cut by the falling glass? But why is he barefoot then? He doesn't appear to be homeless. The man was muttering something as Conan finally reached him. “I couldn't hear you, what was that?” “Must . . . save . . .” the man started in a pained voice. “Stay back, Ayumi!” Conan called as he saw her start toward him. “If you slip on the glass pieces, you could get hurt really bad!” He again turned his ear to the man on the ground. “Must save who?” “Must save . . . Shinichi,” the man's words were a faint whisper. “Kudo Shinichi . . .” His voice was growing weaker, but Conan understood every word clear as day. “You . . .” The voice trailed off a final time and his eyes slowly closed as the man drifted into unconsciousness. * * * “You said he was saying something before he passed out?” Takagi asked. Conan nodded. “He said something about saving someone. I couldn't hear him very well.” “And you didn't see or hear whatever broke the windows?” Conan shook his head, partly in answer to Takagi's question, partly to shake off the questions filling his mind. Must save Kudo Shinichi? Me? Does he know who I am? But how? “Do you know who he is, Takagi-keiji?” “He didn't have a wallet or any identification,” Takagi explained. “You don't recognize him? You've never seen him before?” Again, Conan gave a negative response. He watched as the unconscious man was lifted onto a stretcher by two EMTs and they started wheeling him toward the ambulance. I have to find a way to go to the hospital with him. I need to know what he was talking about. “Takagi-keiji, is it okay if I go to the hospital, too? I think I might have got cut some on the glass when I was going to check on him, and now I'm feeling a little weak.” Takagi looked him over for a moment. “I don't see anything . . .” Conan feigned a swoon and fell against Takagi. The detective's eyes widened in shock and concern, and he quickly called one of the EMTs over to take the boy. As the EMT was carrying him away, Conan heard Takagi order two uniformed officers to check out the two buildings. “CONAN-KUN!” Ayumi shouted in worry after she saw Conan collapse. She ran toward the ambulance to meet the EMT who was carrying him. “Don't worry, little girl,” the young man said. “I can't find any blood or cuts in my initial examination. It's probably just all the excitement. I'm sure your friend will be just fine.” The young EMT laid Conan on another stretcher inside the ambulance, then turned to help his partner tend to the unconscious man, whose concerns were more obvious and immediate. Once the attention of the EMTs was off of him, Conan turned to Ayumi, who was still at the ambulance's back door and shot her a thumbs up, then held up his Shonen Tantei badge. Ayumi obediently got out her badge and turned it on. “I'm just fine, Ayumi-chan,” she heard him whisper. “I need to go to the hospital so I can be there when this guy wakes up. I have to find out more about what he was saying. It might be important.” “Ayumi can come, too,” she whispered back. “No,” Conan answered quickly. “I have another job for you. You need to check out these two buildings and find out what made the windows blow out.” “Isn't Takagi-keiji having the officers look into it?” she inquired. “Yes,” Conan responded, “but I think people might open up to you more. You're less threatening and conspicuous. Everyone loves a sweet and adorable little girl.” Ayumi beamed happily at the thought that Conan found her sweet and adorable. “But if you see anyone suspicious, you have to promise me you'll get Takagi-keiji and not confront them yourself,” he concluded. Ayumi nodded gravely. “You can count on Ayumi!” She then turned and hurried toward the entrance of the nearest building after looking up to the broken windows. Inside the building entrance was a small lobby with mailboxes set into one wall. There was no security station or anyone to stop her, so she went straight to the elevator and rode it to the third floor. It wasn't hard to find the apartment that had the broken window, as the door was standing open and she could see a police officer standing just inside the door looking around. She quietly walked up behind the officer and looked at the room past him. The room looked tidy as far as she could tell. There was a small amount of glass on the floor near the window, but most of the glass seemed to have fallen to the outside. Nothing else seemed to be on the floor and the furniture looked undisturbed, so it didn't seem there had been any kind of fight in the room. Ayumi was about to leave to go check the other building when something caught her eye. Under the door, just a few centimeters behind the police officer's feet, there was a small corner of something black just barely visible. The officer didn't seem to have noticed it yet. Thinking quickly, Ayumi stepped a few feet away from the door and unzipped her school bag. She then walked toward the door again, not bothering to be quiet. When she was by the opening, she let herself stumble and fall, the contents of her bag scattering. As she had hoped, some of the items slid through the open door. The police officer turned and looked down at her. “Are you okay, little girl?” “I think so, but I dropped all of my things,” she answered. The officer kindly knelt down and started picking up the items that had slid into the room. Ayumi placed the bag in the doorway and picked up the things in the hall. When she finished, she turned to see the officer putting the stuff he had picked up into the schoolbag. The black item was still under the door. “I think something slid under there,” she said, pointing at it. The police officer looked and noticed the thing under the door, then pushed the door further open to retrieve it. It was a small black book, which the officer looked at for a moment. An address book, Ayumi thought. “It has all my emergency numbers in it,” she said to the officer. “That way, if anything ever happens, I know who to call.” She smiled proudly. “Good idea,” replied the officer. “I might have to get something like that for my son.” He dropped the address book into the schoolbag without another thought, then stood up. “Now you should head home. Something happened here, and I have to figure out what it was.” Ayumi nodded and started to walk away, but was stopped almost immediately by the police officer's voice. “Wait a minute,” he said. She froze, terrified that she had somehow been found out and was going to get in trouble. Slowly, she began to turn around, trying desperately to keep the nervousness off her face. “I guess you live on this floor, don't you?” Ayumi couldn't help but sigh in relief. She nodded in response to the question. “Could you ask your parents if they heard anything strange in the last hour or so?” he requested. “Or just have them come talk to me.” “I'm sorry, but they aren't here,” she said, which was true enough. “They usually don't get home until about half an hour after I do.” “Oh, okay,” he replied in disappointment. “Well, an officer may come around asking questions anyway, so let them know when they come in.” “Yes, sir,” she replied with a smile. He was still watching her, so she couldn't go straight to the elevator. Instead, Ayumi went on down the hall and around the next corner, where she found a door marked “stairs.” Ayumi stepped into the stairwell and pulled out her badge. “Conan-kun, can you talk?” It took a moment for Conan to respond. “Yeah. What did you find out?” “I just had a look in the apartment with the broken window,” she explained. “Ayumi couldn't get in to look close, but from what I could see past the officer, the place isn't messy like anything happened in there. Just a little glass right by the window.” “Nothing seemed out of place then?” Conan inquired. “Just an address book on the floor near the door.” “I'll have to ask Takagi-keiji if I can get a look at it when I'm done here.” “Ayumi has the address book,” she said quickly. “Great job, Ayumi!” he said. “Go check the other building and see what you can find there, then call me back. We'll check the book after that. I'm going to see what I can find out from the guy that was outside.” Conan put his badge away and moved to the curtain around his bed in the emergency room. Carefully, he looked outside. It seemed that nobody was looking his way, so he quietly slipped out and started walking along the row of curtains. If he remembered correctly, he thought he had seen the man get put in the stall three down from his own. He cautiously made his way there and slipped inside the curtain. The lighting was better in here than it had been in the space between the buildings, so he took the chance to assess the man before him in greater detail. He had bandages covering the worst of his cuts, but Conan could still tell it was the same man. He appeared to be in his early to mid-20s. His casual clothing had been removed and replaced with a hospital robe, and one of his legs had been placed in a cast and elevated. He had awakened, but seemed groggy; most likely from pain killers. “Oniisan?” Conan said hesitantly. “You,” the man replied blearily. “Do you know who I am?” he asked cautiously. “I saw you before. Outside.” “Do you know my name?” The man looked at him for several moments as if trying to remember, then finally shook his head. Then he doesn't know I'm Kudo Shinichi. But then . . . “Why did you call me Kudo Shinichi?” He looked puzzled for a moment, then a look of understanding crossed his face. “Didn't. I was saying you need to save Kudo Shinichi.” “How do you know Kudo Shinichi?” The man seemed to be drifting off again, either because of his pain or because the drugs he had been given. His words grew incoherent; disjointed, so Conan could only make out parts of what he was saying. “Shinichi . . . dangerous . . . no future . . . black . . .” What does all that mean? Conan thought in a rush. I can guess that he means Shinichi has dangerous people after him, but what does “no future” mean? Just that he'll have no future if they catch up with him? But, “black?” Does the Organization have something to do with this? I didn't see anyone like that near the scene, and blowing out the windows of two buildings in the middle of the city is kind of high profile for them. But, if I'm the target, it could be. If they somehow found out I'm still alive and had some reason to think this guy had information about me, they might risk something like that to find me and silence me! Another thought raced through Conan's head a moment later. And I got Ayumi right into the middle of this! He quickly scrambled to pull his badge out. “Ayumi! Ayumi, are you there? Are you okay?” he asked urgently. “I'm here, Conan-kun,” she answered after a panic-filled moment. “Ayumi is fine. Just finished checking the office above the scene. I had to tell the security guard that my dad works here and I was coming to meet him after school, but I finally got in. The guard was talking about so many unexpected people showing up today. In addition to Ayumi and the police, he mentioned a repairman that wasn't listed for any appointment. As for the office, Ayumi still couldn't go in, but I could see that there was a little more glass inside here than there was in the apartment, otherwise it looked like a normal office.” “Okay, then there probably wasn't a fight there either,” Conan responded. “Did you hear anyone else say anything about the repairman?” “Just that the last place anyone saw him was on the stairs near the second floor.” “Okay,” said Conan. “Now there's just one more thing I need you to do, then you have to go home. You need to go somewhere dark, or at least somewhere that you can turn off the lights.” Conan slipped unnoticed from the emergency room stall of the strange man and hurried to duck back into his own. He found his clothes neatly folded inside one of the cupboards in his stall and immediately started changing out of his own hospital robe. “Okay,” came Ayumi's voice from the badge just as he was finishing. “Ayumi is in the dark now.” “Do you have your flashlight watch?” “Yes, Conan-kun.” “Good,” he said. “I need you to get out that address book and check it.” Ayumi turned on her flashlight and pulled the address book out of her bag. “What am I looking for, Conan-kun?” “First, you need to check and see if it opens to any particular page,” he responded. “If someone forced it open too hard, it might have cracked the binding a little so that page will be easier to find.” Ayumi let the address book fall open, then closed it and repeated the process a few times. “Sorry, Conan-kun, but it just seems to open to random pages. What should Ayumi do now?” “That's fine, Ayumi-chan,” he assured her. “Next, look and see if there are any pages marked. A corner folded down, or anything like that.” She thumbed through the book, checking the edge of every page. “Nothing, Conan-kun,” she said at last. “Now what?” “Okay, the last part is to look for any pages that are torn out.” Again, Ayumi went through the address book, one page at a time, opening it wide enough to see where the pages were bound so she could see the remnants of any that had been torn out. “I found one!” she said after a moment. “Excellent, Ayumi,” he replied. “Now the tricky part. This is why I needed you in the dark. You have to take off your watch and shine the light on the next page from the top of the page.” Ayumi obediently removed the flashlight watch from her wrist and shone the light from the top of the page. “I don't see anything, Conan-kun.” “Adjust the angle a little at a time, Ayumi-chan,” he said. “When he wrote on the missing page, the pressure would have left indentations on the next page. If you shine a light on it from the right angle, you should just be able to see the shadows cast by those impressions and read what it says.” “Ayumi understands,” she responded as she slowly changed the angle of the light. After what seemed an eternity, she finally called out, “I see it! I see it, Conan-kun!” “Great, Ayumi! What does it say?” Conan looked around the emergency room stall and found an old book of crossword puzzles and a pen in a drawer. “It's a name and address,” she answered. “Kudo Shinichi. Isn't that the name of Ran-oneesan's boyfriend?” Conan's eyes widened in shock. Again, there was his name. “That's strange,” Ayumi said. “Ayumi thought Shinichi-oniisan lived next to Agasa-hakase.” “What address does it have?” Ayumi read off the address and Conan copied it down on a page of the crossword book. After reading it back to double check, he tore out the page and put it in his pocket. “Okay, now you have to go home, Ayumi,” he said. “But Ayumi wants to help Conan,” she pleaded. “You can't,” he responded. “Not this time. Remember what I was saying before this started? About the dangerous stuff? There's a chance that this might be related to that. You're already too involved. I couldn't stand to see you get hurt, Ayumi. Please, go home.” Ayumi considered his words for a moment. “Okay,” she said at last. She turned off her badge and pinned it to her shirt, then turned the light back on in the broom closet she had ducked into. I'm sorry, Conan-kun, she thought to herself as she left the small room, but I can't stand for you to be in danger either. I may not know what's going on, but I won't let you go through this alone! She quickly put the address book back into her schoolbag and headed for the exit. * * * “If that's not enough, I'll have to go upstairs and get more money from my mom's room,” Conan said as he handed money to the taxi driver. “It's fine, kid,” the driver replied. “I hope she gets better soon.” After exiting the cab, Conan looked around. It hadn't been too difficult to convince the driver that he had been at the hospital visiting his sick single mother after school and to give him a ride home. But now that he was here, what next? I can't just rush in there without knowing anything. This is nowhere near my house or the detective agency, so maybe I'm not the target. But what if whoever is at this address knows something about me? Or even if the Organization just thinks they know something? I can't just sit out here and do nothing. The building seemed to be a run down apartment complex, possibly abandoned. The street in front of it was empty except for a white compact car two buildings over that looked like it had seen better days and a shiny black SUV in front of the building across the street. Black! he thought. Was he trying to say the bad guys drive a black car? A vehicle that new looking definitely seems out of place here. But is it the Organization? Or is it entirely unrelated? He couldn't tell for sure through the tinted windows, but the SUV seemed to be empty. With no other indication of what awaited inside, he finally decided that his only course of action was to enter. He stepped forward and examined the door before cautiously going through. Ayumi ran around the corner just in time to see Conan go into a dilapidated building halfway down the block. Fortunately, the crime scene had only been a couple kilometers away, so she had been able to hurry here on foot in the time it took Conan to leave the hospital, find a taxi, and ride here. She hurried down the street, not slowing her pace until she reached the corner of the building Conan had entered. If it's dangerous, I can't just come running in like that, she thought. She moved carefully along the front of the building until she reached the door, then she eased it open just enough to slide through. It was dark inside and she could see no sign of Conan. She reached to turn on her flashlight, but then quickly stopped herself. If there are dangerous people here, then my light might draw their attention. She moved as quietly as she could to a corner of the room and let her eyes adjust as much as possible to the darkness. This was clearly an old apartment building, but the address from the book didn't give an apartment number, so she had no idea where to go from here or how to find Conan. She didn't dare call out for him. She looked around carefully. As with most apartment buildings, mailboxes lined the wall of the entry, though most of these had been broken open. There was an elevator door that stood halfway open with an empty shaft beyond, a door held open by a pile of trash revealed a stairwell beside it, and hallways faded into blackness to either side. Ayumi moved to the elevator and carefully leaned in enough to look up and down the shaft. The elevator car sat about a meter below her at an unnatural angle, a tangle of thick metal cable sprawled across its roof. Clearly, at some point in the past, the car's cable had broken and it fell to where it now rested. About four or five floors above her, she saw a crack of light shining on the opposite wall, apparently coming through the door of that floor. Then I guess that's as good a starting place as any, she thought, making her way over the trash and into the stairwell. There was a small pool of some foul smelling substance in the corner near the stairs. Ayumi pinched her nose to block out the odor and carefully slipped past it to start her ascent. She stopped cautiously at each floor to peer out into the hall, looking for any sign of Conan or the source of the light from the elevator shaft. When she reached the fifth floor, her patience finally paid off. The trash piled at the door showed signs that it had been recently disturbed. Upon peeking through the door, she was nearly blinded by a work light hanging from the opposite wall. Her eyes readjusted to the light just in time to see Conan vanish through a door about ten meters from the stairwell. She carefully left the stairs and moved along the hall to the door. It was the door the thick orange cord of the work light went into, so she understood how Conan had chosen that particular room to explore. As she approached, she heard a soft rumbling sound emanating from beyond. She entered quietly to find Conan standing near a second doorway on the other side of the room. He was facing that door, trying to see through without allowing too much of his body to enter the field of vision of anyone that might be on the other side. In the middle of the room, Ayumi saw a device she didn't recognize which was obviously the source of the rumbling sound, but she quickly figured out that it must be a power generator as the cord from the light in the hall was plugged into it as well as another work light hung in that room. Another cord ran from the machine through the door Conan was standing at, a thin line of illumination indicating additional lights had been set up beyond. Conan clearly had not noticed her presence yet. Part of her wanted to announce herself so she wouldn't startle him, but speaking loudly enough to do so over the sound of the generator would alert anyone in the next room to their presence. Remaining quiet, she made her way across the room until she stood behind him, then whispered softly in his ear, “Conan-kun.” The boy detective jumped a little, but managed to stay silent. He looked at her sternly, but this was not the time to berate her for coming. Voices were coming from the next room. “Where's the money, Kudo?” a deep male voice demanded in a menacing tone. “I'll get it!” a terrified voice replied. “I swear I'll get it! I just need time!” “You've already had time,” the first voice said. “You're three months late, and instead of paying back the boss, you disappeared!” “But I'm close!” the scared man responded quickly. “I should have it by the end of the week!” “The only thing you're close to is getting a free flying lesson, just like your brother!” “Don't be so hasty, Kuro,” said a smooth female voice. “You say you're close. Just what is it you're planning, Shinichi?” Kuro! Conan thought. Black! It's not the Organization, then. And I'm not their target after all, it's just that this guy has the same name as me. I don't know what's going on between them, but it's clear there's something illegal. I have to put a stop to it. “A small jewelry store! About four blocks from here!” Kudo Shinichi said hurriedly. “Been watching the place for a month! Every Wednesday at 7:00, the owner closes the place up and heads home! He carries a bank bag with him on those days! All the store's earnings for the week! Takes it to the bank the next morning before opening up! I'm going to hit him this Thursday on his way home!” “Ayumi!” Conan whispered urgently. “Close your eyes!” “You buy that, boss?” Kuro inquired. Ayumi closed her eyes as Conan moved to the generator in the middle of the room. “Absolutely,” the woman answered. “What I don't believe is that we were ever going to see a single yen of the money.” Conan unscrewed the lids on the generator's gas and oil tanks. “So what do you want to do with him?” Kuro asked, a malicious glee creeping into his voice. Conan moved back to Ayumi and took her hand. “Keep your eyes closed until I say to open them,” he whispered in her ear. “When I say, 'now,' open them and run. But don't let go of my hand. You'll have to lead me, because my eyes won't be used to the darkness yet.” “Well, we know how far away this jewelry store is,” the boss said thoughtfully. “There can't be that many in this broke-down part of the city. I'm sure we can find it on our own by Thursday and you can pull the job yourself.” Conan bent down and grabbed the side of the generator with his free hand and tried to tip it over, but it wouldn't budge. “Hold on,” he said into Ayumi's ear. “Don't move!” “NO! WAIT!” Shinichi's panicked voice screamed. “You don't have to kill me! I'll tell you exactly where the place is and where the owner lives! Even show you the best place for an ambush! You get the whole take! It'll be at least twice what I owe you! The place gets a lot of business!” Conan quickly looked around and noticed an old radiator to the side of the room. He grabbed his suspenders and threaded the straps of one end through the radiator while looping the other end through one handle on the generator. “Oh, that won't be necessary, Shinichi,” the boss said. “You've done more than enough already. I think Kuro was right about that flying lesson.” Conan pressed the button at the center of the suspenders to make them retract, then dashed toward Ayumi. “Let's see if you do any better than your brother!” Kuro said with a cold laugh. The generator flipped with a loud crash and gasoline and oil began to pour from the machine. Conan reached Ayumi and grabbed her hand just as the generator's motor seized up and the lights went out. “NOW, AYUMI! RUN!” Ayumi's eyes flew open and she dashed out of the door to the hall. As Conan predicted, her night vision had mostly acclimated while she'd had her eyes closed for several moments, so she was mostly able to see in the dim hallway. She took one step toward the stairs, but was then hit by a strong thought. No! They'll expect whoever killed the generator to run for the exit! They'll be able to see soon and they'll be after us, so we have to be somewhere else! She turned and ran the opposite direction, down the hallway that ran alongside the elevator and the stairs. “Ayumi! This is the wrong way!” Conan protested urgently, though trying to keep his voice down. “We have to get out of here!” “I know what I'm doing, Conan,” she said confidently. “Please, trust me.” “Okay,” he responded, allowing her to lead him without further protest. A large man burst from the room with the generator into the hallway. “Can't see anything, boss!” “Give your eyes a minute to catch up,” the woman said calmly, entering the hall behind him. “But they'll get away!” Kuro protested. “I don't think so,” the boss stated simply. “They know we'll expect them to flee, so instead, they're going to try and hide to evade us.” After waiting for their eyes to adjust to the darkness, the pair started quietly along the hallway along which Ayumi and Conan had fled. * * * Damn! Conan thought. Ayumi had a good idea not going down the stairs immediately, but we can't get into any of these rooms to hide! His night vision had finally normalized and he was now leading Ayumi, but every door he tried was either impassable or locked. It seemed their only hope was that there was a second stairwell, or that the hallway would loop back around to where they started. They turned a corner, but it was going the wrong direction to connect with the hallway on the other side of the elevator. Still, there was no choice but to keep going as they heard a loud crash further back along they hall they'd come down. Through their joined hands, Conan felt Ayumi trembling and stopped briefly to pull her closer. “I know you're scared, Ayumi-chan,” he said softly, resting his hands on her shoulders. “But that bang we just heard is actually a good thing. It means we have a little time.” Ayumi looked at him with puzzlement on her face. “They don't know where we went,” Conan explained. “And they didn't look around before going into the room with Kudo Shinichi, so they don't know which doors were locked and which weren't. That means they have to break open each of the locked rooms we passed and check for us to make sure we didn't hide and lock the door. That's going to slow them down.” Understanding lit up her face and she stopped shaking. Conan's hands lifted from her shoulders and he started to turn to lead her once more, but she stopped him by wrapping her arms tightly around him. “Ayumi is sorry she didn't listen,” she whispered in his ear. “But just like Conan wants to keep Ayumi safe, Ayumi wants to protect Conan.” Conan stood there in shock with the young girl clinging to him like a life preserver. At last, her words seeped through and he awkwardly, though briefly, returned her embrace. “I know, Ayumi-chan.” Another crash resounded down the hall behind them. “We can talk about it more later. Right now we have to run. That has slowed them down, but they're still after us.” Ayumi nodded against Conan's chest, prolonging the embrace just one moment longer, then finally released him and took his hand once more. Conan again dashed along the hallway with Ayumi in tow. Even with his eyes adjusted, his field of vision was minimal in the nearly complete darkness; a meter or two at the most. They reached another corner as they heard yet another door crash open. They still hadn't found any unlocked doors, but Conan was starting to get an idea of the layout of the hallways. If his guess was correct, the halls formed an outline like a block-letter T, and they were about to run across the top. But only one stairwell for a building of this size is strange. There must be one at the center of the back hallway. They reached another turn shortly, and Conan now was certain he had correctly guessed the layout. With his confidence boosted by this, he stopped checking the doors along both sides of the hall and instead focused on moving forward. The amount of trash and detritus lining the corridor had increased, but he knew that once they reached a stairwell, they would be safe. With the thugs pursuing them taking the time to check the locked rooms, even locking themselves in an abandoned apartment couldn't have guaranteed that. As Conan had hoped, halfway along the hall, they found another stairwell. They entered and Conan surprised Ayumi by starting up the stairs. “Conan-kun?” she asked hesitantly. “Don't we need to escape?” “Yeah, but like you pointed out before, they'll expect us to take the quickest path. Once we're outside, they'll be able to run us down with no problem. We're going to slow them down by making them check more of the building first. They don't know how much we heard, so they can't take the chance and let us get away to tell somebody.” They went up to the next floor and started back along the hallway to the front of the building. Before they turned the first corner, Conan knelt down beside a doorknob that had been broken off the last door and activated his shoes. He kicked the doorknob so it flew past the entrance to the stairs and clattered loudly at the other end of the hall. “They had to have heard that,” he said with a smirk. “Now, when they get up here, they'll think we went that way and waste time opening every door down that hall while we go down the front stairs.” He led Ayumi around the corner and continued along the passages to the first stairwell without incident. When they had again reached the fifth floor, Conan stopped. “You keep going, Ayumi-chan,” he said. “I have to make sure that Kudo Shinichi is okay. Once they realize they can't catch us, they'll be in a hurry to come finish him off and get out of here. I'll get him and bring him with us.” “What if they catch up?” Ayumi asked, again trembling in fear. “They won't,” Conan replied confidently. “They'll be on the sixth floor for at least another ten minutes checking rooms. And even after they finish that, they have no idea whether we'll hide on a different floor, so they'll probably check. But this time, you're going straight down to the exit, so by the time they get down there, you'll be long gone.” “What about Conan-kun?” “I'll be fine,” he answered. “It'll only take me a moment to go get Shinichi, then I'll be right behind you before they even finish upstairs.” Ayumi nodded uncertainly and started down the stairs once more. Once she was out of sight, Conan dashed to the room where the generator was and on through the door on the other side. A young man of nineteen or twenty was bound to a chair in the center of the room. His head was hung and he was weeping softly. It was clear that they had beaten him quite badly, but Conan could just see a resemblance to the man in the hospital. At the sound of the door opening, he looked up with terror-filled eyes. “It's okay,” Conan assured him. “I'm here to get you out before they come back.” “Are you the one that led them away?” “Yeah,” he answered. “They're looking for me upstairs right now.” Conan quickly moved beside him and started working with the ropes securing Shinichi to the chair. “I really need to get Hakase to make me some gadget with a blade,” he muttered in frustration as he tried desperately to unravel the too-tight knots. After much longer than he would have liked, Conan finally managed to loose the ropes and free Shinichi. The young man had just gotten up and shook out his arms to help the flow of blood return when a large man with a shaved head stepped into the room and glared at them menacingly. “A kid, huh?” said Kuro before looking at Shinichi. “You think that'll stop me from sending him out the window with you?” Shinichi instinctively moved to protect the mysterious child who had come to his rescue by standing in between him and Kuro. Conan, now blocked from Kuro's view by Shinichi's body, used the opportunity to prepare his watch. “Kudo-san,” he muttered just loud enough for Shinichi to hear. “When I say so, move out of my way. I have something that will take care of him.” Shinichi didn't dare take his eyes off the man before him to see what the child was talking about, but he nodded almost imperceptibly. Conan took aim, imagining his last view past Shinichi's body, at the last place he had seen Kuro. “Now.” Shinichi jumped aside, the thug's eyes instinctively following the motion. Conan quickly refined his aim and pressed the button to launch his knockout dart. The dart connected just below Kuro's jawline, and one of his large hands flew to the spot as if he'd been bitten by a mosquito. “What'd you do, brat?” the thug demanded, looking back at Conan. He started to step toward the child, but the dart's effect finally started to take hold. He stumbled backward, crashing against the door frame, and slid to the floor. Kudo Shinichi looked at Conan, eyes wide in amazement. “Who are you, kid?” Conan smirked. “Edogawa Conan, tantei.” Shinichi shook his head in astonishment. “Well, Edogawa Conan,” he began. “We need to get out of here. If Kuro has made his way back here, Akane can't be far behind.” Conan's eyes flashed to Shinichi, already widening with terror. “What did you say?” “I said, if he's already back, Akane will be here any minute,” explained Shinichi. “Takahashi Akane? His boss?” “Ayumi!” Conan gasped before starting toward the door. “Damn it! They split up!” “What? Why would they . . . ?” “She's gone after my friend!” Conan shouted. “Tie him up so he can't get away when he comes to. I have to save Ayumi!” Without waiting for a response, Conan dashed from the room and to the stairs. That woman is clearly smart. I should have realized it when they came down the hall after us instead of going down the stairs. At some point, she must have told Kuro to keep checking rooms while she went to guard the exit! DAMN IT! And I sent Ayumi straight to her! Conan stepped out of the stairwell into the entry area to find a thin woman with long, stringy black hair standing in front of the exit, one arm holding Ayumi in front of her while the other hand held a gun to the girl's head. “I'm sorry, Conan-kun,” Ayumi said meekly. “She was waiting for me and I couldn't get away.” “It's okay, Ayumi-chan. I know,” he said before locking eyes with the woman. “So. Takahashi Akane,” he said, the smirk on his face belying the fear he felt for Ayumi. He had to find a way to get her to turn the gun away from Ayumi, or at least distract her enough for Ayumi to free herself. “I know all about you. Lent a bunch of money to that lowlife Shinichi, but instead of paying you back, he goes into hiding.” Conan shook his head. “What are you supposed to do? You decide to go to his brother to find out where he is, after all, if anyone knows where he's hiding, it would be the big brother who is closer to him than anyone. Kuro grabs him as soon as he answers the door so his apartment doesn't get messed up in a fight, but the brother doesn't want to talk, so your guy throws him through the window.” “How do you know all that?” the woman demanded. “Then, rather than trash the place looking for something that might tell you where Shinichi is, you have foresight to look carefully so the police can't tell anything happened there. That's when you found the address book and tore out the page with this address. But I'll bet you didn't even know Kuro just tossed the book on the floor after he ripped out the page. It wasn't at all hard for us to find it, or to use it to follow you here. Of course, before you headed here, since the body hadn't been discovered yet, you sent Kuro into the office building next door posing as a repairman. You had him find the office directly across from the apartment and bust out the window to confuse the police even more.” Akane stood there agape as the child before her meticulously laid out the events, exactly as they had happened. “You get here and notice the light on the fifth floor, so that's where you head,” Conan continued. “And, sure enough, you find Shinichi there. But he doesn't have your money. Instead, he starts babbling about some robbery he's planned.” “So you were watching us,” she said in understanding. “At that point,” Conan confirmed. “I couldn't let you murder someone, so I flipped the generator to distract you so you'd come after me instead. I knew you couldn't let me go. You didn't know just how much I had heard. So you left Shinichi tied up and came after us. You're good. The average thug would have gone down the stairs after us from the beginning, then hurried and left when they couldn't find us. At best, someone like that might still be upstairs looking for us after the noise I made there, but not you. You were smart enough to let the muscle keep searching while you blocked the exit.” “That's right,” the woman said. “And Kuro will be down here any second to get you, then the four of us will go back up and you'll join Shinichi on his final journey.” Conan's smirk grew wider. “You're wrong about that part. I already took care of him and called for the police.” He nodded to the door behind her. “They'll come crashing in that door any minute now to arrest you both.” “You lie, boy,” she hissed. “I know that you can't pick up a cell signal in this building. There's no way you called the police. Are there's no way a little kid like you could take down Kuro.” “Are you sure about that?” he asked, cocking his head to the side. “What if I told you that I went to the roof to call? What if I said that Kuro followed me up there and I managed to trip him so he fell off the building?” Akane was starting to look less sure of herself. Neither of them had checked the roof access, so she didn't know whether the kid could have gotten up there to call the police or not. “No,” she said at last. “Kuro was going through the sixth floor, then he was supposed to check on Shinichi and meet me here. He wouldn't have gone up to the roof!” “Then what would you say if I told you we have special transmitters that work just fine inside this building and I was able to alert the police with that?” The woman laughed. “Then you're James Bond, with a special transmitter inside the button of your suit!” Conan saw her confidence returning. Good. Overconfident was easy to work with. “Something like that,” he said. He pointed to the Shonen Tantei badge he had clipped to his lapel. “Move your thumb so she can turn her badge on and we'll show you.” Akane looked down to see a badge similar to Conan's behind her thumb on the girl's shirt. While she was looking down, Conan crouched just enough to activate his kick power enhancing shoes and then stood again. The woman lifted her thumb so she could see the badge better. She looked at it puzzled, unable to comprehend the English letters on the front. “It says, 'Detective Boys,'” Conan explained. “Shonen Tantei. You see, we're detectives, and we've worked with the police a lot of times.” “Whatever,” Akane said in exasperation. “That's nothing but a simple club pin.” “You think so? Well let us prove it. Now, Ayumi.” “Slowly!” demanded the woman. “And if your hand goes anywhere but that pin, you die.” Ayumi started to move one hand slowly toward the badge, her head tilted down to watch what she was doing, then she saw what Conan's plan was. She opened her mouth and bit down on the woman's thumb as hard as she could. Rather than shooting, Akane reflexively dropped Ayumi. Conan was ready, his hand already at his belt. He pressed the button that made it pop out a soccer ball, then kicked the ball so it flew across the room to connect solidly with Akane's jaw. She was snapped backward so her head hit the door hard, then she collapsed bonelessly to the floor. Ayumi ran to Conan and hugged him tight. “Ayumi was so scared!” “I told you it would be okay,” Conan responded. She loosened her grip and leaned back a little to look him in the eyes. “You didn't really knock the other one off the roof, did you?” Conan laughed. “He's just tied up with the rope that was holding Shinichi. You go on out and call the police. I'll stay here and make sure Shinichi doesn't leave. They'll have questions for him, too.” * * * Once they had finished answering all of Takagi's questions, the police detective offered them a ride, but Conan had declined. He needed to finish his earlier conversation with Ayumi. Ayumi explained how she had gotten there from the original crime scene and Conan quickly figured out that the shortest way to take Ayumi home would be to go west about eleven blocks until they reached her street. As they walked, Conan tried to figure out the best way to broach the subject. What he should even say. While his mind raced, Ayumi laced an arm around his and held it, leaning her head on his shoulder. Conan tensed for a moment, but relaxed quickly. “You remember the stuff we were talking about before all this started?” he asked at last. He felt her nod. “You can't tell anyone that stuff,” he explained. “Not Mitsuhiko, not Genta, and certainly not Haibara.” “But I thought you said Ai-chan is already a part of it.” “She is,” Conan explained. “But if she finds out I told you . . .” His voice trailed off and he shivered as he imagined Haibara's wrath if she ever found out he had told Ayumi anything at all of their situation. “Conan can trust Ayumi,” she said. They walked on in silence for a moment before Ayumi spoke again. “Will Conan ever tell Ayumi the rest?” He considered for a moment. Could he? Should he? He supposed that, after the danger of the Black Organization was gone, there would be no reason not to. Ayumi was a smart girl, after all. She had proven that today. He was sure she would understand. “I will,” he finally replied. “Someday, when it won't put you in danger, I promise I will tell you everything.” Ayumi smiled. “Will Conan-kun talk to Ai-chan tomorrow to get help?” “Yeah, probably,” he said. “Ayumi will keep Mitsuhiko-kun and Genta-kun busy so Conan and Ai-chan can talk.” Conan looked down at her in surprise. “You would do that?” “Of course, Conan-kun! Ayumi already told you. Ayumi will do anything to help Conan-kun.” Conan didn't know what to say, so they walked on in silence for a few moments until he felt Ayumi shiver against him. “Are you okay, Ayumi-chan?” “The sun is starting to go down,” she said. “Ayumi just got a little chilly.” Conan stopped and freed his arm from her grasp, then put her arm around his waist instead, putting his own arm around her shoulders to hold her close and warm her as much as he could. Ayumi snuggled against the warmth of his body, the contented smile on her face widening. She happily watched the sunset ahead of them as Conan escorted her home. END OF CHAPTER TWO So, there you have it. I apologize if the indentations look weird once its posted. The indents from the file in OpenOffice didn't carry over, so I had to go through and put an indentation on every paragraph all over again. But, for some strange reason, even though I put a three space indent in every case, the indentation always ended up smaller in front of quotation marks than it id in front of letters. I can't explain why, just wanted to let you guys know in case the weird spacing carries over after I click "submit." Also, I think I may have accidentally started new paragraphs where I shouldn't have a couple times as I redid my indents. I'm going to skim through again before I actually post this, but I thought I'd mention it just in case I miss any. Finally, I am also going to edit the post of Chapter One. It's nothing major, mostly just grammatical and spelling corrections I realized I needed to make as I re-read that chapter before starting this one, so you shouldn't have to re-read it unless you really want to. With all of that said, I will simply invite (encourage) you guys to post your thoughts and comments on my story once you get done reading it. I doubt the next chapter will be up as quickly as I would like, but I at least hope it will be quicker than this one was. Thank you again for reading, and I'll see you next time!
Greetings, everybody! Chapter one is completed! I still don't have a title for the series or for this chapter, so please let me know if you have any suggestions! This is just the first chapter of what I am planning to be an ongoing series. As such, it does not yet incorporate any of the major plans I have for the story. Not even all of the major characters appear in this chapter. Instead, this chapter lays the groundwork for what is to come. I have tried to remain true to the feel of Detective Conan, so I hope you guys will let me now whether you think I have achieved that. I also hope you will post your thoughts on the story itself; was the mystery believable, was it too hard, too easy, did I keep everyone in character well enough? I am going to start work on chapter two, but it won't be posted until I have at least three responses to this one, so make sure to comment if you enjoy it! Thanks for reading!!! DISCLAIMER: I do not own Detective Conan or its characters; they are the property of Aoyama Gosho, Shogakukan, Yomiuri TV, Funimation, and any other companies or individuals with a legal copyright claim. This is a work of fanfiction, written for entertainment purposes only. I neither seek nor accept compensation for this material. If anyone (legal owners of the series/characters or fellow fans) wishes to distribute, recreate, or expand on this work, I ask only for notification. C&C are not only welcome, but greatly appreciated. MSTs are greatly enjoyed. Flames are laughed at, then greatly ignored. Now, please enjoy the story. CHAPTER ONE Conan was on his way home from school when he saw a young woman outside the Mouri Detective Agency. She had long brown hair pulled back into a tight braid and wore professional attire. At first glance, he thought she was probably just a customer of Cafe Poirot, then he noticed the sad, almost lost look on her face. Actually, she may very well be here to see Occhan, he thought. Deciding she would come up to the detective agency when she was ready, he started up the stairs, but was quickly stopped by the woman's voice. “Do you know Mouri-tantei, little boy?” He turned and smiled at her. “Yes, ma'am,” he replied. “I'm his assistant.” The lady smiled back, the expression making her look almost like a different person. “Could you introduce me to him, assistant tantei-san? My name is Maehara Reiko, and I need to hire him to find my fiance.” “Do you have a picture of him?” Conan inquired. “Kogoro-ojiisan will want to see one.” “Yes, I've brought one with me,” she answered, reaching into her small purse. She pulled out a photograph and handed it to Conan. Conan briefly reviewed the photograph, which showed a young man approximately the same age as Maehara Reiko standing next to an older man, with his arm around the man's shoulders. Both men were similarly dressed with bandannas around their necks, their clothes dusty and sweat pouring from their bodies, but they had large and friendly smiles on their faces. “Follow me, Maehara-san,” Conan said before leading her up the stairs and into the detective agency. “Tadaima,” he called as he set his school bag down next to the door where it would be out of the way before walking toward Kogoro's desk. “Welcome home, Conan-kun,” Ran said. “Ojiisan, this is Maehara Reiko-san,” he said, indicating the woman who had entered behind him. “She is a business lady who would like you to find her fiance. Apparently he is an archaeology student who has gone missing,” he explained as he set the photo on the desk in front of the detective. “Archaeology?” Ran inquired with interest. “Archaeologists are like history detectives,” Conan explained. “They find artifacts from a long time ago that help them figure out what happened in the past. Like Indiana Jones!” Reiko looked at Conan in surprise. “How did you know all that?” she asked. “I only told you my name and that I needed Mouri-tantei to find my fiance, not either of our occupations.” Conan smiled. “I knew you work in business because you are wearing well kept, professional clothing. That means you must work in an office environment. But it's not a really fancy or expensive brand, so you are probably not a lawyer or executive. As for your fiance, the picture tells it all. He is standing next to an older man, but there is no familial resemblance, so I can tell the man is his superior or instructor of some type; probably a college professor. Because of how much they are sweating, it is clear this was taken somewhere hot, and their work keeps them outdoors. They're not dressed like construction workers, and I see fine-bristled brushes in both of their breast pockets. Painters wouldn't put their brushes in their pockets that way, but would instead keep them with the rest of their equipment. An archaeologist, however, would want a fine brush like that close at hand so he could dust off any artifacts he recovers during a dig, the same with the picks they also have in their pockets. Then there is the clothing. It is all dusty, which happens at archaeological dig sites, plus they have bandannas around their necks, which they would pull up over their noses and mouths while they work so they don't breathe in all that dust.” Noticing the stunned look on the faces of Kogoro, Ran, and Reiko, Conan smiled extra wide. “I saw a program about archaeology on television the other day.” “You're amazing, assistant tantei-san,” Reiko said, Conan putting a hand behind his head and laughing in feigned embarrassment. “You're exactly right.” She looked at Kogoro. “If even your assistant is that good, I definitely came to the right place. Yes, I finished my Bachelor of Business Administration last year and have been working at the corporate office for a large company ever since. My fiance, Miyazaki Akira, is indeed an archaeology student. He has been away on a dig with his professor for about a year now, but has always called from time to time. However, there have been no calls from him in three months and I'm starting to fear something has happened to him.” “I know how you feel,” Ran said with a frown. “There is someone I never get to see as well, and he goes long periods of time without calling. I worry about him, too.” “Where is your fiance's dig?” Conan hurriedly asked to change the subject. “Akira's dig is at Puma Punku, near Tiahuanaco, Bolivia,” she explained. Kogoro's eyes widened in shock. “I'm sorry, miss, but I can't travel to Bolivia to look for your fiance.” Reiko shook her head. “I don't expect you to, at least not immediately. I thought you could check with the university to find out if they have received any information, or maybe with Akira's family. They don't really like me because I'm not traditional enough, but they might open up to the famous Sleeping Kogoro. I have a list of phone numbers for you.” She pulled a slip of paper from her purse and handed it to Kogoro. “I will, of course, pay for the telephone expenses should any international calls be necessary. And, if it comes to the point that a trip to the site is required, I will pay for your tickets and compensate you for your trouble. It will take all of my savings, but I believe I can give you one million yen, plus the expenses?” she said, her voice turning it into a question. “Very well,” the detective responded, his head full of thoughts about horse races, fancy dinners, and the nearest pachinko parlor. “I believe that will be sufficient. I see you've included your phone number so I can contact you with any findings.” “Yes, sir.” “Then I will get to work immediately! I am sure I will have you in touch with your fiance within a week!” Kogoro raised his arm, striking a pose of confidence and success. He then handed her one of his gaudy golden business cards. “Please call me if you think of anything else that might help me with the search.” Reiko thanked the detective as he walked her to the door, then she quietly left the office, an air of hope surrounding her. “One million yen!” shouted Kogoro. “Just think of what we can do!” He returned to his desk and picked up the phone, a huge grin on his face. * * * Two days and many phone calls later, Kogoro felt frustrated. Apparently none of Miyazaki Akira's family had heard from him either. A call to the university's archaeology department had revealed what hotel the professor was staying in. His call to the hotel, once the language barrier was overcome, had led to the discovery that the professor was hospitalized for yellow fever, and apparently Akira was staying at a different hotel. An internet search claimed to have found 50 hotels near Tiahuanaco, but the five closest to the Puma Punku site had no listings for a guest by the name of Miyazaki Akira. He was starting to fear that Akira was sharing a room with a fellow student and the room was in the other's name. The university had been unwilling to release a list of the students on the dig, even to the great Mouri Kogoro, so he was stuck calling more hotels. It was 9:29 PM, meaning the time in Tiahuanaco was 8:29 AM. Kogoro sat down at his desk, ready to start making calls again, when the phone rang. “Mouri Detective Agency,” he said after picking up. “Mouri-kun,” came the voice from the other end of the line, “do you know a Maehara Reiko? We found your business card in her apartment.” “Megure-keibu!” Kogoro said in surprise. “She's a client. What is this about?” “I'm sorry to tell you this, Mouri-kun, but your client is dead,” replied the inspector. “She fell from the balcony of her apartment about half an hour ago.” “Suicide?” Kogoro asked. “It seems that way, but we're not sure yet,” Inspector Megure explained. “I'm on my way,” said the detective, hanging up the phone just as Ran and Conan walked into the room. * * * Kogoro, Ran, and Conan arrived at the scene shortly after that. The detective frowned at the two youths as the police officer at the door let them in. “Why are you two here again?” Conan laughed. “We want to see you work, Occhan!” “It doesn't sound like there will be much work,” Kogoro said in a sour voice, his mind full of the million yen he would no longer receive. “It's probably suicide.” Upon reaching the top floor where Maehara Reiko's apartment was located, they found Detective Takagi talking to a man outside an open apartment door. He turned to face them as they approached. “Mouri-san, Ran-san, Conan-kun, what are you doing here?” asked the police detective. “Maehara-san was a client,” explained Kogoro. “The inspector called me.” “The inspector is inside,” Takagi said, pointing through the open door with his pen. “I need to finish taking the building manager's statement. The apartment was locked, so we had to get him to let us in.” “Hey, Manager-san,” said Conan curiously, “do the apartment doors lock automatically?” The manager shook his head. “No, they are standard locks that have to be locked manually from inside or with a key from outside.” Conan nodded in understanding and followed Ran and Kogoro into the apartment. As he passed, Conan inspected the door jamb and doorknob. No signs of forced entry, he thought to himself. The apartment was fairly compact, but looked comfortable. Just right for the salary of a businesswoman. “Mouri-kun,” Inspector Megure greeted somberly. “What happened here, Inspector?” asked Kogoro. Conan started looking around the apartment as he listened to the inspector. The inspector pulled his police notebook from a pocket inside his jacket and said, “According to witnesses outside the building, at 8:57 PM, Maehara Reiko-san fell from her apartment balcony.” Megure pointed to the sliding glass doors on the wall opposite the apartment's entrance. “Initial examination of the body revealed no sign of injury aside from what would be expected from the fall. The door to her apartment was locked. Once the building manager let us in, we found the room as you see it now. There doesn't appear to have been any struggle to force the victim from the balcony, so we were just about to wrap this up as a suicide, at least until the autopsy is completed. If anything strange comes up, we'll look into it further. Sorry you came all the way here for nothing,” he concluded, tucking the notebook back into his pocket. “Ah le le!” said Conan, drawing everyone's attention to the kitchen. “Megure-keibu, you forgot to hang the phone up after you called Occhan!” “I didn't use the apartment phone, Conan-kun,” the inspector replied, “I called from my cell phone.” Kogoro bopped Conan on the head before picking him up by the collar of his jacket. “Megure-keibu is a professional investigator! He knows better than to use the phone at a crime scene, stupid brat!” The detective threw Conan over to Ran. “Stay out of the way!” “Hold on! You can't go in there!” came Takagi's voice from the hall, followed immediately by two women who strode purposefully into the apartment, Takagi trailing ineffectively behind with the building manager in tow. “Reiko-chan!” called the leading woman. “Reiko-chan, where are you?” “Who are you?” the second woman asked, stopping in front of Megure. “What's going on here? Where's Reiko-san?” “I'm Inspector Megure with the Metropolitan Police,” he started before the other woman cut him off. “Police?” she asked in shock. “Was my sister robbed? Is she okay? Where is she?” Kogoro stepped forward. “I'm sorry, ma'am, but it seems your sister jumped off her balcony this evening.” Tears started to stream down the woman's face as she let out a pained wail. “Impossible!” the other woman declared. “There's no way Reiko-san would commit suicide! She just got a big promotion at work! She was really excited!” “Okay,” said Megure, taking out his notebook again. “Let's back up a little here. First give me your names and relationship to the deceased.” “My name is Amano Yuriko,” the woman responded. “I met Reiko-san two years ago while she was going to college with my younger sister. She had trouble finding a job after finishing her BBA last year, so I got her hired on at my company. We've been working together ever since. Like I said, Reiko-san just got promoted at work and was excited. She was planning to move into a bigger apartment where her fiance could move in with her when he returns from his dig. There's no way she would kill herself!” Megure turned to the sister, who had composed herself enough to speak. “I'm Maehara Yue. Reiko is my little sister. We've always been close, though we've had some disagreements lately about her fiance.” The inspector raised an eyebrow inquiringly. “Oh!” said Yue in surprise. “It wasn't anything serious! Her fiance is an archaeology student who is always away on some dig or expedition. She's been really depressed because she never gets to see him and he hardly calls any more. I keep telling her to let the jerk go! He's already married to archaeology! I even talked to him about it the last time he deigned to visit. But he still insists on stringing her along!” Conan didn't like were this was going at all. A glance at Ran showed that the woman's words that it had gotten her thinking as well. “Did Reiko-neesan give either of you a key to her apartment?” he hurriedly asked, mentally noting that Shinichi needed to call Ran more often. “My sister was a very private person,” said Yue. “She never gave me a key, and I doubt she gave one to anyone else.” Megure nodded and turned to the building manager, sparing a quick glare at Takagi for not completing the man's interview. “I'm Mifune Kotaro,” the older man said. “I've been manager of this building for about 13 years. I've known Maehara-san since she moved in last year, though I've never really talked to her much. She's a good tenant, always on time with the rent, never causes problems for anyone.” While the others focused on the manager, Conan moved back to the kitchen to give the phone a closer inspection. The handset was still out of its cradle. He withdrew a handkerchief from his pocket and picked it up to set it back in place. Still using the handkerchief, he pressed the call log button. At 8:54, it seemed, Reiko had received a incoming call from an unknown number. Conan looked around to flag down Takagi, but the group had moved closer to the balcony door where they were out of sight from the phone. He walked back into the living room, but rather than getting Takagi's attention immediately, he strolled out onto the balcony as he considered what this could mean. A mysterious phone call only moments before she plunged to her death? The phone left off its cradle? Something just didn't add up. It didn't feel right. As he pondered this, Conan noticed a strange mark on the rail. It looked like a mark from the sole of a shoe. He quickly went back into the apartment, calling, “Occhan! I found something out here!” Kogoro walked out onto the balcony. “What is it, brat?” Conan pointed out the scuff mark, and was once again bopped on the head for his trouble. “Clearly it's a mark from when Reiko-san put her foot up on the rail before she jumped!” shouted Kogoro. “Stop wasting my time!” You're wrong, Ojiisan, Conan thought. Making sure Ran wasn't paying attention, he dashed from the apartment and quickly found the stairs. He went up to check the door for the roof access, but found that it was locked and had not been tampered with. He then rushed down to the apartment one floor below Reiko's. He tested the door knob and found it locked, but close inspection revealed small scratches around the door jamb and lock. Returning to Reiko's apartment, Conan glanced at the shoes by the entrance as he went in, then saw that the manager no longer seemed to be involved in the conversation and waved him over. “Hey, Manager-san,” he asked in a conspiratorial whisper, “who lives in the apartment under this one?” “Nobody right now,” replied Mifune. “The man that lived there moved out a week ago. It's being repaired right now before anyone else can move in. The electrician is costing a fortune!” Conan lowered his head, light gleaming off his glasses as a smirk crossed his face. So that's how it was! A quick look around the room revealed that Takagi had moved to the balcony and was examining the mark Conan had pointed out to Kogoro. “Takagi-keiji,” Conan said as he stepped once more onto the balcony, “Kogoro-ojiisan wants you to do something.” The police detective leaned in and listened carefully as Conan whispered instructions to him, then he departed, taking the building manager with him. Looking back into the apartment, Conan saw that the others were still near the door to the balcony. “Well, this is clearly a suicide,” Kogoro was saying. “There's no reason to keep us here all night.” Yue and Yuriko both turned and started for the apartment door as well. Conan quickly opened up his watch and carefully took aim before shooting a knockout dart into Kogoro's neck. The detective stumbled around for a moment, arms swinging wildly, before he collapsed onto the sofa, fast asleep. Stealthily, Conan moved behind him and placed the receiver speaker for the voice changing bow tie in the neck of Kogoro's suit. He then made sure the tie was set to Kogoro's voice and started to speak. “Hold on, we need to wrap this up before you ladies leave.” “Mouri-kun!” Megure said in surprise. “But you just said there was no need to stay all night,” replied Yuriko. “Indeed there's not,” replied Kogoro's voice. “This will just take a few moments more.” “I thought you just said this was a suicide,” noted Megure. “What is there to wrap up?” “I had to say that,” Conan said into the voice changer. “I wasn't certain what the killer's trick was yet. I decided to let them get comfortable thinking they got away with it until I had the proof I needed!” A moment later, the apartment phone began to ring. “Wold you please answer that, Inspector?” Kogoro's voice requested. With the others following in curiosity, Megure moved to the kitchen and picked up the phone. “Hello?” While everyone was focused on Megure and the phone, a muffled thump sounded from the balcony. “Hello?” the inspector was still calling into the phone. “Mouri-kun, there's nobody there!” Conan spoke once more into the voice changer. “That's fine, Inspector. I have what I need already.” There was the sound of the phone being placed back into its cradle, then Megure and the others stepped back into the living room. At the same time, Takagi appeared from the balcony and faced Kogoro. “You were right, Mouri-san!” Everyone faced Takagi in surprise. “When did you get out there, Takagi?” asked Megure. “I thought you left with the building manager.” “I asked him to check something for me,” Kogoro's voice responded before the police detective could speak. “When I had Conan check the roof access and the room beneath this one, he saw signs that someone had broken in downstairs.” “At Mouri-san's instruction, I had Mifune-san let me into that apartment,” Takagi explained. “It's currently being repaired in between tenants, so nobody is living there. Furthermore, there are tools and supplies all over the place from the electrician.” “Just who do you take orders from, Takagi?” grumbled Megure. “And what does that have to do with you being on the balcony up here?” “Sorry, sir,” Takagi replied sheepishly. “I was on the balcony because I came up the same way Mouri-san said the killer got in.” When all eyes turned once more to Kogoro, Conan offered the explanation through the voice changer. “The door to the apartment was locked, and neither suspect has a key, so they could neither enter nor exit with the door locked from inside. Since this is the top floor, Reiko-san, like many high rise tenants thought she was perfectly safe leaving her balcony door unlocked, so that was the only means of entry. Conan learned that the roof access is locked and only the manager has the key. Since that door showed no signs of tampering, that means that the culprit had to have entered through the apartment below.” “But how did they get up here, Mouri-kun?” the inspector asked. “Takagi-keiji already told you,” Kogoro's voice answered calmly. “The tools and supplies left by the electrician. Takagi?” “Yes!” the officer said abruptly. “Mouri-san told me to look for some kind of line or rope and something I could use like a grappling hook. I found the coil of heavy duty electrical wire the electrician is using to fix the wiring and a claw hammer. I then wrapped the hammer in some dust cloths that were laying around and tied the end of the wire to it and threw it to this balcony. The cloth muffled the sound of the hammer so you couldn't hear it from inside, then I climbed up using the electrician's ladder and the wire.” “But how did you do it without us seeing you?” Megure queried. “Like Mouri-san told me, I called Reiko-san's apartment phone first and waited for you to answer.” A puzzled look crossed the inspector's face, but Ran glanced from the kitchen entrance to the balcony door and immediately understood. “You can't see the balcony from the phone!” the teenage girl said. “The killer called first and waited for Reiko-san to answer to make sure she wouldn't be seen climbing onto the balcony!” “Very good, Ran,” Conan said into the voice changer. “While Reiko-san was on the phone, trying to talk to the caller, the murderer climbed onto the balcony as Takagi has done, then barged into the room and took the victim by surprise. That is why the phone was off the hook; Reiko-san didn't have a chance to hang it up when the killer grabbed her from behind and took her to the balcony to throw her off.” “Then who did it, Mouri-kun?” asked the inspector. “Who's the killer?” “The culprit is none other than YOU,” Kogoro's voice proclaimed, “Amano Yuriko-san!” “You're saying I killed my best friend?” the woman questioned in a steady voice. “Have you lost your mind? Even if I did the things you said, how am I supposed to have gotten Reiko-san from the phone to the balcony after I entered? One look at this apartment and it's clear that there was no struggle! Are you saying I simply walked up behind her and asked her to come to the balcony so I could throw her off?” “It is most likely that you hit her over the head with something, possibly the hammer you used to anchor the wire to climb up, knocking her out,” Conan explained into his tie. “You could then easily drag her to the balcony without disturbing the room at all. Evidence of such blunt force trauma would easily go unnoticed among the injuries incurred in a fall from this height.” “So where's the proof that I called her then?” Yuriko asked sharply. “My number is saved on Reiko-san's phone, so if I called her, it would show it!” “You used a cheap prepaid cell phone so the number would come up as an unknown caller. And, before you ask, I'm sure you have already disposed of it somewhere out of the way, so I can't offer it or any fingerprints you may have left on it as proof.” “Then you have no evidence!” the woman said sharply, before again turning toward the door. “Anyone could have done those things! Do you see any marks on my hands from climbing up a wire?” She held her open hands up for inspection. “I am going home before you accuse me of anything else! I think I might even call a lawyer!” “Good idea, you'll need one,” Kogoro's voice said confidently. “But you won't be calling them from your home. It will be from jail! The last piece of evidence, Takagi!” Obligingly, the police detective held up an evidence bag. Inside was a pair of heavy rubber electrician's gloves. “I have no doubt that, when these are analyzed, your fingerprints will be found inside them,” Conan concluded through the voice changer. A look of horror crossed the woman's face and she collapsed to her knees. “Damn her!” whispered Yuriko. “DAMN HER! That promotion was mine! I've been with the company for five years! I got her her job there! Then they pass me over and promote her instead?! With her gone, I could get the advancement I deserved! But now she's getting the last laugh again and sending me to prison! Damn her!” “Maehara Reiko is not responsible for you going to prison,” Megure growled. “That is all your own doing! Takagi, get her out of my sight!” The inspector walked over to Kogoro and patted him roughly on the shoulder, jarring him awake. “Great job, Mouri-kun. You solved another one!” The private investigator looked up blearily and mumbled, “I did? I mean, of course I did! You should expect nothing less from the great detective Mouri Kogoro!” He laughed excitedly as he struck his triumphant pose. * * * A short while later, Kogoro, Ran, and Conan had returned home. As it was late, all three settled in quickly, but Conan found he couldn't sleep. Maehara Yue's words kept replaying in his mind. She's been really depressed because she never gets to see him and he hardly calls any more . . . he still insists on stringing her along! Those words still rang in his head as Conan finally drifted off to sleep, along with a thought of his own: Is that what I'm doing to Ran? END CHAPTER ONE So, there you have it. I hope you will let me know your thoughts as I mentioned in the introduction before the story. I look forward to your responses!